This article is also published at www.counterfire.org
"The biggest rise in unemployment since records began", says the man from the BBC. In the space of just 3 months the jobless figures have risen by 281,000, taking the total to around 2.4 million. Experts are now talking about the 3 million threshold being just a matter of time.
Unemployment is the sharpest, most devastating, expression of the current recession: it demonstrates, more than anything, what the crisis of capitalism means for working class people. We are seeing levels of joblessness unknown during the last 12 years of 'Labour' government. Youth unemployment is at its highest since 1995.
The jobs crisis inevitably has consequences politically. It has of course blown apart Gordon Brown's now seemingly distant reputation for sound economic management. At the same time, levels of workers' resistance are still relatively low - whatever glimmers of hope we may get from fightbacks by workers at Visteon, Lindsey etc - and this weakens the Left.
Despite such limitations, it's obvious that potential exists for bringing together the increasing numbers of young jobless people and trade unionists in united activity. Students, who will be confronted by rising graduate unemployment on leaving university, can also play an important part in the struggle to defend jobs. This will require co-ordination and initiative, more than we have seen so far. There's no avoiding the creeping sense that generally the left has been lacklustre in respsonding to the greatest crisis of the system since the 1930s. This has to change.
While people are struggling to find work, we see continuing investment in the bloody occupation of Afghanistan. It exposes the sheer absurdity of the system's priorities. Yet the Tories and the generals have the nerve to deploy patriotic rhetoric to demand still more money for war, more "boots on the ground". If we on the left are to shape the agenda, we need to challenge capitalism's twisted priorities and its media cheerleaders - the slogan 'Jobs not Bombs' is more pertinent than ever.