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Letters

Dear Editors,
                        I would be interested in your answers to the following points:

(1) Massive social improvements have been achieved since WW2 by modifying
capitalism. This is a proven strategy for improving the lives of working people.
Abolishing capitalism is unproven and so ambitious and unlikely that most
people can't even imagine it. Better to play the percentage game and stick with a
socially modified form of capitalism along Scandinavian lines.

(2) I work for a company owned by capitalists so why don't I feel oppressed?
I make as much money as I want doing a job I enjoy without being an owner or shareholder.

(3) People need a contrast between work and leisure in order to appreciate and
enjoy their leisure time. This would be lost if paid work was abolished.

(4) Are NHS workers also wage slaves? If so, why? Since they work for the good of
the whole of society not a capitalist's profit.

N. B., Maccesfield.

Reply:

(1) It is true that, compared with their equivalents in 1945, most people in Britain
today are better off in terms of what they consume. But this hasn't been the result
of Scandinavian-type "social modification" of capitalism since it has also happened
in other countries, such as the US, which have not adopted such a policy.

 It will have been the result partly of workers working more intensively than they did
in 1945 and so needing to consume more to regenerate their mental and physical
energies and partly also of their increased productiveness allowing the capitalists
­ under trade union pressure ­ to pay higher wages while still extracting more
profit.

 Even so, most people do probably see things like you do, which will be one
of the reasons why they have not been interested in socialist ideas. But they still
have money problems and they are also affected by wider social problems ­ wars
and the threat of war, pollution, crime ­ which can only be solved in the context
of a socialist society. On the world scale of course it's a different story with record
numbers living in absolute poverty.

  As to Socialism being ambitious ­ what worthwhile goal isn't? 99 percent of the
socialist revolution consists of imbuing our class with the confidence and ambition to
succeed, and a revulsion of living as wage slaves whether pampered or ill-fed: once we
have this our numbers will carry the day.

(2) Just because you don't feel oppressed doesn't mean you are not being
exploited. Why do you think your capitalist company employs you if not because it is
getting more money from what you do than what it pays you? It's certainly not doing
this just to give you money to live on. Wait and see what will happen if the company
ever runs into financial difficulties or is taken over.

(3) All that those socialists who have speculated about the disappearance of the
distinction between work and leisure in socialism mean is that work, like leisure
activities today, could become something people like doing ­ not an impossibility
since even under capitalism today you yourself say you like the job you're doing.
Of course, there will still be a distinction in socialism between organised work to be
done during set hours, even if enjoyable, and recreational activities carried out at
the individual's discretion.

(4) Yes, NHS workers are wage-slaves in the sense that, not having any large
unearned income from owning property, to get the money to buy the things they
need to live, they have to sell themselves ­ or more accurately, their working abilities
­ on the labour market for a wage. They may be employed by a governmental body
and be doing a useful job (at least some of them, not those working in accounts)
rather than for a profit-seeking capitalist firm, but they are still exploited in the
sense of working for a longer time than the value of the working skills they sell and
are paid for.   ­Editors