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Wage Labour

‘Immigrants’: A Voice From the Past

Think-tanks galore are releasing studies about income inequality. The Tories preach free markets as the answer to it while conveniently ignoring the failure of ‘trickle down’ economics. The Labour Party suggests the need for more social programmes while its left-wing argues for a greater redistribution of income in order to level the playing field. Of course, they will ignore the fact that decades of state-sponsored interventions have failed . What happens when inequality rises? Usually, a demagogue turns up to stir up the discontent and he or she will point the finger at ‘them’ for making things worse for ‘us’. It is all too easy to blame outsiders for causing problems such as unemployment, the housing crisis or even crime.

Capitalism – barrier to useful work

Many are suffering the misery of unemployment while much useful, necessary work remains undone. One of the contradictions of capitalism. We want free time, to reduce the working day so that we can move beyond the tyranny of survival into free and creative mutual activity. Both employment and unemployment are capitalism preventing our human development in this direction.

The problems of unemployment are huge – worldwide problems affecting millions in some countries and billions globally if we include the massive numbers of 'informal' workers, those recognised as outside of the system, many of them non-persons living on the very edge of existence with no access to even the basic services.

The Socialist Party of Great Britain (1904)

The greatest problem awaiting solution in the world to-day is the existence in every commercial country of extreme poverty side by side with extreme wealth. In every land where, in the natural development of society, the capitalist method of producing and distributing wealth has been introduced, this problem presses itself upon us. Not only so but the greater the grip which capitalism has on industry the more intense is the poverty of the many and the more marked are the riches of the few.

Are You a Wage Slave?

Surely having to work for a wage or a salary is a modern form of slavery?

We socialists like to refer to wage labour as “wage slavery” and call workers “wage-slaves”. Non-socialists may assume that we use these expressions as figures of speech, for rhetorical effect. No, we use them literally. They reflect our view of capitalist society.

Socialists use the word “slavery” in a broad sense, to encompass both chattel slavery and wage slavery as alternative ways of exploiting labour. We are aware of the differences between them, but we also want to draw attention to their common purpose. Capitalist language conceals this common purpose by equating chattel slavery with slavery as such and by conflating wage labour with free labour. Socialists regard labour as free only where the labourers themselves individually or collectively own and control the means by which they labour (land, tools, machinery, etc.).

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