Skip to Content

wage slavery

Material World: ‘I Feel I am a Slave’

Material World

There are now 53 million domestic workers worldwide, 1.5 million domestic workers in Saudi Arabia alone, where recruitment agencies fly in 40,000 women a month to keep up with demand.

In the Gulf, the International Trade Union Confederation says that 2.4 million domestic workers are facing conditions of slavery. Rothna Begum of Human Rights Watch says that ‘in many houses these women have absolutely no status – they have been bought’. The International Domestic Workers Federation estimates that families save $8bn (£5.1bn) a year by withholding wages from their domestic workers. ‘With kafala and other legal systems around the world that give no labour rights to migrant women, you are giving almost total impunity to employers to treat these women however they like,’ Begum says. 'It’s startling what cruelty can emerge when one person has complete control over another.’

Is It Work We Want?

"It is work we want, not charity," said a spokesman of the unemployed at a street corner meeting. This sums up the outlook of the average worker of to-day. He can see no other method of life than toiling or existing on charity. The fear of having to beg for bread, or go into the workhouse, spurs him on to find a job, though the conditions of work become ever more degrading.

How strange that such a view should find general acceptance among people already worn out with work; and at a time when wealth can be produced with such ease and abundance! It is stranger still that some must work hard and spend niggardly, whilst others work not and yet spend lavishly. If the former cease work for a brief while they come suddenly to the end of their resources; the latter buy palaces and furnish them brilliantly, live in magnificence, and yet at the end of their days they are more wealthy than at the commencement.

Chains Link

What do most people associate with the name William Wilberforce? Probably if they had been fed on the usual diet of school history books, it is the abolition of slavery. We are told by one common text, for instance, that "Wilberforce sacrificed the prospect of a great political career to devote his whole life to humanitarian causes" (Modern Britain 1783-1964, D. Richards, J. W. Hunt). In fact, when it came to the majority, the working class—also known as the Rabble—Wilberforce's attitude was less than philanthropic. From the close of the eighteenth century until his death in 1833, as the MP for Yorkshire and a prominent politician, he fought a constant crusade to keep the workers in their place. Along with Dr. John Bowdler he founded the Society for the Suppression of Vice and Encouragement of Religion.

Editorial: The Power to Say No

There has been more ministerial sneering recently from Iain Duncan Smith after his department’s Workfare regime of unpaid work placements for benefit claimants, ‘slave labour’ to some, was declared illegal by a High Court ruling.  The ruling was made on narrowly technical grounds and not, as some had hoped, under the anti-slavery laws.  This came as a disappointment to campaigners, but as a judgement by the capitalist state on a capitalist system of government, it should surprise no one.  But what of slavery within capitalism itself?

Syndicate content