Where Labor is Robbed

Labor is robbed where labor is employed, and, directly, nowhere else. Labor is robbed in the pay envelope, and the hand that reaches the pay envelope to him and no other, directly, is in his pocket.

Labor cannot be robbed in the prices it is compelled to pay for the commodities which it consumes. For the good and sufficient reason that the cost of living determines wages. Wages always hover about the cost of subsistence. If provisions and clothing are dear, wages must go up to meet the increased cost of living, since the laborer must live before he can work. If the employer gets his profits, he must see to it somehow that his wage-slave is in working condition, just as the farmer must see to it that his horses must have hay and stabling if he is to have the benefit of their labor. The cost of hay is of no particular concern to the horses.

In an accommodated sense, labor can be “robbed” in the quality of the goods consumed, by means of fraud and adulteration but not in price.

A Battle Creek contributor to last week’s “Wage Slave,” for example, says that ”the hand of the rich man is externally in the poor man’s pocket for taxes or for the price of meat.” This is not correct. The hand of the rich man, i.e., the employer, is in the employee’s pocket in one manner only, and that is in withholding from him, in the pay envelope, four-fifths of the value he has created. They can’t make the wage-earner pay one penny of the taxes, Municipal, State, or National; and if meat sold at a dollar a pound, that wouldn’t affect him in the slightest degree, either, so long as other commodities advanced correspondingly. If the price of meat advances out of proportion to the cost of other food-stuffs containing the same dynamic energy, the result will be simply to change the form of his diet, but it can’t possibly affect his income or make it easier or harder for him to save anything.

The only workingmen in whose pockets the Beef Trust has its hands are its own employees, whom it robs, as other employers do, in their pay envelopes, and the farmer who is robbed in his pay envelope too, in an arbitrary depression of prices.

That the wage-earners do not pay the taxes is directly evident with the great majority of them who have nothing to tax. But it is none the less certainly true of those, also, who possess a small property and are rated as taxpayers. In their case, such taxes as are levied upon them enter into the cost of living, and, again, the necessary cost of living determines the wages.

Tax reform, “trust-bustin’,” cheapened transit—or if they made it free, it would be all the same—municipal lighting, lowering of rents—all these and similar measures are seen to be purely Middle-Class measures, designed either to make the big robbers divide up a little more evenly with the little robbers, or to enable the employing class to house and feed their wage-slaves more cheaply and, consequently, get them for less wages.

The one thing needful for the working-class, without which all efforts to better their condition are vanity and vexation of spirit, is the capture for collective ownership of the land and the machinery of production. When we have this, we have it all. Without we are nothing. All efforts or attempts to benefit the working-man by lowering the cost of his living will only play into the hands of the employing class.

From The Wage-Slave.

Leave a Reply