Work under Socialism

One of the principal criticisms of socialist society is based on the assumption that a large number of people will use their newly found economic freedom as an excuse for dodging work. The objectors usually argue that work under Capitalism is compulsory for the working class, and without compulsion, as in a socialist society, no or very little work will be done. They instance absenteeism under Capitalism, go-slow tactics, idlers, including members of the capitalist class, who largely devote their life to idleness and pleasure.

Most readers win agree that work for the majority of people at present is not in fact work, but tedium. In spite of this, the Sunday Express (24th June, 1951) recently drew attention to die existence of a body called “The Education and Action for Leisure Organisation ” in an article entitled “What men do when they retire from work.” The object of this organisation is finding work for people when they retire. Dr. Carl Lawton, their spokesman, stated that out of 1,000 people he had interviewed during the past two years 80 per cent. of them wanted to go back to some kind of work and be paid for it Here are a few examples given in the article: Lieut-General Sir Oliver Leese, who retired at 52, now runs a mushroom farm in Shropshire. Tilly Losch, the former Countess of Carnarvon, danced her way to £10,000 per year before she retired from the stage; now she has not only become a well-known painter in America but has launched out as a straight actress. Sir William Larke, for 24 years director of the British Iron and Steel Federation, does a dozen different jobs in National and Social organisations. Sir Valentine Holmes, K.C., retired from the Bar where he was earning £20,000 a year; after a short rest he became legal adviser to Shell-Mex. Mr. Sidney Little, formerly chief water engineer of Hastings, does part-time jobs. He works for the Council, and tends his fruit trees.

The people named are apparently fairly wealthy, so we can reasonably assume that they are not compelled to work, and yet they do so from preference. There can be no doubt that these people have determined the conditions under which they will work, and like the jobs they wish to perform; most of them, incidentally, socially useful.

The working class at the moment do not determine the conditions under which they will work, and only in a minority of cases do they like their particular jobs. Were they in the position of determining their conditions of work, which is the prime factor in liking or disliking a particular job, it is safe to say that they would choose conditions vastly different from those that exist today. The removal of wage labour, the doing-away with the multifarious useless occupations; the feeling of social responsibility brought about by socialist consciousness, would invigorate the desire to produce useful and desirable articles and services for the use of one and all.

Recently the Daily Mail (4th July ’51) published a circular which had been displayed at Chatham Dockyard. The circular, put up by the Admiral-in-Charge (evidently landlocked) criticised the dockyard workers for slacking and general idleness, and ended with the usual appeal about playing the game. The following day a protest was received from all the workers. The shop stewards pointed out that all work allocated had been done in the time permitted, and that the men wanted still more work as it gave them the opportunity of earning larger bonuses.

The position then is that workers will work if they can see, rightly or wrongly, an economic advantage in the form of bonuses, which give them greater access to the means of life; food, clothing, entertainment, etc.

In socialist society every possible economic advantage will be present, as the means of production will be owned in common and the wealth produced will be freely accessible. The highness or lowness of the living standard will be determined by society as a whole and their capacity and desire to produce.

In all reason we cannot imagine society committing social suicide by refusing to produce its means of livelihood, which would be the case if no or little work were performed. The advantages of Socialism by far outweigh any of these highly problematical academic arguments about lazy people, which are the last ditch of the resisters of Socialism.

J. D.

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