1960s >> 1967 >> no-760-december-1967

Work under Socialism

However man organises society, be it chattel slavery, feudalism, capitalism or Socialism, work is necessary to provide his basic requirements of food, shelter and clothing. How he produces and distributes his requirements determines that society’s attitude to work.

For example the ancient Greeks considered that mechanical work, which was mainly performed by slave labour, made man unfit for the practice of higher, more civilised cultural activities.

Early Protestantism justified and made pre-eminent the conduct and feeling about work necessary for modern capitalist society. Luther thought that work was “the base and key to life”.

As capitalism has developed it has been realised that constant work does not maintain the efficiency of the worker— ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’—and so concepts of leisure and recreation have in recent years been much discussed. The use of leisure under capitalism must make the worker fit for the continuation of toil, and so there have been recurring complaints against leisure activities which are considered frivolous or degrading.

It should be noted that leisure in the re-creational sense expends energy, and in that sense is work. The opposite to work, idleness, could not be continued for long for it becomes insufferably boring. Work is necessary to meet mankind’s basic requirements. Also it is necessary to maintain the full health of man’s body, physically and mentally.

One of the objections to Socialism is often framed in terms of man’s laziness. Given the opportunity to have his basic needs met, it is argued that man would be lazy or idle.

It should be realised that man must exercise his body, or make it work, in order that various organs and parts—muscle, brain, heart, continue to function efficiently.

Man is essentially a social being, not merely because he enjoys the companionship of his fellows, but out of sheer necessity. This social bond shows at times of great disasters. Without society there could be no man. The reason mankind has gained the control over nature that we know at present is due to his developing social organisation. The various problems throughout his evolution have been met by a changing society. Capitalist society throws up problems which are not soluble in its own terms. Those regarding work are principally: no work unless you can find an employer, alienation from the means of production and the product of labour, debasement of quality, trivialised craftsmanship, and specialisation which results in the worker being an extension of the machine. These are some of the conditions of work that Socialism will remove.

Socialism will be a democratic, classless society. All mankind will stand in the same relationship to the means of production. Production will be organised to meet the needs of society, and science will be used to remove work that the community finds distasteful. All labour will be useful. That is, it will be concerned with the production and distribution of goods and services. Commodity production with its requirement of numerous commercial workers, adding nothing useful to meet mankind’s needs, will be no more. Leisure will be idleness or recreation as the individual desires. There will not be any pressure to conform to any given pattern of work and recreation. Men who are working in their own interests do not have to be driven, coaxed, or cajoled. Work under Socialism will be inspired by the greatest of all incentives— the knowledge that the function required of workers will enable each and every human being to have “according to his needs”.

In Capitalist society life is compartmentalised into Infancy, Training, Work and Retirement. Under Socialism people will endeavour to work their bodies to maintain their maximum efficiency in order to gain the greatest enjoyment from life. When young much of the work process will be educational, but the learning process will not cease at any given age. All people will have the opportunity to further their knowledge, ability and interests whatever their age. There will be no such thing as compulsory retirement.

As people get older they will desire to play a greater and eventually a smaller part in society. This will be demonstrated by greater and later a smaller participation in the productive process.

Work will be a pleasurable activity of free men and women, taken up consciously by them and continued as long as the effort is rewarding. There will be no time wasting as today, for time wasting is a reflection of the fact that there is no satisfaction in the work being done. Under Socialism when work becomes distasteful the worker will seek activities more in line with his need and ability.

Production under Socialism will design and produce goods to meet the needs of man in the best way possible. When the products of labour are the best possible, when production is organised to meet the needs of mankind, when man can demonstrate his interest in constructive work, when the alienating conditions of work experienced under Capitalism are gone—then the social constructiveness of work will have removed the cause of much mental ill-health and work neurosis experienced under Capitalism.

Man will then be free to pursue recreational games and pastimes. The do-it-yourself leisure activities of today—man’s limited opportunity to express himself through work and take pride in his achievement—will be part of the production of goods and services that society will require. This means that man will bring the standards of craftsmanship to production, which can be contrasted with today’s cheap shoddy goods with built-in obsolescence designed to meet the requirements of the market.

The historian and his observations today can tell us much, with considerable detail, about the conditions of work under earlier societies and present day capitalism. We cannot be as specific with regard to work under Socialism, for the problem when looking into the future is that we do not know the scientific and technological tools, instruments and machines that will be available. The means of production will obviously strongly influence the method of organisation. Nevertheless knowing the social conditions it can be said that work will be necessary, that man will gain pleasure from creative work, that the free time he will enjoy will enable him to widen and deepen his interests—all in the knowledge that by co-operative efforts the welfare of all mankind will be furthered.

Man, a social being, will recognise that his first vital need is work.

Ken Knight