Are you a Wage Slave?

Classes can be distinguished by their relationship to the means of production and distribution. In capitalist or state capitalist society, workers have access to farms, factories, mines, railways etc. only as wage-labourers (or salaried employees, if you prefer euphemisms).


The worker owns nothing save his labour-power (manual skills, qualifications, experience, brains) but he has got to live. He doesn’t have free access to food, housing or anything; they all have a price tag. He cannot get a living without money. So he sells his labour-power. At the end of the week or month he is paid according roughly to how much it costs a worker to keep a roof over his head and reproduce, complicated by the need to pay skilled workers at a higher rate and also by varying levels of unemployment. Wages generally are geared to “cost of living” figures. They are not geared to the value of what the workers produce.


The employers make a profit from the value of the work done, over and above what is paid out as wages, cost of raw materials, machinery and other overheads. Everything the workers buy is produced and distributed by the working class themselves. Yet their access to the wealth they produce so abundantly is severely rationed and limited by the money in the paypacket. An obvious example is housing. In the South East unless you earn over £3,500 a year you will not easily find a home you can buy. The result is that most building workers — bricklayers, plumbers, joiners etc. — cannot buy the houses they themselves build.


This is what “cash wages” (or cheque salaries) means in practice: rationing, by a singularly inappropriate process. Our pay packets have no relevance to our level of needs: they only reflect the value of our labour-power — whether we are skilled and scarce, or unskilled and abundant. Old people, handicapped people, women, children, sick people: all these are especially needy, and they are the people who have least money.


This can only mean that our society has the wrong priorities. This problem of the distribution of what man produces can only be solved by Socialism, a common ownership society, democratically controlled by all people, with free access to all mankind’s wealth. Socialism will mean no poverty, no-one suffering hunger or homelessness through lack of money while food and houses are available in abundance.


Charmian Skelton