The Socialist Party’s
21st—23rd July 2023
Work, in all its forms, is what keeps society running. At best, our own work can be interesting and creative, if we’re not stuck in an unfulfilling role. Capitalism turns work into employment, with our job roles shaped by how profitable or cost-effective they are likely to be, more than by how useful or manageable they are. Even so, countless important tasks rely on volunteers and other unpaid labour.
Poor conditions and pay have pushed an increased number of employees to go on strike. But how effective can industrial action be when workers don’t own or control the places we work in? Alongside the impact of the state and the economy on how we work, technology has had a massive influence, from the most basic tools to the latest advances in computing.
In a socialist society, work would be freed from the constraints of money and the exploitation of employment, and would instead be driven directly by people’s needs and wants. This would entail workplaces being owned in common and run democratically. But how could this happen in practice?
Ancient monuments are a testament to the skills and abilities of humanity through the ages: and they are also clues as to how and why people laboured in the past. This talk will look at some of this evidence, and use it to discuss how human labour time is a constant factor in historical modes of production whilst also varying in how and why it was used. It will also look at how this evidence of human ingenuity is refracted through a modern ideological prism.
Speaker: Bill Martin
Much as we hate capitalist employment, our lives depend on finding it. So what are we to make of the impending Artificial Intelligence revolution which, combined with robotics, threatens to destroy up to 30% of all jobs by the mid-2030s? 90% of the world’s most successful companies are already investing in AI, so is the future for workers going to be rosy, with high pay and abundant leisure time, a hellish Dickensian nightmare, or the much-vaunted Singularity beyond which capitalism as we know it may not even exist?
Speaker: Paddy Shannon
This talk will look at the nature of the work, paid and unpaid, that the speaker and others close to him have engaged in over the years and draw conclusions about the experience of that in the context of the system we live under. It will then reflect on some of the implications of that for the possible nature of work in a future socialist society.
Speaker: Howard Moss
Why should I let the toad work / Squat on my life? / Can’t I use my wit as a pitchfork / And drive the brute off? Philip Larkin
Work has a complex and curious history, one that’s central to human experience. Yet what is it? And why does it seem so contradictory? Work is obligatory. We desire it. We rely on it for a sense of purpose and belonging, maybe even for identity. And yet as Sunday draws to a close and Monday approaches the thought of it can leave us clammy and hollow inside. Perhaps…
This is a lightning tour through the story of work, from the open Savannah to the open-plan office and beyond. On the way it attempts to throw some light on the brutish toad and maybe offers a pitchfork or two in consolation.
Speaker: Richard Field
The Socialist Party’s weekend of talks and discussion looks at different aspects of work, and what they tell us about the society we live in. The event also includes an exclusive publication, exhibition and bookstall.
Our venue is Woodbrooke, 1046 Bristol Road, Birmingham, B29 6LJ. Full residential cost (including accommodation and meals Friday evening to Sunday afternoon) is £200; the concessionary rate is £100.
Spaces are still available, but bookings should be made soon. Unfortunately, full refunds may not be available for non-attendance or cancellations.
Book here or send a cheque (payable to the Socialist Party of Great Britain) with your contact details to Summer School, The Socialist Party, 52 Clapham High Street, London, SW4 7UN. Day visitors are welcome, but please e-mail for details in advance. Send enquiries to email@example.com.