Class War 1/3

Demand Nothing – Take Everything

Evolution never brought one class into being for the purpose of working all their lives just for the comfort and enrichment of another class. The way to turn people into wage slaves was to dispossess them. The land was forcibly taken from them and a person deprived of the right to share the commons would become much more dependent on an employer than one who had retained a right of free use of the commons. The great number of people were reduced from a relatively comfortable state of independence to the precarious condition of mere hired hands. Before enclosure, a “cottager” was described as a labourer with the land; after enclosure, he was a labourer without land.  Possessing no means of producing their own sustenance and livelihood, workers were therefore condemned to working for others. The working class had been born. Industrial capitalism entailed a severe restructuring of working habits – and introduced the tyranny of the clock. Rural work was accustomed to sun-rise and sun-set and to the seasons and the length and shortness of the day, the vagaries of weather, and, of course, the needs of the crop and animals. Men and women worked in relationship to nature. Social life and labour were intermingled, people were free to indulge in “passing the time of day” with one another. It was an irregular and frequently informal cycle of the working day and week and indeed of the working year. It was the factory, the mill and the work-shop which brought in time-sheets and clocking in and clocking out,  along with the recording of productivity and out-put by the hour and the minute. But workers had to be broken and disciplined into wage slavery. New draconian labour habits were eventually formed. It took a while but it didn’t always go unchallenged 

The history of the labour movement is rich with examples of the importance of unions to workers. The battles waged and the victories won by workers demonstrate what can be achieved through organising on the economic field. We have the unions to thank for a lot of things we take for granted: the eight-hour workday, child labour laws, health and safety standards and the weekend. The history of the union movement proves the Marxian contention that wages are not regulated by any “iron law” but can be modified to a certain degree by organised militant action on the part of the workers. 

Nevertheless, the gap between those at the top of society, and the rest of us, is actually getting bigger. This is a general trend in capitalism throughout the world. In truth, the capitalists pretty much look after themselves – but for the workers under capitalism, they always did get the shitty end of the stick. To fight the same old welfare reform battles over several decades is demoralising enough, but when previous reforms are put into reverse the case against the system is stronger than ever.

Which is one good reason why we should not put up with capitalism any longer. The tyranny of wage-slavery maintains injustice and division worldwide. The only framework within which can be solved the problems facing humanity, not only obviously global problems such as climate change, wars and pandemics, but also the more “local” problems such as in the fields of healthcare, education, transport and the like but which are basically the same in all countries. The Socialist Party is thus anti-capitalist. There is only one solution to the economic crises and slumps of capitalism: a socialist revolution that will sweep away the fetters of the market economy for good. It can‘t be mended, so it must be ended. When we challenge capitalism, we challenge it all or we do not challenge it at all.

Workers talk of “good wages” but there really is no such thing. Wages of any sort imply exploitation, which is a polite name for robbery, and all exploitation, from a worker’s point of view, is bad so it follows that all wages are bad. The early working class didn’t need socialists to tell them what this meant. They realised that they too were slaves robbed of the product of their labour. It was they who coined the term “wage-slavery”, not to describe the fact that they were paid low wages but that they had to work for wages at all. Workers are now educated to expect to work for someone else, to feel fortunate in finding work and often see the provision of employment as a form of generosity, a gift bestowed upon them. “Jobs” appear to be one of the sacred words today. Anything can be justified by “creating jobs”. No one likes being in a condition of slavery. It’s understandable that slaves either identify with their masters or deny that they are slaves. Who really takes pleasure in working eight hours a day, five days a week, having those hours and days decided for you by someone else, having to follow orders from a boss or another authority figure, receiving just a few weeks in the year as vacation time? This is the situation for those of us who are workers.

Capitalist society is structured such that most people are either unemployed or wage slaves. Marxists explain wrote that while superficially labour contracts appear to be voluntary, in reality, they are forced. It appears that a worker chooses to work for a particular business. But in economic reality, he or she cannot choose to leave, and so become enslaved to the company, vulnerable to a debilitating controlling work environment. When the market conditions change the needs of capital, workers are completely expendable and made redundant. Left without the means of supporting themselves, workers are then at the mercy of employers who then use unemployment to drive down wage rates. The weaker the workers are collective, the less they get overall. Conversely, the more organised the owners become, the richer they become. And being far fewer, that collusion proves far easier for employers. We are not by law bound to a single individual, but, in fact, to the capitalist class as a whole. Wage slavery describes the extraction of unpaid-for surplus from the working class by a class that owns the means of production. That’s a fact we all need to recognise today, and although veiled and disguised we should recognise it as every bit the same as the human bondage seen on plantations of the slavery of the American southern states.