Platypus Question No. 6: Is there a concrete demand for the immediate abolition of wage labor?

by Jehu

In question 6, Platypus asks if there is a concrete political demand for the immediate abolition of wage labor:

“If the abolition of wage labor should indeed be a goal of emancipatory politics, what forms of politics or concrete demands should be pursued to attain this goal? How do we get from ‘here’ to ‘there’?”

The question is somewhat confused: Since the state itself is maintaining and enforcing the conditions for capitalist reproduction by extending hours of labor, a political demand for the abolition of labor is not possible. The problem is further complicated by the fact the Left faces is that it conflates opposition to fascist state economic management with opposition to social progress. To resolve these complications, we need to go back to my definition of overwork and unemployment.

First, the term “overwork” is meaningless on the premise of capital: Capital is premised on the overwork of the working class, the extension of hours of labor beyond the duration required to satisfy the material needs of the workers. It is the extension beyond the labor time required to satisfy the needs of the working class that is the source of all surplus value. Which is to say, overwork of the working class is the premise of the capitalist mode of production, the production of surplus value, of production for profit.

However, overwork as it is being employed in the present context is something else: it is an excessive duration of labor not only in relation to the needs of the working class, but also in relation to the material requirements of the productive employment of capital. Overwork as it is being employed by Platypus, is therefore, excessive hours of labor in relation to both classes and to production of material wealth in general. This is not “overwork” in the capitalist sense of that term, but overwork even by the standards of the capitalist mode of production for profit. Which is to say, this is the performance of entirely superfluous labor — labor that produces neither surplus value nor material wealth.

As Postone explained, in labor theory this overwork constitutes a new historical category: labor time that can be converted into disposable time, i.e., time away from labor for the vast majority of society. This superfluous labor cannot be employed by either class nor both of them together, but is superfluous to the needs of society as a whole. This labor time can only be employed by individual members of society as their disposable time for purposes they alone consider important. Superfluous labor time is the potential for self-activity of the members of society as it must appear within the limits of the capitalist mode of production — within the limits of a mode of production premised on labor, on production of surplus value, on production for profit.

Second, given the above definition of overwork and unemployment as entirely superfluous labor time, it follows that overwork and unemployment, as used in this context, is itself made possible only through the economic policies of the fascist state. Since superfluous labor time cannot be employed productively by capital and, since superfluous labor time requires the active intervention of the state to make it possible, it follows that superfluous labor time only begins where the materially necessary labor time of society ends.

However, it is just this point, where materially necessary labor time ends, that Marx and Engels defined as the realm of freedom. The realm of freedom, therefore, begins only at the point where labor itself becomes superfluous to the material requirements of society. This, however, turns out also to be the point where fascist state management becomes necessary to maintain existing relations of production. It follows from what I have said in the above two points that the abolition of wage labor and the ending of fascist state economic management are one and the same thing.

Concretely, the demand for abolition of wage slavery must take the form of a demand for an end to fascist state management of the economy. This, of course, raises more practical questions than it answers; however those questions cannot themselves be answered until this essential fact is acknowledged: The end of wage slavery and the end of fascist state economic management – of fiscal and monetary policy — are now one and the same.