Abolish Wage Labor by 2027: Is such a movement possible?

by Jehu

 

I want to be absolutely clear on what I am calling for here:

Communists must lead a fight to reduce hours of labor to zero in the next ten years; to completely abolish wage labor as an institution within a decade and realize full communism in North America and Europe by a date certain: 2027.

For purposes of this discussion, I define full communism as the complete abolition of wage labor: the end to the requirement of labor as a condition for access to the means of consumption; to replace this system by the free access to the means of consumption; and to replace present society, founded on wage labor, by one founded on the principle of “From each according to ability to each according to need.”

This replacement would include the abolition of both money and the existing state.

*****

Is this possible? Am I demanding some utopian goal that cannot be realized in reality? There are several possible general objections to ending wage labor in ten years as I have outlined above.

First, there is the objection that the the complete abolition of wage labor is not technically feasible. This objection, although powerful, flies in the face of all economic theory today. If abolition of wage labor is not technically feasible, why do capitalist states today devote trillions of dollars every year to promoting economic growth and full employment? Why is economic growth and job creation the central aim of all economic policy in every country on the planet today without exception? Absent this sustained and aggressive intervention by states wage labor would collapse right now.

The state today is the only thing keeping wage labor viable as a means of producing material wealth and everyone knows this. Why then do we accept the idea that access to the means of consumption must remain dependent on wage labor? State economic policy is required today precisely because wage labor has outlived its usefulness as a means of producing material wealth.

Second, there is the objection that the idea is not politically feasible. This would be a reasonable objection if we were running for office, but we are not. Why would communists care that abolition of wage labor is not politically feasible? Since we don’t care about holding office in the present state, why would we choose our positions based on what is politically popular at the ballot box.

What is popular at the ballot box and what is necessary to end wage slavery are two distinct and separate issues. To give an analogy, if we based our positions on what is politically popular, black people would still be sitting in the back of buses. What possible objection is it that we can’t stand for complete abolition of wage labor because it doesn’t poll well? What communist in their right mind even makes this sort of argument?

Third, there is the objection that a reduction of hours of labor will cause a massive economic crisis. This objection has more validity for us than the above two objections. A reduction of hours of labor would cause a massive economic crisis. But reducing of hours of labor causes a crisis in the economy because the economy at present is based on exploitation of the working class. Any measure that reduces the exploitation of the working class in an economy based on exploitation of the working class must throw the economy headlong into crisis.

Let me argue that this is not our concern. We no more care about the fact that ending exploitation of the working class would throw the economy into a crisis than we should have been concerned in 1860 that end of slavery would throw agriculture in the American South into a protracted economic crisis. We are not the least bit concerned that businesses and governments will go bankrupt because they will be starved of profits and revenue. We are today, as in 1860, only concerned about the emancipation of the working class, whose material conditions will improve at the expense of both businesses and governments.

Reducing hours of labor forces a massive shift in the distribution of the social product from capital and the state to the working class. This is not a bug. It is a feature. It is exactly what we are trying to do: to shift the social product from capital to the working class. For centuries that working class has taken the brunt of every crisis. This is our chance to force capital and the state to eat those costs.

Fourth, there is the objection that even if technically and politically feasible, ten years is much too short a period of time. To the objection that ten years is too short a period of time to put an end to wage labor, my response is, “How do you know?” Can you cite a single study ever published that says the end of wage labor will take another 50 years? 100 years? 1000 years?

Your objection amounts to the same gradualist attitudes that characterized opposition to the end of segregation and anti-gay laws. For gradualists, any change is too fast because they really oppose all change. To these gradualists, I say what Dr. King said to the gradualists of his time:

“We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct-action campaign that was ‘well timed’ in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word ‘Wait!’ It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This ‘Wait’ has almost always meant ‘Never.’ We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that ‘justice too long delayed is justice denied.'”

Your gradualism is just another way of telling the working class not to demand an end to their exploitation under the guise of sympathy. The only reason for not demanding an immediate end to wage labor is a desire, more or less hidden, to see it remain in place.

In my opinion, none of these objections to a movement to abolish wage labor by 2027 have a shred of validity.

Advertisements