No matter how you try,
Unless you think in terms of “we”
Instead of terms of “I”
Faced with austerity and wage cuts workers, more than ever, need unions that are prepared to fight to defend living standards. The boss doesn’t give up his profits, interests and dividends or bonuses in a recession. He only demands that the workers give up their wages so that his profits, interests and dividends will be bigger. This is what is known as everyone sacrificing for the “national interest.” Workers soon learns that if they are by themselves , not in an organisation, they will be utterly helpless victims of capitalist greed. If the employer, especially the more powerful employer in the big industries, is able to deal with each worker separately, he can set almost any wage and working standard he pleases. If each worker offers himself singly on the labor market, he soon finds that other workers, especially when there is a large surplus of unemployed, will “underbid” him in an effort to get the job. To defend themselves from the efforts of the employer to lower wage and working standards, the workers find themselves forced to organize together, to represent themselves to the employers as a group and to bargain collectively. The formation of unions is therefore the first step naturally taken by the workers to organise themselves as a class.
No one can say with certainty how various sections of the working class in Britain will react to the recession, which is slashing real living standards of those with jobs for the first time for generations, alongside a deep disillusionment with the Labour Party. The possibility of an explosion of anger exists, of which we see flashes of militancy. But political consciousness does not follow as a mechanical process nor does it depend solely on the external circumstances.
The theory that the workers are not capable of governing themselves is false to the core. Every worker who has participated in trade union life knows that the working class has a tremendous capacity for efficient administration.
In general the employers are much better prepared than the workers in industrial conflicts. The reasons do not lie in any inherent weakness in the working class. Actually the workers are much more powerful than the bosses. The weakness of the workers lies in the failure to recognize the class struggle in its real significance and to prepare the fight accordingly. A union should unite workers instead of divide them; it should be run by workers and not run them; it should fight employers instead of fighting other workers. The most modest victory of the workers in one plant or industry depends upon the organised strength of the workers all over the country, in all the important plants and industries. In other words, the progress of any group of workers depends upon the strength and organisation of their class, upon its ability to combat the capitalists as a class. Those who argue against independent political action by the workers, against a socialist party, are tied in body and mind to capitalist politics.
The only real answer lies in a world system, a system without classes, an challenge which goes beyond the ‘fair wage’ to challenge the wage system itself. Capital is interested in production for profit, labour in production for use. Capital is based upon a constantly increasing exploitation of labor, in order to maintain its profit; labor constantly resists this exploitation. There is and can be no such thing as a “legitimate profit,” inasmuch as all profit is derived from paying workers less than the value they add to the product. There is and can be no such thing as a “fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work,” inasmuch as wages are the payment for only one part of the day’s work, the other part of which the worker is compelled to contribute to the employer in the form of surplus-value, or profit. Capital always seeks to increase its profits, which can be done only by exploiting labour; labour always seeks to resist exploitation, which can be done only at the expense of profits. Capital always seeks to intensify the exploitation of labour by reducing wages, increasing the work-day, or speeding-up production, or by all three at once; and labour always seeks to raise its wage and working standards. Capital always seeks to increase its profits, which can be done only by exploiting labour; labour always seeks to resist exploitation, which can be done only at the expense of profits. These are fundamental economic facts. Under capitalism, nothing that all the capitalists, or the whole government, or all the union leaders, or all the workers, or a combination of all these, will ever do, can succeed in wiping out these facts.
Capitalists hammer into the heads of the workers they are entitled to a profit. They hammer into the heads of the workers that capitalism always did exist and always will. Maybe it can and should be improved a little, patched up here and painted up there , but not eliminated. They hammer into the heads of the workers that there always have been people working for wages and there always will and must be such people; that it is so decreed by “human nature”; and that the best to be hoped for is the rule of a “fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work." They work hard at hammering these ideas into the heads of the people. If these ideas did not prevail, they could not retain their power for a week.