Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Scottish Wage Slavery

Although Scots speak of Scotland as “our” country and millions of Scotsmen have died or have been mutilated over the centuries in defence of what they called “their” country, as a matter of fact Scotland does not belong to the whole of the Scottish people, but to a comparative few. How many Scots can point to a particular part of the map of Scotland and say “this is mine”? The greatest portion of Scotland is divided among a few great landlords.

Scotland is spoken of as a wealthy country by proponents of nationalism. Does that mean that the Scottish people as a whole are well off? By no means. Some are immensely rich, most merely get by with a bare living, and large number are degradingly poor. The land, factories and transport, all the means of producing the nation’s wealth, are owned by the landlord/capitalist class. In capitalist Scotland, production is carried on not for the purpose of supplying the needs of the people but for the purpose of sale in order to realise a profit. Only those who have something to sell can get a living.

The working class have nothing to sell but their labour power. They sell their labour power to an employer for a price, that is, wages. Since one cannot separate labour power from one’s body it comes down to this, that a workers actually sells themselves like a slave. Socialists describe it as wage-slavery. In Scotland the average a worker is not more than a few weeks removed from penury. The Scottish worker know that year of honest sweat and persistent toil and bring them nothing worth holding on to, nothing worth fighting for. Yet, deep down in their foolish hearts they believe they have a country. Oh, the blind vanity of slaves!

What does Scottish capitalism offer the worker? A life of toil, and a bare subsistence. Always the fear of unemployment. A drab, colourless existence and, when unable to earn our keep any longer, to be thrown on the scrap-heap. In an independent Scotland , nationalists say “there will be change” and that “things will be different”. But capitalism will remains in existence, the worker will still remain subject to the capitalist. There will still be riches and leisure for the few yet drudgery and poverty for the many. Mansions for the idle rich, slum housing for the workers. An independent Scotland can offer its workers nothing but wage slavery. Independence does not make a wage-slave free . There has neverexisted a truly free and democratic nation in the world.

No master ever had any respect for his slave. The capitalist for whom you work doesn’t have to go out and look for you; you have to seek out him, and you belong to him just as completely as if he had legal title to your body; as if you were his chattel slave. He doesn’t own you under law, but he does under the fact. Why? Because he owns the means by which you work and if you don’t work you don’t eat. He is your boss; he owns your job, takes your product and controls your destiny. You have wants. You have necessities. You cannot satisfy them except by your labour. In a barbarous competitive struggle workers are fighting each other to sell themselves into slavery.

After the American Civil War, the ex-Confederacy plantation owners looked upon the loss of their slaves as a severe blow, but they soon began to see what the North had long since known, that the ownership of land and capital meant the virtual ownership of those who must have access to those instruments or starve. The slaves had been freed but as this freedom did not include freedom of access to the means of livelihood they were still as dependent as ever. Being unable to employ themselves they were compelled to seek employment, or the use of land upon which to live, at the hands of the very class from whom they had been liberated. In either case they were only able to retain barely enough of the product to keep body and soul together. The competition among the newly emancipated for an opportunity to secure a livelihood was so great that their labour-power could be bought for a mere existence wage. The labour-power of the slave thus became a commodity, and like all commodities, its price was determined by its cost of production. The cost of producing labour-power is the cost of the labourer’s keep. The master class were able to secure the necessary labour-power to carry on their industries for merely a subsistence wage for no more than it cost them when they owned the slaves as chattels. Indeed, slavery is not yet abolished. So long as the worker is deprived of property in the instruments of production, so long as his labour-power is a commodity which he is obliged to sell to another, he is not a free being, be he white or black. He is simply a slave to a master and from morning until night is as much a bondsman as any black ever was below Mason and Dixon’s line before the civil war. Slaves are cheaper now and do more work than at any time in the world’s history.

A shopkeeper in order to live must sell his wares for what he can get, but a worker in order to live must sell a part of his life, nine, ten, or twelve hours per day, as the case may be. The shopkeeper, if lucky, may get the value of his goods, but the worker cannot get under the capitalist system the value of his labour; he must accept whatever wage those who are unemployed are willing to accept at his job. This is what is called wage-slavery, because under it the worker is a slave who sells himself for a wage with which to buy his rations, which is the only difference between this system and chattel slavery where the master bought the rations and fed the slave himself. There is only one remedy for this slavery of the working class, and that remedy is socialism a system of society in which the land, factories, workshops, and everything necessary for work shall be owned and operated as common property

Today there is nothing so easily produced as wealth. The whole earth consists of raw materials and with solar, wind and water power, by the touch of a button from the merest child, these can be set into operation to transform these raw materials into wealth, the finished products, in all their multiplied forms and in opulent abundance for all, wealth enough for a community. There is no excuse for poverty today yet it is a scourge for most living in a chronic state of poverty. Workers can change this by making up their minds that it shall be changed.

There is one way to attain that end, and that way is for the working class to establish a political party of its own, resolved to use all the power of the workers against their oppressors.

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