Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Joy of Work

The greatest problem awaiting solution in the world to-day is the existence in every country of extreme poverty side by side with extreme wealth. How is it that the men and women who till the land, who toil the mines, who operate the machines, who construct the factories and build the homes, or, in other words, those who create the world’s wealth, receive only sufficient to maintain themselves and keep their families on the border line of bare necessity, while those who do not produce --the employing class--obtain more than is enough to supply their every comfort, and luxury? The prospect before the workers of all the world is that they will continue to suffer hardships of the capitalist system until they actively interest themselves in understanding socialist principles and assisting in socialist re-organisation. Capitalist production rests upon keeping those who produce in subservience and economic exploitation. Work under capitalism means selling labour power in a labour market which is alien to their interests as individuals and alien to their interests as a class. Under capitalism work and the division of labour in the cause of profit turn people into the appendages of machines and slaves to the assembly-line that is physically and mentally destructive and which proves to be a life time of personal frustration. Workers sacrifice their individuality and lead double lives, only becoming their true selves in their home-life and during their leisure hours. Work is not an end in itself but a distasteful and repugnant means to a pecuniary end. Capitalism makes impossible what William Morris called "The expression of man's joy through his labour"

 Socialism will it will be a society free of classes in which the exploitation and oppression of man by man will have been abolished. All human beings will be social equals, freely able to co-operate in running social affairs where the means of life will be owned in common by the entire community. At one time socialism was known also as 'social democracy', a phrase which expresses that decision-making would extend to all aspects of public life, including production where  'government over people' gives way 'to the administration of things'; meaning that state power of government coercion will have no place in socialism. The purpose of government is to maintain law and order in the interests of the dominant class. It is in fact an instrument of class oppression. In socialism there will be no classes and no built-in class conflicts: everybody will have the same basic social interest. There will be genuine social harmony and community of interest. In these circumstances there is no need for any coercive machine to govern or rule over people.  Those who wrongly assume that government and administration are one and the same will have some difficulty in imagining a society without government. A society without administration would indeed be impossible since 'society' implies that human beings organise themselves to provide for their needs. But a society without government is both possible and desirable. Socialism will in fact mean the extension of democratic administration to all aspects of social life on the basis of the common ownership of the means of production and distribution. There will be administrative general assemblies for settling social affairs by majority decision. Democratic organisation will involve delegation of functions to groups and individuals. Such people will be charged by the community with organising specific necessary functions. They will be chosen by the community and will be answerable to it. Those who perform the administrative functions in Socialism would be in no position to dominate. They will not be regarded as superior persons, as tends to be the case today, but as social equals doing an essential job. Nor will they have at their command any force to impose their will. There will be no opportunity for bribery and corruption since everybody, including those in administrative jobs, will have free access to the stock of wealth set aside for individual consumption. The material conditions for the rise of a new ruling class would not exist. The purpose of socialist production will be simply and solely to satisfy human needs. Under present arrangements production is for the market with a view to profit. This will be replaced by production solely and directly for use. The production and distribution of sufficient wealth to meet the needs of the socialist community as individuals and as a community will be an administrative and organisational problem. It will be no small problem but the tools for solving it have already been created by capitalism.

Capitalism has developed technology and social productivity to the point where plenty for all can be produced. A society of abundance has long been technically possible and it is this that is the material basis for socialism. Capitalism, because it is a class society with production geared to profit-making rather than meeting human needs, cannot make full use of the world-wide productive system it has built up over the past two hundred or so years. Socialism, making full use of the developed methods of production, will alter the purpose of production. Men and women will be producing wealth solely to meet their needs, and not for the profit of a privileged few. Using techniques for predicting social wants (at present pressed into the service of capital), a socialist society can work out how much and what sort of products and services will be needed over a given period. Men and women will be free to discuss what they would like to be produced. So with research and discussion an estimate of what is needed can be made. The next problem is to arrange for these amounts to be produced. Capitalism, with its computer power and input-output analysis, has developed the scientific techniques which a socialist society can use.

When the wealth has been produced, apart from that needed to renew and expand the means of production, all will freely take what they feel they need to live and enjoy life. This is what we mean by 'free access'. There will be no buying and selling, and hence no need for money. What communities and individuals want does not vary greatly except over long periods, and it will be a simple administrative task to see that the stores are well-stocked with what people need. If any shortages develop they will not last long. Planned reserves will be held as a safeguard against unforeseen natural disasters.
'From each according to their ability, to each according to their need' is a long-standing socialist principle. It means what it says: that men and women will freely take part in social production to the best of their abilities, and freely take from the fruits of their common labour whatever they need.

Confronted for the first time with such proposal for free distribution and unrationed consumption, many people are sceptical. What about the lazy? Or the greedy? Who will do the dirty work? What will be the incentive to work? These are understandable objections to those who have never thought about such a startling proposition. Work is a social must for human beings. The point at issue is how work should be organized and for what purpose. In capitalism work is reduced to a monotonous drudgery for most people, instead of allowing it to provide the pleasure it could, and would in a socialist society. Working for an employer is always degrading, often boring and unpleasant and sometimes unhealthy and dangerous. But we should not continue with misleading association of work with employment.  There is no reason at all why the work of producing useful things cannot be as enjoyable as pastimes and hobbies are. The conditions under which work is done can be vastly improved. The  relationships between people at work will change for the better. Free and equal, members of a socialist community will no longer have to sell their mental and physical power to an employer for a wage. The degrading wages system will be abolished so that there will be no such thing as employment. Instead work will be done by free men and women co-operating and controlling their conditions of work, getting enjoyment from creating things and doing socially useful tasks. In a socialist society there will be no social stigma attaching to any kind of work. Nor will there be pressures, as exist at present (because they are cheap and therefore profitable to the capitalists) to continue industrial processes which are harmful or dangerous to those engaged in them. There will be no need for anybody to be tied to the same job continuously. People will have rotating careers. The opportunities for men and women to develop and exercise their talents and to enjoy doing so will be immense.

Socialism must be world-wide because the productive system which capitalism has built up and which a socialist society will take over is already international. There will be no frontiers and people will be free to travel over the whole earth. Socialism will mean an end to all national oppression - and, indeed, in its current political sense to all 'nations' — and to discriminations on the grounds of race and sex. All the people of the world, wherever they live, whatever their skin colour, whatever language they speak, really will be members of one vast human family. Socialism will at last have the age-old dream of the Equality, fraternity and liberty.

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