Monday, October 25, 2021
Revolt Against Work    Source

Karl Marx once said that the working class is the only class capable of self-emancipation. But how are workers supposed to free themselves when they are divided by unionization, occupation, income, sex and race? Where will the force, let alone the desire for freedom come from if industrial and agricultural workers shrink to a small percentage of the total workforce? And how can rebellious intellectuals be included in the worker's struggle for freedom? Marx's ideas about the political party, the importance of industrial workers, and the unity of communist militants were meant to answer these questions from the viewpoint that human identity and community are the products of human work.

Work in advanced, industrialized, capitalist societies has become a bore however. Human work doesn't just define human identity and community under present conditions, it strangles their potential by destroying human creativity. Therefore the current Revolt Against Work is nothing less than the first fumbling steps of working class self-emancipation for our times.

By any measure the Revolt Against Work is a serious, if unorganized movement. Absenteeism, on-the-job drug use, careless work, theft and sabotage combine with inefficient management to cut American economic productivity by a third to a half. Though the Revolt Against Work is largely spontaneous in origin and molecular in effect, it is quickly eroding the ethic of hard work and sacrifice that American capitalism is based upon. And the young are pioneering the Revolt Against Work.

Workers irrespective of their occupation or income, whether unionized or non-unionized, male or female, white or non-white, are rebelling against boring work. The Revolt Against Work thus transcends divisions within the working class. Whereas social revolution came out of the industrial level of workers, the Revolt Against Work has now infected every level of the working class. And make no mistake about it, the Revolt Against Work heralds the development of new forms of class consciousness and social revolution. Finally, the leading position of youth in the Revolt Against Work provides the opportunity to ally students with young workers. The gap between students and the working class that limited the New Left can be bridged by the Revolt Against Work common to the young.

The Revolt Against Work, though a movement, is nowhere near the point of unity around a program. The Industrial Workers of the World slogan for

a 4 hour day at 8 hours pay

could serve as the rallying point for the Revolt Against Work, thus giving the movement its unity. Such a movement would bring about economic crisis, not by challenging the relations of capitalist production (who owns the workplace, who manages the workplace, and who works for wages at the workplace), but by attacking the forces of capitalist production (technologies, techniques, machinery, tools and skills). The Revolt Against Work drives the productive forces of capitalism to their limits in demanding more value for less labor, higher wages for less work.

The forces of capitalist production must expand beyond the elimination of material scarcity to the threshold of communist abundance in order to satisfy these demands. Capitalist production itself begins to crumble as the workers are confronted with forces of production capable of material abundance with minimal labor. As the material potential of "from each according to ability, to each according to need" is realized, the present relations of capitalist production become unbearable, giving rise to the working class opposition to wage slavery, the division of labor, even the ownership and control of the workplace.

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