Saturday, July 18, 2009

Dirty Work

Who will do the dirty work? Socialism will not be a Utopia where all the problems of existence have vanished. Unpleasant work will still have to be done.
Machinery will do it, said Oscar Wilde. “All unintellectual labour, all monotonous, dull labour, all labour that deals with dreadful things, and involves unpleasant conditions, must be done by machinery”.This will release each individual to help the community in his or her own way by doing service or producing things which will satisfy each person’s need to be active, to contribute and to help. Wilde summed it up: “The community by means of organization of machinery will supply the useful things, and . . . the beautiful things will be made by the individual”.
Unappealing dirty work can probably be taken care of by utilising labour-saving machines. But where it is impossible and where dirty work will have to be done in socialist society we can be quite sure of two things: Firstly, it will NOT be done by the same people ALL the time . All able members of society will take turns at such work . And also not to be forgotten is that it will be carried out by socially conscious men and women who appreciate that society belongs to them and therefore its less pleasant tasks must be performed by them. In the knowledge that we own and control the earth, and all that is in and on it, it is unlikely i think that human beings will refuse to attend to the dirty work within socialism.

The fact is that most jobs under capitalism are either completely or partially unnecessary. Many of those that are necessary are performed by people working long hard hours while others suffer poverty of low wages and low status . Elimination of all jobs required only within a capitalist system would reduce necessary tasks to such a trivial level that they could easily be taken care of voluntarily and cooperatively, eliminating the need for the whole apparatus of economic incentives and state enforcement.

As for the lazy greedy shirkers if one who contributes less takes more, why should this be a problem in a society which is based on the satisfaction of needs? Those people living in a socialist society who are too idle to work will not be a drain on society’s resources for very long, for if they lie in bed for long enough they will die—of boredom, if not of inertia.
Unlike Parecon , many socialists caution against the creation of blueprints ( “recipes for the cook-shops of tomorrow” as Marx called them ) . There is no point in drawing up in advance the sort of detailed blueprint of industrial organisation that the old IWW and the Syndicalists or the Guild Socialists used to do and what Parecon now does . For a small group of socialists , as we are now , to do so would be undemocratic. It would also be dumb. Socialists don’t have crystal balls to determine what the conditions will be when socialism is established. As the socialist majority grows, when socialism is within the grasp of the working class, then will be the proper time for making such important decisions. It is imprudent for today’s socialist minority to be telling people how to administer a socialist society. When a majority of people understand what socialism means, the suggestions for socialist administration will solidify into an appropriate plan. It will be based upon the conditions existing at that time, not today.
We also recognise that there may not be one single way of doing things, and precise details and ways of doing things might vary from one part of the world to another, even between neighbouring communities. Of course, we can reach some generalised conclusions based on basic premises – that socialism will be necessarily democratic, for example – and can outline broad principles or options that could be applied. That is, we do not have to draw up a plan for socialism, but simply and broadly demonstrate that it is possible and therefore refute the label of “utopianism” .
We look to the real world to see how it is, and how it could be. Socialist society is not starting from a blank sheet and we are inheriting an already existing economic system . Workers with all their skills and experience of co-operating to run capitalism in the interests of the capitalists could begin to run society in their own interest. We do not need to build the new society in the womb of the old, that is here already.

If people didn’t work then society would obviously fall apart. To establish socialism the vast majority must consciously decide that they want socialism and that they are prepared to work in socialist society. The establishment of socialism presupposes the existence of a mass socialist movement and a profound change in social outlook. It is simply not reasonable to suppose that the desire for socialism on such a large scale, and the conscious understanding of what it entails on the part of all concerned, would not influence the way people behaved in socialism and towards each other. Would they want to jeopardise the new society they had helped create? I think not.

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