Saturday, July 18, 2009


Posted in the comments here

Socialism is almost globally misunderstood and misrepresented.Socialism will be a basic structural change to society, and many of the things that most people take for granted, as “just the way things have to be”, can and must be changed to establish socialism. People tend to accept as true the things they hear over and over again. But repetition doesn’t make things true. Because the truth and the facts often contradict “common knowledge”, socialists have to show that “common knowledge” is wrong. The task of capitalist ideology is to maintain the veil which keeps people from seeing that their own activities reproduce the form of their daily life , the task of socialism is to unveil the activities of daily life, to render them transparent.

Capitalist ideology treats land, capital , and the products of labor, as things which have the power to produce, to create value, to work for their owners, to transform the world. This is what Marx called the fetishism which characterizes people’s everyday conceptions, and which is raised to the level of dogma by Economics. For the economist, living people are things – factors of production -, and things live money – works, Capital – produces .When men refuse to sell their labour, money cannot perform even the simplest tasks, because money does not ” work “. The notion of the “productivity of capital,” are inventions of the “science” of Economics.

The majority of the population is not engaged in productive work. The greater part of the non-producers is employed in the buying and selling plus all the related occupations . Any system by which the buying and selling system is retained means the employment of vast sections of the population in unproductive work. It leaves the productive work to be done by one portion of the people whilst the other portion is spending its energies in keeping shop, banking, and all the other various developments of commerce which employ probably more than two-thirds of the people today. It is the elimination of such activities and institutions , essential though they may be to a functioning market economy but unproductive in themselves from the standpoint of producing use values or meeting human needs, that constitutes perhaps the most important productive advantage that a socialist economy would have over a capitalist economy. The elimination of this structural waste intrinsic to capitalism will free up a vast amount of labour and materials for socially useful production in socialism.

In socialist society productive activity would take the form of freely chosen activity undertaken by human beings with a view to producing the things they needed to live and enjoy life. The necessary productive work of society would not be done by a class of hired wage workers but by all members of society, each according to their particular skills and abilities, cooperating to produce the things required to satisfy their needs both as individuals and as communities. Work in socialist society could only be voluntary since there would be no group or organ in a position to force people to work against their will.

“… in communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes, society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, shepherd or critic.” -Marx ,
And it was Marx who said in communism it will be society’s free (disposable) time and no longer labor time that becomes the true measure of society’s wealth.

Nor should we forget his son-in-law Larfargue who wrote “The Right to be Lazy” . Lafargue’s approach to work in a socialist society – that it should be minimised , reducing the working day to 2 or 3 hours.- is only one of two possible socialist approaches to the question.
William Morris was in contrast arguing that what workers should be demanding was what might be called the “Right to Attractive Work”. The two different approaches suggest two different policies that might be pursued in a socialist society: maximum automatisation so as to minimise working time or making as much work as possible attractive and personally rewarding.

Morris regarded work as a basic, natural human need. His main criticism of capitalism was that it denied the vast majority of humans satisfying and enjoyable work. Under capitalism work, instead of being the enjoyable activity of creating or doing something useful, became a boring and often unhealthy and dangerous burden imposed on those who were forced to get a living by selling their mental and physical energies for a wage Morris’s concept of “art”. Which he defined, not as some specialised activity engaged in by some fringe group of “artists”, but as ”the expression of a person’s joy in their work”; people who enjoyed their work would produce beautiful things. And when he realised that the nature of capitalism meant that most producers were denied any enjoyment in their work – or, put another way, that it meant the “death of art”

Work should not really be equated with employment. Work will be an essential part of life in socialism; it will be a part of the individual’s development and a necessary, healthy expenditure of energy. Employment is wage labour . As such it has alienating factors associated with it; e.g. Monday to Fridays ,9 to 5 is “their” time, whilst the weekend is “our” time, where we can enjoy working in the garden or painting. Employment is based on the division of labour. The upshot being that workers are tied to one job for years on end, instead of being people able to do all kinds of things, which socialist society will allow. In a socialist society the distinction between work and leisure will diminish—perhaps even disappear. People will have an opportunity to use their hobbies and enthusiasms for the social good: to enjoy being useful.
Most of us want to work. What we hate is employment. We want to work for ourselves, our families and friends, our community, not some thieving parasite !

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