Friday, June 19, 2015

Szalámitaktika: How do you abolish the wages system by degrees?

Step one: Do not forget. Marx advised not to forget that in everyday struggles you are fighting with effects, not with the causes of those effects. Not forgetting requires a lot of attention to history. It also requires a keen awareness that there is a well-funded industry devoted to making us forget.

Step two: Our own accounting. Standard double-entry bookkeeping looks at profit and loss from the perspective of the business enterprise whose purpose is defined as monetary profit seeking. Making a profit is not the purpose of people or of nations. Labor is not a commodity. Labor power is a common-pool resource.

Step three: Build (or transform) organizations dedicated to not forgetting and our own accounting. The model for this is a hybrid that borrows both from traditional trade unionism and from common-pool resource management. The precedents are there. What needs to be done is to synthesize from those experiences.

Step four: Bargain collectively. Collective bargaining is not synonymous with the administrative model of bargaining established under the Wagner Act. Eric Hobsbawm, for example, called the Luddite actions "collective bargaining by riot." Theodore Ave-Lallemant wrote an obscure article nearly a hundred years ago in which he distinguished between the collective labor contract based on cooperation and the more standard form of contract bargaining which "seeks no more than to stipulate the terms of individual contracts of employment."

Step five: Work less. The wages system is effectively abolished in each hour workers collectively withdraw from the labor supply. Limitation of the hours of work is abolition of the wages system by degree. This explains why employers have fought so tenaciously for two centuries against the reduction of working time.