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Fuck Wage Slavery

Personalising Anti-Capitalist Politics As a Way Forward



The concern: The language that we use put forward an anti-capitalist position is too abstract
and academic, and as a result it does not resonate with working people, particularly those
who have not had the opportunity that we have had in going to university. The language of
anti-capitalism is not the language of their everyday lives.

A solution: Rather than conceptualising our goal as the abolition of capitalism, we should
conceptualise it as the abolition of wage slavery. This has several advantages and
weaknesses that I will list below.
The context: Past attempts to find concepts that everyone finds useful and can get behind
have not always been successful and are generally fraught with difficulties. For example, the
term class is used in different ways by different people and this often leads to confusion.
Another example of this is the concept of the safe space, with some arguing that these are
useful whilst others point out that they create a double burden on the activists that use
them. With this in mind, this paper points out both the advantages and disadvantages of the
concept of wage slavery abolitionism in order to a) demonstrate to the group that the
author understands that this is not a magic bullet that will send all of our problems to the
rubbish bin, b) provide analysis for the benefit of the group in order to be better facilitate
group discussion of the idea and c) demonstrate to the group the importance of being
honest about the limitations of new ideas in order to avoid the dissappointment that ensues
when ideas are implemented and they inevitable turn out to have faults.

Advantages
1. Experiences over abstracts, people over systems
For me, the biggest problem with the idea of anti-capitalism is that in order to understand
what it is it is necessary to understand what capitalism is. And if we really think about when
do working people ever come into contact with capitalism as a concept in the way that we
understand it? Possibly never. I can very easily imagine that if any of us were to try to speak
to the average person about capitalism, they would imagine that we wanted to talk to them
about the stock market or the banking system. Talking about anti-capitalism they may even
think that we want to abolish consumer goods, imagining that we want a society in which
everyone wears the same grey boiler suit and the choice they are used to will be gone
forever.

Conceptualising our movement as a wage slavery abolitionist movement will allow us to
focus on the way people experience capitalism. In this way it is a more concrete approach to
what is essentially the same thing because obviously one cannot exist without the other.

2. The impetus we need for a new language
This change in the way we conceptualise our activities could provide the break that we need
in order to form a new language for ourselves. Marxist terminology often explains things
that are relatively simple and could be translated into terms that people are more likely to
be familiar with. I would like to give an example of this:

Imagine that you work in the service industry, for example in a restaurant or a pub as front
of house staff. How much actual control over your work do you actually have? Very little.
You have little say in the hours you work for one thing. For another, if you have a customer
who is rude to you, you ultimately dont have much choice in whether you have to serve
them or not. Rather than say what you think youre supposed to tolerate their behaviour. If
you dont you risk getting disciplined and potentially losing your job, a job that is relatively
low skilled thanks to computerised tills and specific instructions on how to interact with
customers. You are a drone that is easily replaceable and you arent allowed to forget it. A
Marxist would call this alienation from the labour process. The worker experiences this as
powerlessness, so why dont we just refer to this as powerlessness?

Now if we think about what our front of house restaurant worker produces we may draw a
blank if we only consider the production of material goods. However if we think about
immaterial goods, we can see that our restaurant worker produces a customer experience
and that they contribute to this experience by what managers like to call customer
service; other workers contribute to producing this good, including the decorators that
provided the restaurant with its aesthetic and the cleaners that work to make sure that you
dont get food poisoning when you eat there. This is a commodity that is immaterial but just
because its immaterial doesnt mean that it cant be objectified. The concept of good
customer service limits the way that staff can behave towards customers, limiting it to the
have a nice day and a smile. Try talking to a customer for too long during a shift,
particularly during busy periods, and you will quickly discover how limited the idea of good
customer service is and how limited you are in actually making the customers feel
welcome! As a result, you as the worker are alienated from your own product, the product
being the customer experience. In the context of the service industry this presents itself
psycholigcally as a kind of phoniness because the characteristics of the product are
dictated to you. This makes me think that this form of alienation should be conceptualised
differently for different kinds of workers because it will present itself differently depending
on the type of work they do.

Similarly, alienation from other workers produces a society in which workers are constantly
competing with each other for jobs, in other words a dog eat dog mentality. As regards
alienation from species-being, Im not musch of a philosopher to be honest and someone
else who understands it would be better positioned to offer a potential alternative. In fact
Im sure that there are people whose understanding of the original terminology is far more
developed than mine and would be better suited to translating all of them. As such Im not
suggesting that the terms themselves are the ones we should be using. Rather, Im
suggesting that this everyday speech approach is what we should be using rather than
marxist terminology that people dont come into contact with. It is my concern without an
act symbolising the beginning of something new then it is very easy for this translation
work, very necessary to building a broader movement against capitalism, to be put on the
backburner and be forgotten about. The concept of wage slavery abolition could provide us
with the impetus to do this.

3. Wage slavery has a history too
As a concept, wage slavery has a well established history just as anti-capitalism does. In the
United States of America during the middle of the 19
th
century slave owners attempted to
justify slavery in the southern states by comparing unfavourably with wage slavery of the
North. Slave masters told slaves that they should be content with their lot, they had a place
to life and food to eat and that this was guaranteed to them while in the north workers
were rioting over bread. Im not saying here that the slave masters were correct in this and
that life was better under the southern system but I am saying that the concept of wage
slavery is not new and that forms of slavery have been abolished before, making the goal
seem more plausible than the abolition of capitalism which has not happened anywhere.

4. The moral reprehensibility of wage slavery means that the goal doesnt get forgotten
In essence, a problem with the idea of demanding reforms when the final goal of revolution
is that ultimately as reforms are introduced people become more comfortable and they
forget about revolution. Its an historical fact that during the 19
th
century and throughout
the 20
th
century, in countries where the government was more willing to concede to
workers concessions the labour movement there took a realistic approach and tended to
be less receptive to revolutionary ideas. The fact that this happened time and time again in
different countries all over the world, including Britain, makes me think that it probably has
more to do with basic human psychology than anything else; the movements in those
countries werent dedicated to the abolition of capitalism because it didnt appear to them
as a moral issue.

The abolition of wage slavery is first and foremost a moral issue and as such fits in more
closely with the current trend for social justice movements than does anti-capitalism.
Reforms can still be sought but ultimately nothing except the final goal can ever be enough
because all a reform accomplishes is that it allows the wage slave to be more comfortable in
their slavery. Considering what people think of slavery, would anyone be prepared to accept
this?



Disadvantages
1. Anti-capitalism is an established concept among activists
I think that considering that we are all involved in activism to some extent this doesnt really
need any explanation.



2. Me, a slave?
The biggest disadvantage that I can see with this is that even though the great majority of
people find their work unsatisfying and that they have little say in how much they are paid
for it, its a big leap from that to recognising that youre a wage slave. It requires someone
to take a really hard-nosed look at their life and admit that they have little if any power over
what they do with a great portion of their time. Also, considering the fact that our living
standards are so much higher than those of what I imagine capitalists would call real
slaves, whether people would make that leap is not certain. As with revolution, I can see
that the likelihood of it would be effected by context.

3. Its not going to end the civil war
Re-envisioning anti-capitalism as wage slave abolitionism could potentially achieve many
positive things but it could also make the left even more sectarian with even more things to
argue about. I could imagine that in the case of this it would be something like the Marxist
puritans accusing the wage slavery abolitionists for just trying to makeover their ideas by
making what could be seen as purely surface level changes. Whatever happens it wouldnt
bring any unity between the autonomists/anarchists/fuck you and your authoritarianism-
ists and the Trots.