What you think of our Work introduction?

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Steven.'s picture
Steven.
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Feb 3 2013 17:16
What you think of our Work introduction?

New draft section of our introductory guide now online here:
http://libcom.org/library/work-introduction

please let us know what you think of it. Any mistakes? Anything missing?

Tell us your thoughts on it, and we will then go through the text and incorporate people's criticisms and comments. Cheers!

snipfool
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Feb 3 2013 17:45

Just quickly on a proof reading level:
- "Even when we are not at actually work" would read better as "not actually at work".
- this URL is messed up: [URL= http://libcom.org/library/over-2-million-killed-every-year-work-says-ilo] millions of people every year are killed by their work, while scores of millions are made ill and hundreds of millions are injured[/URL].

rauyran
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Feb 4 2013 08:47

I think this article would benefit from suggestions for stepping outside the existing work system such as joining a cooperative, worker-owned company or going self-employed.

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Feb 4 2013 09:30
rauyran wrote:
I think this article would benefit from suggestions for stepping outside the existing work system such as joining a cooperative, worker-owned company or going self-employed.

we don't think any of those "step outside the existing work system". As the subjective experience of the worker is pretty much the same in all of them: you have to sell your ability to work for a wage, and you are exploited.

But I guess we don't cover that in the article, so we should clarify that we include those types of work so thanks for the feedback.

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Feb 4 2013 11:35

Yeah, if anything a critique of co-ops and the like would be more beneficial--but to be honest, co-ops are a hang-up of politicos. If your goal is to have this read by 'normal workers', then I think keeping it short and concise is the way to go.

Anyway, I like the article.

From a purely pedantic point of view, I think some bits are a bit awkard:

Quote:
From built-in obsolescence causing products to break down making people buy new ones, to entire industries like sales and marketing existing only to persuade people to buy more products and work more to buy them.

Also, I think "working lives" sounds a bit awkward in this sentence:

Quote:
And while automation, mechanisation and productivity continually increases, working hours and working lives don't fall

Here again, "then unskilled" doesn't really flow.

Quote:
For this reason our jobs are made dull and monotonous, as then unskilled workers can do it cheaper.
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Feb 4 2013 11:30
Quote:
And much other useful work is squandered in supporting socially useless industries, like energy generation being used to power telemarketing call centres.

Might be worth a small bit of clarification that you're not opposed to the workers in those industries (obviously we all need to pay rent), but the industries themselves.

Spikymike
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Feb 4 2013 12:07

Not a bad start but I wonder if the later concluding section doesn't overate the potential for the type of stuggle strategy recomended to actually improve our lives within the framework of capitalism, particularly in the context of capitalism's periodic economic crisis and the historic development of those crisis. So for instance such struggle may be significant in slowing the deterioration of our social and economic conditions rather than any improvement.

Also it perhaps ignores the significance of such class struggles (particularly given their mostly sectional form) as a significant driving force in the very increase in productivity with its other harmful as well as some sectionally beneficial results (increasing real domination of capital, increase in real wages for some but overall decline in relative shares of wealth, unemployment/precarity/job insecurity etc).

I mention both these issues as relevant in understanding a libertarian communist approach to the necessity as well as desireabillity of revolutionary change, as against notions of social democratic type ideas of progressive accumulative reform and also as a caution against some similar anarcho-syndicalist ideas of accumulating building blocks to socialism 'within the shell of capitalism'.

On the recomended reading list perhaps add 'The Housing Monster' though it's title alone would not suggest it's relevance without an explanation.

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Feb 4 2013 12:18

I didn't read the links, but is there anything about the wages for housework campaign?

On Spikymike's point, I think an introduction to the crisis would be beneficial in itself.

chrismichael
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Feb 4 2013 13:39

Libcom,

I am a libertarian communist. And I definitely agree that building democratic productive associations, so-called worker cooperatives, is a critical step toward the communist society. The examples you cite from Russia, Italy, and Spain were just such entities.

Moreover, I would be careful about making generalized claims about the subjective experiences of worker-members. The worker-members at Mondragon Cooperative Corporation (Spain) and Cooperative Home Care Associates (U.S.) are not controlled by capitalists. Nor is the value of their labor expropriated by capitalists. And, from my reading of the literature, and personal knowledge of these worker-members, their subjective experience of work is quite different from employees (i.e. servants) of traditional capitalist businesses.

At the least, it's not clear to me how returning to work as a servant in a traditional capitalist business--even after a successful strike for increased benefits--is a more desirable course of action from the perspective of the worker.

That said, I very much like your piece. Careful thought about work--and its central importance in our lives--is a very important task. And I believe that libcom is perfectly situated ideologically to make a real contribution in this arena.

Your comrade,
Chris

Spikymike
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Feb 4 2013 14:18

So forgot to mention also the need to highlight the fact that in this society many of us value the social benefits of co-operation and friendships built up through work situations - it is however a further condemnation of capitalism that we should have to rely on the capitalist monopoly of this resource for such benefits and at such costs in other ways to a fulfilling life. It is also true that these 'benefits' are those which the work process is continually re-engineered by the capitalist drive for profit and control over us to control, limit or diminish.

Worker co-operatives may offer some an opportunity to enhance the social benefits of the workplace but still operate under the same capitalist pressures with all the limitations which that imposes and certainly do not form any practical strategy aimed at breaking the capitalist monopoly of resources. Since this introductory text has flushed out a few apparent supporters of such a gradualist/mutualist strategy there should perhaps be a link to libcom's critique of co-ops.

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Feb 5 2013 08:54

Okay, so I had a bit more of a think about this article while I was at work today. Three broad points:

1) I think I'd go a bit more into the personal and societal stress related to work and the consequences it has: everything from insomnia to anxiety to workplace shootings. Also perhaps something about the percentage of people who report being bullied at work and how the hierarchical structure of the capitalist workplaces breed and encourages such behaviour.

2) I think I'd try to make it a bit more clear that surplus value is as much about a wider class relationship as it is about the relationship of a particular group of workers to their employer.

3) A bit more about the consequences of lack of work. In particular I'm thinking about the effects of de-industrialization on communities in terms of everything from mental and physical health to drug addiction and crime.

This could also tie into a larger point on how workers are basically held hostage by capital: accept whatever wages, conditions, and environmental degradation we offer or we'll pack up and move somewhere that will.

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Feb 4 2013 20:40

Congratulations for taking on the subject of work, or what is more precise in this case, jobs. Too often the so-called left, in all its tendencies, wear blinders when they simply call for more jobs!

Two points: There is no mention of the critical role technology plays in eliminating jobs and the increasing understanding that there is already a jobs deficit and it will only expand. If the future is jobless, is it also workless?

And, if we want to talk about “work” can we ignore a basic concept like homo faber?
Isn’t it time for us to think outside the box? We have created a system that can provide for all the basic needs of the world population, and will increasingly do so without vast amounts of human toil. Some of these ideas are explored at www.righttobelazy.com

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Feb 4 2013 20:51

Out of curiosity, what's your wordcount target for the introductions?

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Feb 4 2013 22:46

Just to say thanks for the comments everyone, we are thinking about them and will respond/incorporate the in due course.

Although I can respond to this now:

Chilli Sauce wrote:
Out of curiosity, what's your wordcount target for the introductions?

definitely under 2000, and the closer to 1000 the better really

chandrika
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Feb 5 2013 03:54

I would like to see few lines on how surplus labour and mass unemployment/underemployment and hierarchies in industries create competitive friction between workers yet while the division of labour ensures that we work collectively (As Spikymike has worded, capitalism has the monopoly of this resource). This inhibits workers from coming together collectively while the capitalist system reaps the benefits of collective production.

Somewhere along, an analysis of left's valourization of work as an attempt to get workers to take control of outcome of work would be nice. Its an attempt to take control of one's life and not just work.

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Feb 5 2013 09:27

Chandrika, good point regarding competition/cooperation. Will try to get that in there

Roawa
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Feb 6 2013 01:57

It would be good to more explicitly point out that in addition to the surplus value of our labor being expropriated, we also return our wages to the capitalists when we spend them. The incentive for us to rent our labor to the capitalists in the first place is that we need money to survive in their world where they own everything. But since our wages are depleted by the surplus value our bosses steal, while we pay for the surplus value other bosses steal from the people who work where we spend money, we are being robbed from twice over.

Another syntax thing, the first paragraph in the section "What can we do about it?" should be changed to say "there are things we can do-and have been doing-as workers here and now to improve our situation."

Bluecollar
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Feb 6 2013 18:39

This is well said and reflects your knowledge of working class history. Here in my part of the U.S., to use the words, libertarian and/or communist is an immediate turn off. By contrast the word Capitalism is still sacred . Little by little I am trying to kill this sacred cow.

My hope is to teach the working class how to use the internet, to build strength and solidarity among themselves.

Good going!

organdva
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Feb 7 2013 09:01

In factory I work there are machines from 90's to date. Every new generation (is about 5 years) of this machines are more efficient only in terms of output. This means increased work intensity, therefore more mistakes are made and that decreases efficiency. It is still more efficient than the last generation but it would be whole different work experience if machine design was made to make work more simple. In few generation experience would be whole different. Bosses also like higher work intensity because of discipline, it give worker less free time to do other things, like make bonds with other workers necessary to form any organisation and action.

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Feb 7 2013 11:46

A factory!? A real prole on libcom? Never!

You should do a write-up. It would be really interesting to hear more about the specifics of the technology and how it plays out socially on the shopfloor.

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Feb 10 2013 12:07

Thanks all. I have incorporated a bunch of these comments. The point about our day-to-day cooperation being controlled by the bosses at the moment I really liked. However I couldn't figure out a decent way to get it into the text. And also I think it is pretty much got at anyway by the talk about it being our work which is the basis of the economy at the moment anyway.

If someone could suggest the actual wording for how it could be included in the article then I would be happy to add it in. In the absence of that I think it's pretty much done