Revolutionary organisation and unpaid housework

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Steven.
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Nov 7 2006 17:56
Revolutionary organisation and unpaid housework

Split from here

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Nov 6 2006 23:33

There are certain ways in which i'm not sure how it would work - would the waged partner be considered the boss? - but I think a revolutionary union should recognize unwaged work.

petey
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Nov 7 2006 12:55

well, 1: it's not an employment relationship, and 2: it would at least have to include the househusbands too. (no, i'm not joking.) it worries me that the IWW would, on the eveidence of this, be reducing everything to economics, like the marxists.

ftony
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Nov 7 2006 14:31
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There are certain ways in which i'm not sure how it would work - would the waged partner be considered the boss? - but I think a revolutionary union should recognize unwaged work.

damn right it should.

of course we've got to remember that unions aren't all about wages. they're supposed to protect your quality of life and help push your collective interests to the fore - i'd see an IWW housewife/husband as someone who goes out campaigning with other 680 folks on the basis of the issues that unpaid homeworkers face - long hours, no economic or legal assistance with their work, and no recognition for how integral unpaid domestic work is to the functioning of capitalist society.

petey
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Nov 7 2006 14:38

but who would do the paying, and why?

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Nov 7 2006 14:48
newyawka wrote:
but who would do the paying, and why?

I believe Wages for Housework wanted the state (basically the employing class, collectively) to pay them, because they are re-making labour power for employers by maintaining their workers for free. This seems the most sensible demand.

ftony
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Nov 7 2006 16:05

newyawka -

if you're anti-capitalist and anti-authoritarian, like the IWW is, then you're not after wages, nor are you after compensation from any government in the long-term. if you want to look at some sort of post-revolutionary future, you're after dignity, respect and fair material returns for your time, effort and need. it's also important that the work that you do is recognised as valuable to your community and society in general, and that you get an appropriate level of support whilst doing it.

it's got nothing to do with marriage, or wages, or governments - it's about collctive responsibility, solidarity and mutual aid

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Nov 7 2006 17:10

John, please do split the thread. I'd like to have that discussion. There's three issues here, unpaid domestic/reproductive labor, unpaid labor and various organizations or organization generally, and the membership and organizing of unpaid domestic workers in the IWW. The first is the biggest political and theoretical issue, without which the second two don't make much sense. The third one is an IWW specific issue that I'd be keen to talk about after we got clearer/got agreement on the first one.

petey
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Nov 7 2006 15:16

but this implies that any social structure is a totalitarian one. that's conveneient now, when we can point our fingers at capital, but would also be true under a libertarian system, for those who don't want to live under it.

spousal relations predate capital, and would survivie it, becuase people don't get married/have civil unions/move in together for the sake of capital, they do it for a variety of reasons, one of which, it appears necessary to point out, is that it brings emotional security.

but if i can get paid for doing the dishes...

Blacknred Ned
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Nov 7 2006 21:54

I can't say I really see an issue here at all. I work outside the home for money; I do what I need to to help us get by; my partner does different stuff, a lot in the home for exactly the same reason, so that we can get by. Any union worth being a member of does not confine its struggle to the workplace but endeavours to become part of the fabric of everyday life in the community from which and in which a better future will be created. Unpaid this and paid that is just so much Marxist, workerist bollocks and I'll have none of it! We, my friends are all people, and we need a free (& ecological) society which can only be created in the process of destroying capitalism, the state and all hierarchies. This also means an end to the sharp home/work division that has marked industrial capitalism. Myself, I don't plan to get paid at all after the Revolution!

So let's go to it: we need to work for health, education, food security, housing, energy solutions for people in communities; some of the time these people might happen to be workers in workplaces and that too needs dealing with but not as if it's the be-all-and-end-all; it ain't!

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Nov 7 2006 22:36

This is the problem of dropping the anarchist from anarcho-syndicalism wink (ok, IWW is not even syndicalist i guess) Everything has to be reduced into a wage labour relation for it to be relevant to the group. And life is not like that.

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Nov 7 2006 22:50

Brilliant post blacknred ned

That said newyawka's point that capitalism isn't totalitarian - the state isn't capital. And thinking that making a demand on the state is the same as making a demand on capital is err wrong. Thats said I lurve the theory that came out of wages for housework. The power of women is the best marxist work post-60s if you ask me.

Quote:
spousal relations predate capital, and would survivie it, becuase people don't get married/have civil unions/move in together for the sake of capital, they do it for a variety of reasons, one of which, it appears necessary to point out, is that it brings emotional security.

yeah spusal relations predate capital but the family structure whereby one partner receives a wage and the other doesn't, does NOT predate capital.

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but if i can get paid for doing the dishes...

You can if you work in a restaurant or in any waged-job where you wash dishes. Getting paid to wash dishes is not a crazy idea

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Nov 8 2006 00:04

blacknred ned and newyawker - are you saying then you're against a demand under capitalism for unpaid home workers to be paid a wage by the state (i.e. the collective employer, to reward their role as maintainers of labour power employers profit from)?

If not what are you saying? Ned's post just seemed to be waffle. :?

Vaneigemappreci...
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Nov 8 2006 10:37

whats all this about paid wage labourers and unpaid homeworkers, with the governments plans to have both spouses in work and their children in private child care theyll be no time for unpaid housework, cant you people afford cleaners! wink

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Nov 8 2006 11:06

i think the main thing that's changed since 'the power of women ...' is what dalla costa and james warned about, a recomposition of the labour force to make both-partner wage-labour the norm, a non-liberation that leaves the essential work for the reproduction of labour still to be done in our squeezed 'free time', and still unpaid, and at a guess, still predominantly done by women.

The demand for 'wages for housework' was, as i understand it, an attempt to overcome the isolation of individual housewives by explicitly and collectively recognising them as a vital part of the working class, rather than say equating wages with freedom or saying the wage-earning husband was the boss and not capital's proxy (they comment on the husband who takes orders at work psychologically needing to give them at home, but see that as bound up in class rather than a purely gender issue).

Housework is socially neccessary labour for social production (mediated by capital, atm), so imho it has to be recognised by 'revolutionary organisations' as such, whether it be waged or not, predominantly done by women or not.

Blacknred Ned
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Nov 8 2006 17:07
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Brilliant post blacknred ned

Well, you can please some of the people some of the time.....

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Ned's post just seemed to be waffle.

but.......... oh hell, I love waffles, hmmmmmm.

John, I don't see the point in demanding a wage for homeworkers. I think it's entirely unrealistic and thoroughly crap social democratic bollocks! I can't say I think our lives would improved by having people who look after homes and kids filling out time sheets; being visited by inspectors to see how well the cleaning has been done or having to book "time-off" from domestic duties, because you know, with rights come responsibilities. The whole thing makes me shudder. In any event you'd end up in a situation where the new home-workers' wage would exert a downward pressure on wages outside the home: "does your wife stay at home mate?" So what we'd end up with is more state control and no improvement in family income in the medium to long term. A standard social democratic capitalist conjuring trick: We all pay taxes; taxes pay "home-workers; wages stay down and so the overall impact of welfarism is to subsidise the wealthy. No thanks!

petey
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Nov 8 2006 19:42

lots of interesting ideas in this thread

ftony wrote:
newyawka -

if you're anti-capitalist and anti-authoritarian, like the IWW is, then you're not after wages, nor are you after compensation from any government in the long-term. if you want to look at some sort of post-revolutionary future, you're after dignity, respect and fair material returns for your time, effort and need. it's also important that the work that you do is recognised as valuable to your community and society in general, and that you get an appropriate level of support whilst doing it.

it's got nothing to do with marriage, or wages, or governments - it's about collctive responsibility, solidarity and mutual aid

no problem with any of this. so by whom is housework not seen as valuable? it's routinely called the most valuable contribution to community and to society. and why has the IWW set up an IU to seek, apparently, wages/compensation even in the short term? again, against whom would this claim be made? if it is the state, then one is expanding the sphere of the state's reach, which at the very least isn't very anarchist. if it's against any other source, is this not further commodification? isn't house work the ultimate in mutual aid? people working for each other's benefit without expectation of remuneration?

what seems to be behind all this is a projection of a stereotype. i can't speak for others, but in the home i grew up in and the one that i've recently established, all facets of work around the home are equally divided: wage earning, bill paying, cleaning up, trash removal, cooking, child rearing, and this was in no way out of the ordinary in my little sociological corner (irish immigrant families in the US). dunno, just seems natural. not everyone lives this way i know, but plenty do, and do people simply ignore this reality when fashioning housework-is-slavery theories?

petey
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Nov 8 2006 19:47
John. wrote:
blacknred ned and newyawker - are you saying then you're against a demand under capitalism for unpaid home workers to be paid a wage by the state (i.e. the collective employer, to reward their role as maintainers of labour power employers profit from)?

yes, that's exactly what i'm saying. if money grew on trees newyawkina and i would still live like this.

perhaps we need a new thread on the idea of social relations as being totally colonized by capital.

petey
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Nov 8 2006 19:48

(cancel)

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Nov 10 2006 14:21

My understanding of the wages for housework thing is not that it's just for women, though at the time the theory and the demand were first formulated it was overwhelmingly women doing the housework and not for money. Or rather, not for direct pay by the capitalist, but mediated by the husband's wage. I think it's probably the case that most housework is still done by women (a friend said there's some book on this called the Second Shift, I haven't read it so I don't know if it's any good), and it's definitely the case that most housework is unpaid. As I see it the whole idea of housework as unpaid work is just an extension of the argumet about surplus value. Surplus value is unpaid work. Housework is a part of that, regardless of who does it. If I don't make my lunch at home, I don't eat during the day and my productivity will be shit late in the day. Time spent making my lunch is part of the time that the boss gets something out of, just like commute time (if I don't commute to work I don't work, after all). At that level I think the housework-as-unpaid-work argument makes total sense.

The only hold up for me is specifically on how wages for housework would be won. I guess they have something like this in Venezuela (which in a way makes me more suspicious of the demand). I'm kind of a waged labor fetishist at this point, though, organizationally I mean.

The other thing with wages for housework etc is that I think some of the people calling for that do see the move to a two earner household as positive, at least in part. I think the line of reasoning is that it makes the exchanges between women and capital more direct because waged, which erods a bit of hierarchy inside the working class. The family wage means that the one who earns the wage can exert power money-wise on the unwaged members of the family, and that the capitalist can exert power on the whole family via that single wage. If there's multiple wage earners, that operates differently. It's not necessarily better in all respects, but not necessarily worse either. There's some stuff on this in an article by Silvia Federici in the Commoner #11.

http://www.commoner.org.uk/

In case anyone hasn't read it, a few people have referenced this pamphlet:

http://libcom.org/library/power-women-subversion-community-della-costa-selma-james

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Dec 24 2006 00:56

Responding both to newyawka and RednBlack Ned:

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so by whom is housework not seen as valuable? it's routinely called the most valuable contribution to community and to society.

"Youse is holding up half the sky and not even asking for compensation! Keep up the great work!" Doesn't this ritual of praise exist simply & precisely because it's unwaged work? It's like if cities stopped wanting to pay for garbage collection and people volunteered their developmentally disabled adult children to do the job in exchange for candy and sparkly stickers. "Great job Jimmo! Picking up the trash is the MOST IMPORTANT JOB EVER!" It's condescending crap and no replacement for actually giving parents, in the context of a waged world, the proper time and resources to raise kids.

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Unpaid this and paid that is just so much Marxist, workerist bollocks and I'll have none of it!

What does this even mean? If it's "Marxist" to sit down and look over who gets compensated for their labor, and how much, and who doesn't, then I guess I'm a "Marxist," as that's a pretty important piece of the puzzle. Maybe I'm misunderstanding what you mean here?

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In any event you'd end up in a situation where the new home-workers' wage would exert a downward pressure on wages outside the home: "does your wife stay at home mate?" So what we'd end up with is more state control and no improvement in family income in the medium to long term.

Isn't this the same argument as, we shouldn't demand raises in wages, because capital will just pass that along in terms of prices on the products it sells us? I mean, is there any material demand for which, if we only win it in the short term, capital can't displace the costs back onto us in some way? Does that mean we should just stop making material demands?

In any case, speaking as someone living a dual-income-no-kids life (which is fairly comfy considering neither of our jobs pays that much!), I do think that society's resources should be tilted toward places where they'll be spread thinner. It's called being a communist.

Quote:
again, against whom would this claim be made? if it is the state, then one is expanding the sphere of the state's reach, which at the very least isn't very anarchist.

Come on, that's a pretty shallow interpretation of anarchism. By that logic, where the state infrastructure collapses or fails, anarchism must be succeeding, right? Strangely enough it doesn't really work that way...

Quote:
if it's against any other source, is this not further commodification?

Now we're getting to the heart of the matter!

Is commodification always the worst answer?
If commodification had been the most feared fate, would slaves in the US have participated in the abolition of slavery?

Quote:
isn't house work the ultimate in mutual aid? people working for each other's benefit without expectation of remuneration?

eek

Quote:
i can't speak for others, but in the home i grew up in and the one that i've recently established, all facets of work around the home are equally divided: wage earning, bill paying, cleaning up, trash removal, cooking, child rearing, and this was in no way out of the ordinary in my little sociological corner (irish immigrant families in the US).

Do you seriously think that this is any sort of norm? And if your da didn't beat your ma, would you use that fact to argue against efforts to stop domestic violence against women?

Here, read this summary of the current stresses on two-income childrearing households (ignore the "middle class" bs--no lower class was cut out of any of the studies discussed). Do you honestly think that winning some kind of extra allocation from capital for the work done, whether by men or women, in ensuring the simple reproduction of healthy humans would be such a terrible thing?

And if you do: what's to say that any reform we win along the way won't have equal or higher cost? Because if you really think that any intermediate struggle is a futile, zero-sum game, then you're the one who thinks we've already been totally colonized by capital.

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Dec 24 2006 01:06

Oh for fucks sake, why do turgid liberals have to dress up a demand for an increase in child benefit in such fucking mindless patronising pseudo-marxist toned drivel as if its something entirely novel they've stumbled on.

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Dec 24 2006 01:16

Maybe because they're not in the UK or Australia and thus don't have fucking "child benefit" to begin with?

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Dec 24 2006 01:27

Fair point, however, its not like you don't have a form of child benefit though in terms of tax benefits and so on. Surely if you actually wanted to win such a struggle in terms of welfare reform, as you claim, then it would be best to be honest and call it 'child benefit', rather than 'wages for housework' or some such pseudo-marxist cobblers. Because lets face it its not actually wages for housework, its benefits for having kids.

As a matter of interest
ps http://www.dwp.gov.uk/asd/asd5/174summ.pdf

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Dec 24 2006 02:11

OK but one good reason to frame the benefit as "wages" is that it acknowledges it's actually compensation for real hours spent working on it. £17.45 a week, right -- for how many hours put in? I mean, the people hired to raise the children of the rich are often underpaid for it, but they make a hell of a lot more for their than that those who raise the children of the working class. neutral So it's a way of laying bare how different types of work under capital are socially valued.

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Dec 24 2006 02:41

Quite right, let's quit it with the theory and instead try to some the actual class completely separate from us and follow them around... um,

Realistically, yes, there is no such basis. I'm under the impression that WfH were trying at the time to serve as a pole within both the welfare-rights and womens'-liberation movements, both of which have had relatively mass bases at various times... but I'd love to hear more specifics about their relationship or influence within those movements (or lack thereof).

Nowadays it's an "intellectual exercise," but the interesting thing with this thread is that two posters have argued against the idea from the other direction -- they're scared that it would be successful and that it would "commodify" one of the last supposed bastions of "mutual aid" we have, breaking down our last defenses against jackbooted, clipboard-toting bureaucrats. Which is crap, which is why I'm defending the notion, within the confines of this intellectual exercise. (Don't know about you, but I get very little non-intellectual exercise while posting on a message board.)

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Dec 24 2006 03:48
MJ wrote:
- they're scared that it would be successful and that it would "commodify" one of the last supposed bastions of "mutual aid" we have, breaking down our last defenses against jackbooted, clipboard-toting bureaucrats.

Iirc, the WfH people were involved in the past in broader campaigns against welfare officials snooping on single mothers to try and catch them co-habiting with 'undeclared' partners.

In recent years they've declared it a great achievement that they've successfully persuaded the UN to take account of women's unpaid labour when calculating GDPs.

Surely benefits are a form of WfH, and unsurprisingly for a form of labour with little chance of effective striking, low paid?

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Dec 24 2006 04:12
Ret Marut wrote:

In recent years they've declared it a great achievement that they've successfully persuaded the UN to take account of women's unpaid labour when calculating GDPs.

Well that must at least confuse the capitalists! grin

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Surely benefits are a form of WfH, and unsurprisingly for a form of labour with little chance of effective striking, low paid?

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Dec 24 2006 19:52

MJ: "under the impression that WfH were trying at the time to serve as a pole within both the welfare-rights and womens'-liberation movements."

In the late '60s/'70s period there was a substantial "socialist-fiminist" movement in the USA. (I belonged to a group in the early '70s that defined itself as "socialist-feminist.") I think MJ is probably right about the practical orientation of WfH. As I vaguely recall, most socialist-feminists at that time preferred a strategy of equal access to wage-labor for women, to increase their independence. Two things were different in that era from today: (1) Aid for Families with Dependent Children (a form of wages for housework) still existed in the USA, and (2) the trend to the two-earner household was only just beginning. WfH did provide an ideological justification for AFDC.

yet, i don't think it is correct to say that WfH is a proposal for paying for child raising. Women would be entitled to such a wage if they were part of a childless couple. If they're a house-bound wife, they still support reproduction of labor power thru what they do for their husband.

newyawka's experience is definitely not the norm. Various surveys have shown that since the '60s there has been SOME increase in the amount of housework that men do, but women still do most of it, despite the predominance of the two-earner household among couples.

And any talk about "getting a cleaner" has to ask: Whose housework reproduces the labor power of the cleaner? This was a serious issue among socialist-feminists in the early 1900s in the USA. A socialist-feminist project in NYC in the early 1900s was to build a huge residential hotel (caricatured by the capitalist press at the time as the "Feminist Palace") where there'd be a child care coop with children's play area on the roof and total housework services provided for couples, so that the women could go out to work, be activists, and be equal citizens with their husbands. This was organized by a lot of socialist women in the teachers' union. But as some working class radical women pointed out: Who was going to do the work of cleaning, cooking etc? it would most likely have been worse off working class women. And, who then, would do these services for them? was the question asked. The history of this is in Dolores Hayden's "The Grand Domestic Revolution."

t.

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Dec 25 2006 00:05
cantdocartwheels wrote:
Because lets face it its not actually wages for housework, its benefits for having kids.

Er, cantdo, what do you think having and raising kids is? It is work, producing the next generation of labour power for capital. As such it should be remunerated as other labour for capital is. The idea of it being actual "work" (in the social factory) is good (for communists) if it spreads since it can help expand the idea of what being working class is - which is important.

Calling it "child benefit" doesn't help build any sense of class identity, rather it just pushes the idea of a nice liberal welfare state benevolently looking after everyone, rather than what it actually is (an entity won by workers' struggles which seeks to dampen militancy by providing minimum standards of living conditions).

(And btw your aggressive and dismissive tone ("pseudo-marxist cobblers", "mentalist", etc.) is not very condusive for good debate...)

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Dec 25 2006 02:56

But WfH is not only a demand for wages for child-rearing - it's demanding pay for domestic labour, whether or not it involves kids, iirc. And presumably, in the extremely unlikely event the demand was granted, the wage would be higher for those with kids, so in effect, for parents, that would still be a form of child benefit, no?

New Internationalist wrote:
The basis of the argument has not changed all that much since the 1970s, though times have. The UK political climate of the 1970s was such that, had Wages for Housework ever become a mass campaign (comparable with campaigns for equality laws, for example, or for the protection of abortion rights), the Government might have made a move in that direction. Indeed, it is arguable that they did: Child Benefit, introduced in 1976, payable to mothers and financed out of fathers' income tax, could be seen as a token wage for housework. (Zoë Fairbairns, 1988.)

And John., how would calling it WfH rather than child benefit 'build any sense of class identity'? Presumably the WfH would be available, like benefits, to all classes, and would put more money in the pockets of the better-off - (the Blairs, I read, still claim their child-benefit). Ah, but presumably here we come to your formerly 2-class, now 1-class theory, ("I pretty much view things in terms of capital vs labour now, so basically a one class model.") which means all who qualify would supposedly automatically be working class - but then why is there such a need to 'build a w/c identity' if everyone is supposedly w/c?

Whatever... if one sees it as a very unrealistic demand, it becomes a trot-like 'transitional demand' made only to 'raise consciousness'. And why should there only be a demand for WfH - why not go the whole hog and demand a universal guaranteed income for all, as some have suggested? But then why stop there, if realistic achievability is no consideration? Why not - gasp - communism? But whatever you tag these payouts, cantdo has a point that they would all seem to function as benefits do - they would still function differently from workplace-based wages. And, whatever the name, they could just as much function as what you call "an entity won by workers' struggles which seeks to dampen militancy by providing minimum standards of living conditions."

The integration of more people into the direct wage relation is automatically assumed to be progressive. (Though some politicians disagree, as pointed out by Peter on the 'Ungdomhusen riots' thread; "In George Katsiaficas' book on the autonomes, The Subversion of Politics, he says that after some big eviction battle in Germany when most of those arrested were found to be on the dole some politician wanted to stop paying the dole to squatters but a smarter politician responded, "that's the price we pay for keeping them separate from the rest of society".") I think people unhappy with the WfH line (nowadays at least) often see it as embracing the categories of capital and only seeking equality within them rather than really critiquing and attacking them. The moral arguments used and considerable effort put into lobbying the UN by WfH and great fuss made over this 'victory' of modifying the accounting of the GDP would seem to verify that. Of course winning more money is desirable, but, looking from today, it seems to get to the point where the granting of such demands was likely would be the point where the ruling class was trying to buy off revolution, so why would we stop at the brink? Maybe that's an exaggeration, who knows?