Labor discipline under socialism/communism?

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Birthday Pony's picture
Birthday Pony
Joined: 11-12-11
Feb 17 2012 09:41

I'm not saying this in a derogatory way, but those premises line up better with Misesian libertarianism than they do libertarian communism. There are lazy people, which can yield two responses: 1) who cares? 2) make them stop being lazy.

Once you draw a line that limits the capability of humans you're playing a pretty grim game. You're either going to come up with an ideology that needs to be enforced, just like any other statist ideology, wrought with all other kind of control mechanisms and incentives, or you're going to give up. I have no doubt in my mind that people are lazy. I doubt that they're lazy enough to let their way of life deteriorate, and I doubt there are enough lazy people to even begin to think so.

Joined: 21-09-10
Feb 17 2012 09:05
yoda’s walking stick wrote:
OK, it's official, efficiency is a bourgeois conceit.

yoda, what you’re really saying here is “OK, it's official, bourgeois efficiency is a bourgeois conceit. ”

As for us, as Communists, we seek proletarian efficiency.

The difference?

It’s class content. Our ‘efficiency’ contains more than mere ‘output numbers’, as for the bourgeois quantitative notion of ‘efficiency’. Our efficiency contains ‘input factors’, like happiness, love, concern, comradeship, choice, satisfaction, etc., etc. It’s also a qualitative efficiency.

yoda’s walking stick wrote:
I think people will more often than not look out for their own self-interest.

This ideological axiom, yoda, is what prevents you being a Communist, and accepting the arguments put forward by Communists on this thread.

It’s a bourgeois axiom, and if you want to have faith in it, you’re free to do so. But we Communists, in contrast, have faith in humans looking out for others’ interests, and think that there is more than enough historical and anthropological evidence to suggest that this is more widespread throughout human existence than the very recent outlook of ‘bourgeois self-interest’.

Indeed, even bourgeois wars seem to prove that caring for fellow comrades at the front takes precedence over narrow individual self-interest. Different societies and circumstances produce different notion of ‘interests’.

You'll have to look further than your own personal experience of your own current society to question and answer this axiomatic, ideological issue.

ocelot's picture
Joined: 15-11-09
Feb 17 2012 10:42

Conventional bourgeois economics takes it as axiomatic that productive labour is a disutility (pain) and the only utility (pleasure) comes through consumption. From that foundation it follows naturally that the only motive to work must take the form of an incentive - understood as something external to the work itself, and, by the other term in the axiom (consumption is the only source of utility) the only form that can take is an increase in consumption share (a.k.a the wage).

I think that last point is particularly important, otherwise people using the word "incentive" in the sense of "motive to production" and those, even if only unconsciously, using it in the sense of "increased share of consumption" can only ever talk at cross-purposes.

A number of the people in this thread have already given examples real-life from where they engage or have engaged in productive labour for motives internal to the activity itself and that includes the enjoyment of the output by other members of the community.

But for my money, one of the best and most amusing examples of the irresistable force of bourgeois ideology running into the immovable force of contrary reality, is found in Eric Raymond's first "Cathedral and the Bazaar" essay (not the later book). Raymond, a committed AnCap and hacker, confesses in that essay to major cognitive dissonance and crisis of belief at the stage when he realises that the production of free software by hackers for no external inducement, violates the utility/disutility production/consumption isomorphism that his AnCap ideology is founded on. It's unintentionally funny because he "solves" the dilemma by positing a new external recompense for the disutility of production, namely "egoboo" (i kid you not). He tries to rope this new prop, together with some Kropotkin quotes, into a new description of how the wageless, exchangeless, anti-commodity free software process is in reality another example of the wonders of the free market. Naturally his AnCap background leaves him too economically illiterate to notice that his "egoboo" are non-transferable/-alienable, non-metricable, non-exchangeable and incommensureable with any measure or repository of value , and thus it's qualification as external to the process itself, is questionable, never mind it's status as a normal component of market dynamics.

But to return to the OP, if we disentangle from the notion...

There are always going to be shit jobs that nobody wants to do, and those jobs probably will make up the majority of jobs offered. Who are going to be the miners, the plumbers, the truck drivers, the shelve stockers?

...the ideological premise that at least the vast majority of work is disutility, we are left with a rational kernel. Which is simply a demand and supply question.

If we assume that the proportions of what is to be produced is determined in a fair egalitarian manner, then there will be a resulting proportion of demand for labour in different branches of industry. It seems logical (because assuming the inverse leads to obvious absurdity fairly quickly) that this means there will be three (ever-shifting) categories of "jobs". Those for which voluntary supply based on personal preference ceteris paribus, roughly matches demand. Those for which voluntary supply exceeds demand ("cool" jobs). Those for which supply falls below demand ("shit" jobs). Stated properly, the problem suggests its own solution. In a society that guarantees equal right in consumption (thus removing, according to the bourgeois axiom above, any motive for anyone to do anything ever) "...labor has become not only a means of life but life's prime want". That is, if you want to have a chance at doing the cool jobs, it seems only fair that you take your turn in doing a share of the undesired jobs as well. (NB I suggest this as a possible method - the actual design of a post-capitalist society is the collective work of the revolutionary proletariat, not speculative would-be social "designers", as per normal disclaimer).

So there are "motives to production" (I refuse the term "incentives" due to the potential for being misread mentioned above) that are internal to production itself - even for the undesireable jobs, so long as these are brought, transparently and fairly, into relation with the desireable ones - and not reliant on differential consumption. (of course then we get into how solid that wall between production and consumption really is, but this post has to end sometime).

Now, finally, back to the OP, how to deal with the "slacker" on the team. In normal operation I would envisage that production teams would have autonomy in who they take on and who they get rid of. Teams would vary in ethos and approach between those with a "full tilt" approach and those with a "steady as she goes" one. Anybody trying to join up with a gung-ho team without the requisite attitude would almost certainly be asked to leave. Similarly, an overly eager beaver disrupting a more serenely paced team would probably have suggested to them that they might fit in better with a different team, more suited to their tempo.

Joined: 13-05-10
Feb 17 2012 13:04
RedEd wrote:
LefterThanThou wrote:
The natural "society" to which you refer was a large collection of tribes that evidently didn't give a shit about eachother. So even if nature's way is a preferable substitute for the formalities of exchange on the small scale, the question of incentives is hardly answered. As for the robot remark, it gives hostage to fortune.

I was only referring to an imagined 'natural' society. Natural is a loaded term it makes no sense to me to use except in critique. I don't know what 'it gives hostage to fortune' means. Can you explain?

It means it could come back to haunt you. If I'm being treated like a robot when my programmers incite me to work by paying me more, why am I not being treated like a robot when they do so instead by making the work itself more desirable in the ways you enumerate?

As for our nature, that we have one is beyond serious doubt. The better angels of it are perhaps the robots of your description: those that set out like the seven dwarves, a-singing and a-laboring upon hearing the morning speech about purpose, without suspecting for a moment that they're being exploited in a new way. But the human demand for equality-or-better, which ultimately inspired libertarian communism, would be its downfall. For in the context of free access, the only answer to sloth (however rare in the afterglow of revolution) is retaliatory sloth and ultimately libcom's disintegration. Hopefully, the failed communism is replaced with collectivism, as it was with the Pilgrims, but who knows?

Joined: 16-11-10
Feb 18 2012 02:08
yoda's walking stick wrote:
It's not like people will be looking for any old job that pays the bills, you'd end up doing what you're interested in doing. The only times you wouldn't would be if there's something that's necessary that no one wants to do then i'd personally say it would be most equitable to rotate that task.

This is a utopian joke. There are always going to be shit jobs that nobody wants to do, and those jobs probably will make up the majority of jobs offered. Who are going to be the miners, the plumbers, the truck drivers, the shelve stockers?

Someone just offered an actual practical solution (task rotation) and you just totally ignored it.

Plus this is just speculative moralising based on an essentialist negative view of human nature - actual worker control of production as it has historically occurred, comes about through armed/striking workers going back to work because they realise the need to produce stuff for themselves.

If people are capable of doing this, IMO your hypothetical is irrelevant.

lol reading yoda threads always leaves me fucked off.

A Wotsit's picture
A Wotsit
Joined: 14-11-11
Feb 18 2012 03:04

Yoda, I think I might be repeating what has already been said but for some reason your replies make me think there is something still to be explained so I'll give it a crack.

1. In a wageless society you best serve your own interests by doing your own thing or better still, cooperating with others who can help you to make the stuff you need, do the chores that need doing and experience the things you want to experience. There would be some democratic organising but it does not matter if people are selfish or helpful or a bit of both- it is always in your interest not to piss other people off and help each other out. We'll all just pretty much pull our weight but not over do it, we're free to try new things all the time so eventually we'll find ways to do work that needs doing that people appreciate enough to value and help you out. We'll all have plenty of time to chill because we won't be beholden to capital.

2. Even if some people do manage to freeload a little this is vastly preferable to all these stupid bloody enforcement of work ideas, or democratic wage system idea. If want to offer an 'incentive' for others not to be lazy you have to make everyone else work harder in order to produce the surplass value to allow that incentive to be offered- so that doesn't work either. Work is its own reward, when you are free to choose what it is you want to do and how you want to share the product of your labour.

I think that's it actually.

I think the reason you don't see it is because you can't see the true influence of capital and being governed on human behaviour. If we were living in a libertarian communist utopia, which is the context of this debate, then work and workplaces would look be so utterly different that they wouldn't produce slacker mentality, work would be so interwoven with socialising or pursuining a personal hobby or craft or trade, intermingled with doing things we didn't enjoy quite as much but that were useful or necessary, or doing things for others we wanted to help, if we got the revolution right and kept it libertarian communist- laziness would not be a big problem for society, don't worry about it.

A Wotsit's picture
A Wotsit
Joined: 14-11-11
Feb 18 2012 02:25

And under capitalism slacking at work means less of a share of your labour goes to the boss, and the more people he/she has to hire to get the work done and the more help you have. So it's fine. Reduce your work rate a bit and think harder about what life after the revolution could be like.

Joined: 8-01-11
Feb 18 2012 04:45
LBird wrote:
As for us, as Communists, we seek proletarian efficiency.

I find most of your posts informative LBird, but please could stop writing as if you're speaking on behalf a group/cult, I don't know about anyone else but it turns me off.

Joined: 21-09-10
Feb 18 2012 06:07
wojtek wrote:
I find most of your posts informative LBird, but please could stop writing as if you're speaking on behalf a group/cult, I don't know about anyone else but it turns me off.

I'm sorry if my post came across in that way, wojtek, but I used the phrase 'proletarian efficiency' to contrast with yoda's unspoken concept of [bourgeois] 'efficiency'.

I think that's the best way of emphasising the need to question current class-based notions of 'efficiency' that are always brought up by those who can't see past our present historical state of affairs and their own personal experience.

Or is it the 'we' you don't like? We've had that discussion before on here, and I'm afraid I won't change my method of approaching issues as a member of the proletariat, that is, as a part of a social 'we', not as an isolated individual. I need your help and everyone else's help to come to an understanding, and you all need mine. 'We' are in it together, your impressions notwithstanding.

Joined: 8-01-11
Feb 18 2012 06:14

Yeah, it's the 'us' and 'we' that makes me uncomfortable. I don't mind as much now though, since I know where you're coming from. smile
Joined: 9-08-07
Feb 18 2012 23:22

In a communist society it wouldn't be about "labour discipline" it would be all about social Vs anti-social behaviour, and how that would be determined would depend on the overriding needs of a given society at a given time.

I've no doubt there will always be anti social behaviour it will have to be dealt with on a case by case basis.

As for unpleasant tasks, as others have said those that are needed will be made more enjoyable or at least more bareable if people know they're benefiting themselves and have more control over their involvment, no doubt people will decide some tasks are so unpleasant no one needs to do them any more.

Manic Phase
Joined: 30-05-11
Feb 22 2012 19:22

I read halfway through this thread and it started getting long, so apologies if what i said has been said five times over.

In relation to the slacker at stacking shelves and everybody else who hates their jobs. You know there's reasons why we're expected to work 40+ hours a week right? Leeches.

And i don't mean people on benefits, although they do come into it. Although i consider being a burden on the system honourable, to be honest.

Most of my productivity, go straight into the hands of shareholders, bankers, bosses, salesmen, politicians, quangoes, soldiers, intelligence agencies, etc. Not only into their hands but also into pointless £200,000 missiles and £12,000,000 jets. Also into all the natural resources and human resources used to transport products and half built products around the world several times over before they ever even reach my hands, just because it's cheaper to get someone in china to build something and transport it across the world than to build it in the local area.

Many if not most jobs are pointless. Take call centre work for example. I used to work in IT and at least 60% of the calls i took shouldn't have ever happened. (I'll let you into a secret; When you call someone up about a problem with your PC and they repeat your sentence back to you slowly, they're just typing it into google, before dumbing down the solution they found in a tech forum). My experience turned me into a bad capitalist, but quite a popular person. People ask me to help with their computers all the time, so rather than just fix them i'll write down how to deal with the problem in future for them...

I forgot where i was going with that. Basically anything that can be done over the phone, can be done without payment over the internet, or better yet in a conversation with an aquaintance. Stuff that actually involves a little more knowledge or tinkering will almost always be possible to achieve by trading favours.

If pointless work was replaced with community, and actual work as in manufacturing, mining, farming, building and hauling was redistributed fairly, we'd probably only end up working about 15 hours a week. We wouldn't notice a difference other than that. Now if everyone was only expected to work two or three days a week, they likely wouldn't resent it quite so much.

I'm gonna end this text wall with a quote from a certain someone.

For as soon as the distribution of labour comes into being, each man has a particular, exclusive sphere of activity, which is forced upon him and from which he cannot escape. He is a hunter, a fisherman, a herdsman, or a critical critic, and must remain so if he does not want to lose his means of livelihood; while 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, herdsman or critic. This fixation of social activity, this consolidation of what we ourselves produce into an objective power above us, growing out of our control, thwarting our expectations, bringing to naught our calculations, is one of the chief factors in historical development up till now.