Work and Bread for Everybody

Submitted by Juan Conatz on December 22, 2010

DURING many centuries of exploitation of man by man, the producer of all wealth has consumed barely the minimum indispensable for existence. With the development of education and popular culture, the slogan, "He who would eat, must work" has emerged as the expression of justice and freedom. All economic and social development which does not take this maxim as a basis and ideal, is only a new deception, a new sabotage of revolutionary action. For us, the realisation of this formula is primordial. All men who believe that man should live by work, really form one party and should present a single front of action.

We will explain our concept of work. Adam Smith considered only so-called manual labour as productive. But the process of labour is the combination of intellectual and physical forces which, in the artisan, may be expressed in a single individual; but in modern economy is manifest as a coordination of highly specialised functions. "There is no reason for maintaining that productive work has not been performed by the engineer, the office worker, the shop foreman; but that only the manual workers have made the product and consequently are alone to be considered." 1

The work of modern society is the conjunction of technical and manual forces, all the more, when the technician can simplify physical forces and transfer to the machine strenuous human labour.

The scientist in his laboratory or in the lecture room, the technician and the worker are all forces of labour, socially useful and necessary. But will someone tell us what is produced by capitalists, private owners, shareholders and intermediaries of the present system? The work of these elements is, in the words of Proudhon, "A fiction of ancient feudal rights which has passed over to modern political economy and constitutes an almost free gift of the worker to the speculative capitalist -- the last vestige of exploitation of man by man...In reality only physical and intellectual labor is productive."

Not as a Proudhonian socialist but simply as a sincere devotee of the truth, German Bernacer, a Spanish author, in his book, "Interest of Capital," maintains that the only origin of income should be productive labor. The interest of capital can be eliminated even in a regime of individual production. This idea compares with the modern conception of the American technocrats.

We want something similar: the suppression of illegitimate incomes which are those not produced by physical or intellectual labor, not socially useful. This means a deep economic transformation. The placing in the centre of all economy, not speculation and profit, but work and goods for the welfare of all.

Nature imposes work on man for his existence. We must produce grain, cultivate plants for textile fibres, extract fuel and metal from the bowels of the earth, manufacture tools, apparatus, for the ever growing needs of an ever increasing population.

Only a few years ago an automobile was a rarity which provoked the astonishment and the envy of the people. Today it is almost a proletarian vehicle, indispensable as a daily necessity and, as such, should be within the reach of all the inhabitants of a country. We do not want to deprive ourselves of any of the conveniences that modern technique has made available. On the contrary, if possible, we want to increase or multiply these conveniences, and we do not doubt this possibility. If under capitalism so many wonders have been achieved, the more reason why they should be realised in a regime of socialization and freedom. "Only in the pure air of liberty can the gigantic flight of technical progress advance." (H. Deitzel.)

To conserve and increase the benefits of civilisation, multiply the productivity of the soil, and reduce the brutality of physical labor, we must work. But no one has said that only a single category should constitute the workers, -- those traditionally enslaved, the proletariat. No educator still maintains the old principles of class or caste. In other times, laws had to be decreed to declare the trade of the tailor or the shoemaker as not degrading. Today, we aim at decrees to make idleness and parasitism degrading.

Today, half of the people of Spain dress raggedly and depend for food on a piece of black bread; for half of Spain, fruit, in this land of fruit, is a luxury; half of the inhabitants of cities live in slums, and on the land, in caves and hovels. But this is a commonplace and so well known that one is led to believe in divine origin and to say with Mohammedan fatalism, "There have always been poor and rich, and this condition will always have to prevail."

Under capitalism there is nothing unusual in this state of affairs because capital is incapable of utilising all the resources of nature, science and human labor. Half of Spain is dressed in rags and textile workers cannot find anyone to employ their skill and competence, while factories close and machinery rusts.

In a socialised economy, this spectacle would be impossible because production would not follow the needs of a market, independent of the real needs of the people, but would be in line with these needs; and so long as a single Spaniard did not have sufficient clothing, there would be no reason to close a single textile factory, or to make idle a single worker.

The same can be said of any other industry. The building trades do not work within 40% of their capacity. Unemployment is slowly delivering a large number of these workers to tuberculosis; while half of the Spanish population live in conditions often inferior to animals.

But capitalism is not capable of remedying these deficiencies. Capitalists are only interested in utilising an infinitesimal part of the social resources of human labor, of technical inventions, of scientific discovery, of natural forces, because capitalism is interested exclusively in profit. It does not respond to the real demands of our standard of culture, and consequently is an obstacle to progress and even to the very maintenance of life.

In order to obtain the maximum of welfare of which our society is capable, it would be necessary only to suppress parasitism, to organise life in such a way that he who does not work finds no means of living by other people's toil. Naturally, children, the aged and the sick are not considered parasites. The children will be productive when they grow up. The aged have already made their contribution to social wealth and the sick are only temporarily unproductive.

Under a social economy, counting only the forces of labor of mature age, the quantity of human effort would at least be doubled. It is easy to get an idea of what this extra capacity would mean in the lessening of work as well as in the increase of wealth. Besides, a socialised economy is a regime of liberation for technicians and scientists, a free access to work in every branch. From the moral point of view, socialization, by imposing the principle of "He who would eat must work," would give an impulse of unlimited development in the life of the people; because labor and genius would not be shut out by artificial barriers and would finally be able to convert into fact the old dream of an earthly paradise.

We are guided by the vision of a society of free producers and distributors in which no power exists to remove from them the possession of the productive apparatus. In the Russian example, the State has taken away from workers' associations and peasants the free decision over everything relating to the instruments of labor, production and distribution. The producers there have changed their masters. They do not even own the means of production nor the goods they produce, and the wage earner, who is subjected to as many inequalities or more than in the capitalistic society, is living under an economic order of dependency, servitude and slavery.

One might object, from a social point of view, that in the economic organization proposed by us, the consumers, as such, play a small part, if any, inasmuch as they are not assigned any distinct organization. Undoubtedly, man is not only a producer but also a consumer, a social being who, outside of the factory or shop, possesses cultural affinities, social aspirations, political and religious motives. These currents of opinion must create their own organs of expression and social influence through the press, by assembly, and other methods to which free initiative can have full recourse and possibility of realisation. This is an aspect into which we are not entering just now -- nor shall we dwell on the defence of the Revolution. Concretely, we wish to outline the general trend of the economic mechanism already latent in the actual syndicates, and in the popular, almost instinctive tendencies.

The soviets were a fact before becoming a theory, and as a first step in the Revolution we are concerned with the taking possession of the whole economic structure and its direct administration by the producers themselves, in order to assure the satisfaction of the fundamental necessities of the people.

The rest can be left for later spontaneous solution, being matters more of individual sentiment which common interests and political necessities will determine.

  • 1Kleinwaechter: Political Economy, Pages 100-101.