4) The Rich Man's Morals and the Poor Man's Vices

Submitted by Ed on November 19, 2010


From the radical difference, the persistence of which we have noted, between the working class and the capitalist class, there is naturally derived a different morality.

Indeed, it would be very strange if everything were different between the toiler and the capitalist except their morals. How could one admit that the acts and attitude of an exploited workman should be judged and valued according to the criterion of his class enemy? It would be simply absurd.

The truth is that, as there exist two classes in society, so there exist two moralities, the bourgeois morality and the proletarian morality.

"The natural or zoological morality" - writes Max Nordau - "affirms that rest is the supreme merit and does not define labour as pleasant and glorious except that it is indispensable to material existence."

But the exploiters do not find any profit in this morality. Their interests, indeed, demand that the masses toil more than is necessary and produce more than they need. It is because the exploiters want to appropriate the surplus product.

Thus they have suppressed the natural morality and invented another one in its stead, developed by their philosophers, praised by their demagogues, sung by their poets - a morality whereby idleness figures as the source of all vices and labour as virtue.

It is needless to observe that this morality has been manufactured for the proletarian trade, for the rich who sustain it are very careful not to conform to it. Idleness is not a vice, except to the poor. And it is in the name of the dictates and mandates of this special morality that they must ceaselessly sweat, without any relaxation, in favour of their masters. Whatever slackens the efforts of production and whatever attitude tends to reduce the exploiter's benefit is qualified as immoral.

On the contrary, all that may turn to the advantage of the boss is loudly glorified. Thus there are not sufficient eulogies for assiduity to the hardest and cheapest labours, for the simple scruples that make the honest worker; in a word for all the ideological and sentimental fetters that fasten the wage earner to the chariot of capitalism, more than an iron chain.

To finish, besides, their work of enslavement, they loudly appeal to all human vanities. All the qualities of the good slave are exalted and magnified and they even have invented a moral guerdon - the medal or diploma to labour - for the most cheerful drudgers who have distinguished themselves for the flexibility of their spine, their Christian spirit of resignation and their fealty to "the boss."

The working class is saturated with this scoundrelly morality.

From birth to death the proletarian is tainted with it. He sucks it-in the more or less adulterated milk of the nursing bottle, which too often replaces for him the mother's breast. Later the vices of the same morality are injected into him in careful doses, and the absorption continues in a thousand processes until, buried in the common grave, the proletarian sleeps at last his eternal sleep.

The poisoning derived from this morality is often so deep and resistant that men of sharp wits and keen and clear reasoning are contaminated.

This is the case with Deputy Jaures, who, to condemn SABOTAGE, has been infected with these capitalist-made ethics. During a discussion on Syndicalism, in the French Parliament on May 11, 1907, he declared:

"If it is a question of a systematic and methodical propaganda of SABOTAGE, at the risk of being approved by the conservatives, I do not believe that it will go very far. SABOTAGE is repugnant to the nature and tendencies of the working class.

"SABOTAGE is loathsome to the technical skill of the worker, which skill represents his real wealth. And this is why Sorel, the theorist and metaphysician of Syndicalism, declares that even granting to Syndicalism all the possible means, there is one that it must interdict to itself and that is the one which might depreciate and humiliate in the worker his professional value - a value which is not only his precarious wealth of today, but also his title to his sovereignty of the world tomorrow."

The affirmations of Jaures, even if protected by the shield of Sorel, are all he wants them to be - see the metaphysics - except an exposition of economic reality.

Where in Christendom has Jaures met workers who with "their nature and their tendencies" break their necks to hand their masters all their physical and mental energy, in spite of the absurd, odious and shameful conditions which the latter impose and fasten upon them?

On the other hand how can the "technical value" and skill of these hypothetical workers be endangered when, having realised, on a certain day, that they are the victims of an inhuman exploitation, they strive to break away from it and consent no more to submit their muscles and their brains to an indefinite drudgery, to the total advantage of their masters? Why should they scatter this "technical value and skill which constitutes their wealth?" Why should they make of it a free present to the capitalist? Isn't it more logical, indeed, that the workers, instead of sacrificing themselves like lambs on the altar of capitalism, struggle and rebel and, valuing at the very highest possible price their "technical skill," let - all or in part - this "true wealth" of theirs on the very best terms obtainable?

To these questions Jaures has not made any answers, having not gone very deep into the question He has limited himself to declarations of a sentimental order inspired by the exploiters' morality and which are nothing less than the criticisms of the bourgeois economists reproaching the working class for their extravagant demands and their strikes and accusing them of putting the national industry in jeopardy.

The Jaures line of reasoning is indeed of the same brand with this difference, that instead of harping on the patriotic chord, he tries to awaken and goad the pride, vanity and conceit of the over-excited and thoughtless workers.

The Jaures argument, moreover, arrives at the final denial of the class struggle, because it ceases to take into consideration the constant state of war existing between capital and labour.

Now, plain common sense suggests that, since the boss is the enemy of the worker, the latter by preparing an ambush for his adversary, does not commit a bad or disloyal act. It is a recognised means of warfare, just as admissible as open and face to face battle.

Therefore not one of the arguments borrowed from the bourgeois morality is competent to judge SABOTAGE, just as none of these arguments has any weight and bearing on the judgment, acts, deeds, thoughts and aspirations of the working class.

If on all these points one wants to rightly reason, one must not recur to the capitalist code of ethics but inspire oneself to the worship of the producers which is daily being shaped in the heart of the working classes and which is destined to regenerate the social relations, in so far as it is the proletarian morality which will regulate the society of tomorrow.

The bourgeoisie, of course, has felt itself struck at heart by SABOTAGE - that is, struck in its pocketbook. And yet - be it said without any offensive intention - the good old lady must resign herself and get used to living in the constant company of SABOTAGE. Indeed it would be wise for her to make the best of what she cannot prevent or suppress. As she must familiarise herself with the thought of her end (at least as a ruling and owning class), so it were well for her to familiarise herself with SABOTAGE, which has nowadays deep and indestructible roots. Harpooned to the sides of capitalistic society it shall tear and bleed it until the shark turns the final somersault.

It is already, and shall continually become more so - worse than a pestiferous epidemic - worse, indeed, than any terrible contagious disease. It shall become to the body social of capitalism more dangerous and incurable than cancer and syphilis are to the human body. Naturally all this is quite a bore for this scoundrelly society - but it is inevitable and fatal.

It does not require to be a great prophet to predict that the more we progress, the more we shall SABOT.