Saturday, June 19, 2010

Who Will Do The Dirty Work ?

Who will do the dirty work? Socialism will not be a utopia where all the problems of existence have vanished. Unpleasant work will still have to be done. Socialism can do a lot of things, but it cannot make shit smell of roses - that is a fact of life we have to accept.

Work should not really be equated with employment. Employment is wage labour and the ability to work is a commodity the workers are forced to sell. As such, it has alienating factors associated with it; e.g. Monday to Friday, 9-5, is “their” time, whilst the weekend is "our" time, where we can enjoy working in the garden or doing hobbies. Employment is based on the division of labour. Workers are tied to one job for years on end, instead of being able to do all kinds of things, which socialist society will allow. (Of course, it is a moot point how far the division of labour can be removed from socialism since not everyone can have the steady hand and requisite knowledge of a surgeon, for example.)

One of the strangest objections to socialism we sometimes hear is “Who will do the dirty work?”
But imagine it being argued, “I don't want to live in a world without want and hunger , and where my needs are satisfied, if it means I have to get my hands dirty once or twice a week.”

Well , who will do the dirty work ?

Machinery will do it, answered Oscar Wilde:-

“All unintellectual labour, all monotonous, dull labour, all labour that deals with dreadful things, and involves unpleasant conditions, must be done by machinery”.

This will release each individual to help the community in his or her own way by doing service or producing things which will satisfy each person’s need to be active, to contribute and to help.

Wilde summed it up:-

“The community by means of organization of machinery will supply the useful things, and . . . the beautiful things will be made by the individual”. Socialism will entail new applications of technology and the abolition of unnecessary routine work.

Much of the unappealing dirty work can probably be taken care of by utilising labour-saving machines. But where it is impossible and where dirty work will have to be done in socialist society we can be quite sure of two things: Firstly, it will NOT be done by the same people ALL the time . All able members of society will take turns at such work. And secondly, it will be carried out by socially conscious men and women who appreciate that society belongs to them and therefore its less pleasant tasks must be performed by them. In the knowledge that we own and control the earth, and all that is in and on it, it is unlikely that human beings will refuse to attend to the dirty work within socialism .There will be motivation to tackle such tasks, and perhaps some forms of labour may even be viewed as a rite of passage.

The fact is that most jobs under capitalism are either completely or partially unnecessary. Many of those that are necessary are performed by people working long hard hours while others suffer poverty of low wages and low status. Elimination of all jobs required only within a capitalist system would reduce necessary tasks to such a trivial level that they could easily be taken care of voluntarily and cooperatively, eliminating the need for the whole apparatus of economic incentives and state enforcement. The hours needed to work will be considerably reduced from the additional extra labour being made available from no longer required capitalist occupations which will not exist in the moneyless, free access society of socialism. There will simply be many more hands to do the unpleasant but necessary stuff.

As for the lazy shirkers why should they be a serious problem ? Those people living in a socialist society who are too idle to work will not be much of a drain on society’s resources for very long, for if they lie in bed for long enough they will soon die of boredom. But, granted, if too many people didn’t work then society would obviously fall apart. However, we should not forget that to establish socialism in the first place , the vast majority must consciously decide that they want socialism and that they are prepared to work in socialist society. The establishment of socialism presupposes the existence of a mass socialist movement and a profound change in social outlook. It is simply not reasonable to suppose that the desire for socialism on such a large scale, and the conscious understanding of what it entails on the part of all concerned, would not influence the way people behaved in socialism and towards each other. Would people want to jeopardise the new society they had helped to create?
We think not.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Labor-saving technology is not only useful to replace the so-considered dirty tasks, but also the hard ones, which are performed sometimes by skilled workers. Even intellectual labor can be done by machinery (this is already happening today under the chains, impositions and rules of the capitalist system - some very complex mathematical calculations that were once only performed by engineers and mathematicians can now be resolved by computer programs, which are also useful to do many design works that designers used to perform by themselves back then and there are many other circumstances in which technology is constructive to accelerate or even replace intellectual labor). Technology use's goal must be to drive up productivity and save as much labor as possible, so humanity will be able to focus on the development of other elements of social life. That doesn't mean people won't have to work, but they'll work towards different collective aspirations, completely apart from the capitalist mode of production.
I know how hard it is to imagine and rationalize a totally new routine constituted of a dynamics that sounds strange to most of us, who have been trained from birth to follow the logic of capitalism. But as retrace our society model, we will build new modes of life that are compatible with our goals.