Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Dogs, Cats & Wage Slaves

 According to a recent news item, a study has shown that cats are as
intelligent as dogs ( http://time.com/4650638/cats-dogs-memory/ ). But
could then be more intelligent?

 Dogs, specifically domesticated kind, are nature's sycophants. They beg.
They perform tricks upon command. Their tails wag upon the merest pat
from their masters. They are ever loyal. They know their place.

 Dogs do not reject their masters. As a canine Lenin might have observed,
the dog is incapable of reaching an independent consciousness. Urging
dogs to stand up for their dignity is as pointless as distributing
cleanliness manuals to rats.

 Cats, on the other hand, are remarkably sensitive to their own needs.
These are nature's materialists, ever heading to where food and shelter
is available and there settling for as long as their needs are satisfied
and their human providers leave them alone. Try as they might, humans
will fail to train cats to beg or jump through hoops or pretend to sing
the national anthem. Cats purr when they get what they want and they
depart when they don't. You will rarely see a cat on a lead.

 Now, with all due excuses in advance for the implied anthropomorphism of
all this, there is a conclusion which merits a few moments of the
reader's political contemplation. Capitalist culture is based the
expectation that the working class can be turned into dogs. The good
wage sieve is essentially a well-trained pup whose loyalty to the master
who holds the lead is undying and whose bark is reserved for anyone
threatening to invade the masters' property. Workers are educated as
pups are trained, with a few bones on offer to the graduates best able
to jump to the appropriate orders of their future bosses. BBC's One Man
And His Dog could well be a documentary about job training, except for
the obvious fact that most "job-seekers" (as the unemployed have now
been reclassified) are denied such splendid rural scenery as the
back-drop for their exploitation-seeking. In capitalist culture the
tail-wagging wage slave, content in a squalid kennel, running to fetch
the sticks which the master throws and fearful of the stick which the
master wields, is the most ideal of dehumanised creatures of the profit
system.

 Of course, some capitalists tend to become strangely sentimental when it
comes to pet dogs in ways that rarely extend to their employees. The
billionaire inhabitant of Buckingham Palace, for example, is reputed to
have quite a soft spot for a corgi with a belly-ache after eating too
much lunch (which is perhaps why she reserves the British beef for
visiting heads of state), but is not known for her concerns about
workers dying as they wait in queues for hospital appointments. Other
capitalists patronise charities concerned with animal welfare (usually
excluding the welfare of the defenceless suckers whom they chase and
shoot for sport) while resenting every penny they are forced to pay
towards the welfare of their wage slaves. Cruelty to domestic pets is a
crime. If the dogs of the rich and famous were transported in conditions
which have become customary for rush-hour users of the buses and
underground trains there would soon be a campaign formed to put an end
to it.

 Now, the great unconscious fear of the bosses is that workers become
rather more like cats. At the very least, cats are like high-class
prostitutes, sitting on their owners' laps and purring, with one eye on
the smoked salmon and the other on their claws should the would-be owner
make a single false move. At their best, cats are animals who know their
place in a way that dogs never will: in the sun, near the food and
drink, never far from the open air and long leisure hours of idle
roaming, peaceful napping and hot sex. What characteristics do
capitalists less admire in their workers than those?

 Dogs are pack animals. Humans (with the exception of Millwall supporters
and marching Orangemen) are social, but not pack animals. In short, we
are socially interdependent, but we have sufficient consciousness to
survive and prosper alone as well as in groups. Dogs survive either by
total dependence upon the pack or by domesticated submission to an
owner. Cats are not pack animals and are never quite owned by those who
imagine themselves to be cat-owners.

 The revolutionary socialist is the lion of the capitalist jungle. Not
content to hunt the pack or be trained into the domesticity of wage
slavery, the socialist looks at the world from a position of strength.
There are more workers than there are capitalists. We are stronger than
them. We are the ones they depend on to protect them as a class from one
another and, above all, from us. We are intelligent enough to know our
way round the jungle and find our way out to the other end. And our
capacity to rise up scares the hell out of those who would like the
working class to be forever weak and bowed.

 Freedom does not depend upon humans becoming more like cat - just less
like dogs. Like cats, we might learn that there is more dignity in
walking away from tyranny into the unknown than putting up with lousy
treatment forever.
 But the message of this rather strange piece is not
that SOCIALISTS SAY WORKERS SHOULD BECOME MORE LIKE CATS. Rather,
SOCIALISTS SAY WORKERS SHOULD BECOME MORE LIKE HUMANS. This means refusing to adopt the political posture of the dependent canine and
resting satisfied with the reformers' offers of bigger bones. Instead,
let those who think they can own us learn soon that our bite is as bad
as our bark - and our bark can become a roar.

STEVE COLEMAN (Socialist Standard, August 1996)

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