marxism against zerowork

Alex Trotter uburoi at panix.com
Mon Aug 1 21:39:00 MDT 1994


In answer to Donna Jones, the autonomists are not the only ones who have
been advocating zerowork. Two other writers on this subject you might
want to become acquainted with are Bob Black and John Zerzan, both
American post-situationists of the zerowork tendency. Check out _Elements
of Refusal_ and _Future Primitive_ by Zerzan and _The Abolition of Work
and Other Essays_ and _Friendly Fire_ by Black.
	To get to the issues raised in the Sayers excerpt--Do people have
a "need to work" or a need to create? Is work really the same as free
creative activity? I think not. Work the way zeroworkers define it is
compulsory production, activity undertaken not for its own sake, but for
the sake of a product or output that will result from it. This is as (the
later) Marx saw it: the "realm of freedom" beginning only where the
"realm of necessity" (i.e., "...labor, which is determined by need and
external purposes") ceases and lying "outside the sphere of material
production proper." So not even under "socialism" would the degradation
of labor end! Factories are inherently scenes of domination. Engels even
said as much in his attack on the anarchists: "Wanting to abolish
authority in large-scale industry is tantamount to wanting to abolish
industry itself." And how about the grand old man himself again: "Go and
run one of the Barcelona factories without direction, that is to say,
without authority!" People have a need to play far more than a need to
work, and the social revolution should be conceived, much as Fourier saw
it, as the task of turning work into play. Most work could in fact be
dispensed with; what little "socially necessary" production remaining
might be organized by workers' councils, but zeroworkers tend to reject
any ideology of councilism or permanent organizations directed toward
that goal. Remember that the historical workers' councils, or *soviets,*
which first appeared in the Russian revolution of 1905, were spontaneous
creations of the workers that had not been anticipated in the theories of
socialist intellectuals. The reinvention of everyday life, which is what
zerowork is about, requires a utopian dimension of thinking that is
lacking in the pragmatic objections of Sayers. His vision is frankly
reformist--he wants to make work "more humane" and reduce the hours, but
presumably there's still going to be some coercive agency enforcing labor
discipline. And what's the crap about saying that zeroworkers in effect
tell housewives that they should be satisfied with their lot? The
abolition of work would embrace the abolition of housework as well (not
to mention the abolition of the nuclear family, schools, and the concept
of childhood). Full unemployment, not full employment, is the watchword.
It may well mean having to make do with less technology, but that
shouldn't be so bad, as it will allow the regeneration of nature and
human nature.

--Alex Trotter



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