Solidarity -- and a couple of other thoughts

Jurriaan Bendien J.Bendien at
Sun Nov 17 09:17:10 MST 2002

Mike wrote:

"We demand wage-labour's abolition.  As far as I know, there aren't any
other unions doing this."

Whilst I am sympathetic to the Wobblies, the question occurs to me how you
would organise claims to the social product, if you abolish wages. I could
of course say "I am for the abolition of the wages system, because I don't
want to work anymore" and maybe if I am clever, I could arrange my life such
that this became possible within capitalist society. But what I am talking
about here is an alternative society.

There are then several options in the economic sense, for instance,

- you can directly distribute categories of goods and services according to
need, without intervention of the market.
- you can give people a guaranteed basic income, and operate a regulated
market of some sort.
- you can give people legal entitlements to claim certain goods and services
according to their position in life and society.

In fact there are numerous different distribution systems we can think of,
for particular categories of goods and services (this is the advantage of
socialism; you are no longer so fixated on profit-oriented markets, you can
have all sorts of methods of production and distribution, and in principle
make more nuanced decisions about what is efficient or not from a social
point of view). But whatever you do, you are still going to have to give
people a sphere of free choice in acquiring goods and services on the one
hand, and free choice in employment on the other hand, meaning you still
have to operate a (regulated) market of some sort, for particular categories
of goods and services, and for employment in different fields. This means
that, insofar as we do not want to spend our days mucking around with
coupons and legal issues, people still need to use money for the sake of
efficiency, even if they cannot buy the same range of things they were used
to being able to buy.

Then there has to be some way in which people get their money, and this must
be related to labour effort beyond some basic minimum income, since some are
prepared to work harder and more than others, and contribute more to society
than others. In that case money does function as a reward (compensation) for
work done, in which case we are back to wages, in some sense at least, in
our social evaluation scheme. That leads to the conclusion that, whereas you
may wish to abolish the capitalist wages system, you are still stuck with
having to distribute income as wages (salaries) in some form, insofar as
they are related to labour effort and the willingness to acquire the skills
needed to perform that labour effort. And this suggests, that the slogan
"Abolition of the wages system" may in fact not be so pertinent.

Marxists rarely discuss the political economy of socialism, arguing that we
will leave that till "after the revolution"; to discuss it now would be
"reformism" (see however for example Makoto Itoh, Political Economy of
Socialism). My opinion is that this is wrong; rather socialist political
practice must prefigure the kinds of things we want in the future, and it is
legitimate to explore and campaign for social alternatives to "business as

What do you think ?


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