Removing the Unnecessary Parts,
1 - The Relationship Between Work and Existence
All Socialist theory begins with an economic understanding: you need to work to get paid, and you need to get paid to eat. We work to live indoors, to sleep in a bed, to have water and food, and to have some activity of leisure. It is not just that we have some right to civilized existence by working. How much of a right to comfort and security we have is determined by the degree of labor that we are doing. More hours of work and more valuable work means a greater paycheck.
With greater income, you ask fewer questions about quantity and more about quality. It is no longer about whether you will live indoors or outdoors, but whether you will have access to the better amenities: heating, cooling, appliances, and electronics. The quality of food, too, will likewise increase, as cheap bread and canned vegetables might be exchanged for restaurants and catered food. This is the common trend: the quality of life that you experience based on how much is available to you.
So far, this is a purely economic understanding, and it only expects to explain your desire for working and exchanging your labor power for wages. We know that labor can be used to provide for you whatever you need economically. But, how does this relate to happiness? This has been a far more disputed and far more relative question. It leaves economics, briefly passing through the common medium of sociology, and then enters psychology.
If we were to consider all of the extremes of differences in the character of humanity, we would probably find that there is always some kind of influence between material existence and personal happiness. Naturally, one does not absolutely need material possessions to be happy, but they need some of them to be happy in the long-term. How much happiness can someone have, when they are constantly starving, sleeping on a rock-hard floor, and when they never have a moment out from the glare of the sun?
And, finally, to possess these things, to finally have worked to attain the bare minimum necessary for living, does not necessarily give someone happiness. It creates the opportunities where they might seek it out, since they are no longer victimized by poverty, hunger, and the natural elements. But even without these necessities, and under the most exposed nature, a person can still find happiness. There are many cases of this happening under excruciating, challenging, and trying times; but they are few compared to the great bulk of human history.
Happiness, found through the company of other, requires the luxury time and activities; if found through enlightenment, it requires books and art and music; and if found through indulgence, then it needs a form of gratification that suits the individual. Furthermore, this form of happiness which is encouraged by the possession of wealth is not always center-focused. A father or mother would be happy to see their children given proper healthcare, uplifting education, and a fair chance in the world, just as members of the community seek free space for the youth and care for the elderly. No matter how much you base your joy on your children, the hopeful faces of your sons and daughters, you must have some income to provide for them -- to give them fresh food, air, and living.
Happiness through other people: even this, too, requires some wealth. Every person has their own way of attaining peace and tranquility in their hearts. This is the meaning of individuality. But no matter how unique each person may be, the great vast majority of humanity needs some type of material wealth to achieve happiness. The few who do not are so rare as to be something between a mystic and a philosopher. The stories of those who find contentment in the harshness of the wilds away from society, for instance, are more likely to make us think that individuals are very likely to break every social rule. For every one who lives like this, there must be at least ten thousand who would die in the hopelessness of such a situation.
Here is your relationship between how you live and how you work: you need to labor to provide yourself with material sustenance, whether for yourself, your family, your friends, or your community. And without being able to interact and exchange in this way, your unique ability of achieving any sort of happiness is incredibly limited. In every civilized nation and age, this is how the vast majority of humanity relate to the experience of work.
2 - The Bargaining Power of the Common Worker
Take any group of one thousand people. Split them into two sections: 5 on one side, and 995 on the other. Tell the 995 people that they must choose one of the group of five to be their rulers. They can each pick a ruler according to their own desire, but the terms will be defined by the ruler. Each one of the rulers, knowing that they bargaining power is on their side, will know the great advantage they obtain from this. The only threat they face is from the rivalry and competition of the other rulers. In this respect, they will either seek as much power and advantage out of the people under their rule, so they can compete. Or, much more likely, seeing an almost equal bargaining power among each other, they will cooperate -- so that each can benefit from their mutual control over the whole of the working people.
This situation accurately described the hypothetical model of the Capitalist system. Its faults should be immediately apparent to the thinking individual. Now, imagine the tone and texture of this scenario in the bargaining between the common worker and the common employer. Imagine if the worker says, "I do not have to work for you! I can make just as much wealth on my own, without your help!" The Capitalist will respond, "But you need machinery and technology to produce enough to feed and house yourself. It's expensive, and you, who are just a day away from starving, could never purchase it. More than that, you need land to put it onto, government certificates to be filled and regulations to be satisfied, usually requiring lawyers and accountants. If you have any hope or expectation of providing for yourself materially, then you must make a deal with me."
The worker, becoming frustrated, proceeds to what they think might be their next strategic point. They will refuse to work unless better wages, hours, and working conditions are offered. "I will not work, unless you pay me more, unless you let me have eight hours leisure and then eight hours rest, and unless you put safety guards on the dangerous equipment," the common laborer demands. But the Capitalist, here has the real advantage. "There are hundreds of other workers already laboring for me right now. I'll still be able to feed myself and extravagantly so, without the help of just one of you. On the other hand, you would starve within a week if you couldn't get the pay to feed yourself."
"I don't have to choose you as an employer!" the worker replies, "There are others who will hire me, who will give me the opportunity of feeding myself with my labor." This is supposed to be the "regulating lever" of Capitalism: competition. With other Capitalists, the single Capitalist must compete in attaining employees for their industry. But the boss is smarter than that, and responds, "Go to any employer, and you will find that conditions are always the same. And then, go among the workers, and you will always find someone who has been wasted by poverty and unemployment, completely willing to work for cheaper than you."
The worker, knowing that there are many who would take his place to earn a living, withdraws from this position that they can simply quit and find work somewhere else. Especially if they expect that they will necessarily find someplace that pays better and offers a safe, comfortable workplace. Finally, the worker turns on their last option that might be able to convince their employer of paying better.
"Well, then, I will organize the other workers!" speaks the laborer defiantly, "Together, we will withdraw all of our labor, and then, you must give in to our demands, or you will not be able to live opulently!" The Capitalist retorts, just as confidently as before, "But I am one person, and I have this endless mountain of wealth, which would be enough to feed me until the day I die. You are many, you have thousands of children to feed, including yourselves. And you, as workers living on a pitiful wage, have so very little amongst yourselves. I must only wait, until you give in, or I find some others hungry enough to replace you."
"But if it is on a wide enough scale..." the worker tries to persist, but is beaten down by the Capitalist. "If it is on a wide enough scale," the employer asserts, "Then I will call in the state to defend my property rights -- that is to say, you will be beaten, arrested, served injunctions against, subpeona'd, tried, found guilty, and imprisoned or hanged. This will go on as long as necessary in order to compel you to labor. That is the right of private property, as it has existed and been practiced in every society that defended it as an established institution."
"More than that," the boss goes on, "There are only a few Capitalists, and we can organize in a single hour, if necessary. There are millions of workers, divided by faiths, languages, customs, races, beliefs, and prejudices, as well as specific interests, like self-interest, family-interest, region-interest, national-interest, or even, racial-interest. It will take you lifetimes to unite such a force, only to find that it's composition is so different and evolved by the time you are done, that it will fall into shambles of disunity."
Even if one were to devote themselves wholly to unionism and organizing the workers, this cannot be done in a single day -- and a person must eat at least several times in such a period. Before we can really achieve a change in this social arrangement, we must consent to some miserable labor with low payment and dangerous conditions. The inequality of bargaining power means that the individual in this society only has the choice to accept whatever the Capitalist offers, if they want to live -- if they want to have some chance at happiness.
We do not go through all of this dialogue in our own mind when we are looking for a job. But we feel these forces and their effects when it comes to bargaining for our wages -- when it comes to compromising about our standards of life and work.
3 - Capitalism Through the Ages
The same inequality of bargaining power has existed throughout the past few thousand years of civilization. "Capitalism" is typically used as a phrase to distinguish the current period of economy versus the past periods; but, just as today, the economies of the past were based on highly unbalanced bargaining powers, where the few dominated and exploited the many. These situations of past generations were still a form of Capitalism, since this domination was exercised through the same medium: isolated control of society's productive powers by a very few individuals.
The first of these relationships was simply real slavery, and the slave could find some contentment in the provisions their master gave them, just as the wage-slave does today. In many of the earliest situations of slavery, this must have been a voluntary act; for one cannot enjoy the fruits of cooperative production without combining with others and laboring the land. Similarly, with so few places considered "private property" by some, the slave could easily escape, without governments or nations tracking them across the world. And, it would only be a few miles to pure liberty. But, this was the situation of slavery before written, recorded history, and it is just an estimation of the earliest forms of control. [*1]
When each slave owner was their own governor and master, and together all slave owners possessed a tiny fraction of the planet -- at this point in human history, the slave must only wait until night when they decide to take flight. The ease of escape, and the relative little amount of comfort provided by early production, gave bargaining power to slaves that wage-workers could only dream of. To quote Samuel Von Pufendorf in 1673, "...it soon came to be the practice to admit slaves into the household, to perform the domestic tasks. And it is probable that in the beginning these offered themselves voluntarily, being compelled by want or a sense of their own incapacity..." [*2] The proud owner of a steel foundry or a coal mine, like Rockefeller or Carnegie, would never survive, unless they had the exclusive economic power which didn't make a few slaves, but make millions.
Slavery, when it become a sophisticated, global, race-oriented trade, become more Capitalist. Consider the slaves of Egypt, Rome, and Arabia, one to three thousand years ago. These were each vast, almost endless empires, each built by a vicious, conquering monarch, each supported by columns of nobles, aristocrats, and the wealthy -- early forms of the Capitalist. Slavery, in its early form was voluntary, as an advantage to the slave, which could easily be escaped whenever deemed desirable.
But with these huge empires, these connected networks of armies and police and governors, there is no escaping. A slave on the Nile would have to run hundreds of miles, exposed to so many vicious elements and natural predators. A slave in ancient Rome could walk one thousand miles in any direction, and still find themselves under a governor who pledged allegiance to the Roman Empire -- still persecuted, hunted, and criminalized in every part of society. And, even if they were to find some freedom, they could never work in a way that would feed themselves. If not by way of coercion and violence, the hunger of the slave will drive him back to his master. The more land and productive property that is in the hands of a very few, the greater the difficulty in escaping.
In Arabia and Asia, too, ancient empires have extended their territory to such a wide expanse that there is no hope for any slave in finding liberty. The situation briefly changed with slavery in the United States, where a slave could find freedom in the wilds by escaping several hundred miles. But, like any Capitalist, other efforts were taken to strengthen the bargaining position of the master: the hunting and catching of slaves became sophisticated and complex, threats of violence against family members were used, and, more important than either of those, territory was expanded and the monopoly of land was consecrated.
Contrary to what is often taught, slavery did not become brutal and inhumane because it was one human being possessing another human being. It was when slavers possessed all of the productive forces of society that slavery became real, debased, and miserable. Whether or not slaves were considered to have the "right to flee" is unimportant; the very real fact that slaves could easily free themselves played a strong, determining role in the relationship between master and property. In the wider sense, it was nothing but one of the many evolutions between employer and employee.
From the roots of slavery, there came the European system of Feudalism. This developed out of plantation system used by the Ancient Roman Empire. Similar forms of the Feudal system have existed in many countries, notably in Japan, which mixed elements of military-rule with it. This system reflected the meaning of domination and coercion of the empire-based slavery. The common laborers, known as "serfs," were treated as little more than slaves, tied to the ground which they worked, because they were owned by the land's owner. Similarly, it was the inability of escape that produced such grueling conditions under the serf. The economist Michael Burawoy underlines the essential points of this system...
Whether the scattered states of Europe or the scattered territories of Japan, the only way to work to feed yourself was to submit to being a serf, without any rights but what your master gives you. It was this monopoly of land and productive powers that was used as the bargaining strength of the masterly class. It was this that guaranteed their ability to produce such miserable conditions for the majority and to give such high luxury to themselves.
It would be impossible to simply classify systems as either "forms of slavery" or "forms of Feudalism." These two forms of coercion themselves are very slightly different from each other. Naturally, we find a variety of hybrid systems, encompassing various mechanisms where the few can control and dominate the many. In Ancient India, and even persisting to our present day, there is the religious Caste system, where an individual's occupation is determined by their birth. "Occupation" is a friendly way of saying "Whether it is determined that they shall be a slave obedient to the free, or among the free who possess slaves."
In Ancient Rome, there was the very real situation of actual slavery, but distinctions in class were similarly used as a way of guaranteeing the power of the rich. Based on birth and family relationships, a citizen of Ancient Rome was either Patrician or Plebeian -- two phrases that are still occasionally used today to distinguish Rich or Poor. Within this system, the Patrician class had been distinguished by its families being the first among Rome -- the first to grab unclaimed land, to settle, and to become established economically. And, similarly, the Plebeian class, lacking this distinction, often found itself in a subjugated position, such as the law prohibiting inter-class marriage, or being used violently to oppress uprisings of the overworked Plebeian class. It was imbalance of bargaining power, between the "have's" and the "have-not's," that led to these great social turmoils and conflicts.
Mercantilism is another system that portrays the same mechanism of excessive, uncompromising bargaining power by the few over the many. But, academics and scholars often dispute with themselves whether this was "pre-Capitalism," or "prototype-Capitalism." It is a system based on keeping wealth within the king's territory, beginning in the 1500's, and continuing to today. This was implemented with high tariffs and taxes, to inhibit tho profit of foreign enterprises. Naturally, since tariffs and taxes today serve largely the same purpose, guaranteeing the power of a few wealthy, this system never really died.
Historians, who criticize "wage-slavery" as a classist term, will instead say that a new system came about, called Laissez Faire. It is the phrase uttered by a French company to a government official, "Leave us alone," allegedly, when the government offered to assist them. The phrase, of course, is a joke, as the company said this in public -- in private, the Capitalist demanded from the state more imported slaves, the violent repression of trade unions, and high tariffs to keep out manufactured goods.
Historians, then, are more focused on the inspiring words of the Capitalist class, than the actual facts associated with them. If there was ever a real meeting like this that occurred, it is certain that Capitalist would have made it known to the state: "Your employer will let you know when you are needed." Far from the lies of history books, this is the fact of the global history of Capitalism. Mercantilism ceased to be a popular idea, only because it became irrevocably tied into the law, and a simple matter of fact. But when the Mercantilists said they are no longer Mercantilists, and are now Capitalists, this happened with absolutely no change in the social arrangement.
There is another system, which has had its components named, but has not really been given a name itself. In the terms of Capitalist Historians, there was a class of workers who owned their own tools, called artisans -- possibly tied into the guild system. In the terms of Karl Marx, though, these workers were called "petit bourgeoisie," borrowing the second word from the burgher class of France, which was essentially a self-employed, artisan class. But, even with these two classifications, there are many workers left out of this group of those who own enough tools for themselves and who work them to sustain themselves. In Russia in the 1800's, craftsmen such as carpenters often provided their own tools when seeking employment. [*4]
Several centuries after the birth of the plantation and Feudal system in Europe, another system grew up side-by-side with it: the system of private, agricultural families, working their own land, living off of their produce, very rarely trading with others. Feudalism flourished where there was a well-established system of mastery over the many, typically found in places geographically closer to Rome upon its breakup. Independent farmers flourished in areas that were very decentralized politically and economically, with a few dozen, local kings claiming a single country as their ancestral homeland.
In America, when it was discovered for the first time by Europeans, many independent farmers found their first chance to have their own land. Of course, it never belonged to them by right, but by force, as it this land was guaranteed by pushing the native population of sixty million into one percent of its original numbers and land. But, all of these movements have been enveloped by Capitalism. A few farms were owned by individuals, but soon corporations took them over. If this did not happen, the individual farms made close ties with the established, dominant authority with the most economic bargaining power. The individual who claimed the farm, was free, or it was absorbed by a greater system, leaving the great vast majority still at the hands of a coercive economy.
In 19th century Canada, this system of independent farmers began to show signs of eroding. J. Bartlet Brebner notes that British Columbia "never accumulated enough capital [productive power] to become independent of them [dominant investors of the Atlantic Money Market]." [*5] Elsewhere in Canada "the region came under the control of large American capital as the opportunities for individual effort disappeared and it was finally succeeded by costly hydraulic and soil-thawing enterprises, and finally by dredges." [*6] And still elsewhere: "For the most part, the Upper Canadians were farmers struggling with the resources and forces of nature on the one hand, and with the merchants, bankers, and politicians on the other." [*7] This historian describes as a universal situation of the territories governed by the British Empire...
Peter Kropotkin is another author who has closely examined the exploitive nature of the Merchant class over the small businesses of agricultural workers. He described the position of Russian and European peasants in the 1800's, "The peasant suffers today not only in having to pay rent to the landlord; he is oppressed on all hands by existing conditions. He is exploited by the tradesman, who makes him pay half a crown for a spade which, measured by tile labour spent on it, is not worth more than sixpence." [*9]
Another movement began in the middle of the 1800's in the United States: the homestead movement, which was focused on providing farmers with free land so that they would not be exploited by employers and merchants. Organized labor even fought for the Homestead Act. [*10] The homesteader is like the runaway slave of the past; they attempted to flee the service of the masters, by leaving the empire that belonged entirely to a very few. There was another similar movement that developed shortly after the homestead movement began, which was based on people leaving areas where the land was all owned by a very few. Included are the various Socialist projects founded in the jungles of Africa or South America, all of them largely abandoned within only a few years. [*11]
The result of the homesteaders, as well as various cooperatives and communes, has been fairly typical: either integration into the economy, or being completely absorbed by it. We know this is true of the vast majority of worker cooperatives who often sell their business to a Capitalist. [*12] But, similarly, we also know that the more aged "workers' cooperative" becomes as coercive as any Capitalist, as we find with the miserable conditions imposed upon employees of the "Mondragon Workers' Corporation." [*13]
This relationship between small owners and powerful, rich merchants is almost identical to that of the propertyless laborer and the wealthy Capitalist. Again, it all boils back down to the one simple matter of bargaining power. Both sides need each other, but there is an imbalance of this need. As the economist Adam Smith wrote, "In the long run the workman may be as necessary to his master as his master is to him; but the necessity is not so immediate." [*14] The inequality expresses itself in the form of the many workers living in poverty, while a very few do nothing and live in extreme wealth. This is the natural product of an inequality of bargaining power between two groups within society; it has been the universal trend expressed everywhere under every age and every government.
As Socialists, the phrase we use to describe any system like this is "Exploitation," -- whether it is Wage Slavery or Feudalism, Second-Class Citizenship or powerful merchant classes that dominate small, independent proprietors. If we take the measure of our happiness to be good, and the standard of our material existence as contributing to happiness, then we can only be led to one conclusion: we need to re-arrange social organization so that there are no individuals or associations that have unchallengable, bargaining power.
4 - How To Increase the Worker's Bargaining Power?
Bargaining power: this is what it all returns to when it comes to determining the wages that we live upon, the income that feeds us and our families. It is something that has been put under the lense a thousand times by economists, sociologists, psychologists, and others in the field called "social science." They know the means and influences of bargaining, and they know that they are stacked heavily against the common person in favor of the very few.
However, they discuss the prices of the economy; there is not so much discussion on the relationship between the individual's potential happiness and their work. And, there is even less of a moral understanding that happiness of the people is good, their misery is bad, and systems that keep them locked into misery are inherently unjust. This principle is recognized in all good fields, whether science or medicine; but in economics, if you speak of the happiness of the people, you become "a moral demagogue," whereas a physician doing the same is "a crusader for justice."
Take the same group of one thousand people mentioned earlier. Change it so that instead of 5 people on top of 995 people, there are only 20 people on top of 980. Before, if a master rejected the offer of the servant, they still had a chance with 19 other masters. Furthermore, it is far more difficult for the 20 people on top to organize. Before, there were only five, and each must only have fair, reciprocal relations with four others in order to have mastery over almost a thousand people. But now, one must be willing to have a fair share with nineteen other people, making each person's allotment smaller -- meaning that there is greater intrigue, resentment, and rebellion.
A group of five would be tightly knit, but in a group of twenty over a thousand, one could see the advantage of forming their own inner-association with four or five others, to try and take greater advantage of the other masters; and that such plots probably are fairly common, except where each master possesses such a powerful amount of bargaining power that resistance could only mean an extremely prolonged, unprofitable conflict. But with four or five forming their own contingent, they disrupt the unity of the masterly class, by demanding for themselves a greater portion of the production of master class's slaves.
This disruption of unity is probably greater in equalizing the bargaining position of employer and employee than giving more options to the worker to find a master. For, a master can deny any worker their offer for work, and still live; but any worker, without income, will soon find themselves hungry, homeless, and reduced to begging. This will always underpin the relationship between master and slave. No matter how much we equalize out the system, this will always be a strong influence in determining the bargaining positions of society's members. Even if we were to take the one thousand people, and make 750 masters, with 250 slaves to pick a master, this would still be a strong determinant in the decision-making process of servant and master.
In the nineteenth century, a new, conservative, economic philosophy developed, titled Distributism, or "Distributionism" and "Distributivism." It was developed by G.K. Chesterton, who wrote exceptionally biased histories of the world in favor of a racist, catholic viewpoint. In the words of George Orwell, "Chesterton had not lived long in France, and his picture of it — as a land of Catholic peasants incessantly singing the Marseillaise over glasses of red wine — had about as much relation to reality as Chu Chin Chow [a musical comedy in London] has to everyday life in Baghdad." [*15]
The idea of Distributism is interesting, in that it advocates "an agglomeration of families of varying wealth, but by far the greater number of owners of the means of production," to quote Hilaire Belloc. [*16] That is to say, it sees isolation of wealth as leading towards inequality of social and economic positions. It doesn't go so far as to say that it is a matter of bargaining power between agents in the economy that leads the masses to extreme poverty and the few to extreme opulence. It does recognize, though, the harm in excessive bargaining power. The solution, which was conservative and light-minded, suggested that "the means of production should be spread out."
You should have more options for choosing a master, G.K. Chesterton and the Catholic reformers argue -- but you have absolutely no right to choose no master. There must be someone above you, who can use their greater bargaining power, in order to exploit you, just as they most likely have someone over them. An endless chain of hierarchy, domination, and control. This "reform ideal" never sought to abolish the situations that lead to one being controlled and another being the controller. It only sought to lighten the weight of the chains -- to get the prisoners double their rations of bread and water. It never imagined itself as being with a free world. Jean Jacques Rousseau clearly elaborates the influence of Christian thinking on political and social problems in 1762...
Distribituvism is still an interesting idea. It admits the premises of revolutionary Socialism: inequality of bargaining power in the economy naturally leads to inequality in social and economic positions. This idea has almost been whole-heartedly accepted by modern economic theory, though it would not ever dare to use the name of some obscure, socially-oriented, conservative theory of the 1800's. Rather, instead of admitting to believing in Distribituvism, modern economic books will say that "isolated control of the means of production leads to Oligopoly;" following by a rather plain and uninteresting explanation of how unequal bargaining positions lead to unequal bargaining outcomes.
Modern economics books don't use these phrases, nor do they accurately compare them to the variety of their historical forms: slavery, second-class citizenship, agrarian merchants, wage-slavery, divine right, or the caste system. It only goes so far as to say that currently within Capitalism, there are a few who attempt to dominate and control the market by possessing exceptional bargaining power through exclusive ownership of the means of production. One must only peruse a few of these books on economics to see that they all universally admit the origin of crime, poverty, hunger, and starvation is this excessive power of the wealthy few that allows them such uncontrolled domination. [*18] But, whereas a physician's manual tells you to apply antibiotics to a wound to heal it, the economist's manual tells you to apply poison -- measuring success by the amount of abuse that can be delivered upon the poor in favor of the rich.
5 - The Typical Approach of State-Socialists and State-Socialism
Karl Marx's analysis of economic relationships begins with 1800, or the typical fall of Feudalism, and ends with 1900, or the semi-matured Capitalism of the modern society. Except for this period of one hundred years, Marx's interpretation of economic forces doesn't exist. Among the variety of his predictions was that the Socialist state would achieve liberty and that the workers of Capitalism would eventually overthrow their governments for Communism. In the first case, no Socialist state has even vaguely approached a real concept of either Socialism or liberty. And in the second case, parliamentarian nations of Europe were not overthrown by workers inspired by Communism, but by Fascism.
There are other interesting predictions, as well, or at least interpretations of the past. For instance, Bonaparte the Third of France was described by Karl Marx as creating "a dictatorship of the prostitutes" -- a spin on the typical Socialist phrase of "a dictatorship of the proletariat." [*19] This system of historical analysis was titled "Dialectal Materialism," and it is not unusual for traditional Marxists to question whether Marx was actually serious in this comment. After all, it is a great joke at the bar -- but admitting it into our understanding of history and social forces is like relying on drunken historians who have referred to Nikola Tesla is "the electric Jesus." [*20] Nevertheless, even a drunken lay-person talking about history is far more accurate than Marx's interpretation Naturally, the whole of Dialectical Materialism either ignores or contradicts all class conflict throughout history, describing the typically only the changes of the transition from Feudalism to Capitalism. [*21]
That is to say, Marxist interpretation was only valid for maybe a hundred years or less, and extended any further, it disintegrates like the dust it was made from. Castes, second-class citizen, etc., that is to say, the greater portion of human history where humanity has been under domination -- all of this is completely ignored. As a result, for those of us who want to achieve a world without domination, we can completely ignore Marxism -- any valuable premises to be obtained from it, such as surplus value and alienation, are largely plagiarisms of the book What is Property? by the Anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon.
The premises of Marxism, essentially, are incompatible with Socialism in the modern world, because they were built on what Socialism could have been within the years of 1800 to 1900. Ignoring this briefly, let us at least consider the solution posed by Marx for the inequality of bargaining power between worker and employer. His system was that of using the political party to gain advantages for the worker in the political sphere of society. By having representation in the system of passing laws, the workers themselves gain power to determine their situation in this society. To quote a work by both Karl Marx and Engels titled Demands of the Communist Party in 1848...
The political party: this is going to be the method of achieving the revolution. Elsewhere, in "Political Action and the Working Class," written in 1871, Marx tells us, "To get workers into Parliament is synonymous with a victory over the governments..." [*23] And, in the 1848 Manifesto of the Communist Party, Marx and Engels co-wrote together, "The immediate aim of the Communists is the same as that of all other proletarian [workers] parties: formation of the proletariat [workers] into a class, overthrow of the bourgeois [capitalist] supremacy, conquest of political power by the proletariat." [*24]
This is a summation of the tactics used by Marxists: involvement in the process of government, whether taking that power by election or armed force. All forms of State Socialism, and not just Marxism, believe in using the state as a supreme form of removing the exploitation of the masses. Such parties claim such titles as "Socialists," "Bolsheviks," "Labor," "Democratic Socialist," and "Communist." There is a tremendous amount of variety between them all on so many issues, such as how to use the state, how to attain power, and the extent of how anti-Capitalist they feel; or, how much they believe the bargaining power of the workers to be weak compared to their employers.
A Socialist government: this is the solution to the problem. But now, with our understanding, we should apply some reasoning to this suggestion. First, there is a very real difficulty with Socialist politics -- it does not change the bargaining power of either the workers or the owners of the industry. Rather, it simply applies new names and terms for the old relationship. There are no longer Capitalists, but bureaucrats, peoples' generals, and the usually one "enlightened master." It is similar to the Absolutism of kings who said they could be vicious, cruel, and unchecked, because it is the will of god; now, the same right to mastery and rule is accepted, but now because "it is the will of the people."
Consider the worker who must ask the state-owned industry for the privilege of working; imagine the two different interests, the worker asking for more, and the state demanding more. Essentially, the same type of dialogue would exist as between the worker and the employer in a Capitalist nation. The worker would say he would work somewhere else, but the employer assures him that other places are similar. The worker says he refuses to work, but the employer says he has enough workers to keep going and the individual worker will starve. There is no choice, but starvation or working for whatever is offered. Bargaining power of the worker is still almost nothing compared to the unrestrained power of a massive corporation or capitalist.
A Socialist State would not be able to change the unbalanced bargaining strengths between employer and employee. Rather, its intention is to replace the top few who control everything with those who are "sympathetic and friendly" towards the worker. They retain just as much power, sometimes even more than in traditional Capitalism. A government like the Chinese Communist Party, then, is even more Capitalist than American Capitalism -- it affords the greatest bargaining power to the very few, at the expense of the poverty and subjugation of the masses.
Some Socialist States, such as those in Europe, typically engage in electoral Socialism. Yes, the people can elect and choose their masters, but they do not have the right to choose to live without masters. Again, this is another trend inherent in Capitalism: you can choose a master, if only to confuse you with the idea of liberty, but you will not be able to live unless you do choose one. Socialist political parties and politicians, then, stand no chance in undoing this imbalance of powers between the few and the many.
In this respect, State Socialism is trapped within itself. The entire premise of Socialist theory, the reason why we need a revolution over Capitalism, is based on the unequal bargaining position of the worker and the Capitalist -- or, more specifically, the unequal bargaining position of those who possess only their labor, and those who possess the tools of production. To state Socialism, this is the paradox: If it is true that unequal bargaining positions are the cause of inequality in society, then the future unequal bargaining positions of Communist bureaucrats and laborers will similarly lead to another equality, and in practice, it has often been greater than the inequality found in Capitalist governments. And, if it is not true that unequal bargaining positions can cause this type of inequality, then there is no reason to overthrow Capitalism: within that system, one is capable of attaining a true form of justice. But, such can is only believed by those who discount the Socialist theory of unequal bargaining positions leading to unequal social organization.
State Socialism is a contradiction. If isolated control of power creates social injustice, then isolated control of power by Socialist leaders will do nothing. This problem can only be removed from our understanding and logic if we remove the foundation of all Socialist theory. In this respect, State Socialism is little more than a new transformation of Capitalism: just as slaves progressed to second-class citizens to serfs to share-croppers to lowest-caste to wage-slaves -- now, the worker becomes the new serf/wage-slave/second-class-citizen/lowest-caste to the impressive, dominating Socialist State. It is simply a new stage in the exploitation of the many by the few, and hence, it should be regarded little more than New Capitalism. I have written so extensively on the actual tyranny of so-called Socialist governments, that I will refer my reader to these works instead of repeating myself. [*25]
State Socialism cannot be accepted without first sacrificing the essential elements that justify Socialism altogether.
6 - Direct Workers' Control
Why does the Capitalist have bargaining power? This is easy. It is because they possess wealth that is necessary toward productive. This can be compounded when, in many cases, expensive machinery, land, or intellectual property like patents make this an exclusive right to property -- a real right for only an extreme few, which the many could never dream to hold. First, the worker must go to the Capitalist and seek work, or they will starve. Second, the worker has nowhere else to go in order to sustain themselves, except another Capitalist.
The natural progression of thought in Socialism is this: transferring the property of the Capitalist to the worker. This idea has taken a variety of forms, just as political parties of Socialism have picked certain ideas and concepts according to their individual tastes. It has come in a variety of phrases: "Workers' Power," "Workers' Control," and even "Expropriation," or the "expropriating of the property by the Capitalists and giving it to the workers." In such a system, we believe that each person is both a Capitalist and a worker; they possess part of the means of production, and at the same time, they are one of it's workers. In the words of Peter Kropotkin...
In such a system, each individual must think in a responsible way for their industry, since they depend upon it for their sustenance. Similarly, each individual must think in a responsible way about what jobs receive what wages and working conditions, since they are going to be the worker effected by these decisions. No longer does any person approach someone else on an unequal economic level, where one party is in a powerless position to be exploited -- as we see with the system of Capitalism, where only a few use their monopoly of property to create widespread poverty.
Instead of this misery, each person has an equal position, an equal right to use the land and its productive capacity, in order to sustain themselves -- with or without the cooperation of others. When Capitalists have an equal economic power, they cooperate with each other. We see this naturally in monopolies, oligopolies, trusts, and all the other thousands of forms of "economic combinations." Those who enter these associations do so on equal footing, and this allows them to cooperate with each other toward the maximum benefit of all participants. Similarly, such a situation can only exist between all people in society where each person has an equal right to live, work, and sustain themselves, regardless of whether someone else gives consent or not.
The bargaining power of a worker can only be guaranteed if they can refuse any offer for employment, and still work to sustain themselves without giving away the larger portion of their product to some idle investor. When this is not the case, only then and then alone do we experience such brutality as has been titled exploitation and oppression. The equalizing of bargaining positions for every single individual and every single group within society is the only way to guarantee social harmony. It is the only way of making it so that none are driven to beg for the privilege to be a poor, humble servant to a powerful, opulent master, just to eat.
Far from being idealistic, this approach is completely practical. In its forms of slavery and Mercantilism and middle-class merchants, why does Capitalism create the misery of the many and the plenty of a very few? It is because of the powerful economic situation of those few, and the miserable, desperate state of the many. This social organization benefits Capitalism, and it naturally seeks to create the conditions that recreate itself over and over -- so that the few will always have everything, and the many will always be wanting. This is why Capitalism creates misery: the excessive bargaining power of the few, the absolute need of the many. It is unequal, economic positions that are only capable of leading to severe, long-term exploitation -- and it is only by equalizing the position of every person that we can prevent the tyranny of a very few.
It must be Direct Worker-Management, or Direct Workers' Control. Some political parties have translated "workers' power" into "workers' politician's power." The worker does not directly control the industry, but indirectly -- they must choose a bureaucrat, or an official, from the Communist Party, that is presented to them. They must choose one ruler, to be their master, but they never have a right to choose no ruler. As such, any form of "Indirect Workers Control," whether through the political party or the investor, is nothing more than Capitalism. And when we say Socialism, we mean entirely and specifically the Socializing of Human Relationships -- the equalizing of economic positions by creating the right to ownership of productive property for every person.
7 - Revolution!
All Socialism comes to its final conclusion, the Revolution. These conditions created by unequal power have led to such unequal outcomes, with such great misery for the masses and such great luxury for the few. Things must change, because this system of society, built up and maintained by society, is at the detriment to the many. And those Capitalists who constantly assert their right to property, when presented with this argument, are not speaking of their right to the land and its productive capacity -- they are speaking of their right to live in great power and extravagance at the cost of poverty for those who do create such wealth.
There are some who do not care for this "economistic" approach to the problem of class and social conflict. But economy, like the money that it deals with, has an exchange value. Do not forget that wealth can be transferred into anything: the two or three-hour workday, free education for all the young, intensive research for a free cure to cancer, greater involvement with our family and friends, enormous amounts of time to engage in our own hobbies, community centers for the impoverished and aged, etc., etc., etc.. Some may accuse the Socialist approach as being "too focused on money" -- so when speaking of income, do not forget that its exchange value can be used for the infinite good of social justice.
Then again, however, we should not forget that for many, their relationship with the ills of society is stronger than their relationship with the pains of work. Increased bargaining power and strength of the many must have a dual approach: it must organize and speak to the individuals as whole people, not simply as workers, family members, interested professionals, amateur hobbyists, and community organizers -- but with each holding an uneven combination of these elements.
This world has so many good potential in it: the bread of our sweat is sweet, the curing of old diseases is considered a supreme good, those who build bridges and skyscrapers are proud of their accomplishment, and those who invent and create new things do it because they couldn't live any other way. But all of these people who are responsible for this, the great vast majority of thinkers and workers and artists, each and every one is under the thumb of some greater master -- some dominant authority who uses their exclusive possession as a supreme weight in bargaining.
We are living in a world where those who create monopoly, unemployment, and poverty make the decisions; those who harvest the fields, stand at machines for hours, and heal the sick and wounded are left in poverty and hunger, without any power, without any voice. We are living in a type of hell, where those with the greatest compassion must suffer the most, those with the weakest compassion are allowed to keep their ill gains. A revolution is necessary.
*1. "The Social Contract, or the Principles of Right," by Jean Jacques Rousseau, 1762, Translated by G. D. H. Cole.