On Deciding the Wages of the Workers
Communalist: Here, we have united together as Socialists, the true Socialists, in all of kinds and our varieties, to form a single government. And under this government, we shall create a true, genuine Socialism, unlike all of the other falsehoods that have been attempted. The Revolutions of Russia and China, Vietnam and Cuba, Yugoslavia and Cambodia, each and every one of them has failed. They had adopted the policy of Leninism, which is the exclusion and defeat of all types of Socialists, with the exception of Leninism. This they call "Democratic Centralism," and if you ask why they word "Democratic" made it into this phrase, they'll simply respond that Capitalist nations aren't Democratic. So, basically, "it's fair that we get to lie and cheat the people in the same way." What an absurdity!
And here we join together, all Socialists united as one, excluding only those who would exclude us! We shall prove that a diverse group of Socialists can legislate the proper society. We must only admire the conflict and disagreement between us as something to challenge us toward better thinking. With all of our different views, we'll be able to create a truly democratic society that respects the rights of all minorities, political, social, and otherwise. We need no authoritarians and no authoritarianism. We shall prove to the world that Socialism does create a Utopia, if it is done democratically! What brands of Socialists do we have for this new government?
Fourierite: I am a Fourierite, a follower of Charles Fourier. In the early 1800's, he thought we could escape Capitalism be building up a network of communes that would slowly replace Capitalism. These communes would be collectively owned and managed by their own representatives.
Digger: I am a Digger. In the early 1600's, the Diggers thought that by digging up all of the land, and make every single piece of it fertile and well-kept, that we could produce a Garden of Eden on earth, completely eliminating poverty by building up farms around it.
Marxist: I am a Marxist, a follower of Karl Marx. By establishing the power of a Socialist-minded party, led and organized directly by the people, our world shall truly be Socialist. We must do everything to achieve this aim, whether through political campaigning or electioneering.
Fabian: I am a Fabian, or a follower of the ideas of George Bernard Shaw. The people are terrified of the word 'Socialism' and they always associate it with awful things. We must establish Socialism by suggesting it piecemeal, with the minimum wage, then social security, and so on. And it must be done with a complete sensitivity to the ruling, political structures.
Unionist: I am a union organizer. In the workshops and factories themselves, I organize the workers to resist and refuse their bosses. Not only are they taught how to fight using their natural, social strength, but they are taught who is their true, natural enemy in life.
Communalist: And I am a Communalist, an admirer of the ancient form of communes practiced in primitive Russia, France, Germany, and England. The word "commune" itself simply means "people sharing a common way of life together." At one time, it was the commune that superseded the strength of Kings and Queens, and again, one day, it shall be these small, decentralized districts that unite into a Socialist world.
Anarchist: And don't forget there is an Anarchist amongst you.
Communalist: Oh, yes, the Anarchist, who has decided not to join our government or support our efforts, but who we have decided to admit to our proceedings.
Anarchist: Anarchists are not interested in running all things, but rather, in being able to run their own things. We're not going to join an effort to make a decision for everyone, but we are Socialists.
Communalist: All right, then. Are we all agreed to the Labor Theory of Value? Are we all in agreement that Labor is the basis of value?
All: Yes! Definitely! Of course!
Marxist: The only reason we would ever value anything is because it represents a certain amount of labor value.
Fabian: Society only runs because of the working class.
Unionist: Even if we don't value things because of their labor, products and goods only have value because someone labored to create them.
Communalist: So, then, we must naturally agree to a communal policy of social distribution. Since everyone works, and since everyone needs to receive, we must allow a free, communal exchange of goods among the people. The same wages for all laborers, the same prices on all goods, to guarantee this equality of Communism.
Marxist: That is perfect!
Digger: Those who work, must receive.
Fourierite: It is the ideal organization.
Anarchist: ... so, how do you expect to set prices to goods, then?
Marxist: That is simply a matter of pure arithmetic. Take the total goods produced by the workers, take the total wages earned by the workers, and divide. If everyone spends their money, then everyone has received something of equal value in the trade.
Anarchist: Everyone is going to be producing the same thing?
Marxist: Of course not, that would never work. Specialized industry is reaching such a point of perfected production, that just a few, skilled hands would provide for all, and beyond that, of course, we won't even need skilled hands to produce what we need.
Anarchist: Yes, that is quite a good distance away. It's so far away, we might as well call it pie in the sky. So, for the next few thousand, maybe ten thousand years on this planet, would you possibly have a plan, besides putting it off?
Digger: Everyone does the same job, of course. All we need is food. Why should we have workshops?
Fourierite: No workshops? How are we supposed to make tools for our network of communes? How are we supposed to have the extra labor available to provide communication and luxury, when we are all humped over with broken backs in the plough fields?
Fabian: No broken backs? How are we going to rationalize the principles of the revolution to the people themselves, if Capitalism itself isn't inherently exploitive and abusive?
Unionist: And how are we going to convince the people to believe in the revolution when we ourselves are talking about the necessity of workers being exploited? How do you even imagine yourselves being reached and heard by the working class, when you keep talking about Capitalism like "an essential phase in human history"?
Anarchist: And all I wanted to know was how were you going to value products.
Marxist: A simple type of division.
Anarchist: And how do you decide whether the scientist or the farmer gets a higher wage?
Digger: Equal wages, of course.
Anarchist: But there is unequal work. The scientist, if qualified, must have sacrificed much more than the farmer to achieve their results. Otherwise, there would be more scientists than farmers. Since you're convinced that labor is the quantity that determines the price of a good, you must believe that a product of more labor deserves a higher price. Isn't that correct? A bag of wheat, and two tons of wheat, do not sell for the same price, do they? Even under your Socialist government.
Fourierite: The wages will be equal, though.
Anarchist: But the goods themselves will not be equally priced.
Marxist: Why should they be? That sounds stupid.
Anarchist: The wages are equal, aren't they?
Marxist: Well, yes, and so?
Anarchist: Laborers input different amounts of labor. To pay two laborers the same would naturally cheat one or the other. It is the same kind of cheat, as if you had sold one three grains of rice, and the other two bags, both at the same price. You are taking from one, and hurting the other.
Communalist: But these workers themselves are part of a Democratic government. They decide to choose the representatives who will make these decisions. If they ever decided to, they would have the power to replace their representative with someone who did have the will to make a fair deal.
Anarchist: You think we should establish a government, hold an election, and then abolish the entire government, over a single penny difference in wages? Do you really think that's a legitimate method?
Communalist: It's Democratic.
Anarchist: If one worker is cheated out of a dollar, or a penny, or ten thousand dollars, no matter how much, they cannot rely on themselves. They must rely on government to set the scales back into proper balance. Is that not right?
Communalist: Yes, indeed.
Anarchist: And these are workers, right?
Marxist: What are you trying to say?
Anarchist: How do you expect millions and millions of people to choose a few representatives, and then to have these representatives carry out the combine will of them all? Joe, the mechanic, thinks he deserves a 0.19 cent raise increase, because that's exactly how much he would need to be able to drink every night. Jane thinks she should get a higher wage, because she knows her workers aren't doing as much work as her and they make more. John, the farmer who plants and harvests wheat, thinks that the equipment sent to him by the metallurgy workers is insufficient and poorly made, and he wants at least to make more than them. Karen and Joshua, with their large family, always had a habit of spoiling their children, and when enough tiny voices were yapping at them, these parents were the loudest in demanding the highest wage. But you've got one person for every thousand or so, listening to every single one of these complaints, allotting a penny here or a penny here, trying to make a board with a million pieces balance on a single wage-rate.
Marxist: But it can be done! The perfect government can be realized with ideal policies that truly satisfy every single person!
Fabian: My Anarchist friend, perhaps you misinterpret us. I appreciate that you understand how government has held such a vile role throughout all of the centuries. My interest in the being is solely in its ability to accomplish things. If it can set up colonies on remote islands for exploiting the indigenous population, then why can it not do the same to help them?
Anarchist: My Fabian friend, you must destroy a sword, if you intend to use it as a plough. Do you think society will reach a standstill?
Marxist: There will be a point will technological innovation becomes fruitless due to our plentifulness.
Anarchist: So that means you won't need to write any more novels? You won't need to do any more paintings or sonnets or musical composition? Forget reviews of plays and comedy! You won't even have those things to review, because you froze society. Yes, you've invented the perfect printing press, that can print any book, without any labor, but alas, your wretched society gave birth to a writer who wanted to make up his own words and letters, and the machine always exploded whenever given this new information. No, dear Marxist, people are not machines. The only point at which they are truly "complete" and "unchanging" is when they are dead.
Digger: That is why people are complete when they can work. What more could you want beyond the satisfaction of labor and some time for simple luxury? That is all that one needs when we turn the entire planet into a gigantic, collective farm. Why couldn't a purely agricultural society last forever?
Anarchist: Ask your Marxist, who is obsessed with it.
Marxist: Agricultural societies have always been the prey of expansive, imperialist, industrialized nations. And even then, an agricultural society does not produce the Garden of Eden on earth.
Communalist: Isn't there a moment of completion in establishing the Socialist order, though? Have we not reached a perfect plateau of civilization, where every worker has a voice in determining how their society functions?
Anarchist: A plateau? That depends -- does civilization surge up and down, like mountaintops, or does it ever reach a perfect equilibrium, like a plateau? Things are always changing. You want to establish a government where the guardians of the people are locked up in a closet, far away from the mines and factories, and there, to decide how much each laborer's input is worth. You are simply giving way to a new scheme of unjust property distribution. Perhaps more just, but still, unjust all the same.
Marxist: You're playing tricks. Imagine that the exact just wage of a mine worker was twenty dollars an hour. Not just that, but twenty dollars and 0.001% of a dollar. Unless you adjusted for this small amount, perhaps by transferring an extra penny every month to the worker, then you would have an exactly just society. But what you are trying to say is that you won't ever reach that point, because we cannot exactly measure the value of goods!
Anarchist: I'm not saying this about you, I, or Socialists in general, but I'm saying this about people and humanity in general. In a society where one person makes the decisions for all, and these decisions are always regarded as just and right -- then every worker will see every other worker, trying to get the most that they can out of the new employer. By creating this large, dominating superstructure in society, you thought you'd be sowing the seeds for brotherly love -- instead, it's more like you've cramped too many rodents into a small space, and they respond by biting and attacking each other, more out of the aggression and confusion of the closed space than by any logical, thoughtful decision-making process.
Communalist: And you? What will your society be formed around? How will you accommodate these difficulties that arise? After all, you call yourself a Socialist, or at least "a type of Socialist." Don't you imagine the people coming together to discuss common and public issues that directly effect their own communities? Don't you expect the Utopian world to be one where every worker has a voice in deciding the economy?
Anarchist: Of course. That's only a simple matter of justice. Government, order, politicians, police, regulations, elections, constitutions, implied rights, minority objections, legal exceptions, constitutional obligations, and so on, and so on -- that is what our new world does not need.
Communalist: And wages will be determined how?
Anarchist: Simple. Every worker has the right to the land beneath their feet, no matter where they are. Every group of workers likewise possess a group right, in that their own cooperative, collective effort has established a group property. Let these independent associations of laborers decide in their agreements how much something is worth. Let them rely on the natural indicators of supply and demand.
Marxist: You'd leave the working class to the slaughter of natural, economic functioning?
Anarchist: Anything is a slaughter when government is involved. Imagine a lowly worker in your system, who has no association with any political parties, who was hounded out of school by ignorant teachers, who was judged as a thief for stealing food that you couldn't provide -- take that worker, and tell me what you expect them to do. Should they quit their job? Oh, they can't, there's only one employer. Should they organize a new form of employment? Again, this cannot be done, since all of society's productive goods are owned by one, single entity. Trapped. And that means only one option: revolt. Since your system cannot absorb the frictions and jolts of social conflict, it is ripped asunder by its own growth. Nobody gave the worker a reason to overthrow Socialism, except the Socialist governments.
Communalist: And what would the worker in your world do?
Anarchist: The worker would at least have a right to quit, and since everyone else knew that, they'd have a greater incentive to offer just terms to the worker. Of course, we're talking about worker-owned industries cooperating with each other. If all of the coal miners in society feel like they're being ripped off, then it shall be society that suffers the worst when it has no coal. The source of conflict itself is the guarantee that makes the system function. As it grows, it becomes stronger. Disagreements do not lead to situations where the individual's only resort is to resort to revolution. It is the opposite, as the disagreement, instead, leads to the more just agreement.
Marxist: Do you really think the Socialist government will produce such destructive conflict among the workers themselves?
Anarchist: Since only a few individuals are in power, the structure is definite and rigid; it cannot endure a strong attack. A glass vase and a rubber ball both hit the ground, perhaps with the same force, but they do not react the same. Conflict is a natural part of society. It needs to be absorbed, preferably in a way that empowers the whole structure.
Marxist: Isn't it just as possible that these cooperatives of workers will produce an ill, unjust price scheme, just as much so as the governments? Isn't it true that they may fail to reward labor with the whole of its product?
Anarchist: Yes, of course, but these misfortunes will gladly be called mistakes -- not "the official policy of the sole bearer of Socialism, the Communist Party." If a workers' cooperative decides that it had received a bad price, or that the goods it received were of a low quality, then it was simply a contractual mistake. In this case, the workers who had suffered would be the ones who had the power to correct the mistake. After all, this type of thing does happen between businesses in the Capitalist business world: it is difficult to get money back for defective merchandise, even if you're dealing with very large businesses. The only case when this isn't true is when the two businesses expect to meet again, in a situation of mutual and reciprocal need of each other.
Marxist: And what if it happens that one cooperative really did steal from another?
Anarchist: Then it will be known, at the very least, to the cooperative that was a victim. The difference between anarchy and the state, then, is that the state demands the victim to accept their victimization, whereas anarchy at least lets you be an individual. In anarchy, you are stolen from. In government, the same exact thing happens, but it's called taxation.
Marxist: And what if they still get ripped off, and there's still nothing they can do about it?
Anarchist: Then a government wouldn't have any use at all. And at least, then, they'd have the right to say that they were stolen from. They would be allowed to scream, holler, rant, and rave about the injustices done to them -- about how they built up stonewalls in the most mosquito-infested swamp to create the most luscious, green farms imaginable -- only to be cheated in the distribution of wealth! If there was a government, and nothing could be done about it anyway, the government would maintain it as just! Every member of the party would have to maintain that this cheating was justified! They would have to call it part of the grand plan envisioned by Marx in order to create the Utopian, Communist world!
In Anarchy, nobody would have to take responsibility for it, except those who cheated. Noboby would be paying taxes and obedience to the armed forces of violence defending the current, established "system of justice." Even if someone from another workers' cooperative didn't even benefit from the cheat, what use could they have in arguing that it was just? A politician is expected to make justice, especially in the Communist, governmental world. They would lose all power and respectability if someone went around screaming, "I, the laborer, was ripped off from the product of my labor, in this so-called Socialist world!" So that person would have to be silenced, either by the courts or the laws or some form of judicial process, whatever. At best, the politician would spend all of their time arguing that it was just, that this really is a great Socialist world, and not to concern yourselves with minor, petty squabbles!
But in anarchy, nobody would have any interest in defending any injustice! How would someone uninvolved respond? Anywhere from apathy ranging to interest, but any amount of interest would be in favor of some type of justice. When it doesn't concern other workers cooperatives, there wouldn't be any benefit for them to get involved in a struggle against a victim. It would be quite the opposite. Governmental Socialism works the exact opposite, in that those who are most apathetic, the politicians, have the greatest concern to make everything seem just and perfect. They have to want that -- otherwise they don't get elected, and can't be politicians. It's the simple law of natural selection, applied to society. Under government, it gives the greatest power to those who want to justify every victimization -- and under anarchy, it gives the individual every power to resist the invasions of another.
Marxist: What is good for the businesses and capitalists, it's good enough for us workers? Is that what you're saying?
Anarchist: Nationalism is the ideal of nations. It is the belief that the nation itself is the moral entity, the one deserving the most compared to all other entities. And so a nation is a being, with callouses on its feet and hands. But those callouses are actually made up the workers, who are stretched and torn in the wars of Imperialism, who are worked to death in some of the grimiest, dirtiest places in the world. Yes, Capitalism sees nations as beings, and it's okay for a being to have dirty feet, cut up hands, and a mind that functions accordingly. But the nation is a fiction. It is something you imagine. Yes, they want good things for nations, but under the assumption that a nation is a human being -- and that it needs broken feet and crippled hands, even if that misery representations millions of entire lives in exploitation. Radically against Capitalism, I declare the individual, the single person themselves, to be the natural, moral entity. Imperialists and Capitalists tried to create so many colonies that the world would belong to their entire nation; this is exactly what we Socialists demand, the entire world itself and nothing less, except we demand it as the rightful property of the individual.
Marxist: And do you think this self-regulation of workers' cooperatives is going to succeed in producing the ideal world?
Anarchist: The ideal world is going to require everyone and everything. All I'm trying to provide is a social order that absorbs the conflict that develops within it. And conflict will always, always have to develop. There is no way for society to be what it is without changing.