On the praise of work

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Bourgeois Rhetoric

The more society falls apart the more it praises work through its media (1). It is, in fact, not at all rare to see heads of state, trade-unionists,... devoting a lot of their hot air to the subject of work. They explain to us that "work is necessary", that "we must build a hardworking nation", that "we cannot live without work", that "there needs to be an increase in productivity", "to rebuild the country (or to make it more competitive...)", etc.

Moreover, in general, it is usually those who do not work who make these kind of speeches. First of all because, in principle, social rules forbid singing one’s own praises. Secondly, if such speeches were to be made by a worker it would be the equivalent of him wanting to create and perfect the instrument of torture (work is torture!) that his own torturer imposes on him. Finally, this kind of speech corresponds to capital’s need to maintain proletarians as mere workers (2), subsisting to work, sweating out surplus value and devoting the rest of their "lives" to reconstituting their labour force... in order to keep on working.

Far beyond the individual speaker, the discourse around "long live work" is maintained by capital, this social monster, the single true subject of this society. Indeed, capital is not only value valorising itself, a social relationship of the exploitation of wage labour: as value in process it has subsumed man and has turned him into the executor of its own interests. In this way, capital transforms itself into the supreme subject of society, simultaneously transforming its executors into mere puppets (3).

When any boss, any G.W.Bush, any Putin, any company director or trade-union leader makes this speech it corresponds entirely to his own interests. Capital is speaking, so to say, through its own mouth.

"Work", "Increase your pace of work", "Work makes you free" (4), "Long live the heroes of work", are all slogans which constitute the real and complete interests of the social class which lives off the extortion of surplus value and which has organised itself into "national", "socialist" or "popular" states... Its participation in surplus value is directly related to its ability to manage capital or, what amounts to the same thing, in its capacity to control the working class. What it boils down to is that the best capitalists are those who can best assure the reproduction of wage labour. The real owners of the productive forces (the bourgeoisie) decide on their use economically and the most capable among them are those who succeed in making the wage slave feel content with his slavery.

The Useful Idiot

Some people assert that the reality is different when the speech is made by a wage slave, a worker. Nothing could be further from the truth. When a poor and miserable worker cheers work he is betraying his class, renouncing its immediate and historic interests and, as a result, it is unable to constitute itself as the proletarian class against capital. Strictly speaking, he is a useful idiot (5) who continues to maintain and develop work and who, no matter what his intentions, objectively contributes to the development and intensification of the exploitation of the whole of the proletariat.

It is all the more important for capital to have a worker extolling the virtue of work, because, as an idiot, he is even more useful in convincing other workers to resign themselves to work and exploitation. From the point of view of class struggle, his position is, without doubt, on the side of capital. In objectively acting for an increase in the relationship between surplus value and variable capital (thus positioning himself against the immediate interests of the working class in the struggle against the rate of exploitation) (6) he is globally defending alienated work, the very foundation of this society of exploitation of man by man; in doing so, he places himself against the historical interests of the proletariat.

This speech remains essentially bourgeois, not only because it serves capital, but also because it is made by capital, despite emanating from the mouth of an intermediary.

In its own process of worldwide industrialisation, in the procreation of its characteristic wealth and poverty, capital itself increasingly develops the technical means to make its slaves work, to enable them to increase their output, to leave their lives behind in things which are, after all, their non-property, an alienated world of things which oppose, exploit and oppress them.

New methods, new machines, functional music, climbing the party ladder, trade-unionist and political speeches, control of time and movement, promotion within the union, "long live work" (even if stated by workers themselves!)... all signify: everything for increased and improved exploitation.

Capital has perfected itself and its methods for intensifying exploitation. To this end, there is nothing more useful than a worker who shouts "Let’s work!". In doing so, the worker reveals himself to be no more than a carthorse, a beast of burden expending brute, general, indifferent, abstract energy which is transformed into an oppressive power, into capital, which again demands fresh blood from this same beast of burden to create more capital. This process demands even more work, more muscular effort and, in turn, this new capital needs to feed on life’s blood in order to make even more capital, intensifying the effort of its own stooges. It is impossible to ceaselessly renew capital without necessarily killing proletarians at work. Capital can only exist and persist by continuously changing itself into even more capital. As the enlarged reproduction of the exploitation of work, it is a pressing need for capital, for its essence of dead labour, to kill living labour so that it becomes more capital. It is this that drives it. It has to pile up corpses and mountains of objects with no other use but destruction, which is, after all, just a double way of accumulating dead labour. Capital can do nothing else but become more capital by using work, by accumulating it as dead labour, and, notably, by making use of useful idiots who idolise it in shouting "long live work!"...The only way in which this infernal cycle can end is by dictatorship against capital and its society of wage slavery.

The struggle against work

The exploited, submitted to work by violence, have risen up against it and against the conditions of its realisation since time immemorial. Throughout history no one has worked because he wanted to work, but because he is obliged to, be it by the whip, by religion, by blood and fire and/or because he is violently separated from the property of his means of life (fundamentally the same thing). All of the exploited, whether slaves, serfs, indigenous people subjected to "being discovered" or modern proletarians,... have struggled tirelessly against work. Rebellions, escapes, partial or general insurrections have always had closely linked causes:

• struggle to improve the quality of the means of life and to appropriate a less miserable part of the social product

• struggle against the pace and intensity of work

• struggle against lengthening the working day and for its reduction

• struggle against exploitation to build another kind of society

All of this can be summed up as struggle for living better, or simply, struggle for human life. It is struggle against those societies imposing torture and work, struggle to work as little as possible (as much in length of time as in intensity), struggle to appropriate the greatest possible quantity of the social product.

These demands were not abandoned with the formation and development of the proletariat and its historical Party (7), but were developed and made more precise. Communism, as a movement of the organised proletariat, struggles for the general reduction of work to its minimum expression (in both extension and intensity) and for the appropriation of the social product by the proletariat. However, it openly declares that these demands can only be really and fully met by the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat which will lead the world against all current norms (dictatorship against exchange value) according to the needs of a developing humanity. Against all bourgeois socialisms which claim that work is inherent to human beings and conceive socialism as a simple process taking goods from the "rich" and distributing them amongst the "poor", communism establishes not only the need to revolutionise distribution (after all, merely a consequence indissociably linked with production), but also to destroy the very foundations of the mode of production. Thus it fundamentally revolutionises the very objective of production, so that it is no longer determined by the rate of profit but by the improvement of life, in order to lighten work and thus to work less. This implies the liquidation of money, mercantilism, and wage labour. Only this destruction can create the basis upon which work will no longer be work, so that productive activity in general can be reintegrated into the very life of man.

The development of capitalism is the simultaneous and contradictory development of the bourgeoisie and counter-revolution on one side and the proletariat and its programme on the other. Struggle against work, for the appropriation of the social product, for revolution, is generated by capital, at the same time generating the development and strengthening of the reaction. Each reduction in labour time has been compensated for by increases in the productivity of work and through greater intensity: in the workshop, the factory, on the assembly line, by Taylorism... and by "new methods in work management". The development of the social-democratic parties and parties of labour, bourgeois trade-unionism, labourism and more recently Stalinism, national-socialism, populism (in all of its variations, including Peronism, Castrism,...) was simultaneous and in perfect accordance with this process. The whole of the bourgeois forces and parties take the praise of work as the ideological centre of their campaigns in order to contain the workers and thus have them at their service.

The development of parties of work

The bourgeoisie’s praise of work constituted itself into a party from the middle of the last century onwards. Up until then bourgeois parties for workers were just called "popular", but from then on, the bourgeois currents most able to contain workers called themselves "socialist parties", "workers parties", "social-democratic parties" and "labour parties"...

Lasalle’s party, German social-democracy and, later on, all of international social-democracy, were classic examples of bourgeois parties (in their programme, their life, their actions...). These parties were primarily made up of workers and made the praise of work and workers the fundamental point of their programme. The bourgeois ideology of work as the source of all wealth (8) was both the centrepiece of the theory and the objective of the party and of socialism. The "emancipation of work" was declared as a slogan, always accompanied by others such as "for the constitution of a free and popular state" (9). In the same way that the more the state frees itself, the more it oppresses civil society, the emancipation of work can only signify the fortification of capitalism (10).

After Marx’s death, social-democracy tried to make itself "Marxist", without fundamentally changing its Lasallian programme (praise of work). It suppressed and falsified everything subversive and revolutionary in Marx’s work, thus creating what was called (and still is today) "Marxism" - the most repugnant praise of work and of workers that exists.

Little by little, the things that Marx’s work referred to as being disastrous, such as the being of the worker and work, and which had been denounced as being the pinnacle of brutalisation, of inhumanity, of baseness... became a necessity, an honour for "Marxists" across the globe. In the name of the workers, these labour parties made the propaganda that work is synonymous with man’s realisation ("work sets Man free"). There is only a short step from this to Hitler and Stalin’s labour camps.

And this step was easily made following the defeat of the international revolution of ‘17-’23. In Russia itself, a real army of work was consolidated as the counter-revolution imposed the liquidation of the revolutionary proletariat and its communist vanguard. On the basis of the social-democratic theory defended by Lenin according to which the development of capitalism is a real advance towards revolution, everything was subordinated to capitalist production, to wage labour. However, the National capitalist State demands competitiveness and it became necessary to apply the most modern methods for exploiting workers. Taylorism (11) denounced by Lenin prior to the insurrection as "the slavery of man by machine", came to be considered by Lenin as an administrator of capital and the state, as a panacea. Thus, a prisoner of social-democratic ideology, he did not consider the increase in the intensity of work to be the most anticommunist act conceivable, but as neutral, just as able to serve socialism as capitalism (12).

This masterpiece of the submission to work at a forced rhythm, which reached paranoid levels in Russia, was directed by the great leaders of Bolshevism - Lenin, Zinoviev, Trotsky, Stalin... They showed themselves to be the most bloodthirsty in the application of new rhythms and methods that capitalism needed for its reorganisation in Russia: Zinoviev turned into a bloodthirsty dog in Petrograd, organising open repression of any struggle against work and the state. Trotsky was the flag-bearer of the militarisation of work, of the creation of forced labour camps and was the leader of forces of repression during decisive moments... Finally Stalin (later accused of everything!) brought this work to its highest point with the labour camps, through which more than 15,000,000 workers passed. And to represent the leadership of a society in which capital liquidated all forms of struggle against exploitation, for the first time (and simultaneously with Germany, Italy, etc.) "working" and especially "working at an exemplary rhythm" were transformed, along with Stalin himself, into an idol, a God, a sacred and untouchable beast. It was the sinister reign of the Stakhanovs (13).

Stalinism, Nazism, Castrism

Capitalism and its public opinion conceal the decisive contradictions (communism-capitalism) and, in their place, present an ensemble of false contradictions (such as "fascism-antifascism") which we regularly denounce. Despite the fact that various fractions of the bourgeoisie raise different flags during imperialist capitalist war (which is only the extension of competitiveness), their programme is essentially the same. Fascism and anti-fascism represent the same kind of society: capitalism or, more precisely, capitalism reforming itself following the most important revolutionary wave in the history of the proletariat, imposing the biggest and most impressive counter-revolution, the reality of which we suffer to this day.

Contrary to what they want us to believe, Stalin’s regime, as national socialism, had exactly the same programme and fundamentally realised the same as the national-socialism of his old ally Hitler, not according to whether or not they coincided in certain periods of national or international politics, but fundamentally because they based the management of society on a national project of socialism. The central ideology is work, in a party of work. Clearly there were subtle differences in their speeches. Hitler based his rise to power on the defence of a socialism struggling "against international financial and usury capital (14), against government, plutocracy and for a true socialism of the German nation". Stalin preferred to say that his socialism (in one country) struggled against "capitalist countries" and for "popular democracies". But Stalin’s programme concentrated just as much as Hitler’s on an enormous effort of labour, on heavy industry, and more particularly, on the infrastructure of communications, energy and on construction "for the working people". At the centre of each of these regimes were the Work Services, the labour camps, the praise of work, and obligation to work, presented as an honour:

"The obligatory work service ought to be an honour for the youth and a service put forward for the people. It should neither provide economic manpower to private industry nor be converted into a company competing with the state. It should provide an army of workers who will successfully undertake public works for economic, cultural, and more so, national political ends." (15)

Today in the face of a situation in which every regime calls for more work whilst eating less "in the name of the workers" (especially in places where a party of national socialism, a party of work (16) is at the head of the state, such as in Cuba for example) it is very important to make it clear that there is nothing fundamentally original about this policy compared to its predecessors, Stalinism and Nazism. This is why we must emphasize the latter, undoubtedly less well-known than the others. Nazism is not just one example of a party of work amongst others. It is, without doubt, the most perfected of its kind, which its ashamed successors (because they cannot acknowledge it) can do little more than imitate (whether they know it or not).

In reality there is nothing at all original in Fidel Castro’s works and speeches; not even when he asserts that his party represents the struggle of manual and intellectuals producers against the bourgeoisie, nor in his claims that the access that workers have to power (represented, of course, by the socialist party) has won them the possibility of administering the affairs of the state.

"The political bourgeoisie has been expelled from the political stage. In its place, advance the manual and intellectual producers, the forces of Labour (Arbeitertum), to begin their historical mission. It is not simply a matter of wages and hours -though we must not fail to realise that these demands are essential, perhaps the singlemost important manifestation of the socialist will. More important is the integration of a potent, responsible social body in the affairs of the state, perhaps indeed even taking over the dominant role in the political future of our fatherland."

This is not a speech by Fidel Castro, but by the famous Nazi Goebbels who, with as much cynicism as the other, is not afraid to add:

"We are not a charitable institution but a socialist party of revolutionaries" (17).

In what follows we refer almost exclusively to the Nazis. It is not necessary to make an explicit parallel with every example through quotes and references to the "realisations" of socialists. Every reader should be able to find in his own surroundings some such socialists and Castrists who have been striving to imitate the Nazis for the past five decades.

All of the propaganda of the Nazi regime was based on the benefits, according to them, that the working people would obtain with this regime. It especially emphasised the complete elimination of unemployment which would oppose "the decadence of corrupt capitalism". When France was occupied, it went from greater than 6 million unemployed to a systematic recruitment of "voluntary" workers outside Germany, to make up for the lack of labour force. In reality this supposed "elimination of unemployment" was no more nor less than an obligation for the unemployed to work, a general situation throughout the world which was applied with varying success by the whole of capital, from Stalin to Roosevelt. It was a generalised acknowledgement of the need to resort to policies of public spending (later theorised by Keynes), major construction, intense militarisation of the economy, all the way up to imperialist war. For the German worker, as for any other worker upon whom capitalist work is imposed when capitalism only has unemployment to offer, the work is then badly paid, regimented, militarised and leads him to war and death. At the time, things were presented differently. The poor blokes who went to the camps (18) spoke of leaving happily to escape unemployment and decadence, to go "to work"! The Nazis based their campaigns on "concrete" deeds, on buildings for the workers, on houses and resorts for tourism for the workers, on wiping out illiteracy and on popular education, etc. The fact that numerous Latin-American, or other, socialists have appropriated these tasks as the socialist programme only helps to show how things are!

The programme of the National Socialist Party wanted to "give a Fatherland to the German worker, to build wholesome housing with air and light and sun for the vigorous youth" (19), and the Gramma or the Barricada (20) of the time, called Völkische Beobachter, aimed to bring "concrete" (21) elements for building houses and "modern workers’ neighbourhoods", with "new installations in the workers’ neighbourhoods", etc. In its regular column entitled "Socialism in Deeds" this newspaper presented the classic demagogic bullshit of useful idiots in the service of the state. David Schoenbaum gives an example of the contents of this column with the following (22):

"They related that the employees of a textile factory in the South of Germany had volunteered to put in extra hours and to put the product of their work into a Nazi-sponsored fund to aid victims of industrial accidents... that farmers had offered the Hitler Youth vacation lodgings for fifty thousand children and the National Socialist Women’s organization of Mannheim had distributed seven hundred more... Dresden municipal employees had created funds to finance a squadron of five airplanes for the Sax Statthalter (governor) to help SA and SS men out of financial difficulties and how they contributed 1% of their salaries - that is, accepted a voluntary cut - for the "promotion of the national effort"... Other examples in the same series included the completion of a suburban housing project and partial distribution of profits amongst employees by Erich Kohl’s Prussische Zeitung... At Christmas in 1933, Party officials erected tables in the streets of proletarian North Berlin to distribute presents to all, including former communists (!!!-Ed.). ‘This is the socialism I was looking for’ (No, despite how it looks, these declarations were not made by Fidel Castro- Ed.), ‘and it was an honour to have served it with every fibre of my being,’ wrote Goebbel’s adjutant Schaumberg-Lippe" 23).

oOo

In the same way, under Nazism, campaigns for popular culture were intensified, the whole education system was changed and modernised. Access to education was generalised and presented, as in other cases, as a synonym for human liberation and for Socialism. Indeed, it was about reorganising the labour forces so that they would better serve capitalism, so that all could obtain "the culture" (24); it was about promoting technical and professional careers; it was particularly a question of profound brainwashing to subject the worker even more intensely as a useful idiot to the national state and to its interests. Those who were accepted and obtained their diplomas, those who showed their haste to be the most servile vassals, were treated like heroes:

"The laureates were regarded as champions of the Olympic games or as movie stars, they were very ceremoniously taken to Berlin and photographed next to Ley and Hitler in person." (25)

This "social promotion" was obviously accompanied by an intense publicity campaign. In the press there were abundant examples of workers who, up until the day before, had not known where they would spend the night, of sacked "peasants" who had nothing. There is no need to emphasise the melodramatics with which such personal situations were described by the press "before" and "after" they had "triumphed". Schoenbaum commented:

"Given that half of the laureates came from families of waged workers and that 80% of them had not reached the level of secondary education, the regime succeeded, at least in this way, in making a spectacular glorification of the working classes through its propaganda." (26)

oOo

Like any other cynical socialist in the government of a capitalist state, Hitler presented himself as the example of a worker. He had his picture taken whilst doing "voluntary work", as "number 1 in the labour camps". Bearded bourgeois cutting sugar cane aren’t very original in this respect either. The leaflets distributed by CEDADE today have pictures of masses of muscular workers marching resolutely with their shovels and other work tools on one cover and Hitler surrounded by soldiers, setting the example with shovel in hand, digging the ground, accompanied by a few refrains of the song from the Work Front "our shovels are arms of peace", on the other (27).

All of this "...undifferentiated glorification of ‘the worker’" was based on an incessant call for social mobility, with an aggressive emphasis on social egalitarianism" (28). As in any other field, the example of Hitler was given. In any regime of work there’s nothing better than to show that its best representative is a worker who comes from the "working class". In this, Hitler won first prize (29). In the national-socialist party a real catechism was recited:

"What professions did Adolph Hitler practice?"

Answer: "Adolph Hitler was a construction worker, an artist, and a student." Whenever he could (and when his audience requested him to!) Hitler would recall his quality of "exemplary and persevering worker":

"In my youth, I too was a worker, slowly working my way up through industry, study and I think I can say, through hunger as well." (30).

oOo

The real transformation of the 1st of May into a day of work, into a day of celebration, despite it having risen up as a symbol of struggle against capital, was naturally the work of the Nazis.

In this case, as in many others, Hitler carried out the programme which the bourgeois socialists, the social-democrats, had always promised (31). The big parades and festivals that we see everywhere today to celebrate the repugnant servitude of workers towards the national state (quite the opposite of the revolutionary heroes of Chicago) cannot be considered to be the invention of Stalin, Mao, Perón, or Fidel Castro at all, but indeed the work of Hitler.

Indisputably, the regime’s main slogans were: "Arbeit adelt" ("work ennobles") and "Arbeit mach frei" ("Work liberates", "Man liberates himself by working"). To crown it all, "ARBEIT MACHT FREI" (32) appeared in giant letters on the gates of the biggest concentration camp, Auschwitz. This was not black humour, but real belief in a rotten system, capitalism decomposing, in a system which leads man to his extreme loss, to the total sacrifice of his life on the altar of God Work, to death.

"... the Third Reich offered a labour ideology, combining simultaneous and roughly equal appeals to pride, patriotism, idealism... The centrepiece was the ethos of work, focusing not so much on the worker as on work itself... As in Josef Thorak’s colossal design for an autobahn monument, three egregiously muscled giants heaving Sisyphus-like at an enormous rock, work was a favoured theme of official art. Larger factories even erected chapels whose main aisle led to a Hitler bust beneath the symbol of the Labour Front, flanked by heroic-sized worker figures; in effect, little temples to the National Socialist God of Work." (33)

That is to say, as for Stalin or so many of his current successors, the worker hero isn’t the one who struggles against his own condition, who conspires and, as such, exists as he has always presented himself throughout history, big or small, with or without glasses, woman or man, in overalls or wearing a tie, immigrant or "national", old or young, fat or thin,... instead they present the worker as a working beast, as he who holds up the whole regime with the strength of his arms, muscle bound, exactly the same character that all regimes of forced work make fashionable (macho, young, strong, national, nationalist, worker (34)). Commercials throughout the world also issue this same archetype of the young, handsome, strong worker bursting with health.

oOo

Along with the idealisation of work has to come certain crumbs and organisation of free time, so that workers are always in a good enough condition to carry on working courageously, as there is no other way of maintaining the highest pace of intensity of work and thus of exploitation. The Nazis were once again the masters of all the workerist-socialists, including Stalin. They created a special organisation, "Kraft durch Freude", known as KdF, that is, "Force through joy", through relaxation. This organisation, which was financed by the funds of dissolved trade-unions, had an undeniable success in the containment of workers. Its activity programme was quite vast: theatre plays, seminars, cultural events, subsidised sports groups, folk and modern dance clubs, adult education, art displays, cinema clubs, etc.

Hitler could brag about maintaining all of the myths which allow an important increase in exploitation in his nationalist socialism:

"The people work decisively and cheerfully and they know that they are not committing themselves to a struggle for the capital of a few egoists, but for the good of the collective" (35).

The KdF’s biggest success was its tourist organisation for workers. Here too, all subsequent patriotic workers and socialists are simply vulgar imitations. The KdF managed to organise the free time of millions of workers by sending them on organised vacations (one doesn’t need much imagination to guess what they were like) and led the tourist trade, with the help of subsidies, to an expansion unprecedented in the world. Its expansion, provoked by the needs of industrial capital, were favourably redirected into industry, in that KdF gave a boost to the transportation industry through the building of two enormous ocean liners and the development of the automobile industry, named KdFwagen, and later Volkswagen. As we know, all of this directly served the war preparations and later the war itself 36).

Nazism sowed the illusion of the disappearance of classes through its promise to popularise cars (which, in the most part, remains largely nominal) and especially through tourism, both of which at the time, were considered to be signs of richness, an exclusively bourgeois possibility. This enormous and absurd lie, propagated by all of the important representatives of the regime, was none the less profoundly rooted in German society. On the subject of tourism R. Ley declared:

"The worker sees that we are serious about raising his social position. He sees that it is not the so-called `educated classes’ whom we send out as representatives of the new Germany, but himself, the German worker, whom we show to the world."

And at the International Conference on the politics of leisure and free time (37), Ley officially declared:

"There are no longer classes in Germany. In the years to come, the worker will lose the last traces of the inferiority complexes he may have inherited from the past." (38)

But just like any other patriotic socialist regime which seeks out the greatest exploitation and the best canon fodder for imperialist war, the leaders have a clear awareness of its objectives. Some of them, from time to time, have the courage, or the lack of consciousness, to divulge them. Thus Starcke, press officer of the Work Front, declared with the greatest casualness:

" We don’t send our workers on vacation on our own ships or build them massive bathing facilities at the sea for fun, either for ourselves or for the individual who has the chance to make use of them. We do it only because we are interested in preserving the working capacity (Arbeitskraft) of the individual and in order to send him back to work strengthened and refreshed." (39)

It is with this pearl of sincerity that we will conclude the chapter about the Nazi praise of work, a praise so similar to that made by all nationalist socialists. The reader must be sufficiently sick of this workism and national and socialist fanaticism for work. Let’s return to our struggle against work!

The issue of workers consciousness in the struggle against work

Despite all the speeches, anyone who can only live by selling his labour power feels that he is working because he has no other solution, that it is the only way left to him to subsist.

Therefore, he works as little as possible and, if he can, he doesn’t work, or, when it is possible, works while trying to live a little bit (if this atrophied life can be called a "life"). He spends a bit longer in the toilet, smokes a cigarette, renders the machine "out of order", tries to communicate with other workers, slows down his pace, always tries - counter to the situation - to act as a human being and not as a machine, as if he could rediscover a human existence while the boss isn’t looking, during the break, or while hiding out in the toilets. Some are off work whenever possible, others come down "sick", suddenly developing a bad toothache, headache or sharp pains, pains which no one can verify (it’s not always made up because, sometimes, out of disgust with work, some do end up seriously hurting themselves). There is plenty of evidence that workers most often fall sick on Monday mornings and in the days immediately following holidays.

Absenteeism is becoming generalised throughout the world. Those who sabotage production are denounced, responding as best as they can to all the inventions for increasing the pace of work. In every factory and office thousands of counter-inventions are developed to counteract them...

Failing to see an obscure, but very real, struggle between the two antagonistic classes of society in these apparently unrelated acts, means closing ones eyes to it. In each of these acts there is opposition between the struggle against work, for communist society, and the maintenance of wage slavery.

These are the indisputable, living facts which demonstrate the putrefaction of a society based on work and the hatred concentrated within each of its wage slaves... It is also a fact that "laziness" and "idleness" (after all, just timid attempts at human and intuitive resistance against work) are always considered to be crimes, without even mentioning the labour camps designated for "social parasites" or "dangerous delinquents", which in Cuba, for example, are synonymous with anyone who sabotages production.

However, in this present period of counter-revolution (which the proletariat is having a lot of trouble ridding itself of), these facts are not generalised often enough. Even those who do all they can, cheating supervisors, bosses, the state, are not capable of understanding the revolutionary significance of their own actions. In certain circumstances they not only fail to participate in the demands of the working class and in the struggle, but even see the revolutionary slogan "down with work" as meaningless. Even when they speak highly of someone else, they resort to bourgeois slogans such as "He’s a good bloke, a real worker", "a model worker"...

We all come across such cases everyday of our lives, people claiming that it’s all just "a lie". Despite the socially massive scope of action against work, it is carried out alone or in small groups (40). The consciousness of workers generally remains atrophied by the bourgeois ideology of work - the very players in the struggle against work condemning that struggle whenever they are clearly and openly told that they are fighting first and foremost against work.

But there’s no reason to be afraid of this situation. On the contrary, it is the situation in which communists have always struggled, against the current, against the thought and consciousness of the majorities, yet in their interests and for their action, trying to render the spontaneously occurring methods of struggle conscious. What is most important, to be distinctly subversive, is to make it clear that these isolated acts of sabotage of work, which we experience on a daily basis, contain the revolutionary power which it is necessary to liberate in order to blow this world to pieces. That is why it is urgent today not only to struggle to work less, but to shout out clearly "down with work", "long live the struggle against work!".

"Long live the proletariat!"

Our enemies, the praisers of work, the parties of national socialism, sing work’s praises, especially when they declare themselves to be Marxists. As we’ve seen throughout the text, in reality, the proletarian is only of interest to them as a worker. What they are really shouting is "long live the working proletariat", "long live well-disciplined workers", "long live the country’s development" and, whether they say it or not, "long live the nation". This means, amongst other things, that the bourgeoisie’s cheers for the proletariat are the exact opposite of the fundamental interests of the proletarian situation and translate much more clearly as "work more, tighten your belt, the nation needs you". Neither Fidel Castro nor the Sandinistas would deny this, for this is how they cheer the proletariat, whose existence they want to continue for centuries and centuries.

When revolutionaries say "long live the proletariat!" it is not simply different but the exact opposite, as much in its premises, as in its content and its consequences - as a premise because to live the proletariat must struggle. Indeed, for "Marxists" the proletariat represents the sociological sum total of all people who work. For us, the proletariat exists in its confrontation with the bourgeoisie and this opposition exists in the general struggle for life, from the production of material objects to the organisation as a party and to armed struggle. As content, because the life of the proletariat is not found in work, the proletarian lives by acknowledging himself and his comrades as human beings and this can only be done through struggle against work. Finally, as its consequences, in that the proletariat, contrary to the bourgeoisie, has no interest in prolonging its existence as opposition to capital. Its development, up to its transformation into the dominant class, has the objective of the suppression of all classes and thus its auto-suppression.

In summary, whilst the cheers addressed to the proletariat by our enemies mean "long live the proletarians’ current situation", the "long live the proletariat" of the communists signifies: "long live the organisation of the proletariat as a class, as the dominant class for its own suppression, to totally liquidate the current situation, to abolish wage labour so that productive activity can, once and for all, cease to be work and can become human life, so that humanity may at last begin its authentic history as the human community."

Notes :

1. This text is a translation of a text written in 1982. It was published in issue number 12 of Comunismo, our central review in Spanish and issue number 34 of Communisme, our central review in French.

2. "It goes without saying that the proletarian, that is to say he who, without capital or land income, lives only from labour, a unilateral and abstract labour, is only taken into consideration by political economy in as much as he is a worker. Thus, in principle, it establishes that the worker, like a horse, must earn enough in order to be able to work. It does not consider him during the time in which he is not working, as a man, but leaves the care of him to the criminal justice system, to the doctors, to religion, to statistical tables, to politics and to public charity." (Marx in "Paris Manuscripts")

3. "... On the one hand, the capitalist governs the worker by way of capital and, on the other hand, the power of capital governs the capitalist himself." (Marx)

4. See "Arbeit macht frei" below.

5. The word "idiot" comes from the Greek and referred to someone who did not preoccupy himself with, knew nothing about or who was not interested in the affairs of the "polis" (city), that is politics, thus, by its disinterest, aiding the tyrants. This is the case for workers who are disinterested in the politics of their class and thus are the tyrants’ best aides.

6. We can see the indissociable unity of the immediate and historical interests of the working class, which the whole of revisionism has desperately tried to falsify by separating them.

7. The formation and development of which obviously includes as much the highest points of its constitution into a class and therefore as a political party (revolutionary phase), as the moments of maximal disorganisation, dispersion and atomisation (counter-revolutionary phase).

8. Criticising the first point of the program of the social-democrat party (1. "Labor is the source of wealth and all culture"), Marx said "Labor is not the source of all wealth. Nature is just as much the source of use values (and it is surely of such that material wealth consists!) as labor, which itself is only a manifestation of the force of nature, human labor power. The above phrase is to be found in all children’s primers and is correct insofar as it is implied that labor is performed with the appurtenant subjects and instruments. But a socialist program cannot allow such bourgeois phrases to pass over in silence the conditions that lone give them meaning. And in so far as man from the beginning behaves towards nature, the primary source of all instruments and subjects of labor, as an owner, treats her as belonging to him, his labor becomes the source of use values, therefore also of wealth. The bourgeois have very good grounds for falsely ascribing supernatural creative power to labor, since precisely from the fact that labor depends on nature it follows that the man who possesses no other property than is labor power must, in all conditions of society and culture, be the slave of other men who have made themselves the owners of the material conditions of labor. He can only work with their permission, hence live only with their permission." (Marx, "Critique of the Gotha Programme")

9. See Marx’s critique which relates to this in "Critique of the Gotha Programme", as well as in the Marx’s and Engels’ correspondence with Bebel, Kautsky, etc, during the same period.

10. Capital is precisely the realised emancipation of work, the liberation of work from its inseparable character in relation to the one who produced it as activity. If work were only a productive activity, it would be indissociably linked to this activity, and in other words, would be an integral part of and a slave to the being of the "worker". However, under capitalism, this emancipation is produced, because the process of work is dominated by the process of valorisation, because the very realisation of work is its negation as activity and what is left of it is thingified work. Moreover, work has emancipated itself to such a degree that it oppresses the one who realises it. And, far from representing the power of the class which, for generations, has given it its life, today it is, as dead labour, the emancipated force which the enemy class uses to perpetuate exploitation. What must be called for is therefore not the emancipation of work - we must emancipate ourselves from work! In the first conception, work is the force which emancipates itself. In our conception, it is man who emancipates himself from work.

11. Taylor was a bourgeois who was extremely lucid about his class interests. In order to understand all the subterfuges that our class uses to work as little as possible, he worked as a worker for a good while and, on the basis of this, developed a series of norms to eliminate "dead time". His science consisted of controlling time and movement, to make the administration of work scientific, to promote methods of "retribution" of workers, thus increasing competitiveness between them, so that only workers would remain and the "layabouts" would be forced to find work elsewhere, etc.

12. "Learning to work is the task that the power of the soviets must expose to the people to its full extent. Capitalism’s last word on this subject is the Taylor system, which links all the progress of capitalism, the refined cruelty of bourgeois exploitation, with the most precious scientific conquests (for Lenin, as for every vulgar materialist, science is neutral - Ed) relating to the analysis of mechanical movements in work, the suppression of superfluous and clumsy movements, the introduction of the best systems of accounting and of control, etc. The Republic of the Soviets must make its own the precious conquests of science and technology in this field, whatever it costs. We can realise socialism precisely in the sense that we will be capable of combining the power of the soviets and the soviet system of management with the most recent progress of capitalism. It is necessary to organise the study and teaching of the Taylor system in Russia, its experimentation and its systematic adaptation." (Lenin in "The immediate tasks of the Soviet power"- 1918)

13. The name came from a Stalinist mine worker famous for his physical ability, like a human beast, to work, in the same length of time, far more than his work "comrades" (supposing that they considered him as such) and who was adopted as a hero, an example. In reality, capitalism has no other ideal of the working man than the Stakhanovs.

14. Adolf Hitler - "Mein Kampf". Hitler added that it is "the most important programmatical point".

15. Konstantin Hierl, Nazi chief Minister of Work.

16. It is evident that all of the bourgeoisie make an apology of work, but here we are taking the most representative sectors of this apology by capital, the governments and parties in which work and the "heroes of work" were at the centre of all the economic and social policy.

17. Quotation from "The Brown Revolution", by Davis Schoenbaum, (pages 51 and 52).

18. It must be taken into account that the massive internment of workers in camps was done under in the full view and the full knowledge of the worldwide bourgeoisie and that there was no lack of bourgeois organisations, including Jewish ones, contributing to this criminal business.

19. As shown in the leaflets of CEDADE, the Barcelona Nazi organisation.

20. Official newspapers of "realised Socialism" in Cuba and "in the process of realisation" in Nicaragua respectively.

21. There is no doubt that it is precisely this area of the "concrete", of the "particular" and of "the solution to everyone’s problems" that lends itself best to official demagogy and to the generalised lies on which a regime founds its propaganda.

22. See Schoenbaum’s book, as above, pages 84 and 85. This is anecdotal and it may seem absurd to include it here. However, readers will recognise in these "concrete examples of socialism", as much in their form as in their content, more than one of their enemy’s speeches.

23. ibid.

24. We cannot resist the pleasure of submitting the reader to the two following quotations which illustrate the tremendous similarity which existed between the Stalinist apology and the Nazi praise of culture:

"Culture is the highest expression of the creative forces of a people. It is the artist who is the inspired interpreter of this culture. It would be insane to think that his divine mission could be accomplished outside the people. He only exists as part of the people and the energy necessary for his existence comes from the people." (Goebbels, in Speech of the Inauguration of the National Chamber of Culture, 1933)

"Our culture is a popular culture. The cultural workers must serve the people with the greatest devotion: they must link themselves to the masses and not cut themselves off from them. To establish a liaison with the masses, we must conform to their needs, to their desires." (Mao Tse Tung, in The Unified Front in cultural work - 1944)

25. Schoenbaum, ibid.

26. Schoenbaum, ibid.

27. CEDADE leaflet.

28. Schoenbaum, ibid.

29. If certain regimes have not been given as an example here, like Castrism, this is because Castro, contrary to Hitler, came from the Cuban ‘high bourgeoisie’ and prefers to keep quiet about this. What is certain is that the bourgeoisie never loses the opportunity to confuse the issue whenever possible, by making the class origin, the extraction, shine as if it were the guarantee of something. In reality, as the Hitler-Castro example illustrates, it is not class extraction which is decisive, but real practice either in favour of or against the regime of wage slavery.

30. Speech held at the Siemens factory in November 1933.

31. "In fact the ‘programme of socialisation’ that the social-democrats would never dare to realise when they were in power, was realised to a great extent by the fascists. In the same way that the demands of the German bourgeoisie were not satisfied in 1848, but later, by the counter-revolution that followed, social-democracy’s programme was accomplished by Hitler. In effect, it was Hitler, and not social-democracy, which declared the 1st of May a holiday, and in a general way, it is enough to compare what the socialists said they wanted to realise, but what they would never realise, with the policies put into practice in Germany from 1933 onwards, in order to realise that Hitler really did accomplish the programme of social-democracy without resorting to its services." (Paul Mattick in "Capitalist Integration and Working Class Rupture.")

32. The military regime in Uruguay, which built the worst of its concentration camps under the name "Liberty", did not even overtake the cynicism of Nazism.

33. Schoenbaum, page 109. The underlinings are our own.

34. Since the industrial revolutions after the "Second" World War, the physical strength of the worker is much less important today and, little by little, the image of the worker, the model of national fascists and socialists of this time, has adapted itself to this evolution, incorporating a more common type of man and woman.

35. Declaration by Adolf Hitler, quoted by CEDADE.

36. These tourist ocean-liners served to transport troops and the Volkswagens served as military vehicles for general use. This was the same for the motorways, which were the first in the world and which were used for the transport of troops and armoured cars.

37. In the 1980’s, the French socialist government considered the creation of a real ministry of free time to be very original.

38. These quotations of Ley are from Schoenbaum’s book (pp.132,133,134).

39. Schoenbaum, ibid.

40. When it is transformed into the action of an entire factory it is already exceptional (as has happened many times in the past). When it goes beyond these barriers and spreads to the whole of society, revolution cannot be stopped.

 


CM13.5 On the praise of work