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Selected Political Correspondence

March 2001

Text coloring decodes as follows:

Black: Ken Ellis
Red: Marx, Engels, Lenin, etc.
Green: Press report, etc.
Blue: Recent correspondent
Purple: Unreliable info

3-02-01

Right on, Adrienne, this is an excellent way for listeners to have input into
programming decisions. I can't think of anything WORSE than for programming
decisions to continue to be made the way they were when I worked at KPFA.
It was so unfair to the listeners.

> AFTER WE GAIN CONTROL I am in favor of day-long town hall type meetings
> regularly (three times a year) in every station area. I want certain (a few each meeting)
> programming decisions made there. Listeners will come because they care about
> programming. Once there, we will listen and speak and get to know people. If we
> don't like the direction of our station or the network as a whole, these meetings
> give us a place and a way to organize.

Ken Ellis

 

3-02-01

Adrienne wrote:

> Shui, I think I agree with you, especially in the second part. If our goal
> is the most inclusion possible, how is that to be determined and by whom?

With so many listeners already on line, local web sites could be set up to register
the views of the listeners. Surveys regularly included in the stations' folios could
take care of those who are not on line. The data generated for each listener area
could be published and analyzed by the 3 local listener congresses per year,
and the stations' programming adjusted accordingly.

Some air time per week or month could probably be set aside to accommodate
the needs of all interest groups in the listener areas. Before the big changes at
KPFA, some interest groups were on the air once per month, which was enough
for some, and a lot better than nothing at all.

Ken Ellis

 

3-03-01

Carl wrote:

> Mr. Ellis,
>
> I don't understand how we got sidetracked from the question, but
> somehow we went from discussing whether or not socialism was a
> realistic goal to debating whether or not conditions were far enough
> along in their development in 1871 for the successful establishment
> of socialism. It is my opinion that in today's advanced state of
> industrial and economic development socialism is more than a
> realistic goal, it is something that is badly needed and way overdue.

Feel free to call me 'Ken'. 'Mr. Ellis' sounds a little somber und stern. The
present stage of development of the means of production, which you regard
as advanced (but which I don't because of the fact that so many of us still have
to work for a living), seems to be a keystone of your argument that 'socialism
is a realistic goal
'. But, as demonstrated in the previous messages, Engels
thought that the means of production were well enough developed for a
proletarian revolution after Europe experienced a few crises of OVER-
production
, proving that the only thing left wanting for Engels were the
requisite ripe POLITICAL conditions. The number of communists was
so small that their only hope was to ride the good fortunes of bourgeois-
democratic revolutions, and hope that the Paris Commune scenario could
have ripened simultaneously in enough places in Europe to negate any
possibility of counter-revolution, and thus realize their dreams. Now that
the most developed countries are also mostly democratic, and socialists and
communists in the most developed countries remain vastly out-numbered,
socialism* appears less realistic today than in Marx's day, and mainly due
to our very unripe political conditions, due to our general satisfaction with
democracies. If economic conditions were satisfactory for proletarian
revolution in the 19th century, then their being twice (or even 2 million times)
as satisfactory today does not make socialism any more likely today than
yesteryear, due to today's lack of necessary POLITICAL unrest.

*2002 note: By 'socialism', my intention was 'communist revolution and expropriation'.

> I have also stated that the only thing keeping the goal from being
> reached is the willingness of the working class to answer the challenge
> and organize their strength politically and economically to make it a reality.
> You make excellent points in your post and you obviously have time to
> research these statements. Time is a luxury I have little of, for you see, I
> am a wage laborer myself and my time is better spent trying to convince
> my fellow wage slaves that we need a change in the way our society
> operates or else we are headed down the road of ruin.

Our path of ruin is all the more reason for us to fight for a shorter work
week to give us more time to investigate the subjects that interest us. Now
that I've retired from the world of work, I have time to do this kind of stuff,
and I can't wait for my CD of the Collected Works of M+E to arrive so
that my arguments may someday become more convincing and effective.

> I respect your points and the time it took to research
> them but these are questions better answered by
> those more qualified than myself. I suggest contacting
> the national office at soc...p.org they are much
> better equipped to answer your questions than I am.

I really would like to correspond with the N.O. over theoretical issues, but,
aside from them acknowledging interest in receiving a book that I wrote, they
don't write back about theoretical issues. I get the feeling that they are there
to do what they do, and if anyone thinks they know better than they do, then
they should feel free to start their own group. Maybe they are right, and maybe
that's what America is all about. Maybe we are all here to do our own thing and
avail ourselves of one another's willingness to follow whatever plausible and
reasonable ideas come our way. It's like going to the store and choosing one
brand of potato chips over the other. One brand isn't going to change its formula
as long as it sells as well as the next brand. Similarly, revolutionary groups end
up competing against one another instead of combining their revolutionary forces
in order to have the force of numbers. I sometimes wonder about their real sincerity
in changing the world, because it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that
no single revolutionary party has a chance of making a revolution by itself.

> Thank you for your contributions none the less.
>
> Fraternally,
> Carl Miller

You have all been very fair in allowing me to have my say.
For that I am grateful. I'm always happy to continue the debate.

Best Wishes,
Ken Ellis

 

3-04-01

Jean-Paul wrote:

> Description : From INTRODUCTION TO MARX'S
> 'THE CIVIL WAR IN FRANCE'; Written on March 18, 1891.
> Shows what Engels thought of American 'Democracy'
> in action. As relevant today as it was 110 years ago.
>
> You can access this file at the URL
>
> http://groups.yahoo.com/group/SLP-
> Houston/files/Engels%20on%20the%20Democratic%20Republic%20

As people can see for themselves, Engels gave a scathing report on American
democracy. In spite of how bad our democracy can still sometimes be today,
few people are willing to replace it with anything else. That's the big difference
between American political conditions today, compared to political conditions
on the continent of Europe in the days of Marx and Engels, when a lot of people
were willing to fight to the death to rid themselves of feudal absolutism. Thanks to
the telegraph and improved communications, more and more people were learning
about democracy, were getting increasingly impatient with feudal absolutism, and
wanted some democracy for themselves. That was the main revolutionary trend
back then - to get any democracy at all.* A lot of people would even have settled for
republics with property qualifications on the vote, as in a real bourgeois democracy.

*2002 note: The end of the 19th century brought plenty more democracy
than when it started, but those struggles were not contentious enough to result
in the proletarian dictatorship.

Social-Democrats knew that: had the republican bourgeoisie armed the
proletariat, then as soon as they had smashed the old monarchy, the armed
proletariat wouldn't have settled for anything less than a republic with universal
suffrage, making the new republic socially controlled, as well as democratic. That
sentiment was well brought out in the 4th Volume of the Minutes of the General
Council of the First International. Because the German bourgeoisie was afraid
of a socially controlled republic, they refused to fully arm the proletariat in the
German struggles for democracy, causing M+E to label the German bourgeoisie
as 'cowardly'. The German bourgeoisie was content to make deals with feudal
elements, and to settle for a constitutional monarchy with rather limited democracy.
Over the decades, popular political struggles resulted in more and more democratic
concessions, and the German state in the 19th century was gradually transformed
into a Social-Democracy without the 'bang' of a typical French revolution.

History shows that the purpose of revolution was to bring democracy to where
it didn't exist before, which also reduces the chances of yet another American
revolution to nil. Most of this can be learned by reading the works of Marx
and Engels, as well as by reading between their lines. I don't especially enjoy
being a wet blanket on anyone's revolutionary dreams, but someone has to
bring an occasional dose of reality into the discussion. I really hope that the
reality isn't resented as much as it is appreciated, sort of as a springboard to
further discussion and thought. If activists want to be effective, then they will
have to re-think the programs that were handed down from a century and more
ago, when a lot of situations actually called for revolutionary change.

Best Wishes,
Ken Ellis

"As for myself, my dear General, you know that it's enough to be a Marxist and
Engelsist to stay young forever!
" ... From a January 2, 1893 Letter from Laura
(Marx) Lafargue to Engels.

 

3-05-01

Was Ben overly optimistic(?) when he wrote:

> My experiences have been somewhat different. I have met
> quite a few people on the street, at railway stations etc. who
> have not only already considered common ownership, but
> are all in favour of it. I have also seen people gradually
> move towards general support for common ownership and
> socialism. Many people have already worked this out
for
> themselves
. This shouldn't surprise anyone as revolutionary
> consciousness must stem essentially from material interests
> and conditions. What usually leads people to push down
> their doubts about the system of society we live under and
> their conclusions that a society without classes, money or
> the state is desirable is the belief that such ideas are "weird"
> and unusual. All these people thinking "no one else would
> agree with this!"; afraid to think "hold on - maybe they do!".
> Our job as revolutionaries is to put this case for common
> ownership
at the top of the agenda and thus help spread the
> realisation that socialism (or whatever you want to call it)
> IS a possibility and a necessity.

Well, the mass enthusiasm over getting rid of private property
which you seem to observe is quite a revelation to me on this side
of the pond. But, with all of the nationalizations of utilities, railways
and industries enjoyed on your side, it's less of a wonder that your
countrymen might feel more at ease with common ownership than
we Americans. One final distinction: Is the man in the street fully
aware of the difference between common ownership and state
ownership, and is the man in the street as adamantly in favor
of common ownership as he is against state ownership?

> On the media you asked:
>
>>> This doesn't mean newspapers etc. can't present a "radical"
>>> scandal-busting image. Indeed exposing the more obviously
>>> outrageous corruption and wrongs of capitalist society helps
>>> the system with its image problems (and often distracts
>>> attention from other, more important problems).
>>
>> Which problems could be 'more important' than the
>> 'outrageous corruption and wrongs of capitalist society'?
>
>
<snip> Papers in Britain often run lengthy "campaigns"
> about cruelty to animals in far off countries. I wonder
> why they prefer to campaign on such safe issues rather
> than reporting on industrial disputes or the increasing
> problems of poverty at home?!

I see what you mean. The same thing happens here.
All the more reason to abolish capitalism.

> <snip agreement on war>
>
> On what I said about frustration with revolutionary ideology you noted:
>
>> If you remain a revolutionary, then what possible problem
>> could you have with revolutionary ideology?
>
> I do indeed remain a revolutionary. I don't think there is a
> contradiction between being a revolutionary and occasionally
> getting hacked off with ideological disputes etc.. Its all very
> necessary, but that doesn't stop it getting frustrating!

Reminds me of the debate about religion that's been raging
here recently. I think that any party's taboo about religion is
unnecessarily harsh for democratic countries, and reminds me
of Lenin's position. How could a taboo against religion be
reconciled with the total freedom that is advocated? It seems
like too great a contradiction to ignore.

For a working class party in a democracy to take an official
position on religion - other than to make religion a matter of
individual conscience - is to succumb to the bourgeois politics
of exclusion, making a party appeal mostly to like-minded atheists
or agnostics. A working class party should instead be practicing the
politics of inclusion by making room for all religious persuasions,
and asking no questions, which would be consistent with advocacy
of full participation in the economy. The politics of the working
class are: 'Live and let live.'

> You finished on the subject of the shorter working week:
>
>> Thanks for the kind wishes, bro. It's a pleasure to
>> dialogue with reasonable people. Last time, I suggested
>> 'a shorter work week' as a step in the direction toward
>> getting rid of capitalism. For the sake of the debate, I was
>> hoping that you would find fault with my suggestion and/
>> or suggest something else just as concrete to displace my
>> concrete suggestion. If you could try to work on your
>> concrete suggestion for the next round, that would
>> move our dialogue along. Thanks in advance.
>
> OK then. As I have said before I do not disagree with you
> on this as such. We should be trying to get as much as we
> can back in wages for as little time as we can possibly put
> in. I would strongly support all and any workers' action
> for this, as it would improve working class conditions.

That's a welcome relief.

> My main problem with your advocacy of the shorter
> working week as some sort of
ultimate alternative to
> democratic socialist revolution is that you seem to infer
> that
there is a trend within modern capitalism that tends
> towards a shorter working week. You have argued that
>
this trend could well lead capitalism to actually abolish
> itself, as the wages system becomes an absurdity.
>
> I do not agree that there is any such trend within capitalism.

The 19th century adopted the 12 hour day before their 10 and 9
hour days, the 20th century enjoyed the 8 hour day, and the 21st
is starting out with the 35 hour week in France, while Switzerland
just adopted* a 36 hour week. It appears as though people are getting
increasingly interested in shorter work weeks to maintain a certain
level of employment. This is a definite historical trend. The West
will not repeat a 60 hour week, unless an emergency occurs.

*2002 note: I was given a bum steer on Switzerland's alleged adoption of a 36 hour week.

> Yes - capitalism's technological innovations have
> made "
the end of work" a technical possibility,
> but this isn't the same thing.

A militant drive to abolish capitalism by shrinking the work
week would certainly be a different cup of tea from us mindlessly
allowing the remaining work to be done by fewer and fewer people,
leaving a growing majority out in the cold.

2002 note: The trick is to turn capitalism into 'liberation capitalism', and use
this enhanced form of capitalism to abolish the old capitalism altogether.

> By the same token capitalism has made the
> abolition of hunger a material possibility,
> but capitalism ITSELF as a system will
>
never "feed the world".

With 80% of the population down on the farm 200 years ago, and
only 2% there now, the only excuse for hunger today would have
to be political, and certainly not logistical.

> Only with the conversion to a new system
> of society
will these possibilities developed
> within capitalism be made reality.

That's why I favor shortening the length of the work week, which
will simultaneously phase out both capitalism, unemployment
and wage-slavery. People need to evolve out of the dog-eat-dog
competitive mentality which reproduces most of our social
misery, and our humanitarian sentiment will have to grow in
order to allow socialism to become a reality. This evolutionary
process will take time and political determination.

> I would argue that, on the contrary, modern capitalism
> is working in the opposite direction. The trend is towards
> fewer people doing more work. Towards upping the rate
> of exploitation, not lowering it. I think the evidence from
> the US and UK overwhelmingly supports this analysis.
> The aim is raising the rate of profit and capitalism has
> shown that it is more than ready to push wages down
> lower than ever and have us working more hours than ever.

Bosses want to move us in the direction you indicated, but
that doesn't mean that we necessarily have to follow their lead,
and instead can't go the other way toward less work and full
employment. If working class parties do and say nothing about
these regrettable indicated trends in the USA and UK, then what
does it say about the worth of our working class parties? It says
to me that they are worthless to the majority of the people. Maybe
some parties would rather find fault with the religious perspectives
of their own members and make war on their own membership.
It wouldn't be the first time.

> It is of course up to us to resist these trends as much as we
> can. What I think this does prove though is that there is
no
> internal logic within capitalism that could tend towards
> reducing the working week out of existence.

The internal logic of capitalism reflects the logic of capitalists -
more work done by fewer people, as Bob Malone often points
out, so it's up to the working class to pressure and win legislation
in its own class interests - less work by more people - a better
distribution of work among those who could use a little to get by.
Why can't all working class parties put this consciousness up front
where people can see it? Or, is a shorter work week automatically
rejected in the fear that its promotion would water down the
program of revolution?

> Therefore, to think we can solve all our problems within
> capitalism by driving down labour hours is a
mistake.

I'd hate to think that you and I would have to disagree on something.
The shorter hour scenario will be the ONLY way to get rid of capitalism,
at least in the USA, with our overwhelmingly anti-socialist sentiment.
Getting to socialism by means of taking state power to establish
common property runs contrary to our modern trend of building
a huge legal edifice protecting private property.

> There HAS to be a CONSCIOUS break with capitalism
> and capitalist relations by the working class. Capitalism as
> a system of society has to be challenged and abolished.
> It is this consciousness which is the key if we are ever
> to advance beyond capitalism. We won't just slip
> unconsciously towards a classless society.

The same could be said for the struggle to abolish capitalism by
means of sharing work and reducing labor time. When it comes
to labor time, both the political and economic interests of the
workers and bosses are polar opposites. In no other spheres
are the interests of the 2 classes so perfectly opposite, while
individuals of both classes want property for themselves, and
'the more the better'.

2002 note: At some point, ever smarter technology will make
human labor so redundant that labor's consciousness will rise.

> Anyway, best wishes as ever.
>
> For working class power and world socialism,
>
> Ben.

Best wishes as always,

Ken Ellis

One for all, and all for one!

 

3-06-01

I'm new to the list and would like to urge people to think carefully
about what it means to be an activist in the service of the people.

Social programs go wrong where they claim to be in the interests of the
workers, but don't directly affect workers, and instead target the wealth and
income of the relative few who can be described as wealthy. Such programs
can be described as punitive, and are guaranteed to cause a lot of friction,
even among workers hoping to amass wealth and property for themselves.

For a program to be truly 'social', it should directly affect MASSES of people,
as would, say, an amendment to reduce overwork by abolishing time and a half
in favor of double time, or, an amendment establishing a 35 or 36 hour work-week,
as in France and Switzerland*, respectively. Or, laws establishing a minimum month's
paid vacation per year, more paid holidays, earlier retirement, bringing in all workers
under the protection of the Fair Labor Standards Act, etc.

*2002 note: Switzerland's alleged 36 hour week turned out to be a bum steer.

These laws and amendments would do more for the lower classes than punitive
laws targeting the rich, for the latter laws are more effective in aggrandizing the
government, while labor-time reductions would enable fuller participation in the
economy, solving many social problems on a fundamental level.

Ken Ellis

 

3-06-01

Jeffrey Blankfort wrote, in part:

> He also later hired Marci Lockwood, who had been KPFA's general manager
> and Pat Scott's lackey during the August 1995 purge, as executive director of
> the IGC, the Inst. for Global Communications, which as Peacenet, had been the
> first alternative e-mail server and had come under Tides" control. She did
> such a bad job there that it was finally turned over to a private company.
>
> Jeff Blankfort

I'm not familiar with her record at IGC, but, just to introduce a little balance,
Marci established herself as a competent administrator when she took over
KPFA's beleaguered subscription department in the late '80's, earning a reputation
for straightening it out and making the numbers add up. She became KPFA manager
not too long after that, and did a reasonable enough job, not ruffling half as many
feathers as others did. I always found her quite reasonable to deal with.

Ken Ellis

 

3-08-01

Li'l Joe quoted me:

>> Social programs go wrong where they claim to be in the interests of the
>> workers, but don't directly affect workers, and instead target the wealth and
>> income of the relative few who can be described as wealthy. Such programs
>> can be described as punitive, and are guaranteed to cause a lot of friction,
>> even among workers hoping to amass wealth and property for themselves.
>
> Lil Joe: Where does the wealth, of the "relative few who
> can be described as wealthy", come from? All "wealth"
> in human history in the final analysis is the produce of
> cumulative human labour in Nature and society, added
> to by working people every working day.
>
> Wealth is
not contributed to by the lazy, wealthy leisure
> class, but by working people changing objects from things
> as they are "in themselves" into useful objects to be used
> in the production of means of production or articles for
> consumption, "things for us".
>
> Since the top 1% of the wealthiest Americans own 40% of the
> nations wealth, but have
never set foot in a factory, mine or field,
> and so have
never engage in so much as a single days labour,
> the wealth they own can only be the result of mechanisms of
> appropriation by which wealth generating human labour is
> transferred from Nature and society to their private possession.
>
> The social programs which you denounce as "punitive"
> is actually nothing but the redistribution of
stolen Income
> from the wealthy top 1-30% to the impoverished bottom.

We on the left have a big task ahead of us - choosing the correct tactics
and strategy for the conditions under which we exist and toil. All of us in the
forum can probably agree that workers produce the wealth used and enjoyed
by all. A big problem occurs when we compete for scarce opportunities to make
the rich richer. Fred Engels wrote in 1845, ".. the supremacy of the bourgeoisie
is based wholly upon the competition of the workers among themselves; i.e., upon
their want of cohesion.
" If activists would simply work to abolish competition for
scarce jobs, then we could make this world a better place without much further ado.
But, most activists believe in the inevitability of socialism, even though a billion
people in the world rejected it a decade ago, so, most activists in democracies
work either for band-aids or for impossible socialism, but don't pay much
attention to work-reduction programs that are both feasible and effective.
In our rich and decadent society, a lot of activists can afford to waste
a lot of time advocating useless, wasteful, or unfeasible programs.

> (BTW - where are you getting your arguments from? Milton
> Friedman, Alan Greenspan, George Will, or Trent Lott,
> and/or the "New Democrats"?)

After refuting several fistfuls of lies perpetrated by my old party of
socialism in the 1970's, I arrived at many of my own unique conclusions
through my own intellectual labor.

> Any objective economic analysis the the US economy
> and politics of the welfare state shows the funding of
> "social program", from the standpoint of "the wealthy"
> is in the interest of the wealthy. This funding, in any
> case, really comes from the value creating labour of
> the working classes and toiling masses, whose labour
> in production is the source of capitalist profits.

If we didn't work so hard, the rich wouldn't be so rich. Some people make a
mistake of thinking that reducing hours of labor would impoverish the poor,
but it doesn't work that way. If labor could proceed from being a glut on the
labor market to becoming a scarcity, wages would go up, and everyone would
find work. That one change would mark the beginning of the cooperative
society that a lot of people dream about.

> The capitalists as a class find it in their interests to create
> so called "social safety net" programs, such as the New Deal,
> to redistribute money from wages and profits to the poor, for
> housing and food in order to preserve capitalism. Remember
> in Dicken's "A Christmas Carol", how the children of poverty
> were kept under the robe of Charity of the Spirit of Christmas
> Present, which charity thus held them back from robbing the
> old capitalist miser Ebinezzer Scrooge?
>
> The capitalist class regard the welfare state, together with
> prisons and armed forces to be in their own best self-interests.

Back in the Depression, a real alternative to band-aids was working its way
through Congress. The AFL backed the Black-Connery 30 Hour Bill that would
have addressed the unemployment of the day on a fundamental level. The 30 Hour
Bill was compelling enough to pass the Senate, and looked like a shoe-in for the
House of Reps, but business interests convinced a lot of politicians to kill it, for
they were more interested in keeping labor enslaved to long hours of toil to
increase profits. Maybe if Labor had proposed a 35 hour Bill instead, chances
are that our history would have turned out to be a lot different, and we
wouldn't have put the antiquated 40 hour week on such a pedestal.

>> For a program to be truly 'social', it should directly affect MASSES of people,
>> as would, say, an amendment to reduce overwork by abolishing time and a half
>> in favor of double time, or, an amendment establishing a 35 or 36 hour work-week,
>> as in France and Switzerland*, respectively. Or, laws establishing a minimum month's
>> paid vacation per year, more paid holidays, earlier retirement, bringing in all workers
>> under the protection of the Fair Labor Standards Act, etc.
>
> Lil Joe: I would propose in opposition to this that we
> build a Labour Party, socially and financially based on the
> Trade Unions but open to all sectors of the working class.

*2002 note: I was given a bum steer on Switzerland's alleged adoption of a 36 hour week.

An independent labor party is certainly needed. Every existing party swears
that they already represent the interests of the working class, but the masses
don't flock to them, maybe because existing parties do not do a very good job
of representing their interests.

> This party would have on its agenda the program
> for legislating in Congress a Living Wage at an
> evolving median income, the right of able bodied
> men and women to employment at that Living wage,
> or such that is negotiated by the unions themselves,
> with Union control of hiring and firing.

Once a party is established, its program would hopefully be determined by its
membership according to majority rule. The living wage proposal seems to be
gaining in popularity, but it's not a fundamental fix, unlike what you mention next:

> The number of hours worked would equal the level
> of technology, which at present would reduce the working
> day to four or five hours at the pay of eight. Four or five
> hours of a five day work-week at that Living Wage would,
> as said, bring about full employment.

Maybe to reduce traffic congestion, we could adopt a 3 day week instead of a 5
hour day. Four days off per week would be quite a bit more bearable than merely 2.

> The capitalists that refuse to comply ought to have those
> industries, mines and fields nationalized, and managed by
> the workers themselves as regard wages, hours and output.

Few bosses today enjoy getting caught violating the Fair Labor Standards Act
(which presently provides time and a half after 40), so there may not be any
real need to be overly punitive.

>> These laws and amendments would do more for the lower classes than
>> punitive laws targeting the rich, for the latter laws are more effective in
>> aggrandizing the government, while labor-time reductions would enable
>> fuller participation in the economy, solving many social problems on a
>> fundamental level.
>>
>> Ken Ellis
>
> Lil Joe: It is not a question of whether the wealthy classes
> would "do more for the lower classes", or whether social
> programs funding is "punitive laws targeting the rich".

I don't think I mentioned 'wealthy classes doing more for the lower classes'.
The words that I used were 'laws and amendments', not 'wealthy classes'; or,
do you think that laws and amendments derive from the wealthy classes? A
lot of the left takes Marx literally about 'the government being the executive
committee of the ruling class
', which people unfortunately apply to every
government, democracy or dictatorship, which is a mistake. Marx's phrase
applies only to dictatorships like the old feudal absolute monarchies of his
day, not to democracies.* Marx considered democracies to be the NEGATION
of absolute monarchies
, and considered democracies to be the form of state in
which the battle between worker and boss would be fought to a finish
. You will
never find Marx or Engels advocating overthrowing democracies, though they
certainly did advocate replacing the German monarchies with a centralized
republic, which is what made them revolutionaries. There was a purpose for
revolution in Europe in Marx's day, and that purpose was to bring democracy
to the many European countries that had not yet become democratic. In the
established democracies of the day (England and the USA), M+E advocated
reforms in the interests of the working class as adamantly as they opposed
middle class reforms. M+E favored the 10 Hour law in England, and
championed the struggle for the 8 hour day by placing it prominently
in the program of the First International. Democracies are useful to
the majority, while dictatorships are more useful to the rich.

*2002 note: The views of M+E with regard to revolution and democracies
were more complicated, as revealed in subsequent correspondence.

> Rather, we ought to proceed from the recognition that the
> laboring classes are in the labour process of the process
> of production the creator of the value and surplus value
> that in circulation becomes the profits of capital. It is not
> the capitalists classes that are "doing for the lower classes"
> but the working classes and toiling masses that are "doing
> for" i.e. enriching, the landlords, capitalists, and bankers.
>
> The capitalists are a class of economic parasites that is
> enriched but by the exploitation of the working classes
> and toiling masses. The wealth of society ought to belong
> to the classes that produce it,
then there would be no need
> of "social programs", as everything would be financed by
> the distribution of resources to provide every member
> of society with food, clothing, housing, education and
> medical care without regard to market considerations.

I think we can agree that we workers produce the wealth. What we do about
our exploitation may require more work on the part of activists, who often
propose mutually exclusive 'solutions'. Some want to replace governments
with workers' states, others want to replace governments with a classless and
stateless administration of things, and others want to use existing democracies.
In order for me to get clear about the meaning of socialism, and why it doesn't
apply to democracies, I had to write a 500+ page refutation of some of the lies
told by the first party I joined. Labor time reductions are not socialism, but,
when followed to their logical end, labor-time reductions are a feasible and
peaceful means of getting to Marx's upper phase of communist society.
The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

In a follow-up message, Li'l Joe wrote:

> I cannot speak for Mike, but I think that when he referred to "Democrat"
> it was with reference to the Democratic Party, as I assume most of us on
> this list agree with what you said about the progressive character of the
> bourgeois-democratic revolutions.
>
> I especially like what you said about surplus value and the benefits
> of full employment resulting from the reduction of the working-day.

Thanks for the kind words. I look forward to hearing from you again.

Ken Ellis

'Refuse to work overtime for less than double time.'

 

3-09-01

Martin wrote:

> Unfortunately, if there is going to be changes in the laws impact on
> hours and wages we have a few little hurdles to get over. A. There is
> no mass based movement demanding such a change. B. There is no
> political party promoting such a change. C. The economic conditions
> do
not exist so as to justify such a change.

Re C: Sam Gompers was reported to have said (paraphrasing cuz I don't have it
exact): 'As long as one worker goes without work, the hours of labor are too long.'

Sam Gompers spoke in an era when we didn't have 'big government' solutions
to unemployment, and while hours of labor victories were being won in one shop
and industry after another, from 1820-1920. Bosses didn't orchestrate as much
opposition to work reductions until 1920, when they started getting really afraid
of losing profits by the ongoing labor time reductions. As surpluses built up in
warehouses in the 1920's, organized Labor warned that: not letting workers take
the benefits of improved productivity in the form of work reductions would cause
real problems. Sure enough, we had a tremendous crisis of overproduction in the
1930's known as the Great Depression. Labor supported a Black-Connery 30 hour
Bill
that would have solved unemployment on a fundamental level, and it even was
compelling enough to pass the Senate, and looked like a shoe-in for the House, but
greedy bosses applied enough pressure to have it killed. Five years later, we got
the much weaker time and a half after 40, which was inadequate when passed.

For more information about this era, people should read Prof. Ben Hunnicutt's
book entitled: "Work Without End". An excellent web site devoted to this issue
can also be accessed at:

http://www.Timesizing.com

It's nice to participate in a forum in which people's minds are not irreversibly
poisoned by socialist dogma. Socialist revolutionaries in other forums have
a tough time advocating work week reductions because they insist on their
revolutions before they'll agree to a shorter work week. In that respect, they
somewhat echo Marx and Engels, but M+E weren't so fanatic about their
insistence of 'revolution first', and actually supported work reduction
movements of their day.

It's a pleasure to correspond with people who don't automatically reject the
work-sharing alternative because of rigid party lines that must be upheld
above all else. One of the things I once gave up when I joined a sect was
the right to think for myself in exchange for the camaraderie of a group of
like-minded socialists. I hope that we in this forum will never give up our
independence of thought, and will work our way toward clarity about the
appropriateness of work-time reductions, as well as the inappropriateness
of socialist programs of confiscation.

Ken Ellis

 

3-09-01

Joan wrote:

> Welcome to the discussion!

Thank you. It's a pleasure to be among so many reasonable and
mild-mannered people. I think that all of our temperaments are suited
for a long and productive relationship, and that we will be able to work
our way to clarity without bruising any egos.

> Your point about social programs makes sense; however, much of the
> reason that social programs designed to help the people fail is because
> of government bureaucracy -- people who don't care since they have no
> personal stake in it and the general mishandling of issues.

It's true that some programs are very complex, and the administrators can
sometimes lose their way in the maze of rules and regs, and can find their
tasks very unsatisfying. One nice thing about hours of labor legislation -
people either stop working at the prescribed time, or they don't, and a
violation occurs, which is relatively easy to remedy.

> As for a shorter work week, that is not something a law
> can change in the current economy.

Time and a half after 40 is set by the Fair Labor Standards Act, first enacted
nationally in 1938, and phased in by 1940. Various aspects of the Act have
been amended many times over the decades. 'Double time after 35' would
put a lot more people to work, and would ameliorate a lot of alienation in our
society. If we are now 40 times as productive as we were 200 years ago, then
we could theoretically get by (on the bare necessities) by each of us working
just one hour per week. If we would like to waste a lot of resources, then we
should continue to work inappropriately long hours, and we should continue
to fight among ourselves over scarce opportunities to make the rich richer
than their wildest dreams.

> If people want 40 hours' pay, they will choose to work 40 hours,
> even if they only have to work 32 to be considered "full-time."

If I'm not addressing the point you are making, then let me know, but:
everywhere I've ever worked, the number of hours was the same for everyone,
because it would have been unfair not to do so, and few would have been caught
dead working longer than the next person. There certainly are exceptions in
some lines of work, where some people (like lawyers) are free to work all
day and all night if they want to, but that kind of overwork doesn't happen
at the typical workplace.

> More leisure time, by the way, is not a solution to social problems.

I think that the opposite is true, as long as the extra leisure is determined
by law, so as apply generally to the working class. Because of our increased
productivity, time and a half after 40 was obsolete when it was instituted in
1940, and the AFL-supported 30 hour Bill of 1933 would have been much
more appropriate for the high level of productivity of the 1930's. Thirty
hours was what labor wanted, but the bosses wanted the extra profits
that came with the longer work hours.

> You make it out to be much simpler than it is. Your assumption that "All
> that and more good stuff for workers could be accomplished with that one
> simple mechanism" is quite far from the truth. There is no panacea. - Joan

For now, we may have to agree to disagree on this point, but I'd be glad
to hear your opinion of what might work better.

> You do seem to be saying what I have all along: our goal should be to
> improve conditions of life in our present time, not neglecting the future
> of course, but putting the practical -- current improvements in the lives of
> the people -- as an end in itself, whatever long-range dreams we may have.
> In the long run the only road to a better society is one with gradual, and
> permanent, change. - Joan

On that, I heartily concur. I'm glad to see that you are not a fan of 'big-
bang' models of socialism. I'd like to hear more about what kind of changes
you would like to institute, and then I would like an opportunity to explain
why a shorter work week might work better. If I fail to convince, then I fail.
But, let's play around with these ideas for a while. OK?

All my best,
Ken Ellis

 

3-09-01

Jakks wrote:

> Dear Ben, Ken, Robin, and Members:
>
> I like this thread... Good Stuff.
> I'd just like to add my 2 cents worth, and
> hope that you don't mind.

Welcome to the fray! And thanks for your interest.

> In the US there are 38,000 intentional communities,
> and World-Wide there are 146,000, in which property
> and resources are commonly held.

I wasn't aware of them. Do they have any good web sites
explaining their ideologies?

> I'd say that this is an indication that we are coming to the conclusion
> in our awareness that Capitalism alone just won't do. Although this
> is not enough of a powerful majority to immediately enact socialism,
> nevertheless it is a step towards the actualization of socialism.

Cooperative ventures like those are certainly an improvement
over our ordinary dog-eat-dog competitive world.

> In the streets, in the poverty I live in and work in,
> we all understand that Capitalism doesn't work, and
> is absurd, and that socialism is the
only possible relief
> from slavery, and the
only system to establish freedom
> for the massive majority, instead of the very few...

That opinion is still in the minority. If capitalism still works well
for so many people, can they be expected to want to adopt a
different system that may not work as well for them?

> All my life I have been forced by the circumstances I
> was born into, to accept my fate as predetermined with
> no possibility for escape, no alternative, no matter how
> hard I work. There are just not enough hours in a day
> available to work for me to climb out of this hellhole,
> let alone any hours left over to attend school, even if I
> could afford it, which I cannot. Most of my life I have
> had to work two jobs 12-16 hours a day just to make
> survival with the bare necessities a reality, and I can
> only hope that I do not get too sick. Although I am one
> of the luckier of the poverty stricken world population.

If you are not yet 40, you may not be able to continue such a
rigorous schedule in another decade or 2. As one who knows, it's
no fun competing for pennies against so many other willing workers.

> I would say this constitutes Capitalism as a complete failure for a very
> large percentage of our world's population. And I have refuted those who
> claim a pretense to being poor and have worked their way up out of poverty
> by using the framework within capitalism to achieve this rise. The notion is
> ridiculous, it just
isn't possible without aid, and a whole lot'ta luck.

I grew up knowing a few guys my age who later became
millionaires. Like myself, all were born lower middle class.
Unlike myself, they kept their noses to the grindstone, and their
shoulders to the wheel. I never knew what it was like to be dirt
poor, but, from what I saw of it in some local neighborhoods, I
can believe what you say about the unlikelihood of really poor
people somehow making it big by dint of honest labor.

> As I mentioned every one of us down here in ghetto-land
> and World-Wide know and agree that Capitalism
doesn't
> represent
any form of freedom, justice, or equality. Nor
> does it provide for
any realistic opportunity to escape
> being a slave to poverty. I have interviewed 1,000's
> and 1,000's of us working poor and poverty
> poor in Mexico, Canada, and the US,

Are you a reporter for an alternative news outlet?

> and they all say the same thing, when offered a choice between
> socialism or capitalism... and of course they would prefer
> socialism. Also from everything I have read and written
> about this is a truism in attitudes beyond any personal doubt.

If the majority of Americans now lived in poverty, then you might
have the power of numbers. As it is, not enough middle class people
can be convinced that capitalism has to go. If Americans 140 years ago
were willing to fight and die to preserve as immoral a form of ownership
as slavery, then just think how hard the enormous numbers of lower and
middle class people would fight to preserve present-day capitalism. People
associate a lot of their sense of security and well-being with their property.
One of the few things they can count upon is their governments'
willingness to protect their property rights.

> I think that when you guys are speaking of the options
> and choices made by people, you are certainly
not taking
> into account the massive majority who are the poverty poor,

Where do you get your numbers? That may have been a valid
number 150 years ago, but not today in rich Western countries.
Think of all of those single family dwellings out there in middle
America. I don't think 'massive majority who are the poverty poor'
describes the reality of life in America for the majority. Away from
the inner cities, you just have to look around and see a vast lower
and middle-class population.

> <snip ambiguity> most Americans are afraid of,
> and don't, as yet, condone socialism.

That's for sure. What most socialists don't want to consider:
What if all of those people are correct about not wanting socialism*?

*2002 note: By 'socialism', I intended: 'rearranging property relations'.

> I don't believe this is accurate to any degree beyond a certain
> self-sustaining class, and I agree that even within the thoughts
> and opinions of those upper-paid and educated working classes,
> they too are slowly coming around to the decision and awareness
> that capitalism is, at best, in need of being a mixed-economy with
> govt. interference.

Government interference on a broad scale certainly was popularized
during the Depression, along with the American New Deal. Before
that, our ideology was decidedly against big government. I can't
blame the ones who still are. I'm no friend of BIG government,
just enough guv to see to it that work is shared equitably.

> The massive majority may be aware of the consequences
> of Capitalism, but we are completely powerless against it,
> without the aid of democratic political reformism.
>
> I'm all for a shorter work-weeks, raising the minimum wage
> level, and providing conditions for equal opportunity. I'm also
> all in favor of any piecemeal political/social engineering that
> will enable and focus all of our attentions on abolishing
> capitalism in favor of the idea that the community's first
> priority on its resources, production usage and distribution
> 'should' go towards the needs of society.

I believe that a shorter work week is the only device we need in
order to get all of the other good things you mentioned, but the
many revolutionaries in this forum will probably disagree. I
know what it's like to maintain a minority opinion.

> Don't you find that the ever-perpetuating need
> to educate each new generation being born to
> the
truthfulness of socialism is in itself, almost
> self-defeating, and a painstakingly slow process?

Well, if you visit my web site, you will find my opinion that:
Socialism is one of the most lied-about ideologies that ever was,
but mostly in the form of unwittingly repeated lies that were told
and believed a long time ago. At my web site, I targeted a liar who
KNEW that he was lying about socialism. Though dead for 26
years, he still enjoys a following, in spite of even his own party
turning its back on him. I don't think anyone can understand
socialism without also STRUGGLING to understand the lies
about socialism. It is a very complex subject, and its complexity
explains a lot of the sectarianism of socialist groups and parties,
and their inability to cooperate to overthrow the government or
establish socialism.

> Do you really believe that one day the greater powerful
> majority will accumulate enough education and awareness
> within their collective lifetimes to overcome and rise above
> the obvious extensive use of propaganda and indoctrination
> being forced upon us, causing confusion for the lower classes,
>
powerlessness towards activism for the poor, while limiting critical
> debate for the more educated, along with the inaccuracies in
> historical record, without democratic political reform?

We are all aware of government lies, for sure. But, if the left
were able to decipher the lies about socialism, then it would stop
being socialist
* and instead move toward adopting a shorter work
week. Taking away the property of the rich isn't everything. Even
Marx didn't regard divorcing the rich of their property to be the big
end-all and be-all. Marx regarded confiscation as subordinate to full
participation in the economy, as indicated in Engels' 1877 biography
entitled "Karl Marx". Confiscation was plausible for the political
conditions of Marx's era, which no longer exist. In our democracies,
we can find places in the economy for everyone simply by making
labor scarce on the labor market. The most efficient way to do that is
to discourage overwork by raising the overtime premium to double
time, and then moving to a shorter work week, longer paid vacations,
more days off, earlier retirement with full benefits, etc.

*2002 note: I later changed my mind about socialism. A shorter work week
would advance us precisely toward socialism, unlike lots of other programs.

> How can the poverty poor, even when their struggle and
> suffering quickly shows them and educates them in the
> flaws of any system other than socialism,

Socialism, as practiced by so many groups today, is quite flawed. For
instance: Some revolutionaries could not smash the bourgeois state and
create a workers' state at the very same time other revolutionaries try to
replace the bourgeois state with a classless, stateless administration of
things. So, right there you can see that communists will never cooperate
with anarchists to make a revolution, and the two tendencies will turn
around and fight each other before they fight their governments, as a
century and more of conflicts between the two camps will demonstrate.
Their revolutionary plans exclude one another, yielding - no cooperation.
But, if either group persists in wanting revolution, then why cooperate at
all with reformers like myself? Thus, only SOME agree with a shorter
work week, and some people have no good words for it at all, even if
Marx and Engels both favored that reform, in or out of socialism.
Perhaps some of the luke-warmedness of today's activists can be
explained by the fact that M+E regarded a shorter work week as
more appropriate to a POST-revolutionary program.

> How can the poverty poor [...] attempt to obtain
> the conditions to better improve their lot, without
> democratic reformism? ie;
every time the poor do
> organize production use for social needs forming
> any successful situation that relies on cooperative
> effort it is destroyed, or severely oppressed.

Good point. Marx ran into the same problem with co-ops in
his day. Success in that field couldn't help but improve if we
eliminated some of the competition among workers for scarce
jobs, by creating the artificial scarcity of labor that would put
everyone to work.

> How can the more educated working class gain the
> collective wisdom, when they are bombarded with
> extreme indoctrination, limited accuracy, outlandish
> bribes of intended rewards, extensive propaganda
> efforts and almost complete marginalization,
> needed to achieve socialism?

The extreme productivity gains of the next few years will force
us to put our thinking caps on, and will force us to do something
real about the resulting mass unemployment that could and will
result when the machines become ever so much smarter, and the
need for human labor declines at an unprecedented rate. Look to
France as a leader with its 35 hour week, and to Switzerland with
its new 36* hour week. They are going in the right direction. It
is up to the rest of us to follow, follow, follow, and get militant
about making labor time reductions a world-wide movement.

*2002 note: Switzerland's alleged 36 hour week was a bum steer.

> How do you suppose this collective awareness in
> one lifetime can, in fact, someday manifest itself
> and take place, before it's too late?
>
> How are we to overcome this, before it is too late,
> without the aid of reforms, like the ones Robin and
> Ken are suggesting?

I'm the reformer. Robin's still a revolutionary. It may take more
than my words alone to make a reformer out of Robin, or anyone
else in this forum. But, I do admire Robin's stand on religion.
Good work on the religion issue, Robin. :-)

Ken Ellis

"Refute all lies!" - Pablo Neruda

 

3-10-01

Li'l Joe wrote:

> I think we have fundamental agreement on the basic
> question - the working day and its reduction as a
> transitional demand - this is a class demand that
> will reduce conflicts among workers as workers by
> eliminating unemployment. To get workers to agree
> with this, in the context of the struggle to build
> the labour party, will move us in the direction
> of a class conscious class for-itself.

Good thinking, Joe.

> I accept your clarifications. For me to isolate this
> or that point of contention would be both egotistical
> petty bickering and esoteric. Glad to have you on the list.

Thank you for the warm welcome. It's good to be here. We have had quite
a discussion over the past few days, and it's good to see so many people
interested in the idea of sharing what little work that remains to be 'usurped'
by computers, robots and technology. The next few decades are going to make
real humanitarians out of the working class as we fight against the tendency
of the bosses to hire fewer and fewer of us to perform the remaining work.

When it comes to the issue of a shorter work week vs. socialism, feel free
to ask questions. It took years of hard work and internal struggle for me to
figure it out, and I'm more than happy to share what I've learned. The same
way sharing work is a humanitarian endeavor, so is the educational effort
to convince everyone of its logic.

All my best,
Ken Ellis

 

3-10-01

Li'l Joe asked:

> On the "overproduction", or the deliberate stock-piles
> by capitalists in opposition to labour organizing as a
> cause of the Great Depression, this is new to me,
> would you please elaborate.

I may not have written it clearly enough the first time, but the stock-piles
were not deliberate. As productivity increased from 1820-1920, labor fought
for and won shorter days and work weeks in factories, trades and industries,
with no unified resistance on the part of the bosses, for everyone initially
benefited from more hours away from the factories, i.e., until the rise of the
special class of managers. Labor time reductions were especially swift from
1900-20, causing many commentators to fear for the future of work and profits,
so the bosses' resistance to further work reductions became better organized.
To prevent build-up of surpluses, bosses looked to advertising, easy credit,
immigration, and population growth to increase consumption, but it wasn't
enough, and labor warned of big problems as surpluses continued to pile up
in the 1920's. During the Depression, Government intervention in the economy
supplemented the other programs mentioned, but still, half of the work places
voluntarily adopted shorter work days and weeks in order to maximize
employment during the worst of it. Voluntary labor-time reductions
were expressions of humanitarianism.

If you read Marx and Engels, they described every economic crisis as a crisis
of over-production, occurring once a decade after 1825.

Ken Ellis

http://www.Timesizing.com

 

3-10-01

judi-ann wrote:

> Well,
> i want to say.
> " What ever happened to the  8 hour working day,
> 8 hour sleep, 8 hour leisure "  ????
>  
> judi-ann
> Australia

Well, that was good for the 19th century, but was obsolete in the USA
when it finally became law in 1940. By the time of the Depression,
Labor was demanding the 30 hour week, but instead got 40. :-(

Best Wishes,
Ken Ellis

'Refuse to work overtime for less than double time.'

 

3-10-01

D Fabian wrote:

> So I jump in in the middle of the discussion, but I can't help asking,
> what social programs?

As the PBS-BBC etiquette maven Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced Bouquet)
might ask: "Shouldn't that be 'WHICH social programs'?" ;-)

Let's see, social programs: In my home town, we have the local 'Department
of Transitional Assistance', otherwise known as Welfare; fuel assistance;
Medicaid; Medicare; drug rehab programs; SSI; SSDI; WIC; Head Start;
and those are just a few off the top of my head. If I wanted to research the
issue, I am sure that the list of social programs could fill a whole page.

> Incidentally, there are two primary reasons behind the failure of
> social programs in general. One is that social programs became
> a system whereby American taxpayers supported a massive
> bureaucracy, and there simply wasn't much money left for the poor.

You are right. I've known activists who advocated social programs simply
because they expected themselves and their parties to climb to positions of
administering those programs. In a world of scarce jobs, they wanted to
feather their nests the only way they knew how. Pretty creative, eh?

Ken Ellis

-------------------------------
"Live working or die fighting."
-------------------------------

"The watchword of the modern proletariat" that the silk winders of Lyons
inscribed upon their banner during their strike (From Marx's 1869 "Report
on the Basle Congress
").

 

3-10-01

Joan replied:

> What would work better? First of all, a program that looks at all pieces
> of society and at current conditions -- it is not as simple as any one thing.
> To make an analogy, I would have to discuss the problem of school violence.
> Do television, music, and video games affect kids? probably. Do schools
> ignore bullying? probably. Do parents neglect their kids? probably. Do kids
> pick on others? probably. Are some genetically predisposed to violence?
> probably. There are any number of causes for a problem, and to try and
> come up with one thing to cure all of them would be
ridiculous.

Sounds pretty complicated. Not all of us have the doctorates needed to weigh
the elements of complex programs.

> I also addressed this in other posts --
> the
trouble with having leisure time without
> having had the chance to learn how to use it.

Don't ordinary people already know how to use more leisure time? Maybe
the ones who don't think so are the ones who already have the time, and the
wealth to enjoy it, and maybe want to keep things that way.

> <snip>
>
> Joan: My ideas about change, well that is such a broad topic that you would
> have to narrow it down. I have many ideas in many areas, and it would be
> impossible to try and tackle them all at once. It would take quite awhile
> to write that book, lol.

I wish you had named a few. We still have time. Let me plant a little thought:
One activist I knew in the SF Bay Area likened social issues to a kind of
'logjam', and he wanted to know: 'Which of the issues is the KEY issue -
the successful dealing with which would generate movement on all of the
other issues?
' Do you ever regard social issues in the same manner?

> Why don't you tell me what specific things you're interested in,
> and I'll tell you what I think. As for a shorter work week, I think
> it could be good, but shortening it significantly would require a lot
>
more stuff to be happening to make it really work in the manner one
> would like it to. Playing around with ideas, of course, is always good.
>
> Sincerely, Joan

Thanks. When I became a socialist some 30 years or so ago, one of the
things that attracted me was the notion of us somehow getting to classless
and stateless society. Later on, I learned that many other socialists, communists
and anarchists also had the same goal, but their methods fell into 3 distinct camps,
and each of their methods excluded the other two, preventing cooperation between
them. Activists can't simultaneously create a workers' state while replacing the state
with a classless, stateless administration of things, and reformers of the existing
state can't go along with either revolutionary program. That spells 'division'.

Militantly forcing down the length of the work week (to zero hours) is another
way to get to classless and stateless society, but it doesn't involve meddling with
state and property to arrive there, so it doesn't divide people along sectarian lines.
Activists may someday learn to appreciate the simplicity of dealing with labor time
instead of with government and property. Let me know what you think, and then
we can take this further if you'd like.

Ken Ellis

In a Jan. 27, 1887, letter to Florence Kelly, Engels wrote: "Our theory is a theory
of evolution, not a dogma to be learnt by heart and to be repeated mechanically.
"

 

3-10-01

D Fabian wrote:

> Just a note, open to disagreement: I don't know which few million rejected
> socialism a decade ago. We did see the collapse of communism in Russia,

Of the 6 billion people in the world, it would seem that about half a billion
fell out of the sphere of communist control a decade ago, when practically all
of East Europe and the USSR divorced themselves from Communist Party
control of their states. Milosevic in Serbia was the last to go, but he isn't
really gone yet, though greatly diminished in power.

> but communism was an entirely different critter, evolving to the point of
> serving the "haves" while oppressing the "have nots". The people there
> experienced the same thing an entire (and growing) segment of our (U.S.)
> population is seeing today: a system that keeps the poor in poverty, no
> matter how hard the work and "play by the rules". It's a system of
> futility. The Soviet Union simply had this on a much greater scale.

When Europeans failed in 1917 to adequately support the Russian Revolution
by having long lasting revolutions of their own, that spelled the end of the road
for Marxism, which depended upon the simultaneous overthrow of the last of
the rotten-ripe monarchies in Europe, and orchestrating the resulting new
democracies into a grand unified proletarian dictatorship, which would
then have the power to socialize ownership without compensation. The
democratization of European countries at their own pace, and often without
violent revolution, meant that the Marxist scenario of divorcing the rich from
their property had to have been unsuitable for the temperament of Western
hemisphere people, which is also where private property first took solid root.
This history also meant that whatever kind of 'communism' that arose in
isolated countries could only end up being a crude caricature of Marx's
vision, which is why things turned out so badly in the so-called communist
countries. Because so many countries have already experienced a huge wave
of rejection of 'communism', that means that all other 'communist' countries are
fated to reject it eventually as well. If activists would look at history from this
perspective, they would understand how futile is the struggle for any form of
property redistribution in the West, and why activists should learn to direct
their energies toward work-reduction programs that more befit Western
conditions of democracy and high productivity.

> The sad fact is, they aren't better off,
> and many are far worse off, under capitalism.

That's correct. Eastern Europe and the CIS didn't grow up with as many
democratic traditions, so corruption and tax evasion are now rampant, and the
situation resembles what some people call 'gangster capitalism'. I certainly don't
have any quick and easy solutions for their problems. If we could agree on a plan
for our problems, and if we could take a step toward implementation, then our
successes would probably have positive implications for the rest of the world.

Ken Ellis

One for all, and all for one!

 

3-10-01

Joan wrote:

> I'm sure you probably argue with me a lot on the e-mails I sent regarding
> this issue, of the shorter working day as a means to give everyone a job.
> Though it sounds like a nice idea, I have a huge concern in that
it isn't so
> simple
. New jobs are created every day, and if there is no one to fill them,
> that would cause all kinds of problems for production and growth. Many
> employers find it hard as it is to find employees.

I wonder why any activists would possibly want to put themselves in a position
of being interpreted as advocates of economic growth. With all of the growth
that has already occurred, and with all of the problems we still have, climbing
onto a growth treadmill doesn't seem like a viable option.

Imagine industrial life 20-30 years from now: All of the low wage jobs are
gone, automated burger flippers and janitorial services are fully automated,
and the only thing left are jobs on the level of lawyers, brain surgeons, politicians,
scientists and insurance salespeople, etc. If we don't change our 40 hour mentalities,
we could maybe set up the masses in front of computer screens with joysticks
controlling giant earth-moving machines, and they could spend their whole lives
moving the Rockies to where the Appalachians are, and then moving the Appalachians
to where the Rockies are, and vice versa. In other words, at some point in the evolution
of increasing productivity, we are going to have to make some fundamental changes in
our work habits. The sooner the better, unless we forever think that wasted effort and
wasted resources are viable means to create jobs.

> I think a much larger and more immediate problem is the low wage which many
> are paid. Do you know how much money you make at $5.85 an hour working
> 40-hour weeks? It's a little over $7,000 a year. You can hardly rent a room and
> feed yourself for that, let alone pay car insurance or support any dependents, or
> save for the future. And minimum wage is only $5.25. If there is one issue that
> people like us should unite behind is a living wage.

A living wage is a good issue to pay attention to. Just a few years ago, Madison
(Wisconsin) experienced some kind of economic boomlet, and labor became very
scarce. Wages shot up to nearly double the minimum wage. That kind of scarcity
of labor that has the power to raise wages is what we activists should be thinking
about encouraging and making permanent. Then we wouldn't have to worry about
writing laws to set minimum wages. Amending labor time laws to create a labor
shortage would raise wages for the entire lower tier of workers. In other words, I
don't think we should prioritize the bosses' profits as high as we should prioritize
'full participation in the economy'.

Ken Ellis

Old 19th century doggerel: "Whether you work by the piece or work by the day,
decreasing the hours increases the pay.
"

 

3-10-01

Joan wrote:

> It is somewhat ironic that the independence of thought that gives people
> strength, noticeable as human beings, also makes us weak as a group --
> because there are so many independent thoughts, how could any group
> stay united behind anything more than a small, specific proposal?

That's the beauty part of concerned activists supporting simple amendments to
the Fair Labor Standards Act. Right now, it sets hours of labor at 'time and a half
after 40
'. 'Double time after 35' would put more people to work, simultaneously
reducing people's dependence upon social programs, and reduce crime and
desperation. Other specific proposals along those lines could include a minimum
3 or 4 week paid vacation per year; earlier retirement with full benefits, as in
Norway; more paid holidays and time off; paid sabbaticals; bringing more people
under the purview of the FLSA; or anything else we can think of to reduce the
glut of labor in the labor market. These are specific proposals activists could
work on that would directly benefit the lowest classes.

> I hope that through groups like this we can come to some understanding
> of what common ground we do all have and move from there -- it is
> slow, inefficient, but in the end the only way. But I don't think
> we should be looking for any lightning strikes... - Joan

Well stated. It will take a bit of intellectual labor on the part of every activist
in order to make true progress. The USA has never been poised on this exact
same precipice: We stand on the threshold of a new age of brilliantly intelligent
technology making all human labor redundant in the next few decades. If we can't
find a humanitarian solution to the problem of the inevitable mass unemployment
that will result from a willy-nilly heartless application of technology, then we will
set ourselves up for all kinds of doomsday and Brave New World scenarios. It's
an exciting age for any activist to be plunged into, for our solution will require
mass involvement. We should try to imagine programs that the broad masses
of people can both understand and support. Most people understand how to
read the clock on the wall, and most are ready to jump ship at the appointed
hour. That's how simple we should keep our solution.

Ken Ellis

One for all, and all for one!

 

3-10-01

D Fabian wrote:

> Refuse over-time at less than double pay? Most of the working class today
> simply doesn't have that option.

Well, I wasn't talking in that instance about trying to help workers in Bolivia
or Persia, etc. I live in the USA, and I think that double time would help American
workers. If double time could be successful in the USA, then maybe workers
in other countries would get interested in copying our success.

'Refuse to work overtime for less than double time' is certainly an option
for American workers, if they were to get organized enough to push for that
amendment. It would be an American solution to the problem of 'too-cheap
overtime premiums' that don't really do a good-enough job of discouraging
overwork. What with the high cost of fringe benefits and insurances, a mere
time and a half premium makes it easy for bosses to keep the same old people
busting their humps for many more hours than 40. Double time would make
bosses more interested in hiring fresh faces. Wouldn't the resulting fuller
participation redound to the benefit of the whole working class?

Best Wishes,
Ken Ellis

'Refuse to work overtime for less than double time.'

 

3-10-01

Jakks added:

> Ken:
>
> Here is a good resource for intentional communities..
>
> Fellowship for Intentional Community.
> Communities Directory & Communities Magazine
> Route 1 - Box 155
> Rutledge Mo. 63563
>
> They will send you quite a bit of information.
> And you can search the internet under Intentional
> Communities to find many as well.

Thanks for the leads. I'll look up some Intentional Communities
the next time I go on line.

Ken Ellis

 

3-11-01

D Fabian wrote:

> Ken: Hopefully, you noticed how nicely the former governor resolved these
> problems. To lower wages, you must increase competition for jobs. So welfare
> was repealed. W2 includes a "catch" that enables a social service agency/the
> state to "take indefinite custody" of the children of anyone who loses a job and
> ends up homeless. So how to get enough jobs? Newest trend in Wisconsin:
> break full-time, family supporting jobs into part-time, minimum wage, no benefits
> jobs. I'm sure you've been reading about all the lay-offs. Check out those businesses.
> What you are almost certain to find is that the workers who lost their jobs were often
> replaced by "W2 labor". This sudden creation of a very large, inexpensive, obedient
> workforce makes it much, much easier to get rid of employees who are "uncooperative",
> who demand decent wages and working conditions, etc. Workers had a voice ONLY
> when companies feared losing them. Now, most workers have lost all leverage. As
> much as the average person hates to think about it, the fact is that the great majority
> of jobs take very little training, and most workers are easily replaced. There is now
> a generous supply of individuals who are desperate for any job.

You tell a heart-breaking tale. Any chance of dumping Gov. Thompson in an upcoming election?

Ken Ellis

'Double time, or no overtime at all.'

 

3-11-01

Jakks replied:

> Dear Ken and Members:
>
> I will look up some addresses and web-sites for you.
> Perhaps some international ones as well. Only I'll have
> to get to later... Sorry. I can tell you that of course, most
> of them lean heavily on socialistic tendencies in their
> ideologies. Common ownership being most important...

From what I can see from the Internet, there must be thousands
and thousands of people involved in Intentional Communities all
over the place. Millions and millions would be a better number for
the sake of the ideology, but I haven't seen any figures on annual
growth yet. Does their growth outpace population growth in general?

> Absolutely - The poverty poor do not have much of a voice
> without the aid of cooperative ventures in mutual interests.
> The upper-working classes have gained us some advantages,
> by seeking their own agendas, and supporting ours. Although
> what does trickle down to the land of poverty is far from enough.
> All I can say is Thanks... to all who make the effort and attempts.
> You'll never know just how much it means, when in effect one
> is basically invisible.
>
> Ken, I believe the majority you are referring to are those
> who have benefited from capitalism in the US and western
> societies, and yes, I would agree with your statement that
> as long as the system is working as well as it does for
> them, they will see no need for an alternative that would
> include a complete giving up of that system, only perhaps
> some reforms. But - The majority of the world's population
> have suffered from capitalism. I will ask - are you assuming
> that capitalism has reduced the levels of poverty?

A lot of people certainly have suffered, but look at the numbers
of those who have benefited as well. Think about 'the typical
American lifestyle', that broad mass of middle class life that
stretches from sea to shining sea that is pictured on TV and in
the press, with all of the goodies that surround us. Rich or poor,
we sure have a lot more 'stuff' to play with in the West.

This is not to dismiss the poverty that we know exists and which
we see much of the time. The splendor of the upper half doesn't
mean that 1 out of 6 California kids don't go hungry, or that millions
don't go homeless. But, what we have is a far cry from yesteryear.

Having seen a lot of TV shots of the world's citizens over the
years, it looks as though things have changed dramatically for
the world's citizens as well. Compare their dress with newsreels
of 50 years ago, for example. Gone is the native dress in exchange
for Western style shirts and trousers. It's a changing world, for sure.
As long as people see themselves and their communities going
forward instead of backward, then it's for sure that not too many
are going to try to make capitalism go away anytime soon.

> Just because the poor in the US can afford, while being
> on welfare or working themselves to death, a T.V. ?
> [Keeping in mind that this is not so for so many of the
> others in the world... And not even a remote possibility...]

Compare newsreels of Mexico from 50 years ago as well. Even
Central American countries. I'm amazed at the changes I've seen
in the past 30 years. Everyone wants to copy rich Americans.

> Ken - I am over 40... being a woman, the most your
> getting out of me is that I am 40ish... : )

I will all too soon turn 58. Where oh where did my youth vanish to? :-(

> Your right - lower-middle class would be a dream come true for
> the poverty poor. And capitalism can afford for the aggressively
> competitive an avenue to obtain more, when they are starting
> from a position of inherited advantage or are just lucky enough.
> If you look at the stats this is still a very small minority ...
> in comparison to the world's population.

Like I always say, there's nothing in the West that goes so far
wrong that couldn't be fixed by a few well-placed reforms. The
historical purpose of revolution, on the other hand, was to bring
democracy and independence to where it didn't exist before.
Makes me wonder why I spent 22 years as a revolutionary myself
... Oh, well, we all make mistakes. Can we learn from them?

> No ... I am not a reporter, but I do investigate.
> The various jobs I have held have taken me into
> other countries for differing reasons. And because
> I have just as big a mouth as I do big ears... : )

[Here's where I snipped and welded two messages together - K.E.]

> Of course, I agree that the majority of Americans do not
> live in poverty, although I do claim that the majority of the
> world lives in poverty, and I don't see that capitalism can
> offer any real solution to this problem.

Not too often can we do anything about events in other countries.

> In the US, the figures that we are speaking of would be
> much higher than they are if deregulation ever did actually
> happen, and I think the number is fairly high as it stands.

Pardonnez moi - what are we deregulating?

> I have access to some figures:
> In 1993, 15% of all men and women age 18 and over held
> incomes below the poverty level. Which we all should know
> that the poverty level is inaccurate and a joke. I suspect that
> if we truly wanted to hold a realistic assumption of what the
> poverty level should be, then that 15% could easily become
> 25%. And of course this figure cannot account for all
> americans that have little income whatsoever. We simply
> do not measure accurately how many are homeless, and
> it does not factor in those persons responsible for
> themselves under the age of 18.

No doubt that the poverty exists. The question remains as to what
to do about it. I've been arguing against the overwork of those with
full time jobs since last May. 'Double time, or no overtime at all'
should be on the lips of every full time worker who wants to do
something real about the plight of the under-employed.

> And with the Reagan, Clinton and Bush administration
> policy of enacted roll-backs and cut-backs I'd say the
> figures are going to continue to rise substantially.

We could easily adopt work-sharing measures to put everyone
to work, and the resulting labor shortage would raise wages for
the entire bottom tier. Ugly competition for scarce jobs is all
that we would have to give up.

> But I do understand your view, and thanks for pointing it out.
>
>
<snip incontestable world poverty observations>
>
> I am not sure that you have convinced me that those
> Americans who don't condone socialism are not just
> being fooled, and that their fears are unjustly warranted.

In my book, I recount how (when I was quite young) it seemed
like everyone and every institution was lying to me. Their lies
made it easy for me to reject them all, and to later open myself
to accept the truths of socialist ideology. But, I also later found
out that my own socialist party was lying to me. That was a
devastating blow, as covered in the first two chapters.

> <snip>
>
> Also - I was referring to Robin with his sympathy
> towards allowing those with a personal view towards
> religion being accepted. I happen to agree with his
> logic on that issue, but I also understand we could
> go off and form yet another branch if we so chose
> to, as was suggested. Its just that I believe the
> strength of unity and solidarity is a very
> important concern as well.

I forgot to mention - I'm not a member. Since 1994, I've known
that I could never again become part of an organized socialist
movement. I stumbled across this forum last May, and have
had many an interesting dialogue.

> Thanks for your comments.. I'll go visiting now... Jakks.

My pleasure. Thanks for your contribution to the debate.
Be sure to tell me your solution to the muddle we are all in.

Ken Ellis

"As for myself, my dear General, you know that it's enough to be
a Marxist and Engelsist to stay young forever!
" ... From a January
2, 1893 Letter from Laura (Marx) Lafargue to Engels.

 

3-11-01

[Allow me to take this opportunity to correct a too-quick
assumption. The Swiss unfortunately did not change from a
42 to a 36 hour week, for their lower house of Parliament just
tossed out the proposal. More about that can be found at:
http://www.Timesizing.com/1gtscase.htm under 3/09/2001.]

John Davies wrote:

> Yes - less hours a week is a great thought, I'm all for it. But
> tell my bosses who prefer us to cut lunch times, start earlier
> and finish later - and perhaps work Saturdays and reduce the
> number of wage slaves working for them. And this in the cozy
> environment of local government. Working 35 - 36 hours a
> week is still exploitation nay, employment, is exploitation.

I must apologize if exploitation would continue to exist after the
passage of the amendments I propose. I must also apologize for not
changing my mind if an expression of mere impatience with slow
changes isn't sufficient to convince me to stop supporting them. I'd
be glad to consider a swifter solution if the suggestion were good
enough. Let us in on your plan so that we can think about it.

Respectfully,

Ken Ellis

In a Dec. 28, 1886, letter to Florence Kelley, Engels wrote:
"The great thing is to get the working class to move as a class;
that once obtained, they will soon find the right direction
... "

 

3-12-01

D Fabian wrote:

> You must live in a big city.

100,000 is sort of medium size.

> I know there is no general assistance or AFDC.

Doesn't every place in the USA have that?

> I would hope that people wouldn't be in opposition
> to such aid as SSI, which provides the means for
> survival outside of institutions for the fully disabled.

I don't think anyone in this forum opposes any of those programs, for, in the
absence of anything better, those programs are necessary as stop-gaps and band-
aids. I just hope that not too many people get the idea that, just because such
programs solve half of our our problems, that the solution therefore is simply
to double the number of programs. Maybe they would still like to double them
if they also didn't mind their taxes doubling as well. But, with our present tax
burdens and levels of tax rebellion, clearly a separate, non-taxing mechanism for
solving our social problems is needed. We can't tax and spend our way to paradise.

> I think you forgot Social Security: most Americans use far more
> than they ever put in, thereby making it a welfare program. Hmm,
> now I wonder, just what is a welfare program? Isn't it benefits of any
> sort provided by taxpayer dollars, such as police and fire protection?
> How about medical care/insurance? There's a pretty good chance that
> the medical care a person needs will cost more than he ever paid in
> premiums, making this welfare. Head Start is no more of a welfare
> program than any other public school.

Maybe you are right about Head Start, and maybe I erred in
throwing it in with the others. If so, thanks for pointing it out.

> What you said about knowing activists who advocated
> social programs because, in fact, they wanted to be at
> the head of these programs, simply doesn't ring true.

Not necessarily always the HEAD of them, because we can't all be chiefs, but
that was my experience from my association with Social-Democratic members
of various parties I've known over the years. Sorry if it doesn't ring true to you,
but it's just my impression, and it's consistent with the 'tax and spend' Social-
Democratic tendencies of many New Deal Democrats and Social Democrats
I've known over the years. Government jobs of one sort or another is a very
big part of their thinking, but our economies and ideologies can only support
so many government jobs.

> These programs are headed by standard bureaucrats.
> Heading some sort of social program is certainly not
> going to put you or your party into a position of power.

No one was talking about elevating people or parties to power as much as it
was intended to put people to work, in or out of the government, and thereby
improving the percentage of participation in the economy. Coming to power
is an extra special bonus that not too many people can aspire to, but ALL of
us need to find satisfactory slots in the economy.

> The administrators are not the ones who make/made
> the decisions concerning allocation of funds, etc. That is
> determined by the governor and the legislature. The area
> of social services was probably the LEAST influential of
> all the possible power-seeking positions available, and
> while any good-paying job will benefit a person, this
> position has no direct connection to political parties,
> and could in no way benefit a party. The head of any
> social service department is still required to "play by
> all the rules" set by the legislature. He is, put simply, a
> well-paid paper-pusher, and nothing more. So I would
> have to say that the advocates you knew who thought they
> were going to find a way to use the position to promote their
> own agenda were sorely disappointed. The social service
> administrator either agrees with the decisions of the governor
> of his state, keeps his mouth closed, or loses his job.

Thank you for the civics lesson. It meets with my experience as well,
and the ones who don't play by the rules you outlined are often hauled
before the courts, or otherwise come under the glare of the public eye.

Ken Ellis

-------------------------------
"Live working or die fighting."
-------------------------------

"The watchword of the modern proletariat" that the silk winders of Lyons
inscribed upon their banner during their strike (From Marx's 1869 "Report
on the Basle Congress
").

 

3-12-01

D Fabian wrote:

> Actually, as a not-young person, my experiences have shown that diversity of
> ideas can be very healthy for any organized or semi-organized group. The point
> is to have the same goal, and recognize that there can be more than one way to
> achieve an objective. In any sort of activist situation in which I've been involved,
> the problems almost inevitably stemmed from at least one person going on a
> strange ego-trip, insisting more and more that his way was the only way. In
> response, people find him increasingly obnoxious, tempers flare, egos duel,
> and the group falls apart. Activism is a very serious commitment, and
> requires one to put aside such things as ego for the sake of the cause.

You raise some very good points. One of the things I noticed in various
groups - if an organization is financially viable at all, and if someone can
make a living by being on top, then it doesn't matter how ostensibly noble
the organization's goal, it often starts out or takes on the form of an
intransigent bureaucracy, is secretive in internal affairs, and is very
watchful and censorious of the words of its members. That renders the
organization rather rigid and unchangeable, and essentially worthless to
the lower classes. Then you get all of these groups that are run like little
businesses, claiming that their business is better than the others, and they
compete for the favors of gullible followers. It took me years to figure out
that's how my first revolutionary group was being run, so I never joined
another revolutionary group. As Marx pointed out when he founded the
First International, history in the early 1860's had 'come around to smash
sectarianism
', and history just might do us the favor again.

Ken Ellis

Engels wrote: "Are we demanding free speech for ourselves,
only to abolish it again in our own ranks?
"

 

3-12-01

D Fabian wrote:

> There has been a long list of policies established over the past 20 years
> that have busted unions, lowered wages, reduced workers' rights among the
> working class. At this point, people are afraid to do anything about it. If you
> have children, you simply can't risk losing your job. What if you can't find
> another job right away? What if you get blacklisted? If you choose (for
> example) not to work overtime, the boss is there to remind you that there
> are plenty of people---a drawer full of applications---eager to do your job.
> I would guess that things are different among the "professional class", but
> when you're supporting a family on today's manufacturing/service wages,
> when your children are depending on you, you can't take that risk. Those
> who are caught in low-wage work certainly don't have money to "stash
> away" for a rainy day.

Again, your wisdom is manifold. One of the things I've often asked myself
and others, "How do we create a moral society?" I.e., a society that does the
right thing by its members, the planet, other countries, etc. How can we do
the right thing when we are paid to do wrong things? Worse yet, if we don't
agree with the wrong things we are asked to do, someone else in that 'drawer
full of applications', as you put it so well, will be more than willing to do the
wrong thing to other people and the planet, and will be willing to put a bullet
in the brain of a Lumumba or some other leader in the belief that it is for the
greater glory of the flag, god, or their secretive organizations.

We could, on the other hand, create a moral society if we could create
the kind of artificial scarcity of labor that would give labor the freedom of
choosing to boycott useless, dangerous or detrimental kinds of occupations.
A militant and chronic scarcity of labor would enable the workers in that land-
mine factory out in the mid-West to actually boycott their jobs, blockade the
factory, and shut down that operation for all time. Workers would figuratively
be able to walk off their jobs tomorrow without fear of economic hardship, if
today we were to refuse to work overtime for less than double time, and if we
were to drive down the length of the work-week until places could be found for
everyone who wants to work, including the ones who walk off the jobs that are
just too rotten for any moral person to do.

Ken Ellis

Old 19th century doggerel: "Whether you work by the piece or work by the day,
decreasing the hours increases the pay.
"

 

3-12-01

Shawn Meades wrote:

> One thing I think we should all recognize is that so far, there hasn't been
> a real Socialist country. Those who call themselves communists, are really
> the power hungry authoritarians who messed up the soviet Union when
> Stalin took over.
>
> This website:
http://www.geocities.com/redencyclopedia/vocab.htm
>
> should show a diagram of the different types of socialism. Communism is an
> umbrella term for the forms that are found to the left, and lower part of your
> screen. i.e. Leninism, Trotskyism, maybe De Leonism, Euro-Communism
> for sure, I guess Castroism but from what I hear that's pretty authoritarian-
> like. They gave a different definition though.
>
> Authoritarians are found to the bottom and right of the diagram:
> i.e. Titoism, Maoism, Stalinism, Kimism/Hoxhaism
>
> The ones near the top generally use Socialism as the umbrella term, though
> the term applies to all these forms.

Very interesting table/chart. Thanks for pointing it out.

It's true that Marx's vision of socialism has never been realized on anyone's
profane soil yet. His lower phase of communist society is a rather hopeless
dream by now, but I do think that there is hope for reaching his upper phase
of classless and stateless society if we don't blow ourselves up before we get
there. For more on that idea, see the article at my web site entitled:
"Replacing Broken Socialist Dreams".

Ken Ellis

 

3-12-01

Hi, Chuck,

> Neat, I am in a number of clubs on Yahoo, actually, including
> "Liquidate the State." What is RBG Alliance all about?

It's a bunch of reds and greens, and something called blues, but I'm not
sure what a blue* is. I guess they are trying to find some unity on issues.
It's a pretty civilized discussion, for the most part. Much better than the
'down with capitalism' yahoo forum I lurked for awhile without saying
a peep. Too much infantilism on that one for me.

*2002 note: 'blue' refers to 'blue collar' workers.

Good to hear from you. See you in cyberspace. :-)

Ken Ellis

-------------------------------
"Live working or die fighting."
-------------------------------

"The watchword of the modern proletariat" that the silk winders of Lyons
inscribed upon their banner during their strike (From Marx's 1869 "Report
on the Basle Congress
").

 

3-12-01

Ben wrote:

> Hi everyone!
>
> Hi Ken!
>
> Three points from your last contribution:
>
>> That opinion is still in the minority. If capitalism still works well
>> for so many people, can they be expected to want to adopt a
>> different system that may not work as well for them?
>
> As Jakks was arguing (and I agree) - actual support
> for capitalism (as opposed to passive resignation to its
> continuance) is NOT so overwhelming as you suggest.

I accept your distinction. It's not capitalism as much as private
property that people are crazy about, but when the length of the
work week finally gets so low that wage labor is replaced with
volunteers, and capitalism as we've known it evaporates, and
benefits no longer accrue to property owners, then no one is
going to pick a fight to 'preserve capitalism', except maybe for a
few alienated die-hards on the fringes who might want to form
their own capitalist communes (now THERE's an oxymoron) to
get away from all of the socialism they will be surrounded with. :-)

> And, as Jakks pointed out with some force, capitalism
> is
NOT working well for most people. Will socialism
> work well for them, for us? Well - at least WE will be
> in control and will have the choices.

Replacing wage labor with volunteers, in the future, will mark the
start of the era of socialism working very well for everyone, except
for the few who run off to their 'capitalist communes', or should
we say 'retreats'.

Now there's a scenario to parody. The same people who
presently laugh at the ones who run off to form intentional
communities may very well be the same ones in a few decades
who will be running off to gather in 'capitalist retreats'. I can just
see it now: They'll build a big factory, institute a 16 hour work-day,
and a 96 hour work-week. Naturally, their Puritan work-ethic will
drive the good people to take the Sabbath. No benefits or health
care plans, and they will hold gladiator tournaments in a stadium
to determine who will be lucky enough to win the long-hour jobs
in the factory, leaving the others to live lives of deprivation. They
will give the factory owner control over the press and every other
institution in town, and they will bow down to HIM (of course)
everywhere he goes. :-)

>> As it is, not enough middle class people
>> can be convinced that capitalism has to go.
>
> The "middle class" rises again! Who are these people
> by the way? Are they dependent on wages and salaries,
> do they have to sell their labour power to make a living?
> If yes, then they are surely working class (if this term is
> to mean anything). This whole "middle class" thing is a
> masterpiece of capitalist divide and rule ideology -
> encouraging sections of the working class to perceive
> that they have a (non-existent) class interest separate
> from that of the "working class" as they see them.
> That many on the ultra left and the anarchist scene
> have fallen for this one is a testament to its success.

Geez, you are right again. The 'middle class' propaganda works,
but I wonder if trying to correct that bit of nomenclature isn't
as futile as trying to 'correct' their ideas about 'communism',
'socialism' and 'anarchism'.

>> What most socialists don't want to consider: What if all
>> of those people are correct about not wanting socialism?
>
> If this is the case then we are up shit creek as far as
> the stuff we are talking about now goes. You have
> said you are in favour of abolishing capitalism.

Dang! You are right again. I should have said 'correct about not
wanting to abolish capitalism'. Mistakes like this are what we get
unless I edit carefully for at least a week. I was a little distracted
that week with a toothache. Ouch! But, it's all gone now.

> You see militant action for shorter working time as
> the best strategy for abolishing capitalism through
> making the wages system an absurdity. So, if we are
> agreed
we want to bring about the end of capitalism,
> what is going to take its place if not socialism?

You are right, you know you are right, and I slipped up.
No more slip-ups! (Until the next time.) :-)

> If we don't advance to socialism (the moneyless,
> stateless, classless set-up you and us want to see)
> then we are stuck in capitalism. But then I would
> have to disagree that
the majority of people are
> consciously AGAINST socialism. They may not
> be actively FOR it, but that's a different matter.

You got that right, Bro'. You are a thinker. You have followed
my arguments so well that you can say them better than I can,
at least this time. Gosh, what a frightening thought! - That there
might be some internal consistency to my logic that other people
might be able to follow! Let's try not to let this happen again. ;-)

> Cheers!
>
> For working class power and world socialism,
>
> Ben.

My pleasure!

Bro'Ken

As Engels concluded a letter: "vogue la galere!" [And let it rip!]

 

3-13-01

Tom wrote:

> One of the great missing pieces in the SWT puzzle is the history of AFL-
> CIO strategy in the 1950s and 1960s. A glance at some of the publications
> from 1957-1962 suggests almost a sense of inevitability about the continued
> reduction of the work week. As we know, it didn't happen.

The way our society is heading, it sometimes seems as though we will work and
work our fingers to the bone for as long as the robots aren't perfect enough to do
everything by themselves. Then, one fine day, we may wake up one morning and find
that there is absolutely nothing left to do but goof off, if we can still remember how. :-)

Ken Ellis

 

3-13-01

Mike wrote in part in #2148:

> While I STRONGLY agree that a "living wage" should be part of the life
> agenda, and reduction of the work week is part of the discussion, other people
> (a Mr. Ellis [or is it Doctah?] has been the "point man" on this agenda item.

Though I am a homeopath, I have at times signed my name: Ken Ellis, N.A.D. It
has the advantage of appearing impressive, but the N.A.D. means: 'Not A Doctor'. :-)

> With respect to that, I have written the following, previously, I will paraphrase:
>  
> The problem with Capitalist (remember as distinguished from capitalists)
> work/social programs (i.e. Republican/Democrat) is that they allocate money
> to create capital expansion for owners and jobs for working people. My
> proposals are concerned with doing more than that, that is making (relatively?)
> equal equity opportunities in the means of production and in improved living
> environments for ALL people.

Driving down the length of the work week is another way to create employment
opportunities for all people without resorting to wasteful capital expansion or
'taxing and spending'. I just wanted to clarify this one point, for I would hate
for people to mistakenly get the impression that my program would in any
way mean either yukky economic growth, or a waste of resources.

> working for peace and cooperation,
>  
> Mike Morin

Same on this end,

Ken Ellis

Old 19th century doggerel: "Whether you work by the piece or work by the day,
decreasing the hours increases the pay.
"

 

3-13-01

Jakks wrote:

> Ken, and Members:
>
> Well, as far as the growth factor, I couldn't comment other
> than to say that many new communities are forming all the
> time. Perhaps - I would be able to look up the information
> on where it was that I read that figure I quoted to you, about
> the 38,000 and 146,000. I can't remember off the top of my
> head, but it seems to me that it came from an alternative
> publisher, like South-End or something... Sorry, it's been
> awhile. And of course, I am not implying that the communities
> are the whole of my estimate that 3/4 of the world's population
> believes in a need for socialism.

It's good to see people finding alternative ways to live. If as many
of the world's people believe in socialism, though, then maybe they
would have tried a little harder to hang onto what little they had in
Russia and Eastern Europe. Or, was it first necessary to give up the
low-quality version before they could take up the high-quality version?

> How many people live in China, Africa, India? How many of
> them are not considered poverty poor? In comparison to the
> few with any kind of wealth? South America?

It's true that much of the world lives in poverty. But, if the
under-developed world hadn't also experienced big productivity
gains, their population could not have grown so quickly. While
the North experienced real growth in wealth for the majority, the
South experienced growth in population instead of wealth. I'm
not saying that the situation is the fault of the South, nor that the
North didn't play a role in the underdevelopment of the South.
It's just the way it turned out, and we little people have had little
control over the policies that helped it to turn out that way.

> As far as the TV shots of poor people wearing clothes
> and such.. Well, I'd say that stands on pretty weak grounds.
> I will have to return to that tonight, perhaps.

Don't worry too much about it. It may not have been the most
convincing statement I ever made.

> As far as not denying that poverty exist. You were
> questioning the amounts of poverty levels in the US, which
> I did give you a reasonable amount - roughly 25% ... I'd say
> that's way too high for such a rich country, wouldn't you?

Guaranteed. You and I and many others are all interested in
doing something about that appalling statistic. The question
remains: What can we agree upon as a solution?

> Yes, we have consumerism, but at what cost. The toys we
> attain are at some very dear costs and we have no alternative to
> them really. A TV or health care. Well, I might be able to save
> up enough in a year to buy a TV, but I will never have enough
> for proper health care. I'd say the switch off is a poor trade.
>
> Sorry... I have to go... I will try to get back to this tonight...
> Thanks for the comments...
> Jakks.

You are right. The issue is not so much the wealth of the uppers,
but rather the needless poverty of the downers, resulting from a
bad distribution of wealth. How much of that bad distribution
of wealth results from a bad distribution of jobs? Many Social-
Democrats complain about the bad distribution of wealth, and
want to redistribute wealth and income from the well-off to the
less well-off, but what about redistributing jobs? Few comment
on that. It would be a shame if all we could do was wait for the
inevitable replacement of all human labor with machines and
robots before we came up with a mutually satisfactory solution.

Ken Ellis

 

3-13-01

Jakks wrote:

> Ben, Ken, and Members:
>
> I couldn't agree more with Ben that capitalism must go. It
> simply is
ineffective. It is too harsh and far too inadequate
> as an economical system. Even in its philosophy there are
> just too many inherent flaws for social
reality. It cannot
> last for 3 minutes without some form of interference. I
> think this is what Marx's greatest contribution was; his
> accurate analytical critique of capitalism. We could use a
> form of a mixed economy, that would prop up capitalism,
> by virtue of its social and economical reforms, something
> like we have now, but ultimately all this will accomplish is
> an even greater awareness that socialism/or something very
> similar, is the only alternative if we are to ensure all the
> citizens of a society freedom and equality?

Ben and I and many others are unified in the knowledge that
capitalism must and will go. We merely differ in the method.
Socialists want to get there by directly dealing with property
and state, while I think that the only way that we will get there
will be by merely dealing with hours of labor, and letting
property and state die a slow and unassisted natural death.
Dealing with property and state was plausible in Marx's era as
part of his scenario of simultaneously overthrowing a whole
bunch of intransigent monarchies, but the anti-property program
is proven by the march of history since 1917 to be invalid in
modern Western democracies, whose citizens treasure both
property and democracy. For a fuller development of that idea,
see the first few paragraphs of my essay at my web site entitled
"Replacing Broken Socialist Dreams".

> <snip paragraph>
>
> I understand the point that Ken made about property being
> a form of protection, and security, for some, and that it can
> be seen as a solution to resolving conflicts for some, But
> it by no means is the only solution, having no other
> alternative, and certainly it's not the best solution.

As a solution of sorts, property certainly isn't permanent. But it is
futile to try to take it away before its own good time, especially if
American Southerners were willing to fight and die to preserve as
immoral a form of property as slavery, showing that Americans
would probably be even MORE willing to die to preserve NON-
HUMAN forms of property ownership.

> Locke, and all the others that I'm sure we're familiar with,
> secured their possessions, and ensured this for all who
> owned, but you'd still have to be in a position to own
> something of value, or property, before this solution
> could even affect you. There are many propertyless,
> landless, possessionless people out there that this
> form of conflict resolution does nothing for..

Much of that appears true, but, broad ownership of homes and
businesses is regarded as a form of social justice, compared to
the days when the old feudal lords owned everything. People
want property, and the more the better. People would be much
more willing to give up some of the lousy competition in the
labor market for a tighter labor market (and the higher wages
that go along with it). We could win such a change with just
a little amendment to a little law. Amendments to laws already
occur almost every day of the year, while drastic changes to
property relations usually occur over dead bodies.

> Property rights, and all the benefits that come with those
> rights, are only for those who are in a position to own.

We should do a poll of everyone in this forum to see how many
property owners we have. I'd bet some own their own homes, and
probably some of them with the help of a mortgage. Like people say,
"there's no equity in rent." I spent half my life renting, so I know.

> If free access became a reality, I see all this fuss over
> the need for property rights as a 'non-existent' problem.

No doubt about that, but first things first. We can't put the cart before the horse.

> And perhaps as Ken stated, if we only needed to work for an hour
> a day in order to maintain a daily existence, that would provide for
> our 'needs' then I'd say that would be pretty damn good too!

Mother Earth would be grateful if we could whittle it down to that.
We may eventually.

> Bertrand Russell in his interpretation of Cole's -
>
Guild Socialism is along those lines of reasoning...
> I agree with Ben that they may not be actively seeking
> socialism out, but that doesn't negate the fact that they
> would accept it, nor would this lead one to believe that they
> do not realize the need for it, not in the silly sense, as McD
> in his attempt to negate this, or in any meaningful sense. Why
> would poor landless persons give two cents about property rights,
> when they will never in their lifetime afford to own property, by
> the very [economical] system's own methods which are the set
> standards in that society for obtaining and owning property?
>
> Jakks.

Psychologically, property for people is kind of like having
'something to show for all of their hard labor'. Once labor is
abolished in the next few decades, gone also will be the struggle
to outdo one's neighbors in acquiring property. This 'most
bourgeois country in the world
' (as Engels dubbed the USA),
is not about to do anything radical about property, especially if
it can't be shown that property hurts the lower classes, whether
or not they own any. Long hours of dull or unsatisfactory labor,
though, hurts the body, the mind, and the family. Ouch!

Ken Ellis

"The Schleswig-Holsteiners and their descendants in England
and America are not to be converted by lecturing; this pigheaded
and conceited lot must experience it in their own persons. And
this they are doing more and more from year to year, but they are
most conservative - just because America is so purely bourgeois,
has no feudal past at all, and is therefore proud of its purely
bourgeois organization - and so they will get rid of the old
traditional mental rubbish only through practical experience.
" ...
From a February 8, 1890 letter from Engels to Sorge.

"It is very characteristic of the Anglo-Saxon race and their peculiar
mode of development, that both here and in America the people who,
more or less, have the correct theory as to the dogmatic side of it,
become a mere sect because they cannot conceive that living theory
of action, of working with the working class at every possible stage
of its development, otherwise than as a collection of dogmas to be
learnt by heart and recited like a conjurers formula or a Catholic
prayer. Thus the real movement is going on outside the sect, and
leaving it more and more.
... The tenacity of the Yankees, who
are even rehashing the Greenback humbug, is a result of their
theoretical backwardness and their Anglo-Saxon contempt for all
theory. They are punished for this by a superstitious belief in every
philosophical and economic absurdity, by religious sectarianism,
and idiotic economic experiments, out of which, however, certain
bourgeois cliques profit.
" ... From a January 6, 1892 letter from
Engels to Sorge.

"It is remarkable, but quite natural, how firmly rooted are bourgeois
prejudices even in the working class in such a young country, which
has never known feudalism and has grown up on a bourgeois basis
from the beginning. Out of this very opposition to the mother country -
which is still clothed in its feudal disguise - the American worker also
imagines that the traditionally inherited bourgeois regime is something
progressive and superior by nature and for all time, a non plus ultra
[not to be surpassed]. ... It is the revolutionising of all established
conditions by industry as it develops that also revolutionises
people's minds.
" ... From a December 31, 1892 letter from
Engels to Sorge.

 

3-14-01

Dear friends of swt,

Remember our list of proposed swt legislation? I have a similar idea.
At another discussion site, a doubter couldn't think of a single reform
that could kill a lot of birds with one stone, so I started writing a list of
benefits society could reap from a shorter work week, but I couldn't
think of very many due to a chronic lack of imagination, so, I am hoping
that, off the top of your heads, you will blitz me with more benefits. As with
the first list of swt reforms, I'll volunteer to install the new proposals onto a
permanent list, and I will post the amended list to provide us all with a handy
comprehensive resource anyone can use when needed.

Labor time reductions could:

1) Put everyone to work who wants to.

2) Create the kind of shortage of labor that would force wages up.

3) Give people more time to spend in their communities, families, hobbies, etc.

4) Cost no more in taxes, and would add more people to the tax base, enabling
tax reductions.

5) Give people more confidence in 'the system', and restore social optimism.

6) Enable people to plow spare time back to 'service in the community'.

7)

I suspect that I haven't even begun to scratch the surface, so: Help!

Ken Ellis

 

3-14-01

Joan responded:

>>> <snip for brevity>
>
> Joan: I don't have a doctorate, or any other college degree for
> that matter. You don't need to fear complicated things --
only
> complicated things can solve complicated problems.

I don't think that the problem is really as complicated as it might appear,
except maybe to those who don't have the time to study it. In fact, the problem
of us not having enough time to study our social problems is symptomatic of
the nature of our problem. People don't have enough time to think about a good
solution to their problems because they spend too much time trying to make the
rich richer than their wildest dreams. Making labor scarce in the labor market
would give workers more time to think about their problems, while simultaneously
providing jobs for more people. It's like a 'pull yourself up by the bootstraps' kind
of a problem, which promises that, once we get started with the work-reduction
program, we will wonder why we didn't think of it years before.

> Use your own brain -- thinking you need some kind of degree to make you
> capable of understanding the conditions around you is only self-demeaning.

For the many who don't even have a GED, I'll bet life can be pretty confusing
at times, but my Associate's degree is all I will ever need, especially in my middle
age. But, your advice is good, IF people can find the time to analyze their problems.
I took 2 years off to write my book, but not everyone is lucky enough to be able
to make that deep a commitment to make sense of the world they live in.

>>> <snip for brevity>
>
>> Ken: Don't ordinary people already know how to use more leisure
>> time? Maybe the ones who don't think so are the ones who already
>> have the time, and the wealth to enjoy it, and maybe want to keep
>> things that way.
>
> Joan: Considering most all of the kids in this neighborhood are on
> drugs -- or if they're not high they're out smashing things and wrecking
> street signs (or ripping my ?%%$@! antenna of my ?&#$%@! car) or,
> lucky for the rest of us, gambling amongst themselves or watching TV, or
> shoplifting. If they were provided with after-school programs in elementary
> and middle school that let them explore their interests -- such as sports,
> art, science&math, literature, philosophy, language, worthwhile skills like
> woodworking and such, computers, etc. and exposed them to new things,
> they would have a lot of really good ways to use their time, for things
> they are interested in and will find much more fulfilling. Otherwise,
> more leisure time for those bums just means more vandalism.
> I think there is a need for kids to have more opportunities.

I hear your frustration. I dread the approach of summer, for it brings out all
of the noise makers. When I was growing up in the 40's and 50's, we kids also
felt as though there was nothing to do. It was a constant complaint. Maybe if
parents had more time to spend with them, kids wouldn't grow up so alienated.
We don't really have a GOOD excuse for spending as much time as we do
creating all of the surplus values and profits which only accrue to the rich,
except that 'it seems to be our only choice at the present'. One of the demands
of the old workers' parties was for the length of the work week to diminish
proportional to advances in technology. We should resurrect that demand,
and fight for its implementation before things get much more alienating.

>> <snip for brevity> 'Which of the issues is the KEY issue -
>> the successful dealing with which would generate movement
>> on all of the other issues?
' Do you ever regard social issues
>> in the same manner?
>
> Joan: I don't think there is any panacea. There is
no single issue
> that you can say boom, this will fix them all. It just
doesn't exist.
> There is no perfection -- humanity is constantly evolving. And
> only by attacking specific problems in specific ways can we
> help along that evolution in a positive direction.

You say that it might take a book to lay out all of the problems and
solutions. I wonder how much time and patience people would have
with that approach, when we already know how strapped for time
people are in their constant struggle for existence. On the other hand,

Labor time reductions could:

1) Put everyone to work who wants to.

2) Create the kind of shortage of labor that would force wages up.

3) Give people more time to spend in their communities, families, hobbies, etc.

4) Cost no more in taxes, and would add more people to the tax base, enabling tax reductions.

5) Give people more confidence in 'the system', and restore social optimism.

6) Enable people to plow back spare time to 'service in the community'.

And more, probably. I've requested colleagues in another forum
to help augment that list (if any of them have the time to do so). :-)

>>> <snip for brevity>

I'm glad that you are smart enough to be a reformer, because I found out the hard
way that revolution is out of place in existing democracies. Revolutionaries have
been lied to so badly by their own revolutionary leaders that they don't understand
that the purpose of revolution was to bring democracy and independence to where
it didn't exist before. The revolutionary content of European history was in replacing
intransigent and useless feudal monarchies with democracies. Marx thought that:
workers coming to power in a whole bunch of new Social-Democracies at the same
time would have enabled taking away the property of the rich in one fell swoop, thus
preventing counter-revolution, but history didn't happen the way Marx wanted it to
happen. But, the sobering reality of European history didn't prevent unscrupulous
business people from marketing socialist revolution in countries which hardly
have an interest in confiscation, nationalization without compensation, or the
kind of civil wars it would take to institute communism.

> Real revolution is in the consciousness of a nation and shaped by
> those who lead it. I think the left as it exists will always continue to
> be divided because there are so many who have their heads in the clouds
> and in the 1800's and ignore how far we've come. We must realize that
> change does not come overnight. Remember that no one wakes up one
> day and is suddenly a star athlete -- it takes a lot of work.

We can agree on that as well. We have a good basis for agreeing on a lot. You
don't necessarily disagree with reducing labor time as much as you might disagree
with considering it as 'the one big thing to work on'. The idea is a rather large
portion to put on anyone's plate in one sitting, and I'm not trying to force
anyone to quickly adopt an idea that was years in the making for me.

> A utopia will not exist in our lifetime -- it requires a bit more
> evolution for that. Perhaps it never will, and we can only strive
> toward it. We must have long-term goals in mind, but not at the
> expense of the present. The focus must be on immediate issues
> that affect the people living here now.

You have that right. The nice thing about reducing labor time is that it needs
to be done today, and will need to be adjusted downward for decades to come,
until labor time becomes so ridiculously short, and people become so used
to sharing work that they also become fully mentally prepared to share the
products of whatever entity creates the means of life at a time in the not-
so-distant future when people will no longer have to roll out of bed in
the morning to go out into the world to earn a living.

Ken Ellis

Old 19th century doggerel: "Whether you work by the piece or work by the day,
decreasing the hours increases the pay.
"

 

3-14-01

Hi, Chuck,

>>> I really do not want to work, no matter what I need money for, but will
>>> need it if I want to pay for music classes, etc. The thought of working is
>>> really freaking me, though. I don't want to be at a job where I have a
>>> timeclock to follow and a company logo to wear.
>
> -Yep I can relate to that more & more. When I do think of jobs the only
> type I can think of are the ones that require you to work in an office which
> just feels like prison. Get this I almost left early because I'm "sick" I couldn't
> believe that no one noticed I sound like a frog So I finally said something to
> someone and they caught my boss & you know what they said when I asked
> if they noticed my voice was different (hoarse) they said "
Oh you don't speak
> that much enough for me to notice.
"!!!! What????? I guess that must be the case.
>
> Sad........../

I read your article on the Internet. It's hard to believe that you are so young,
because you seem so mature and well-balanced. Good luck in your struggle
to evade yukky ordinary work. I felt the same way at your age, but was forced
to work at an even earlier age, which escalated my life-long disinterest in doing
anything resembling work. But, don't worry, at the rate of replacement of human
labor by machines, no one your age will be expected to do anything by the time
you get close to retirement age. If you get interested in automation in the
meantime, you might even become part of that solution. :-)

Best Wishes,
Ken Ellis

Old 19th century doggerel: "Whether you work by the piece or work by the day,
decreasing the hours increases the pay.
"

 

3-14-01

Carl quoted me:

>> <snip> The present stage of development of the means of production,
>> which you regard as advanced (but which I don't because of the fact
>> that so many of us still have to work for a living), seems to be a
>> keystone of your argument that 'socialism is a realistic goal.'
>
> It definitely is the cornerstone of my argument.
> We have the means here and now to eliminate human want
> and suffering everywhere in this country. Every advance in
> technology makes that fact clearer each day. Unfortunately,
> with this technology being put to use under a capitalist system,
> it's full potential is never realized. In fact, it usually means more
> of our fellow workers are going to be out of a job.

Your humanitarianism shines through all that you write. It's an admirable
quality. Nearly 30 years ago, at a SLP study class in Lynn, I had sat through
one particular class without hardly saying a word, and, at the end, as we were
walking out, the instructor, whom I greatly admired for his intellect, looked
me in the eye and said, "You're a great humanitarian!" The trouble is, I never
figured out what I had done or said to merit that remark. I was pleased, but
taken aback at the same time. But, I hope that you are not surprised when
I also identify you as a humanitarian.

The working class will soon need to make a great moral decision. Those who
work full time, and who are often asked to work many more hours beyond 40,
should be able to discern that putting in extra time for a time-and-a-half pittance
isn't very rewarding when one considers the extra burden of income taxes upon
that overtime, while putting in the extra time also carries a double whammy of
taking away opportunities for the less fortunate to find any work at all. This is
why I often suggest that we start off with a campaign to raise the overtime
premium to double time. The amendment would certainly make the bosses
think twice about keeping the same old workers on the job beyond 40 hours,
and that extra discouragement of overwork would also apply pressure on the
bosses to hire more workers.

Suppose in the meantime, people continue to ignore the call for the abolition of
capitalism, people continue to be replaced by labor saving machinery, new jobs are
not created quite as quickly as in the past, and humanitarians insist that something
be done about the plight of the unemployed in the meantime. What would your
response be to such a proposed amendment to our Fair Labor Standards Act? Could
you afford to turn your back on a fairer distribution of work simply because the
amendment wouldn't advance the revolution? Advance the revolution or not, SLP
advocacy for such a reform would certainly encourage the less advantaged would-
be workers of the world to become more interested in the SLP message. Would
double time be an acceptable reform for the new SLP to advocate?

> The fact that we still have to work for a living simply means
> that the capitalists still need to extract surplus value from
> the workers in order to gain their profits, that is until
> machinery can totally replace labor.

Well, I wonder just how much any capitalist would be motivated precisely that
way. While a deep economic analysis might demonstrate such forces at work, I can't
imagine them thinking any deeper than 'selling above their costs of production'. The
notion of them 'extracting surplus values in order to gain profits' conjures up an image
of them gleefully rubbing their hands together in pleasant anticipation of a blizzard of
money as the result of the exploitation of labor. No doubt some might think like that
(as it takes all kinds to make this world), but Kellogg, who inaugurated a 6 hour day
during the Depression to help his workers share work, and whose successors didn't
phase out 6 hours until well after his death, was certainly not cruel. Few capitalists are.

> I don't want to think about what that will entail. I really don't see
> where your theories are going, you seem to think that
simply reducing
> the workday is the key to economic freedom when in reality it will
> mean wide spread
pauperdom for the working class.

For the sake of brevity in this message, why don't we skip the following
analysis until we hash out the issue of a higher overtime premium? We can
revive what follows at a later date while we first work on an easier hurdle.

> Say you do get your shorter work day, say it is reduced to six hours.
> The average wage in manufacturing is somewhere in the neighborhood of
> 13.00 dollars/hour. When the worker was putting in eight hours his gross
> pay would have been 104.00 dollars a day. With the shorter workday it will
> be 78 dollars day. For a five day work week it will be 390 whereas previously
> it would have been 520 a week. How will the lost income be made up? Will the
> capitalist continue paying the worker his original wage despite the shorter hours?
> Not likely,in fact I can safely say no way. So this means the worker will have to
> adjust his life around his new wages - smaller house or apartment, taking the bus
> to work, eating bologna sandwiches for lunch etc. etc. or he will have to find a
> second job. How is this better? How have we improved the lot of the working
> class? What about the capitalist's end of the equation? Faced with shorter work
> hours from which to extract surplus value from his workers he can do several
> things-speed up the rate of work, get rid of his present workforce and hire cheaper
> labor thus shortening the necessary labor time and increasing that portion of the
> work day from which he extracts surplus value. He can make his workers work
> six or even seven days a week to make up for the lost time. The capitalist will still
> get his,one way or another,or if failing that he can always move his operation
> overseas and then the entire group of people he once employed will be looking
> for new jobs. I think this is a no win situation for the working class in my
> opinion. I am all for a shorter work day, God knows we could all use the
> extra free time, but at what cost?

Table that for a future date? Agreed?

>> But, as demonstrated in the previous messages, Engels thought that the
>> means of production were well enough developed for a proletarian revolution
>> after Europe experienced a few crises of OVER-production
, proving that the only
>> thing left wanting for Engels were the requisite ripe POLITICAL conditions. The
>> number of communists was so small that their only hope was to ride the good
>> fortunes of bourgeois-democratic revolutions, and hope that the Paris Commune
>> scenario could have ripened simultaneously in enough places in Europe to negate
>> any possibility of counter-revolution, and thus realize their dreams.
>
> I, of course, am not going to argue with anything that Engels wrote or his theories.

Why not? I take M+E and others to task all of the time for wanting to
take away the property of the rich. History proves that it can't be done in a
Western hemisphere democracy. If Southerners were willing to fight to the
death to preserve as immoral a form of ownership as slavery, then just think
how hard they would fight to preserve ownership of everything else.

> But I feel that Engels was saying that the Possibility for ending
> want existed in his time, but
the only way to realize this potential
> was to get the means of production under the control of the working
> class
to continue developing them until this potential became a reality.

Don't forget that another good reason for the proletarian revolution (given in
the 3rd Volume of Capital) was to enable a reduction in work hours. No doubt
the 8 hour day would have been immediately enacted, as per the program of the
First International. The task of further developing the means of production
after the revolution was never given great stress by M+E, precisely because
they had already experienced a half dozen crises of OVER-production by
1880. Those crises demonstrated the bankruptcy of the bourgeoisie, whose
rule was regarded as obsolete, and the crises demonstrated the need of
replacing bourgeois rule with that of the workers organized as ruling class.

2002 note: Further developing the means of production, in itself, was never as
big an issue for M+E as winning political power, precisely in order to implement
economic measures of value to the working class. Winning the battle for democracy
was paramount, without which, little else could be done.

> The reality is here today, but it is still unrealized because
> the means of production are still in private hands.

That we could argue about. Whether we are talking about Engels' era or our era,
the potential for eliminating want existed then, and it exists now. The reason want
existed then, and the reason want exists now, is that there was and is insufficient
political will to eliminate want. A half-dozen crises of overproduction from 1825
to 1880 proved that the physical means existed then, and a zillion more crises since
then prove that the physical means exist now; all that's wanting is to apply mass will
toward eliminating want. One can't honestly read Engels' works any other way. If
you insist that want could not have been eliminated before 1880, then I will have to
insist that you name the year between 1880 and 2001 in which want could finally
have been eliminated. As a materialist, I would expect you to say that 'the reason
Engels said that want can be eliminated was that: insufficient material conditions
influenced his thinking'. Or, was Engels merely being a mystical seer of better times?

> Not until we organize as a class and take control of this economic power
> for our own use will the benefits be truly realized.

Very few regard that as a solution to their problems. It's not a popular issue
in the West. Changing property relations was possible in history only after
overthrowing feudal monarchies in backward countries, as in Russia, or after
liberating colonies, as in Cuba, occasions on which communists held full state
power, and were thus enabled to expropriate property without compensation.
In the West, partial nationalization with compensation is as far as Social-
Democrats were able to get.

2002 note: I must have been in a nit-picking mood, because Carl's sentence,
by itself, is not in opposition to the philosophy of liberation capitalism.

> I would also say that revolutionary situations depend not only on political
> factors but also economic factors. I would go so far as to say that economic
> factors influence political factors a great deal. Study the materialist conception
> of history. Also I don't think the size or number of members who believe a
> certain way is grounds to count them out completely. There may be thousands
> who support a certain idea or belief but never join an organization. When the
> time comes though they throw their numbers behind the belief, either joining
> or assisting in what needs to be done. In the 1968 presidential elections the
> SLP polled in the neighborhood of 50,000 votes, of course I realize that is
> small compared to the big two but the SLP didn't have 50,000 members.
> These people voted for the idea behind the SLP. The same thing will
> happen when the time for a revolution at the ballot box comes. People
> who were never members of a socialist party or group
will still vote
> for the right to establish a socialist society, overwhelmingly.

I don't know of anyone who stays awake at night in anticipation of a big,
spontaneous revolution. But, like you, I also think that capitalism is doomed,
and that we WILL get to classless, stateless society, but I know we won't get
there by directly confronting capitalism. Rather, we will have to be like martial
artists who understand the weakness of the enemy and know how to roll with
their punch. Private property is not the punch. The punch the bosses are
delivering is insisting that the length of the work day and week be as long as
possible so that they get their full money's worth out of us. They would have
to pay us the same to work one day per week as 7 days. Our CLASS interests
consist of seeing to it that everyone in the class can participate in the economy
for as long as people will still have to get out of bed in the morning to go to
work. Just taking care of that consideration alone will deliver us to the classless
and stateless promised land, which is why I suggest we BEGIN to take care of
our own class by eliminating overwork, by means of a higher overtime premium.

>> <snip> socialism appears less realistic today than in Marx's day, and
>> mainly due to our very unripe political conditions, due to our general
>> satisfaction with democracies. -----------------------------------------
>
> Democratic??????? Satisfaction with democracies????? I think a better term
> is apathy. People don't even bother to vote because they know that the two
> choices they are offered are not really choices at all. They know that they
> do not represent their interests in the least. I think the reason for the
> inaction on the part of the working class is mainly because they don't
> realize their alternatives or exactly what those alternatives are. Also they
> somehow feel powerless to make any changes so they just do nothing.
> Hopefully we can do something about that and get them to realize what
> needs to be done and why. The SLP will do it's part.

When the mainstream media finally begins to report on the willingness of
a lot of people to replace what we have with something new, then I will also
believe. When any party of socialism, communism or anarchism begins to draw
much more than .2% of the vote (as the SWP drew in 1998 elections in Monroe
County, New York, and in some other county in Washington State), I will regard
an improved turnout as a sign that people are interested. Until then, it just doesn't
appear that people are ready to tamper with our basic institutions. Whatever will
push people to socialize ownership and replace bourgeois democracies just
doesn't seem to be on the horizon as of yet.

>> If economic conditions were satisfactory for proletarian revolution in
>> the 19th century, then their being twice (or even 2 million times) as
>> satisfactory today does not make socialism any more likely today
>> than yesteryear, due to today's lack of necessary POLITICAL unrest.
>
> ----------------------------------------------- Again, when the contradictions
> in this system reach a point where they can no longer be ignored, when
> further development is no longer possible under the old system, then
> hopefully the working class will begin to realize its historic mission
> and change society for the better. Political unrest has little to do with
> it, it will be economics which will cause political unrest.

When it comes to 'no further development under capitalism', we will know when
that day arrives when no one will have to get up in the morning to go to work
any more. Then capitalism will be gone as we've known it. That will happen in
a few decades. In the meantime, people will patch up capitalism the best way
they can, because they have the democratic means with which to do it.

The coming crisis of unemployment (caused by truly smart technology)
will certainly have a political element if the politicians don't adopt work-
sharing and/or job creation measures quickly enough to enable enough
people to make a living. Activists should prepare to have a lot of fun,
with plenty to do, in the next few decades. :-)

> The revolution will come from a historical necessity. No one will be
> able to force it to happen, the situation will dictate that it is necessary.
> Our job is to continue to educate and enlighten so that when the time
> comes the choice will be clear.

You don't seem to be very precise about what's going to cause a proletarian
and socialist revolution. Just exactly what's going to set it off?

>>> <snip old dialogue>

> I think you need to elaborate on your "shorter work week"
> theories and how they will liberate the working class from the
> miseries of capitalism. I don't see how you can have one and
> keep the other, as I have already discussed earlier in this post.
> I don't see the shorter work week saving the human race.

Thanks for the invitation. A belief which many socialists, communists and
anarchists hold in common is that society will someday become classless and
stateless. I've held to that vision for some 30 years, even though I no longer
think we will get there by directly confronting private property and democracy
(considering all of the Western traditions protecting both). Those same traditions
were relatively unfamiliar to the non-Western world until relatively recently. As
means of production become truly smart in the next few decades, and people will no
longer even be able to flip burgers for a living, then bosses will have no economic
choice but to lay workers off, with little hope of new jobs opening up to replace the
old. People will meet that challenge as they did in the past, by adopting various
mechanisms to share the remaining work, as a humanitarian gesture. When people
make the political decision to share work, that will mark the beginning of the end of
brutal competition in the labor market. Later on, when the length of the work week
becomes ridiculously short, and volunteer labor replaces the remaining wage labor,
capitalism as we've known it will come to an end, and benefits will no longer accrue
to owners of property, so property as an institution will also fade away, consistent
with the findings of Marx and L.H. Morgan. In a Dec. 28, 1886, letter to Florence
Kelley, Engels wrote: "Our theory is not a dogma but the exposition of a process of
evolution, and that process involves successive phases.
" Thus, I also agree that there
will be no 'big-bang' succession from capitalism to socialism. Replacing capitalism
and moving toward socialism by constantly repairing the chinks in the labor market
is a program of evolution. When we get there, the ones who fought against Marx's
teachings all of their lives, but who then find themselves living in an age of classless
and stateless society, but were powerless to stop the tide, might feel a little
embarrassed by the whole thing.

>> <snip old dialogue> Similarly, revolutionary groups end up competing
>> against one another instead of combining their revolutionary forces in order
>> to have the force of numbers. I sometimes wonder about their real sincerity
>> in changing the world, because it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out
>> that no single revolutionary party has a chance of making a revolution by itself.
>
> -------------------------------------------------- You do not have to question our
> sincerity sir, we intend to continue to do the best we can to get the working
> class to see what needs to be done and why. We hope that with our help they
> will grow into the classconcious force needed to carry out the revolution.
> That is our only goal, we will not rest until that job is done.

I don't question your sincerity, just that of your predecessors who pioneered
your ideology, and whose ideas need to be questioned more closely. If the
means of getting to socialism do not appear fitted for our political and
economic conditions, then people will not respond very positively, and may
continue to dismiss socialism as quackery. Every socialist needs to question
their socialist legacy and be brave enough to question and analyze that which
appears fuzzy or capable of sustaining damage. In this regard, the SLP's
perspective on religion as a matter of individual conscience is well ahead of
that of a similar party in England with a strange, almost laughable, Leninist-
Stalinist ban on religious views on the part of their members. If the others
succeed in adopting a perspective closer to that of the SLP, such a change
cannot help but redound to the benefit of the socialist cause.

Your plate looks a little full this time, even without us covering one big
paragraph. I know you are busy, so take as much time as you need.

Best Wishes,
Ken Ellis

'Refuse to work overtime for less than double time.'

 

3-14-01

Gloria wrote, in part:

> It makes sense that each person should gravitate toward the endeavors that
> are the most fulfilling and make the kind of contribution he or she desires.
> If people were freed from the necessity of having to devote all of their week
> to one task simply because it pays money, they would be empowered to
> make choices and, logically, greater and more unique contributions.

Thanks for the suggestion! It provided a couple of good ideas. You may
not recognize the result, which makes me wonder if I may not have to make 2
separate lists in order to prevent damaging human relations. One list would be
faithful to the contributors, and the other modified according to the essence
I get from it. :-) Let me know if you prefer separate lists.

For better or worse, number 7 is the result of your contribution:

Labor time reductions could:

1) Put everyone to work who wants to.

2) Create the kind of shortage of labor that would force wages up.

3) Give people more time to spend in their communities, families, hobbies, etc.

4) Cost no more in taxes, and would add more people to the tax base,
enabling tax reductions.

5) Give people more confidence in 'the system', and restore social optimism.

6) Enable people to plow spare time back into 'service to the community'.

7) Provide real economic security to workers, enabling them to do the right
thing for both people and the planet, enabling workers to boycott occupations
lacking redeeming social values, and without fear of suffering unemployment
as a result of following their conscience. Such security would also eliminate
fear of getting locked into any one job, and would enable them to pick and
choose the occupation that best suits them.

Ken Ellis

-------------------------------
"Live working or die fighting."
-------------------------------

"The watchword of the modern proletariat" that the silk winders of Lyons
inscribed upon their banner during their strike (From Marx's 1869 "Report
on the Basle Congress
").

 

3-14-01

I seem to have made a mistake, ascribing to Engels a lot less
revolutionary sentiment with regard to bourgeois republics than what
he actually held. In his June 27, 1893 letter to Lafargue, Engels wrote:

"The republican form is no more than the simple negation of monarchy -
and the overthrow of the monarchy will be accomplished simply as a corollary
to revolution; in Germany the bourgeois parties are so bankrupt that we shall
pass at once from monarchy to the social republic. Hence you cannot go on
opposing your bourgeois republic to the monarchies as something to which
other nations should aspire. Your republic and our monarchies are all one in
relation to the proletariat; if you help us against our monarchist bourgeois, we
shall help you against your republican bourgeois. It's a case of reciprocity
and by no means the deliverance of the downtrodden Monarchists by the
great-hearted French Republicans
... ."

In spite of Engels' willingness to dump existing bourgeois
republics (as well as monarchies) in favor of the social republic,
we shouldn't forget the hindsight we enjoy from our century-later
vantage point. Engels' sentiment didn't make Europeans any more
willing to smash all of their democracies in support of the Russian
Revolution, so 'smashing bourgeois republics' remains a bad
judgment call on the part of Engels.

Nevertheless, I have been somewhat mistaken these many
years in thinking that Engels was not interested in smashing
bourgeois republics, and for passing along my sloppiness as
blithely as fact, so I owe my audience a sincere apology.

Ken Ellis

 

3-14-01

Jakks inquired:

> Without going into reading more from your
> web-site. Please tell me more about how are
> we to afford the necessities to survive with less
> working hours? Will there also be a stable wage
> no matter how many hours we work? That is to say:
> If we are only working 4 hours a day, does our rate
> of pay stay the same and will it still afford us the
> same necessities?
>
> Curious as to your solution...
> Regards, Jakks.

The old labor parties said it best in their programs where they
demanded work reductions in proportion to improvements in
productivity
. If that demand could actually be implemented now,
standards of living could be maintained at the present level as
productivity increases, at the same time hours of labor continued
to decline. It's the same as saying that 1 unit of productivity times
16 hours = 16 commodities, 2 times 8 hours = 16 commodities,
4 x 4 = 16, 8 x 2 = 16, and 16 x 1 = 16, and so on.

By demanding labor time reductions now, there is nothing
whatsoever to fear about simultaneously reducing the standards
of living for the lower classes. On the other hand, our failure to
implement labor's old demand now will only mean that the benefits
of improved productivity will continue to redound to the benefit of
the upper classes, and the gap between rich and poor will continue
to grow. Here's hoping that we'll smarten up some day, and apply
our smarts to a feasible work-reduction program.

Ken Ellis

 

3-14-01

Jakks wrote, in part:

> <snip> I do like your ideas about a shorter work week,
> and I'll have to think hard on it and investigate it more, but
> I have to agree with you so far, it seems to be a reform that
> would establish great benefits, but I'm a little unsure of how
> it would lead to the abolishment of capitalism?

As productivity increases at the same time the work-week
continues to shrink (so as to maintain 100% employment),
we will someday get to the point when the work-week gets so
ridiculously short, and workers become so incredibly productive,
that we will stop charging money for the necessities of life, and
will also replace the remaining wage-labor with volunteer labor,
thus ending capitalism as we've known it. With no more wage-
labor to exploit, property will cease to accrue to the benefit of
owners, so private property of means of production will decline
and fall as an institution. With the fall of class distinctions, the
state will also decline and fall. Simultaneously, private ownership
of anything at all will become less significant, since it will
thereafter take zero to insignificant labor to create whatever
one's neighbor (or Bill Gates) owns, thus forever ending
'keeping up with the Joneses' as a great American pastime.

> Was I correct in assuming the reasoning to
> follow along the lines of Guild Socialism?

Sorry not to know enough about Guild Socialism
to enable me to comment about it.

> Thanks for you comments.... Jakks.

Happy to be of service.

Ken Ellis

One for all, and all for one!

 

3-15-01

D Fabian wrote:

> Associate's degree? Two years off to write a book? Two years without earnings,
> AFTER the debt that must have been accumulated while getting the degree?

I got the degree more than a decade before starting the book, so the
educational debt was taken care of well in advance. America is the richest
country in the world, and even lower middle class people like myself have a
lot more freedom and options than people in a lot of other countries, so we can
sometimes afford the time to write a book, if the issue burns deeply enough.

> Learning about social problems isn't an issue of time. In general, most people
> only care about the things that have a direct impact on their own day-to-day lives.
>
> Not having a degree doesn't make life confusing, or rather, having a degree
> doesn't make life more understandable. A degree means only that you have
> accumulated x amount of information in a particular field, not that you have
> any understanding of life. One could easily argue that if you spent the same
> number of years in college that an individual spent on the streets, the person
> on the streets would have a far greater understanding of life than you.

In a lot of ways, you are correct about that. Education can sometimes mean
very little on a practical level.

Ken Ellis

 

3-15-01

Dear Michael,

Thank you for the kind words.

> U do not know me, my name is Michael, im from the SLP list.I have
> been reading your email messages about the "
Socialism realistic goals"
> and I must say you seem very intelligent, I especialy note your comments
> on the dreaded "reform or revolution" issue. I have respect to the SLP
> comrades on the list but they are completely lost.
> I am from a different socialist tendency and am looking for inteligent
> people who know the real world. Are you a member of any party ?
> If you are serious about socialist revolution or need clearing up on
> the possibilities, please reply. We can both have something to gain,

I'm not a member of any party at present. I think that I prefer low-stress
dialogue on the Internet instead of attending high-stress meetings.

Anyone who has followed my on-line arguments might say that I am against
socialist revolution for the present. Do you think socialist revolution has
possibilities? If so, why?

Ken Ellis

 

3-15-01

Hi, Li'l Joe,

You sure know your economics! Thanks for being right on the money.

> Ken's analysis of reduction of the hours of the
> working day/week is an incremental elimination
> of superfluous work, which is in 100% agreement
> with Marx "Capital".
>
> It is, on the other hand, precisely a variation of
> the Keynesian scheme to have the bourgeois state
> to "subsidize wages", which in this country would be
> nothing but a redistribution of appropriated wages-
> taxes of the "middle brackets", to "supplement"
> the wages of labour at the "lower brackets". This
> would enable the capitalists to continue to force
> workers to work surplus labour-time, in both wage
> brackets, and so to continue to maximize surplus-
> products, and there by to appropriate the surplus
> value as maximum profits, realized in circulation.
> (M-C...P...C'-M').
>
> The reduction of the working day/week without
> reduction in the wages now received would in fact
> be the doubling of the wages of the current 40 hour
> week when we work 20 instead, with no cut in pay.

Cheers!

Ken Ellis

 

3-15-01

D Fabian wrote:

> Reading over what I wrote, I can see how it didn't exactly say what I meant
> to say. Actually, I'm impressed. I don't see how it's possible to manage all
> that unless you're a very organized, dedicated and determined person.
> What came out (possibly) as a put down was quite the opposite. I'm
> very sorry that my words weren't thought out a little better.

Hey, no problem bro'. You're off the hook. Sit back and enjoy the forum.
All is well.

Best Wishes,
Ken Ellis

 

3-16-01

Thanks for all of the great contributions to the list, everyone. Using what
came in during the past day or so, we have added 8, 9, and 10:

Labor time reductions could:

1) Put everyone to work who wants to.

2) Create the kind of shortage of labor that would force wages up.

3) Give people more time to spend in their communities, families, hobbies, etc.

4) Cost no more in taxes, and would add more people to the tax base,
enabling tax reductions.

5) Give people more confidence in 'the system', and restore social optimism.

6) Enable people to plow spare time back into 'service to the community'.

7) Provide real economic security to workers, enabling them to do the
right thing for both people and the planet, enabling workers to boycott
occupations lacking redeeming social values, and without fear of suffering
unemployment as a result of following their conscience. Such security
would also eliminate fear of getting locked into any one job, and would
enable them to pick and choose the occupation that best suits them.

8) Encourage technological innovation.

9) Enhance domestic harmony and bliss. (Or, should I have said - Enhance people's love lives?) :-)

10) As in the example of France's 35 hour week, improve a country's economy.

Tom wrote:

> The Voss-Dahm paper would suggest another benefit of shorter working
> time to add to Kenneth Ellis' list -- the idea that the labour scarcity created
> by working time regulation acts as a "
productivity whip" on the employing
> organization. Although poorly regulated, long hours of work may have short
> term profit advantages for firms, they don't spur the same level of innovation
> and thus lead to long run stagnation. I would point to the year-long collapse
> of the NASDAQ and the deepening prospects of recession as an example of
> the pitfalls of the callous disregard of the long run -- what Chapman referred
> to as
the 'short-sightedness' of employers acting independently in their own
> (immediate) interests
.
>
> Tom Walker

Anders wrote:

> thinking about Monday morning may send people's stress hormones upward.
>
> The Observer (UK) reports on March 4, 2001 that:
>
> "
Love has become the latest casualty of the long hours culture, with 50
> per cent of Britons claiming work-related tiredness affects their private lives.
"
> ...
> "
The worst problems hit those who both work long hours - known as TINS
> couples - Two Incomes No Sex,
..."
>
> For the full article, visit:
>
http://www.guardian.co.uk/Archive/Article/0,4273,4145946,00.html
>
> Anders Hayden

Tom added:

> I'm sending this excerpt from an opinion piece in the Daily Telegraph
> because of the throwaway line in paragraph four that "
France is growing
> quite briskly
. . ." buried in hand-wringing about the U.S. Japan and
> Germany "
stopping dead", faltering and in a terrible state. Not even a
> whisper that the conventional wisdom among financial pages savants
> two years ago was that
France's 35 hour workweek policy was economic
> folly.
Could it be . . . is it even possible that France's more sensible
> approach to work time regulation has actually insulated their economy
> from some of the excesses affecting the U.S.
?
>
>> Look west, and the storm clouds are obvious. Growth in the great
>> American economy, which confounded the pessimists for a decade,
>> has stopped dead, and it may even be going backwards. Companies
>> where analysts had predicted magnificent expansion as far as they
>> could see are warning that expectations will not be met. In the far west,
>> in the home of the technological revolution, there is an air of crisis. Last
>> month alone, 41,000 jobs were lost in Silicon Valley. House prices have
>> fallen from laughably expensive to merely absurd.
>>
>> The Nasdaq index, the benchmark for technology stocks, has more
>> than halved in the past 12 months, and citizens who had assumed that
>> rising share prices would do their saving for them have had an expensive
>> education. It has quite spoilt their appetite for spending, so companies
>> are finding less demand for their goods than they expected.
>>
>> In the Far East, things look much worse. The Japanese economy,
>> the world's second largest, is in a terrible state, stuck with no growth,
>> a bankrupt banking system and an impotent government. Unemployment
>> is rising, and the inflexibility of a system built on consensus, graft, kickbacks
>> and an inability to take hard decisions is brutally exposed. Pusillanimous
>> policymaking has destroyed the nation's economic miracle, and shares
>> now stand at their worst for 16 years.
>>
>> Just across the Channel, the picture is rather better. France is
>> growing quite briskly but Germany, on its own the world's third
>> largest economy, is already faltering after a weak recovery. This is
>> ominous indeed: a combination of devaluation (through the falling
>> euro) and cheap money (courtesy of the European Central Bank) is
>> the biggest boost an economy can get, and forecasters had assumed
>> accelerating recovery. It doesn't seem to be happening.
>
> Tom Walker

Ken Ellis

 

3-16-01

Hi, Brian,

On the 'shorter work time' mail list, we have assembled the following list of
benefits of reduced labor time:

Labor time reductions could:

1) Put everyone to work who wants to.

2) Create the kind of shortage of labor that would force wages up.

3) Give people more time to spend in their communities, families, hobbies, etc.

4) Cost no more in taxes, and would add more people to the tax base,
enabling tax reductions.

5) Give people more confidence in 'the system', and restore social optimism.

6) Enable people to plow spare time back into 'service to the community'.

7) Provide real economic security to workers, enabling them to do the
right thing for both people and the planet, enabling workers to boycott
occupations lacking redeeming social values, and without fear of suffering
unemployment as a result of following their conscience. Such security
would also eliminate fear of getting locked into any one job, and would
enable them to pick and choose the occupation that best suits them.

8) Encourage technological innovation.

9) Enhance domestic harmony and bliss.

10) As in the example of France's 35 hour week, improve a country's economy.

Ken Ellis

Brian wrote:

> I've been thinking about two depressing trends in the world of work:-
>
> 1. The loss of "decent" jobs and the rise of pointless, low-paid, demeaning slave-jobs.
>
> 2. The move away from an unconditional right to welfare benefits.
>
> These trends seem to be appearing in all "developed" countries to some
> extent. The sales of the top 200 corporations are the equivalent of 27.5
> percent of world economic activity, yet these corporations employ only
> 0.78 percent of the world's workforce.
>
> So what is to become of the economically marginalised? The low-paid, the
> unemployed, the forgotten and despised? It's come to my attention recently
> that various Human Rights laws/treaties have interesting things to say
> about work and welfare benefits.
>
> For example (from Article 23 of the UN's universal declaration of human rights):
>
> "
Everyone has the right to free choice of employment, to just and
> favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
"
>
> Hmm.. somehow I don't think the UK government's approach of: "take any
> lousy job or lose your benefits" quite measures up to these Human Rights ideals.
>
> Another example, from a recent newspaper article:
>
> "
The European Convention on Human Rights says everyone is entitled to
> a fair hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal when decisions are
> being made about their civil rights (including rights to benefits).
"
>
> Apparently the UK is IN BREACH of these laws. Unemployed people do not
> currently have their welfare claims ultimately decided by an *independent*
> organisation as they should.
>
> So... is anyone out there an expert on Human Rights legislation and its
> possible implications? If so, please contact me. Thanks.
>
> Brian
>
http://www.anxietyculture.com

 

3-16-01

Glad to hear from you, adrienne,

snip irrelevancy

I am pleased to hear that you enjoyed my posts. I won't be leaving the freepac
list while things are getting so interesting. I am favorably impressed with the
quality of the efforts to liberate Pacifica from the PNB. For the first time in a
long time, I'm optimistic about favorable results. Though I unfortunately had
to move away from Berkeley, and am now too far East of WBAI to receive its
signal, the Internet has the potential to bring any of the 5 signals to my living
room. I hope to someday be happy to tune in to the unfettered voices of
liberated and democratically controlled Pacifica stations.

Feel free to be in touch.

Best wishes,
Ken Ellis

Engels wrote: "Are we demanding free speech for ourselves,
only to abolish it again in our own ranks?
"

> Dear Kenneth,
>
> as you probably know by now, you have to send this "remove" to the address
> below--different than the usual address.
>
> I hope you won't mind if I contact you privately in the future. I've enjoyed
> your posts and don't want to lose touch entirely. I'm particularly thinking
> about your ideas about town hall meetings and other listener participation.
>
> adrienne

 

3-16-01

Mike wrote:

> I don't think that we can have ANY production without
> capitalism. Before you delete this, understand that I make
> a distinction between capitalism that is the allocation of
> non-labor productive resources and Capitalism, the Statist
> political economic machines that support the existing
> inequitable distribution of wealth and incomes. I would
> favor a socialist approach, letting the current system
> "
die a "natural" death" seems too ghastly.

Lots of approaches can be defined as 'socialist'. We would need
to know: what does your socialist approach entail?

> With respect to Ken, his solution seems like a micro-Keynesian
> approach. I don't understand what he is proposing.

In what way is it micro-Keynesian? Just like the word socialism,
definitions are needed.

> I think a simpler solution may be a subsidized income. If
> people are given enough to meet their most basic needs then
> they will work only to get extraneous things or because they
> enjoy the work or both, so it becomes a question of what is
> essential and what is extraneous (e.g. are tobacco and alcohol
> essential. You might think so if you were addicted to them).
>
> People who work hard for their money (and make good money)
> and those who are greedy and don't care about others may
> resent the unconditional transfer payment.

Someone has to subsidize the income. Who would do that?

Ken Ellis

 

3-17-01

Michael wrote:

> Hello Kenneth,
>
> I very much think that a socialist
revolution has possibilities and
> soon. Revolutions are not caused by agitators like parties that declare
> 'revolution' ; they are caused by economical-social conditions. Just a
> year ago all these upscale suit and tie economists were talking about a
> new kind of capitalism where
the cycle of boom and slumps is over and
> there would be continuous prosperity
. Look at today! Just over the week
> the stock market plunged 300 points, we are seeing more layoffs now even
> since the corporate downsizing of a few years ago, all the companies being
> brought out on the internet is exackly what Marx said about the accumulation
> of capital. There is also a changing world situation; we see swift political
> changes in Mexico with Fox, overthrow of Philippines Marcos, a new Intifada
> in Israel, and the elections wrecked by Bush here. We know the workers can
> become class conscious on their own, we are 100% faithful and history shows
> that. Just read all the documents on our website
www.marxist.com

As any reading of Marx tells us, our economic woes are yet another crisis of
overproduction. If it gets bad enough, workers, bosses, and governments alike
will find ways to share the remaining work, simply because of our humanitarian
impulses. Britain could go to a 3 day week like it did for awhile during the 1970's,
bosses could voluntarily shorten the work week like they did in the Great
Depression, and if all else fails, various countries could enact a reduced
work-week, as in France. No country needs to revolt over economic lean
times, for we have the means to peacefully deal with hardship.

It is dishonest for any party to raise hopes for a revolution within Western
democracies just because of a little recession. The arguments on which my
first party promoted its revolutionary program were perfectly specious, and
were based upon quotes out of context, and lies cut from whole cloth.
Revolutionary ideology is so unsuited for democracies that it can't help but
smell badly, keeping people out of revolutionary parties in droves. That is
not to say that the rank and file of various revolutionary parties are corrupt.
All it means is that their top leaders know better than to say what they do, but
can't help but perpetuate the business that keeps them economically viable.

> About me:
> I'm a member of a socialist tendency thats organized in the
Labor Party
> and the "
Youth For International Socialism" Are theoretical roots come
> from Marx,Lenin,Trotsky. The
YFIS was started only 2 years ago but we
> have grown so much since then. We also have members all over the world
> but the main group is in the UK.

I was in the Labor Party for awhile. I was an elected delegate to the Founding
Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, in '96. When I moved to the East Coast in '98
and got busy with family stuff, I let my membership lapse. The LP had, at least
at the time, the same chronic problems other left groups have: No means of free
internal debate, for debate is regarded by the left as a way to make trouble for
leaders and their personal agendas, so they don't encourage it.

> I have met personally with many other socialist groups. We are the only
> group that knows about party building, work with other workers, and has
> clear tactics and perspectives. This showed when our sister organization
> "
militant labour" in the Labour party had very great success 15 years ago.

Success is something to be proud of. Perhaps your party may even become
influential someday.

> When I was looking for people on the list I was not looking for people who
> were most dedicated to socialism, I was looking for people who didn't seem
> cultivated by any isms, and seemed to know what goes on in the real world.

I appreciate your kind words. I hope that my answer doesn't come as too great
a disappointment, for I was once very enthusiastic about revolution in the USA,
and couldn't understand why so few others were attracted to such a compelling
ideology. A year after joining my first party, I became their shipping clerk at
their National Office, and it took another 2 years before I became aware that
their program was based upon lies and quotes out of context. I was quite
devastated by that new understanding, but was so convinced of the basic
honesty and decency of the rank and file that I tried for 9 months afterwards
to prepare and present my case to them, but was thwarted by the leaders, who
had built themselves an intransigent bureaucratic fiefdom, and used censorship
and secrecy to maintain their dominance. Everywhere I've been in the left since
then has not been much of an improvement. When I finally decided in 1992
to write down my experiences in a book, it took 2 years of research and
introspection to discover that 'taking away the property of the rich was
possible after overthrowing feudal monarchies in backward countries like
Russia, or after liberating colonies like Cuba, but was never possible after
winning mere elections in the very advanced capitalist countries in which
the socialist revolution was supposed to happen first.'

That contradiction between socialist history and Marx's program proved
that his program was fatally flawed, and that socialist revolutions will never
happen in the very countries in which they were supposed to happen first.
Thereafter, I began to look for something to replace my broken socialist
dreams, but my research into the past (that was necessary in order to refute
my party's lies) had already familiarized me with workers' struggles to share
work by means of labor time reductions, and it also later occurred that we
could get to classless and stateless society by driving down the length of the
work week to its natural conclusion, as enabled by further improvements in
technology. Exposing the folly and wasted efforts of trying to deal with
property and state instead of dealing with labor time then became my life's work.

> Check out our website,
> hope to hear from you,
>
> Michael

I've been there, and have found it to be quite informative.

Best wishes,
Ken Ellis

 

3-17-01

Joe Polito gave me yet another idea for an addition to the list, so I added
number 11, but later combined 3 and 6, so 11 becomes the new number 10:

Labor time reductions could:

1) Put everyone to work who wants to.

2) Create the kind of shortage of labor that would force wages up.

3) Give people more time to spend with their families, hobbies, in service to
their communities, etc.

4) Cost no more in taxes, and would add more people to the tax base,
enabling tax reductions.

5) Give people more confidence in 'the system', and restore social optimism.

6) Provide real economic security to workers, enabling them to do the
right thing for both people and the planet, enabling workers to boycott
occupations lacking redeeming social values, and without fear of suffering
unemployment as a result of following their conscience. Such security
would also eliminate fear of getting locked into any one job, and would
enable them to pick and choose the occupation that best suits them.

7) Encourage technological innovation.

8) Enhance domestic harmony and bliss.

9) Improve a country's economy, as in the example of France, with its 35 hour week.

10) Enable reductions in unemployment insurance premiums.

joe polito wrote:

> In Canada our unemployment benefits and government pension benefits depend
> on payroll taxes. For unemployment the premiums are charged at about 3$ for
> every $1000 earned up to $40,000. Slightly higher rates (and scheduled to
> climb annually) for Canada Pension benefits.
>
> What is the system in the U.S.?
> I think I read once where Social Security is 6.2% of income up to $80,000.
> Does this pay for both government pension and unemployment benefits?

 

3-17-01

Mike wrote:

> While we're here, let me point out the contradiction in Ken's last sentence.
> Wouldn't the
we he talks about be the same "bureaucrats" that he criticizes
> in the previous sentence? Please, correct me if I'm wrong.

By 'we', I meant we, the people, living in Western-style democracies.
That being the case, I don't think that there was a contradiction.

Ken Ellis

 

3-17-01

Mike wrote:

> At this time, I don't feel like writing an extensive book
> of a proposal. Perhaps we can start by trading books.
> Perhaps that would be worthwhile, perhaps not.

I don't think we have to get as complicated as writing a whole
book to outline our proposals. It shouldn't take very much to
solve our problems. On another forum, we've been a compiling
a list of advantages of reducing hours of labor:

Labor time reductions could:

1) Put everyone to work who wants to.

2) Create the kind of shortage of labor that would force wages up.

3) Give people more time to spend with their families, hobbies,
in service to their communities, etc.

4) Cost no more in taxes, and would add more people to the tax
base, enabling tax reductions.

5) Give people more confidence in 'the system', and restore
social optimism.

6) Provide real economic security to workers, enabling them to do the
right thing for both people and the planet, enabling workers to boycott
occupations lacking redeeming social values, and without fear of suffering
unemployment as a result of following their conscience. Such security
would also eliminate fear of getting locked into any one job, and would
enable them to pick and choose the occupation that best suits them.

7) Encourage technological innovation, enabling further work reductions.

8) Enhance domestic harmony and bliss.

9) Improve a country's economy, as in the example of France,
with its 35 hour week.

10) Enable reductions in unemployment insurance premiums.

Mike continued:

> To sum up off the top of my head, I agree with the Marxists in
> that
a state is necessary as intermediary to a real socialist world,
> and necessary to a lesser extent after a transition from the status
> quo is made. I concur and believe that to have peace on earth that
> state needs to be a world state. I believe the economic structures
> should be cooperative and united. I believe the political structure
> should be one based on community stewardship.

I don't have many objections to those ideas, but I wonder about
the usefulness of the following:

> I believe that all persons and communities should be equal (at least
> relatively) with respect to incomes and access to wealth. I believe
> that the needs of future generations should be given as much
> consideration as the current inhabitants of the planet, especially
> at the expense of rich and the greedy. I believe that this can be
> accomplished by redefining our objectives and modus operandi
> to achieve quality of life in lieu of standard of living.

I believe that the positive objectives of those proposals could be
achieved when we recognize how pressingly the remaining work
needs to be fairly shared, and after we take action to enact work-
sharing measures. Trying to equally distribute wealth and property
would only be a bandaid, and would redound more to the benefit of
bureaucrats, who would be glad to officiate over various programs. We
could be much more efficient by fairly distributing the remaining work.

Ken Ellis

 

3-18-01

Tom reminded us of yet another benefit, which I took the liberty to generalize
in number 11. Let me know if 'heart attack prevention' really deserves its own
place in the list. I was afraid that so doing might force us to list all of the other
health ailments, from acne to zymosis. :-)

Mike B added: "Time is money; steal some today!" Until I hear differently,
I'll interpret that as indicating improvements in working class income, or
higher wages, that would result from swt. If so, higher wages is covered in
number 2. Perhaps Mike had something else in mind?

Labor time reductions could:

1) Put everyone to work who wants to.

2) Create the kind of shortage of labor that would force wages up.

3) Give people more time to spend with their families, hobbies,
in service to their communities, etc.

4) Cost no more in taxes, and would add more people to the tax base,
enabling tax reductions.

5) Give people more confidence in 'the system', and restore social optimism.

6) Provide real economic security to workers, enabling them to do the
right thing for both people and the planet, enabling workers to boycott
occupations lacking redeeming social values, and without fear of suffering
unemployment as a result of following their conscience. Such security
would also eliminate fear of getting locked into any one job, and would
enable them to pick and choose the occupation that best suits them.

7) Encourage technological innovation, enabling further work reductions.

8) Enhance domestic harmony and bliss.

9) Improve a country's economy, as in the example of France,
with its 35 hour week.

10) Enable reductions in unemployment insurance premiums.

11) Promote a higher general standard of personal health and well-being.

Tom wrote:

> Prevent heart attacks.

http://www.omplace.com/cgibin/search/omsearch2.cgi?page_start

[98]How a Distorted View of Time Shortens Lives by Dr. Emmett Miller,
author of
Deep Healing/Lightworks.com

"What is the connection between good health and time as we perceive it?
Plenty! The distorted attitude towards time which has developed, mostly
over the past hundred or so years, has proven to have a huge impact on
health and long life. There is a very convincing-sounding adage that Time
is money, a philosophy that seems to become more true the more people
believe in it. The problem with it is that mounting research shows that
a distorted attitude about time may distort the behavior of that great
timekeeper in your chest, your ticker.
"

Tom Walker

3-18-01

Michael Berndt wrote:

> It seems to me that, in order to counteract the effects of underemployment
> on bringing down wages, we need a union of unemployed and under-employed
> people, who can support each other, and other unions. To make an impact, they
> would have to produce their own statistics, provide legal assistance to poor families,
> provide conflict resolution for maintaining home relationships, set up libraries and
> computing centers (or train folks in how to better access their local libraries), provide
> survival, sustainability and political education, and ventually set up worker-owned temp.
> agencies that would provide alternatives to exploitative ones. My suggestion for such
> a job force would be the International Organization of the Under-employed. It's
> membership could include all people who aren't at their potential in the market,
> thus pulling in middle and upper class individuals and capital. Everything would
> be organized locally, as in the
Green Party, with a coordinating group to monitor
> and disseminate the locals progress. Has this ever been done before?
>
> Michael Berndt

I don't think it's been tried before, but it certainly sounds like it's worth
organizing along those very lines now. Let it rip.

Ken Ellis

 

3-19-01

Mike quoted Li'l Joe, not me:

> "The reduction of the working day/week without
> reduction in the wages now received would in fact
> be the doubling of the wages of the current 40 hour
> week when we work 20 instead, with no cut in pay.
"
>  
> My
[Mike's] response:
>  
> While I will reiterate my support for Ken and his efforts to raise wages.
> In some cases the payer of wages may not be able to pay higher wages.

In the shorter hour scenario, the bosses will either pony up with the standard
wage, or their workers will abandon them for some other boss who will. There
will be no skin off the teeth of the workers.

> In most cases, I would probably be of the opinion that Capitalists
> are exploiting labor and that is why I support Ken's efforts.
>  
> However, what about the unemployed and the unemployable?

One purpose for reducing hours of labor is to make room for everyone in the
economy; therefore, no 'unemployed' after the reform is fully implemented. We
already have programs for the 'unemployable', so those programs would stay in place.

Mike also asked about 'bureaucrats':

> Yet, we would still need people to administer programs. Who would that be?
> And perhaps more importantly what programs would they administer? What
> would be the values, principles, and objectives of those programs, and who
> would be the beneficiaries?

Whenever a society solves problems by creating new bureaus, the use
of bureaucrats will be unavoidable. Because full employment would enable
considerable streamlining and elimination of bureaus (such as the unemployment
bureaucracy, and the unemployment insurance bureaucracy), I used the word
bureaucrat to differentiate my program from those of some tax-and-spend Social-
Democrats who still regard the creation of New Deal style bureaus and programs
as the salvation of the working class. They think: 'Is someone unemployed? Create
a program
to put them to work at a 40 hour job.' But, a society can tax and spend
only so much before tax burdens escalate out of control and become politically
unviable. We already are very close to that point.

Ken Ellis

 

3-19-01

Brian Dean wrote:

> There are a few (far too few) companies moving towards shorter hours. In
> these few cases, it seems that both employees AND employers get positive
> benefits, as your list would suggest.
>
> Corporate manager types like to think they're big on "initiative", "challenge",
> "proactivity" etc, and they hate "excuses" and "whining". But when you
> suggest ways they could improve working conditions (such as shorter working
> hours), it's amazing how quickly they come up with hundreds of EXCUSES for
> not doing it. They WHINE about how it might affect their "competitiveness", etc.
> It seems that the only kind of challenges they're prepared to meet are very
> conventional ones (which I'd argue are not really challenges at all).

Your valid observations show that the movement for a shorter work week will
have to become pretty popular again (like it was 100 years ago) in order for
Americans to consider making such a change.

> (I'm not talking about the "capitalist elite" here, just the kind of
> middle-class women and men who manage departments and have
> a lot of say over their staff's working hours).
>
> The last time I suggested something practical to a manager was when they
> were having car parking-space problems. I suggested they let people work
> from home. The manager's response: "
I don't think that would be good for
> people.
" Corporate managers are the ultimate practitioners of feeble excuses,
> whining and weaseling, yet our society seems to bow down and worship
> them as if they're the most valuable people on the planet.

That reminds me of one half of one of Newton's laws of motion: 'A body
at rest tends to stay at rest.
' Bosses may be the last to abandon their
anal adherence to their short-term interests, which is why the movement
for a shorter work week will have to become a lot more popular before
anyone does anything about it. This is why we should all talk up the
issue of higher overtime premiums and shorter work weeks if we see
value in it. Is it a movement whose time has come? We shall see.

Ken Ellis

 

3-19-01

Hi, Michael,

> You seem to have the same feeling that most other people have; that
>
we will never have a revolution. But such a stance is normal in these
> periods because
we are not in a revolutionary situation. I admit that we
> do have it pretty good in this country, but how do we know it will last
> forever. There is a clear changing world situation right now. My family
> is already noticing some changes in my mother's medical benefits. There
> are also reasons why capitalism was able to prop itself up after WW2.

I can't possibly figure out what could possibly lead us to revolution. Even
Marx and Engels, in the Gotha Programme, and in a couple of letters, claim
that the republic is the form of state in which the battle between worker and
boss will be fought to a finish
. If republics are what we in the West already
enjoy, then we are not going to smash our republics, only to create new ones
on the ashes of the old, as the post-1917 experience in Europe and the USA
taught Lenin. Republics are flexible enough to adapt to the changes ahead, as
opposed to the intransigent monarchies of yesteryear. You should take these
lessons of history to heart and abandon the misplaced revolutionism which is
taught and advocated by every revolutionary party, whose party bureaucrats
know that they can still market obsolete concepts to gullible followers like I
once was, and they can use membership dues to keep themselves economically
viable. People who are gullible enough to fall for misplaced revolutionism are
usually gullible enough to acquiesce to the lack of democracy within their
parties, which are always less democratic than the very governments they want to
overthrow. They are secretive, censorious of the voices of the rank and file, and
bitterly competitive against other parties, without whose help they don't stand a
chance of making revolution, but whom it seems they sometimes do their best
to alienate. You may someday find that the problem in this world is not with
democracies, but rather with the revolutionary parties who want to replace
democracies with their alleged workers' states! You should do your best
to learn this, and then teach it to others so that they don't waste their
energy trying to make revolution in democracies.

>> As any reading of Marx tells us, our economic woes are yet another
>> crisis of overproduction. If it gets bad enough, workers, bosses, and
>> governments alike will find ways to share the remaining work, simply
>> because of our humanitarian impulses. Britain could go to a 3 day week
>> like it did for awhile during the 1970's, bosses could voluntarily shorten
>> the work week like they did in the Great Depression, and if all else fails,
>> various countries could enact a reduced work-week, as in France. No
>> country needs to revolt over economic lean times, for we have the
>> means to peacefully deal with hardship.
>
> There are other factors factors than over production such as
the
> rate of profit to fall
, capitalism can't exist without revolutionizing
> the means of production, ect.

I can't think of a revolutionary situation that was created by a falling rate of
profit, or by improvements in productive capacity. There always has to be a
political component in which the masses feel totally isolated from political power.

> Well the government might actually do this one day, and we will sure
> as hell fight for less working hours. A revolution doesn't happen by
> declaring itself, the struggle for socialism lies in the fight for reforms
> such as these, the point is that we always struggle with the workers at
> every step and always point out what their
real choices are.

A party that advocates revolution doesn't know what the real choices are.
The main purposes of a revolutionary party are: self-perpetuation as an entity,
and to distinguish itself from other entities that also claim to be revolutionary.
Revolutionaries need to understand this, and to overthrow their own obsolete
revolutionary ideologies, and to overthrow leaders who insist upon
maintaining a revolutionary posture in the face of logical refutation.

2002 note: That was yet another case of my being unreasonably contrarian.
The result of the next few decades of economic and political evolution will
amount to a 'revolution', compared to what the world presently experiences.

> If a revolution doesn't come I will continue the struggle
> till I die. In the US today we work more hours than
> we did before and more than any other country.

Good point. Class consciousness should start with the understanding that
our willingness to work long hours robs the less fortunate of opportunities
to find places in the economy.

> If their reforms are actually granted than so be it,
> i doubt they would eliminate any other class antagonisms.

Labor time reductions wouldn't mean that the owners wouldn't continue to own,
but, when you consider how few things an unorganized working class has an
opportunity to affect, it should start off by trying to fix the inequities of the
labor market, which alone would fix so many other social problems that it
would eventually lead to true social justice. From our disadvantageous
position, we simply don't have the reach to affect many other things.

> Look at France..the country you pointed out. I believe they work the
> least amount of hours in Europe, yet the class struggle is very thick
> there. See our website..almost everyone goes on strike including police
> men, lawyers, and judges that organize them. That leads me to another
> fact which is that
revolutions don't happen just under poor economic
> conditions; if that was so India would be in a constant revolution.
> Workers usually demand more under periods of prosperity after
> they become optimistic at their ability to demand more.

The fact that France can rally so many hundreds of thousands
while we struggle so hard to rally mere hundreds shows that
they are effective in aspects of life that really count.

>> <snip redundancy>
>
> <the labor party>
> You are right about the undemocratic nature of the
labor party. The reason
> why we joined the
labor party is because it is probably going to be that party
> that the workers will join in the future when workers decide to organize.

If a real labor movement springs up and forms a real working class party, then I
don't think they will settle for the undemocratic form of the LP, which was organized
from the top down, and was the creation of its leaders, whom the rest of the members
follow. This doesn't mean that the LP members can't have an effect upon its own
structure. Things could happen to revolutionize it from the inside.

> I don't want to go into exact reasons why..that would be off topic..
> Ill gladly explain if you want in another email. Once workers decide to
> join the
LP they will also have the power to change the whole democratic
> structure just as they will change the structure of their other organizations
> like the unions.

We great minds think alike, sometimes.

>> That contradiction between socialist history and Marx's program proved
>> that his program was fatally flawed, and that socialist revolutions will never
>> happen in the very countries in which they were supposed to happen first.
>
> It
didn't prove Marx's program wrong, it proved that his personal predictions
> were wrong, he believed first France, than England, then Europe. We do not
> hold Marx or whomever infallible on everything they said, we hold that their
> basic program were
correct. And that certainly does not prove that socialist
> revolutions will not happen in advanced countries like ours.

If you look at Marx's 1872 speech at The Hague, you will find that the
revolution had to happen simultaneously in the most advanced countries
in order to prevent counter-revolution
. Taking away the property of the rich
would have been interpreted by the rich as an act of extreme hostility. If a
certain country did not simultaneously revolt, that country could be used as a
base of counter-revolution. The Paris Commune failed precisely because Berlin,
Madrid and other great centers did not follow suit and support the efforts of the
Parisians
. The counter-revolution grew and snuffed out the Commune after 9
weeks. Russia was so crippled by the fact that Europe did not follow suit that
it had to restore capitalism in various areas of the economy, Stalin contradicted
Marx by oppressing the kulaks, and the USSR's lack of democracy and freedom
was very contradictory to the things Marx imagined for his proletarian dictatorship.
Ultimate failure is what we get if we try to take away the property of the rich in a
world which is not ready for it, which is why I say that 'socialist parties will never
lead anyone to classless and stateless society by directly dealing with property and
state.' If socialists can get over their infatuation with dealing with property and state,
then they stand a chance of playing a role in the struggle to abolish capitalism by
means of driving down the length of the work week. When the work week gets
ridiculously low, the necessities of life will become free, and the remaining
necessary labor would be done by volunteers, ending capitalism as we've
suffered from it. In a democratic world of rapidly advancing productivity,
there will be no other way to put capitalism out of its misery. Traditional
methods of establishing socialism were all fitted for 19th century political
conditions of having a whole bunch of intransigent monarchies to overthrow,
after which socialist and communists would have had the physical force within
their hands with which to take away the property of the rich. Notice that
nationalization without compensation was impossible after socialists and
communists won mere elections in Social-Democracies. This also proves
that traditional socialist methods are incompatible with democracy, because
democracies would have to be overthrown in order to replace them with
communist workers' states. That is an absurd scenario in 2001.

> It was actually Lenin and Trotsky who extended on Marx's views and
> showed how capitalism moves into colonial countries (uneven law of
> development) and produces situations as in Russia where capitalism
> can't develop as it did in the Imperialist ones. Most of the revolutions
> that occurred in the colonial world occurred after WW2 when the
> Imperialist countries moved there to exploit more markets. Also you
> cannot leave out the revolutionary or the labor movements (their incidents
> in all countries) that occurred in the advanced countries like in Germany
> right after the October Revolution, Italy, and North Korea today.

If what developed in the so-called communist countries was any good,
then half a billion people in Russia and Eastern Europe wouldn't have
tossed it all away a decade ago.

> may i ask what party did you belong to ?
> I hope I explained everything clearly,
>
> Michael

I don't belong to a party now, but I was a member of the SLP in the early
and mid - 1970's, and a member of LPA and LP* in the mid - 1990's.

*2002 note: LPA = Labor Party Advocates. The Labor Party evolved out of LPA.

Best Wishes,
Ken Ellis

 

3-19-01

D Fabian wrote:

> The odds are against the poor uniting, for some very down-to-earth reasons.
> Many are working more than one part-time job at minimum wage/no benefits
> just to keep their heads above water. Add in the hours worked with the hours
> running between jobs, along with the hours of shuffling children to appropriate
> child care, doing basic grocery shopping, squeezing in appointments for doctors,
> etc. Now subtract transportation from the equation, since so many of the poor must
> rely on their own feet, not cars or busses, and this demands increased time and
> physical endurance. At the end of the day, there's time to make supper, wash dishes,
> maybe do a couple loads of laundry and get ready for the next day before collapsing
> into bed, just to start all over again the next day. Take time off from children and job,
> to unite for a cause? Right. One slip up could cause one to become fired. There's that
> little-known law (at least, in Wisconsin) that allows the state to take "indefinite custody"
> of children whose parents lose their jobs and can't find another quickly enough to avoid
> becoming homeless (and yes, that's a direct violation of international agreements, per the
> Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but that's just the way it is). Bottom line: the
> poor are
too afraid to unite, to demand fundamental human rights, and the non-poor
> simply
don't care.

That really gets the thought juices flowing, because many Marxists believe
that: 'The emancipation of the working class is the class conscious act of the
working class itself
', which precludes workers accepting political assistance
from the upper classes, who were always regarded by radicals as irrevocably
hostile to workers. But, when you consider the anti-bourgeois hostility
embodied in the Marxist program of property confiscation without
compensation, then it is no wonder that Marxists are awfully paranoid and
suspicious of the motives of the capitalist class. For radicals, it's a 'them-us'
hostile situation, instead of what it should and could be, which is an 'all in
the same boat, love one another' situation. The program to share work by
reducing hours of labor is definitely humanitarian, and 'win-win'.

DF makes the very good point that the working class is either too busy or
apathetic to bother trying to organize itself into a separate non-governmental
organization, and that's worth paying attention to. I personally don't care who
initiates the campaign to roll back hours of labor, whether it is the class
conscious act of the workers themselves, or the humanitarian gesture of
an enlightened capitalist class, a combination of the above, or anything else
we can imagine. It will happen sooner or later, but better sooner than later.

Ken Ellis

 

3-19-01

Joan wrote:

> First, I speak of growth only in the sense of growing to meet the needs of
> a growing population. And the emphasis was on production, not growth.
> If there aren't enough people to run a factory,
nothing can be produced.

Labor shortages have never been a problem for laborers who enjoy
the resulting high wages, but rather a concern for bosses, who have to
shell out higher wages. But, because of the growing gap between rich
and poor, bosses can better afford to pay higher wages, and absorb
the resulting lower profits. Sometimes they make it back when a scarce
commodity commands a higher price. We should not hesitate to create
an artificial shortage of labor. Look at what OPEC is doing this weekend:
Disorganized oil producers have the potential to flood the world market with
cheap oil, but OPEC is instead creating the kind of artificial shortage of oil
that will drive oil prices up for producers. Labor leaders could do the same
thing for labor, but instead allow labor to continue to glut the labor market,
forcing wages down, and social misery up. Why are the bosses rich?
Sometimes it seems that they are rich because they have a monopoly on brain
power, while us poor have a monopoly on ... what? Useless revolutionary
schemes to take away the property of the rich. Ha. A revolutionary scheme
and a one-dollar bill will sometimes get us a ride on a cross-town bus.

Secondly, why does the population grow? Population growth is one way of
absorbing excess commodities and services. Easy credit, consumerism, and
foreign trade are some other ways of disposing of the gluts we produce.
Population growth is an important cog in the wheel of economic growth,
which is why all too few of us discourage population growth, but, slowing
production by means of a shorter work week is one way of reducing
motivation for all kinds of unnecessary and uninhibited growth
(whose results often appear cancerous to the eye of the aesthete).

> As for the future, the robot thing is pretty possible. Once the
> technology becomes really possible, shorter work week at the
> same wage will only increase the incentive for profit-seekers
> to invest in robots. You'll have to consider that.

People have already considered the economic advantages, which is why
robotization continues. I can't stop the process, nor do I want to stop it,
for it is progressive to replace labor with labor-saving technology wherever
possible. If I could do my life over again, I would turn my technical skills
to facilitating the complete replacement of labor by machines, computers and
technology; not because I own stock in any of those companies, for I don't own
a single share of anything. I simply regard the complete replacement of labor
with machines as the quickest way for the world to get rid of its miseries,
which could be accomplished in the West within the next few decades. If the
process involves pain and suffering for workers, I'll know that it wasn't my
fault, for I have advocated a humanitarian and equitable distribution of jobs
for as long as people will still have to get up in the morning to go to work.
If people adhere to that one principle during the rocky times ahead, they
cannot go wrong.

> But perhaps the answer then will be in small business --
> local companies that
can't use robots. I have much more faith in
> individuals than in corporations -- whether government or private.

You seem to be resisting the concept of 'the end of work', which is coming
whether we want it or not. It's time to start preparing ourselves for that
inevitability instead of preparing future generations to waste their lives
making the rich richer than their wildest dreams, which opportunities
will only be around for a few more decades at best.

> As for the minimum wage being raised, I think that considering we are in
> an economic boom while wages are up and labor scarce, it should be
The
> big issue. Unless a higher wages is legislated, wages will go down again
> as soon as the economy shows major signs of downturn.

There are worse things we could work on, but, adopting higher minimum wages
as the BIG focus of one's progressive energy has one major problem: It legislates
higher wages for those who are 'lucky' enough to find a low-skill job in the first
place, but it doesn't do anything for the 4% or more who can't find any work at
all, nor for the many millions of others who have given up looking for work.
Reduced labor time, on the other hand, does everything we want.

At another time, Joan wrote:

> Democratization of these nations has prevented violent revolution, but
> without the threat of revolution it might not have happened. I think that
> democracy is preferable to violence -- and longer-lasting. And the only
> way to really build positive goals.
>
> I would have to disagree with your second statement. They are better off
> because the country was basically wrecked during the 20th century, and now
> they have a chance to make it better, and by their own choices. And free speech,
> which, especially if you don't have it, would seem worth more than a little money.

I'm not really sure that we would have very much to disagree with on that
count, because I think that free speech is one of the most valuable things
the half billion people of the Eastern bloc could have won for themselves.

> It would be good if people could agree on how to help other nations,
> but it could not be some big plan imposed from outside. It would likely
> be unwelcome as well as unsuccessful.

Good point. Progressives for a long time have recognized that good things cannot
be imposed on other nations from outside. That's another good reason for us coming
to an agreement about what would best help the good old USA and Canada.

> Subject: Re: the politics of inclusion - message 2
>
> Your idea, while well thought-out, is contrary to self-interest as it is
> perceived, and therefore impossible under current conditions. Perhaps
> what has to happen first is for people to see their long-term interests.

There are self-interests, and then there are class interests. It often seems that
we only know how to act in our own self-interests, which may work during
the present era of scarcity economics, but it won't work forever, for scarcity
will soon give way to abundance, which will change our consciousness like
no mere words could ever do. In spite of the seeming futility of thought and
words, it's time to think carefully about a program that will appeal to working
class interests, which are what? Wages represent the products and services
required to get workers to show up to work. If worker X buys groceries for
a week, does the amount required to keep X alive for a week differ very much
if X works only one day, or all 7? We have to eat every day, whether we work
or not. Similarly with rent: Does it matter to the landlord if X can only find
one day's work per week, or all 7? Not a whit. Similarly with many other
products and services we consume.

On the other hand, does it matter to the boss whether we work just one day, or
all 7? It surely does. If bosses want 7 days of production, but workers are united
in only wanting to work only 1 day per week, the bosses would then have to hire
and support 7 workers instead of just one, involving a 7 fold increase in payroll.

If the bosses run the economy in THEIR interests, and we work 7 days, then
wages are low, unemployment runs rampant, and suffering is everywhere. If, on
the other hand, we unite and say that we will each work only enough days per
week so as to open up jobs for all workers, then wages are high, unemployment is
non-existent, social problems are equally non-existent, optimism runs high, and
everyone is happy - even the bosses, cuz they never lived in such a happy world.
This is the thing: to get people to abandon their short-term greed-inspired short-
term interests, and think about the interests of everyone.

Ken Ellis

In a Dec. 28, 1886, letter to Florence Kelley, Engels wrote: "The great thing
is to get the working class to move as a class; that once obtained, they will
soon find the right direction, and all who resist
... will be left out in the
cold with small sects of their own.
"

I sometimes quote Marx and Engels, not because they were revolutionaries with
an impossible scenario for 2001, but because they were sincere humanitarians
whose programs were plausible for their times, and whose writings often
contain gems of wisdom.

 

3-19-01

Em quoted me:

>> But, don't worry, at the rate of replacement of human labor by
>> machines, no one your age will be expected to do anything by the time
>> you get close to retirement age. If you get interested in automation in
>> the meantime, you might even become part of that solution. :-)
>
> ****Ken I have to ask is this tongue & cheek?

No, I was actually quite serious. With our very limited appreciation for just
how close the end of work really is, I sometimes find its closeness to be
sometimes frightening, or at least quite exciting, as I continue to wonder if
our consciousness will keep up with the future rate of technological progress.

> I really can't see the world changing so much by that time.
> also until then people still have to have roofs over their heads. I
> only wish traditional work weren't a necessity. What do you propose
> people do in the meantime before all this automation takes place.

IBM is designing a computer as smart as a human in only 10 years, but will be
as big as two basketball courts. At the rate of miniaturization of electronics, it will
only take another 10 years after that before that degree of smarts will fit into a
teacup, and then we will really see the robots become more our equals, and human
labor become fit for nothing but extinction by 2030, unless we suffer some kind of
ecological or war catastrophe before then. As more and more human labor becomes
redundant in the meantime, the best thing we could do for workers and the planet is
to insist that the length of the work week shrink in proportion to improvements in
technology. Otherwise, we could easily drive one another crazy trying to figure out
how to keep one another busy for 40 hours per week, and for what? To sell more
life insurance than the next guy? Or some other non-productive market-inspired
nonsense? It's been a long time since the bulk of us were involved in the production
of necessities of life, and felt really connected to our activity. So much of what we
do is alien to our personal existence that it becomes a crime against our own inner
nature to continue the insane way we do.

So, Chuck Ade, hang in there, don't give in, and wait for the robots to take your
place before you even lift a finger. In the meantime, become an activist for a
shorter work week, and perform a real useful function that will have the
working class and the planet thankful for your existence and 'good work'.

> You know all of our manual labor type jobs have gone overseas. The
> powers that be have seen fit that if you're not an "educated professional"
> you're only choice is to work at McDonald's. It's a sad, sad, sad world.
>
> Em

I agree, and it will soon be even sadder when all of those burger-flipping
jobs are fully automated, like with the machine I saw on TV the other day,
and all of those low-skill jobs disappear into thin air, with no other low-skill
jobs to take their places. To eliminate waste, we have little other hope than to
whittle down the length of the work week in proportion to improvements in
technology. Other programs would involve a lot of unnecessary waste.

Ken Ellis

-------------------------------
"Live working or die fighting."
-------------------------------

"The watchword of the modern proletariat" that the silk winders of Lyons
inscribed upon their banner during their strike (From Marx's 1869 "Report
on the Basle Congress
").

 

3-19-01

Martin wrote:

> There have been Unemployed Councils, but most of those in the 30's and 40's
> were organized by the CP and never sought a broader base than unemployed
> industrial workers. The has also been groups like Welfare Rights Organization
> based mainly in African-American communities. It's not a bad idea but it requires
> organizers willing to spend long hours in front of state offices, unemployment,
> welfare-to-work, or other places to establish an initial base. You might want to
> hook up directly with groups like ACORN, or Campaign for a Living Wage to
> link up with activists out there already working on issues and study the
> potential of expanding the base into the areas that you mentioned.

Thanks for the ideas, but I hope that you won't rely upon me alone to do all of
those things, for I'm afraid that not much would get done. Every one of us who
can see the value of a shorter work week needs to talk it up amongst others,
and make them aware of its value in eliminating waste of resources and efforts.

Ken Ellis

 

3-19-01

Ben wrote:

> <snip area of mutual agreement> However, I don't agree
> that
people are 'crazy' over private property anyway. In
> a private property society it is a good thing to get your
> hands on what you can, but this is just personal property
> in the case of the vast majority (and yes I include home
> ownership under this - a 60 grand house is sod all to
> the really wealthy). Socialists are talking about private
> ownership of the means of producing and distributing
> wealth and I think many, if not most, people encountering
> the case for socialism understand this perfectly.

Like I always say, the willingness of American Southerners
to fight and die to preserve as immoral a form of ownership as
slavery indicates that Americans would be even MORE willing
to preserve ownership of all other means of production. Because
people still work as hard as ever for what little they get, their
appreciation for property remains intact. At least that's the way
it seems on this side of the pond. If it were a LOT different on
your side, I would be surprised.

>> The same people who presently laugh at the ones who
>> run off to form intentional communities may very well be
>> the same ones in a few decades who will be running off to
>> gather in 'capitalist retreats'. I can just see it now: They'll
>> build a big factory, institute a 16 hour work-day, and a 96
>> hour work-week. Naturally, their Puritan work-ethic will
>> drive the good people to take the Sabbath. No benefits or
>> health care plans, and they will hold gladiator tournaments
>> in a stadium to determine who will be lucky enough to win
>> the long-hour jobs in the factory, leaving the others to live
>> lives of deprivation. They will give the factory owner control
>> over the press and every other institution in town, and they
>> will bow down to HIM (of course) everywhere he goes. :-)
>
> Brilliantly accurate distopia bro! Are you reading this out
> there anarcho-caps?!! But of course, just as Leninists all
> think THEY are going to be the leader, defenders of the
> market all think THEY are going to be the successful
> entrepreneur. Raising the question - in socialism, where
> are the capitalist communes going to find people to
> volunteer to be the wage slaves in their anachronistic
> and hellish social Disneylands?

Dystopia! Thanks, bro, for adding to my vocabulary. As for
volunteers for laissez-faire capitalism, it takes all kinds to make
this world, and, for every type of goose you can name, there will
always be enough to create at least one gaggle. Many people
will go running to their capitalist retreats.

>> <snip the middle class>
>
> On your other comments, I'd just like to say how pleased
> I am that we agree that
capitalism has to go (though not
> on the method - fair enough), that it must be replaced
> by socialism (the moneyless, classless, stateless society)
> and that
people are not AGAINST socialism just because
> they are not at present actively FOR it. Its made my week!
> Also - hope the toothache's gone away OK!

Both the toothache and the tooth are gone, thanks to the dentist.
But, of course, in my state of decrepitude, other complaints quickly
step in to fill the gap, but the grim reaper hasn't swooshed his scythe
close enough to my hide yet. Homeopathy still prevents me from
becoming yet another statistic. If it's good enough medicine for
the royal family, then it's good enough for me as well. :-)

> A couple of thoughts on the militant movement to bring down
> working time: If, as working times come down, labour moves
> into the ascendant, and, as you put it, "
benefits no longer
> accrue to property owners" - don't you think property
> owners/capitalists and their supporters might try to
> stop the whole show by whatever means necessary?

Oh, no. Their game is over as soon as a movement to share
work takes shape and forces its first new amendment through
Congress. Remember what Marx wrote about the passage of the
10-Hour Bill 150 years ago? It was the first time in broad daylight
in which the political economy of the upper classes yielded to the
political economy of the workers
, and competition for scarce jobs
was thereby greatly ameliorated (paving the way for the political
nullification of the English workers). After amending again, it will
be smooth sailing the rest of the way, simply because we are on the
threshold of unprecedentedly huge productivity increases that will
put so many more low-wage people out of work that new jobs will
not be found for them, creating a permanent unemployment crisis
that will require ever more drastic work-sharing devices, each last
change so fresh in our memories that we will become accustomed
to implementing new measures, just the way we are accustomed
in the meantime to nearly annual postage rate hikes.

> If they are not able to, then we must assume a workers'
> movement of monumental strength, which is in control
> of society and cannot be faced down by the forces of
> the state serving capital. Does this not sound like a
> revolutionary workers' movement?

Democratically imposed work-sharing measures will renew
people's faith in democratic processes, making it impossible
for a coup d'etat to succeed. Once the benefits of work-sharing
measures pacify so many people, no movement to reverse course
could possibly gain acceptance, except among a small minority
disappointed at the loss of a way of life.

> Cheers for now anyway.
>
> For socialism,
>
> Ben.

Tally ho. Pip pip. [What did I say?] :-)

Ken Ellis

 

3-20-01

Mike B. quoted me:

>> Mike B added: "Time is money; steal some today!" Until I hear differently,
>> I'll interpret that as indicating improvements in working class income, or
>> higher wages, that would result from swt. If so, higher wages is covered
>> in number 2. Perhaps Mike had something else in mind?
>
> My intention was more along the lines of suggesting numbers 3 and 11 below
> and taking direct action to do same. I mean like taking the time off from work by
> hook or by crook to be with loved ones and to enjoy music, art and literature.
> If that means taking "mental health" days off, so be it. If that means, checking
> out the SWT list while at work on the bosses' time, go for it. If that means trying
> to figure out how to live on a part-time job with a partner, then go for it. The pie
> isn't in the sky; enjoy life now. "
Hours are like diamonds; don't let them waste."
> Think about it: you sell your time and skills everyday at work to someone else.
> You'll never be able to buy that time back for yourself. Once it's gone;
> it's gone for good.
>
> Carpe diem,
> Mike B)
>
> Labor time reductions could:
>
>
3) Give people more time to spend with their families, hobbies, in service
> to their communities, etc.

>
>
11) Promote a higher general standard of personal health and well-being.

If enough of us identify with workers' desires to chisel away time from the
bosses, maybe Mike could create and maintain a separate list of creative
methods of getting time back from the bosses. The list of ways to recover
time unfortunately seems to have little to do with the list of benefits of swt.

Let's keep the list growing, folks. I thought of another 2 benefits, which
I added as numbers 12 and 13:

Labor time reductions could:

1) Put everyone to work who wants to.

2) Create the kind of shortage of labor that would force wages up.

3) Give people more time to spend with their families, hobbies, in service to
their communities, etc.

4) Cost no more in taxes, and would add more people to the tax base,
enabling tax reductions.

5) Give people more confidence in 'the system', and restore social optimism.

6) Provide real economic security to workers, enabling them to do the
right thing for both people and the planet, enabling workers to boycott
occupations lacking redeeming social values, and without fear of suffering
unemployment as a result of following their conscience. Such security
would also eliminate fear of getting locked into any one job, and would
enable them to pick and choose the occupation that best suits them.

7) Encourage technological innovation, enabling further work reductions.

8) Enhance domestic harmony and bliss.

9) Improve a country's economy, as in the example of France,
with its 35 hour week.

10) Enable reductions in unemployment insurance premiums.

11) Promote a higher general standard of personal health and well-being.

12) Reduce stress on the environment by eliminating the 'job creation'
justification for 'economic growth'.

13) Pare down the enormous profits which are plowed into non-productive
activities such as rampant speculation, excessive advertising and campaign finances.

Ken Ellis

 

3-20-01

Em replied:

> This is EM. I only wish your automation prophesy would come true. I work
> in the "clerical" field. I suppose some people would say it's a low skill job. Sure
> there are software programs where people can just speak into a machine and a
> letter is typed out but I can tell you where I work that piece of technology
> will
NEVER, NEVER, NEVER replace me. I only wish it would.

When computers become as smart and compact as humans 20 years from now,
human labor will soon after become quite obsolete. Technology evolves faster
than humans, for it evolves at an exponential rate. If we let it continue to go
exponentially, perhaps we may need a little human intervention to prevent
frightening ourselves with the possibilities. So, it won't be long before the idea
of a clerical worker pushing paper around will be as passee as prairie schooners.

> At lunch time I worked on crocheting a sweater. It looks so beautiful out
> in the sun the color's are so vibrant. Could I really expect someone to pay
> me $500 for one of them? I wouldn't have the balls to ask for that much nor
> would I expect someone to pay it. On this month's cover of I believe it's
> Mademousel (sp!) magazine there's a photo of Parker Poesey wearing a
> beaded top that cost $2,500!!!!! What??? I don't understand it. People will
> pay that much for a top and $500 for pants and I'm not even going to tell
> you how long it takes me to make that much working 40 hours a week.

I've always admired craftsmanship. I have also gotten satisfaction from
working with my hands, esp. with wood. Metal isn't as easy, but brass is
easy enough to work with crude tools, and it often looks like a piece of
gold after it's done, at least until it tarnishes. :-)

> I'm curious what is your background. :) Do you work?

Not any more. I grew up as the only son of an independent auto mechanic, who
opened his own business in 1950, when I was 7, and enslaved me to the trade in
a rather callous fashion. I had little time to follow my dreams, compared to the life
styles of my friends whose fathers had ordinary 40 hour jobs. That unhappiness
made a radical out of me, so I never put my mind to making money, and did various
odd jobs all my life. After escaping the family, I moved to Cape Cod and worked in
and on boats for awhile, and then got a job as shipping clerk for my first revolutionary
party, until I discovered that their revolution was based upon lies and quotes out of
context. Then I fixed cars for another couple of years, and gave that up because it
reminded me too much of my unhappy past, so earned my AA in electronics, and
became a computer tech for a few years before becoming a broadcast engineer for
Pacifica outlet KPFA-FM in Berkeley. That job soured as well, so I wrote a book
from '92 to '95 while part timing as a handyman at odd jobs. Then I did a little
construction and moved back East a few years ago to help care for my aging
parents. At the same time, my arthritis and other complaints finally disabled
me, probably for good.

> I only wish your prophesy of automation would come true. But you know the
> more I think about what you say I can see something catastrophe happening.
> Look at the stock market!!!

Aw, we had a worse recession in the 1930's. They found ways to share work,
and even adopted the 40 hour week in 1940 as a result. Labor was correct in
wanting a 30 hour week, and such a measure carried the Senate in 1933, to show
you how close the battle was. We will adopt a shorter work week if things get
bad enough, but we also need a militant movement for a shorter work week in
order to create the kind of world we can be proud of. With so much potential
to create waste on an increasingly gargantuan scale, we need to be militant
about cutting waste as well as unemployment.

> All I can say is I work in the "clerical" field and believe me they have
> me working like it were the year 1800. The student evaluations of the
> professors are counted BY HAND BY ME. I have to count each individual
> mark on paper and tally it up. Why do I do this. I suppose I like to torture
> myself. I really like working as a slave????? I suppose I do see an end. My
> fiancee's coming to spring me out of here by the end of this year and I only
> hope he'll get one of those jobs where he just has to telephone in so we'll
> both be free. Wish us luck!

I know how you feel. You deserve a break from that brain-numbing grind.

>> So, Chuck Ade, hang in there, don't give in, and wait for the robots to
>> take your place before you even lift a finger. In the meantime, become an
>> activist for a shorter work week, and perform a real useful function that
>> will have the working class and the planet thankful for your existence and
>> 'good work'.
>
> ****But Ken what do you propose people do for "work" in the meantime?

If Chuck can successfully evade work for the time being, that will be good.
Those who can't get away from the rat race are doomed to suffer from lousy
jobs until they organize their politicians to enact a shorter work week, so
that all workers will be able to enjoy less work without a reduction in pay.

Ken Ellis

 

3-20-01

Sheldon wrote:

> Ken,
> While I am in complete agreement with much of what you propose, including
> an increase in peoples leisure time, an attempt to eliminate unpleasant labor.
> Not "all labor" is unpleasant, and people do find satisfaction in creative and
> rewarding labor. Could we not imagine a day when unpleasant labor is done
> by robotics, but craft labor, or gardening, which people find satisfaction in
> would still be a worthwhile economic endeavor?
> Sheldon

Rest assured, because the purpose of technology in the first place is to liberate
ourselves from the mind and body-numbing labor of the ages so that we may
all engage in the types of pursuits you listed, and perhaps even more.

Mike Morin added:

> I think Ken's point was concerning the division of the workers employing
> capital (or as Ken stated it capital employing workers) to displace other
> workers, and perhaps eventually themselves. If Ken had been a worker
> who owned the means of production to produce the capital equipment that
> displaced workers, then Ken would expect some return on his labor. If the
> distribution of returns on the automated capital equipment were distributed
> fairly to Ken AND the displaced workers then, all involved would be
> potentially freed from drudgery and able to pursue more rewarding
> work as in Sheldon's "eutopian" scenario.

Mike's last sentence summed up my argument quite well.

Folks, we have been talking about this issue for a while now, and I'm
wondering if it might not be possible for us to move to a higher stage of
planning and activity. To clear the path for that, people should list whatever
reservations or arguments they might have AGAINST seeking social justice
by means of sharing work through a number of mechanisms including: higher
overtime premiums, shorter work week, more paid annual vacation time, more
paid holidays and time off, sabbaticals, earlier retirement, or anything you can
think of to get labor off the labor market, thus making room for everyone who
would like to be part of the legitimate economy.

Perhaps some might want to counterpose socialism, communism or anarchism
as a better idea, or some might think that we are helpless to do anything until the
working class comes around to adopt a socialist perspective, etc. Maybe we could
kick that around for awhile, I don't know. I only know that it may be getting closer
to the time when we might be able to do something constructive, so I would like to
become better aware of people's arguments as to 'why not share work?'. I'm hoping
that, if this is to be an alliance, we could figure out some common positive ground on
which to be allied. So, think deeply, for there is no other way out of the mess we are in.

Ken Ellis

 

3-20-01

D Fabian wrote:

> Actually, wages for laborers have been on a downhill slide (although, of
> course, there are exceptions). The government today exploits the poor
> (former welfare recipients), prison labor and foreign labor, and now has
> a large pool of people who have no choice but to work for low wages.
> "Regular" workers are put on indefinite layoff, the low wage workers are
> brought in (or work is sent to them, depending) to do those same jobs at
> a fraction of the cost, and the "regular" workers are never called back to
> their jobs. Some of these are forced by circumstances to become low wage
> workers, replacing some "regular" workers...what this all comes down to is,
> a growing pool of people who can be worked for very low wages is now
> replacing those who were paid a living wage. We can thank welfare repeal,
> NAFTA and significant increases in imprisonment of citizens and prison labor.

Many of us are aware of several or all of these facts already. How exactly do the
facts argue for or against a program to share work by means of work-week reductions
and other devices? Do you think that the complaints alone, no matter how well-stated
or inclusive, are sufficient to bring down or change the system? Please check out my
plea in my message 'Work and freedom', and tell us what you think.

Ken Ellis

 

3-20-01

Chuck quoted me:

>> So, Chuck Ade, hang in there, don't give in, and wait for the robots to
>> take your place before you even lift a finger. In the meantime, become an
>> activist for a shorter work week, and perform a real useful function that
>> will have the working class and the planet thankful for your existence
>> and 'good work'.
>
> Well, I am trying to do so, at least the not giving in part. In my
> social life, I try to be openly critical of long work hours and job
> devotion, but people tend to ignore. It's unheard of. People are too
> into working part-time and on the weekends so they can buy new cars.
>
> But, like Emmy said, what do I do in the meantime as far as work goes?
> I'll try not to be too personal, but I basically have no desire to be a wage-
> slave right now, yet I am being pressured to work by my mom. I'm done
> with high school in June, and I'm going to either go to community college
> for a couple music classes or take music classes at a separate. The main
> issue, though, is that I need a job to keep living here (not really, but I'm
> being somewhat threatened) and there is no where to work. There are only
> wage-slave jobs that I really would not feel comfortable at, with the whole
> uniform and employee guideline thing. I was thinking about AmeriCorps, or
> even Peace Corps still, like I talked about before. But those are volunteer
> things... but that's all I really want to do. I'd like to go away to the tropics
> or something still, as long as someone would take good care of my plants
> and pets while I'm gone.
>
> Does anyone know anything about AmeriCorps? They seem to do some
> decent environmental work... they were recently removing invasive foreign
> trees at the Sandy Hook park here in NJ. It's the most recent thing in my
> mind... other than volunteer work, I'm 100% screwed job-wise. Maybe
> there is some sort of program out there that pays for work like that and
> does not require any college, etc., which I am not really doing now.
>
> Peace
>
> Chuck

I hear you, bro. I thought that Dana's suggestions were well-thought out and
helpful, but I can tell from your answer that it didn't move any mountains.
Allow me to suggest: Negotiation. In your position, I would explain to your
mother that you simply don't know what to do after graduating, and that you
need a year and a quarter to decide whether to go to college, or to find a job,
or to go bumming around the country, or what. If you are in good health, I
would advise you to do the latter. You can get pretty cheap lodging at youth
hostelries, you could go all over the USA, Canada, or Europe, or wherever
else you want to go, and that would provide you with a fantastic education in
itself. Hanging around your old home town might become too boring for words.
But, there might be a way for you to hook up with like-minded individuals and
learn a lot as you wend your way around the world. You might need to borrow
in order to do that, and that's where negotiation might come in again. You might
also want to make a hard and fast agreement - A year and a quarter of peace and
NO NAGGING OR COVERT PRESSURE in exchange for a hard and fast promise
to either go to college or get a job at the end of the year and a quarter.
That would be fair enough for all parties. No matter what, good luck.

Ken Ellis

 

3-22-01

Thanks to Jeff's latest contribution, we now have 14 benefits of swt.

Labor time reductions could:

1) Put everyone to work who wants to.

2) Create the kind of shortage of labor that would force wages up.

3) Give people more time to spend with their families, hobbies, in service to
their communities, etc.

4) Cost no more in taxes, and would add more people to the tax base,
enabling tax reductions.

5) Give people more confidence in 'the system', and restore social optimism.

6) Provide real economic security to workers, enabling them to do the
right thing for both people and the planet, enabling workers to boycott
occupations lacking redeeming social values, and without fear of suffering
unemployment as a result of following their conscience. Such security
would also eliminate fear of getting locked into any one job, and would
enable them to pick and choose the occupation that best suits them.

7) Encourage technological innovation, enabling further work reductions.

8) Enhance domestic harmony and bliss.

9) Improve a country's economy, as in the example of France,
with its 35 hour week.

10) Enable reductions in unemployment insurance premiums.

11) Promote a higher general standard of personal health and well-being.

12) Reduce stress on the environment by eliminating the 'job creation'
justification for 'economic growth'.

13) Pare down the enormous profits which are plowed into non-productive
activities such as rampant speculation, excessive advertising, and campaign finances.

14) Improve productivity by eliminating worker fatigue.

 

Jeff Platt wrote, in part:

> employees are more productive on the job for 6 hours rather than 8

You are doing great, gang. Keep up the good 'work'. ;-)

Ken Ellis

 

3-22-01

Hi, craig,

> Meant to respond to this a long while ago, but still want to. I do prefer
> "craig" also, by the way. "Craig" just looks weird to me because i'm used
> to the other way.

The correction has been noted. Pleased to oblige.

>> 'Ownership of land', by which I imagine you also mean 'private ownership
>> of land', has a couple of millenniums or more of tradition behind it, and
>> people often stake their personal security on it. In my home town of New
>> Bedford, we have a pretty good sized class of people who own, say, a 3-
>> tenement house. They live in one tenement, and rent out the other 2 to
>> working class families. That rental income is mighty important to that
>> class of small owners. Small ownership is mighty important to a lot of
>> people in the USA. Just imagine all of the small towns in the USA with
>> all of the millions of small rentals and small businesses which employ
>> half of the working population.
>
> I meant it when i said it would change EVERYTHING. A lot that could be said
> about this but there's nothing specific enough to address other than just
> to say, you're looking at the situation very much from the way things are.
> My perspective is that the way things are is leading to some sort of global
> disaster (for many species, not only our own) and that a different way, that
> not only doesn't have those sort of consequences but provides a way from
> getting from here to there, is needed . . . no matter how much it may disturb
> people's sensibilities and sense of security in the present. We're way too much
> short-term thinkers. Also, the concept of ownership of land, in our modern-day
> sense, is very recent relative to the scale over which we evolved.

A lot of that I agree with, which is why I also think that private property can
someday be phased out of human existence, but not under the conditions of
a scarcity economy. As long as people work so hard, and too closely associate
their personal security with their property, a direct assault on property would
be fruitless. Better to wait the extra 40 years when all human labor is replaced
with robots and technology, and benefits no longer accrue to owners of means
of production, which will eliminate our motivation to acquire property, causing
property values to decline into oblivion. Productivity will then be infinite,
anything anyone could ever want could materialize at the snap of a finger,
so 'keeping up with the Joneses' will disappear as a great American pastime.

>> Which brings us to the question: Why do you consider the institution of
>> private ownership of land to be a disaster? I hope that you have a succinct
>> answer for the many people out there who might want to know, and might
>> be looking for a real quick bullet-proof argument against private ownership
>> so that they too can join your campaign.
>
> We like to think in terms of single-cause, single effect. We're really very
> simplistic thinkers (culturally), which is a big problem. When you're dealing
> with a situation where many variables all interact with each other (almost
> always the case in the real world), you need to think about things differently.
> So, i don't waste my time thinking about how i can make things understandable
> to simple-minded thinkers by putting it in simple-minded terms. There are
> already a lot of people doing that and it is a fundamentally limited approach.
> I'd rather approach it from the angle of: the way you normally look at it won't
> do. You need to look at it differently. From a different point of view, you will
> be able to understand. But if you're not willing to make that effort, then you
> probably don't care that much anyway, and you're not really going to be able
> to come to grips with the real problems.
>
> What's wrong with the private ownership of land, fundamentally, has to do
> with the fact that: you didn't create it. When there was "empty" land (and
> all you needed to do was kill the natives on it) then you could claim some
> kind of ownership by virtue of having taken ownership of it . . . but not
> _away_ from anyone (that mattered). But land is a finite resource and one
> that everyone ought to have some fundamental _right_ to. Imagine being
> born into a world where you have no _right_ to what you need to live. Then
> you have no real freedom in any real sense of the word. This is a world that
> we're rapidly moving toward. To avert this, we need the basic necessities of
> life to be available, by right (and equally), to all. You need space to live, grow
> food, do whatever is needed just to live. If all the land is owned before you're
> born, then when you come into the world, you are forced into a position of
> indebtedness just to be able to live. The consequences of this fundamental
> philosophical orientation is far-reaching and very negative not only with
> regard to how hostile it is to our basic nature (evolved under different
> circumstances) but to other species as well, who suffer from our excesses.

You make some very good points. I didn't ask to be born working class either.
I much rather would have been born to some other family, and hadn't been
forced to work for my father from age 7 onwards. But, here I am 57, still
worth nothing on paper. My early experiences so radicalized me that I put
aside most dreams of making money doing anything, and just drifted from
one lousy job to another. I wasn't alone, though. Many others did similar
things. But, some of the people I grew up with did really well for themselves,
and became millionaires as a result of honest labor. I could never apply myself,
even though I had advantages that a lot of other kids didn't. My father had a
successful little family business, and I theoretically could have stayed with
it if I didn't feel so bad about having my childhood stolen from me. But, I
don't blame my problems on private property. I blame it rather on the fact
that people during the Depression didn't follow through with the 30 hour
week that passed the Senate, and almost passed the House of Reps. Because
American politicians chose to enslave people to unnecessarily long hours,
millions of people were condemned to fight among themselves for long-
hour opportunities to make the rich richer than their wildest dreams.

>> Are you familiar with the writings of Henry George? I wonder if there's
>> anything in common with your ideas and his. Over a century ago, he
>> suggested that all rents be paid to the state.
>
> I can't say i've ever heard of him. My thoughts and views are largely
> self-generated, although as i read more, i find a lot of confirmation
> in those with whom i agree :)

With whom do you agree? Anyone I know or have read?

>> Feuding radicals of various stripes seem to have one goal in common, which is for
>> society to someday arrive at classless and stateless society. Do you share that goal?
>
> No, i don't. I do not believe that all people are equal and i think pretending
> that something like this can be achieved is self-delusory and harmful

I don't understand how putting an end to class divisions and state oppression
could harm anyone. Please explain. Don't you believe the founding fathers when
they wrote: 'All men are created equal ...'?

> because then you start ignoring the obvious realities . . . and harm that is
> being done. I think everyone ought to have a fundamental right to _live_,
> to be able to survive, without being a slave to anyone else. Beyond that,
> what they desire, strive for should depend upon their nature, ambition, etc.
> There should be a place for everyone, no matter where they might fall in the
> social strata. What is wrong with the stratum we have now is that those above
> don't _respect_ those below, and vice versa. We don't live in environment
> where we can harmoniously co-exist but, on the contrary, we're at war with
> each other so that some can win at the expense of others who lose.

Well, allowing ourselves to gradually abolish human labor as the robots
march in, and allowing our society to gradually abolish class divisions,
would address precisely the things you are complaining about. On another
mail list, we worked up a list of 14 advantages to shorter working time:

Labor time reductions could:

1) Put everyone to work who wants to.

2) Create the kind of shortage of labor that would force wages up.

3) Give people more time to spend with their families, hobbies,
in service to their communities, etc.

4) Cost no more in taxes, and would add more people to the tax base,
enabling tax reductions.

5) Give people more confidence in 'the system', and restore social optimism.

6) Provide real economic security to workers, enabling them to do the
right thing for both people and the planet, enabling workers to boycott
occupations lacking redeeming social values, and without fear of suffering
unemployment as a result of following their conscience. Such security
would also eliminate fear of getting locked into any one job, and would
enable them to pick and choose the occupation that best suits them.

7) Encourage technological innovation, enabling further work reductions.

8) Enhance domestic harmony and bliss.

9) Improve a country's economy, as in the example of France,
with its 35 hour week.

10) Enable reductions in unemployment insurance premiums.

11) Promote a higher general standard of personal health and well-being.

12) Reduce stress on the environment by eliminating the 'job creation'
justification for 'economic growth'.

13) Pare down the enormous profits which are plowed into non-productive
activities such as rampant speculation, excessive advertising, and campaign finances.

14) Improve productivity by eliminating worker fatigue.

Doesn't a reduced work week look like a decent thing to advocate?
Or, do you hold out for an instant 'big-bang' kind of a change?

>> It is my goal as well, but I don't think that a good way of
>> getting there is by directly meddling with government and
>> property, which is the way most radicals want to get there.
>
> The first question that occurs to me is: where do you want to go?

A common goal for many leftists is to help society to someday get to classless
and stateless society. The left wants to get there by taking away the property
of the rich, towards which goal those parties need to acquire control of the
government. My way of getting to the classless stateless goal doesn't involve
direct confrontation with property and state. It merely involves the working
class taking care of its own kind by making room for all in the economy.

> You can hardly decide about effective strategies for
> getting there when your first act is to decide upon
> goals that are practical and pragmatic, but that will
> never change _anything_ (very much).

Sorry not to be able to fully comprehend this sentence.

>> Instead, I see technology advancing so fast in the 21st
>> century that all human labor could disappear in the next
>> 30 years in the USA and other developed countries.
>
> This has always been the promise of automation. But the result is the
> opposite. Those who work, work longer and in more stressful situations
> (the way the trends have been going for the past 20 years, say) while the rest
> of the population becomes dispossessed, useless, surplus. The connection
> between survival and participation in the economic machine needs to be cut.

You are right, but don't forget that human labor is balky, expensive, can't
operate 24/7, and sometimes even unionizes to make even more trouble for
bosses, so bosses will continue to replace all crappy human labor with machinery
just as fast as they can. In 20 years, when the smarts of a human will be compact
enough to fit in a teacup, the days of human labor will be numbered. Like you
say, the promise of automation has been around since the 1950's, but we have
never been as close to realizing that promise as we are today. Automation
won't automatically lead to human fulfillment and happiness, because the
human element is going to have to change its beliefs along the way in order
to adapt to the changes ahead. I've already made important changes in my
beliefs just because I did some research into the fraudulent roots of my
revolutionary party's ideology. Most other progressives haven't even begun
to make their changes, and the changes that some of them made beginning
in 1989 haven't gone anywhere nearly as far as they should have. It's a slow
process, but ideological change will hopefully happen at least as fast as that
of the replacement of humans with technology.

>> That is why I favor driving down the length of the work week in proportion
>> to advances in technology, sort of the way France is phasing in its 35 hour
>> week. I'm looking for people to get more militant about it so as to cut down
>> the waste of the present 40 hour week in the midst of growing poverty.
>
> I totally agree that this is a good short-term goal to work towards.

Short-term? I guess that it's true, given that the complete replacement of
labor with technology shouldn't take more than 40 years. In that respect,
the continual driving down of the work-week to zero is rather short term,
but it is THE crucial device for easing a very important transition in
human history, which few people (to none) seem ready to accept.

> But, fundamentally, acceptance of this relies upon a philosophical position
> about the nature of life, work, leisure, etc. If you think that idleness plays
> into the devil's hands and that the masses need to be kept busy in controlled
> situations, then you're not likely to see the answers the same as you would
> if you felt that human freedom and dignity have fundamental value that
> overrides the puritan work-ethic, etc.

I'm with you, bro. Let freedom ring.

> So all those sorts of battles, while striving for some practical outcome,
> are really being played out in terms of philosophical perspectives that,
> when changed, allow for all sorts of possibilities, but if (for instance) the
> idea of "work/labor" as a necessary function of every human (in service
> to societal obligations to be productive) prevails, then not only are you less
> likely to attain your short-term goal, you'll probably lose other battles as well.

'Death to work' is my motto, but so many others I know are really afraid to
consider 'the end of work'. They think that 'work is good', and even 'necessary
for human happiness
', which shows you how well the bosses have brainwashed
people who consider themselves to be bastions of radical thought. I'm glad you
are different.

Until I hear from you again, best wishes.

Ken Ellis

-------------------------------
"Live working or die fighting."
-------------------------------

"The watchword of the modern proletariat" that the silk winders of Lyons
inscribed upon their banner during their strike (From Marx's 1869 "Report
on the Basle Congress
").

 

3-22-01

Mike wrote:

> Ken,
>  
> I see now even more clearly that at least You and I seem to agree (Please
> note that I will inculcate about the absence of the d. on the word previous
> to this parenthetical statement) on some of the basic values and principles
> that should guide our efforts to social and economic change. Folks who
> have seen our previous discussions will be aware that the major question
> at hand is how we go about it.

Glad to hear it. I'm always in favor of real progress.

> My real concern is the inequity in the historical patterns of Capitalism
> (i.e. capital employing labor vs. labor employing capital) and how to correct
> that situation. A good example of the problem would be an analysis of mutual
> insurance companies and savings banks, cooperative banks, credit unions, etc.
> (never mind? stockholder owned and traded companies of the ilk and the
> folks that make their living on transactions themselves?)

Those aren't bad ideas. As well as the co-ops address some economic inequities
and social injustices, human labor will continue to be gobbled up by machines,
and people will someday be forced to share the remaining work. Before we are
actually forced to do so, I hope that we will begin to adopt work sharing measures
now, so as to address the issues of today's unemployed, homeless, hungry, etc.

> Focusing on the "mutuals", the portfolios that these companies hold and
> manage and perhaps almost strictly "capitalist" (i.e. traditional stock companies).
> It would be somewhat of an oxymoron for investors to own worker-cooperatives,
> although hybrid ownership models are possible and probably some exist.

> There is also a problem related to community stewardship regarding
> environmental improvement and conservation. Please note that when
> I speak of environment, I speak of everyone's environment.
>  
> Following are some proposals from a fourteen point plan that I "dreamed up"
> a few months ago. At some point, i would like to put the entire fourteen points
> on the table for discussion. For purposes of brevity, i will restrict the proposals
> to those to those concerns which have been raised for further discussion.
>
> 5.) The Federal government would enable, facilitate, foster, and support the
> creation of regional business organizations (regional community development
> corporations {RCDCs} based on the principles of cooperative economics,
> community stewardship, equity, eco-villages, "new urbanism", sustainability,
> and conservation; to implement regional ecological economic plans.
>
> I am fully aware of how unpopular the suggestion that the Federal government
> be the agent of change.

Federal government involvement may, like you say, bother some people,
but it doesn't bother me. You'll get nothing but agreement from me on
the issue of 'using the government'.

> If we can get agreement that this sort of change is desirable,
> then perhaps we can discuss alternatives to a nationalistic state
> being the vehicle.
>
> 10.) Stockholder corporations would be phased out in favor of cooperative
> communitarian socialist business entities (as introduced in item #'s 3. and 5.)
>
> Working for peace and cooperation,
>
> Mike

snip old messages

Much of that is fine with me. I am as tolerant of those proposals as you seem
to be of work-week reductions in proportion to the march of technology. I am
glad that we don't have to be at any great odds with one another.

What you write about is fine for people who are already part of the economy,
but my measures aim at bringing into the economy the many people who are
presently on the outside, but who someday would find the measures you are
interested in to be of considerable value.

Ken Ellis

"Refute all lies!" - Pablo Neruda

 

3-22-01

Joan quoted me:

>> 'Refuse to work overtime for less than double time' is certainly an option
>> for American workers, if they were to get organized enough to push for that
>> amendment. It would be an American solution to the problem of 'too-cheap
>> overtime premiums' that don't really do a good-enough job of discouraging
>> overwork. What with the high cost of fringe benefits and insurances, a mere
>> time and a half premium makes it easy for bosses to keep the same old people
>> busting their humps for many more hours than 40. Double time would make
>> bosses more interested in hiring fresh faces. Wouldn't the resulting fuller
>> participation redound to the benefit of the whole working class?
>
> Or you could consider what some companies are expecting these days,
> perhaps summed up by "refuse to work overtime, and you
lose your job"

That's very true while the working class doesn't yet enjoy much protection
from either the government or union contracts. Hopefully, someday soon
we may enjoy more protections. That is the point of this little exercise - to
determine what would be good protections for labor, and then to demand
the amendments from our politicians. Do you:

1) regard double time to be better than time and a half?

2) regard such an amendment as worthwhile to advocate?

3) regard the issue of 'double time vs. time and a half' as too technical an issue
for you to grapple with, thus preventing quick agreement with it?

If #3 is the problem, then maybe an example would illustrate an advantage:

If A worked 40 hours at $10/hour, A would gross $400 per week, and net, say,
$300. But, the boss asks A to work an extra 10 hours every week at time and a
half after 40, so A grosses $10x40 + $10x(10+5), for a total of $550, netting
$400. Not too bad. But, by putting in all of that overtime, A stays away from
the family a lot more, the kids run wilder in the streets, the stress of long hours
takes its toll on A's health, and .... so on. With a double time overtime premium,
A would gross $600 instead of $550, and might net $450 instead of $400, if the
value of A's overtime were really worth paying those extra wages. For as many
bosses who would find it worth paying the extra overtime, there will certainly be
others in similar situations who would find it more worth their while to hire fresh faces.

Does this example help you with the issue of 'double time vs. time and a half'?
Let us know.

Ken Ellis

 

3-22-01

Joan replied:

> 1) Reducing hours people have to work may be a nice short-term end to strive
> toward so that people have more free time. However, there are still a lot of long-
> term social problems that will
not be solved so simply. Though many of them
> stem at least in part from poverty, they have multiple causes, and you
cannot
> expect to solve all of them -- or even one of them completely -- with one solution.

I'll agree that there are no quick fixes for ALL of our problems, but:

Labor time reductions could:

1) Put everyone to work who wants to.

2) Create the kind of shortage of labor that would force wages up.

3) Give people more time to spend with their families, hobbies, in service to
their communities, etc.

4) Cost no more in taxes, and would add more people to the tax base, enabling
tax reductions.

5) Give people more confidence in 'the system', and restore social optimism.

6) Provide real economic security to workers, enabling them to do the
right thing for both people and the planet, enabling workers to boycott
occupations lacking redeeming social values, and without fear of suffering
unemployment as a result of following their conscience. Such security
would also eliminate fear of getting locked into any one job, and would
enable them to pick and choose the occupation that best suits them.

7) Encourage technological innovation, enabling further work reductions.

8) Enhance domestic harmony and bliss.

9) Improve a country's economy, as in the example of France,
with its 35 hour week.

10) Enable reductions in unemployment insurance premiums.

11) Promote a higher general standard of personal health and well-being.

12) Reduce stress on the environment by eliminating the 'job creation'
justification for 'economic growth'.

13) Pare down the enormous profits which are plowed into non-productive
activities such as rampant speculation, excessive advertising, and campaign finances.

14) Improve productivity by diminishing worker fatigue.

If labor time reductions can do all of those good things, then those of us
who would like the lower classes to improve their lot in life should consider
supporting it. As for the bosses, they will continue to support their greedy
short-term interests by OPPOSING labor-time reductions. Just think, if the
bosses didn't have so much credibility, the lower classes would automatically
oppose everything the bosses advocate. But, progressives are so insecure about
jobs issues, that they perhaps think that the 'work your fingers to the bone'
policies which are good for their bosses are also good enough for labor.

> 2) I don't have time to "take off" to write a book, lol. I do write in my "spare time" --
> when it exists. But understanding doesn't have to come from such activities.

Maybe all understanding doesn't have to come from writing, but the delusions
we suffer from sometimes need very close scrutiny. When I discovered a long
time ago that I was neurotic, I spent quite a time in self-analysis and uncovered
a number of lies I had been telling myself. In the 1970's, when I discovered that
my revolutionary party's program was based upon lies and quotes out of context,
once again I had to carefully scrutinize what people were saying before I could
make sense of history and the world. When I wrote my book in the 1990's about
that old party, I discovered that I hadn't uncovered half of the lies which I should
have the first time around. One of the best ways to understand why we are as
pathetic as we are is to find a bunch of lies somewhere, and spend some time
refuting them. That is, if we are not afraid of making enemies of the people
whose structure of lies we are refuting. But, we either cower before insolent
power all of our lives, or else we take a stand against it.

To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune;
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing, end them ...

> Making sense of the world isn't about spending all your time with book
> learning; it means experiencing life. You learn a lot more from real life about
> the world and about humanity than you will learn from reading a book. Nothing
> against books or anything, but I tend to analyze something every time I'm sitting
> on a bus or walking down the street. It may be something trivial, but it doesn't
> take extra time to use your brain. Heck, one can come to a better understanding
> just by writing e-mails like this one. Some people choose not to analyze anything,
> sure. But don't
make thinking out to be some kind of elite activity only available
> to the highly educated. It isn't.

Thinking one's way through contradictions and lies is an excellent way to
gather a good self-education, and that process is available to everyone who
wants to. Sometimes one can proceed only so far in the vacuum of one's own
mind. At that point, reading about other people's approaches to the same issues
can be extremely gratifying. Learning what EVERYONE thinks about a certain
issue is the province of scholarship. Did you know that 'leisure' and 'scholar'
come from the same word root? I never had enough leisure to be as scholarly
as I wanted, unfortunately.

>>> snip old text for brevity
>
> There's still that problem of idle kids. As for the idea, sure; however,
> one must also remember that the needs of the growing population are
> also growing, meaning that in some respect production must continue
> to expand until the population stops getting larger.

I wouldn't worry about us necessarily HAVING to grow and expand, because
productivity keeps on increasing, and we are 40 times as productive as we were
200 years ago, indicating that the hours of labor could be cut without hurting
anyone. Don't forget that our 'need for growth' is perfectly artificial, and is
described by some as nothing less than cancerous - considering our usual
lack of planning and aesthetics. Growth is not something we are compelled
to do by absolute necessity. It's just that the present economics favor growth,
as in point number 12 of the list above. Unless we really want to over-burden
the environment, we should militantly insist upon labor time reductions.

>>>>> snip old text, etc.
>
>> You have that right. The nice thing about reducing labor time is that it needs
>> to be done today, and will need to be adjusted downward for decades to come,
>> until labor time becomes so ridiculously short, and people become so used
>> to sharing work that they also become fully mentally prepared to share the
>> products of whatever entity creates the means of life at a time in the not-so-
>> distant future when people will no longer have to roll out of bed in the
>> morning to go out into the world to earn a living.
>
> And what will they do?

Whatever they want to do, I guess, because they will be liberated from the
drudgery of the ages, liberated from class divisions, and liberated from the
old impulses to victimize others. Since everyone will have whatever they want
whenever they want, we will be free to follow our whims, wherever they may
take us. The lack of motivation to keep up with the Joneses will enable us to
diminish and eliminate our materialistic tendencies.

> I have always believed that work in some form is a part of humanity,
> that without any kind of difficulty or struggle or things to accomplish
> and conquer, it
cannot exist.

Work led to a division of labor, and then into society's division into economic
classes, which led to the increasing gap between rich and poor. Some glorify
'work' because they don't know what's on the other side, and don't trust that
unknown. But, it is coming to a theater near us, ready or not. Just a little more
work will lead to our liberation from work, not long from now. The work of
others has been as much the source of pleasure for some as it has been for
the misery of others. To level that playing field, and make work a reasonable
source of both income and job satisfaction for as many more people as
possible, at least for the new few decades, is not an unreasonable goal,
until work gets phased out altogether.

> Why would any intelligent person leave the heat of a coal-
> stove inside and go camping out in the cold of winter?

The cabin is being eaten by termites. It can't stay up much longer.

> Why would anyone who subsists just fine on a little piece of land in the
> foothills, venture toward a mountain peak? Why would a kid growing up
> with the material comforts of an American standard of living look out the
> window of the bus everyday waiting for something terrible to happen?

You have posed a real alternative here to 'the abolition of work'. Now, all you
need to do is convince a lot of people, Congress, the President, and the rest of
the industrialized world to call a moratorium on all further improvements in the
means of production. Then we will be able to 'enjoy' working for the rest of time.
But, due to capitalist competition to create and serve with the least expenditure
of human effort, I'm afraid that your plan would require police standing guard in
every factory to see to it that the means of production are merely maintained to
a standard of everyday functioning, and can never be improved enough to give
a factory, industry, or a country an unfair advantage over others. You may have
a bigger job ahead of you than I have ahead of me, because your alternative
involves the use of a lot more force and state intervention than mine.

> People need to be challenged by something, and if there is
> nothing they have to do to live, no risks to take, no obstacles
> to confront, then how could you call them human? No work at all
> would not be ideal. Rather, it would be the
negation of our existence.
>
> Joan

Neither do I know how we will adapt to our new existence, but it's coming
in spite of anything we may try to do about it. Quick, send for the Luddites!!

Ken Ellis

 

3-22-01

Hi, Michael,

I'm surprised that my last message didn't chase you away, not that I was
trying to do so, but I was thinking that you would figure that you would
never be able to make a revolutionary out of me, so you would retreat.
But, you didn't! I am surprised.

>> I can't possibly figure out what could possibly lead us to revolution.
>
> snip the rest of the historical unlikelihood of smashing republics.
>
> The way we see it is this. The capitalist class rules through 2
> different ways, either bourgoise republic or bourgoise bonapartist
> dictatorship. Of course the first is more preferable to us, but we
> understand that when the capitalists feel their rule is threatened
> they
will transform it to the latter in a heart beat.

Where's the historical precedent for 'taking democracy away' in the Western
hemisphere, where people fought and died to create democratic republics, which
enjoy a long tradition? The fact is that the bosses need democracy as much as the
working class, for they wouldn't know what to do without it. Are we supposed to
suddenly start to worry so much about the bosses taking away democracy that we
forget how to use it, and give the bosses carte blanche? Inculcating mass fear of using
democracy is a recipe for complete capitulation to the bourgeoisie, but I don't know of
a revolutionary party which doesn't capitulate to the bosses in some important aspect.
You should instead advocate people using their democracies to the fullest extent possible.
Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead. Inculcating fear of using democracy is tantamount
to either capitulation, or else advocating the overthrow and replacement of democracies
with workers' states, which will never happen.

> Just look at the last election with Bush.
> He and his capitalist cronies prepared a number of things in advance
> that violated laws that Americans hold so dear, even during the whole
> Florida incident we were showed what lengths they would go to.
> Now that their man is elected they have already made 3 big
> attacks on the working class that benefit them.

So, are we going to revolt over that?

> Of course Americans would never favor a dictatorship over a democracy.
> (Note that I don't hold Soviet Union real socialism. I say
Socialism is
> democratic
). In fact, that's what we say they will be fighting for.

The fact that taking away the property of the rich was possible only after
overthrowing feudal monarchies in backward countries, or after liberating
colonies, but was not possible after winning mere elections in Western Social-
Democracies, and the fact that communist countries never knew democratic
freedoms, proves that socialism and democracy have never been compatible,
and never will be. You have unwittingly repeated yet another socialist lie
which the majority will never believe.

> We have faith in the working class. We are dependent on them
> becoming class conscious and if a revolutionary situation comes
> they will set up their own assemblies (like Soviets in Russia)
> that they will participate in and fight for. There's major
> changes happening in the world, I don't know if they will
> produce a revolutionary situation, but they will be major.

I'm afraid that your hopes have been raised by socialist ideology. I will
understand if your beliefs are so strong that you would not want to confront
your comrades with the real history of socialism and its impossibilities in
2001. If you were ever to be so brave, you would be hurriedly shown the exit,
for they are only interested in gullible people repeating their lies. They would
be glad to show you the exit because they practice the bourgeois politics of
exclusion, and will be only too glad to exclude doubters. On the other hand,
the movement to share work knows nothing of politics of exclusion, for it
would put everyone to work who wants a little work to get by, no matter
what their ideology, color of skin, religion, etc. I've had the displeasure of
knowing socialists who can't wait to get into power precisely so that they can
teach the right wing a lesson or two, proving that some people's socialism is
based on hate. I've practiced enough politics of hate and exclusion in my day,
but now I renounce it and am ready for the politics of love and inclusion.

>> <snip comments on party democracy & A party that advocates revolution
>> doesn't know what the real choices are.>
>
> We do not tell workers to go off and fight a revolution. We tell them
> to fight for reforms but at the same time explain to them that the
only
> real solution to their daily problems is in a socialist society. That's
> probably why the SLP and others label me as 'reformist.'

At least Carl from Houston doesn't seem totally opposed to a double time
overtime premium replacing time and a half. He said, "I believe that the double
time for overtime would be something worth working for.
" But then he went
on to say that he didn't regard it as a reform, proving that he also needs a lot
of education, for there is no way to win double time except with a reform.

2002 note: Unions have often won double time. I guess that my point
was to make double time general.

> I don't think that you should say all parties are undemocratic, secretive,
> etc just because of your experience in the SLP. I was a member of the
>
Young Communist League and saw how they picked members to their
> nat'l conferences, so i know a little bout that. There is a correct way to
> run a party on democratic lines, and my people know how. All the
YFIS
> (
www.newyouth.com) members in the Labor Party discuss all the
> documents by email and have national conferences every year.

Well, the SLP as well wasn't perfectly undemocratic, for they knew how to
conduct elections. But, there never was a way for a member to understand
the perspectives of potential candidates for National Offices. They could have
included candidates' statement in their newspapers and other pubs, but never
did, and allowed people to make their decisions based solely on what was
floating around in the rumor mill. Also, there was no way for members to
thoroughly discuss theoretical matters. No freedom of speech = too severely
attenuated a democracy to be of use to anyone but the established power elite.
I've seen it time and time again EVERYWHERE I've been in the left. You can
have elections, just like they had under Stalin, but you can't have true
democracy without freedom of speech. Of course, this is nothing new
in the left. Engels wrote to Trier: "Are we demanding free speech for
ourselves, only to abolish it again in our own ranks?
"

>> I can't think of a revolutionary situation that was created by a
>> falling rate of profit, or by improvements in productive capacity.
>> There always has to be a political component in which the
>> masses feel totally isolated from political power.
>
> The political component lies on the economic structure of a society. See
> historical materialism. I'm not going to explain to you the exact causes
> of a revolution. I'll point out what Lenin once said ,"
when the ruling
> class is divided and can no longer rule in the old way, when the middle
> classes are in discontent, and the workers can no longer live in the old
> way, than a revolution is at hand
"

The fact remains: There is no precedent for workers in the West replacing
their democracies with communist worker states, nor for finding it easy to
change the institution of private property. Do you know another reason why
communists in the East and colonies were able to take away the property of
the rich? As Engels explained in a letter to Lafargue, the institution of private
property barely extended east or south of the Mediterranean
. That's one good
reason why the Soviets were able to communize ownership of all of the land on
the first day of the revolution, because practically the only people who owned
any land worth mentioning were the feudal class that had just been overthrown.
When you enjoy full state power, you can do what you want, but you can't
expropriate without compensation after winning a mere election.

>> Good point. Class consciousness should start with the understanding
>> that our willingness to work long hours robs the less fortunate of
>> opportunities to find places in the economy.
>
> I'm sure we will work long hours
unless we wouldn't want our families to starve.

Not true at all. If we are 40 times more productive than we were 200 years ago,
we could probably provide the necessities for everyone by merely working ONE
HOUR per week. There simply is no excuse for any of us working long hours
except for our ignorance, capitulation, willingness or eagerness to make the
rich richer than their wildest dreams.

>> Labor time reductions wouldn't mean that the owners wouldn't continue
>> to own, but, when you consider how few things an unorganized working
>> class has an opportunity to affect, it should start off by trying to fix the
>> inequities of the labor market, which alone would fix so many other
>> social problems that it would eventually lead to true social justice.
>> From our disadvantageous position, we simply don't have the
>> reach to affect many other things.
>
> I agree, that's why we have transitional demands in our program. We
> advocate things such as better working conditions, etc. We know that
> workers won't make a revolution because you tell them to. We hope that
> they will make that decision on their own when they realize that these
> reforms
won't either be enough or not granted.

Every revolutionary understands that they are far too insignificant a force to
create a revolution on their own, or even with the help of the revolutionaries
they love to fight with, so they maintain hope by shifting the burden of
initiative on the workers. Ha. Workers could give a fig for a revolution.
Their contempt knows no bounds. I know, because, when I was a socialist
doing my propaganda work on a ship, I learned how they felt about socialism
and socialists. It was never any different in any other place I propagandized,
so I eventually gave up proselytizing, long before I gave up hope for a
revolution. The bigger the fools revolutionaries make of themselves, the
more they become dependent upon the mutual support of similar fools
in their revolutionary organizations.

>> The fact that France can rally so many hundreds of thousands while we
>> struggle so hard to rally mere hundreds shows that they are effective in
>> aspects of life that really count.
>
> My point was that even though the French workers fought hard for their
> new working hours law, it didn't cease to stop the struggle there at all.

That's true. The struggle over hours of labor continues everywhere. France is
a good example of the difference between 'division and slavery' and 'unity and
freedom'. It doesn't take much to get them up in arms over perceived slights or
losses, while we Americans just take it on the chin, unless we are in a union.

>> snip LP

>> If you look at Marx's 1872 speech at The Hague, you will find that the
>> revolution had to happen simultaneously in the most advanced countries
>> in order to prevent counter-revolution.
Taking away the property of the
>> rich would have been interpreted by the rich as an act of extreme hostility.
>> If a certain country did not simultaneously revolt, that country could be
>> used as a base of counter-revolution.
>
> If a revolution doesn't spread (or succeed) to other countries, the
> revolution is screwed, as in the case of the Soviet Union early years.
> We live in a global economy, what effects us will in turn have an effect
> on the rest of the world. Socialism is international or it is nothing. There
> is probably no country where the means of production are capable of
> producing enough to be consumed by just that one country. Everyone
> is dependent on everyone else.

If, as in Marx's scenario, the whole West had to revolt simultaneously in
order to prevent counter-revolution, then that fact right there shows that
such a revolution is less plausible now than in Marx's day, given the present
dearth of rotten-ripe feudal monarchies begging to be overthrown. Marx's
scenario depended upon socialists following up democratic revolutions with
socialist revolutions because communism was weak and scattered then, just
like it is now. With no more monarchies to overthrow in the West in 2001,
communism is screwed.

>> The Paris Commune failed precisely because Berlin, Madrid and other
>> great centers did not follow suit and support the efforts of the Parisians.
>
> First of all,
nothing like the Paris Commune happened before.

Don't forget the brief red republics in France and Germany during the
revolutionary struggles of 1848 and 49. Those events taught Marx and Engels
a few things. Don't forget 1789-93, either. They were all microcosms of 1871.

> Even though the workers there accomplished so much on their own,
> they lacked a revolutionary leadership.

I wonder how much we can blame the failure of the Commune on the fact that Blanqui
was in jail the whole time. The fact is that the world didn't go communist then, it didn't
in 1917 either, and it even retreated from communism from 1989 onwards. Cuba, China,
North Korea, and all other hold-outs are bound to become capitalist democracies
eventually. Their leaders are having to concede more and more to their internal
opposition. Chinese can own their own homes, Cubans can run small businesses,
etc. We will see more democracy and capitalism in those countries soon.

> Also one of the reasons it failed is because the Pariseans did not
> nationalize the banks. Which is exactly what the Bolsheviks did
> when they took power after learning this bitter experience. People
> were going in and out of them like it was nothing. The banks could
> have been a powerful bargaining tool against the bourgoise.

If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

>> Russia was so crippled by the fact that Europe did not follow
>> suit that it had to restore capitalism in various areas of the economy,
>> Stalin contradicted Marx by oppressing the kulaks, and the USSR's
>> lack of democracy and freedom was very contradictory to the things
>> Marx imagined for his proletarian dictatorship.
>
> Agreed. But please do not limit Stalin's evilness to his
> misunderstanding or Marxism, it had more to do with
> his connection with the privileged party bureaucrats.

The whole problem with Marxism is the impossibility of doing anything
about the institution of private property in the West before the conditions for
the abolition of private property have arrived. A lot of people derive their whole
sense of security from their property. So many Westerners own their own homes,
cars, boats, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, IRAs, etc., that they can't imagine giving up
any of it just because socialists insist that it fall under common or state ownership.
Even an attack on merely the property of the rich would be poorly greeted, making
people fear 'What's next?'

>> Ultimate failure is what we get if we try to take away the property
>> of the rich in a world which is not ready for it,.
>
> Of course, because if the world is not in a revolutionary situation
> it would be like me trying to stage a coup in the City Council.

As long as people work hard for what little they have, they will associate
much of their sense of security with their property. There has to be a decent
reason given for wanting to take away the property of the rich in the first
place, and that reason has yet to be given. Socialism for Marx and Engels
wasn't the end-all and be-all of their social activism. If you read the 1877
biography entitled "Karl Marx", Engels explained that socialism was really
subservient to 'full participation in the economy'. Back in the days of M+E,
when taking away the property of the rich was a plausible adjunct to the
simultaneous overthrow of a bunch of intransigent monarchies, socialism
was more of a plausible specter. But, anyone who thinks we would need
socialism in order to provide full participation in Western economies would
need to have their heads and ideologies examined. But, revolutionary parties,
just because they are in essence bourgeois little businesses that can afford to
run themselves like exclusive little clubs, can afford to ignore members' pleas
to re-examine their ideologies, just the way the SLP could ignore my pleas
back in the 1970's. They can afford to market their ideologies unchanged,
for they never intended to be anything better than businesses in the first
place. Your leaders know as well as I do that they are merely exploiting
you, but they would be the first to deny it, just like my revolutionary leaders.

>> When the work week gets ridiculously low, the necessities of life
>> will become free, and the remaining necessary labor would be done
>> by volunteers, ending capitalism as we've suffered from it.
>
> I highly doubt such a scenario will ever happen. Capitalists fear too much
> employment because that breeds high wages which can only come out of the
> capitalists pocket. That's one of the reasons why Alan Greenspan and the
> Federal Reserve will raise interest rates from time to time. They know very
> well that a worker is a commodity like any other so when they raise interest
> rates, capitalists will be less inclined to borrow money and hire less people.

What you wrote shows that you know why the bosses like unemployment.
But, can you reverse engineer and advocate the full employment policies that
would put everyone to work? Not if your party doesn't want you to, for the
purpose of a member is to support a party's revolutionary line, no matter how
stupid or illogical. You just gave the clue to the entire emancipation of the
working class, but you are shackled by your party's program, preventing you
from advocating policies that would set the workers free. Hopefully some
day you will come to understand the tragedy of it all.

Whatever the concerns of the capitalist class and Greenspan, we have our own
class concerns, which is to put every last person in our class to work. As Sam
Gompers said, 'As long as one worker goes without work, the hours of labor
are too long.
' Perhaps that's one of the reasons socialists hate Gompers so
much. Instead of being the tool of the out-of-touch leftists of the old SLP,
he paid closer attention to the practical needs of the workers he represented.

You may have noticed that the stock market continues to decline in spite of the
cut in interest rates. That is because we are in a crisis of overproduction, and the
only way to fix that with any efficiency is to raise the overtime premium to double
time, and cut hours of labor. Instead, the jerks in the Fed are going to try to over-
stimulate an already tremendously inefficient economy. Someday, they may have
to go to a negative interest rate in order to absorb the enormous surpluses.
Maybe only then will the 'shorter work time' people have any influence.

>> Notice that nationalization without compensation was impossible after
>> socialists and communists won mere elections in Social-Democracies. This
>> also proves that traditional socialist methods are incompatible with democracy,
>> because democracies would have to be overthrown in order to replace them
>> with communist workers' states. That is an absurd scenario in 2001.
>
> The problem is that these 'communist parties' have
nothing to do with the
> working class. They long ago betrayed them with their class collaborationist
> polices and their dictates of Moscow. They might give lip service to revolution
> but we see their performances in Europe as in 68 when they told workers to not
> go on strike. Even the social democrats in every European country is working
> hard to denationalize plants, and cut people off welfare.

Every party believes that it is the one true party of socialism or communism,
and that all others are phony. It's a lose-lose game they all play.

>> If what developed in the so-called communist countries was any good,
>> then half a billion people in Russia and Eastern Europe wouldn't have
>> tossed it all away a decade ago.
>
> (I meant South Korea up there not N.) We do not defend the ruling
> communist parties in these countries. We do however defend their planned
> economies which has many benefits. Now all these new 'democratic' countries
> are in hell, and many people there have chosen to vote for the Stalinist Communist
> parties. Just recently in Moldovia Communists won elections that gave them 70%
> of the seats, many who voted for them were the same people who 10 years earlier
> took arms in to the streets shouting '
lets kill those Russian Reds." Read the book
> on
marxist.com "Russia:Revolution to counter Revolution" It explains how the
> bureaucracies in the deformed workers states were ready to betray the working
> class and move to capitalism to protect their privileges.

A lot of the parties in the previously 'communist' countries have converted
to advocating Social-Democracy, as befits their new democratic conditions.

> P.S. What do you think of the New Union Party; SLP splinter group ?

I think that they are as impervious to logic as any other De Leonist group I've ever run into.

> Also if you want to write a clear & short article about why we
> should fight for 'double time' I will gladly send it in to the Labor
> Party. Just don't mention any thing about socialism.
> Explain double time to me anyways ?

I read a few years ago a report that time and a half isn't a very good disincentive
to keeping the same old workers on the job for more than 40 hours per week.
When one considers all of the expenses of hiring a new worker, what with the
insurances, medical and dental plans and all kinds of benefits, it becomes
cheaper for bosses to keep the same old people slaving away forever and ever.
That is why the premium should be raised to double time. It would be a greater
discouragement to working the same old people beyond 40, and would encourage
hiring new people, which is what we want - full participation in the economy.

Best Wishes,
Ken Ellis

In a Jan. 27, 1887, letter to Florence Kelley, Engels wrote: "Our theory is a theory
of evolution, not a dogma to be learnt by heart and to be repeated mechanically.
"

 

3-22-01

Mike wrote in response to 'Economics':
 
> If you have two small businessmen, and both are having trouble make ends
> meet, then there may be no option for: businessman A and businessman B
> 'ponying up' to pay workers because in order to run the same amount of
> business they may incur the same amount of costs. If either or both go out
> of business because of their labor costs then there is less work for "workers".
 
Past experience shows that: Whenever there is a market for a service or a
commodity, entrepreneurs step in to fulfill the demand, and charge the going
rates, which people pay. It is not for us class conscious workers to approach
our unemployment problems from the perspective of 'having to save the hides
of the small business person
' in order to save a few jobs. Contrary to a lot
of opinion, we can put everyone to work without fearing the collapse of the
capitalist system. We already have the success of France's 35 hour week to
build upon. We can make room in the economy for everyone by withdrawing
labor from the labor market. We will someday discover that it's the only option
available, if we don't in the meantime simply adopt it as the most efficient device
for social justice.
 
> I still propose and support a guaranteed income that would cover essential
> needs. It would get very bureaucratic, but how any additional income was
> taxed could be progressive relative to the employer's ability to pay.

There is more than just one way to get a guaranteed income. One way is to tax
and spend to develop a program, and the other is to make room for everyone to
fit into the economy so that they can support themselves. If one wants to be
inefficient about it, and ensure people's enslavement to the 40 hour week,
then tax and spend and create programs. If one would rather be efficient,
and slowly liberate everyone towards the eventual workless society,
then go for work week reductions.

> Elimination of an "Unemployment Bureaucracy" resulted in Democratic
> Party lies of a 4 to 5% unemployment rate (full employment by some people's
> definition) when the actual rate is probably somewhere closer to
30 to 40 %.

People who study unemployment figures from a jaundiced-eye perspective are
pretty unanimous in their judgment that the real figure is closer to 11% for America,
U.K., and Europe. 30-40% doesn't begin to approach the reality of life in America,
though the USA did have up to 40% unemployment during the 30's Depression.

> These are lies comparable to the Reagan Administration taking housing out
> of the consumer price index (CPI), then reporting "annualized rates of inflation"
> of about 1.0 to 1.2 % when the cost of housing was tripling.\

Ronny Ray-gun was a liar, no doubt about that.

Ken Ellis

 

3-22-01

Hi, gang,

Sometimes I like to engage in idle speculation. Here's today's sample:

You may have noticed that the stock market continues to decline in spite of
the cut in interest rates. That is because we are in a crisis of overproduction,
and the only way to fix that with any efficiency is to cut hours of labor.
Instead, the Fed is going to try to over-stimulate an already tremendously
inefficient economy. Someday, they may have to go to a negative interest
rate in order to get the economy to absorb the enormous surpluses. Maybe
only then will the 'shorter working time' people have any influence.

Feel free to comment or correct.

Ken Ellis

 

3-23-01

Brian quoted me:

>> unless we suffer some kind of ecological or war catastrophe before then.
>
> Yes. For me, the big question is:
>
> Can society reach "post-scarcity" (ie abundance for all, and
> the consequent social transformation) before eco-disaster
> or war returns the planet to a state of scarcity.

I think we can do it. The possibilities are there. The question is: Will we?
Or, will some dark, sinister force intervene to ensure that we never get there?
That might be the biggest concern for us, which would mandate our being
very public and open about the humanitarianism behind wanting everyone to
share the remaining work for as long as people will have to roll out of bed in
the morning to make a living. That also will be the best way to ensure that we
will be mentally prepared to share the products of whatever entities create the
necessities of life after the need to go out and earn a living will have faded away.

> The latest on global warming looks bad. It's almost as if the capitalist
> system is creating exactly the conditions (pollution/conflict) to ensure we
> never reach post-scarcity. Of course, that makes sense from the capitalist
> point of view, since capitalism is *
based* on the idea of scarcity - an end
> to scarcity means an end to capitalism (if you don't believe me, dig out
> any economics textbook and see the role "scarcity" or "limited resources"
> plays in supply-and-demand economics). In other words, global warming
> is a perverse kind of self-preservation for capitalism.


2002 note: Brian made it appear as though transcending capitalism and scarcity
is little more difficult than applying will power. Capitalism exists because of
scarcities, not because of the will of an evil and greedy capitalist class determined
to keep lower classes in subjection.

You state the dangers well. All of the excesses and waste could be easily
and feasibly curtailed by driving down the length of the work week. The
necessities of life will always have to be produced, no matter how long or
short the work week, so we would cut back the dross and superfluities if we
were smart enough to drive down the length of the work week. With today's
enormous productivity, we could easily drive it down to less than 8 hours per
WEEK with no curtailment of necessities. Some of the side benefits would
include: full employment at reduced hours, a sufficient wage for everyone, no
need to raise taxes, leisure to spend with families and communities, reduced
personal stress levels, higher states of health, and fewer profits for advertising,
political slush funds, real estate speculation, and cancerous 'economic growth',
etc. One would think that environmentalists would jump on the shorter work
week bandwagon, but they don't, so I often wonder what stops them, if it isn't an
attachment to punitive 'tax and spend' socialist programs, or some other ideologies
that are attached to obsolete socialism, communism and anarchism. Getting off
those obsolete bandwagons and changing to militant work week reduction isn't
an easy transition to make. I know. I had to write a book in order to convince
myself of the absurdity of socialism, communism and anarchism. Taking away
the power and property of the rich was a lot more plausible in Marx's day, when
they had a lot of intransigent feudal monarchies to overthrow, and they could have
taken away the property of the rich as an adjunct to capturing full state power. If it
didn't happen then, then it is even less possible in today's world, when the number
of old feudal monarchies to overthrow are comparatively very few. 1917 proved
that the Western Hemisphere is not about to overturn its democracies for the
novelty of supporting socialist experiments.

> Given the world population level, technology is *necessary* for us to
> reach "post-scarcity". Abandoning technology would return us to scarcity,
> condemning millions to starvation (ie millions more than are currently
> starving). This is something the anti-technology groups ignore or forget.

Good observation.

> I think any wars or violent revolutions have the potential to increase
> scarcity. Let's say, for example, that in the next 20 years we have an
> ecological catastrophe followed by a violent movement against technology
> (since people will blame technology). So people dismantle factories, etc. So
> you've got two increases in scarcity: one caused by the eco-disaster, and
> another caused by the dismantling of production-increasing technology.

That's a plausible scenario. May we be smart enough not to let it happen.

> Any increase in scarcity makes the situation worse. It justifies conflict
> and "competition" - ie fighting for scarce resources and for control of
> those resources (the underlying motivations of the capitalist system). In
> other words, an anti-technology revolution would ultimately *serve*
> capitalism by perpetuating scarcity. So would an ecological disaster.

Good analysis!

2002 note: Actually, scarcity isn't something that can be turned on and off
like a faucet. The fact that people work is evidence of scarcity. Post-scarcity
will mean that people won't have to work at all, and vice-versa.

> But back to jobs. Assuming that technology is used to replace human
> labour, the big question then is: how is income/wealth distributed? It can't
> be distributed as "wages for work" - since no-one would be working.

It won't be an overnight occurrence. Technology will evolve slowly enough,
giving our thinking enough time to evolve to keep pace with technological
improvements. 2002: Learning to share work while work still exists will
teach people to share the products of the entity that provides for all
after all opportunities to work dry up.

> So we need to distribute income to people who don't work.

Distributing income is not fair to those who work the 40 hour jobs, while
others get nothing but subsistence to live on, and who form a pool of reserve
labor who probably would rather work; so, they compete for scarce jobs,
forcing wages down. Better to follow the French example, and lower the
length of the work week in order to maintain a more complete participation
in the economy. The French economy has improved, since reducing from
39 to 35 hours per week, and they have less time to produce pure waste.

> And we shouldn't wait until technology has completely replaced
> ALL human labour - we should start now, by paying people not
> to work in pointless or environmentally destructive jobs.

Not waiting is a good idea. If we went from a 12 hour day to a 10 hour day
to an 8 hour day over the past 150+ years, then that points to the direction we
should head for. That particular experience of a billion people over the past
century and a half shouldn't be ignored when we plan our next move.

> But given the current barbaric, hostile attitudes towards welfare
> recipients (ie people paid for not working), I'd say the change in
> social attitudes required is probably a bigger jump than the actual
> implementation of labour-saving technology needed.

Not too many people are going to find much that is noble about augmenting
the welfare system. If we keep our eye on full participation, we will have a
much better chance of developing as a fair-minded society.

> But in the meantime, any decrease in working hours is surely an extremely
> important goal to aim for, for the reasons given on the list previously posted.
>
> Brian
>
http://www.anxietyculture.com

I'm glad you liked the list. Quite a few contributed to it.

Ken Ellis

 

3-23-01

Danyeke quoted me:

> At 09:11 AM 3/19/01 , Kenneth Ellis wrote:
>> IBM is designing a computer as smart as a human in only 10 years, but
>> will be as big as two basketball courts
. At the rate of miniaturization of
>> electronics, it will only take another 10 years after that before that degree
>> of smarts will fit into a teacup, and then we will really see the robots become
>> more our equals, and human labor become fit for nothing but extinction by
>> 2030, unless we suffer some kind of ecological or war catastrophe before then.
>
> Hmm. While I certainly share your enthusiasm for reducing the amount of
> useless work humans do, Ken, I'm quite doubtful about IBM (or anyone, for
> that matter) designing a computer that will be "as smart as a human" in only 10
> years. I think it's essential, when evaluating the possible validity of predictions
> like this, to try to appreciate the sheer enormity of the task. The neurons in the
> human brain, for example, are massively interconnected and can easily handle
> tasks like natural language acquisition and visual perception. These, however,
> are some of the hardest tasks for artificial intelligence/robotics to emulate.

As far as the 'smarts of a human in 10 years' goes, you would have to take
up your argument with IBM, not with me, for their prediction made a lot of
mainstream press a few months ago. I took it a step further by claiming that
the smarts would be able to fit in a teacup by 2020 by simply applying,
correctly or incorrectly, a bit of Moore's law to IBM's prediction. Scientists
are also counting on fresh discoveries and developments taking the mantle
of supremacy off the silicon chip and draping it over any of several new
technologies under research and development. Big things will be happening
within 20 years, for sure. The 20 years AFTER 2020 will result in a very
different world. Provided, of course, that we don't blow ourselves up in the
meantime. I doubt if the first really smart computers will have the capacity
to appreciate Picasso or Chopin, but, what the heck. As long as they are good
for practical tasks, then the days of human labor will really be numbered.
Try 40 x 356 days, or a mere 14,000. Tick, tock, tick, tock ... Chuck may
have to participate in the work force for a little while, but he'll be one of
the lucky ones who will get to retire by age 50 or 60.

> I could go on and on about this--as a academic studying cognitive science
> and AI, this is one of my favorite topics--but I don't want to get too far off-
> topic for the CLAWS list here. The point is that the predictions of having
>
computers "as smart as a human" to take over the work are, in my opinion,
>
overly optimistic.

We are all entitled to our opinions, including IBM. I'm sure people back in
1900 would have laughed at the thought of satellites and 'men on the moon'
in the 20th century. The amazing thing about the 21st century is that almost
anything we can imagine for 50 years from now doesn't seem so implausible
any more. The speed of the approach of the unthinkable makes me hope that
people will get over their hate-inspired socialist, communist and anarchist property
redistribution and government power schemes in favor of a humanitarian plan to
share work equitably for the few remaining decades of the era of wage labor.

> Also, there are all kinds of social and political implications and hurdles
> to deal with when it comes to robotics. Thus, I rather doubt that human
> labor will be "
fit for nothing but extinction" by 2030. It's definitely an
> interesting idea to ponder, though.

Welcome to the club of ponderers. There's room for everyone here.

>> As more and more human labor becomes redundant in the meantime, the
>> best thing we could do for workers and the planet is to insist that the length
>> of the work week would shrink in proportion to improvements in technology.
>
> That I completely agree with. :)
>
>> Otherwise, we could easily drive one another crazy trying to figure
>> out how to keep one another busy for 40 hours per week, and for
>> what? To sell more life insurance than the next guy? Or some other
>> non-productive market-inspired nonsense?
>
> I think we're *already* driving one another crazy doing just that. That's
> one of the reasons I started CLAWS--to help provide a forum for those of
> us who are interested in changing the way we perceive work and leisure to
> get together and exchange support and ideas. There are very few outlets, it
> seems, where people can discuss the craziness of the Puritan work ethic
> and such without being perceived negatively.

We're having a lot of fun on this funny farm. I like it so far.

>> It's been a long time since the bulk of us were involved in the production
>> of necessities of life, and felt really connected to our activity. So much of
>> what we do is alien to our personal existence that it becomes a crime
>> against our own inner nature to continue the insane way we do.
>
> Well said, Ken. I also think that people can feel deeply connected
> to their activity even if it doesn't directly involve the production of
> the necessities of life. But then, I'm an optimist that way. :)
>
> -Danyeke

Well stated as well. I appreciate the correction. :-) Someone on another forum reported
that 60% of U.K. workers think that their jobs are pointless, useless, or worthless.

Ken Ellis

 

3-26-01

Re: A questionnaire for you

> ************************************
> Which of the following statements do you come closest to agreeing with?:
>
> 1. I'd prefer that people's income comes solely from activity in the
> market (ie paid work, "self-employment", "self-sufficiency", income
> from investment, entrepreneurialism, etc).
>
> 2. I'd prefer that people's income comes solely from activity in the market
> and/or participation in state-subsidised work or training schemes.
>
> 3. I'd prefer that a survival income is available to people unconditionally
> (ie not conditional upon participation in the market or in any state-
> subsidised scheme), and which doesn't prevent access to other forms
> of income (eg from paid work).
>
> 4. Other (please specify).
> ************************************

One.

Ken Ellis

 

3-27-01

Joan wrote:

>> Ken: In the shorter hour scenario, the bosses will either pony up with
>> the standard wage, or their workers will abandon them for some other
>> boss who will. There will be no skin off the teeth of the workers.
>
> Except that there will be fewer jobs...
>
>> Ken: One purpose for reducing hours of labor is to make room for
>> everyone in the economy; therefore, no 'unemployed' after the reform
>> is fully implemented. We already have programs for the 'unemployable',
>> so those programs would stay in place.
>
> What about when there are more workers in the country due to population growth?

The whole purpose of reducing hours of labor is to make the economy serve the
WHOLE working population, no matter how big or small. We can't attain social
justice so long as a big percentage are left out with not much to do but starve or
get into trouble. One of the best way for us to express our humanitarianism would
be to ask our Congress people and politicians to absolutely insist that 'the work
week be short enough to enable FULL participation in the economy'. That's not
asking much. It's not like asking people to grab rifles and muskets and take state
power. It's not like asking the government to nationalize the industries. It's not
asking people to ask their Congress people to tax the rich and spend the money
on the poor. All it asks is to make room in the economy for the maximum
percentage of eligible workers, and it doesn't matter if the population grows, stays
the same, or shrinks. All it asks is for us to apply a little intelligence to the problem,
and make room in the economy for everyone by means of a few little amendments
to the Fair Labor Standards Act. We will have to do this sooner and later, but we
could save a lot of suffering and heartache by doing it sooner.

As far as revolutionaries go, I understand that many of them are bourgeois
enough to hold out for their revolutions before they lift a finger to do
anything practical, but poor people can't wait for a revolution which
never looks close enough to hope for.

I'm still working on the other message, but I'm sorry to have been terribly
distracted recently.

Ken Ellis

 

3-29-01

Thanks to Mike B's latest thoughts, I added #15 to the list of benefits of swt.

Labor time reductions could:

1) Put everyone to work who wants to.

2) Create the kind of shortage of labor that would force wages up.

3) Give people more time to spend with their families, hobbies, in service to
their communities, etc.

4) Cost no more in taxes, and would add more people to the tax base, enabling
tax reductions.

5) Give people more confidence in 'the system', and restore social optimism.

6) Provide real economic security to workers, enabling them to do the
right thing for both people and the planet, enabling workers to boycott
occupations lacking redeeming social values, and without fear of suffering
unemployment as a result of following their conscience. Such security
would also eliminate fear of getting locked into any one job, and would
enable them to pick and choose the occupation that best suits them.

7) Encourage technological innovation, enabling further work reductions.

8) Enhance domestic harmony and bliss.

9) Improve a country's economy, as in the example of France,
with its 35 hour week.

10) Enable reductions in unemployment insurance premiums.

11) Promote a higher general standard of personal health and well-being.

12) Reduce stress on the environment by eliminating the 'job creation'
justification for 'economic growth'.

13) Pare down the enormous profits which are plowed into non-productive
activities such as rampant speculation, excessive advertising, and campaign finances.

14) Improve productivity by eliminating worker fatigue.

15) Alter investment priorities, enabling the economy to serve a greater
portion of humanity.

Mike B wrote:

> A friend of mine wrote:
>
> I'd go so far as to say that it's the most useless of commodities that are
> overproduced (automobiles, computers, electronic knick-knacks, software)
> because the potential for profits in these markets seems to draw investment
> capital toward them, while the most useful commodities (health care,
> education, other valuable social services, renewable energy) appear unprofitable
> and don't attract capital: another flagrant example of the bass-ackwardness of
> capitalism where what gets produced isn't needed and what's needed doesn't
> get produced.
>
> Mike B)

Next time I send the list, I might re-arrange it so as to group similar concepts closer together.

Ken Ellis

 

3-29-01

It's good to have a forum about left unity, but no unity will be formed around
redistributing wealth, or changing property relations, for there are too many ways
to do that, so people won't be able to agree upon a single plan. Socialism, anarchism
and communism are 3 mutually exclusive ways of trying to take away the property
of the rich. Communists cannot replace the state with a workers' state at the very
same time anarchists are trying to replace the state with a classless, stateless
administration of things. So, communists and anarchists will never cooperate
with one another on a common program, due to their irreconcilable differences
on the methods of replacing bourgeois states.

Similarly, reformers of existing states are not going to cooperate with state-
smashing communists and anarchists. Thus, there will never be a basis of left
unity around the broadly socialist task of taking away the property of the rich,
so the left ought to give up on that particular goal, but they don't. Attempts
to apply logic and reason to socialist political programs are futile. Leaders
understand the futility, but most radical groups are little more than little
businesses designed to compete with other groups for gullible followers,
just the way grocery stores compete for customers.

Radical groups are characterized by intransigent bureaucracies, secretiveness
of internal operations, censorship of their own members, and sectarianism.
Some top leaders already understand all of this, but don't have the guts to
admit it for fear of compromising their own control of their fiefdoms. In a
world in which it is difficult to find ways to make a living, leaders are careful
to preserve the good things going for them. Thus, some parties with very
radical programs treat their employees like ordinary wage slaves. Taxes
are withheld, benefits are granted, wages are paid, etc. If a party program
succeeded in attracting followers in the past, then it is just as likely to work
in the future, given the naivete of party followers, who often remain loyal
for life. Internal change is as likely as a leopard changing its spots.

What to do? Because Southerners were willing to fight and die to preserve as
immoral a form of ownership as slavery, indicating the willingness of people
to continue to fight and die 10 times more to preserve all other forms of
property, activists should stop trying to arrive at social justice by dealing
directly with property and state. If taking away the property of the rich was
possible only after overthrowing feudal monarchies, or after liberating
colonies, but was never possible after socialists and communists won mere
elections in Western democracies, then socialists should recognize that taking
away the property of the rich was a deadly flaw in Marx's program, for it can
never be implemented in the very advanced capitalist countries for which it
was intended. The events of 1989 and subsequent years, plus some recent
accommodations with private property in the remaining communist countries,
ought to give activists a clue that the heyday of communism is rapidly drawing
to a close, and that the whole world is moving to democratic capitalism. But,
activists will most likely continue to stubbornly ignore the lessons of history
and cling to false hopes, especially if leaders can still make a living doing so.

People will tragically ignore the ways in which labor has traditionally sought
social justice in the most developed countries of the world, and will continue to
dismiss the struggle for shorter work days and work weeks as inconsequential,
and will thus miss out on the only possible way to arrive at a socialist society in
the most developed countries. If the length of the work week were to be driven
down low enough while the means of production develop further, and if the work
week someday becomes so ridiculously short that people eventually decide to
replace the remaining wage-labor with volunteers, then capitalism will cease to
exist as we've suffered from it. Rather than being punitive towards the rich, this
program is designed to help workers share work, so it may not appeal to those
who have revenge as their primary goal.

Ken Ellis

In a Dec. 28, 1886, letter to Florence Kelley, Engels wrote: "The great thing
is to get the working class to move as a class; that once obtained, they will
soon find the right direction, and all who resist
... will be left out in the
cold with small sects of their own.
"

 

3-29-01

Stuart wrote, in part:

> Then there are what he calls the revolutionaries, who
> took and continue to take the Marxist stand that the
> failure of the SPGB to function as a revolutionary
> organisation stems in part from a failure of its theory,
> especially its attitude to the everyday struggles of
> workers, which the Socialist Standard (and contributors
> to this forum) have dismissed as "utterly useless".

Engels wrote to Sorge on May 17, 1893: "The May First
demonstration here was very nice; but it is already becoming
somewhat of an everyday or rather an annual matter; the first
fresh bloom is gone. The narrow-mindedness of the Trades
Council and of the socialist sects - Fabians and the S.D.F. -
again compelled us to hold two demonstrations, but everything
went off as we desired and we - the Eight-Hour Committee - had
many more people than the united opposition. In particular, our
international platform had a very good audience. I figure that
there was a total of 240,000 in the park, of which we had
140,000 and the opposition at most 100,000.
...."

By paying attention to what the workers were actually fighting for
at that time in England's history, the Eight-Hour Committee was
able to draw the bigger crowd.

Ken Ellis

 

3-30-01

Joan wrote:

> 1) I am not arguing that a labor shortage is bad for working people -- it
> is good because wages go up higher. However, because of expectations
> about business cycles, they do not go up very far, and even then only
> temporarily. After wages have been brought up by a labor shortage,
> that increase has to be reinforced with a legislated higher minimum
> wage so the wages stay at that rate -- otherwise they will go down again.

High wages could be maintained by creating a scarcity of labor, just the way
OPEC can demand an artificially high price of oil by limiting production, thus
creating a scarcity of oil, which is smart of them to do. Why can't labor be smart
like OPEC and engineer a constant worldwide scarcity of labor? Are we stupid?
No. Misled? Yes. Stubborn? Yes. Short-sighted? Yes.

> 2) Population grows because people choose to have a lot of kids. Fixed
> population would make a lot of planning, etc. easier for a better standard of life.
> But most Americans don't want someone telling them how many kids to have.

Population growth is also government policy, for our income tax structure
rewards people having children, so it's a political decision on someone's part,
but is not the decision I would make. Take away the tax incentive, and you would
see how fast people would opt not to have kids, and the population stabilize or drop.
GWB is doing exactly the WRONG thing by wanting to increase the tax credit for kids.

Because we work artificially long hours, and because enormous surpluses are the
result of those long hours, a cancerous population growth is one way to absorb
the surpluses, so population growth becomes government policy, just like the long
hours. I can't imagine anyone with any sense in their heads wanting to see more
people in this world, except for the sake of economic growth. With a few strokes
of the pen, we could easily eliminate the incentive to have kids, but then we would
also have to figure out a way to absorb the extra surpluses, which could easily be
done by cutting the length of the work week. That wouldn't go over well with those
motivated by short-term greed, and to whom many misled people feel compelled to
bow down. Thus, nothing gets done for now, but change is on its way, for we will
soon have to figure out how to deal with enormously greater capacity to produce
surpluses, as productivity approaches infinity, and as less and less human effort
is required to produce commodities and services.

> 3) Miseries are not caused by work.

There are a lot of lousy jobs out there for people to do, and I can't think of
too many jobs people love to keep doing. Some people have become miserable
precisely because of their jobs. In a recent poll, 60% of U.K. workers regard
their jobs as devoid of socially redeeming value.

> 3) Miseries are not caused by work. Without any work at all
> we would
cease to be human --

Humane sentiment doesn't flow out of the barrel of a job. I've seen jobs make
monsters out of people, and reduce them to sniveling back-stabbers. Just think
about 'the joys of office politics'. If work is such a humanizing experience, then
we would never be able to figure out why so many people 'go postal', for we
would then only be able to blame going postal on 'lone nuts'.

Having to compete for scarce jobs makes the situation much worse. For every
good person who would refuse on moral grounds to produce land mines in that
factory in the Mid-West, a dozen others are willing to jump in to take their place.
Individually, we have little power to create a moral society, unless we have a lot
of money and are good-hearted enough to donate to good causes. But, create the
scarcity of labor that would enable us to boycott jobs like land mine manufacture,
then we would begin to create a moral society, and we would be free to boycott
all kinds of destructive jobs, and would be free to blow the whistle on errant
corporations and government agencies, for we would know that we could always
further reduce hours of labor in order to create refuge for all of the people who
want to ditch the ugly jobs with no socially redeeming values. But, we refuse
for the flimsiest of reasons to take care of our class.

> 3) Miseries are not caused by work. Without any work at all we would
>
cease to be human -- and if there were a technology disaster, only the ones
> who prepared and built for themselves would survive. If all that unskilled
> workers have to sell is their labor-power, and all labor is replaced by
> machines, there will be no demand for them, and therefore no pay at all.

That's where our humanitarianism steps into the picture, our present bitter
and stupid competition over acquiring scarce jobs is overcome, and we figure
out ways to share work for as long as people will still have to roll out of bed in
the morning to go to work. We shared work voluntarily during the Depression,
when half of the American work-places voluntarily adopted shorter work weeks.
We won't let much more than 10% of us go without work before we get serious
about sharing work, no more than when a tornado touches down, we just turn our
backs on the swath of destruction, and go about our merry ways. Work-sharing has
been tried before, and it will work again for us someday. But, we could exercise our
humanitarianism today by advocating work sharing, before things get much worse.
It will be the choice of each of us on an individual basis to take up the call, and join
the effort to convince others to fight for a shorter work week before things get
much worse, especially under the unenlightened reign of GWB.

>> 4 ) Ken: You seem to be resisting the concept of 'the end of work',
>> which is coming whether we want it or not. It's time to start preparing
>> ourselves for that inevitability instead of preparing future generations
>> to waste their lives making the rich richer than their wildest dreams,
>> which opportunities will only be around for a few more decades at best.
>
> Joan: Ah, quite the fatalist. The end of work will
not exist, and if it ever
> did, it would mean the
end of humanity.

IBM predicts a computer as smart as a human by 2010, but it will be as big
as 2 basketball courts.
By 2020, however, such smarts ought to fit into a tea-
cup. After that, how many low-skill jobs do you think will still exist, when
machines will be able to perform any task as well as a human, but will also be
able to do it 24/7? Humans will all have to become politicians, salespeople, and
brain surgeons, etc., if they will still want to keep working the beloved 40 hour
week, plus, brain surgery and buying insurance will then have to be mandatory
for all, just to keep people busy. Such a waste of effort, wouldn't you say?
People in 1900 couldn't imagine airplanes either, but the Wright brothers
succeeded in 1903, changing a lot of people's minds about a lot of things.

> 5) with an economist's definition of scarcity,
> there will
always be scarcity.

What's the economist's definition?

>> 6) snip long paragraph
>
> Joan: remember there is
no cure-all. The shorter work week might improve
> conditions, but it would
not solve all the social problems of the nation.
> It
doesn't work that way.

I remember that there is no perfect cure-all, but I also remember the list of 14
things which a shorter work week would affect in a positive manner, and all 14
issues are within the sphere of interests of many activists. There is no other single
thing we could do which would have such a positive influence upon so great a part
of everyone's daily lives. It would deal with concrete evils, such as overwork co-
existing with unemployment and hunger, needless population growth, surplus barrels
of cash to throw at politicians, environmental degradation, the looming complete
replacement of human labor with machinery, and so on. Work-sharing originated
well over 100 years ago by various workers' parties who could see the future coming
down the pike, and had a humanitarian solution to the changes they detected, and, if
labor had had its way more often, the world would be a much better place today. They
were the first to say that hours of labor should be reduced proportional to technological
advances. People have understood the fleeting nature of work for over a century, while
the beneficiaries of hard work try to pretend that it will last forever. They know a good
thing when they benefit from it, and can't stand the thought of the alternative.

> Also, you assume companies have endless resources.

Having run a small business in my day, and having had to make the numbers
add up, I know that businesses don't have endless resources.

> Maybe they can only afford to pay one person, not seven. And if they did,
> they
would have to raise the prices of their products to make up for it,
> meaning that in real dollars people would make only
1/7 of what they
> made before. Which would suck.

I hope that you are not forgetting that the purpose of a country's economy is
not merely to serve the interests of the rich owners of the land and means of
production, but to also serve the interests of everyone. Suppose that the rich
and the government thought only of the interests of the rich, and therefore did
everything they could to augment the power and wealth already in their hands,
leaving a increasing portion of the country to fend for itself, driving the poor
out of the mainstream economy. Would that make the rich any richer and more
powerful? No. Followed to its logical end, that process would shrink markets,
and would end up impoverishing the rich as much as the poor. A country's
economy is most effective when EVERYONE in the country can participate,
as in a truly MASS market. That is why our government doesn't let people
starve. No one could possibly argue that we don't have the resources to feed
everyone in this country, when only 2% of the population is needed to work in
agriculture. Full participation in the legitimate economy represents everyone's
interests, and is the best insurance we could buy to ensure social harmony. As
for those who advocate only partial participation so as to maximize short-term
profits, well, we know who they are - the real enemy of the poor.

Secondly, the matter of having to hire 7 people instead of just one: Consider
this scenario - we become very much more productive, one worker out of 7
wannabes gets hired for 56 hours per week, while the other 6 get no work;
the same callous government that allowed one worker out of 7 to get all of
the work also allowed the other 6 to starve, and, what would happen to the
economy? It would sink into oblivion because of the shrinkage of markets.
There simply is no choice but for the bosses to hire all 7 if the laws only
allow people to work one day per week. If we got to that level of productivity
in another 30 years or so, then it would also mean that the wages earned in just
one day per week would NOT mean a reduced standard of living, but rather
would mean a standard greater or equal to what we experience today. Otherwise,
one might be tempted to argue: because people in 1870 worked a 60 hour week,
then they enjoyed a HIGHER standard of living than what we 40-hour people
enjoy today. :-)) Similarly, saying that the workers of 2030 (who may have to
work only one day a week) will enjoy a standard of living only 1/7 of ours,
completely fails to take into account our vastly increasing productivity as a
function of time. Considering that we are 40 times more productive now than
we were 200 years ago, another 7 fold increase by 2030 isn't out of the question,
especially considering that the rate of increase of productivity is exponential,
and will reach infinity, probably by 2040, and when no one in this country
will have to earn necessities of life.

> And as for the basis of it all, self-interest is part of humanity;
> it would require an immense
change in human nature to
> make people "
think about the interests of everyone."

Whenever a tornado sweeps through town, do we turn our backs on the swath
of destruction, and carry on as usual, ignoring the plight of the victims? Didn't
FDR develop the New Deal to take care of the concerns of the unemployed? Did
the Cold War of the 1950's and 1960's prevent us from sending grain to our
mortal enemy - Russia? Were the eager volunteers of the Peace Corps and
other such services entirely motivated by self interests? Are the billions Ted
Turner gives away to charity entirely motivated by self interest? Do self
interests motivate us to drop pennies in the collection boxes of the Salvation
Army around Xmas? Have you have ever helped another individual in need?

> Though shortening the work week might be good
> in that it gives people more free time, it is
not the
> end-all and be-all to ending social problems.
>
> Joan

Well, just think again about the list of 14 benefits of a reduced work week,
and ask around to see if any other reform would do as much for the people.
We are overdue in the struggle to find a feasible and sensible reform we can
really get behind with all of our hearts and souls, knowing without a shadow
of a doubt that it would provide the most benefits for the most people with the
least amount of effort. No one should be sloppy about this quest to come up
with a zinger of a feasible plan. The time for concerted thought and analysis
is here. We have a chance to do something real that could be the source of
great satisfaction to us all. Besides, the reform will be adopted eventually,
for there is no other choice but to share the diminishing resource known
as 'work'. It would be a source of satisfaction to know that one was a
pioneer in such a promising effort, instead of a brake on progress.

Ken Ellis

"It is the revolutionising of all established conditions by industry as it
develops
that also revolutionises people's minds.
" ... From a December
31, 1892 letter from Fred Engels to Sorge.

 

3-30-01

Hi, craig

> snip for brevity
>
> I don't advocate the abolition of private property. My idea, though,
> is that the only things which you can _own_ are those which you
> _create_. There's some fuzziness there, because you really never
> create the raw material itself (like if you carved a bear out of a
> block of wood). But the concept _should_ be a bit fuzzy to
> accommodate the reality that "ownership" of many things is really
> _shared_. If we have some land -- that we don't own -- but that we
> work in plowing and planting together, then the fruits of that labor
> belong primarily to us, but not entirely, because we didn't own the
> land itself, a key ingredient in the whole process. Under conditions
> of scarcity, others have the right to work on the land and share the
> fruits, also -- because they have the right to live. The land, the
> ecosystem and the other creatures on (and in) it have rights also.
> Which is a concept ("right") that really needs to be decoded to
> become meaningful -- given how the term is typically used.

You are right about the fuzziness, which isn't very helpful. Finding the best
way to help people is a noble quest, but few can agree upon one common
solution. As long as we have to work for a living, property will continue
to exist, as well as inequalities of ownership. After work is abolished, class
distinctions will also vanish, and inequalities of ownership will slowly fade
away as the institution of private property fails to benefit anyone. The most
progressive things we can hope for will be a speedy replacement of work by
machines, and an equally speedy change in consciousness to get us thinking
more cooperatively, and less individualistically.

> By the way, this perspective really isn't so different from the bottom
> line assumptions of our society now. The concept of ownership (an
> uncritical definition) implies that the owner(s) have total control over
> the thing owned. You really can't find any examples, i think, though,
> where -- bottom line -- our political, social or legal institutions really
> endorse this perspective.

That's true to a considerable extent, because one can't own a piece of
property without it falling into some kind of zone, preventing millions of
people from using their land the way in which they wish. People in some
residential neighborhoods have to get permits even to reshingle or paint their
houses, never mind build something new. Laissez-faire capitalism no longer is
supreme. This isn't the 1800's anymore. Owners of large industries are regulated
quite closely. The list of restrictions on use of property goes on and on.

> You really _rent_ your home and land from the government, because
> if you don't pay the taxes, they will forcibly take it from you. The only
> things that can be owned that would seem to be under total control of
> the owner(s) are simply those which are considered unimportant enough
> that there's never arisen a case where it was deemed "necessary" for the
> people and institutions who really run things to reduce your status of
> ownership to something more akin to renting.

That also is quite true.

>> which is why I also think that private property can someday be
>> phased out of human existence, but not under the conditions
>> of a scarcity economy.
>
> Well . . . let's translate this into a realm where it has some meaning to me . . .
> which is to say, applying to the issue of ownership of natural "resources" . . .
> land, water, air, ecosystems, etc. and not to your dog, or your sweater, or your
> yacht (fuzzier there, because of the amount of raw materials that went into it
> that you had no legitimate claim to ownership of). I would say that, on the
> contrary, i think the fundamental, bottom-line reason why we have a "scarcity
> economy" at all (almost of necessity) is
because of our acceptance of ownership
> of the thing that most fundamentally cannot and should not, be owned . . .
> the land (and now water is even starting to be "privatized").

Ownership is a widely accepted social concept that evolved over millennia.
Back in cave man days, there really wasn't a sense of individual ownership
of land, because the idea of staking out a piece of land for oneself just wasn't
relevant to their hand-to-mouth culture. Building on the concept of territory,
property evolved precisely during the era when the tools of production had
evolved to the point where surpluses were produced, as well as the squabbles
over the control of those surpluses. Private property helped control the squabbling.
The notion of a central government to secure rights to property also evolved, as well
as the notion of the nuclear family, so as to better define whose property was whose.
In that way, a person's property could grow in proportion to one's work, which was
considered just and fair to everyone involved. No work equaled no wealth, which
then evolved to create its own problems, still with us.

>> As long as people work so hard, and too closely associate their
>> personal security with their property, a direct assault on property
>> would be fruitless.
>
> Again, my problem with this is in using the all-inclusive, amorphous concept
> of "property". I'm talking about the land . . . about trees, about water, about
> ecosystems that have evolved over millions of years. . . unless you specifically
> mean "property" in the sense of land, and not just something that one owns.

By property, I mean anything an individual or a relatively small group
can lay claim to for their own, and legally exclude others from its
enjoyment or use. We can't claim the air we breathe, nor ocean
water, but almost anything else we can think of is fair game.

>> Better to wait the extra 40 years when all human labor is replaced
>> with robots and technology, and benefits no longer accrue to owners
>> of means of production,
>
> Boy do i have a lot of problems with this.

We are captives of the age we live in. Many of us were born poor, and many
people still living will die poor as well. I know that I will, but future generations
won't think in terms of rich and poor. What we do today is nearly the best anyone
can do for now. Future generations will be rich in ways our present society can't
possibly be. In the meantime, we could always take a little satisfaction in knowing
that we saw the future, and we paved the way for a peaceful solution of the
intermediate contradictions.

> Technology is one aspect of things. The power structure
> (our political, legal and economic systems) is another.
> Technology acts in _service_ of the latter and primarily
> benefits the latter. There isn't
any evidence that i can see
> that robots and technology are working to free up time.

Well, the French have led the way by shortening the length of their work week
from 39 to 35 hours, so at least they are smart enough to make the technology
work for themselves, and a recent report indicates that the German unions are
going to campaign for a similar amendment, and the Japanese Communist Party
is also just now going to start campaigning against overwork caused by unpaid
overtime. With the political nullity of so many millions of people, the American
left will continue to get away with abysmal fraud and stupidity. They have become
expert in ignoring the opportunities under their noses in favor of supporting party
lines which were handed down to them from a hundred years or more, but were
never relevant to democracies, and are even less relevant now.

> What matters about the economy is whether you have _access_ to it,
> which means that there is a place for you in the economic/producing/
> consuming machine (you must participate in some contributory way in
> order to earn the right to consume. . . regardless of how much surplus
> there could be).
>
> Automation is replacing people with machines. And the people
> replaced largely have no part in the economic system and are unable
> to participate as consumers. They are the dispossessed, surplus
> populations that we can't find anything better to do with than
> scapegoat, demonize and lock up in jail.

Unemployment levels have been very low for quite a while, and the rate of
prison population growth even showed signs of leveling off for awhile, so that
story was in the news. Many jobs lost to automation have been compensated
by new job creation. With Dubya giving the store away, I can only imagine
a recession coming in the near future.

> So i'm not optimistic (to say the least) that things
> are moving in the direction that you are predicting.

I'm not predicting much more than continued replacement of human labor with
machinery, a reduction in the rate of creation of new jobs, and a concomitant rise
of consciousness of the necessity to share the remaining work. But, things may
have to get worse before they get better. A lot of people have almost a religious
attachment to the 40 hour week and the salvation provided by hard work. We have
so much inertia with regard to 40 hours that it will be difficult to break that hold.
Once we do move, however, things will go smoother, for we engineers understand
that dynamic friction is usually a lot smaller than static friction. Once the 40 hour
barrier is broken, then an accelerating replacement of human labor by technology
will smoothly translate into 'the end of work'. People will tune to the advantages
of a shorter work week, and will want a second adjustment when its time arrives
not long after the first adjustment.

> On the other hand, our economic system is so obviously
> broken and heading toward inevitable collapse, that it may be
> that whatever _replaces_ it (all suffering associated with the
> transition aside) will be more along the lines you're hoping for.

After reading about his own death in a newspaper, Mark Twain said that his
obituary had been written a little prematurely. Capitalism and democracy are
flexible enough to facilitate their own demise, but there's no fear of either
institution croaking anytime real soon.

>> which will eliminate our motivation to acquire property,
>> causing property values to decline into oblivion.
>
> "Property" is the means of accessing the economic system.

When capitalism abolishes itself (someday in the future), and everything is
free, there won't be an economic system to access, nor any work, nor anything
to buy or sell, nor anything to trade or barter. Oh, it will be different from
today, all right, but we will have 40-50 years to evolve and get used to the
slow changes. It may be a bit of a bumpy road, but no falling off any bridges.

> It doesn't make any real sense that this should be the case (except that the
> real goal is monopolization of power by the few), because large numbers of
> people who could both contribute and "consume" are left out. But that's the
> way it "works" (or doesn't, really).

Minus the exaggeration, that's true enough.

>> Productivity will then be infinite, anything anyone could ever want
>> could materialize at the snap of a finger, so 'keeping up with the
>> Joneses' will disappear as a great American pastime.
>
> It
could materialize (currently) only if the owners decide that they
> want that to happen. They
do that only when it causes a transfer
> of more "wealth" into their pockets.

Not true. We are FAR from enjoying the kind of near-infinite productivity
required to make that come true.

> As i said, it doesn't make any (moral) sense but, under the
> current rules, it
ain't going to happen as you describe.

My theory is one of evolution, not one of instant change. Our biggest
breakthrough will be in dispensing with the 40 hour week. After that, things
will go smoothly until the next hurdle, which could be in 'dispensing with
wage labor in exchange for all volunteer labor', but that hurdle will be for
a future generation to grapple with.

>> You make some very good points. I didn't ask to be born working
>> class either. I much rather would have been born to some other family,
>> and hadn't been forced to work for my father from age 7 onwards. But,
>> here I am 57, still worth nothing on paper. My early experiences so
>> radicalized me that I put aside most dreams of making money doing
>> anything, and just drifted from one lousy job to another.
>
> One gets small comfort from "society" for taking this road, as it's
> a hard one and not one that one ever takes totally out of choice. But
> there are many positive aspects to going the "failure" route (because
> of how "success" is defined, and by whom), which i think you
> exemplify. Finding others who appreciate the fact that you're
> a real human being, though, can be difficult. :)

A few along the way appreciated me, but I didn't comprehend their
appreciation, so I lost track of them, and it's too late to try to relive the
past and do it differently. I'm glad that you think that there can be
a positive aspect to taking the road of failure. :-)

>> I wasn't alone, though. Many others did similar things. But, some
>> of the people I grew up with did really well for themselves, and
>> became millionaires as a result of honest labor.
>
> Honest labor leveraged on a "dishonest" (unjust/unfair) system.

That's true, but we all end up in the same place 6 feet under. While on this plane
of existence, maybe they enjoy life a little more than the average wage slave.
Enjoyment is the name of the game for a lot of people. To be smart enough to
learn how to take advantage of an unjust system is no insignificant thing, and
many who weren't lucky or smart enough are jealous of the ones who were.

>> I could never apply myself, even though I had advantages that a
>> lot of other kids didn't. My father had a successful little family
>> business, and I theoretically could have stayed with it if I didn't
>> feel so bad about having my childhood stolen from me.
>
> Sounds familiar. It's been interesting for me to think about _why_ i
> (in essence) never had any _interest_ in what our mainstream economic
> system had to offer. Was it because i was looking for things of more
> fundamental value that i'd been deprived of?

That sounds familiar, too. I could have bored myself to death by sticking
around, but there were so many things to learn about life that would have
taken me eons to find out while sticking around the house, lessons that could
be learned relatively quicker by risking going out into the world and sampling
what it has to offer. I found that people will love you for what you are, no matter
where you are, for humans are full of love, and always love the people they are
with. At some point, one has to learn to stop wasting love on the wrong people
and move to greener pastures to find more nurturing relationships.

>> But, I don't blame my problems on private property.
>
> Maybe not. But what if no one owned land. What if "great corporations"
> had to work together, cooperatively, with the communities where they
> resided in order to be able to use _their_ (jointly owned) land. Can
> you imagine that your place in this order might be vastly different?

Oh, it would be different, no doubt, but it's useless to speculate about changing
property relations in a country in which Southerners fought and died to preserve
as immoral a form of ownership as slavery, proving that we would be 10 times as
willing to fight and die to preserve ownership of everything else. It's useless to think
about doing anything about property relations in an economy in which people have
to work so hard in order to get the things they want. When people no longer have to
work as hard as they do, property values will decline proportionally. The best thing
we could do to eliminate the bulldog grip property has on our consciousness is to
start paring down the length of the work week, which will increase freedom from
materialism, we will then get the same things for less effort, and eventually get
them for zero effort. Zero effort to get things will lead to a lack of interest in
'things', leading to less materialism and more spiritualism.

>> I blame it rather on the fact that people during the Depression
>> didn't follow through with the 30 hour week that passed the Senate,
>> and almost passed the House of Reps. Because American politicians
>> chose to enslave people to unnecessarily long hours, millions of
>> people were condemned to fight among themselves for long-hour
>> opportunities to make the rich richer than their wildest dreams.
>
> Perhaps. But not fundamental enough for me to see anything
> that could be done about any of this on that level.

It won't be long before we have another big unemployment crisis in this
country on the scale of the Depression. Our productivity is improving rapidly,
an average of 5% per year for some 5 years already, meaning that further
increases are on their way very soon.

If anyone would prefer a quick fix for any country's problems, they should
look all over the world for a feudal monarchy to overthrow, and replace it
with a democracy. That would provide a little instant political gratification.
On the economic level, however, there is only slow evolution, and never a
quick fix. As Fred Engels wrote to his old American friend Sorge: "It is the
revolutionising of all established conditions by industry AS IT DEVELOPS
that also revolutionises people's minds.
"

> The systems operate as they do with millions of factors reinforcing
> their inertia and stability. People don't realize how deeply embedded
> these systems really are and how
impervious, therefore, they are to
> being changed. But, as Archimedes said, "
give me a lever long
> enough
. . ." and he could move the world, or something. We
> need to get at the fundamental conditions upon which this whole
> system rests. Change those and EVERYTHING will change!

That reminds me: While I was doing my radio talk show about 'Labor and the
Left
' on Free Radio Berkeley a few years back, another activist called in and
asked 'what single issue could we work on that would be key to unleashing the
log-jam of other issues activists seemingly bang their heads on, but don't get
anywhere?
' Naturally, I gave him my usual answer about eliminating overwork
by means of a shorter work week, which he was skeptical about, for most
activists believe in some kind of traditional socialist solution involving some
kind of radical change in property relations, which is impossible under present
conditions, so they continue to bang their heads. If only they didn't have such
a greedy desire to control all of that property, which greed is the greatest fetter
to seeing things more clearly.

>>>> <snip Henry George>
>
>> With whom do you agree? Anyone I know or have read?
>
> Michael Parenti. Noam Chomsky. Howard Zinn. Gore Vidal. Holly
> Sklar. Alan Watts. Edward Said. Vandana Shiva. Jeremy Brecher.
> Jeremy Rifkin. Keep meaning to read some Bakunin but haven't
> gotten around to it yet.

Not a bad list. I wish I had time to read them all further. I listened to Parenti's
communism on KPFA-FM, where I worked as a broadcast engineer. Chomsky
I am quite familiar with, and saw him in person a dozen years ago at UMass
Dartmouth in Massachusetts. Zinn I've read and listened to, as well as Sklar,
Watts, Said, and Rifkin. I don't know much about Shiva and Brecher, though.

>>>> <snip old dialogue>
>
>> I don't understand how putting an end to class divisions and state
>> oppression could harm anyone. Please explain. Don't you believe
>> the founding fathers when they wrote: 'All men are created equal ...'?
>
> With respect to "
state oppression" . . . certainly. "Class
> divisions", though . . . what does that really mean?

It means that some people own means of production or other sources of
wealth, and live off profits, while most others don't own means of production,
so consequently have to work for a living, and support the profiteers. Because
the profiteers have so much economic power, they can also bribe politicians
to bend the government to work in their interests.

> I'd like to put an end to there being a privileged class
> of people who hold the preponderance of power.

Me too, along with a lot of other people I've known over the years.
How to do it is where we seem to disagree, for others tend to advocate
impossibly quick solutions.

> How things sort themselves out once power is "democratized"
> (if you will) doesn't seem like such a serious problem to me,
> though. I imagine there will
always be some sort of pecking
> order, class hierarchy, what have you. It's part of how we're
wired.

I think you are right to a certain extent, for some guys will always get more
girls than some others. But, class divisions have only made life interesting for a
mere few thousand years of human existence, and are guaranteed to fade away
as abundance replaces scarcity. Class divisions have been around long enough
to pretty well permeate our consciousness, but that will begin to fade as soon
as we begin to liberate ourselves from unnecessarily long hours of work.

> But the way it's _supposed_ to work is that you assume your place
> in the "organization"/ hierarchy (whatever) and fit into it as a valued
> part of a cooperatively functioning system. What we have now,
> violates this view in absolutely
fundamental ways.

That is so true, and, as I write this, I think about the many differences between
the way things are now, and the way they could be. It's a jungle out there.

2002 note: I was being a little too agreeable there. Much of today's work occurs cooperatively.

> If you don't mind a little indulgence in poetry, i quote Robert Frost
> (from "The Black Cottage"):
>
>
She had her own idea of things, the old lady.
> And she liked talk. She had seen Garrison
> And Whittier, and had her story of them.
> One wasn't long in learning that she thought,
> Whatever else the Civil War was for,
> It wasn't just to keep the States together,
> Nor just to free the slaves, though it did both.
> She wouldn't have believed those ends enough
> To have given outright for them all she gave.
> Her giving somehow touched the principle
> That all men are created free and equal.
> And to hear her quaint phrases -- so removed
> From the world's view today of all those things.
> That's a hard mystery of Jefferson's.
> What did he mean? Of course the easy way
> Is to decide it simply isn't true.
> It may not be. I heard a fellow say so.
> But never mind, the Welshman got it planted
> Where it will trouble us a thousand years.
> Each age will have to reconsider it.
> You couldn't tell her what the West was saying,
> And what the South, to her serene belief.
> She had some art of hearing and yet not
> Hearing the latter wisdom of the world.
> White was the only race she ever knew.
> Black she had scarcely seen, and yellow never.
> But how could they be made so very unlike
> By the same hand working in the same stuff?
> She had supposed the war decided that.
> What are you going to do with such a person?

>
> --------------------------------------------
>
> Just a snippet. When i read this years ago, i thought about it and
> decided that what it means to me is: equality BEFORE THE LAW.
> Nothing more. We're clearly not equal in capacities or abilities or
> temperament or anything else. But we should be equal before the law.

That's an interesting poem. I've read all too little Frost, and only remember the
Mending Wall, and the Path Less Taken, and Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy
Evening. Equality before the law is a gain. 'It forbids the rich and the poor alike
from sleeping under the bridges
', to paraphrase a bit of ancient wisdom.

> When you think about it this way, you can see how unequal
> the current system really believes us to be.

Rich people get treated one way, the poor get treated another. My gripe is
that the rich don't invite me to any of their parties. :-)

>>> <snip>
>
>> Well, allowing ourselves to gradually abolish human labor as the robots
>> march in, and allowing our society to gradually abolish class divisions,
>> would address precisely the things you are complaining about.
>
> I don't believe it would do anything to address this. We _are_ abolishing
> a great deal of human labor. And the benefit for doing so (for the owners)
> is that machines have no rights. Meanwhile, those who are displaced get
> _nothing_ and have no place in the resulting system. The class divisions
> are just a manifestation (to me) of the reality of a system of ownership
> which has created the conditions under which a small elite can hold
> power over the vast majority of people.

Yes, but: suppose we are now putting in 40 hours per week. How many hours
do the owners put in? Zero, for they are free. Now, suppose we amend the Fair
Labor Standards Act so that we now only work 30 hours per week. How many
hours do the owners put in? Still 0. Suppose we do a further amendment, and we
then only work 20 hours per week. How many hours do the owners put in? Still 0.
HEY, we are definitely being freed from our labors, but nothing is improving for
the bosses! Then, we take it down to 10 hours. After that, we don't work, the
owners don't work, so what's the difference between me and an owner? Maybe
the owner has a few bucks more in the bank, but ownership of factories and
means of production no longer accrues to their interests, their money no
longer draws interest in the bank, and so all of their property becomes more
of a millstone around their necks than anything else, and property falls into
disuse and fades away as an institution.

>> On another mail list, we worked up a list of 14 advantages to
>> shorter working time:
>>
>> Labor time reductions could:
>
>> 1) Put everyone to work who wants to.
>
> Doing what? In our current system, your labor is "
useless" (and of
>
no real benefit to you) unless it assists/contributes to the working of
> the economic machine. There exist pools outside of the mainstream
> economic system, but they are tiny, relatively speaking.

At fewer hours, not too many are going to complain about doing the same
stuff people usually do. A shorter work week could bring every one into
the legitimate economy, thus diminishing 'devil's workshop' kinds of crime.

>> 2) Create the kind of shortage of labor that would force wages up.
>
> Shortage of labor? With robots able to do
all the dirty work?

Economic improvements are rather glacial in speed, so no one should expect
the robots to take over anytime soon, but the trick to obtaining social justice is
to shorten the length of the work week BEFORE the robots march in. Here's an
old 19th century doggerel: "Whether you work by the piece or work by the day,
decreasing the hours increases the pay.
"

>> 3) Give people more time to spend with their families, hobbies,
>> in service to their communities, etc.
>
> Unemployed people (theoretically) have plenty of free time. It doesn't
> do them much good, though. And in financially impoverished strata of
> society, you generally see rather badly functioning social units (in terms
> of family violence, alcoholism, etc.)

I wasn't talking about the kind of free time that leads to trouble and dysfunction.
I've experienced both modes of life. When I was working, I didn't have time to
enjoy life. When I was unemployed, I didn't have the money. No happy medium
in the usual run of things, which is why I advocate a shorter work week.

>> 4) Cost no more in taxes, and would add more people to the tax base,
>> enabling tax reductions.
>
> People who don't have a place in the economic system don't pay
> (payroll) taxes and can't buy things (sales tax).

You are forgetting, perhaps, that the result of the shorter hour legislation is
full employment, which broadens the tax base.

>> 5) Give people more confidence in 'the system', and restore social optimism.
>
> Any confidence placed in the current system only keeps it lurching
> forward a bit longer but in
no way will contribute to an ultimately
> positive outcome.

Full employment would mean a lot less cynicism and pessimism about the system,
which could be made to work much better than it does now. There is no choice
other than to make capitalism and democracy work for us. No one wants us
to become an alternative like Russia or Cuba.

>> 6) Provide real economic security to workers,
>
> Economic security comes from having some basic _rights_ to resources.
> Is this what you're talking about, though?

Jobs are a definite resource to people. Those who are tired of stealing and
cheating their way through life might get a job if we could make jobs easily
available at good pay, and at fewer hours than what is common in the current
grind. A shorter work week could do all that, and more.

>> enabling them to do the right things for both people and the planet,
>> enabling workers to boycott occupations lacking redeeming social values,
>
> If your choice is to
"starve" outside the system, or live inside it,
> which will you choose?

The shorter work week scenario means 'the politics of inclusion'. Thus, there
is no 'starving outside the system' with a shorter work week, for it automatically
means full employment and full inclusion in a legitimate economy.

>> and without fear of suffering unemployment as a result of
>> following their conscience. Such security would also eliminate
>> fear of getting locked into any one job, and would enable them
>> to pick and choose the occupation that best suits them.
>
> I don't see how any of this derives from "labor time reduction".

It's rather simple math. If it takes 100 million people to do the work in the
USA in 2001, then adopting a 20 hour week tomorrow would require 200 million
people to get the same work done. That's a rather unlikely extreme example, but
it's simplicity should teach the basic math involved in all work week reductions.

The 40 hour work week is unfairly long as the result of the supremacy of the
policy of the class that owns the means of production, condemning workers
to fight for long hour and low pay opportunities to make the rich richer than
their wildest dreams. All it takes is an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards
Act to shorten the work week, which would ameliorate most of our current
social problems. None of our problems will go away entirely as long as
some people have to work for a living, while others don't.

> Under what circumstances will people work less, given the dynamics
> and properties of the current system? When they
aren't a part of it,
> is my answer. When they are unemployed. I don't see how this
> contributes to any of the results that you enumerate, though.

Once the Amendment for something like a 35 hour work week passes Congress,
then, like the French, we begin to reap the benefits of the shorter work week. If
workers can't do the same work in 35 that used to be done in 40, then a shortage
of labor is created, forcing the bosses to hire more workers in order to satisfy
consumer demand for products and services. More people working spurs
even more consumption, which tends to create an even greater demand
for labor to provide products and services.

> Same with all the rest. I don't see how any of this follows from a
> reduction in working time, per se. The presumption is that you can
> somehow continue to share in the fruits of what the system produces
> but by accessing it by some other means than is currently available.

Well, think about a reverse scenario. If the bosses were to force a 45
hour work week through Congress, it would take fewer people to get the
work done, so more people would be laid off, and social misery would increase
proportionally. If workers could instead force through a 35 hour work week,
bosses would have to hire more people in order to get the same amount of work
done. It is in bosses' economic interests to get the most work done with the fewest
people. We have a choice of either lying down in subservience to their every whim,
or fighting for our own individual and class interests by ensuring jobs at livable
wages for everyone. The latter would certainly be better than what we have today.

> That's what i want to talk about. Because, currently, it is impossible, flies
> in the face of
all the premises and underpinnings of the current system,
> that you should be able to access it without participating in it in a certain
> _specific_ way . . . a way which continues to enhance the wealth of those
> who (basically) own it. So what we're really talking about is ownership.

If the fighting French felt that same way, they wouldn't have fought to reduce
their work week from 39 to 35. Nearly 200 years of history of struggle for
shorter work days and weeks shows that there has to be something to it. In
160 years, we have gone from a 12 hour day to a 10 hour day to an 8 hour
day. In Europe in Marx's era, the task was to replace rotten-ripe feudal
monarchies with democracies, while, in the democracies of England and
the USA, the task for the workers was not to overthrow their democracies
(which truly are useful to workers), but to win shorter work days and weeks.

>> <snip old text>
>>
>> A common goal for many leftists is to help society to someday
>> get to classless and stateless society. The left wants to get there
>> by taking away the property of the rich, towards which goal
>> those parties need to acquire control of the government.
>
> What i want is not to "take away" their property, but eliminate the
> possibility that certain sorts of "property" can be owned at all. If
> this is done, we won't have the cyclic phenomenon of a new class
> of owners rising to the top (loosely speaking).


2002 note: I'll stand by what follows the first sentence, which was a real boo-boo.

That's not a bad goal. I'm sure that property relations will change someday,
but not by using governments whose very existence seems to be wrapped up
with protecting private property. That's why changing property relations is not
any kind of an immediate goal for me. I'm content to allow property to disappear
at its own good rate. All I want for now is to ensure that people can find jobs,
but without resorting to wasteful 'tax and spend' policies.

>> My way of getting to the classless stateless goal doesn't involve
>> direct confrontation with property and state. It merely involves
>> the working class taking care of its own kind by making room
>> for all in the economy.
>
> How can we do this? We, fundamentally, have
no resources other than
> our own labor, and no access (except as slaves) to an economic system
> that dominates the entire planet.

Democratic reform is a great resource available to us. We just have to learn
to use it to further our own working class interests.

> But i do, myself, agree with this approach and its one that i advocate
> (and live). But it requires a much higher degree of consciousness to
> show solidarity with those that society casts as "losers" and riff-raff.
> And to freely give to, and exchange with, those we have the most in
> common with OUTSIDE of the means provided by the mainstream
> economic system. Live communally. Invite others into your house.
> Share your food and land. We've got a long, hard educational process
> ahead of us before this way of doing things is going to threaten to
> displace the current social order, though.

It sounds like you have learned to live well. More power to communal living.
It's a model for the future.

>>> You can hardly decide about effective strategies for
>>> getting there when your first act is to decide upon
>>> goals that are practical and pragmatic, but that will
>>> never change _anything_ (very much).
>
>> Sorry not to be able to fully comprehend this sentence.
>
> I'm just saying that if you don't have a clear vision of what your
> ultimate goal is, then you're not likely to get there by adopting a
> "practical" strategy that at least has the "virtue" of being"pragmatic"
> in terms of ability to achieve (relatively) short term targets.

My strategy is a lot clearer than that of a lot of revolutionaries who advertise
programs for taking away the property of the rich in a country whose Southerners
fought and died to preserve as immoral a form of ownership as slavery, proving the
willingness and eagerness of many more of us to fight and die to protect ownership
of everything else, for as long as our scarcity economy continues. Dreams of taking
away the property of the rich usually indicate a bourgeois ambition to acquire power
over all of that property out there. If activists seriously contemplated their socialist
programs, then they would have to admit that changing property relations is
impossible under present scarcity circumstances.

There simply are too many ways in which to take away the property of the
rich, or to otherwise redistribute wealth and property, for leftists to agree on
a single way. Also, anarchists want to smash the state and replace it with a
classless and stateless administration of things, while communists want to
replace the state with a workers' state, while Social-Democrats would try to
redistribute wealth and property by taxing and spending. Their programs are
so different, and have led to so many confrontations in their sectarian past,
that they are far more likely to continue to fight among themselves before
they lift a finger against the rich whose rule they ostensibly would like to
replace. The left is in such a phony mess that they can't help but alienate
anyone capable of looking at things a little more objectively than they do.
Their parties offer less freedom of inner dialogue than do the very
governments they claim to want to overthrow. They are internally
bureaucratic, secretive and censorious, whose leaders have thrown up
so many bureaucratic impediments to change that a leader can often
be assured of remaining in power for life. That's all part of their rather
complete programmatic, spiritual, theoretical and practical bankruptcy.

>>>> Instead, I see technology advancing so fast in the 21st century
>>>> that all human labor could disappear in the next 30 years in the
>>>> USA and other developed countries.
>
> And this will be precisely why the economic system collapses.

It would surely be a troubled time if we couldn't find ways to share what
little work that remained for people to do. Full employment could ensure
a smooth transition to whatever follows our present living hell.

> Unfortunately, it doesn't mean that some sort of fascistic repression
> won't arise in order to continue to maintain control and the current
> political and social order.

The better we learn to use democracy in the 'full participation' interests of
the working class, the more likely we will be to keep our democracy right
through to the end of work.

>>> <snip>
>>
>> You are right, but don't forget that human labor is balky, expensive,
>> can't operate 24/7, and sometimes even unionizes to make even
>> more trouble for bosses, so bosses will continue to replace all
>> crappy human labor just as fast as they can with machinery.
>
> _Exactly_ . . .

If we don't fight back to ensure an equitable distribution of work for as long as
people still have to roll out of bed in the morning to go to work, then we won't be
worth very much as humanitarians. But, we will pass that test, just the way we run
to one another's assistance in all other times of trouble. We will recognize our
unemployment problem as one that was created by humans, and will be solved
by humans.

>> In 20 years, when the smarts of a human will be compact enough
>> to fit in a teacup,
>
> Will
never happen (in the foreseeable future). The only things that
> machines can do are relatively simple-minded tasks. Tedious, maybe,
> but not really complex or difficult. Not unless a human being has
> already done the real (hard/difficult/complex) work.

IBM says they will be able to fit the smarts of a human onto a plot the size
of 2 basketball courts by 2010, and no one is going to ask that computer to
appreciate Picasso. As long as the computer can be used to replace human
labor, that's what will count. No one is going to ask it to love, laugh or play
like a kitten. Just perform human work tasks. By 2020, that degree of
smarts will be small enough to fit into a tea-cup, so then the days of
human labor will really be numbered.

>> the days of human labor will be numbered.
>
> As i said above, the connection between survival and participation
> in the economic machine
needs to be cut.

I don't think I understand that concept. Please explain. It sounds just about
opposite to the kind of society my ideas would facilitate.

> Nothing you're saying requires or bears directly upon that, though (except,
> perhaps, collapse of the economic system). Humans may not "labor" but, as
> we see today, that only means a worse fate, because they have no means of
> accessing the economic system. That is what must change.

Well, I'm not sure about what you are trying to say, but full participation
in the economy has been a noble goal for a long time. In fact, for Marx,
full participation was the goal towards which socialism was supposed to be
subordinate. But under the control of these little businesses parading around
as workers' parties, socialism has become the final and only goal, which is
consistent with their cruelty and heartlessness, for they don't hesitate to
expel members who have the temerity to question the party line.

>> Like you say, the promise of automation has been around since the 1950's,
>> but we have never been as close to realizing that promise as we are today.
>
> How so? I see _no_ sign of it (in terms of people working less, being
> less hurried, less pressured by time and financial concerns, etc.)

In terms of improvements in the means of production, we can replace more
human labor today than ever before. A decade ago, productivity increased at
the rate of 1 or 2% per year, but productivity has increased 5% per year for the
past 5 years, which is unprecedented. An analyst reported that 50 years of advances
in computer designs are finally paying off in terms of productivity increases. Previous
to the late 1990's, the computer industry was worth little more than an activity in itself,
because more resources were poured into the computer industry than what it paid back
in use value. Now that computers are so smart and cheap, they are finally worth a little
something to society. If they have only been contributing positively for a few years,
then just think of how much more useful they will be in another decade.

>> Automation won't automatically lead to human fulfillment and
>> happiness, because the human element is going to have to change
>> its beliefs along the way in order to adapt to the changes ahead. I've
>> already made important changes in my beliefs just because I did some
>> research into the fraudulent roots of my revolutionary party's ideology.
>> Most other progressives haven't even begun to make their changes, and
>> the changes that some of them made beginning in 1989 haven't gone
>> anywhere nearly as far as they should have. It's a slow process, but
>> ideological change will hopefully happen at least as fast as that of
>> the replacement of humans with technology.
>
> I have thoughts about this, but it strays far from what we've been
> talking about. Maybe some other time.

Try it again.

>>>> That is why I favor driving down the length of the work week in
>>>> proportion to advances in technology, sort of the way France is
>>>> phasing in its 35 hour week. I'm looking for people to get more
>>>> militant about it so as to cut down the waste of the present 40
>>>> hour week in the midst of growing poverty.
>
> A crucial difference, though, is that, in France, there is less of a connection
> between having some basic rights to the means of survival and participation
> in the economic system, although they (and all the world) are following the
> U.S. model -- they're just not as far along yet. So, they can cut down the work
> week there because they already have a society that is far more accepting of
> people's rights to live under some assumption other than that of being a slave
> to the economic system. That is the crucial issue, though.

The reason given for their shorter work week was to cut down the unemployment
rate, and new reports indicate that it is working well. If only we Americans could
think the same way.

>>> <snip old text>
>
> We already have so much technology that we should be relatively free
> of having to do much work at all by now. And yet this result has almost
> totally failed to materialize. One can see, therefore, that the availability
> of the technology (which is already there) is not very relevant to the
> direction in which things are actually developing.

The only reason why we are still working so hard is that we have yet
to cut the length of the work week anywhere nearly as much as we
could have by now. A 30 hour work week nearly became law during
the Depression, that's how much sense it made. If we are 40 times
as productive as we were 200 years ago, then we could theoretically
provide everyone with the necessities of life by us just working a
single hour per week. But, we don't. We work far longer than
what we could get away with. 60% of U.K. workers don't think
that their jobs benefit society in any way. We create lots of waste.

>> In that respect, the continual driving down of the work-week
>> to zero is rather short term, but it is THE crucial device for
>> easing a very important transition in human history, which
>> few people (to none) seem ready to accept.
>
> Again, having no work accomplishes nothing, of itself. We need
> an economic system where our access isn't determined by the
> degree to which we are willing to do the bidding (and help
> assist in the wealth accumulation) of the owners of it.

Everyone I've talked to about this issue reinforces my conclusion that no one
is yet ready for a world of 'no work'. We are so used to the rat race that it's
practically inconceivable for us, with our present mind-sets, to think rationally
about sharing the necessities of life in a world in which there would be no way
in which to earn them. Our psyches need time to evolve, and it will be precisely
the next few decades of enormous advances in technology which will force us
to rethink our old ways of relating to one another.

>> <snip old text>
>
> Another writer (that i didn't mention) is Ayn Rand. Of course, she was
> a deeply "flawed" individual who really went off the deep end because
> of her psychological "sickness", but she had a lot of interesting thoughts
> and ideas about work and the nature of it . . . how it fits into our expression
> of ourselves as creative beings. Of course, there is "work" and there is "work".
> Work that is something that you _have_ to do, controlled by someone else, in
> order to survive, is odious and hostile to the idea of human freedom. But work,
> in the sense of having a purpose, an activity, in which one engages fully and
> wholeheartedly, is a thing that i think elevates human beings to a higher level
> above that of being a mere animal. Of course, some of us don't really aspire to
> that and i have no criticism of that, if that is their free choice. I like animals, of
> all sorts. But there is at least a subgroup of humans who yearn for more, and
> are systematically frustrated and denied expression of this desire at every turn.

Some people on the left really hate Ayn Rand, but I never could see what was
supposed to be the trouble with her. A Libertarian friend of mine really enjoys
her writings. I haven't read much of her, but I consider my views and those of
the Libertarians to be fairly close, the major difference being that I would
regulate the labor market at every step of the way to enable everyone to
have at least some work (for as long or short a period in which work
will still avail), while Libertarians eschew most regulation, and seem
in that regard to represent the interests of small business people.

>> <snip old text>
>
> By the way, i have a job that i really enjoy (that i started recently
> after having taken over a year off [early retirement :) . . . which
> i've taken on several occasions] so my remark about the irony of
> having to go to work was actually fairly light hearted. I actually
> go into work whenever i want, pretty much. But i do have a sort
> of (loose) schedule, mostly for the convenience of others that i
> work with, that i try to adhere to . . . unless i don't feel like it :)
>
> Yowsa! Take care, and don't reply too soon because this was fun . . . but _work_ !
>
> craig

Early retirement, now there's a concept. I used to think that you were a
little on the young side, so maybe you fooled me and are more my age.
I'll be 58 in May.

Best Wishes,
Ken Ellis

 

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