Communism is the movement for the negation of the present state of reality. This entails destroying the totality of capitalist society, and thus the various relations that bind it together. One of the central aspects of society is the process of alienated labor often known as work. Work is what sustains the economic system of capitalism, and allows the proletariat to enslave itself through participation in productive activity. It is a transformative process that dehumanizes and alienates those involved, and thus perpetuates social and psychological oppression.
When we speak of ending labor as we know it, it must be made clear that this means liberation from labor, not the liberation of labor. It is not enough to adjust the mode by which work is managed. Work itself must be the target of any social insurrection with the goal of human liberation. Freedom, not co-ops.
Why abolish work? Firstly, let us define it. What is this thing that occupies the majority of our lives, defines our social roles, and drives our society? When we work, we are, of course, engaging in a productive activity. The product of this activity is of a dual nature; there is the tangible, “real” utility of the creation, and there is the abstracted economic value. If you build a table, its use-value is that it serves as a surface on which to eat, write, and so on. The economic value of the table is based on its comparative worth within transactions. The table is valued as x amount of chairs, or as y amount of stools. In a modern capitalist economy, this is expressed monetarily, and so the table’s value becomes z amount of dollars.
Now, as we know, profit is the main drive in capitalism. It is what motivates individuals and groups to act in certain ways. Profit is dependent on increasing the efficiency of the extraction of exchange-value. For this reason, the generation of abstract value, rather than use-value, is prioritized. It is the engine of economic life, and thus social life as well.
Here lies the absurdity of human existence under capitalism, for we are made slaves to the abstract, to an imaginative construct that only manifests itself in the ways in which we allow it to dictate our actions. In essence, we are producing for the sake of producing, working for the sake of working. And yet we cannot survive without doing so. In capitalism, labor is both the result and product of deprivation. We are deprived of the ability to indpendently sustain ourselves, so we are forced to work, to be able to afford sustenance for ourselves and our families. As we do so however, we continue to perpetuate the very conditions which force us to labor.
The role of the proletariat in the generation of value is a crucial, indisposable one. The position of the working class in relation to this process places great potential power at its disposal, or so it would appear. Yet this power cannot be realized through possesion, but rather rejection. As long as we continue to work, we nullify any ability to alter the system. Participation in the activity of labor is participation in self-deprivation, as it places power into the hands of the capitalists, and spells continued social ruin for the worker.
One of the great obstacles to overcoming this cycle is the way in which labor functions as an apparatus of ideological control. “All in a day’s work”, the worker mutters to themself, as they slave away to churn up more profit for the boss. The image of the independent, hard-working individual continues to haunt our collective psyche, tied to the false promises of upward mobility and personal fulfillment through labor. Our lives are defined by work. We go to schools that teach the importance of presenting yourself as an economic asset. We introduce ourselves by our job. Anyone who lives in this society finds such phenomena inescapable.
The mindset of labor manifests itself in the daily struggles of workers, containing them within the system. As long as the battle cry of the workers is “equal pay for equal work”, emancipation will remain elusive. Any vestiges of radicalism or militancy within the old labor movement and the unions it produced, are long gone. Freedom cannot be found within the context of work. Soon enough, however, the crisis of capitalism shall force the workers to reinvent their struggles against the capitalists that employ them. The emergence of the communist movement from the chaos of decaying capitalism necessarily represents a tendency for self-negation by the workers, as they seek to redefine themselves for the realization of the human community.
The true pro-worker position, then, is an anti-work one. In a sense we could even say that being pro-worker necessitates being anti-worker, for the destruction of the conditions that create the worker as a socioeconomic being is crucial to the liberation of those of that class. The abolition of alienated labor is integral to the process of revolution, to the reconstitution of humanity itself. It is not enough to seize the workplace, it must be destroyed.