There are an enormous number of men and women with the intelligence and progressive capabilities waiting to work beside us when we wish to create our future devoid of the need for money.

From: Work Refusal and Self-Organization by Harry Cleaver
Harry Cleaver was Associate Professor in the Department of Economics at the University of Texas at Austin, where he taught Marxism and Marxian economics, as well as courses on Political Economy. Cleaver retired from his position in January, 2012. 

The development of the "refusal of work" as an explicit demand in Italy in the 1960s was an important reminder that the working class has always struggled against work. Sometimes the reduction of work, the liberation of life from work, has been an explicit demand, as in the fight for the ten-hour or eight-hour day, or for the five-day working week. 

Between 1880 and 1940 workers' struggles in the United States chopped weekly working hours in half and created the weekend. In the early 1970s in the United States, new demands, this time for a four-day week, surfaced only to be driven from the agenda and replaced by demands for overtime by rising unemployment and falling wages. 

In Europe, workers have fought for, and won, reductions in weekly working hours from forty or more to thirty-six hours. At other times, especially when the official labor movement has been acting as the labor relations arm of business, such demands have been suppressed and remained hidden from view, observable only in the passive resistance, absenteeism and worker sabotage in everyday life.

A great many social conflicts can be understood in terms of the struggle against work, even when the protagonists have not articulated their demands in those terms. 

Many student revolts have amounted to a refusal to do the work of creating labor power, mere job training, accompanied by a demand for the time and opportunity to study things that meet student needs rather than the needs of business. 

Much of the revolt of women can be seen as a refusal to play their traditional roles in the social factory as procreators and re-creators of labor power, accompanied by demands for new kinds of gender and other social relations. 

The revolts of Blacks, or Chicanos, or immigrants in the streets of American cities have not been just a cry of desperation but a rebellion against the roles assigned to them within accumulation: on the margins, as part of the reserve army that made the labor market function, moving in and out of the lowest-paid jobs, living under subsistence conditions, excluded from political participation, and so on. Theirs was a rejection of particular kinds of work, just like that of students and women, but a rejection of work all the same. 

The struggle against work spreads with its imposition so that it is possible to explore the variety of both refusal and activities that are substituted for work, and thus the changing relationship between work and non-work.

Let's look at this analytically. We know that high rates of unemployment have often been an integral part of capital's response to crisis imposed on it by our struggles, in which the struggle against work has played a critical role. It was a familiar strategy throughout the nineteenth century right up to the 1930s, when an enormous cycle of our forebears' struggles achieved the power to eliminate it for a time. Their struggles forced the generalized adoption of Keynesianism, in which unemployment was demoted to a secondary, marginal tactic, at least in the North. 

This lasted until my generation undermined Keynesianism in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Unfortunately, the pattern of the development of the crisis has been such that we have not had the power to prevent the redeployment of unemployment as a weapon, which was first done massively in the Carter-Volcker-Reagan depression of the early 1980s and is now being done again at the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century. But what kind of weapon is it? When we lose our waged jobs we are not freed from work! We are supposed to go on doing the work of reproducing labor power and to make the labor market function by looking for waged jobs.

"Work Refusal and Self-Organization", 2011 Publish as Chapter 3 in Anitra Nelson and Frans Timmerman, Life without Money: building Fair and Sustainable Economies, London: Pluto Press, 2011. Because I did not have time to prepare a new text for their project---which I liked and the editors would have preferred---they cobbled together this amalgam from previous text, which I then edited.


Read the Money game and beyond here

Jacque Fresco

Humanity continues to be motivated by false Prophets wanting an End of Days. It may be that GOD will rid humanity of evil in this reality in an instant should humanity lack the strength of will to free itself.

Post a Comment