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The enduring appeal of Marxism Ruthless employers are deceiving their staff with the language of family and home

Is this young lady a ferocious communist? Credit: Tom Kelley/Getty Images

Is this young lady a ferocious communist? Credit: Tom Kelley/Getty Images


March 9, 2021   5 mins

There’s a window in east central London which often caught my eye when I worked in the area. It belonged to a swish co-working space, designed in the industrial-chic style: high ceilings, exposed piping, towering houseplants. “Welcome home,” said the lettering on the window. “Oops, we meant ‘Welcome to work’”.

Even before lockdown, the conflation of work and home was well-established. Companies call themselves “families”. Cubicles have been replaced by the supposedly more relaxed open-plan office. The suit, symbol of the 9-5 day, is on the way out. “Knowledge workers” curl up on their sofas.

Work has also supplanted the home in more fundamental ways. In the mid-18th century Samuel Johnson reckoned that the ultimate human ambition was “to be happy at home.” For many, it’s now the workplace that promises meaning and fulfilment. Even Amazon warehouse labourers look up to see signs reading “We love coming to work and miss it when we’re not here!”

Choose a job you feel passionate about — so a thousand gurus have advised us — and you’ll never work a day in your life. But as people are starting to notice, the language of “following your passion” is also a convenient way for employers to change the subject from, say, decent pay and conditions. Nobody is easier to exploit than someone working for love. If you want to build a prison without anyone noticing, make it look like a playground.

The homeliness of work, then, turns out to have a more sinister aspect. Home is a place of self-sacrifice; so it makes sense that gig platforms like Fiverr openly seek workers for whom “Sleep Deprivation Is Your Drug Of Choice.” At home, you expect to be known and seen; naturally, then, employers take ever more invasive steps to survey their employees, tracking each mouse-click or making workers’ health-insurance rates dependent on how much exercise their Fitbits record.

The two faces of modern work — one cheerful, one ruthless — are the subject of a couple of new books, Jamie K McCallum’s Worked Over and Sarah Jaffe’s Work Won’t Love You Back. They tell similar stories, of stressed and burnt-out workers ruing the broken promises of the “Follow your passion” economy. Wealth, of course, has flowed upwards: in the last 30 years, according to the policy analyst Matt Bruenig, the US’s top 1% has increased its net worth by $21 trillion, while the bottom half has lost $900 billion and, once you factor in debt, literally owns less than nothing.

And power has flowed in the same direction. Welfare programmes force the destitute to choose work over childcare; low-wage employees are subject to algorithms which deprive them of predictable schedules, with severe consequences for mental health and family life. Even the most “flexible” workers have to meet tough standards: to maintain good status on the handyman platform TaskRabbit, for instance, you have to say yes to 85% of requests.

McCallum’s book is lucid and tightly argued, but Jaffe’s is in some ways more intriguing: it shows how the madness of modern work has opened the mainstream to radical thinking. In Jaffe’s case the radicalism has a Marxist flavour. Work Won’t Love You Back, which has been applauded everywhere from Marie Claire to the Financial Times, makes an unfashionably dogmatic argument. Wage labour under capitalism just is exploitation, Jaffe tells us. Your boss may seem like a decent person, but in the end “financial concerns will come first for them.” Jaffe doesn’t “believe in bosses”; or, for that matter, in the family, which has “developed as a mechanism of controlling and directing labour … The only option, as theorist Jordy Rosenberg wrote, is to ride ‘the supernova of the family’s destruction’ through to something new.” Jaffe doesn’t believe in charitable works, either (“a relationship of power”). Only some kind of revolution, she believes, can restore us to our true selves.

Anyone baffled by the enduring appeal of Marxism should read Jaffe’s final chapter, with its plaintive note of spiritual yearning. “It is true,” Jaffe concedes, “that there is no outside to capitalism, but it is also true that there are moments in our lives where we can see, briefly, beyond it.” Our nameless desires, she writes, come closest to making sense on a strike or protest march. “Solidarity doesn’t mean you have to like every person you’re fighting alongside. But in those moments where you stand shoulder to shoulder, you do love one another.” Here the reader catches the last glimmerings of the revolutionary dream, that hope which throughout the 20th century animated so many courageous and intelligent people — as well as quite a lot of psychopaths and moral monsters — to give their lives to it.

Besides, it isn’t just radical socialists who are rethinking work from the ground up. The New York Times’ Ezra Klein recently toyed with the idea that “there’s no natural dignity in work.” Prophets of a robot takeover, like the former presidential candidate Andrew Yang, argue that we should reshape the welfare state to serve a mostly wageless society. The post-work movement actively hopes that the machines can be given our jobs while we find something better to do; proponents of “fully automated luxury communism” agree, only adding that the robots should be collectively owned.

These groups are right that too much time is currently spent on mindless wage-slavery instead of friendship, creativity and truth-seeking. But there are a couple of problems — even apart from the much-disputed question of whether a robot job apocalypse is really on the cards. The first is that, despite it all, many people (including the most eloquent critics of contemporary work culture) really do like or even love their jobs. Work can be demeaning, but it can sometimes be deeply fulfilling, whereas a utopia of round-the-clock poetry readings and community bake sales might at some point start to pall. The other problem with “post-work” is that it assumes a future which “we” as a society are all going to shape. But right now, there is hardly a functional “we” — there are workers and there are owners, and the owners have all the power.

Jamie McCallum’s book is especially acute on this point. He tells the story of Disneyland’s underground laundry service, where employees arrived one day “to find giant screens affixed around the workplace, with their names colour-coded like traffic lights blinking on and off.” If they failed to meet productivity targets, their names switched from green to amber and then red. Hidden away in an upstairs room, managers tweaked the system for maximum efficiency; anyone who understands power dynamics will not be surprised to learn that, before long, the injury rate rose, the break room and bathroom were deserted, morale plummeted and the workers began to turn on each other. Until, thanks to one determined leader, they banded together and came up with a pact to all work at a reasonable pace. It is the kind of collective action which unions once organised. But today, the worker often stands alone against a giant employer.

All of which gives extra significance to this month’s vote in Bessemer, Alabama, where Amazon warehouse workers could become the first in the United States to form a union. The almost unbelievable tactics used to thwart them — reprogramming traffic lights, bombarding employees with anti-union messages — show that Amazon fears the tide is turning. After years of telling its workers what to think (“We love coming to work and miss it when we’re not here!”), the company seems appalled at the possibility of those workers speaking with their own collective voice. Is it any wonder that capitalism is going out of favour, when an astronomically wealthy corporation which employs 1.3 million people worldwide can’t abide the thought of negotiating with them? You don’t have to be sentimental about “solidarity” to hope fervently that, this month in Alabama, the workers win.


Dan Hitchens writes the newsletter ‘The Pineapple’ and is former editor of the Catholic Herald

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Matthew Powell
Matthew Powell
3 years ago

Fully automated luxury communism, if it were attainable, would likely bring about the most unequal society in the whole of history. A small class of technologically minded individuals would not only require huge incentives to do the work that the rest of the population was comfortably rewarded not to, but also in doing so, would hold power over the rest of society which would dwarf even that of today’s giant technology companies. It’s the dystopian dream of adolescent minds.

LUKE LOZE
LUKE LOZE
3 years ago
Reply to  Matthew Powell

Indeed, it’s a lovely idea but has multiple massive holes. The 90% who didnt work will want ‘their fair share’. Why would people do anything demanding or hard work? Not just technically demanding jobs, whether robot programming, vaccine development or surgery, but also the arts – who is going to spend years of their life creating books, music, tv, film etc for no reward.

Capitalism is unfair and in many areas blatantly corrupt – but it works. One of best fixes in my mind would be to aim to reduce housing costs massively, by limiting demand and increasing supply. If people could comfortably buy their own nice place on a very modest wage it might seem/be fairer – give them stability and comfort. This doesn’t mean becoming wage/mortgage slaves, but rather the opposite.

Marxism is the solution if you want grinding poverty, long work hours, massive suppression, huge corruption and party official/worker ‘power dynamics’ that make Amazon look like great employers.

Last edited 3 years ago by LUKE LOZE
Muircheartach McGubbligan
Muircheartach McGubbligan
3 years ago
Reply to  LUKE LOZE

You obviously don’t have the slightest clue about what you are trying to discuss. I’l bet that you have never read Marx, or if you did you didn’t understand a word.

LUKE LOZE
LUKE LOZE
3 years ago

It’s tragic when someone is so blind to reality. Can you please point to the successful Marxist states? Any that haven’t turned into hell holes?
How many more millions do you want dead? another 100 million?

David Morley
David Morley
3 years ago
Reply to  LUKE LOZE

The big difference, for those of us who don’t believe that capitalism is perfect, is between big, totalising, utopian solutions and ad hoc fixing of specific issues.
The former tends to fail with disastrous consequences. The latter has risks, but can improve things and is recoverable.
And there are clearly areas where capitalism works less well – such as your housing example.

Walter Brigham
Walter Brigham
3 years ago
Reply to  David Morley

The potential to improve things and actually improving things is the gap no longer closed. Legislatures don’t legislate because they can’t deliberate. Meaningful discussion of issues is not possible at any level.

Nun Yerbizness
Nun Yerbizness
3 years ago
Reply to  LUKE LOZE

can you point to a successful libertarian state…how about a single libertarian office holder who was elected running as a libertarian.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
3 years ago
Reply to  Nun Yerbizness

Google “whataboutism”.

Nun Yerbizness
Nun Yerbizness
3 years ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

thank you for acknowledging the truth of my comment.

Andy Martin
Andy Martin
3 years ago
Reply to  LUKE LOZE

I think what ‘Muircheartach means but hasn’t deigned to explain is that those unsuccessful hell holes states were never actually truly Marxist, but instead Stalinist, Maoist, or Pol Potist.

Tom Krehbiel
Tom Krehbiel
3 years ago
Reply to  Andy Martin

If that’s the case, then Marxism is still untested. And a theory which has never been put into practice/practise can make the most grandiose statements about its potential. But is it wise to accept them?

John Smith
John Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  LUKE LOZE

Ah, Luke, you need to understand the mindset of the true socialist. All the Marxist states that have gone before (and killed millions in the process) weren’t “true” socialism, they never quite got there, always being just a few million deaths short of Nirvana.

Eric Hobsbawm, the former dyed in the wool marxist/socialist historian, was once asked in an interview how many additional deaths would have been justified to reach the elusive socialist utopia, 15 Miilion, 20 Million? To which he replied simply Yes.

LUKE LOZE
LUKE LOZE
3 years ago
Reply to  John Smith

The Orwell comment remains the best on communism, on you nesd to break eggs to makr an omelette ‘Where’s the omelette’

The sadness is that idiot Marxists are the best cover for crony capitalists, and/or the identity politic brigade.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago

name one country where the application of Marxist principles worked for the masses. Just one.

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Every capitalist economy in the world is currently being kept afloat by policies (to mitigate the impact of free market capitalism) based on Marx’s analysis of capitalism. Our whole language of class and of the ‘masses’ is based on Marxian analysis. We can split hairs about the difference between Marxian and Marxism but I really wouldn’t expect someone writing from the 1840s to the 1860s to have all the answers to how societies should be organised in 2021.
I could equally ask name one country where unmanaged free market capitalism has worked for the masses? Or even existed?
It’s a redundant argument – Marxism is one set of tools, some of which can be used to influence a way of thinking about how society can be organised – it might be one place among many to start a discussion but it’s certainly not a way to end it.

Nun Yerbizness
Nun Yerbizness
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

Marxist analysis is used by hedge funds, the World Bank, the ECB, The Fed and the Bank of England.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
3 years ago

I read the Communist Manifesto for the second time about 18 months ago. Speaking as the holder of a PhD in Philosophy, I would describe it as a gish galloping blizzard of non-sequiturs. Anyway, never mind the theory of dialectical materialism, here’s a straightforward argument for rejecting Marxism/Communism/the far left. Let’s see what you make of it.
1. We should violently oppose any polity or ideology whose attempted implementations correlate strongly with terror, torture, famine, and mass murder.
2. Marxism/communism/the far left’s attempted implementations correlate very strongly indeed with terror, torture, famine, and mass murder.
ergo
3. We should violently oppose Marxism/communism/the far left.
For the purpose of refutation in a syllogistic argument with two premises, you have the following three options:-
A. Deny premise 1.
B. Deny premise 2.
C. Deny that the conclusion 3 follows from premises 1 and 2.
Your move.

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

I’d expect more from someone with a PhD in Philosophy than the ‘When did you stop beating your wife?’ argument you’ve presented.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

When did you stop sodomising your wife, if I may ask?
You should be “re-educated through labour”, preferably on Wrangel Island in the Arctic Ocean. With an annual average temperature of -7.4 C or 18.7 F, even your former Soviet chums thought it too inhospitable for one of their beloved Gulags.

Last edited 3 years ago by Charles Stanhope
Nun Yerbizness
Nun Yerbizness
3 years ago

you really are a nasty little eunuch.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago
Reply to  Nun Yerbizness

Oh dear!
Is that the best you can do?

Last edited 3 years ago by Charles Stanhope
John Smith
John Smith
3 years ago

It’s a bit woeful isn’t it.

I find Graham’s Hierarchy of Dispute quite a useful tool when assessing the intellectual capability of opposing debaters. It runs from level 1 – refutation of the central argument, all the way down to level 6 – Ad hominem attacks and lastly level 7 – name calling.

Self evidently both Mark and Nun only appear capable of operating at the very lower end of the hierarchy which tells you all you really need to know about their intellectual abilities.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
3 years ago
Reply to  John Smith

I didn’t know about Graham’s Heirarchy. Thanks for that. And yes it does seem entirely apt to the present case.

Nun Yerbizness
Nun Yerbizness
3 years ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

When did you stop sodomising your wife, if I may ask?

Nun Yerbizness
Nun Yerbizness
3 years ago
Reply to  John Smith

When did you stop sodomising your wife, if I may ask?

Nun Yerbizness
Nun Yerbizness
3 years ago

When did you stop sodomising your wife, if I may ask?

David Wrathall
David Wrathall
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

That’s a disappointing response. I’m probably more in tune with the general tenor of the comments on here but look out for yours, which occasionally provide an interesting different perspective.

The question has been asked according to the rules of classical logic. If you can’t answer, without disrupting your world view, I would have expected you to at least come up with a two premise syllogistic question refuting capitalism.

Paul N
Paul N
3 years ago
Reply to  David Wrathall

We need a system other than communism.
Capitalism is a system other than communism.
Therefore we need capitalism?

Spot the deliberate mistake.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul N

Yes, that’s an instance of the fallacy of false equivalence. But this doesn’t mean that my argument for violently resisting Marxism’s attempted implementations is guilty of this or any other fallacy.

Nun Yerbizness
Nun Yerbizness
3 years ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

When did you stop sodomising your wife, if I may ask?

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

Nothing question-begging about my argument. It’s a straightforward and very traditional syllogism. Your problem is that you simply can’t refute it.

Nun Yerbizness
Nun Yerbizness
3 years ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

When did you stop sodomising your wife, if I may ask?

Allons Enfants
Allons Enfants
3 years ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

a gish galloping blizzard of non-sequiturs.

Perfectly put. (Might nick that line, if you don’t mind.)
Up to this day, the left still deals in chants, slogans and worn-out platitudes, as they have no rational arguments in store.

Nun Yerbizness
Nun Yerbizness
3 years ago
Reply to  Allons Enfants

said a conservative mesmerized by the alleged rational argument put forward as “a gish galloping blizzard of non-sequiturs.”

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
3 years ago
Reply to  Nun Yerbizness

Blatant conflation of two different things. I didn’t “put forward” my argument for violently resisting Marxism’s attempted implementations as “a gish galloping blizzard of non-sequiturs”. That was my description of the Communist Manifesto.

Nun Yerbizness
Nun Yerbizness
3 years ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

When did you stop sodomising your wife, if I may ask?

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
3 years ago
Reply to  Allons Enfants

Be my guest!

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

Checkmate!

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

If I may say so, you wasted your time.
Plato’s ‘Republic’ might have been more instructive.

Last edited 3 years ago by Charles Stanhope
Paul N
Paul N
3 years ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

In our democratic society, are you advocating “strongly opposing” communism, or “opposing Communism with violence”? It could be taken either way.
I guess I’m querying premise 1.

Last edited 3 years ago by Paul N
Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul N

That’s a fair question. I think that, given communism’s propensity for producing utterly horrific outcomes – terror, torture, famine, and mass murder – opposition to its attempted implementations has to be as physically robust as is necessary to prevent them happening.

Nun Yerbizness
Nun Yerbizness
3 years ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

When did you stop sodomising your wife, if I may ask?

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
3 years ago

How about a counter argument – rather than than a lazy Twitter style unsubstantiated personality attack …

Last edited 3 years ago by Ian Barton
Nun Yerbizness
Nun Yerbizness
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

“…rather than than a lazy Twitter style unsubstantiated personality attack…”
you mean the kind you trade in.

Chris Mackay
Chris Mackay
3 years ago

All you need to know about Marx is that his default position was “it’s all unfair”. Engels then paid for Marx to never undertake paid work other than to write up this thought. I have read Marx, and despite the difficulty in following his thought processes, I have concluded he did not understand the need for everybody to find a way to be productive, in the sense of providing for their daily needs, sustenance, shelter, the joy of life or how society actually operates.
In other words – he was dysfunctional as are the communist/socialist states organised according to his principles. Never forget, his view on how to re-order society was based on violence. He had no interest in humanity. His only interest was the acquisition and use, some would say misuse, of power.

Christopher Wheatley
Christopher Wheatley
3 years ago
Reply to  LUKE LOZE

Marx’s work is like a bible. A lot of it is difficult and obscure. The average person would probably give up after 10 minutes. But it does have a lot of quotations. Like the bible, in fact.
My definition of Marxism: ‘a religion for people who believe that they are cleverer than everybody else and only they see the true way forward’. A religion. Holy books.
Marx said that “(Religion)…is the opium of the masses.”
For me, “Marxism is the opium of the Leftists.”

Last edited 3 years ago by Christopher Wheatley
Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

I would amend that to:
‘Marxism is the opium of the useless’.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

I would amend that to:
‘Marxism is the opium of the dangerously psychopathic’.

Paul N
Paul N
3 years ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

Marxism may be to psychopaths as patriotism is to scoundrels?

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul N

I’m not sure whether I agree with your analogy, but it’s certainly thought provoking.

Nun Yerbizness
Nun Yerbizness
3 years ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

said the dangerous psychopath

diana_holder
diana_holder
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul N

You are quoting Samuel Johnson, not stating a proven fact of life, and this quote is nearly always used to assert something that Johnson did not mean.

This from Wikipedia: “In 1774, he printed The Patriot, a critique of what he viewed as false patriotism. On the evening of 7 April 1775, he made the famous statement, “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.” This line was not, as is widely believed, specifically about patriotism in general, but rather what Johnson saw as the false use of the term “patriotism” by William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham (the patriot-minister) and his supporters. “

Last edited 3 years ago by diana_holder
Steve Wesley
Steve Wesley
3 years ago

Social media, television and actual opiates are now the opium of the masses. Sadly I include myself as a druggie, after all here I am, commenting on matters when there are things I really should be getting on with.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
3 years ago

It is funny how none the people who proselytize Marxism never see themselves working on a collective farm being subject to daily education classes.
They are all heroes of the revolution and must reluctantly accept the power and privilege that goes with this status so that they can ensure the ideological adherence of the rest of us.
If you look at Marxist leader of the past they are largely if not almost entirely narcissistic juveniles typically born in to a privileged background, but for them not quite privilege enough

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago

It is funny how none the people who proselytize Capitalism ever see themselves working in an Amazon warehouse being subject to daily education classes.
They are all heroes of the status quo and must reluctantly accept the power and privilege that goes with this status so that they can ensure the ideological adherence of the rest of us.
We could do this all day….

Bits Nibbles
Bits Nibbles
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

I’ve lived in both systems for each half of my life. I understand this is anecdotal, but I hate and despise both Capitalist and Communist political/economical theories equally. Well, to be honest, on paper both look like *fantastic* systems of “self-organization”. Soviet Communism in Poland towards the end (when I was living in it) was beautifully anarchistic, in that I could literally get away with murder without consequence. For me personally, this was the most “free” I’ve ever felt, and a system I am very comfortable in. Then I moved to the US, where the exact opposite seems to be culturally accepted: the perpetual nanny state. Unfortunately, neither system adequately accounts for the sociopaths/bad actors that somehow always seem to rise to the top, or provide any possibility of justice or truth for the bereaved of the comrades which get dragged into the woods and killed by the state.

Pete Kreff
Pete Kreff
3 years ago
Reply to  Bits Nibbles

Unfortunately, neither system adequately accounts for the sociopaths/bad actors that somehow always seem to rise to the top

I’m not sure that’s entirely fair. Capitalism usually (though not always) comes with democracy, while Marxism usually comes with authoritarianism.
And democracy, for all its flaws, allows bad actors to be removed from their positions of power by the masses at least sometimes, while authoritarianism doesn’t.
Capitalism also allows people to influence the behaviour of at least some corporations by means of public pressure and boycotts.
Whereas in countries organised along Marxist lines the people have no way of influencing the behaviour of corporations. If you decide boycott the state electricity distribution company, for example, you’re going to achieve nothing except making your eyesight worse.

I could literally get away with murder without consequence. For me personally, this was the most “free” I’ve ever felt

I’m not sure you’re selling Soviet Communism particularly persuasively.

LUKE LOZE
LUKE LOZE
3 years ago
Reply to  Bits Nibbles

Capitalist nanny state?

Paul N
Paul N
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

Isn’t Marxism as much a critique of capitalism as a system in its own right?
As a critique, it makes some good points. I’m less convinced by the alternative society advocated by some of his followers.

Last edited 3 years ago by Paul N
LUKE LOZE
LUKE LOZE
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul N

This is the point, a bright teenager can poinylt out the huge intellectual let alone actual flaws in capitalism.

There’s so many, not least the inequality, wastefulness the dubious morality.

Revolutions need to (should) provide something better, Marxism blatantly fails – it’s not even debatable. People need to abandon the marxist fantasies and help fix the current system, to focus on stopping the political financial cronyism, to improve housing, minimum wage etc.

The US Democrats haven’t got off to a good start looking at the Robin Hood fall out and the organised corporate response – turns out the feared hard left is window dressing only, corrupt hedge funds can sleep secure for 4 years

diana_holder
diana_holder
3 years ago

It’s true, they see themselves bestriding the lofty halls of power, never in the hundred yard queue to buy bottled gas.

In fact they often can’t even see that queue at all; their selective perception just sorta slides over anything that would heighten the cognitive dissonance from which they all suffer.

Jimbob Jaimeson
Jimbob Jaimeson
3 years ago

Ha..I’ve read both.. the bible though a lot longer is a far easier read. I am a proponent of the beliefs of neither…though both have “some” ideas I agree with. I think I’d be labeled left by many, being in favour of a smaller wealth gap….however I think marx was crazy and I’m not a communist and I believe in democracy no matter how flawed it might be.

Last edited 3 years ago by Jimbob Jaimeson
Nun Yerbizness
Nun Yerbizness
3 years ago

“I ain’t a Communist necessarily, but I been in the red all my life.” — Woody Guthrie

David Morley
David Morley
3 years ago
Reply to  LUKE LOZE

One of best fixes in my mind would be to aim to reduce housing costs massively, by limiting demand and increasing supply.

something I’ve been thinking a lot about too. It’s the funnelling of so much of people’s wages into housing that robs them of other opportunities.
The poor can’t afford it. In the middle people struggle and make sacrifices to buy poor quality homes, and at the top wealth accumulates which is passed on as inherited advantage.
Lots of other things would sort themselves if housing were far cheaper. Families could switch to a single income when kids come along if that’s what they want.
When families split up, both parents would have a chance of accommodating their kids instead of dad (usually) ending up somewhere cramped.

LUKE LOZE
LUKE LOZE
3 years ago
Reply to  David Morley

We could also move slowly towards increasing better holiday entitlements – there’s a serious case to be made for a 4 day week for example. The regulations around this (real independents genuine vs Uber drivers as an example) would make enforcement very difficult. Perhaps just increasing holidays every year or two?

Last edited 3 years ago by LUKE LOZE
Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago
Reply to  LUKE LOZE

why is the four-day workweek the govt’s business? There are institutions in the US, public and private, that use this sort of schedule and I’d probably go for it, too, but no regulation is necessary.

LUKE LOZE
LUKE LOZE
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

I’m not sure it is government business, but it could be – we (the UK) have various legal holiday entitlements – currently 28 days including public hols. My suggestion would be a slow and steady increase in holiday allowance for all.
If we leave it up to the market we have the current situation: public sector get most holidays and sick pay, skilled private sector come next. Low paid get the legal minimum, – and only when they can’t be cheated out of it, and no sick pay. This includes many outsourced jobs from the ‘good’ public sector and large corps – cleaners and carers being the normal example.

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

If people decide it’s the government’s business and vote for it then it is the government’s business.

Pete Kreff
Pete Kreff
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

If people decide it’s the government’s business and vote for it then it is the government’s business.

Absolutely right. But “making something the government’s business” has to date proven much more feasible in capitalist countries than in countries organised by or inspired by Marxist thought.

Paul N
Paul N
3 years ago
Reply to  Pete Kreff

Wasn’t the problem in communist countries more with stopping stuff from being the government’s business?

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
3 years ago
Reply to  David Morley

I think much the same thing but one of the problems is the very high cost of construction

67ub6nezaw
67ub6nezaw
3 years ago
Reply to  David Morley

David . This is an excellent point. The absolute requirement of a two person income household to make ends meet these days is a regression from 60 years ago when the wife stayed home to raise the children. Whilst I am not romanticising times when women had little opportunity , surely the freedom a family had under a single income mode is better than the childcare/work/ free time trade off model we have now.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
3 years ago
Reply to  67ub6nezaw

It’s a myth that a dual income is an absolute requirement. The low paid may need two incomes in order to afford adequate housing but, for the rest of us, it’s a choice.
The middle classes have chosen a lifestyle that takes two incomes to maintain, even though a large proportion of the second income may go on childcare. Why do they find that reasonable? Because, thanks to feminist doctrine, most mothers these days desire “a career”.
Before I’m labelled as a Neanderthal misogynist, let me say that this lifestyle choice is a valid one – but it is a choice.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
3 years ago
Reply to  67ub6nezaw

The rot set in when a certain group decided to continually undermine the importance of the role of “home maker” in a household.
Who could have guessed that increasing household incomes would just be sucked straight into the cost of housing ?

Last edited 3 years ago by Ian Barton
Colin Haller
Colin Haller
3 years ago
Reply to  67ub6nezaw

Elizabeth Warren of all people did some good work on precisely this issue, which demonstrated that the shift to two income households has increased the fragility of the economy.

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago
Reply to  David Morley

It’s a good starting point – along with Luke’s comments about the working week, too.
Time and security (of life, food and shelter) are all we really have.

John Urwin
John Urwin
3 years ago
Reply to  David Morley

Liam Halligan’s book Home Truths sets out the problems with the housing market. It is tedious and repetitive in my opinion, but the arguments are difficult to refute. Worth a read.

Last edited 3 years ago by John Urwin
Jimbob Jaimeson
Jimbob Jaimeson
3 years ago
Reply to  David Morley

The solution isn’t to get the govt to make cheap houses. The solution is to create an economic environment where everyone can afford a house.

However for govts to do this they would be making policies against themselves and their friends…so it won’t happen.

Here in NZ residential housing increased 15-20% depending on location during covid. Most younger people have no chance of building up a deposit while many middle class have several houses because there is no capital gains tax here and housing is a good investment. Govts these days will never do the right thing if it’s a difficult thing. They are to scared of losing votes..

G Harris
G Harris
3 years ago
Reply to  David Morley

Unfortunately, housing has been made to be the cornerstone of the UK’s ‘wealth creation engine’ for decades.

Privately, under current circumstances, falling property costs are the last thing any UK really government wants or can afford to entertain.

No-one would admit to it of course, perhaps many in the halls of power don’t even realize themselves, but housing supply is forever restricted in relation to greater demand for very good reason.

Last edited 3 years ago by G Harris
Micheal Lucken
Micheal Lucken
3 years ago
Reply to  David Morley

Demand will keep rising as long as the population does. Why would the building industry aim to redress the supply side balance and reduce the price of their product. There are other vested interests in maintaining higher demand than supply. As a house owner I would stand to lose capital value if supply was increased. Don’t get me wrong I am in complete agreement with the virtue of reduced housing costs, the market won’t fix itself though without significant intervention from government and the government would need to make a compelling case which the electorate is prepared to support and fund before it is likely to happen. The other alternative is to tackle the demand side, an even tougher one for the government which the industry of itself and many wealthy property owners will be in no rush to assist.

Jeffrey Chongsathien
Jeffrey Chongsathien
3 years ago
Reply to  David Morley

Solution is limiting UK home ownership to residence per head of household, and banning non-tax-resident ownership (rounding off with a switch of all wealth transfer taxes to real-time wealth taxes). The system is too corrupt to do this because there’s too many of the wrong people making money from the status quo, to the detriment of society.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
3 years ago
Reply to  LUKE LOZE

… i.e. control immigration and build more housing. I completely agree.

Ian Wigg
Ian Wigg
3 years ago
Reply to  LUKE LOZE

Your comment very much hits the nail on the head. Wages, when taken in respect of the cost of living (ignoring housing costs) are probably higher than at any point in modern history. From essentials to luxuries, with the possible exception of railway travel in the UK) everything is cheaper in relative terms than ever before. The one thing which increased out of all proportion, and is the greatest cause of poverty in the UK, is the cost of housing whether bought via debit or rented. If the cost of putting a roof over your head is 50%+ of your net income then pretty much everything else becomes unaffordable.

Colin Haller
Colin Haller
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Wigg

Maybe Henry George was onto something after all?

LUKE LOZE
LUKE LOZE
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Wigg

Yeap, and it’s crazy – it’s makes me almost smell conspiracy.
I think it falls well into the territory of rent seekers, money being taken without producing anything. This is not healthy in any economy. This is not actually a dig at some of the landlords (most own 1 extra house and it’s a pension, they’re not ‘rich’). But it’s not healthy, when people are all ‘investing in property’ that’s of limited value to wider economy – we should be investing in companies that produce wealth.

John Urwin
John Urwin
3 years ago
Reply to  LUKE LOZE

Please see my response to David Morley above.

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Wigg

Which is one reason why the wealthy focus on income inequality, income taxes and purchase taxes rather than wealth inequality and wealth or property taxes.

Nun Yerbizness
Nun Yerbizness
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Wigg

“Wages, when taken in respect of the cost of living (ignoring housing costs)…”
ah yes the conservative ideolougues approach to analysis—exclude the elephant in the room as a basis for your argument.

Paul N
Paul N
3 years ago
Reply to  LUKE LOZE

who is going to spend years of their life creating books, music, tv, film etc for no reward.

One of the great myths of the society where everything is a commodity. You really think most artists, authors, and composers of music are doing it purely for the money? For most artists, the money is a means to an end – the motivation is the art itself.

LUKE LOZE
LUKE LOZE
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul N

People don’t do it purely for the money. But for every ‘artist’ there’s 99 technical workers, producers etc. You’ve quietly excluded film and tv where the successful make millions.

All the people involved would need paying, I doubt anyone is a boom operator for the fun of it.

I suppose given enough free time I might finally write my book, but who will proof read it, edit publish or promote it? Who will enforce any copyright?

Last edited 3 years ago by LUKE LOZE
Iain McCausland
Iain McCausland
3 years ago
Reply to  LUKE LOZE

‘Capitalism is unfair…but it works’. It seems therefore Luke that you are ok with things as they are, presumably because you have perfected the art of turning a blind eye to the unfairness?

LUKE LOZE
LUKE LOZE
3 years ago

Of course I have otherwise depression or insanity beckons. The unfairness is inherent, the corruption is sickening – but again I try not to depress myself about what is a fact of life. I think 1-5% of countries are less corrupt than the UK – so we’re not too bad. Improvements would be society based

There are better solutions out there, like cheaper housing – which is all most people want. Fair wages, profit/share schemes that exploit capitalism rather than dangerous fantasies.

Last edited 3 years ago by LUKE LOZE
Simon Denis
Simon Denis
3 years ago
Reply to  Matthew Powell

Got rid of the offending word.

Last edited 3 years ago by Simon Denis
Simon Denis
Simon Denis
3 years ago
Reply to  Matthew Powell

All communism brings about unequal societies – a party to enforce the ideology, an army to dragoon the people and the poor, wretched people themselves, deprived of choice, meaningful funds and all semblance of freedom. Beneath them, the slaves and victims of the Gulag – persons who object; persons who practise religion; priests and ministers of that religion; and anyone associated with the former regime – for crucial to the myth of “revolution” is the utter destruction of all that went before. Meanwhile, a malign coterie sits at the top and wallows in secret privilege – Dzerzhinsky’s Rolls Royce, for example – so it starts early. The so-called “appeal” of Marxism which this author so naively blathers about, is merely the appeal of its opportunistic complaints – wouldn’t it be nice if
 And in so far as jobs and life are less enjoyable than they were thirty years ago and more, it is because of Marxist and neo-Marxist regulations and micromanagement.

Paul N
Paul N
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

So the UK’s relative contraction in housing supply, the increase in housing costs, the stagnation of wages for the middle classes, and the endemic outsourcing of decent jobs to precarious zero-hour exploitative companies with no sick pay or holiday entitlement – it’s all caused by communism?

Last edited 3 years ago by Paul N
Simon Denis
Simon Denis
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul N

Much of it, yes. Housing and wages are directly and appallingly affected by mass immigration – a communist sponsored policy. As to zero-hour, eighty per cent of those involved described themselves as satisfied with it.

Will D. Mann
Will D. Mann
3 years ago
Reply to  Matthew Powell

This article isn’t really about Marxism, it’s about the increasing dire state of Capitalism.

Why should we assume someone whom has been dead for well over a century should be the most authoritative voice critic of our economic system or provide the only blueprint for an alternative?

Jimbob Jaimeson
Jimbob Jaimeson
3 years ago
Reply to  Will D. Mann

It seems to so many small minded people that if you criticize capitalism, you’re automatically a rabid marxist trying to forceably take away their ability to make a living.

Wulvis Perveravsson
Wulvis Perveravsson
3 years ago
Reply to  Matthew Powell

The adolescent minds of the likes of Bertrand Russell and John Maynard Keynes?!

Armand L
Armand L
3 years ago

Seems like the other two commentators don’t ‘get it’.

Work isn’t necessarily demeaning and we needn’t be radical to want the nature of labour improved. Workers have too little wealth and therefore too little leisure, too little security, too little health, too little time for family, friends, spirituality, arts, culture, and dignity.
The balance is off.
Class solidarity is required — not luxury automated socialism, just regular working-boots unions, labour protections, regulations against abusive practices, higher capital gains taxes. This is the meat-and-potatoes stuff that transcends the culture war… or it should.

G Harris
G Harris
3 years ago
Reply to  Armand L

This is one of the reasons why human labour is included in the list of so-called four freedoms, along with goods, capital and services, in order to ensure that this class solidarity you talk of has no real hope of ever finding purchase again.

It doesn’t just transcend it, the culture war is in and of itself a distraction and today’s left should be utterly ashamed of itself for fixating on it.

David Morley
David Morley
3 years ago
Reply to  Armand L

Spot on. Since the seventies productivity gains have simply made the rich richer while the wages of those doing the work have stagnated. We need a balance in which there is still sufficient incentive to invest, but where all reap the rewards of productivity gains.

Ferrusian Gambit
Ferrusian Gambit
3 years ago
Reply to  David Morley

“Since the seventies”, I presume you mean the 1770’s?
Basically all technological advancements since he industrial revolution have concentrated wealth in a small proportion of the population, just as warfare and land ownership did before hand for nearly all human history.
The few decades of rebalancing after WW2 were reliant on inflation, inefficiency and captive markets that were a consequence of half the world being behind the iron curtain, and half the world decolonised and undeveloped. Neither of those conditions obtain any more, and the technological concentration of production has just centralised. These are facts that can be magically wished away.

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago

Yep, things got better when capitalism was in crisis.

Armand L
Armand L
3 years ago

Yes, the implication is the Capitalist economic model is inherently misanthropic and deleterious to human civilization. And I agree with that. The unchecked accumulation of wealth has caused untold misery.

Nick M
Nick M
3 years ago
Reply to  Armand L

So when the unions band the workers together to improve pay and conditions and entire industries become uncompetitive and the work moves abroad, what then? Unless you globalise the unions then they have the potential to destroy entire industries of a country.

Colin Haller
Colin Haller
3 years ago
Reply to  Nick M

Work doesn’t just magically “move abroad.” That’s a function of policy (both industrial and trade), and policies are always and everywhere consciously made decisions. In this case, the decisions have been made in favour of capital and at the expense of labour for over 40 years now. We are long, long overdue a correction.

Ferrusian Gambit
Ferrusian Gambit
3 years ago
Reply to  Colin Haller

And how exactly were the sclerotic and underproductive British industrial companies of the 1970s going to improve if the policies of Labour at the time had been continued?
The problem was not, to my mind lake of labour rights, the problem was a managerial culture in the UK that was complacent and unable to keep up with the times and chronically underinvested (as it is still is now) based on short-termism and trying to make a quick buck over comprehensive long-term business strategies.
Germany kept its industry for a good reason: good technical education, extensive investment in upgrading capital, and unions/a labour force that actually felt responsible for the profitability of their companies and for producing goods that could be exported at a profit instead of the classic British Union position of trying to gouge the employers for money regardless of the productivity of the worker or the health of their business. By taking this attitude they just opened the door for Thatcher to crush them as people were fed up with British economy falling behind the US and Common Market primarily because of the domination of a bunch of Trotskyite Neanderthals that lead the unions at that time.

Last edited 3 years ago by Ferrusian Gambit
Nun Yerbizness
Nun Yerbizness
3 years ago

not to forget the Marshall Plan which rebuilt German industry from the ground up based on the technology existing in the US in the 1950s.

Armand L
Armand L
3 years ago
Reply to  Nick M

Work doesn’t simply move abroad. It is encouraged and enticed to by bad policies put forth by bad policymakers who are heavily lobbied on behalf of Capital. It doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to figure out that some restraint on capital and capital-friendly policies are long overdue.

Hilary LW
Hilary LW
3 years ago
Reply to  Armand L

You’re right, AL: “The balance is off”. The gap between rich and poor – in terms of monetary wealth, but also in terms of freedom, leisure, education and human dignity – is growing ever vaster and more ruinous of lives.

Most of the commentators here – in accordance with the increasing polarisation of society at large – are stuck in a false dichotomy. It’s got to be either unrestrained free-market capitalism on the one hand, or Soviet-style state Communism on the other. No feasible alternative is proposed between these two forms of dehumanisation.

Marx was a man of his times, a flawed prophet. He identified the problem with unfettered capitalism, predicting accurately the damage that would do to human society, but proposed an unworkable, idealistic solution, which in practice led to similar damage, ie reducing human beings to powerless cogs in a system run by a powerful elite.

The alternative would seem to be a regulated form of capitalism where power and decision making is taken back into local communities, small businesses, cooperative ventures, and centred around people’s basic needs; not merely their usefulness as consumer units, providers of labour, or voters to be manipulated to keep the elite in power.

Dan Hitchens, as a former editor of the Catholic Herald, must be to some extent informed by Catholic social teaching, which as I understand it would very much occupy that middle ground that balances individual freedom and rights to ownership and security, with the common good and support of the weak and disadvantaged.

The problem is, what with mega-powerful global corporations, increasingly centralised economies and states, behavioural science, AI and genetic engineering, the emphasis is further away than ever from the human person and towards systems to be managed and controlled. The new opium of the people isn’t religion but TV, Netflix and social media, and the global news network. So any grassroots movement for change is going to have an almighty struggle to make an impact. David against Goliath indeed. But Goliath did fall!

Jimbob Jaimeson
Jimbob Jaimeson
3 years ago
Reply to  Hilary LW

Finally someone understanding the issues properly.

Jerry Smith
Jerry Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Hilary LW

Well said!

Andrew Best
Andrew Best
3 years ago

I work to live.
I don’t live to work.
Working class people have a succession of jobs not a career.
I would rather be at work paying my bills than not working.
No one on their gravestone says I wish I had spent more time at work and less with the family.
Being unemployed on ÂŁ73 is no fun so Marx and your fully automated communism is a falsehood peddled by rich, middle class, never had to grow up student activists

Last edited 3 years ago by Andrew Best
Ferrusian Gambit
Ferrusian Gambit
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Best

Many of the software developers I know don’t even have a degree, didn’t go to university and yet have satisfactory careers doing things they find interesting. Ditto people who have started their own businesses, without expensive education. So really this is a choice not some kind of destiny stamped on you by being working class.
And I am pretty sure some people find time at work more interesting than their family. Probably a minority, but equally, not everyone is alike and I don’t think we should stigmatise such people, given that without them we’d still be living in caves. There are those who find time spent with family members (or 99% of humanity for that matter) doing nothing in particular tedious and uninteresting, especially if they have little in common with them, and would rather be doing something that engages their interests or mind. Different people have different personalities and priorities.
And indeed, for such men the primary role of the head of the household is to provide for the family not spend time for in idle pursuits, and to be an example in the world and society in general to their children to encourage a sense of the importance of working and competing in the world.

Last edited 3 years ago by Ferrusian Gambit
Allons Enfants
Allons Enfants
3 years ago

As someone who lived half my life in a communist-occupied country, whenever i see that marxism is not only tolerated but even endorsed by some, it feels like a kick to the stomach. I don’t whinge about being offended by it though, because that’s not my thing.
Anyone who thinks that marxism (communism, bolshevism, international socialism = internazÂĄsm) is any more acceptable than nazÂĄsm and fascism needs to go back to primary school to learn the basics about 20th century Europe. NazÂĄsm or internazÂĄsm – two cheeks of the same poisonous socialist *rs*.

Marek Domanski
Marek Domanski
3 years ago
Reply to  Allons Enfants

 You cannot say it was Marxism. It was their interpretation of it. Maybe you are from Poland like my father. I have been to Communist Poland. Also one cannot say that China is a Marxist country. Maybe Leninist in its political structure.
Anyway, you obviously don’t have to be Marxist to see the sleazy side of employers and corporate culture in dealing with their employees. I remember years ago being pressured to attend a team building weekend.
Employers should be straight with their staff in the following way:
We obviously need you economically. But at the same time we recognise you as autonomous people. We don’t want to bullshit you, and we don’t want to make company people. We actually have a relaxed attitude to dress code because we just don’t see the necessity of being otherwise. There is nothing particularly “feel good” about it.
Last edited 45 minutes ago by Marek Domanski

Martin Price
Martin Price
3 years ago

If today’s workers really are falling for Marx they need to read more history.

Muircheartach McGubbligan
Muircheartach McGubbligan
3 years ago
Reply to  Martin Price

If todays workers aren’t ‘falling for Marx’ they need to read more politics. And sociology. And Marx.

Nick Pointon
Nick Pointon
3 years ago

Circular justification fallacy sir.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
3 years ago

How about a fact or two to justify your comments ?
Opinion is cheap, plentiful and therefore effectively worthless.

Last edited 3 years ago by Ian Barton
Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

It was a reply to a fact free opinion which pointed out the vacuity of the original opinion by being equally vacuous. Too subtle, maybe.

Nun Yerbizness
Nun Yerbizness
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

Ian is the consumate thread troll…I’d wager next month’s pension check he didn’t read the article the comments he cheap shots are in response to.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
3 years ago

This also raises adjacent questions about employer and employee loyalty. Loyalty is of course a double-edged notion – just ask any member of the Mafia, or an apostate-hating nation (eg Putin’s Russia) or religion.
The idea of employer loyalty is sweet, but terribly old-fashioned. I would go further and say that the concept of large company loyalty to employees is a myth, which still persists despite all the evidence, inside the heads of *some* employees. I have no experience of the Japanese job-for-life culture (dying) or the German single-company-man ethic (dying), so I admit my viewpoint is skewed. Loyalty – both ways – can definitely exist in small-player companies. But these are too buffeted by events for it to matter much. If a small company owner has to let some long-termers go because of circumstances, say an unlikely viral pandemic sweeping the world, then that owner may well agonise about the human cost, but will ultimately do whatever is needed to still survive as a business. A huge company, on the other hand, is a machine – though one with a personality and an agenda and a will that is independent of it’s component parts – even it’s creator/owners. Such a company has no loyalty to anything except it’s own existence. It will dump it’s workers if necessary, faster than you can say ‘shareholder value’.

My admittedly jaundiced view is that there is no such thing as loyalty, nor can there be, either from employees to companies or from companies to employees. Typically the power dynamic is skewed in the favour of employers but by no means always. What there is instead, is transient alignments of interests, a few of which can last for years.

Mark H
Mark H
3 years ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

I work for a huge company and it has been a surprise to find that at team level it is not the faceless behemoth that I had feared. In the culture of this company lower-level managers do actually care, even though at higher levels there is a definite tendency to see staff as interchangeable work units.
So I think you’re right that ultimately the company is mostly concerned about its own existence. Also, this is an industry where skilled staff are hard to find & so there is a deliberate effort to retain people and keep staff happy and productive.
Maybe I see loyalty as being a bit like being in the army – loyalty to one’s immediate team (really people-loyalty) is valuable, loyalty to the corporation not at all.
Your phrase “transient alignment of interests” pretty much sums it up.
What worries me is the lack of job-satisfaction for people whose don’t happen to be in a line of work that is sought-after. I feel – but cannot quantify – that crap jobs should have some kind of allowance for personal fulfilment outside of work.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark H

Yes, loyalty has meaning at a person to person level in terms of ones immediate circle – to individuals rather than to structures like companies. Many people don’t think like that though – they buy into and become loyal to a bunch of ideas, the manifestation of which is represented by political systems or religions or nations. I’m guessing these are ultimately driven by humans’ built in need to socialise, linking that to work, my observation is that beyond earning a living, many people go to work at least partly to socialise.

Last edited 3 years ago by Prashant Kotak
Colin Haller
Colin Haller
3 years ago

I reject the premise that you have to be a Marxist or subscribe in any way to its tenets to recognize that unrestrained capitalism is antithetical to human flourishing. The simple fact that some things are NOT for sale and that we would find the notion abhorrent that they would demonstrates that law and custom already set boundaries around capitalism — boundaries that MUST be closely monitored and regulated to ensure our well-being.

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
3 years ago

“Is it any wonder that capitalism is going out of favour…”
But as this article also notes, and makes great pains to stress by way of the American experience, there is the experience of capitalism and the system itself. This article could be read as a polemic on one category within the capitalist system – the employers. For the system is a tool used by human beings and that use is determined by them for good or ill. Hence the Amazon employees have a view of the capitalist system that does not necessarily negate the idea of capitalism, only in the manner of how it works and for whom.

Last edited 3 years ago by michael stanwick
Billy Bob
Billy Bob
3 years ago

The virtues of capitalism are not always clear to a generation without capital. Whilst Marxism has been an abject failure, you can’t blame the young (most born too late to witness it’s effects) for having a dark view of capitalism in it’s current state whereby large numbers are priced out of the housing market, in precarious jobs with stagnant wages while paying high rents and large student debts. Unless we do something to fix the growing inequality more and more of them will turn to extreme answers

Andrew Crisp
Andrew Crisp
3 years ago

Surely there is a distinction to be drawn between capitalism and corporate capitalism. These corporations work hand in hand with government and not for the betterment of their employees. They can wield enormous power. This is very different from a business employing a total of 50 people where employees can still communicate up the hierarchy.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago

Is it any wonder that capitalism is going out of favour
given the work of many, to include the education-industrial complex, to whitewash history of what Marxism really is, it’s no wonder at all. Apparently, tens of millions killed by their own govts and walls built to keep the natives can somehow be romanticized by a cohort of know-nothings.
By the way, Amazon wanted the union vote done on site, with people showing up to cast ballots. The union folks want mail-in ballots. Funny how Bezos’ interests change when this sort of thing hits home. I must have missed his WaPo suggesting mail-in was a recipe for mischief during the national elections.

Hubert Knobscratch
Hubert Knobscratch
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

I suspect Bezos wants to know who is voting for what, so they can update their P45 equivalent listings. Webcams are very small nowadays….

Armand L
Armand L
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

And what of the work many in the finance and policy industries do to whitewash the experience of the working poor under the oh-so-great capitalist paradigm?

Stainy
Stainy
3 years ago

If you do not join a union you cannot complain. Only fellow union members will stand by you.

vince porter
vince porter
3 years ago

Amazon… â€œWe love coming to work and miss it when we’re not here!” I looked but could not find it in Animal Farm. Must be there somewhere.

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
3 years ago
Reply to  vince porter

The aptly named Boxer frequently said, “I will work harder,” which comes close!

Colin Haller
Colin Haller
3 years ago
Reply to  vince porter

Ironically redolent of the Stakhanovite Movement.

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
3 years ago
Reply to  Colin Haller

Wikipedia:
“Boxer is based on a coal miner named Alexey Stakhanov who was famous for working over his quota. The Joseph Stalin Regime built a cult of personality around him that rewarded workers who showed a similar heroic dedication to production and efficiency, he supported Joseph Stalin. Also was very loyal to his kind.”

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
3 years ago
Reply to  Colin Haller

Wikipedia says Boxer is based on Stakhanov.

(Apologies if this ends up as a double post!)

Jennifer Britton
Jennifer Britton
3 years ago

Why have workers not united against an economy that reduces their paychecks, denies as many worker benefits as possible (holiday pay and sick pay, retirement pensions), offshores as much work as possible, and outsources work to 3rd party contractors (e.g., Uber drivers, HR, maintenance, hotel housekeeping services) while the costs of living (housing, food, child care, energy, education, healthcare, etc.) keep going up?

I think the answer to the question lies in the credit industry. People turn to their credit cards to pay for necessities when their paychecks don’t meet the costs of living. Credit card companies now
Market themselves as friends who help consumers budget their scanty/insufficient paychecks with budgeting tools.

Credit cards mask the real problem of today’s economy: its increasingly unfair distribution of money. Credit cards allow workers to postpone financial reality. And by the time they realize they can never pay off the debt nor can they work an additional side gig (after all there are only so many hours in the day) to meet their expenses, they are too exhausted and befuddled to realize that this economy is simply one big scam to direct as many financial resources as possible to the top 1% and leave a hollowed out 99%.

People used to say that if television disappeared, people would be rioting in the streets as reality set in. I think credit cards have replaced television as the great distractor from reality.

Take away credit cards and we will see what the 99% can and will do when they are out from under the narcotizing effects of credit cards and reality sets in. Amazon won’t be the only company seeing its workers stand up for themselves. And all the politicians (especially those who claimed to be Christians) who refused to fight for getting workers a fairer share of the economic pie will be returned to the commoner status.

Marxist thought is dense and at times impenetrable. But one thing Marx got right is that people will tolerate needless suffering if they are sufficiently bewitched and befuddled by an “approved” narcotic.

According to the NYTimes, more than 60% of January 6 rioters have seriously troubled financial histories, including bankruptcies filed just days before their joining the rioters . Yet they chose to support a president who did nothing to make life better for workers but did give a $1.9 trillion tax break to the wealthiest, many of whom directly benefit from the industry of credit card debt that blinds people to financial reality. And Post election studies show that “blue collar workers” by and large voted for Trump.

So yes, the GOP can say it is the party of workers, but only those workers who have swallowed the opiate compounded of racism, xenophobia, and credit card delusion that says your economic problems will be cured once minorities are pushed back to the bottom of the economic and political ladder, immigrants are sent “home” and fundamentalist Christian belief rules society, and unbridled capitalism runs the economy.

I repeat: take away the credit cards, and the narcotized masses will awake and awake angry.

Marx may be difficult to understand in his theoretical expositions, but he is very clear about how societies keep workers under control: workers are befuddled, bamboozled, and bewitched by an opiate. The opiate de jour is the credit card.

Were workers relieved of their credit cards, their recognition of their actual existential situation would alight some righteous anger. Unless, of course, the status quo party amplified by FOX hellhounds began howling the “patriotism” and “freedom” found in credit cards.

But, to use John Lennon’s lyrics, just imagine” if workers were paid enough to buy a house, have and support a family, and save for retirement without going into debt. I think that scenario sounds something like freedom.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago

“workers are befuddled, bamboozled, and bewitched by an opiate.”
Spot on, no need to say more, well done!

Jimbob Jaimeson
Jimbob Jaimeson
3 years ago

It is beyond me why anyone talking about wealth re-distribution is labelled a marxist or communist. I recently read marx’s manafesto..a terrible read. As someone else mentioned it’s for another century. Although marx obviously is in favour of wealth re-distribution he also wants to get there without anyone’s agreement or vote and a whole raft of other crazy social policies not fit for a free modern society.

Purely Idealist policies never work whether capitalist, fascist or communist. The world and the people in it are far too complex for simple ideaologies to work. Most people who cry ‘communist’ when you talk of wealth re-distribution voted for a government that taxes them and does just that.

It’s the extent to which it is done where the issues are. It’s clear to me unfetted market forces and unvoted communism have both proved failed policies….and no policy will ever be perfect.

I don’t have the answer, as people must have the right to decide their own fate….and therein lies the catch…many do not. in both capitalist and communist driven societies. We must allow people to create wealth…but there needs to be limits to how much power someone can wield over others by the wealth they have…money travels upward…. always..as we can see.

Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
3 years ago

“It is beyond me why anyone talking about wealth re-distribution is labelled a marxist or communist.”

It’s because the word ‘re-distribution’ is an ideological term which pretends that all wealth has been previously ‘stolen’ from ‘the poor’ This is false.
‘Re-distribution’ in fact means confiscation and ‘distribution’; for the first time. We can start from that recognition and argy-bargy backwards and forwards about ‘entitlement’. All wealth in a law-ruled domain is a product of work.** There is no such thing as ‘wealth’ which lies about just waiting to be distributed, or stolen***.

**No form of work has innate legitimacy, of course. People differ about the value of inidividual instances of it. Drug dealers’ wealth is regarded as illegitimate, but not because it’s inegalitarian (though it is), but because it has been criminally acquired, under known and accepted laws.

***Take oil deposits. Not until the west developed the internal combustion engine did Arabia or other places convert the oil which they had been sitting on for millennia into ‘wealth’.

Last edited 3 years ago by Arnold Grutt
K Sheedy
K Sheedy
3 years ago
Reply to  Arnold Grutt

“All wealth in a law-ruled domain is a product of work.”
Not true. A lot of wealth is gained by simply holding assets that increase in value and realise rents.
The problem is that people with wealth (naturally) want to keep it and pass it to their children. As education as well as in the form of assets. And as luck! Being wealthy is 80% luck and 20% effort. The wealthy work hard to exploit their luck, and the luck of their children being born into wealth.
The government’s job is to harvest enough wealth to make everyone lucky enough to have an OK life and to provide opportunities to get richer. But not to harvest so much wealth as to destroy the natural motivation to get rich and make your kids rich too.
European mixed economies (like the UK) do an OK job of this.

Written from the point of view of a lucky rich person.

mindovermud
mindovermud
3 years ago

Tricky concept work; Initially my dad said that if you are going to do something for most of your working life, make sure its something you enjoy….. So that reasoning sent me to Art college. He should also have mentioned the need to be properly renumerated for it as well.
All work is a form of prostitution, you lease your body, mind and skills to gain an income, so dont love your proffession so much you are prepared to give it away for nothing. But it is pleasant to be wanted and needed for what you can offer, which is why prostitution is as honourable as any proffession, and most probobly a good deal more honest.(in theory)
So as a rule, if you are being paid well to do something you like, and is fulfilling and useful to the world, thats probobly as good as it gets.
However even the best of jobs are not going to be happy all the time, most jobs are not fulfilling or useful to the world, and when they are also stressful, time consuming and poorly paid it is only the constant bullying threat of starvation, eviction and homelessness that keeps the world going round.
So as a fairly comfortable selfemployed tradesman, I also quite understand the need for unions, workers rights organisations that the gig economy of delivery personel and low paid catering, and other vital workers etc. need. GO MARX GO!
Capitalism cannot be unfettered, it needs constant tempering by its socialist opposite to keep balance and natural Justice.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
3 years ago

“the family, which has “developed as a mechanism of controlling and directing labour 
 The only option, as theorist Jordy Rosenberg wrote, is to ride ‘the supernova of the family’s destruction’ through to something new.””

‘I saw Satan smiling with delight’ the day the family died.

Nun Yerbizness
Nun Yerbizness
3 years ago

“All that is solid melts into air.”

Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
3 years ago

““Solidarity doesn’t mean you have to like every person you’re fighting alongside. But in those moments where you stand shoulder to shoulder, you do love one another.” Here the reader catches the last glimmerings of the revolutionary dream, that hope which throughout the 20th century animated so many courageous and intelligent people”

All revolutionary politics in the West has its origins in early Christianity. Take the phrase ‘love one another’. This is simply the single ‘commandment’ of Jesus ‘Love thy Neighbour’ (which he meant to replace Judaism’s ‘Ten’) re-applied in a modern context (assuming it means ‘fellow man’ rather than just ‘co-religionist’).
For myself I think such an attitude is bizarrely irrational. My neighbours are merely accidents. For them to be even thought of as my ‘neighbours’ in particular is my choice. It’s not a brute fact over which I have no control.

Last edited 3 years ago by Arnold Grutt
Danny K
Danny K
3 years ago

Last edited 3 years ago by Danny K
Peter Ian Staker
Peter Ian Staker
3 years ago

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Last edited 3 years ago by Peter Ian Staker
Feld Grau
Feld Grau
3 years ago

Allow me to make the following comment to an otherwise fine article.
“…there are workers and there are owners, and the owners have all the power.”
There is one group that has been overlooked and I owe this observation to Niall Ferguson who, after considering how beehives are organized, suggested that are remarkably similar to our own societies.
The 1%ers are the queen bees/owners. You have the worker bee/workers (most of us) but you also have the drones. The drone segment, at least here in Canada, and as I suspect elsewhere in the Anglosphere, is increasing at an alarming rate and also require more worker bees (in the form of social workers, teachers, law enforcement et al) to service their needs. This is a disturbing trend in my view.

Last edited 3 years ago by Feld Grau
Meghan Kathleen Jamieson
Meghan Kathleen Jamieson
3 years ago

I don’t think there’s any real question that the shittier the world of work is for most people, the more they will be attracted to ideas that explain that or offer some mitigation.
This author has done a good job I think of getting to some of the real appeal of Marx – not just that he lays out the problem of capitalism and explains the sense of injustice people feel, but his suggested solutions don’t just offer hope, but meaning and even love. The ideas people find most compelling always include these things.
That being said, while state socialism always seems to me like kind of a strange attempt to make Marxism work, and it offers some practical mitigations of capitalism, it doesn’t solve the real problems. As we can see, even what seem like gains can very easily be reversed in favour of those with economic power.
I’ve come to believe that there is likely more benefit in rethinking some of the foundational ideas of capitalism in light of other types of economic systems which aren’t capitalist, and aren’t Marxist or socialist – which is most of them before the modern period. What are their foundational beliefs? What do we make of the fact that so many societies have believed that usury is an ethical no no? What about systems where profit is seen as suspect, or value as not being based on what you can make people pay, or where the employer/employee relationship is seen as something deeper than a contract? What about the completely artificial rules we create that allow for the existence of enormous corporations and their often very complex existence?
Given that economies have existed and functioned with these kinds of beliefs, or lacking the laws we take for granted, they might be a better bet for finding something workable.

J. Hale
J. Hale
3 years ago

Let’s compare Amazon with the U.S. Post Office. Amazon functioned pretty well during the Covid Pandemic. The post office had lots of absenteeism, sick outs, lost mail, broken machinery (some deliberately broken?) etc. The post office also loses money and offers its employees unsustainable wages and health benefits. The U.S. Congress added $86 billion to the Covid relief act to bail out other unsustainable union pension plans. Perhaps Amazon should tweak their algorithms some to tolerate human imperfections, but unions are far worse. I recall a documentary on unions in the UK from back in the 1970s. It showed workers storming the gates of a factory eager to leave work on a Friday afternoon. As the gates fell and the worker’s flowed out jubilant at their power over management, the reporter on the scene noted that this minor riot was occurring 20 minutes BEFORE the shift ended.

Jorge Toer
Jorge Toer
3 years ago

Interesting article, thanks, Marx is death, The capital passed away in a society that want to posses other people,money,etc.
The capitalism is a natural product evolutionary and the future depends the change of us ,people.

Olaf de Kuyper
Olaf de Kuyper
3 years ago

Oh for the days of Marxist academics and final salary pension funds!

Marek Domanski
Marek Domanski
3 years ago

To Allons Enfants. You cannot say it was Marxism. It was their interpretation of it. Maybe you are from Poland like my father. I have been to Communist Poland. Also one cannot say that China is a Marxist country. Maybe Leninist in its political structure.
Anyway, you obviously don’t have to be Marxist to see the sleazy side of employers and corporate culture in dealing with their employees. I remember years ago being pressured to attend a team building weekend.
Employers should be straight with their staff in the following way:
We obviously need you economically. But at the same time we recognise you as autonomous people. We don’t want to bullshit you, and we don’t want to make company people. We actually have a relaxed attitude to dress code because we just don’t see the necessity of being otherwise. There is nothing particularly “feel good” about it.

Last edited 3 years ago by Marek Domanski
K Sheedy
K Sheedy
3 years ago

This the same Karl Marx who; inherited a servant from his wife’s family, whom he never paid, whom he got pregnant, who denied paternity of the child, a son who was put up for adoption, and when his son visited his servant mother he was not allowed out of the kitchen.
And a ‘thinker’ did not present one scientific idea (i.e. provable hypothesis) in any of his interminable writings.
Why would anyone admit to being a fan of this egotistical idiot?

Jeffrey Chongsathien
Jeffrey Chongsathien
3 years ago

I see in the comments that everyone has reflexively resorted to their world views as encapsulated by a limited, specific vocabulary. I’d just like to see specific solutions to specific problems… like ending central banks and replacing a wealth-transfer based tax system with a wealth based one (we have the technology to create real-time, universal asset registration and real-time algorithm based taxation).

Wilfred Davis
Wilfred Davis
3 years ago

Test.

Martin Butler
Martin Butler
3 years ago

I’m comfortable with a wide spectrum of journalist voices from left and right – but the editor of the Catholic Herald (which campaigns viciously against equality for gay people and, according to most children’s charities, contributes to teenage suicides) ? Really ?