for the right not to work!

by Steve Ryan

The recent right to work conference was apparently a great success with some 600 people attending, a demo in support of BA workers after and a call to demonstrate on 22nd June, Budget Day.

technology has not reduced the workload, but rather increased its pace

All very good, but steps towards a truly communist society surely should recognise that work in itself is not the be all and end all of life.

People need time and resources to fulfil their potential, and whilst there need to be work and planning in the future communist society this should not be based on continuing to squeeze more and more productivity out of workers. Something the trad Bolshevik left have missed, after all we might all get agitated about speed ups, Lean working etc… but Lenin introduced Taylorism and its mechanistic approach to production…and Trotsky quite fancied the militarisation of labour.

Fast forward to 2010 and what do we find? More scope than ever to substantially reduce the amount of time workers work due to unimagined advances in IT, the fact that that we are as a society richer than ever and hence well able to fund pensions etc.

But what do we get?

– Increases in retirement age

– Reduction of pensions (though not for the rich who on average retire early on mega bucks)

– Pressure to work longer hours, overtime resulting in UK workers working longer than certainly anyone else in the EU

– Anyone unable to work due to illness vilified , sacked….then forced back to work through draconian measures!

In the 21st century we should surely have the right not to work, to retire when we choose, to work less hours, have more leave , sabbaticals, if we are ill to be supported and helped,

All this is under attack: ‘work til you drop’ is the new mantra , and the tired old left is falling for it.

Short term we as communists should new agitating and fighting for not just resistance to job cuts and wages but:

– a reduced pension age to 50, releasing work for others

– pensions to be based on a living wage

– shorten the working week to 30 hours, spread out the work and benefits provided by IT to all, not just the bosses

– supportive action on illness and disability: where workers are unable to work they should receive a reasonable and liveable benefit

– support the call from Greens for a universal citizens’ income

– tax the rich, especially investments, to pay for above

Long term we must fight for a communist society based on workers’ self management to produce what is needed and recognize the right of all to self fulfillment and reaching their potential through a balance of work, rest and play.

11 thoughts on “for the right not to work!

  1. The demands raised are wholly supportable, beyond the reduction in the hours of work they are not more than what left social democrats and the SWP are raising. Your not actually raising any immediate demands that would put you beyond the scope of the ‘Right to Work’ campaign.

    I don’t think ‘the tired old left’ [which commune is part of] is falling for the work til you drop mantra, I would be very surprised if either the ‘Right to Work’ conference or the SWP organisers would be for the extension of a persons working life, I expect that they would be for a reduction in the retirement age.


  2. I doubt the SWP or ‘left social democrats’ support a 30 hour week and retirement at 50. Or indeed a citizen’s income.

    You accuse us of some sort of social democracy – which in my eyes is flatly unjustifiable – whereas Chris your organisation (and perhaps you personally, I don’t know) appear to consider the Labour left the only game in town.

    Part of the ‘tired old left’ – how so?


  3. David, why not demonstrate that the SWP would oppose a 30 hour week or retirement at 50? Has there been a vote at a union conference where their delegates votes against this, or was it opposed at the ‘Right to Work’ conference? From what I can tell they have opposed every attempt to increase the retirement age and working hours.

    I am not accusing you of social democracy, I am simply saying, your not advancing anything new or largeley different from the rest of the Left in your immediate demands.

    The Labour Party will unfortunately be the ‘only game in town’ in terms of what will probably happen within the trade unions and the broader worker’s movement in resisting cuts. TUSC and any attempt to create a Labour Party mk II are even more of a dead-end than they were a year ago. I think the Labour Party will be at the head of the anti-cuts protests and actions through the trade unions. What this does not mean, is a sprint back to the Labour Party a la Workers’ Liberty, it means that we should consider further interventions in the Labour Party whether on a local level or in the LRC, to build a discussion not just on resisting cuts but raising political discussions with revolve around moving beyond Labourism whether in Labour or outside of it. I thought this was similar to your position considering your motion and report of the LRC conference last year?

    The Commune, is part of the ‘tired old left’ or ‘kitsch left’ in the same way that every other group on the left is, the politics espoused by The Commune are not new or a recent revelation. You have not seperated yourselves off with a historical basis different to other communist organisations [like the anarchists have], and from what I can tell the politics that are discussed and pushed on your site and in your paper are nothing new, you have just been more succesful than the left, councilist and libertarian communist currents in getting these ideas discussed and spread.


  4. As far as I know, the Commune and the Greens are the only groups that have an official explicit position on a universal unconditional minimum income.

    For clarification, is the 50 year old retirement age a minimum age, mandatory age or recommended age?


  5. But the unconditional minimum income is not different in reality to the raising of wages and benefits which is what the ‘Right to Work’ conference decided.


  6. “As far as I know, the Commune and the Greens are the only groups that have an official explicit position on a universal unconditional minimum income.”

    Come off it Kaze. Who isn’t for a minimum income? Most of the left support a minimum wage tied to average wage rates. Who wouldn’t? (Except maybe the CPGB?)


  7. Bill, I am sure we would support such immediate demands as laid out by Steve Ryan for the Commune and other similar demands backed by every other group on the Left.


  8. “official explicit position”
    “for the Commune”

    It is neither. It is Steve’s view. Pluralism, innit.


  9. c0mmunard, you could help readers out by marking out which are positions of the Commune groups and which are individual opinions, as it is unclear on the site and on the front page of your paper.


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