We are proles–and not just proles. We work because we have to, not because we want to. Like Marx we believe that to be a worker is a misery. In modern society we are reduced to our capacity to work–Marx called this ‘labour power’. Work negates us insofar as it reduces the manifold potentialities and diverse possibilities of the human and human community to the unquestioned “good” of abstract wealth and labour–that is reduces us to money, labour-power and production for profit.
The joys we find in work we find despite it–in the smile of a colleague; in goofing off and daydreams; in stealing from the boss. We only struggle for better pay and conditions as meagre compensation for a life stolen from us for money. But even when we’re away from work, our “free-time” has become more labourious. Meanwhile we plot and plan the complete abolition of all alienations.
Those who believe that work can be made more meaningful and fulfilling forget–or just ignore–that even the “good” jobs are rendered boring. Under capitalism any and all tasks tend to be evacuated of interest and enjoyment to the extent that they are reduced to a monetary measure. In the example of so-called “creative” jobs, the measure of extra freedom and control over work is undermined by ever-present competition and concern for the bottom line (experienced, moreover, as externalities beyond our control). In those cases in which such workers more closely identify with their creative labours the sting of alienation can be even more tragically felt. Nonetheless, for every “creative” worker who still juggles the never-ending labours of a “work-life balance”, thousands more are submitted to the monotonous rhythms of the schools, shops, call-centres, offices, warehouses, factories and prisons. Which is to say, the expansion of so-called creative jobs paradoxically brings even more–and more intensely felt–alienation in its wake.
So, we are proles who want to do away with the proletarian condition. We do not celebrate labour or see it as the essence or the goal of life. This is the grim fantasy of capitalism as much as really existing “socialism”–and a good deal of the anarchist imaginary too. No doubt there will be laborious tasks in a society freely and rationally organised by the individuals that make it up. The difference, however, will be that the Janus-faced idol of money and work will no longer maim us and mark us from birth to death.
[to be continued]