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Solidarity never

June 10, 2013

For the past century or more, reformers have touted various forms of socialism as solutions to ending wage slavery and decreasing the dependence of laborers on their employers.  Remove the investors and managers from prominence in the production cycle, they argue.  Place the means of production in the hands of the workers, guarantee them their jobs and a share in the profits produced by their labor, and exploitation within the workplace becomes impossible.  The employee can exercise his right to work without fear of discharge, discrimination, or deprivation.

In actual fact, solutions such as socialism and syndicalism are no more beneficial to the individual than capitalism is.  The laborer employed by a cooperative, a collective farm, a kibbutz, is just as much a wage slave as if he were working for a private corporation.  In both cases he is at the mercy of others.  He must obey in order to survive.  The only difference between the two systems lies in the number of people he must obey.  As an employee of a capitalist concern, he is dependent on the will of a single man or a few men.  As an employee of a socialist concern, he is dependent on the will of his fellow workers en masse.  How is one situation better than the other?  In either case, he is dependent.  He cannot survive on his own, or exercise his own rights without taking into account the demands of others, both directly (orders within the workplace, union rules) and indirectly (taxation, social conventions, monetary standards).  If he disregards these demands, he is discharged.  If he is unwilling to subject himself to them again, he most likely remains unemployable.  If he remains unemployable in the world his former employers have constructed, he starves.  And if he manages to survive on his own terms, he runs the risk of being branded anything from eccentric to deviant to an enemy of the state.  Neither socialism nor capitalism has anything to offer him.

This shared deficiency has, to some extent, a shared cause.  Common implementations of both capitalism and socialism assume that the development of industries is synonymous with human progress and happiness.  And yet the emergence of wage slavery on a large scale is intimately connected with the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.  It is a contradiction in terms for adherents of either capitalism or socialism to claim that their system offers workers increased freedoms and benefits while simultaneously agreeing with the way their philosophy of choice embraces industry.  Industry is incompatible with freedom.  Industry requires subservience and obedience from the worker in order to function at all.  It also forces him to rely on others for the necessities of survival, both in that he must receive payment for his work in order to purchase such necessities and in that he must depend on others to produce those necessities before he can purchase them.  It removes his ability to survive based on his own efforts and makes his survival dependent on the survival of the group.  The introduction of socialism in place of capitalism does not benefit the individual worker at all if industry is retained as the centerpiece of the socialist society or economy, because industry always demands inter-dependency and therefore submission.  The manner in which this dependency is managed and the way in which it is described are irrelevant.  Industry perpetuates wage slavery regardless of whether it is socialized or capitalist.

If all solidarity can offer is a change of masters and a rebranding, it is not worth subscribing to in the first place.

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