ForumTouchy Subjects ► The wage system, slavery or freedom?
“Did you ever stop to ask yourself this question: why were you born from your parents and not from some others?

You understand, of course, what I am driving at. I mean that your consent was not asked. You were simply born; you did not have a chance to select the place of your birth or to choose your parents. It was just chance.

So it happened that you were not born rich. Maybe your people are of the middle class; more likely, though, they belong to the workers, and so you are one of those millions, the masses, who have to work for a living.

The man who has money can put it into some business or industry. He invests it and lives on the profits. But you have no money. You have only your ability to work, your labor power.

There was a time when every workingman worked for himself. There were no factories then and no big industries. The laborer had his own tools and his own little workshop, and he even bought himself the raw materials he needed. He worked for himself, and he was called an artisan or craftsman.

Then came the factory and the large workshop. Little by little they crowded out the independent workman, the artisan, because he could not make things as cheaply as the factory — he could not compete with the big manufacturer. So the artisan had to give up his little workshop and go to the factory to work.

In the factories and large plants things are produced on a big scale. Such big-scale production is called industrialism. It has made the employers and manufacturers very rich, so that the lords of industry and commerce have accumulated much money, much capital. Therefore that system is called capitalism. We all live to-day in the capitalist system.

In the capitalist system the workingman cannot work for himself, as in the old days. He cannot compete with the big manufacturers. So, if you are a workman, you must find an employer. You work for him; that is, you give him your labor for so and so many hours a day or week, and he pays you for it. You sell him your labor power and he pays you wages.

In the capitalist system the whole working class sells its labor power to the employing class. The workers build factories, make machinery and tools, and produce goods. The employers keep the factories, the machinery, tools and goods for themselves as their profit. The workers get only wages.

This arrangement is called the wage system.

Learned men have figured out that the worker receives as his wage only about one-tenth of what he produces. The other nine-tenths are divided among the landlord, the manufacturer, the railroad company, the wholesaler, the jobber, and other middlemen.

It means this:

Though the workers, as a class, have built the factories, a slice of their daily labor is taken from them for the privilege of using those factories. That’s the landlord’s profit.

Though the workers have made the tools and the machinery, another slice of their daily labor is taken from them for the privilege of using those tools and machinery. That’s the manufacturer’s profit.

Though the workers built the railroads and are running them, another slice of their daily labor is taken from them for the transportation of the goods they make. That’s the railroad’s profit.

And so on, including the banker who lends the manufacturer other people’s money, the wholesaler, the jobber, and other middlemen, all of whom get their slice of the worker’s toil.

What is left then — one-tenth of the real worth of the worker’s labor — is his share, his wage.

Can you guess now why the wise Proudhon said that the possessions of the rich are stolen property? Stolen from the producer, the worker.

It seems strange, doesn’t it, that such a thing should be permitted?“ The ABC of communist anarchism by Alexander Berkman.

Is our freedom not limited by our wage? Does our wage have any effect on what we eat, where we go, who we associate with, or the place we live? And if so how does that not limit our freedom? Should we continue to put up with this kind of treatment?
  
R0b1n H. said:
Is our freedom not limited by our wage? Does our wage have any effect on what we eat, where we go, who we associate with, or the place we live? And if so how does that not limit our freedom? Should we continue to put up with this kind of treatment?


Going in order;
Freedom is limited by wage. Food, people, and housing are all affected by wages, as well as what places you go to both indirectly and directly because of wage. The more money you have, the more places/more lavish places you can go to.
It doesn’t seem like it limits freedom at first glance, but there are quite a few adults here, so for them, at least, wages do influence a lot of decisions.
What more can we do, but accept? As much as I would like to have everyone be equals, it only takes one greedy person to make it fall.
  
Wait, what time in history did every working man have his own workshop and tools? Many were transient labourers doing seasonal agricultural work for tenant farmers.
  
I think they meant like, people making clothes for their family and others.
And then factories produced stuff really really fast, so they didn’t need to do it anymore. Besides, not many would pay for custom clothes, anyway, when it is so much cheaper to get a non-custom one.
  
I’m a little confused about how one greedy man can make the whole system fail. Wouldn’t the rest of us be the ones responsible for that happening because we allowed it?
  
In other words “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
  
I know what they meant, I think it's pseudohistory that blatantly ignores why factories and mass production exist. Worker's rights is an important conversation, but some romanticised ideal about a time that didn't exist isn't a relevant conversation.

It's like saying "in a time when every man could treat his own syphilis with ineffective ointments made of mustard we were free, now doctors charge us for medical knowledge we all used to have!" The game's changed.
  
So what did people do before industrialism? There was never a time when the majority of laborers, in America at least, were craftsmen or artisans? What were they?
  
R0b1n H. said:
I’m a little confused about how one greedy man can make the whole system fail. Wouldn’t the rest of us be the ones responsible for that happening because we allowed it?


I think that the moment there’s a power imbalance, things have a very good chance for things to go downhill. Power also causes greed, and people could be fooled into thinking there’s nothing wrong when there is.
  
Most people were labourers, agrarian economies don't have huge pools of craftsmen the way you're assuming.
  
Who did they labor for, who employed them? I don’t think that there has always been employers, or like you said, I don’t think that agrarian economies have huge pools of employers the way you're assuming.
  
I’m pretty sure they worked for themselves and any close enough friends.
  
Agrarian economies have most of their population dedicated to agriculture, often as seasonal or unskilled labourers for landed or wealthy tenant farmers, occasionally having small tenancies for themselves.
  
Why are you referring to agrarian economies? Berkman doesn’t specify that that is the type of culture he is referring to. To me it sounds more like a reference to a time similar to medieval times. Like when the blacksmith owned his workshop and tools and bought raw iron to smith into swords. Or the baker who owned his bakery and bought wheat and ect for bread making. Or any laborer from that time period really, I don’t think it’s a drastic exaggeration to reference that period of time.
  
Then Berkman is an actual idiot with no understanding of history. Even in modern developing countries more than half of the population works directly in agriculture, every society prior to the industrial revolution was agrarian.

Edit: to clarify, an idiot because if his thesis is that pre industrial societies didn't have huge agrarian underclasses is wrong and he published on that information
  
But then how do they get the tools required to farm? I don’t think he’s focusing on the fact that a lot of people farmed, just the random circumstances that people are put in and how it affects them.
  
Berkman is an idiot for referring to the laborers who owned there own workshops and bought their own raw materials because most cultures from the past are agrarian?
  
Grayseff said:
Agrarian economies have most of their population dedicated to agriculture, often as seasonal or unskilled labourers for landed or wealthy tenant farmers, occasionally having small tenancies for themselves.
So the wage system has always been and there never existed a system before it in which people owned their own workshops and such? I’m just a little confused here.
  
It does seem like both of you are glossing over things.
The way I understand it, as long as jobs and currency exist, the wage system exists.
  
We went from more than two thirds of the economy working on farms with tools owned by people with money to two percent of the population working on farms today in two hundred years. The industrial revolution was a huge cycle of improving technology requiring fewer labourers who moved to cities where production fueled technological development.

If Berkman thinks the economy of the past was some Halcyon nonsense where everyone owned a bakery or a smithy he was flat out wrong. Most people made their own bread in communal ovens (hence the nursery rhyme pat-a-cake where you pat it, prick it and mark it with a -letter-) most people owned no property, most people worked seasonal labouring jobs for a wage that got them through the year. Most people would help (for low wages unless they were very good at their jobs like ploughmen) with sowing, reaping and shearing; huge agricultural events that required a lot of people before machines took over and were paid wages for that.
  
Maybe I’m wrong on this a bit, but I think there’s a logical fallacy here.

I think he was using “every person” lightly. Of course there would still need to be food providers, but maybe people just liked creating art. Not professionally, but as a hobby.
  
It's not as if the companies in charge of railroads and manufacturing do nothing. They organize people, provide training, manage budgets, enforce safety codes, etc.
Without designers, engineers, and lawyers, we could not make quality, safe, and standard products.
Yes, it's ridiculous some of those profits go to people who have nothing to do with the work involved. But you can't have everyone working for themselves; most goods and services in the developed world are too complex for that. Workers often have to find employers because working within a system allows you to produce more and higher-quality work.
  
Perhaps Berkman is referring to a type of laborer more so than a type of economy?
Grayseff said:
Most people would help (for low wages unless they were very good at their jobs like ploughmen) with sowing, reaping and shearing; huge agricultural events that required a lot of people before machines took over and were paid wages for that.
People like craftsmen and artisan?
  
Wyyca21 said:
Maybe I’m wrong on this a bit, but I think there’s a logical fallacy here.

I think he was using “every person” lightly. Of course there would still need to be food providers, but maybe people just liked creating art. Not professionally, but as a hobby.


Using "every person lightly" just doesn't encapsulate the inarguable fact that in the medieval period eighty percent of people worked in agriculture, and the entire system of Feudalism (which is absolutely the exact word we still use to refer to the middle ages) relied on farmers not owning their own land and paying a rich guy for the privilege of labouring.

Edit: also, no, not like skilled artisans at all, like vagrants who only got work in certain seasons.
  
Ssssooo, the wage system does exist? In both Feudalism and modern society?
  
Forum > Touchy Subjects > The wage system, slavery or freedom?