The Communist Strategy
The aim of the communists is to achieve a stateless, classless society. In order to achieve this society, capitalism has to be overthrown, suppressed, and eliminated. To accomplish these tasks, the unity of the working-class must be established. The working-class is the only extant class capable of revolutionary action in the present epoch. While different sections of the working-class may have fundamentally the same economic position in society, the same relation to capital and capitalists, and therefore the same economic interests, the fact remains that the working-class is neither united nor struggling in a conscious manner towards communism. The capitalist-class has taken advantage of the tendency of this or that section of the working-class to sacrifice the interests of the rest of the working-class in order to hide the fact that the working-class has a fundamentally united economic interest. This division of the working-class has happened over the past centuries, and as such is deeply embedded in the consciousness of the working-class.
The simplest method for achieving a united working-class is to appeal to the fundamentally united economic interest of the working-class via the struggle for a universal wage. This method, while not sufficient unto itself, is necessary. During the struggle for a universal wage, the extra-economic factors hindering the various sections of the working-class will serve to hinder the struggle for a universal wage therefore necessitating their removal. These factors, however, can only be removed with a political entity, the political party of the working-class. The economic struggle for a universal wage necessarily creates the workers’ party, or fails. A universal wage, however, is not enough to achieve a stateless classless society, it is merely a tool to achieve working-class unity. During the struggle for a universal wage, the productive apparatus of society must be mastered by the working-class. The cyclical nature of capitalist crisis will ensure that this mastery of the productive apparatus is given an opportunity for full-exercise; the capitalists inevitably admit their incapability of controlling their own economy.
Lets break that all down shall we?
Capitalist Unity and Working-Class Unity
The name bourgeoisie stems from the French burgher, so named for the burgs which they inhabited. They were the old middle-class of the medieval period. Unlike the name proletariat, bourgeoisie hasn’t aged as well, and capitalist is much more fitting. Despite the multifarious possessions that the capitalists own, from steel factories, to oil refineries, to retail shops, to thousand acre farms, what they really posses is capital. Further, despite the differences in type, all capital will command the same amount of surplus value per unit of capital invested. This is even despite the fact that each individual capital will produce a different amount of surplus value from all the other capitals. Marx discovered and elaborated in volume 3 of Capital that the mechanism for the even distribution of surplus value to capital is price. The political unity of the capitalists is based upon the economic unity of the capitalists. Further, the political actions of the capitalists revolve around, in good times, ensuring that equal profits accrue to equal capitals, and in bad times that the losses are shunted on to others. This is true even prior to the political hegemony of capitalism, the struggle for free trade was a struggle for equal profits for equal capitals, which in turn led to the political unity and hegemony of capitalism. The reverse is also true, however, that when the losses start to fall, tariffs begin to surface in order to push the losses on to others.
The name proletariat stems from the Latin proletarius, meaning one whose only wealth in life is their own off-spring. In the early days of capitalism this was literally true as parents would force their children to work in factories for the additional income they would bring. Every member of the working-class possesses one thing, their labor-power. Now, this labor-power is not something that the working-class possesses in the same sense that they may possess a chair. Labor-power is quite literally the life of the worker. To say that the worker possesses labor-power as though it were something distinct from the personage of the worker is to recognize that the worker must surrender a portion of their life-time to capital in order to maintain the remaining portion for themselves. The sale of labor-power is done so that the worker may live. Throughout the life of a worker, they are ‘tracked’ in to various professions. They may be ‘tracked’ by personal motivation or lack thereof, overbearing parents, aggressive recruitment strategies, geographic location, or any number of factors or combination of factors. The point is that any given individual worker winds up in a particular occupation. The fact remains, however, that every occupation is only taken up so that the worker may exchange their labor-power in order to maintain their own existence. Regardless of which specific occupation a worker may come to inhabit, the sale of labor-power must commence in order for that worker to live. The factors influencing which particular occupation any given worker comes to favor are irrelevant to the underlying economic fact that the proletariat must sell their labor-power in order to maintain their own existence. There is, of course, a slight complication that you and I are aware of. Despite the fact that every hour of labor worked is the same as every other hour of labor worked in terms of value added to the product, and despite the fact that the needs of the members of the working-class are the same, different occupations offer different wages. The political disunity of the working-class is based upon the economic disunity of the working-class.
A Universal Wage
Why are some wages higher than others? In the case of unionized versus non-unionized workers, it is a naked case of economic force. Unions are capable of commanding higher wages because they can force capitalists to pay them or risk strikes. In every other extant case, economic force is still the only important factor. Consider the case of a highly trained welder. The highly trained welder is able to command a higher wage precisely because there are so few welders of this particular caliber relative to the demand for these welders. Capitalists must pay higher wages or risk defections to other capitalists more willing to pay higher wages. Neither the welder, nor the unionized worker adds more value to the product than any other worker, yet they command a higher wage simply due to the economic force they are capable of wielding. Every worker adds the same amount of value per hour worked, and wage levels are determined by economic force.
What would the struggle for a universal wage look like? While it may be necessary to use the union form to wage struggles in specific industries, the struggle for a universal wage will necessitate geographically based workers’ organizing centers allowing workers from various workplaces to come together and make common cause for a universal wage. Cross-industry solidarity becoming class solidarity is the only possible way forward for a universal wage struggle. What’s more, extra-economic issues afflicting and splitting the working-class like racism must be confronted in these struggles if they are to succeed. Wage differentials between men and women, white and black/brown must evaporate. The disproportionate use of legal and extra-legal violence against minority communities can only serve to keep a wedge between white and black/brown labor, a wedge which must necessarily be overcome in the struggle for a universal wage. In the struggle for economic unity, political unity must be forged, a unity which will then be maintained by that very same economic unity.
Any and all objections can be met with adequate theoretical answers provided by Marxism if necessary, but more importantly the struggle for a universal wage would continuously drive the wage up. There may be some resentment and entitlement from my co-workers to learn that fast food workers make the same as we do, but all of that would likely evaporate when faced with a movement fighting for a $30/hr minimum wage which would benefit them as well.
Dangers in the Struggle for a Universal Wage
In every working-class struggle, there is the danger of co-optation. The struggle for a universal wage is no different, and subverting such an important struggle would prove to be immensely beneficial to the needs of capital. The two main connected paths I could imagine would be the attempt to include cops under the umbrella of a universal wage, and to exclude non-citizens from the universal wage. The necessity of excluding cops from our struggle should be obvious. We are not racists, we will not, like the AFL-CIO protect the thinly-veiled white-supremacist organization that is the American police force. Further, even if the police force weren’t merely a legalized terrorism against minorities, the police force is the armed wing of the capitalists. We will not struggle to enrich any segment of the capitalists, no matter how poorly paid they may be relative to the other segments of the capitalists.
The exclusion of non-citizens from a universal wage would signal the defeat of the movement. Non-citizens of nearly every country make up a significant portion of the working-class, to exclude them would play straight in to the hands of the fascists in particular, and capital in general.
Our political success in pushing for a universal wage can be measured by our success to exclude police and include immigrants. If we fail to do both or either of those things we will have failed as communists.
Learning to Run the World Tomorrow, Today
Our task does not end with the establishment of a universal wage to be paid at the highest levels. Our real task begins during the struggles for a universal wage, the construction of communism. The aforementioned geographically based workers’ organizing centers will need to stress the importance of preparing to run our workplaces without the capitalists at all. The links between organizing centers which will have inevitably cropped up in the struggle for higher wages will prove invaluable in the task of connecting various industries together. The habit to ingrain is the creation of solutions not demands such that when, during a crisis, the capitalists admit they can no longer operate the productive apparatus there will be no hesitation by the working-class to seize the productive apparatus and push the useless capitalists aside. This seizure of the productive apparatus is done not so that we can run society for the capitalists, but so that we can smash the existing society and begin building the new one based around meeting and expanding human need.
The struggle for a universal wage will forge the unity of the working-class. It is up to the communists to utilize that unity in such a way that enables us to overcome the limits of capitalism.