The Limitations of the Wage Demand

The Limitations of the Wage Demand


Poisoned water supplies, unchecked and unrevenged extra-judicial killings by police, absurd over-criminalization of minority communities, denial of access to medical care, sexual harassment in the workplace, food deserts, dilapidated and unlivable housing conditions, the rapid growth of right-wing terrorism, dangerous working conditions, and many more. Know what they all have in common? Aside from being pillars which both support and are supported by capitalism, they are problems faced by the working-class which simply can not be solved with higher wages. While we at Anti-Capital call for One Big Wage as part of the communist strategy, it is precisely that, a part of a larger, radically egalitarian, strategy. While the One Big Wage demand is tactically useful since every worker by default is affected by the general raising of wages and as such will be attracted to such a demand it is limited precisely by the fact that the sale of labor to capital is not, even if it is the start, where capitalism ends. That’s not entirely accurate either, the real start of capitalism is the violent dispossession of the worker from the means of production, something which higher wages wouldn’t help either. Further, higher wages alone do not build the organs of class struggle necessary to seize state power, and in fact an overemphasis on the wage struggle can cause the real goal to slip out of sight. This is primarily due to the fact that the struggle for higher wages is a struggle for a lesser indemnity, the indemnity is still honored. To put it succinctly, economic struggles tend to be fundamentally shortsighted. In their shortsightedness, they also tend to run in to dead-ends of their own creation. By sacrificing general interests for particular interests, unions create a section of the working-class which is pitted against the organized section and serves to undercut the wages of both. Aside from this, even if organized labor is capable of organizing more broadly, if it remains on the economic terrain alone it will ultimately run in to the question of State power, and with no broader strategic vision than higher wages it will cow before the military violence of the capitalists.

Bending the stick too far in the opposite direction is just as problematic, however. Building a purely political movement has a problem of a fundamentally different character. A political movement must be based on a class in order to have any sort of power, and the surest way of guaranteeing a working-class basis to a political movement is to focus on meeting working-class interests, which will necessarily involve engaging in broad economic struggles. Without this base in economic struggles, a political movement would be suspended in mid-air. The classic example is the relatively recent Iraq war protests. These anti-war protests were staggeringly massive, millions of people poured in to the streets world wide. But because this movement was purely political, the Iraq war went ahead. Those millions mobilized in the streets weren’t economically organized to sabotage the war efforts. Railroads carrying war supplies were not halted, docks harboring ships carrying war supplies were not closed, basic heavy industry supplying steel, concrete, plastic, aluminum, etc. to war industries were not swept with a strike wave. The protest was simply sound and fury, signifying nothing. The problem with a purely political movement is that it tends to make demands of capitalists rather than making solutions. The capitalists cannot be asked to not make war, war must be actively prevented by the militant struggle of the working-class.

The economic struggle relies on the political struggle because without a broader perspective the economic movement will fight itself in to a blind alley. The political struggle relies on the economic struggle because without the economic struggle the political struggle is either toothless or traitorous.

“The working classes move spontaneously, without knowing what the ends of the movement will be. The socialists invent no movement, but merely tell the workmen what its character and its ends will be.”

Interview with Karl Marx

What is required is a communist party organized by the working-class capable of connecting the immediate interests of the working-class to the ultimate goal of subordinating production to meeting and expanding human need through the destruction of the capitalist state and the massive reorganization of the productive apparatus of society.

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