In Pittsburgh, we don't take the bus to our destination. In Pittsburgh, we walk to our destination, possibly with the assistance of the bus.
In Marxist thought, the notion of wage-slavery is a critique of pre-Marxist economic relations, whereby people are forced to channel their creative energies as directed by the owners of capital, in order to be paid and meet their basic needs. In this process, the worker is alienated from their creative self (creative in the sense of create) - their natural inclination to labour is alienated from them and they lose to some degree the joy in accomplishment, this being (my addition here) reserved for work purely chosen by them. In modern times, hobbies may much resemble work, but because they are self-directed, the pleasure in accomplishing an entire task is retained. Marx likewise criticses division of labour - it makes it harder for a craftsman to identify with the end product of their work, making them a cog in a machine. Under marxist communism, we presume that workers have their basic needs met by society and their creative efforts are theirs to use as they wish - they are an artist, presented with the smorgasboard of societal needs and their own interests, directed only by a strong form of the core communist ethic, "From each according to their ability, to each according to their needs".
With this, we respectfully dissent. I consider the effects of this dissent placing me outside marxist orthodoxy, although one could reasonably conclude instead that it makes me a non-marxist communist (I don't particularly care about the classification). I believe the characterisation of wage-slavery as essentially fair, but I don't think society should pay the costs associated with its complete abolition - I am not convinced that eliminating it entirely is a workable model (if it is, it is for the distant future). I am not opposed to it should it prove to be workable, but I have doubt enough that it is that I feel we should oppose its existence as doctrine. Instead, I feel we should commit to a system that is not based as much around ownership as it is around institutional democracies.
First, let us consider the basic obligations of society towards its members, and state them as powerful priorities. We divide people into three groups, based on merit and applying only to individuals:
- Those unwilling to labour for the good of society
- Those willing to labour for the good of society
- Those who commit themselves to excellence in labour for the good of society
- Those in all groups should be entitled to reasonable-if-minimal food, shelter, health, and water
- Should that be accomplished, those in the second and third groups should be entitled to residency, education necessary for employment and good citizenship, more reasonable levels of the previous, and general reasonable comfort in living
- Should that be accomplished, those in the second and third groups should be entitled to lifelong education and reasonable travel for enjoyment
- Should that be accomplished, those in the third group should be entitled to honours and somewhat higher levels of living space, moderately more posessions, etc. This disparity must not be excessive, and must be the result of a conscious policy decision, not unmediated market forces (tax does not qualify as sufficient mediation).
Status is, as noted, on a per-individual basis - it is not inheritable, and its implementation with regards to families or other types of cohabitation is a detail that would need to be worked out.
Institutional democracies might take many forms, but they focus on administration of the means of production, owned by society in general, administered in joint between bodies composed of the public at-large and those in a particular trade (or organisation engaged in that trade). There is more than one particular form of this that is acceptable to us - we could imagine having competing organisations performing the same task, each organised by consensus or democracy internally, exploring different tacks to various business problems, and each having the public interest represented by organisations representing the public at-large (e.g. universities, factories, medical groups). Alternatively, we could imagine a more unitary model. In the end, unless we should prove capable of otherwise as a society, we will remain wage-slaves in the strict marxist sense, although this slavery will be much lessened without a culture of ownership.
We further note, primarily as an aside, that an added aspect to guaranteeing reasonable-if-minimal food, shelter, health, and water is that the existing problem in modern societies where those who have spent time in prisons and are released will, if unable to care for themselves with their skills, occasionally commit crime in order to return to an environment where their basic needs are reasonably met, is heavily mitigated. It is heavily problematic when we guarantee so few basic service for those unable to productively labour (whether they would do so if given education and opportunity necessary to) that they would have their basic needs met better under incarceration.
Today was full of anxiety and sketching, more creative output with no meaningful socialisation. I now have a very warm cat asleep on my leg. On the upside, being asleep, she has stopped her deafeningly loud purring.