Part 07, Chapter 03
Labor and Its Pay
Author : Benjamin R. Tucker
Labor and its Pay
Excerpted from the book;
Individual Liberty: Selections From the Writings of Benjamin R. Tucker
Vanguard Press, New York, 1926
Kraus Reprint Co., Millwood, NY, 1973.
Communists and State Socialists on the one hand and Anarchists and
Individualists on the other will never be able to agree on the question of
wages, because the reward of labor represents one of the fundamental
differences between them. Here is a specimen of the eternal controversy, from
the pen of Mr. Tucker:
In No 121 of Liberty, criticizing an attempt of Kropotkine to
identify Communism and Individualism, I charged him with ignoring "the real
question of whether Communism will permit the individual to labor
independently, own tools, sell his labor or his products, and buy the labor or
products of others." In Herr Most's eyes this is so outrageous that, in
reprinting it, he puts the words "the labor of others" in large black type.
Most being a Communist, he must, to be consistent, object to the purchase and
sale of anything whatever but why he should particularly object to the
purchase and sale of labor is more than I can understand. Really, in the
last analysis, labor is the only thing that has any title to be bought or
sold. Is there any just basis of price except cost? And is there anything
that costs except labor or suffering (another name for labor)? Labor should be
paid! Horrible, isn't it? Why, I thought that the fact that it is not paid
was the whole grievance. "Unpaid labor" has been the chief complaint of all
Socialists, and that labor should get its reward has been their chief
contention. Suppose I had said to Kropotkine that the real question is
whether Communism will permit individuals to exchange their labor or products
on their own terms. Would Herr Most have been so shocked? Would he have
printed that in black type? Yet in another form I said precisely that.
If the men who oppose wages - that is, the purchase and sale of labor - were
capable of analyzing their thought and feelings, they would see that what
really excites their anger is not the fact that labor is bought and sold, but
the fact that one class of men are dependent for their living upon the sale of
their labor, while another class of men are relieved of the necessity of labor
by being legally privileged to sell something that is not labor, and that, but
for the privilege, would be enjoyed by all gratuitously. And to such a state
of things I am as much opposed as any one. But the minute you remove
privilege, the class that now enjoy it will be forced to sell their labor, and
then, when there will be nothing but labor with which to buy labor, the
distinction between wage-payers and wage-receivers will be wiped out, and
every man will be a laborer exchanging with fellow-laborers. Not to abolish
wages, but to make every man dependent upon wages and secure to every
man his whole wages is the aim of Anarchistic Socialism. What
Anarchistic Socialism aims to abolish is usury. It does not want to deprive
labor of its reward; it wants to deprive capital of its reward. It does not
hold that labor should not be sold; it holds that capital should not be hired
But, says Herr Most, this idea of a free labor market from which privilege is
eliminated is nothing but "consistent Manchesterism." Well, what better can a
man who professes Anarchism want than that? For the principle of Manchesterism
is liberty, and consistent Manchesterism is consistent adherence to liberty.
The only inconsistency of the Manchester men lies in their infidelity to
liberty in some of its phases. And this infidelity to liberty in some of its
phases is precisely the fatal inconsistency of the Freiheit school, -
the only difference between its adherents and the Manchester men being that in
many of the phases in which the latter are infidel the former are faithful,
while in many of those in which the latter are faithful the former are
infidel. Yes, genuine Anarchism is consistent Manchesterism, and Communistic
or pseudo-Anarchism is inconsistent Manchesterism. "I thank thee, Jew, for
teaching me that word."
Kropotkine, arguing in favor of Communism, says that he has "always observed
that workers with difficulty understand the possibility of a wage-system of
labor-checks and like artificial inventions of Socialists," but has been
"struck on the contrary by the easiness with which they always accept
Communist principles" Was Kropotkine ever struck by the easiness with which
simple-minded people accept the creation theory and the difficulty with which
they understand the possibility of evolution? If so, did he ever use this fact
as an argument in favor of the creation hypothesis? Just as it is easier to
rest satisfied with the statement, "Male and female created he them," than to
trace in the geological strata the intricacies in the evolution of species, so
it is easier to say that every man shall have whatever he wants than to find
the economic law by which every man may get the equivalent of his product. The
ways of Faith are direct and easy to follow, but their goal is a quagmire;
whereas the ways of Science, however devious and difficult to tread, lead to
solid ground at last. Communism belongs to the Age of Faith, Anarchistic
Socialism to the Age of Science.
From : Flag.Blackened.net.
November 30, 1907 : Part 07, Chapter 03 -- Publication.
February 22, 2017 : Part 07, Chapter 03 -- Added to http://www.RevoltLib.com.
May 28, 2017 : Part 07, Chapter 03 -- Last Updated on http://www.RevoltLib.com.
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