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V. Grey

Shop Talks on Socialism

(24 March 1945)

From The Militant, Vol. IX No. 12, 24 March 1945, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Scissorbill Sam (the bosses’ man) has the bright idea that Socialism won’t work because the workingman and woman will have too much money. They won’t come to work half the time, he says.

Well, in the first place, I don’t see why that will be the acid test for the success of Socialism anyhow. If a fellow can look out the window some fine spring day, see the sun come up real bright for the first time in months, and decide to go fishing instead of going to work – why I think that’s swell!

Especially if he can afford it, and under Socialism he CAN afford it.

But Scissorbill Sam and every other company man the world over hold up their hands in horror when you say a thing like that. “What would become of production?” they say. “Suppose everybody did that? It would be a fine state of affairs, wouldn’t it?” – and so on. You know, just like the foreman talks when he sees you eating a sandwich at your machine.

They think production will go to hell under Socialism. They think everybody will take it so easy nothing will get done. They think we’ll all wind up combing the beach or sitting on a park bench starving until we keel over and come back to our senses.

Naturally, the capitalist, the foreman, and their scissorbill stooges believe that people won’t work if they are FREE. All the bosses can see is a society where everyone – except themselves – is a slave. Take the chains off a slave, they figure, and he’ll run away.

They understand so well how hateful it is to work under their system that they see it takes heavy chains indeed to keep their wage-slaves humble. Why, if the worker had a little independence, they reason – a little extra dough, and reasonable freedom from worry about future unemployment, he’d take off every day in the week!

So keep him poor! Keep him down! And you’ll squeeze the work out of him. And they’re partly right, too, because a slave isn’t the same as a free man. A slave works because he has to – because the master has the upper hand.

But they are only partly right. The funny part of it is that even under this wage-slave system, people don’t always behave according to slave etiquette. (There is more than one way to act when you get whipped.)

For instance the people who take off the most are the sweepers. Their work is the lowest paid and the most miserable. A couple of the old boys go off on a toot for two days after payday, regular as clock work. They work the other four days counting the hours until they get their twenty odd dollars, and spend half of it for forgetfulness.

The people that are by far the steadiest are the tool-room workers. Their work is the highest paid and the most interesting. For one thing they’d hate to lose twelve dollars – rather eighteen with time and a half – by taking off. And not only that. You can see when they fold up the blueprint for the day that some of them are still thinking of the thing they are making. In that sense, they even work overtime for nothing.

Even when the work is not so interesting, men are much more cheerful doing it if they are decently paid. Bricklayers, for instance, riveters and iron workers, put in a tough day, but they don’t look at it as a grind nearly as much as they would at lower pay.

How It Will Be Under Socialism

Under Socialism EVERY job will be decently paid. And jobs will be interesting, evev aside from the pay. Hours will be shorter. Instead of taking you at least 48 hours a week to make a living, you’ll do it in 30, 24 and less. You’ll plan things, turn wheels, and push buttons instead of getting ruptured. And you’ll look forward after your regular three or four days off, to your turn at the wheel – just like you look forward to a day’s fishing now.

There won’t be any question about production falling down because of people not working. That only happens in Capitalist depressions when millions are begging for work, and can’t get it. Today when there is supposed to be so much “absenteeism” the workers have outstripped all production records. The system of the Capitalists works pretty well – between depressions. The Capitalists “give” everybody work for a little while making guns to kill everybody else.

But these same Capitalists lock and bolt the factory door when wars are over. And long, long lines of working people form every day trying their best to get in the dirty place and do the work they hate. That’s the kind of work that’s done under Capitalism. That’s the kind of production. But that’s the CAPITALIST SYSTEM.

Under OUR system, things are going to be different. We’re going to be working for ourselves then, not for Park Avenue poodles. We’ll want to work, and like to work. Not as sweated slaves for a few lousy bucks, but as people working for other working people instead of for profits. Making the things our wives and children want – and making them in far greater amounts than the fattest capitalists ever dreamed of.

The capitalists, and the capitalist-minded scissorbills, may think we’ll get dopey and lazy with so much prosperity. They may think that when we can eat as much as we want, we’ll just keep on eating like pigs. And that without any owners over us, we’ll bust – that we’ll lose all sense of responsibility and forget about making the food that we so hoggishly eat. In other words, they judge US by THEMSELVES.

I don’t know how it is with other workers. But I think I’ll take my chances of possibly busting under Socialism against sure starvation under Capitalism.

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