Modern Day Slavery: Wage Slaves

This is part two of three posts about modern day slavery. Here is the first, End Modern Slavery: https://rantingsfromavirtualsoapbox.wordpress.com/2018/02/08/end-modern-slavery/

Unrecognised modern Slavery – “wage slaves.”

“whoever gives his labor for money sells himself and puts himself in the rank of slaves.”
Cicero

The capitalists owned everything in the world, and everyone else was their slave. They owned all the land, all the houses, all the factories, and all the money. If anyone disobeyed them they could throw them into prison, or they could take his job away and starve him to death.
Nineteen Eighty-four, by George Orwell

“In the same way that we today think that the slave trade and colonial exploitation were inhuman and inconceivably bestial ways of acquiring riches, there is no doubt that coming generations will think that our form of world trade and distribution of the world’s benefits were just as inconceivable and inhuman.” 
Erik Dammann

Is working for a wage a modern form of slavery

Though not quite in the same league as the examples of slavery in the first article there are many similarities, most people are in fact enslaved to some degree. The need for shelter, food and clothing, basic needs for every human being comes at a price – your freedom and autonomy. The reality is all employees are faced with the starkest choice and that is to work for an employer or face poverty or starvation. 

For low wages the vast majority of us slave away our precious existence for the sole purpose of making huge profits for big corporations, often having two or more jobs just to pay our rent or mortgage, to put food on the table and to provide warmth and clothing, all vital for our existence. In the modern world most of us hate our jobs, we have few rights at work, long hours with constant pressure to produce or achieve more, low wages and so on, all of which we have to accept in order to try and keep a roof over our heads and food in our stomachs.  We accept this exploitation, which is in my opinion a form of slavery not much different from that of a medieval surf, with the exception that while the serf/slave would literally be dragged back if he escaped and may even pay with his life. In many ways, more subtle maybe but almost as binding, similar slavery of the majority continues in modern times. Okay we may have more luxuries compared with the serfs of times past but don’t let this fool you, in reality most of us own very little even after working our entire life. You may be considered an home owner, but your home is not yours until you have paid your mortgage, that car you may have on credit likewise is not yours, nor any of the gizmos and gadgets, the latest furniture, your fitted kitchen or bathroom and the endless embellishments we deem vital to our quality of life, if these have been paid for by credit. In reality most people are but one pay cheque away from homelessness, poverty and destitution.  Even when you home is your own,  if you are lucky enough to keep a job with a decent wage throughout  the twenty to thirty years you make repayments, when you are too old or too ill to work you may not be able to maintain your property on the puny pension or benefits doled out by the state – if you are of course fortunate to receive such as governments both here and in the US do their utmost to destroy social security  – and you end your life sinking deeper and deeper into poverty or debt and your home can be taken from you if you do not pay.

Did you know that many people do not have savings over £100 even after working all their lives, 17 million UK citizens to be exact. Faced with an unexpected bill these people are likely to be forced into debt and further deprivation if they are not able to pay their debt, such as the loss of their home which they may have struggled to pay for their entire working lives or an inability to pay rent. We are all nowadays just one pay check from homelessness.

One in three families are a month’s pay from losing homes, says study

https://www.theguardian.com/money/2016/aug/09/england-one-in-three-families-one-months-pay-losing-homes-shelter-study

We therefore cannot walk off from our jobs even if our lives are made a misery, and we are overworked and underpaid and barely subsisting for we would lose what little we have. Those of us with families would not wish to abandon our children to homelessness and abject poverty would we. So we continue to slave away for big corporations who profit from our labour giving the minimum required in return.

It may be argued that people who work for a wage are not slaves because they have the legal right to leave a particular employer, though in reality this is often not an option in these times of job scarcity as the fear of  quitting your job and not finding another is prohibitive. So many workers would be extremely reluctant to exercise this right even when they are paid low wages and working long hours with few if any rights in the workplace.

The only right that a wage worker has is that he or she is not the slave of any particular employer, but he or she is still a slave of the capitalist system. You have the right to leave one employer but you have to soon find another and no matter how  awful your job is – long hours and low wages, pressure, even harassment in the workplace – with so few jobs and the likelihood of not getting employment benefits because you have made yourself unemployed few hesitate to change jobs. As you lack any means of sustaining your life you are bound to an employer and these days you have little freedom to pick and choose. In the past when jobs were plentiful employers did not have the power they have now and it was easier to change jobs and secure better wages and conditions, for example in the sixties or seventies you could walk out of a job one morning and find another by the afternoon, though of course this is still wage slavery people back than had more say about where they worked and the conditions they worked under.

Furthermore employers often conspire together to keep wages low, and in recent decades with the decline of trade union influence employers have the upper hand in conflicts between workers and themselves.

“…the elite maintain wage slavery by dividing the working class through their influence over the media and entertainment industry,]educational institutions, unjust laws, nationalist and corporate propaganda, pressures and incentives to internalize values serviceable to the power structure, state violence, fear of unemployment and a historical legacy of exploitation and profit accumulation/transfer under prior systems, which shaped the development of economic theory”:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wage_slavery

Yes in the rest of your life you have a certain amount of freedom but your time is very limited these days, work demands most of your waking life and the time you do have off you are probably too weary and tired both physically and emotionally to appreciate it. Moreover if on a low wage you may not have the freedom to participate fully in society, to enjoy entertainment, hobbies and other pass times, you may not even earn enough to eat or pay your rent or mortgage. Most people who use food banks are wage earners.

We are therefore slaves exploited for our labour.

I am profoundly shocked concerning the exploitations of vulnerable people, such grave social injustice has no place in any ethical progressive society. I fail to understand the mindset of those who exploit others in the name of personal gain, or in other words rampant greed. Life is precious to all of us and should be lived as much as possible in the way we wish to live. While work of course has to be done it should be fairly distributed, necessary and compensated with a wage that allows not only the necessities of life, but to allow for a quality of life. It should be a basic human right to have the opportunities to fulfill our hopes and dreams, not forced into wasting our precious existence slaving away for some greedy corporation, our lives taken to make another person rich.

Look at what you do. For Many of us our lives and the world’s resources are wasted producing useless luxuries or we produce goods that are deliberately wasted to keep prices high – Have you ever considered what becomes of unsold clothing in stores at the end of the season. Most of it ends up in landfill,11.9 million tons of unwanted clothing a year     This is the labour of so many people, mostly in sweatshops in so called developing countries, wasted for profit. Even if some of it is recycled as required by the EU it is nonetheless wasteful to destroy perfectly good clothing which so many people need and all for the sake of profit for the few. Sadly for many your job has one purpose and that is to make your boss rich. The waste of resources to continue to produce huge accumulations of pointless items wastes our lives. Such is produced to make a small minority rich – ask yourself do we need an entire supermarket shelf just so we can have a huge choice of shampoo such as for greasy hair, dry hair, normal hair, dandruff, for bleached hair, colored hair, for thickening hair, for babies, shampoos with hints of tints. And there will be several brands of the same.  A shop in my town is filled with ridiculous plastic trinkets, hair ornaments, junk jewelry, endless handbags, shopping bags all shapes and sizes, each year the young and fashion conscious persuaded they need the latest bag, shoes, jewelry and endless junk produced at the expense of the worlds dwindling resources simply to increase profits.

“Capitalism is slavery in so many ways. Consumers become enslaved by so many choices, and by becoming the victims of corporate America, who have ingrained people to believe they need things they don’t need. Capitalism is a sad commentary on human nature, and only serves to entrench the have-nots for their entire lives.”

“Any educated person would agree…Yes, it is.
Understanding the difference between capitalism, socialism, and communism is a wise place to start. Capitalism operates as a guise under freedom by promising those that are less fortunate too have the possibility of becoming a capitalist themselves, however they will spend their entire lives toiling to never reach that promised ending.”

Comments included in an online debate
http://www.debate.org/opinions/is-capitalism-slavery

The second comment addresses the reason that despite all the misery that capitalism has caused since forever – but most particularly in recent times –  is the implied promise that one day workers may also be capitalists themselves, the fact that this is just a pipe dream and logically could never happen seems to elude most people.

Action to end modern day slavery

“We know all too well that many workers in Asia endure forced labor to bring us the garments, foods, electronics and other goods we enjoy.

The good news is Australia is taking steps towards creating new modern slavery laws that could improve protections for vulnerable workers worldwide and we need your help to make it happen.”

Read More and sign the petition:
https://www.freedomunited.org/advocate/urge-australia-help-end-slavery/

This petition concerns more conventional modern slavery and not slavery in the context discussed in the above article. The petition is worth signing as bringing about such changes globally will improve the lives of millions of exploited people worldwide.

Please also add your name to a letter to urge UK fashion brands to protect women who make our clothes.

ABUSE ISN’T IN ANY WOMAN’S JOB DESCRIPTION
https://act.careinternational.org.uk/node/238?utm_source=twshare&utm_campaign=GBVletter

Many people the world over suffer abuse at work in silence afraid that they will loose their livelihood, become homeless, destitute and poverty stricken. This is surely a form of slavery.

Related Links

Working: No More Than A Wage Slave
https://www.iww.org/history/library/AJMiller/Working_Wage_Slave

America’s Favorite Anarchist Thinks Most US Workers Are Wage Slaves
http://www.businessinsider.com/most-american-workers-are-slaves-2014-4?IR=T

Wage slavery
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wage_slavery

 

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3 thoughts on “Modern Day Slavery: Wage Slaves

  1. Pingback: Modern Slavery: Animal Slavery – Rantings From a Virtual Soapbox

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