Wednesday, September 19, 2007

WORK HOURS

"The so-called "division of labour" has grown under a system which condemned the masses to toil all the day long, and all the life long, at the same wearisome kind of labour. But if we take into account how few are the real producers of wealth in our present society, and how squandered is their labour we must recognise that Franklin*
was right in saying that to work five hours a day would generally do for supplying each member of a civilised nation with the comfort now accessible for the few only.
But we have made some progress since Franklin's time, and some of that progress in the hitherto most backward branch of production--agriculture --has been indicated in the preceding pages. Even in that branch the productivity of labour can be immensely increased, and work itself rendered easy and pleasant. If everyone took his share of production, and if production were socialised--as political economy, if it aimed at the satisfaction of the ever-growing needs of all, would advise us to do--then more than one half of the working day would remain to everyone for the pursuit of art, science, or any hobby he or she might prefer; and his work in those fields would be the more profitable if he spent the other half of the day in productive work--if art and science were followed from mere inclination, not for mercantile purposes. Moreover, a community organised on the principles of all being workers would be rich enough to conclude that every man and woman, after having; reached a certain age--say of forty or more--ought to be relieved from the moral obligation of taking a direct part in the performance of the necessary manual work, so as to be able entirely to devote himself or herself to whatever he or she chooses in the domain of art, or science, or any kind of work. Free pursuit in new branches of art and knowledge, free creation, and free development thus might be fully guaranteed.. And such a community would not know misery amidst wealth. It would not know the duality of conscience which permeates out life and stifles every noble effort. It would freely take its flight towards the highest regions of progress compatible with human nature."
Chapter VIII, F F & W, Kropotkin


"In the domain of agriculture it may be taken as proved that if a small part only of the time that is now- given in each nation or region to field culture was given to well thought out and socially carried out permanent improvements of the soil, the duration of work which would be required afterwards to grow the yearly bread-food for an average family of five would be less than a fortnight every year; and that the work required for that purpose would not be the hard toil of the ancient slave, but work which would be agreeable to the physical forces of every healthy man and woman in the country.
It has been proved that by following the methods of intensive market- gardening-partly under glass-vegetables and fruit can be grown in such quantities that men could be provided with a, rich vegetable food and a profusion of fruit, if they simply devoted to the task of growing them the hours which everyone willingly devotes to work in the open air, after having spent most of his day in the factory, the mine, or the study. Provided, of course, that the production of food-stuffs should not be the work of the isolated individual, but the planned-out and combined action of human groups.
It has also been proved-and those who care to verify it by themselves may easily do so by calculating the real expenditure for labour which was lately made in the building of workmen's houses by both private persons and municipalities
1 -that under a proper combination of labour, twenty to twenty-four months of one man's work would be sufficient to secure for ever, for a family of five, an apartment or a house provided with all the comforts which modern hygiene and taste could require.
And now, in the presence of all these conquests -what is the reality of things?
In industrially developed countries, a couple of months' work, or even much less than that, would be sufficient to produce for a family a rich and varied vegetable and animal food.
One month of work every year would be quite sufficient to provide the worker with a healthy dwelling." –
Chapter IX, F F & W


"For centuries science and so-called practical wisdom have said to man: "It is good to be rich, to be able to satisfy, at least, your material needs; but the only means to be rich is to so train your mind and capacities as to be able to compel other men-slaves, serfs or wage-earners -to make these riches for you. You have no choice. Either you must stand in the ranks of the peasants and the artisans who, whatsoever economists and moralists may promise them in the future, are now periodically doomed to starve after each bad crop or during their strikes and to be shot down by their own sons the moment they lose patience. Or you must: train your faculties so as to be a military commander of the masses, or to be accepted as one of the wheels of the governing machinery of the State or to become a manager of men in commerce or industry." For many centuries there was no other choice, and men followed that advice, without finding in it happiness, either for themselves and their own children, or for those whom they pretended to preserve from worse misfortunes.
But modern knowledge has another issue to offer to thinking men. It tells them that in order to be rich they need not take the bread from the mouths of others; but that the more rational outcome would be a society in which men, with the work of their own hands and intelligence, and by the aid of the machinery already invented and to be invented, should themselves create all imaginable riches. Technics and science will not be lagging behind if production takes such a direction. Guided by observation, analysis and experiment, they will answer all possible demands. They will reduce the time which is necessary for producing wealth to any desired amount, so as to leave to everyone as much leisure as he or she may ask for. They surely cannot guarantee happiness, because happiness depends as much, or even more, upon the individual himself as upon his surroundings. But they guarantee, at least, the happiness that can be found in the full and varied exercise of the different capacities of the human being, in work that need not be overwork, and in the consciousness that one is not endeavouring to base his own happiness upon the misery of others.
These are the horizons which the above inquiry opens to the unprejudiced mind."
End of Chapter IX, F F & W


"Overwork is repulsive to human nature--not work. Overwork for supplying the few with luxury--not work for the well-being of all. Work is a physiological necessity, a necessity of spending accumulated bodily energy, a necessity which is health and life itself. If so many branches of useful work are so reluctantly done now, it is merely because they mean overwork, or they are improperly organised. But we know--old Franklin knew it--that four hours of useful work every day would be more than sufficient for supplying everybody with the comfort of a moderately well-to-do middle-class house, if we all gave ourselves to productive work, and if we did not waste our productive powers as we do waste them now." - Peter Kropotkin, ANARCHIST COMMUNISM: Its Basis and Principles, 1887

*Benjamin Franklin (
January 17 [O.S. January 6] 1706April 17, 1790). That's right, sometime in the 18th C. Franklin uttered these words concerning the really necessary work hours per day (4-5), decades before the Anarchist economic researchers and Marx arrived at the same conclusion.

Kropotkin treats the matter of how many hours of work are required of whom and under what conditions in depth in
Chapter VIII of THE CONQUEST OF BREAD (See:
http://tinyurl.com/fdtvn)

CAPITAL by Karl Marx, Volume One, Part III, The Production of Absolute Surplus-Value, CHAPTER SEVEN, SECTION 2, THE PRODUCTION OF SURPLUS-VALUE, (See:
http://tinyurl.com/hwkvr)

Albert Parsons: "With regard to the feasibility of this (eight-hour) law, Congress has the power, under the Constitution, to pass it. We ask it; we demand it, and we intend to have it. If the present Congress will not give it to us we will send men to Congress who will give it to us.... The eight-hour league, and the trades unions, and the other organizations of the country that are making this demand do not propose thereby to paralyze industry. They do not propose to bring an industrial collision or a state of anarchy, or to precipitate revolution or a state of anarchy, or to precipitate revolution in this country. We are peaceable citizens, husbands, fathers. We are citizens of the State and law-abiding men.... The working classes simply seek to improve their condition. This is a natural feeling, and I cannot say that there is anything unnecessarily seditious or criminal in such a desire. We simply want less work and more pay, knowing that only through short hours and high wages can our condition be improved. We know this, and hence we struggle for it. We wish to get at it by degrees.. . . The first thing that we demand is a measure that will diminish the immediate power of wealth, and will remove the worst forms of poverty. The immediate power of wealth consists in this power to enforce men to submit to the terms dictated by wealth, out of which men will perform a day's labor. That is the immediate power of wealth. This is an evil which should be removed, and we want to remove the worst disability of poverty by reducing the hours of labor; by the distributing of work that is to be done more equally among the workingmen... By making labor scarce we will increase its value. Under our system of labor there is no such thing as freedom of contract."
http://tinyurl.com/2olrd7

Parsons wrote that if the eight-hour day were won then the employing class will have to pay us as much for eight hours' work as they do now for ten. Employers will put labor-saving machinery to work instead of the high-priced laborers. The laborers will then for the same reason that they reduced the hours to eight, have to reduce them to six hours per day. A voluntary reduction of the work hours is a peaceful solution to the labor problem.... Wages in this way will increase until they represent the earnings, instead of, as now, the necessities, of the wage-laborer. This would result in a system of universal cooperation and distribution.
http://tinyurl.com/3cwosr

See: Johann Most's speech: " THE BEAST OF PROPERTY", c. 1884, which can be found on the following URL: http://tinyurl.com/kxr8w

"Under socialism…With the idle rich and the idle poor working and the work day four hours long their bodies will grow strong again and their minds sane.""Brutal Treatment of the Unemployed in Sacramento Star" – Helen Keller, March 16, 1914


"It can be statistically proven that three hours' work a day, at most, is sufficient to feed, shelter, and clothe the world and supply it not only with necessities but also with all modern comforts of life." – Alexander Berkman, Now and After: THE ABC OF COMMUNIST ANARCHISM, Chapter 22, New York: Vanguard Press, 1929.

"THE ABOLITION OF WORK" by Bob Black:
http://tinyurl.com/f8wq6

"The living man can, in truth, not only work to live but he wants to feel his life in work, and during work to rejoice I his work. He needs not only recreation, rest and joy in the evening, he needs, above all, pleasure in his activity itself, strong presence of his soul in the functions of his body. Our age has made sort, the unproductive, playful activity of muscles and nerves into a sort of work or profession. In real culture work itself again becomes a playful unwinding of all our energies." -
FOR SOCIALISM, Gustav Landauer, pg. 95

"No one wants to spend their whole life in the factory or workshop, but everyone needs nails, transportation, or rope at some time, It would only be fair that all people spend a few hours every week helping to provide these useful products in co-operation with their fellows. Machines do help us make these things more easily; people only become slaves to their machines because they are slaves to their bosses and to a wasteful, growth-oriented economy. If there were no useless bosses who collect the profits but do no work at the machines they own or oversee, and if production did not always have to be increased to fuel an ever-expanding, growth-oriented consumerism, then it is doubtful that any of us would have to work more than a few hours per week. Those who are by temperament "workaholics" could spend their time improving upon, and experimenting with, products or projects of their choice."
- "ANARCHO-SYNDICALSIM, TECHNOLOGY and ECOLOGY" by Graham Purchase
http://tinyurl.com/el9fs, writing in 1995.

The Catholic Worker Movement: Societal structures need to be built so that it will be "easy to be good." Advocates the four-hour work day in order that workers become scholars and Scholars workers. (See:
http://tinyurl.com/oou45 ).

Doreen Ellen Bell-Dotan, Tzfat, Israel
DoreenDotan@gmail.com

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