Halifax Media Co-op

News from Nova Scotia's Grassroots

More independent news:
Do you want free independent news delivered weekly? sign up now
Can you support independent journalists with $5? donate today!

The Politics of Work

Panel tackles the role of unions in a capitalist society

by Ryan McDonald

The Politics of Work

Last week a panel with three thinkers in the anti-capitalist movement sat down to discuss the “Politics of Work,” delving into issues of employment and unemployment, labour unions and co-operatives.

Around thirty people attended the panel hosted by NSPIRG.

A member of the Dalhousie Platypus Affiliated Society, which meets to discuss neo-Marxist thought and the political Left, moderated the panel.

“The anti-capitalist movement is facing grave difficulties – we must get back to rethink the basis, which is work,” said Professor George Caffentzis, a political philosopher and professor at the University of Southern Maine.

Caffentzis also spoke at the 250th anniversary celebration of the Halifax Commons.

Shay Enxuga, organizer with the Baristas Rise Up and the Just Us! Coffee union drive, spoke about the inherent contradiction in unions because they do not really distinguish between the interest of the union/workers and that of the bosses.

“Unions and co-ops operate under the same limitations in a capitalist economy. Truly dignified work cannot exist in a capitalist system,” said Enxuga, arguing that unions and co-operatives have an interest in the survival of the business.

“Unions, if they only serve for material conditions, do nothing to shift power relations,” Enxuga added.

Larry Haiven, professor of Business Management at Saint Mary's University and member of Solidarity Halifax, explained the importance of how workers think about the value of their own work.

In 2008, Haiven co-authored a study on economic prosperity and family wages in Nova Scotia, where he discovered a discrepancy between the rising productivity of the province and a decline in the average wage of workers.

“From 1981- 2007 the GDP per person grew, we were 60 per cent wealthier as a province,” he stated.

Meanwhile, the real weekly income of workers had dropped – they brought home less in 2007 then in 1981. Why? The report found that only a very select few have profited while those whose work contributed to the prosperity have not seen any benefit.

The increasing income inequality was based on workers' perception: workers didn’t realize that their work was worth more than what they were being compensated.

Haiven has observed this throughout his years of experience as a union organizer. Workers “need a strong sense of entitlement, in the positive sense,” he said. “Then they will fight for more and settle for less.”

The panelists agreed that workers need to fight for better wages and benefits, but ultimately it is a losing game for workers if there isn’t a shift to a more democratic perception and ownership of businesses.

“There’s nothing inherent about a labour union or co-op that will lead to a higher consciousness. It has to be intentionally brought in. So much can be done with these progressive organizations,” Haiven said.

Want more grassroots coverage?
Join the Media Co-op today.
Topics: Labour
450 words


Capitalism and Socialism are not mutually exclusive

P { margin-bottom: 0.21cm; }A:link { }

Most conversations like this 'anti-capitalist panel' usually bring up important points regarding the financial inequality in society.  However, I also find that most of these conversations are single variable oriented and completely tunnel visioned.  These conversations usually focus on the dicotomy of capitalism vs. social/communism, without realizing that there are many variants of each and a whole range of ideas in between them.  To lump all forms of 'capitalism' into one set of negative catch phrases or ideals is pure ignorance to what really exists in this world.  Capitalism and Socialism are not mutually exclusive.

"The anti-capitalist movement is facing grave difficulties – we must get back to rethink the basis, which is work"

The basis of the anti-capitalist movement is work? By this, is the speaker refering to the individual ownership of the products of ones 'work' or the societal ownership of the products of an individuals 'work'?  On this the speaker is not clear, so we must infer from the article and the presented political views, that the author is anti-capitalist, whatever that means.  The author paints himself into a corner in this phrase.  Either indivduals own themselves and are free to interact with one another on a consentual basis OR the state owns the individual and all products of all work done in its jurisdiction.  Is this a call to action for individuals to take back their individual rights or is it a call to action for individuals to give up their rights in favor of collective state or union action?

Remember this, a collectivist society of whatever color, be it socialist, communist, capitalist, etc, is the centralization of wealth in fewer and fewer hands.  In every case of a collectivist society, the wealth and power of all the people eventually ends up in the hands of the ruling class.  This is not limited to social/communism, it happenns in every form of government, because government is the centralization of individual power.  Canada is a collectivist country, a strange mutt called a Monarchic Social Democracy.  Sound oxymoronic to anyone else?  Canada is also a mixed political economy, it is both socialist and capitalist (but just like most other countries, the split is not random, it is, in essence, a divide between the ruling class which is crony capitalism and the masses who suffer under socialist dogmas, essentially the difference between being free and being a slave), depending on which part of the economy you choose to inspect, but mostly it is socialist, due to the population sizes involved (the ruling class is a minority).  Almost every industry in this country recieves some hand out from the government.  Wealth distribution, ie. socialism.  So when I hear groups of people gathering to discuss the anti-capitalist movements and its issues, all I can do is shake my head, because these people refuse to see that the reason the anti-capitalist movement is loosing steam is because we live in a socialist world, and even the socialists have been conditioned not to see it so that they strive for deeper and deeper controls on their fellow human beings.

Unfortunately, one of the key institutions in socialist coutries, the education system is the main culprit in indoctrinating successive generations in a country to become dependant on the state and to enjoy and even beg for socialism, beg for a baby sitter, beg to be aggressed against, all the while accepting the class system status quo. This is the combination if two ideas, Enkyklios Paideia (education in an enclosed circle) and the Caste System, revealed to the world as the great chain of being, whicn Arnold Toynbee claimed “allows each empire to be immortal”.

This point can be flushed out by viewing “The Ultimate History Lesson: A Weekend with John Taylor Gatto”, created by the Tragedy and Hope Community, which is a 5 hour interview about the philospohical and ideological history of schooling as well as its intents.
Audio (with commentary) - http://peacerevolution.podomatic.com/entry/2011-10-09T13_37_14-07_00
Video - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQiW_l848t8

Also see the History So It Doesn't Repeat series episode on the difference between the classical trivium and the trivium method, which touches on the history of educational philosophy and intent.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4lR7jqYx22g&list=PLmmQ8peduhspYv4j-Cj6zppAO75vDP-_t

"We want one class of persons to have a liberal education and we want another class of persons, a very much larger class of necessity, to forgo the privileges of a liberal education." --Woodrow Wilson, 1909

In the chapter titled “A New Lengthening of the Period of Dependence," in which Cubberley explains that "the coming of the factory system" has made extended childhood necessary by depriving children of the training and education that farm and village life once gave. “It has come to be desirable that children should not engage in productive labor. On the contrary, all recent thinking...[is] opposed to their doing so. Both the interests of organized labor and the interests of the nation have set against child labor” - Ellwood P. Cubberley’s Public Education in the United States, 1934.

Another telling quote is from very first sentence of “Social Science for Teachers, (Riverside textbooks in education, edited by E. P. Cubberley ... Division on secondary education under the editorial direction of Alexander. Inglis) - “Education is a process of adjustment”.

“It is to be expected that advances in physiology and psychology will give governments much more control over individual mentality than they now have even in totalitarian countries. Fichte laid it down that, education should aim at destroying free will, so that, after pupils have left school, they shall be incapable, throughout the rest of their lives, of thinking or acting otherwise than as their schoolmasters would have wished. But in his day this was an unattainable ideal: what he regarded as the best system in existence produced Karl Marx. In future such failures are not likely to occur where there is dictatorship. Diet, injections, and injunctions will combine, from a very early age, to produce the sort of character and the sort of beliefs that the authorities consider desirable, and any serious criticism of the powers that be will become psychologically impossible.  Even if all are miserable, all will believe themselves happy, because the government will tell them that they are so.” - The Impact of Science on Society, Bertrand Russell, 1952

So what we see is a certain class of people who take advantage of the tyrannically socialist governmental systems in place, just as every other collectivist system has been taken advantage of by the ruling class of the place and time.  Which makes sense, if you centralize power, the center will attract megalopanics and psychopaths.  Hitler, Suprise, Lenin, Surprise, Stalin, Surprise, and on down the line.  Now we have Obama's socialized drone strikes and public surveilence. 

I beg you, please stop refering to the ills you see in the world as capitalism. What you see is CRONYISM, which is just another form of olgiarchy. Essentially, special rights for some, revokeable privilages for the rest. Just because cronyism finds capitalist techniques useful does not mean that a) the don't also find socialism useful and b) capitalism is useless.


The site for the Halifax local of The Media Co-op has been archived and will no longer be updated. Please visit the main Media Co-op website to learn more about the organization.