In late July 4,000 people attended the Second International Encounter For Humanity and Against Neoliberalism held in Spain. Below we reprint excerps of a report issued from the working groups: Work and the Means of Production and Creating Conditions for a Life with Dignity
We came together to help make a world of dignity and justice and well-being for all humanity. This should include the dignified, democratic participation of us all, women and men, in producing the material things we need, redistributing the wealth, raising our children, and taking care of each other. But neoliberal capitalism offers us misery and exploitation so that to work is to create the chains of poverty and subservience for most of us and wealth for a few.
1. Changing North/South/East Relations
Today, there are similarities and differences in the forms of exploitation between north and south. The similarities are increasing, but there remain old forms of imperialism which are now being renewed by neoliberalism. Neoliberalism stimulates both development and underdevelopment in both north and south, so that we find the north in the south and the south in the north. Additionally, the workers in the east are now being prepared for various forms of exploitation by northern corporations. Workers in the north do not fundamentally benefit from imperialism — it is the ruling class and the transnational corporations, and particularly speculative financial capital, that benefit — but there is a lot of complexity and inequality in relations between the working class in the north and the working class in the south. Workers in every part of the world lose under neoliberalism, but the workers in the south lose more.
2. Many Faces of Work
Capitalists try to reduce all of human life to work and consumption in the market. Capitalist work is thus exploitation, so that the demand for capitalist work is the demand to be exploited. Many ways are used to force us into this exploitation. However, to work as humans is to produce and reproduce our conditions of life and means to relate with each other. The human way to work is not of competing atomistic individuals, but of social individuals working in cooperative, dignified, and democratic arrangements. The question of human work therefore opens the political question of direct democracy from below to determine the production and reproduction of our lives. However, we must all live, and to live today it often requires that we participate in one of the many forms of capitalist work.
Today, neoliberal capital uses every kind of work in its efforts to suck profit out of the lives of people. Much of the work in the world, perhaps that of half the people of the world, is done in ways that are not directly or immediately part of the market. This comprises mostly forms of agricultrual work and life, but also includes the many areas of the informal economy. The rule of money finds ways to exploit this work, make profit from it, and to bring it under market control.
At this most recent phase of world capitalist development, in both north and south slavery increases, as well as many forms of work that are semi-slavery, such as debt bondage, child labor, forced prostitution, prison labor and workfare . In free trade zones and the maquiladora factories, workers labor in near-slavery conditions.
Neoliberalism depends on increased exploitation of the unwaged and more unpaid work from everyone. Unpaid work includes all the work traditionally done by women in the home to raise children, make men ready for work outside the home, nurse the sick, care for the elderly, and reproduce the entire domestic sphere. It includes unpaid forced overtime, time spent looking for work, and labor obligations for landlords and local political bosses. Neoliberalism also blurs the distinction between waged work and semi- slavery by imposing flex-time, on-call labor, self-employment, working at home — all ways in which the whole life is, like in slavery, reduced to work for capital.
Struggles to reduce capitalist work time, to control land and the means of production, and to build alternative ways to produce and reproduce our life can unite diverse people against the inhuman vampire called neoliberal capital. We recognize that to survive we engage in many particular struggles over immediate issues, but when linked these struggles can open the door to wider and deeper struggles.
We need therefore to develop principles with which we can analyze our struggles to see if they put us in a better position to overcome the inhuman way of life we are forced into, whether they reduce hierarchies and create wider spaces of shared democratic participants. Some of these principles include: to reduce the risk of being co-opted by capital; to ensure that our struggles and demands correspond to many sectors, needs and aspirations; and to ensure they embody a principle of human liberation. We must therefore be sure that reductions in work in one place are not at the expense of work in another. We can also develop principles that distinguish between projects imposed from the top or outside by capitalism, and those from the bottom and inside, from the people.
The struggle to reduce capitalist work allows more time to struggle against capital and more time to develop alternative was to produce, live and redistribute domestic chores. We simultaneously demand higher wages and equalization of wages, between men and women, citizens and migrants, north and south, different kinds of workers, and races. The struggle to reduce work time for capital is a struggle not only of the waged workers, but also of the unwaged workers, the millions of farmers and peasants, students, unemployed, elderly, housewives and indigenous of the world. For example, a well in a village could mean the reduction of arduous work by men and women. When we reduce work time, we must ensure the equal distribution of the work that we decide needs to be done. While we reduce work time, me must insist on conditions that ensure dignity and health for the work that remains to be done.
A guaranteed income assuring life with dignity for all residents of nation is also right. We say residents because this right belongs to migrants as well as citizens: we all have rights to inherit the wealth and knowledge that are products of centuries of collective human activity. This right is independent of requirement to work for capital. Income without work can also be gained through various struggles such as occupying houses or land, reappropriations , and refusing to pay for services.
In the south, and in some places of the north, rights to land, water, and other means of agricultural production are essential to life with dignity and the creation of just societies. These rights must not be limited by requirements to produce for the capitalist market.
Creating alternative spaces for production and social life is good in itself because these spaces enable relations that are outside of and beyond the market. They also can put limits to capitalist expansion and support creation of spaces in which struggles can grow and be protected. We can learn through this how to create many visions of ways to organize our lives and production. The satisfaction of needs outside of direct control of the capitalist market enables us to fight capital on a terrain that is more favorable to us. These forms of alternatives can develop out of traditional forms of work, but some traditional forms involve exploitation and also must be abolished. Many forms of third sector work (supposedly depending neither on the market nor the state) are not true alternatives to capitalist work, but instead are a new form of lower-waged capitalist work.