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Return-Path: <owner-labor-l@YORKU.CA>
Message-ID: <Pine.3.89.9806152055.A20947-0100000@opus.vcn.bc.ca>
Date: Mon, 15 Jun 1998 20:33:12 -0700
Reply-To: Forum on Labor in the Global Economy <LABOR-L@YORKU.CA>
Sender: Forum on Labor in the Global Economy <LABOR-L@YORKU.CA>
From: Franklin Wayne Poley <culturex@VCN.BC.CA>

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue, 16 Jun 1998 13:29:43 +1000 (EST)
From: Bill Bartlett <billbartlett@vision.net.au>
To: workfare-discuss@icomm.ca

Is workfare never justified?

By Bill Bartlett, contribution to a dialog on Labor-L,
16 June 1998

At 6:15 PM 15/6/98, Robert Mok wrote:

>On Mon, 15 Jun 1998, Paul Riess wrote:

>> As to human rights, they did practice
>> TRUE SLAVERY ON A MASSIVE SCALE, confining hundreds of thousands of
>> their people in labor camps,
>why gulags slavery and workfare not slavery?

The gulags were "forced labour" (neither were slavery) because the inmates were "physically" forced into them. That is they were forced to work by threat of physical violence.

Workfare by comparison uses mere "economic" coercion to compel inmates to work, a morally superior form of force. (Wry smile)

Instead of putting a gun to their heads, the morally superior capitalist class snatches the food from the mouths of the welfare recipient's children and demands that they submit or starve. That is, they deny the worker any alternative means of subsistence but to labour for one of the capitalist class, and sometimes not even then.

Strangely this economic coercion is only moral in the hands of the capitalist class, but quite wrong in the hands of workers. Apparantly, while it is perfectly moral for the capitalist class to use economic coercion to force single mothers to perform menial work, it is usually entirely immoral and thus unlawful for members of the working class to use economic coercion against their employers. (Perplexed scowl)

Thus, the idea of workfare workers banding together in unions to press for better pay and conditions is morally repugnant to the capitalist class, so of course they proscribe it. And while 'regular' wage-workers may be permitted to join government approved unions and engage in government approved industrial action, this is only permitted in so far as it does not threaten the interests of capitalist in any serious way.

In other words it is only permitted in so far as it is ineffectual.

If workers should dare to go beyond using ineffectual economic coercion, they become 'criminals' and subject to punishment via imprisonment and (Oh yeah) forced labour. Thus most western governments ban what they term as 'secondary boycotts', that is economic coercion by other workers in solidarity with those under direct attack. Workers' most effective potential for economic coercion, along with several other possible tactics, is thus illegal.

Similarly, 'democratic' rights are permissable only as long as the people are not so foolish as to elect a government that threatens capitalist interests. Such a government will not be tolerated and will be swiftly overthrown by force, eh Paul?

But these minor quibbles aside, it is entirely beyond question that the capitalist form of coercion is the morally superior form of coercion. If I have to be oppressed, exploited, ground down and humiliated into submission then I will choose to be done over by capitalist tyrants every time.

What makes it perhaps more difficult for me, as a socialist, to bear - is that while Paul sees no other option, I do.

Bill Bartlett
Bracknell tas.