What are we worth?

How many coffees can you serve? How many burgers and cokes can you sell? Can you upsell dessert? How many t.v packages can you flog, what about customer service, can you keep that to an all time high? Are you able to sell enough pints and spirits?

In capitalist society, the workers value is measured on how much wealth they can create for their employer. When they can no longer sell their labour power and produce profit, they are disposable, useless and essentially replaceable. That is the crux of the relationship between an employer and an employee, that is the relationship that is reinforced by the workers elevated to manager-supervisor level in all these institutions. This relationship dominates the spectres of our life as we sign contracts and suspend the majority of our time for a workplace. We do this because of the conditions we are in: we must pay rent, we must pay to live, we must pay to entertain ourselves, we must pay to be healthy – everything is based on our capacity to pay into services transformed into highly lucrative commodities.

The question then must arise, why do we work?

The capitalist class, the employer, landlord, etc would have us think that we work because it’s in our own benefit, but is it? Is it in our own benefit to labour day in day out for a place of work that we can never call our own and sometimes be unable to afford? Can the average hotel worker afford to stay or eat in the hotel they work in? What about those working in customer service call centers, how much money do they make for the company with each product they sell every hour? 25 t.v packages at 40 euros a package is a lot more than the worker is receiving on an hourly rate no doubt.

The simple answer is that we work for the payment of all our necessities in life – our shelter, food, education, health, etc, that is why we work. In the majority of workplaces in Ireland the result of our labour, i.e the work we do which creates wealth for the place we work does not go back into society, it goes into the pocket of a small class of people of shareholders, directors and senior executives. We work because we have no other option, be it in Ireland or elsewhere to exist. We exchange our labour power for an hourly, daily, weekly, or monthly rate which will offer the maximum amount of profit to the institution or person paying for it. Does this not make you wonder about your place in society, and if not, why not? Do you not feel that you are more than a shovel, or a food delivery service? Do you not have more self worth to strive for than being an object that creates wealth?

In contemporary Ireland, the cost of living is so high that you, as a worker have no other option but to work. Don’t misunderstand me here, that is not to say that we should not work but one must wonder why they are working and to benefit who. Let us draw a comparison:

In Example One, a car factory owned by a private entrepreneur manufactures and sells cars. The workers are paid a wage but the key benefactor is the car factory owner.

In Example Two, a car factory is governed by a workers committee and the surplus profits made from selling the manufactured cars are invested in the upgrading of the local school or the paving of a new road i.e the workers themselves in the locality or the country reap the benefits of the surplus production.

It is easy to now sit back and say that yes, we agree with example two in this circumstance and it is the most favourable one but then we are led to ask ourselves: if it is so painstakingly obvious then what obstacles present themselves before us as workers in realizing our real self worth and the wealth that we create for the society we live in? Apathy, indifference and the steely discipline of the ruling class. We know not our real value to society as it is obfuscated by the meagre wages paid to us from an early age and the poor working conditions inflicted on us. The workhouses of the 21st century degrade and dehumanize workers, not only to view work as a place that brings them to the lowest crevices of their mental health but to also see themselves as mere instruments for the workplace. The workers do not realize their true value and worth!

How do we understand our worth?

It is simple I believe to grasp what worth we truly have to the ruling class. Were we to cease working, walking, selling and expending our energies then the profit that the ruling class so greedily amasses would immediately plummet. Imagine if hotel workers refused to work tomorrow? No rooms would be cleaned, no food sold, no drinks sold, nothing would move an inch and the hotel in question would begin to lose significant business. Imagine if a call center catering to a specific contract such as say, Sky, had nobody working the phones and selling packages while resolving customer issues all day, what exactly would happen? We know what, Sky and therefore the outsourced company would not make a cent off the backs of it’s mistreated workers.

Yet it is an uphill battle to verify the worth of our fellow working people when their material conditions deem it to be otherwise. It is an uphill battle, but it is the battle of the Communist movement to raise the consciousness of our class and to bring back dignity, pride and self-worth to workers. To return all these things, is to return power to our class and arm them again in the face of the ruling class.

What are we worth then, comrades, if not the world and all it’s riches.

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