Slavery existed long before capitalism. When members of competing tribes were captured, they often became slaves. A form of slavery still predominates today. It is called wage-slavery. Workers are forced to sell themselves (actually, their labour power) in order to survive. Economic necessity prevents the overwhelming mass of humanity from being truly free. The corporations and businesses own the economy — the factories, the transport, the retail stores, etc. Workers own only their ability to work and the few personal possessions they have been able to accumulate in a lifetime of toil. When some read the word slavery, they think it couldn't possibly be that people are literally slaves today - slavery seems like an outmoded form of life from previous centuries. They blithely assume that "wage slavery" is merely a metaphor. Whatever we feel, slavery is very much a fact of life for all people in the world today. A person is a slave if he has lost control over his life and is dominated by someone or something--whether he is aware of this or not.
The reason why workers sell their labour to capitalists in the first place is that they have no other choice. In a capitalist society one needs money in order to purchase the essentials of life, such as food, shelter and clothing. Thus in order to avoid starvation or at best extreme poverty one must accumulate money. In order to accumulate money the vast majority of people in a capitalist society sell their labour to capitalists in exchange for a wage. This is because most people do not own capital or receive a large inheritance with which to start a business. It is true that some workers manage to create their own businesses and become self-employed but in order to do this they must accumulate the money required to buy the necessary capital and means of production for their business and thus at some point must partake in wage labour. Therefore the vast majority of individuals who engage in wage labour do so because if they do not they cannot purchase the goods and services required to survive. Since workers engage in wage labour because they have no other choice it follows that wage labour is not voluntary, a choice lacking a meaningful alternative is no choice at all. Workers are dependent on the bosses to live. They must sell their ability to do a job of some type to a capitalist, day after day, month after month, year after year. If the bosses won’t hire them or business falls off, then the workers are out of luck. They work at the will of the owners. A wage slave can't quit an oppressive job to find a less slave-like job, because in our present society, almost all jobs involve wage-slavery. So the options are obey and stay, die of starvation, or become a vagrant, which is illegal.
It is time to openly attack and expose capitalism and advocate for its opposite, socialism. People suffer from the law of the maximisation of profit, which drives capitalism. The management want to introduce new technology and put in automation because they want to lower their labour costs by laying off workers and then extracting more out of the workers who remain on the job. Everyday life itself is more and more forcefully presenting workers with the question: capitalism or socialism? The intensifying exploitation of the working class is the inevitable product of capitalism. Socialism is the way out. The necessity for socialism arises, in the first place, from the struggle of the working class for emancipation from capitalist wage-slavery. Under capitalism workers are looked upon solely as a means for enriching their employers. The working class can only emancipate itself by abolishing the capitalist system, stripping the tiny minority of capitalist owners of the "right" to monopolise the economic lifeline of society and of the "right" to exploit the labor of the workers. By turning the means of production into the common, social property of the whole society, socialism at once eliminates the exploitation of the workers and creates the foundations for genuine social, economic and political equality.
Economic inequality is at obscene levels. Mass suffering is increasing as the stock market reaches new highs — despite its ups and downs. Working-class debt of all types goes up as bank profits soar. People are living in a state of financial insecurity, unable to meet an unexpected bill without borrowing money or selling something. Millions are working at low-wage jobs, are forced to work part time or are working two and three jobs just to make ends meet. Student loans debt indentures the new generation to the banks. All television networks, mainstream newspapers and major politicians leave out what the working class needs to know above all, and it is that the problem is the capitalist system of wage slavery — and the solution is socialism. The struggle against capitalism and for socialism requires knowledge of the system of exploitation. Understanding our enemy is a basic necessity for the working-class. Anyone who thinks even for a minute about the enormous productive capacity of our society cannot but ask: why is a world with such modern means of production unable to guarantee the economic rights and well-being of the people? Why is the curse of unemployment and the plague of falling wages and living standards undermining the lives of hundreds of millions? We must work hard to understand just what has led to our enslavement and what kinds of actions will be necessary to free ourselves from these insidious chains of servitude. We first need to understand the basics of our present economic situation. We must realize that our economic situation at present--a very few obscenely rich people owning companies and corporations and having illegally seized state and federal political power--is one which we can and must change. Our current economic and political circumstances are not written in stone; humans have lived under very different political and economic conditions throughout our history. We must begin to overthrow this present state of affairs where all workers suffer under capitalist wage-slavery. The political system and the economic situation should be directed toward the welfare of all, not just a few. We can bring about these changes; it is not impossible.
The necessity for socialism is arising from every pore and cell of our society. The most fundamental fact is that everywhere the social character of our society is forcing itself to the surface, demanding recognition but the capitalist system is blocking the way forward. It is the capitalist system which is denying billions the right to secure a livelihood. It is the system of private property in the means of production which exploits human labour and creativity and turns society into an arena in which the rich live off the labour of the poor. It is the system of private property in the means of production which refuses to plan for the health of the population and instead produces health care as a commodity available on the basis of who has the most money. It is the capitalist system which is poisoning the air we breathe and the water we drink. Even though modern science is able to know the effect of human action on nature, capitalism – based on the anarchy of production – willfully destroys the natural environment in the pursuit of maximum profit.
"Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number.
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you—
Ye are many—they are few."
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