worker ownership

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Joined: 3-07-07
Jul 5 2007 15:54
worker ownership

Why should employees own businesses started by individuals? People starting businesses take great risk and put a great deal of energy in getting the business going, so why shouldn't they reap the rewards? There are limits. Businesses owners are way overcompensated and employees for the most part exploited in the land of opportunity. Whether owners deserve more compensation becomes more questionable after the business is established and more of the workload is transferred onto the employees. Also, how could groups of people instead of individuals be organized to start businesses? If they expect to own the place shouldn't they also be expected to take the risk and work to establish the business?

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Joined: 14-03-06
Jul 4 2007 07:36

The interesting thing is you're appealing to labour as a basis to entitlement (the effort it takes to set up a business), you're half way commie already wink

the thing is, anarcho-syndicalists don't simply want to replace their bosses with themselves, but to transform the whole basis of the economy.

currently, the economy - and society - is based on the principle of money making more money. to do this it is invested in capital, which is expanded by labour, and thus it returns as more money (i.e. a return on investment). a would-be entrepreneur can only get the start-up capital (or if they've inherited it, only stay in business) to the extent they internalise this logic. This is the same logic that means pharmaceutical companies spend twice as much on marketing as R&D while thousands die of treatable diseases. When society is based on money making more money, human need only features indirectly, as an afterthought. This logic is also polarising; as capital is accumulated, society is more and more wealthy, yet the producers become, in relative terms more and more impoverished. And of course capital is a source of power - those without must sell themselves to those with as their only means to survive, and governments must serve the interests of capital or suffer capital flight and the undermining of the economy.

Thus the whole of society becomes subject to the logic of money making more money, individuals can be willing agents of this process - owners, entrepreneurs, managers - or like most of us wage-workers selling ourself to capital in order to live. This is why capital is described as a social relation. (Most) anarcho-syndicalists don't simply want to take over the management of this process - e.g. by deposing an entrepreneurial boss and running a workplace as a co-op - but to restructure society on a new basis - 'from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.' In other words to move from a society where our productive capacity is subjected to the endless search for profit to a society where production is a servant of human needs. Consequently, 'ownership' of a firm as such wouldn't exist in the sense of being able to freely dispose of it, it would be held in 'usufruct', i.e. rights of possession by its workers, but owned by no-one and everyone. (Personal possessions would still be personal possessions, anarcho-syndicalists aren't john lennon hippies wink)

(edit: this thread was also posted in the anarcho-syndicalism 101 forum, but the replies consolidated here, hence the references to a-s specifically)

sam sanchez's picture
sam sanchez
Joined: 8-09-05
Jul 5 2007 18:38

Just because a business is started by someone, doesn't mean that it is sustained by them. If I start a business and then stop doing any of the work, it would utterly collpase without the work of those who keep it going. I don't see why the role of those at the beginning is any more important than those later on. Your mistake is to see an economic enterprise as a concrete "thing", when it is in fact a process that is constantly sustained and recreated by the labor of those who work in it.

In any case, most anarchists advocate societal ownership combined with worker-management of individual firms, within the framework of economic decisions made by the whole community.

Joined: 13-10-05
Jul 6 2007 04:02
Joseph K. wrote:
(Personal possessions would still be personal possessions, anarcho-syndicalists aren't john lennon hippies wink)