The two big national demos for this autumn in which hundreds of thousands of people will take to the streets against austerity measures both rather feebly make demands for work their central purpose. The NUS has come up with the slogan ‘Education, Employ, Empower’ for their demo on 21st November, the Trades Union Congress has declared, ‘A future that works’ for October 20th.
Really??? Is this the best the left can offer? More work? Will this inspire people?
A lifetime of wage slavery where jobs seem to be divided into two groups – those that are so badly paid that your work is inherently devalued and you struggle to live, and those that many of my graduate acquaintances have moved into which seem to involve a lifetime of meaningless spreadsheets. Not to mention the proliferating forms of work – workfare and unpaid internships – where you don’t even receive a wage.
I’m reading Howard Zinn’s ‘A People’s History of the United States’ at the moment. In 1903 in Kensington, Pennsylvania child workers marched to Washington to demand an end to child labour. They held a banner that declared ‘We want time to play’. 10 year olds managed to come up with better demands than the NUS body who have had a whole century of history since this march from which to learn. I’d much rather march under this slogan.
I’m rather partial to the odd national march, but surely we’ve got to come up with better slogans in order to encourage others to join us. Abandoning the aspiration to work, and acknowledging it as the problem, is a good place to start.