Voluntary work Vs compulsory work

Part 1-Compulsory work

Capitalism as a social production relation is based on the production of surplus value/accumulation of capital. However, no matter how much capital or means of production a capitalist might muster(1), in order to throwing the latter into the process of production, capitalist fundamentally needs a combination of physical and mental labour power of the worker to exert on the means of production- being mechanical, semi-mechanical, Electrical and electronic tools, at workshop, factory, office, class room, , lecture room, hospital and so on and so forth. But, who is a worker? She/he a member of working class, and alike classic slave possesses no means of subsistence, except to her/his labour power and in consequence is compelled (2)to sell it to the capitalist, in order to earn means of living or to survive-otherwise will face privation and even starving to death. As a matter of fact she/he is a wage-slave. It is noteworthy to state that, there is a formal discrepancy between a Slave and a wage-slave, because the former is naked and the latter veiled. The sources of slaves were soldiers of defeated armies and also snatching innocent human beings and etc. The slave was being brought to the market, and slave-buyer would examine she/he to see if the slave was robust and healthy. Upon the bargain was concluded, to secure slave not running away, the slave-owner/lord would probably had branded and shackled the salve. Now, the slave had to perform whatever the wishes of the lord were. In short, the slave had been experiencing with her/his blood and flesh the lack of freedom and degraded social position- and compelled to work to the slave-holder .

Genesis of the class of wage-slaves?

Historically, the source of wage-slavery goes back towards the end of 14th century, when the process of expropriation of the ownership of means of production from the peasants was commenced. Then, the process of capitalist production went on to generating the class of wage-slaves. Thus, being robbed off of their ownership of the means of production, these new class of people had no choice other than were compelled to selling their labour power to the capitalists, in order to survive. And similar to the examining procedure for purchasing the slave, capitalist, but, in more detailed manner would go through examining the quality of bargain in the fashion of scrutinising job description or CV of the wage-slave. Hence, wage-slave is basically categorised as the modern slave class, too. For, what is fundamentally defining the social position of a slave and in line with that of the wage-slave, is that, both are deprived from owning the means of production, thereby the fate of slave, or the condition of means of subsistence was laid on the whims of slave-holder/lord and the lot of the wage-salve or her/his means of living at the mercy of the inhumane capitalist, on the other hand. However, there has been a radical difference between the position of antiquity slavery systems of Roman and Greek class societies and the later periods of slavery, on the one hand, and the contemporary capitalism's wage-slavery system, on the other. The former was a permanent contract, in other words, the slave was being sold for ever, and as a result, it was incumbent upon the slaveholder to maintain the slave`s means of living(3). Whilst, the wage-slave, who was expropriated from the means of subsistence is compelled to sell her/his labour power more or less for a certain duration of time, or the contract is temporary one; because the lot of the wage-slave is hinged to the process of capital accumulation, and no sooner than the capital went to the wall of crisis, the capitalist will ruthlessly cast wage-slave onto the heaps of unemployment scrap yard.

Nevertheless, taking at its face value, it would seem quite offensive, if you tell a worker- who is alien to her/his objective social position- that you are but a wage-slave. If wage-slave could manage to control her/his fury, would retort back: what nonsense you talking about, I am a free person and in the command of my own labour power; and I would enter into a free bargain and get employed by a capitalist, or in other words, according to the market price I would sell my commodity, that is, my labour power to the capitalist. However, if a worker or wage-slave thinks so, she/he is suffering from a delusory symptom, i.e. seeing her/his social position inversely, in the same manner as one   would view a picture upside down through a lens. The fate of wage-slave is bound to the process of capitalist production. And the latter is not immune from crisis, whatsoever.

In short, now we see that, the capitalism production of surplus value/capital accumulation is based on the compulsory labour power of the wage-slave.

Inhumane consequences of capitalism`s system of compulsory labour

1-The imposition of long toiling hours. It is apparent that, on the account of each measure of noticeable improvement at the tool making and invention of new techniques or the growth of productive forces, it has been expected that the necessary time required for procuring living needs progressively decreased. Hence, the ongoing growth of productive forces has furnished material basis for sustained reduction of working hours. The dawning of Industrial Revolution between the end of eighteenth century and the first half of 19th century heralded the introduction of a huge advancement at the rate of the growth of productive forces(4), and accordingly, the English textile wage-slaves rightfully raised the banner of 8 hours working day, on 1835. However, English capitalists cruelly oppressed this just demand, as later on American capitalists responded with bullet to the workers` Hay market rally of Chicago for 8 hour day work on the 1st of May 1886.

Today, on the back of two centuries of continued growth of productive forces, it is disgraceful to see the statutory week work, including overtime and excluding extra-statutory week work schedules of much longer hours-(5), in the developed countries ranging from 48 hours to 60 hours. However, in the developing countries the imposition of 100 and ever more hours a week work is no infrequent practice.

2- In tandem with the long working hours, the scourge of chronic unemployment, features another dimension of inhumane mode of capitalism`s wage-slavery system, which aims at making profit rather than satisfying the social needs of every individual members of the world community . So much so that, Marx defined unemployed wage-slaves as a reserved army, which capitalists exploited it as an vicious tool to intensifying competition among the slave-wages, and in consequence driving the level of wages further down, as it is taking place before our eyes just at this point of time. Thus, on the one hand, long working hours and chronic unemployment coexist side by side, and the increased working hours make the unemployment queues longer, on the other. However, the scourge of unemployment and also the spectre of losing job by employed wage-slave is breeding discontent within the class of wage-slaves, and to counter the latter, the Capitalist class is now enjoying the direct and indirect co-operation of the Unions  and political parties trying to cool off wage-slaves` potential to fight back. Further, The capitalist classes are ploying various subterfuge methods, that intended to present a lower rate of unemployment. Finally, what is the solution against the plight of unemployment? The answer is none other than to reduce the working hours. Herewith, we present against the army of sycophant and bootlicker Capitalist economists , the views of some humanist economists, who have recommended moving to a 21 hour standard work week to address problems with unemployment, high carbon emissions, low well-being, entrenched inequalities, overworking, family care, and the general lack of free time(highlight and italic from me)(6).

3- Battling against the monster of Capitalism crisis at the end of 1970, the US and UK Capitalist classes got rid of the state`s intervention in the economy and embraced the free market mechanism, instead. However, the pivotal aspect of the latter U-turn, in fact emerged as to the wholesale onslaught on the achievements of the working classes, that manifested as welfare state. The latter recognised a better environment for the rights of workers to organise, on the one hand, and a relative improvement was made on the conditions of the work and living, on the other.

3-1, The Introduction of draconian anti-union(7) legislations by rabid Thatcherism, that aimed to hampering the united action of working class.

3-2, The wholesale closure of the factories made Millions of workers redundant, as such, plunged them into the poverty, and many a family bonds were broken, desperation, mental problems, addiction, etc, descended on the working class communities.

3-3, A sustain attack waged on the permanent employment contracts and Thatcherism kept replacing the latter with temporary agreements. Cruel capitalist economists, using capitalist mass media, shamelessly telling the wage-slaves that, from now on, there is no such thing as permanent job, and you have to work hard to sell yourself from one temporary job to the another! This savage policy reflected a further ominous consequences to the wage-slaves` working contracts, i.e. by of way of losing their permanent contracts, wages plummeted and the benefits that had been attached to the previous employment contracts were abolished.

3-4, The mushrooming of the private recruitment Agencies. These parasitic agencies, by exploiting the desperation of the individual unemployed wage-slaves, recruited them on the temporary basis and at appalling low wages, on behalf of the capitalists(8); thus deprived they wholly from legal protection, and employers could simply sack them verbally or via the mobile telephone.

3-5, Flexible working hours. The Capitalist would say to the wage-slave, you can work ,say, 40 hours week work for me, but not in terms of continuous timeframe, rather I will assign you the job at different portions. Accordingly: A, the actual time, that the wage slave spent performing the job plus the periods on standby would take up the whole day and night- depending on the nature of the job. Thus, the wage-slave will be deprived from having a meaningful private life(9).B:,This way, the capitalist is forcing a maximum intensity of labour upon the wage-slave, because, time gaps, with pauses or less intensive labour will be slashed away . Here too, employment is a temporary contract and it is void of any attached benefits, such as pension scheme, holiday entitlement and etc.

3-6, Japanese self flexible working hours. This devious practice laid the duration of the performance of the case-work or project on the wage-slave to carry on the job. The poor wage-slave would find that, the length of time was spent was much longer than the work day apportioned by the manager,previously10).

3-7,Shift work. A, a pattern of two twelve hours shift, is bearing much longer hours and as a result it employs less wage-slaves; in other words, it increases the rate of intensity of the labour. Further, it is tiresome and also unsocial work schedule. B, three shift pattern of 8am- 4pm, 4pm-12midnight and 12midnight- 8am, is totally unsocial and carry serious health hazard.

3-8,Work starts too earlier in the morning, compared to conventional work patterns, that starting between 8am to 9.30 am. Duly, this work pattern signifies some degree of unsocial hours (11), and usually poorly paid!

3-9, Part time jobs. Since the early 1980, when capitalism switched to the free market economy, in parallel to the expansion of service sector, the part time work was exponentially increased, and as a result the number of full-time jobs decreased accordingly. For instance, in the course of 1970s, there were about half a million of English female wage-slaves were working at the part time jobs; today, nearly 6 million do. Female wage-slaves make up the major segment of the part-time jobs(12). Part time jobs constitute a few full-day employment a week, and a few days or a week of half day jobs. Generally Part time jobs are being paid poverty wages and also deprived the wage-slave from entitlement to the benefits commensurate with the full-time employment. In addition, both types of the part-time work would usually kill off the chance of getting a second job, unless wage slave seeking to work beyond the conventional day time work pattern. As such, Wage-slave will practically be deprived from having spare time.

3-10, Labour loses its animation. Up till the time of the introduction of Frederick Taylor`s method to intensifying the rate of productivity or intensity of labour, wage-slave worked on assortment of simple, semi, and complex actions. Hence, the toiling was less burdensome. What Taylor did, was that, he divided a complex job into a multiple of simple actions, and then recorded a minimum time required to perform each of these simple actions. As a result, the rate of productivity or intensity of labour was soared, and at the same time the labour turned into a damning pure alienated repetitive function of depressing simple action that ruined the body and soul of the wage-slave(13).

3-11 Team work. Later on, Japan imported the Taylor`s repetitive labour process and elaborated it further and packaged as Team work and exported it back to the western Capitalist countries. whilst, the technique of Team Work pretending has broken down division between the manager and managed, wage-slaves, through engaging the whole workforce in the shop-floor to planning and discussion, in reality the planning decision is remained in the domain of management and further, it employed as a cunning way of exploiting wage-slaves` intelligence and initiative ideas, that aimed at augmenting the rate of productivity or rate of exploitation.

3-12, Lean production and lean labour force. This Japanese programming of the production process attempted to produce in correspondence to the market demand and practically endeavouring to eliminate the role of conventional warehouse. Thus, in parallel with the latter, management employing a minimum number of wage-slaves and slashing any possible slacking gaps that existed within the process of production.  

3-13, Child labour. Thanks to the blessing of the god of capitalism and on the basis of the capitalism`s world division of labour, the inhumane phenomenon of child labour still survives abundantly, though mainly in the developing capitalist countries. However, child labour is not totally foreign to the developed capitalist countries. It is scandalous to see that, due to the capitalist farmers` lobbying influence, still child labour is not statutory illegal, and as a result children as young as 7 years old are working on the farming industry of American Imperialism(14).

3-14, Zero-hour employment. In the wake of the capitalism structural crisis, the latter is the recent novel way of employing wage-slave. Accordingly, capitalist accords no formal employment contract with the wage-slave. She/he calls to work only when employer wanted. Therefore, there is no regular work pattern. It is extremely intensified labour regime, and it pays poverty wages(15), and the capitalist would sack the wage-slave any time they wanted.

3-15, Call centres. Here, we are not dwelling at the subject of call centres in relation to the developing countries, such as India, rather we are referring to England, historically the first capitalist country and now a developed one. There is a now nearly million wage-slaves working in the call centres. Call centres are very regimented work places. It`s rows of desks with female wage-slaves sitting with headphones. They are encouraged not to talk, share experience, and so on. The minute you get in the door, your movements are regulated by the computer. Here, the alienation in the workplace taken to extreme. In some call centres, a worker in Bristol or Glasgow who wanted to leave fifteen minutes early has to go through head office in Sheffield to be cleared. Wage-slaves have to put their hands up to go to the toilet, etc(16).

3-16, Finally, the condition of work and level of wage in other service sector, including catering, hotels, restaurants and etc bears the hallmark of temporary jobs.  


Part 2-Voluntary work in the post-capitalist society

Taking our cue from Marx`s Critique of Capital/ political Economy, we discussed that, capitalism is based on the production of surplus value/accumulation of capital, which produced by the class of wage-slaves. Further, the latter essentially required compulsory labour of the wage-slave. We, also described how  inhumane conditions of labouring is forced upon wage-slave by the capitalism compulsory regime of work. In consequence , the very nature of the process of appropriating surplus value/accumulation of capital produced by the wage-slave is fundamentally dictated by compulsory labouring. Needless to say, that to get rid of compulsory labour and substitute it with a voluntary work is basically necessitated to fighting against the root cause, i.e., the capitalism process of production that aimed at making surplus value/profit to be replaced by the process of production aimed at satisfying the universal needs of each member of society, and as a result realising the material condition for voluntary work.

Characteristic features of Voluntary work

1-The first question immediately pops into ones head as to administering voluntary work, is that, if the growth of productive forces have brought about such degree of advance in the productive forces, that makes voluntary work from the world of ideal or utopia on the skies down into a reality on the earth? The answer is affirmative(17).

2- As a living organism, the human body does essentially need activity, both mental and physical for keeping it vital and animated. As such, work, too, whether physical or mental or both signifies an activity similar to an individual practicing one or more from variety of sports, playing football, dancing, playing music, studying, going on rambling, singing, mountaineering, swimming, so on and so forth. As such, both work and hobby as activity demanded to exert certain amount of physical and mental efforts. Nonetheless, the first is an alienated and compulsory activity, that you perform against your will and desire, because, at the end, the pleasure, i.e., the fruit of the product of your labouring or activity in the form of surplus value would desert you and appropriated by the capitalist. You were obliged to work, otherwise defying the will of capital you are doomed with privation and even facing starvation.

3- Historically work as an action for the production of means of subsistence to survive and reproduction as means of sustaining human race had been built into the human DNA(18). However, the very operation of capitalism thanks to making many Wage-slaves unemployed, not only denying them the opportunity to work, but further an unemployed is losing the social stature pertaining to an employed, in other words, the unemployed is getting socially excluded, and many of them suffering from depression, the blight of unemployment, and subjected to stigma. No wonder, why, on the one hand, the employed wage-slave is kept worried at the nightmare of becoming unemployed tomorrow, and the unemployed is earnestly yearning to get employed, even where she/he can afford to work gratis.  

4- we are living in the Capitalist Society, which dominated by the compulsory toiling, so, to speak of voluntary work would sounds quite bizarre to the wage-salves, in the first place. Because, they live in a society, which is fundamentally based on stealing their surplus value by the capitalist class; thus defrauding, lying, dodging, conning, cheating, etc, making the order of the day (19), so, apparently they will dodge from working voluntarily. Don't they ? The answer is, they will not. Because, when a society is aimed at producing to meet the social needs of every individuals of the society, and not the fruit of social production grabbed by a tiny minority, such a society invariably will develop its own corresponding social obligations, culture, principles, moral, ethics and norms. Therefore, they will see to caring for herself/himself, is to caring for the wellbeing of the society, or in other words, they will absorb with their body and soul, the sage motto: the blooming of one is conditioned to the blooming of all, and vis-a-vis.

However, to envisage voluntary work as an alternative to the inhumane compulsory regimeofwork, is not a totally theoretical and subjective matter. For, on two accounts. Firstly, where voluntary work benefits Capitalism, it is more than happy to encourage many more good hearted people to engage in the socially voluntary activities, in one way or the other. Secondly, disregarding numerous voluntary activities that are carried on by individuals or group of people- relatively at small scales- there are many organisations without the state, which are engaged in the voluntary -non profit- activities(20). Thus, as a concrete category, voluntary work does have objective germs within the cruel and greedy breeding capitalist society.

Realization of voluntary work

It was detailed in the part one of our discourse, that capitalism is based on the expropriation of the surplus value that produced by the class of wage-slaves. As such, it inevitably impose class of wage-slaves into compulsory toiling with inhumane consequences. Though, being compelled to work against your will and desire make the work boring, dull and dreary, and according to statistics almost one third of wage-slaves are suffering from depression. Still, far worse, the compulsory work is synonymous with stealing wage-slave`s surplus value, forced long hours, labour intensity, flexible hours- a different code for labour intensity- unsocial work, part-time work and generally poorly paid wage/salary for both the full time and part-time work; the plight of getting unemployed and the existence of an army of unemployed, who are socially excluded and subject to humiliation and discrimination, child labour and etc.

The Post-capitalist society, as the alternative to the capitalist process of production , will lay down a foundation for the process of social production aimed at meeting the social needs of the universal members of the associated societies. In parallel with the latter, post-capitalist society will establish its own alternative work ethics, moral and norms, representing its characteristic features, as follows:

1- work will be declared as a voluntary social contribution. Thus, Every member of society, who bearing of a minimum of 18 years of age and are available to work, will, on volition basis , contribute her/his share of voluntary work for the goodness of the society. The latter is meant that, if any member of society did not feel inclination to contribute her/his labour share of contribution to society, will do so, without any sense of squirm.

2- Voluntary work will once again to resurrect and restore the intrinsic nature of the work as a creative and enjoyable action, which capitalism has been ignominiously robbed it off from the face of the production process. Hence, nobody will dodge from engaging in an activity, that akin to playing this or that sport or hobby.

3- On the basis of the aforesaid principle, the blooming of one will be the basis for the blooming of all, in other words, the prosperity of an individual is guaranteed for the opulence of the society and conversely.

4- When we organise a social activity in personal capacity or as a group, we need a plan of action or a programme simple or elaborated for the sake of fulfilling it properly, as a result, to overcoming chaos and anarchy. The same is fitting for the voluntary work/activity. Thus, the post-capitalist society will set, on the voluntary basis, a maximum of 5 hours working day and 25 hours working week (21).

Finally, capitalism based on compulsory toiling is on the whole characterised as to wage-slaves living to work, and post-capitalist society based on voluntary work or practice is characterised as to working to live, by contrast.

Morad Azimi



1- Capital in the form of assets or paper money reflects the value of the dead labour of the previous capitalist production of sur-value/accumulation of capital. for more information see: wage-slave, from Morad Azimi, at www.bee-hive.org

2- The brutal capitalist expression of hire and fire is objectively expressing the very inhumane nature of capitalism.

3- For more information see    ̏ Wage-slavery ̋ from Morad Azimi, at www.be-hive.org

4- According to Marx, between the end of eighteenth and the first half of nineteenth century the productive forces multiplied by 23 times. Grundrisse( the Economic manuscripts of 1957-8)

5-Recently, Japanese world channel TV, NHK, broadcast that in the service industry some wage-slaves leaving home at 5.30 am and coming back home at 10.30 pm, working over 100 hours a week. As a result, there were suicide cases, thanks to the intolerable and back breaking long hours of toiling.


7- it must be said that, without the consent of Labour party, in particular, and the compromise of the Trade Union Bureaucracy, Thatcherism was not able to crush Britain`s working class.  

8- One piece of hideous attack committed by the criminal Thatcher against working class achievements was the abolishing of the shop-closed clause. According to the latter workers` right, at the time of employment, the applicant was treated as becoming a member of the relevant factory`s union and enjoyed the benefits of the shop-closed clause.

9- Liverpool Dockers launched a heroic strike against this inhumane pattern of work for two and half yours, started on 1995. One of the organiser of the strike related that, how the strike was triggered. I dressed up my decent clothes and just going to take my daughter to her wedding ceremony, all the sudden telephone rang and I was called to work. My temper frayed. I had put up with it until then, I said enough is enough...

10- NHK TV

11- Cleaners are particularly fall within this category. They have to start work quite early in the morning, before business is opened. Though, it is an unsocial job and should be rewarded a decent pay, yet they are among the lowest paid wage-salves.

12- Statistics for part-time job in UK on August- Oct 2012:

           Male                                       Female

   2.121 million                               # 6. million

13- See Charlie Chaplin`s Masterpiece picture: The Golden Age                                       

14- Reported on the Aljazeera English TV, on 03/11/13

15- The gigantic Amazon`s European on-line sale centre is located in UK. The length of warehouse is a few kilometres long, each worker is carrying a heavy electronic gadget in the hand, which not only guiding wage-slave`s way towards a particular point, but, at the same time, recording the pace of action. Wage-slaves walk 11 miles, each shift, i.e. getting each order ready takes about 33 seconds. According to Michael Marmot, a work stress expert, the work condition at Amazon Warehouse contains the all elements of stress and depression diseases. If a wage-slave was found not enough agile, she/he will be dismissed forthwith. Even Going to toilet is strictly checked. Further, Zero hour employment does not mean, there is a regular daily work, on the contrary, wage-slave will be called in when Amazon needed the wage-slave to toil. When the reporter interviewed a wage-slave, he complained that work is very hard and just following a day work he lost some weight. A large Amazon warehouse was built in the former mining locality with high rate of unemployment, and wages are woefully low. According to the official statistics, at least one million wage-slaves are tormenting at Zero hour employment sector. Channel 4 TV, UK.

16- The demonization of the working class, Owen Jones, P147

17-,See ,the growth of the productive forces, from Morad Azimi, www.bee-hive.org

18- Marx discovered that, before the human being engaged in philosophy, politics, literature, poetry, art, religion, claiming as a prophet, so on and so forth, they are primarily characterised as social beings had to enter into two historical actions, that is, A: to produce to live, B: reproduce to survive human race. However, for 5000 years, since the emergence of the class division , this immortal discovery had been buried under the ideas of ruling classes, including the religion superstitions.

19-Marx famously stated: the dominant culture, belief etc, of each society is a reflection of the culture, belief, etc of its ruling class.

20- Just for the sake of our discourse, it would be suffice to refer to two voluntary computer programming projects, namely Linux and Joomla, which brought together several thousands of voluntary peoples with programming knowledge from different countries, who provide their service to service users free of charge.

21- I have excused myself to treat with such issue as shift work, which is a technical matter, and is left its practicality to the post-capitalist soc