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Non-workers of the world, unite

By Michael J. Smith on Tuesday May 4, 2010 08:50 PM

This item came drifting by on one of my lefty mailing lists:

The myth of the “lazy Greek workers”
Written by Editorial Board of “Marxistiki Foni” Tuesday, 04 May 2010

Since the crisis in Greece has hit the headlines there have appeared in the bourgeois media many stories about how Greece has too many civil servants, how the working week is very short, how people retire early on fat pensions, and so on, as if this were the cause of the crisis. Facts and figures, however, can be very stubborn things and they tell a completely different story.

The writers go on to argue that Greeks do in fact work as hard as other people -- other people in Europe, that is; quite rightly, there's no comparison to China or the US or other depraved sweatshop societies.

The Greek comrades are making a mistake here. They're allowing the enemy to set the terms of the debate, by accepting that the bourgeois virtues of diligence and industry are things to be prized for their own sake.

It's time to assert the right to be lazy -- indeed, to proclaim the virtue of laziness. A short work week, early retirement, fat pensions -- these are unquestionably enhancements to human life. What's wrong with that? Don't we wish we had these things, here in Pharaonic America?

("Too many civil servants" is of course a little more problematic. But if they're actually serving the cives, then that's got to go in the plus column too.)

It's a case of the negation of the negation. The brutal forced-draft labor regime made possible (and necessary, perhaps?) by the process of industrialization has raised the productivity of labor to the point that that we can practically revert en masse to the lordly leisure of the hunter-gatherer world, if only we choose to do so -- and we should. It actually doesn't take a whole lot of labor, per capita, to maintain the level of physical comfort and amenity that we enjoy these days.

Unfortunately, a lot of us still have the brain-bug of middle-class morality gnawing away in our heads, and demanding the right to slack seems morally abhorrent. But it's a genuinely subversive and expropriative demand -- in the sense of "expropriating the expropriators" -- if we take the fruits of our increased productivity in God-given time, to be used as we see fit for our own delight, rather than in more or less cheesy "stuff"(*), which we buy from a capitalist. That's the real takeback. The capitalist can't get any of our gains back from us if we take those gains in the form of a nap, say, or a stroll in the park, or a long lazy dalliance with the SO.

Of course, if you're the restless type and determined to be busy, then it's Liberty Hall. I don't insist on the nap. I just insist that you use the time to do something that doesn't pay, and preferably needn't be paid for -- writing a book, say, or blogging. Singing, however badly. Practicing card tricks.

You get the idea.


(*) V. George Carlin:

Comments (27)


Nice post

This Greek thing is a real PR disaster for those of us on the left. It's difficult to explain that the anal-retentive calvinist Germans are really in the wrong here, and not the southern spendthrifts (who were basically forced into that behavior by the eurozone setup). Explaining the relationship between optimal currency areas and productivity differences to the average joe is not an easy task, although Krugman has been pretty good on this stuff.

re: Carlin

I'm surprised that he hasn't shown up here before. I enjoyed this clip:


grand echos here:

" An immeasurable interval of time separates the state of things in which a man brings his labour-power to market for sale as a commodity, from that state in which human labour was still in its first instinctive stage"

"if the labourers could live on air they could not be bought at any price"

there's a far better passage in the moors opus
about bread fruit eaters or eaters anyway
of some such sap based bread like product
staff of life for certain indonesian savage souls a weeks supply
"produce" in a few hours
but i can't locate it

Bertrand Russell made a very similar argument a few years ago...but something tells me he's not a well respected figure around these parts!

Save the Oocytes:

An anarchist called Bob Black seems to had a similar idea to you and Russell in this regard.

I think there's a modest handful of us who see things as Bob Black does. Most of us seem to have an even lower profile than Bob Black, which means that compared to the nearly invisible Bertrand Russell, we are totally unseen, unheard, unread, unknown. And probably will remain so, given our political, fiscal, social powerlessness in this grand America.


i love dead bertie

he embodies second best philosophy


Bertie's an odd duck. Never my favorite, and a bit of a Brit Silly Ass in the grand Baconian blockhead tradition. But an interesting character, with a lively prose style, and he found himself on the side of the angels at least as often as not. I wasn't aware that he'd ever written anything on this particular topic.


Trägheit Macht Frei!

Sounds like a plan to me. Think I'll go lay down and sleep on it.


"The totality is the organization of all against each and each against all. "

utterly self contradicting bramble
black is a yellowy tattered french cuff
peaking out the end
of a moth eaten
coarsely woven teutonic sleeve

a directing brain??

hell no
not even an arm inside
to make the cuff move


" "Comrades" are not my comrades -- nor am I, at my worst, my own comrade "

i'd add at his best
he's not his own comrade either

he's not even a lonely erect dick
without a helping hand

he's a plastic replica of a fossil dick

a cheap dildo
max stirner in porta potty

just to continue the disassembled body part from above

self exploding egoists
are walter mitty dreamers
never bent on self assasination
as they claim
---that might really hurt..leave a mark even--
nope they're nothing
but a series of bomb threats
sent to themselves

they got one thing big dead on right
the self being the essential social product
of the human comedy
trying to dis corporate it
is a certain type of fool's holy grail


bertie as " baconian block head "
he is a specimen of one of the more enduring
"almost but not quite right" schools

at least he admires the best of folks
like that great polar bear
of empiric anti empirics
my skipper in the boudoir
davey hume

and of course the limitless limit


All power to the hodo hodo zoku!

Another brace of insular jargon laden cryptograms that require a secret OP decoder ring to translate. Oh the joys of reading OP's posts!

Reminds me of McKay's Temple of Industrial Leisure.



try reading old bill blake in prophetic mode
some time

really what is it u can't gather in here

hows this paraphrase

black is firing blanks

loud blanks even one's that make festive sounds like fire crackers and sky rockets
but there are no bullets no sky rockets
the ludic is maybe antifuddic

but it ain't worth shit in a dog fight

to define work as forced labor is a word con

if he called it forced labor every time he used work his yexy would show at the surface
the vacuity at it's core

the history of civilization
is all about sustainable
forms of forced labor

is he trying to tell us after 5 thousand years of it
we have yet found out
what he knows till him ???


rene clair's
"À nous la liberté"

ends with a fully automated factor
and the form wage slaves all by a lake
ala renoir


has it



at least i'm not posting here anymore
think of the hair pulling
that saves father smiff

though i must say i expected more of you all
to start posting
bethune blew a fuse after one post
and you oxy one

where's your worthwhile postal initiative ???

Michael Hudson had some enlightening comments on the Greek debt issue in a wide ranging interview last month:



What is second best about Russell? As a political player he was against nuclear testing and the nuclear arms race. He opposed the Vietnam War. He opposed WW I. He wasn't favorably impressed with Bolshevism. Is that his flaw? Or are you talking about the theory of types, etc?

"silly ass Brit"?! Is this ethnic animosity?


bertie never got anything
right enough to matter much
but he threw some wicked nice punches now and again
no knock outs unfortunately
in boxing he'd be called
"a good opponent"
for an up and coming contender


Russell's 'In Praise of Idleness', I of IV:


Read by a voice somewhat like the male voices used on 'Progressive Reports Now'.


"It actually doesn't take a whole lot of labor, per capita, to maintain the level of physical comfort and amenity that we enjoy these days."

Please show me how this is the case.

That does not mean write one of those not-poems mocking me, OP. This is an earnest request for explanation.



This is better read for oneself. It may be of use to HenHen.

Al Schumann:
"It actually doesn't take a whole lot of labor, per capita, to maintain the level of physical comfort and amenity that we enjoy these days."

That's a tough one. I could manage a comfortable subsistence, for myself, on 4 hours a day. I suppose that could be scaled easily enough. It'd be a lot of work scaling it, but there's some real productive efficiency to cooperative enterprise -- up to a certain size, which varies depending on what's being produced. It entails non-coercive association, a good model for production and labor aristocracy for management. It also entails some hand waving, e.g. the military/industrial, prison/industrial, medical/industrial complexes and Carmageddon Culture would have to vanish. Also, pwogs and wingnuts would need to unclench. But, sure, it's within the human capacity. As a goal, it looks pretty good.

Be Reasonable Demand The Impossible!


I saw a study years ago that said everyone in the US could live at a 1948 middle class level with approx. an 18 hour work week. Wish I could remember where I saw it.

Of course it didn't take peak oil into consideration.

Al Schumann:

It's not directly related, but I want to give a plug to our Leninist Gardening Insurrection friends at Corrente.

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