- Capitalism and Alternatives -

One more post on job rotation

Posted by: Barry Stoller on January 31, 19100 at 13:22:03:

: I have another idea: the crappy miserable jobs, like picking grapes or cleaning toilets, should be the work of young people, done either for school credit or college money (public grants) while they're in high school or after high school, before college. It would be universal service, akin to the military...

: I don't think that further job rotation will be necessary, with one exception: serving in government.

Well put!

Following in the footsteps of Robert Owen* is to follow some very respectable footsteps indeed.

I could quibble, MDG---but I won't. Any revolutionary party with this plank---would Wellstone, Nader, or Kovel go this far?---would most likely have me pleading to join. I really respect your reconsideration of the job rotation idea...

: Everyone would work 2.5 days at their chosen specialization, be it skilled or unskilled. A carpenter would work 2.5 days at carpentry, and a surgeon 2.5 days at surgery. Then for the next 1.5 days, the carpenter would work at some skilled job, and the surgeon at some unskilled job, for pay. On the 5th day, all labor would be unpaid volunteer labor for the State. The surgeon would perform unskilled labor for the state, e.g. maintaining subsidized housing or digging ditches. The carpenter would do some skilled job for the state, such as helping to provide basic medical care.

Only because I expect more from you, NJ, I will quibble.

Although I respect your attempts to codify egalitarianism, to nail it down, your reliance on numbers is utopian in the most esoteric sense.

Remember our discussion about a democratic application of production? If everyone wanted individual kitchens, then everyone would have to put the extra labor time into producing them?

Only the consumption / production choices of the whole people could possibly determine the amount of hours for this or that sort of job. If everyone's priorities were evening classes and no fast foods, then much unskilled work would disappear, leaving much more skilled jobs to be done. If, conversely, everyone wanted fast food joints everywhere, and no evening classes, then more unskilled work would be the people's priority.

The people must decide their own hours. And the people will change their priorities (and therefore the hours) as well---as they experience the consequences of their decisions...

: My problem is that job rotation can never be entirely equal, no matter how hard we try. 16 year olds cannot do heart surgery, and (most) 80 year-olds cannot do dockwork. People with handicaps cannot do hard labor, or be firefighters and pregnant women will have a variety of jobs they can't do, which will be established on a case by case basis. (If she's works in radiology, she has to stop immediately.)

This is all true. These details have nothing to do with the principle of rotating unskilled and skilled work. The practical planning would require much public consideration (and, probably, the use of computers to create schedules).

: Now, should a heart surgeon be forced to become a carpenter? I don't think so, because she could hurt her hands and thus society would lose a valuable skill. But should this same surgeon clean bedpans? Absolutely.

Pete, you have definitely grasped the essence of the principle. This is exactly what the 1919 Bolshevik Party Platform had in mind:

In communist society there will be no close[d] corporations, no stereotyped guilds, no petrified specialist groups. The most brilliant man of science must also be skilled in manual labor.(1)

: So, now I have a question for Barry Stoller: Why so many posts on this issue?

I find the issue of the social division of labor to be understated by too many Marxists. As I present my case here, I think there is ample indication that Marx and Engels envisioned the communist future as one featuring job rotation.

Once I was a member of the CPUSA. Their perspective (or line) was that ALL work is dignified, therefore the rank and file worker cleaning toilets is equally free of exploitation as the party official editing the party newspapers. To prove the point, everybody’s wages would be (more or less) the same. But, as I see it, what people EARN is not the whole picture of anyone's life; what people DO is perhaps even more important! The CPUSA, I suspect, 'glorifies menial jobs' to help ideologically sustain a bureaucratic elite's monopolization of all the skilled work. Fuck that.

Job rotation is by no means the whole solution to communist transformation. Why do I post on it so often? Probably because it's a topic that OTHER people on this board bring up again. It seems to seize the imagination---and that's great. Look at the positive responses it has gained...

: Could it be that you're trying to figure out who's who (i.e., who is a true revolutionary) before hand? If that's true, then it has a whiff of vanguardism, and that makes me hesitant to get squarely behind you on this question.

This, Pete, is a separate issue---and I will answer it separately, below in your original post.

* See 'The Natural and Rational Classification of Society' [1838], A New Society and other writings, Penguin Classics, pp. 344-57.


1. Bukharin and Preobrazhensky, ABC of Communism, University of Michigan Press 1967, pp. 237.

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