It is my purpose here to demonstrate that the typical Amerikan wageworker is both a slave and a victim of involuntary servitude. In demonstrating this, I will refer primarily to “established” authorities, which are not subject to dispute by the “mainstream.”
Definitions of Bondage
We first begin with the definition of servitude, slavery and the like. The following definitions come from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:
Slave: 1. A person held in servitude as property.
Drudge: To do hard, menial, or monotonous work.
The following definitions are taken from Black’s Law Dictionary (7th edition, 1999):
Involuntary servitude: The conditions of one forced to labor – for pay or not – for another by coercion or imprisonment.
Slavery: 1. The situation in which one person has absolute power over the life, fortune, and liberty of another. 2. The practice of keeping individuals in such a state of bondage.
In the case of United States v. Kesminski, 487 U.S. 931 (1988) at page 932, the U.S. Supreme Court defined servitude as follows: “Servitude means a condition in which a person lacks liberty, especially to determine one’s course of action or way of life.”
In the remainder of this thesis, I will show that the condition of labor under which the Amerikan wage laborers find themselves conforms to all of the definitions of bondage.
The Amerikan Conditions of Bondage
In his famous treatise, The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith makes three things clear about “developed societies,” viz.: 1. that the industrially compelled practice of division of labor is indeed drudgework, 2. that this sort of drudgework destroys the workers’ mental faculties, and 3. that this drudgework is a form of labor into which the poor working family is forced. Smith states as follows:
The understandings of the greater part of men are necessarily found by their ordinary employments … the man whose life is spent in performing a few simple operations, of which the effects are perhaps always the same, or very near the same, has no occasion to exert his understanding … and generally becomes as stupid and ignorant as it is possible for a human creature to be … but in every improved and civilized society this is the state into which the laboring poor, that is, the great body of people, must fall …
While Adam Smith is hailed as a fountainhead of modern economic thought, this observation made by him is always avoided in mainstream discussions and writings on him and economics.
The above quote from Smith establishes that the modern working conditions of industrial capitalist nations is that of slavery (monotonous, menial, and drudge work) over which arrangement the labor class has no power to change or avoid (involuntary servitude) and therefore renders the labor boss’s position one of total power over the employed workers’ livelihood.
These points are brought into much clearer focus by another writer who was dedicated to the common man and opposed to the labor bosses enough to make the wage worker’s conditions of bondage clear and plain. In his book Soledad Brother, George L. Jackson makes the connection between the system of bondage of past agricultural chattel slavery and modern industrial wage slavery here in Amerika. I quote him at length:
“Slavery is an economic condition. Today’s neo-slavery must be defined in terms of economics. The chattel is property, one man exercising the property rights of his established economic order, the other man as that property. The owner can move that property or hold it in one square yard of the earth’s surface; he can let it breed other slaves or make it breed other slaves; he can sell it, beat it, work it, maim it, fuck it, kill it. But if he wants to keep it and enjoy all of the benefits that property of this kind can render, he must feed it sometimes, he must clothe it against the elements; he must provide a modicum of shelter. Chattel slavery is an economic condition which manifests itself in the total loss or absence of self-determination.
“The new slavery, the modern variety of chattel slavery updated to disguise itself, places the victim in a factory or, in the case of most blacks, in support roles inside and around the factory system (service trades) working for a wage. However, if work cannot be found in or around the factory complex, today’s neo-slavery does not even allow for a modicum of food and shelter. You are free – to starve. The sense and meaning of slavery comes through as a result of our ties to the wage. You must have it; without it you would starve or expose yourself to the elements. One’s entire day centers around acquisition of the wage.
“Others determine the control of your eight to ten hours on the job. You are left with fourteen to sixteen hours. But since you don’t live at the factory, you have to subtract at least another two for transportation. Then you are left with thirteen to fifteen hours to yourself. If you can afford three meals, you are left with ten to twelve hours. Rest is also another factor of efficiency, so we have to take eight hours away for sleeping, leaving two to four hours. But one must bathe, comb, clean teeth, shave, dress – there is no point in protracting this. I think it should be generally accepted that if a man (or woman) works for a wage at a job he doesn’t enjoy, and I am convinced no one could enjoy any type of assembly-line work, or plumbing, or hod carrying, or any job in the service trades, then he qualifies for this definition of a neo-slave. The man who owns the factory or shop or business runs your life, you are dependent on this owner. He organizes your work, the work upon which your whole life source and style depends. He indirectly determines your whole day, in organizing you for work. If you don’t make any more in wages than you need to live, then you are a neo-slave. You qualify if you can’t afford to leave California for New York. If you cannot visit Zanzibar, Havana, Peking, or even Paris when you get the urge, you are a slave. If you’re held in one spot on this earth because of your economic status, it is just the same as being held in one spot because you are the owner’s property. Here in the black colony the pigs still beat and maim us. They murder us and call it justifiable homicide. A brother who had a smoking pipe in his belt was shot in the back of the head. Neo-slavery is an economic condition, a small knot of men exercising the property rights of the slave as if he were, in fact, property. Succinctly: an economic condition which manifests itself in the total loss or absence of self-determination. Only after this is understood and accepted can we go on to the dialectic that will help us in a remedy.”
This all brings us to the central contradiction between Amerika’s economic arrangement and the political rights it professes to give its citizens, demonstrating that the highest laws of Amerika take a back seat when opposed to the ruling class’s interests in exploiting the masses for private profit. That contradiction is found in Section One of the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which holds that all slavery and involuntary servitude is forbidden except in cases of those convicted of crimes. I here quote that provision: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” It must then follow that every so-called minority and poor working-class Amerikan is presumed by the government to be guilty of some criminal violation, and without any opportunity to prove his or her innocence. We might now have an explanation as to why those who overflow Amerika’s prisons are near exclusively members of the so-called minority and poor white working classes.
If the average Amerikan worker took the notion to refuse to participate in the wage slavery economic arrangement, he will be inevitably left and forced by the system to become a vagrant and resort to other “criminal” acts in order to survive. And if a large number of workers elected to also abandon the wage system, they are subject to being forced by the government back to work under such laws as the Taft-Hartley Act (29 U.S. code sections 141 et seq.) under the penalty of imprisonment or fines should they refuse to obey. The worker has no discretion in the matter. Amerika’s economic system rides upon the enslavement of over half the population, who’ve been conditioned by the corporate media, universal compulsory educational system, political mouthpieces, and the indoctrinated nuclear family from birth to believe that their slavery is freedom and that the erosion of their minds under divided labor is conducive to strength.
As the foregoing demonstrated, the oppressive social contract of Amerika is organized around slave labor, while it professes to be based upon principles of liberty and self-determination for every Amerikan. Amerika’s character as a society of slaves and enslavers did not change with the close of the Civil War (1861–1865), nor in the enactment of the Thirteenth Amendment (1865). Indeed, it has rendered the entire labor class into slaves with no alternatives for acquiring “freedom,” except that these slaves may compete against one another to acquire more privileges and a small increase in wages with which to gain more diversionary toys and tokens. As long as such economic opportunism and exploitation exist, no one can claim with any degree of honesty that the Amerikan system is based upon principles of liberty and democracy. In fact, it is the social majority – the poor workers – who are the very slaves of society, upon whose backs the economic and ruling class is saddled. As one writer observed, “true liberty is based on economic opportunity. Without it, all liberty is a sham and a lie, a mask for exploitation and oppression. In the profoundest sense, liberty is the daughter of economic equality.”