warehouse work with forklift

“Quiet quitting” has taken the US by storm. Expoitative employment is more prevalent than ever. But are Americans ready to go further than simply ‘acting their wage’?

It’s great to see the American people so openly discussing the issue of Class. It’s not often that the topic is allowed in mainstream discourse. Exploitation in the workplace is one of the most taboo topics in the US. Hustle culture, Sigma Grindset, whatever you call it—Working in capitalism is fucking bullshit.

In and of itself, quiet quitting is nothing more than doing only what’s required. But much deeper than that, it’s an acknowledgment of your bosses bullshit. Workers can only be pushed so far before they just give up. Instead of pretending they don’t see reality, workers in mass are choosing to open LinkedIn while at work, take a longer shit, and give less of a fuck.

Unfortunately, quitting isn’t always an option or the best option for the moment. Jobs trap people through health insurance, vacation days, bonuses, sunk-cost, or just convenience. The next best option then is to stay at the job and stop caring. Start “rage applying” on the worst days and lay back and relax on the best days.

Agreeing on Problems with No Solutions

Quiet Quitting is an interesting idea. The topic brings up a common issue when trying to align elements of the right and left towards a unified movement—Problems vs. Solutions. Both political sides of the American people have correctly identified the problem.

Corporations do not care about their employees. Loyalty is not rewarded. Your boss is screwing you over. It’s one of the best things about this conversation. No matter where you stand on Abortion, you are being underpaid as a matter of fact.

Unfortunately, the agreement is almost always surface-level. The deeper problem is, of course, Capitalism. We can all agree that there are problems. Everyone agrees that nothing is perfect, but that doesn’t do anything.

There needs to be a push for more than buzzwords like “Quiet Quitting”. An actual solution to the feelings of desperation that workers have. To fully address and solve the problem of working in Capitalism, there is a concept we need to understand—Contradiction.

The Contradiction of Capitalism

A fundamental Marxist concept is that of Contradiction. Essentially, that conflict leads to development. The principal contradiction in Capitalist society is Class Struggle. The conflict between the working class and the bourgeoisie.

In a company, the goal is to make money. An employer pays an employee to perform duties for the company with the expectation that this will make the company more money. The goal of the employer is to pay the worker as little as possible to make as much profit as possible. This is in direct contradiction with the goal of the worker.

The worker provides their labor and is never paid the full value of that labor. Because if the full value of the labor was paid to the worker, no profit would go to the owner. This is, at its core, the basis of Class Consciousness. Understanding the fact that by virtue of being “employed” in a capitalist system, you are being exploited. The degree to which of course varies greatly. Some are paid a lot, some barely enough, many have nothing—But 99% deserve more.

A political cartoon called “The Condition of Laboring Man at Pullman.” Chicago Labor Newspaper, Public domain.

This realization that class is the greatest divide that exists in our society is not comforting. It’s even hard to think of an alternative. Writer Mark Fischer wrote his perspective on this topic in the short book, Capitalist Realism. A worthwhile read but one that isn’t necessary to make these points either. It’s hard to imagine a world in which we are paid what we deserve. Simple as.

The Myth of the Hard Worker

The worker who strives beyond the rest to be rewarded for their efforts. Who comes in early and stays late. The employee who goes above and beyond for their boss, out of respect or out of the potential for a promotion or raise. These workers exist. They dedicate themselves to their employers. Always trying for more—But always getting nothing. The myth is not that this worker exists, unfortunately, the myth is the idea that this worker will ever be rewarded.

This may sound jaded or angry but this is far more than a perspective based on spite. Workers who do more get taken advantage of more. Years before 2020, the trends of “Quiet Quitting” were already being seen. According to surveys conducted in 2017 by Gartner, employees felt their potential of even getting a raise or promotion had been at an all-time low since 2008.

Pre-COVID-19, pre-2021 inflation surge, pre-huge US interest rates, the writing was on the wall. Even another CNN article from that time suggests that raising wages and providing workers with benefits was the only solution to the decline in worker willingness to go work beyond the bare minimum.

COVID-19 and the Workers

Most businesses in the US outside a few states opened their doors within weeks or months of the initial “Lockdown” of March 2020. COVID-19 was certainly devastating for working people, the fault of which was of the same people against “Quiet Quitting” today—Capitalists.

“Shutting down” would not have devastated working families if the government in charge would have been willing to bend over backward as they did for Wall Street in 2008. Instead, the US Government printed millions of dollars in PPP Loans to distribute amongst the wealthiest people and corporations in the USA—with over $80 Billion being directly tied to fraud.

While the American people were given a pitiful check for $1200 and told to fuck off. Three years have gone by and the idea that stimulus given to working people was the fault for inflation still exists.

The good thing about the USA’s COVID-19 disaster

The one genuine good to come from COVID-19 was the ability, or necessity, to work from home. Most people don’t have the option to leave the facility to work from home, but even getting close to 25-30% of jobs has caused an uproar for the owner-class. A wake-up call has been given to tons of office space landlords. Thus comes an opportunity for working people to get something good for once.

empty office space no workers
An empty office, sad because it can’t cause pain to regular people anymore… by Jose Losado/Unsplash

Workers’ potential to be promoted had dwindled. The willingness to stay at work later to help their company stay in business was at record lows. People are done with being exploited at work for the sake of some stupid American tradition of “hard work”.

Employers can cry about it as much as they want. Make as many excuses as they can muster. The potential psychological effects of working in the same space you eat and sleep may be interesting to discuss. Working from home definitely shouldn’t be used to promote hermit-lifestyles. But the benefit is one that is objective and material. One that the business owners would rather we ignore, workers finally got a leg up. All that’s left is a push towards the real solution, beyond quiet quitting, toward a country for the workers.

The Panopticon of the Worker is Gone

No more boss looking over your shoulder or counting the seconds each person spends on the toilet. COVID-19 proved that a huge portion of jobs could be done from a single laptop without having to get dressed and go into an office. What a dream it would be to avoid the pointless small talk with unhappy and angry people. No more acting or pretending. Imagine being judged by your employer exclusively by the work you do? Crazy.

the panopticon public domain jeremy bentham
The panopticon. This is basically what your boss does at work.

“Job-hopping” is another one of these terms thrown around when talking about jobs today. Workers are catching on to the fact that raises come with new jobs. Company leaders may act shocked at the behaviors of these ‘disloyal’ workers, but they’ve done everything possible to foster that disloyalty. On the otherside of quiet quitting is quiet firing. Managers and employers recognizing job challanges and barriers, then ramping them up to get workers to quit and forfeit potential raises, promotions, severance payments, etc.

One of the deeper issues that Capital has with the trend of working from home and “Quiet Quitting” is that workers simply aren’t as afraid anymore. While everyone still needs a paycheck, it’s obvious to most people that companies are happy to lay off thousands if it means they keep their Stock Buybacks. A job is a job. And if a worker doesn’t get a raise, has no chance at a promotion, and gets offered more for working from home? Why would a worker stay at a job?

This realization from regular people is devastating for the managers and employers. Those whose role is to deal with worker disputes and maintain a cordial environment despite any clear disgruntlement in the workplace. Who knew that if no one came into the office, there’d be less conflict?

Death of a Manager

We are now fully realizing that a lot of “managers” do nothing. Just like that, a huge portion of people get to work from home, and simultaneously, another huge portion of them becomes obsolete. Like the car for the horse, we can’t pretend as though holding on to dying mediums will solve future problems. The loss of jobs is not something to be boastful about, but nothing is free.

If the “problem” is that your job is no longer needed, as unfortunate as that may be, there is nothing to be done. But losing a job shouldn’t mean the end of life. That is the deeper issue. Life simply shouldn’t be based on your job. “Individualism” and “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” makes that difficult for many to understand.

Some people may lose their jobs when moving toward working from home, hybrid, or 3-4 day work weeks. The reality is that many jobs don’t need that many people if the people are actually doing with work. And workers actually do work harder when they’re happy, wow. The bigger issue here is that people seem okay with losing a job often meaning a terrifying spiral for most people. Losing a job should not be life-changing. We should be entitled to a job that pays a quality standard of living.

It is the duty of the government to provide quality employment for all people. To provide education for transition into new developing fields, to deciphering potentially transferable skills. Providing robust unemployment assistance at a federal level would give more options to people who have lost their jobs. Giving people the chance to switch industries without worrying about becoming homeless.

These ideas are not farfetched. But they are in contradiction with capitalist governments. They are antithetical to Capitalism. Even the governments that have “embraced” these options for workers are in a constant battle against austerity. These suggestions are possible, but they will not be implemented, anywhere, without a constitution dedicated to Socialism.

Buzzwords and “Good” Bosses

The idea is pretty clear by now. There’s not much for workers to look forward to at work. “Quiet quitting”, “loud quitting”, “rage applying”, even the concept of “Work from Home”—Work, as it exists today, sucks. It sucks the soul of the human and crushes it down to its most basic form.

Capitalists would love to beat the worker into lower wages and benefits if they could. The “good boss”, while maybe possible in personality, is a joke when talking about Material Analysis. The “good” boss is in contradiction to themselves.

The best bosses are the ones who sacrifice themselves for the sake of the business functioning. More pay is in contradiction to the goal of the lowest expenses. Treating workers fairly is antithetical to being a Capitalist employer. Some employers and managers attempt to create an environment that is actually enjoyable to work in. This is good for workers, of course, but it’s only a facade. It’s only used as cover for the ultimate goal of profit.

A good boss doesn’t mean you’re getting paid what you deserve. Doesn’t mean that you’re going to be promoted. It doesn’t guarantee you sick time or PTO. It won’t stop them from firing you when it’s no longer in their interest to keep you.

Employers aren’t worth sympathy. Bonus structures and company stock holding are a couple of ways the classes have been stratified in their interests. By tying regular workers pay to branch profitability and other company metrics, they’ve aligned the wrokers with the owners. They’ve made certain parts of the proletariat class into aspiring Bourgousie. The temporarily embarrassed millionaires. They convinced regular working people that they too could be rich, if only they sold their souls to the machine of capitalism.

Beyond Quiet Quitting

Workers need more than quiet quitting. Workers deserve more than to just hope they become the boss someday. There exists a world in which working people have their needs met, and more. A world is possible in which everyone has the opportunity to own a home, have a family, and a life, regardless of what job they work. There exists a society that is fair.

A constitution that enshrines the right and the guarantee to a safe home, the right and guarantee to a quality job. A guarantee its citizens that they will be paid not the minimum wage but the minimum standard of living—One that should always be increasing for all people. As a society should always be seeking to improve conditions. These are not as crazy as the far-right would like them to be. It’s not as crazy as Social Democrats want it to seem.

There is a pushback that is happening right now to the Work from Home movement. Corporations are showing more than ever that they don’t respect their workers’ wishes. The corporate response to employee disatisfaction has been to push workers out. Perpetuating the cycle of making employees feel worthless. This pushback is constant. It is the never ending pushback against Social Democracy. This is why the solution is not to fix work under capitalism. But to transition to a system of socialist labor. Where everyone gets what they need and paid what they actually deserve.

The Only Solution to Worker Dissatisfaction

Workers need to move past just quitting quietly or even loudly. We need to demand that our governments represent us—Even if that puts us in contradiction to those governments. We need to stop apologizing for demanding respect. For demanding wages and benefits or a basic standard of living.

Socialism, Marxism, Communism—set aside definitional differences and what exists is an alternative. A path that suggests that the owners are not the ones who should dictate society. Marxism is about freedom. The ultimate freedom, to exist without fear of your boss. Without fear of losing your entire life because of a job.

These may be ideals but ideal does not mean impossible. Capitalist propaganda stands in our way. Uur governments do the impossible for corporations and tell the people nothing can improve. This is not the only world that is possible. There is world beyond capitalism. There is a world where we all get paid what we deserve.

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