Anti-work is anti-socialist

BY:Kevah| May 17, 2024
Anti-work is anti-socialist


This piece is a contribution to the Pre-Convention Discussion for our 32nd National Convention. During Pre-Convention Discussion, all aspects of the party’s program, strategy, and tactics are up for consideration and debate. The ideas presented here are those of the author or authors alone, and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Communist Party USA, its membership, or their elected leadership bodies. — Editors

There is a peculiar trend in the western left. It goes by many names, by many different modes of expression, but it remains the same essential thought: Anti-work. Whatever one wishes to call this trend, it remains totally foreign to Marxism-Leninism, it is totally against proletarian socialism.

Instead, this thought of anti-work is fully in line with that of the petty-bourgeoisie, and the ultimate dream of a life without work, a life built on the exploitation of others’ work. In sum, it is the ideal of the parasite, the capitalist class and not of the proletariat class. It is against Marxism. It is far more in line with capitalism than anything! How many times have you heard of the desire to be able to make passive income, to be without work, to let your money “work for you.” The basic essence is the same: Flee from work, live off some form of passive income.

Lenin once famously proclaimed “He who does not work, neither shall he eat” It is easy to wave this away as merely referring to the capitalist class. But this is not true and certainly not what Lenin meant. It is true that he was speaking of the kulak classes hoarding grain, the rich generally yes, in A Letter to the Workers of Petrograd, 1918 but to assume this was not meant for the working classes as well is false. He very specifically does not mean just that workers understand this as a real state of affairs (which of course they do) but that this is a principle that must be put into effect.

Both the 1918 constitution of the Russian Socialist Federated Soviet Republic and the 1936 constitution of the USSR implement what Lenin called “the root principle of socialism” again being the principle of “He who does not work, neither shall he eat.” Article Two, section eighteen of the 1918 RSFSR constitution states that the “RSFSR considers work the duty of every citizen of the Republic and proclaims as its motto ‘He shall not eat who does not work.’”

There is continuity again in the 1936 constitution under Article Twelve: “In the U.S.S.R. work is a duty and a matter of honour for every able-bodied citizen, in accordance with the principle: ‘He who does not work, neither shall he eat.’ The principle applied in the U.S.S.R. is that of socialism: ‘From each according to his ability, to each according to his work.’”

The consistency is clear. In the Soviet Union, labor was the highest call to honor. The great labor shock armies brought awards and the dream of the laborer was not to shirk work, but to embrace it! This principle was and is totally consistent with Marxist writing, in particular the Critique of the Gotha Program: “In a higher phase of communist society, after the enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labor, and therewith also the antithesis between mental and physical labor, has vanished; after labor has become not only a means of life but life’s prime want; after the productive forces have also increased with the all-around development of the individual, and all the springs of co-operative wealth flow more abundantly – only then can the narrow horizon of bourgeois right be crossed in its entirety and society inscribe on its banners: From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!”

Marx is so perfectly clear here: The goal is not the abolition of work, the fleeing from labor, but labor as life’s prime want

Anti-work, however, sees non-labor as life’s prime want. The extraction of surplus value in the form of passive income, the dream of the upper petit bourgeois to become a capitalist, someone who does not labor but exploits labor. This is the ‘spirit’ of anti-work.

Socialism is not a bringer of less work on its own. Certainly, here in the west where we have looted for centuries the wealth of the rest of the world through imperialism. Socialism, real proletarian socialism, will be work! And in many cases hard work! But it will be fulfilling work, unalienated work, work on the way to becoming life’s prime want, and upon the full realization of communism, as it’s full prime want.

No one encapsulates the totality of this principle better than Che Guevara:

“One acquires in the face of work the old joy: the joy of fulfilling a duty; of feeling important within the social mechanism; of feeling oneself a cog that has its own unique characteristics, that is necessary — although not indispensable — to the production process. And, moreover, a conscious cog. A cog that has its own engine, driven further and further every time, in order to bring about to happy conclusion one of the key premises of socialist construction: the availability of a sufficient quantity of consumer goods for the entire population.”

Let the CPUSA never abandon the principal laws of socialism in our path towards it: Work, not anti-work, labor, not passive income, or the dream of being one day a capitalist, the wistful dream of a world without work: The dream of a parasite.

The party must resolutely denounce the anti-work movement, and act against its ideas in every capacity.


    Kevah is a club officer in Austin, TX

Related Articles

For democracy. For equality. For socialism. For a sustainable future and a world that puts people before profits. Join the Communist Party USA today.

Join Now

We are a political party of the working class, for the working class, with no corporate sponsors or billionaire backers. Join the generations of workers whose generosity and solidarity sustains the fight for justice.

Donate Now

CPUSA Mailbag

If you have any questions related to CPUSA, you can ask our experts
  • QHow does the CPUSA feel about the current American foreign...
  • AThanks for a great question, Conlan.  CPUSA stands for peace and international solidarity, and has a long history of involvement...
Read More
Ask a question
See all Answer