One of the staples of the American left is an increase in the minimum wage. However, I don’t align with the esteem. I see it as I see many things social democrats and the “progressives” present: as a stalemate and a pacifier for anti-capitalist thought.
My growing distaste for minimum wage raises isn’t based out of illogical conservative mumbo-jumbo about “inflation” or “unemployment”, baseless assertions that are grounded in neither historical fact nor empirical observation. Rather, it comes from the fact that a minimum wage increase lessens the need for workers in every industry to band together to have their voices heard and thus puts a stopgap against the unionization and camaraderie necessary for socialism.
Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a necessary immediate solution. But there’s no validity to it as an end-game.
What’s more important is creating groundwork for unions and creating legislature which will increase the political and legal power of said unions. Then, we take a page from Denmark’s book and allow these unions to negotiate minimum wages.
There are two primary reasons for this.
The first is that workers in metropolitan areas will need a higher minimum wage than workers in rural areas, so bargaining power for individual union divisions is essential. It’s iffy to calculate cost of living and there are many different calculations and standards. As a result, indexing a minimum wage to the cost of living of an area is ineffective. It should be up to the workers in that area, not a federal office, to determine what is needed to live.
The second is that growing unionization lays an essential groundwork for socialism, especially variants such as syndicalism and left-communism. The more that workers are organized, the more that they will be able to band together - and the more that Marxist pipe dreams like an international union of workers becomes a very real possibility. When the workers are organized in such a manner, the most viable method of non-violent revolution becomes a tangible reality: a general strike across all industries.
A minimum wage increase would heighten the standard of living for workers everywhere, that’s undeniable. But that’s where it stops. With that legislation comes the pacification and complacency of the same brand of progressive that pushed for Hillary Clinton’s healthcare ideals because “we’ve already made so much progress”. So we can’t stop there and we can’t let that complacency get to us. It’s necessary to lobby going forward for increasing union bargaining power, decreasing the bargaining power of corporations and private enterprise, and having workers band together — whether we get the minimum wage increase or not. Calls for services like minimum wage increases and public healthcare come from not selfish desire but from a necessity and an anger at the capitalist class where was depriving the people of being given such a thing in a reasonable manner. The solution is to depose capitalism; to establish a society that is truly by the people, for the people. The first step to this is to stop pacifying the workers but instead start arming them to take what’s theirs, and I don’t mean with guns. I mean with the idea that their employer doesn’t own them, and that they have some say in what they do and how they do it.
And to every Trump supporter, Rand junkie, and Friedmanite who says that we need to get rid of the minimum wage? I say bring it on. Such a thing will only serve to anger the working class more and push them further towards unionization and the essential final steps towards socialism and a better society for all.
We, as leftists, need to not be reserving all of our faculty and man-power pushing for arbitrary things like minimum wage increases and social justice movements to fix problems that exist only as a result of capitalism in the first place. Those things are fine and great to fight for, but until you fix the root problem, attempts are fruitless because there will be just be another issue arising from the exploitative nature of capitalism down the road. Absolutely, fight for those. But we can’t dedicate all of our energy to that. To improve the lives of the working class, we must empower the working class. That starts with unionization, that starts with bargaining power, that starts with rallies and protests to awaken the working class.
I am proud to be a leftist against the idea of a federal minimum wage, because it means I’m a leftist that is for the idea of a wage dictated by the workers.
(Author’s note: as a bit of a disclaimer, because I know that I’ll catch heat for the statement on social justice movements — spoken as a massive supporter of the movement, if this year’s Black Lives Matter accomplishes anything, then in 10 years it will be about Latino rights or gay rights. And I say this not because those aren’t noble causes and causes that certainly need attention; I say this because identity politics of any kind are a bourgeois distraction in order to keep us angry at each other so that we don’t become angry at them. They relish in the fact that they’re dividing the black and white working class. They delight in the fact that we’re so busy with “Black Lives Matter”, “Blue Lives Matter”, and “All Lives Matter” that we can’t realize that we’re all brothers and sisters and that we’re all marionettes on strings played by the same puppet masters. Our anger needs to be at them, the bourgeoisie, not at the black or white or Latino or Asian working class brother that’s just trying to put food on the table.)
If rent was $10/month we wouldn’t need to make $2,500/month just to be able to pay it. It’s the ever rising increase in rent, utilities, food and other essentials necessary to live that causes us to need more money.
That’s why developing countries wages can be $10/day, their cost of living is but a tiny fraction of ours. Sure, give us $15/hr and then watch it all get eaten up in rent and other increases, ultimately accomplishing nothing.
If you want to solve problems, focus on their cause, not their effects. The need for an increased minimum wage is an effect of a very high (and officially unacknowledged) inflation rate that has been lowering the income of the lower and middle classes for 30 years. And nothing’s going to stop it as long as we refuse to acknowledge that it exists.