In the period immediately after the industrial revolution employers sought to maximise profit by pursuing the strategy which Marx called "absolute surplus value" - without changing the process of production they sought to extend the working day and week in order to increase the surplus which they extracted from their workers (who created all the value in the first place).
This strategy was defeated by the nascent workers movement, which fought for the "Ten Hours Bill" - to limit the working hours of children in order to limit the hours of the whole workforce. Out of these struggles to limit working time - so that working people should have leisure time and not exist merely as "hands" to do the bidding of their masters - came a requirement upon the employers to change tack. Henceforth, to make more profit, the capitalist employers had to turn to the strategy which Marx called "relative surplus value" - revolutionising the production process in order to make more profit out of the same quantity of working time.
It was because working people resisted exploitation that capitalism found the dynamism which has propelled it forward into the twenty first century. By forcing capitalists to change production processes in ways that drove up labour productivity - because the approach of simply increasing working time had been defeated - it was workers' struggle which initiated the trend for labour productivity to rise over time, which has enabled increases in living standards over the past two centuries.
This struggle for leisure time also gave us the weekend.
So (and regular readers Sid and Doris Blogger will have seen this coming) if we owe both the weekend and increasing labour productivity - and hence living standards - to the organisation of the working class, what should we do about this?
Well, this weekend we should do all we can to remind UNISON members to vote "YES" in the pensions ballot.
Going to the library? Say "vote YES"!
Going for a swim? Say "vote YES"!
Registering a birth, death or marriage! Say "vote YES"!
Visiting a hospital? Say "vote YES"!
This is the decisive struggle of our generation.
Don't think that, if we fail in this struggle, the FTSE 100 Directors, descended from the early Victorian mill owners, who have taken massive pay rises in the past year, won't take back the weekend that was won for us. Already precarious workers do not have this.
Don't think that any of our employment rights or trade union rights are secure if we can't win this fight to defend our pensions. Already vulnerable workers do not have these.
Don't think that any of the democratic and social gains of the twentieth century are secure in the twenty first if we lose the strength of the labour movement which won all these things in the first place.
This weekend - remind a UNISON member to vote "YES"!
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