Lucien van der Walt, October 2015, “From Living Wage to Working Class Counter-Power: Theory, Strategy and Struggle,” Bargaining Indicators 2015: A Collective Bargaining Omnibus, volume 15, pp. 117-124.
This is a slightly expanded and revised version of a paper previously published in the South African Labour Bulletin earlier in 2015, which you can read here. If you are choosing between versions, the Bargaining Indicators 2015 is the better one, and includes references.
Get the PDF here.
ABSTRACT: Based on a talk given at a Living Wage Conference in Kenya, this article argues that, while statutory minimum wages and other improvements are welcome gains, they are inadequate in an exploiting system based on the rule of the few. It is necessary to pose the more ambitious demand for a ‘living wage’ set by the working class. This should be developed and enforced as part of a process of building powerful, autonomous, self-managed, politically conscientised and universalist class-struggle movements opposing all forms of oppression. Rejecting ‘privilege’ theories, this article argues that all sectors of the broad working class benefit from demands and campaigns that secure equal rights, equal treatment and equal wages, against divide-and-rule systems, and in which strikers build alliances with communities and users. A ‘living wage’ movement of this type should be located in a larger project of building a popular counter-power that can resist, and then topple, ruling class power.