Friday, September 26, 2008

Know Your Fringe Parties II -- The Work Less Party

At first blush, it might appear that this political party is poised to target the great untapped "slacker" vote. This is the same constituency that 'satiri-mentary' film maker Michael Moore tried (and failed) to mobilize in the 2004 U.S. elections, as depicted in his newly released i-film, Slacker Uprising. You see, the thing about slackers is that they're ... well, I dunno ... slackers. To jaundiced eyes, it may come as little surprise that the Work Less Party's activities are centred in British Columbia

But, at second blush, maybe there's a little more going on here. So let's take a brief look behind the drawn curtains of the slackers' den.

The party's website boasts: "The Work Less Party is part of a growing international community of organisations that have realized that a reduction in the industrial work is essential to the requirements of sustain ability." I'm wondering if there is an epistemological distinction to be drawn between "sustain ability" and "sustainability."

Maybe there is. As Michael Miller argues, in The Labour Theory of Value, Aristotle maintained that "we labor in order to have leisure!" And who could forget Bertand Russell (In Praise of Idleness), who wrote: "The idea that the poor should have leisure has always been shocking to the rich." [continued below ...]

On the other hand, as Time Magazine reported this past summer, France's well-publicized (and much panned) flirtation with the 35 work week has now been consigned to the political scrapheap -- another grand social engineering project gone horribly wrong.

France's ruling conservatives are celebrating the mothballing of what they've long derided as the most destructive legacy of Socialist rule: the 35-hour workweek. Late Wednesday, a government text gutting the left's decade-old labor innovation was voted into law, provoking cheers from rightist politicians that France Inc. could now better fulfill one of President Nicolas Sarkozy's key campaign slogans: "work more to earn more."

Of course, one of the dreams of the technological age (one that even the prescient Bertand Russell was keen to hang his hat on) was that advances in technology would make it possible to work less and earn more. Would that this had come to pass. But it didn't quite work out that way. And in a way, that's the point behind the Work Less Party.

Anyway, I digress. So, what is on the agenda for the Work Less Party in Canada (er, British Columbia)?

Well, it does touch on a number of the popular 'isms' of modern Canadian politics. Environmentalism. Labourism. Democratic Socialism. Communitarianism. A Whiff of Anarchism. Basically all the right stuff for a grass-roots protest movement.

From the Party's statement of Policy Objectives, in the pursuit of a reduced work week, we find the following concise list:

  1. Reduce our environmental footprint.
  2. Reduce unemployment and increase the minimum wage.
  3. Decentralize Decision-Making (i.e., community empowerment)
  4. Promote community arts, music, health, culture and education.

And their modus operandi?

Our primary strategy is to lead by example.

We are in a very fortunate position. We can improve our standard of living at the same time as reducing our environmental footprint. Our most effective strategy is to organize events that promote community, arts, music, health, culture and education.

Again, at first blush, this makes the Work Less Party sound a little bit like the political equivalent of "the party fraternity" found on many college campuses. And in a way they are. However, on reflection "organiz(ing) events that promote community, arts, music, health, culture and education" was one of the foundational organizing principles of the labour movement (as well as almost all fraternal and social service clubs) in the late-nineteenth century. Solidarity does not grow in solitude.

To raise funds for their activities, they have stuff to sell, including a new book by Leonard Schmidt that may stand in as a veritable manifesto of their movement, entitled Workers of the World Relax.

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