"The people who work in the Mills
ought to own them"
--1840's Labor Press

In the 1840s young women, called "Factory girls" back then working in the mills in Lowell Mass. Noam Chomsky quotes form the labor press in those days:

"When you sell your product, you retain your person. But when you sell your labour, you sell yourself, losing the rights of free men and becoming vassals of mammoth establishments of a monied aristocracy that threatens annihilation to anyone who questions their right to enslave and oppress.

"Those who work in the mills ought to own them, not have the status of machines ruled by private despots who are entrenching monarchic principles on democratic soil as they drive downwards freedom and rights, civilization, health, morals and intellectuality in the new commercial feudalism." (emphasis added) [ref: p. 29, "Chomsky on Democracy and Education, edited by C.P. Otero]

Chomsky adds, "just in case you are confused, this is LONG BEFORE Marxism. This is American workers talking about their experiences in the 1840s". And that one of the early leaders of the AFL, about a century ago, expressed the standard view when he described the mission of the labour movement as "to overcome the sins of the market and to defend democracy by extending it to control over industry by working people." That is, you extend democracy from being merely in the political arena (it's very limited and emaciated there, but that's another story), to be also in the industrial/workplace arena -- to extend democracy there too.

If you think about it, what we have in the workplaces, with bosses giving orders to employees, if you translated that into the political arena, what would it be the equivalent of? Of some kind of despotism, certainly not of political democracy...

An Elaboration by Chomsky in an interview with Barsamian, and more about why fighting against wage slavey is as American as apple pie.

A superb elaboration by Chomsky on how opposing wage-slavery comes right out of the Enlightenment Era (yes, Thomas Jefferson and Adam Smith and the rest) ideals..

  • What kind of Economic System would you propose? Noam Chomsky responds in more detail.