The work week is subjected to a rigorous time regiment. Days are strictly regulated by work. Once the shopping is done, food prepared and the paperwork done, we go to bed exhausted. Our peaceful sleep is disrupted by the knowledge that another work day is waiting when we wake up. The weekend, be it one or two days, is so short that its end already looms when it begins. The brief joy of having escaped the work week to spend time with family and friends or to just procrastinate is swiftly replaced by disillusionment. This is how days, weeks, months, and years go by ….
The 4-hour-league stands against wasting our life through wage labor. We want our time back and a good life for all right here and right now! The 4-hour-league demands the radical reduction of work time in order to allow for a fulfilled, solidary, and democratic life! We demand the 4-hour work day with full monetary and staffing compensation! The capital must pay!
The social question here and now
Technological progress could be so nice: The daily grind could be a thing of the past and everybody could enjoy the nice things in life. Instead, everything is ruled by the callous imperative of time. As technological progress allows for the production of more goods in shorter time, this is no reason to be happy because you have to work less now. Instead, this forces everybody else to produce as efficiently.
As a result, millions of people suffer because of higher workloads, longer hours and higher work intensity. At the same time, many of us have to sell our labor under precarious working conditions like repeating non-permanent contracts or ostensible self-employment. Other have to rely on social welfare with all the disciplinary effects of having to accept non-adequate job offers. On the one hand, almost 2 billion hours of overtime are amassed annually, 1 billion of those unpaid. On the other hand, 4.4 million people depend on social welfare, many despite having a job. Hundreds of thousands of people are pushed below the poverty line by the sanctioning mechanisms, thus increasing the pressure on those who have a job and fear to get into a similar situation. Add to this those who don’t have official work permits or basic social protection, don’t show up in social statistics but have to sell their labor under precarious, lawless and thus exploitative conditions.
Blind trust in progress and the end of ideas
Today, the work process demands our most private personality traits. Flexible work time, self-determined work groups and incentive structures not only have the objective to transform the organization of production but aim at merging out individual needs, our ideas about happiness, our creativity and our autonomy with the demands from the labor market. Willingly, we make phone calls about work schedule to our managers over dinner or sacrifice our free time for work if there’s an urgent need. We are concerned that this situation will only get worse.
Capitalism is now at the threshold to the forth industrial revolution. Mechanization, industrialization and automation are followed by digitalization. Everybody is talking about “Work 4.0”. This is the entrepreneurial utopia of “intelligent factories”, i.e. mostly self-organized production through the application of technology. While the capital is looking for more growth impulses and higher profits, this will on the other side lead to a further flexibilization and blurring of the concept of work. Only recently, employers’ associations have again launched an attack on the 8-hour work day. Their goal is obvious: increased, more flexible and cheaper production. This comes at a time when demand has not been able to keep up with productivity increase for decades. This gap is getting bigger and bigger and results in the loss of jobs here and elsewhere. Also, climatized change and limited natural resources show that increasing supply in the rich industrial nations is not desirable as well.
All those hardships imposed by capitalism are not seriously address nowadays. We have not witnessed the end of history as propagated after the fall of socialism, but the end of ideas. We are blindly stumbling into a future that does to deserve its name and are longing for a past that is neither desirable nor can be repeated. A “there is no alternative” attitude and national welfare state nostalgia breed apathy and the protection of vested interests. Without any perspective for a better future, the realization that nobody is doing better but many are doing worse awakens aggressive tendencies that manifest themselves in regressive-authoritarian parties. At the same time, the ubiquitous blurring of the concept of work and growing self-exploitation robs even those who kept their sanity of the power and creativity needed to aggregate their interests and together fight for them.
The 4-hour-league: a timely future project for the here and now
The 4-hour-league can be understood as a project to counter the prevailing capitalist madness and reactionary developments with progressive, solidary and needs-oriented demands. The reduction of work time should lead to a redistribution of humane wage labor regardless of social status, family background oder citizenship. At the same time, this should lead to a gender-balanced distribution of unpaid reproductive labor. This would enable people to dedicate time to friendships, family, child care or to the caring for family members. The additional time also allows for personal education and the development of talents as well as for political participation and organizing. The 4-hour-league stands for the wholistic democratization of all aspects of life.
All groups or individuals who can identify with these positions are invited to jointly develop a common narrative and utopia. Together we want to promote our 4-hour demand as a societal project, a collective bargaining issue for trade unions and a metaphor for a good life. If the history of domination and servitude is based on who decides on time, it is time to take this time back.