The Right to Be Lazy

Paul Lafargue, Marx's son-in-law, argued for the working class's right to be lazy, and explained why increasing productivity is of no interest to the working class. Why get up in the morning and travel in the rush hour in packed trains to a place of class exploitation? Why work hard for an employer? Why put up with the stress and the long hours, the boredom and the danger? Workers are forced into employment because without wages they would starve. However, under different social conditions, one in which production took place directly to meet human need, work would not be considered as something unpleasant.

In his pamphlet THE RIGHT TO BE LAZY (1883), Paul Lafargue wrote of capitalism, in which the worker toils away at work while the ruling class live idle and sedentary lives.

Lafargue wrote:

"A strange delusion possesses the working classes of the nations where capitalist civilization holds its sway. This delusion drags in its train the individual and social woes which for two centuries have tortured sad humanity. This delusion is the love of work, the furious passion for work, pushed even to the exhaustion of the vital force of the individual and his progeny. Instead of opposing this mental aberration, the priests, the economists and the moralists have cast a sacred halo over work. Blind and finite men, they have wished to be wiser than their God; weak and contemptible men, they have presumed to rehabilitate what their God had cursed. I, who do not profess to be a Christian, an economist or a moralist, I appeal from their judgement to that of their God; from the preachings of their religious, economics or free thought ethics, to the frightful consequences of work in capitalist society".


"...the proletariat, the great class embracing all the producers of civilized nations, the class which in freeing itself will free humanity from servile toil and will make of the human animal a free being, - the proletariat, betraying its instincts, despising its historic mission, has let itself be perverted by the dogma of work. Rude and terrible has been its punishment. All its individual and social woes are born of its passion for work".

Employment is largely a waste of a worker's mental and physical energy. Not only is employment tiresome but stressful and psychologically damaging. Employment is not a human attribute, it is alien and imposed. It threatens our life and the lives of our children. Employment is destructive and uncreative. That the working class pursue employment rather than its abolition is to seek out the master's whip rather than escape servility and human domination. Why become wage slaves? Why be employed? Workers should free themselves from the wages system: from employment to work, from wage slavery to free co-operative and social labour.

And workers should not be blaming other workers for their low incomes. Many of them still have the opportunity to form trade unions, and to struggle effectively and democratically for higher pay and better working conditions. However the capitalist system is the system of the capitalist class. Workers might be able to struggle against the intensity and extent of exploitation but they do so in a system of private or state ownership of the means of production one where they are faced with periodic trade crises, economic depressions and high levels of unemployment.

What workers should be demanding is not the "right to work" under capitalism but the "right to leisure" in a socialist society, where robotics and artificial intelligence could be used to lighten labour and free people to engage in activities of their choice.

Useful Work versus Useless Toil

It was William Morris who argued that many jobs done in capitalism are wasteful and useless - wasting raw materials, and wasting worker's lives - and that in socialism with such work eliminated as unnecessary (for example, arms manufacturing, the military, advertising, marketing, commercial competition and so on) there would be abundant free time for leisure.

In his pamphlet USEFUL WORK VERSUS USELESS TOIL (1883), Morris wrote:

" follows that labour, to be attractive, must be directed towards some obviously useful end, unless in cases where it is undertaken voluntarily by each individual as a pastime. This element of obvious usefulness is all the more to be counted on in sweetening tasks otherwise irksome, since social morality, the responsibility of man towards the life of man, will, in the new order of things, take the place of theological morality, or the responsibility of man to some abstract idea. Next, the day's work will be short. This need not be insisted on. It is clear that with work unwasted it can be short. It is clear also that much work which is now a torment, would be easily endurable if it were much shortened".

And in another pamphlet, ART AND SOCIALISM he said:

"Nothing should be made by man's labour which is not worth making; or which must be made by labour degrading to the makers."

He went on to say:

"It is right and necessary that all men should have work to do—

First - Work worth doing;

Second - Work of itself pleasant to do;

Third - Work done under such conditions as would make it neither over-wearisome nor over-anxious

In socialism there will not be "low skilled workers" and "high skilled workers". Instead, in a society where the wages system has been abolished, there will just be workers doing the best they can for the good of the community as a whole. Socialism will work according to the principle: "from each according to ability, to each according to need".

Back to top

Object and Declaration of Principles


The establishment of a system of society based upon the common ownership and democratic control of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth by and in the interest of the whole community.

Declaration of Principles


1. That society as at present constituted is based upon the ownership of the means of living (ie land, factories, railways, etc.) by the capitalist or master class, and the consequent enslavement of the working class, by whose labour alone wealth is produced.

2. That in society, therefore, there is an antagonism of interests, manifesting itself as a class struggle, between those who possess but do not produce and those who produce but do not possess.

3.That this antagonism can be abolished only by the emancipation of the working class from the domination of the master class, by the conversion into common property of society of the means of production and distribution, and their democratic control by the whole people.

4. That as in the order of social evolution the working class is the last class to achieve its freedom, the emancipation of the working class will involve the emancipation of all mankind without distinction of race or sex.

5. That this emancipation must be the work of the working class itself.

6. That as the machinery of government, including the armed forces of the nation, exists only to conserve the monopoly by the capitalist class of the wealth taken from the workers, the working class must organise consciously and politically for the conquest of the powers of government, national and local, in order that this machinery, including these forces, may be converted from an instrument of oppression into the agent of emancipation and the overthrow of privilege, aristocratic and plutocratic.

7. That as all political parties are but the expression of class interests, and as the interest of the working class is diametrically opposed to the interests of all sections of the master class, the party seeking working class emancipation must be hostile to every other party.

8. The Socialist Party of Great Britain, therefore, enters the field of political action determined to wage war against all other political parties, whether alleged labour or avowedly capitalist, and calls upon the members of the working class of this country to muster under its banner to the end that a speedy termination may be wrought to the system which deprives them of the fruits of their labour, and that poverty may give place to comfort, privilege to equality, and slavery to freedom.