So it has been with the wage-worker. So long as most citizens owned land and instruments and house-room, and the rest, then it was a natural contract for one man to take wages from another. The wage worker might himself be an owner, adding to his income for the moment by a particular bit of work; or if he saved on his wages he could become an owner. The number of wage-workers working for one particular man was small. The relations between the citizen who paid the wage and the citizen who earned it was personal and human. But when, under the action of competition and the use of expensive and centralized machines, and rapid communication, you had thousands and thousands of men working at a wage under one paymaster or corporation, things were utterly changed—and that is where we stand today. Our industrial society has become divided into a very large body which lives wholly, or almost wholly, on wages, that is on food, clothing, and housing doled out to it at short intervals by a much smaller number of paymasters, who control capital: that is, stores and reserves of land, housing, clothing and food.
The human relation has disappeared, you have the naked contrast between an employing class exploiting a vastly larger employed class for profit. The interests of the two are directly hostile. The wage-worker is the enemy of the paymaster. It is the business of the paymaster to give the wage earner as little as possible, and to make him work as hard as possible for that little. It is the business of the wage-worker to work, and therefore to produce, as little as possible for as much as he can get out of the paymaster. The whole scheme of wealth production becomes irrational and topsy-turvy. The paymasters, who direct, do not aim at wealth production—which serves us all—but at their own profit. The wage-worker does not aim at wealth production by his work, but on the contrary, at working as little as possible for the largest pay.
Meanwhile, every sort of social abomination arises from this evil root. There is the spiritual abomination of what is called “Class Hatred.” The oppressed hating the oppressor. There is the corresponding spiritual abomination of contempt, injustice, and falsehood. The secure oppressor despises the wage-earner, does him the injustice of using his labor without thought if the wage-earner’s advantage or of the community, and he tells a falsehood that was a truth at the beginning of the affair but is now a lie: he says that all this is based on free contract and is therefore rightly enforced by the courts of law and the armed services of the community.