Capitalism isn’t just one static form of society. Instead, it is a system of social relations that constantly shapeshifts in the pursuit of profit – from cotton mills to car factories and call centres.
These recompositions come about as a result of the contradictions between the two big classes of capitalist society: workers and bosses. But rather than recompositions solving these contradictions, they just move them around: from place to place, from sector to sector, from one organisation of production to another. Before long, class struggle will have kicked off again, as bosses seek to increase their profits by increasing exploitation and workers’ seek to increase their wages, improve their conditions, and ultimately take control of their own lives.
Riding for Deliveroo tells the story of the latest stage of recomposition and struggle from the workers’ point of view. I worked for Deliveroo part-time in 2016-17, and saw first hand how the drive for profit is pitting class against class in the platform economy.
Despite facing the tyranny of algorithms, low wages, almost complete precarity and high levels of exploitation, workers’ haven’t been defeated. In fact, these 21st century platform sweatshops are creating a new generation of working class militants who are learning the ropes of the class struggle and taking the fight to the bosses. Below the turquoise tech exterior, the reality of platform work is shaped by the same clash that has defined the last two hundred years of human history.
Platform workers are, through a network of encrypted chats and secret groups, creating a transnational movement that fights not only for better wages and conditions – but also for a transition to a different system. Because in the end, the struggle of platform workers doesn’t aim to just recompose capitalism one more time. Instead, the goal is to transform the social relations that rule our lives: to abolish profit and wage labour; eliminate class differences; and organise the economy so that everything is for everyone.
Callum Cant is a former Deliveroo delivery worker and PhD candidate at the University of West London. His new book Riding for Deliveroois now available.