[OPE-L:2389] Re: Re: the employment contract and capitalism

From: Francisco Paulo Cipolla (cipolla@sociais.ufpr.br)
Date: Tue Feb 22 2000 - 09:11:57 EST

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Regarding the role of supervisors in producing or not producing surplus value,
a debate that is engaging Jerry and Ernesto, the chapter on Profit of
Enterprise is certainly of some help. There Marx suggests that there are two
sides to the labor of supervision: one related to the antagonistic character
of the social relation under capitalism or any system based on social classes;
the other related to the labor of coordination, which in Marx's view is as
productive as a maestro is indispensable in an orquestra, that is, it is labor
which securs the coordination of a divided labor process. This two activities
may well be undertaken by a single person, in which case it is not certain
that, as Jerry says, workers will know in which side those supervisors
are. It is then the coordinating part of the labor of supervision that which
generates surplus value. The other part of his or her (most probably his)
labor is there to make sure that whatever was bought is used, be it a slave or
the labor of somebody for x number of hours: to make others produce surplus
does not make the slave-driver or the supervisor (under capitalism) to be the
producer of surplus (!) as Ernesto would like us to believe.

Gerald Levy wrote:

> Ernesto wrote in [2383]:
> > Workers can be formally the owners of the (or some)
> > means of production, for instance through pension funds or the public
> > ownership of the "workers' state", yet they can be exploited if they
> > have no control of the labour process.
> I think this confuses the lack of control by the producers of the labor
> process in general (which occurs in all class societies) with the
> specific social form that it takes under capitalism. Under capitalism,
> the relationship between capital and labor in the labor process is
> conditioned by the value-form imperative. I.e. the imperative to produce
> and sell commodities and thereby actualize the surplus value that existed
> only as an abstract possibility at the time of the employment contract.
> > The institutional conditions of exploitation can be
> > independent from the distribution of property rights. The owners can
> > be shareholders without control. The exploiters can be managers or
> > bureaucrats without ownership.
> Ownership vs. exploitation?
> Are you suggesting then that the owners of a capitalist firm are not
> necessarily the exploiters? Yet, if one receives the benefits of
> exploitation and owns (a non-nominal share of) the capitalist firm, isn't
> one the exploiter just as surely as a slaveowner was the exploiter
> of her/his slaves?
> > I am not so convinced of that distintion. If productive labour is that
> > which produces surplus value, a foreman who controls, punishes and
> > coordinates workers thus obtaining from a team a value which is higher
> > than what would produced in the absence of the foreman himslef, then
> > the latter is productive.
> No, "foremen" and supervisors -- while employed in the labour process --
> do not produce surplus value. Rather, their function is to *represent the
> interests of capital in the labour process* by extracting work from
> workers. They are an intermediate layer (part of the so-called "middle
> class") between capital and labour in the employment of capitalists. Their
> function is very similar to the *overseer* under slavery. Unlike the
> overseer, corporate managers don't use a whip since that form of control
> is not needed under capitalism with "free labour". Rather, the threat of
> being fired, and thereby the threat of joining the industrial reserve
> army, takes the place of the whip and other more violent forms of
> coercion.
> This, moreover, is a distinction that (more class-conscious) workers know
> well. They know that their "supervisor" is not one of "us" but one of
> "them" -- i.e. they represent the interests of a class that is alien to
> workers in the labour process.
> > If so, also a policeman in a state capitalist system is productive .
> The police are paid out of *revenues* received by the state primarily in
> the form of taxation. As such, the funds allocated for the payment of the
> police and other state employees represent a *re-distribution* of
> surplus-value. And the *distribution* of already existing surplus-value
> should not be confused with the *production* of new surplus-value.
> A more difficult question is whether the police are part of the
> working-class.
> In solidarity, Jerry

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