[OPE-L:2400] Re: the employment contract and capitalism

From: Gerald Levy (glevy@PRATT.EDU)
Date: Wed Feb 23 2000 - 13:27:36 EST

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Date: Wed, 23 Feb 2000 18:28:20 +0100
From: Ernesto Screpanti <screpanti@unisi.it>

Jerry Wrote in [2393]
>If supervisors produce surplus value, then the "wages of superintendence"
>should be considered to be a component part of variable capital and
>thereby enter into the determination of the average rate of profit. This
>is a theoretical possibility, but it is one that was rejected by Marx (see
>_TSV_, Part III, Progress ed., p. 505).
>I guess the larger question is "What do managers do?". As Paolo C
>[2389] and you have pointed out, part of their role is "coordination" of
>the labor process. This, though, is only one aspect of their role: the
>larger aspect is to represent the interests of capital in the labor
>process and thereby to coerce and threaten workers in an effort to get
>those workers to create more surplus value.

Inside a factory there is a huge hierarchy of employees who control and
coordinate other employees. Apart from top management, each controller is a
subordinate employee who has some power on other employees. A part of the
controllers' power is delegated from the superior layers of the hierarchy,
a part of it is discretional, i.e. real power. Only the rank and file has
no power over other emploees, althoug may have some discretion in
implementing orders. If the controllers contribute through coordination to
increase surplus value they have a productive role. All of them contribute
to the production of surplus value if their coordination activity is
necessary to make the team produce. The problem is: Who is the exploiter
and who is the exploited employee? (Note that the top manager too could be
considered an employee of the company). My tentative answer is: those who
are able to exert their discretional power to obtain an income which is
higher than their contribution to production are the exploiters; those who
obtain a lower income are the exploited. In this approach, the top managers
can be the exploiters. Indeed they are, if they are not affectively
controlled by the share holders (in which case dividends are decided by the
This explanation applies to "public companies" as well to state companies
controlled by managers, bureaucrats etc.
A consequence of this approach is that it is no longer possible to trace a
clear and evident demarcation line, in the factory ladder, between the
exploited class and the exploiter class! But this is precisele what happens
in real life!
>> The question I rised is different. I am talking of "team production", a
>> notion uknwon to Marx (or at least not precisely known). There is team
>> production when the productivity of any member of the team is not
>> independent of that of the other members.
>"Team production" was known to Marx.

Yes, but not completely. See my answer to Cipolla.

 Indeed, one might argue that
>"simple cooperation" was a form of "team production" -- as defined above.
>Indeed, in the transition *to modern industry* there was, in a certain
>sense, a shift away from "team production". I.e. with modern industry and
>the assembly line, production was no longer based on a "team" concept
>where workers worked in small groups and everyone performed -- at one time
>or another -- all of the tasks in the production of a commodity (as was
>the case in the auto industry before the introduction of the assembly
>line). With the assembly line, the teams were broken-up, there was an
>increase in the level of the division of labor and specialization, and the
>*pace of work* was built into the machinery and determined by management.
>Thus, the assembly line speed and how the jobs on the line were defined
>and divided by mgt. determined the intensity of labor (subject to the
>resistance by workers). Nowadays, "team production" is pretty rare (an
>exception might be the Volvo assembly plant in Kalmar, Sweden).
>> In this case coordination is
>> needed to obtain the highest possible productivity from the team activity
>> (you cannot separate the productivity of the team members).
>See above.
>On the question of the police that was raised in [2388]:
>*If* we say that police are members of the working class (which I am not
>conceding now), *then* an interesting corollary is that:

Quite the contrary! See below.

>-- since if we were to unite with the police _as police_ then we would be
>crushed! Thus, unity -- ironically -- would be the formula for defeat.
>*Only if* the police *ceased to be police* could unity with them be
>desirable. I.e. they would have to *refuse the commands* given to them by
>capital and the state and -- indeed! -- turn their guns around and share
>the instruments of death that they control with the rest of the
>working-class. Yet, by doing this, they would have transcended their role
>as cops and there could be no going back to their old jobs then.

Have you reflected on the fact that the few successful proletarian
revolutions (the Paris Commune, the October revolution, the Chinese
revolution etc) became successful precisely when the army and/or the police
forces united the revolutionists?

>So, if you are right that police are workers, then we should support the
>following slogan:
>We should also advise others that "In unity there is weakness".
>btw, I think that police and mangers perform a similar function for
>capital and the state. Managers police factories and offices!; police
>manage our lives (ordinarily) during our non-working hours!
>> Marx is not omniscent. There are phenomena he did not know. Otherwise
>> science should have stopped with Capital. You cannot investigate a lot of
>> phenomena, that have been brought to light by recent research, by using
>> instruments that were not construed for them.
>Agreed! And in that spirit, let me say that I think that the slogan:
>is hopelessly antiquated. Workers, after all, know that they have a *great
>amount* to lose ranging from their lives to all of their possessions.
>The implication of the slogan is that all of the material goods that
>workers own (such as houses, TVs, cars, etc.) are "nothing" and therefore
>... who cares if you lose them. Tell that to workers and you are going to
>get an argument!

Right! That's a really important point. An innovation in the comunist
theory of political change is required. I do not want to open a discussion
on this topic, for the moment. But why do not we consider the possibility
that workers are moved to action, not by absolute but by relative
deprivation? In this case, an increase in workers' welfare can be a spurr
to the formation of revolutionary sentiment if it brings about an increase
in social, political and economic frustration.
Please do not answer to this message. Wait for another one.

In solidarity,

Ernesto Screpanti
Dipartimento di Economia Politica
Piazza S. Francesco 1
53100 Siena
tel: 0577 232784
fax: 0577 232661

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