[OPE-L:4839] divided workers, united capitalists

From: Gerald_A_Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@email.msn.com)
Date: Tue Feb 06 2001 - 09:20:52 EST

There is a "story" that is presented in Volume 3, Ch. 10 of _Capital_ ("The
equalization of the general rate of profit through competition. Market
prices and market values. Surplus profit" )  of  a capitalist class that is
united against the working-class and a working-class which is divided by

Near the end of the chapter we see the following claim: "We thus have a
mathematically exact demonstration of why the capitalists, no matter how
little love is lost among them in their mutual competition, are nevertheless
united by a real freemasonry vis-a-vis the working class as a whole"
(Penguin/Vintage ed., p. 300).

One might admit that Marx's claim that he had given a "mathematically exact
demonstration" was a bit of an exaggeration.

His use of the term "freemasonry" is quite revealing. It argues, in efect,
that capitalists have their own (formal or informal) "union" with which they
confront the working class. This, by itself, is not particularly revealing
unless we consider that the possibility that workers themselves confront the
capitalist class in a united way through trade unions (or political
movements)was not considered in this chapter ... or this volume ... or this
book! Indeed, rather than discussing trade unions in this chapter, we have
instead the assertion of "competition"  among workers.  This is all the more
striking when one considers that the chapter in which Marx did discuss trade
unions at greatest length (only a couple of pages) was in a chapter that he
decided *not* to have published  (i.e. the "Results of the Immediate Process
of Production". See pp. 1069-1071, Vol 1, Penguin

Returning to Vol 3, Ch 10,  we see the assumption that the level of
exploitation of labor and the rate of surplus value is constant which
"assumes *competition among the workers*, and an equalization that takes
place by their constant migration between one sphere of production and
another".  Later in the same paragraph, he tells us that "we assume that the
laws of the capitalist mode of production develop in their pure form"
(Penguin ed., p. 275, emphasis added, JL).

Later in the chapter Marx explains that the equalization of the general rate
of profit ("this constant equalization of ever-renewed inequalities")
requires in addition to capital mobility, labor mobility as well ("the more
rapidly labur-power can be moved from one local point of production to
another" (Ibid, p. 298).

This "presupposes the abolition of all laws that prevent workers from moving
from one sphere of production to another or from one local seat of
production to another. Indifference of the worker to the content of his
work. Greatest possible reduction of work in all spheres of production to
simple labour. Disappearance of all prejudices of trade and craft among the
workers. Finally and especially, the subjugation of the worker to the
capitalist mode of production. Further details on this belong in the special
study of competition" (Ibid).

Ahh ... "the special study of competition".  Was this to be a separate book
or pamphlet outside of the plan of _Capital_ or was this included in the
"plans"?  Was this,for example, a topic to be discussed in Book II
("Wage-Labour") and Book VI ("World Market and Crisis")? Marx doesn't tell

Note the crucial political significance of this question to Marx.  One might
suppose that the forces which divide and unite workers was more than a
passing interest to Marx the revolutionary. Note also that the prospect of
trade unions (including "freemasonry") and working-class solidarity would
disrupt this mobility of labour-power that is required for the realization
of the tendencial equalization of the general rate of profit. Yet, Marx is
mumm on this topic.

Why is that?  Why isn't this subject discussed systematically in _Capital_?
Is it because it was not central to his purpose (something that one might
believe if one thinks that Marx's purpose in writing _Capital_ was critique
of political economy *alone*) or is it because -- as he suggests above --
that he planned on discussing "competition" (and possibly unity) among
workers in a separate work?  Can this be understood better if we consider
again the level of abstraction of _Capital_?

Any thoughts?

In solidarity, Jerry

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Thu Mar 01 2001 - 14:01:38 EST