[OPE-L:5250] Re: Re: state and workers'ownership and (un)productive labor

From: Gerald_A_Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@msn.com)
Date: Sat Mar 24 2001 - 09:46:57 EST

Re Paul B's [OPE-L:5248]:

Previously I wrote:

  Let's consider first what I understand to be the
  main type of state production that you refer
  to. Namely, instances in Europe (and elsewhere)
  following World War II when there was the
  nationalization of industry. To begin with, I
  agree that the labor so employed should be
  considered -- in the main -- to be production
  labor. Yet, labor engaged in production is not
  necessarily productive of surplus value.

  Paul responded:

  'Production' here is too abstract a use to understand
  Wage-labor can e.g. be productive of *use-values
  only* rather than (also) productive of surplus value. 
  Thus, one might say that the Royal Navy is
  productive of use-value even though it is not
  productive of surplus value.  

  I continued:

  How are we to understand these nationalizations?
  I would assert that most of these industries were
  taken over by the state only under the threat of
  plant closings and bankruptcy. In that case, the
  state took over these industries *not to be able
  to produce surplus value* but to: a) protect
  the value of  the company from being prematurely

  Paul responded:

  So we have companies with VALUE, How now do you want to define VALUE?

  The value that I was referring to was the value
  of the constant capital.

  Can I ask, if VALUE, which for me is created in  a relation of exploitation for the purposes of extracting SV, how can we have a relation that freezes?  The constant capital must be worked up or it will lose its value, it can only be worked up AND retain its value if variable capital is used, if capital is turned over and if surplus value is the result.  (snip, JL)

  I agree -- in fact, that was my main point. I.e. rather
  than let the value represented by the constant capital
  erode through non-use the state can act to preserve
  that value from a premature death via nationalization
  since it can now, once production is resumed, transfer
  its value to the output.

  Paul continues:

  On the contrary, I am indicating above that the state controls provided cheap and reliable inputs to the private sector, and it was this that assisted private capital accumulation at the expense of these State controlled industries (In the UK they were not allowed/ expected to make a profit at all for some time)

  This might very well have been the case. Yet,
  the fear by individual capitalists of being driven
  out of business if a very large unit of capital
  declares bankruptcy can be a major stimulus 
  for state action. Thus, many of the firms that
  supplied means of production to the firm
  that is on the verge of declaring bankruptcy
  might also be driven to declare bankruptcy.
  Similarly, the (generally smaller) firms that
  relied heavily on sales to workers who worked
  at the firm that declares bankruptcy would
  be adversely affected and this might manifest
  itself in many of those firms declaring bankruptcy.

  One might counter by claiming that if the "big"
  firm declares bankruptcy, then other capitalists
  in the same branch of production would benefit
  and that their demand for means of production
  and their employment might be expected to rise
  (thus causing the net demand for workers'
  consumption goods to remain stable).

  This might be true from a world perspective but
  it is not necessarily the case at the level of
  individual capitalist economies which is the level
  of analysis that we must consider when we are
  considering *state policy*.   Thus, if a steel
  manufacturer in the UK closes down (and is
  allowed to do so by the state and is not
  nationalized), then a steel company in Japan
  or some other nation in the world might be the 
  beneficiary. The indirect beneficiaries would then
  be the firms that supply means of production to
  that Japanese steel manufacturer and the (mostly
  Japanese-based) firms that sell consumption 
  goods to the workers who are employed by that
  firm in Japan.  

  Thus, in considering state policy one must 
  consider the *regional and national impacts* of
  changes in the international division of labor. 
  This does not mean that those nation-states 
  support 'isolationism' but it does
  suggest that they are concerned with protecting
  domestic capitalist firms and maintaining the
  growth of capital accumulation for their 'own' 

  Paul continued:

   This is true, but a more appropriate point to make from the 70's onwards, eg the UK Governments 'National Enter[rise Board' which underwrite many weak companies in the mid 70's without taking them over

  True enough -- the above might serve as a 
  partial answer for why they subsidized those
  weak companies. Surely, you will agree that
  protectionism is alive and well in terms of state
  policies by many (indeed, all) capitalist nation-
  states. The subsidies to these firms can simply
  be seen as another form of protectionism.
  Previously I wrote:

  It is interesting to note that in the case of Germany
  many of the nationalizations were mandated by
  the Allied military forces.  

  Paul responded:

  In fact the US refused to accept the UK demand to nationalize the German Steel industry)

  Yet, Allied occupying forces supported -- and
  indeed, insisted on -- codetermination in the 
  German steel industry. This was more than
  a little ironic since codetermination (joint
  management of capitalist enterprises by
  company representatives and trade union 
  representatives) would have been fiercely 
  resisted by capital and the state in the UK
  (and especially) the US. Indeed, capitalists
  in the US in the post-WW2 period have fiercely
  resisted any weakening of what they consider to
  be 'management prerogatives'.

  Paul continued:

  . BUT  accounting profits and losses are besides the point when the state can control or manipulate prices, which was the case until at least 1953. The issue is were these industries run to extract and separate their product from the workers, so providing a fund for the capitalist class?

  The funds generated by these state-run entities
  (to the extent that there is a surplus over cost
  generated) are used in whatever way the *state*
  wants. I.e. they are state funds and can be used
  to fund further unproductive expenditures. In any
  event, I see this (for reasons described earlier) 
  as only a short-run possibility.

  Paul continued:

  .( Yes, this was absolutely necessary to attract buyers, but  i did not say they were not creating value and surplus vale. eg British Gas, the Electricity Industry and many others made handsome profits whilst nationalized)

  Yet, "profits" can simply be a claim to the
  value and surplus value produced elsewhere. 
  I.e. one can *appropriate* (i.e. lay claim to)  
  surplus-value without producing surplus value.

  This is an interesting issue that requires some thought about the role of the labour of repair and training of labour power itself. Where this labour has become part of the historical needs of the WC, as we see in the UK with the demand for the NHS and resistance to educational privatization, then we have used the idea of productive labour of a special type. (See Howell 1975)
  Then perhaps we need to go on -- now or
  later -- to a discussion of this question. A 
  related topic might be the issue re whether
  (unpaid) domestic labor is productive of s
  (a debate that I'm sure you are familiar with
  from the 1970's).

  Paul continued:

  . I see it rather as capital resisting a 'bastard type'of historical category, struggling at every turn to convert the use of labour into  a more fully capitalistic form.
  That is one side of the conflict over tuition and
  ending open admissions in state-run colleges.
  The other side of this dynamic is the struggle
  by students, faculty, and workers to provide
  education as a *right*.  Whether capital is
  successful depends on the relative balance
  of forces and the state of class solidarity and

  Switching the topic to workers' ownership, Paul

  But if the workers are forced, proudhon like, to work within all the market constraints, and produce profits to pay the banks interest, and the landlords rent, then whatever their intentions, or whatever they do with the balance of the profit, they are de fact capitalistically employed. Indeed such arrangements are usually crushed if they don't conform.
  I think you are in agreement with Gil on this
  matter!  (see 5249). I agree that they must, in 
  general, come to act *as if* they were capitalist
  firms. Yet, one can not take the class conflict
  between capital and labor out of what constitutes
  capitalist employment.  If the worker-owners are
  capitalistically-employed, who do they come into
  opposition with? Do they struggle with themselves?
  Are they thus sado-masochistic?

  I wrote:

  >. Marx was
  >certainly aware of this and supported many of
  >those reform movements. 

  Paul responded:

  Of course, but what has this to do with the initial point?
  It has to do with how we view state policy. I.e. 
  some of those policies represent reforms that 
  have been fought for and won by the working
  class in struggle with both capital and the state. 

  In solidarity, Jerry

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