[OPE-L:6920] Re: value-form and slavery

From: gerald_a_levy (gerald_a_levy@msn.com)
Date: Sat Apr 06 2002 - 08:30:26 EST

Re Rakesh's [6912]:

> And employers today make arbitrary deductions from wages in order to
> instill discipline.  There is plenty of withholding of priviliges,
> right down to the right for urination breaks, that are used to
> discipline the working class in modern capitalism. This regulation of
> urine breaks is a form of physical torture documented by Marc Linder.
> In non agricultural production the machine can force the intensity of
> production.
> Yes but from Cairnes' and Marx's accounts, the intensity of modern
> plantation slavery in general distinguished it from the slavery of
> the ancients and Aristotle, though slavery in ancient gold mines
> involved the same rapacious consumption of slave life, according to
> Marx.

The above, while real,  represent historically contingencies. What I
referred to was the *essentially* different character of  how the
intensity of labor is increased under slave vs. capitalist relations.
Under slavery,  the intensity of labor can be increased _only_
through direct compulsion.  Violence or the threat of violence or
the withholding of 'privileges' from slaves are forms that this direct
compulsion can take.  This direct compulsion is an essential
component of the slave/slaveowner relationship. It  arises because
while slave owners can buy slaves or can directly enslave people,
they can get them to work, and work at an 'efficient' and 'customary'
standard of intensity, _only_ through direct compulsion.  This is
*essentially* different from the means through which capitalists are
able to increase the intensity of labor of wage-earners in the
capitalist labor  process.  This is because  the entire relationship
between capitalists and wage-workers is conditioned by the
following facts:

a) wage-earners are "freed" from their ability to sustain themselves
and their families through means other than being wage-earners.
This means, on the one hand, that they don't own and control means
of production and land and it means, on the other hand, that the
products required for subsistence take the commodity-form which
means that workers must have money with which they can purchase
those means of consumption.

b)  In advance of production, capitalists and workers confront each
other in the market as buyer and seller where money is exchanged
for the commodity labor-power.  Yet, to be able to produce surplus
value,  the 'wage bargain' is no guarantee that wage-earners will work
at a level  of labor intensity that will result in surplus value.

c) Direct compulsion to increase the intensity of labor, through violence
etc., is *not essential*. This is because the survival of the wage-earner
and the wage-earner's family depends on the ability to continue to
sell  labor-power to capitalists. In other words, it is the fear of losing
one's job and joining the ranks of the industrial reserve army (and all that
entails) which is ultimately the means through which capitalists can
ensure that the 'wage bargain' translates into 'work done' and allows
capital to exert command over wage-earners such that the intensity of
labor is increased. (this implies that when the IRA grows the bargaining
position of capital is strengthened and the intensity of labor tends to be
higher --  since the fear of job loss is higher -- and when the IRA
contracts to the point where there is an excess demand for labor power,
then workers'  bargaining power is strengthened and labor intensity tends
to be lower since both capitalists and workers know that if there is job
loss under these circumstances then workers will be able to readily get
jobs with other capitalists.)

The above was put more succinctly by Marx in the "Results of the
Immediate Process of Production":

"The *continuity in the relations* of slave and slave-owner is based on
the fact that the slave is kept in his situation by *direct compulsion*.
The free worker, however, must maintain his own position, since his
existence and that of his family depends on his ability continuously to
renew the sale of his labour-power to the capitalist". (_Capital_, Volume
1, Penguin ed., p. 1031, emphasis in original.)

> I don't think a clear understanding that black slaves were part of
> the international working class would have neglible impact on how
> white and blacks understand themselves. The whole slavery reparations
> movement--or at least the bases for it--would have to be rethought, I
> believe.

How would the 'whole reparations movement -- or at least the bases for it'
have to be re-thought?

> Disagree. Strategy depends on the estimation of the size and position
> of the proletariat in a given social formation.

To begin with,  the size of that part of the working class which is
productive of surplus value is quite different (given the increase in
unproductive labor) from the *size of the working class*. To forget
this point would be to make a *very* big political mistake:  whether
workers are productive of surplus value or unproductive does *not*
determine whether they are part of the working class. To privilege
productive laborers over unproductive laborers would be to impose
a division -- an obstacle to working-class unity -- on the working-class
which is created by capital (and/or the state).

Moreover,  effective strategy depends more on building unity within
the working class and alliances with other (non-capitalist) classes.
Thus, in a social formation where there is a significant peasantry,
building alliances between workers and peasants is an essential task
in the revolutionary movement;  where there are social formations where
bonded-labor, including slavery, exists to a great extent then building
alliances between wage-earners and bonded labor is essentially
important; where there is a significant petty-commodity sector
composed of the 'deproletarianized' building alliances with these groups
are essential (just as in advanced capitalist nations, building alliances
between wage-earners and the ranks of the unemployed is vital).

> I disagree. If one creates no place in working class history for the
> descendants and coolies in Marxist histories of the working class and
> allows no recognition of how past humiliations which continue to
> haunt them arose out of surplus value production, then you turn them
> away from class politics and Marxism and you allow a false sense of
> difference and superiority to creep into the heads of white
> proletarians (after all, "we were never suited for slavery").

Of course, we should recognize the history of different people and
classes.  This is a *totally* separate question from whether non-
wage-earners produce surplus value.

> Rather the working class should extend special support to the
> weakest, most despised and least powerful parts of it

Of course. Again -- this has *no bearing whatsoever* on whether
slave labor creates value.

> Our sense of history matters for what kind of unity we will have in
> the present, I believe. A better sense of history could reduce anti
> immigration sentiment, I believe.

Of course. Who suggested otherwise?

In solidarity, Jerry

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