[OPE-L:6932] Re: Wage-Labour and Free Labour

From: Rakesh Bhandari (rakeshb@stanford.edu)
Date: Sun Apr 07 2002 - 13:25:45 EDT

Jerry writes in 6929

>Under capitalism,  all but the the labor of slaves above typically takes the
>form of wage-labour.

Wait! Are you saying that slaves are under capitalism? That slaves 
have and perhaps still at times do labor under capital's command? Are 
you saying that they are under capital's command but do not produce 
surplus value?

And Jerry are you saying that

(a) only substantively free wage laborers can produce surplus value or
(b) only substantively free wage laborers can produce RELATIVE 
surplus value  (c) only wage laborers, whether they have meaningful 
freedoms of mobility and over consumption decisions, can produce 
surplus value
(d) none of the above.

>Let's briefly  take a look at  these one at a time in the order that you
>listed them:
>a) *workers on visas* -- this might impose certain legal restrictions on
>workers (e.g. the length of employment, what jobs one can apply for, etc.)
>but these workers can become wage-labourers.  Wage-labour does not have
>as a necessary characteristic these legal freedoms.

right, so you are not advancing thesis (a); Nicky may be. My argument 
is in fact that for the production of relative surplus value there in 
fact has to be a minimum of such legal restrictions. That is, I tend 
toward thesis (b) because the continuous technical change on which 
which relative surplus value is based and the rapid accumulation of 
capital to which the search for relative surplus value gives rise 
depend on a foundation of meaningfully free "free wage laborers", 
i.e., workers with mobility and choice in regards to employers.

>b) *workers in compounds behind barbed wire* -- this as well can and does
>take place but it doesn't mean that those workers don't work for capital in
>exchange for a wage.

we agree that they work for capital. But you are saying that workers 
need only receive a wage to produce possibly for capital; they need 
not have  freedom to spend their wage as they wish (i.e., go to the 
towns) in order to engage in capital positing labor.

  So again you not saying that only meaningfully free wage labor can 
produce capital. Once you have made this concession, it seems to me 
arbitrary to argue that slaves cannot produce surplus value. If a 
compounded worker is given a wage by his capitalist master and then 
forced to buy goods at inflated prices from that master alone, this 
situation seems quite close to a slave plantation in which 
subsistence goods are bought by the master off the market and 
allocated to slaves.

>   Restriction on movement is indeed not uncommon
>for workers internationally (due to borders and immigration laws) and
>internally (e.g. the restrictions on  freedom of movement by Palestinians in
>the West Bank or historically the restrictions on movement of Jewish workers
>Ghettos in Europe or the plight of wage-earners in some "Free Trade Zones"
>in Southern Asia today) but this does not mean that they are not

yes so you are not advancing thesis (a). Again Nicky may or may not be.

>c) *workers tied down by immovable pensions* -- these workers _do_
>have the 'freedom' to lose their job and thereby have the 'freedom' to lose
>their pensions.  This is not inconsistent with other 'freedoms' for wage-
>workers, e.g. if one is not able to sell ones'  labour-power, then one has
>the 'freedom' to starve, be homeless, not be able to obtain medical care,
>die.  Thus, 'freedom' for wage-labour is *very* much a two-edged sword.
>Yet,  the fact that they receive pensions which can not be shifted from job
>to job does not mean that they thereby cease to be wage-workers.

of course I never said they were not wage workers.

>d)  *workers in compounds surrounded by barbed wire*  -- it is true that
>these workers may not be able to spend their wages wherever they want
>on whatever they want, but that is not a necessary condition for the
>existence of wage-labour.

well that's true. they receive a wage though they are not free to go 
to the towns and spend it as they wish. They are also not free to cut 
their losses and break off the contract before it is completed.

>  Nonetheless, these restrictions have happened --
>e.g.  company towns with company stores.  The barbed wire  has been
>used in some cases (e.g. at military installations and 'company towns') to
>keep others _out_ -- such as union organizers.
>Note that in all of the cases above (barring legal statutes that prevent it)
>capitalists are able to 'free' workers as and when they wish, e.g. due to
>injury on the job,  resistance to management demands, old age, etc.
>In this sense, 'free labor' implies certain freedoms for capitalists (which
>might be restricted by the state).
>I think you are confusing 'free labor' with 'democratic rights for workers'.
>Yet, there is no supposition that workers must be 'free' in the latter sense
>for them to become wage-workers.

Well yes indeed. My point is that once you say that wage workers 
don't have to such freedoms in order to engage in capital positing 
labor, then on what basis can you say that slaves can never produce 
value and surplus value?


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