[OPE-L:6942] Re: Re: Wage-Labour and Free Labour

From: Rakesh Bhandari (rakeshb@stanford.edu)
Date: Mon Apr 08 2002 - 13:30:32 EDT

thanks for the response in 6938.

you seem to be saying that only wage laborers, defined as those who 
exchange labor power as a commodity for money, can produce surplus 
value. I do not understand why and how you have reached this 
conclusion. One might have thought that the unique ability of wage 
labor, as you have defined it, to produce surplus value has something 
to do with the freedoms that are associated with wage labor, i.e., 
freedom to choose one's master and use the market freely for 
consumption choices. But in your own estimation it does not seem to 
be these freedoms that underlay the unique ability of wage labor, as 
you have narrowly defined it, to produce surplus value.

>>  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?
>You just seem to me to be asking the same questions -- to which I have
>already replied.

No, Jerry, I do not think you have replied.  If you don't want to 
repeat yourself, just give me the post number in which you think you 
have presented the basis for your totally negative judgement about 
the ability of any slave to produce surplus value.

>Re Rakesh's [6932]:
>>  Wait! Are you saying that slaves are under capitalism?
>All I intended to imply is that in social formations where the capitalist
>mode of production is dominant, slavery can persist (or even be re-

is slavery changed in character if it comes under such a social formation? how?

>>  And Jerry are you saying that
>>  (a) only substantively free wage laborers can produce surplus value or
>That depends on what you mean by 'substantively'.  I think I have
>explained how I view it in previous posts.

I haven't followed your explanation.

>>  (c) only wage laborers, whether they have meaningful
>>  freedoms of mobility and over consumption decisions, can produce
>>  surplus value
>"meaningful"?   I don't think that a requirement for 'free labor'  be
>that wage-earners have 'perfect mobility' or 'unrestricted choice' in
>terms of  deciding on how to spend their incomes.

OK good. Then what is it about wage labor, as you have defined it, 
that makes it uniquely capable of producing surplus value?

>It may be that some "freedoms" typically associated with wage-labour
>may be *temporarily suspended*.

the modern plantation system was in effect for 400 years; the South 
African compound system for 100 years. Slavery in the Brazilian 
Northeast forests has used for (it seems) over a decade now.

>  E.g. there are capitalist economies
>in recent years in deep crisis which  have temporarily suspended the
>payment of money wages to state employees and replaced those wages
>with vouchers and 'IOUs'. This temporary condition, however,  does
>not by itself  cause these workers to cease to be wage earners.

Again this is not the question. Wage earners may temporarily not be 
wage earners; The quesiton is whether non wage earners (given your 
and Nicky's circulationist definition of wage earners) can EVER 
produce surplus value. You say  no. You say you have given your 
reason. I can't find it.

>  Similarly,
>when during the latter stages of feudalism the feudal obligations between
>lords and serfs became increasingly monetized (with the expansion of trade,
>the need for money caused many feudal lords to sell their crops for
>cash and to put their serfs on money payment for work and the serfs
>then, in turn, paid rents to the lord for the use of the land) this did not
>turn the serfs into a wage-earning class employed by  capital (although
>it did help to undermine feudal relations especially when lords and serfs
>were squeezed by inflation).

Jerry, I have already responded to this by quoting at length 
Blackburn who shows that modern plantations were much more like 
capitalist enterprises than Eastern European second serfdom. As far 
as I know, you  never commented on the passage. Nor has anyone else.

>  The condition of slaves on modern
>plantation systems (or elsewhere, e.g. on the guano islands off the coast
>of Chile) was quite different since these producers were not 'free' to
>sell labour-power to capitalists -- *any* capitalists.

An assertion of a difference. There is no dispute about whether there 
are differences. The question is whether those who suffer unfreedom 
to sell labor power can ever produce surplus value.

>[Digression: Also, as a historical  fact, most instances in which slavery
>has been re-instituted since the ascendancy of capitalism as the dominant
>global mode of production have occurred because of a *temporary* condition
>where there was a  labour-power shortage in certain geographic areas

The temporary labor shortage lasted until the advent of the machine. 
That's quite an important historical fact. It is why the slave trade 
persisted for 400 years; it's why mercantilist thought and practice 
was organized around a labor shortage.

>(thus, e.g. the owners of  slave ships hunted inhabitants of some isolated
>islands in the South Pacific and brought them to work and die on the guano
>islands because the mine-owners were unable to recruit wage-earners to work
>under such horrendous conditions).]
>I would be curious in knowing your position on whether the labour of
>slaves represents abstract labour. Do you agree with Paul C's assertion
>in [6933] that the labour of slaves in both classical antiquity and in the
>modern plantation system in the Southern 'slave' states of the US
>was abstract labour?

In the way that Paul C means abstract yes slave labor was abstract. 
Kolchin gives plenty of examples of that. I am not however fully 
satisfied with how Paul C defines abstract labor.
I am also interested in the meanings given to the term by Chris A and Postone.

>   If you hold that position, like Paul, then I think
>it might be easier to make the case that slaves are productive of surplus
>value. If you do not share Paul's position on abstract labour, then I think
>that case will be much harder to make.
>In solidarity, Jerry
>In solidarity, Jerry

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