[OPE-L:7057] Re: slavery

From: gerald_a_levy (gerald_a_levy@msn.com)
Date: Wed Apr 24 2002 - 09:14:09 EDT

Re Rakesh's [7037]:

I will make this reply brief as I think this exchange with Rakesh
has reached an impasse.

> > 4. Jerry has argued that I make it impossible to differentiate  how
> > the intensification of labor is accomplished in slavery from how it
> > is accomplished in wage labor capitalism. Does Jerry think that
> > employers  had no rights to corporal punishment in capitalist
> > factories in the 18th and 19th century?! At any rate, even if
> > physical coercion is outlawed in modern capitalism, why does this
> > mean that surplus value cannot be produced by slaves?

I agree with Nicky in [7050] that Rakesh  *entirely* misses the point ...
but not for the reasons Nicky indicates.

Rakesh has argued that slaves when employed in the modern plantation
system and engaged in producing products which are intended to be
sold on the market produce surplus value in the form of absolute surplus
value via increasing intensity of labor.   I have repeatedly explained to
Rakesh how this completely misses the target for understanding how under
conditions of capitalist production the intensity of labor can be increased.
I will explain yet again.

Do I recognize, Rakesh asks, that capitalists had rights to corporal
punishment of workers in previous centuries?  Yes, of course, I realize
that. I also realize that by raising this question Rakesh misses the point
yet again -- just as he did when he raised and re-raised the issue of
urine breaks (of which I have first-hand knowledge from years of
working 'on the line' at  Ford and GM assembly plants.)  While this
happens it is -- when it happens -- *made possible by* -- the following
*essential*  relation characteristic of capitalism.

The point is simply this: how are capitalists able to increase the
intensity of labor?

The answer is very simple:  what gives capitalists (and their designees,
i.e. managers and supervisors) leverage in the labor process over
workers so that the intensity of labor can be increased is that workers
*fear losing their jobs*.  They fear losing their jobs because they fear
joining the ranks of the IRA and all that implies. Or, expressing it in an
even simpler way, they fear losing their job (and becoming "freed" by
their employer) because  they understand well that the means of
consumption that they need to survive in capitalist society take the
commodity-form and that they need money with which to purchase
those commodities.  Without a job as a wage-worker,  how will they
get money? How will they -- and their families -- survive?

Thus, the way in which capitalists attempt to increase the intensity of
labor hinges on the characteristic of wage-labor confronting capital.
Therefore, how is that capitalists  can get workers to work harder and
faster  on the job?  They fear losing their jobs.  Indeed, even when
workers  resist the intensification of labor, they *still* fear losing their
jobs (and this fear is essential in comprehending struggles over the
intensity of labor.)  This  is fundamentally different for slaves.  Slaves
do not fear losing their jobs -- they are *controlled in different ways*
by their owners. Even when physical beatings of wage-workers occur,
this does not occur fundamentally because such beatings are legal -- it
occurs  *because*  workers fear losing their jobs. What stops them
from hitting the capitalist back? Is it only the possibility of being
arrested? No, it  is the fear of losing one's job. What makes workers
stay at their work stations when they need to go to the restroom?
It is the fear of  losing  one's job.  What makes them, in general, obey
the 'orders' of  capitalists? Again, it is the fear of losing one's job.
Thus,  how the intensity of labor can be increased  (and *how* the ruling
class is able to exercise control over producers in the labor process) is
*fundamentally* different when  you have wage-labor rather than slave
production.  To understand concretely how the intensity of labor can be
increased by capital  (and the extent that workers can resist such attempts)
depends critically on a comprehension of the social relation that exists
in a capitalist society between capitalists and wage-workers.

In solidarity, Jerry

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