[OPE-L:8345] Re: 'Gewinnst' from the standpoint of the working class?

From: Michael Eldred (artefact@t-online.de)
Date: Wed Jan 15 2003 - 11:58:45 EST

Cologne 15-Jan-2003

Re: [OPE-L:8334]

gerald_a_levy schrieb Tue, 14 Jan 2003 09:19:15 -0500:

> A short comment on Michael E's [8324]:
> > If the working class is constituted by all those subsumed under the
> > value-form of wages, then every worker also has an interest in
> > (monetary) gain. Such an interest conforms with capital's interest in
> > making a monetary surplus through commodity production insofar as
> > capital and wage labour come together by mutual agreement. C
> > (snip, JL) Capital and workers have opposed
> > interests within their symbiosis on the quantitative level of wages and
> > also on how much labour is to be performed for a given amount of
> > wage-money.
> But, "to win" for workers means something more than monetary gain.
> What about the aspiration that workers have for greater leisure time?

Sure. As I say -- workers strive for maximum wages for minimum work performed
(and more generally, they strive for maximum income and maximum benefits for
minimum work performed). For instance, VW in Germany has the 35 hour week and
high levels of benefits financed by the employer and the state. Since the
welfare state has become so bloated and unwieldy, the powerful Germans unions
go hand in hand with permanent mass unemployment of around ten per cent
(currently over four million). Corporatist capitalism works fine for big unions
which, in pursuing their self-interest for high wages and benefits in exchange
for minimum working hours, ensure that a large "industrial reserve army" is
never called up -- because it is too expensive i.e. unprofitable to employ it
and/or too risky, because job security legislation (another aspect of
corporatist social-democratic capitalism) puts a straight-jacket on capitalist

Thus the unemployed escape exploitation by capital, have enormous leisure time
and succumb to a great extent to alcoholism and worse. With the total
regulation of literally all aspects of life and the stifling of any incentive
to become self-reliant, education standards in Germany have now slipped to
among the lowest in the world. The German welfare state has by now, after over
a century, almost totally destroyed any impulse for individuals to take an
initiative and attempt to become self-reliant. Instead of self-reliance there
is self-pity -- others are always to blame (capital, the state, society,...).
The paradise on Earth which the German welfate state erected after the war has
long since been in a steady, inexorable decline. The German obsession with
total security, including social security, has led to the setting up of a
social cocoon which is designed to be immune to any risk whatsoever. Within
this well-padded cocoon, life is comfortable, self-satisfied, xenophobic,
pacifist, moralistic and complacent, and any threatened disturbance (from, say,
global capitalist competition and the supposed evils of neo-liberalism, freer
trade, etc.) is regarded as socially unjust. The German dreamworld is held
together by the fog of ideals of 'solidarity' and 'social justice' (code words
for generalized self-interest according to which it is always just to take from
the rich, since they are alleged to be unquestionably the greedy ones who have
exploited the poorer ones and therefore have social obligations).

> Workers are, after all, only wage-earners during part of the day.  Besides
> production time there is non-production time and workers seek
> collectively and historically to expand non-production time (of course,
> without a decrease in their standards of living).

Even at the cost of occasionally totally wrecking the industries for which they
work -- since bloodyminded self-interest and the antagonism that wage-labour
bears toward capital preclude seeing the more universal connection and the
symbiotic nature of the relation between wage labour and capital..

Trade union self-interest also often dictates protectionist trade policy
directed against foreign industries, thus invariably harming also foreign
workforces. Adam Smith's famous notion of the "invisible hand" arose precisely
in the context of pointing out how damaging protective customs duties are
considered on the whole (and not merely with respect to particular interests).

> Consequently, two 'ethics' come into conflict: one ethic can be seen in
> the bumper sticker "he who dies with the most toys wins", the other
> ethic was foreshadowed by a demand from the original 8-hour-day
> movement in the US (during Marx's lifetime) "8 hours for work, 8
> hours for sleep, 8 hours to do as we will".   The yearning to "do as
> we will"  during more of our lives comes into conflict with the
> aspirations of capital and the state for us to do as _they_ will.

All forms of government require doing as 'someone else' will even when an
attempt is made to square this circle of hierarchy and rule by means of
democracy. If production were socialized democratically and private ownership
abolished, workers would still be (dis)obeying orders and (not) sticking to
rules, directives, etc. -- along with everyone else except those at the top of
the various hierarchies.

The phenomenon of individualism so prized in Western societies, especially the
US -- and one of the greatest historical achievements of the West -- , is
concomitant with abstract relations of sociation through markets. I.e.
'anarchic' market relations individuate by very virtue of their abstract,
reified character. The compulsion for individuals to conform comes from other
kinds of social relations such as traditional family ties, religious
prescription, custom, democratic or dictatorial state laws and regulations,
socialist planning, etc.

> More broadly then, this yearning for increased leisure time represents
> a yearning for freedom over the control exercised by capital and the
> state in shaping all aspects of our lives.

There is also the freedom _to_ work at what one likes doing, to devote oneself
to what one has accepted as a calling (not from God). This may be work for a
capitalist enterprise or for oneself or even for the state.

The emptiness of "leisure time" must also be considered. Many do not have the
strength to know "what they will" nor the resolve to shape their own lives when
not under compulsion, and are confronted with boredom and worse when 'set
free'. That is a desideratum of Marxism -- it cannot see the phenomenon of
nihilism (which has many faces, such as utter boredom, consumerism, alcoholism,
obesity, senseless violence, chronic depression, etc.). Instead it is fixated
on material exploitation, social and political oppression, etc.

> Solidarity, Jerry
> PS1:
> > I was wondering whether, in your recent post [OPE-L:8305] about old
> > films showing the pace of work at the Ford River Rouge plant ("If one
> > also views film from the 1920s and 30's and compares it to the 1970's,
> > then one can see that the intensity of labor was dramatically higher in
> > the earlier period before unionization.") was an effect of fewer frames
> > per second in old film?
> Interesting question, but there is plenty of evidence that the intensity
> of labor decreased from its horrific heights after unionization and
> therefore  after workers could fight against speed-up.  Before
> unionization in 1941,  there  was the 'Service Department' led by the
> infamous Harry Bennett, an armed unit which spied upon workers and
> enforced shop rules including a shop rule against talking (workers weren't
> even allowed to talk while having lunch in the plant cafeteria).  This
> climate  before unionization --  assisted by the introduction of the
> '5 dollar day' (i.e. Ford attracting wage-earners by paying workers
> wage rates significantly above the average wage in industry)  and the
> existence of an industrial reserve army -- made it possible to increase
> the intensity of labor close to the maximum possible.
> PS2:
> > The law of inertia of quotidian social life
> Who first explained this so-called 'law'?

Surprisingly perhaps, I have found no unequivocal enunciation of such a 'law'
in other authors, although, of course, the social friction represented, say, by
tradition has often been noted. So allow me to claim 'discovery' until proven

With such a law of inertia of human living I am aiming at an _ontological_
level, i.e. at the habitual nature of human existence. Aristotle long ago made
the connection between _ethos_ (habit) and _aethos_ (ethic), which is a hint at
the conservative nature of how we regard 'proper' living. The inertia of habit
weighs like lead on all social practices, above all on the social practice of
thinking. We enjoy and are in love with our habits and resist changing them,
especially our habits in thinking. A deep change in thinking is always a change
in the way the historical world comes to light. The time span for fundamental
changes in thinking must be measured in centuries and millennia. Those intent
on asking the deepest questions about what is self-evident are invariably
ridiculed, often reviled and even sometimes put to death.

_-_-_-_-_-_-_-  artefact text and translation _-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_
_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_- made by art  _-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_
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_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_ Dr Michael Eldred -_-_-

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