(OPE-L) Re: the _struggle_ over the length of the working day

From: gerald_a_levy (gerald_a_levy@MSN.COM)
Date: Tue Jun 10 2003 - 07:53:43 EDT

Re: (OPE-L) the _struggle_ over the length of the workRe Rakesh's post sent Monday, June 09:

> In his reply to Weston, didn't Marx say that nine out of ten worker 
> struggles are in fact defensive in nature? Perhaps my memory fails me. 

Your memory is playing tricks on you.  The quote that you are 
evidently referring to is from Section 5 of XIII ("Main Causes of 
Attempts at Raising Wages or Resisting their Fall") of _Value, 
Price and Profit_  
(see http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1865/value-price-profit/ch03.htm ).  
Marx wrote that "In all the cases I have considered,  and they 
form ninety-nine out of a hundred,  you have seen that a struggle 
for a rise in wages follows only in  the track of *previous* changes ...."   

I would make several points here:

1) Marx is explicitly referring to struggles over wages rather 
than struggles over the length of the working day (although 
a decrease in the length of the working day can be conceived, 
*in part*, as a rise in wages).

2) In noting that these struggles can be viewed in context as 
"reactions of labour against the previous action of capital", 
Marx is simply saying that you have to comprehend a struggle 
over wages in context -- historically. Thus, he warns against 
treating a struggle over wages "independently of all these 
circumstances" (which he itemizes in this paragraph).  

3) I would highlight the paragraph that begins "In their attempts 
at reducing the working day ...." in  Section 3 above.  There he 
emphasizes that in their attempts to "set limits to the tyrannical 
usurpations of capital", workers fulfill "a duty to themselves and 
their race"  and:

"Time is the room of human development. A man who has no free 
time to dispose of, whose whole lifetime, apart from the mere physical 
interruptions by sleep, meals, and so forth, is absorbed by his labor for 
the capitalist, is less than a beast of burden.  He is a mere machine for 
producing Foreign Wealth, broken in body and brutalized in 

Marx then concludes that "the whole history of modern industry shows 
that capital, if not checked,  will recklessly and ruthlessly work to this 
utmost  state of degradation."  

This illustrates the point that I tried to make previously:  class
struggle can not be conceived only in terms of what capital
wants but includes the aspirations of workers  as well.  Workers struggles  
to be more than a "beast of burden"  and to have time so that there is 
"room for human development" have to be comprehended.

In solidarity, Jerry

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