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

From: Rakesh Bhandari (rakeshb@STANFORD.EDU)
Date: Wed Jun 11 2003 - 17:41:38 EDT

>Your memory, on Monday, had Marx writing that in nine out of ten cases
>"workers struggles are in fact defensive."  The paragraph that you cited
>does *not* deal with workers' struggles in general -- *or* the specific issue
>under discussion in this thread, namely,  struggles over the length of
>the working day -- but _only_ with struggles for increased wages. It
>would be a very big mistake, imo, to conceive of workers' struggles as
>_only_ struggles over increased wages.

Jerry, are you saying that Marx did conceive of wage struggles as, if
not defensive, then as  responses to the previous action and
enroachment of capital?

Of course the autonomist school and its offshoots try to turn the
picture upside down by conceiving of the movement of capital as a
defensive response to previous action and encroachments of an
autonomous working class on the ruling class. In some ways, it seems
to be a radicalization of the wage squeeze theories of crisis in the

I think John H refers to this as a Copernican breakthrough--don't
forget the other one effected by TSS!

>Again: Marx didn't claim that workers' struggles in general are defensive
>in nature.

So you are implicitly agreeing that Marx did say that wage struggles
are generally defensive in nature?

But it seems to me that Marx's logic proceeds as such

1. Workers can at best slow down the increase in the rate of exploitation.
2. They can do this by uniting and fighting for real wage gains
and/or reductions in the working day.
3. They are forced to so fight in order to win compensation for the
intensification of the machine-based production process and for the
increasingly severe business cycle concomittant with advanced
4. Workers may also fight for real wage gains and/or reductions in
the working day because they have developed autonomous needs which
require both leisure time and increased income to satisfy.

The point is that Marx downplays 4 (hence the need for a work such as
Michael Lebowitz's) and usually conceives of worker resistance as a
defensive action as noted in 3. In fact Marx seems to have thought
that defensive struggles to attenuate the rise in the rate of
exploitation so that the wage would not fall below the value of labor
power  would force the working class to attempt a political assault
on the rule of capital. The working class is envisioned as being
forced upon to make a revolution  in order to satisfy extant needs;
it is not understood as desiring a revolution to meet new needs.

So Marx is a conservative because he seems to be implying that a
revolution is only justified once capitalism interferes with the
satisfying of just those needs that could once be met within the
system. But capital has not proven to be regressive over thelong term
in that sense.

The Marxian critique has thus long been irrelevant in advanced
capitalist countries because it provides little  help in the
development of those new needs (an integrated relationship with
nature and humanity) which not only cannot be satified through the
expansion of the commodity system but also require a revolution
against the rule of capital itself.

Yet Marxists with their fetishization of the productive forces and
large scale enterprise alienate themselves from those fighting for
open space and the future of the earth, struggling to bring art and
music to the schools, and seeking community in small and local
spaces. However, it is these  people who are developing the needs
which will actually lead to a revolution against the rule of capital;
the vanguard is not formed by those workers trying to keep the wage
at the value of the labor power, however that it is defined.

The time go beyond Marx is long past; perhaps former OPE-L'er James
O'Connor has salvaged what remains important from Marx.  For the
development of revolutionary new needs, Marx's 1844 Mss may provide
some help, but there is little of relevance in Marx's so called
scientific work.

So I don't lay this logic out in defense of Marx. Perhaps I have made
a caricature of him or burdened him with the caricatures drawn by his
Second International epigoni?!

Yours, Rakesh

>  > as responses to the previous actions and encroachments of
>  > capital in order to embolden oppressed who would otherwise be fearful of
>  > actually offending the powers that be. Perhaps Marx worked around rather
>  > than assaulted the inhibitions of the oppressed who could at best
>see themselves
>  > defending but never offending their social superiors?
>  > Perhaps Marx is a conservative, and theorists like John Holloway and
>  > Michael Lebowitz are developing a more uninhibited radicalism.
>Marx wasn't a conservative but he may have had a 19th Century
>belief that if  workers are portrayed as victims then the self-awareness of
>workers as victims will help mobilize and empower them.  Psychology,
>Social and otherwise --  it should be recalled -- was in its infancy when
>Marx was alive.
>In solidarity, Jerry

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