From: gerald_a_levy (gerald_a_levy@MSN.COM)
Date: Thu Jun 12 2003 - 08:45:06 EDT
Re: (OPE-L) Re: the _struggle_ over the length of theRe Rakesh's message dated Wednesday (Was: the _struggle_ over the length of the working day): > 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? On Marx: a) the relation that Marx asserted was *justified empirically*: i.e. in 99 out of 100 cases. The significance of this becomes clearer below when I go on to describe how most wage struggles have changed in form since Marx's day. b) If one views class struggle as a *strategic* process, then it is of course true -- *tautologically* -- that every strategic move is a response to previous actions as well as a move which has the offensive goal in sight. From this perspective, the belief that wage struggles are defensive responses is simply a recognition that those struggles have to be comprehended historically in context. I.e. these struggles do not "fall from the sky" but instead are the outcome of a historical process in which both the "encroachments of capital" and the perceived needs of workers have to be comprehended. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- On the issue itself (namely, whether wage struggles are primarily "defensive" struggles against the "encroachments of capital"): There *are* some wage struggles which seek to maintain the real wage of workers against the "encroachments of capital." Some instances that come to mind include: -- struggles by workers in inflationary periods for cost-of-living agreements that automatically increase wages following an increase in inflation. -- struggles to preserve existing wage (and benefit) levels against demands by capitalists for "givebacks" (as we saw in the US in the 1980's fight against the "concessions movement"). What has to be comprehended, though, to answer the question in the subject line is that wage struggles are overwhelmingly *union struggles*. Placed within the context of collective bargaining, on what does the success of a wage struggle depend? Put simply, the success of wage struggles depends on the solidarity and militancy of workers. Because capital can attempt to divide workers by threatening e.g. to bring in scabs, to replace workers with robots, to relocate the production process to another region or nation, etc. this means, though, that the success of many wage struggles depends not *only* on the solidarity and militancy of workers employed by an individual capitalist firm but on the solidarity and militancy of workers employed in different crafts and industries, by different employers, and in different regions and nations. The lack of a strong, solid, and militant international solidarity movement (not surprising given the support for "labor-management cooperation" by most trade union "leaders" internationally) constitutes a barrier to the expansion of wage gains. Placed within the context of *union* members fighting wage struggles, one must comprehend *why* workers want increased wages. Yes, of course, workers *need* wage gains in order to protect their standard of living, but they also *want* actual wage gains where there are increases in real wages. Why? The want a higher standard of living. They want, even though there are limits to how far this goal can be achieved under capitalism, the "good life." They, influenced by corporate advertising, want more -- and better (and often this means more expensive) -- commodities. They might want a better place to live. Those workers with families often fight tenaciously in wage struggles "por los ninos." I.e. they fight today in the hope that their children will have better lives. None of this can be comprehended if we focus *only* on the wants and needs of capital. Once we recognize that workers also have wants and needs, we can comprehend why workers' struggles for increased wages (and other goals) are not primarily or only "defensive" struggles. The proposition that "99 out of 100" struggles for higher wages are struggles against the "encroachments of capital" can not be sustained empirically or historically. Indeed, as unionization has spread to a great extent since Marx's time, the extent to which workers struggle *for increased real wages* has greatly expanded. (NB: I do not mean to prioritize wage struggles above. Struggles by workers for many other objectives have become increasingly important. I am _only_ focusing on wage struggles here because I am responding to your comments and questions about this particular form of class struggle.) The last part of your post is interesting and worthy of response, but I am tiring and the above is enough for now (with the exception of the PS). In solidarity, Jerry PS: > 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 1970s. * I'll let John or Alberto reply, if they wish, to the above. > I think John H refers to this as a Copernican breakthrough-- <snip, JL> * What is the exact reference that John made to a "Copernican breakthrough"?
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