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

From: Rakesh Bhandari (rakeshb@STANFORD.EDU)
Date: Thu Jun 12 2003 - 19:05:08 EDT

Jerry wrote:

>The point remains that Marx did _not_ write that struggles over
>the length of the working day can be conceived as "defensive"
>struggles.  And -- more to the point -- regardless of what Marx
>did or did not write,  struggles over the length of the working
>day are expressions in part of the aspirations of the working class
>for additional leisure time which collide with the drive by
>capital to -- wherever possible -- increase absolute surplus value.
>To conceive one-sidedly of such struggles as primarily "defensive"
>fails to grasp what workers are fighting *for*.

What happens if the struggle to reduce the working day derives from
the attempt to defend one's immediate health or one's ability to show
up to work consistently enough that she is not fired? Wouldn't that
be a defensive battle? And what if capitalists found out that they
could actually sweat more surplus labor time out of replenished
working class in a shorter working day?

Perhaps the more interesting question concerns what we are to make of
France's recent reduction of the working week. But wasn't the
struggle here motivated (at least as we were told) to reduce the risk
which any one individual faced of unemployment? I don't see what's
wrong with a one sided conception of most struggles to reduce the
working day as 'defensive', though I'll grant that this would not be
the best characterization in 99 out of 100 cases.

>Related struggles by workers -- e.g. for increased vacation time per
>year, for pension plans, for early retirement, etc. -- which are fought
>either through the collective bargaining process or as social movements
>which demand public entitlements by the state can also not be
>comprehended merely as defensive "reactions" to the "previous
>action" and "encroachments of capital."    To treat such struggles
>as if they were in general struggles against "givebacks" is, once
>again, to miss the concrete goal that workers are struggling *for*.

But why aren't these defensive struggles to ensure that the wage
(direct and social) does not fall below the value of labor power?

Yours, Rakesh

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