[OPE-L] More about exploitation

From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@TISCALI.NL)
Date: Wed Jun 20 2007 - 15:37:10 EDT

Well, one of the lasting dillemma's which the competition caused by market-trade brings with it, is the conflicts between free trade and protectionism, which affect all social classes. All I'm really suggesting is, that these conflicts therefore affect also the relations among workers themselves, posing the choice of whether to cooperate or to compete, and how to go about that. 

If you have Latvian workers who will work for 1/4 of the salary of Swedish workers, for example, as I mentioned in a previous post, then you get a conflict between different groups of workers which makes solidarity among them very difficult. The result of the competition may be, that some workers are effectively exploited by others. And this may go together with ideologies of ascriptive discrimination and nationalism etc.

Ever since Marx - who in fact didn't have much personal experience of workingclass life himself - wrote about the exploitation of surplus labour, Marxists have focused on this, but in reality the possible modalities of exploitation are much more variegated among all social classes, which is something that Marx & Engels acknowledge here and there, when they refer to various "swindles". 

Market-trade permits all sorts of exchanges, and therefore permits the burdens of work to be shifted around in all sorts of ways. Typically the presupposition remains the exploitation of surplus labour, but this need not necessarily to be so in principle, insofar as groups of workers are exploited because they are simply arbitrarily differentiated between. 

All this obviously belongs to the "missing book on wage labour" to which Prof. Lebowitz refers. When Marx referred to the exploitation of surplus labour, he referred to a basic *economic relationship* which existed *no matter what forms it took*. But the actual forms that it takes - and many different sorts of labour-contracts are contingently possible - are obviously of critical importance to workers' lives and to their future. By contrast, abstract reference to surplus labour may not be very useful in this context.

How these issues are to be resolved is not always easy - for example, the Dutch SP campaigns against piece wages and casualisation for postal delivery workers, but it also is opposed to the importation of cheap labour from Poland and other East European countries. This could be interpreted as a "protectionist stance".


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