[OPE-L:191] RE: the book on wage labor

Paul Zarembka (ECOPAULZ@ubvms.cc.buffalo.edu)
Mon, 2 Oct 1995 10:57:11 -0700

[ show plain text ]

Michael, in replying to Tony Smith you make some points I don't
understand or else think I disagree with:

On Sun, 1 Oct 1995, Michael A. Lebowitz wrote:

> ...there is no discussion in CAPITAL about the struggle for higher
> wages. Marx said over and over again that the reason was that this was a
> subject for the book on wages. Further,Marx was explicit in several places as
> to why he would assume the standard of necessity constant in CAPITAL (as he
> did)--- the subject of that book was to understand the nature of capital.
> Eg., in the Economic Mss of 1861-3 (in the Collected Works, Vol. 30,pp 44-5):
> .... All questions
> relating to [wages] as not a given but a variable magnitude belong to the
> investigation of wage labour in particular and do not touch its general
> relation to capital.

For the moment take as given that your analysis of Capital is correct.
What would a book of wages (exchange value of labor power) discuss. What
would be the difference from discussing the histories of
different labor movements (or lack thereof). Presumably you want to develop
"theory", but please give me some idea of what that theory might be.

> .... I could go on-- most of this is in [M.L.'s] Ch 5, but let me just
> return to a point I made earlier: once you no longer treat necessary needs,
> the standard of necessity as fixed and given, once you are prepared to
> entertain variations in the level of the necessaries of life (which Marx
> intended for the book on wage-labour, cf Vol I,1068-9), then you can no
> longer make the argument that increases in productivity in the production
> of those necessaries in themselves lead to a fall in VLP! So, where's the
> case for relative surplus value?!

Production of relative surplus value is struggle on the part of capital
to devalue the exchange value of labor power. That struggle does not go
away because workers are also struggling over the level of necessaries.

> ... If one sees, as I do, the continued
> existence of capitalism not as the result of its great technical feats but,
> rather, as the failure of workers (which means the failure of
> revolutionaries) to comprehend the nature of capital, then perhaps there
> has been insufficient consideration from the side of workers.

Huh, capitalism continues to exist because of "the failure of workers (...
revolutionaries) to comprehend the nature of capital"?! Sounds pretty
idealistic to me. If only our theory were better, we'd have socialism?
What about guns? Aren't you expecting too much from the book on wages.
[Maybe you'll respond that I am quoting you too literally; I hope so.]

> ... we need the book on wage-labour as a premise in order to
> explore the nature of demands that workers place upon the state. This is
> what I've attempted in the essay, "Situating the Capitalist State" that I
> mentioned earlier--- ie., what happens when we recognise that Marx's book
> on the capitalist state was not to follow CAPITAL (so much for the capital-
> logic folks!) but the book on wage-labour.

Unlike your response to my earlier question to you, it sounds to me like
you really want us to work first of the book on wage labor. It seems so
important to you.

Paul Zarembka