[OPE-L:1958] Re: Necessity of absolute surplus value

Paul Zarembka (ecopaulz@ubvms.cc.buffalo.edu)
Thu, 25 Apr 1996 10:54:41 -0700

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On Thu, 25 Apr 1996, Paul Cockshott wrote:

> Why do I say absolute surplus value is necessary but
> relative is not?
> Absolute surplus value refers to the static fact that the
> working day is longer than the amount of labour
> currently required to produce the wage.

This is not correct. Production of Abs. S. V. is a STRUGGLE by capital
to get more. The length of the working day is a fight, not a "static
fact". Cf. Chapter 10, "The Working-Day" which is rivetted by discussion
of struggle. See particularly, the last (great) paragraph of the first

> Relative surplus value refers to changes in the value
> of the wage due to technical advances. This is not
> a precondition, since simple reproduction at the existing
> value of the real wage is a possibility.

But capitalists will never give up on this possibility--thus the use of
the term necessity. At times they may not succeed, but that is not the

> There is in principle a third mechanism, that Marx out
> of theoretical 'charity' downplayed, absolute reductions
> in the real wage.
> If we observe the establishment of capitalism in
> Russia over the last few years, its initial precondition
> was to transfer a portion of the social income that formerly
> accrued to workers in the form of wages and, equally importantly,
> benefits in kind, into profit. This was done by establishing
> absolute surplus value:
> a) A very substantial reduction in real wages
> b) Reducing the work force in factories, so that each worker
> had to perform more labour daily, the level of technology
> remaining either unchanged, or, more usually actually regressing.
> My concern is that by asserting the necessity of relative
> surplus value we would be grossly overestimating the progressive
> potential of capitalist industry.

You are right for us not to only focus on success, but also failures
(including the environmental impacts of capitalist technology). This
could lead us into a discussion of the social basis of tecnological
change but I think we have enough to chew on for the moment.

Paul Z.