[OPE-L:2889] Re: Value of labour power and real wage

andrew kliman (Andrew_Kliman@msn.com)
Tue, 27 Aug 1996 15:34:49 -0700 (PDT)

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In addition to the objections raised by Gil in ope-l 2878 to what Hans said

(hi, Hans!)

in ope-l 2847, I have another.

Hans wrote: "----------
(Remember, the workers think they are paid for their labor, not their labor

Hans did not present any evidence in support of this claim. From my personal
experience, all the evidence indicates that it isn't correct. For instance, I
once worked in a factory job in which we could punch in up to 7 minutes late
without being docked a quarter-hour's pay, and most of us took advantage of
this when possible. And we all knew exactly why we were doing so: we could
get the same pay without doing as much work. In that job and every other
nonacademic one I've had, people have worked slower or not at all when the
supervisor or foreperson wasn't around, knowing that their pay and especially
their employment wasn't in jeopardy.

For more systematic evidence, workers' strictures against "rate-busting" have
been thoroughly studied and documented in the industrial relations and
industrial psychology literature for a long time. Workers try not to exceed
piece-rate quotas because they have the same "theory" of the determination of
piece-rates as Marx did: the pay per piece will be lowered if they do. They
explain this to newcomers who bust rates and, if explanation fails, they shun
them and perhaps move to more severe disincentives. The struggle against
rate-busting was documented early on by Taylor, who called it "systematic
soldiering." In the 1930s, I believe, a massive study entitled _Output
Restriction Among Unorganized Workers_ discussed this in more depth. I
believe the author's last name was Matthewson.

There's a lot more evidence of a similar nature, such as workers' opposition
to piece-rates.

But even if Hans were correct on this point, I think it is an evasion
continually to blame working people for the survival of capitalism. I suggest
we look closer to home, and seriously rethink the nature of OUR
responsibilities and tasks. Let's examine the impact of the apologetics for
Stalinism most of the Left has engaged in, and at the impact of what Duncan in
a recent post has referred to as its "inversion" of the political implications
of Marxism. (The thread is called "Zapatista encuentro"; Duncan posted
Sunday, and Jerry and I responded yesterday.) And maybe let's do some class
analysis of the Left in order to come to grips with its separation from
working people, and why its notions don't readily win acceptance (e.g., the
notion of a "socialist democracy" that exploits slave labor was advanced on
this list not long ago). What is the proof that it is the consciousness of
the masses that is false, and not the consciousness of most of the Left?

Andrew Kliman