[OPE-L:3335] Re: labour-power shortages and Martians

Gerald Lev (glevy@pratt.edu)
Thu, 10 Oct 1996 05:08:35 -0700 (PDT)

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Paul C wrote in [OPE-L:3332]:

> I think that you could have said much the same about London in the
> 1840s and even latter, if Mayhews Life and Labour of the London Poor,
> is anything to go by. During this phase of capitalist development
> real wages tend to decline because the rate of accumulation of capital may
> fall short of the growth of the employable population. But as Marx wrote,
> de te fabula natur, the lesson of history is that this stage is temporary.

That was then. Now is now. I see no reason to assume that since there is a
growth of potential wage-earners, that capitalist demand for labour-power
will grow such that those who previously were agricultural producers in
the countryside *will* now become wage-workers in the city. Some will,
some won't.

Are you really convinced that over the long-term those *millions* in Latin
America and elsewhere, who are petty-commodity producers in urban areas,
will become proletarians? If so, why? BTW, I'd be interested in hearing
what Alejandro VB (in Mexico), Alejandro R (in Bolivia -- but currently
having Net problems), and Maria and Nelson (in Brazil) think about this
process. Comments from others are, of course, welcome as well.

> Best estimates of population growth show world population leveling off
> at around 10 billion in about 50 years time ( New Scientist, last week
> reporting latest UN estimates ).
> As Marxists we must remember to take the long view of history.

Of course, we should take the long view, but I am very suspicious of
long-term *predictive models*. What are the assumptions and parameters of
the model? As Marxists, we shouldn't automatically accept UN estimates.

> You cited conditions prior to the stabilisation of the proletarian
> population. Once this happens - around the end of the last century in
> Britain - the social position of the labouring classes improves.

Again: simply because the supply of potential wage-earners increases,
there is no necessary mechanism internal to the nature of the capital
accumulation process which will guarantee that the demand for labour-power
will grow to the same extent.

> We must not be so blinded by the temporary effects produced by the
> recent rapid spread of capitalism as to forget what its future
> trajectory will be.

Ah ... but I don't know what the "future trajectory [of capitalism] will
be." It seems to me that more than one future scenario is possible.

In Solidarity,