[OPE-L:3379] RE: slave labour conditions

riccardo bellofiore (bellofio@cisi.unito.it)
Sun, 13 Oct 1996 01:59:02 -0700 (PDT)

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At 3:41 12-10-1996, Massimo De Angelis wrote:
>For Marx the latter [the capitalist mode of production] is not defined by
>the >existence of wages, but by the
>organization of the social system around a simple principle
>boundless drive for accumulation. The wage form is one way to deal
>with workers needs of reproduction, but is not the only one. With
>v=0 people could for example be fed directly without the monetary
>mediation, as in prison and slave camps. The point is anyway that even is
>v is different than 0, labour is still free. Not only because
>sv is positive, but also because of the social cooperation of
>labour which, as I remember, Marx defines as giving a free
>gift to the capitalists. To define v=0 as "free labour" is
>to mystify the essential nature of "free labour" in capitalism,
>which is NOT defined by the wage. It seems to me that this opposition
>between Paul and Andrew is not so much sterile, but reflecting
>a crucial difference between opposite ways to apprehend
>the capitalist world.

This points raised by Massimo are interesting in themselves, and would
benefit from a more careful distinction between labour power and living
labour; as well as a clearer explanation of what Maarx means by "free

Of course, for the slave there does not seem to be any necessary labour,
but this is defintely a *false* appearance.

Let me remind you of this Marx's quote:

"In *slave labour*, even the part of the working day in which the slave is
only rreplacing the value of his own means of subsistence, in which he
therefore actually works for himself alone, appears as labour for his
master. All his labour appears as unpaid labour. *In wage labour*, on the
contrary, even surpus labour, or unpaid labour, appears as paid. In the one
case, the property-rlatio conceals *the slave's labour for himself*; in the
other case the money-relation conceals *the uncompensated labour of the
wage-labourer*". (Capital I, Penguin ed., p. 680: the Italian translation
has year for "uncompensated" rather "done freely": I cannot check the
German. I have reintroduced Marx's italics, which disappeared in the
Penguin edition).

I think Massimo is referring to the fact that once labour power is bought,
living labour is in a sense "free" - as always, when I buy an apple as a
commodity I may "freely" decide to "exploit" its use value, to eat it or
not. I would guess the capitalist (or, for that matter, the slave owner)
will let the worker work, and work more than the necessary labour 8-). BTW:
may be the boundless drive for accumulation in capitalism is not unrelated
to the fact that workers there are free citizens - with all the limits of
bourgeois freedom.

Regarding the social cooperation of labour as a free gift to the capitalist
class, let me quote again fully Marx - I think it is the same place to
which Massimo is referring to:

"Being independent of each other, the workers are isolated. They enter into
relations with the capitalist, but not with each other. Their cooperation
only begins with the labour process, but by then they have ceased to
belong to themselves. On entering the labour process they are incorporated
into capital. As cooperators, as members of a working mechanism, they
merely form a particular mode of existence of capital. Hence *the
productive power developed by the worker socially is the productive power
of capital*. The socially productive power power of labour develops as a
free gift to apital whenever the workers are placed under certain
conditions, and it is capital which places them under these conditions.
Because this power [Note:Marx is talking of the *productive power* of
labour] costs capital nothing, while in the other hand it is not developed
by the worker until his labour itself belongs to capital, it appears as a
power which capital possesses *by its nature* - a productive power
*inherent* in capital"(Capital I, Penguin ed., p. 451. I have reintroduced
Marx's italics, which disappeared in the Penguin edition).

In the last phrase, the "appears" refers to a *necessary* appearance, not -
too simply - to a false appearance: (i) since capital pays workers'
individual labour power; (ii) since living labour is going on when workers
"have ceased to belong to themselves"; (iii) and since living labour is
both producing value (in the valorization process) and use value (in the
labour process), the use value higher productivity of labour belongs to


Riccardo Bellofiore e-mail: bellofio@cisi.unito.it
Department of Economics Tel: (39) -35- 277505 (direct)
University of Bergamo (39) -35- 277501 (dept.)
Piazza Rosate, 2 (39) -11- 5819619 (home)
I-24129 Bergamo Fax: (39) -35- 249975