[OPE-L:3386] RE: slave labour conditions

andrew kliman (Andrew_Kliman@msn.com)
Sun, 13 Oct 1996 10:49:49 -0700 (PDT)

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A response to Massimo's ope-l 3370.

I agree with most of what Massimo writes. All except one thing: "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
mediation, as in prison and slave camps."

Actually, I even agree with both sentences individually. But taken together,
they imply that if the working class were not reproduced through the wage
form, then v would equal 0. Yet the wage form is, precisely, only a
phenomenal form of appearance of variable capital, and variable capital is the
advance made by capital to reproduce labor-power. Thus, as long as capital is
advancing value to reproduce labor-power (i.e., unless workers live on air),
variable capital is greater than zero, whatever may be the form of appearance
of the relation. Stalin, for instance, had to feed the slaves in his slave
labor camps and to try to get the highest rate of return possible on his total
investment, of which their food was a part. Even though their "wages" were
zero, the cost of reproducing them, the price of their labor-power, was not,
and so variable capital was not.

Andrew Kliman