[OPE-L:4655] Re: real wages and the rate of surplus value

Ajit Sinh (ecas@cc.newcastle.edu.au)
Mon, 7 Apr 1997 02:24:08 -0700 (PDT)

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At 06:14 AM 4/3/97 -0800, Jerry Levy wrote:

>An important explanation of the concept of subsistence wages and the role
>of TRADE UNIONS appears in the "Results of the Immediate Process of
>Production (Vol. 1, Penguin ed, pp. 1068-71). For example, he writes:
>"wages enter into his calculations as a *given value*. On the other hand,
>the *value of labour-power* constitutes the conscious and explicit
>foundation of the *trade unions*, whose importance for the English working
>class can scarcely be overestimated. The *trade unions* aim at nothing
>less than to prevent the *reduction of wages* below the level that is
>traditionally maintained in the various branches of industry. That is to
>say, they wish to prevent the *price* of labour-power from falling below
>its *value." Shortly afterwards he writes, "The workers *combine* in
>order to achieve *equality* of a sort with the capitalist in their
>*contract concerning the sale of their labour*. This is the *rationale*
>(the logical basis) of the *trade unions*" and "For this reason the unions
>never allow their members to work for *less* than this minimum. They are
>the insurance societies formed by the workers themselves."
>Although the importance of trade unions for the English working-class "can
>scarcely be overestimated", where is this subject developed further in

Are you picking up from where Mike Lebowitz left? You are most welcome!
However, the passage you have quoted from 'Resultate' confirms exactly my
point rather than Mike's or yours. Nowhere Marx indicates that trade union
struggles would succeed in raising the real wages over a secular time
period. All these points are also made in the 1865 Lecture. So there is
nothing new here which either Mike Lebowitz or I did not know. By the way,
where did Marx say that he was going to write 'a history of trade union
movement in England'? Moreover, I have never said that Marx considered trade
unions to be utterly useless institutions. The whole 1865 Lecture is an
attempt to argue for an important historical role of trade unions. My
arguments are made about certain particular claims and hasty conclusions
drawn from them.
>> Wages, and here by wage I mean a life style (a standard of
>> living) for a working family, is determined by a host of enviorenmental,
>> cultural, and historical factors. These factors do change--as every thing in
>> the universe does-- but they change very slowly and can be taken as given or
>> stable when considering prices and profits etc., which are not as stable.
>Wages *can* change slowly, yet -- during certain periods -- they can *also*
>change rapidly. Similarly, the "environmental, cultural, and historical
>factors" can change rapidly (as we, in some ways, have seen in our own
>lives, e.g. the role of the womens' movement). What is important, I
>believe, is that there is room in the theory for the self-activity of
>workers to shape, re-shape, and alter (within limits) the "factors."

Where is women's movement discussed by Marx? Let us not confuse issues. Are
we talking about Marx's writings or we talking about contemporary western
culture? I thought we were discussing Marx's writings, particularly from
1861 onwords. The questions we are dealing with relates to 'normal'
situations within capitalist economies and not abnormal or revolutionary
>> [...] There is a general secular downward trend of
>> the standard of living though. This happens because of the nature of
>> capitalist accumulation, which keeps increasing the ratio of unemployed to
>> employed of the working population.
>This argument _might_ be able to be maintained if we consider the rate of
>growth of the industrial reserve army on a global level ( ... but, I have
>my doubts ...). Yet, as Marx makes clear in his drafts of a reply to Vera
>Zasulich, he was referring to the historical experience of "*the countries
>of Western Europe*" when referring to the "historical inevitability" of
>the expropriation of the agricultural producer.
>Has the relative surplus population in these countries of Western Europe
>exhibited a secular trend upwards in the XX century? Has there been a
>secular trend for real wages to decrease in these countries during this
>century? I think not.

Again you are confusing Marx's writings with contemporary western world.
Marx could be wrong about his historical predictions. Did I ever deny that?
No. We were only talking about a book. And it is important to keep them
>Marx may have expected otherwise (as in the Vol. 1, Ch. 25 "scenario").
>Yet, it hasn't quite worked out like that, has it?

So what's your point?
>> There is always a great resistence when
>> peoples standard of living is pushed down. We become quite used to our life
>> style. It cannot be changes on daily or yearly basis, otherwise we won't be
>> able to call it a life style.
>This is probably true _ordinarily_. Yet, have we not seen periods in our
>lives when what we consider a "life style" *has* changed on a yearly or
>multi-yearly basis?

In the years of wars and famines etc. But they are by definition not normal
>> So what? They also take the form of commodity capital. What is your
>> point here?
>My point is that v, c, and s must all necessarily take a monetary form due
>to the nature of capitalist production and reproduction.

So what? They also take form of commodity capital. Why not have production
of commodities by means of commodities on that basis?
>> The question is: can money measure objective things in principle like
>> how much of work you do for yourself and how much for others consistently?
>The value of money can change, but these "objective things" must take a
>monetary form for capitalist production to continue.

What's your point Jerry? You have to come up with some arguments.
>> I have no idea what this first transformation problem is about. In the
>> prices of production system: prices and rate of profit are determined
>> simultaneously, ie. it is one and the same movement that brings about both
>> the determinations. Of course, with the aid of standard commodity you could
>> know the rate of profit without knowing the prices, but that's a different
>> thing.
>I used quote marks ["..."] around the "first transformation problem" for a
>purpose, i.e. to differentiate it from what has become known as the
>"transformation problem." I was referring to the subject of Ch. 24: "The
>Transformation of Surplus-Value into Capital" (although, the subject of
>Ch. 19 might be claimed to be the "first transformation problem"). The
>"problem" has a couple of dimensions: (1) for this transformation to
>occur, the potential value embodied within the potential commodities
>must be actualized through exchange, i.e. a precondition of accumulation
>is that capitalists must sell their potential commodities on the market in
>exchange for *money* since they then need this money to purchase c + v.
>(Of course, within the context of Ch. 24 this does not seem to be a
>problem since it is assumed that commodity values will be realized. Yet,
>this is a logical pre-condition for accumulation); (2) capitalists then
>advance *money-capital* for the purchase of c + v in advance (or, if you
>prefer, at the start of) the next period of production (pace Paul C).
>Thus, the commodity-form itself mandates that c + v take a monetary form
>for s to be converted into capital. Capitalist consumption, thus, can
>affect the *future* production of value and s since any amount of
>unproductive consumption of s by capitalists means that less will be left
>over for productive investment [in c + v]. That is, at the end of any
>period after realization, capitalists have a certain quantum of money
>that can be used for individual consumption by capitalists and/or
>productive investment [in c + v]. Unless money-capital is advanced on an
>expanded scale for increased c + v, how can accumulation take place? To
>coin a phrase: money mastters.

All your arguments seem to be a simple statement that capitalism cannot
function without money. Now, who in the world has denied that point. I, for
sure, have never did that. You need to come up with arguments against the
theoretical problems I have raised regarding the measurement of 'values' or
'labor contents' by arbitrary money-commodity. You haven't done that. As far
as your questions regarding whether goods are sold or not is concerned. Keep
in mind that Marx distinguishes between 'market prices' and prices of
production. Prices of productions are the gravitational points around which
the 'market prices' are supposed to fluctuate. The fluctualtions would bring
about the allocation of labor such that realization problem would vanish at
the prices of production. This is the "law" part of the 'law of value'.

Cheers, ajit sinha