[OPE-L:4747] Re: the determination of real wages---- and a puzzle

Michael A. Lebowit (mlebowit@sfu.ca)
Sat, 12 Apr 1997 14:08:33 -0700 (PDT)

[ show plain text ]

In message Fri, 11 Apr 1997 01:29:49 -0700 (PDT),
Ajit Sinha <ecas@cc.newcastle.edu.au> writes:

> The question is this: did Marx think that the trade union struggles would
> lead to a rising real wages in the future? Michael Lebowitz's position is
> that yes, Marx did think that, but did not discuss this issue in his
> published or even his unpublished writings because he had planned to
> write a whole book on this issue, which he never got around to writing.

Actually, it was Engels' position that trade unions "tend to keep up and
raise the standard of life" and that in "trades without organization of the
work-people," the result is that "the work-people gradually get accustomed
to a lower and lower standard of life. While the length of working day more
and more approaches the possible maximum, the wages come nearer and nearer
to their absolute minimum...." [Both quotes are from 1881 articles
reproduced in W.O. Henderson, Engels: Selected Writings.] My position (which
I think was Marx's) is that wages are determined by class struggle, which
means they can go up or down even with the existence of trade unions (and,
of course, are constrained at the top by the requirements for the
reproduction of capitalist relations of production).

in solidarity,
Michael A. Lebowitz
Economics Department, Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, B.C., Canada V5A 1S6
Office: (604) 291-4669; Office fax: (604) 291-5944
Home: (604) 872-0494; Home fax: (604) 872-0485
Lasqueti Island: (250) 333-8810
e-mail: mlebowit@sfu.ca