[OPE-L:4759] Re: the determination of real wages---- and a puzzle

Ajit Sinh (ecas@cc.newcastle.edu.au)
Mon, 14 Apr 1997 04:37:31 -0700 (PDT)

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At 02:54 PM 4/13/97 -0700, you wrote:
>In message Sat, 12 Apr 1997 14:48:39 -0700 (PDT),
> Michael Perelman <michael@ecst.csuchico.edu> writes:
>>I wonder if anyone
>> would like to comment on the following passage?:
>> Writing of the Preston strike in 1853, he took note of the demand by the
>> London Times that the workers behave more respectfully, Marx
>> responded: Now, what did the strikes prove, if not that the workmen
>> preferred applying a mode of their own of testing the proportion of the
>> supply to the demand rather than to trust to the interested assurances
>> of their employers? Under certain circumstances, there is for the
>> workman no other measure of
>> ascertaining whether he is or is not paid the actual market value of his
>> labour, but to strike or to threaten to do so. The constant success of
>> these strikes [earlier in 1853] while it generalized them all over the
>> country, was the best proof of their legitimacy, and their rapid
>> succession in the same branch of trade, by the same 'hands', claiming
>> fresh advances, fully proved that according to supply and demand the
>> work-people had long been entitled to a rise of wages which was merely
>> kept from them on account of their being ignorant of the state of the
>> labor market. [Marx 1853d, pp. 332-33; also cited in Dutton and King
>> 1981]
> I think Marx was putting them on. It can't be treated as a statement about
>the value of labour-power because it would suggest that the latter was equal
>to the maximum capitalists are capable of paying and remaining profitable---
>regardless of any relation to the needs customarily satisfied by workers.
> cheers,
> mike

Actually, this theme is repeated in the 1865 Lecture. Marx's position seems
to be consistent on this. Without trade unions, he thinks, workers
individually would not be able to raise the wages even during the boom
periods, and definitely not resist a fall during the slump. Thus trade
unions play an essential part in the market fluctuations of wages.

Cheers, ajit sinha
>Michael A. Lebowitz
>Economics Department, Simon Fraser University
>Burnaby, B.C., Canada V5A 1S6
>Office: (604) 291-4669; Office fax: (604) 291-5944
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