[OPE-L:107] [OPE-L:343] Re: Re: working-class savings

Gerald Levy (glevy@pratt.edu)
Wed, 18 Nov 1998 06:42:33 -0500 (EST)

Thanks for the reference, Ajit. However, when you write --

> <snip> All these variables are determined in the
> historical class struggle. Marx's point is not that an individual worker
> cannot save at any given point in time. His basic point is that for the
> working class as a whole there cannot be persistent positive saving, i.e.
> the working class cannot go on bequeathing property from one generation to
> another. If the working class as a whole could go on saving persistently,
> then, in the long run, they would not remain the propertyless proletariats,
> and the whole basis of the capitalist mode of production would collapse.
> Thus, the assumption that workers consume all the wages is a sound
> assumption in Marx's theoretical system.

I think you misunderstand my question(s). I was not asking whether Marx
assumed that workers' savings = -0-. I was asking, instead, for any
references written by Marxists in which workers' savings were > -0-.

You raise the question of whether, over the long-run, the inheritance of
workers' savings can lead to a change in class membership. I think you
raise a valid point, *but* workers' savings doesn't have to be large
enough per family or a large amount of inheritance/family for it to be
important for the macroeconomy. After all, we're talking about savings
by 80% (or so) of families. Even if that doesn't break-down to much money
per family in relationship to savings per bourgeois family, the total
amount saved would be important to the macroeconomy. Also, it would be
important to the individual working-class families. Suppose a significant
percentage of an individual working-class family income (let's say 20%) is
derived from interest. Under those circumstances then if they are
receiving less interest with the same amount saved, then their total
income has gone down, ceteris paribus. Before someone considers this to
be a marginal case, consider the elderly who in many countries have over
the course of a lifetime saved a substantial amount of money. Indeed, in
many countries they *have* to save some money to be able to pay for
medical bills, nursing, housing, and burial when they are older. In Japan,
for instance, there aren't generally pensions and instead a worker is
given a one-time "golden parachute" of sorts (in practice, this generally
means that the elderly family members often become more reliant on their
children or other relatives). Thus, by the time many (most?) of these
former workers die their savings will have either been greatly eroded or
completely disappeared. There isn't therefore generally what you call
"persistent positive saving" (as you define it above).

Thus, on the level of concretion where we are examining an advanced
capitalist economy in the period of late capitalism, we have to consider
the effect of savings by working-class families. This would be the case
regardless of what Marx wrote or did not write. Do you agree?

In solidarity, Jerry