[OPE-L:8412] Re: unproductive labour, exploitation, expropriation

From: Michael Eldred (artefact@t-online.de)
Date: Thu Jan 30 2003 - 16:54:29 EST


Cologne 30-Jan-2003

Re: [OPE-L:8375]

Paul Cockshott schrieb Wed, 22 Jan 2003 22:08:08 +0000:

> Paul Bullock wrote:
>
> > This exchange  perhaps needs to reflect on the fact that the distinction
> > between productive and unproductive labour is made in order to deepen our
> > understanding of the accumulation process, to provide an objective analysis,
> > and so provide us with the basis for uniting all workers against capital
> > ( the productive worker and his unproductive bank working sister). That
> > capital bribes a section of its key workers (both productive and
> > unproductive) , and the imperialist states have even more to bribe more of
> > HQ workers with,  is an issue of political reality. It requires an
> > understanding of the nature and changes in the labour aristocracy.  That is
> > the locus of  political discussion, which cannot possibly fall back on some
> > bizarre notion that 'unproductive' workers are somehow not really 'workers'
> > or  automatically actively pro-capitalist!!
> >
> > Paul Bullock
>
> One has to be cautious not to mistake ones wishes for reality. It would
> be nice if all employees had, underneath it all, a common interest, but
> I dont think we can assume this.
>
> I think that there are real contradictions between the working class
> interest in general and certain groups of employees. In particular:
>
> 1. Employees whose income is above the value they create are
>     recipients of surplus value, as such they are subsidised by others
>     and have a built in interest in preserving this position.

I.e. assuming that there is such a thing as labour-value.

> 2. Employees who are paid out of surplus value, rent, or profits
>     are dependent on the contiunity of these income streams and
>     as such have interests opposed to productive workers.
>
> This is brought our by the question Gerry asked earlier When citing
> me saying
> > You should not wish for the impossible. You have to be able
> > to formulate a program that will unite a sufficiently broad
> > coalition to be effective, but if you try to accommodate the
> > interests of the financial sector employees you end up with
> > Tony Blair's version of socialism.
> He asked
> "As for the first part of your sentence above: what -- in broad
> outline -- would such a program be from your perspective?"
>
> Well I think that the broad outlines of a socialist program are
> contained in the late 19th and early 20th century social democratic
> programs. I will give 3 items from these that I take to be
> central, but first I will try to give some justification for them.
>
> I take the key principle of political strategy to be the need to
> offer the greatest potential gain to the greatest number of people.
> If one is to advocate a radical change in property relations it
> has to be one that the majority can see clear and immediate
> benefits from.
>
> One can show with very general statistical arguments that in societies
> in which the median income is substantially below the mean income,
> then the more radically egalitarian ones policy, the more people
> will benefit. Similarly with property redistribution. You have to appeal
> to the immediate self interest of people.

This is indeed also a principle of bourgeois electioneering -- albeit within other
ground-rules for furthering self-interest.

> I thus see two old policies that came out of the social democratic debates
> as central
>
> 1. The adoption of a system of uniform hourly payment for the entire working
>     population. This is essentially what Marx advocates in Critique of the
>     Gotha program, but there it is specified in terms of labour tokens following
>
>     Owen. Since the introduction of these would take at a minimum 2 to 3 years
>     one would have to have an intermediate period of uniform payment in
>     money terms. The advantage of this is that the new pay rate can be
>     put forward in socialist propaganda in a clear and simple way. It will be
>     understood by people and the overwhelming majority of the working population
>     would benefit.
>
>     I have done the calculations a couple of times for the UK and once for the
>     USA, and whilst the figures date rapidly, they consistently show that only
>     the top quartile of male non-manual workers would lose out. Every other
>     category of employees would gain.

The Gewinnst is the gathering of opportunities for gain.

> 2. One should promise an immediate cancelation of all debts as soon as
>     a socialist government comes to power.

The socialist government would also have to mop up the blood on the streets, for
such a proposal radically alters the rules of play of the Gewinnst.

>     Since the majority of the population today are aggregate net debtors on
>     credit cards, home loans etc, the mass of the population will benefit.

Again: The Gewinnst as a way of thinking is the gathering of opportunities for gain,
here with a utilitarian bent amounting to tyranny of the majority.

>     The key sector to loose out would be pensioners in reciept of funded
>     pension schemes. One would have to couple the cancelation of debts with
>     a substantial upgrade of the state pension in countries like the UK. It
> would
>     be less necessary in countries like Germany.
>
> 3. As a political offer I think one should promise the replacement of
> parliamentary
>     government by direct legislation by the people. This was advocated by the
>     rank  and file of the SPD and opposed by Kautsky and Engels, but on this
>     I think the rank and file were right.
>
> It is worth noting that the cancelation of debt would of course do to the
> financial services industry what Thatcher did to the mining industry. At this
> point the conflict of interest between those employed in financial services and
> other employees would become apparent.
>
> It should be noted that one advantage of the Sraffian definition of productive
> labour, is that state employees whose work goes into the reproduction of the
> working classs are part of the Basic Sector and hence productive - both under
> socialism and under capitalism. It shows that there is a continuity of interest
> between for example nurses in public hospitals and industrial workers.
>
> As to Gerry's other question
>
> > And the other state employees might still be won over to socialism.
> > Thus,  soldiers and sailors tend to be nationalistic and conservative.
> > Yet, every successful revolution has involved winning over a segment
> > of  that social layer or at least getting them to step aside at a critical
> > moment and not open fire on other workers.  Remember the "Aurora"
> > and the role that the sailors at the Kronstadt Naval Station played in
> > October?
> >
> He should remember that these were conscript soldiers not professional
> soldiers. The services of conscript troops are not equivalent to wage
> labour, being more akin to the performance of feudal duties.
>
> In general professional troops do not side with revolutions. In a predominantly
> conscript army, the professional NCOs and junior officers may go along with
> a revolutionary movement - as in Portugal in 75, but the impulse has to come
> from discontent among the conscripts.
>

The metaphysical foundation for this kind of politics is the LTV. Without it, there
would be no such thing as surplus-value exploited from the workers, no exploiters,
no distinction between productive and unproductive workers and therefore no
justification for armed revolution against the exploiters or for taking away from
'unproductive' workers. Conversely, the appeal of socialism, on the above account,
is that many workers get more.

Adam Smith introduces consideration of commodity value as follows:

"The value of any commodity, therefore, to the person who possesses it, and who
means not to use or consume it himself, but to exchange it for other commodities, is
equal to the quantity of labour which it enables him to purchase or command. Labour,
therefore, is the real measure of the exchangeable value of all commodities."
(Wealth of Nations, Modern Library N.Y. 2000 Ch. V p.33)

And:

"The real price of every thing, what every thing really costs to the man who wants
to acquire it, is the toil and trouble of acquiring it. What every thing is really
worth to the man who has acquired it, and who wants to dispose of it or exchange it
for something else, is the toil and trouble which it can save to himself, and which
it can impose upon other people. What is bought with money or with goods is
purchased by labour, as much as what we acquire by the toil of our own body. That
money or those goods indeed save us this toil. They contain the value of a certain
quantity of labour which we exchange for what is supposed at the time to contain the
value of an equal quantity. Labour was the first price, the original purchase-money
that was paid for all things. It was not by gold or by silver, but by labour, that
all the wealth of the world was originally purchased; and its value, to those who
possess it, and who want to exchange it for some new productions, is precisely equal
to the quantity of labour which it can enable them to purchase or command." (The
Wealth of Nations Bk. I Ch. V p. 33f)

And:

"But though labour be the real measure of the exchangeable value of all commodities,
it is not that by which their value is commonly estimated. It is often difficult to
ascertain the proportion between two different quantities of labour. The time spent
in two different sorts of work will not always alone determine this proportion. The
different degrees of hardship endured, and of ingenuity exercised, must likewise be
taken into account. There may be more labour in an hourís hard work than in two
hours easy business; or in an hourís application to a trade which it cost ten years
labour to learn, than in a monthís industry at an ordinary and obvious employment.
But it is not easy to find any accurate measure either of hardship or ingenuity. In
exchanging indeed the different productions of different sorts of labour for one
another, some allowance is commonly made for both. It is adjusted, however, not by
any accurate measure, but by the higgling and bargaining of the market, according to
that sort of rough equality which, though not exact, is sufficient for carrying on
the business of common life." (The Wealth of Nations Bk. I Ch. V p. 34f)

Etc.

Smith's thoughts on commodity value are far removed from any 'law of labour-value'.

Michael
_-_-_-_-_-_-_-  artefact text and translation _-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_
_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_- made by art  _-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_
http://www.webcom.com/artefact/ _-_-_-_-artefact@webcom.com _-_
_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_ Dr Michael Eldred -_-_-
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>
> >
> >
> > ----- Original Message -----
> > From: <clyder@gn.apc.org>
> > To: <ope-l@galaxy.csuchico.edu>
> > Sent: Monday, January 20, 2003 9:57 PM
> > Subject: [OPE-L:8366] Re: Re: Education and Value
> >
> > > Quoting gerald_a_levy <gerald_a_levy@msn.com>:
> > >
> > > > Re Paul C's [8359]:
> > > >
> > > > Let me begin on a point of agreement: I agree with 3. in [8359].
> > > >
> > > > Putting aside that source of agreement for now,  I want to take issue
> > > > with a couple of points you made:
> > > >
> > > > > 1. For a group to have a potentially progressive role, they have to
> > > > >     see their activity as persisting and being better rewarded in the
> > > > >     future society. (snip)
> > > >
> > > > Groups of workers can't even be _potentially_ progressive unless
> > > > they view themselves as being better off in a future (socialist)
> > society???
> > >
> > > This seems to me to be an obvious and uncontroversial point. If we
> > > take a materialist view, we can hardly expect social groups to act
> > > against their own percieved interest.
> > > >
> > > > Let us recall here that we're talking about the productive/unproductive
> > > > labor distinction and that the ratio of productive to unproductive
> > > > workers has been steadily declining over the long term (as the empirical
> > > > work by Anwar, Fred and others demonstrates).  For you to then say
> > > > that large segments of workers who are unproductive of surplus value
> > > > can't even be _potentially_ progressive is tantamount to saying that
> > > > large amounts of workers -- perhaps even including a majority -- will
> > > > not be supportive of  socialism. Oops ... there goes the revolution.
> > >
> > > Well I had not noticed any revolutions taking place in the countries with
> > > large proportions of the workforce in financial services!
> > >
> > > You have to account for the massive conservatism if not outright
> > reactionary
> > > nature of the political process in the anglo saxon countries. My
> > hypothesis
> > > is that the long term influence of the financial/rentier interest and
> > > its associated servant classes accounts for this.
> > >
> > >
> > > >
> > > > > 4. Reciept of surplus value as an income source puts banking workers
> > > > >    objectively opposed to the working class and this is reflected in
> > > > >   politics - see how they vote.
> > > >
> > > > State employees receive wages that are paid out of revenues, i.e. they
> > > > are in receipt of surplus value as an income source,  and hence
> > > > are unproductive of surplus value.  Does this then also mean that they
> > > > are "objectively opposed to the working class"???
> > >
> > > One must be quite clear that there are real conflicts of interest between
> > > state employees and industrial workers. These can be politically
> > exploited.
> > >
> > > On the other hand some sections of state employees, constitute a servant
> > > class of the proletariat in that their services are consumed in large
> > > part by the working class - most obvious examples of this are people like
> > > cleansing workers, teachers, nurses in public hospitals etc. As such
> > > these groups tend to identify with the working class, and tend to be
> > > favourably disposed to socialism since socialism would retain them
> > > as a category, and offer them better living standards.
> > >
> > >
> > > > There is a very real
> > > > political danger of  identifying the criteria  for determining whether
> > > > groups are productive of surplus value with the criteria for determining
> > > > which groups are members of the working class.  Indeed, if we simply
> > > > identify productive labor with the working class, i.e. treat the two
> > > > expressions as synonymous,  then we give up on the possibility of real
> > > > working class unity and solidarity and with it the possibility of
> > > > socialism.
> > >
> > > I agree, that simply identifying if a group are productive or unproductive
> > > is not in itself enough. One needs to also see whose flunkies they are.
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > > >
> > > > We also have to remember that what is analyzed in _Capital_ is
> > > > which workers are "productive" or "unproductive" from the
> > > > *standpoint of capital*.
> > >
> > > It is, I think, slightly more subtle. In Capital the key feature,
> > > is whether the workers are productive for capital as a whole
> > > not whether they are productive for individual capitals.
> > > Thus workers who appear to be productive to a firm of investment
> > > bankers, and who get fat annual bonuses as a result, can
> > > be unproductive from the standpoint of capital as a whole.
> > >
> > >
> > > > In _recognizing_ this distinction, we can not
> > > > take it over wholesale since the *working-class perspective* on who
> > > > is "productive" is not the same as the capitalist perspective. From
> > > > a working-class perspective,  workers need to comprehend how they
> > > > are *united*  regardless of their diversity even while coming to terms
> > > > with that diversity.  This *unity-in-diversity* by the working class
> > > > presupposes that alliances will be developed among all workers
> > > > including those who political economy defines as being unproductive.
> > >
> > > You should not wish for the impossible. You have to be able
> > > to formulate a program that will unite a sufficiently broad
> > > coalition to be effective, but if you try to accomodate the
> > > interests of the financial sector employees you end up with
> > > Tony Blair's version of socialism.
> > >
> > >
> > > >
> > > > (NB: this does not, though, necessarily mean that managers are
> > > > productive of surplus-value.  In addition to your point 3. in [8359],
> > > > we should note that although they receive wages, they are not
> > necessarily
> > > > wage *workers*.   Even capitalists themselves, after all, can pay
> > > > themselves wages: this accounting maneuver does not miraculously
> > > > transform them into wage-workers.)
> > > >
> > > > Solidarity, Jerry


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