Re: (OPE-L) indirect labor, the real wage, and the production of surplus value

From: ajit sinha (sinha_a99@YAHOO.COM)
Date: Tue Nov 11 2003 - 04:26:31 EST

--- Rakesh Bhandari <rakeshb@STANFORD.EDU> wrote:
> >
> >Rakesh, The point I was making is that real wage is
> a
> >long term phenomenon for Marx. It basically refers
> to
> >the standard of living of the working class at any
> >given time, and a lot of things goes into
> determining
> >it. A short term immediate impact of a rise in
> labor
> >productivity on the standard of living of the
> working
> >class cannot be predicted since many other things
> have
> >to be taken into account at the same time. Your
> point
> >is more Keynesian in nature. Even if we assume that
> >workers bargain for money wages, it is not clear
> why
> >rise in labor productivity must lead to fall the
> >prices of other things. Monetary authorities could
> >easily increase the money supply and create a
> general
> >inflation or at least not allow the prices to fall
> in
> >money terms. Even when you are dealing with gold or
> >silver money, the debasement of coins have been a
> >regular phenomenon in history. Furthermore, there
> is
> >no theoretical ground to suggest that rise in
> >productivity is laways greater in other sectors
> than
> >the money commodity sectors--remember discovery of
> new
> >gold and silver mines over the period of history.
> >Cheers, ajit sinha
>   Ajit, yes, all your above points are persuasive.
> Yet it does seem to
> leave open the question of how to account for the
> rises in the real
> wage that have indeed obtained. It seems to me that
> worker militance
> cannot explain all of it.
I think workers' militancy may have something to do
with it, but not a lot. It is a serious question for
history and a rich historical description is needed.
Post second world war rise of the welfare state, the
rise of mega corporations, the cold war, and the
independence movements in the thirld world all must go
into its explanation. It, of course, is true that a
sustained rise in real wages cannot be obtained
without a sustained rise in labor productivity and
accumulation of capital. But a simple relationship
between these variables cannot be established.
 Now why capitalists have
> failed in downward
> readjustments of the money wage to a fixed real wage
> is a difficult
> question indeed (does this lead us back to the old
> question of
> whether the given should be a constant real or money
> wage?)

I think if you look at the long term data you will
find that both money wages and general price levels
are going up. So the money wages in the long term are
not fixed and prices, in spite of large increases in
productivities, do not show a long term decline. In my
opinion the real wages takes longer time to change
than the money wages.
> (as you have suggested) the historical limitations
> on labor mobility
> has  prevented the balance of power shifting so
> against workers in
> the core that capital could go on such an offensive?
> But it does seem
> to me that capital has been successful in raising
> the rate of surplus
> value. Even at the height of the recent American
> boom unit labor
> costs (though perhaps a very poor proxy for s/v) did
> not rise even as
> unemployment reached thirty year lows.
> Rakesh

I think the role of the government to redistribute
some income through tax and expenditure policies is
under serious attack for sometime, say 1975 onwards.
This has come about because of fall in the rate of
profits and growth in the first world, slow growth in
productivity could be a cause. I expect the real wages
to stagnate or even decline in the first world. I
think labor has lost its ideology. What we need is a
serious analysis of the history of the welfare state
to develop future ideology for labor to rally around.
Right now the left is nothing but a bunch of confused
people. Cheers, ajit sinha

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