Re: [OPE-L] "Capitalism in crisis can only lengthen the working day" [!]

From: glevy@PRATT.EDU
Date: Wed Sep 28 2005 - 19:25:04 EDT

---------------------------- Original Message ------------------------
Subject: "Capitalism in crisis can only lengthen the working day" [!]
From:    "Jurriaan Bendien" <>
Date:    Wed, September 28, 2005 5:24 pm

My comment would be that capitalism does nothing, just as history does
nothing, people do things. The systemic tendency is only for
labor-exploitation to occur wherever it is possible - it is not just a
question of duration, but also of intensity, occasion and scale. In this
sense, typically, the strong defeat the weak, unless the law prevents it.

If you look at the disaggregate stats on hours worked, you will see that
already a sizable proportion of workers work longer hours than a 36-hour or
40-hour week. In the public service where I work now, that's quite normal
for many public servants, even although they are derided as bureaucratic
parasites and seatwarmers and so on. Private sector managers of any
importance often work more than a 40-hour week. So, at most, we are talking
about a gradual quantitative change, not a qualitative one. The new
European guideline adopted by the European parliament is that workers may
work for an average of 48 hours per week for the whole year.

Best way to look at it, apart from the political battle over working hours
that occurs and will occur, is that people will be likely to work the hours
that they think that they really can physically work. The strong can work
more, get more income. The "weakies" work less, get less income. This logic
ends, with the piece-wages as Marx discusses.

In this regard, the Dutch SP party magazine cites an interesting fact
though. According to the Institute for Policy and Management of Health Care
of the Erasmus University in Rotterdam, an estimated one-third of the
*whole* Dutch population is "predictably a financial loss" for health

So, if the idea is that people will be forced to work more hours, this cuts
out a large section of the working population physically. Yet,
dialectically, workers who are strong or in a strong position, could also
be best placed to resist increases in working hours. But equally
dialectically, strength is not simply physical strength, it is context
dependent, bargaining position and all that.

Here's an anecdote from the Dutch SP magazine for you: "Louis McLaren is a
young single [British] woman who shares an  apartment with a female friend.
"An interview? Well, between seven and eight I have some time, but then I
have to go. Shopping, cooking, housework, and up early again tomorrow
morning, ay." She gets to the point quickly: "I don't have any say about my
workweek. If my boss says I have to work, I work. Otherwise I am down the
road. Social life? What social life? There are not enough hours in the day.
I work five days of ten hours in park management: making gardens and parks
and so on. Physically heavy work, and on top of that long travel time. On
Saturday, I work fourteen hours as bus driver and tourist guide in the
Highlands. On Sunday I am stuffed, then it's all over. The tourist bureau
would like me to drive on Sunday for 14 hours, but I can't do it. With all
those hours I don't earn so badly, but there's nothing left at the end of
the month. Rent, bills, I don't have time for hobby's... It's difficult,
but that's the way it is. I have no real contract on paper or something
like that. If I work, I get paid, and my wage slip is sufficient proof for
the tax department and social welfare that I have a job. Only for a
mortgage you need a written contract. If I don't work, I don't earn
anything, and they don't pay extra for extra hours. This is probably not
according to the rules, but that is how it is. And there's ten others just
the same. If I insist on my rights, then I don't have to turn up for work
anymore. Thus, so long as the government doesn't control its own rules at
the work site, you are basically just in the hands of the Gods. And I have
never seen an inspector anywhere." (Tribune, Rotterdam, vol. 41 no. 8, 12
August 2005, p. 29).

Slightly different from Marx's time, you will remember how he quoted the
factory inspector's reports in the Blue Books, and so on...


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