Re: [OPE-L] Unequal Exchange "without recourse to the notion of 'value'"?

From: Paul Cockshott (wpc@DCS.GLA.AC.UK)
Date: Mon Jan 01 2007 - 14:56:48 EST

Alexandro, this is the posting I made on the issue, my points echo yours almost exactly:

Mary I have been reading the policy paper relating to world trade, the WTO etc.


I think that as a party that represents the working class in Scotland we have to be

careful with which social classes we identify in the third world. You argue against

agricultural subsidies in the EU and USA on the grounds that these are undermining

the position of the small producers in the third world, which may to a limited

extent be true, but one has to bear in mind that the whole world is rapidly

urbanising. From 2006 the majority of the world population now lives in cities

and is no longer connected with primary agricultural production.


Whilst a small peasant farmer in Yucatan may loose out economically when

having to compete with import US maize, a working class woman in Mexico

City benefits when the staple foodstuff for her family is cheap. There is thus a real difference

of interest between the urban proletariat and the rural peasantry over issues

of food imports. It is not at all clear to me that as a party we should side

with small farmers rather than the urban proletariat.


One also has to bear in mind that the small farmers of the third world are a

historically obsolete social class. Through the course of the 21st century 

they will be liquidated as a class, just as the peasantry in Britain were in 

the 19th century, and the western European and North American peasantry were

during the 20th century. The population will move from being a peasantry

to being an urban proletariat whether the EU subsidises exports of grain or not.

The Mexican Marxist economist Alexandro Valle Baez estimates that it

takes 20 times as much labour to produce grain in the small farms of Mexico

as it does in the agro-industry of the USA. The law of value means that

so long as this is the case


a) the small farmers will continue to lose out to the large industrial farms

b) more seriously, so long as agricultural products act as the regulator

   of international value relations between Mexico and the USA one hour

   of Mexican labour will exchange for 10 to 20 hours of US labour.


Only with the decisive elimination of peasant agriculture as a determinant

of international value relations can the labour hour of the third world begin

to move towards equivalence with the labour hour of the industrialised capitalist



There are arguments that could be levied against subsidies on agriculture in

the EU but I would put them rather differently:


1. Why should the working class in Europe be taxed to subsidise

   a property owning class - the farmers and landowners of Europe.


2. In the long run subsidised food exports to third world countries

   allow a certain depreciation of the price of labour power in these

   countries below its value. As such some of these subsidies on

   agriculture go as profits to 3rd world capitalists and to some

   extent allow them to further undercut working class jobs in Europe.


This latter factor should not however be over-emphasised, since the

low wages paid in the third world are at present regulated by what Marx

terms the Latent Reserve Army - the displaced peasantry. As such

the floor for 3rd world wages is set by living conditions on the land

from which people are fleeing. Until this latent reserve is exhausted

by the combination of demographic transition and urbanisation, wages

in the third world will remain very low, and the availability of subsidised

grain from the North, will only account for small fraction of the wage

disparity between say Mexico and the USA.







From: OPE-L [mailto:OPE-L@SUS.CSUCHICO.EDU] On Behalf Of Alejandro Valle Baeza
Sent: 01 January 2007 01:47
Subject: Re: [OPE-L] Unequal Exchange "without recourse to the notion of 'value'"?


Paul Cockshott wrote:

I have been having to cite Alexandros work on the importance to taking productivity into account in the debates on the solidarity program when related to the world trade organization. Some members line up with the Oxfam, NGO line of favouring the small producers in Latin America and attributing their decline to US agricultural subsidies, ignoring productivity effects.



From: OPE-L [mailto:OPE-L@SUS.CSUCHICO.EDU] On Behalf Of Alejandro Valle Baeza
Sent: 25 December 2006 01:33
Subject: Re: [OPE-L] Unequal Exchange "without recourse to the notion of 'value'"?


Paul, thank you for this. You are right, I used myself Oxfam's propositions as examples of good feelings without substance. Impoverishment of  some farmers in poor countries is not caused only by subsidies to agribusiness but for Law of value at world scale also. If national productivity is lower than international productivity it implies that labor spent in such merchandise is not full recognized and then "undervalued". It is not  unequal exchange but normal operation of capitalism.  Oxfam as many other NGO criticized  some defects of capitalism  without criticized capitalism itself.




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