Value: Capt. Silver's "class struggle"

Juan Inigo jinigo at inscri.org.ar
Mon Nov 6 19:03:57 MST 1995


When one reasons about value and surplus-value as such, one is not
reasoning about some purely mental abstractions; one is actually reasoning
about the historically specific simplest forms of the general social
relation in present-day society. So one is reasoning about the basic
determinations of concrete political action, of class-struggle, and
therefore, about these very matters themselves. Steve Keen has advanced
into them in a way I consider illustrative concerning science as a
necessary form of political action.

I've already followed Steve starting from the simplest determinations of
surplus-value and showing how his conception that "the means of production
are sources of surplus-value" is a specific manifestation of the fetishism
of commodities. I've questioned his procedures and his conclusions, and
presented him with questions concerning both, that he has never replied. I
will now follow Steve into those more concrete social forms.

Steve writes:

>Marx's
>use-value/exchange-value analysis shows that all inputs
>to production can generate a surplus. Labor is therefore
>not unique in this regard: the capitalist is able to
>"exploit" the means of production as easily as he/she
>can exploit labor.
>
>What is unique about labor is that it is the only
>input to production which can *complain* about being
>exploited.

Someone could believe this assertion that exploitation is exercised both
upon labor-power and the means of production, with the only difference that
the latter cannot *complain* about it, has just a funny face: "Means of
production of the world, unite" (though science-fiction is obviously a
social form).

Yet, it actually has a far more repulsive face. Let us assume with Steve
this absurd that the means of production in which constant capital is
materialized produce surplus-value (that is, for instance, that a chair in
a factory produces a specific form of the present-day general social
relation among human beings, or in other words, that this chair as such is
a concrete form through which the general regulation of present-day social
life realizes itself). Now, Let us assume with Steve that

>a wage
>that allows them to only barely survive and
>reproduce ... is the same
>thing as paying the value of labor-power in order
>to purchase the capacity for labor..

and that

>in an advanced capitalist
>nation, the wage is likely to exceed the value of
>labor-power.

or

>on average, the wage will
>exceed the value of labor power

If we are to believe Steve's theory, when wages are high enough to include
'the value of labor-power' plus the whole 'surplus-value produced by the
particular input labor-power', the workers receive back the equivalent to
what they have consumed of themselves in production and the whole
additional social product their labor has created. So, as soon as wages
reach this level, capital ceases to exploit the wage-laborers, the
proletariat. Sure, and at the entrance of the working-places where such
wages are supposed to be paid, it should be written: "Capitalism makes us
free"!

There's even more. Let us suppose that the capitalists accept to rise wages
beyond the 'surplus-value' attributed to labor-power, thus making wages to
advance upon the 'surplus-value produced' by the means of production.
(Provided a high enough "organic composition of capital" (sic), this can
even result in an insignificant fall in profit) Now, the wage-laborers have
not only ceased to be the victims of capitalist exploitation, but become
the greedy _partners_ of capital, in capital's criminal depredation of
nature!

Just compare what follows from Steve's theory, with Marx's discoveries:

"Capitalist production, therefore, develops technology, and the combining
together of various processes into a social whole, only by sapping the
original sources of all wealth - the soil and the labourer." (Capital I,
Progress Publishers, pp. 506-7)

Marx specifically directed his lecture published as _Wages, Price and
Profit_ to present to the workers the reason why they must constantly
struggle for higher wages, though wages are determined by the value of the
labor-power specifically needed for the production of surplus-value at each
time and place of the process of capital accumulation, thus making any rise
of the wages above that value only temporary: the struggle of the working
class for higher wages is a necessary concrete form through which the laws
of the value of labor-power and of surplus-value realize themselves.

Moreover, Marx discovered that class struggle isn't only just a necessary
concrete form through which the value of labor-power takes shape.
Capitalism's specific historical determination is that of superseding
itself through its own development as a process of social metabolism
autonomously regulated (and, the tendency of the rate of profit to fall is
not this determination itself, but a concrete form in which it realizes
itself). And this historical necessity of capitalism to supersede itself
into socialism/communism (into the process of social metabolism directly
regulated through the cognition by each of its members of her/his
determinations, that is, into the community of the freely associated
individuals) has a necessary concrete form of realizing itself as soon as
the general autonomous regulation of capitalism through the valorization of
value needs to take concrete shape in the direct general organization of
social life through the voluntary action of the individuals. Class struggle
is this concrete form, or seen the other way round, this is the essential
determination of class struggle.

What message does Steve's theory address to the working class?

>Yet, to argue that the wage equals the
>value of labor-power is to argue that, when it comes to
>the capitalist-worker exchange, the worker is treated no
>differently than inanimate commodities. I argue that this
>is a reason to expect that, on average, the wage will
>exceed the value of labor power (with the degree of course
>being to some extent a function of the trade cycle).
> ...
>This leads easily to a class struggle view of wage formation,...
> ...
>If, on the other hand, you regard production in general
>as a source of surplus, then the worker/capitalist bargain
>over the wage can be seen as a struggle over the
>apportionment of surplus. The upper limit of the struggle is
>that workers get the lot, in which case capitalists make no
>profit and, of course, a crisis will ensue; the lower limit
>is that the worker gets none of it--and therefore is
>treated as a simple commodity, in which case labor unrest
>and a different form of crisis.

>But if you maltreat labor, you maltreat
>a human being who can (a) down tools (b) sabotage
>production (c) demand higher wages as compensation.
>
>Now so far as I am concerned, paying someone a wage
>that allows them to only barely survive and
>reproduce *is* maltreatment. But this is the same
>thing as paying the value of labor-power in order
>to purchase the capacity for labor. So workers are
>highly likely to resist the tendency of capitalists
>to attempt to reduce wages to mere subsistence,
>and this resistance will be part of the cyclical
>and secular nature of capitalism.

>While this perspective of mine is destructive of
>the much of what has passed for Marxist economics--I
>use it to criticise the tendency for the rate of
>profit to fall, the transformation problem, etc.--
>I see it as fundamentally positive, because it leads
>to what I regard as a far more accurate critique of
>capitalism than has been achieved by Marxism to
>date.

Last year, Steve was a little more explicit concerning his present-day "etc."

>... since it [My argument] is built on Marx's
>logic, much of what Marx argued is preserved. Only the ideas derived
>solely from the LTV go--the transformation problem, the tendency for
>the rate of profit to fall, the secular immiserisation of the working
>class, and the inevitability of socialism.

Back to present time, he goes on:

>In terms of the future development of society, I do not
>see capitalism as eternal, but believe that if those who
>wish for a better society confine themselves to attempting
>to bring about a socialist revolution, the type of society
>we will find ourselves in will be something far worse than
>capitalism.

>My political agenda, ... I am a supporter of the mixed
>economy over both free market capitalism and centrally
>planned socialism, and my analytic work I hope shows (and
>will continue to show) that a market economy with a strong
>social security system is more dynamic and more viable
>than either "pure" capitalism--....--or "pure" non-market
>socialism--...

>I entirely agree with Peter's position

that is centered in (Peter Burns SJ, follows)

>what moral basis is there for the owner
> being entitled to any *increments* in the value of that share
> of capital which are due only to the labor of others, and
> not at all to any further labor of his?
> ...
>This is a highly morally significant fact.
> That it is possible under capitalism VERY STRONGLY suggests
> that capitalist entitlement norms are not merely morally wrong,
> but crazy.

To put it straight, Steve's theory says:

Working-class, there is much more than the granted value of your commodity
awaiting for you in capitalism, as, in general, your payment will _exceed_
that value. The class struggle is a struggle over the apportionment of the
surplus and there is no necessary upper limit to your claim upon the social
product short of the entire surplus (So, by the way, don't ask for a more
revolutionary point of view!). Still, though this society is potentially so
generous with you, moderate your claims concerning wages, or you will end
up harming yourself by forcing the capitalists to reduce their desires to
invest.

Stop worrying about the general law of capitalist accumulation pushing you
into pauperism. This law is not a real form through which the production of
relative surplus-value realizes itself. Believe me, it has no reality other
than that of being an "idea," it exists only in the "world of "ideas," so
it will be expelled from your lives forever as soon as it is exorcised by
making the spirit that has introduced the evil idea, Marx, to confess
through Steve that "the secular immiserisation of the working class" is
only a product of a methodological self-contradiction.

Refrain the selfish appetite for surplus-value that both you and the
capitalists suffer from, and you will get a "mixed economy" that will be
the best of all possible worlds, where no owners of commodities will see
theirs maltreated so they would have no reason to *complain* about being
exploited nor to (a) down tools (b) sabotage production (c) demand higher
wages as compensation. A good Jesuitic Labor Theory of Property will give
you the necessary moral support, since there is no other determination at
stake here than moral itself!

Are you claiming for the historical necessity of capitalism to annihilate
itself in its own development through your revolutionary action? It is only
a dangerous misunderstanding. Marx was not actually looking for the
historical necessity inherent in capitalism to discover how this necessity
takes concrete form in the proletariat's conscious revolutionary action
that becomes such by ruling itself by reproducing its own concrete real
necessity through the path of thought. What Marx was actually looking for
was a

>more elegant explanation of why labor was a source
>of surplus,
>(The trouble is that while this analysis *did* give (this explanation))
>it *did not* give a more elegant explanation
>of why no other source of surplus existed.

So, (and since Steve enjoys to literally falsify Marx's writings, he wants
to turn Marx into one of his same dirty kind, that would falsify even his
own conclusions to accommodate them to his wish),

>in composing Capital, Marx attempted to convince
>himself (and his readers) that the use-value/exchange-
>value analysis confirmed his previous result that
>labor was the only source of surplus, ...

But never mind, you can be positive

>that (in effect) today's "true"
>descendants of Marx are the Post Keynesians.

Un carajo che, Steve, un carajo!

In the seas of the present-day class struggle, Captain Steve Silver Keen is
only just a minor ideological pirate.

Juan Inigo
jinigo at inscri.org.ar



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