The MIM Debate Reply
Maoist Internationalist Movement
mim3 at nyxfer.blythe.org
Tue Oct 10 16:58:18 MDT 1995
On Sun, 8 Oct 1995, Chris Burford wrote:
> Pat's response for MIM, reaffirms their internationalist standpoint
> as fundamental and implies that a global calculation should be made
> of what is the total surplus produced by the human race and how
> unevenly is it distributed. Since the global economy is capitalist,
> that makes it pretty well a tautology that the working class in the
> metropoles benefit by capitalist and imperialist exploitation.
Pat for MIM replies:
Why "tautology"? Exploitation is not a relative thing. It's
a matter of appropriating labor. Your other discussions
of value and abstract labor should be related.
> I find the reference to cultural factors affecting the value of labour
> power important and have thought so for some time, but it is more than a
> "cover" in the way implied in this passage by Pat:
> We see no reason why "cultural and
> historical" factors that Marx referred to should be a cover for national
> chauvinism saying that First World workers need more use-values for their
> higher civilization levels.
Pat for MIM replies: It's only a cover in the discourse
of First World intellectuals. They say the existing property relations
are justified because the standard of living in the First World
is BY CUSTOM this or that. If you want a definition of conservative
reasoning, that would be it.
> I think Pat does not allow enough for unevenness in the rate of
> centralization of capital in addition to all unfair distortions in the
> "free" capitalist market, from residues of colonialism, cartels, trade
> barriers etc.
Pat for MIM replies: These of course we also referred to in our post.
> Now as technological advances permit the production of
> more and more complex commodities, capital requires a higher educated
> workforce and can allow some slight reduction in the rate of local
> exploitation of this workforce in order to win extra surplus value in
> the global market. At the same time the slightly higher relative wages
> permit an enhancement of the living conditions of the workers of these
> metropolitan areas in terms of commodity use values (although the quality
> of their life may decline).
Pat for MIM replies: "Slightly"? "Slightly higher relative wages"?
Sri Lankan manufacturing wages are 4% of the same in the United Snakes.
The minimum wage in Mexico is $3--a DAY.
In the above you are starting to buy into the justifications of the
white collar work force, very similar to the justifications used
by the capitalists for why they deserve what they get.
> Note that Marx argues that the capitalist who introduces new technology
> gets relative surplus value from enjoying a "sort of monopoly". That
> can be extrapolated to the world scale. The technological rich north
> enjoys a sort of monopoly. It does not have to be perfect, it has merely
> to be a gradient which repeatedly puts the workers and other classes of
> the oppressed countries at substantial disadvantage.
Pat for MIM replies: Yes, yes, unevenness and asymmetries,
of course we agree. Most of what you say is most relevant to
a scientific description of capitalism AS IT IS. The most
relevant subject areas for what you say are the labor theory
of value, the law of value, how various capitals divide the loot and so on.
The fact of uneven development, technological monopolies
or rent-like situations--this all explains those above questions,
but it is not a justification for the appropriation of labor
by the imperialist country workers. You think the bottom line
about appropriation of labor is a moot point, because you
see no political reason to side against chauvinist workers,
but it will make an immediate difference in terms of what
classes you will mobilize and what you will do upon seizure
of power. We will seek reparations as our first agenda item.
You might get involved in getting a 20 hour week for the First
World and so on if you don't agree with us on the net
productive labor appropriation.
The problem with your post as written is that most will read it
in the First World as "inevitable" or justifying the wages
of workers using more technology. Again we have to ask why
certain workers are where in the division of labor and where the
gains of technology originate--in the context of the division
of the workers into labor aristocracy and proletariat, not in the
context of trying to explain the flows of surplus-value to various
capitals or the context of the finer points of the transformation
> I can supply quotes from Capital for consideration, but the issue has
> been ventilated on this list before.
Pat for MIM replies: I will check the thread I came in on, but if
you have others you think I should read, let me know.
> However although I would like Pat to be a bit more precise about the
> usage of the marxist concept of productive labour, I feel he uses
> marxist concepts with flair about real situations, albeit in rather a
> sectarian way. I do feel there should be many more voices on this list
Pat for MIM replies: "Sectarian" we would say involves putting
one's leadership or one's organization above the interests of the proletariat
with the usual effect of isolation and division.
Since we are here arguing over the very nature of the proletariat,
it seems premature for you to be saying we are sectarian. We don't
agree on what proletarian is and hence we can't agree on what sectarian is.
Within our political view you will find that we work with oppressed
nationality, prison, student and other organizations.
One last point on the definition of productive labor: again context
is everything. What you call "technology" and "higher education" I might
call management and sales. Marx didn't live to see huge strata
of computer programmers assisting the realization of surplus
value--or just tracking it as Proyect notes. Being salaried might
mean you produce surplus-value, but we have to understand
the context. The only reason I bring in the question of the
historical wage (I admit the issue of necessities of reproduction
of labor power is a separate issue) is that we need to think about that
to see a couple things going on at once. Some people ARE in productive
labor BUT they are still net appropriators of labor. For that
reason alone you cannot separate these questions entirely.
It also brings to a head the question of what a socialist class struggle
should look like and removes the possibility of arguing,
workers in the metropole are exploited just because they are
rewarded via custom with such and such "wages," which are really
shares of surplus value.
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