The MIM Debate Reply
Maoist Internationalist Movement
mim3 at nyxfer.blythe.org
Wed Oct 11 16:23:23 MDT 1995
On Wed, 11 Oct 1995, Chris Burford wrote:
> This is the question of the specialised use by Marx and followers of the
> concept of
> "unproductive labour"
> I recommend to all "A Dictionary of Marxist Thought" Edited by Tom
> Bottomore, Blackwell, Oxford England, Cambridge Mass. 2nd Edition 1991.
> It has helped me rapidly engage with some issues and is a good balance
> between the authoritative and the undoctrinaire. Also helps you check sources
> So, as promised:
> Capital Vol 1,
> Third para of Part V "The Production of Absolute and of Relative Surplus
> "On the other hand, however, our notion of productive labour becomes
> narrowed. Capitalist production is not merely the production of
> commodities, it is essentially the production of surplus value....
> The labourer alone is productive, who produces surplus-value for the
> capitalist, and thus works for the self expansion of capital. If we
> may take an example from outside the sphere of production of material
> objects, a schoolmaster is a productive labourer, when in addition to
> belabouring the heads of his scholars, he works like a horse to enrich
> the school proprietor."
Pat for MIM replies:
Good point, and the Bottomore stuff is too. Now let's return to
our overall thesis. You will admit that most teachers are public sector?
Even in England I imagine. Maybe some Swedes could chime in here.
Chris S. keeps talking about how the state created the nuclear weapons,
but it seems to me before the state took its currently large
form proportionately speaking, the human-race was good at using
whatever technologies it had in hand to kill itself. In fact
it seems we always use whatever is available, (except in
the pre-class societies which do continue to exist in some
places) which reminds us that as Mao and Gonzalo said, the human being
don't mean shit for the universe.
Anyway, the point is that we are now talking about 17 to 30 or so percent
of the imperialist economies as being public sector. Right there
you are handing us a large basis for our argument about the
de-proletarianization of the imperialist country workers.
Even in the case of those teachers working for private sector
capitalists, they may be getting government contracts or they
may be engaged again in sales-related activity. Studies show that
university jobs in administration grow much faster than in teaching,
and the hottest job of all is begging for money, otherwise known
as university "development." How is that productive? (Gong section please.)
As Bottomore points out, "In Marx's time the vast majority
of unproductive labourers were commercial workers,
domestic or personal servants and state administrative
employees." Well add that up today comrades and you will
see that even using the ideas from Marx's day, it is
unavoidable to see that there is only a minority of workers
who are proletarian in the imperialist countries. That's
not to mention that the productive workers that are there
tend to be "foreigners" or oppressed nationalities or
productive but not exploited. After you add up government,
administration, sales and services, the remainder is a minority.
In actuality many of the jobs in so-called "science and technology"
are commercial workers at best. Look at "multi-media." What's that?
Who uses that? It's for selling stuff.
As Louis pointed out, computer programmers keep track of sales
and assets in databases. Others "analyze" them and so on.
It's paper and electron-shuffling fluff.
The only reason this is difficult to see at all is that it has
grown so enormously since Marx's day. Crude "democratic" strivings
on the "left" lurk behind the polemics against MIM to the effect that
the majority must be good somehow. Yet while it is true the
world's majority of workers are not labor aristocrats, the majority in the
imperialist countries is oppressor.
If we go back and look
at the original definitions of Marx, Lenin, Stalin and (gulp) Trotsky,
the MIM thesis is unavoidable. We will grant our critics the
idea that the proletariat as defined by Marx does not have
to be industrial workers for all time. It just has to be
a group with a struggle for liberation of a universal character.
Someone else seemed to suggest on this list that it is
environmental scientists who are the proletariat today. Fine,
that is a question going back to Marx's earliest work,
but it is hardly unique to Marxism. People
who want to toss Marx's political economy should call themselves
post-Marxist and get on with life, and just not confuse the rest
of us with claims to Marxism.
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