West German sub-imperialism, Turkish factor

Hugh Rodwell m-14970 at mailbox.swipnet.se
Mon Aug 5 04:16:05 MDT 1996


Rakesh writes:

>However, now American capitalists are finding that they can only employ
>their newest methods in the semi-colonial world. I hesitate to refer to
>these new  methods as more productive because they seem to induce an
>intensification of labor, which seems to me to be equivalent to the
>prolongation of the working day or in other words the production of
>absolute surplus value.  Sometime back Geoffrey Kay referred to this
>combination of absolute and relative surplus value as the innovatory
>feature of contemporary industrialization  (Economic Theory of The Working
>Class. St Martin's, 1979).

This is a bit harsh on Marx.

Marx distinguishes in Capital between prolongation of the working day (to
increase absolute surplus value) and intensification of labour (to increase
relative surplus value). And he doesn't turn 'absolute' sv into 'relative'
sv because intensification may be 'equivalent' to a prolongation -- even if
he refers to workers producing more in a shorter time because their
strength is better maintained in the long run with a shorter but more
intensive working day.

Referring to a 'combination of absolute and relative surplus value' as an
'innovatory feature of contemporary industrialization' seems to me to be
totally unhistorical. Marx takes up the various combinations of absolute
and relative surplus value in his usual thorough way, with empirical
examples, and I can't imagine that any generation of capitalists has failed
to make the most of the possibilities available here.

What might be a bit new in imperialist countries is the harsh necessity of
the crisis driving the capitalists to claw back concessions relating to
working hours. They have to try and extend the working day to counteract
falling profits when the intensification of labour is no longer sufficient.
This is very apparent in Britain, but is happening everywhere and hurting
the most disorganized and vulnerable sections of the working class worst.

Of course, the capitalists don't just have it all their own way. There is
also growing agitation for legislation to *reduce* the working day. Partly
to combat unemployment and partly because it's just plain inhuman and also
inefficient to drive people to the limit all day every day. You can do it
when there's a sure supply of new machine fodder, but right when you least
expect it the supply'll dry up and you'll have no one to man the machines.

Cheers,

Hugh




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