THE PROLETARIAT, THE POOR, AND THE LUMPEN

hariette spierings hariette at easynet.co.uk
Wed Aug 7 11:26:52 MDT 1996


I like to reproduce here a Marxist analysis which would help to clarify the
real chasm that exists between the proletarian outlook and the lumpen
outlook in this list.  The claims to defend the "poor" of the malecki's, the
Quispes, the Ginas, the Rodwells, etc. are as bogus as their "support for
the PCP".  Theirs is the typical position of the anrchist - Bakuninism, but
not Marxism, whatever.  In this, many "liberals" and "do-gooding bourgeois",
serve and abet this confussion.

Here is what Marx has to say - and see clearly that the criminals, pimps,
prostitutes and other "lazarous layers" are NOT in fact the poorest sections
of society!


                                CAPITAL I

                               Chapter 25
               THE GENERAL LAW OF CAPITALIST ACCUMULATION

                                Section 4
           Different Forms of the Relative Surplus-Population.
              The General Law of Capitalistic Accumulation.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


The relative surplus-population exists in every possible form. Every
labourer belongs to it during the time when he is only partially
employed or wholly unemployed. Not taking into account the great
periodically recurring forms that the changing phases of the industrial
cycle impress on it, now an acute form during the crisis, then again a
chronic form during dull times -- it has always three forms, the
floating, the latent, the stagnant.

In the centres of modern industry -- factories, manufactures,
ironworks, mines, &c. -- the labourers are sometimes repelled,
sometimes attracted again in greater masses, the number of those
employed increasing on the whole, although in a constantly decreasing
proportion to the scale of production. Here the surplus-population
exists in the floating form.

In the automatic factories, as in all the great workshops, where
machinery enters as a factor, or where only the modern division of
labour is carried out, large numbers of boys are employed up to the age
of maturity. When this term is once reached, only a very small number
continue to find employment in the same branches of industry, whilst
the majority are regularly discharged. This majority forms an element
of the floating surplus-population, growing with the extension of those
branches of industry. Part of them emigrates, following in fact
capital that has emigrated. One consequence is that the female
population grows more rapidly than the male, _teste_ England. That the
natural increase of the number of labourers does not satisfy the
requirements of the accumulation of capital, and yet all the time is in
excess of them, is a contradiction inherent to the movement of capital
itself. It wants larger numbers of youthful labourers, a smaller
number of adults. The contradiction is not more glaring than that
other one that there is a complaint of the want of hands, while at the
same time many thousands are out of work, because the division of
labour chains them to a particular branch of industry.

The consumption of labour-power by capital is, besides, so rapid that
the labourer, half-way through his life, has already more or less
completely lived himself out. He falls into the ranks of the
supernumeraries, or is thrust down from a higher to a lower step in the
scale. It is precisely among the work-people of modern industry that
we meet with the shortest duration of life. Dr. Lee, Medical Officer
of Health for Manchester, stated

    "that the average age at death of the Manchester ... upper middle
    class was 38 years, while the average age at death of the labouring
    class was 17; while at Liverpool those figures were represented as
    35 against 15. It thus appeared that the well-to-do classes had a
    lease of life which was more than double the value of that which
    fell to the lot of the less favoured citizens."

In order to conform to these circumstances, the absolute increase of
this section of the proletariat must take place under conditions that
shall swell their numbers, although the individual elements are used up
rapidly. Hence, rapid renewal of the generations of labourers (this
law does not hold for the other classes of the population). This
social need is met by early marriages, a necessary consequence of the
conditions in which the labourers of modern industry live, and by the
premium that the exploitation of children sets on their production.

As soon as capitalist production takes possession of agriculture, and
in proportion to the extent to which it does so, the demand for an
agricultural labouring population falls absolutely, while the
accumulation of the capital employed in agriculture advances, without
this repulsion being, as in non-agricultural industries, compensated by
a greater attraction. Part of the agricultural population is therefore
constantly on the point of passing over into an urban or manufacturing
proletariat. and on the look-out for circumstances favourable to this
transformation. (Manufacture is used here in the sense of all
nonagricultural industries.) This source of relative surplus-population
is thus constantly flowing. But the constant flow towards the towns
pre-supposes, in the country itself, a constant latent
surplus-population, the extent of which becomes evident only when its
channels of outlet open to exceptional width. The agricultural
labourer is therefore reduced to the minimum of wages, and always
stands with one foot already in the swamp of pauperism.

The third category of the relative surplus-population, the stagnant,
forms a part of the active labour army, but with extremely irregular
employment. Hence it furnishes to capital an inexhaustible reservoir
of disposable labour-power. Its conditions of life sink below the
average normal level of the working-class; this makes it at once the
broad basis of special branches of capitalist exploitation. It is
characterised by maximum of working-time, and minimum of wages. We
have learnt to know its chief form under the rubric of "domestic
industry." It recruits itself constantly from the supernumerary forces
of modern industry and agriculture, and specially from those decaying
branches of industry where handicraft is yielding to manufacture,
manufacture to machinery. Its extent grows, as with the extent and
energy of accumulation, the creation of a surplus-population advances.
But it forms at the same time a self-reproducing and self-perpetuating
element of the working-class, taking a proportionally greater part in
the general increase of that class than the other elements. In fact,
not only the number of births and deaths, but the absolute size of the
families stand in inverse proportion to the height of wages, and
therefore to the amount of means of subsistence of which the different
categories of labourers dispose. This law of capitalistic society
would sound absurd to savages, or even civilised colonists. It calls
to mind the boundless reproduction of animals individually weak and
constantly hunted down.

The lowest sediment of the relative surplus-population finally dwells
in the sphere of pauperism. Exclusive of vagabonds, criminals,
prostitutes, in a word, the lumpenproletariat proper, this layer of
society consists of three categories. First, those able to work. One
need only glance superficially at the statistics of English pauperism
to find that the quantity of paupers increases with every crisis, and
diminishes with every revival of trade. Second, orphans and pauper
children. These are candidates for the industrial reserve army, and
are, in times of great prosperity, as 1860, e.g., speedily and in large
numbers enrolled in the active army of labourers. Third, the
demoralised and ragged, and those unable to work, chiefly people who
succumb to their incapacity for adaptation, due to the division of
labour; people who have passed the normal age of the labourer; the
victims of industry, whose number increases with the increase of
dangerous machinery, of mines, chemical works, &c., the mutilated,
the sickly, the widows, &c. Pauperism is the hospital of the active
labour-army and the dead weight of the industrial reserve army. Its
production is included in that of the relative surplus-population, its
necessity in theirs; along with the surplus-population, pauperism forms
a condition of capitalist production, and of the capitalist development
of wealth. It enters into the _faux frais_ of capitalist production;
but capital knows how to throw these. for the most part, from its own
shoulders on to those of the working-class and the lower middle class.

The greater the social wealth, the functioning capital, the extent and
energy of its growth, and, therefore, also the absolute mass of the
proletariat and the productiveness of its labour, the greater is the
industrial reserve army. The same causes which develop the expansive
power of capital, develop also the labour-power at its disposal. The
relative mass of the industrial reserve army increases therefore with
the potential energy of wealth. But the greater this reserve army in
proportion to the active labour-army, the greater is the mass of a
consolidated surplus-population, whose misery is in inverse ratio to
its torment of labour. The more extensive, finally, the lazarus-layers
of the working-class, and the industrial reserve army, the greater is
official pauperism. _This is the absolute general law of capitalist
accumulation._ Like all other laws it is modified in its working by
many circumstances, the analysis of which does not concern us here.

The folly is now patent of the economic wisdom that preaches to the
labourers the accommodation of their number to the requirements of
capital. The mechanism of capitalist production and accumulation
constantly effects this adjustment. The first word of this adaptation
is the creation of a relative surplus-population, or industrial reserve
army. Its last word is the misery of constantly extending strata of
the active army of labour, and the dead weight of pauperism.

The law by which a constantly increasing quantity of means of
production, thanks to the advance in the productiveness of social
labour, may be set in movement by a progressively diminishing
expenditure of human power, this law, in a capitalist society -- where
the labourer does not employ the means of production, but the means of
production employ the labourer -- undergoes a complete inversion and is
expressed thus: the higher the productiveness of labour, the greater is
the pressure of the labourers on the means of employment, the more
precarious, therefore, becomes their condition of existence, viz., the
sale of their own labour-power for the increasing of another's wealth,
or for the self-expansion of capital. The fact that the means of
production, and the productiveness of labour, increase more rapidly
than the productive population, expresses itself, therefore,
capitalistically in the inverse form that the labouring population
always increases more rapidly than the conditions under which capital
can employ this increase for its own self-expansion.

We saw in Part IV., when analysing the production of relative
surplus-value: within the capitalist system all methods for raising the
social productiveness of labour are brought about at the cost of the
individual labourer; all means for the development of production
transform themselves into means of domination over, and exploitation
of, the producers; they mutilate the labourer into a fragment of a man,
degrade him to the level of an appendage of a machine, destroy every
remnant of charm in his work and turn it into a hated toil; they
estrange from him the intellectual potentialities of the labour-process
in the same proportion as science is incorporated in it as an
independent power; they distort the conditions under which he works,
subject him during the labour-process to a despotism the more hateful
for its meanness; they transform his life-time into working-time, and
drag his wife and child beneath the wheels of the Juggernaut of
capital. But all methods for the production of surplus-value are at
the same time methods of accumulation; and every extension of
accumulation becomes again a means for the development of those
methods. It follows therefore that in proportion as capital
accumulates, the lot of the labourer, be his payment high or low, must
grow worse. The law, finally, that always equilibrates the relative
surplus-population, or industrial reserve army, to the extent and
energy of accumulation, this law rivets the labourer to capital more
firmly than the wedges of Vulcan did Prometheus to the rock. It
establishes an accumulation of misery, corresponding with accumulation
of capital. Accumulation of wealth at one pole is, therefore, at the
same time accumulation of misery, agony of toil slavery, ignorance,
brutality, mental degradation, at the opposite pole, i.e., on the side
of the class that produces its own product in the form of capital. This
antagonistic character of capitalistic accumulation is enunciated in
various forms by political economists, although by them it is
confounded with phenomena, certainly to some extent analogous, but
nevertheless essentially distinct, and belonging to pre-capitalistic
modes of production.

The Venetian monk Ortes, one of the great economic writers of the 18th
century, regards the antagonism of capitalist production as a general
natural law of social wealth.

    "In the economy of a nation, advantages and evils always balance
    one another (il bene ed il male economico in una nazione sempre
    all, istessa misura): the abundance of wealth with some people, is
    always equal to the want of it with others (la copia dei beni in
    alcuni sempre eguale alia mancanza di essi in altri): the great
    riches of a small number are always accompanied by the absolute
    privation of the first necessaries of life for many others. The
    wealth of a nation corresponds with its population, and its misery
    corresponds with its wealth. Diligence in some compels idleness in
    others. The poor and idle are a necessary consequence of the rich
    and active," &c.

In a thoroughly brutal way about 10 years after Ortes, the Church of
England parson, Townsend, glorified misery as a necessary condition of
wealth.

    "Legal constraint (to labour) is attended with too much trouble,
    violence, and noise, whereas hunger is not only a peaceable,
    silent, unremitted pressure, but as the most natural motive to
    industry and labour, it calls forth the most powerful exertions."

Everything therefore depends upon making hunger permanent among the
working-class, and for this, according to Townsend, the principle of
population, especially active among the poor, provides.

    "It seems to be a law of Nature that the poor should be to a
    certain degree improvident" [i.e., so improvident as to be born
    _without_ a silver spoon in the mouth], "that there may always be
    some to fulfil the most servile, the most sordid, and the most
    ignoble offices in the community. The stock of human happiness is
    thereby much increased, whilst the more delicate are not only
    relieved from drudgery ... but are left at liberty without
    interruption to pursue those callings which are suited to their
    various dispositions ... it [the Poor Law] tends to destroy the
    harmony and beauty, the symmetry and order of that system which God
    and Nature have established in the world."

If the Venetian monk found in the fatal destiny that makes misery
eternal, the _raison d'etre of_ Christian charity, celibacy,
monasteries and holy houses, the Protestant prebendary finds in it a
pretext for condemning the laws in virtue of which the poor possessed a
right to a miserable public relief.

    "The progress of social wealth," says Storch, "begets this useful
    class of society ... which performs the most wearisome, the vilest,
    the most disgusting functions, which takes, in a word, on its
    shoulders all that is disagreeable and servile in life, and
    procures thus for other classes leisure, serenity of mind and
    conventional [c'est bon!] dignity of character."

Storch asks himself in what then really consists the progress of this
capitalistic civilisation with its misery and its degradation of the
masses, as compared with barbarism. He finds but one answer: security!

    "Thanks to the advance of industry and science," says Sismondi,
    "every labourer can produce every day much more than his
    consumption requires. But at the same time, whilst his labour
    produces wealth, that wealth would, were he called on to consume it
    himself, make him less fit for labour." According to him, "men"
    [i.e., non-workers] "would probably prefer to do without all
    artistic perfection, and all the enjoyments that manufacturers
    procure for us, if it were necessary that all should buy them by
    constant toil like that of the labourer.... Exertion to-day is
    separated from its recompense; it is not the same man that first
    works, and then reposes; but it is because the one works that the
    other rests.... The indefinite multiplication of the productive
    powers of labour can then only have for result the increase of
    luxury and enjoyment of the idle rich."

Finally Destutt de Tracy, the fish-blooded bourgeois doctrinaire,
blurts out brutally: "In poor nations the people are comfortable, in
rich nations they are generally poor."






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