Flexible Employment

Zeynep Tufekcioglu zeynept at turk.net
Fri Aug 9 16:38:25 MDT 1996


Rahul, who should know better, says:

>Somewhere in his great monument to scholasticism, Marx does very clearly
>state that absolute surplus value relates only to increasing the length of
>the working day, not either to intensification of labor or increase in
>productivity.

>Of course, there's no particular reason to be bound by his
>definition.

Of course not, especially when Marx does not say that absolute value relates
only to increasing the length of the working day, in his great monument to
scholasticsm. Intensification of labour and prolonging the working day are
equal in effect, they raise absolute surplus value. Productivity of labour
(which is increased by either new methods of organising labour -like a more
efficient division of labour-, or employing more efficient machinery, new
technologies) increases relative surplus value.

I truly apologise for not providing quotes, but I happen to be lacking a
copy of Das Kapital in English, another book I seem to have left somewhere
in my rather scattered life. Perhaps other list members will oblige.

>The conception you're using, however, involves artificially
>dichotomizing a continuum. Methods for intensifying labor like TQM or
>Taylorism are technologies just as much as machines are. In the short run,
>there's no particular reason to distinguish between them. In the long run,
>of course, there is, because "human" technologies are sharply limited in
>how much they can increase production, unlike scientific technologies.

No, the dichotomy is not artificial. In fact, it is a matter of life and
death when it comes to the question of raising the rate of surplus value. If
means for increasing the relative surplus value are not present, then
absolute value is sought, aggresively at that. Relative surplus value
increase also increases the rate of exploitation, but the real wages of
workers may rise alongside, even though the rate of exploitation is
increasing. That just means that we are deprived of an even bigger
potential, but since the pie is getting bigger, our life conditions are not
getting worse. Just not becoming as good as they should be becoming.

Absolute value increase, on the other hand, is brutal in the fact that
either method for it- intensification of the labor process, or prolonging
the workday- involves hard earned gains of the working class to be attacked.
Also, privatising social security, "reforming" welfare so that capitalists
and/or the government contributes less to it also increases the burden cost
of keeping of labour-power ready and maintained, to the detriment of the
worker. These are also increasing the surplus value.

Think Rahul, of the character of the attack since 1980s. It involves:

- More subcontracting, less unionisation (pressing down the wages in
relative     terms, increasing the absolute surplus value, since you work
the same amount    of time for less money)
- Privatising social security, health care (decreasing the cost of the keep
of    labour-power for capitalists, hence a worker pays more out of his
wages         instead of the capitalist out of his profits, which also means
that you work    the same amount of time for less benefits- absolute surplus
value)
- Downsizing (do the same work with less people, which is intensifying the
labour-content of work, increasing absolute surplus value)
- Push for "flexible" labour markets (easier to fire, hence easier to hire
for    less, and also to press the wages down, again increasing absolute
surplus       value)
- "Flexible" labour practices (which is a bit different than either absolute
or   relative surplus value increase, but in practice, and in the last
instance,     it has meant intensification of labour-content of work,
absolute surplus        value)
- Move towards cheaper labour markets, with the same technology (less wages,
increase in absolute surplus value)

>>I think that whether suprlus value increase is done more in absolute terms
>>or relative terms depends on which point of the cycle of crises capitalism
>>is. Relative increase entails a new technology of revolutionary nature. I
>>keep insisting, nothing of that sort has happened in the post-war era,
>>including computers. Computers do not revolutionarize the method of
>>production, they improve and reform, and they speed it up. (Increasing the
>>turn-over time, a very important defense against crises since that means the
>>mass level of profits can stay same).
>
>This is clearly not true. The increases in productivity of labor since the
>war are considerably greater than those from the beginning of time until
>the war.

You are wrong. The car, the internal combustion engine, the steam engine
before have all increased productivity, and revolutionised production to a
level greater than anything we have seen since the war.

What you are confusing is the fact that the level of capital accumulation
allows for the *mass* of profits to be greater than compared to pre-war era.
In fact this is true for each era, compared to the previous one.

Simple. You have 10% profit rate, say, but have 100 units of capital. When
you have accumulated 100,000 units, you can have a 1% profit rate, and 1000
units of profit. The general, overall trend of the productivity of capital
(which means nothing else besides profit generation, self-valorising since
English lacks a better word for it) is downward with small fluctuations on
the overall trend, depending on what point of the cycle capitalism is in.

>Computers, in and of themselves, have only played a minor role,
>but the development of electronics and the introduction of large-scale
>automation, to cite two related examples, have revolutionized production.

Yes, electronics and large-scale automation have played a very important
role. But, the increase in relative value they caused in the post-war era is
not enough to offset the current squeeze.

If you don't take my word for it, take the capitalist's word. They would
prefer a world in which their profits rose, as well as real wages. Why rock
the boat by attacking the working class so viciously? They aren't stupid,
the welfare state era was during a boom era, which I think was rather
comfortable for capitalists.

>Furthermore, the whole idea of modern technocratic capitalism is that
>productivity increases by leaps and bounds even in the absence of explicit
>revolution -- constant improvement is "business as usual." It works more
>often than not.

Again, Rahul, do you think capitalists are just bad and mad, and too greedy
for their own good in the current vicious attack? This has real economic
basis, and that great monument to scholasticsm has the best answer I have
found so far, to the reason why this is happening now, since the 80s.

>>In Toyota and other multi-nationals, and some larger Turkish plantes you
>>have QC. Mission statements, company policies, company philosophy, merit
>>rewards etc. the works. Most workers I've spoken to say that it has meant
>>intensification of their work. Also, rewards for "improvement suggestions"
>>also work as "inform on one another". If you notice anybody not doing all
>>they can, and inform on them, you get a reward.
>
>Sounds almost like the system in the early years of the Soviet Union.

Well, good for them. You must take a class position. If, to defend our
revolution under attack, besieged by imperialism, we need to work 18 hours a
day, we'll work 18 hours a day, and believe me, I'll inform on the
free-riders. You can't have absolute criteria as such.

I'm going to quote Lou (P).

>Louis: Nuclear energy is not something I take a stand on. I take a stand
>on capitalist nuclear energy. The death penalty is not something I take a
>stand on, except to oppose it in capitalist society. I was opposed to a
>military draft during the Vietnam war. If I had been a citizen of Vietnam
>in that period, I would have not opposed a draft. You don't seem to see
>things in class terms.

That kind of attitude makes me very glad. What makes Marxism different than
general humanism (which always is a bourgeois attitude) is its class stance.
Revolutionary violence is different than bourgeois violence. I approve of
the former, and fight against the latter. A revolutionary war is different
than an imperialist war. I'll fight for the first one, oppose the second.
That does not make me a violent war-monger.

>Neo-liberalism eradicates the middle ground with regard to the social
>policy of the state. No more social democracy, no more vaguely leftist
>bourgeois nationalist regimes in the third world. The shifting of war from
>the international to the domestic arena is, much more slowly, eliminating
>the middle ground with regard to attitudes of citizens toward the state. In
>general, Marxists lick their chops over this kind of polarization. I'm not
>so sure myself.

Rahul, are you crazy? Do you think Marxists love to see the gains of the
working class eradicate? We love to see sweatshops pop up in places where
they weren't, love to see humans waste their lives as they work 6-7 days a
week?

The only thing I welcome as a Marxist is the chance to end this
polarization, which we do not create nor aid, once and for all.

>Yes, the capitalists are digging their grave, and digging
>it fast, but it's entirely possible they'll bury the rest of us in it
>first.

What do you propose, comrade? Perhaps, we should pray that they come up with
some peaceful means to end their crisis. What should we do, if they'll
possibly bury the rest of us in it first? If we sit very very quietly in our
corners, will everything get better? Should we all sign-up to R&D labs, or
perhaps becomes manager ourselves?

Zeynep



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