Marxism in rich countries
bstoller at utopia2000.org
Wed Jun 6 19:25:02 MDT 2001
Marx: 'The general law is that all costs of circulation which arise only
from changes in the forms of commodities do not add to their value. They
are merely expenses incurred in the realization of the value or in its
conversion from one form into another' (Marx, Capital volume two,
International 1967, p. 149).
More importantly, circulation receives its financing DIRECTLY from
Marx, again: 'The capital spent to meet [circulation] costs (including
the labor done under its control) belongs among the faux frais
[incidental costs] of capitalist production. They must be replaced from
the surplus-product and constitute, as far as the entire capitalist
class is concerned, a DEDUCTION from the surplus-value or
surplus-product, just as the time a laborer needs for the purchase of
his means of subsistence is lost time' (ibid., emphasis added).
The costs of circulation (including the costs of circulation WORKERS)
are deductions from the costs of the production process--and deductions
from the costs of production, either in the form of relative
(labor-saving machines) or absolute surplus extraction (increased
exploitation of workers), are often deductions from PRODUCTION WORKERS.
Engels: 'You ask what the English workers think about colonial policy.
Well, exactly the same as they think about politics in general: the same
as what the bourgeois think. There is no workers' party here, there are
only Conservatives and Liberal-Radicals, and the workers gaily share the
feast of England's monopoly of the world market and the colonies' (Marx
& Engels' Selected Correspondence, International 1936, p. 399).
Has all that much has changed since colonial times?
As I see it, all that is really different is that the clear national
distinctions between imperialistic nation and plundered colony have
given way (largely due to technical changes in the mode of production)
to less clear but still national distinctions between circulation
workers and production workers.
Sad as it is, circulation workers have no choice but to exploit their
production comrades. Sadder still, it's all the easier to do since
circulation workers rarely ever see their production counterparts,
thanks to the international division of labor (globalization).
Capital's mission is to reduce, as much as possible, the NECESSARY
labor-time required to produce a given commodity, thus increasing the
SURPLUS labor-time from each commodity produced. Cheap consumer goods
(from, say, exploited proletarians in the Third World) insure cheap
labor costs, i.e. the necessary labor-time, for the workers of the
Marx: '[T]he value of labor is in every country determined by a
traditional standard of life. It is not mere physical life, but it is
the satisfaction of certain wants springing from the social conditions
in which people are placed and reared up' (Value, Price and Profit,
International 1935, p. 57).
Obviously the development of capital throughout the world is quite
uneven. The 'traditional standard of life' is conspicuously different
from country to country.
Continuing with this:
'[T]he value of the laboring power, or in more popular parlance, the
value of labor, is determined by the value of necessaries, or the
quantity of labor required to produce them' (ibid., p. 50).
Accepting this, we will acknowledge a dialectical relationship between
workers who produce necessities for labor (located primarily in the
production sphere) and workers who produce other commodities (say,
circulation sphere commodities).
As production moves from developed nations to less developed nations,
the relationship between workers who produce necessities FOR WORKERS and
workers who produce OTHER COMMODITIES changes abruptly.
As production moves from developed nations (where standards of living
are high) to less developed nations (where standards of living are low),
the costs of necessary labor-power for the developed nations are reduced
(without a decline in the standards of living for those workers), hence
surplus-labor is increased. (Because the workers of the less developed
nations have been only recently turned into wage laborers, their new
standard of living---under capitalism---can only be compared to
standards held under an entirely different economic system, i.e. workers
may now have higher standards of living measured in commodity
availability versus lower standards of living measured in family time.)
Marx: '[S]uppose that, consequent upon a decrease of productivity, more
labor should be wanted to produce, say, the same amount of agricultural
produce, so that the price of the average daily necessaries should
rise... In that case the VALUE of labor would rise...[and] [t]he surplus
labor would sink... But in insisting upon a rise of wages, the laborer
would only insist upon getting the increased value of his labor, like
every other seller of a commodity, who, the costs of his commodities
having increased, tries to get its increased value paid.
'But a change might also take place in the opposite direction. By virtue
of the increased productivity of labor, the same amount of the average
daily necessaries might sink from three to two shillings... The working
man would now be able to buy with two shillings as many necessaries as
he did before with three shillings. Indeed, the value of labor would
have sunk, but that diminished value would command the same amount of
commodities as before. Then profits would rise.' (ibid., pp. 50-51).
By lowering labor costs of commodities primarily consumed BY labor,
labor costs can be reduced without laborers realizing a dip in living
standards. This is one dynamic of the current globalization. American
workers are cheaper to maintain because capital now has more areas of
the world to ransack for OTHER workers to sustain them.
Although the First World workers buy the produce of the Third World at
its 'market value,' they 'pay the full value' ONLY in the sense that the
'full value' of a worker's reproduction VARIES from country to country.
Uneven development itself is the cause of the exploitation of the
underdeveloped nations. In this, BOTH the capitalists and the workers,
especially the higher paid workers, of the First World benefit.
First World workers receive above average value for their labor not only
directly through capital ownership (according to Business Week, some 25%
of U.S. households own stock in stock or pension) but also through lower
commodity prices of commodities that reproduce their labor (although, in
theory, someday this may be leveled through capital's rapacious
appetite). This last point owes itself an advantage of the
internationalization of the social division of labor. Simple and
compound labor (skilled and unskilled labor; circulation and productive
labor)---as long as the two coexist rigidly, the latter will also enjoy
BETTER work conditions than the former, itself a extra-economic form of
exploitation (and inter-class disunity).
Because the circulation sphere cannot generate value, the circulation
sphere MUST receive value from the production sphere; because the
reproduction of the circulation sphere comes out of the surplus of
production, circulation workers MUST share in the exploitation of
As I see it, the tendency for the rate of profit to fall (through
expanded circulation costs) MUST pressure production---and, therefore,
that creates in capital the need to continually find ever new ways to
reduce the costs of production the provenance of ALL value. The movement
of production to Third World countries corroborates this thesis.
Marx: 'The creation by capital of absolute surplus value---more
objectified labor---is conditional upon an expansion, specifically a
constant expansion, of the sphere of circulation... The tendency to
create the WORLD MARKET is directly given in the concept of capital
itself... On the other side, the production of relative surplus value,
i.e. production of surplus value based on the increase and development
of the productive forces, requires the production of new consumption;
requires that the consuming cycle within circulation expands as did the
productive circle previously' (Grundrisse, Random House 1973, pp.
What we have here, globalized, are the fruits of the inequities of the
social division of labor.
Indeed, globalization, as I understand it, sharpens national
distinctions instead of effacing them by making, at least as a tendency,
an entirely national circulation sphere and an entirely national
production sphere. Globalization only adds a new wrinkle to the old
mental - manual division (that is the core of class division) in that it
has made its corollary, the separation of town and country, the
separation of nations: one nation is working class while another nation
is middle class.
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