labour aristocracy cont.

Tom O'Lincoln suarsos at alphalink.com.au
Mon Feb 3 16:05:10 MST 2003


Lou Paulsen:

>>...I believe it IS the case - that the RATE of profit on the capital
invested in the oppressed countries is higher than in the imperialist
countries. ... as the composition of capital shifts more toward fixed
capital ...the rate of profit is expected to -decline-   Which is to say
that if there is less investment in plant and technology in the oppressed
countries, ... the natural expectation of orthodox Marxism would be a
higher rate of profit there.<<

But there is also a tendency for capital to respond to different rates of
profit by moving around and approaching equilibrium. If the rate of profit
is higher in the 3d world, capital would flow there, the organic
composition of capital would rise there, and the rate of profit would tend
to equalise. But in reality capital is not fleeing the west.

Lou Proyect:

>>What does it mean to say that an American auto worker making $35 per hour
produces more surplus value proportionately than a banana plantation worker
in Honduras? That he or she is more "exploited". In the technical sense,
that is true but it largely ignores the overall material conditions that
hinge on a workers consciousness.<<

So "in the technical sense" workers are more exploited in the west. Good,
that concedes the theoretical argument we've been making. But there are
other material conditions that affect consciousness? Of course. Oppression
for one, and that is worse in the third world -- but it can lead to greater
or lesser radicalism depending on circumstances. In addition there is the
presence, or absence, of mobilising but also integrating institutions like
social democratic parties and trade unions, local history, and many other
things. That's why the roots of reformism go very deep, and why a "labour
aristocracy" theory which sets out from an argument Lou agrees is
*technically incorrect* is not very helpful.

>>it is very unlikely that an AFL-CIO member making $50,000 per year will
reach socialist conclusions based simply on a formula wrested out of
context from V. 1 of Capital<<

And it's equally unlikely a plantation worker will arrive at socialist
conclusions just because they have lousy wages and work under a blinding
sun. I don't know much about Honduras but there is a long history of
plantation labour in Indonesia, and no evidence that the workforce there is
more consistently radical than anyone else.

Ben:

>>labour aristocracy is a feature of imperialist nations<<

So why is there reformism in the 3d world?

>>What exactly constitutes the "bribe" that the labour aristocracy is
given? It may indeed be that they can easier win wage rises, since their
employers are making such huge profits from abroad<<

"May"? Is there actual evidence that it's easier to win wage rises in the
west? I was under the impression that real wages had fallen in the USA over
recent decades. On the other hand they've clearly risen around Asia.

>>and can ill-afford their highly productive home workforce taking
industrial action.<<

Are strike levels higher in the 3d World? I doubt if there's any clear
pattern either way. They were very high in Australia in 1967-75 and the
system survived. The Indonesian bosses moan just as much about strikes as
the Australian bosses; they say "we can't afford strikes in our
underdeveloped economy".

>>their situation makes life easier<<

Yes, highly skilled and productive workers will find life easier, despite
the fact that the bosses can exploit them at the same or even a higher
rate. Because labour power (being a commodity) tends to be paid at its
value, and the value of their labour power is higher.

>>So all first world workers do, in fact, benefit from being in the first
world.<<

On this logic, all western workers are members of the labour aristocracy.
They'll be glad to hear it in Harlem and Footscray...

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