Labour aristocracy (to Anthony)

Philip Ferguson plf13 at student.canterbury.ac.nz
Wed Feb 12 21:43:27 MST 2003


Anthony wrote:
> The exchange value of labor power is determined in the
> market, and by the class struggle. The exchange value
> of any commodity - of any product of human labor that
> is bought and sold - is determined by amount of
> socially necessary labor required to produce that
> commodity.


This is rather confused.  The value of labour-power is determined in
precisely the same manner as the value of any other commodity - ie by
the socially necessary labour power that went into creating it.

The class struggle determines the *price* of labour-power, not its
value.  The wage is the *price* of labour-power and, like the price of
any other commodity, fluctuates around the value.  It may be higher or
lower than the value depending on a number of things - ie shortages of
labour-power, ability of organised workers to extract higher wages etc.

But the key point, in relation to labour aristocracy theory, is that
whether some workers can gain a *price* for their labour-power that is
above its value, they are *still being exploited* because they are still
creating surplus-value.  Organised workers who are strong enough to
extract what we might call a 'good price' for the sale of their
labour-power thus still have a vested interest in joining with workers
on lower wages to take hold of the whole of the surplus and put it to
better social use than is currently the case when it is in the hands of
the capitalist class.

Moreover, since wage scales are constructed from the bottom up, the more
some workers can be paid the most crap wages and be generally
discriminated against, the more chance the bosses have of depressing the
wages of all workers.


Philip Ferguson




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