Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Capital I, Chapter 10 - Part 2

2) The Greed For Surplus Labour. Manufacturer and Boyard.

Surplus Labour has existed in all class societies where one class has had a monopoly of the means of production. However, in all previous class societies prior to capitalism, the Surplus Labour produces surplus products not surplus value. Because the range and quantity of such Use Values that can be consumed by a ruling class, is limited, so is the need to work the exploited class to destruction. However, with Exchange Value, there is no such limit to how much a ruling class may seek to accumulate.

Hence the negro labour in the Southern States of the American Union preserved something of a patriarchal character, so long as production was chiefly directed to immediate local consumption. But in proportion, as the export of cotton became of vital interest to these states, the over-working of the negro and sometimes the using up of his life in 7 years of labour became a factor in a calculated and calculating system.” (p 226)

Under Capitalism, the surplus labour provided by the worker is hidden. As Marx says, if the rate of exploitation is one hundred percent, its just as true that the worker works half a minute for himself and half a minute for capital, as it is that he works half the week for himself, and half for capital. The two are fused together and appear the same. But, under the Corvee, for example, that was not the case.

Confirming the point made earlier about how industrial capital moves away from its initial rapaciousness, and began to husband its human resources, Marx writes,

If the Règlement organique of the Danubian provinces was a positive expression of the greed for surplus-labour which every paragraph legalised, the English Factory Acts are the negative expression of the same greed. These acts curb the passion of capital for a limitless draining of labour-power, by forcibly limiting the working-day by state regulations, made by a state that is ruled by capitalist-and landlord. Apart from the working-class movement that daily grew more threatening, the limiting of factory labour was dictated by the same necessity which spread guano over the English fields. The same blind eagerness for plunder that in the one case exhausted the soil, had, in the other, torn up by the roots the living force of the nation.” (p 229)

But, of course, then as now, the fact that Capital as a whole recognised the need to husband its resources collectively, did not mean that Capitalists would not seek to subvert the law for their own advantage individually! Marx, throughout 'Capital' quotes extensively from the reports of Factory Inspectors, who set out in detail the way individual capitalists sought to achieve this. The 1850 Factory Act, for example, established an average 10 hour working day – 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mon – Fri , with 1/2 hour for breakfast and 1 hour for dinner, and 8 hours on Saturday, 6 a.m. - 2 p.m. with 1/2 hour for breakfast.

Marx quotes an 1859 Report from Leonard Horner, showing that fraudulent mill owners would start 15 minutes early, and finish 15 minutes late. They would steal 10 minutes from breakfast and 20 minutes from dinner, during the week, and similar amounts on a Saturday. Altogether, they would steal 340 minutes a week from the worker, or about 27 days a year. The fact that during crises, workers were put on short time didn't change this. In fact, during such times, the capitalists would feel the need even more to extract as much surplus from the workers as possible.

He quotes the Inspectors' Report for 1858.

The same reports set out the pitiful excuses used by employers.

““It is sometimes advanced by way of excuse, when persons are found at work in a factory, either at a meal hour, or at some illegal time, that they will not leave the mill at the appointed hour, and that compulsion is necessary to force them to cease work [cleaning their machinery, &c.], especially on Saturday afternoons. But, if the hands remain in a factory after the machinery has ceased to revolve ... they would not have been so employed if sufficient time had been set apart specially for cleaning, &c., either before 6 a.m. [sic.!] or before 2 p.m. on Saturday afternoons.”” (p 231-2)

Marx also quotes the Inspectors on the extent that the employers saw so much to gain from such additional exploitation, and so little chance of being caught, and so little penalty when they were, that they had every incentive to break the law. This was important for Marx's political approach. In the Programme he wrote for the First International, he was clear that the significance of such things as the Factory Acts or Minimum Standards for education, was not in the fact that these could be or would be enforced by the Capitalist State, but that they provided a basis for collective action by workers themselves for their enforcement.

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