Friday, 7 July 2017

Theories of Surplus Value, Part I, Chapter 4 - Part 122

Marx also links these passages by Smith to his ideas in relation to slavery. One of the reasons that Smith's connection of the functions of these state functionaries to the “buffoons” etc., as unproductive, compared to the productive labour of manufacture, was so offensive to these social layers is that, in ancient Greece and Rome, these productive labours were almost always undertaken by slaves.

Smith writes,

““Such occupations” (as artificer and manufacturer) “were considered” (in several of the ancient states) “as fit only for slaves, and the free citizens of the State were prohibited from exercising them. Even in those States where no such prohibition took place, as in Rome and Athens, the great body of the people were in effect excluded from all the trades which are now commonly exercised by the lower sort of the inhabitants of towns. Such trades were, at Athens and Rome., all occupied by the slaves of the rich, who exercised them for the benefit of their masters, whose wealth, power, and protection, made it almost impossible for a poor freeman to find a market for his work, when it came into competition with that of the slaves of the rich.” (p 302)

But, there is a comparison here too with the slave in such societies, and the worker under capitalism.

Smith notes,

“Slaves, however, are very seldom inventive; and all the most important improvements, either in machinery, or in the arrangement and distribution of work, which facilitate and abridge labour have been the discoveries of freemen.” (p 302)

If slaves proposed some more efficient method of production, the slave owner saw it only as an indication of the laziness of the slave who sought to reduce their own labour, and would often punish them for it. When wage-workers make such proposals, the capitalists appropriate such ingenuity for themselves, whilst the workers still end up being punished by a reduction in their employment, loss of wages etc.

But, just as it was only independent producers who were thereby able to make such development, so too it is only workers as collective owners of the means of production, in their own co-operatives, who are able to give full vent to their ingenuity and inventiveness to revolutionise the means of production for their own benefit.

Smith gives the example of the Hungarian mines compared to the Turkish mines to show the difference. Similarly, Marx relates the superiority of the Lancashire textile co-operatives, and Kautsky and Connolly discuss the superiority of the agricultural co-op at Ralahine, whilst today, in the UK, employee owned enterprises year after year outperform FTSE 100 companies by around 10%, and such outperformance is seen almost everywhere across the globe.

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