Saturday, 17 November 2018

Theories of Surplus Value, Part III, Chapter 19 - Part 13

For the Ricardians, and the social democrats, profit has to be maximised so that capital can be accumulated more rapidly. It is in workers' interest that capital accumulates more rapidly, because that way employment rises, and as capital accumulates, and social wealth rises, so the living standards of the workers rise along with it, even if their share of this greater social wealth declines. The aim of social democracy is to create a larger pie, not to increase the workers' share of the existing pie. 

The contradiction that the Ricardians and social democrats face is that, in order to maximise the profit, so as to accumulate more, the workers' share must be minimised. A solution is found in raising productivity, and so social-democracy became inextricably linked to the ideas of Fordism and Taylorism. In the US, the trades unions themselves found an ally amongst the Taylorists, on the grounds that the existing managers were not professional, and consequently the potential for greater accumulation was being squandered. 

“Taylor believed that his systematic approach to the problems of management provided a means by which productivity, wages and profits could be boosted radically. The scale of these improvements, he believed, would be so large that all major sources of friction between employer and worker could be overcome... (p 57) 

The benefits that systematic management of the production process could bring to the worker in the form of higher wages and improved working conditions appeared very tempting to many unionists. What the unions wanted in return for their co-operation in introducing the new techniques, however, was a say as to how and where they were to be utilised and how the benefits were to be distributed (McKelvey – AFL Attitudes Toward Production 1900-1932)... (p 64) 

The war compelled the leaders of these two groups to work together and the success of this experience convinced many of the leading Taylorists that an essential condition for the successful introduction of scientific management into the workplace was the co-operation of the trade unions. It also made the unions aware of the tactical advantages greater scientific knowledge could provide them... (p 65) 

The Taylorists' conclusions that poor management was the major cause of industrial inefficiency was publicised widely by the unions and used by them as a weapon to counter arguments that employers could not afford to pay higher wages or grant reduced working times. Utilising this study, union leaders also attacked employers for their 'rule of thumb' methods. To an increasing extent they exhorted capitalists '… to analyse production costs, to practice managerial economy' and make 'intelligent efforts to eliminate waste and to establish more efficient methods' (Nadworthy, Scientific Management and the Unions 1900-1932: A Historical Analysis) Rubbing salt into the employers' wounds, they also declared they were eager to co-operate with management to remove the waste the latter's incompetence had caused. (p 70)” 

(Chris Nyland – Scientific Management and Planning, in Capital and Class 33, Winter 1987) 

As Nyland also sets out, the very requirements of scientific management also imposed upon capital the requirement for standardisation, highlighted by the Hoover report, and for greater regulation and planning, itself made clear by the experience of war production. 

The argument of the Ricardians that workers must allow capital to maximise profit, at their expense, so as to accumulate more rapidly, and thereby benefit the workers, is mirrored by the Malthusians. The difference is that for them, the capitalists must allow the landlords, and other such layers, to maximise their rents and other sinecures, because only then can the capitalists realise their profits, and obtain the ability and incentive to accumulate further. 

“The industrial capitalist [the Malthusians say] must relinquish a portion of his product to the classes which only consume—fruges consumere nati —in order that these in turn may exchange it again, on unfavourable terms, with the capitalist. Otherwise the capitalist would lose the incentive for production, which consists precisely in the fact that he makes a big profit, that he sells his goods far above their value. We shall return to this comic struggle later.” (p 23) 

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