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Thursday, 3 November 2011

Contradictions in capitalism part 4 : workers wages

In this 4th piece of my mini series on the contradictions in the current economic system we live under capitalism i have looked at various things that leads capitalism to crisis's and the reasonings behind them.

In this piece we look at workers wages and how they are paid and how the boss's decide how much a worker earns.
“Every upward movement in wages can have no other effect than a rise in the price of corn, wine, etc., that is, the effect of a dearth. For what are wages? They are the cost price of corn, etc.; they are the integrant price of everything. We may go even further: wages are the proportion of the elements composing wealth and consumed reproductively every day by the mass of the workers. Now, to double wages ... is to attribute to each one of the producers a greater share than his product, which is contradictory, and if the rise extends only to a small number of industries, it brings a general disturbance in exchange; in a word, a dearth....
( Karl Marx - povety of phillosophy chapter 2)

The rise and fall of profits and wages expresses merely the proportion in which capitalists and workers share in the product of a day's work, without influencing in most instances the price of the product. But that “strikes followed by an increase in wages culminate in a general rise in prices, in a dearth even” – those are notions which can blossom only in the brain of a poet who has not been understood.

In England, strikes have regularly given rise to the invention and application of new machines. Machines were, it may be said, the weapon employed by the capitalist to quell the revolt of specialized labour. The self-acting mule, the greatest invention of modern industry, put out of action the spinners who were in revolt. If combinations and strikes had no other effect than that of making the efforts of mechanical genius react against them, they would still exercise an immense influence on the development of industry.


The price of Labour Power.

Let us take any worker; for example, a weaver. The capitalist supplies him with the loom and yarn. The weaver applies himself to work, and the yarn is turned into cloth. The capitalist takes possession of the cloth and sells it for 20 shillings, for example. Now are the wages of the weaver a share of the cloth, of the 20 shillings, of the product of the work? By no means. Long before the cloth is sold, perhaps long before it is fully woven, the weaver has received his wages. The capitalist, then, does not pay his wages out of the money which he will obtain from the cloth, but out of money already on hand.....Wages, therefore, are not a share of the worker in the commodities produced by himself. Wages are that part of already existing commodities with which the capitalist buys a certain amount of productive labor-power.....

Now, the same general laws which regulate the price of commodities in general, naturally regulate wages , or the price of labor-power. Wages will now rise, now fall, according to the relation of supply and demand, according as competition shapes itself between the buyers of labor-power, the capitalists, and the sellers of labor-power, the workers. The fluctuations of wages correspond to the fluctuation in the price of commodities in general. But within the limits of these fluctuations the price of labor-power will be determined by the cost of production, by the labor-time necessary for production of this commodity: labor-power.

What, then, is the cost of production of labor-power?

It is the cost required for the maintenance of the laborer as a laborer, and for his education and training as a laborer.

Karl Marx, Wage Labour and Capital



Wage labour is the mode of production in which the labourer sells their capacity to work as a commodity.

The pre-condition for wage labour is a class of people who have no other way of living, and a class of people who own the means of production as their Private Property. The capitalist who buys the labour power, and pays for it at its value, own the labour process and the product of labour, and can sell the product in order to realise a profit. The worker, on the other hand is alienated from her own labour.

Their commodity, labor-power, the workers exchange for the commodity of the capitalist, for money, and, moreover, this exchange takes place at a certain ratio. So much money for so long a use of labor-power. For 12 hours' weaving, two shillings. And these two shillings, do they not represent all the other commodities which I can buy for two shillings? Therefore, actually, the worker has exchanged his commodity, labor-power, for commodities of all kinds, and, moreover, at a certain ratio. By giving him two shillings, the capitalist has given him so much meat, so much clothing, so much wood, light, etc., in exchange for his day's work. The two shillings therefore express the relation in which labor-power is exchanged for other commodities, the exchange-value of labor-power....

But the putting of labor-power into action -- i.e., the work -- is the active expression of the laborer's own life. And this life activity he sells to another person in order to secure the necessary means of life. His life-activity, therefore, is but a means of securing his own existence. He works that he may keep alive. He does not count the labor itself as a part of his life; it is rather a sacrifice of his life. It is a commodity that he has auctioned off to another. The product of his activity, therefore, is not the aim of his activity. What he produces for himself is not the silk that he weaves, not the gold that he draws up the mining shaft, not the palace that he builds. What he produces for himself is wages ; and the silk, the gold, and the palace are resolved for him into a certain quantity of necessaries of life, perhaps into a cotton jacket, into copper coins, and into a basement dwelling. And the laborer who for 12 hours long, weaves, spins, bores, turns, builds, shovels, breaks stone, carries hods, and so on -- is this 12 hours' weaving, spinning, boring, turning, building, shovelling, stone-breaking, regarded by him as a manifestation of life, as life? Quite the contrary. Life for him begins where this activity ceases, at the table, at the tavern, in bed. The 12 hours' work, on the other hand, has no meaning for him as weaving, spinning, boring, and so on, but only as earnings, which enable him to sit down at a table, to take his seat in the tavern, and to lie down in a bed. If the silk-worm's object in spinning were to prolong its existence as caterpillar, it would be a perfect example of a wage-worker.

The free laborer , on the other hand, sells his very self, and that by fractions. He auctions off eight, 10, 12, 15 hours of his life, one day like the next, to the highest bidder, to the owner of raw materials, tools, and the means of life -- i.e., to the capitalist. The laborer belongs neither to an owner nor to the soil, but eight, 10, 12, 15 hours of his daily life belong to whomsoever buys them. The worker leaves the capitalist, to whom he has sold himself, as often as he chooses, and the capitalist discharges him as often as he sees fit, as soon as he no longer gets any use, or not the required use, out of him. But the worker, whose only source of income is the sale of his labor-power, cannot leave the whole class of buyers, i.e., the capitalist class , unless he gives up his own existence. He does not belong to this or that capitalist, but to the capitalist class ; and it is for him to find his man -- i.e., to find a buyer in this capitalist class.

Karl Marx
Wage Labour and Capital



We conclude this part of this mini series bhy looking at the fact that a capitalist will never pay the worker the true value of his or her labour as then they would be owning the means of production owning their own labour of which they currently do not unfortunatly.
Wages reflect a certain level of work that the capitalist pays for and gets back in the final product which he then sells to make a profit. The worker only recives part of this as Marx tells us. So the contradiction is clear for all to see the capitalist is exploiting the workers to increase his or her profits. That is essentially a capitalist in a nutshell only interested in profits . In times of economic downturn in a capitalist system wages are one of the first things to get cutback this wage is waht the worker lives on and is made to suffer due to the capitalists lack of need for production as he has produced too much that he cannot sell. As i have explained in previous parts in this series there is another contradiction in capitalism that encourages capitalits to over produce in their blind search for profits and more profits. The one who always suffers as a result of this is the poor worker who is left out of pocket and soften out of a job.

In the last part of this mini series i will conclude all the contradictions and look to offer an alternative which of course is socialism. The social centralisation of the means of production in the hands of the working class and a end to wage slavery.

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