File spoon-archives/marxism-international.archive/marxism-international_1997/marxism-international.9710, message 233

Date: Mon, 13 Oct 1997 01:31:11 +0200
Subject: Re: M-I: Re: Get back in the kitchen and rattle them pots & pans!

For reasons unknown, James B writes :

>According to Hugh Rodwell, and many other political-economy
>fundamentalists, unemployed women in the household are not in the working
>class because they don't generate surplus value. So obviously they must be
>part of the bourgoisie. My wife of 35 years doesn't seem to be very
>bourgeois. In fact, she was on the central committee of the Puerto Rican
>Socialist Party. Either this is one of those exceptions that supposedly
>prove the rule or my wife was an undergraound agent of the bourgeoisie
>during all those years and I never suspected a thing.
>I remember being told by a highly respected Marxist economist that a lathe
>tender is part of the working class but the janitor who sweeps up the
>filings is not, because the latter doesn't produce a product that will go
>on the market. Saint Karl, protect us from the economists!
>There was discussion somewhere, some time ago, of the concept of
>"collective worker" for the worker's household. Does anybody recall this?
>I'd love to see a citation.

1 Where can anybody find that "according to me" "unemployed women in the
household are not in the working class"?? Prizes for actual quotes from my
many postings on value production.

2 These women are not alone in the working class (broad sense) or
proletariat (broad sense used by Marx, of people having nothing but the
sale of their labour power to live off, whether they succeed in selling it
or not, as opposed to more narrowly political Bolshevik sense of organized,
employed workers who produce surplus value) in not producing surplus value.
Unemployed men don't produce surplus value either, neither do personal
servants and service providers not capitalistically employed and organized
(this is discussed thoroughly but is not crystal clear in Theories of
Surplus Value I on Adam Smith in a section called "Productive Labour").
Neither do workers employed directly by capital to look after its
bookkeeping etc, since they are working with things that have to be done
to keep track of and realize the exchange of commodities with money, but
that don't add any exchange value to it. When this kind of thing is
provided as a good to one capitalist by another capitalist and the time
taken can be quantified, I think there's a case to be made that surplus
value is being created, but this is not something generally agreed on, not
even by Marxist fundamentalists.

Engels makes it clear in Capital that even bookkeepers and clerical workers
get badly exploited, and it's clear that their conditions are more
vulnerable to the threat of revolutionary changes in technology than those
of workers in manufacturing or the more tangible services.

Today in many countries, and this is very clear in for instance Argentina
and Brazil, many of the most militant socialists are working in banks and

3 The "obviously" in "obviously they must be part of the bourgeoisie" is
pure fabrication on Jim's part. Again, if he can find a single word
implying this in anything I've ever written on the lists, I'll buy him a
rose-pink Cadillac.

So all the body of the post ironizing about underground agents of the
bourgeoisie is fluff on foundations of straw.

Jim's position is inverted. Would he think it was *fairer* for all poor and
exploited people to be honorary producers of surplus value?? That's making
economics into moralizing, not science.

It's not a privilege to produce surplus value. It's slow suicide, it's
getting your brains and body force sucked out of you creating power and
wealth for some bastards who don't care a damn about you, your family or
your friends. Nor is it a privilege to be poor and exploited and get out of
producing surplus value, because then you're either unemployed or sick or
retired or helping the capitalists look after their property.

What we're after is getting rid of the whole capitalist set of production
relations in which the production of surpus value by many and the
monopolization of its appropriation by a few is the inescapable foundation.
And to do this all the poor and exploited are needed.

When the question arises about who will be the most effective militants in
leading the struggle, the main point is the clarity of understanding the
impossibility of getting away from a life of exploitation and poverty by
any other way than the removal of capitalism. Here the experience of
productive workers (productive of surplus value) is more likely to
predispose them to this kind of understanding and point them to the
practical necessities involved in doing something about it, like building a
revolutionary party. They are less atomized than others, and less likely to
believe in pie-in-the-sky about a personal solution to problems being just
round the corner.

This is too brief, but it'll have to do for now.



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