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sure of his paid labor time-get more wages. If this does not happen labor power will be selling below its value.
For, if the consumer is exploited in the purchase of commodities, there need be no exploitation of the laborer in production. Not only that but as the individual capitalist is a greater consumer than the individual laborer he would be exploited to a greater degree. The worker and his employer would have a common interest and would make common cause with the baker against the grocery man and the butcher. Afterward they could form another alliance with the grocery man and the butcher against the baker, and so on, ad infinitum.
The worker would be going in the wrong direction. He would be traveling in a vicious circle and at the end of his activity would find that he was as badly off as before, and would realize that to regain his living standard he would be compelled to demand a higher wage from his boss.
For the worker is one member of the class of laborers. As a wage worker he produces values for which he receives no equivalent. He does not do this from choice, but because the situation of the class of which he is part compels him to sell his labor power that he may provide himself and family with the means of life. The capitalist class takes, as its portion of wealth production, all the surplus values resulting from the labor of the working class. If the living standard of the working class be lowered, the value of labor power will be reduced, and the measure of surplus value will be increased-profits will be greater.
The Class Struggle. The interest of the capitalists lies, therefore, in forcing, if they can, a lower living standard upon the workers. Naturally the interest of the workers lies in not only maintaining their present standard but in trying to elevate it. This antagonism is an evidence of what we know as the class struggle. The class struggle is a living human and social fact, and must be the guide by which all working class activity is determined and directed. The consciousness of this class struggle should ever be with the worker, for the real position and condition of the "free laborer" in capitalist society is that of a member of a slave class. The individual worker may quit his job at will, but he must seek another boss without delay. As Marx puts it: “But the laborer, whose only source of earning is the sale of his labor power, cannot leave the whole class of its purchasers, that is the capitalist class, without renouncing his own existence. He does not belong to this or that employer, but he does belong to the capitalist class; and more than that, it is his business to find an employer; that is among the capitalist class it is his business to discover his own particular purchaser.” (Wage, Labor and Capital, page 19.)
Capitalist Enslavement. Capitalist enslavement of the working class enables the capitalists to own the products of the workers' labor. And this is all that other forms of slavery meant. The difference is only in appearance; the slavery is as complete, in fact more complete. Says Marx: "Capital presupposes wage-labor and wage-labor presupposes capital.” That is, there could not be a capitalist unless there was a class of workers which could not live except by selling their life energy—a class in a slave position.
The exploitation of the worker can only occur while he is working. Having nothing to be robbed of but his power to produce wealth he cannot be robbed of more than he has. It is in the working place on the jobthat the worker is exploited. Exploitation cannot occur anywhere else. There is no other place toward which he can apply for redress and expect to get it. His control over production is the only power he can exercise with a prospect of result. This power is beyond him, also, until he organizes to employ it. He need look to the capitalists for no consideration or help. Says Marx: “The interests of capital are in direct antagonism to the interests of wage-labor.”
To blame the shopkeeper is a waste of time and misdirected energy, for the regulation of commodity prices is beyond the workers' powers. When prices rise, while wages remain stationary, the worker has received in effect a cut in wages. He must strive in the direction of a wage increase; he must seek an increase in the measure of his paid labor time; compel the boss to forego some of his surplus value. The worker is not robbed over the counter, but at the point of production, and it is in production he must look for restoration in the working place and from the boss.
1. What does Marx call profit? 2. Is profit made, ordinarily, by charging excessive
prices? 3. How is normal or average profit made? 4. Why is capitalism called “the profit system”? 5. What happens if prices rise and wages do not rise
correspondingly? 6. Should the worker try to get prices lowered or to
have wages raised? Why? 7. Why do the capitalists strive for lower living
standards for the workers? 8. What is the class struggle? 9. What is the position of the free laborer in capitalist
society? 10. What is the substance of slavery? 11. What is meant by "the interests of capital are in
direct antagonism to the interests of wage-labor"?
The Price of Commodities HE value of a commodity—its relation to other commodities—is not the same thing as its price, the
money or gold expression for which it sells on the market. For, while the value of a commodity is determined solely by the amount of socially necessary labor time embodied in it, and fluctuates only as the volume of this time changes, the price of a commodity is influenced by market conditions prevailing at the time of sale.
The relation between the supply of any commodity in the market and the demand for it is an important factor in regulating its price. If the supply is in excess of the demand the price tends to run below its value. If, on the other hand, the demand outruns the supply, its price will incline to be high and the article will sell above its value.
Wages and Prices Generally speaking, value and price are equal, and, on the average, a commodity which costs ten hours of labor to produce will exchange with gold containing ten hours of socially necessary labor time.
There is an altogether too common belief that the wages paid the workers regulate the prices of commodities. For some time past every source of capitalist propaganda has been used to advance this erroneous idea, and, unfortunately for themselves, the workers have been misled into accepting this pernicious doctrine as economic truth, with the result that, where they have not voluntarily accepted wage cuts, they have been halfhearted in their resistance to the wage cutting campaign instituted by the capitalists.
During the war period, which includes also a few years following the cessation of active hostilities, the (money) wage of the workers had risen to comparatively high levels but the prices of commodities had risen to proportionately higher levels. It is claimed that the higher wages paid the workers during and after the war are responsible for the rise in prices. But during that entire period, more especially after America's entry into the war, there was to an extreme degree a diversion of manufacturing from the production of the ordinary products of peace to an intensified production of war materials. Even much of the production which serves the purposes of war equally with the purposes of peace was preempted for support of the military effort. Many manufacturing plants were transformed from instruments of peace production into war-material establishments of one kind or another. Commercial production suffered a decline.
And as a consequence of the withdrawal of many millions of men from industrial pursuits the demand for laborers greatly exceeded the supply and wages went up. But if the supply of laborers was unequal to the demand for wage workers, so also was the supply of necessaries unequal to the demand for them. Especially is this true when the increased purchasing power of the workers is taken into account.
Imports were nominal and as the countries to which we usually export were involved in the war and intent upon furthering their own military efforts they had little to export, nor opportunity to do so had they been so inclined, as water transportation was extremely perilous. Competition between the American manufacturers and merchants was practically eliminated. There obtained then a market condition where supply was greatly under demand and prices ruled high. There was also a labor market where demand was greatly in excess of supply and wages (money wages) had risen.
The high prices of commodities were not due to the high (money) wages paid the workers, but were due to the market conditions prevailing which were favorable to the dealers.
Cause of Commodity Price Rises The desire of the workers, whose wages had risen, to improve their living standards led to great buying activity in the necessaries of life, and, as well, of things