CAN THE WORKING CLASS EXPECT GOOD FAVORS FROM THE CAPITALISTS?
It is the very nature of every capitalist to extract profit from the unpaid labor power of the working class and preserve their private property. This is the essense of capitalism. In contrast, it is also the very nature of every working class to demand fare, just and humane wages equal to the work he/she labored.
Can the working class (employee) expect fare, just and humane wages equal to the work he/she labored from the capitalist (employer)? The answer is absolutely NO! It will be against the class character and nature of capitalism to provide fare, just and humane wages equal to the work labored by every working class. The god of every capitalist is “profit” and “labor power” is the altar of sacrifice.
Surplus value is a concept used famously by Karl Marx in his critique of political economy, although he did not himself invent the term but he developed its concept. It refers roughly to the new value created by the unpaid labour of the worker upon the value of his labour power, which is freely appropriated by the capitalist and is the base of the profit, thus being the primary basis for capital accumulation.
Surplus labor and Exploitation
Exploitation occurs when those appropriating surplus labour — whether in the form of surplus-value, surplus product or direct surplus labour — are different than those performing surplus labour. Just as there are attempts to force more work out of the workers, there are also attempts at resistance to exploitation, e.g. strike action, union campaigns, living wage campaigns, go-slows, refusal to perform tasks not contracted for, threatening to leave employment for another job if that is a real possibility, etc. Critical variables in determining the total surplus labour performed are:
- the length of the working day (and week): in other words, the total amount of time worked over a regular period
- the intensity of work
- the productiveness of the work (which also depends on the technologies used)
- the subsistence level for workers
- the position of strength or weakness of employers and employees
- the level of unemployment and job vacancies.
Surplus labor in capitalist society
In feudal society, it was often quite clear how many days a serf or peasant worked for himself or herself (necessary labour), and how many days s/he worked for his or her lord (surplus labour). On this important distinction between a corvée and a capitalist economy, Lenin writes:
Necessary labour and surplus-labour (i. e., the labour that pays for the maintenance of the worker and the labour that yields unpaid surplus-value to the capitalist) are combined in the single process of labour in the factory, in a single working day at the factory, etc. The situation is different in the corvée economy. Here, too, there is necessary labour and surplus-labour, just as there is in the system of slavery. But these two kinds of labour are separated in time and space. The serf peasant works three days for his lord and three days for himself. He works for his lord on the latter’s land or on the production of grain for him. For himself he works on allotted land, producing for himself and for his family the grain that is necessary for maintaining labour-power for the landlord.
Under capitalism, the distinction between necessary labour and surplus labour however becomes obscured by the nature of the market transactions involved. Most people are legally free agents who can buy and sell labour on the basis of more or less equal access to markets, and an equal opportunity to better their lot in competition with others. Yet, owners of substantial property assets enter the market with an advantage over propertyless people who simply have to sell their labour to survive. It gives property owners the power to command the surplus labour of others. When the wage contract is signed, it appears that the employee is paid for the hours that he works, but at the same time, Marx argues, the worker adds an amount of value on the job in excess of the value of his wage/salary: he performs surplus labour.
In hiring an employee, the employer thus not only incurs a cost (the wage-bill, based on hours worked) but also reaps a benefit, namely the extra value the employee creates (the surplus product of labour) beyond the value of what it costs to hire him or her. This benefit, Marx argues, shows up in the form of gross profit income after deduction of costs, but the only real evidence that surplus labour is the cause of it, is that the value of output produced is higher than the value of inputs used to produce it. The economic relation of necessary and surplus labour has therefore become hidden, and the division of enterprise revenues between wages, profits and taxes seems to become a purely distributional issue; just how exactly that new value originated, could be theorised about in all sorts of ways (see factors of production and surplus value).
Only Class Struggle can free the working class from the yoke of capitalism
Lenin explains class struggle as the seizure of political power. The immediate aim of the working class is to capture the bourgeois political power through force as Lenin said that “major questions in the life of nations are settled only by force” and impose workers rule in governance and ultimately on the process build socialism.
Only through concerted class conscious class struggle can liberate the working class from the yoke of poverty and exploitation.
We will know that the working class has reached certain level of class consciousness when they are trained to respond to all tyranny, oppression, violence and abuse, no matter what class is affected-unless they are trained, moreover, to respond from a revolutionary point of view and no other, this is what Lenin said.
Lenin said: “The fact that the working class participates in the political struggle and even in the political revolution does not in itself make its politics a Social-Democratic politics”
Can it be confined to the propaganda of working class hostility to the ruling elite? It is not enough to explain to the workers that they are politically oppressed. Agitation must be conducted with regard to every concrete example of this oppression. Inasmuch that this oppression affects the most diverse classes of society, inasmuch as it manifests itself in the most varied spheres of life and activity-vocational, civic, personal, family, religious, scientific, etc. The revolutionary party must therefore conduct political exposures. It must lead the struggle of the working class not only for better terms for the sale of the labor-power but for the abolition of the social system that compels the propertyless to sell themselves to the rich. The revolutionary party represents the working class not in its relation to a given group of employers alone but in its relation to all classes of modern society and to the state as an organized political force. The party must not allow the organization of “economic exposures” to become the predominant part of their activities. The party must take up actively the political education of the working class and the development of its political consciousness.
The task to conduct political exposures should not only be limited to few places but it must be organized nation-wide. The all-round political agitation will be conducted by a party which unites into one inseparable whole the assault on the government in the name of the entire people, the revolutionary training of the proletariat, and the safeguarding of its political independence, the guidance of the economic struggle of the working class and the utilization of all its spontaneous conflicts with its exploiters which rouse and bring into our camp increasing numbers of the proletariat and this can be carried sustainably by establishing “study circles, propaganda leaflets and other educational forms of activity”. The consciousness of the working class cannot be genuinely class-consciousness unless the workers learn, from concrete and above all from topical, political facts and events to observe every other social class in all the manifestations of its intellectual, ethical, and political life; unless they learn to apply in practice the materialist analysis and the materialist estimate of all aspects of the life and activity of all classes, strata and groups of population. For this reason said Lenin that the conception of the economic struggle as the most widely means of drawing the masses into the political movement is so extremely harmful and reactionary in its practical significance.
In order to become politically conscious, the worker must have a clear picture in his mind of the economic nature and the social and political features the ruling class, the high state official and the “peasant”, the student and vagabond; he must know their strong and weak points; he must grasp the meaning of all catchwords and sophisms by which each class and each stratum camouflages its selfish strivings and its real “inner working”; he must understand what interests are reflected by certain institutions and certain laws and how they are reflected. But this “clear picture” cannot be obtained from any book. It can be obtained only from living examples and from exposures that follow close upon what is going on about us at a given moment; upon what is being discussed, it whispers perhaps, by each one in his own way; upon what finds expression in such and such events, in such and such statistics, in such and such court sentences, etc. these comprehensive political exposures are an essential and fundamental condition for training the masses in revolutionary activity.
Let us return, however to our thesis. We said that the party must “go among all classes of the population” as theoreticians, as propagandists, as agitators, and as organizers. No one doubts that the theoretical work of the party should aim at studying all the specific features of the social and political condition of the various classes.
Organization of workers and organization of revolutionaries– it is the task of the party to conduct political exposures among workers organizations and develop their consciousness and their activities to become revolutionaries in words and deeds. The organization of the revolutionaries must consist first and foremost of people who make revolutionary activity their profession.
Lenin said: “Give us an organization of revolutionaries, and we will overturn Russia”
Men must have organized with definite means and act strictly in accordance with their ideology as Marx said that “ideology is essentially incapable of achieving anything if an ideology is to be materialized there must be men using practical forces. In other words, if an ideology to be put into practice, there must be organization, a revolutionary organization with people who make revolutionary activity their profession and performing revolutionary activities. We must have a committee of professional revolutionaries. Unless and until the working class will elevate their consciousness and organization into revolutionary one, there will be no palpable results in their struggle.
Unless the masses are organized, wrote Lenin. The proletariat is nothing. Organized- it is everything. Organization means unity of action, unity in practical operations. But every action is valuable, of course, only because and insofar as it serves to push things forward and not backward. Organization not based on principle is meaningless, and in practice convert the workers into a miserable appendage of the bourgeoisie in power.
Let us now proceed to the more specific content on how to conduct “political exposures” among the masses.
Lenin elaborated on what Marxists mean by ‘propaganda’ and ‘agitation’: “The socialist activities of Russian Social-Democrats [communists] consist in spreading by propaganda the teachings of scientific socialism, in spreading among the workers a proper understanding of the present social and economic system, its basis and its development, an understanding of the various classes in Russian society, of their interrelations, of the struggle between these classes, of the role of the working class in this struggle, of its attitude towards the declining and the developing classes, towards the past and the future of capitalism, an understanding of the historical task of international Social-Democracy and of the Russian working class. Inseparably connected with propaganda is agitation among the workers, which naturally comes to the forefront in the present political conditions of Russia and at the present level of development of the masses of workers. Agitation among the workers means that the Social-Democrats take part in all the spontaneous manifestations of the working-class struggle, in all the conflicts between the workers and the capitalists over the working day, wages, working conditions, etc., etc. Our task is to merge our activities with the practical, everyday questions of working-class life, to help the workers understand these questions, to draw the workers’ attention to the most important abuses, to help them formulate their demands to the employers more precisely and practically, to develop among the workers consciousness of their solidarity, consciousness of the common interests and common cause of all the Russian workers as a united working class that is part of the international army of the proletariat. To organize study circles among workers, to establish proper and secret connections between them and the central group of Social-Democrats, to publish and distribute working-class literature, to organize the receipt of correspondence from all centers of the working-class movement, to publish agitational leaflets and manifestos and to distribute them, and to train a body of experienced agitators—such, in broad outline, are the manifestations of the socialist activities of Russian Social-Democracy”
- The teaching of scientific socialism
- The spreading of proper understanding of the present social and economic system, its basis and its development, the various classes, their interrelations and the role of the working class
The means of carrying the propaganda work:
- To organize study circles among workers
- To establish proper and secret connections between them and the Party
- To publish and distribute working-class literature
- To organize the receipt of correspondence from all manifestos and to distribute them
- To train a body of experienced agitators
Who will train the working class to respond to all tyranny, oppression, violence and abuse from a revolutionary point of view?
This is the task of every professing revolutionary party on the assumption that the party is the advance detachment of conscious working class. The formation of a workers’ political party (revolutionary party) was necessary in order to combat powerful tendencies towards fragmentation and to establish the independence of the proletariat as a class. Indeed Marx often suggests that the workers cannot be regarded as a class in the full sense of the word until they have created their own distinct party. Thus we find in The Communist Manifesto that the ‘organization of the proletarians into a class and consequently into a political party, is continually upset again by the competition between the workers themselves’, and in the decision of the London Conference (1871) of the First International that ‘the proletariat can act as a class only by constituting itself a distinct political party’.
There are two basic themes in Lenin’s theory of the party: first, the absolutely independent organization of the advance workers, rigidly upholding the overall interests of the working class and all the exploited and the ultimate aim of international socialist revolution; second, the closest possible relationship with the mass of workers maintained by providing practical leadership in every struggle involving the workers or affecting their interests. The former means fixed adherence to principle, a willingness to accept, for a period, the position of a tiny and apparently isolated minority, and the waging of an unrelenting struggle within the working class against all manifestations of opportunism. The latter means extreme tactical flexibility and the ability to exploit every avenue to maintain contact with the masses.
These two elements are not separate but dialectically interconnected and mutually dependent. Without firm principles and disciplined organization the party will either be unable to execute the necessary abrupt tactical turns or will be derailed by them. Without deep involvement in the struggle of the working class the party will be unable to forge and maintain its discipline and will become subject to the pressure of alien classes. Unless the day-to-day struggle of the working class is linked to the ultimate aim of the overthrow of capitalism it will fail in its purpose. Unless the party can relate the ultimate aim to immediate struggles, it will degenerate into a useless sect. The more developed the spontaneous activity of the workers, the more it demands conscious revolutionary organization on pain of catastrophic defeat. But revolutionary organization cannot be maintained and renewed unless it receives the infusion of fresh blood from the spontaneous revolt of the masses. The revolutionary character of the party is not something to be claimed and professed but something to be proven in theory and practice.
Unless the working class take over the bourgeois run state, impose their rule and abolish the capitalist private property, all their hopes for reforms, fare, just and humane wages and system change are mere wasteful thinking!
Engels said: “As long as the capitalist mode of production continues to exist, it is folly to hope for an isolated solution of the housing question or of any other social question affecting the fate of the workers. The solution lies in the abolition of the capitalist mode of production and the appropriation of all the means of life and labor by the working class itself” (Housing Question).