Thursday, November 18, 2010

Wobbly times number 92

What is 'class'? Who is in the working class? Who is in the capitalist employing class?

Class is defined by how one makes a living. The working class are those people who must sell their skills on the labour market to an employer for a wage or salary in order to make a living. The workers have nothing else to sell in order to make a living. Once in awhile, workers will market things they already own in garage sales; but, for the most part, workers are totally dependent on capitalists to hire them in order to make ends meet. They must go out in the market, hat in hand and say, "Please Mr. Boss. Please buy my services."

The capitalist class make their living from buying workers' skills, as they buy other commodities e.g. petrol, trucks, buildings. The difference with labour power is that it can be employed to create more wealth. Capitalists only buy workers who can be useful to them. This is the law of the marketplace for commodities. Commodities can't be sold unless they are useful. Workers thus purchased are employed by capitalists for periods of time, at places of employment which the capitalist owns. This is, in fact, how capitalists become wealthy. Once the sale by worker and purchase by employer are completed, goods and/or services are created by the workers. This newly created wealth (the goods and/or services) is what the capitalist claims ownership over. Just to be crystal clear: workers are not paid based on the quality or quantity of product of their labour; they are purchased on the labour market according the going rate for their skills. The capitalist then hires other workers to sell these goods and/or services, which have been made by their hirelings, in the marketplace for commodities. This selling requires a market of consumers who find the goods and/or services the workers were hired to produce, useful. From the sale of the wealth in goods and/or services the workers produce, comes the capitalists' profit. Some of this profit is called 'capital' and reinvested in buying more workers and means of production. Some of the profit goes to taxes to support the capitalist State and some to help keep the polytricksters beholden to the ruling capitalist class. Some of the profit is saved for a rainy day and finally more is spent by the capitalists on themselves. Fancy cars, fast models and big mansions can be expensive.


The working class and the employing class have nothing in common. There can be no peace so long as hunger and want are found among millions of the working people and the few, who make up the employing class, have all the good things of life.
Between these two classes a struggle must go on until the workers of the world organize as a class, take possession of the means of production, abolish the wage system, and live in harmony with the Earth.



Capital is dead labour, that, vampire-like, only lives by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more labour it sucks. The time during which the labourer works, is the time during which the capitalist consumes the labour-power he has purchased of him. [4]
If the labourer consumes his disposable time for himself, he robs the capitalist. [5]
The capitalist then takes his stand on the law of the exchange of commodities. He, like all other buyers, seeks to get the greatest possible benefit out of the use-value of his commodity. Suddenly the voice of the labourer, which had been stifled in the storm and stress of the process of production, rises:
The commodity that I have sold to you differs from the crowd of other commodities, in that its use creates value, and a value greater than its own. That is why you bought it. That which on your side appears a spontaneous expansion of capital, is on mine extra expenditure of labour-power. You and I know on the market only one law, that of the exchange of commodities. And the consumption of the commodity belongs not to the seller who parts with it, but to the buyer, who acquires it. To you, therefore, belongs the use of my daily labour-power. But by means of the price that you pay for it each day, I must be able to reproduce it daily, and to sell it again. Apart from natural exhaustion through age, &c., I must be able on the morrow to work with the same normal amount of force, health and freshness as to-day. You preach to me constantly the gospel of “saving” and “abstinence.” Good! I will, like a sensible saving owner, husband my sole wealth, labour-power, and abstain from all foolish waste of it. I will each day spend, set in motion, put into action only as much of it as is compatible with its normal duration, and healthy development. By an unlimited extension of the working-day, you may in one day use up a quantity of labour-power greater than I can restore in three. What you gain in labour I lose in substance. The use of my labour-power and the spoliation of it are quite different things. If the average time that (doing a reasonable amount of work) an average labourer can live, is 30 years, the value of my labour-power, which you pay me from day to day is 1/(365×30) or 1/10950 of its total value. But if you consume it in 10 years, you pay me daily 1/10950 instead of 1/3650 of its total value, i.e., only 1/3 of its daily value, and you rob me, therefore, every day of 2/3 of the value of my commodity. You pay me for one day’s labour-power, whilst you use that of 3 days. That is against our contract and the law of exchanges. I demand, therefore, a working-day of normal length, and I demand it without any appeal to your heart, for in money matters sentiment is out of place. You may be a model citizen, perhaps a member of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and in the odour of sanctity to boot; but the thing that you represent face to face with me has no heart in its breast. That which seems to throb there is my own heart-beating. I demand the normal working-day because I, like every other seller, demand the value of my commodity. [6]
We see then, that, apart from extremely elastic bounds, the nature of the exchange of commodities itself imposes no limit to the working-day, no limit to surplus-labour. The capitalist maintains his rights as a purchaser when he tries to make the working-day as long as possible, and to make, whenever possible, two working-days out of one. On the other hand, the peculiar nature of the commodity sold implies a limit to its consumption by the purchaser, and the labourer maintains his right as seller when he wishes to reduce the working-day to one of definite normal duration. There is here, therefore, an antinomy, right against right, both equally bearing the seal of the law of exchanges. Between equal rights force decides. Hence is it that in the history of capitalist production, the determination of what is a working-day, presents itself as the result of a struggle, a struggle between collective capital, i.e., the class of capitalists, and collective labour, i.e., the working-class.

From CAPITAL, Volume I, section on the 'working day'.


  1. Such a laborious life we lead, and yet we keep trudging to the 9-to-5 whistles, as if that's what life is really all about.

  2. I couldn't agree more, Annotated.