Is the ‘Manual’ Worker the Only ‘Producer’?

A book recommended by the translators of Marx’s “Capital ” (E. and C. Paul) is the Marxian Economic Handbook, by W. H. Emmett. This is one of the books supposed to simplify Marx, but it makes Marx more difficult than it is supposed to be. It contains also many errors. The author was prominent at one time in the Socialist Labour Party in Australia, and seems anxious to attack De Leon’s explanation of Marx’s “theories.”

Dealing with that fine chapter of Marx on “Co-operation,” Mr. Emmett says :

“In a pamphlet entitled “Marx on Mallock,” Daniel de Leon implies that, according to Marx, managers and superintendents, by virtue of their brain work, are productive of wealth.” (P.343.)

Mr. Emmett quotes Marx but leaves out the essential quotation. The advantages of division of labour and the necessary cooperation of producers in the modern factory are well brought out by Marx, who explains the necessity of “directive labour” in the following words : —

“Labour that is directly social, community labour on a large scale, always stands more or less in need of guidance, of a management which can establish harmony among the individual activities, and fulfil the general functions that belong to the movement of the unified productive organism as contrasted with the movements of the independent organs out of which the organism is made up. An individual violinist manages his own affairs ; an orchestra needs a conductor. This function of guidance, superintendence, and arrangement devolves upon capital as soon as the labour subordinated to it becomes co-operative. As a specific function of capital, the function of management acquires special characteristics.” (“Capital,” page 346 Everyman Ed.)

Mr. Emmett makes the following statement :—

“If the increased yield of modern wealth be not the exclusive yield of the manual labour employed, then this will mean that the labourers productive power is not (neither individually nor collectively) increased at all by the co-operation.” (Page 343.)

The co-operation of workers does increase the output by means of the cooperative method in production, but does that mean that the work of foremen, superintendents, etc., in directing the division of labour and the co-operation of the various parts of the process, does not play a part in the increased output?

Mr. Emmett fails to take note of Marx’s point in the quotation we give.

Marx clearly shows that the functions of guidance, superintendence and arrangement are essential to the co-operative labour process.

Mr. Emmett makes a further point. He. says : —

“If the managers and overlookers were a part of the co-operation (or that “collective power that resides in the manual workers and their direction, collectively “) how could Marx tell us that, “while the work is being done” these managers, etc. “command in the name of the capitalist ” (Page 343.)

Naturally, under capitalism the foremen, managers, etc., command in the capitalists’ name, but does that mean that they do not perform an essential part of the producing process ? Marx clearly -shows that management acquires “special characteristics” to-day, because of the “twofold nature” of production, “being, on the one hand, a social labour process intended to produce use-values, and, on the other hand, a process for promoting the self-expansion of Capital, a process for making surplus value.” (“Capital,” page 348.)

That two-fold character of modern production explains why the foremen, superintendents, etc., of industry are essential to the increased production of wealth in social production, and also “command in the name of the capitalist” for the purpose of producing- more surplus value.

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