1970s >> 1974 >> no-837-may-1974

Letters: Ploughing Back?

I gather from your literature that out of a man’s productive labour his wage is not commensurate with this. In other words his wage is less than the actual value of his labour, the difference going to the capitalist as unearned income. But surely not all of this difference or “profit” goes to the capitalist or shareholder. No doubt some of it does so. Some of it must also go to pay for new capital such as machines, factories etc. and to account for fixed charges such as rent, maintenance costs, electricity bills etc.

 

To me your argument implies that there is only one factor of production, namely labour. But there are in fact three, namely land, labour and capital. Each of these three must be utilized in the manufacture of the final product. And the cost of the final product must account for each of these three, not just labour. Rent accounts for land, wages account for labour, and profit accounts for capital. No doubt some of this profit goes to the shareholder and thus it can be argued that he is exploiting the worker. True, but not all of it.

 

Why not create a system whereby the shareholder, or capitalist if you like, is eliminated and all the profit is ploughed back into the industry? The profit margin would be so devised as to form a fixed percentage of the total revenue of the firm and wages would be kept on par with it. So a rise in price of the final product would inevitably mean an equivalent rise in wages. In such a system would the workers still say they were being exploited?
P. C. Green, 
Burnley.

 

Reply

 

A capitalist reckons his profit by deducting all his costs of production from the sum which his commodity has realized in the market. The reader suggests that this profit which derives from the unpaid labour of workers, could be divided among those workers minus an agreed amount for re-investment in machinery etc. (and presumbably minus taxation for the maintenance of health services, educational institutions and armed forces etc.).

 

However, such a system would be no more capable than present-day capitalism of producing goods and services to meet social requirements. Although the capitalist as an individual might be eliminated, the accumulation of capital would continue. In each particular factory or industry production would be dominated by market forces, expanding and contracting in times of greater or lesser economic advantage: in turn bringing periodic unemployment. The ownership and control of the means of production would rest in the hands of innumerable groups of workers, each of which would be a social minority in competition with others, and each making decisions in accordance with its individual economic interests. Propositions regarding the improvement of local working conditions, or of broader social improvements would be considered in the same limited way as they are today — “Is it economic?”

 

Socialists hold the view that with the natural resources, the labour-power and knowledge available to mankind in the world, human beings are capable of democratically organizing production without anyone being exploited.

 

Editorial Committee
Labour Vouchers

 

Surely the answer to S. Gamzu about “Labour Vouchers” (Socialist Standard March 1974) is that they were a measure of TIME and could not have had any meaning as anything else.

 

Of course they would not distinguish between a miner or Shakespeare and would NOT be “according to need” but TIME worked. In other words a time rationing system.

 

They would not become money. They would be personal, and probably dated like pension vouchers. Volume I of Capital (Kerr Edn. p.106) points out that Owen’s “labour-money” was no more “money” than a ticket for the theatre.

 

Horatio.

 

Work and Socialism
I am amazed by questions put by P. W. Ralphs (letter March 1974) who seems to have completely missed the whole concept of a truly Socialist society as put forward by the Socialist Party.

 

In a Socialist world there will surely be no “jobs” as such, no employment as exists under capitalism, when one occupation may capture and slowly strangle the individuality and personality of a worker and his family.

 

In Socialism time now spent “working” will be spent to the benefit of us all, doing things constructive to the maintenance and improvement of society as the Socialist majority sees it.

 

As a now highly specialized and, in employment terms, narrowly confined medical worker, I recognise the need for many unpleasant tasks in the running of society. I would gladly sweep roads or empty dustbins to maintain a Socialist community, but I would not wish to mine coal or trawl for fish in the Icelandic seas. And if the majority of people thought as I on these last points then society would have to think of alternative power sources (or mining methods) and an alternative food. If the majority disagreed with me, however, then there would logically be enough willing Socialists to maintain these services to the community.

 

The answer to P. W. Ralphs is simple: in a Socialist world as envisaged by the Socialist Party, the problems he put forward cannot possibly exist. They will be precluded by the social consciousness of the workers of the world, and the problems of capitalism will no longer beset them.

 

David W. Roberts
Ely.