How Capital Extracts Value Beyond Wage Labor
The Marxist analysis of work under capitalism has long been associated with a preoccupation with wage labor: waged workers as wage-slaves, industrial workers as the revolutionary proletariat, and factory workers as the vanguard. The labor theory of value has been widely seen as applying to the wage form of work and no other. But Marx’s own writings describe other forms of labor under capitalism, and Marxist theorists have long pushed to expand our understanding of exploitation beyond the classic waged relations of production.
Capitalists have always used more than the wage form alone to extract surplus product from workers. However, this century is particularly distinguished by its growing reliance on alternate methods of extracting surplus. It’s time for Marxists to rethink our preoccupation with the wage and develop a theory encompassing a common ground of exploitation across a wide variety of extractive relations under capitalism. A recognition of that shared exploitation may prove key if the exploited “class-in-itself” is to become a “class-for-itself,” able to unite and act in solidarity.
Marx himself analyzed two major modes of capitalist exploitation of workers outside the wage form: “so-called primitive accumulation” and reproductive labor. Already in 1913, Rosa Luxemburg proposed in The Accumulation of Capital that primitive accumulation (better translated as “original” accumulation) was not a one-time event somewhere in the past, but instead an ongoing process under capitalism. Capitalist growth, she argued, required continual expansion into “non-capitalist” spheres: “accumulation is more than an internal relationship between the branches of the capitalist economy; it is primarily a relationship between capital and a non-capitalist environment.”1 It is worth noting here that discussions of original accumulation tend to focus on the material objects of appropriation, such as seized oil fields or privatized water, minerals, or land. But much or even most original accumulation—sometimes also called, accumulation by dispossession or accumulation by theft—appropriates both raw materials and labor simultaneously. When infrastructure such as railroads, produced goods such as ships, tools, buildings, cleared and improved fields and lands, crops, mined metals, and so on are plundered, the labor used to modify and maintain those resources is also seized.
Read more: Invisible Exploitation
An experiment for a better life is under way
The Rojava Revolution lays down tracks to building a better, more democratic and more feminist society
Source: Business Day https://www.businesslive.co.za/bd/opinion/2018-03-05-an-experiment-for-a-better-life-is-under-way/
Sisters in arms: A Yazidi woman in the Kurdish forces. Women play a central role in the Rojava Revolution and there are women-only militias called Women’s Protection Units. Picture: REUTERS
The world is facing an economic crisis on a scale last seen in the 1930s. It has resulted in living conditions and incomes of workers and poor people — and increasingly the middle class — being eroded by governments through austerity and by businesses through rationalisations and wage freezes.
Like the 1930s, this crisis is triggering the rise of extreme right-wing regimes and right-wing populism. It is also resulting in an increase in global conflict and threats of war, with Syria a key example.
But in the heart of the raging war that is Syria, there is a glimmer of hope.
In the north of Syria bordering Turkey and Iraq, the Kurdish and Arab people who live there have used the vacuum in power created by the war to try to build a better, more democratic and more feminist society. This experiment is known as the Rojava Revolution. It is the outcome of a struggle by the Kurdish people for national liberation but it has gone beyond this and become an experiment to create an alternative to a society that produces for profit.
Read more: An experiment for a better life is under way