Study Circle 16 of 2019 – The Abolition of the Wages System

DYFI CUC organised the sixteenth study circle of the year yesterday. We completed reading Value, Price and Profit with Chapters 12-14.

Marx ties his arguments together and demonstrates how they work on a macro scale as well. He lists four main cases where fighting for wage increases is necessary to even maintain the worker’s own labouring power: 

1) If there is a decrease in productivity, wage increases are required for the worker to be able to afford the increased price of necessities. With an increase in productivity, wage gains help compensate for the worsening of relative social position of workers caused by an increase in the rate of profit.

2) A change in the value of money makes real wages depreciate and hence wage increases are necessary.

3) There is a constant pressure to prolong the working day and to intensify the work done in a given working day. To compensate for these tendencies, as they cause labouring power to deteriorate, wage increases are necessary.

4) During downturns in the business cycle, wages are decreased. As labour power is a commodity under capitalism, it should be treated like any other commodity and compensated with a more than proportionate increase in its price (wages) during upturns, to maintain the same average wage through a complete business cycle.

Thus we see that demands for wage increases are only reactions to actions undertaken by capital interests. However, Marx underlines that greater political struggle is required for the maintenance of any kind of concessions made for workers. And we must not lose sight of the actual goal: the abolition of the wage system itself. 

The conclusions are best summarised by Marx himself:

  • Firstly. A general rise in the rate of wages would result in a fall of the general rate of profit, but, broadly speaking, not affect the prices of commodities.
  • Secondly. The general tendency of capitalist production is not to raise, but to sink the average standard of wages.
  • Thirdly. Trades Unions work well as centers of resistance against the encroachments of capital. They fail partially from an injudicious use of their power. They fail generally from limiting themselves to a guerilla war against the effects of the existing system, instead of simultaneously trying to change it, instead of using their organized forces as a lever for the final emancipation of the working class that is to say the ultimate abolition of the wages system.

Next Sunday, we will begin a series of study circle meetings on fascism: what it is, how it has been dealt with in the past, perspectives about how to deal with it now. Do attend, because we expect lots of discussion!

Revolutionary Greetings,

Central Unit Committee,

Democratic Youth Federation of India – Delhi

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