Thesis on competition within the working class
Theses on competition
What are the prospects for social emancipation when the progressive abolition of labor is called unemployment and treated like a disease? The capitalist mode of production can only present the abolition of labor in the form of unemployment.
This is a feature of competition: labor going away leads to competition between classes over who will bear the burden of it going away. The capitalist class does not want to bear this burden, so it seeks to push it off on the working class. If labor can no longer be employed profitably, the solution sought by capital is to idle a mass of workers, to save profits.
In any case labor has to go away — some portion of existing capital and labor must stand idle. Which laborers and which capitals are forced to stand idle is determined by a vicious competition among all the members of society. No one wants to be the one to absorb the impact of the progressive increase in the productive power of labor. The competition is produced by the fact that labor has already been reduced and now must be realized in the form of a mass of idled capital and unemployed workers. The result of this competition is that the very aim of social emancipation – the abolition of labor – appears as its opposite, a mass of unemployed workers.
Social emancipation cannot mean anything other than the emancipation of the majority of society from value producing labor; it cannot mean anything but disposable time for this majority and freedom for self-development and self-activity. But. in the capitalist mode of production, time away from labor, time for self-activity and free self-development, appears in the form of an impoverished barren existence.
This paradox appears in the consciousness of the working class as a Left ideology: namely, that emancipation from labor cannot be achieved because there are not enough jobs and wages.
“First we must increase jobs and raise wages so that we can then get rid of jobs and wages; first we must increase the spending of the state so that we can then abolish the state. People can’t think about getting rid of labor until they have sufficient wages to ease their poverty. We need more jobs, at higher wages, before people will consider getting rid of jobs and wages.”
Of course, the Left is simply responding to the fact competition in the capitalist mode of production means emancipation from labor takes the form of an impoverished barren existence. The barren impoverished existence produced by competition between classes produces its own ideology for why this competition is necessary.
The Left’s arguments would make sense if we ignored the fact that competition not only takes place between classes but within them as well. Not only do capitals compete to push the impact of increased productivity of labor onto other capitals, workers do this as well. By improving the productive capacity of labor, not only does one capital drive many others to bankruptcy, one worker displaces 100 others. These 100 other workers, compete by offering themselves on the most miserable terms for employment — forcing down the wages of the employed.
Says Marx, the worker is forced to compete against herself as a member of her class. The more workers displaced by the productivity of her own labor, the more competition she faces from those who have been displaced. This competition cannot be offset by creating jobs, because competition is produced by the jobs themselves, not by unemployment. Capital, by constantly improving the productivity of labor, turns labor into a weapon against the workers and compels them to compete.
The increase in the technical composition of capital, therefore, has the effect of upsetting and disintegrating the association of laborers; their unions collapse and their attempts to combine to reduce their internal competition come to nothing. Competition increases, reaching a feverish pitch involving the working classes of every nation within the world market.
Still, the improvement in the productivity of labor continues apace and with it the competition among workers everywhere. The fact that now the whole of the working class in all nations are brought into competition with each other does not slow the improvement in the productivity of labor and, therefore, the further displacement of millions from productive labor, nor does it slow their intensified efforts to find their place in production through intensified competition. Rather the working classes of every nation are brought to the brink of physical ruin. If they do not put an end to their competition, their very physical survival must be called into question.
The material conditions of existence of the class, labor, compels it to compete and this competition can only be ended by putting an end to its material conditions of existence — to labor.