George Walford: Exploitation

Members of the Socialist Party sometimes complain that the issues with which IC is primarily concerned are not fundamental. Economic issues, they claim, are basic, other things secondary. So let us look at their economics.

They claim the workers are exploited, and that therefore it would be to their benefit to rise in revolution, abolish existing society and establish socialism – a system in which they would not he exploited – in its place. Reforms, they say, can never solve the problems of capitalism because exploitation is built into the system. So long as the means of production are privately owned there will be exploitation.

The Socialist Party claim to be not moralists or philosophers but realistic, practical people; this being so they have to be concerned not with whether exploitation exists, for that is a moral or academic issue. In order to make their case they have to  show that exploitation does real harm and, further, that it will continue to do so for as long as capitalism continues. They certainly assert that this is so, but we have learnt that whenever the Socialist Party assert anything it is well to ask whether they also assert the contrary. In this instance, as in others, they do. They assert that within capitalism exploitation does not have to be at a rate that does real harm. There is, they say, no fixed minimum rate of exploitation, it can be reduced indefinitely. Their pamphlet on Trade Unions, 1980, quotes this statement from Karl Marx and quotes it with approval:

As to profits, there exists no law which determines their minimum. We cannot say what is the ultimate limit of their decrease – Because, although we can fix the minimum of wages, we cannot fix their maximum – The matter resolves itself into a question of the respective powers of the combatants. (p.12, emphases in the original)

This pamphlet, issued by the Socialist Party, says there is no law which determines the minimum of profit, and since profits, according to them, come from exploitation, that means there is no law which determines the minimum of exploitation. According to their own pamphlet, there is no law which determines that exploitation must continue at a level that does the workers any noticeable harm. According to the Socialist Party there is no law which determines that so long as capitalism continues exploitation must continue at a level that justifies revolution.

from Ideological Commentary 13, September 1984.