You Might Be a Marxist If …

… You Want to End the Exploitation of Workers – Published on political affairs pa, by David S. Pena, July 06, 2010.

Capitalism exploits workers. Since the vast majority of people in our capitalist society have to work for a living, it’s no exaggeration to say that the majority of people in our country, and throughout the world, are exploited workers.

What does it mean to say that workers are exploited? In Marxist theory, exploitation means that workers are literally robbed by capitalists. Of course the capitalists never admit this. They claim that they pay their workers a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work, that you’re paid for what you produce, no less and no more. But Marxists say that’s not what really happens. 

The capitalists have set up a system in which they (the minority) own the machinery, factories, farms and other means of production needed to produce the necessities of life such as food, clothing, and shelter. The workers (the majority) usually have no other way to make a living than to sell but their ability to work. They have to sell this ability (their labor power) to the capitalists in order to earn wages. In other words, they have to get jobs. Wages are then used by workers to buy the products necessary to sustain their lives.

What is the value of your ability to labor? According to Marx, your labor power is worth whatever amount of money (or commodities) is necessary to keep you alive and working. That doesn’t sound like much of a life, but let’s go with that assumption and see what happens.

Imagine that you need to make $50 per day in order to feed, house, and clothe yourself. You find a job at an auto parts factory owned by a capitalist who agrees to pay you $50 per 8-hour day, or $6.25 an hour. Your day is spent making parts that the capitalist sells to one of the big automakers for $100 a piece, and you manage to produce 100 parts per day. Think about it—you are producing $1,250 worth of product per hour, $10,000 worth per day and $50,000 worth in a 40-hour week! Amazing isn’t it? You, the worker, have the ability to create a tremendous amount of value where there was none before. And it’s in the capitalist’s interest to get you to produce as much as humanly possible either by forcing you to work more hours in a day or making you work faster—preferably, for the capitalist, both.

But we need to get clear about something you might not have noticed. Remember that you are producing $1,250 worth of value every hour, which boils down to about $20.83 cents per minute. Is it really important to know that? Absolutely … //

… Outraged by this extortion and want to put an end to it? Sounds like you’re a Marxist. Are you unconvinced and thinking of all kind of questions and objections? Stay tuned. They’ll be dealt with next month. (full text).

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