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Robots and sweatshops

Chris Cutrone

Platypus Review 123 | February 2020

STARTING WITH THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION, there have been two contrary tendencies in the development of social production: increased automation lowering socially necessary labor-time; and the desperation of people rendered superfluous as workers.

For Marxism, this presented a social and political task for the working class to demand higher wages for fewer hours.

An alternative to this would be for workers to try to fight against technology — the Luddites.

Conversely, the capitalists could invest in machines instead of labor.

Thus was born the antagonism between wage-labor and capital.

The outcome of the class struggle between the workers and capitalists was to be the realization of the potential for both increased production and the reduction of human toil: socialism.

However, since machine production created a permanent class of unemployed people, there would always be a demand for work that could be exploited by the capitalists to pay lower wages.

Paying lower wages decreases the market for produced goods, which means a drive for higher profitability, leading to further pursuit of cost-efficiency in production as well as depression of wages.

That leads to both robots and sweatshops.

Disparities and imbalances between capitalist profits and workers’ wages lead to periodic crises in which there is money that cannot find profitable investment and workers who cannot find employment.

But eventually balance is restored through the cheapening of money-capital — and the cheapening of labor.

New forms of work are developed to serve new technologies of production. — Until the next crisis begins the cycle all over again.

This meant that the working class as a whole — both employed and unemployed — needed to be organized as a social and political force to ensure increased social wealth and to prevent exploitation.

Since this is a matter of the organization of society as a whole — including internationally, and indeed globally, in the cosmopolitan exchange of wage-labor and capital — it requires the political act of taking state power: world socialist revolution. | P

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