‘We already know that, why are you bothering us?’
OK, reconcile these two declarations… The first belongs to Marx himself while the second is an integral part of the 1944 Philadelphia Declaration made by the International Labor Organization… And if any of you has any doubts about the ILO thinking not being heavily tainted by Marxism please check this out: “the war against want requires to be carried on with unrelenting vigour within each nation, and by continuous and concerted international effort in which the representatives of workers and employers, enjoying equal status with those of governments, join with them in free discussion and democratic decision with a view to the promotion of the common welfare.” Not exactly the Communist Manifesto itself but too close to it for my comfort.
So is it or is it not?
No it isn’t. Not even Marx ever thought it was.
When Marx speaks of labor power as a commodity he only wants to demonstrate the need for the worker to be free in order for the system to function. For him this is the difference between feudalism – when the peasant (the worker of those times) was heavily dependent on the land owner – and capitalism – where the possesor of the labour power is free to sell ‘his commodity’ to the higher bider – is the existence of the free market where commodities – including ‘labour power’, which is traded as if it was a commodity – are exchanged. And the fact that the market is free also determines individual freedom of both the worker and the capitalist, seller and buyer of the labour power.
But this trading of labour power as if it was a commodity doesn’t transform it into a real commodity.
In fact labour is more a form of communication than anything else.
By labouring the worker transforms something into something else, usually in a way that is not so easily reproduced, not even for low skilled jobs. Had it been possible to automate the working process we would have used exclusively robots or morons. Do you really think a robot or a moron could flip burghers at McDonald’s? Are you sure you’d like that to happen?
It’s not that complicated. Marx had an insight – that human history is nothing but the story of the individual man enjoing more and more autonomy – and then blew it. He took it upon himself not only to speed up the history of the mankind but also to lead us (even against our will) where he thought that we should finally arrive (communism). Rather arrogant, don’t you thing?
In time that arrogance seems to have mellowed somewhat (or became more conceited?) but it is still very much alive: ‘the war against want requires to be carried…to the promotion of the common welfare’….
What is that ‘the common welfare’? Can something like that ever be determined? Even in a ‘democratic’ way?!?
Had Marx refrained himself at studying the effects of increased individual autonomy on the workings of the human society he would have been considered the undisputed thinker of the second millennium and we’d have been sparred from witnessing (or experiencing) the horrors of communism… I know, I know, counter-factual history is not acceptable… just saying…