It’s not even about men.

In the capitalist system, we know that labour is the currency of the working class. It’s all we have to trade. But there are two types of labour.

Firstly, productive labour which is all the work that produces goods and services. Then there’s reproductive labour which refers to the work done in caring for the physical self, the home and the raising of children. This is typically seen in modern society as “women’s work.”

As we know from our (very) brief foray into Kapital, capitalism is based on the accumulation of profit. Most profit is generated through manufacturing, services, sales – productive labour, and so it is seen as more valuable than reproductive labour. 

As a result, because this is viewed as women’s work, women are seen as less economically valuable than men. In this way women are open to exploitation. Not only do they physically support the whole capitalist system in terms of their unpaid labour, they are also already viewed as less than men when they do enter into productive labour. 

This has always been the case since patriarchal societies (those where men have all the power) were introduced. Engels (manifesto guy) called this ‘the world historical defeat of the female sex.’

Because of the social conditions created by capitalism, the way men and women are viewed and valued, the first step to women’s liberation from their dependence on men is their entry into the paid labour system.

Of course, they will still share the class oppression of male workers – and here is where it becomes evident that liberation for women must mean liberation for all, through socialist revolution.

The class struggle, the desperate need for socialism, is not a new concept to most of us. But we must also realise that women’s struggle is rooted deeply in the oppression of the working class. 

Liberation must come from reform that improves conditions for the working class as a whole, only then will women of all levels of society be truly equal.

What this means is that we don’t fall into the trap of comparing men and women obsessively. We reject the idea that there’s a special question about the unique needs of working class women compared to working class men. 

Economic factors have subordinated women, and only economic factors can change their social position. This means we must, as a class, as a whole, attack the basis of capitalist society.

On the face of “women’s liberation” are working class women and liberal middle-class women, seemingly working together – but however “radical” – feminists are still loyal to their class. This is evident because the middle class liberals seek equality within the existing class society framework, they do not attack the basis as we do. 

Because they see men as the enemy, achievements of equal rights with men is a victory to them. They won’t fight for the social revolution needed to liberate them because it threatens their class position. Although our aims may overlap at times, our long term goals differ drastically. 

Each concession they gain is another weapon to use against their working class sisters, another privilege we are not afforded, and so the division between these classes of women grows. The ‘struggle’ and aims of their class are alien to us, and unsatisfying. 

Such small concessions are only the first step to liberation and equality for working class women who see men as their comrades, enslaved alongside them by the same social conditions. They know their enemy, and they strive together against the sickness rather than the symptoms.

It is the working woman who is the saviour of her own future. Only the upper classes can hope to benefit from a union between she and them. The only hope for her in these social conditions is an equal share of inequality, and so she rejects the basis of the measurement. 

“The working woman must not and does not forget that while the aim of bourgeois women is to secure their own welfare in the framework of a society antagonistic to us – our aim is to build, in place of the old, outdated world, a bright temple of universal labour, comradely solidarity and joyful wisdom.” – Alexandra Kollontai, 1909

The only liberation for women is liberation for all, for our class, and so we demand only the right for each to the fullest and freest self-determination. 


Kapital in a Nutshell Pt. 1

I’ve been reading Kapital. Well, actually I havent because I’m not a complete masochist, what Ive been doing is reading a lot of stuff about Kapital so that I dont have to tackle the beast head on by myself, and die cold and alone drowning in a sea of intellectual genius that I cant quite grasp. So, this is what I make of it. If you have any questions or you think its total bollocks, please do let me know and I will be sure to deny any involvement in the production of this overview.

Commodities are all the things around us that are made and manufactured. All this stuff that can be used or sold, we call the Wealth of Capitalist Society. It used to be the case that things were made to be used – cups were made for drinking, clothes were made for wearing. Since the rise of capitalism around the globe, commodities now have another purpose – to be sold. We make more things for sale now than ever, where we used to make clothes to cover our backs now they are mass produced to generate a profit. This is not natural – this is manmade. The commodification of produce is unique to capitalism.

There is a duality in the value of the commodity. It is valuable both in terms of how useful it is and how profitable it is. These values are at odds with each other, so as a commidity becomes more valuable and profitable, its use-value is alienated. As capitalism pushes for ever increasing profit, this clashes with the human need for food, warmth, shelter etc. The use-value of commodities is abused and distorted in order to make it more profitable. To the extent that a commodity is financially valuable, its use-value is lessened.

We can use the example of a loaf of bread sitting on a supermarket shelf. This has a use value in that it can be eaten and fulfill the human need for sustenance. However, unless the value of the product is fulfilled – unless you can pick it up and pay for it, the use-value is totally irrelevant. It will continue to rot on the shelf regardless of its use-value until somebody can afford to buy it. In this way, the use of commodities is abused in order to further profit. This can also be seen from another angle through manufacture – as long as products are being sold, companies are happy to cut costs of production and compromise on the safety of the product and the security of the labour force as long as the result is profitable. The use-value becomes irrelevant.
So. That’s commodity. A thing that is made, which at once is both useful and profitable. As the profitability of a commodity is increased, the use-value of it is decreased.

An inevitable result of this constant quest for profit is overproduction. There comes a point when business produces ‘too much’ of a certain commodity – or rather, produce an amount that cannot be bought up by society. It may be that a building firm for example has built a number of houses, which people cannot afford to buy. This does not mean that there is no longer a demand for housing, just that the people who need it cannot afford to pay for it. As a result of this overproduction – where more things are made than can be sold, prices and profits fall. This is because companies in competition with each other for profit must reduce the cost of the commodities they produce in order to encourage people to buy them.

In order to raise the prices and profits and to tackle this over-production, business destroys part of its produce. Rather than give those houses away to people who need them, they would rather pull them down – causing a shortage, and thereby pushing prices and profit back up. They are not in the business of promoting use-value and fulfilling human need, but rather of making profit. If it is not profitable, it is irrelevant how useful it can be. It must be destroyed to ensure the price hike of the remainder of the produce.

Even though people may be starving, if there is an overproduction of food which causes the price to fall – it will be destroyed rather than distributed to ensure the increasing value of food afterward. Produce is destroyed on the basis that if there is less of a thing for people to fight over, they are inclined to pay more for it, and thereby increase profit for business.

We now know that commodities are produced in capitalist society in order to be exchanged, either for other commodities or money, in order to generate a profit. But how is it decided what is a fair exchange? In a literal sense, there is no such thing as a fair exchange, because no two items are the same. Up to this point, it is simply the case that people have been content to make unfair exchange, but under capitalism where profit reigns over all, we are now talking about ‘systemic commodity exchange’ which must be regulated in order to maximise profit.

That is, the capitalist system is entirely built upon the premise of the exchange of commodity. Whilst all commodities are exchangable and materially unique – as before, no two items are of exact equal worth. However, under this system, there is something that all commodities have in common, and that is the human effort required for its production or appropriation for sale and profit. This measure is what provides the basis for exchange in capitalist society. Using this rule, a table which takes one man one day to make is of equal value to, say, a basket of apples which took one man one day to harvest. Although this is much more complex and Marx explains this much more in-depth, this is the basis of the principle. The exchange-value of commodity is dictated by the value of labour-time.

Useful and Abstract Labour
Useful labour, or Concrete labour, is how we refer to the physical act of labour. This is different and unique to each commodity. A mill workers labour is not equally measurable to a bakers labour, they may differ in terms of intensity and skill. However when the miller looks at a bag of flour, he sees so many hours of work. When the baker looks at a loaf of bread, he too sees so many hours of labour. In this way the labour-time of the two is comparable and the exchange-value of the commodities can be measured.

It does not matter how long it actually takes to make the product. No matter how slowly you work, the commodity you produce is only worth what the average labourer would expend in making it. The actual time spent producing useful labour is irrelevant, only the amount of socially standard labour, or what people would normally expect, dictates the value of the product. When machinery is introduced to a milk farm, for example. The time taken to milk the cow is dramatically reduced, and therefore so is the value of the commodity – milk. Those farmers who do not have the same machinery will find that their milk will be greatly reduced in value regardless of the their concrete labour time, because of the level of socially standard labour has changed. This concept we refer to as abstract labour – a scale whereby all useful labour can be measured equally in order to facilitate exchange.

The alienation of useful labour is a result of this. As society focuses on the abstract concept presented to them, the obvious literal value of useful labour is obscured. In this way, all commodities are equally measurable and exchangeable. The basic principal of buying and selling commodities is a social attribute of a capitalist society.
Part Two: