Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Marx on the Outsourcing of Manufacturing

There is a brief reference to it in a pamphlet by Karl Marx called “On the Lausanne Congress” published in July 1867:
“The power of the human individual has disappeared before the power of capital, in the factory the worker is now nothing but a cog in the machine. In order to recover his individuality, the worker has had to unite together with others and create associations to defend his wages and his life. Until today these associations had remained purely local, while the power of capital, thanks to new industrial inventions, is increasing day by day; furthermore in many cases national associations have become powerless: a study of the struggle waged by the English working class reveals that, in order to oppose their workers, the employers either bring in workers from abroad or else transfer manufacture to countries where there is a cheap labour force. Given this state of affairs, if the working class wishes to continue its struggle with some chance of success, the national organisations must become international.”
Karl Marx, “On The Lausanne Congress,” July 1867.
That kind of outsourcing of manufacturing can only have been a small issue in Marx’s day, however.

While Marx hinted at the idea that capitalists could transfer manufacturing “to countries where there is a cheap labour force,” I don’t see any other evidence that he developed this idea in any greater depth, or predicted the massive offshoring of manufacturing to the Third World in our time.

Certainly, there is nothing I can find in volume 1 of Capital to show that Marx thought that this would be some long-run, fundamental trait of capitalism.

And Marx was wrong about internationalism.

Nationally-organised and focused trade unions, labour movements and socialist or Social Democratic parties did more for working class people than utopian Marxist internationalism.

The utopian internationalist nonsense of modern Marxists and modern Cultural Leftists – with their militant demand for open borders – would never work, because these people refuse to accept that human beings have different cultural, religious and ethnic traditions – and sometimes incompatible ones. They refuse to accept the stunning evidence that diversity is a negative force.

This is why the kind of Liberalism of the early 20th century that called for national and ethnic self-determination was a far more realistic, and even humane, vision of political organisation for modern societies than open-borders Marxism.

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1 comment:

  1. """ In a letter to Engels of 10 December 1869, Marx states that he had changed his mind on the relationship between the Irish question and the emancipation of English proletariat.

    "For a long time I believed that it would be possible to overthrow the Irish regime by English working class ascendancy. I always expressed this point of view in the New York Tribune. Deeper study has now convinced me of the opposite. The English working class will never accomplish anything before it has got rid of Ireland. The lever must be applied in Ireland."

    Marx’s lengthiest statement of his new view on Ireland was contained in a letter of 9 April 1870 to Sigfrid Meyer and August Vogt, where he refers to a confidential circular written in January by himself and issued by the General Council. This text not only analyses the economic interests of the English landed aristocracy and bourgeoisie in Ireland, but also the consequences of Irish immigration on the working-class movement in England.

    "Owing to the constantly increasing concentration of leaseholds, Ireland constantly sends her own surplus to the English labour market, and thus forces down wages and lowers the material and moral position of the English working class. And most important of all! Every industrial and commercial centre in England now possesses a working class divided into two hostile camps, English proletarians and Irish proletarians. The ordinary English worker hates the Irish worker as a competitor who lowers his standard of life. In relation to the Irish worker he regards himself as a member of the ruling nation and consequently he becomes a tool of the English aristocrats and capitalists against Ireland, thus strengthening their domination over himself. . . . The Irishman pays him back with interest in his own money. He sees in the English worker both the accomplice and the stupid tool of the English rulers in Ireland. . . . This antagonism is the secret of the impotence of the English working class, despite its organisation. It is the secret by which the capitalist class maintains its power. And the latter is quite aware of this."

    In this text, Marx identifies one of the main goals of institutional racism, which aims at attacking a part of the working class in order to lower the condition of the whole working class and at creating stratification and divisions in order to hinder its common organisation. It was here that, for Marx, the role of the International became crucial. The only means of hastening the social revolution in Britain, in fact, was to promote working-class support for the Irish national struggle as the precondition of its own emancipation. Marx’s attempt was partially successful. By the end of 1869 the General Council approved a very strong pro-Irish statement. With it, its members broke with decades of hostility of the British toward the Irish. Marx saw this resolution as opening the possibility of a never-before-achieved international solidarity between English workers and Irish workers and small farmers. """

    quoted in lucia pradella, "imperialism and capitalist development in marx's capital"