Theses on Work and Wealth Ruthless Criticism

Theses on work and wealth

Full Text from Gegenstandpunkt: Work and Wealth

Thesis 1:
Property entails exclusion.

In our society, everything you need – food, housing, books – has to be bought. It is always the property of somebody else. Thus, in our society, you are quite fundamentally excluded from what you need.

If people are excluded from the means of satisfying their needs by property, then this society has a different concern than supplying people with what they need. They are separated from what they need. It is, then, a matter of everybody taking advantage of this separation for themselves. The needs of the others are the lever.

The fact that people are excluded from the means of meeting their needs entails a relationship of violence.

The fact that property is based on violence means that it is the state that establishes the competitive society in the first place. If you have to buy all the things you need to live, then all the goods exist, but everyone who needs them is fundamentally prevented from using them. Private property separates people from the necessities of life; this society does not enact the right to use, but to exclusion: this is a relationship of violence.

This violence is therefore not historical, but rather private property consists in nothing other than this separation; violence is inherent in this kind of wealth, which is produced and maintained every day by the state’s guarantee of private property.

Thesis 2:
Property, as money, is the means of access to social wealth.

In our society, things are produced to be sold. They are produced with the aim of getting money from other people’s pockets. And unless they are turned into money, they are also worth nothing – the producer does not need the produced things himself. So the property which has been produced is measured in nothing else but money.

Conversely, it is only possible to get things if you buy them. Money is the means of access to social wealth. If you need money for everything, then money also makes everything available. This means that your well-being is decided by money. But then you also have to make sure you have some money. The wealth embodied in money is the only thing that matters in this society. The social effort for it knows no end. Because there can never be enough work for money. It has no limit; there can always be more.

Thesis 3:
Property is the power to command the work of others.

Without money, no benefit. So everyone must make sure they can get money. If you don’t have money to meet your living expenses, there is only one way to get it: you have to work for someone else. You are an employee.

The worker must find someone who has so much money that he doesn’t need it for his own needs, but can use his money to make more money: he is an employer. The employer puts the worker in front of a machine and pays the employee a wage. The employer hires the employee only if – and as long as – his work is profitable for him. For the employee, this means that he – and thus his livelihood – depends on his work creating wealth for someone else. And because of the need to earn a living, he has no choice but to work. On the other hand, for the employer, if the work of the employees is not profitable for him, he does not employ anybody or lays people off. And the fact that the work must be profitable for the employer also means both that the wage and the working conditions in the factory are baed solely on this criterion – otherwise, the employment relation would not even come into being. This also means that the employee must subordinate and sacrifice his available time and health for the increase of somebody else’s property.

Thus two different social characters are distinguished by an amount of property: the former work and thus produce other people’s property and are dependent on this service to other people’s property; the latter have property on which the former are dependent and have them work in order to increase their own property.

The employer’s property only increases through the work of the employees. The employer must invest his money in two “production factors.” On the one hand, he must buy the means of production (machines, buildings, raw materials, etc.). In doing so, his property is not diminished. It merely changes form. The costs of its wear and tear reappear in the product price. This does not increase property.

On the other hand, he gives his employees wages, and he does not get the money back. In return, he acquires the right to make them work for a certain period of time. The working conditions, the type of work, the time period, and above all the results of the work – the product of labor – are the property of the employer. This newly created property increases only through the exertions of labor. Labor is thus the source of all property.

The newly created property does not concern the employee. It belongs to the employer who has employed him and paid him a wage for his work. Thus the wage for the worker is exclusion from the property created by him. He is and remains excluded from social wealth, i.e. he is property-less.

Since the worker is employed by the employer for wages in order to increase his property, the sphere of production is the place where the propertylessness of the worker is not only used to increase other people's property, but also where the class distinction is constantly set in motion and renewed.

Thesis 4:
The poverty of the propertyless is useful and necessary.

At 67, an employee gets social security. In other words, he works almost his whole life in order to earn a few bucks on which to support himself, yet ends up dependent on social security. His own dependence – since he is propertyless – forces him to do exactly this and thus to increase other people’s property. Thus his own destitution is useful and necessary so that companies can make profits or so that the proper economic growth takes place.

The employee leaves the company just as devoid of resources as he went in, since the wealth he produces belongs to someone else, as he is excluded from it.

Thesis 5:
Wages are not payment for the labor performed, but a means of extorting labor.

In the employment contract, the worker provides his ability to work for a certain period of time in exchange for wages. The conditions, area of application, nature and output of the work are up to the employer. By purchasing the worker’s ability to work, the employer has, on the one hand, put property – money in the form of wages – in the hands of others and, on the other hand, appropriated the source of the production of property – the worker’s ability to work. The use of this source – having the worker work – increases his property, and the worker’s exertions are nothing else than the increase of the property of the employer. And the wage is then the payment for the performance of work. So the form of payment of the workers also includes the enforcement of the claim to the fulfillment of performance requirements:

Wages are paid as piece rates or hourly wages: the amount of the wage is tied to the number of pieces or the time spent working. This means that the way in which wages are paid forces the worker to meet the company’s performance requirements. Only then does he get the full amount of wages. He must therefore take an interest in his own use and employment – from which he only gets the damage.

Thesis 6:
Labor productivity in capitalism is the comparison of two sums of money: wage and profit.

Work as a source of wealth is subject to the criteria of private business success: work only accomplishes something when it is a source of profit. Otherwise, its result is worthless. Labor productivity as a ratio of effort and profit is thus measured by a standard that does not derive from the work itself.

What counts as labor costs is not the expended labor – i.e., the time and effort of a person – but the wage sum spent on having the work done. A reduction in wages, for example, reduces the costs for the entrepreneur and thus increases the labor productivity of his plant.

The labor output is not measured by the needs satisfied by the products, but by the profit. People are only hired because of the prospect of profit.

The workers have to pay for the measurement of their labor by this standard: because if wages are calculated as costs, then the living expenses of the workers – the wages – are the quantity that is to be minimized. And if their output is what increases wealth, then their toil and sweat is the quantity that is to be maximized. Even if the sweat and toil of the workers can’t guarantee the profit at all! The produced stuff still has to be sold on the market against the competitors. And the labor productivity of the worker, and thus he himself, is made responsible for the success in competition, even though the work in the form of the finished goods on the market – objectively seen – has long been finished.

Thesis 7:
The compulsion to compete is not an objective compulsion of producing, but an objective compulsion for the interest of the entrepreneur.

Businesses calculate their cost/income accounts with a profit that they can only achieve on the market. With regard to the market, they all say that it is tough there because of the competition: Management policies are always determined by the objective constraints of competition. Whether the employers lay off workers, eliminate Christmas bonuses, or demand work on the weekends, they do all this only because they are “forced by competition.” Even the entrepreneurs are victims of competition and, because of the competition, they need to cut their losses.

This ideology separates the goal of the entrepreneurs – the increase of their property – from its circumstances: this goal is only possible on the market because that’s where the entrepreneurs meet like-minded people. Thus the entrepreneur is not a victim but an agent of competition who, when he faces its constraints, intensifies them because he wants to succeed against his peers.

The ideology that sees the entrepreneur at the mercy of objective constraints pretends as if doing business is not an interest, but a natural consequence of producing. The public’s acceptance of this ideology indicates that, in this society, the entrepreneur’s point of view is not just the sole legitimate one, but is seen a condition to which there is no alternative for every life activity.

Thesis 8:
Making a profit means lowering prices.

Companies base their calculations on market prices. Their profit is the difference between the market price and the cost price of a product multiplied by the number of goods sold. Because solvent demand is limited, companies try to win market share away from their competitors. In order to beat the others to the punch, they have to offer their products at a cheaper price. But this is only profitable if they lower their production costs.

The constraint of competition is manifest here in the price war: if one party lowers its price, the others have to follow suit for the sake of their business success.

Thesis 9:
Lowering prices means lowering wages.

The means of lowering production costs is rationalization. If a new means of production increases the efficiency of the labor used, the share of wages in the production price of the goods decreases. Making the labor used more effective saves part of the labor previously paid, thus lowering the company’s wage costs.

The economic logic of business accounting sees only costs: Rationalization takes place when the acquisition of a more efficient machine saves more in wages than it costs in relation to the product.

A machine does not increase productivity if less effort is required to produce goods, but if paid labor is saved.

Thesis 10:
The increase in labor productivity is the damage of the workers.

The increase in the efficiency of labor excludes the worker from a greater and greater part of the wealth created, since the wage is a smaller part of the value of the product.

New demands are made on the remaining workers, since the jobs that remain have been made more expensive by the rationalization:

Thesis 11:
Work is a higher good – a necessarily wrong point of view.

  1. Whoever has enough property can use it as capital: He can increase it by applying other people’s labor. Applied labor is the source of surplus and thus the source of capital. At the same time, increasing the productive power of labor is the lever for a capital to prevail over competing capitals: Increased capital investment saves on the cost of labor (wages). Capital makes more and more workers superfluous. With the unemployed still dependent on wage labor and competing against working people for their jobs, the dependence of workers on capital on the one hand, and the freedom of capital to dictate the price of labor and working conditions on the other, is completed. Thus, in this and no other way, capital and labor are two sides of the same coin.

  2. In this competitive situation, where one part of the labor force has to look at how to get work, the other at how to keep it, work becomes a higher good. The effort to get a job contains two misconceptions: a) First, work is seen as the means of subsistence. One thus considers one’s dependence on wage labor from the standpoint of self-interest. However, the benefit of work lies with the entrepreneur and includes the harm to the worker. b) If this means of subsistence is denied by (threatening) unemployment, then one does everything to get a job, since one needs work to earn one’s living. People are willing to work “at any price.” In order to get an income, one makes a case for the job and then looks away from the wage level in order to be able to work at all. So one relativizes that for which one works to that on which it depends. Then, however, the wage is no longer the goal, but the work. In this way. one makes oneself strong for one’s dependence.

    The found conditions force the people to take them as means, because they have to calculate with them (there are no others!) in view of their interests. The wrong point of view is thus supplied free of charge with the established conditions and is necessary in them.

  3. People who apply this standard to work do not want to see it merely as a source of income. They do not put work in relation to this purpose and see whether the work is suitable or meaningful for this purpose. Instead, work is supposed to give one meaning, separate from any utility. The only determination that then remains is the relationship that one’s own person should want to be able to assume to work: One should be able to relate to it as a freely chosen value, as a task that gives one something. This enters the broad field of self-interpretation: To what good end is the work to which one gladly devotes oneself?

    One notices the negative starting point of this self-interpretation: Obviously, the work is not at all suitable for the purpose it is supposed to achieve. Nevertheless, one wants to gain something from it and holds on to the fact that it is there for one, if it already demands so many sacrifices from one. This self-interpretation – regardless of whether someone sees meaning in his work or criticizes the lack of meaning in it – is in both cases a bleak adaptation performance of the individual to the constraints and dependencies in which he is placed. That this performance of adaptation should be the reason for what one adapts to is crazy.

Thesis 12:
Competitive success means saving on the source of wealth.

Entrepreneurs wage a battle for market share in order to increase their profits. They wage this battle as a price war. To do this, they lower the manufacturing costs of their products by increasing productivity. By making labor more productive, they lower the wage rate per commodity.

Because of the price war on the market, entrepreneurs act glibly, as if their profit comes from the wage savings in producing a certain mass of products. In order to make a higher profit from their workforce, they reduce it.

In order to increase their property by appropriating as much labor as possible, they reduce the labor necessary for the production of goods, i.e., by rationalizing to the hilt, entrepreneurs generally lower the prices of products and thus what they can earn in money with their products. For this purpose they have to invest more and more property. In their competition over the solvent demand that realizes their surpluses, they lower the surplus in relation to the advance, and thus their return.

The workers are made responsible for this contradiction in that they are supposed to take responsibility for the company’s return through extended working hours, lower wages, and more intensive and productive work.

Thesis 13:
Credit is the competitive tool of the entrepreneurs. Creditworthiness becomes the purpose of business.

In their competition, entrepreneurs take their measure from the prices of their competitors, which they want to match or undercut. The rationalization effort required to reduce costs results from this and not from the financial resources a company has from the business it has done. In order to successfully handle their competition, companies have to overcome this barrier to their property. They must borrow money.

If the means for rationalization are provided by credit, then competition forces everyone to operate on credit. Everyone must find financiers, under penalty of going under, who will lend money only when it is profitable for them to do so. Companies must prove themselves creditworthy, i.e. they must offer lenders sufficient guarantee that their money is well invested.

To obtain credit as a means of competing, a company must make itself the means of credit.

Thesis 14:
The loan is the pledge of profit yet to be earned.

Lenders pursue their own business interest by lending money: As the price for lending the money to a company for a certain period of time, banks charge interest. Their ownership, the exclusive disposal of the money, is the only and sufficient reason why the money lenders can demand a tribute for the surrender of the money.

As the lender has a right to get back the amount lent plus a fixed premium, he treats the entrepreneur’s business – which he has yet to accomplish with the loan – as already having been successfully run. What is more, every lender treats its securitized claim to future utilization as an available asset: banks keep loans granted on their books as assets on which they can grant new loans; entrepreneurs treat their buyers’ promises to pay (bills of exchange) as money which they in turn give in payment, and so on.

Promises to pay, i.e. money still to be paid, debts, i.e. money given away, are treated like available money: thus property has doubled. Of course, only as long as the loans are actually serviced, i.e. as long as the entrepreneurs make sufficient profits. Lenders and borrowers are equally interested in these profits. They fight over the share of future profits in the form of the interest rate.

Property is a claim to the fruits of future exploitation. Some, by lending their money, are entitled to interest; others enter the next round of competition with the borrowed money.

Thesis 15:
By committing entrepreneurs to their own interest, credit enforces the constraint of profitability at the highest level.

With credit, promises to pay are treated as disposable assets. Thus, the multiplication of money is practically anticipated. That it comes about is assumed to be a self-evident achievement of labor, which must then prove that the claim of property to become more holds.

Credit detaches the interest in making more money out of money from all external barriers. Money not yet obtained by sale in the market or fixed in the form of machinery becomes available for further multiplication. All business opportunities are judged as money investments and have to face the comparison of how much return the money investment promises to yield and how high the business risk is. This forces companies not only to produce surpluses, but also to meet the cross-industry requirement of profitability at the highest level.

This is the demand placed on labor. It is really not in its power to meet this demand. Thus, it is economized in every respect; it is constantly compressed and its exhaustive use is ensured so that it fulfills this demand. And where it does not do justice to this, it is made completely superfluous.

Thesis 16:
In the crisis, the claim to wealth is confronted with actual wealth.

With credit, which frees the multiplication of money from all external barriers, companies are driven to peak performance in their rationalization efforts. In doing so, they are guided solely by their debts, in which their future business success confronts them as a claim. This allows them to ignore the barriers set for them by the market, where they can only attract real wealth.

This leads periodically to the fact that generally the sales possibilities and thus the debt service come to a standstill. When the entrepreneur can no longer get rid of the products, the proceeds of which belong to the lender, he first needs more borrowed money to service his debts.

Lending becomes increasingly risky when companies across the board are no longer making profits at a sufficient rate to justify their loans. Banks must decide whether to blow the money they have lent so far by withdrawing the credit, or to lend even more money, of which it is increasingly uncertain whether it will come back. Because they insist on the equation of lent money and real wealth, they tighten the criteria for creditworthiness.

When confidence in the quality of debtors falls away, the real course of business is confronted with the demands of lenders. They demand their money back and companies go bankrupt. The withdrawal of credit in one place results in insolvency in another: shares expire, bills of exchange are not covered, the bank makes asset adjustments, which again has consequences in other banks and companies...The crisis spreads. Receivables are canceled and wealth is destroyed until it starts all over again at a lower level.

Even the “healthy contraction” happens at the expense of labor, whose last benefit consists in being deactivated. After a crisis, the army of unemployed gradually increases. The maximum productivity of labor is the basis on which exploitation continues.

Thesis 17:
Clarifications about the ideology of GLOBALIZATION

As one can learn from educated people that we live in a time when the world market subjects states and companies to international comparisons. The buzzword “globalization” has made this view common knowledge.

a) Globalization: “We are compared!” – the construction of a false constraint

Those who talk about “globalization” pretend that the compulsion to compare internationally exists “just like that.” The “globalization” ideologists claim the absurdity of a comparison with no interest behind it. If all states are exposed to this comparison, the question arises how the compulsion of competition should come into the world other than by the states wanting to use the world market and therefore subjecting themselves to comparison on the international market. The constraint of competition exists only relative to the interest to be in the competition.

The buzzword “globalization” conceals the fact that states enter into the comparison on the world market only because they want to use it for themselves. The interest in the world market thus looks like a necessity that one has to prove oneself in. In this way, the state is declared to be a victim who is in distress because of the comparison.

b) Globalization is the commitment to the world market.

From the diagnosis of this immense compulsion, no one gives the advice that it would be best to get rid of it. No state wants to quit the world market. “It can no longer be evaded,” it is said, which indicates that the competition on the world market, which is presented in the same breath as an external constraint, is seen by the state as the lifeblood of the nation which it does not want to quit. The commitment to the world market couldn’t be more unconditional if it is declared to be the fate that a “globalized world” has imposed on us.

c) Globalization is the claim to enrich oneself on the world market at the expense of others.

When politicians talk about "globalization", they do not want to stand idly by and watch the world market happen, but to "face the new challenges"; this is how modern state leaders justify their responsible actions. With this declaration of powerlessness, they give themselves the aggressive mandate to decide the comparison on the world market for themselves, i.e. to emerge as the winner from the competition against all others. Its power always reaches for this.

d) Globalization is a commitment to class struggle from above.

The state uses its sovereign power accordingly. Its territory is supposed to be an unbeatable offer to the businessmen of the world. It purposefully comes to the conclusion that wages are too high for this. Those who have to live on it are told: “We have lived beyond our means” in order to carry out an austerity program that lowers the standard of living of the wage-dependent population in all areas.

In this way, it becomes clear that the wealth that the states are concerned with on the world market is based on the poverty of the masses.

Thesis 18:
The state draws the material means of its power from the successful capitalist exploitation of labor.

Domestically, the state compels everyone under its rule to use money as the only way to get by. This is how it commits all its citizens to their class-specific service to property. Thus domestically it ensures accumulation and helps itself to the surplus.

Abroad, in the name of economic growth, the state enters into relationships with foreign powers in order to enable its entrepreneurs to access foreign sources of wealth.

Thus, labor has to face the international comparison of wages and productivity, and not only in terms of prices of goods suitable for the world market. The exploitation standards achieved in a particular nation become the criterion for investment decisions and thus the constraint for the global cheapening of labor as a cost factor.

Thesis 19:
In cross-border trade, the state instructs its entrepreneurs to generate money surpluses for the nation on the world market.

Within nations, legal tender circulates, the validity of which is guaranteed by the state’s power. In order to enable its entrepreneurs to trade abroad, the state must ensure the international validity of its currency by guaranteeing its exchangeability against any other currency. For this purpose, it needs a treasury of foreign currency or precious metals. Thus, the ability of each state to allow its entrepreneurs to use the world market depends on achieving national surpluses in international trade.

Unlike its businessmen, who buy and sell, import or export capital when it is profitable for them to do so, the state must aim at a positive balance of payments. The fact that a state exports more than it imports is equivalent to this ratio being the reverse elsewhere. Thus, the success of one nation is necessarily the failure of another.

Thesis 20:
The reciprocal crediting of states unlimits the world market.

The fact that today the nations which have always lost out in international trade have not long since been eliminated from international trade because of national bankruptcy is due to the fact that states no longer insist on the payment of balance sheet deficits. The states grant each other credit. This decisively eases the world market: The debtor states do not drop out as buyers, and the successful states can enable their entrepreneurs to do international business without regard to their treasury.

The fact that national bankruptcies are now precluded changes the criterion of national success. A nation’s access to foreign wealth depends on the exchange rate of its currency, which is determined by the demand for it.

Thesis 21:
National success consists in a stable currency.

The determination of exchange rates is left to the financial markets. The demand for a currency depends on the extent to which it can be used as a means of doing business. This criterion distinguishes useless local money from good money.

Currencies which manage to become reserve currencies on the basis of demand are real world money: Their attractiveness no longer depends on the fluctuations of the business cycle, but on the fact that they are considered a store of value worldwide.

A currency that is a store of value offers universal access to the wealth of the whole world. Because it is accepted by all, such states can borrow indefinitely.

Again, since an exchange rate is the ratio of one currency to another, the success of one nation is synonymous with the failure of another.

Thesis 22:
The means of currency competition is location competition.

As soon as states are concerned about the global success of their currencies, they strive to gather capital suitable for the global market on their territory, because this is the only guarantee that global players will create demand for their currency.

The money patriotism of modern states therefore knows only one mission for the capital gathered on its own territory: It should eliminate foreign competition from the field and thus answer the question of which money the international demand turns to in the national interest.

The national interest is thus no longer to enable national entrepreneurs to do business abroad, but to attract world-market profit-makers to its territory. To this end, investment incentives are offered to international multinationals, and national corporations are made fit for the world market or forgotten.

Thesis 23:
Wage reduction is the means of location competition.

The wage level is in principle and everywhere a locational disadvantage; it is a cost factor for the production of wealth, on which it is therefore necessary to save.

To manage location competition by lowering wages is advantageous for the state in another respect: Saving on wages does not harm accumulation. On the contrary, unlike the provision of all other conditions of accumulation, wage reduction does not cost the state a penny.

By lowering wages across the board, the state practically implements the judgment that the wage-earners are the negative condition of wealth. The standard of living of people who live on wages is not a contribution to the growth the state is concerned with, but merely a deduction from it.