Dear Dirty America

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Capital’s Exploitation: An Industrial Reserve Army of Mass Human Material

March 31
15:00 2012
ADAM MICHAEL LUEBKE
Los Angeles

One of mankind’s greatest historians and philosophers, Karl Marx, wrote:

…if a surplus population of workers is a necessary product of accumulation or of the development of wealth on a capitalist basis, this surplus population also becomes, conversely, the lever of capitalist accumulation, indeed it becomes a condition for the existence of the capitalist mode of production. It forms a disposable industrial reserve army, which belongs to capital just as absolutely as if the latter had bred it at its own cost….it creates a mass of human material always ready for exploitation by capital in the interests of capital’s own changing valorization requirements (Capital Vol 1, 784).

For the capitalist, or for today’s multinational corporate powers, having a surplus of workers is a good thing. A necessary element to keep wages down, yet retain incentive for the workforce. As the cost of living rises because of inflation, the American workers’ profits do not get adjusted, or raised to meet what it costs to counter that inflation. The NY Times reported an $80 average increase in wages for the bottom 99 percent, while the richest 1 percent gained 11.6 percent.

But how can any working stiff complain? You can’t, not in a country where unemployment is truly hovering at 15 percent unless you’re like the White House and you forget about frustrated workers who stopped looking for work, and workers who don’t get full-time hours when they need them, then you call it 8.3 percent.

The American laborer can’t complain too loudly because of that phrase we frequently hear from the mouths of unhappy working people — well, at least I have a job. There’s truth in that statement, and it’s easy to agree with it. So how could anybody in this country ask for higher wages to keep up with the skyrocketing costs of living (and if skyrocketing is too strong a word in this case, ask any family with middle class jobs trying to feed a couple kids and keep them in school and make payments on a small house and vehicle, and filling its tank with gasoline).


But why should any of us be happy to have a job that pays poverty level wages (or just above), while corporate America’s profits surge? Corporate profits are booming. It’s not just shitty paychecks that don’t cover costs of living that should have us rioting in the streets, it’s that we don’t live forever. We get older, we age. And working physically or mentally heightens that human wear and tear. You’re using up your life energy as a worker, yet you’re getting paid an inadequate wage.

All paid jobs absorb and degrade the mind, Aristotle said. So, there’s that, too.

This comes back to the Marx excerpt written above. We, as human employees, are disposable to corporatism. The worker sells his or her labor power, like an industrial whore or modern day slave, to a brood of hustling Wall Street, corporate American pimps.

Yet, there are so many workers, and far fewer corporate capitalists, how can they control us and keep our wages below the poverty line? Because capitalism has created for itself an army of industrial workers. A large labor force out of work is a good thing for Big Capital. A recession keeps throngs of desperate laborers willing to do any kind of work, and if tens of millions are kept out long enough, they’ll do anything for a paycheck.

Those harboring millions of dollars in the bank, and wrapped up in land and real estate, and in the stock market can weather a bitter recession, but those wage slaves not earning enough to save into the next coming weeks or months do not stand a chance against even a minor economic hiccup.

The lever against human beings in the capitalist system is that they need to eat, they need entertainment, and sex. If the society demands every member to pay a certain price for those needed elements of human living, then that same society forces every citizen to sell his labor power. When times get desperate enough, we will sell ourselves cheaper and cheaper, and will accept lesser working conditions.

The elite must stop living off the labor of the masses

As David Graeber says, we then become slaves to the “one percent”. Since our modern society offers different types of credit, those struggling to keep financially afloat start to rely on some of the easiest forms– credit cards. Credit cards are maybe the most dangerous pieces of plastic held in the pockets of nearly every American adult.

How many credit cards are held by American consumers? 609.8 million. How many Americans are there? Roughly 311 million. How much credit card debt per American household? Just under $16,000.

We become indebted to our godlike corporations by groveling in endlessly stretching unemployment lines, job fairs, and open, public interviews for any available position. We also become indebted by borrowing, at very high interest, and from the same sources of corporate power, enough money to get by for the next month or so. That principle sum is then needed to be paid back with double digit interest levels.

A roving mob of hungry frantic exhausted people out of hope and foggy with desperation become a dangerous problem for the rest of society, including those 80 percent of people who do have jobs and are making most of their payments (even if barely). The elite high-wage earners have less to fear, as they live in fortified homes in the most luxurious, secured parts of town, or own land in the country, far away from the squalor.

A great example of this was recently seen when the G20 summit was moved from Chicago to the private premises of Camp David. World leaders, making world decisions that affect all of us, are tucking themselves away where nobody can protest or display displeasure (and outrage) for the mishandling of our social and economic systems, as well as our military forces.

If you think your favorite transnational corporations give a flying fuck about whether or not people have work in this country, you can be sure they do not. Capitalism thrives off that swirling pit of agitated workers. For Wall Street or Walmart, Apple or the Koch Bros, your collected misery is nothing more than the necessary excess of mass human material always ready for further exploitation.

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See also:

Who framed capitalism?

Canceling debt in times of crisis

Over one hundred jobseekers stand in line for LA career fair bust 

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