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6. Super-profit

"The important thing is...that in the epoch of imperialism, owing to objective causes, the proletariat has been split into two international camps, one of which has been corrupted by the crumbs that fall from the table of the bourgeoisie of the dominant nations--obtained, among other things, from the double or triple exploitation of small nations...."(14)

" all the civilized, advanced countries the bourgeoisie rob--either by colonial oppression or by financially extracting 'gain' from formally independent weak countries--they rob a population many times larger than that of 'their own' country. This is the economic factor that enables the imperialist bourgeoisie to obtain superprofits, part of which is used to bribe the top section of the proletariat and convert it into a reformist, opportunist petty bourgeoisie that fears revolution."-- V. I. Lenin, 1919(15)

"...monopoly yields superprofits, i.e., a surplus of profits over and above the capitalist profits that are normal and customary all over the world. The capitalists can devote a part (and not a small one, at that!) of these superprofits to bribe their own workers, to create something like an alliance...between the workers of the given nation and their capitalists against the other countries....

...Superprofits have not disappeared; they still remain. The exploitation of all other countries by one privileged, financially wealthy country remains and has become more intense....

The bourgeoisie of an imperialist 'Great' Power can economically bribe the upper strata of 'its' workers by spending on this (strata--Ed.) a hundred million or so francs a year, for its superprofits most likely amount to about a thousand million."(16)

"Super-profits obtained by the imperialist state are accompanied by a rise in the wages of the respective strata of the working class, primarily the skilled workers."(17)

Many chauvinists have read Marx in Capital vol. 1 to mean that being paid the value of one's labor-power for wages is the usual situation, when in fact, Marx was merely putting forward a certain case that was possible. The importance of the case was to show that even in a free market, there would be exploitation of workers. Marx himself spelled out that it was a matter of making an assumption to be able to follow the logic through. "But strange to say, the great majority of my bourgeois critics upbraid me as though I have wronged the capitalists by assuming, for instance in Book I of Capital, that the capitalist pays labour-power at its real value, a thing which he mostly does not do!"(18) In other words, Marx was saying that most of the world lived under conditions of super-exploitation, not just exploitation. If some readers consider that quote ambiguous for its sarcasm, the following is not: "II. DEPRESSION OF WAGES BELOW THE VALUE OF LABOUR-POWER This is mentioned here only empirically, since, like many other things which might be enumerated, it has nothing to do with the general analysis of capital, but belongs in an analysis of competition, which is not presented in this work. However, it is one of the most important factors checking the rate of profit to fall."(19)

In 1885, Engels explained that in earlier work, they were inclined to downplay the prevalence of the situation or case in which super-profits arise. That was corrected later: "In Capital, Marx has both put the above thesis right (Section on the Buying and Selling of Labour Power) and also (Chapter 25: The General Law of Capitalist Accumulation) analysed the circumstances which permit capitalist production to depress the price of labour power more and more below its value."(20)

On the other hand, Marx had already explained that whether or not wages were higher than the value of labor-power was a matter of class struggle. As production becomes more efficient, the workers may not give up the gains of efficiency: "If in consequence of the increased productiveness of labour, the value of labour-power falls from 4 shillings to 3, or the necessary labour-time from 8 hours to 6, the price of labour-power may possibly not fall below 3s. 3d., 3s. 6d., or 3s. 2d., and the surplus value consequently not rise above 3s. 4d., 3s. 6d., or 3s. 10d. The amount of this fall, the lowest limit of which is 3 shillings (the new value of labour-power), depends on the relative weight, which the pressure of capital on the one side, and the resistance of the labourer on the other, throws into the scale."(21) In the case above, where deflation makes it cheaper for workers to live, anything above 3 shillings is a wage above the value of labor-power.

Again his concern with the case where workers receive exactly the value of their labor-power was to demonstrate that exploitation is possible in a free market and to work through some of the consequences for accumulation. Later we shall see that there are those who assume that whatever wages are that is the value of labor-power. However, Marx and Engels had left very clear warnings that a portion of workers would be paid above the value of their labor-power and a portion would receive less than the value of their labor-power. Wages are not automatically the value of labor-power. In sum, wages vary by the intensity of class struggle, especially in the variation between situations of free markets as in the imperialist countries and extra-economic force used in the Third World.

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