Unequal exchange and the Historical Materialism conference
Unequal exchange starts from prices, and although discriminating dead/past labour and living labour, it does not discriminate necessary and surplus labour within living labour itself, it starts from monetary values to establish labour hours, and assumes that between variable capital and surplus value together, they account for a measure of living labour, and that among the more living labour the more surplus value, as if the sum of variable capital and surplus value was equivalent to labouring hours. Hence, when Emmanuel passes the example without equalization and with equalization, constant capital or dead/past labour remain constant, while living labour increases or decreases at whim. Living labour increases or decreases in one and the same production process, according to whether its production prices are equalized, even while having the same surplus value and value unchanged. It is as if the same productive process could have two types of living labours and hours of labour, depending on how they are measured. In a first example, on page 53 of Emmanuel's Unequal exchange, 120 hours of living labour are exchanged for 120 hours, but in the next one 135 hours are exchanged for 105. What cannot be known is how much labour is necessary and how much surplus: how much is the necessary and surplus labour of 120 in the example? We cannot assume that it is 60 and 60, since 60 is the total variable capital that is paid to the worker. This means that variable capital itself is broken or partitioned between necessary and surplus labour as both living labour. 135 and 105 can both contain a minor and a greater proportion of surplus value respectively, despite containing more monetary price units considered as labour hours. 135 is greater than 105, but it can contain less surplus value, according to Marx. When Emmanuel speaks of extraction of more labouring time as extracting more value, it can be the opposite in Marx. It all depends on that if 135 and 105 are the respective living labour, the amount of surplus value will never be able to appear through the monetary figures of variable capital, because it is unpaid labour. That means that if 60 is the variable capital, 120 and 60 cannot be divided, since the necessary labour and surpluses are both contained in the 60 variable capital as a monetary value; 60 would have to be divided between necessary and surplus labour, not 120, even less assuming that the whole of prices is value or surplus value. The other 60 only exist in the employer's profits. 135 and 105 are production prices, they are not even values, which means that it is a determination from prices, when the proportional magnitude within the unit price can be larger despite being a smaller magnitude: it is the basic operation of productivity and how little Marx left on Capital related to the world market, the possibility to contain more surplus within a lower unitary price.
Then we go as how this procedure, is used to compare exports and imports prices just like terms of trade on Prebisch’s fashion, but doing this wrongful equivalence between prices and labour (which differentiates it from Prebisch). The flow of exports and imports are automatically conceived as if the first meant ‘gains’, and the second ‘loses’. But imports also enrich and are profitable and exploited by the local peripheral bourgoise who imports and resells, reprocess, distributes or offers those same imports to his own working class and consumers. Also, devaluation of big currencies like the dollar opposite smaller currencies from low income countries, this also benefits the export-import sector, since they get paid in dollars for their exports. The same mechanism which gives more purchasing power to the dollar against any low income country’s devaluated currency, is in the hands of peripheral countries’ bourgeoisie and businessman, when through unequal exchange is assumed to be a ‘lose’. Last but not least, there’s a whole problem in how the ‘external’ is considered in nowadays marxism: is basically considered as international trade and commerce, interpreted as exports-imports between nation states. This is chauvinistic to the core and to the bone. Exports and imports don’t realize value or surplus value or a difference between necessary and surplus labour, contained in any prices. The commodities from the “Third World” don’t get selled in the North, to obtain in terms of value or prices, whatever is contained in the prices at which they got exported. They realize the organic compositions and difference between necessary and surplus labour, contained within the peripheral societies. Central or Triad societies and peripheral societies own internal variables, are juxtaposed externally in the world market. That means the higher profit rate and exploitation rate that the “Thid World” enjoys, and the South’s bourgoisoies enjoys as a gain and not a ‘lose’ at all, nor going in detriment of peripheral or southern “thirdworldist” countries, but actually in their favor, are the ones being realized in Europe or anywhere in the Triad when they import to their own societies, “thirdworldist” exports.
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