Red State Irony

by Neill Herring

The last four or five decades have seen extraordinary economic and population growth in the southern states of the United States, continuing historic developments that started during the Second World War and were later stimulated by the end of legal racial segregation. One national effect of those changes has been a continual shift in the center of economic growth for the whole country to the southern and western states, away from the Northeast and the Midwest “rust belt.”

The character of the exploitation of labor in the South has changed as investment patterns have displaced large populations from manufacturing and extractive employment. The continuing breakdown of the caste-like remnants of post-Reconstruction labor “markets” has removed hundreds of thousands of workers from home- and institution-based domestic service, as well as various manual occupations, and forced them into other employment. This new “New South” has been widely celebrated, even as regional wage rates still trail other sections of the country (and while the South shares the national upward redistribution of wealth). What is different now from the pattern in the 1950s is that realizing a return on investment by the sweating-it-out of workers is nothing like the obvious low-cost option it was then.

Marx says there are two sources of economic wealth: that produced by human labor; and the wealth that can be taken by that labor from the earth itself, from land, air, and water. As the rate of the exploitation of the former has continued to increase, exploitation of the latter has also risen, particularly in the South. Continue reading


The Nature and Growth of Capital: Wage Labour and Capital

by Karl Marx

Capital consists of raw materials, instruments of labour, and means of subsistence of all kinds, which are employed in producing new raw materials, new instruments, and new means of subsistence. All these components of capital are created by labour, products of labour, accumulated labour. Accumulated labour that serves as a means to new production is capital.

So say the economists.

What is a Negro slave? A man of the black race. The one explanation is worthy of the other.

A Negro is a Negro. Only under certain conditions does he become a slave. A cotton-spinning machine is a machine for spinning cotton. Only under certain conditions does it become capital. Torn away from these conditions, it is as little capital as gold is itself money, or sugar is the price of sugar. Continue reading

By What Are Wages Determined?: Wage Labour and Capital

by Karl Marx

Now, the same general laws which regulate the price of commodities in general, naturally regulate wages, or the price of labour-power. Wages will now rise, now fall, according to the relation of supply and demand, according as competition shapes itself between the buyers of labour-power, the capitalists, and the sellers of labour-power, the workers. The fluctuations of wages correspond to the fluctuation in the price of commodities in general. But within the limits of these fluctuations the price of labour-power will be determined by the cost of production, by the labour-time necessary for production of this commodity: labour-power.

What, then, is the cost of production of labour-power? Continue reading