Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Marx on the Outsourcing of Manufacturing

There is a brief reference to it in a pamphlet by Karl Marx called “On the Lausanne Congress” published in July 1867:
“The power of the human individual has disappeared before the power of capital, in the factory the worker is now nothing but a cog in the machine. In order to recover his individuality, the worker has had to unite together with others and create associations to defend his wages and his life. Until today these associations had remained purely local, while the power of capital, thanks to new industrial inventions, is increasing day by day; furthermore in many cases national associations have become powerless: a study of the struggle waged by the English working class reveals that, in order to oppose their workers, the employers either bring in workers from abroad or else transfer manufacture to countries where there is a cheap labour force. Given this state of affairs, if the working class wishes to continue its struggle with some chance of success, the national organisations must become international.”
Karl Marx, “On The Lausanne Congress,” July 1867.
That kind of outsourcing of manufacturing can only have been a small issue in Marx’s day, however.

While Marx hinted at the idea that capitalists could transfer manufacturing “to countries where there is a cheap labour force,” I don’t see any other evidence that he developed this idea in any greater depth, or predicted the massive offshoring of manufacturing to the Third World in our time.

Certainly, there is nothing I can find in volume 1 of Capital to show that Marx thought that this would be some long-run, fundamental trait of capitalism.

And Marx was wrong about internationalism.

Nationally-organised and focused trade unions, labour movements and socialist or Social Democratic parties did more for working class people than utopian Marxist internationalism.

The utopian internationalist nonsense of modern Marxists and modern Cultural Leftists – with their militant demand for open borders – would never work, because these people refuse to accept that human beings have different cultural, religious and ethnic traditions – and sometimes incompatible ones. They refuse to accept the stunning evidence that diversity is a negative force.

This is why the kind of Liberalism of the early 20th century that called for national and ethnic self-determination was a far more realistic, and even humane, vision of political organisation for modern societies than open-borders Marxism.

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