One of the issues being looked at by the Imperialism study group is super-exploitation in/of the Third World. Below are notes to the discussion. Walter asks that readers here keep in mind this is not an attempt at a full analysis of super-exploitation; it is some notes contributed to the study group discussion. He (and the rest of us) are keen to get feedback on any material from the study/discussion group, so we look forward to people contributing to the comments section below. We will regularly be sticking up notes by study group participants and reports on the study group.
by Walter Daum, July 28
The term “super-exploitation” has often been attributed to Lenin, but I have not been able to find it in his writings. The closest is this: “sections of the working class in the oppressor nations receive crumbs from the super-profits the bourgeoisie of these nations obtains by extra exploitation of the workers of the oppressed nations.” ( “A Caricature of Marxism and Imperialist Economism,” 1916.)
In this context, “extra exploitation” does not simply mean exploitation of additional workers but rather deeper exploitation of oppressed workers; hence the super-profits extracted. Lenin did often use the term “super-profits,” but as we discussed this past weekend, that did not necessarily mean profits extracted from capitalistically employed wage-workers. In the above passage, however, that does seem to be what he is referring to.
The specific term “super-exploitation” is of more recent origin, having been introduced by Latin American Marxist economists in the 1960’s. I think the originator was Ruy Mauro Marini.
Defining the Term
There have been basically two definitions of super-exploitation. One might be called absolute super-exploitation: paying workers less than necessary to reproduce their labor power. For example, Andre Gunder Frank defined the term as “the appropriation by capital of so many of the fruits of the workers’ labor that the workers cannot maintain themselves or reproduce their labor power.” Read the rest of this entry »