Tuesday, July 04, 2006

British workers: the most exploited in Europe

More surplus value gets squeezed out of the British proletariat than any other working class in Europe, the Department of Trade and Industry has proudly announced.

OK, they didn't quite put it quite like that. Instead, the DTI each year produces something called the value-added scorecard. Here's how the FT reports the 2006 edition:

'The wealth created by the UK's largest companies - the value they add to the goods and services they buy in - increased 10 per cent last year, compared with rises of 7 per cent in Germany and 8 per cent in France.

'As a result, Britain has most businesses in the top European 700 by value-added - with 197 companies, compared with 96 in Germany and 91 in France.'

Woooah. Hold on a moment. The wealth created 'by the UK's largest companies'? What exactly does that mean, then? How can purely legal entities without corporeal existence create wealth?

Doesn't it take, well, human beings to do that? You know. Workers. The final paragraph of the article almost acknowledges the point. Almost, but not quite.

'Value-added is calculated by deducting the cost of bought-in materials components and services from sales. It measures the wealth created by what employees do with these inputs as a result of the company's investment in equipment, research and development and the like.'

Sounds about as good a proxy for surplus value as anything you'll find in bourgeois economics. Funnily enough, neither the DTI nor the FT seems to consider that elementary point to be one worth making. To get an understanding of what is going on in Britain in 2006, it seems you are still better off reading Karl Marx.

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