30 July 2009


[CU for Monday, 3 August 2009]

We are continuing the Communist University Basic Communism series. We proceed from the Vanguard relationship between the communists and the mass of the working class organised in trade unions for self-defense, but not for revolutionary purposes.

After that we went to the Rules of Debate that are applied in those and other organisations. We now come to the practical means by which trade unions do their business: Negotiation.

Negotiation is what two parties must always do in order to arrive at an agreement to exchange one thing for another, or in other words to arrive at a common contract. In the case of trade union negotiations with employers, the two sides are trying to arrive at a bargain for the exchange of Labour-Power for money.

Inflation (a rise in the money prices of all commodities) makes it inevitable that the price of Labour-Power must also be re-negotiated at frequent, often annual, intervals. Contrary to what is often written about negotiations there is no presumption of dispute about this process. On the contrary, the aim on all sides is to arrive at a bargain.

On the way to the bargain, there may be “failure to agree”, and sometimes there may be a “withdrawal of labour”, but there is no attempt to upset the relationship of boss and worker. The boss/worker relationship is invariably confirmed, and not threatened, by the process of negotiation.

So long as there is “failure to agree”, people will talk of a “wage dispute” and sometimes they will use military language to describe what happens. Yet even in military terms, as Clausewitz wrote in his book “On War”: “The Result in War is Never Absolute”. In other words the combatants will have to live together in peace again after the war.

Whether the result of Revolution can be absolute is a topic for another day.

Negotiation is a skill that can be learned. The linked document is a very good short introduction to wage negotiation. It comes from the MIA Encyclopedia of Marxism.

Click on this link:

Negotiation, Marxists Internet Archive, (5279 words)


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