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Cheap Wage Labour

Cheap Wage Labour: Race and Gender in the Fisheries of British Columbia

Copyright Date: 1996
Pages: 328
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  • Book Info
    Cheap Wage Labour
    Book Description:

    Cheap Wage Labour is the first analysis of shore work and shoreworkers in British Columbia from the 1860s to the mid-1980s. Muszynski provides an interpretation of events that led to the creation of a cheap wage labour force of shoreworkers, their organization within the framework of the fishermen's union (UFAWU), and, as a consequence, the steady decline of their numbers until today they represent only a small portion of the labour force. She looks at factors contributing to the destruction of First Nations culture and economy, such as the displacement of aboriginal peoples from key fishing sites and work in the salmon canneries, and examines the structure and patterns of Chinese and Japanese immigration and the development of the capitalist class and the white working class.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6582-1
    Subjects: Technology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Maps
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. Introduction: The Problematic
    (pp. 3-23)

    Fishing has a certain cachet. As a recreational sport, it brings to mind an image of men “roughing it.” Out on the lake in a small boat with lots of fishing gear and bait, they pit their skill and ingenuity against a creature not known for its intelligence but possessing the advantage of being at home in an environment that is foreign to humans – water.

    The element of danger and a sense of adventure escalate when the image of fishing moves from leisure activity to a means of earning one’s livelihood. Literature is replete with stories of men on the...

  6. 1 Marx’s Labour Theory of Value: A Critique
    (pp. 24-50)

    This chapter will explore the extent to which Marx’s labour theory of value can be applied to an understanding of how wage labour developed in the British Columbia fishing industry. While a voluminous literature examines Marx’s theory, and while I recognize that Marx built his analysis in reaction to the political economy of Adam Smith and Ricardo, my discussion will focus on volume 1 ofCapital: A Critical Analysis of Capitalist Production(1967), since that work contains a good exposition of how Marx conceptualized the transformation of labour under capitalism.

    Central to Marx’s argument is the concept of value, the...

  7. 2 Patriarchy and Capitalism
    (pp. 51-81)

    To develop the contradictory interplay between the concepts of capitalism and patriarchy based on the arguments of the previous chapter requires a review of some of the most problematic concepts in the work of Marx, specifically the oppositional tension between his views of nature and of history. Where would or does Marx situate “civilization”? And how do his comments on necessity, consciousness, division of labour, ideology, “the woman question,” the family, and the state relate to his understanding of the historical mission of the capitalist mode of production as helping “man” realize his true species-being? While Marx dropped references to...

  8. 3 The First Nations, Property Rights, and Salmon Canning
    (pp. 82-128)

    The preceding chapter treats the gendered division of labour as part of the problematic defined and discussed in the introduction. If the work that men and women do is valued in different ways, then the labour theory of value must take this factor into consideration. And if, as has been argued, the labour of women is considered to have no value, then the participation of men and women in the paid labour force within the capitalist mode of production cannot be treated according to a uniform and abstract set of laws. That is, the participation of women is already conditioned...

  9. 4 The Dialetics of Cheap Wage Labour
    (pp. 129-179)

    By the 1880s most coastal villages included salmon canneries as part of their seasonal migration. The Fraser River canneries, from their inception in the 1870s, almost guaranteed employment to the Coast Salish living in the vicinity, while the Tsimshian were secured places in the Skeena and Nass River plants. But soon the entire coast was involved, including the tribes living on Vancouver Island and along the central coast. W.H. Lomas, Indian agent for Cowichan Agency on Vancouver Island noted that in the summer of 1881, several villages in the southern part of his district were almost deserted as men, women,...

  10. 5 Organized Resistance: The United Fisherman and Allied Workers Uninon
    (pp. 180-222)

    Discussion of cheap wage labour has thus far centred on capitalist exploitation of the fisheries and the salmon canners’ efforts to hire labour as cheaply as possible, efforts which used pre-capitalist relations of production within British Columbia and elsewhere to devalue labour power through categorizing people by gender, race, and ethnicity. Although those whose labour power was devalued resisted, resistance tended to be based in relations outside the workplace. There are instances of struggle over wages and working conditions within the canneries, but until the period following the end of the Second World War, these tended to be isolated and...

  11. 6 State, Labour, and Capital
    (pp. 223-253)

    There is a vast literature on the role and place of the liberal democratic state in the capitalist mode of production. Most contemporary political theorists include Marxist analyses as one of several theoretical approaches. Since the famous Miliband/Poulantzas debate, there has been a burgeoning of Marxist writing on this topic, although there is no consensus on how to conceptualize the state within advanced capitalism. Marx himself had planned to write a volume on the state, but only managed to complete the first book in the series,Das Capital(Foreword,Grundrisse1973, 54).

    Held contends that at least two strands in...

  12. 7 Conclusion: Marx’s Labour Theory of Value Reconsidered
    (pp. 254-260)

    The theoretical starting point in situating and understanding the “making” of shoreworkers (Thompson 1979) in the industrialization of the B.C. fisheries has been Marx’s labour theory of value. The basic problems with Marx’s formulation as it applies to this particular case study are twofold.

    First, Marx conceptualized the capitalist economy at its most abstract in order to uncover its basic “laws of motion”; that is, he postulated a capitalist mode of production in its pristine form. His purpose was to demonstrate how capitalism contained its own seeds of destruction, thus enabling its transformation through revolutionary class struggle into first a...

  13. APPENDIX: Labour Classifications, Wage Scales, Conditions of Employment, Board and Accommodation Agreements for Canneries Operated by J.H. Todd & Sons Ltd, 1947–49
    (pp. 261-286)
  14. Biblography
    (pp. 287-300)
  15. Index
    (pp. 301-314)