– K.C. Adams –
On October 6, Minister of Finance Bill Morneau tabled legislation to implement changes to the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) with the introduction of Bill C-26, An Act to amend the Canada Pension Plan, the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board Act and the Income Tax Act. This followed an October 4 announcement by Prime Minister Trudeau that British Columbia had agreed to accept the government’s changes to the pension plan, meaning that all nine provinces had agreed, while Quebec has its own national pension system.
Trudeau stated, “This is yet another example of how much we can accomplish for our citizens when there is close collaboration between provinces, territories and the federal government on common goals.” The changes will increase the required contributions for workers and employers beginning in 2019 and beginning the same year “increase the maximum level of pensionable earnings by 14 per cent as of 2025.” It is not clear what this will amount to when compared to inflation and other factors.
At a time when so many retirees are struggling with poverty and insecurity, these reforms are presented as a solution despite the fact that they will not assist the most vulnerable today. The ruling elite present security in retirement not as a human right but a matter of compelling individuals to “save more” or “save better.” The Liberals present their plan to increase minimum contributions to the CPP as the solution while the Conservatives had their own schemes to get people to save more via tax free savings accounts and income splitting. The changes to the CPP also come at a time when pension funds are being coveted as the next big source for investment capital, particularly in infrastructure.
Pensions are a part of the reproduced-value that workers reproduce at work to reproduce both themselves as individual workers and the entire working class.
Pensions and post-employment benefits are social reproduced-value in the sense the amounts they contain are reproduced socially in the present by the working class for the entire class to ensure its well-being and security during retirement and its constant reproduction as the productive class from generation to generation.
Wages and benefits are individual reproduced-value. Unlike social reproduced-value, individual reproduced-value includes specific individual claims on the value workers produce in the present to reproduce through work-time themselves as active workers and their immediate family.
Each working generation of workers reproduces the next generation and sustains those who no longer work for whatever reason. A portion of the value workers reproduce in the present sustains the generation that has already retired commonly called pensions.
In exchange for its capacity to work with the social force that owns and controls the material productive forces and state, the working class both individually and socially claims the reproduced-value it reproduces as the productive social class.
Within a dialectic with those who own the means of production and control the socialized productive forces and state, workers exchange their capacity to work for a claim on the reproduced-value they reproduce during work-time. The worker makes the claim individually, although sometimes negotiated collectively at the place of work, and also socially, as a member of the working class, through a public authority and its public services and social programs, including pensions.
Workers exchange their capacity to work for reproduced-value in the present as individuals, although often through collective class struggle to obtain a certain arrangement within the social relation with the other social force that owns and controls the material productive forces and state. The exchange of workers’ capacity to work with the same social force represented by the state has a social component. The exchange must be considered over a lifetime and socially without individual considerations of unemployment, illness, injury, ability, quality etc.
For the working class to agree to exchange its capacity to work for reproduced-value, the social force buying the capacity to work must agree to a working class claim on social reproduced-value from birth to passing away by virtue of all workers being a member of the working class, the actual producers of all value. To guarantee workers are available to work, the social force buying the capacity to work must agree both to the individual claim of workers and their social claim on the reproduced-value within the new value they produce.
From the new value they produce, workers claim individual reproduced-value in wages and benefits, and social reproduced-value as public services and social programs including importantly pensions in retirement or payments when injured, sick or unemployed for whatever reason.
The social force that owns and controls the material productive forces and state buys workers’ capacity to work. In the present social conditions, no new value can be produced without the social force in control buying workers’ capacity to work and putting that capacity to work into action on the socialized productive forces.
Liberal Line of Pensions as a Policy Objective
The social force in control often refers to pensions as deferred wages or worse as a policy objective. The line of deferred wages is meant to extract concessions from the working class on its wages and benefits, the individual reproduced-value, and thus accept a lower standard of living in the present in hopes of receiving a pension upon retirement. The line of pensions as deferred wages views pensions upon retirement as a policy objective rather than a right, and a way to reduce workers’ individual reproduced-value and increase added-value as profit in the present. The Trudeau Liberal government’s first budget raises payroll taxes for the CPP for most workers, up to 11.9 per cent of “eligible earnings” for many workers. The payroll tax effectively lowers individual reproduced-value in the present while the promise of social reproduced-value upon retirement remains a policy objective subject to changes according to circumstances.
The “deferring” of wages reduces individual reproduced-value and sends the amount to the government as a claim on added-value to be put in a pension fund, and also to an individual employer if a promised pension is contracted with a company. This concession extracted from the working class not only reduces individual reproduced-value but also provides a huge fund of social wealth that the financial oligarchs control and use for their private interests and to reinforce the police powers of their state. This also strengthens the liberal line of pensions as a policy objective and opens the door for diversionary debates over the solvency of pension funds and the use of “exceptional circumstances” and bankruptcy protection and other methods to steal pension funds.
The private interests controlling the investments of the pension and other social funds of the working class annually skim off a usual 2 per cent of the combined social wealth plus 20 per cent of any profit. Executive managers of large funds routinely claim millions of dollars annually for themselves and become important propagandists and impediments to making pensions a right for all with payments coming not from funds but from a public authority claiming social reproduced-value from the economy in the present on behalf of the entire working class.
The liberal line of pensions as deferred wages, the imposition of pension payroll taxes on individual workers and the creation of pension funds stands in opposition to the affirmation of the right of all to retirement at a guaranteed established standard of living.
A public authority in charge of pensions for all should directly claim new value from the economy according to the amount needed in the present to guarantee the right of all retirees to an established standard of living. The claim for pensions on new value the working class produces in the present represents social reproduced-value. The claim on new value should go directly to retirees and not sit in a fund of social wealth under the control of the financial oligarchs to be used in a corrupt manner for private purposes by parasites and as a weapon to turn pensions into a policy objective in opposition to the right of all to retirement at an established standard of living.
Exchange of Workers’ Capacity to Work
Workers exchange their capacity to work with the social force that owns and controls the socialized means of production and state. This exchange between two social forces within a social relation and dialectic occurs both individually and socially. For the exchange to occur individually, in the particular, the two social forces must also be in existence generally.
The explicit exchange occurs between an individual worker and an employer who controls a particular socialized productive force.
The implicit exchange occurs between the working class as a whole, which sells its capacity to work as the actual producer, and the social force that owns and controls the material productive forces and state, which buys the capacity to work of the working class. For socialized industrial mass production to continue seamlessly, the exchange must result in the reproduction of both the individual worker and the social productive force as a whole, the working class, through work and its production of new value both reproduced-value and added-value.
A portion of the new value the working class produces through work is claimed by the actual producers to reproduce themselves as individuals and by a public authority to reproduce workers as a social class.
The portion of new value workers claim to reproduce themselves is called individual reproduced-value. The portion of new value workers claim through a public authority to reproduce the working class as a whole is called social reproduced-value.
Social reproduced-value reproduces the entire working class from birth to passing away in addition to and in the absence of individual reproduced-value during those instances when workers cannot work for whatever reason such as childhood, old age, injury, illness or insufficient work made available by the social force in control of the socialized productive forces and state.
Reproduced-value is new value arising from the work-time of the actual producers and is necessary for the well-being, security and perpetuation of the working class. Reproduced-value is in contradiction with added-value, which arises from the same new value the working class produces. Those who own the means of production and control the socialized productive forces and state claim the added-value workers produce as their profit. Profit is distributed amongst those who own the means of production and control the socialized productive forces and state. They claim a portion of the new value workers produce as added-value, generally called profit, according to the degree of ownership and control of the existing social wealth and property they possess in the form of equity ownership, debt ownership and land ownership or through a high position in the hierarchy of the ruling elite. The imperialist state also claims a portion of added-value to finance its police powers, bureaucracy and to pay the rich in various ways.
During the transitional period between the overthrow of feudal petty production and its autocratic rule and the complete transformation into socialized industrial mass production and democratic rule under the control of the actual producers the society requires equilibrium to avoid a catastrophic collapse. The social force that owns and controls the material productive forces and state during the transitional period must assume its social responsibility to provide employment and social programs for the working class so that it can successfully reproduce itself both individually and socially. The ruling social class must guarantee the collective and individual well-being of the people throughout their lives.
In return for employment, social programs, the recognition of its rights and to ensure equilibrium, the working class guarantees to be available to work in return for a claim for individual reproduced-value and a claim through a public authority for social reproduced-value at an agreed established standard of living. The claims of the working class for reproduced-value on the value it produces guarantee its reproduction from birth to passing away at a certain standard of living reflecting the level of the productive forces and its organized class struggle to defend its rights and well-being.
Any interruption of the guarantee of reproduced-value and recognition of rights destroys the equilibrium and throws the society into crisis. The crisis can only be overcome with a return of the guarantee or the ascension to political power of the working class in a new state that deprives the social force presently in control of the socialized productive forces and state of its control and power to disrupt the guarantee of equilibrium.
An ascension of the organized working class to political power and control of the socialized productive forces and creation of a new state resolves the contradiction of the transitional period between the working class and those who seized ownership and control of the material productive forces and state upon the overthrow of the feudal autocratic regime of petty production. The rise to political power of the organized working class and its agenda for nation-building and mass democracy ushers in a new period of equilibrium in the relations of production and society.
The organized working class itself assumes the control and direction of the socialized productive forces and new state. The organized working class guarantees that work is available for all members of the class and fashions an agenda of nation-building and mass democracy to guarantee the rights of the people, which belong to them by virtue of being human. The organized working class sets to work to complete the transformation to socialized industrial mass production and mass democracy with modern relations of production in conformity with the socialized productive forces to put an end to all the remnants of feudal autocratic rule once and for all.
With the actual producers in control of the material productive forces and new state, the organized and political new working class, now liberated from the oppressive and disruptive social relation with those who owned and controlled the socialized productive forces and state, through its work produces the new value necessary to sustain and enhance the people’s well-being and security from birth to passing away without interruption.
The control over the entire new value including both the reproduced-value and added-value allows the organized and political new working class to sustain and enhance all aspects of society. It improves itself as a class of, for and by itself through work and with the enhancement of mass democracy and constant improvements to its relations of production as it further develops the socialized productive forces. The entire people are mobilized within the nation-building project to complete the transformation from petty production and the autocratic rule of the previous era into socialized industrial mass production without economic crises where modern relations of production vest sovereignty in the people and establish mass democracy as the political norm.