Surplus: Why only the productive workers, but not also the enablers?

In your book Democracy At Work, you describe at length why the surplus should be controlled by the workers and not a capitalist individual or board of directors. I agree completely, but I was left confused by your insistence that surpluses be handled directly by the productive workers specifically. All other decisions could include the enabler workers, except specifically the surplus. This is confusing because 1) the reason is not explicitly spelled out as to why this discernment should even be made and 2) where the line should be drawn. I'll provide an example. I will soon establish a farm (a WSDE, per your book's description), whose workers will compose an intentional community. The farmer and his assistants will certainly be productive workers. The salesman who will go to restaurants and grocery stores to vend the crops will be an enabler, by your description in the book. However, the sale would not be made at all without the salesman. Ergo, no monetary surplus would be achieved, and the uneaten product will rot. How is it fair, or even necessary, to discern between the farmer and the salesman as to who deserves to handle the surplus? It appears that we are all in this together, and we all deserve a vote on how the money is handled. Could you elaborate why a company would want to make this discernment? Thank you, Patrick R.

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  • Nom DePlume
    commented 2020-05-23 23:36:22 -0400
    I also had this concern as well. To quote from the book:

    The end of exploitation, a defining point and purpose of WSDEs, requires that the producers of the surplus be identical to the appropriators and the distributors of the surplus. This is a key consideration: that does not require excluding the enablers from full democratic participation with the surplus producers in deciding the size and specific distribution of the surplus. The power to decide the size and distribution of the surplus is democratically shared by all the workers in a WSDE. The physical processes of appropriating and distributing the surplus are reserved for the subset of surplus-producing workers.

    (Forgive any transcription errors, I have the audiobook)

    I’m confused by this. What are the physical processes mentioned here? Is it literally saying that the physical process of handing out checks to everyone is reserved for the surplus-producing workers?
  • Nom DePlume
    tagged this with upvote 2020-05-23 23:36:21 -0400
  • Nicholas Anderson
    tagged this with upvote 2018-01-18 19:18:09 -0500
  • Nicholas Anderson
    commented 2018-01-18 19:16:55 -0500
    Just a thought, is there any reason why the salesman does not engage in any production aspects himself (or herself)? One of the nice things about a socialized workforce is it’s ability to deviate from the division of labor as we know it. This allows labor to develop many different skills as opposed to being limited to a skillset that is co-dependent on so many different factors including production efficiency, automation and the market. Or perhaps the distribution function of the business should run as an individual coop rather than as part of the same business, but that strays dangerously close to merchant capitalism. It’s definitely an interesting question. Have you read any of Marx’s works?
  • Patrick Reeves
    published this page in Ask Prof. Wolff 2018-01-18 11:28:17 -0500