Did Marx predict the constant and absolute immiseration of the working class?

Well, the notion of "absolute immiseration" comes from Ricardo, who thought that, whenever the medium wage was above physiological subsistence level, the workers would reproduce and the offer of labour-power would always increase 'til the medium wage had fallen to the said subsistence level. Marx in fact held such a view, in its Ricardian form, when he wrote the Communist Manifesto, but afterwards he adopted an idea of the "subsistence" wage-level as being shaped by socio-historical factors, a view he developed in Capital Bk.1, chapter 22 of the Eng. edition ("National Differences in Wages"). The subsistence level would be shaped by historical notions about what should a "minimum" wage contain, in order to allow a "minimum" wage standard in a given society, *provided there was a level of labour productivity enough to allow this minimum wage to be paid without endangering capitalist profit*.

However, one could also say that such "immiseration" refers to constantly higher levels of productivity of labour that would reduce consistently the socially necessary quantity of labour-power required to the production of a given commodity, thereby creating an enormous increase of the Industrial Reserve Army worldwide and generating the issue of "immiseration" as the formation of a massive notional reserve army of *chronically unemployed* wage-workers that would retain tenuous links with the labour market, in the form of occasional wage-labour, self-employment in unproductive activities, etc. This army of chronically unemployed being, of course, a salient feature of 3rd World poverty nowadays, that has substantially *increased* with neoliberal globalization, i.e., sharper competition faced by national industries from foreign-produced commodities. This view of "immiseration" was already advanced by Trotsky in 1938 -ie, in the middle of the 1930s economic crisis - in his piece "90 years of the Communist Manifesto".

Prepared by Carlos Rebello