Irene has been taking a class in playwriting. The class is put on by a non-profit. Recently the teacher, whom Irene likes, resigned because he would not commit to a clause in his contract which he felt limited his work options outside of the organization. As Irene explains in the letter below, the clause to which he objected violated the fundamental principles of the sale and purchase of labor power under capitalism.
April 23, 2019
I am shocked, dismayed, and deeply pained by the outcome of your inability to come to an understanding with the instructor of the Playwriting Workshop.
It seems to me that wanting to control the labor power of a working man outside of the hours contracted for that labor power is in violation of the well established rules of commodity exchange. The instructor’s only commodity on the labor market is his ability to labor i.e. his labor power. If he were a slave, and you his master, he would himself be a commodity and you would be entitled to his life long power to labor and you could also dictate all conditions of his labor. Unfortunately for you, he is a working man i.e. a man free to sell his labor power for a certain amount of time to whomever is willing to buy it.
It seems to me that you have access to this man’s labor only during the time he contracts to work in the school. Outside of those hours you have no right to dictate what he does with his labor power.
Furthermore, the antagonism between the instructor’s desire to deliver a quality program and the desire of your administration to cut corners is a replica of the conditions of labor in other industries. Of course, under the rules of capitalist production, you, as the employer, have the right to decide the quality of your program. Under the rules of capitalist production, he, as the employee, has no such right.
I thought that this school was an organization that prided itself on its humanistic approach. I thought that it was an organization that offered a refuge from the harsh realities of the capitalist commodities market and mode of production. I seem to have been gravely mistaken.
I have been taking courses at the school for three years now. This semester, I am taking three classes. I have made a modest donation to the Playwriting Showcase. My intention was to donate more money to the Playwriting Showcase and to continue to take three classes every semester. This particular teacher has changed my life. He has filled it with creative possibilities and has led me to discover talents I thought I never had.
As a result of his departure, I am seriously rethinking my commitment to the school. I will not be coming back to the Playwriting Workshop and I expect you to reimburse me for that workshop since you broke your contract with me – I bought a class where I would be taught by a specific instructor.
Furthermore, I’m also thinking of dropping my two other workshops and however painful that will be for me of turning my back to the school. If I don’t do so immediately it’s because of my commitment to other students in the class. Hopefully, my teacher will let me know where he will be teaching because that’s where you will find me learning to write plays.
A sad and angry thespian and playwright,
If you liked this living example of some of Marx’s economic theory, check out: Wall St. Journal Admits Marx was right.