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How does Marxism view freelance workers? Since a freelancer is the owner of their means of production, are they still viewed as exploited by the bourgeoisie? Could freelancing exist in a Marxist society?

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Marx addresses this about two-thirds of the way through Section 1 of the Manifesto. In the standard English edition of 1888, it reads:

The lower strata of the middle class - the small tradespeople, shopkeepers, and retired tradesmen generally, the handicraftsmen and peasants - all these sink gradually into the proletariat, partly because their diminutive capital does not suffice for the scale on which Modern Industry is carried on, and is swamped in the competition with the large capitalists, partly because their specialized skill is rendered worthless by new methods of production. Thus the proletariat is recruited from all classes of the population.

So his basic argument is that, sure there might be small business owners (freelancers in this example), but that because of 1) inability to compete against large firms ostensibly taking advantage of economies of scale and 2) rapid development of technology, they become obsolete and are driven to the proletariat.

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The relationship between proletarians and capital is that of the sale of labour power to the command of the owner of capital.

This relationship holds whether:

  • the worker is sold for life as a slave

  • the worker is indentured

  • the worker sells their labour on a yearly basis

  • the worker sells their labour on an hourly basis

  • the worker sells their labour on the basis of pieces produced for the capitalist

  • the worker sells their labour as pieces produced for the capitalist

The line between the proletarian freelancer and the petits bourgeois freelancer is the line over the control over the labour power in the social process of production. The owner operator truck driver who cannot command her rate, or his choice of runs and timing is a proletarian like the day carpenter who owns a adze, chisel, file and mallet.

Deciding what is produced, when, and the manner of its production, is a good basis for examining the border between proletarian and petits bourgeois.

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