is there difference between two terms 'labour relations' and 'production relations'.
Seen both of your mails concerning the doubt whether there is any difference/distinction between two terms 'labour relations' and 'production relations'.
I have discussed it with Rangaji and I will explain the matter as follows.
Essentially or generally speaking, both are synonyms. No difference in its essence. But it is a matter of focus. I will explain how.
The term 'production relations' is the term that we find across Marx(-st) literature. However, the adjective 'production' gives an impression that it always results in some 'product' which is obviously a material objects like a pen, soap, shirt etc. But the adjective 'labour' gives the impression that it results not only in material things [products] but also non-material things like teaching, treatment, transportation etc.
Any way, you can use both terms interchangeably and synonymously. Rangaji prefers 'labour relations' because she would like to focus on the process of 'labour' whether it is manual/material or non-manual / non-material. However, you can provide a foot note on this aspect in your translation at a point when it first appears in the text.
In this context I would like to draw your attention to a distinction between 'labour process' and 'production process' as discussed in 'Capital'.
Chapter 3 [in RN's 'An Introduction to Marx's 'Capital' (in 3 volumes. This chapter is from volume one)Labour - Process(Process of Production)The process wherein ‘labour’ takes place is the ‘labour process’. Some ‘product’ is made because of the ‘labour-process’. The relations concerning the ‘labour process’ are the ‘labour relations’ or ‘production relations’. Workers come to the capitalist—to do labour.But, the master—does not do any.The relations which form between the master, who does not do labour and the workers, who do labour for the master—are the ‘labour relations’ here.
As soon as the labourers get down to work, the capitalist does not ask them, “produce a heap of money”. He asks them, “weave a cloth” or “make chairs”, or else, “print on these papers”. Thus, he would ask them to do such things which are necessary to create some ‘use value or the other’.
Suspecting that the workers do not work hard, the capitalist goes on moving in the midst of labourers and hastens them saying, “carry on”! Carry on!” It is good for the capitalist to extract as much work as possible from the workers before the ‘working time’ is over.
If the person doing ‘work’ is to have real liking for that ‘work’, that work should be either his or her ‘own work’ or some ‘collective work’ done by all with equal responsibility. In any system other than these, where the workers have to work for the master under his ‘authority’, the labouring persons will be reluctant to do labour. Therefore, the person who is the master has to make the labourers do labour, by means of punishment. This punishment will be of different kinds depending on the circumstances.
In the case of the workers working on the ‘wage’ system, there will be cuts in the wages and fines.
But, in the case of the ‘slaves’ where the wage system is absent, there is no scope for cuts in the wages and fines. Therefore, there, the master has no other way except to torture the bodies of the labourers. Therefore, whips also come into the ‘work place’ where slaves are made to do work. The master needs many other methods of torturing.
Thus, the ‘labour process’ will be in different forms in different social conditions. It took one specific form in the ‘slave society’, another form in the ‘feudal society’ and yet another form in the ‘capitalist society’. However, the nature of all these labour processes so far has been the same. That consists of ‘punishing’ the labourers and getting the work done.
The system of ‘punishing the labourers’ disappears in the ‘collective labour process’ in which all people work with equal responsibility. The nature of the ‘collective labour process’ will be opposite (it means it should be opposite) to the nature of the old labour processes.
Thus, leaving aside the specificities of the labour process, there are certain general features, which apply to the labour processes of all societies. Let us see them now.
There is a distinction in the meaning between word ‘labour process’ and the word ‘production process’. If we consider agricultural labour, it starts with ploughing the land and ends with harvesting the crop and storing the grain. The process that lies between the ploughing and the harvesting need not be continuous. The work ceases in the middle for a few weeks and months. The saplings should grow. This is a change that has to take place naturally. After planting, the work ceases until weeding. After weeding is over, work ceases again until some other operation becomes necessary. Thus, with certain intervals in the middle, the work of producing grain would go on. The span of time right from ploughing the land to cutting the crop constitutes the ‘process of production’. It takes that much time to produce grain. But, it is not necessary for the work to go on invariably throughout that span of time. The work will be stopped in the middle. It is simply that time during which work is carried on constitutes the ‘labour process’. In order to produce the grain, the labour processes would go on with interruptions in the entire period of its production. If the entire time of labour processes were added together, that time (the time during which work is done) would be shorter than the time during which production took place.
The distinction between the production process and the labour process is not found in the case of all products. It is found only where natural changes are required in the on-going production. It is also found in such production as animal husbandry, pesciculture and afforestation.
But in the case of ‘industries’, however, production process and labour process are the same. There is no need to stop the work in the middle in order to turn yarn into cloth.
We may use the two words ‘labour process’ and ‘production process’ to convey the same sense, provided that we don’t forget that their meanings differ in certain cases. Since it is the same thing whether you call it ‘labouring’ or ‘producing’, ‘labour process’ or ‘production process’ also means the same. It is the same thing whether we call it ‘means of labour’ or ‘means of production’. It is the same thing whether we call it ‘labour relations’ or ‘production relations’. Whenever and whichever of these words we use, we have to derive the same meaning.
In this context, I would like to report an aspect of the debate in which this question was raised by a CPM person in their daily 'nava telangana' in which Rangaji wrote on caste annihilation where she argued that 'egalitarian labour relations alone will annihilate castes'. Let me give you a literal/mechanical translation of a particular point below:
"Venkatrao: " As far as I know Marx has nowhere used the term 'labour relations'. While referring to the relations between the master and the labourer, he rererred to them as part of production relations"
(RN's answer:) "Labour relations' is another term for 'production relations'. At the place of production, the master does not perform labour whereas labourers alone perform labour. The same thing happens when we say 'labour relations'. The term 'labour relations' is an easily understandable term. If someone uses the term 'historical materialism' in the place of Marx's term 'materialist conception of history', the sky won't fall. Nor the meaning is distorted. Similarly if someone uses the term ' dialectical materialism' in the place of Marx's term 'materialist diablectics', there is no loss (of meaning). Based on what Marx wrote in 'capital-3' regarding 'colonial trade' and 'expansion of the foregin trade is the own creation of capitalism', if someone uses the term 'Imperialism', it won't give any wrong meaning.It was Engels, Lenin and others who used those terms by changing Marx's expressions. Do we question Engels, Lenin and others thus, 'Marx did not say so. How can you say so? Can't they explain the same thing without distorting the theory in its essential aspects? They can. "