Friday, 5 October 2012

Capital I, Chapter 13 - Part 2

Marx says that in general workers cannot co-operate unless they are brought together. On one level this is true, on another it is not. Even in Marx's day, the division of labour was creating whole new industries producing intermediate products. That is commodities whose only function was as a component in some other commodity. Today, the international division of labour means that components can be produce in many different countries and assembled in another.

But, for the production of any specific Use Value, Marx is correct.

Hence wage-labourers cannot co-operate, unless they are employed simultaneously by the same capital, the same capitalist, and unless therefore their labour-powers are bought simultaneously by him. The total value of these labour-powers, or the amount of the wages of these labourers for a day, or a week, as the case may be, must be ready in the pocket of the capitalist, before the workmen are assembled for the process of production.” (p 312)

The capitalist must lay out a greater quantity of capital to employ a large number of workers simultaneously, than to employ a the same number in smaller amounts over a longer period. This is important later for understanding Marx's analysis of the Rate of Turnover of Capital.

Hence the number of the labourers that co-operate, or the scale of co-operation, depends, in the first instance, on the amount of capital that the individual capitalist can spare for the purchase of labour-power; in other words, on the extent to which a single capitalist has command over the means of subsistence of a number of labourers.” (p 312)

And, of course, to employ these workers, the capitalist also has to have sufficient capital to buy the constant capital needed to set these workers in motion. As described earlier, a function of economies of scale is that the amount of constant capital required does not increase in the same proportion as the number of workers, but a large increase in the number of workers (given the same level of technology) still requires a large increase in constant capital.

A dialectical relation exists here.

Hence, concentration of large masses of the means of production in the hands of individual capitalists, is a material condition for the co-operation of wage-labourers, and the extent of the co-operation or the scale of production, depends on the extent of this concentration.” (p 312)

A minimum of capital was required initially for the small master to become a capitalist, living off surplus value. Now, a larger minimum of capital is required so that the capitalist can produce on a scale large enough to benefit from such a co-operative labour.

We also saw that at first, the subjection of labour to capital was only a formal result of the fact, that the labourer, instead of working for himself, works for and consequently under the capitalist. By the co-operation of numerous wage-labourers, the sway of capital develops into a requisite for carrying on the labour-process itself, into a real requisite of production. That a capitalist should command on the field of production, is now as indispensable as that a general should command on the field of battle.” (p 313)

Where workers, even in a factory, worked as individual workers, there was no need for a separate commanding or co-ordinating function. It is precisely the fact that labour becomes co-operative that the requirement for the commanding and co-ordinating function arises, and is taken on by Capital. It then acquires special characteristics.

Under capitalism, this function becomes inseparable from the other function, its driving force, the extraction of surplus value. Moreover, as an increasing number of workers are brought together, and the individual worker, selling his labour-power on the market disappears, replaced by the mass worker, so as was seen in the struggle over the working day, these workers are led to act co-operatively and collectively in other ways i.e. to defend their collective interest as against capital.

As the number of the co-operating labourers increases, so too does their resistance to the domination of capital, and with it, the necessity for capital to overcome this resistance by counter pressure. The control exercised by the capitalist is not only a special function, due to the nature of the social labour-process, and peculiar to that process, but it is, at the same time, a function of the exploitation of a social labour-process, and is consequently rooted in the unavoidable antagonism between the exploiter and the living and labouring raw material he exploits.” (p 313)

One function, as with the slave master was to ensure that materials and equipment were not wasted and abused. Once again, Marx illustrates the way the workers co-operatives were superior to private capital in this regard.

That Philistine paper, the Spectator, states that after the introduction of a sort of partnership between capitalist and workmen in the “Wirework Company of Manchester,” “the first result was a sudden decrease in waste, the men not seeing why they should waste their own property any more than any other master’s, and waste is, perhaps, next to bad debts, the greatest source of manufacturing loss.” The same paper finds that the main defect in the Rochdale co-operative experiments is this: “They showed that associations of workmen could manage shops, mills, and almost all forms of industry with success, and they immediately improved the condition of the men; but then they did not leave a clear place for masters.” Quelle horreur!” (Note 2, p 313)

The Irish Marxist James Connolly noted the same feature of the Agricultural and Manufacturing Co-operative at Ralahine. He writes,

To those who fear that the institution of common property will be inimical to progress and invention, it must be reassuring to learn that this community of ‘ignorant’ Irish peasants introduced into Ralahine the first reaping machine used in Ireland, and hailed it as a blessing at a time when the gentleman farmers of England were still gravely debating the practicability of the invention. From an address to the agricultural labourers of the County Clare, issued by the community on the introduction of this machine, we take the following passages, illustrative of the difference of effect between invention under common ownership and capitalist ownership: –

This machine of ours is one of the first machines ever given to the working classes to lighten their labour, and at the same time increase their comforts. It does not benefit any one person among us exclusively, nor throw any individual out of employment. Any kind of machinery used for shortening labour – except used in a co-operative society like ours – must tend to lessen wages, and to deprive working men of employment, and finally either to starve them, force them into some other employment (and then reduce wages in that also) or compel them to emigrate. Now, if the working classes would cordially and peacefully unite to adopt our system, no power or party could prevent their success.”

This was published by order of the committee, 21st August, 1833, and when we observe the date we cannot but wonder at the number of things Clare – and the rest of Ireland – has forgotten since.”

Under capitalism, it is not the conscious will of the workers which brings them together as a single, co-operative, productive body, but only capital. The relations between each other and the means of production appear to them only as part of some plan imposed by the capitalist. And so this control, on the one hand, a co-ordinating and controlling role, whose function is the efficient production of Use Values, and on the other, the efficient production of surplus value, appears as despotic. This is in clear distinction to that function in the workers co-operatives, for example, where the manager fulfilling that co-ordinating role is employed by the workers themselves.

Under capitalist production, the function, when production reaches a certain dimension is also undertaken by specialist managers, a specialised form of wage labourer. Marx compares them to officers, whose function is to co-ordinate and command the other troops in the army. But, those managers are employed by capital itself.

These officers (the managers) and the sergeants (supervisors an overlookers) develop as a specific social strata, with a specific function. Despite the view developed on the basis of Marx's comments in the Communist Manifesto, about society dividing into two great class camps, later in Capital, Marx describes how the increasing centralisation and concentration of capital, and its technological development, must lead to the increase in size of this middle class strata.

So, it becomes clear that “It is not because he is a leader of industry that a man is a capitalist; on the contrary, he is a leader of industry because he is a capitalist. The leadership of industry is an attribute of capital, just as in feudal times the functions of general and judge, were attributes of landed property.” (p 315)

The capitalist buys the labour-power of individual workers, but by employing a large number of them, and combining their activity, the capitalist not only enjoys the benefit of the labour of each individual worker, and the value and surplus value they create, but also benefits from their greater combined output and creation of value and surplus value.

As co-operators, as members of a working organism, they are but special modes of existence of capital. Hence, the productive power developed by the labourer when working in co-operation, is the productive power of capital. This power is developed gratuitously, whenever the workmen are placed under given conditions, and it is capital that places them under such conditions. Because this power costs capital nothing, and because, on the other hand, the labourer himself does not develop it before his labour belongs to capital, it appears as a power with which capital is endowed by Nature a productive power that is immanent in capital.” (p 315)

Marx details a number of examples of the gigantic achievements of co-operative labour under the AMP, as referred to earlier.

Co-operation, such as we find it at the dawn of human development, among races who live by the chase, or, say, in the agriculture of Indian communities, is based, on the one hand, on ownership in common of the means of production, and on the other hand, on the fact, that in those cases, each individual has no more torn himself off from the navel-string of his tribe or community, than each bee has freed itself from connexion with the hive. Such co-operation is distinguished from capitalistic co-operation by both of the above characteristics. The sporadic application of co-operation on a large scale in ancient times, in the middle ages, and in modern colonies, reposes on relations of dominion and servitude, principally on slavery. The capitalistic form, on the contrary, pre-supposes from first to last, the free wage-labourer, who sells his labour-power to capital. Historically, however, this form is developed in opposition to peasant agriculture and to the carrying on of independent handicrafts whether in guilds or not. From the standpoint of these, capitalistic co-operation does not manifest itself as a particular historical form of co-operation, but co-operation itself appears to be a historical form peculiar to, and specifically distinguishing, the capitalist process of production.” (p 316)

The simultaneous employment of a large number of wage-labourers, in one and the same process, which is a necessary condition of this change, also forms the starting-point of capitalist production. This point coincides with the birth of capital itself.” (p 317)

No comments: