Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Capital I, Chapter 16 - Part 3

Until societies reach a minimum level of development
 of the productive forces their members can only
 produce enough to just about sustain themselves - and
often not even that.  Unless productivity rises
 to a level where each person can produce more than
 is required for their own reproduction, no society can sustain
non productive members.  Therefore, everyone must work.
  There can be no exploiting class.  For example,
 there is no point having slaves, because all the
slaves' production is required for their own reproduction.
Marx explains this point by the use of Value Theory to explore the situation across all modes of production. He describes the division of the working day into necessary and surplus labour as previously defined.

If the labourer wants all his time to produce the necessary means of subsistence for himself and his race, he has no time left in which to work gratis for others. Without a certain degree of productiveness in his labour, he has no such superfluous time at his disposal; without such superfluous time, no surplus-labour, and therefore no capitalists, no slave-owners, no feudal lords, in one word, no class of large proprietors.” (p 479)

Marx echoes Engels from Origin Of The Family, Private Property & The State where he describes how class society i.e. slavery could only arise when society had developed its productive ability to a certain level, whereby one individual could produce more than was required for their own reproduction. Prior to that, there was no point having slaves, because they could produce no surplus.

Raising productivity through the development of socialised
labour is a process that develops over millennia.
A requirement for this, is in fact, that labour has become socialised, because without that, it cannot raise itself to the necessary level of productivity.

Along with the progress in the productiveness of labour, that small portion of society increases both absolutely and relatively. Besides, capital with its accompanying relations springs up from an economic soil that is the product of a long process of development. The productiveness of labour that serves as its foundation and starting-point, is a gift, not of nature, but of a history embracing thousands of centuries.” (p 479-80)

One of the main reasons that Britain had its
 Industrial Revolution first was the existence of large
quantities of reasonably accessible coal, which fuelled
the steam engines, which powered the factories.
The productiveness of labour besides the development of social production, is limited by physical factors. These, Marx says, divide into two categories. Firstly, natural – the fertility of the soil and water – and secondly natural instruments of labour – waterfalls, navigable rivers, wood, metal, coal etc.

At the dawn of civilisation, it is the first class that turns the scale; at a higher stage of development, it is the second. Compare, for example, England with India, or in ancient times, Athens and Corinth with the shores of the Black Sea.” (p 480)

Marx then refers to the advantages of ancient Egypt in these regards, that facilitated its development.

Nevertheless the grand structures of ancient Egypt are less due to the extent of its population than to the large proportion of it that was freely disposable. Just as the individual labourer can do more surplus-labour in proportion as his necessary labour-time is less, so with regard to the working population. The smaller the part of it which is required for the production of the necessary means of subsistence, so much the greater is the part that can be set to do other work.

Capitalist production once assumed, then, all other circumstances remaining the same, and given the length of the working day, the quantity of surplus-labour will vary with the physical conditions of labour, especially with the fertility of the soil.” (p 180-1)

But, for stimulating capitalist development, it is not the most fertile soil that provides the best conditions. Where nature provides its gifts too freely and abundantly, there is no imperative to develop Man's own productive powers.

It was the uneven nature of fertility of land in Britain that led
to the development of technologies and techniques to improve
it.  Ultimately, that leads to the Agricultural Revolution of the
18th Century, and the Enclosure Acts that swept peasants
from the land in order to create large farms, where more
productive methods could be introduced.  It creates the basis for
the Industrial Revolution.
It is not the tropics with their luxuriant vegetation, but the temperate zone, that is the mother-country of capital. It is not the mere fertility of the soil, but the differentiation of the soil, the variety of its natural products, the changes of the seasons, which form the physical basis for the social division of labour, and which, by changes in the natural surroundings, spur man on to the multiplication of his wants, his capabilities, his means and modes of labour. It is the necessity of bringing a natural force under the control of society, of economising, of appropriating or subduing it on a large scale by the work of man’s hand, that first plays the decisive part in the history of industry.” (p 481)

Marx cites the irrigation works necessary in Egypt, Lombardy, Holland, India and Persia. The need to predict the rise and fall of the Nile is what led the Egyptians to develop the science of astronomy. It was the need to conduct hydraulic works on a large scale in places like India and China, which could only be done by the State, which led to the development of the Asiatic Mode of Production. Marx writes,

Melotti gives a good account of Marx's writings
on the Asiatic Mode of Production, and how the
need for large scale hydraulic projects required a large
bureaucratic state to undertake them.
One of the material bases of the power of the state over the small disconnected producing organisms in India, was the regulation of the water supply. The Mahometan rulers of India understood this better than their English successors. It is enough to recall to mind the famine of 1866, which cost the lives of more than a million Hindus in the district of Orissa, in the Bengal presidency.” (Note 3, p 481)

A good account of Marx’s analysis of the Asiatic Mode of Production is provided in “Marx and the Third World” By Umberto Melotti.

Favourable natural conditions alone, give us only the possibility, never the reality, of surplus-labour, nor, consequently, of surplus-value and a surplus-product. The result of difference in the natural conditions of labour is this, that the same quantity of labour satisfies, in different countries, a different mass of requirements, consequently, that under circumstances in other respects analogous, the necessary labour-time is different. These conditions affect surplus-labour only as natural limits, i.e., by fixing the points at which labour for others can begin.” (p 482)

Marx also quotes Joseph Massie in this regard,

““There are no two countries which furnish an equal number of the necessaries of life in equal plenty, and with the same quantity of labour. Men’s wants increase or diminish with the severity or temperateness of the climate they live in; consequently, the proportion of trade which the inhabitants of different countries are obliged to carry on through necessity cannot be the same, nor is it practicable to ascertain the degree of variation farther than by the degrees of Heat and Cold; from whence one may make this general conclusion, that the quantity of labour required for a certain number of people is greatest in cold climates, and least in hot ones; for in the former men not only want more clothes, but the earth more cultivating than in the latter.” (An Essay on the Governing Causes of the Natural Rate of Interest. Lond. 1750. p. 60.) The author of this epoch-making anonymous work is J. Massie. Hume took his theory of interest from it.” (Note 1, p 482)

But, the fact that under certain conditions, Men's needs are easily met does not mean that this automatically results in a large surplus. It only creates the potential. Marx cites the example of natives able to live by working just 12 hours a week, and living off a Sago tree.

Nature’s direct gift to him is plenty of leisure time. Before he can apply this leisure time productively for himself, a whole series of historical events is required; before he spends it in surplus-labour for strangers, compulsion is necessary. If capitalist production were introduced, the honest fellow would perhaps have to work six days a week, in order to appropriate to himself the product of one working day. The bounty of Nature does not explain why he would then have to work 6 days a week, or why he must furnish 5 days of surplus-labour. It explains only why his necessary labour-time would be limited to one day a week. But in no case would his surplus-product arise from some occult quality inherent in human labour.” (p 482-3)

It is only on the basis of this historical development that when we arrive at capitalism “... the idea easily takes root that it is an inherent quality of human labour to furnish a surplus-product.” (p 482)

No comments: