Thursday, 21 March 2013

Capital I, Chapter 25 - Part 5

5) Illustrations of the General Law of Capitalist Accumulation

a) England from 1846-1866

Marx provides comprehensive data showing the extent to which profits and rents increased compared to the growth of population. Between 1853-64 population rose by around 12%. For the same period, profits subject to Income Tax, rose by around 50%. The increase in rent of land, subject to Income Tax, rose by 38%.

The accumulation of capital was attended at the same time by its concentration and centralisation. Although no official statistics of agriculture existed for England (they did for Ireland), they were voluntarily given in 10 counties. These statistics gave the result that from 1851 to 1861 the number of farms of less than 100 acres had fallen from 31,583 to 26,597, so that 5,016 had been thrown together into larger farms. From 1815 to 1825 no personal estate of more than £1,000,000 came under the succession duty; from 1825 to 1855, however, 8 did; and 4 from 1856 to June, 1859, i.e., in 4½ years.” (p 608)

The accumulation was also manifest in the growth of production. Coal production went from 64.4 million tons, worth £16 million, in 1855, to 92.8 million tons, worth £23 million, in 1864. In the same period, pig iron went from 3.2 million tons, worth £8 million, to 4.7 million tons, worth £11.9 million. Railways went from 8,000 miles to nearly 13,000 miles, and their paid up capital from £286 million to £425.7 million. Total value of exports and imports went from £268.2 million to £490 million. The value of exports trebled between 1846 and 1866 from £58 million to £189 million.

After these few examples one understands the cry of triumph of the Registrar-General of the British people:

'Rapidly as the population has increased, it has not kept pace with the progress of industry and wealth.'

Yet, as Marx details using the Budget Speeches of Gladstone to illustrate, the best that could be said, for the workers, during this period, is that in absolute terms, they did not get any poorer! But, in relative terms, they had become poorer, because the rich had become considerably richer. Even in absolute terms, the rise in wages barely covered the rise in prices.

As to the cheapening of the means of subsistence, the official statistics,e.g., the accounts of the London Orphan Asylum, show an increase in price of 20% for the average of the three years 1860-1862, compared with 1851-1853. In the following three years, 1863-1865, there was a progressive rise in the price of meat, butter, milk, sugar, salt, coals, and a number of other necessary means of subsistence.” (p 610)

The number of paupers rose from 878,000 in 1856 to 971,000 in 1865. As a result of the cotton famine, resulting from the US Civil War, it rose to 1.08 million in 1863, and 1.01 million in 1864.

The crisis of 1866, which fell most heavily on London, created in this centre of the world market, more populous than the kingdom of Scotland, an increase of pauperism for the year 1866 of 19.5% compared with 1865, and of 24.4% compared with 1864, and a still greater increase for the first months of 1867 as compared with 1866. From the analysis of the statistics of pauperism, two points are to be taken. On the one hand, the fluctuation up and down of the number of paupers, reflects the periodic changes of the industrial cycle. On the other, the official statistics become more and more misleading as to the actual extent of pauperism in proportion as, with the accumulation of capital, the class-struggle, and, therefore, the class consciousness of the working men, develop.” (p 612)

Back To Part 4

Forward To Part 6

No comments: