Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Capital I, Chapter 30

Reaction of the Agricultural Revolution on Industry. Creation of the Home-Market for Industrial Capital

In the towns, the regulations of the guilds restricted the ability of the guild masters to simply become capitalists, and of the journeymen to become proletarians. But, the expropriation of the peasants meant that a constant supply of wage workers came to the town unconnected to these restrictions. Marx compares the process to cosmological processes.

The thinning-out of the independent, self-supporting peasants not only brought about the crowding together of the industrial proletariat, in the way that Geoffrey Saint Hilaire explained the condensation of cosmical matter at one place, by its rarefaction at another.” (p 697)

Now fewer people were employed on the land, but the revolution in farming made possible by larger farms, meant that output increased. But, this process has wider implications!

With the setting free of a part of the agricultural population, therefore, their former means of nourishment were also set free. They were now transformed into material elements of variable capital. The peasant, expropriated and cast adrift, must buy their value in the form of wages, from his new master, the industrial capitalist. That which holds good of the means of subsistence holds with the raw materials of industry dependent upon home agriculture. They were transformed into an element of constant capital. Suppose, e.g., a part of the Westphalian peasants, who, at the time of Frederick II, all span flax, forcibly expropriated and hunted from the soil; and the other part that remained, turned into day labourers of large farmers. At the same time arise large establishments for flax-spinning and weaving, in which the men “set free” now work for wages. The flax looks exactly as before. Not a fibre of it is changed, but a new social soul has popped into its body. It forms now a part of the constant capital of the master manufacturer. Formerly divided among a number of small producers, who cultivated it themselves and with their families spun it in retail fashion, it is now concentrated in the hand of one capitalist, who sets others to spin and weave it for him. The extra labour expended in flax-spinning realised itself formerly in extra income to numerous peasant families, or maybe, in Frederick II’s time, in taxes pour le roi de Prusse. It realises itself now in profit for a few capitalists. The spindles and looms, formerly scattered over the face of the country, are now crowded together in a few great labour-barracks, together with the labourers and the raw material. And spindles, looms, raw material, are now transformed from means of independent existence for the spinners and weavers, into means for commanding them and sucking out of them unpaid labour. One does not perceive, when looking at the large manufactories and the large farms, that they have originated from the throwing into one of many small centres of production, and have been built up by the expropriation of many small independent producers. Nevertheless, the popular intuition was not at fault. In the time of Mirabeau, the lion of the Revolution, the great manufactories were still called manufactures reunies, workshops thrown into one, as we speak of fields thrown into one.” (p 697-8)

In other words, the same process which dispossesses the self-sufficient peasants of their means of production and makes them available to be employed as wage labourers, also creates a home market for all those goods the peasant previously produced for themselves, but now needs to buy for their subsistence. The means of production, previously owned by the self-sufficient peasants have now been pulled together, in the same way that cosmic material is pulled together to form stars, planets, and galaxies. The now concentrated means of production, now in capitalist hands, therefore finds both the workers it needs, and a market for its production.

Formerly, the peasant family produced the means of subsistence and the raw materials, which they themselves, for the most part, consumed. These raw materials and means of subsistence have now become commodities; the large farmer sells them, he finds his market in manufactures. Yarn, linen, coarse woollen stuffs — things whose raw materials had been within the reach of every peasant family, had been spun and woven by it for its own use — were now transformed into articles of manufacture, to which the country districts at once served for markets. The many scattered customers, whom stray artisans until now had found in the numerous small producers working on their own account, concentrate themselves now into one great market provided for by industrial capital. Thus, hand in hand with the expropriation of the self-supporting peasants, with their separation from their means of production, goes the destruction of rural domestic industry, the process of separation between manufacture and agriculture. And only the destruction of rural domestic industry can give the internal market of a country that extension and consistence which the capitalist mode of production requires.” (p 699-700)

But, manufacture cannot carry out this process completely. It continues to be based on handicraft production in the towns, and domestic production in rural areas, which provide manufacture with its raw materials. Only with the development of machine industry is the basis of industrial production – spinning, weaving – in the village completely undermined. At this point, capitalist agriculture can take over.

Back To Chapter 29

Forward To Chapter 31

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