Friday, 7 February 2014

Capital II, Chapter 13 - Part 2

Wherever natural materials have been replaced with synthetic materials, this is a way of reducing the time of production.

The contrast between working period and time of production is greatest in agriculture because of the limitations imposed by nature. Especially where climate means that the growing period is limited, this also imposes limits on when the working period is concentrated i.e. for ploughing, sowing, and then reaping.

In Europe, that has traditionally meant that a lot of agricultural workers were seasonal. Either they were agricultural workers who took on other jobs in slack periods, or else they were casual workers – students, migrants etc., brought in at peak periods.

“The more unfavourable the climate, the more congested is the working period in agriculture, and hence the shorter is the time in which capital and labour are expended. Take Russia for instance. In some of the northern districts of that country field labour is possible only from 130 to 150 days throughout the year, and it may be imagined what a loss Russia would sustain if 50 out of the 65 millions of her European population remained without work during the six or eight months of the winter, when agricultural labour is at a standstill.” (p 244)

Parts of agriculture can overcome this, and organise production on a more regular and consistent basis. For example, dairy production can be undertaken so that milk, butter, cheese etc. can be produced in regular quantities at regular times. The introduction of silage means that dairy cattle can be maintained throughout the year. Similar developments occur for factory farming poultry etc.

But, it was the nature of Russian agriculture that meant that peasants needed other employment during the rest of the year.

“Apart from the 200,000 peasants who work in the 10,500 factories of Russia, local domestic industries have everywhere developed in the villages. There are villages in which all the peasants have been for generations weavers, tanners, shoemakers, locksmiths, cutlers, etc. This is particularly the case in the gubernias of Moscow, Vladimir, Kaluga, Kostroma, and Petersburg. By the way, this domestic industry is being pressed more and more into the service of capitalist production. The weavers for instance are supplied with warp and woof directly by merchants or through middlemen.” (p 244-5)

It provides the natural basis for this combination of agriculture with these subsidiary industries. It provides an entry point for capital, first in the form of merchant capital.

“When capitalist production later accomplishes the separation of manufacture and agriculture, the rural labourer becomes ever more dependent on merely casual accessory employment and his condition deteriorates thereby. For capital, as will be seen later, all differences in the turnover are evened out. Not so for the labourer.” (p 245)

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