Monday, 3 August 2015

Capital III, Chapter 11 - Part 2

This is simply another aspect of the reality that Marx described in Capital I, Chapter 22 where he shows how Britain paid wages that were 50% higher than its European counterparts, and yet was still more competitive, because the British capital had a much higher organic composition, which resulted in a much higher level of productivity for British workers. It also is the objective material basis for the change in the attitude of these big industrial capitalists towards their workers described by Engels when he wrote in his later Preface to “The Condition of the Working Class”,

“The competition of manufacturer against manufacturer by means of petty thefts upon the workpeople did no longer pay. Trade had outgrown such low means of making money; they were not worth while practising for the manufacturing millionaire, and served merely to keep alive the competition of smaller traders, thankful to pick up a penny wherever they could. Thus the truck system was suppressed, the Ten Hours’ Bill was enacted, and a number of other secondary reforms introduced — much against the spirit of Free Trade and unbridled competition, but quite as much in favour of the giant-capitalist in his competition with his less favoured brother. Moreover, the larger the concern, and with it the number of hands, the greater the loss and inconvenience caused by every conflict between master and men; and thus a new spirit came over the masters, especially the large ones, which taught them to avoid unnecessary squabbles, to acquiesce in the existence and power of Trades’ Unions, and finally even to discover in strikes — at opportune times — a powerful means to serve their own ends. The largest manufacturers, formerly the leaders of the war against the working-class, were now the foremost to preach peace and harmony. And for a very good reason. The fact is that all these concessions to justice and philanthropy were nothing else but means to accelerate the concentration of capital in the hands of the few, for whom the niggardly extra extortions of former years had lost all importance and had become actual nuisances; and to crush all the quicker and all the safer their smaller competitors, who could not make both ends meet without such perquisites. Thus the development of production on the basis of the capitalistic system has of itself sufficed — at least in the leading industries, for in the more unimportant branches this is far from being the case — to do away with all those minor grievances which aggravated the workman’s fate during its earlier stages.”


“Thus a gradual change came over the relations between both classes. The Factory Acts, once the bugbear of all manufacturers, were not only willingly submitted to, but their expansion into acts regulating almost all trades was tolerated. Trades Unions, hitherto considered inventions of the devil himself, were now petted and patronised as perfectly legitimate institutions, and as useful means of spreading sound economical doctrines amongst the workers. Even strikes, than which nothing had been more nefarious up to 1848, were now gradually found out to be occasionally very useful, especially when provoked by the masters themselves, at their own time. Of the legal enactments, placing the workman at a lower level or at a disadvantage with regard to the master, at least the most revolting were repealed.”

The overall situation can be described.

“1) the price of production of the commodities of a capital of average social composition does not change;

2) the price of production of the commodities of a capital of lower composition rises, but not in proportion to the fall in profit;

3) the price of production of the commodities of a capital of higher composition falls, but also not in the same proportion as profit.” (p 201) 

The price of production for commodities produced with capital of the average composition remains constant. But, the total of all remains constant for the same reason. The rise in the price of production of commodities produced by capital with a lower than average composition is compensated by the fall in the price of production of commodities produced by capital with a higher than average composition.

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