Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Capital III, Chapter 27 - Part 6

“Aside from the stock-company business, which represents the abolition of capitalist private industry on the basis of the capitalist system itself and destroys private industry as it expands and invades new spheres of production, credit offers to the individual capitalist; or to one who is regarded a capitalist, absolute control within certain limits over the capital and property of others, and thereby over the labour of others. The control over social capital, not the individual capital of his own, gives him control of social labour.” (p 438-9)

Those who exercised control over this social labour, such as Ian McGregor at the NCB, or Michael Edwards at BL, are the same capitalist bureaucrats who occupy similar positions on the boards of other huge corporations. Within state capitalist enterprises their control rests upon the massive amounts of credit that the state itself mobilises. And, this fact, that the state can mobilise these huge resources, whilst those who ultimately have to pick up the tab for it, the workers and middle class, as taxpayers, have no means of exercising control over its use, leads not just to bureaucracy and inefficiency on a mammoth scale, but also to outright swindling. The old apology for capitalist profits that they were a reward for savings and abstention, are here revealed as “equally sordid”, because these bureaucrats enjoy lavish lifestyles, on the basis of their control over social labour, not because they have saved, but because the mass of society has saved for them!

Engels interjects.

[“Just as all France recently saved up one and a half billion francs for the Panama Canal swindlers. In fact, a description of the entire Panama swindle is here correctly anticipated, fully twenty years before it occurred.”] (p 439)

And Marx continues,

“The other phrase concerning abstention is squarely refuted by his luxury, which is now itself a means of credit. Conceptions which have some meaning on a less developed stage of capitalist production, become quite meaningless here. Success and failure both lead here to a centralisation of capital, and thus to expropriation on the most enormous scale. Expropriation extends here from the direct producers to the smaller and the medium-sized capitalists themselves.” (p 439)

Under direct production, the individual peasant producer owned the means of production, as private property, and their production was private production to meet their own private needs. Under private capitalist production, the means of production become the private property of the individual capitalist. But, production becomes socialised. It is collective, co-operative labour that carries out production, within the factory, and is itself reliant on social production outside the factory, to provide means of production and means of consumption. Moreover, the production itself is no longer to meet private needs, but to meet social needs.

With the development of socialised capital, the ownership itself ceases being private ownership and becomes collective, socialised ownership, whether in the form of the joint stock company, co-operative or state capitalist enterprise.

Marx makes the same point here as that made by Engels in his Critique of the Erfurt Programme, where he writes,

“What is capitalist private production? Production by separate entrepreneurs, which is increasingly becoming an exception. Capitalist production by joint-stock companies is no longer private production but production on behalf of many associated people. And when we pass on from joint-stock companies to trusts, which dominate and monopolise whole branches of industry, this puts an end not only to private production but also to 'planlessness'.”

Marx states this point as follows.

“Expropriation extends here from the direct producers to the smaller and the medium-sized capitalists themselves. It is the point of departure for the capitalist mode of production; its accomplishment is the goal of this production. In the last instance, it aims at the expropriation of the means of production from all individuals. With the development of social production the means of production cease to be means of private production and products of private production, and can thereafter be only means of production in the hands of associated producers, i.e., the latter's social property, much as they are their social products.” (p 439-40)

But, this process too is contradictory. On the one hand, the joint stock companies open up ownership of the means of production to the whole of society. Yet, the former concentration of wealth, represented by the monopoly of private capital, is replicated within socialised capital by the concentration of ownership of stocks and bonds in the hands of a relatively diminishing number of money-capitalists.

“However, this expropriation appears within the capitalist system in a contradictory form, as appropriation of social property by a few; and credit lends the latter more and more the aspect of pure adventurers. Since property here exists in the form of stock, its movement and transfer become purely a result of gambling on the stock exchange, where the little fish are swallowed by the sharks and the lambs by the stock-exchange wolves.” (p 440)

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