Monday, 6 June 2016

Capital III, Chapter 36 - Part 2

I would point out for clarification, what has been stated elsewhere, which is that this should not be taken as meaning that slaves produce surplus value. The slave is no different than a machine or pack animal. They are the equivalent of constant capital. They can only transfer a portion of their own value as wear and tear, to the commodity, just as with fixed capital. But, like a machine or pack animal, they can produce a surplus product. (See: Labour-Power v Horse-power)

If two slave owners are engaged in production, so that one produces potatoes and the other produces carrots, then the value of production for each will be be determined by the labour-time required. But, the labour-time required is not the time expended by the slave, who as Marx points out exists in no objective relation to the means of production. It is only the labour-time required to obtain the time expended by the slave, just as it is not the time expended by a horse in production, but only the time required to obtain the time expended by the horse – i.e. the cost of purchase and maintenance of the horse.

So, if 100 kilos of potatoes and 200 kilos of carrots are produced by 100 hours of labour, required to produce seeds, plus 100 hours for subsistence of slaves, then the value of 100 kilos of potatoes will be equal to 200 hours, and this will be true even if the slave worked for 200 hours rather than 100 hours, because the slave produces no surplus value.

If the producer of the 100 kilos of potatoes exchanged them with the producer of carrots they would obtain in exchange exactly this same 200 hours of value, but now in the form of carrots. There is no reason the carrot producer would buy potatoes for the equivalent value of 300 hours, just because that is the time the slave had worked, and vice versa. But, if both charged each other the equivalent of 300 hours rather than 200 hours, they would have equally swindled each other, and so any surplus value realised on a sale, they would lose on a purchase.

The only reason that slave producers are able to realise a surplus value is not because their slaves produce it, but because there are other non-slave owning producers of commodities, and it is the labour-time they require for production, which determines the market value of commodities. Peasant producers of potatoes and carrots expend 100 hours for seeds, and 200 hours of their own labour-time, so that the market value of these commodities is then equal to 300 hours. But, the individual value of the production of the slave owners is only 200 hours. When they sell their output, at the market value of 300 hours, they thereby obtain a surplus value equal to 100 hours. It is a share of this surplus value that the usurer obtains in interest on their loans.

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