Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Capital III, Chapter 36 - Part 4

Marx points out that, in these ancient forms, usury can drain the entire surplus over the bare subsistence level. In fact, as referred to earlier, the early capitalist production in the Mediterranean city states, was killed at birth because usury and merchant capital extracted even more than that, so that the producers could not reproduce their own labour-power.

Under capitalism, the bare subsistence of the producer assumes the form of wages, whereas the surplus over this assumes the form of surplus value, divided into profit, ground-rent and interest, “... and hence it is highly absurd to compare the level of this interest, which assimilates all the surplus-value excepting the share claimed by the state, with the level of the modern interest rate, where interest constitutes at least normally only a part of the surplus-value. Such a comparison overlooks that the wage-worker produces and gives to the capitalist who employs him, profit, interest and ground-rent, i.e., the entire surplus-value.” (p 595)

Carey had suggested that this lower rate of interest, under capitalism, was one benefit it had, for the labourer, but, as Marx points out, the interest is only lower, because the worker hands over the rest of the surplus in these other forms. Its true that the usurer, by squeezing all of this surplus out of the direct producer, gradually deprives them of all their means of production, and turns them into a debt slave, but capitalism already begins from the position where the workers have been dispossessed of their means of production, and reduced to being mere wage slaves.

As Marx points out, the worker, like the slave, cannot be reduced to the level of debt slave as a producer, because neither own their means of production. But, the worker, Marx says, can be reduced to the level of debt slave as a consumer. If he saw today's level of usury, in the 4000% rates of interest, charged by the pay day lenders, he would see nothing has changed in that regard, other than to become even worse.

“Usurer's capital in the form whereby it indeed appropriates all of the surplus-labour of the direct producers, without altering the mode of production; whereby the ownership or possession by the producers of the conditions of labour and small-scale production corresponding to this — is its essential prerequisite; whereby, in other words, capital does not directly subordinate labour to itself, and does not, therefore, confront it as industrial capital — this usurer's capital impoverishes the mode of production, paralyses the productive forces instead of developing them, and at the same time perpetuates the miserable conditions in which the social productivity of labour is not developed at the expense of labour itself, as in the capitalist mode of production.” (p 595-6)

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