Saturday, 11 June 2016

Capital III, Chapter 36 - Part 7

As commerce develops, purchase and payment are separated. Payment is due at a fixed date.

“How this can lead to circumstances in which the money-capitalist and usurer, even nowadays, merge into one is shown by modern money crises. This same usury, however, becomes one of the principal means of further developing the necessity for money as a means of payment — by driving the producer ever more deeply into debt and destroying his usual means of payment, since the burden of interest alone makes his normal reproduction impossible. At this point, usury sprouts up out of money as a means of payment and extends this function of money as its very own domain.” (p 599)

By contrast, credit arises as a specifically capitalist response to usury, and reflects the subordination of interest bearing capital to the needs of industrial capital. Commercial credit, is extended by one capitalist producer to another, without need for resort to interest bearing capital. The limits on the average rate of interest are set as previously described, on the basis of the demand and supply for money-capital. The industrial capitalist can thereby obtain money-capital without resort to usury, by selling shares and issuing bonds, or other forms of loans obtained from the money market, and so the rate of interest on this borrowing is limited by the rate of profit itself, thereby preventing usury from dispossessing the capitalist in the way it did with small producers in previous modes of production.

But, usury continues to exist under capitalism, and is indeed freed from the various legal limits placed on it in the past. Its only now that consideration is once more being given to imposing legal limits on the usurious levels of interest being charged by pay day lenders, for example. Usury continues to exist not in the lending to capitalist producers, but in the lending to individual consumers, and to those very small capitalists, and non-capitalist producers, who, in reality, are placed in little different position to the self-employed producer.

“What distinguishes interest-bearing capital — in so far as it is an essential element of the capitalist mode of production — from usurer's capital is by no means the nature or character of this capital itself. It is merely the altered conditions under which it operates, and consequently also the totally transformed character of the borrower who confronts the money-lender.” (p 600)

The development of the credit system, under capitalism, means that even those without fortunes of their own can become capitalists, provided they possess, “... energy, solidity, ability and business acumen.” (p 600) Although this means that the existing capitalists are continually being challenged by these newcomers, it strengthens capitalism itself, by extending its base and drawing in new blood, more dynamic, more vigorous, than some of those it replaces.

“Although this circumstance continually brings an unwelcome number of new soldiers of fortune into the field and into competition with the already existing individual capitalists, it also reinforces the supremacy of capital itself, expands its base and enables it to recruit ever new forces for itself out of the substratum of society.” (p 600)

The large majority of new businesses that are started, fail within the first five years. Of all the businesses started, in the UK, in 2009, only 42% were still in existence five years later.  When the apologists for small business talk about the fact that its responsible for the majority of new jobs, therefore, they fail to point out that it is also responsible for an even larger proportion of job losses. But, rather like the process of natural evolution, every so often, some of these new businesses will be the genesis of a new line of production, and grow into a Virgin, Microsoft, Google etc.

Marx compares this to the way the Catholic Church, in the Middle Ages, constructed its hierarchy from the best brains in the land, irrespective of their estate. Similarly, it was common in Japan and China, for prominent state officials to adopt clever children from peasant families, in order to educate and train them, to pass the exacting exams required to become the state bureaucrats of the next generation.

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