Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Capital III, Chapter 47 - Part 5

If a rent in kind is paid, and this rent forms a larger proportion of the total than as set out above, then this excess amount does not represent rent, but is a deduction from profit that reduces it below the average level.

“Owing to this possibility alone, rent in kind is an obsolete form, in so far as it does not reflect the price of the product, but may be greater or smaller than the real rent, and thus may comprise not only a deduction from profit, but also from those elements required for capital replacement.” (p 789)

The idea put forward by Passy, therefore, that the rent could be derived by deducting the historic cost of production from the quantity of output was nonsense, because it is trying to compare a value with a use value.

“Quite like a manufacturer producing 200,000 yards of cotton goods. These yards of goods not only suffice to clothe his labourers; to clothe his wife, all his offspring and himself abundantly; but also leave over enough cotton for sale, in addition to paying an enormous rent in terms of cotton goods. It is all so simple! Deduct the price of production from 200,000 yards of cotton goods, and a surplus of cotton goods must remain for rent. But it is indeed a naive conception to deduct the price of production of, say, £10,000 from 200,000 yards of cotton goods, without knowing the selling price, to deduct money from cotton goods, to deduct an exchange-value from a use-value as such, and thus to determine the surplus of yards of cotton goods over pounds sterling.” (p 789)

II) Labour Rent

Where a peasant farms their own land, with their own means of production, for part of the week, and then labours on the land of the feudal lord, for the rest of the week, the situation is clear, because here rent and surplus value are identical.

“Rent, not profit, is the form here through which unpaid surplus-labour expresses itself. To what extent the labourer (a self-sustaining serf) can secure in this case a surplus above his indispensable necessities of life, i.e., a surplus above that which we would call wages under the capitalist mode of production, depends, other circumstances remaining unchanged, upon the proportion in which his labour-time is divided into labour-time for himself and enforced labour-time for his feudal lord.” (p 790)

Whereas the profit of the capitalist is the unpaid labour of the worker, but does not appear as such, because wages give the impression that the worker is being paid for all of the labour they provide, the surplus labour of the peasant here appears openly as unpaid labour.

“That the product of the serf must here suffice to reproduce his conditions of labour, in addition to his subsistence, is a circumstance which remains the same under all modes of production. For it is not the result of their specific form, but a natural requisite of all continuous and reproductive labour in general, of any continuing production, which is always simultaneously reproduction, i.e., including reproduction of its own operating conditions.” (p 790)

If the direct producer owns the means of production then the social relations developed on these property relations must be one of lord and serf. The peasant cannot be free, or otherwise they would simply refuse to provide this unpaid labour. The relation is only modified if this unpaid labour takes the form of payment in kind, or in money, rather than in actual performance of labour, because labour must still be performed, so as to produce the payment in either form. Apart from the performance of this unpaid labour, however, the peasant producer acts independently, whether in their agricultural or auxiliary production. This is not changed if this independence is expressed in the form of collective production, with other peasants, as happened in the Indian Village Community, and in Russia, for example.

“Under such conditions the surplus-labour for the nominal owner of the land can only be extorted from them by other than economic pressure, whatever the form assumed may be. This differs from slave or plantation economy in that the slave works under alien conditions of production and not independently. Thus, conditions of personal dependence are requisite, a lack of personal freedom, no matter to what extent, and being tied to the soil as its accessory, bondage in the true sense of the word.” (p 791)

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