Sunday, 9 October 2016

Capital III, Chapter 48 - Part 12

The other recipient of revenue is the worker. They obtain in wages an equivalent amount of value to the labour-power they provide, and this value is sufficient to draw from society's consumption fund, products of equal value, and in sufficient quantity to enable the reproduction of that labour-power, just as the revenue received as profit of enterprise, interest and rent is able to draw commodities of equal value from society's consumption fund, required by the functioning capitalists, the money-lending capitalists and the landlords.

“Whatever may be the disparity of these relations in other respects, they all have this in common: Capital yields a profit year after year to the capitalist, land a ground-rent to the landlord, and labour-power, under normal conditions and so long as it remains useful labour-power, a wage to the labourer. These three portions of total value annually produced, and the corresponding portions of the annually created total product (leaving aside for the present any consideration of accumulation), may be annually consumed by their respective owners, without exhausting the source of their reproduction. They are like the annually consumable fruits of a perennial tree, or rather three trees; they form the annual incomes of three classes, capitalist, landowner and labourer, revenues distributed by the functioning capitalist in his capacity as direct extorter of surplus-labour and employer of labour in general.” (p 821)

Once again, the relation Marx is describing here can most easily be seen in relation to the worker owned co-operative. The workers collectively employ the managers or “functioning capitalists”, and having done so, these managers, as with any other business, organise production so as to maximise surplus value. The managers perform the function of employing additional workers, when they are required, they act to buy materials and equipment, as well as to organise sales and marketing and so on.

But, the co-operative, as with any other business will have to pay rent to a landlord, and interest to any money-lending capitalists, from whom it has borrowed money. Both of these latter will be paid by the managers of the co-op, and their ability to do so depends upon the surplus the business produces.

“Thus, capital appears to the capitalist, land to the landlord, and labour-power, or rather labour itself, to the labourer (since he actually sells labour-power only as it is manifested, and since the price of labour-power, as previously shown, inevitably appears as the price of labour under the capitalist mode of production), as three different sources of their specific revenues, namely, profit, ground-rent and wages.” p 822)

But, Marx says its not just that it appears this way, but it is the case that capital is the means of pumping surplus value from workers; land does act as a magnet to attract rent for the landlord; and the performance of labour, i.e. ownership of labour-power, the capacity to perform labour, enables the worker to obtain wages, as a portion of the value created by that labour.

“They are so, furthermore, in the sense that capital fixes a portion of the value and thereby of the product of the annual labour in the form of profit; landed property fixes another portion in the form of rent; and wage-labour fixes a third portion in the form of wages, and precisely by this transformation converts them into revenues of the capitalist, landowner, and labourer, without, however, creating the substance itself which is transformed into these various categories.” (p 822)

Marx here again wants to make sure that this is not interpreted as a Smithian cost of production analysis. It is not that these revenues, accrued by capital, landed property and wage labour, as profit, rent and wages determine the value of the total social product, but vice versa.

“The distribution rather presupposes the existence of this substance, namely, the total value of the annual product, which is nothing but materialised social labour.” (p 822)

This is also what Marx is referring to in the Critique of the Gotha Programme when he writes that distribution is determined by the productive relations.

“Any distribution whatever of the means of consumption is only a consequence of the distribution of the conditions of production themselves. The latter distribution, however, is a feature of the mode of production itself. The capitalist mode of production, for example, rests on the fact that the material conditions of production are in the hands of non-workers in the form of property in capital and land, while the masses are only owners of the personal condition of production, of labour power. If the elements of production are so distributed, then the present-day distribution of the means of consumption results automatically. If the material conditions of production are the co-operative property of the workers themselves, then there likewise results a distribution of the means of consumption different from the present one.”

It doesn't appear this way to workers, capitalists and landlords. Rather it appears that it is the value they receive as revenues which determines the value of the total social product.

“Capital landed property and labour appear to those agents of production as three different, independent sources, from which as such there arise three different components of the annually produced value — and thereby the product in which it exists; thus, from which there arise not merely the different forms of this value as revenues falling to the share of particular factors in the social process of production, but from which this value itself arises, and thereby the substance of these forms of revenue.” (p 822)

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