Monday, 17 October 2016

Capital III, Chapter 48 - Part 20

What is, in fact, a single labour process, the process by which Man reproduces himself, becomes thereby mystified as this process becomes divided into these three independent and hostile forms of property.

“In our description of how production relations are converted into entities and rendered independent in relation to the agents of production, we leave aside the manner in which the interrelations, due to the world-market, its conjunctures, movements of market-prices, periods of credit, industrial and commercial cycles, alternations of prosperity and crisis, appear to them as overwhelming natural laws that irresistibly enforce their will over them, and confront them as blind necessity. We leave this aside because the actual movement of competition belongs beyond our scope, and we need present only the inner organisation of the capitalist mode of production, in its ideal average, as it were.” (p 831)

Marx begins to look at how this process of mystification develops according to the development of the different forms of social relations, but he never completed this section, describing only the situation up to the medieval guild system. However, given what he writes in this section, and what he has said previously its possible to complete this section accordingly.

“In early communal societies in which primitive communism prevailed, and even in the ancient communal towns, it was this communal society itself with its conditions which appeared as the basis of production, and its reproduction appeared as its ultimate purpose.” (p 831)

There is then here no basis for mystification in this process. The land belongs to the commune, what is produced on it is seen clearly as being nothing more than what the commune requires for its own reproduction – whether that is means of consumption or means of production. In other words, what are produced are use values, and they are produced via a labour process, in which land, means of production and labour each function as one harmonious whole for that end.

“Even in the medieval guild system neither capital nor labour appear untrammelled, but their relations are rather defined by the corporate rules, and by the same associated relations, and corresponding conceptions of professional duty, craftsmanship, etc.” (p 831)

But, under feudalism, a division does exist because private property exists. In a society based on agricultural production, and the production of use values, this division appears in the shape of the development of landed property.

“Here, the domination of the producers by the conditions of production is concealed by the relations of dominion and servitude, which appear and are evident as the direct motive power of the process of production.” (p 831)

This is an important point, and one covered by Engels in “Anti-Duhring”, dealing with the “Force Theory”. It may appear that it is the political relation between master and serf that enables the master, by the exercise of force, to obtain a payment of rent from the serf, but this hides the real underlying economic conditions and relations.

“Furthermore: even if we assume for a moment that Herr Dühring is right in saying that all past history can be traced back to the enslavement of man by man, we are still very far from having got to the bottom of the matter. For the question then arises: how did Crusoe come to enslave Friday? Just for the fun of it? By no means. On the contrary, we see that Friday “is compelled to render economic service as a slave or as a mere tool and is maintained also only as a tool” {D. C. 9}. Crusoe enslaved Friday only in order that Friday should work for Crusoe's benefit. And how can he derive any benefit for himself from Friday's labour? Only through Friday producing by his labour more of the necessaries of life than Crusoe has to give him to keep him fit to work. Crusoe, therefore, in violation of Herr Dühring's express orders, “takes the political grouping” arising out of Friday’s enslavement “not for its own sake, as the starting-point, but merely as a stomach-filling agency”;” 

In other words, the kind of relation that exists between landlord and serf does not spring up from nowhere without reason, but itself requires both an economic motivation (for the landlord to be able to obtain rent) and a set of required economic conditions. That is the serf can only pay rent if they are able not just to produce enough for their own reproduction, but also a surplus over and above it that can be appropriated by the landlord. Without these economic conditions, the relation between landlord and serf cannot exist, because no amount of force can create such a surplus where none exists.

The existence of the landlord-serf relation gives the impression that the rent arises from this relation rather than from the fact that it has become possible to produce a social surplus product on the land, and this has led to a situation whereby land and labour have already effectively been divided into two independent factors of the production process, which take the shape of two forms of property.

“In preceding forms of society this economic mystification arose principally with respect to money and interest-bearing capital.” (p 831)

Under feudalism the rent paid to the landlord is paid, not as with capitalist rent, on the basis that it is a payment for the use of another's property. As Marx set out in the chapter on pre-capitalist rent, it is paid essentially as tribute, on the basis of established laws and customs. This further enhances the idea that the basis of this tribute is the political relation based on force.

The actual production process continues to be one in which the ownership and use of land, along with means of production, belong to the producers. It is only the role of money and interest that here acts to mystify this relation.

Unlike the land, money is seen as independent private property in the hands of the money-lending capitalist. In these earlier times, the number of money lenders was fewer, and at a time when borrowers only borrowed under extreme conditions, when they were desperate, this meant that interest rates were higher. Any relation between this interest and the creation of a social surplus, as the necessary basis for the payment of this interest is completely hidden.

“Only when the capitalist mode of production —..” (p 831)

We can then complete as going on to say, only when the capitalist mode of production arises is this mystification complete, because only then does capital assume the form of independent property in the shape of money-capital in the ownership of money-lending capitalists; in the shape of productive-capital in the ownership of functioning capitalists; only then does land assume the form of landed property in the ownership of landlords; and only then does labour assume the form of wage labour completely separated from ownership both of land and capital, and thereby labour separated from land and means of production.

The payment of interest, as it always has, appears to be a payment for the use of another's property – money-capital. But, now rent appears also to be a similar payment for the use of another's property – land, whereas previously rent was seen clearly to arise solely upon the social relation between landlord and serf. The profit of enterprise of the functioning capitalist – including where the functioning capitalist is employed by the workers themselves, as in the case of a co-operative – appears to arise from the productive-capital, which raises productivity, together with the labour of the functioning capitalist who brings this productive-capital together and acts as its representative, rather than from the surplus value produced by the worker.

It is these different independent classes of property that thereby develop as antagonistic forms, and upon which thereby arise antagonistic social classes and class fractions. The true nature of class struggle is the struggle between the different forms of property represented here, and as Marx described in Capital I, people are merely the human representatives of these different classes of property and the economic relations that exist between them.

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