Monday, 7 November 2016

Capital III, Chapter 49 - Part 21

The worker or direct producer creates additional means of production, by undertaking labour beyond what is required to procure their immediate consumption needs. For example, if Robinson Crusoe works for 8 hours catching fish, which meets his consumption needs, for the day, any labour he performs, beyond this, constitutes surplus labour. If he works for another 2 hours, therefore, producing fishing nets, his surplus labour has gone to create this additional 'capital'.

The fact is not materially changed under capitalism. The 2 hours surplus labour performed by Robinson provided him with nets, which, on subsequent days, would increase his catch of fish and thereby enable him to increase his consumption, allow him to work less, or devote time to some other form of production.

Under capitalism, the surplus labour takes the form of profit, in the hands of the capitalist, who uses it to increase the capital at their disposal, which may enable them to dispose with some of the workers who produced that very capital, as a consequence of their surplus labour. It thereby enables the capitalist to exploit the workers to an even greater extent.

“Transformation of profit into capital is no more than employing a portion of excess labour to form new, additional means of production. That this takes place in the shape of a transformation of profit into capital signifies merely that it is the capitalist rather than the labourer who disposes of excess labour. That this excess labour must first pass through a stage in which it appears as revenue (whereas, e.g., in the case of a savage it appears as excess labour directly destined for the production of means of production) means simply that this labour, or its product, is appropriated by the non-worker.” (p 850)

What is transformed into capital is not profit. Profit is the form of revenue obtained by the productive-capitalist. It is not revenue that is transformed into capital.

“But, what is actually so transformed is value, materialised labour, or the product in which this value is directly manifested, or for which it is exchanged after having been previously transformed into money. And when the profit is transformed back into capital, this definite form of surplus-value, or profit, does not form the source of the new capital. The surplus-value is thereby merely changed from one form into another. But it is not this change of form which turns it into capital. It is the commodity and its value which now function as capital. However, that the value of the commodity is not paid for — and only by this means does it become surplus-value — is quite irrelevant for the materialisation of labour, the value itself.” (p 850)

In other words, it makes no difference whether the power drill I buy is bought out of my income as a worker, or is bought out of profits I make as a capitalist, when it comes to whether this drill is capital, or merely a consumption good. As a worker, I may buy such a drill because I intend to use it as capital, as part of the establishment of some new business. On the other hand, as a capitalist, I may buy such a drill out of my profits, merely for the purpose of using it as part of a leisure pursuit, for DIY.

Storch put forward the view that from the perspective of individuals, the commodities that comprise the national output are values, whereas from the perspective of the nation this national output comprises all of those use values required to meet its needs.

Marx points out that this represents a false abstraction under capitalism, because the basis of production is not the production of use values, on the basis of some conscious desire to satisfy those wants. Capital is undoubtedly led to produce commodities that are use values, and that are demanded, because in no other way can it ensure those commodities are sold, and the produced surplus value is realised. But, the aim is not a maximisation of the satisfaction of social wants, but a maximisation of the production and realisation of surplus value.

But, Storch is wrong for another reason, which is that, irrespective of the mode of production, the Law of Value continues to apply, so that, even in a society that aims at the maximisation of social needs, how it achieves that must continue to be constrained not by production, determined on the basis of use value, but value. As Marx puts it elsewhere, demand is a function of use value, whilst supply is a function of value. In order to maximise use value, it is necessary to determine values, and thereby determine how available social labour-time can be allocated, to produce any given mix of output.

“... after the abolition of the capitalist mode of production, but still retaining social production, the determination of value continues to prevail in the sense that the regulation of labour-time and the distribution of social labour among the various production groups, ultimately the book-keeping encompassing all this, become more essential than ever.” (p 851)

And as Engels points out in “Anti-Duhring”, this is the means by which a future communist society would allocate its available social labour-time.

“The useful effects of the various articles of consumption, compared with one another and with the quantities of labour required for their production, will in the end determine the plan.”


“As long ago as 1844 I stated that the above-mentioned balancing of useful effects and expenditure of labour on making decisions concerning production was all that would be left, in a communist society, of the politico-economic concept of value. (Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher, p. 95) The scientific justification for this statement, however, as can be seen, was made possible only by Marx's Capital.”

(Anti-Duhring, Chapter 26)

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