Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Capital III, Chapter 51 - Part 10

In previous modes of production, the surplus value extracted from the producers, whether this surplus value took the form of a surplus product, produced by a slave or the serf, of direct labour service, again provided by the slave or the serf, or of a money rent, provided by the independent peasant producer, this surplus value was effectively a means of the exploiting class increasing their revenue, including its expression in conspicuous consumption.

But, this meant that the direct producers were able, within limits, to increase their own means of production. Although a portion of surplus production, as always, was appropriated by the exploiters, another part is accumulated by the producers themselves.

However, this is impossible under capitalist production. The total social production, including the additional means of production, are produced by workers, but immediately owned by capital. The capitalist obtains their share of the surplus value, in the form of profits, but these profits are able to accumulate means of production, precisely because the addition to their stock is automatically in the ownership of capital.

“But only because this surplus-value thus appears as his profit do the additional means of production, which are intended for the expansion of reproduction, and which constitute a part of this profit, present themselves as new additional capital, and the expansion of the process of reproduction in general as a process of capitalist accumulation.” (p 881)

In other words, the surplus product produced by a slave or serf, or an independent peasant, is quite visibly a surplus product, produced by them, even if at least a part of it, if not all of it, is appropriated by someone else. But, that is not the case with the surplus product produced by the wage worker. The surplus product, and consequent surplus value appear to be directly the consequence of capital and thereby the property of the owner of that capital.

In a clear refutation of the belief of some Marxists that value is specific to commodity production, or even more specifically to capitalism, Marx states, once more, that this is not the case.

“Although the form of labour as wage-labour is decisive for the form of the entire process and the specific mode of production itself, it is not wage-labour which determines value. In the determination of value, it is a question of social labour-time in general, the quantity of labour which society generally has at its disposal, and whose relative absorption by the various products determines, as it were, their respective social importance. The definite form in which the social labour-time prevails as decisive in the determination of the value of commodities is of course connected with the form of labour as wage-labour and with the corresponding form of the means of production as capital, in so far as solely on this basis does commodity-production become the general form of production.” (p 882)

This is a restatement of the explanation of The Law of Value that Marx gave in his letter to Kugelmann, where he states that value exists in all modes of production, because value is labour. Wherever, labour is undertaken purposefully to produce use values, it is value creating. As Marx states, the law of value operates as a law of nature, in all of these instances, but only thereby assumes a different form.

“Every child knows that any nation that stopped working, not for a year, but let us say, just for a few weeks, would perish. And every child knows, too, that the amounts of products corresponding to the differing amounts of needs demand differing and quantitatively determined amounts of society’s aggregate labour. It is self-evident that this necessity of the distribution of social labour in specific proportions is certainly not abolished by the specific form of social production; it can only change its form of manifestation. Natural laws cannot be abolished at all. The only thing that can change, under historically differing conditions, is the form in which those laws assert themselves. And the form in which this proportional distribution of labour asserts itself in a state of society in which the interconnection of social labour expresses itself as the private exchange of the individual products of labour, is precisely the exchange value of these products.” 

(Letter to Kugelmann)

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