Thursday, 8 December 2016

Capital III, Chapter 51 - Part 11

The revenues, wages and profits, imply the existence of wage labour and capital and so definite historically determined forms of property and social relations. The distribution relations themselves, therefore, are determined by these productive relations.

It does no good, as the reformists believe, to think, therefore, that these distribution relations – which allocate portions of the total social output according to objective economic laws – can be changed without changing the productive relations on which they are based.

It is not possible to increase the share of total output that goes to workers, to reproduce their labour-power, beyond that point, under capitalism, for example, by increasing taxes on the more affluent. All that does is to create distortion in the distribution relations, as well as draining value to cover the unnecessary labour employed by the state bureaucracy to operate the taxation and redistribution mechanism. Moreover, because such tinkering inevitably results in money being taken from one group of workers, in order to give to some other group of workers, they are a material basis of creating division amongst workers themselves. It is just a modern equivalent of the problems caused by Parish Relief that Marx describes in Capital I.

At times, as Marx describes, when there is rapid capital accumulation on an extensive basis, the demand for labour-power rises, and may do so to such an extent as to lift wages above the value of labour-power. But, this very fact, as Marx sets out in Chapter 15, because it eventually reaches a point whereby no additional labour can be profitably employed, leads to its own negation.

As soon as no more labour can be profitably employed, the crises of overproduction that break out lead to workers being laid off, to capital being destroyed, and a slow down in the formation of new capitals, which reduces the demand for labour and causes wages to fall.

In addition, at such times, capital seeks out new labour saving techniques. A new Innovation Cycle is undertaken and the new machines that are introduced are then generally cheaper and more productive than the old machines. As capital accumulation proceeds, in the following period, it occurs on an intensive rather than extensive basis, i.e. a few new machines replace many older machines, rather than the number of existing machines simply being expanded.

The rise or fall in wages that occurs due to these economic laws, cannot be changed simply by trying to redistribute revenue from capital to labour via the tax system.

Where real wages rise, i.e. workers living standards rise, this is usually due not to a reallocation of revenue away from capital to labour, but due to a sharp rise in social productivity that increases the mass of use values produced. In fact, such a rise in real wages is often required by capital to ensure that produced surplus value is realised, but it also goes hand in hand with a fall in the share of wages in national income relative to capital.

If total new output is 1000 units, and is divided 800 units to labour and 200 units to capital, when total new output rises to 2000 units, labour may obtain 1500 units, and capital 500 units. Workers wages will have risen 87.5%, but their share of national income will have fallen from 80% to 75%, whilst the share of capital will have risen from 20% to 25%.

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