Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Theories of Surplus Value Part I, Chapter 2 - Part 9

A precondition for the creation of a class of wage labourers is that they are cut off from the means of production, and ability, therefore, to produce to meet their own requirements. This requires that the land itself becomes the property of a separate class of landowners.

Marx quotes Turgot,

““In the early stages there was no need to distinguish the proprietor from the cultivator … In this early time, as every industrious man would find as much land as he wished, he could not be tempted to work for others… But in the end all land found its master, and those who could not have properties had at first no other resource than that of exchanging the labour of their arms, in the employment of the stipendiary class” (i.e., the class of artisans, of all non-agricultural labourers) “for the superfluous portion of the produce of the cultivating proprietor” (l.c., p. 12). 

The cultivating proprietor with the considerable surplus which the land gave to his labour, could “pay men to cultivate his land; and for men who live on wages, it was as good to earn them in this business as in any other. Thus ownership of land had to be separated from the labour of cultivation, and soon it was … The landowners began to shift the labour of cultivating the soil on to the wage-labourers” (l.c., p. 13)”. (p 56)

Those who were thereby cut off from ownership of land had no choice but to sell their labour-power in exchange for wages, either in the service of a cultivating landowner or an industrial producer. Where previously, for the direct producer, the wage, or necessary product is a rather abstract concept, because they can always consume more or less of their surplus production, now, this wage, as the minimum amount of use values required for their reproduction “becomes the law which governs his exchange with the owner of the conditions of labour.” (p 56) 

The labourer then increasingly is removed from the position of cultivator of the land. The land is farmed by capitalist farmers who employ wage labour. But, the capitalist farmer here is considered only a type of worker, and their profit only a form of salary. The wage labourers are paid merely this minimum of wages, required for the reproduction of their labour-power, whilst the capitalist farmer obtains,

“... the subsistence and the profits of the husbandman, which are the reward of his labour and the condition upon which he undertakes to cultivate the field of the proprietor.” (Turgot) (p 56) 

What is left in excess of this is,

“... pure gifts to him who cultivates it, over and above his advances and the wages of his trouble; and this is the portion of the proprietor, or the revenue with which the latter can live without labour and which he uses as he will” (l.c., p. 14).” (Turgot) (p 56)

This pure gift of the productive power of the land is only given to labour. In other words, it only arises because of the expenditure of labour on the land. The owner of land cannot simply obtain this gift without labour being employed on it.

“In the hands of the landowner, therefore, the surplus appears no longer as a “gift of nature”, but as the appropriation — without an equivalent — of another’s labour, which through the productivity of nature is enabled to produce means of subsistence in excess of its own needs, but which, because it is wage-labour, is restricted to appropriating for itself, out of the product of the labour, only “what is necessary to procure him” [i. e., the worker] “his subsistence”.” (p 57)

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