Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Theories of Surplus Value, Part I, Chapter 4 - Part 105

Destutt then gets into the same sort of contradiction that we have seen with other writers in trying to explain the profit of the industrial capitalists, and how this relates to the revenue of the workers, landlords and money lenders.

Having started from a position where all wealth is in the hands of the industrial capitalists, Destutt is first faced with explaining wages of workers, who “... have no other treasure but their everyday labour.” (p 271)

The real problem Destutt has here is a failure to understand what wages are. Wages are merely the phenomenal form of the value of labour-power, and that value is itself determined by the value of all those commodities required for the reproduction of labour-power. If Destutt understood wages in this way, and saw the workers wage as essentially an exchange of these commodities for labour-power, much of his confusion would be removed. Instead, Destutt sees wages as being simply money in the hands of the industrial capitalists paid to the workers, money which the workers then use to buy the commodities they require. The workers consumption, therefore, is paid for not by them, but by the industrial capitalists.

“ “It follows from this that the consumption paid for by this wealth is the consumption of the wage-labourers, in the sense that it is they whom it maintains, but at bottom it is not they who pay it. Or at least they only pay for it with funds existing beforehand in the hands of those who employ them. Their consumption should therefore be regarded as having been made by those who hire them. They only receive with one hand and return with the other.... It is therefore necessary to regard not only all that they” (the wage-labourers) “spend but even all that they receive as the real expenditure and consumption of those who buy their labour. That is so true that in order to see whether this consumption is more or less destructive of wealth that has been acquired, or even if it tends to increase it … it is necessary to know what use the capitalists make of the labour that they buy” (pp. 234-35).” (p 271-2)

Marx demonstrates later that what this amounts to is effectively the industrial capitalist paying the workers twice, once in the money wages, and secondly as commodities bought with those money wages. But, first, Marx looks at Destutt's arguments for where the surplus value comes from with which they pay revenue to themselves and the idle capitalists.

““I will be asked how these industrial entrepreneurs can make such large profits, and whence they can draw them? I reply that it is through their selling everything that they produce at a higher price than it has cost them to produce” (p. 239).” (p 272)

This is the same argument seen previously and dealt with by Marx in Volume I. Marx breaks down the groups who Destutt says these commodities are sold to above their value. First of all, according to Destutt they sell these commodities to themselves. But, its impossible to enrich yourself, individually, by selling the things you produce to yourself above their value, because that would be simply to swindle yourself! It would be to merely put into one pocket as a producer what you have taken out of the other pocket as a consumer.

Yet, this applies to the entire class of producers equally. If producer A sells commodities at 10% above their value to producer B, and producer B likewise sells commodities to producer A at 10% above their value, they have both equally swindled one another by 10%, so that it would have been exactly the same had they exchanged their commodities at their value. A first took £10 too much out of the pocket of B as a consumer, and put it into his pocket as a producer, but then B, as a producer, took this same £10 out of A's pocket as a consumer, and put it back into his own pocket, from whence it originally came!

No comments: