Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Theories of Surplus Value, Part I, Chapter 4, Part 106

Next, Destutt lists the workers as buyers of these commodities above their value. But, Destutt, by his previous argument, has made it impossible to derive a profit by selling commodities to workers above their value. He told us that these commodities are not, in fact, bought by the workers, who have no wealth of their own, but are bought by the capitalists, with their own wealth that is given to the workers as wages.

But, if it is actually the industrial capitalists who are really the buyers of these wage goods, not the workers, then, by selling them above their value, this once again amounts to to them selling them to themselves above their value, and thereby simply swindling themselves! Moreover, this applies not only to the industrial workers, but also to the workers employed by the idle capitalists, who must also buy these overpriced commodities, out of the revenues they deduct from the industrial capitalists profit.

As Marx comments,

“First the capitalist pays money to the labourer as wages. Then he sells him his product “too dear”, and by so doing draws the money back again. But as the labourer cannot pay back to the capitalist more money than he has received from him, so the capitalist can never sell his products to him dearer than he has paid him for his labour. He can always only get back from him as much money for the sale of his products as the money he has given him for his labour. Not a farthing more. How then can his money increase through this “circulation”?” (p 273)

This is the point referred to earlier. Destutt believes that the capitalist is able to make this profit by “drawing back” the money wages paid to the worker. In other words, having paid £1 in wages, the capitalist draws it back in exchange for commodities. But, what the capitalist has given to the worker is first £1 in wages, and then £1 in value of commodities. Having given out £2 in value, they have only “drawn back” £1 in money.

As Marx points out, they could hardly get rich on the back of such an exchange.

“Here, therefore, the noble Destutt confuses the circulation of money with the real circulation of commodities. Because the capitalist, instead of giving the labourer directly commodities to the value of £1, gives him £1, with which the labourer then decides as he likes which commodities he wants to buy, and returns to the capitalist in the form of money the draft he had given him on his merchandise—after he, the labourer, has appropriated his aliquot share of the merchandise—Destutt imagines that the capitalist “draws back” the wages, because the same piece of money flows back to him, And on the same page Monsieur Destutt remarks that the phenomenon of circulation is “little known” (p. 239).” (p 273-4)

As analysed previously, the surplus value arises not from those exchanges, or the circulation of money and commodities, but from production. The surplus cannot be explained on the basis of cheating.

“If I go into a shop and the shopkeeper gives me £1 and I then use this £1 to buy commodities to the value of £1 in his shop, he then draws back the £1 again. No one will assert that he has enriched himself by this operation. Instead of £1 in money and £1 in commodities he now has only £1 in money left. Even if his commodity was only worth l0s. and he sold it to me for £1, in this case too he is 10s. poorer than he was before the sale, even though he has drawn back the whole of one pound sterling.” (p 274)

The same thing applies here in relation to wages. Had the capitalist simply given the workers £1 to spend, and then sold those workers commodities, for £1, whose value was only £0.50, then they would have cheated the workers out of £0.50, but it would only thereby have reduced the loss of the capitalist, who gave the workers the £1 to spend in the first place!

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