Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Theories of Surplus Value, Part I, Chapter 4 - Part 120

[19. Apologia for the Prodigality of the Rich by the Malthusian Chalmers]

Of course, the most vociferous defence of the luxury and wastefulness of the landed aristocracy, and their attendant state functionaries, came from their apologists such as Malthus. He, and others in the clergy, such as Thomas Chalmers, were not only bound to defend their own role against Smith's description of them as unproductive, but also of all these other social layers of the old feudal regime of which they were part. The same thing applies today with the conservative defence of all those social layers attached to fictitious capital, which fulfil no useful social function, but which drain inordinate amounts of value from the system as rents and interest.

Chalmers, like Malthus, argued that the landed aristocracy, the clergy and the state would do the workers no favour by ceasing their luxury consumption, because in doing so it would remove demand from the economy, putting the workers out of work. The fact that this consumption was financed out of a portion of the surplus value squeezed out of the workers never occurred to them, or if it did, they were unlikely to acknowledge the fact!

[20. Concluding Observations on Adam Smith and His Views on Productive and Unproductive Labour]

Marx concludes his analysis of Smith's view on productive and productive labour by citing with approval Smith's “hatred of the unproductive government”. These views, Marx says, reflect the revolutionary nature of the bourgeoisie at that time,

“which has not yet subjected to itself the whole of Society, the State, etc. All these illustrious and time-honoured occupations— sovereign, judge, officer, priest, etc., —with all the old ideological professions to which they give rise, their men of letters, their teachers and priests, are from an economic standpoint put on the same level as the swarm of their own lackeys and jesters maintained by the bourgeoisie and by idle wealth—the landed nobility and idle capitalists. They are mere servants of the public, just as the others are their servants. They live on the produce of other people’s industry, therefore they must be reduced to the smallest possible number.” (p 300-301)

This is a reflection of Marx's own hostile attitude to the state; a state which in “The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte” he says must be smashed; which, in The Critique of The Gotha Programme, he says should be taught a lesson, by the people. It is the attitude he sets out in his Programme for the First International, where he opposes indirect taxes because they are not easily understood, or seen and thereby encourage an expansion of the state, and discourage workers self government. It is the same attitude put forward by Engels in his Critique of the Erfurt Programme, where he opposed calls for a National Insurance Scheme, welfare state, and nationalisation.

Smith's hostility to the state was an hostility to the old feudal state, but it was also an hostility to an expansion of the capitalist state, beyond what was absolutely required for the needs of capitalist production.

“State, church, etc., are only justified in so far as they are committees to superintend or administer the common interests of the productive bourgeoisie; and their costs —since by their nature these costs belong to the overhead costs of production—must be reduced to the unavoidable minimum.” (p 301)

Marx's hostility to the state is an hostility to a capitalist state that now reflects the hegemony of the bourgeoisie, but like Smith, is also an hostility to the state of the future going beyond what is minimally required of it. For Marx, that state should only be a semi-state, a state that begins to whither away no sooner than it has come into being.

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