Friday, 25 August 2017

Theories of Surplus Value, Part I, Addenda - Part 25

[(F) The Labour of Handicraftsmen and Peasants in Capitalist Society]

Marx then examines the production of non-capitalist producers, such as handicrafts-men and peasants within a capitalist society. The basic fact here is that the term productive or unproductive labour does not apply, precisely because it is not capitalist production. The term productive labour means productive of capital, labour that exchanges with capital, produces surplus value, and thereby reproduces capital.

But, non-capitalist production, by definition does not employ capital and so the labour does not exchange with capital, and does not reproduce capital. It is not that the labour is unproductive, but that the terms productive and unproductive do not apply to such labour. The peasant or independent handicraft worker produces commodities, which they bring to market.

“In this capacity they confront me as sellers of commodities, not as sellers of labour, and this relation therefore has nothing to do with the exchange of capital for labour; therefore also it has nothing to do with the distinction between productive and unproductive labour, which depends entirely on whether the labour is exchanged for money or for money as money as capital. They therefore belong neither to the category of productive nor of unproductive labourers, although they are producers of commodities. But their production does not fall under the capitalist mode of production.” (p 407)

Such producers may produce a surplus value, as peasants did in the past, which was appropriated as rent by the feudal lord. That is in the sense that any labour they perform in excess of the necessary labour required for the reproduction of their labour-power represents a surplus value. As independent producers, they can appropriate this surplus value, less whatever is taken from them in rent, interest and taxes.

Marx does not deal here with the fact that this would also appear to be the case with the individual provider of services. A prostitute, for example, may need to work for four hours per day to earn enough to reproduce their labour-power, but if they work for six hours they will produce a surplus value of two hours, which they may appropriate for themselves.

“And here we come up against a peculiarity that is characteristic of a society in which one definite mode of production predominates, even though not all productive relations have been subordinated to it... 

The independent peasant or handicraftsman is cut up into two persons. As owner of the means of production he is capitalist; as labourer he is his own wage-labourer. As capitalist he therefore pays himself his wages and draws his profit on his capital; that is to say, he exploits himself as wage-labourer, and pays himself, in the surplus-value, the tribute that labour owes to capital. Perhaps he also pays himself a third portion as landowner (rent), in exactly the same way, as we shall see later, that the industrial capitalist, when he works with his own capital, pays himself interest, regarding this as something which he owes to himself not as industrial capitalist but qua capitalist pure and simple.” (p 408)

This represents the situation with those relics of former modes of production that continue into capitalist society, but the same thing applies also to those harbingers of the new mode of production that emerges out of capitalist production. With socialised capital, whether it is in the form of the co-operative or the joint stock company, the capital itself belongs to the company, i.e. to the associated producers themselves, just as with a peasant producer.

But, the company obtains the productive-capital by borrowing money-capital. In the case of a co-operative, the money-capital is loaned by its members, be they workers, in the case of a worker-owned co-operative, or consumers in a consumer co-operative. In either case, these members act as shareholders, entitled to interest, paid out of the profit.

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