Saturday, 26 August 2017

Theories of Surplus Value, Part I, Addenda - Part 26

In the case of a joint stock company, the money-capital is loaned by shareholders, who likewise are entitled to interest on their loan, in the form of dividends. But, in both cases, the productive-capital is collectively owned by the firm, i.e. the associated producers, not the shareholders, and the profit is likewise the property of the associated producers, not the shareholders. The dividends paid to the shareholders represent a deduction of interest from those profits.

“The determinate social character of the means of production in capitalist production—expressing a particular production relation —has so grown together with, and in the mode of thought of bourgeois society is so inseparable from, the material existence of these means of production as means of production, that the same determinateness (categorical determinateness) is assumed even where the relation is in direct contradiction to it. The means of production become capital only in so far as they have become separated from labourer and confront labour as an independent power. But in the case referred to the producer—the labourer— is the possessor, the owner, of his means of production. They are therefore not capital, any more than in relation to them he is a wage-labourer. Nevertheless they are looked on as capital, and he himself is split in two, so that he, as capitalist, employs himself as wage-labourer.” (p 408)

That is not only clear in relation to the peasant producer, or the self-employed, but is also clearly the case in relation to the worker-owned co-operative, as Marx sets out in Capital III, Chapter 27.

“The co-operative factories of the labourers themselves represent within the old form the first sprouts of the new, although they naturally reproduce, and must reproduce, everywhere in their actual organisation all the shortcomings of the prevailing system. But the antithesis between capital and labour is overcome within them, if at first only by way of making the associated labourers into their own capitalist, i.e., by enabling them to use the means of production for the employment of their own labour.”

Marx points out that this way of presenting the matter, of the owner of the means of production owning their own capital is “irrational”, and yet, “... is nevertheless so far correct, that in this case the producer in fact creates his own surplus-value commodity at its value>, in other words, only his own labour is materialised in the whole product. But that he is able to appropriate for himself the whole product of his own labour, and that the excess of the value of his product over the average price for instance of his day’s labour is not appropriated by a third person, a master, he owes not to his labour —which does not distinguish him from other labourers —but to his ownership of the means of production. It is therefore only through his ownership of these that he takes possession of his own surplus-labour, and thus bears to himself as wage-labourer the relation of being his own capitalist.” (p 409)

This is true also in relation to the socialised capital of the joint stock company. The surplus value belongs to its associated producers collectively, not to the shareholders. The shareholders are entitled only to the average rate of interest on their loaned money-capital. That the power of these shareholders, and their representatives on company boards, obtain returns in excess of this, at some times, does not invalidate the underlying economic relation.

It is why there are increasing demands to limit the undue influence of these shareholders, for example, to legislate for elected worker directors on company boards, as in Germany, and as proposed in the EU's Draft Fifth Company Law Directive. It was also reflected in the comments, in July 2015, by Bank of England economist, Andy Haldane, complaining about “capitalism eating itself”, as well as in comments, at the same time, by Hillary Clinton, complaining about the problems caused by “Quarterly Capitalism”. Both reflected the concerns of this socialised productive capital against the interests of fictitious capital, which resulted in excessive amounts of profits going as revenue to shareholders rather than being used for productive investment.

Separation appears as the normal relation in this society. Where therefore it does not in fact apply, it is presumed and, as has just been shown, so far correctly; for (as distinct for example from conditions in Ancient Rome or Norway or in the north-west of the United States) in this society unity appears as accidental, separation as normal; and consequently separation is maintained as the relation even when one person unites the separate functions.” (p 409)

And Marx could also have said when one corporate person, as in the case of a co-operative or joint stock company unites the functions.

“Here emerges in a very striking way the fact that the capitalist as such is only a function of capital, the labourer a function of labour-power.” (p 409)

The individual peasant or handicraft producer was bound either to turn themselves into capitalist producers, or else to be turned into wage labourers themselves. But, similarly, as Marx sets out in Capital I, Chapter 25, and in Capital III, Chapter 27, even the largest private capitalists were to represent a fetter on further capitalist development, and were themselves to be expropriated by socialised capital in the form of the co-operatives and joint stock companies.

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