Monday, 13 November 2017

Theories of Surplus Value, Part II, Chapter 9 - Part 14

Illustrating the point made earlier, that the same underlying relations, in terms of the division of the physical product, remain, whilst taking on specifically capitalist characteristics, Marx outlines the way that for the Physiocrats, the agriculturalists replace, in kind, out of their production, the means of production, such as seeds, livestock etc. They also reproduce, on a like for like basis, the other elements of their constant capital, but they do not achieve this by a direct replacement. They achieve it by first reproducing the raw materials that constitute part of the constant capital consumed by the sterile class. In exchange, the sterile class provide the agriculturalists with the machines etc. consumed as constant capital in their own production.

Rodbertus equates the division of the product with a division of value, but under capitalism, because what is produced are commodities, and not products for direct consumption by the producer, no such identity exists. The direct producer, who produces to meet their own needs devotes a certain portion of their labour time to reproducing all of those use values which constitute their means of production, and another portion to producing those use values that reproduce their labour power. Consequently, the apportionment of their labour time and consequently value production is identical to the apportionment of their physical product for this purpose. But, this is not the case with commodity production. The producer of yarn does not produce the cotton they spin, nor the spinning machines used in spinning the cotton into yarn. They only produce yarn, as a use value, but not as a use value for themselves. What they actually produce is a quantity of value, and it is only in the division of this value that the means of production and the variable capital are thereby reproduced.

“Since the value which becomes available for distribution, i.e., the part of value which forms revenue, is created within each individual sphere of production, independently of the others—although, on account of the division of labour, it presupposes the others—Rodbertus takes a step backward and creates confusion, by not examining this creation of value on its own, but confusing it right from the start by asking what share of the available total product of the nation these component parts secure for their owners.” (p 151)

Because Rodbertus makes this confusion of use value and value, and a corresponding focus on the division of the product rather than the division of value into that required to reproduce c + v, and what then remains as s, and attributes this same confusion to other economists, he is then led to correct what he sees as their error by his irrelevant introduction of the concept of a separate division of the raw product and manufactured product.

If the new value created in manufacture is considered, then excluding any rent for buildings, which the capitalist may pay, and any taxes deducted by the state, this value is indeed only divided between capital and wage labour. And, for agricultural production or mining etc., the revenue is divided into three – landlord, capitalist, worker.

“It is entirely in accord with the standpoint of capitalist production that the other economists, especially Ricardo, start from a division into two, between capitalist and wage-labourer, and only bring in the landowner who draws rent at a later stage, as a special excrescence. Capitalist production is based on the antithesis of two factors, materialised labour and living labour. Capitalist and wage-labourer are the sole functionaries and factors of production whose relationship and confrontation arise from the nature of the capitalist mode of production.” (p 152)

Only after this division of the new value into wages and surplus value does a question of the surplus value into rent, profit, interest and taxes arise. Out of the value produced, all of it goes first to the capitalist who must first use part of it to reproduce his constant capital, and a further part to reproduce labour power.

“As James Mill observes, production could therefore continue undisturbed if the landed proprietor disappeared and the state took his place.” (p 152)

As Marx set out in Capital III, the further development of capitalism, and the replacement of private capitalist property with socialised capital, places the capitalist in the same position. It becomes no longer necessary for the person who undertakes the function of the capitalist, of labour of superintendence, to be the owner of capital. The functioning capitalist, therefore, becomes a wage worker themselves, whilst the only owners of capital, as private property increasingly become owners only of loanable money capital, which resides in the form of paper financial assets, of fictitious capital. But, just as the land could be owned by the state and rented out to capitalist farmers, so too money capital can be owned by the state, and loaned out at interest to industrial capital. As the social function of the landlord passes out of history, therefore, so too does the social function of capital as private property, and with it the social function of the private capitalist.

“Furthermore, it can only he grasped and become self-evident when the capitalist has seized agriculture, and everywhere, as is generally the case in England, has taken charge of agriculture just as he has of industry, and has excluded the landowner from any direct participation in the production process.” (p 153)

Rodbertus chastises Ricardo for taking capitalist property as given and primary. But, as Marx points out, from the perspective of an analysis of capitalism, Ricardo is right in doing so. That Ricardo, like all bourgeois economists, takes capitalist property, and capitalist relations, to be eternal is also nothing new, as every ruling class believes that its mode of production is natural, and has always existed, in some form, and will likewise continue to exist in the future.

Rodbertus' criticisms of Ricardo also fall into that category because it starts from a perspective of feudal relations and sees capitalist property wholly within that context. As Marx points out, landed property as it exists under capitalism, is feudal property, property handed down to capitalism, which is not its creation. Yet, that landed property is itself shaped by capitalism. Capitalist ground rent differs from feudal rent; under capitalism, land itself becomes a commodity that is bought and sold, and whose price is the capitalised rent.

Rodbertus is wrong in claiming that Ricardo does not allow the sharing out of the whole social product amongst the workers, landlords and capitalists. Marx quotes Ricardo to that effect.

““The produce of the earth—all that is derived from its surface by the united application of labour, machinery, and capital, is divided among three classes of the community; namely, the proprietor of the land, the owner of the stock or capital necessary for its cultivation, and the labourers by whose industry it is cultivated.” (David Ricardo, The Principles of Political Economy and Taxation, London, 1821, third edition, Preface, p. V.)” (p 154)

What Ricardo recognizes, however, is that precisely because of changes in value relations, which flow from the continual rise in social productivity, the division of revenues will continually change. If the value of labour power falls, because less labour time is required to produce the commodities required for its production, then wages will fall and profit will rise.

““But in different stages of society, the proportions of the whole produce of the earth which will be allotted to each of these classes, under the names of rent, profit, and wages, will be essentially different” (l.c., p. V).” (p 154)

Ricardo's error here is not that ascribed by Rodbertus, but that, like Smith, Ricardo forgets that the value of the "whole produce" cannot be divided into rent, wages and profits, because it also comprises the value of constant capital.

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