Thursday, 19 July 2018

Theories of Surplus Value, Part II, Chapter 17 - Part 21

The question Marx turns to here is the nature of this expansion and accumulation of capital.
For Ricardo, this accumulation is only an accumulation of variable capital. In other words, it resolves itself only into an expansion of the labour employed. This follows logically from Adam Smith's dogma that the value of commodities resolves entirely into revenues

“The following speaks for this: All value is originally derived from labour. All constant capital is originally just as much the product of labour as is variable capital. And here we seem to encounter again the direct genesis of capital from labour. 

An argument against it is: Can one suppose that the formation of additional capital takes place under worse conditions of production than the reproduction of the old capital? Does a reversion to a lower level of production occur? This would have to be the case if the new value [were] spent only on immediate labour, which, without fixed capital etc., would thus also first have to produce this fixed capital, just as originally, labour had first to create its constant capital. This is sheer nonsense. But this is the assumption made by Ricardo, etc.” (p 485-6) 

I illustrated this same fallacy, a while ago in relation to this same Ricardian argument put forward by Daniel De Leon.

The first question to ask, Marx says, is can the surplus value, or more correctly the surplus product, be used directly by the capitalist, as capital, without first having to sell it; in other words, turning it into money-capital? If so, then its clear that not all of the surplus value is accumulated as variable-capital. In agriculture, that is, in fact, quite clear as referred to earlier. If a farmer has 1,000 kilos of surplus grain, they might use 100 kilos of this surplus as additional seed to increase their grain output the following year. And, they may set aside 800 kilos of the rest to pay wages of additional workers during the year, whilst retaining 100 kilos of the surplus for their own consumption. The allocation of 100 kilos for seed (constant capital) and 800 kilos wages (variable-capital) flows from the technical composition of the capital, and given no change in productivity, this allocation of the surplus into constant and variable capital is identical to that of the original capital. 

This does not just apply to grain and seed. A portion of livestock may be retained for breeding, so as to increase the herd etc. Even manure, Marx says, could be sold as a commodity on the market, but could instead be retained, and used on the fields to enhance productivity. 

“This part is not expended on wages; it is not transformed into variable capital. It is withdrawn from individual consumption without being consumed productively in the sense used by Smith and Ricardo. It is consumed industrially, but as raw material, not as means of subsistence either of productive or of unproductive workers.” (p 486) 

So, its clear that the surplus product is not accumulated only as variable-capital. Here, the surplus product is considered only in terms of its direct accumulation by the farmer. The same could be said in relation to a coal mine, which directly accumulates part of its surplus product to fuel additional steam engines, as it opens up new coal seams etc. But, again, the same thing applies here, in relation to the accumulation of the surplus product as applied in relation to the exchange of capital with capital, as part of the normal process of social reproduction. In other words, just as the coal producer does not reproduce all of their constant capital directly from their own production of coal, but also reproduces it in the steel of the steel producer, and vice versa, so too with this element of the surplus product. 

The coal producer may use 10% of their surplus product directly as coal to fuel additional steam engines. They may use a further 10%, which they exchange with the steel producer, for steel used as pit props, road ways in the mine etc., but likewise, the steel producer, who expands their own production, to provide this steel, reproduces their own additional capital not from their own output, but from the additional output of the coal producer. And, of the other surplus product of the coal producer, they may exchange it with a farmer, who thereby provides additional food, which is paid to the additional workers, taken on by the mine, as wages. 

For a farmer, not only does the surplus product act directly to increase the constant capital, but it can be used directly to increase the variable-capital, because the surplus product can also be used directly to pay to additional workers as wages in kind. The coal mine can do that, in part, too, because it can pay miners part of their wages in coal, so as to be able to heat their homes. 

“Corn, however, serves not only as means of subsistence for productive workers etc., but also as auxiliary material for livestock, as raw material for spirits, starch etc. Livestock (for fattening or draught animals) in turn serves not only as means of subsistence, but its fur, hide, fat, bones, horns etc. supply raw materials for a large number of industries, and it also provides motive power, partly for agriculture itself and partly for the transport industry.” (p 486) 

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