Sunday, 8 July 2018

Theories of Surplus Value, Part II, Chapter 17 - Part 10

Having assumed that capital can always find the additional labour-power it requires from the normal expansion of the population, and mobilisation of the different labour reserves, Marx then turns to the question of the accumulation of the constant capital. He assumes a closed economy. His example involves a weaver who produces £10,000 of surplus value, half of which he wants to accumulate. £1,000 is to be accumulated as variable-capital. Marx also assumes that all of the capital turns over once in a year. The £1,000 of variable capital must be held as money reserve, and it is paid out to 20 workers, over the year. This leaves £4,000 to be accumulated as constant capital. That means as much additional yarn as the 20 weavers can process must be acquired. In order to process the yarn he will need additional looms, and maybe additional steam engines to power the additional equipment. And, as with the additional labour-power, this requires that the additional yarn, looms, engines and coal etc. for the engines, is also available. As stated earlier current labour is always dependent upon the use values produced by past labour.  If the spinners previously only supplied enough yarn to reproduce that required by the weavers, to reproduce that consumed in the weaving process, where is the additional yarn to come from? And, this question could be asked in relation to the machine maker, coal supplier, and so on. 

Moreover, if the spinner is to produce more yarn, the machine maker more machines, the coal producer more coal, the same question applies, in turn, to all of their suppliers. The process begins with the weaver, demanding the additional yarn, looms and coal. The demand takes the form of the weaver submitting orders for these additional items, backed up with his £4,000 to buy them. It has to be possible for each of these suppliers to then make available these additional supplies, or else he would have to wait for these suppliers, in turn, to be able to increase their own production, which would entail them submitting orders for additional inputs to their own suppliers. As Marx sets out later in the chapter, this is one potential source of crises, as a break-down in the circuit of capital arises, when required elements of productive-capital are not physically available, available in the required quantity, in sufficient time, or at low enough prices. 

The spinner, having been advanced £3,000 for additional yarn, by the weaver, now finds himself in the same position. The spinner must employ additional workers, additional spinning machines etc. The spinner deducts their profit from the £3,000, with the remainder being available for the purchase of these additional inputs. This process continues back into the supply chain. The spinner places orders with the flax grower, and machine maker, and coal producer, and these in turn place additional orders with their suppliers. 

“So that accumulation can be a continuous process and the weaver able to transform a portion of his profit into constant capital every year, without long-winded complications and interruptions, he must find an additional quantity of yarn, looms, etc. available on the market. He [the weaver], the spinner, the producer of coal, etc. require additional workers, only if they are able to obtain flax, spindles and machines on the market.” (p 479) 

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