Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Theories of Surplus Value, Part II, Chapter 17 - Part 40

In order to deny the possibility of crises, the bourgeois economists strip capitalist production of everything that makes it specifically capitalist, and which, therefore, is the basis of those contradictions. In fact, even more than that. Ricardo's comment that production is only undertaken for the purpose of consumption by the producer, or for exchange by them for some other item of consumption, even strips the commodity of what it is that makes it a commodity, i.e. a fusion of use value and exchange value. It turns it back into merely a product, a use value created by labour, only for direct consumption. 

“Here, therefore, firstly commodity, in which the contradiction between exchange-value and use-value exists, becomes mere product (use-value) and therefore the exchange of commodities is transformed into mere barter of products, of simple use-values. This is a return not only to the time before capitalist production, but even to the time before there was simple commodity production; and the most complicated phenomenon of capitalist production—the world market crisis—is flatly denied, by denying the first condition of capitalist production, namely, that the product must be a commodity and therefore express itself as money and undergo the process of metamorphosis.” (p 501) 

And, when Ricardo, in the quote given at the start of Section 8, spoke about these products being bought by other products, or services, by which he means the service provided by wage labour, he thereby denudes this wage labour of all content too. It reduces this wage labour to also being just a use value, rather than a commodity – labour-power – and also, thereby, removes its specific nature of being the means by which value is expanded, and surplus value created, and so turned into capital

““Service” is labour seen only as use-value (which is a side issue in capitalist production) just as the term “productions” fails to express the essence of commodity and its inherent contradiction. It is quite consistent that money is then regarded merely as an intermediary in the exchange of products, and not as an essential and necessary form of existence of the commodity which must manifest itself as exchange-value, as general social labour. Since the transformation of the commodity into mere use-value (product) obliterates the essence of exchange-value, it is just as easy to deny, or rather it is necessary to deny, that money is an essential aspect of the commodity and that in the process of metamorphosis it is independent of the original form of the commodity.” (p 501-2) 

But, Marx says, those economists like John Stuart Mill, who merely explain crises by describing the potential for them to arise, are no better. In the end, they basically explain the crisis on the basis of the existence of the crisis. Just because there is a potential for crisis does not explain why in one instance that potential results in an actual crisis, but in another instance it does not. The same can be said of those who want to explain crises on the basis of the law of the tendency for the rate of profit to fall. As Marx describes that law it is one that proceeds gradually over a very long period, and is much less than it is said to be.  Moreover, he sets out why a fall in the value of fixed and circulating constant capital can neutralise it.  He believed that the fall in those values was not adequate to offset the rise in the quantity of them employed, but that it was enough to neutralise any consequent fall in the rate of profit.

"It is an incontrovertible fact that, as capitalist production develops, the portion of capital invested in machinery and raw materials grows, and the portion laid out in wages declines. This is the only question with which both Ramsay and Cherbuliez are concerned. For us, however, the main thing is: does this fact explain the decline in the rate of profit? (A decline, incidentally, which is far smaller than it is said to be.) Here it is not simply a question of the quantitative ratio but of the value ratio...

If one worker can spin as much cotton as 100 [workers spun previously], then the supply of raw material must be increased a hundredfold, and this is moreover brought about only by the spinning-machine which enables one worker to control 100 spindles. But if simultaneously, one worker produces as much cotton as 100 workers did previously and one worker produces a spinning-machine whereas previously he produced only a spindle, then the ratio of value remains the same, that is, the labour expended in the spinning, [in the production of] the cotton and the spinning-machine remains the same as that expended previously in spinning, the cotton and the spindle...

"The cheapening of raw materials, and of auxiliary materials; etc., checks but does not cancel the growth in the value of this part of capital. It checks it to the degree that it brings about a fall in profit."

(Theories of Surplus Value, Chapter 23)

So those who see it as a cause of crisis need to explain, how it results in crisis, and why this law operating continually over a long period results in crises at some times, but not at others. 

“They do not explain why the phases of the process come into such conflict that their inner unity can only assert itself through a crisis, through a violent process. This separation appears in the crisis; it is the elementary form of the crisis. To explain the crisis on the basis of this, its elementary form, is to explain the existence of the crisis by describing its most abstract form, that is to say, to explain the crisis by the crisis.” (p 502) 

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