Friday, 16 November 2018

Theories of Surplus Value, Part III, Chapter 19 - Part 12

3. The Row Between the Supporters of Malthus and Ricardo in the Twenties of the 19th Century. Common Features in Their Attitude to the Working Class 

“There developed on this basis a fine old row between the Malthusians and the Ricardians in the 20s (from 1820 to 1830 was in general the great metaphysical period in English political economy). Like the Malthusians, the Ricardians deem it necessary that the worker should not himself appropriate his product, but that part of it should go to the capitalist, in order that the worker should have an incentive for production, and that the development of wealth should thus be ensured. But they rage against the view of the Malthusians that landlords, state and church sinecurists and a whole lot of idle retainers must first lay hold—without any equivalent—of a part of the capitalist’s product (just as the capitalist does in respect of the workers) therewith to buy their own goods from the capitalist with a profit for the latter, although this is exactly what the Ricardians affirm with regard to the workers. In order that accumulation may increase and with it the demand for labour, the worker must relinquish as much of his product as possible gratis to the capitalist, so that the latter can transform the net revenue, which has been increased in this way, back again into capital.” (p 22-3) 

This is, in fact, the ideological basis of social-democracy. Marx also describes it in “Wage-Labour and Capital”. The underlying premise is that capital and labour have a shared interest. Certainly, they had a shared interest at the start of the 19th century, in opposing the landed aristocracy. And, as Engels points out, in the repeal of the corn laws was revealed not only the shared interest of capital and labour, in opposing the landed aristocracy, but also the shared interest of the workers and industrial capital in opposing landed aristocracy along with all of those elements of capital associated with it, such as the financial oligarchy. 

“The Reform Bill of 1831 had been the victory of the whole capitalist class over the landed aristocracy. The repeal of the Corn Laws was the victory of the manufacturing capitalist not only over the landed aristocracy, but over those sections of capitalists, too, whose interests were more or less bound up with the landed interest-bankers, stockjobbers, fundholders, etc.” 

( Preface To The Second German Edition of “The Condition Of The Working Class) 

With the transition of industrial capital from the monopoly of private capital to the dominance of socialised capital, and, thereby, the separation of the private capitalists into a class of mere money-lenders, and coupon clippers, whilst the personification of this socialised capital became manifest in a growing middle-class of day to day managers, technicians, and administrators, drawn increasingly from the ranks of the working-class, this shared interest became even more apparent. It was reflected in the growth of social-democratic ideals and parties. The underlying assumption of this social-democracy was this shared interest, an assumption that capitalism was not to be replaced with socialism, but was to be developed, because only on that basis could the interests of the workers for higher living standards, and an amelioration of their condition be achieved. 

“The peculiar character of social-democracy is epitomized in the fact that democratic-republican institutions are demanded as a means, not of doing away with two extremes, capital and wage labour, but of weakening their antagonism and transforming it into harmony. However different the means proposed for the attainment of this end may be, however much it may be trimmed with more or less revolutionary notions, the content remains the same. This content is the transformation of society in a democratic way, but a transformation within the bounds of the petty bourgeoisie. Only one must not get the narrow-minded notion that the petty bourgeoisie, on principle, wishes to enforce an egoistic class interest. Rather, it believes that the special conditions of its emancipation are the general conditions within whose frame alone modern society can be saved and the class struggle avoided.” 

(Marx – the Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte) 

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