Friday, 11 January 2019

Theories of Surplus Value, Part III, Chapter 20 - Part 21

Mill argues that the worker advances his labour for a week, just as the capitalist advances means of production for the week. The worker, having produced six metres of linen, sells their share of it, two metres – to the capitalist, who pays them for it, as wages, even before he has sold the linen in the market. This payment in advance of the sale of the linen, is one reason that Mill gives for the worker being paid less than the £2 that is the exchange-value of their 2 metres. But, as Marx says, if the capitalist is working to order, they may already, themselves, have been paid for the six metres in advance, by the buyer. On what basis, then, could the capitalist not also pay the worker the full value of their 2 metres? 

Moreover, the linen producer buys yarn, and machines, as well as coal to power their steam engines, and so on, as well as labour, in order to produce the linen. Each of these components then, like labour, represent a share in the value of the 6 metres of linen, which is only realised when the capitalist sells the linen. So, if the capitalist says they pay the worker less than the £2 exchange-value of the linen, which represents the contribution their labour has made, they should apply the same principle to the yarn producer, who is paid for the yarn they supply, before the linen is sold, and to the machine maker, and coal supplier, who are paid for their inputs in the same way. 

And, Marx points out that, in the exchange of commodities, the sellers have no interest in what the buyer may do with it, after they have bought it. The worker, if they were actually the seller of their 2 metres of linen, to the capitalist, has no interest in whether the capitalist consumes it himself or sells it on to someone else. Consequently, why would this affect the exchange-value of the 2 metres of linen they are selling? 

“[Mill’s argument] therefore amounts to the absurdity that, in this transaction, the buyer buys the commodity in order to resell it at a profit and that, consequently, the seller must sell the commodity below its value—and with this the whole theory of value falls to the ground. This second attempt by Mill to resolve a Ricardian contradiction, in fact destroys the whole basis of the system, especially its great merit that it defines the relationship between capital and wage-labour as a direct exchange between hoarded and immediate labour, that is, that it grasps its specific features.” (p 92) 

In effect, Marx says, what Mill would have to argue, is that, in advancing money as wages, to the worker, prior to the product being sold, the relation between the worker and capitalist is like that between the money-lending capitalist and productive-capitalist. On this basis, the capitalist would pay the worker less than the value of the 2 metres of linen, equal to the interest on this advance of money. But, as Marx has showed, in Capital I, if that were the case, the difference between the actual value of the product, and what the worker is paid as wages, would have to be very much less than it is. 


“It would be a pretty state of affairs to presuppose interest-bearing capital—a special form of capital—in order to deduce the general form of capital, capital which produces profit; that is, to present a derived form of surplus-value (which already presupposes capital) as the cause of the appearance of surplus-value. In that case, moreover, Mill would have to be consistent and in place of all the definite laws concerning wages and the rate of wages elaborated by Ricardo, he would have to derive them from the rate of interest, and if he did that it would indeed be impossible to explain what determines the rate of interest, since, according to the Ricardians and all other economists worth naming, the rate of interest is determined by the rate of profit.” (p 92) 

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