Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Theories of Surplus Value, Part III, Chapter 21 - Part 48

And, as Marx describes in Capital I, this process of further accumulation and reproduction on an expanded scale, itself brings about a further concentration and centralisation of capital. Even within the confines of capitalism itself, this process runs up against the fetters of the monopoly of private capital, the ownership of industrial capital by individual capitalists and their families, so that even the big private capitalists themselves are expropriated by even larger socialised capitals, in the same way that the big private capitalists had expropriated the smaller private capitalists, who had, in turn expropriated the direct producers. The monopoly of private capital gives way to large-scale socialised capital, in the shape of the joint stock company, corporation and cooperative. 

The existence of this socialised capital itself lays bare this reality, in relation to the process of accumulation. The capital in the joint stock company, corporation etc., as much as in the cooperative, is the property of the firm itself, as a legal entity. The shareholders are not the owners of this capital, but merely creditors, lenders of money-capital to the firm, and thereby economically entitled only to interest on the money they lend. The profit produced by the workers, by contrast, is the property of the firm itself, as a legal entity. And, that legal entity can logically comprise nothing other than the associated producers within it. 

The myriad of scattered individual peasant producers, with their individualistic mindset, would never have pooled their resources so as to be able to produce on a large cooperative basis. But, capitalism forced that upon them, and via successive phases of accumulation, concentration, and centralisation, it even dispossessed the large private capitalists, so that even within the confines of capitalism, the ownership of the productive-capital becomes socialised. 

“As if the division of labour was not just as possible if its conditions belonged to the associated workers (although historically it could not at first appear in this form, but can only achieve it as a result of capitalist production) and were regarded by the latter as their own products and the material elements of their own activity, which they are by their very nature.” (p 273) 

For the bourgeois economists, capital is not a social relation but a thing, or, in reality, a series of things, the commodities that comprise the fixed and circulating capital. In order to justify profit, they must emphasis the role of these commodities as productive. For Hodgskin, however, he has no reason to promote past labour over immediate or “co-existent” labour. On the contrary, as a proponent of the worker as against the capitalist, Hodgskin seeks to argue that it is only “co-existent labour” that is significant. Hodgskin's argument is simple. The labourers produce commodities. Those commodities take the form of items of consumption, and other items required as means of production – buildings, machines, tools, materials. All of these items, therefore, represent the past labour of the workers themselves. In order to engage in their current production, the workers, its true, must have access to this past labour. They must have means of consumption, in order to live while they work, and they must be able to use the means of production so as to engage in the labour process. 

“But what on earth has this kind of utilisation, this mode of consumption of his product, to do with the domination of his product over him, with its existence as capital, with the concentration in the hands of individual capitalists of the right to dispose of raw materials and means of subsistence and the exclusion of the workers from ownership of their products? What has it to do with the fact that first of all they have to hand over their product gratis to a third party in order to buy it back again with their own labour and, what is more, they have to give him more labour in exchange than is contained in the product and thus have to create more surplus product for him?” (p 274) 

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