Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Theories of Surplus Value, Part III, Chapter 21 - Part 47

And, Marx repeats the point, made in Capital III, that it is not the ownership of money which makes the capitalist a capitalist. There have been plenty of points in history where individuals have owned large hoards of money without that resulting in them being capitalists, or in capitalist production arising. At best, it resulted in the antediluvian forms of money-lending capital (usury) and merchant capital, which ultimately sucked the lifeblood out of the producers, resulting not in a progress towards capitalist production, but a decent into slavery. 

“For money to be transformed into capital, the prerequisites for capitalist production must exist, whose first historical presupposition is that separation. The separation, and therefore the existence of the means of labour as capital, is given in capitalist production; this separation which constantly reproduces itself and expands, is the foundation of production.” (p 272) 

Primary accumulation proceeds on the basis of this concentration, which presumes that it takes the form of capital. It can only be concentrated by the actions of a few individuals, and these individuals would have no reason to undertake this primary accumulation unless they were to utilise it as capital, i.e. so as to obtain profit. But, once it exists as capital, and such profit is created, the further accumulation of capital proceeds as a continuous process. Moreover, each capital is forced, by competition, to accumulate a portion of the surplus product as capital. 

Historically, it was impossible for this process to occur unless it took this form as capital. This is the historical justification for capital. But, beyond a certain stage, as the process of accumulation proceeds, the historical necessity no longer exists. Once workers themselves exist as wage workers, in a factory, and so where, also, the factory, machines, accumulated circulating capital exists, and where this process of accumulation of the surplus value, as capital, proceeds automatically, there is no reason why the factory and the rest of the capital has to be owned by a capitalist for it to continue. The surplus product/value is produced by the workers, and it can just as easily be accumulated by them as capital as by an individual capitalist, who first appropriates the surplus value from them as profit. 


“... it becomes a specific function of the capitalist to accumulate, that is, to reconvert a part of the surplus product into conditions of labour. And the stupid economist concludes from this that if this operation did not proceed in this contradictory, specific way, it could not take place at all. Reproduction on an extended scale is inseparably connected in his mind with accumulation, the capitalist form of this reproduction.” (p 272) 

What was an historically necessary form of means of transition from one mode of production to another, becomes seen as a natural form of accumulation. 

“Accumulation merely presents as a continuous process what in primitive accumulation appears as a distinct historical process, as the process of the emergence of capital and as a transition from one mode of production to another.” (p 272) 

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