Friday, 16 August 2019

Theories of Surplus Value, Part III, Chapter 21 - Part 85

Hodgskin described three different scenarios in relation to the accumulation of fixed capital, as a means of raising production. It may be produced by the labourer who uses it. The time required for its production is time not spent on other production, and the extent to which it can raise output depends on “the power of the labourer to make and use the instruments in question.” (p 317) 

Secondly, as part of a social division of labour, some labourers may specialise in producing fixed capital, whilst other labourers specialise in using the fixed capital to produce consumption goods. The fixed capital allows the latter to produce more, and 

“As long as the produce of the two […] classes of labourers be divided between them, the accumulation or increase of such instruments as they can make and use, is as beneficial as if they were made and used by one person.”(p 317) 

Thirdly, the fixed capital may be owned by capitalists. The capitalist does not use it, but appropriates the benefit of its use. As Marx puts it 

“In other words, production is assisted by the instrument, but not by the title which A holds to the instrument, i.e. not by the circumstance that the instrument is owned by a non-labourer.” (p 317) 

Hodgskin describes the role of the capitalist as almost a middle man, who appropriates this produce of one group of labourers and then makes it available for use by another group of labourers. In the case of fixed capital they make it available for a temporary period, but with wage goods – he should include all circulating capital – he makes them permanently available. 

“He never does allow the produce of one labourer, when it comes into his possession, to be either used or consumed by another, unless it is for his benefit. He employs or lends his property to share the produce, or natural revenue, of labourers; and every accumulation of such property in his hands is a mere extension of his power over the produce of labour, and retards the progress of national wealth, […] this [is] at present the case… When the capitalist, being. the owner of all the produce, will allow labourers neither to make nor use instruments, unless he obtains a profit over and above the subsistence of the labourer, it is plain that bounds are set to productive labour much within what Nature prescribes. In proportion as capital in the hands of a third party is accumulated, so the whole amount of profit required by the capitalist increases, and so there arises an artificial check to production and population… In the present state of society, the labourers being in no case the owners of capital, every accumulation of it adds to the amount of profit demanded from them, and extinguishes all that labour which would only procure the labourer his comfortable subsistence… when it is admitted that labour produces all things, even capital, it is nonsense to attribute productive power to the instruments labour makes and uses…” (p 317) 

Hodgskin sets out the way paper money exposes the fallacy that capital was created by the individual savings of the capitalist. The capital of the capitalist does not derive from their savings, but from the surplus value produced by the labourer. From the standpoint of society, the accumulation of capital must always be a consequence of saving, because it means that a portion of this produced surplus value is not used for further unproductive consumption, i.e. it is saved, in the form of the purchase of additional means of production and consumption. But, this saving is a saving from the surplus production, it can only arise because a surplus product and surplus value has first been created. Capital accumulation, therefore, is wholly compatible with an increase in consumption, because what is saved is only a portion of the surplus product, the additional product that would have been available for additional consumption.

[h) Hodgskin on the Power of Capital and on the Upheaval in the Right of Property] 

Marx quotes from Hodgskin's The Natural and Artificial Right of Property Contrasted, London, 1832. 

““At present, all the wealth of society goes first into the possession of the capitalist, and even most of the land has been purchased by him; he pays the landowner his rent, the labourer his wages, the tax and tithe gatherer their claims, and keeps a large, indeed the largest and continually augmenting share, of the annual produce of labour for himself. The capitalist may now be said to be the first owner of all the wealth of the community; though no law has conferred on him the right to this property” (p. 98). 

“… this change has been effected by the taking of interest on capital, and by the process of compound interest; and it is not a little curious, that all the lawgivers of Europe, endeavoured to prevent this by statutes, viz., statutes against usury” (loc. cit., p. 98, note). 

“… the power of the capitalist over all the wealth of the country, is a complete change in the right of property, and by what law, or series of laws, was it effected?” (loc. cit., p. 99).” (p 319) 

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