Saturday, 17 August 2019

Theories of Surplus Value, Part III, Chapter 21 - Part 86

[4.] Bray as an Opponent of the Economists 

Bray's major work, dealt with, here, by Marx is, Labour’s Wrongs and Labour’s Remedy, etc., Leeds, 1839. 

“Since human existence is determined by labour, and labour presupposes instruments of labour … “the great field for all exertion and the raw material of all wealth—the earth—is the common property of all its inhabitants” (p. 28). 

“… life is dependent upon food, […] food […] upon labour […], those dependencies are absolute […] therefore, if labour be evaded by any human being, it can be thus evaded by individuals only on the condition of increased labour by the mass” (loc. cit., p. 31). 

“… all the wrongs and the woes which man has ever committed or endured, may be traced to the assumption of a right in the soil, by certain individuals and classes, to the exclusion of other individuals and classes… The next step which man has ever taken, after having claimed property in land, has been to claim property in man…” (loc. cit., p. 34). ” (p 319) 

Marx provides a series of lengthy quotes from Bray. A critique of Bray's argument is given in The Poverty of Philosophy. 

Bray describes his goal to be to confront the ideas of the economists on their own terms, and to show that “poverty need not be the lot of the workers under every social system”. (p 320) 

Wealth requires labour, the products of past labour (capital) and exchange, the economists say. This economic law applies to all animals, but it is only Man that is able to escape this law, as some in society are able to consume the product of the labour of others, without undertaking labour themselves. 

According to the laws set down by the economists, everyone engaged in exchange must be mutually and equally benefited. In other words, the laws of commodity exchange based upon exchange-value, require equal values, and so equal amounts of labour, to be exchanged. But, Bray says, the workers provide the capitalists with a year's labour, but, in exchange, only get wages equal to the value of half a year's labour. On this basis, the capitalists have acquired wealth and power. 

“It is an inevitable condition of inequality of exchanges—of buying at one price and selling at another—that capitalists shall continue to be capitalists, and working men be working men—the one a class of tyrants and the other a class of slaves—to eternity” (op. cit., pp. 48-49).” (p 320) 

In other words, Bray fails to distinguish between labour and labour-power, and so he sees profit arising as a result of an inequality in exchange, i.e. effectively labour being paid less than its value. As Marx has shown, this is wrong. What workers sell to the capitalists is their labour-power, and they receive, in return, the value of that labour-power, as wages. The surplus value arises not in exchange, but in production, because the workers create a greater new value, by their labour, than they consume in the value of their labour-power. 

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