Thursday, 23 January 2020

Theories of Surplus Value, Part III, Addenda - Part 44

The private capitalist took a portion of profit and classified it as wages of superintendence. As Marx sets out, in Capital III, the extent to which these wages bore no relation to the labour they provided was was shown by the drop in those wages, when the same owners were reduced to the status of managers, employed by their former workers, when those workers took over the businesses, and ran them as cooperatives. Today, the large shareholders in firms, similarly, pay out astronomical sums to directors that are in inverse proportion to any labour or value they contribute to the company, and are simply a drain on profits. The shareholders bestow this largess upon them, in order to ensure, as best they can, that these directors protect the interests of shareholders as against the interests of the company itself. 

Profit essentially disappears. On the one hand, capital itself becomes identified with interest-bearing capital, and the return to it is interest/dividends, not profit. Even the relation that profit had to surplus value is thereby obscured. Interest appears as the fruit of capital, just as pears are the fruit of the pear tree. But, industrial profit, or profit of enterprise, also, thereby, disappears and becomes nothing more than wages of superintendence

“Apart from the reasons mentioned earlier, this assumption of an independent existence is established all the more easily since interest-bearing capital appears on the scene as a historic form before industrial capital and continues to exist alongside it in its old form and it is only in the course of the development of industrial capital that the latter subordinates it to capitalist production by turning it into a special form of industrial capital.” (p 493) 

Capital, as interest-bearing capital, assumes its fully fetishised form. It appears as self-expanding value, completely alienated from production, let alone from surplus value. 

“Thus the nature of surplus-value, the essence of capital and the character of capitalist production are not only completely obliterated in these two forms of surplus-value, they are turned into their opposites. But even insofar as the character and form of capital are complete [it is] nonsensical [if] presented without any intermediate links and expressed as the subjectification of objects, the objectification of subjects, as the reversal of cause and effect, the religious quid pro quo, the pure form of capital expressed in the formula M—M'. The ossification of relations, their presentation as the relation of men to things having a definite social character is here likewise brought out in quite a different manner from that of the simple mystification of commodities and the more complicated mystification of money. The transubstantiation, the fetishism, is complete.” (p 494) 

Interest, in this its capitalist form, as opposed to its previous form as usury, itself presupposes the existence of capital, as a social relation. It is only because capital exists as self-expanding value, arising from the appropriation of surplus value created in production, that this surplus value assumes the form of profit. It is only because competition between capitals, to maximise their annual rate of profit, leads to the formation of an average rate of profit, and prices of production, that all capital, thereby, acquires the same use value of being able to produce this average rate of profit, and so capital itself can be sold as a commodity, whose price is the rate of interest. But, once this situation arises, and capital is sold as a commodity, this causal link between production, surplus value, and interest is severed. The owners of capital, and, in reality, its most fetishised form, money-capital, appear to obtain profit/interest entirely independently from production, superficially, in the same way that the usurer obtained interest from debtors. The money-lending capitalist, thereby, stands in no relation to the labourer. The productive-capitalist stands in a contradictory relation to the labourer, based on the appropriation of surplus value. The smaller the proportion of the labourer's output that must go to reproducing labour-power, the larger the proportion that goes to surplus value. Now, as the private capitalist steps aside from that role, that contradiction exists between the functioning capitalist and the labourer. Even when, as socialised capital comes to dominate, and those functioning capitalists are themselves workers, most clearly manifest in the worker cooperative, this contradictory relation continues to exist, as Marx describes in Capital III, Chapter 27. So long as commodity production predominates, even an economy comprised 100% of worker owned cooperatives would continue to reproduce this capital-labour relation, with the only difference being that the labourers would have made themselves into their own capitalist. 

The same is true where the socialised capital took the form of nationalised, statised property, with the further disadvantage for the workers, here, that they would have replaced their exploitation by private capitalists for the far more effective exploitation by the state, as Kautsky noted. 

“If the modern state nationalises certain industries, it does not do so for the purpose of restricting capitalist exploitation, but for the purpose of protecting the capitalist system and establishing it upon a firmer basis, or for the purpose of itself taking a hand in the exploitation of labour, increasing its own revenues, and thereby reducing the contributions for its own support which it would otherwise have to impose upon the capitalist class. As an exploiter of labour, the state is superior to any private capitalist. Besides the economic power of the capitalists, it can also bring to bear upon the exploited classes the political power which it already wields. 

The state has never carried on the nationalising of industries further than the interests of the ruling classes demanded, nor will it ever go further than that. So long as the property-holding classes are the ruling ones, the nationalisation of industries and capitalist functions will never be carried so far as to injure the capitalists and landlords or to restrict their opportunities for exploiting the proletariat.” 

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