Friday, 8 May 2020

Necessary Labour - Part 3 of 4

The fact that the producers are able to perform this surplus labour, in excess of necessary labour, to thereby produce a surplus product, and consequently a surplus value, and the fact that they are made to do so, is the basis of each form of class society, so that the difference between each mode of production rests upon the different means by which this surplus labour is pumped out of the producers – as direct labour service by the slave/serf; as rent by the peasant; as profit by the wage labourer. 

“All ground-rent is surplus-value, the product of surplus-labour. In its undeveloped form as rent in kind it is still directly the surplus-product itself. Hence, the mistaken idea that the rent corresponding to the capitalist mode of production — which is always a surplus over and above profit, i.e., above a value portion of commodities which itself consists of surplus-value (surplus-labour) — that this special and specific component of surplus-value is explained by merely explaining the general conditions for the existence of surplus-value and profit in general. These conditions are: the direct producers must work beyond the time necessary for reproducing their own labour-power, for their own reproduction. They must perform surplus-labour in general. This is the subjective condition. The objective condition is that they must be able to perform surplus-labour. The natural conditions must be such that a part of their available labour-time suffices for their reproduction and self-maintenance as producers, that the production of their necessary means of subsistence shall not consume their whole labour-power.” 

The labour performed by the slave or serf is not value creating labour, as Marx sets out, in The Grundrisse, and in Theories of Surplus Value. To be value creating, labour must be free labour, i.e. the labourer must be free, and not the property of someone else, be it a slave owner or feudal master. If the labourer is the property of someone else, then they occupy the same position economically, as any other chattel. That is like a machine, or a pack animal, they have a value, itself determined by the labour-time required for their production, and they only transfer this value to the products of their labour, in the same way that a machine or a pack animal transfers their value via wear and tear

“In production based on slavery, as well as in patriarchal agriculture…..the slave does not come into consideration as engaged in exchange at all.” (419) 

and “in the relations of slavery and serfdom….The slave stands in no relation whatsoever to the objective conditions of his labour; rather, labour itself, both in the form of the slave and in that of the serf, is classified as an inorganic condition of production along with other natural beings, such as cattle, as an accessory of the earth.” (p 489) 

The point is that the labourer must have ownership of their labour-power, and must either utilise it themselves, as an independent commodity producer, who sells the commodities produced by their labour, or else as a wage worker, who sells their labour-power itself, as a commodity, temporarily in the market. 

“He must constantly look upon his labour-power as his own property, his own commodity, and this he can only do by placing it at the disposal of the buyer temporarily, for a definite period of time. By this means alone can he avoid renouncing his rights of ownership over it.” 

(Capital I, Chapter 6, p 165) 

This does not apply to the slave or serf. 

“First of all the wage worker as distinct from the slave is himself an independent centre of circulation, someone who exchanges, posits exchange value, and maintains exchange value through exchange.” 

(Grundrisse, p 419) 

Or, in the case of the independent commodity producer, 

“This implies: first, that the producer still works independently with his own means of production, and that the means of production do not yet work with him (even if slaves form a part of these means of production, for in these circumstances slaves do not constitute a separate economic category any more than draught animals do; there is at best a physical difference between them, i.e., dumb instruments, and speaking and feeling instruments);” 

(Theories of Surplus Value, Part III, Addenda) 

The slave or serf here produces only a surplus product, not surplus value. That is clear where the slave or serf produces this product for the consumption of the slave owner or feudal master, as part of a direct labour service. The surplus product of the slave or serf engaged in commodity production, only assumes the form of a surplus value, because the commodities themselves are sold at a market value determined by a large number of other, non-slave owning, commodity producers, be they independent petty commodity producers, or else capitalist producers. That is only because, the individual value of the output of the producer that uses slave or serf labour, is lower than this market value, so that the excess of the market value over this individual value appears as surplus value.

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