Imperialism and the Accumulation of Capital, Bukharin 1925


Money and Expanded Reproduction

So far we have demonstrated that Comrade Rosa Luxemburg began with a funeral oration on money and its importance in the analysis of the total social production and ended with a cheer for it, at the very moment when she began to run out of arguments to ensure the welfare of her conception.

It turns out that this is the real reason, for Marx's models are only 'real' and ‘conclusive' because the money-form of capital is hardly considered in them. The author of Accumulation makes fun of these models, ‘ ... into which we have with pen and paper arbitrarily written rows and rows of numbers, with which mathematical operations run faultlessly and in which money capital is entirely neglected'. [1]

Let us see to what extent we are pledged to the loss of ‘sovereignty' if we – naturally, with the help of pen and paper –give 'money capital' its due respect.

In the process of social reproduction each individual capital, each atom of it, and as a result the total social capital too, must pass through the money phase in the course of its development, i.e. periodically assume the form of money capital, which, despite its illusory character', is as essential for the movement of industrial capital as is the productive form of the latter, incorporating ‘real production'.

In this connexion, we must pose and answer the following questions:

1. That of the original source of money;

2. That of the amount of money in circulation in relation to the process of social reproduction; and

3. That of the accumulation of money capital.

Re 1. Like any commodity, money is also a product of labour, i.e. it has to be produced. If, to simplify the analysis, we disregard the difference between gold money and the gold material of money, the production of money corresponds to a certain branch of production, the gold industry. That money does not fall from heaven, but must be produced in our earthly vale of tears, is in itself as little mysterious as the fact that iron ore is produced in the mining industry, rye in farming and machines in the machine industry. Seen like this there is no difference in principle between the question about the origin of the money possessions of the entire capitalist class and the question about the origin of their possession of means of production. The historically conditioned social characteristics of money do not in any way involve the negation of money as a product of production.

In order that it may play the part of money, gold must of course enter the market at some point or other. This point is to be found at the source of production of the metal at which place gold is bartered, as the immediate product of labour, for some other product of equal value. From that moment it always represents the realized price of some commodity.[2]

Accordingly, if we look at the movement of the total social capital from the standpoint of the material form, i.e. of the material proportions which are essential for the mutual replacement of the material elements (‘ of the material change' within the ‘social productive organism') and of the material links mediating this replacement, we reach the conclusion that the capitalist system is exposed to the pressure of the social necessity of the production of money in exactly the same way as it is to the production of the material elements of productive capital. Thus, the reproduction of money as a component part of the process is essential from the standpoint of the specific-historical form of capital, even if, from the standpoint of production alone, it does not belong to 'real production'. In no circumstances, however, should it be forgotten that, to a certain extent, the commodity pre-existed money.

We have already seen from the most elementary expression of value, X commodity A --- Y commodity B, that the object in which the magnitude of the value of another object is represented, appears to have the equivalent form independently of this relation as a social property given to it by nature. We followed up this false appearance to its final establishment, which is complete as soon as the universal equivalent form becomes identified with the bodily form of a particular commodity (my emphasis, N. B.) and thus crystallized into the money-form. What appears to happen is, not that gold becomes money, in consequence of all other commodities expressing their values in it, but on the contrary, that all other commodities express their values in gold, because it is money. [3]

The division of the pure commodity function of gold from its money function finds its main and fundamental expression in the fact that the product of the gold-mining industry appears on the one hand as a raw material for industrial ends, on the other hand is converted into money and functions in the quite specific form of a general commodity-equivalent.

The production of money material, therefore, forms a component part of the social reproduction in its totality, and the figure of the gold producer appears no more mysterious than the figure of the foundry owner, the polish manufacturer or the chicken king'. To the question, 'but whence does the money come into the country ?' there can only be (as the readers know, we are still thinking of an abstract and isolated capitalist society) an extremely elementary and simple answer: from the gold-mining industry.

Re 2. Even if in capitalism money as such [4]  forms a socially necessary moment of the process of reproduction, that does not mean that it cannot play a quite specific role in the course of this process. This specific role consists in the fact that it is not an element of 'real reproduction', and remains accordingly continually in the sphere of circulation. Money flows ceaselessly from one pocket to the other, leads a nomadic life similar to the gypsies among the civilized peoples of Europe. The idea is completely absurd that each and every new increase in the commodity value must be accompanied by a similar value-increase, hidden in a mysterious golden shroud. Just as, in spiritualist institutions, one and the same medium can ‘serve' successive hundreds of idiots, the medium of the gold unit can serve successively any number of commodity operations.

So far as money circulates, be it as a means of purchase or as a means of payment — no matter in which of the two spheres and independently of its function of realizing revenue or. capital — the quantity of its circulating mass comes under the laws developed previously in discussing the simple circulation of commodities... . [English edition, Chapter III, 2b1. The velocity of circulation, hence the number of repetitions of the same function as means of purchase and means of payment by the same pieces of money in a given term, the mass of simultaneous purchase and sales, or payments, the sum of the prices of the circulating commodities, and finally the balance of payments to be settled in the same period, determine in either case the mass of circulating money, of currency. Whether money so employed represents capital or revenue for the payer or receiver, is immaterial and in no way alters the matter. Its mass is simply determined by its function as a medium of purchase and payment. [5]

One must differentiate between the increase in the amount of the circulating money, an increase which is nonetheless in no way equivalent to the growth of reproduction, and the accumulation of money capital, as a specific form of capital, which has its own particular function and its own movement. The entire amount of surplus value which is repeatedly produced must never be identified with the newly increased sum of money, since the process of realization has no need of such a sum; equally, the accumulation of capital must never be confused with the accumulation of money capital.

‘As for the ... portion of profit, which is not intended to be consumed as revenue, it is converted into money capital only when it is not immediately able to find a place for investment in the expansion of business in the productive sphere in which it has been made.' [6] (My emphasis, N. B.)

In the second part of the third volume of Capital (Chapters 30, 31 and 32: 'Money-Capital and Real Capital') Marx also gives a detailed analysis of the relation between accumulation of money capital and the accumulation of real capital. He reaches the following general conclusion:

This process (accumulation of Joan capital, N. B.) is very different from an actual transformation into capital; it is merely the accumulation of money in a form in which it can be transformed into capital. But this accumulation can reflect, as we have shown, events which are greatly different from actual accumulation. As long as actual accumulation is continually expanding, this extended accumulation of money capital may be partly its result, partly the result of circumstances which accompany it, but are quite different from it, and, finally, even partly the result of impediments to actual accumulation. [7]

Ergo: Additional money, newly produced surplus value, which is destined for accumulation, accumulation of money capital - all these amounts on no account overlap each other.

Having stated this in advance, let us now turn to the investigation of the thought process of Comrade Rosa Luxemburg. We shall not at first deal with the essence of her arguments, since they are extremely confused, and the basis of her errors can only be revealed in the process of the analysis of her individual critical remarks. Thus, we begin with a counter-attack, which we intend to lead on her dispersed front from various directions, and for our part we shall summarize all fundamental objections.

In a polemic against Mr S. Bulgakov, [8] whom she accuses of following Marx 'slavishly' (what a sin!), the author of Accumulation formulates Bulgakov's position as follows:

' His ' solution of the question has not progressed one iota from Marx's analysis. It can be reduced to the following three extremely simple sentences: (1) Question: How much money is necessary to realize the capitalized surplus value? Answer: As much as is necessary according to the general law of commodity circulation. (2) Question: Where do the capitalists get this money to realize the capitalized surplus value? Answer: They must have it. (3) Question: Whence does the money come into the country? Answer: From the gold producers.

Then follows the sarcastic comment:
‘A method of explanation which is more suspicious than fascinating in its extraordinary simplicity.' [9]
But, since nothing is done with mere sarcasm, Comrade Rosa Luxemburg attempts to operate with arguments, furnishing passages taken from Bulgakov with cheap interruptions and exclamation marks. She makes the poor 'gold producer' the centre of her attack.

Is it not possible, writes Bulgakov, quoted by Rosa Luxemburg, for the gold producer to purchase II's entire (my emphasis, N. B.) accumulated surplus value and pay for it with gold, which II ,will immediately use to buy means of production from I and to expand the variable capital, i.e. to purchase the additional labour-power? In this way, the gold producer acts as a real foreign market.

Yet that is a completely absurd premise. To assume that means to make the expansion of social production dependent on the expansion of the production of gold. (Bravo!) This premises a production of gold which completely fails to correspond with reality... . The entire production of gold has to immediately take on vast proportions. (Bravo !) . It is sufficient to point to one fact, which on its own destroys this premise. This fact is - the development of credit, which accompanies the development of the capitalist economy. (Bravo!) ... In this way, the hypothesis stands in direct and open contradiction to the facts and must be rejected. [10]

Whereupon Rosa says:

Bravissinio! Beautiful! But in saying this Bulgakov himself has also rejected his only previous explanation of the question as to how and by whom the capitalized surplus value is realized. At any event, in his self-refutation he has only explained in more detail what Marx has already said in one word, when he called the hypothesis of the gold producer who swallows up the entire (my emphasis, N. B.) social surplus value ‘trite’. [11]

Now, what did Marx consider 'trite' and what has Bulgakov (who in this case too follows Marx ‘slavishly') really 'rejected'? Answer: the hypothesis that the gold producer directly buys up the entire accumulated surplus value of Dept II (this is as precisely formulated by Bulgakov, in contradistinction to Rosa Luxemburg). Must this hypothesis be rejected? Of course it must, because the assumption of such a hypertrophy of gold production, even in the hypothetical case of the existence of an abstract capitalism, is inadmissible. The accumulated surplus value is obliged to pass through the money phase in its movement, yet it is not realized at once, but bit by bit, not as a compact heap of commodities to which is counterposed a compact heap of money, but by way of innumerable commercial operations, in which one and the same money unit successively realizes, out of the amount of commodity proportions, one proportion after the other; each individual portion, according to its value, is equal to this money unit.

If each money unit were converted only once; if there were no credit; if it were impossible to increase the speed of the conversion; if there were no cancellations of mutual obligations; if the production of gold were completely identical with the production of money; if there were no store of money which had arisen historically; if a premium on gold coins, etc., were inconceivable and if with all this a pure gold circulation were to be assumed, then this very 'trite' hypothesis would correspond to reality, production and its expansion would be dependent on the production of gold and the production of gold would take on vast dimensions. By the side of Rosa Luxemburg's commodity heap there would rise up a gigantic mountain of gold, vaulting higher and higher.

Hence, the triteness consists in the fact that the speed of conversion is neglected, the existence of credit ignored, etc. ; in other words, what is trite is the conception of a heap of gold which is supposed to be adequate for a heap of commodities. On the other hand, nothing is more trite than the premise that the additional money comes from the gold producer, and it is equally trite that this money mediates the additional acts of exchange, in as much as the saving in means of circulation and the increase in the speed of conversion fails to compensate for and cover the increased need for money.

Thus, Comrade Rosa Luxemburg has failed to dispose of the matter with a few ironic exclamations in agreement. In this connexion the truth is not on her side. Therefore, it is not surprising that she alters the question immediately after her ‘refutation' of Bulgakov and, in place of the money question, sets the notorious riddle of ‘for whom', a puzzle whose solution we have given in the first chapter.

Nonetheless, yet another argument can be found in Comrade Rosa Luxemburg's arsenal concerning the solution of this question. It is true that she presents it in a different place, but in approximately the same logical connexion. Rosa Luxemburg writes:

Either one considers the total social product (of capitalist economy) simply as a mass of commodities of a certain value, as a ‘commodity-mash' and, under conditions of accumulation, sees only a growth of this undifferentiated commodity-mash and the amount of its value. Then, all there is left to do is to affirm that a corresponding sum of money is needed for the circulation of this amount of value, that this sum of money must grow if the amount of value grows - in case the acceleration of transaction and its economization fail to compensate for the increase in value. And we can answer a final question, where, in the last analysis, does all the money come from, with Marx: from the gold mines. That too is a point of view, namely the point of view of simple commodity circulation. But in that case one does not need to introduce concepts like constant and variable capital and surplus value, which belong not to simple commodity circulation, but to capital circulation and social reproduction, and there is no need to ask the question: Where does the money come from to realize the social surplus value, in particular (1) under simple reproduction, (2) under expanded reproduction? From the standpoint of simple commodity and money circulation such questions are meaningless and pointless. But once one has asked the question and initiated the investigation on the lines of capital circulation and social reproduction one cannot look for the answer in the realms of simple commodity circulation and then -since the problem does not exist here and cannot be answered - retrospectively explain that the problem has been answered long ago, it does not exist at all. [12]

There lies in this tirade, which is supposed to have a formally convincing effect and appear methodically thought out, a stupendous theoretical mistake, namely the following: Comrade Rosa Luxemburg, who is always appealing to the specifically Historical, Special, Peculiar, etc., overlooks precisely the special peculiarities of money and its role. Let us remember our formulae of social reproduction on an expanded scale:

I  ... c1 + v1 + α1 + β1c + β1v

II ... c2 + v2 + α2 + β2c + β2v

What rules do we get from the standpoint of the movement of the total social capital? We had a series of equations, which all came down to the equation:

v1 + α1 + β1v = c2 + β2c

As far as we are dealing with elements of 'real reproduction' and presupposing an economic equilibrium, the mutual interdependence of the various branches of production gains its expression in the counterposition of the amounts of commodities (and, at the same time, values) produced on both sides. The above equations follow from this.

Let us now assume that we had a third row, which corresponded to the production of gold, and also of money material or money. Would there be the same type of equations for this case too? The question could only be answered in the affirmative if the premise were given that the heap' of gold was opposed to the heap' of commodities and vice versa. However, this premise does not prevail, for the movement of money is different from the movement of the commodity, the social demand for money is of a different kind than the demand for any commodity, and in the process of material change', money plays a quite specific role. In our formulae of social reproduction, which proceed from the basis of 'real reproduction', (v1 + α1) exhibits a demand for c2, and c2, conversely, for (v1 + α1),  β1v exhibits a demand for  β2c and vice versa; hence, altogether (v1 + α1 + β1v) exhibits a demand for (c2 + β2c), and it in turn for (v1 + α1 + β1v); the demand for money is of a different type. It is arrant nonsense to assert that here one is completing the transition to the standpoint of simple commodity circulation, which is distinct from the standpoint of the movement of capital. Here we take note of the specific factor which distinguishes the movement of money in the process of the reproduction of the total social capital from the movement of any materially determined form of commodity. Nobody — not even Marx — can be made responsible for the fact that the social necessity of money, hence also the demand for it, is determined, not by the fact that it must replace an increase of something in the field of production, but by the functional role which money plays in a very specific sphere, in the sphere of circulation. [13] Everything else follows from this special role of money. Thus, we read:

To reduce the difference between circulation as circulation of revenue and circulation of capital into a difference between currency and capital is therefore altogether wrong. This mode of expression is in Tooke's case due to his simply assuming the standpoint of a banker issuing his own bank-notes... . His notes ... cost him nothing . . . they (the banknotes, N. B.) bring him money... .They differ from his capital, however... . That is why there is a special distinction for him between currency and capital, which, however, has nothing to do with the definition of these terms as such, least of all with that made by Tooke.

The distinct attribute – whether it serves as the money form of revenue or of capital – changes nothing in the character of money as a medium of circulation: it retains this character no matter which of the two functions it performs. [14] (My emphasis, N. B.)

Thus also, this axiomatic' argument of Comrade Rosa Luxemburg is untenable.

Let us now turn to the main points in Rosa Luxemburg's argumentation, which no longer lie in the direction of the question of 'for whom' the accumulated surplus value is produced, but in the new direction: How is accumulation, which is accumulation of money capital according to Comrade Rosa Luxemburg's doctrine, possible?

For the sake of accuracy and clarity, and in order to avoid being accused in the future of having falsely attributed absurdities to Comrade Rosa Luxemburg, let us first cite the most important passages from her book concerning the question.

We ask the readers' indulgence for the necessarily somewhat long excerpts.

Let us first remind ourselves of a passage which we have already quoted. It reads:

If the capitalists as a class are the only customers for the total amount of commodities, apart from the share they have to part with to maintain the workers – if they must always buy the commodities with their own money, then amassing profit, accumulation for the capitalist class cannot possibly take place. [15]

The author of the Accumulation illustrates this topic most explicitly and concentratedly in the following passage:

To accumulate capital does not mean to produce higher and higher mountains of commodities, but to convert more and more commodities into money capital. Between the accumulation of surplus value in commodities and the use of this surplus value to expand production there always lies a decisive leap, the salto mortale of commodity production, as Marx calls it: selling for money. Is this perhaps only valid for the individual capitalist, but not for the entire class, for society as a whole? Definitely not... No, the accumulation of profit as money profit is just such a specific and quite essential characteristic of capitalist production, and is as valid for the class as it is for the inthvidual employer. Marx himself also emphasizes, precisely with the observation of the accumulation of gross capital, ‘... with the accumulation of gross capital ... the formation of new money capital which accompanies actual accumulation and necessitates it under capitalist production ...' (Capital, Vol. II, p. 507. Emphasis by R.L.) . Capitalist A[16] sells his commodities to B, and so receives surplus value in money from B. The latter sells his commodities to A and receives the money back from A, which converts his surplus value into money. Both sell their commodities to C and so also receive a sum of money for their' surplus value from the same C. But where does the latter get his money from? From A and B. According to our premise there are no other sources for the realization of surplus value, i.e. no other commodity consumers. But can new money capital be formed in this way to enrich A, B and C? . . . Exploitation is complete, the possibility of enrichment, of accumulation has come. But exchange, the realization of the increased surplus value in increased new money capital, has to take place in order for possibility to become reality. Notice that we do not ask here, (!) as Marx often does in the second volume of Capital: where does the money for the circulation of surplus value come from? to answer finally: from the gold-miner. We ask rather: (!) how does new money capital come into the pockets of the capitalists, since (apart from the workers) they are the only ones who can consume each other's commodities? Here money capital wanders continuously out of one pocket into the other.

But wait: perhaps such questions are putting us on quite the wrong track? Perhaps profit accumulation does take place in this ceaseless wandering from one capitalist's pocket into the other, in the successive realization of private profits, where the aggregate amount of money capital does not even have to grow, because (? N. B.) such a thing as the ‘aggregate profit' of all capitalists does not exist outside of obscure theory?

But — oh dear — such an assumption would simply lead us to throw the third volume of Marx's Capital into the fire. For the doctrine of average profit (emphasis by R.L.)  Gross capitalist profit is, in fact, a much more material economic amount than, for instance, the total sum of paid wages at any given time... . So the problem remains: gross social capital continually realizes an aggregate profit in money form, which must continually grow for gross accumulation to take place. Now, how can the amount grow if its component parts are always circulating from one pocket to another?

It would appear that — as we have assumed up until now — at least the aggregate amount of commodities which contain the profit can grow in this way, and the only difficulty lies in supplying the money, which is perhaps only a technical question of money circulation. But only apparently (emphasis by R. L.), superficially. The aggregate amount of commodities will not increase, expansion of production cannot take place, because in capitalist production the essential precondition for this is conversion into money, the universal realization of profit. The sale of increasing amounts of commodities, and the realization of profit, from A to B, B to C and C back again to A and B can only take place if at least one of them can in the end find a market outside the closed circle. If this does not happen the roundabout will grind to a halt after only a few turns. [17]

This is Comrade Rosa Luxemburg's proof. Despite their confusion, these arguments have a certain fixed, logical axis. It is: capital accumulation is impossible, since it would have to be accumulation of money capital by the total capitalist, while Marx's models assume that money is continually wandering from one pocket into another, which cannot provide a basis for the realization of the entire surplus value.

Here, too, let us examine Comrade Rosa Luxemburg's argumentation, by following her thought processes step by step and carefully considering her reasons. And we shall make every effort to take into consideration every semi-important logical link in the chain.

I. Definition of Accumulation

According to Rosa Luxemburg, accumulation consists, not in the production of ever higher mountains of commodities, but in the conversion of an ever larger amount of commodities into 'money capital', i.e. in the production of ever higher 'mountains of gold'. Since, however, Rosa Luxemburg in no way denies the fact that expanded production means an ever greater amount of commodity values (hence also an even greater amount of use values, i.e. products in natura), the whole process of social reproduction, according to her, takes on the character of the parallel production of, on the one hand, a mountain of commodities and,' on the other, a mountain of gold, with the accumulation of a gold mountain representing precisely the real essence of the capitalist process of production. This conception lies at the bottom of all her following considerations and also appears, amongst other things, in the definition of accumulation as accumulation of money capital. Under no circumstances should the accumulation of capital be confused with the purely functional role of the latter (the money phase of capital circulation). Still less, as we have seen above, should one confuse the accumulation of capital with the accumulation of its detached functional form, i.e. with the accumulation of money capital in the real sense of the word, of interest-bearing capital (‘moneyed capital in the English sense'). The fact that the movement of the total social capital is accompanied by an accumulation of money capital (as Marx correctly stresses), in no way means that the accumulation of capital is equivalent to the accumulation of money capital, that it is identical with the latter. The salto mortale is valid for every capitalist, since every capitalist must market his commodity in some way or another in order to convert the redeemed money into the material form of productive capital. But if the salto mortale is a matter of essential importance for any capitalist at all – indeed, is an unconditional necessity – it follows that it is also a matter of essential importance and is unconditionally necessary for all capitalists, i.e. for the total capitalist, for capitalist society as a whole. But this in no way means that the total capitalist realizes his surplus value in one transaction by exchanging the commodity heap against a heap of gold of equivalent value in one stroke. This (‘Rosaist') idea is absurd.

II. Machinations of capitalists A, B and C

Rosa Luxemburg is dealing here with three branches of production, which are supposed to symbolize the social production as a whole, specifically with the production of coal (A), machines (B) and the means of consumption (C). Further, a certain amount of ready money is assumed; the capitalists put this into circulation alternately, and then 'fish it out' of circulation again. Now, how is accumulation, i.e. the formation of new money capital in their (the capitalists') hands, possible here ? – Rosa Luxemburg formulates her question. She answers: It is impossible. Ergo, accumulation is also impossible. After all we have already explained, it is henceforth easy to refute this naive sophism.

If one excludes the production of gold from the very beginning – under conditions of (absolutely essential) abstraction from the external market – then, of course, the additional gold will not fall from heaven. A child can see that. After the capital turnover, exactly the same amount of money will be available as before the said turnover. This gold cum money 'helped' the productive capital to attain a new material division of the elements into a direction which enables a new circulation to begin on a new, expanded basis. What follows from this? It follows that a real accumulation is possible without accumulation in the 'illusory form' of money, i.e. without the 'formation of new money capital', as Rosa Luxemburg expresses it. Nota bene: here, each of the capitalists has made precisely that salto mortale of which Rosa Luxemburg speaks. Hence, this salto mortale, which is in fact a sine qua non of capitalist production, was completed by all capitalists, and also by the total capitalist, i.e. by the capitalist class as a whole.

But since Rosa Luxemburg is obviously not satisfied with this, it must (this follows with unrelenting logic from her whole argument) be assumed that by money capital she understands, not the money-form of capital, which assumes industrial capital in movement, but money capital as moneyed capital, which is of course accumulated as money and only as money. But that means a reductio ad absurdum of her whole position.

Naturally, it is definitely not absolutely necessary for the amount of money in circulation to remain constant. The latter is only possible if the growth of the amount of commodities, according to their value, is compensated for by savings in means of circulation (speed of turnover, credit, etc.). If such compensation does not pertain, the additional money flows precisely from that which Comrade Rosa Luxemburg hates so unjustifiably – from the production of gold. Therefore, her question, 'How does, new money capital reach the pockets of the capitalists?' is not difficult to answer. It reaches their hands because c, v and s of the gold producer must be exchanged against means of production and labour-power (and, through the workers, against means of consumption). In any case, this ‘new money capital' was in her ‘total pocket' from the start, since our gold producer is a member of the capitalist class, thanks to divine and human provision. (We note in passing that the gold producer, according to Comrade Luxemburg's point of view, is at the same time both a stupid and an unnatural being, since he is continually rejecting the gold form of his product.) Perhaps we can find the explanation for Comrade Rosa Luxemburg's antipathy towards him here? The ‘new money capital' originates here, thus, however much the author of Accumulation may dislike it, from the production of gold. If, on the other hand, no gold production exists, then the question posed by Rosa Luxemburg (not the one posed by. Marx but: ‘We rather ask: How does new money capital come into the pockets of the capitalists?') is simply meaningless, since there is no 'new" money capital', and therefore none can 'come in' either.

III. Accumulation of Capital and 'Average Profit'

Comrade Luxemburg does indeed come very close to a correct solution of the problem here, but, at the decisive moment, like a rubber ball bouncing back, she leaps away from it in fright. We have already become acquainted above with her formulation of the question about the partial realizations. The question was not only posed absurdly, but answered even more absurdly. In fact, let us once again present that critical passage, where Rosa Luxemburg completes her own logical salto mortale.

Question: 'Perhaps profit accumulation does take place ... in the successive realization of private profits, where the aggregate amount of money capital does not even have to grow, because such a thing as the "aggregate profit" of all capitalists does not exist outside of obscure theory?'

Answer: No, as the "average profit" forms the centre of the third volume of Capital, the "doctrine ... of average profit" gives concrete meaning to the theory of value in the first volume,' etc., etc.

We have here a real embarras de richesses of inaccuracies and mistakes.

Firstly, Rosa Luxemburg confuses realization with accumulation. Realization means conversion from commodity form into money form, nothing more. Thus realization is a pre-condition of accumulation.

Secondly, one cannot speak of a realization of profit, since profit itself is a result of realization. Surplus value, on the other hand, undergoes realization.

Thirdly, accumulation is confused with the growth of money capital. Real accumulated surplus value, which is already present in the form of productive capital, is seen, to a certain extent, no longer as an element of accumulation, although precisely this forms a component part of real accumulation.

Fourthly, the question about the 'total amount of money capital' is formulated obscurely. The following cases are possible:

The amount of money decreases (if the savings in means of circulation appear more important than the increase in commodity values, even this case is possible); the amount of money remains the same (the increase in the amount of commodity values is compensated for by the savings in means of circulation); the amount of money increases, but by no means to the same extent as the value of the total amount of commodities grows (the ‘normal' case); the amount of money increases to exactly the same extent as the value of the amount of commodities grows. This last case represents that absurd case which forms the basis of Luxemburg's theory. If Rosa Luxemburg had formulated this point precisely, the absurdity of her proof would have been patently obvious.

Fifthly, Rosa Luxemburg quite arbitrarily combines the absolutely correct view about the gradual character of realization with the absolutely idiotic view which denies the reality of the total profit of the capitalists. Rosa Luxemburg 'thought', alias ‘discovered', this connexion in order to be able to meet future arguments of future opponents that much more easily. But, precisely by doing this, she has closed off the way to a proper solution of the problem.

‘The total profit of the capitalists' is an objectively real amount. But that in no way means that one must imagine it as a simultaneously existing heap of gold. Comrade Rosa Luxemburg completely fails to understand this. Materially, at any given moment, it consists not only of gold, not even predominantly of gold, since accumulation consists precisely in the addition of profit to capital, which must put on its real working clothes, i.e. assume the form of productive capital, in which way alone the essence of the matter, i.e. the process of increasing value, is ensured. In pure form, i.e. taken in units of calculation, it exists as an amount of money. Its amount, however, is important for the objective laws of the movement of society.

We shall illustrate this with an example which Comrade Rosa - Luxemburg, in her heavy-handed way, intended to exploit for herself. According to Rosa Luxemburg, the doctrine of average profit stands at the centre of the 'most important discoveries of Marx's economic theory'. Brilliant! However, as every economist knows, the average profit itself is a derived figure, since it is determined from the rate of average profit. (Let us note in passing that this is the ‘centre' of the above-mentioned discoveries, not the average profit. That is characteristic of the accuracy of Rosa Luxemburg's economic formulation.) 'The profit accruing in accordance with this general rate of profit to any capital of a given magnitude, whatever its organic composition, is called the average profit.'[18]

The rate of profit, however, is an abstract amount, it is the fraction s over c plus v in which s means the social surplus value (cum sum of profit) and c + v the total social capital. Now, in what sense does this rate of profit have an objective character? It is objective in the sense of a social law, but not in the sense of an iron money chest against which one can crack one's skull. The same is true of total profit. It definitely does not have to assume money-form at all times, so to speak in all its parts, in order to be represented by this form or to play an objective role in the process of the movement of capital. But Rosa Luxemburg is quite incapable of grasping that.

IV. The Total Social Capital and the Total Profit

After Rosa Luxemburg has introduced the substantive arguments we have examined here, she finally strikes the balance. She writes:

‘The problem remains: gross social capital continually realizes an aggregate profit in money form, which must continually grow for gross accumulation to take place. Now, how can the amount grow if its component parts are always circulating from one pocket to another ? '[19]

Now, it is also easy for us to strike the total balance of this total accumulation of mistakes which, it is true, continually wanders from side to side with Rosa Luxemburg but which nonetheless constantly increases in quantity, new additional inaccuracies, obliquenesses, indeed downright errors, being added on the way.

It is true that the total social capital continually yields a total profit. It is incorrect that the total profit, in as much as we are dealing with the form of the actual existence in a chronologically given moment, only exists in money-form.

It is true that the profit accrues to the capitalists in money-form, as realized surplus value. It is incorrect that this realization represents a unique act concerning the total surplus value.

It is true that the amount of circulating money usually grows. It is incorrect that the accumulation of capital necessarily presupposes an increase of money.

It is true that accumulation passes through the phase of the money-form of capital. It is incorrect that the accumulation of capital is an accumulation of money capital.

It is true that the accumulation of capital is generally accompanied by an accumulation of money capital. It is incorrect that the accumulation of capital is equal to or equivalent to the accumulation of money capital.

And so on and so forth.

V. The Last Carousel of Comrade Rosa Luxemburg

At the end, the author of Accumulation takes refuge in the notorious carousel which must 'grind to a halt', as she has already done occasionally in her precious proof in the question of 'for whom' expanded reproduction takes place. Why must it grind to a halt? Not only because of the fact that it is difficult to get money, but also because the amount of commodities will stop increasing, since the growth of the amount of commodities itself presupposes a 'generalized realization of profit' (it should read: 'of surplus value', N. B.). Here we must once again cite the relevant passage, since along with an attack she also demonstrates all the signs of a disorganized retreat. Rosa Luxemburg writes:

The sale of increasing amounts of commodities and the realization of profit from A to B, B to C and C back again to A and B can only take place if at least one of them can in the end find a market outside the closed circle. If this does not happen the roundabout will grind to a halt after only a few turns. [20]

There would definitely be no halt if the turnover speed of the growth of credit, etc., were to increase at the same speed as the amount of commodities, as we have seen. The necessary realization would take place with the help of the same amount of money. The money would circulate faster. That is all. However, there is another interesting question here. Rosa Luxemburg assumes that the problem could be solved, as far as she is concerned, if a capitalist had realized his surplus value outside the circle'. Now how is this?

In fact, let us assume that we had capitalists A, B, C, D, E, F, and so on; the surplus value destined for realization would be a, b, c, d, e, f, and so on respectively.

We then have the series:

A ... a
B ... b
C ... c
D ... d
E ... e
F ... f

.       .
.       .
.       .

The total surplus value is then a + b + c + d + e + f + ... and so on.

Let us further assume that one of the capitalists, let us say F, has left the circle' and realized the amount f on the other side'. But the sum of the surplus value destined for realization is (a + b + c + d + e + f + ... and so on). Now, how can the capitalist realize this sum? (For Rosa says that they could, as soon as only one leaves the circle.)

If Rosa were to answer that it would be possible because f wanders from one pocket into the other, she would give up her main position. To answer differently would be impossible - there is no other answer. Here we are faced with the line of retreat along which the flight takes place. Against such a solution the entire: line of proof of Comrade Luxemburg can be brought about, that the individual capitalist can realize his surplus value, the class of capitalist could not realize it, etc., etc.

But there is another side to that question. If the rate of conversion is not equal to the growth of the number of commodities, the additional money reaches the channels of circulation by means of the gold producer, where the product (also the additional product) possesses the natural form of gold. Thus the circle is broken, as long as such a break really becomes a necessity. But as we have seen above, and as follows from the reasons mentioned above, it is nonsense and nothing but nonsense to assume that the additional amount of money must be equal to the additional amount of commodities to be produced.

Ergo: Rosa Luxemburg's basic mistake is that she takes the total capitalist as an individual capitalist. She underrates this total capitalist. Therefore, she does not understand that the process of realization occurs gradually. For the same reason she portrays the accumulation of capital as an accumulation of money capital.

From this – as we believe – results the manner in which she explains imperialism. Indeed, if the total capitalist is equated with the typical individual capitalist, the first of course cannot be his own consumer. Furthermore, if the amount of additional gold is equivalent to the value of the additional number of commodities, this gold can only come from abroad (as it is obviously nonsense to assume a corresponding production of gold). Finally, if all capitalist have to realize their surplus value at once (without it wandering from one pocket to another, which is strictly forbidden) they need ‘third persons', etc.

In our first chapter we dealt with Luxemburg's theory in the most abstract form of questioning. There we were not yet dealing with money. Rosa Luxemburg's critical question is: 'For whom?' We have shown that this question can be answered quite satisfactorily.

In our second chapter we moved one step closer to concrete reality, by analysing the money question. Here Rosa Luxemburg is already asking who pays and what becomes possible by paying. We have also found a satisfactory solution to this question by showing her basic mistake as well as the individual errors in this second stage of our abstract analysis.

It is the intention of the following chapter to bring us yet another step closer to reality by analysing the loss of equilibrium, immanent in the moving capitalist system and resulting from the contradictions of capitalism, which we provisionally omitted.


[1] Anti-Critique, p. 74.

[2] Capital, Vol. I, p. 109.

[3] Capital, Vol. I, p. 92.

[4] 'Bullion may or may not be money, just as paper may or may not be a bank-note.' Marx quotes Overstone (Capital, Vol. III, I, p. 424).

[5] Capital, Vol.    p. 436.

[6] ibid., p. 495. We are not dealing here with a technical impossibility, but with a saturation of the relevant branch of production with capital or with an insufficient disposable portion of capital.

[7] loc. cit.

[[8]Sergei Nikolaevich Bulgakov (1871-1944). A student in a seminary but came under the influence of Marxism and broke with the Church. Then studied in Moscow, Berlin, London and Paris. Taught economics at the universities of Kiev and Moscow. Later in life returned to the Church and in 1918 was ordained a priest. Expelled from the Soviet Union in 1923 and lived in Paris until his death in July 1944.]

[9] Luxemburg, Accumulation, pp. 270-71. [See p. 301, London edn.]

[10] S. Bulgakov, On the Markets of Capitalist Production (Moscow, 1897), p. 132, cited by Luxemburg, op. cit., pp. 271-2. [See p. 301, London edn.]

[11] ibid., p. 272. [See pp. 302-3, London edn.]

[12] Luxemburg, Accumulation, pp. 135-6. [See p. 164, London edn.]

[13] The accusations which Rosa Luxemburg makes against Marx here (why, she says, ask complicated questions if one expects a relatively simple answer?) as in other places, often stem from a misunderstanding of the character of the argument in the second volume. In the first instance, Marx was writing for his own purposes, made various statements, provisional notes and sketches to help him understand various questions and so on. This is what Rosa Luxemburg completely neglects, especially when she starts playing with words.

[14] Capital, Vol. III, pp. 435-6.

[15] Anti-Critique, p. 57.

[16] In Rosa Luxemburg's example, Capitalist A produces coal, B machines, C provisions: let 'these three capitalists form the entirety of capitalist employers'.

[17] Anti-Critique, pp. 71-3; (All emphasis by me, unless stated differently, N. B.)

[18] Capital, Vol. III, p. 156.

[19] Anti-Critique, p. 73.

[20] Anti-Critique, pp. 65-6.