Deville - The People's Marx (1893)
I. Labor in general and its elements. —Labor performed for the profit of the
capitalist. —Magnitude of value, labor-time socially necessary.
II. The analysis of the value of the product. —Difference between the value of labor-power and the value that it is capable of creating. —The problem of the transformation of money into capital is solved.
The use or employment of labor-power is labor. The buyer of labor-power consumes it by making its vendor labor. For the laborer to produce commodities, his labor must be useful, that is to say, it must realize itself in use-values. It is then a particular use-value, a special useful article, that the capitalist causes to be produced by his workingman. The intervention of the capitalist cannot modify the essential nature of labor, and so we are going to examine, to begin with, the processes of useful labor in general.
The simple elements of all labor are: First, the personal activity of the worker, or labor in its strict significance; second, the subject on which the labor acts; and third, the means by which it acts.
First.—The personal activity of the worker is an expenditure of the forces with which his body is endowed. The result to be achieved by this activity, exists, before the effort is put forth, in the mind of the man. He constantly and consciously directs his will to the achievement of his purpose or ideal. And this is the more necessary when the labor, its object and its methods are the less attractive.
Second.—The earth is the universal subject of labor, and its existence is independent of man's acts. All those things which labor merely separates from their attachment to the earth, such as timber felled in virgin forests, minerals extracted from their veins, etc., are subjects of labor freely provided by Nature. The subject which has already been acted upon by labor, such as prepared mineral ore, is called raw material. All raw material is the subject of labor, but every subject of labor is not raw material; it becomes raw material only by undergoing some modification effected by labor.
Third.—The means or instrument of labor is a thing or a combination of things, which the worker interposes between himself and the subject of his labor, to facilitate his action. Man transforms external things into organs of his own activity, organs with which he supplements his natural organs. The earth is the original storehouse from which be draws his instruments of labor. It furnishes him, for instance, stones for grinding, cutting, throwing, pressing, etc. As soon as the least development of labor takes place, specially prepared instruments of labor are required. The criterion by which we distinguish one economic period from another is not so much what is made, as the way in which it is made and the tools by which it is made. Beside the things that serve as instruments of or aids to the action of man, the means of labor include, in a wider sense, all the material conditions which, without entering directly into the operations performed, are yet indispensable to their performance, or—at least—their absence would render the labor imperfect. Such are workshops, canals, roads, etc.
In the labor-process, then, the activity of man effects, by the aid of the instruments of labor, an intentional modification in its subject. This process terminates in the finished product, that is to say, in a use-value, a substance transformed so as to adapt it to human requirements. Labor, incorporated with its subject, is materialized. That which appeared in the laborer as action, now appears in the product as a fixed quality. The laborer forged, and the product is a forging. If we consider the whole of this process from the point of view of its result, the product, then the instrument and subject of labor both appear as means of production, and the labor itself as productive labor.
With the exception of the extractive industries, such as the working of mines, hunting, fishing, etc., in which the subject of labor is furnished directly by Nature, all the other branches of industry fashion raw materials, that is to say, objects already acted upon by labor. The product of one kind of labor becomes thus the means of production of another.
The raw material may form the principal substance of a product, or it may be a factor in its formation only as auxiliary material. The latter then is consumed by the instrument of labor, as the coal by the steam-engine, the hay by draft-horses; or else it is directly applied to the raw material to bring about some modification of it, as, for instance, dye to wool; or else, again, it facilitates the performance of the labor, as in the case of the materials used for lighting and heating workshops.
As everything has various properties and is, therefore, capable of more than one use, the same product is suited to form the raw material of various processes. Thus, grains serve as raw material to the miller, the starch-maker, the distiller and the cattle-raiser, etc.; as seed they serve as raw material in their own production.
In the same process the same product may serve both as an instrument of labor and as raw material. In the fattening of cattle, for instance, the animal, the subject of labor, functions also as the instrument of labor in the making of manure.
A product already existing in a state fitted for consumption, may nevertheless become in its turn the raw material of another product. The grape is the raw material of wine. There are also products unfit for any use except to serve as raw material. Such a product may be said to be only half-made, as, for instance, cotton as it leaves the gin.
Whether a use-value is a product, a raw material or an instrument of labor is determined solely by the place it occupies in the labor-process, and as it changes its place, it character changes.
As every use-value enters into new processes as a means of production, it thereby loses its character of product, and only functions as a factor in the process of the production of new products.
Labor uses up its material elements, the subject of labor and the instrument of labor, and is, consequently, an act of consumption. This productive consumption is distinguished from individual consumption by this, that the latter consumes the products as means of individual enjoyment, while the former consumes them as the means by which labor functions. The product of individual consumption is the consumer himself; the result of productive consumption is a product distinct from the consumer.
The process of useful labor, which we have just analyzed from the general point of view, that is to say, activity which has for its object the production of use- values, the appropriation of external objects to our needs, is a physical necessity of human life, common to all social forms. Its study from this general point of view, therefore, cannot tell us under what special social conditions this labor is performed in a given case.
The embryonic capitalist buys on the market—carefully selecting the proper quality and paying a just price—all that is necessary for the performance of labor, i.e., the means of production and labor-power.
The general nature of labor, which we have just set forth, evidently is not modified by the intervention of the capitalist. Regarded as the consumption of labor-power by the capitalist, the labor-process presents only two peculiarities.
In the first place, the laborer works under the control of the capitalist, to whom his labor belongs. The capitalist carefully watches to see that the means of production are intelligently employed with a view to the end aimed at, that the work is thoroughly done, and that the implements are not unnecessarily injured.
Secondly, the product is the property of the capitalist and not that of the immediate producer, the laborer. As the capitalist pays for labor-power at its value, by the day I assume, the use of that power belongs to him, consequently, during the day paid for, just as much as the use of a horse hired by the day. The use of a commodity, indeed, belongs to its purchaser, and, by giving his labor, the owner of labor-power, the workingman, gives nothing in fact but the use-value that he has sold. From his entrance into the workshop, the use of his power, his labor, belongs to the capitalist. By buying labor-power, the capitalist adds labor, as the active constituent of the product, to the passive constituents, the means of production already in his possession. The labor-process is a process between things the capitalist has purchased things that belong to him. The product resulting from this process belongs to him then, just as much as does the wine, the product of fermentation that takes place in his cellar.
The product, the property of the capitalist, is a use- value, as linen, for instance, or boots. But, as a rule, it is not love of linen that incites the capitalist to make linen. In the production of commodities, the use-value, the useful object, serves only as a depository of value. The chief concern of the capitalist is to produce a useful object that has exchange-value, an article intended for sale, a commodity. Besides this, the capitalist wishes the value of this commodity to exceed the value of the commodities employed in producing it, that is to say, the value of the means of production and the labor-power to buy which he has advanced his money. He wishes to produce not only a useful thing, but a value, and not only a value, but also a surplus-value.
Just as the commodity is at once a use-value and an exchange-value, so its production must be at once the formation of use-value and the formation of value.
Let us now consider production from the point of view of value.
We know that the value of a commodity is determined by the quantity of labor incorporated in it, by the time socially necessary for its production. We must then calculate the amount of labor contained in the product that our capitalist has had made, ten pounds of yarn, as I suppose.
To produce this yarn he required raw material, say, 10 pounds of cotton, bought on the market at their value, let us say, $2.60. We suppose that the wear and tear of the instruments employed amounts to 60 cents. If a quantity of gold, $3.20, which is equal to the sum of these two amounts, requires for its production 24 hours' labor, it follows, the working-day being 12 hours, that 2 days' work are already incorporated in this yarn.
We know the value that the cotton and the wear and tear of the spindles give to the yarn. It is equal to $3.20. It remains for us to find out the value that the labor of the spinner adds to the product.
It is not the special kind of labor, or its quality, which is important here, but its quantity. It is no longer a question, as it was when we were concerned with use-value, of the particular wants that the activity of the laborer aims to satisfy, but simply of the time during which he has expended his power in useful efforts. We must not forget, moreover, that the time necessary under the ordinary conditions of production, is the only time that counts in the formation of value.
From this last point of view, the raw material simply absorbs a certain quantity of labor, considered solely as an expenditure of human power in general. It is true that this absorption of labor here transforms the raw material into yarn, as the power of the laborer is expended under the particular form of spinning; but the product, the yarn, for the time, serves only to indicate the quantity of labor absorbed by the cotton. Ten pounds of yarn will indicate 6 hours' labor, if the spinning of 1 2/3 pounds of cotton, for example, requires one hour. Certain quantities of product, determined by experience, represent the expenditure of labor-power during certain definite times.
At the time of the sale of the labor-power, it was agreed, I assume, that its daily value was 80 cents, a quantity of gold representing 6 hours' labor, and that, consequently, 6 hours' labor was required to produce what was necessary for the daily support of the laborer.
Now, our spinner has transformed in 6 hours, in a half-day of labor, the 10 pounds of cotton into 10 pounds of yarn. As the same labor-time is embodied in a quantity of gold worth 80 cents, he has added a value of 80 cents to the cotton.
Let us now calculate the total value of the product. The 10 pounds of yarn contain two and one-half days' labor—the cotton and spindles represent two days and the spinning half a day. The same quantity of labor is incarnated in a quantity of gold, worth four dollars. The price of four dollars expresses, therefore, the exact value of 10 pounds of yarn, and the price of 40 cents that of 1 pound.
The figures throughout this analysis are arbitrary, but the analysis is the same, whatever the figures may be, and whatever kind of product may be regarded.
The value of the product is equal to the value of the capital advanced. The value advanced has not bred, it has brought forth no surplus-value, and the money, consequently, has not been transformed into capital. The price of the 10 pounds of yarn is four dollars, and four dollars have been spent on the market in the purchase of the constituent elements of the product: $2.60 for 10 pounds of cotton, 60 cents for the wear and tear of the spindles during 6 hours, and 80 cents for labor-power.
Let us examine the matter more closely. The labor-power comes to 80 cents, because the means of subsistence necessary for the daily support of this power cost 80 cents.
The owner of this labor-power, the workingman, produces a value equal to it in a half-day of labor. This does not mean that he is not able to work a whole day and produce more. The value of labor-power, and the value that it is capable of creating, differ then in magnitude. In its sale, labor-power realizes its value determined by the expense of its daily support; in its use it is capable of producing in a day more value than it has cost its purchaser. It is this difference in value that the capitalist had in view when he bought the labor-power.
Moreover, there is nothing in all this which is not in conformity with the laws governing the exchange of commodities. In fact, the laborer, the vendor of labor- power, like the vendor of every other commodity, receives its exchange-value and parts with its use-value; he cannot obtain the first without giving up the second. The use-value of labor-power, i.e. labor, does not belong to its vendor any more than the use of oil belongs to the grocer after he has sold it. The man with the money has paid the value of a day's labor-power, and, therefore, its use during one day, the labor of an entire day, belongs to him. That the daily sustenance of this power costs only a half-day of labor, while it is capable of functioning an entire day, that is to say, that the value created by its use during a day is greater than its own daily value, this is a rare stroke of good luck for the purchaser but it does not infringe the rights of the vendor.
The laborer finds, therefore, in the workshop the means of production necessary not for a half-day, but for a day of labor, i.e. for twelve hours. Since 10 pounds of cotton, by absorbing 6 hours' labor, are transformed into 10 pounds of yarn, 20 pounds of cotton, by absorbing 12 hours' labor, will be transformed into 20 pounds of yarn. These 20 pounds contain then 5 days' labor, of which four days were materialized in the cotton and spindles consumed and the other one has been absorbed by the cotton during the spinning. Now, if a quantity of gold, $3.20, is the product of 24 hours' labor, the expression in money of 5 days' labor of 12 hours each will be $8.00.
That, then, is the price of the 20 pounds of yarn. As before, the price per pound is 40 cents. But the total value of the commodities employed in the process is $7.20: $5.20 for 20 pounds of cotton, $1.20 for the wear and tear of the spindles during 12 hours, and 80 cents for the day's labor.
The $7.20 advanced are transformed into $8.00. They have brought forth a surplus-value of 80 cents; the trick is at last turned, the money has been transformed into capital.
The problem, as we stated it at the close of Chapter V, is solved in accordance with all its terms and conditions.
On the market, the capitalist buys at their just value the various commodities—cotton, spindles, labor-power. Then he does what every other buyer does, he consumes their use-value. The consumption of the labor-power being at the same time the production of commodities, furnishes a product of 20 pounds of yarn worth eight dollars. The capitalist who left the market after his purchases returns to it now as a seller. He sells the yarn for 40 cents a pound, not a particle above its value, and yet he draws out of the circulation 80 cents more than he formerly threw into it. This transformation of his money into capital takes place within the domain of circulation, and it does not take place there. The circulation serves as an intermediary. It is upon the market that labor-power is sold, to be exploited outside of the market, within the domain of production where it becomes the source of surplus-value.
The production of surplus-value is, then, nothing but the production of value prolonged beyond a certain point. If the action of the labor is continued only up to the point where the value of labor-power paid by capital is replaced by an equivalent value, there is in that case only a simple production of value; when it continues beyond this limit, we have the production of surplus-value.