A. The importance of the definition of capital as value in process
"To develop the concept of capital it is necessary to begin not with labour but with value, and, precisely, exchange-value already developed in the movement of circulation. It is just as impossible to make the transition directly from labour to capital as it is to go from the different human races directly to the banker, or from nature to the steam engine." (Grundrisse p. 259)
The appearance of capital thus presupposes a long historical development, in the course of which we can see exchange-value progressively approaching autonomy. As a corollary, this implies that it is not possible to consider capital only as "accumulated (realized) labour (properly objectified. labour), which serves as the means for new labour (prod.uction)...this refers to the simple material of capital without regard to the determination of form without which it is not capital." (Grundrisse p. 257) To examine the material aspect the content means again to become victim of appearances, as were the Physiocrats in their analysis of surplus-value. They conceived of it as bound only to agriculture, a branch of production in which surplus labour was obvious, clearly and distinctly in specific quantities of material. However, the material aspect masks the real movement, the true being of capital. It is not by chance that Marx several times criticized the notion that capital is a sum of values.
"If I state, like for example Say, that capital is a sum of values (Summe von Werten), then I state nothing more than that capital = exchange-value. Every sum of values is an exchange-value, and every exchange-value is a sum of values. I cannot get from exchange-value to capital by mere addition. In the pure accumulation of money, as we have seen, the relation of capitalizing is not yet posited." (ibid. p. 251)
This definition, which could. be valid for a given quantity of money in the period of simple mercantile production, is absolutely insufficient for capitalism. In the Results Marx starts out from money as a sum of value to explain the formation of capital: "capital exists here as yet only as a given sum of value (Wertsumme) = M (money), in which all use-value is extinguished, so that nothing but the monetary form remains." (Results p. 976) Or: 'If the original capital is a sum of value = x" (ibid.). So it was necessary to explain how a given sum of value is capable of generating an increase. As we have seen, capital only grows by absorbing a particular commodity: labour-power. It becomes simultaneously commodity and money in this operation; it unites the two phenomenal appearances of value and can later present itself in one form or the other.
Say's definition is only a different formulation of the one given by Smith, who considered capital as the sum of revenues: wages, profit and ground rent. In this there was a glaring contradiction, in the sense that conditions of production (wages) were mixed together with its products (profits and ground rent). Hence Smith evidently entered a blind alley when he wanted to study the reproduction of capital. If, instead, capital is considered as value in process, it is clear that it then becomes possible to analyse the movement of the process's regeneration, reformation.
In Capital Volume II Marx analyses the circulation and reproduction of capital. It is here that he criticizes Smith's position and makes clear what capital is:
"If we take all three forms together, then all the premises of the process appear as its result, as premises produced by the process itself ... Common to all three circuits is the valorization of value as the determining purpose, the driving motive." (Capital II p. 180)
"Capital, as self-valorizing value, does not just comprise class relations, a definite social character that depends on the existence of labour as wage-labour. It is a movement, a circulatory process through different stages, which itself in turn includes three different forms of the circulatory process. Hence it can only be grasped as a movement, and not as a static thing. Those who consider the autonomization of value as a mere abstraction, forget that the movement of industrial capital is this abstraction in action." (Capital II p. 185)
Few understood, and understand, how value thus achieves autonomy, as we saw in the analysis in the Urtext and in the Results. This is why Marx abandoned the first draft to move on to a version where one deals directly with the stage in which autonomy has already been realized. But this does not mean he made some concessions. We would say rather that he simply set aside this difficult aspect to study it better elsewhere, and this makes certain passages eliptical at times, Still, once one understands the definition of capital as value in process, and the logico-historical development that produced it, a sentence like the following one is blindingly clear:
"Here value passes through different forms, different movements, in which it is both preserved, valorized and increases." (ibid. p. 185)
With capital, one no longer has to deal with a thing, as was shown in the Urtext but a process:
"If it is said that capital is exchange-value which produces profit, or at least is applied with the intention of producing profit, then capital is already presupposed in its explanation, for profit is a determined relation of capital to itself. Capital is not a simple relation, but a process inwhose various moments it is always capital." (Grundrisse p. 258)
In the course of his work, Marx analysed the consequences of these two mistake definitions of capital, and, each time, showed that the economists had fallen into these errors through not having understood the double aspect of the immediate process of production: labour process and valorization process.
a. - Definition of capital. as a sum of values
In his analysis of fixed and circulating capital, Smith presents variable capital - which is circulating capital - not as "the value laid out on labour-power... but rather the value laid out on the workers' means of subsistence." (Capital II p. 291) ThIs is because he emphasizes as an essential and determining characteristic the fact that labour-power sees its value disappear at one fell swoop; a fact that evidently confers upon it the aspect of circulating capital. In Smith, this is inevitable, since he tries to grasp the components of value while moving from its results and derived forms: wages, profits and ground-rent. But the result is: "it is impossible for him to understand the distinction between variable and constant capital, and thus to understand the capitalist production process in general." (ibid.)
This mistake is repeated by vulgar economists (down to the present day);
"It (i.e. bourgeois political economy - ed.) no longer distinguished at all between the portion of capital laid out on wages and the portion of capital laid out on raw material, and only formally distinguished the former from constant capital in terms of whether it was circulated bit by bit or all at once through the product. The basis for understanding the real movement of capitalist production, and thus of capitalist exploitation, was thus submerged at one blow. All that was involved, in this view, was the reappearance of values advanced." (ibid. p. 297)
For Marx, capital is value in process only to the extent that it consumes labour-power, and not the sum of values which represent the worker's means of subsistence. Further, labourpower--only becomes capital when it is alienated, when it finds itself in the production process in the form of variable capital, confronted by the means of production as constant capital.
"The essential feature of the definition of variable capital - and hence of the transformation of any sum of values at all into capital - is that the capitalist exchanges a definite, given (and in this sense constant) value for value-creating power; a magnitude of value for the production of value, for self-valorization." (ibid.)
"But the capitalist does not sell this power of self-valorization. It forms throughout simply a component of his productive capital, just like his means of labour, and is never a component of his commodity capital, like the finished product that he sells, for example." (Ibid. p. 299)
Further on, Marx explains the immediate process of production, distinct from the process of circulation, which presupposes the delimitation of the categories valid in both cases. We see a reappearance of the limpid definitions of the Results:
"Within the production process, the means of labour, as components of productive capital, as not distinguished from labour-power as fixed capital, any more than the material of labour and ancillaries coincide with it as circulating capital. From the standpoint of the labour process, both of these confront labour-power as the personal factor, they themselves being the objective factors. From the standpoint of the valorization process, both are distinct from labour-power, variable capital, as constant capital. Alternatively, if we are to speak of a material difference that affects the circulation process, this is simply that it follows from the nature of value, which is nothing other than objectified labour, and from the nature of selfacting labour power, which is nothing other than self-objectifying labour, that labourpower constantly creates value and surplus-value as long as it continues to function; that what presents itself on its side as movement, as the creation of value, presents itself on the side of its product in a motionless form as created value. If the labour-power has performed its function, then the capital no longer consists of labour-power on the one hand and means of production on the other. The capital-value that was laid out on labour power is now value which has been added to the product (together with surplus-value). In order to repeat the process, the product must be sold, and with the money released by this, labour-power has constantly to be bought afresh and incorporated, into the productive capital. This then is what gives the portion of capital laid-out on labour-power the character of circulating capital in contrast to the capital, that remains fixed in the means of labour." (ibid. pp. 299-300)
b. - Definition of capital in relation to itself: profit
Smith indicates another cause of the difference between fixed and circulating capital: "he introduces the determination by profit, which is quite out of place here, according to which some means of production bring their owner profit by maintaining their shape, others by losing it." (ibid. pp. 280-1) Now one can understand profit, a modified form of surplus-value, only by understanding the process of production, and hence that of valorization.
The great mistake is to have confused the elements of the production process (constant and variable capital) with those of the circulation process (fixed and circulating capital). In the second process, value has already been produced and needs only be realized. The error can also be expressed in a different way; wanting to explain the movement by its result. In the end, it results in confusion between the value of the annual product and the-annual value product.
"The latter is simply the product of the current year's labour; the former includes, on top of this, all those elements of value that were used in the production of this annual product, but which were produced in the previous year and partly in still earlier years; means of production whose value only reappears - and which, as far as their value is concerned, have been neither produced nor reproduced by the labour spent during the current year. This confusion enables Adam Smith to juggle away the constant component in the value of the annual product." (ibid. p. 453)
In this way, Smith eliminates one of the components of the production process, which becomes incomprehensible. Immediately afterwards, Marx explains how this misunderstanding is 'based on Smith's inability to understand the double character of labour-power; it 'creates value' and 'creates use-objects', a double character which conditions the duality of capital's immediate production process, and resolves the enigma of capital - value in process.
B. The consequences of the definition of capital as value in process
1) Production and circulation
Only superflous products become commodities in the period of simple mercantile circulation; self-sufficiency implies that people produce everything they need. Products are taken on to the market, as commodities, only if they are not needed; or when it is necessary to obtain something which cannot be produced.. The two moments of the economic process - production and circulation - are quite separate:
"Production originally appeared to lie beyond circulation, and circulation beyond production. The circular course of capital - circulation posited as the circulation of capital - spans both moments. Production appears in it as the conclusion and the point of departure of circulation, and vice-versa. The autonomy of circulation is now reduced to a mere appearance, and so is, likewise, the situated-beyondness of production." (Grundrisse p. 514)
"The circulation of capital is at the same time its becoming, its growth, its vital process. If anything could. be compared to the circulation of the blood, it is not the formal circulation of money, but the content-filled circulation of capital." (ibid. p. 517)
This explains the error of the economists who proclaim that the law of value is valid for precapitalist economies, but is no longer so under capitalism. What is it that has changed in reality? This: that in the movement C-M-C, the use-value, and therefore man, is still the purpose of production, while in the movement M-C-M, the purpose of production is solely exchange-value which valorizes, and therefore surplus-value, profit. Value is only really autonomous when it abandons itself to circulation, where its real life-process is produced. The production process thus will tend to become a moment of the circulation process.
In fact, when we examine M-C-M, we are examining simultaneously two things; a production process and a circulation process. Marx explains that to understand the production process, the emergence of an increase in value Δm or Δv, it is necessary to understand the immediate production process; the latter is, however, conditioned by a previous act of exchange MC (v), i.e. the purchase of labour-power. Without this, the immediate production process is impossible.
"The condition for the transformation of money into capital is that the owner of the money can exchange money for the labour-capacity of others as a commodity. Thus that in circulation, labour-capacity is offered for sale as a commodity, since inside simple circulation, the exchangers face one another only as buyers and sellers. The condition is thus that the worker offers for sale his labour-capacity, as a commodity to be consumed through use; thus the free worker." (Urtext p. 945)
One must insist on the fact that wage-labour is a precondition of capitalist production. In fact:
"It is an error, firstly to consider that wage-labour, the sale of labour to the capitalist and hence the wage form, is something exterior to capitalist production; it is an essential mediating form of capitalist production relations, and constantly reproduced by them." (Results p. 1064)
Man must be transformed into a commodity; the level of generalization of mercantile production, where the producer himself assumes the character of the thing produced by him, not immediately, but through a determined social relation.
Further, the production process is determined by the act CM', realization of the value which lies in the commodity form and must assume the money form. Now we can express in detail the movement M-C-M' in its three moments.
Buying of labour-power
Immediate process of production
Realization of value
The exchange MC (v) is the determining element, which stamps the distinguishing characteristics on the whole:
"In the course of the exchange process, a quantum of labour objectified in money as a commodity is exchanged for an equal amount of labour objectified in living labour-capacity. In accordance with the law of value of commodity exchange, equivalent values change hands, i.e. equal quanta of objectified labour, although the one quantum is objectified. in a thing, the other in a living person." (Results p. 1009)
Once this point has been well established, it is important to follow the a apparent movement of capital, which is a circulatory movement. In it, the production process is subordinated to the circulation process. The essential thing is that value is valorized. This is why, in the Results, Marx starts from a verifiable fact: capital is born on the basis of commodity production; this is the stage best described by the mercantilist formula we have analysed:
"Originally capital became manifest as money, as something to be transformed into capital, or which was only potentially capital." (ibid. p. 975)
It is at the beginning "a fluens which must posit a fluxion". (ibid. p. 976)
What characterizes it is the fluidity, the faculty of circulating, of being always in movement. This can be expressed, very simply, as follows: capital is a quantity x that can transform itself into x + Ax; £100 invested in production can give £110.
"... the specific, characteristic nature of the capitalist production process shows itself so simple and abstract," (ibid. p. 976)
"The expression must be the function of a variable quantity, or be transformed into one during the process." (ibid. p. 977)
Marx replaces x by what it really is, i.e. constant capital plus variable capital, and thus we have:
c + v → c + v + Δ(c + v) i.e. C'
But given that c is constant and v variable, v is the true quantity that changes in the course of the process, so that.
C' - C = ΔC (i.e. the increase in capital)
ΔC = Δv
"In other words, the increment of the total capital = the increment of the variable part of it, such that ΔC or the change in the constant part of the capital = 0. Hence in this investigation of ΔC or Δv the constant capital is given as = 0, i.e. it must be left out of account." (ibid. p. 978)
All this is in perfect conformity with Capital Volume I, where, in the same way, no distinction at all is drawn between c and v when it is a question of knowing from where the increase of value originates. The distinction is made only after the origin of surplus-value has been clarified. Besides, one can understand why Marx speaks of "immediate process of production", because surplus-value appears there in an immediate way, as the result of the exploitation of proletarian labour-power. When one moves away from this process, the origin of surplus-value is ever less clear. Finally, surplus-value can only exist as a difference in relation to a previous value, in relation to the value that has engendered it; hence the necessity for the conservation of the advanced value, which must thus be included in the valorization process.
Marx then anticipates the whole later development, and explains that this mode of being of capital - value which valorizes in process - already posits two essential relations.
"The proportion by which v has grown = (the rate of surplus-value)."
This is the point of view of the proletariat.
"The proportion by which C has grown = (the rate of profit)"
This is the point of view of the capitalist.
"The actual specific function of capital as capital is the production of surplus-value which, as will be shown later, is nothing but the production of surplus-labour, the appropriation of unpaid labour in the course of the actual process of production. This labour manifests itself, objectifies. itself, as surplus-value." (ibid. p. 978)
It is this condensed formula x → x + Δx that best characterizes the appearance of the capitalist phenomenon.
"As we have seen, the whole of the capital-value is in constant circulation,and in this sense, therefore, all capital is circulating capital." (Capital II, p. 238)
In its highest form of finance capital, interest bearing capital, it seems that capital returns to the form in which it arose. Here again, it seems that the increase in value springs from circulation. As we shall see later, the production process is made to disappear. We shall come across this form again, when we have reached the end. of the evolution of the apparent phenomenon.
Apparently everything is reduced to circulation. Marx specifies this in the Grundrisse. We may first note:
1. "The length of time during which capital remains in the phase of the production process becomes itself a moment of circulation, if we presuppose various capitals." (Grundrisse p. 518)
2. "If we consider the total circulation of capital, four moments appear, or, the two great moments of the production process and the circulation process are considered as two moments, and each of then as a duality; we can take either circulation or production as the point of departure here. This much has already been said, that circulation itself is a moment of production, since capital only becomes capital through circulation; production is a moment of circulation only in so far as the latter is itself regarded as the totality (Ganzes) of the production process. The moments are; I) The real production process and its duration. (This coincides with the conditions of valorization in general. It is what was demonstrated in the Results - ed.). II) Transformation of the product into money. Duration of this operation. III) Transformation of the money in the proper proportions into raw material, means of labour and labour, in short, into the elements of productive capital. IV) The exchange of a part of the capital for living labour-capacity can be regarded as a particular moment..." (ibid. pp. 520-1)
An observation in the Results is relevant to this last question:
"Therefore, although the first process, the exchange of money for labour-capacity, does not as such enter the immediate process of production, it does enter into the production of the relationship as a whole." (Results p. 1006)
In fact, this exchange conditions the whole capitalist mode of production. This is why Marx set aside wage-labour to be dealt with separately in most of the plans for Capital. Indeed, at one point he even thought of starting the entire analysis with the analysis of wage-labour, since it is a precondition of capitalist production, as he did, for that matter, in the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts.
So the content of the Results which presents capital as a fluens, in no way contradicts the rest of the work, but, rather, clarifies it. Indeed, a deeper study of capital shows that the greatest difficulty that it meets in the realization of its life-process lies precisely in circulation. For capital itself, and likewise for the economists, circulation became an essential problem. Marx had good reason to examine it at length:
"The production process appears simply as an unavoidable middle term, a necessary evil for the purpose of money making, (This explains why all nations characterized by the capitalist mode of production are periodically seized by fits of giddiness in which they try to accomplish the money-making without the mediation of the production process.)" (Capital II p. 137)
The development of capital does not come into contradiction with the way in which it arose historically; it is, on the contrary, its more developed-realization, the tendency to absolute valorization. We see clearly once more that circulation is the fundamental datum, since it is in it and through it that capital tends to realize its being: value in process, value which tends to escape from its own conditions of production, to grow ever bigger, as quickly as possible.
At this point in the exposition, Marx clearly distinguishes the two parts of circulation: MC (v) and MC'. The first he calls the minor circulation, the latter the major circulation. The minor one is essential to the living being as it brings the oxygen necessary for life. It is through it that life is renewed. The same thing happens in the circulation of capital, but with this difference; with capital it is major circulation that tends to dominate. Now it might seem that, by means of credit, a certain capital generates capital. Everything appears under the banner of capital: man is merely an executive, a slave of capital. In Capital Volume III, Marx clarifies this aspect, making it quite evident that he is analysing apparent phenomena in this book. However, when he analyses the appearance, it only emphasizes the power of capital, the imposition of its mode of being, its valorization, and when he unveils the secret of this appearance, he reveals the real development of capital that has subsumed labour under itself, and capital now pretends to be generated by itself alone. Hence it is necessary to reveal not only the secret behind the appearance, but its becoming too. Here one fully grasps the importance of the Results the distinction made there between labour process and valorization process, and the indication that, in the course of capitalist development, the second will supplant the first, capital being value that valorizes. The Results illuminate the whole work, allowing us to grasp it in its full sweep, in all its greatness.
2) Fixation and liberation of capital: valorization and devalorization
If capital is a fluens that posits a fluxion, if its continuity, its spiralling, are its essential characteristics, it is interesting to establish which are the conditions that fix capital, and which are those which liberate it, that allow it to begin new cycles in order to valorize itself.
a. - The case of the immediate process of production
There is already a brake to this incessant becoming of valorization in the sphere of the immediate process of production. In fact, a part of the advanced capital does not circulate all at once in the commodities produced in the course of a given production process. This means that it does not undergo metamorphoses, but preserves its value in the form of money. This is the case with some elements that enter the production process.
"The means of labour, on the other hand, never leave the production sphere once they have stepped into it. Their function confines them firmly within it. A part of the capital-value advanced is fixed in this form, which is determined by the function of the means of labour in the process. As a means of labour functions and is used up, one part of its value passes over to the product, while another part remains fixed in the means of labour and hence in the production process. The value fixed in this way steadily declines, until the means of labour is worn out and has therefore distributed its value, in a longer or shorter period, over the volume of the products that has emerged from a series of continually repeated labour processes." (Capital II pp. 237-8)
The means of labour are the machines, plant etc.. We shall take the usual example and suppose that the capitalist has paid £1,200 for certain means of labour, and, further, that the immediate process of production of this undertaking requires the following outlay of capital:
800c + 200v = 1,000C
If we suppose also a rate of surplus-value of 100%, we obtain the value of the products as follows:
800c + 200v + 200s = 1,200C' (C' = C + s)
It is evident that the 1,200 exists first in the form of commodities; C 1,200. Hence they must circulate to be transformed into money; M 1,200 (C 1,200 M 1,200) Once these 1,200 have returned in the form of money, the capitalist consumes 200 of them (simple reproduction) and 1,000 remain for the next outlay. Here the difference between fixed and circulating capital can be seen clearly. In fact, since the use-value of the means of labour does not vanish all at once, two complementary phenomena are produced: fixation in use-form and fixation in value-form. The latter increases inversely to the former. Let us assume that the capitalist puts aside £400 to cover the costs of machinery purchase; we must divide £800 into two parts: one part circulating, the other fixed. The value of the products can then be expressed in the following way:
(£400 + 400c) + 200v + 200s = 1,200C'
We analyse the movements of exchange, and thus the metamorphoses of each of the constituent parts of C as capital product:
1. 200s: C200 M200 C200
2. 200v: C200 M200 C200
3. 400c: C400 M400 C400
4. £400: C400 M400
For the part destined to pay off the costs of the machinery (400f), the series of metamorphoses stops at M400; there is, therefore, fixation of value. Its process is blocked, and this is repeated for all the cycles required to restore the value advanced, three weeks in this case (1,200 ; 400). But finally we have:
M(400 x 3 C1,200
The fixation has been overcome: "this part of the capital value fixed in the means of labour circulates like all the others". (Capital II p. 230) But since its use, its productive consumption, cannot be exhausted in just one cycle, its value form is fixed in parallel at the other pole. But, once regenerated, it enters circulation. Hence the observation already cited by us:
"As we have seen, the whole of the capital value is in constant circulation, and in this sense, therefore, all capital is circulating capital." (ibid. p. 238)
Capital tries to destroy this fixation during its development. It cannot abolish the natural phenomenon, a longer or shorter use period, but it can prevent value from being fixed, from being hoarded. Value can circulate, thanks to credit, making an increase in capitalist production possible, but also an increase in speculation.
b - The case of circulation
- C' M'
"As capitalist production develops, the scale of production is determined to an ever lesser degree by the immediate demand for the product, and to an ever greater degree by the scale of the capital which the individual capitalist has at his disposal, by his capital's drive for valorization and the need of his production process for continuity and extension. The mass of products from every particular branch of production that are on the market as commodities, or seek an outlet, necessarily grows with this. The mass of capital tied up for a shorter or longer time in the form of commodity capital grows, and hence the commodity stock grows as well." (ibid. p. 221)
Things go as follows for the individual capitalist: he will have to wait for a certain time to elapse before seeing the return of his advanced capital, enlarged by a surplus-value. This is the time during which capital circulates. The capitalist must therefore lay out new capital to assure the continuity of production. Marx analyses various cases with the period of circulation being longer, shorter or the same as the period of production. In every case, capital is fixed, immobilized, in the course of circulation. It cannot fulfill its real function, that of valorizing, when it is more or less frozen at a given level of realization of its valorized value. Therefore the continuity of the total process of production could be interrupted, if the capitalist was unable to make the necessary advance; from this derives the need for credit:
"It thus appears as a matter of chance for production based on capital whether or not its essential condition, the continuity of the different processes which constitute its process as a whole, is actually brought about. The suspension (Aufhebung) of this chance element by capital itself is credit. (Grundrisse p. 535)
An antagonistic phenomenon could still occur. If the period of circulation is, for example, seven weeks, while the production period is only three, the capitalist would have to make the first advance for the process of the first three weeks (300), then for the next three (300), but there would still be a week remaining before the restoration of the advanced capital. He is therefore obliged to make a third advance, At the end of this week, the first commodity finally completes its metamorphosis from C300 to M300 (assuming a capital of 100 per week), but only a part of this capital (200) is needed for the completion of the third production process. The rest (100) is liberated. There is, in fact, too much capital with respect to the course of the production process. This can happen for two other reasons: contraction of the circulation period or of the production period. At this point, a superfluity of capital can be generated:
"...in the sense that a definite part of the capital advanced is superfluous for the overall process of social reproduction (which includes the circulation process), and is therefore precipitated out in the form of money capital: it is thus a surplus which has arisen with the scale of production and prices remaining the same, simply by a contraction in the turnover period. The mass of money in circulation, whether this is larger or smaller, does not have the slightest influence on this." (Capital II p. 358)
The whole of this liberated capital constitutes one of the bases of the credit system. Thus it will neither be fixed nor hoarded, but will be able to enter a new production process, where it will be able to valorize:
"This money capital that is liberated simply by the mechanism of the turnover movement (together with the money capital liberated by the successive reflux of the fixed capital and that needed for variable capital in evey labour process) must play a significant role, as soon as the credit system has developed, and must also form one of the foundations for this." (Capital II p. 357)
So it seems that capital is capable of ensuring an endless valorization and of breaking down barriers to its development.
A third instance of fixation and liberation occurs in the course of a variation of the elements advanced in the immediate process of production:
"By the fixation of capital we mean that, out of the total value of the product a certain additional proportion must be transformed back into the elements of constant or variable capital, if production is to continue on its old scale. By the liberation of capital we mean that a part of the product's total value which previously had to be transformed back into either constant or variable capital becomes superfluous for the continuation of production on the old scale and is now available for other purposes. The liberation or fixation of capital is different from the liberation or fixation of revenue." (Capital II p. 206)
Three consequences are derived from this:
1) A tendency to reduce wages to a minimum.
2) A tendency to obtain raw materials at the lowest possible price. Capitalism achieves this by colonialism and imperialism. The industrialized nations, i.e. those at a high level of capitalist development, exert all their strength to prevent the so-called under-developed countries, which produce just these raw materials, from increasing prices, and even from modernizing, since the inevitable result of this modernization would be to make the raw materials produced more expensive. Here capital tends not to develop geographically, so as to guarantee its own valorization, but limits its own extension as much as possible. Certainly new countries could only pass over to the capitalist system of production after revolutions against capital itself (Russia; double revolution, China; peasant-capitalist revolution), or after crises and wars, as in Germany and Italy.
3) In this struggle to reduce the value of the components of productive capital, capital itself clashes with another force, which is all the more effective as it operates where capital is already developed: ground rent. This is not limited to agriculture, but is carried over into the construction sector, especially for industrial installations. Here capital clashes with private property; it cannot destroy this barrier without also destroying the base on which it arose itself. As Marx notes, this is a case where capital comes into contradiction with its own shabby basis.
Here we see the links between capital's fixation and liberation; valorization and devalorization. When fixed, the component parts of productive capital have a greater value, while valorization and liberation coincide. But capital is value in process, value that valorizes. Value cannot be fixed and so it must be liberated to circulate and to enter new cycles. Capital, which is by nature valorization, now negates itself and becomes devalorization:
"Looked at precisely, the valorization process of capital - and money becomes capital only through the valorization process - appears at the same time as its devalorization process its demonetization. And this in two respects. First to the extent that capital does not increase absolute labour time, but rather decreases the relative, necessary labour time, by increasing the productive force, to the extent it reduces its own costs of production - in so far as it was presupposed as a determined sum of commodities, its exchange-value; one part of the existing capital is constantly devalorized owing to a decrease in the costs of production at which it can be reproduced; not because of a decrease in the amount of labour objectified in it, but because of a decrease in the amount of living labour which it is henceforth necessary to objectify in this specific product. This constant devalorization of the existing capital does not belong here, since it presupposes capital as completed. It is merely to be noted here in order to indicate how later developments are already contained in the general concept of capital. It belongs in the doctrine of the concentration and competition of capitals." (Grundrisse p. 402)
In fact, the various capitals that leave the production process will confront one another, and the supplementary value which they acquired there will not necessarily be realized in circulation. This is the statement of the law of the equalization of the rate of profit. It only remains to underline the fact that devalorization manifests itself in the immediate production process, and yet is realized really only in the process of circulation, which is the period of devalorization par excellence. Thus the total process, unity of the two, is antagonistic.
First observation: Socialization and Devalorization
One can understand the concepts we have indicated above only if one bears in mind that the product of capital is surplus-value, or its modified form, profit. The latter must appear as something quite distinct; it must be clearly differentiated from the capital that has produced it. If, therefore, the advanced capital value is too large, it ends up by inhibiting somehow the creation of profit; for it will be difficult to obtain the transformation of C' - C = ∏, or of C into C + ΔC, x into x + Δx. So a diminution of the advanced value is required to make this growth possible: hence devalorization. This is still more valid at the social level, when fixed capital is such that only a very small quantity of living labour is needed to obtain a product (fixed capital seems capable of generating a product spontaneously). In this case, the living labour is to a great extent absorbed in conserving the advanced value - one of the aspects of the valorization process - but has almost ceased to create an increase in value. It is the stage of the socialization of production. Hence the contradiction already included in the immediate process of production: to assure the valorization of existing capital, the previous capital must be devalorized. Then again it becomes possible for an increase of value to arise.
This explains the evolution of capitalism. It develops fixed capital tremendously at the beginning, because by this it can increase its own domination over the whole of society, and above all over the workers - without forgetting the possibilities for speculation this implies; the construction of railways in England being the best example of this. The development of fixed capital enables the formation of the industrial reserve army, which pressurizes the active working population and causes a drop in wages; on the other hand, it is a means of taking away a part of the product from the proletariat. This was forcefully underlined by the first opponents of capital who defended the interests of the proletariat. Marx reiterated their arguments, integrating them into the body of communist theory. Thus he cites 'The Pamphleteer', the anonymous author of the pamphlet The Source and the Remedy of the National Difficulties, (deduced from Principles of Political Economy in) a Letter to Lord John Russell (London, 1821) in the Theories of Surplus Value.
"There are, ... two methods which, in spite of the growth of surplus product or surplus labour, prevent capital from being forced to give a greater share of its plunder back to the workers.
"The first is the conversion of surplus product into fixed capital, which prevents the labour fund - or the part of the product consumed by the worker from necessarily increasing with the accumulation of capital." (TSV III p. 241)
This is what is done today in the name of investment policy. Wage increases are refused, however much business may have expanded, because machinery must be renewed, the company must grow etc..
But the more that capital develops, the more growth that there is, on the one hand in the use of machinery, which fixes value tremendously, and on the other, directly corresponding, of socialization.
Capital thus tends to brake the development of fixed capital during its senile phase. It opposes the introduction of new machines. Engels already anticipates this in Capital Volume III:
"Now let us assume a machine is invented that cuts the living labour required for each item by half, while it produces a threefold increase in the share of value attributable to the depreciation of fixed capital."
What happens? Engels explains:
"For a society producing under capitalist conditions, the commodity has not become cheaper and the new machine is no improvement." (Capital III pp. 370-1)
"For capital, therefore, the law of increased productivity of labour is not unconditionally valid. For capital, this productivity is not raised simply because more living labour in general is spared than is added in past labour, but only if more of the paid part of living labour is spared, as we have already indicated in brief in Volume I, Chapter 15, pp. 515 ff. At this point the capitalist mode of production falls into a new contradiction. Its historical mission is ruthlessly to expand the productivity of human labour, to drive it onwards in geometrical progression. It is untrue to its mission as soon as it starts to inhibit the development of productivity, as it does here. It thereby simply shows once more that it is becoming senile and has further and further outlived its epoch." (ibid. p. 371)
Second observation -
Capital's products must circulate to realize their values. Will the realization be complete?
"The question that interests us here is this: Does not a moment of value determination enter in independently of labour, not arising directly from it, but originating in circulation itself?" (Grundrisse p. 519)
To reply to this question, evidently it is necessary to have recourse to the theory of production prices which shows how there can be a variation in value in the course of the circulation process. This is explained by the study of competition; we thus refer this point back to our first observation.
There is besides a natural devalorization:
"Just as grain when it is put in the soil as seed loses its immediate use-value, is devalorized as immediate use-value, so is capital devalorized from the completion of the production process until its retransformation into money and from there into capital again." (ibid. p. 519)
Capital falls victim to its own metamorphosis into commodity capital; it is forced to present itself in the form of something useful so that it can be consumed: consumption that will bring about the new transformation into money capital, where capital will again find its essential characteristic (its immediate use) - valorization. Thus consumption constitutes another sphere where capital can be fixed.
c. - The case of consumption
It has been seen that surplus-value is born in the immediate process of production; that it appeared firstly in the commodity form in the various elements that make up the products of this process; and successively that it was transformed into money in the course of the circulation process. Now it can either come to be used to increase the dimensions of the production process (expanded reproduction) or it can be consumed (simple reproduction). Finally, intermediate cases may occur between these two extremes.
It seems clear that if the whole surplus-value were consumed for enjoyment, the process of valorization would only be a process of conserving value and there would be no increase in value. Or, what is the same thing, the increase would be fixed in enjoyment and would be unable to re-enter the production process. It is therefore impossible to find a capitalist who consumes surplus-value for la bella vita.
"This presupposition is the same as presupposing the non-existence of capitalist production and therefore the non-existence of the industrial capitalist himself." (Capital II p. 199)
This means: when it has been shown once and for all that the driving force of the capitalist system is not the individual capitalist's desire to enjoy profits, but the impersonal requirements of social capital - a social force which only a revolution will be able to overthrow - to grow by means of surplus-value, one has shown the exact reasons for the necessity of the death of capitalism and thus, as Marx indicates, its scientifically determined non-existence. But only a science that is revolutionary and no longer doctrinaire can achieve this result! (Cf. The Poverty of Philosophy in MECW 6 p.??? )
The fact that the capitalist is condemned not to enjoy, but to accumulate, depends also on another "technical" reason:
"The capitalist must not only form a reserve capital to guard against price fluctuations, and in order to be able to await the most favourable conjunctures for buying and selling; he must accumulate capital, in order to extend production and incorporate technical advances into his productive organism." (ibid.)
The capitalist, who, at a certain stage is incapable of modernizing his plant, will be swallowed up and expropriated by the stronger. As regards wages (wage capital), they are used up acquiring consumer commodities, for the worker cannot economize and accumulate.
Marx foresaw the phenomenon of the modern trick by which capital tries to delay its overdue death, a trick which consists in increasing the workers' demand by selling on credit, one of its more insane ideas:
"In so far as the worker converts his wages almost wholly into means of subsistence, and by far the greater part into necessities, the capitalist's demand for labour-power is indirectly also a demand for the means of consumption that enter into the consumption of the working class. But this demand = v, and not an atom more (if the worker saves something out of his wages- we necessarily leave all credit relations out of consideration here - this means that he transforms a part of his wage into a hoard and to this extent does not appear as a customer, a buyer)." (ibid. p. 197)
The worker sells his future labour-power by purchasing on credit, without money, neither more nor less than if he put his own life on sale, reducing himself to slavery. But capital overcomes fixation by this trick and can valorize itself.
Likewise, the same economists, who, at the dawn of capital had castigated enjoyment, now proclaim its necessity; for capital has by now freed itself from human needs so as to satisfy its own: the need for living labour, which allows it to valorize, the need to have commodities consumed, to realize the surplus-value they contain. A growing number of men is required to work off the growing quantity of surplus-value. It seems that capital negates itself. Really it only wants consuming slaves; the middle classes, which live on the realization of surplus-value, are classes of slaves condemned to consume capital. If they simply consume surplus-value, without enabling its realization, they would fix value and become an obstacle to capital's process.
d. - The case of interest
Interest is originally a cause of the fixation of value. Marx explains that industrial capital must polemize against usurer's capital, its antediluvian form.
In agriculture, for example, the tenant not only had to pay a part of his surplus-value to the landlord (rent), but also place another part at the disposal of the money-lender - interest. So the usurer fixed a part of the surplus-value, which could. therefore not be capitalized, become capital, and serve for a new process of valorization. In fact, usury is linked to hoarding.
"With few exceptions it is the struggle between moneyed interest and landed interest that fills the century from 1650 to 1750, as the nobility, who lived in the grand style, saw with disgust how the usurers had got their hands on them and, with the building up of the modern credit system and the national debt at the end of the seventeenth century, faced with them overwhelming power in the sphere of legislation etc.." (TSV I p. 368)
"This is the first form in which capital starts its revolt against landed property, as in fact usury was one of the principal agents in the accumulation of capital i.e. through its co-proprietorship in the landlord's revenues. But industrial and commercial capital go more or less hand in hand with the landlords against this outmoded form of capital." (ibid. p. 369)
"The polemic waged by the bourgeois economists of the seventeenth century (child, Culpeper and others) against interest as an independent form of surplus-value merely reflects the struggle of the rising industrial bourgeoisie against the old-fashioned usurers, who monopolized the pecuniary resources at that time. Interest-bearing capital is in this sense still an antediluvian form of capital which has yet to be subordinated to industrial capital and to acquire the dependent position which it must assume - theoretically and practically - on the basis of capitalist production. The bourgeoisie did not hesitate to accept state aid in this as in any other case, where it was a question of making the traditional, already existing, production relations adequate to its own." (TSV III p. 467)
"Violence (the state) is used against interest-bearing capital by means of compulsory reduction of interest rates, so that it is no longer able to dictate terms to industrial capital. But this is a method characteristic of the least developed stages of capitalist production. The real way in which industrial capital subjugates interest-bearing capital is the creation of a procedure specific to itself - the credit system. The violent reduction of interest rates is a measure which industrial capital itself borrows from the methods of an earlier mode of production and which it rejects as useless and inexpedient as soon as it becomes strong and conquers its territory." (ibid. pp. 468-9)
Capital thus managed to overcome the fixation. It integrates the value that was previously taken away from it; now it is only a matter of dividing it up inside the capitalist class. The fraction of surplus-value which assumes the form of interest is also capitalized and enters a new process of valorization.
e. - The case of capital reproduction: exchange between the two sectors
Finally, value can be fixed during the exchange between the two sectors of society. In fact, as a consequence of the monopoly of private property, a part of the social surplus-value is fixed in the form of ground-rent. Thus one understands the reason for the fierce struggle waged by the capitalists against the landed interest, to destroy rent. This struggle ends when capital, which at the beginning clashed head on with a type of property which did not correspond to it, succeeds in creating a convenient form "with the subjection of agriculture to capital" (Capital III p. 754). At this point rent becomes capitalist.
So there is an objective cause of fixation since capital cannot destroy private property. The imperative demands of its limitless development put pressure on the restricted basis on which the edifice of capital has been erected. It is true that it tends to eliminate absolute ground rent, but not differential ground rent. The latter, on the contrary, remains the source of a considerable number of speculative operations, as in the case of building plots; in the case of agriculture, it is the cause of continuous price rises.
Thus another objection to the law of value falls, which Marx had already refuted in The Poverty of Philosophy:
"The last and apparently decisive objection, unless it is advanced - as commonly happens in the form of curious examples, is this: if exchange-value is nothing but the labour-time contained in a commodity, how does it come about that commodities which contain no labour possess exchange-value, in other words, how does the exchange-value of natural forces arise? This problem is solved in the theory of rent." (Contribution p. 63)
The same need makes itself felt in all aspects of capital's development: the valorization of value. Value must not be fixed if valorization is to occur. In reality, this need is translated into capital's different modes of behaviour in the course of its history. So we must study the development of this value which has attained, autonomy and see how it manages to conserve this autonomy in its tendency to overcome all fixations. This implies the question of knowing too what becomes of the law of value in capitalist society.
NOTE ON THE IMMEDIATE PROCESS OF PRODUCTION OF CAPITAL
We should note that Marx, in Capital Volume I, after explaining the nature of the labour process and valorization process - which appear at the time that capital first arises, thus on the basis of formal domination - shows how the immediate process of production, the unity of these two processes, becomes capital's production process. The transition from formal to real domination is connected with this transformation.
"At first capital subordinates labour on the basis of the technical conditions within which labour has been carried on up to that point in history. It does not therefore directly change the mode of production." (Capital I p. 425)
To grasp the importance of this change, for the mode of production on the one hand, and for Marx's theoretical task on the other, one must bear in mind that he first expounds the general formula for capital, and later presents its concept, explaining the concept of surplus-value. From this point, his analysis, which was especially logical (reducible to a structural analysis by those who wanted to effect a clear separation between the first pages of Capital and the rest of the work), becomes a phenomenology of capital. Starting from the general formula of capital, Marx had shown that capital is a being; value that valorizes, value in process. Later in Part Three ('The Production of Absolute Surplus-Value') and Part Four ('The Production of Relative Surplus-Value'), he shows how capital is incarnate, takes on a bodily form (einverleiben) and, to scandalize our structuralists, how from a concept it becomes nature; it acquires a nature and, thanks to the transformation of the labour-process into a process of capital, the production process becomes capital's production process.
"As co-operators, as members of a working organism, they merely form a particular mode of existence of capital. Hence the productive power developed by the worker socially is the productive power of capital. The socially product ive power of labour develops as a free gift to capital whenever the workers are placed under determined conditions, and it is capital that places them under these conditions. Because this power costs capital nothing, while on the other hand it is not developed by the worker until his labour itself belongs to capital, it appears as a power which capital possesses by its nature - a productive power inherent in capital." (Capital I p. 451)
It is therefore simultaneously the study of the domestication of men by capital; the birth of the workers' subordination to capital.
"It is the first change in the course of co-operation experienced by the real labour process through the fact of its subsumption (Subsumtion) under capital. This change takes place spontaneously." (ibid. p. 453)
"In manufacture, as well as in simple co-operation, the functioning working body (der funktionerende Arbeiterkörper) is the form of existence of capital the productive power which results from the combination of various kinds of labour appears as the productive power of capital." (ibid. p. 481)
Here there is the reversal (Verkehrung) Marx analyses in all his works, which is mystification when in movement and results in fetishism.
We cannot make a synopsis of Marx's whole argument. The reader must refer directly to Capital; nevertheless we will cite an absolutely essential passage from the perspective of our propositions:
"As machinery, the instrument of labour assumes a material mode of existence which necessitates the replacement of human forces by natural forces, and the replacement of the rule of thumb by the conscious application of natural science. In manufacture, the articulation (Gliederung) of the social labour process is purely subjective: it is the combination of specialized workers. Large-scale industry, on the other hand, possesses in the machine system an entirely objective production organism, which confronts the worker as a preexisting material condition of production. In simple co-operation, and even in the more specialized form based on the division of labour, the displacement of the individual worker by the associated worker still appears to be more or less a matter of chance. Machinery, with a few exceptions to be mentioned later, operates only by means of associated labour, or common labour. Hence the co-operative character of the labour process is in this case a technical necessity dictated by the very nature of the instrument of labour." (ibid. p. 508)
The reversal is finally fully realized with the formation of capital as subject-automaton;
"These two descriptions are far from being identical. In one, the combined collective worker or the social working body appears as the dominant subject (übergreifendes Subjekt) and the mechanical automaton as the object; in the other, the automaton itself is the subject, and the workers are merely conscious organs, co-ordinated with the unconscious organs of the automaton, and together with the latter subordinated to the central moving force." (ibid. p. 544)
And to conclude this subject, a sentence that re-echoes that of Hegel on the autonomization of the non-living:
"In the factory we have a dead mechanism which is independent of the workers, who are incorporated into it as its living appendages." (ibid. p. 548)
We have recalled all these elements on the subject of the formation of the capital being without drawing the consequences - only to provide evidence of the errors of certain commentators on the Results.
Bordiga wrote a resumé of this text, and one can read on page 6 of il programma comunista no, 35 (1966)
"Having finished with these treatments and having entered the real process of production, no longer considered as immediate that is as a simple chain of activities of physical transformation, but as the specifically capitalist process of production and linked to the historical period of capitalism."
Here there is an unacceptable opposition between the immediate process of production and the specifically capitalist process of production. In fact, the opposition here takes place between a process which is reduced to a labour process and the process of production defined as specifically capitalist, which implies that capital would not have an immediate process of production, as value does not enter into the first process. But Marx showed. that the latter is a process of capitalist production with the real and apparent result (which we shall consider again later) of the capital-commodity, and whose essential result is the production of surplus-value. That is, surplus-value can only manifest itself inside the envelope of the capital-commodity.
This sentence therefore shows that there is a non-comprehension of the fact that this is the process of production of capital, even if it is immediate. In fact there are other labour processes and production processes, but here it is immediately a matter of capital. Besides, at the start of Capital Volume III, Marx clearly recalls this (which is fully in accord with the quotation from Volume II we cited on page 17):
"In Volume I we investigated the phenomena exhibited by the process of capitalist production, taken by itself, i.e. the immediate production process, in which connection all secondary Influences external to this process were left out of account. But this immediate production process does not exhaust the life cycle of capital. In the world as it actually is, it is supplemented by the process of circulation, ... as it mediates the process of social reproduction. that the capitalist production process taken as a whole, is the unity of the production and circulation processes." (Capital III p. 117)
The immediate process of production supposes that there is no further intervening mediation in operation. Confusion over this process comes from not understanding what the determination of the immediacy (and that of mediacy) implies.
Dangeville shows even more grossly the same incomprehension of Bordiga in his 'Presentation':
"In other words, in the capitalist regime, the valorization process tacks itself onto the immediate process of production, the former being conditioned by the sphere of circulation, and the relations of domination in political society and in private life." (ibid. p. 56)
This sentence is a heap of absurdities. Let as immediately state that, for Marx: 1. the immediate process of production is the unity of the labour process and the valorization process. There would have to be, according to Dangeville, a second valorization process! In the tight rope walking style of the author, let us say a rope too many. 2. "The production process, considered as the unity of the labour process and the value creating process (Wertbildungsprozess), is the process of production of commodities; considered as the unity of the labour process and the valorization process, it is the capitalist process of production, or the capitalist form of the production of commodities." (Capital I p. 304)
Also, Capital Volume I part I shows how, thanks to the exchange process, there is value creation. This is always a result and cannot be autonomized at all at this historical stage of production; on the other hand, it is not the case with the valorization process. Marx compares the two moments to highlight the difference:
"If we now compare the value creation process with the valorization process, we see that the latter is nothing but the continuation of the former beyond a definite point. If the process is not carried beyond. the point where the value paid by the capitalist for the labour power is replaced by an exact equivalent, it is simply the value creation process; but if it is continued beyond that point, it becomes the valorization process." (Capital I p. 302)
In the Results itself we find:
"...valorization process - in the sense of the process of creating surplus-value, and not, as previously, in the sense of value creation process." (Results p. 1017)
The immediate production process is the process of the production of surplus-value, but this exists only in the form of commodity-capital at the end of this process and thus has to be realized and find a form adequate for its existence; money form. The circulation process mediates this. It cannot be called the process of effecting surplus-value, because what becomes determinant is no longer value but surplus-value. One could, by using Marx's own language, call it the Mehrwertverwirklichungsprozess. In Capital Volume II and the Grundrisse especially, Marx shows that it is fundamentally the devalorization process. Capital somehow undergoes an externalization movement (Veräusserung) in order to effect itself, it leaves the immediate process of production, and, through this movement, it is affected by an divestment (Entäusserung).
This is an aspect of the devalorization studied in the chapter for which this note was produced. On the basis of what has been said, we can say that the total process of capital is the unity of immediate process of production (valorization) and the process of circulation (devalorization). To say that "the valorization process is conditioned by the sphere of circulation" is to hide a total miscomprehension under a pile of verbiage. It is impossible to transform an absurdity into a correct statement; we must therefore leave Dangeville to his gibberish and recall that, for Marx, capital - value in process, self-valorizing value, becomes capital in process. What becomes dominant in the latter is valorization. But at this moment, capital appears to encompass the two movements of valorization and devalorization of which it was the result. We have moved onto real domination in the heart of the production process; the total production process of capital, unity of immediate process of production and the circulation process, presents itself in reality, once it has been constituted, as a process of valorization and devalorization, a contradictory unity. But this implies (since we are dealing with an entirely objective relationship) the real domination of capital over society because, in its most developed stage, capital is just a form without substance (a moment achieved by its own autonomization); from this moment it is fictitious valorization, hence capitalization of everything.
To sum-up the total movement: before the establishment of the capitalist mode of production, the law of value regulated exchanges; with capital, this law is considerably extended and becomes the law of valorization, and, when capital has attained real domination over the proletariat, law of production prices; finally, when devalorization (loss of value substance) assumes large proportions, we have fictitious valorization - capitalization.
This note on the immediate process of production would be incomplete if we did not again refer to the result of the process:
"As the elementary form of bourgeois wealth, the commodity was our point of departure, the prerequisite for the emergence of capital. On the other hand, commodities appear now as the product of capital. (Results p. 949)
This is very important for the characterization of even the immediate process of production, to the extent that capital is clearly different from the commodity that is produced on the basis of previous modes of production; moreover, it destroys all the theorization based on the commodity seen as an absolute invariable, an abstraction of the intellect, which exists impartially, with the same determinations in the capitalist mode of production, just as in previous modes. Finally, the presupposition differs here from the result, and the latter becomes the real presupposition. It is one more element of the transition to the real domination of capital. Henceforth there is no longer a circular development, always leading back to its starting point, but a development requiring a discontinuity to be able to externalize itself. The development of the capitalist mode of production has communism as its result; therefore it regenerates its own presuppositions; we have a circle. The intervention of the revolutionary class (the proletariat) externalizes the result and posits it as a precondition for the future of the human race.
1. "... the life-process of capital consists solely in its own motion as self-valorizing value." (Capital I p. 425)
2. We have translated Jenseitigkeit as situated-beyondness, the ability to situate itself beyond.
3. "It is a necessary condition for the overall production process, in other words for the social capital, that this is at the same time a process of reproduction, and hence the circuit of each of its movements." (Capital II p. 184)
4. "In the form C-M-C it is the commodity that is the beginning and end. of the movement; in the form M-C-M it is money. Money mediates the exchange of commodities in the first form, the commodity mediates the becoming of money into money in the second .. ... The exchange of material is the content of C-M-C, while the real content of the second process M-C-M is the commodity in the form in which it emerged from the first process." (Contribution pp. 122-3)
5. It should be noted that the Results is a draft containing occasionally important errors. In the entire passage on pages 977-8, the economic formulation may be correct, but the mathematical one is not. One cannot write:
(c + v) = c + (v + v)
Also, by omitting the working out ("As we shall see in the analysis of the real production process"), Marx produces a tautology. While we were editing our commentary, we left out the passage in which the error occurs, without noting this. (Note of December 1972)
6. "The transformation of the sum of money advanced, that has to valorize and transform itself into capital, into the factors of the production process, is an act in commodity circulation, of the process of exchange, and it breaks down into a series of purchases. This act, then, takes place beyond the immediate process of production. It only inaugurates it, though it is its necessary precondition and if we lock beyond the immediate process of production, and consider the whole and continuing process of capitalist production, we find that this transformation of money into the factors of the production process, the purchase of means of production and labour-capacity, itself constitutes an immanent moment of the overall process. (Results p. 979)
7. This is not the case in the USA, where, at present, a productive machine, sometimes operating at above 90% of capacity, produces a national income occasionally beating the all-time record.
8. "But continuity is the characteristic feature of capitalist production, and is required by its technical basis... The real circuit of industrial capital in its continuity is therefore not only a unified process of circulation and production, but also a unity of all its three circuits." (Capital II pp. 182-3)
9. We must start from the production process in order to understand the difference between fixed and circulating capital; hence the importance of the clarification in the Results of the definition of labour process and valorization process, with the immediate process of production as their unity.
"Thus the lesser durability and the difference between fixed and circulating capital in general, are reduced to the difference in the period of reproduction. This is certainly a crucially important determination. But by no means the only one. Fixed capital enters wholly into the labour process and only in successive stages and by instalments into the valorization process. This is another major distinction in their form of circulation. Furthermore, fixed capital enters - necessarily enters - only as its exchange-value into the process of circulation, while its use-value is consumed in the labour-process and never leaves it. This is another important distinction in the form of circulation. Both distinctions in the form of circulation also concern the period of circulation; but they are not identical with the degrees and the differences." (TSV II p. 196)
10. This very complex question is not developed here given that we are only providing the consequences of the definition of capital as value in process (which best encompasses the reality of the latter). (Cf. Grundrisse) Let us specify that the variation qf value occurs due to the turnover (circulation time not equalling zero) and the transformation into production price.
11. This extraordinary passage of Marx's on the non-existence of capital was commented on by Bordiga in il programma comunista no 12, 1960.
12. It should be added that capital avoids agriculture as it over-fixes value: a) too great an importance of fixed capital, b) too slow a turnover. Besides, capital keeps men in agriculture who sell their produce below their individual values, providing a quantity of surplus-labour for society for nothing. Hence it is an 'auxiliary' means for capital to pump out surplus-value. This question is linked to those of valorization and devalorization dealt with in previous notes. We cannot deal with it here, it is enough to see that it is a consequence of the same being of capital - value in process.
13. The quotation above, as well as those on pages 20 and 52, taken from pages 61-3 of the Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy are found at the end of the section dealing with the various theories on the analysis of the commodity. This is in the first chapter ('The Commodity') of the first section ('Capital in General'). This is where one has to begin to consider Marx's theory of value, as we see it. One could say that he draws attention to all the objections raised against Ricardo as the most authoritative interpreter of the theory of value as it was he who demonstrated most perfectly "the determination of exchange-value by labour-time". We did not take the precaution at the time of returning, at the end of our work, to this kind of plan of Marx's work; a plan which was not clear on the surface, but worked in parallel with the one which was finally adopted. Marx wished to demonstrate the validity of the law of value, even when the capitalist mode of production is developed, by writing the critique of political economy. This does not mean that he thought that the law would always be the same, especially as this would be to make it eternal. We have already dealt with this question in this text on the Results now we would merely care to add that Engels, in his supplement to Capital Volume III, did not truely understand Marx's theoretical behaviour on the law of value.
"To sum up, Marx's law of value applies universally, as much as any economic laws do apply, for the entire period of simple commodity production, i.e. up to the time that this undergoes a modification by the onset of the capitalist form of production." (Capital III p. 1037)
In fact it is Ricardo's law which is valid, with the specification that Marx gave this law all its validity by explaining wages: the worker sells his labour power and not his labour. This is exactly what provides the basis for understanding how the law of value operates in the capitalist mode of production. The later modification is, if you like, at a microeconomic level: at the level of each individual enterprise, it seems that the law of value does not work. However, it can be said that it is operative in a larger sense; to begin with, the price of production of a given productive unit, which can differ from the value (surplus-value not equalling profit), is in fact determined by capital as the totality of various capitals; besides, on the social level (macro-economic level) the sum of profits equals the sum of surplus-value, that of prices of production equals that of values. Thus for Marx the law of value still operated. This is what he shows in Chapters 49 and 50 ('On the analysis of the production process' and 'The illusion created by competition'). The real question is that asked by Marx in the Grundrisse and which we have considered in this study of the Results what really does the law of value become when there is devalorization by loss of substance, when the quantum of labour incorporated in the commodity declines and finally disappears? Could one then speak, even at a social level, of the law of value when the substance of it vanishes? Marx's reply in the Grundrisse and the exposition in Capital Volume III (both considered in the following pages) are some how juxtaposed. This is probably because we do not have all the manuscripts of Capital. (Note of May 1972)
14. Marx uses the verb sich unterordnen (Das Kapital ordnet sich ,..die Arbeit unter...), the substantive of which is Unterordnung = subordination.
15. Dangeville gives an entirely similar definition of the immediate process of production: "In fact the immediate process of production links physical relations and material operations to transform the means of production into products, without considering the intermediaries constituted by social institutions and class relations." ('Presentation' to Marx Un Chapitre Inédit du Capital 10/18 1971) The difference lies in the magical determination given in this last definition.
16. "Even though the excess of value of the commodity over its cost price arises in the immediate process of production, it is only in the circulation process that it is realized..." (Capital III p. 134)