Capital and community:
the results of the immediate process of production and the economic work of Marx
by: Jacques Camatte
Translation: David Brown
Published: In French as Capital et Gemeinwesen (Paris: Spartacus, 1976). This translation published by Unpopular books, London 1988.
Transcription, markup & minor editing: Rob Lucas, 2006
Public domain: This work is completely free.
Chapter 4: Productive & unproductive labour

(a) Productive and unproductive labour during the period of formal domination
(b) Gross and net product
(c) The middle classes; products of capital
(d) Theory of needs and free time
(e) Productive labour and the middle classes
(f) Productivity - Free time - Leisure
(g) Movement of capital - Fixation of people
- Note on wage-labour and function (1972)

We have seen that for there to be capital, there must also be an exchange of money with a particular use-value, a use-value whose content cannot be indifferent, i.e. labour-power. This is because the labour-power is consumed productively and generates surplus-value during the production process. So how does labour appear in the course of the different periods of the domination of capital? We must, therefore, deal with the question of productive and unproductive labour. Marx did this in Capital Volume I Part Five, which we have already discussed, where he simply gave a definition and stated that the concept of productive labour assumed a different significance when capital achieved full development (i.e. in the period of real domination, and this clearly shows that the periodization of the Results underlies the whole of Capital Volume I). The question was dealt with fully in the Results and in the Theories of Surplus-Value when he wrote about Adam Smith, his followers and opponents, who were the first to pose the problem. Lastly, there is an almost identical exposition to that of the Results in the 'Addenda' to Part One of the Theories of Surplus-Value entitled 'Productivity of Capital; Productive and Unproductive Labour' . Here we shall briefly indicate the essentials of the problem.


A. Productive and Unproductive Labour During the Period of Formal Domination

One should not be taken in by the wage-labour form. One is not a productive worker (for capital) simply by earning a wage. In fact, a worker is productive if:

"This labour objectifies itself immediately during the production process as a fluid quantum of value." (Results p. 1040)

It permits the valorization process, and thus the cycle M - C - M', to take place. Unproductive labour is a service, and what is important in this case is:

"the particular use-value of labour where the latter is useful not as an article, but as an activity." (ibid. p. 1047)

" consumed for its use-value, not as creating exchange-value." (Results p. 1041)

In other words on page 1047:

"The distinction between productive and unproductive labour depends merely on whether labour is exchanged for money as money or for money as capital."

"...with the growth of capitalist production all services become transformed into wage-labour, and those who perform them into wage-labourers..." (ibid. p. 1042)

This is because capital tends to subsume under itself all use-values and everything that existed for man becomes for capital. This is the period of the real domination of capital. There are two other characteristics of productive labour that derive from this:

  1. "The statement that productive labour is labour that is immediately exchanged with capital embraces all these moments, and is only a derivative formula expressing the fact that it is labour which transforms money into capital, which is exchanged with the conditions of production as capital that therefore in its relationship with these conditions of production labour is not faced by them as simple conditions of production, nor does it face the conditions of production as labour in general that has no specific social determinedness." (TSV I p. 399)
  2. "It can be said to be a characteristic of productive labourers that is, labourers producing capital, that their labour realizes itself in commodities (products of labour) in material wealth." (ibid. p. 410)

Finally, there are sectors of human activity where capitalism has not sunk its roots and, so, in which the notion of productive labour is meaningless. The exposition of the problem concludes in the Results as in the 'Addenda' to Part One of the Theories of Surplus-Value, with the same remark:

"Here we have been dealing only with productive capital that is, capital employed in the immediate process of production. We come later to capital in the circulation process. And only after that, in considering the special form assumed by capital as merchant's capital, can the question be answered as to how far the labourers employed by it are productive or unproductive." (TSV I p. 413)

So what becomes of labour when capital autonomizes itself, thus when it tends progressively to free itself from use-value, which was the foundation of its being, when it allows valorization: labour-power? To answer this question, we must first analyse the general tendency of capitalism vis-a-vis the proletarians. This Marx did in the Results under the heading 'Net and Gross Product'.


B. Net and Gross Product

One should remark that:

"The highest ideal of capitalist production - corresponding to the relative growth of the produit net (i.e. surplus-value - ed.) - is the greatest possible reduction of those living on wages (i.e. productive workers in this case - ed.), the greatest possible increase in those living of produit net." (Results pp. 1051-2)

This agrees perfectly with what was said about autonomization and devalorization. It simultaneously refutes all those who stated that the relative and even absolute fall in the number of proletarians (like in the USA, for example) would constitute a negation of Marxism. But what we have just cited is not an isolated, chance remark, because in Theories of Surplus-Value Part Two in the chapter 'Ricardo's Miscellenea', Marx drew the same conclusion analysing the contradictions of capital in its relation to labour:

"There are two tendencies which constantly cut across one another; (firstly) to employ as little labour as possible, in order to produce the same or a greater quantity of commodities, in order to produce the same or a greater net produce, surplus-value, net revenue; secondly to employ the largest possible number of workers (although as few as possible in proportion to the quantum of commodities produced by them), because - at a given level of productivity the mass of surplus-value and of surplus-product grows with the amount of labour employed." (TSV II p. 573)

Here then is the same statement as the one in the Results but here Marx adds:

"The one tendency throws the labourers on to the streets and makes a part of the population redundant, the other absorbs them again and extends wage-slavery absolutely, so that the lot of the worker is always fluctuating but he never escapes from it. The worker, therefore, justifiably regards the development of the productive power of his own labour as hostile to himself; the capitalist, on the other hand, always treats him as an element to be eliminated from production. These are the contradictions with which Ricardo struggles in this chapter. What he forgets to emphasize is the constantly growing number of the middle classes, those who stand between the workman, on the one hand, and the capitalist and the landlord on the other. The middle classes maintain themselves to an ever increasing extent directly out of revenue, they are a burden weighing heavily on the working base and increase the social security and power of the upper ten thousand." (ibid.)

Marx thus specifies the subject of the consumption of net revenue mentioned above. Now it is a question of determining what the middle classes are and how they consume surplus-value.

The middle classes - another stumbling block for opportunism. Not just their existence, but also their growth would be a demonstration of the falsity of Marxism. Marx would simply have stated that capitalist society should have aided in their disappearance and that there should be only capitalists and proletarians. Except that, as the two quotations above show, we are dealing with a tissue of lies and errors. It is best to seek to re-establish the real marxist statements on this.

a) Disappearance of the capitalist as person

Marx explained the disappearance from bourgeois society of some individuals who were its ruthless defenders: the individual capitalists:

"But since on the one hand the functioning capitalist confronts the mere owner of capital, the money capitalist, and with the development of credit this money capital itself assumes a social character, being concentrated in banks and loaned out by these, no longer by its direct proprietors; and since on the other hand the mere manager, who does not possess capital under any title neither by loan nor in any other way, takes care of all real functions that fall to the functioning capitalist as such, there remains only the functionary, and the capitalist vanishes from the production process as someone superfluous." (Capital III p. 512)

Increasingly people appear who are not characterized by a direct possession of capital, but who hold the right to expropriate the labour of others, an exploitation carried out by social capital. That is why they must manage production better so always to be in a position to have the possibility to appropriate a section of the surplus-value. We are dealing with what are called now, for example, technocrats.[1]

b) Which are the middle classes which are disappearing?

To answer this question, we have to refer to the formula indicating the movement of capital from M to M':

and so see the characteristics of capitalism and its tendencies in relation to the subject that interest us here.

Capital presents itself at first, as the tendency to reduce the waste of labour time since it unites producers previously dispersed (co-operation). It also eliminates the merchant, who collected the producers' product to sell on the market. Capital incorporates commerce and so becomes commercial capital.

In agriculture, capital expropriates small-holders, who are replaced by wage-labourers working in large agricultural enterprises, or by tenant farmers, who exploit intensively a medium size farm. This expropriation certainly encounters many difficulties, but in any case there is an absolute diminution of the agricultural population.

Capital eliminates craftsmen as they compete with it, although this work can reappear on a capitalist basis as domestic work.

And, as was included in the first point, capital eliminates small shopkeepers pari passu with the concentration of retailing.

So the old middle classes, a residue of previous modes of production, are destroyed because they constituted an obstacle to the valorization of capital. The capitalist mode of production becomes purer and purer due to their elimination during its development. We have defined an index of the purity of capital on this basis (Cf. the Asti meeting).[2]


C. The middle classes, products of capital

Capitalism tends to replace workers by machines, so increasing the productivity of labour and, thus, the scale of production. Also every product comes to contain ever more surplus-value, unpaid labour. How can this be realized? This problem has been confused with the problem of the creation of surplus-value; hence Marx's remark in Capital Volume I:

"The consistent upholders of the illusion that surplus-value has its origin in a nominal rise of prices or in the privilege which the seller has of selling too dear assume therefore that there exists a class of buyers who do not sell i.e., a class of consumers who do not produce. The existence of such a class is inexplicable (our emphasis - ed.) from the standpoint we have so far reached, that of simple circulation." (Capital I p. 264)

So Marx states that it cannot occur on the basis of simple circulation, but not that it cannot occur at all. Also it does not have the role which the apologists would wish for it. It is, finally, a methodological consideration that will enable us to grasp the emergence of such a stratum of men.

"Consumption is also immediately production, just as in nature the consumption of the elements and chemical substances is the production of the plant." (Grundrisse p. 90)

Marx later indicates:

"Production is consumption, consumption is production. Consumptive production. Productive consumption. The political economists call both productive consumption. But then make a further distinction. The first figures as reproduction, the second as productive consumption. All investigations into the first concern productive or unproductive labour; investigations into the second concern productive or non-productive consumption." (ibid. p. 93)

We have analysed productive and unproductive labour (with the restriction indicated) and also productive consumption - the utilization of labour-power (and hence the role of the proletariat at a social level in the production process of capital); only unproductive consumption remains to be considered. The middle classes are its subject. The surplus-value existing in the form of commodities must be transformed into money, and so it must be consumed. Who can do this? Certainly not the capitalist, because in that case production would be for enjoyment, and so capital would not exist, as we have seen. Nor the proletariat, for if the proletariat consumed all the surplus-value, this would be a negation of wage-labour. There remains the possibility of a stratum of people who are unproductive consumers, and they must have just this character, because, if they produced anything at all, they would enter into competition with specifically capitalist production. So it can be seen that these classes can no longer correspond to the old social groups about which we spoke, since they must be bound to capital in the following way: they must enable the realization of capital's increment, the realization of surplus-value.

Marx deals with this problem in the Theories of Surplus-Value Part One, in the Section 'Overproduction, "Unproductive Consumers" etc.'. As in Capital Volume II, he envisages two sections: i) that producing the means of production, ii) that producing consumer goods. He also considers sub-sections, such as that which produces the means of production to manufacture luxury goods, and that which produces luxury goods.

Having analysed in detail the exchanges between these various sections, he writes:

"It is difficult to understand how any profit at all can be derived if those who engage in mutual exchange sell their commodities by overcharging one another at the same rate and cheat one another in the same proportion.

"This incongruity would be remedied in addition to exchange by one class of capitalists with its workers and the mutual exchange between the capitalists of the different classes, there also existed a third class of purchasers - a deus ex machina - a class which paid the nominal value of commodities without itself selling any commodities, without itself playing the same trick in return; this is a class which transacted one phase only: M - C, but not M - C - M; (a class) which bought not in order to get back its capital plus a profit, but in order to consume the commodities; a class which bought without selling. In this case the capitalists would realize a profit not by exchange among themselves but i) by exchange between them and the workers, by selling back to them a portion of the total product for the same amount of money they paid the workers for the total product (after deducting the constant capital) and 2) from the portion of luxuries as well as necessities sold to the third sort of purchaser. Since these pay 110 for 100 without selling 100 for 110 in their turn, a profit of 1 would be made in actual fact and not simply nominally. The profit would be made in the dual fashion by selling as little as-possible of the total product back to the workers and as much as possible to the third class, who pay ready money, without themselves selling, but in order to consume.

"But buyers who are not at the same time sellers, must be consumers who are not at the same time producers, that is unproductive consumers and it is this class of unproductive consumers which, according to Malthus, solves the problem." (TSV III pp. 49-50)

This is the class Marx mentioned which can only appear when capital is really developed, and cannot do so on the basis of the simple commodity production, or they would be a class of parasites on capital, not a class allowing the realization of surplus-value. This is what we shall see.

Firstly Marx characterizes this class more precisely:

"But these unproductive consumers must, at the same time, be consumers able to pay, constituting real demand, and the value sum (Wertsummen) they possess and spend annually must, moreover, suffice to pay not only the production value of the commodities they buy and consume, but also the nominal profit surcharge the surplus-value, the difference between the market value and the production value. This class will represent consumption for consumption's sake in society in the same way as the capitalist class represents production for production's sake, the one representing the "passion for expenditure", the other the "passion for accumulation"." (ibid. p. 50)

Marx does not state at this stage of the demonstration that this class exists, that it actually has a role to play. He remains at the stage of refuting Malthus, because, as we said, this class can only be produced by capital, and cannot be hired to a previous mode of production. We only see the appearance of the need for it at the moment.

"On the one hand, therefore, (there is) the working class, which, according to the population principle, is always redundant in relation to the means of life available to it, overpopulation arising from under-production; then (there is) the capitalist class, which, as a result of this population principle, is always able to sell the workers' own product back to them at such prices that they can only obtain enough to keep body and soul together[3]; then (there is an enormous section of society consisting of parasites and gluttonous drones, some of them masters and some servants, who appropriate, partly under the title of rent and partly under political titles, a considerable mass of wealth gratis from the capitalist class, whose commodities they pay for above their value with money extracted from the same capitalists; the capitalist class, driven into production by the urge for accumulation, the economically unproductive sections representing prodigality, the mere urge for consumption." (ibid. p. 52)

So this is what Malthus wants! But a class of this kind, produced by the development of capital, a class which does not fix value (by taking rent, for example, those who constitute this class would end up by hindering capital's valorization movement; it is no accident for that matter that for this reason the capitalist fought against landed proprietors), but on the contrary allows its movement, facilitating for it its own metamorphosis from commodity to money; perhaps a class of this kind does exist in capitalist society? One approaches the solution to the problem when Marx draws a parallel between Ricardo and Malthus, making evident two complementary and contradictory aspects of capitalism (Marx at the same time indicates the concrete contribution of Malthus in the relevant discussion).

"For all that, Ricardo championed bourgeois production insofar as it (signified) the most unrestricted development of the social productive forces, unconcerned for the fate of those who participate in production, be they capitalists or workers. He insisted upon the historical justification and necessity of this stage of development. His very lack of historical sense of the past meant that he regarded everything form the historical standpoint of his time. Malthus also wishes to see the freest possible development of capitalist production, however only insofar as the condition of this development is the poverty of its main basis, the working classes, but at the same time he wants it to adapt itself to the "consumption needs" of the aristocracy and its branches in state and church (its class of unproductive consumers charged with reabsorbing overproduction - ed.), to serve as the material basis for the antiquated claims of the representatives of interest inherited from feudalism and the absolute monarchy. Malthus wants bourgeois production as long as it is not revolutionary, constitutes no historical moment of development but merely creates a broader and more comfortable material basis for the "old" society." (ibid. p. 52)

This then in his reactionary aspect. But to the extent that he describes a real movement he is important because this overproduction does exist and the need for this class makes itself felt pari passu with the development of capitalism. So growing over-production, denied by Ricardo, with the becoming of capital, creates a supernumerary class. It represents the subjective aspect of social waste which is objectively expressed by the existence of a huge quantity of useless commodities.

Marx adds:

"We have seen how childishly weak, trivial and meaningless Malthus is when, basing himself on the weak side of Adam Smith, he seeks to construct a counter-theory to Ricardo' s theory, which is based on Adam Smith's stronger side. One can hardly find a more comical exertion of impotence than Malthus' s book on value. However, as soon as he comes to practical conclusions, and thereby once again enters the field ... he is quite at his ease. For all that, he does not abandon his innate plagiarism even here." (ibid. p. 53)

Marx immediately proves this by citing and commenting on the works of Sismondi. All this is interesting as it shows that the problem does not originate recently, and that Marx, like his predecessors, attributed great importance to it. Thus Malthus examines correctly the consequences of the capitalist system, of the valorization process pushed always to the limit. If capital does not want value to be fixed and valorization impeded, it must realize an increase in the surface area of exchange on which the metamorphosis of value can be effected: for this it is necessary that the individuals who consume but do not produce multiply. For Malthus, this is an opportunity to defend the existence of a class linked to a previous mode of production. This is why he is reactionary. But once more this does not mean that the bases for such a class do not exist.

"(Malthus' s) supreme hope, which he describes himself as more or less utopian, is that the mass of the middle class should grow and that of the proletariat (those who work) should constitute a constantly declining proportion (even though it increases absolutely) of the total population. This in fact is the course taken by bourgeois society." (ibid. p. 63)

Here Marx states the exact opposite of what his opponents would wish him to say: the growth of the middle classes. Only that the most delicate theoretical question was not so much of throwing light on the existence of the middle class, observation itself would allow its identification, as the explanation of its role in society.

The starting-point of the Malthus-Ricardo polemic was that of knowing if, in capitalist society, there could or could not be over-production. Malthus was of the opinion that there could be, and Marx agreed with him. However, over-production exists not because there is under-consumption, as many would have it, by the workers, in fact this under-consumption is already included in the characteristics of wage-labour (Cf. Capital Volume III, p. 358 & 363-4). Overproduction is determined by the fact that there is production for the sake of production, and not for the consumption of whoever it may be. Production is production of surplus-value. Commodities are only vectors of it and present no interest except inasmuch as they preserve this character in the total process of capital. But then, if one can speak of consumption, it is consumption by capital itself. This phenomenon appeared. only feebly at the origin of capitalism, simply because the bases of the new society were not yet secure. For example, the development of fixed capital, which can absorb a large part of over-production, had scarcely started. But from the moment when fixed capital dominates society, overproduction becomes chronic and then poses the need for a class of men who consume without producing. However, it cannot be any sort of consumption, it must, on the contrary, rove useful for capital, and not, as Malthus wanted, merely satisfy a crowd of parasites linked with the old society. This will take place through the intermediary of wage-labour which is one of the bases of capitalism. But to understand what has been said, we need to specify the bases on which this class arises.

1. The middle classes, because they are situated between the proletariat and capital, constitute the living representation of social surplus-labour. This statement stems from the theoretical analysis of surplus-value:

"At a low stage of the development of the social productivity of labour, that is to say, where the surplus-labour is relatively small, the class of those who live on the labour of others will generally be small in relation to the number of labourers. It can considerably grow (proportionately) in the measure in which productivity and therefore relative surplus-value develop.' (TSV II pp. 406-7)[4]

The more the social productive forces grow and the more relative surplus-value increases, therefore, the number of individuals that lives at its expense also rises. Because of capital's mystification, this stratum of men seems not to intervene prima facie in the capitalist mode of production.

2. The existence of these classes is linked to the diminution of necessary labour time, which expresses itself correspondingly in the fall in the number of producers. As we have seen, this has a contradictory aspect:

"Capital itself is the moving contradiction, (in) that it presses to reduce labour time to a minimum, while it posits labour time, on the other hand, as sole measure and source of wealth. Hence it diminishes labour time in the necessary form so as to increase it in the superfluous form; hence posits the superfluous in growing measure as a condition - question of life or death for the necessary." (Grundrisse p. 706)

The worker can only obtain his wages, i.. the minimum required to maintain his physical existence, on the condition that he provides the maximum of surpluslabour. Nevertheless, with the increasing reduction of labour time necessary for the production of the total product, capital creates disposable time. But it is evident, taken to the extreme, this would imply its own negation because, if there were no need for living labour, valorization would become impossible:

"But its tendency always, on the one hand, to create disposable time, on the other, to convert it into surplus labour. If it succeeds too well at the first, then it suffers from surplus production, and then necessary labour is interrupted, because no surplus labour can be valorized by capital. (ibid. p.708)

In other words, the tendency of capitalism is to reduce the proletarian to such dependence that the greatest part of his activity is realized in surplus labour. Despite this, capitalism still finds him superfluous. The worker is thrown out of production. Then it becomes necessary to find new productive branches for this liberated variable capital, not just to extract surplus-value from it, but also to stop it rebelling. Capital thus finds itself obliged to create artificial industries so as to be able to guarantee a production process.

"This pulling-away of the natural ground from under the foundations of every industry and this transfer of its conditions of production outside itself, into a general context - hence the transformation of what was previously superfluous into what is necessary, as a historically created necessity - is the tendency of capital." (ibid. p. 528)

It is thus that capital annexes an enormous number of productive branches, originally of luxury goods and falling beyond its control. Still, here too, the law of the reduction to the minimum of necessary labour time will proceed in step with the liberation of the workers. These are the elements which can be used by another important function of capital; in circulation.

3. Another base favouring the emergence of the middle class is provided by the increase in circulation time, and hence in the period for the realization of value. This presents itself in reality in two aspects: the increase in the number of commodity-capitals, and an increase in the number of men whose activity consists in enabling the transformation, the metamorphosis of capital from the commodity form to the money form.

(a) Capital produces such a quantity of commodities as to glut the market. There results correspondingly an increase in competition to get them consumed. Hence the growth of retail outlets, distribution chains, which must make the commodities known. Besides, the enormous development of advertising which, in investment, replaces fixed capital as an expedient to remove a part of the product from the proletariat. One fraction of capital is wasted so as to make another part circulate (as Marx indicated in the passage cited concerning the defence of the autonomy of exchange-value). Capital has subsumed science to incorporate it into the production process; so it does the same with art to incorporate it into the circulation process. All artistic forms are utilized to make capital circulate. This expresses the very inessentiality of these productions. So all those who dedicate themselves to this activity live off the circulation of surplus-value. And they earn wages so much the higher as the economic situation is prosperous.

(b) To accomplish the multiple functions of its total process, capital needs an apparatus which is included within the unproductive costs of production: bookkeeping, banking system, a large part of the postal services etc.. In this we have everything that is now called the tertiary sector. A large number of the men employed there, who are wage-labourers, are super-exploited, as capital cannot allow the immobilization of an excessive part of surplus-value. If surplus-value in its totality could be the nourishment of a social stratum, this would again express a possibility of enjoyment for man. But for a given necessary labour time, capital requires the maximum surplus labour, only on this condition does surplus-value escape its own fixation. The very way in which their wages are paid, in bank account transfers, is already a symptom of this necessity. This system means that as little money is withdrawn each time as possible. If the opposite happened, it could provoke disturbances in monetary circulation, an epiphenomenon of the circulation of value, and so too of surplus-value. The deposits and withdrawals of money are replaced by account transactions, which allows money to conserve the form of capital at the disposal of the banks, and hence the capitalists.

When it has reached a certain stage of development, capital can no longer allow itself a similar partial fixation of value[5], and replaces men with machines, again increasing free labour. But, as usual, this is done so as better to grab surplus-value, increasing the dependence of men vis-à-vis capital and favouring competition among them. Just as in industry, a reserve army of labour has been formed gradually. In a prosperous period, a growing number of men can obtain employment; in a crisis they fall back into unemployment: unsold commodities. Besides, the tendency of capital to reduce complex to simple labour is true also at this stage. The development of cybernetics is from every point-of-view comparable to that of the machine. In both cases there was 1) intensive division of labour and population increase, 2) study of the basic movements to which men were reduced, 3) production of machines capable not only of performing them, but also of integrating them into a larger totality. The social origin of cybernetics is thus identical to that of the machine.[6]


D. Theory of Needs and Free-Time

The increase of labour's productivity is translated by an increase in free time, but also into an ever greater increase of the mass of products. This disposable social labour time has been absorbed by the circulation needs of capital. But in this field in turn disposable time has been produced so that two problems always pose themselves: 1) how to consume all these products, 2) how to use the disposable time. This means that capital incessantly regenerates the social strata who live off the circulation of surplus-value. They even grow during this process. These two elements have given rise to two complementary theories, of needs and of free-time.

Both seem to be in contradiction with the needs of capital. In reality, as we have tried to explain, capital presents itself as the advocate of abstinence and forced labour. This corresponds to the period in which it still had to be formed and to have its domination assured. Use-value had to be sacrificed to obtain the maximum valorization[7]. Now valorization has reached this point: the quantity of value is such as to inhibit new movements of valorization; the mass of commodities is such that, to make valorization possible, consumption is imperative at any cost.

The followers of the theory of needs claim to aim at man's happiness as a justification. But it is in fact a doctrine of capital. In reality, the objects which are proposed for human consumption become decreasingly necessary for the species as they are artificial or dangerous, while those which are really necessary become increasingly expensive. Capitalism abandons the sphere of the satisfaction of man's material needs:

"In our epoch, it is easier to produce something superfluous than something that is necessary." (Poverty of Philosophy in MECW 6 p.??? )

And this is logical since capital is the negation of necessary labour time, and hence of that labour time during which the proletarian produces to replace the value that his wages represent.

The most ardent supporters of this theory are to be found among the middle classes. This is why, correspondingly, they demand democratic planning, i.e. a larger share of the social surplus-value to be able to satisfy their own needs. These classes, which live off the realization of surplus-value, are therefore only manifesting their-own reality by claiming a division of the surplus-value which would be more favourable to themselves. In this sense, the supporters of this theory remain Malthusians. Just like Malthus, they want bourgeois production to guarantee "a broader and. more comfortable material base" for their classes. And, they polemize. against the defenders of integrated capitalist production who maintain that surplus-value should be used to produce new surplus-value, and who are well aware that if this movement is halted, the entire sysem would be in doubt. Thus they are partisans of its use in those branches of production where consumption is direct and. circulation is reduced to zero: the armaments sector. From this springs tall 'the anathemas launched by the mouthpieces of the middle classes against the armaments race, the various strike forces.

Our modern Malthusians never attack the basic capitalist relation: wage-labour. They want bourgeois production, but without the grave consequences that it implies and which lead to crises, the substrate of revolution. They only serve the reaction however much they agitate and grumble about the power of capital. They want to drag the proletariat into this feeble dispute. It is also true that they find a basis for their manoeuvre: the situation as regards capital is similar in appearance, since basically the proletariat like the individuals belonging to the middle classes are all wage-labourers. In short, the present-day Malthusians preserve the same attitude of Malthus on over-production. He maintained that an idle class was necessary to resolve it. They consider that the growth in population is a panacea. More people are required to consume the agricultural surplus, for example.

But capital does not care about their observations. Just as it eliminated the old middle classes, so it will not have the slightest hesitation in sacrificing the new ones for its valorization process, and to guarantee its autonomization. In the final analysis, capital resolves the problems of the tendential fall in the rate of profit through wars, as we saw in the long quotation from Marx. It remains to be noted that in the course of the crisis the inessential character of the new middle classes reappears. Capital will sacrifice them to its own autonomy. On the other hand, capital's attitude regarding the proletariat is different since it is precisely the proletariat that brings the increase in value which is the life source of capital. In the course of the crisis, it is rather that the proletariat can threaten capital the revolution.

So if the crisis is violent, there is nothing left to save capital other than war. This presents itself at the same time as a branch of production and as consumption par excellence. Not only are useless commodities consumed, but so too are men who in their turn have become useless, because they were produced in the period of surplus-labour of the species, which means that they are superfluous. Thus the middle classes will be sacrificed. Hence their terror of war, a terror in which they try to make the proletariat participate. But the latter knows well that, along with the whole history of the class struggle with the bourgeoisie, war can facilitate the liberating act, the revolutionary explosion, as in October 1917.


E. Productive labour and Middle Classes

One we have reached this stage of the generalization of wage-labour, and hence the domination over use-value and over man, from the moment when every service has been transformed into a service for capital, the difference between productive and unproductive labour tends to become hazy, not so far as regards the proletariat, since there is no doubt that its labour is productive, but from the point of view of capital and of the middle classes. In reality, work which enables the realization of surplus-value appears as useful, and therefore productive, since, thanks to it another productive cycle can arise. Marx wrote in 'Apologist Conception of the Productivity of all Professions':

"A philosopher produces ideas, a poet poems, a clergyman sermons, a professor compendia and so on. A criminal produces crimes. If we look a little closer at the connection between this latter branch of production and society as a whole, we shall rid ourselves of many prejudices. The criminal not only produces crimes but also criminal law, and with this also the professor who gives lectures on criminal law and in addition to this the inevitable compendium in which this same professor throws his lectures onto the general market as a "commodity". This brings with it augmentation of national wealth, quite apart from the personal enjoyment which - as a competent witness, Herr Professor Roscher, (tells) us the manuscript of the compendium brings to its originator himself.

"The criminal moreover produces the whole of the police and of criminal justice, constables, judges, hangmen, juries, etc.; and all these different lines of business, which form equally many categories of the social division of labour, develop different capacities of the human spirit, create new needs and new ways of satisfying them (here then in a concise form there is a definition of the modern theory of needs - ed.). Torture alone has given rise to the most ingenious mechanical inventions, and employed many honourable craftsmen in the production of its instruments.

"The criminal produces an impression, partly moral and partly tragic, as the case may be, and in this way renders a "service" by arousing the moral and aesthetic feelings of the public. He produces not only compendia on criminal law, not only penal codes and along with them legislators in this field, but also art, belles-lettres, novels, and even tragedies, as not only Müllner's Schuld and Schiller's Räuber show, but also Oedipus and Richard the Third. The criminal breaks the monotony and everyday security of bourgeois life. In this way he keeps it from stagnation, and gives rise to that uneasy tension and agility without which even the spur of competition would get blunted. Thus he gives a stimulus to the productive forces. While crime takes a part of the superfluous population off the labour market and thus reduces competition among the labourers - up to a certain point preventing wages from falling below the minimum - the struggle against crime absorbs another part of the population. Thus the criminal comes in as one of those natural "counterweights" which bring about a correct balance and open up a whole perspective of "useful" occupations.

"The effects of the criminal on the development of productive power can be shown in detail. Would. locks ever have reached their present degree of excellence had there been no thieves? Would the making of bank notes have reached its present perfection had there been no forgers? Would the microscope have found its way into the sphere of ordinary commerce (see Babbage) but for trading frauds? Doesn't practical chemistry owe just as much to adulteration of commodities and. the efforts to show it up as to the honest zeal for production? Crime, through its constantly new methods of attack on property, constantly calls into being new methods of defence, and so is as productive as strikes for the invention of machines. And if one leaves the sphere of private crime: would the world market have ever come into being but for national crime?" (TSV I pp. 387-8)

This fragment ironically refutes the intellectuals' pretension of producing superior values, or values tout court. Mutatis mutandis it suits all the contemp orary apologists of capital, who justify all its manifestations by means of a theory of needs. Besides, in another passage from the Theories of Surplus-Value, Marx explains the becoming of certain sorts of labour that had been presented as necessary:

"If man attributes an independent existence, clothed in a religious form to his relationship to his own nature, to external nature and to other men so that he is dominated by these notions, then he requires priests and their labour. With the disappearance of the religious form of consciousness and of these relationships, the labour of the priests will likewise cease to enter into the social process of production. The labour of priests will end with the existence of the priests themselves and., in the same way, the labour which the capitalist performs qua capitalist, or causes to be performed by someone else, will end together with the existence of the capitalists." (TSV III p. 496)

The same holds good for capital and the middle classes.

Capital produces an enormous quantity of commodities. Therefore any activity will be productive that is able to work them off and to get them consumed[8]. Production creates needs, although pot immediately. Between the potential consumers and the commodities accumulated on the market, intermediaries are needed to stimulate in man the desire to consume, so as to enslave daily life too to its exigencies. Men are needed to guarantee all these functions, another complementary origin of the middle classes.

But it is not enough to make people buy, they must buy time and again. A propensity for consumption must be preserved. Here the theory of needs is transformed into a theory of indefinite progress, and our middleman into a progressive, and this can only be realized by the indefinite increase of the continually renewed material wealth[9] (this is the other subjective aspect of the devalorization analysed above). Man is transformed into a hoarder of fading wealth that is devalorized immediately it is acquired. If it were otherwise, it would mean that in however small a measure - production would still be production for man. But, on the contrary, he is not asked to consume use-values, but to realize exchange-values and to enable their valorization. And this is possible only, through the metamorphosis of the commodity, whose use-value slows its movement, into money, where value again finds all its mobility.

"With capital the consumption of the commodity is not itself final; it falls within the production process; it itself appears as a moment of production, i.e. of value-positing (Wertsetzen). (Grundrisse p. 536)

Thus, if as Marx states:

"...beneath the invisible measure of value lurks hard money." (Contribution p. 70)

then behind the consumption of commodities lurks hard capital. This is clearly seen when man does not wish to consume. Capital resorts to violence to force him to do so, obviously using economic violence, since it acts in conformity with its own being. Presently this is the case with construction: men are forced to spend a certain percentage of their wages to rent or to buy somewhere to live. Capital cannot tolerate a fixation of value, it cannot tolerate that the proletariat has reserves, even in the deceptive money form. Therefore it tries by all possible means to take from the proletariat what it has been paid in the form of wages.

The "work" to which the individuals who "live off the net product" dedicate themselves is that of increasing consumption in order to increase the velocity of the circulation of commodities and thus of capital. Marx mocked intellectuals by showing them that even crime was productive. The present-day apologists of capital, inasmuch as they defend an illusory productivity of the middle classes, thus defend crime itself. For is it not a crime against humanity to condemn it to live in a society like this one?


F. Productivity - Free Time - Leisure

Capital creates free, disposable time which is really time dedicated to the consumption of capital. The worker who, during the year produces for eleven months or eleven months one week, accumulates a greater or smaller quantity of money for the month or three weeks of holiday. During this period he will behave like any other unproductive consumer and will lose the reserve which he apparently accumulated in the previous months. This implies, however, other consequences:

a) Planning of production. This is slowed down in the course of a determined period. This permits the lessening of the tension which could occur on the market and., at the same time, the workers cannot intervene, make claims etc., since they are dispersed. Capital makes transformations in this period, business reorganizations, which are usually detrimental to th proletariat.

b) The possibility of making functional completely parasitical "industries", such as tourism and the so-called mass-culture. And the worker, neither more nor less than the man of the middle classes, becomes the docile prey of the ideologists of capital.

c) The worker becomes receptive to the ideology of the ruling class during these holidays. Marx said in the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts that the bourgeois is very keen to see the worker put his money into a savings account so that he acts like a bourgeois, reacts like a bourgeois, ahd does not place in doubt surplus-value production, but instead defends the valorization of capital[9]. Capitalism is now more demanding, its wish is to drown the proletariat in the middle classes and to proclaim that it no longer exists. The basis of this negation is the generalization of wage-labour.

To tell the truth, this tendency is not new. But given the real domination of capital, it appears with greater virulence. In reality, the bourgeois economists of the last century exalted the development of machinery which, while increasing the productivity of labour, would have led to the happy result:

"The landlord and. capitalist will benefit, not by an increase of rent and profit, but by the advantages resulting from the expenditure of the same rent, and. profit, on commodities, very considerably reduced in value, while the situation of the labouring classes will also be considerably improved; ist, from the increased demand for menial servants; 2dly, from the stimulus to savings from revenue, which such an abundant net produce will afford; and 3dly, from the low price of all articles of consumption on which their wages will be expended." (Ricardo On the Principles of Polical Economy and Taxation Second Edition, -London, 1815 pp. 474-5; cited in TSV II pp.

Marx comments on this passage in the following way:

"This progressive transformation of a section of the workers into servants is a fine prospect. For the worker it is equally consoling that because of the growth in the net product, more spheres are opened up for unproductive workers, who live on his product and whose interest in his exploitation coincides more or less with that of the directly exploiting classes." (TSV II p. 571)

Landed proprietors and capitalists as individuals have been brushed aside by production, but the tendency remains the same: to reduce the workers to the servants of capital. The activity of the middle classes is just this; it is true that they perform services for capital, but do not perform any productive labour. The interest of these classes is directly linked to that of capital: to transform the workers into servants, that is, to destroy the revolutionary force of the proletariat.

So it is easy to understand why the question of the granting of free time has such a great importance today. However, it should be noted here that the needs of capital's development can lead it to deny tomorrow precisely what it proclaims today, and hence to reduce again this free time, since in certain fields it will require more surplus-value. The use of free time has an interest only if t is good for business for capital, which implies that the worker is not allowed to relax freely: his rest time must be a time for consuming capital. On the day when this is no longer possible, capital will try to retake what it gave before.


G. Movement of capital - Fixation of men

So we can see how the increase of the productivity of labour, the increase of disposable time and. the consequent corollaries - devalorization of labour-power and diminution in the number of proletarians - is accompanied by the generalization of wage-labour. Capital artificially reproduces the relation on which it is based, since it cannot destroy private appropriation. On the other hand, human activity, dominated by capital, is arranged as follows:

A. A group of productive men: the proletarians.

B. Another group linked to capital as follows:

(a) One part directly interested in its development, since it gets its hands on a quantum of the social surplus-value. It manages capitalism and is, in fact, the capitalist class.

(b) Those who live off the consumption of surplus-value, since they enable its realization: these are the middle classes.

(c) Those who defend the appropriation of unpaid labour, also living off the consumption of surplus-value - and who guarantee its perpetuation police, army and so on, in a word, the state.

This is understandable because we have seen that capital firstly dominated the immediate process of production: factory despotism (Capital Volume I); how subsequently it comes to dominate all use-values (the study of fixed capital in Volume II and in the Grundrisse) then it secures commerce and achieves autonomy in the form of finance capital (Volume III and the Grundrisse) As it comes to presuppose individual values (production prices), it therefore tends to presuppose all the activities that produce them or that permit their realization. This means that capital has subordinated to itself the whole society and has become the master of the state, its tool for domination, and hence a tool for the domination of the proletariat. Everyone ends up by assuming a function useful to capital, this function is mediated by it, this being the generalization of wage-labour: We may therefore understand the decisive importance of the transformation of the value and price of labour-power into the form of wages, or into the value and price of labour itself." (Capital I p. 680) This is therefore a generalized mystification and a masking of the fundamental social relation which creates surplus-value: that between workers and capital.

"All the notions of justice held by both the worker and the capitalist, all the mystifications of the capitalist mode of production, all capitalism's illusions about freedom, all the apologetic tricks of vulgar economics, have as their basis the form of appearance discussed above, which makes the actual relation invisible, and indeed presents to the eye the precise opposite of that relation." (ibid. p. 680)

But such a generalization of the wage-labour form is, at the sane time, a negative, mystified affirmation of communism.

Besides, this only expresses another contradiction: capital, value in process and in perpetual motion, feels the need to fix men in determined situations to guarantee the autonomy of its own process. Thus it too tends to behave like the:

"..tendency shown by earlier societies towards making trades hereditary." (ibid. p. 459)

This is one aspect of the industrial feudalism of which Fourier spoke. It affirms the absolute domination of capital over human society. To the same extent that capital tends to negate value, it tends to negate classes, although it cannot destroy them. In this attempt resides the most profound expression of the mystification of capital: it forms the basis of contemporary social-democracy, i.e. fascism. It will be possible to realize democracy when there are no longer any classes. For Marxists, this is the moment when it disappears. (Cf. Lenin, State and Revolution.)


Note on wage-labour & function

The French translation of Capital Volume I by Roy gives the citation at the foot of the previous page as follows:

"We may therefore understand the decisive importance which in practice this change of form possesses, which allows the appearance of the payment for labour-power as wage-labour, the price of labour-power like the price of its function." (Le Capital Livre I, t. 2, p. 211)

The term function does not exist in the original; consequently it would seem that we have made Marx say, through Roy, what he did not wish. Since this is very important for the rest of this study, we should check to see if there has or has not been a deformation of Marx's thought. One can read on the next page:

"Finally, the use-value supplied by the worker to the capitalist is not in fact his labourpower but its function (Funktion) a specific form of useful labour..." (ibid. p. 681 - our emphases)

This is absolutely logical because what interests capital in labour-power is its use-value, its aptitude to be consumed, and this can only take place when it starts functioning. Again on the next page:

"Moreover, the actual movement of wages presents phenomena which seem to prove that it is not the value of labour power which is paid, but the' value of its function, of labour itself." (ibid. p. 682)

Widening the field of enquiry, we can note that here it is possible to present Marx's theory as not reducible to a structuralism, but rather to a functionalism. One could support this "presentation" with the following arguments: Marx considerthat the capitalist has a function to fulfill in the production process and consequently, when a separation occurs between the property of capital and the function of the capitalist, he describes the redimensioning of the latter in the rank of functionary; he examines the different figures of capital commoditycapital, money capital etc. - insofar as they have a function in the total production process etc..

It is quite true that a theoretical undertaking like this would bear witness to a certain dose of stupidity, just as pronounced as that of those who drown Marx in structuralism. Still, every attempt at research, even if it lapses into madness, has a real datum. Insofar as it is a being, capital has a determined structure: the capitalist mode of production - the efficacy of this structure is capital itself - and capital is an ensemble of functions.

Racketeer thought needs originality and alienability (it is not enough to produce, one must also sell), so it autpnomizes certain partial aspects on which it bases an argument suitable to confront the competition of the others, now accused of ideology, in the "theoretical space", the space of the madness of capital.

(Note of May 1972)


1. The economic operators, the promoters and varied speculators who do not own capital as capital is social, but take a part in exploitation. They really form the capitalist class during the real domination of capital.

2. The resume of this meeting held by Bordiga is Vulcano della produzione palude del mercato? (in il programma comunista nos. 13-19, 1954) (Republished in Economia Marxista ed economia controrivoluzioriaria (Iskra, Milano, 1976)

3. Um Leib und Seele zusammenhalten.

4. Cf. TSV III p. 449 for the same statement.

5. There is fixation since a fraction of the surplus-value is consumed to pay for the necessary labour of these men. We leave out here the role that taxes can play.

6. This analysis of the formation of the new middle classes is valid only at a given moment of the life of capital. Presently, with the full real domination of capital over society, it is totally superseded. (Note of May 1972)

7. Later everything is value, even man because he is a commodity.. If he maintains the aspect of use-value for capital, it really is a value in the full sense of the term, only that his value is realized in production, in use. The others can only be realized through circulation. So all differences tend to become hazy. Values appear to have different functions. It can be said that labour-power no longer appears to be a value, its human aspect has disappeared, since it has been subjugated by the latter.

8. Marx shows in the Grundrisse that all the time that has to spent on circulating value is necessary labour time, which cuts the amount of surplus labour time. So this is a new contradiction which capital overcomes apparently by making human labour out of necessary labour for itself. We can merely indicate this fact here as its development would be rather lengthy.

9. "Modern industry never views or treats the existing form of a production process as the definitive one." (Capital I p. 617)

This is the basis of the constant renewal of products and so too of repeated consumption.

10. For the bourgeoisie: "The worker may have only enough for him to want to live, and may only want to live in order to have that." (MECW 3 p. 309)