Deville - The People's Marx (1893)

Chapter IX: The Rate of Surplus-Value

I. Necessary labor and surplus-labor. —The degree of exploitation of labor-power.
II. The elements of the value of the product expressed in portions of this product and in fractions of the working-day.
III. The "last hour."
IV. The net product.

On one side, we have the constant capital, which simply furnishes labor-power with the means for its materialization, means whose value, as it simply reappears, is the same before as after the productive process. On the other side we have the variable capital equal, before production, to the purchase price of the labor-power, and equal, after production, to that value reproduced, plus a larger or smaller increment. As surplus-value results from the increase of value of the variable capital, it is evident that it is the relation of the surplus-value to the variable capital that determines in what ratio this increase takes place. Let us take the figures given in Chapter VII. As 80 cents was the portion of the capital used to purchase the labor-power of one man for one day, in a word, the variable capital, and as the surplus value was 80 cents, this last figure expresses the absolute magnitude of the surplus-value produced by one laborer in one day. Its relative magnitude, that is to say, its magnitude compared to that of the variable capital before the increase in its value, is expressed by the ratio of 80 to 80, that is to say, it is 100 per cent. This relative magnitude is what we call the rate of surplus-value. We must not confound the rate of surplus-value, which is the ratio of the surplus-value to the variable portion of the capital advanced, and which is the only direct expression of the degree of the exploitation of labor, with the rate of profit, which is the ratio of the surplus-value to the total capital advanced.

I.—Necessary Labor and Surplus-Labor.

We have seen that the laborer, during one part of the day, produces only the daily value of his labor-power, that is to say, the value of the means of subsistence necessary for his support. As his work is part and parcel of a system organized on the basis of the social division of labor, he does not produce his means of subsistence directly, but, under the form of a particular commodity, yarn for example, whose value is equal to that of his means of subsistence, or to that of the money with which he buys them.

In this part of the day, longer or shorter according to the average value of his daily sustenance, the laborer, whether he works for a capitalist or not, only replaces one value by another. The production of value during this time is only a mere reproduction. That part of the day in which this reproduction is accomplished we call necessary labor-time, and the labor put forth during this time we call necessary labor. Necessary for the laborer who, whatever may be the social form of his labor, gains during this time his livelihood. Necessary for the capitalist system whose foundation is the existence of the laborer.

That part of the working-day which continues beyond the limits of necessary labor, forms no value for the laborer, but it forms surplus-value for the capitalist. We call that part of the day surplus labor-time, and the labor expended in that time we call surplus-labor. If value in general is only a simple materialization of labor-time, surplus-value is a simple materialization of surplus labor- time. It is realized surplus-labor. The different economic forms of social organization, such as slavery and the wages-system, are differentiated only by the mode in which this surplus-labor is extorted from the immediate producer, the laborer.

The Degree of Exploitation of Labor-power.

On the one hand, the value of the variable capital is equal to the value of the labor-power it buys, and the value of this power determines the necessary portion of the working-day; on the other hand, the surplus-value is determined by the duration of the surplus portion of this same working-day, by the surplus-labor. Therefore the rate of surplus-value expressed by the ratio of the surplus-value to the variable capital, is also expressed by the equivalent ratio of the surplus-labor to the necessary labor.

The rate of surplus-labor is, consequently, the exact expression of the degree of exploitation of labor-power by capital, or of the laborer by the capitalist, but we must not confound the degree of exploitation with the absolute magnitude of the exploitation. Suppose the necessary labor equals five hours and that the surplus-labor also equals five hours, then the degree of exploitation, expressed by the ratio of 5 to 5, is 100 per cent., and the absolute magnitude of the exploitation is 5 hours. If, on the contrary, the necessary labor and the surplus- labor are each equal to six hours, the degree of exploitation expressed by the ratio of 6 to 6 has not changed. It is still 100 per cent., while the absolute magnitude of the exploitation, which before was five hours, has increased by one hour, i.e., 20 per cent.

To calculate the rate of surplus-value, we take the value of the product, minus the value of the constant capital, which existed before and which only reappears. The value then remaining is the only value really created during the process of producing the commodity. If the surplus-value is known, we must subtract it from the value we have obtained to find the variable capital. If it is the variable capital that is known, we must deduct it to find the surplus-value. If both are known, we have only to calculate the ratio of the surplus-value to the variable capital, i. e., to divide the surplus-value by the variable capital, and by multiplying the result of this division by 100, we get the rate per cent. of surplus-value.

II.—The Elements of the Value of the Product Expressed in Portions of this Product and in Fractions of the Working-day.

Let us again take the example we used in Chapter VII, to show how the capitalist transforms his money into capital. The necessary labor of the spinner amounts to six hours and his surplus-labor is the same. The laborer works, therefore, half of the day for himself, and half for the capitalist, and the degree of exploitation is 100 per cent.

The product of the working-day of 12 hours is 20 pounds of yarn worth eight dollars; 8/10 of this value, or $6.40, is due to the value of the means of production consumed—$5.20 for the purchase-price of the cotton and $1.20 for the wear and tear of the spindles. This $6.40 represents, consequently, the value which simply reappears. In other words, 8/10 of the value of the yarn are formed by the constant capital. The remaining 2/10 are the new value of $1.60 created during and by the spinning. One half of this value replaces the value of the day's labor-power, which was advanced, that is to say the variable capital of 80 cents; the other half constitutes the surplus-value of 80 cents. The value of $8.00 in yarn equals then the constant capital, $6.40, plus the variable capital, 80 cents, and finally plus the surplus- value, 80 cents.

Since the total value of $8.00 is represented by 20 pounds of yarn, the different elements of this value, which we have just pointed out, may be represented by portions of this product.

If the value of $8.00 is contained in 20 pounds of yarn, then 8/10, of this value, or its constant portion of $6.40 will be contained in 8/10 of the product, or in 16 pounds of yarn. These 16 pounds represent then the value of the cotton bought and the wear and tear of the spindles, in all $6.40. Thirteen (13) pounds of yarn represent the $5.20 worth of cotton, and 3 pounds represent the $1.20 for wear and tear of the spindles.

Thirteen pounds of yarn actually contain only thirteen pounds of cotton worth—as 20 pounds cost $5.20—$3.38. The difference of $1.82 is equivalent to the cotton contained in the other 7 pounds of yarn. But the 13 pounds of yarn here represent all the cotton contained in the total product of 20 pounds of yarn. At 40 cents a pound they are worth in fact $5.20, the same as the 20 pounds of cotton. To offset this, they represent nothing else. They are looked upon as not containing an atom of the value of the instruments of labor employed, nor of the new value created by the spinning. In the same way, the three pounds of yarn are worth $1.20—equal to twelve hours' wear and tear of the spindles. Three pounds represent then the value of the instruments of labor consumed during the whole process of producing the 20 pounds of yarn; but they represent that alone, without containing an atom of the new value created by the spinning.

To recapitulate, eight tenths of the product, or 16 pounds of yarn, are deemed not to contain an atom of the new value created by the labor of the spinner. And, in fact, when the capitalist sells them for $6.40 and with the money replaces his means of production it becomes evident that the 16 pounds of yarn are only cotton and spindles in disguise. On the other hand, the remaining two-tenths, or four pounds of yarn, represent consequently only the value which remains, the new value of $1.60 created in the twelve hours? labor. The labor of the spinner materialized in the product of 20 pounds of yarn, is now concentrated in four pounds, in two tenths of the product, of which one-tenth or two pounds represents the value of the labor-power employed, that is to say, the 80 cents of variable capital advanced, and the other tenth represents the 80 cents of surp1us-value.

Since twelve hours' labor create a value of $1.60, the value of the yarn, amounting to eight dollars, represents sixty hours' labor. This is because, besides the twelve hours' spinning, the eight dollars worth of yarn embody the labor-time contained by the means of production consumed, i.e., four days of twelve hours each, or forty- eight hours' labor which preceded the spinning process and were materialized in a value of $6.40.

We can then split up the result of production, the product, into one part which represents only the labor contained in the means of production, or the constant part of capital, into another part which represents only the necessary labor added during the productive process, or the variable part of capital, and into a final part which represents only the surplus-labor added, or the surplus-value.

The total product made in a certain time, for example, one day, decomposed in this way into parts representing the various elements of its value, may also have these elements represented by fractions of the working-day.

The spinner produces in twelve hours 20 pounds of yarn. Therefore, in 36 minutes he produces one pound, and in 7 hours and 48 minutes 13 pounds of yarn, that is to say, a portion of the product equivalent in value to all the cotton employed during the day. In the same way the portion produced in the following hour and 48 minutes is equal to three pounds of yarn and represents therefore the value of the spindles used up during the twelve hours' labor. In the same way again, the spinner produces in the hour and twelve minutes that follow two pounds of yarn representing a value equal to the entire value that he creates in the six hours of necessary labor. Finally, in the last seventy-two minutes, he produces two pounds more of yarn whose value is equal to the surplus-value produced by his six hours of surplus-labor.

What he produces in these seventy-two minutes, note it well, is two pounds of yarn whose entire value is equal to the surplus-value that the day's labor yields the capitalist; but the entire value of these two pounds is composed, in addition to the value resulting from the labor of the spinner, of the value of the past labor which produced the cotton and the spindles consumed in its manufacture.

III.—The "Last Hour."

Because the various elements of the value of the product may be represented by proportional parts of the working-day, and because the surplus-value is then found to be represented by the value of the product of the last seventy-two minutes, it is not necessary to conclude, as do certain economists attempting to oppose in the name of science every reduction of the working-day, that the laborer, out of his twelve hours' day, consecrates to the manufacturer for the production of surplus-value only the last seventy-two minutes, the "last hour," as they say.

The surplus-value is equal, in fact, not to the value of the labor-power expended during the last seventy-two minutes, but to the value of the product to produce which labor-power is expended during this time. That is, it is equal to the value of the means of production the cotton and spindles, consumed during seventy-two minutes, plus the new value which the labor of the spinner adds to them, during this same time, while it is consuming them.

And, to believe these economists, if the labor-time were diminished by seventy-two minutes, while wages remained the same, there would no longer be any surplus-value, and the unfortunate capitalist would no longer make anything. Their reasoning is, briefly, this: As two pounds of yarn are the product of seventy-two minutes' spinning, if the day of the spinner were reduced by seventy-two minutes, the capitalist would have two pounds less of yarn, and as two pounds of yarn are worth 80 cents, he would have 80 cents less. Now, as his surplus-value, his profit was 80 cents, as soon as he has 80 cents less, he no longer makes anything.

Let us examine the matter a little.

For two pounds of yarn two pounds of cotton are required, besides the spindles which are worn in manufacturing it. As the 20 pounds of cotton cost $5.20, two pounds cost 52 cents. The wear and tear of the spindles in spinning 20 pounds amounts to $1.20, which is 12 cents for two pounds. If the production is reduced by 2 pounds of yarn, this means that the expenditure is also reduced by 52 cents plus 12 cents, or 64 cents. If it is true that the capitalist receives 80 cents less, he also expends 64 cents less. By cutting 72 minutes off the 12 hours' labor, he loses then only 16 cents. If he makes only 16 cents less than formerly, his surplus-value, his net profit, which was 80 cents, is now 80 cents less 16 cents, or 64 cents, and the duration of the surplus-labor is 4 hours and 48 minutes instead of 6 hours; that is to say, the rate of surplus-value is 80 per cent.—a very handsome rate still.

To say in our example that the spinner, whose day lasts 12 hours, produces in the last seventy-two minutes the net profit of the capitalist, is just the same as to say quite plainly that his product of seventy-two minutes, two pounds of yarn, represents, regarded in its entirety, as much labor-time as the portion of the day devoted to the formation of surplus-value. In fact, we have just now seen that the means of production consumed to produce 20 pounds of yarn contained, before the spinning process, 48 hours' labor. The means of production consumed for 2 pounds contain, then, the tenth of this time, that is to say, 4 hours and 48 minutes of past labor, which, added to the 72 minutes of spinning, gives for two pounds of yarn a total of six hours, equal to the daily surplus labor-time of the spinner.

IV.—The Net Product.

The part of the product that represents the surplus- value, we call the net product or "surplus-produce." Just as the rate of surplus-value is determined by its ratio, not with the total capital, but with the variable part of capital, in the same way the relative amount of the net product is determined by its ratio, not with the entire product, but with the part of the product that represents the necessary labor. The relative magnitude of the net product is the true measure of the degree of the accumulation of wealth.

The total of the necessary labor and the surplus-labor, i.e., the entire time during which the laborer produces the equivalent of his labor-power and surplus-value, forms the absolute magnitude of his labor-time, i.e., the working-day.