Deville - The People's Marx (1893)

Chapter XVIII: Modes of Expressing the Rate of Surplus-Value

Various formuIae expressing this rate.—Surplus-value has its source in unpaid labor.

Various Formulae Expressing this Rate.

We saw, in Chapter IX, that the rate of surplus-value is equal to the ratio of the surplus-value to the variable capital, or to the ratio of the surplus-value to the value of labor-power, or to the ratio of the surplus-labor to the necessary labor. The rate of surplus-value is, finally, expressed by the ratio of unpaid labor to paid labor.

Surplus-Value has its Source in Unpaid Labor.

The capitalist pays not for labor, the product, but for labor-power, productive capacity. Having paid for that power for a day or a week the capitalist secures in return the right to exploit it for a day or a week. This period of exploitation is divided into two portions. During one, the laborer only produces the equivalent of the price of his labor-power; during the other, he works gratis and, therefore, yields the capitalist a value for which he has given no equivalent—a value that costs the capitalist nothing. In this sense, the surplus-labor from which surplus-value is derived, may be called unpaid labor.

It is now apparent how little respect is due to the opinion of people—whose interests lead them to disguise the truth—who endeavor to give to this exchange of variable capital for the use of labor-power—an exchange which results in the appropriation of the product by the non-producer—the false appearance of an association of mutual interests in which the laborer and the capitalist divide the product in proportion to the different elements which they respectively contribute toward its formation.

Capital is not only, as Adam Smith said, the power of disposing of the labor of others, but it is essentially the power of disposing of unpaid labor. All surplus-value, no matter what its particular form—profit, interest, rent, etc.—may be, is in substance the materialization of unpaid labor. The whole secret of capital's power of breeding or expanding is that it is able to dispose of a certain amount of the labor of others without paying for it.