Otto Rühle

Karl Marx: His Life and Works


Part III

Das Kapital

The Kritik der politischen Okonomie was published in 1859, the year in which Darwin’s Origin of Species first appeared. It was only a prelude to the great work which Marx had had on the stocks for years, and whose final elaboration he was continually postponing. In the preface to the Kritik, he writes: “I regard the system of bourgeois economics in this succession: capital, landed property, wage labour; State, foreign trade, world market. Under the first three heads I study the economic vital conditions of the three great classes into which modern civil society is separated; the interconnexion of the three other heads is obvious . . . . The whole material lies before me in the form of monographs which I penned at widely separated periods for the clarification of my own ideas, not for the press. Circumstances have prevented my elaborating them into a connected whole in accordance with the original plan.”

When the Kritik der politischen Okonomie had been published, the author, examining his own work, speedily became aware that the method of presentation could be improved, and he therefote decided to incorporate the contents of the Kritik, after due elaboration, in his new work Das Kapital. Thus the Critique forms the first section of Capital. Here, however, we have not a mere repetition, for the contents have been thoroughly reconsidered. In the preface to the first edition of Capital, Marx writes: “As far as the nature of the subject matter rendered it possible, many points that were merely alluded to in the earlier work have been more comprehensively treated in the present one, whereas certain matters treated in detail there find no more than cursory mention here.”

The labours on the preparation of Capital had gone forward very slowly. The vast abundance of the material concerning the history of political economy which Marx had at his disposal in the British Museum Reading Room had been a hindrance rather than a help. Frequent interruptions by illness had occurred. His titanic activities on behalf of the International had taken up much of his time. Then there had been the endless money troubles, with all the vexation and waste of time they involved, to interfere with the maintenance of a frame of mind suitable for study and literary composition. Writing to Kugelmann in November 1864, Marx said: C] believe that next year, at last, my work on Capital (sixty sheets) will be ready for the press.” He was mistaken. In a letter to Engels, eight months later, we read: “As regards my work, I will tell you how things really are. There are still three chapters to write, in order to make the theoretical part (the first three books) ready. Then there is still the fourth book to write, the historical and literary one, which will be for me, comparatively speaking, the easiest part, since all the main problems have been solved in the first three books, so that this last one is more of the nature of a recapitulation in a historical form. But I cannot make up my mind to part with any of it until I have the whole in my hands. Whatever defects they may have, it is the merit of my writings that they form an artistic whole, and that is only attainable through my method of never sending them to press until they are completed.”

By January i, 1866, Marx had got so far on with the work that he was able to begin making a fair copy. He felt that he must “finish it off quickly, for the thing has become a perfect nightmare to me.” On January 15th, he wrote to Kugelmann: “As regards my book, I am now spending twelve hours a day making a fair copy. I expect to bring the manuscript myself to

Hamburg in March, and shall then have a chance of seeing you.” On February 13th, he wrote to Engels: “As regards the ’damned book,’ this is how the matter stands. It was finished in the end of December. The discussion of land-rent alone, the penultimate chapter, forms, in the present drafting, one book. I went to the Museum in the daytime, and wrote at night.” Thus also had the whole year of i866 been spent, in hard and uninterrupted work, notwithstanding money troubles, boils, and quarrels in the International. He could not finish the job to his satisfaction. As early as August 1865, Engels had written: “The day the manuscript goes to press, I shall get gloriously drunk!” But he had to wait, to go on waiting, for the birth was a difficult one, almost a torment.

At length, in March 1867, came the long desired day. “I had made up my mind,” wrote Marx to his friend, “that you should not hear from me again until I could announce to you that my book was ready, as it now is.” To which Engels rejoined with a shout of delight: “Hurrah! I could not repress this exclamation when at length I read in black and white that the first volume is ready, and that you are about to start for Hamburg with it.”

Yet there were difficulties about this voyage to Hamburg in order to hand over the manuscript to the publisher, Otto Meissner. It was not only that Marx was once more suffering from boils; he was short of money. “I must first of all,” he wrote to Engels, “get my clothes and watch out of pawn. Nor can I leave my family in their present need, for they have not a penny, and our creditors are daily becoming more vociferous.” As usual, Engels came to his aid: “That sinews of war may not be lacking, I am sending you seven five-pound notes, £35 in all . . . . I hope the carbuncles are pretty well by now, and that the journey will set you up once more altogether.” With the manuscript and money, and free from illness, Marx was able at long last to set out.

On April 12th he reached Hamburg, went to see Meissner (“a good chap, with a Saxon accent”), and was able, “after a brief discussion, to arrange everything.” It was agreed that the type-setting should be begun at once, Marx expressing his readiness to correct the proofs while still in Germany: “We clinked glasses, and he declared himself ’delighted’ to have made my esteemed acquaintance.” From Hamburg, Marx went to Hanover, being hospitably received there by Kugelmann, a noted gynco1ogist, “a splendid, self-sacrificing, and thoroughly convinced” man. Marx stayed with Kugelmann until the end of May.

Here he received from Engels a letter from which valuable conclusions may be drawn. The writer pours out his heart concerning the troubles he has had about Marx during all these years. The torments and birth-throes which the book had caused, had, towards the last, reached the verge of the intolerable. “It has always seemed to me as if this damned book at which you have been toiling so long was the root cause of your troubles, and that you never would or could get over them until the incubus was shaken off. This eternally unfinished job crushed you to the earth bodily, mentally, and financially; and I can perfectly well understand that, having shaken off the nightmare, you feel quite another being, especially since the world, now that you are coming into contact with it again, looks to you a less melancholy place than of yore.”

Marx, ever curt and repressed where matters of feeling were concerned, was content to answer: “Without you I should never have been able to bring the work to an end, and I assure you that it has always been a heavy load on my conscience that mainly on my account you should have had to waste your splendid energies and allow them to rust in a commercial career, and, over and above this, have had to share all my petty miseries.”

On August 16, 1867, when the proof of the last of the forty-nine sheets had been corrected, Marx drew a breath of relief, and, at two o’clock in the morning, sat down to write to his friend in Manchester a few cordial words: “I have you, and you alone, to thank that this was possible. Without your

self-sacrifice on my behalf, I could not possibly have undertaken the tremendous labour necessary for the three volumes. I embrace you, full of thanks.”

Marx had every reason, both for the sigh of relief, and for expressing his gratitude to Engels. For, while what he wrote to Kugelmann is probably true, that never was any work brought into being under such difficult conditions as Capital; it is equally true that never, under the most difficult conditions, did a friendship show itself more genuine, deeper, and more devoted, than the friendship of Engels for Marx.

First Volume

The full title of the book is Capital, A Criticism of Political Economy. This implies that it was planned as an investigation, as an analysis, in the field of social science. “The subject of study in the present work,” says Marx in the preface, “is the capitalist method of production, and the relations of production and exchange appropriate to that method.” The second volume would deal with the process of the circulation of capital, and with the various forms assumed by capital in the course of its development; the concluding volume, the third, would be concerned with the history of capitalist theory. Thus the general topic of the whole work was to be capitalism.

When we speak of capitalism, we are referring to the epoch of economic history and social evolution in which the whole of life has become predominantly economic life, and in which all things, ideas, and feelings have been transformed into commodities. The analysis of the capitalist economic system must therefore begin with an analysis of the commodity. Since in Marx’s day England was the classical land of capitalism, it was from that country that he took all the examples he used to illustrate his theory. But “the land which is more developed industrially shows to the land which is less developed nothing but the picture of what will be the latter’s future.” In Germany, the capitalist method of production did not ripen “until its antagonistic character had already manifested itself noisily in France and England by struggles that had become historical.”

Capital begins by telling us that “the wealth of societies in which the capitalist method of production prevails, takes the form of ’an immense accumulation of commodities,’ wherein individual commodities are the elementary units. Our investigation must therefore begin with an analysis of the commodity.”

A commodity is something possessed of qualities which enable it to satisfy human wants, and something which, before it passes into consumption in order to satisfy these wants, has been subjected to an exchange. It is therefore made with an eye to exchange. It has already come into existence in precapitalist epochs. What characterizes the capitalist world is the exclusive predominance of a commodity economy.

In order to be capable of being exchanged in the market, the commodity must have an exchange-value. This exchangevalue has a specific quantity, in contradistinction to use-value, which is one of the natural qualities of the commodity, determines its capacity for use, and manifests itself as a quality. Political economy is solely concerned with exchange-value. This latter expresses the social relation in which commodities stand one to another, and it is measured by the amount of average social labour which is represented in the commodity. The measure of the labour is the labour time, conceived as average social labour time independent of individual and exceptional circumstances.

In practice, no absolute determination of the exchange-value manifested in a commodity is possible. For the needs of economic life, a relative determination by comparison suffices. In early days, two different commodities presenting themselves in the market are compared one with another as regards exchangevalue on the basis of an estimate of the labour time which experience has shown to be necessary to produce one and the other. In due course, however, all the commodities in the market come to have their values expressed in terms of one particular commodity, which is used permanently as the measure of value. This commodity, which ultimately serves all other commodities for the drawing of conclusions as to their normal worth, is termed money. A minted coin functions as a symbol for a fixed number of hours of social labour, in which the value of every commodity is reflected. Value, originating in the process of production, appears in the money form as price, differing a little from time to time owing to the oscillations of the market.

The commodity enters the market labelled with a price. Its material individuality and quality form only the stimulus to exchange. With the social estimate of their value, commodities have no concern whatever. The commodity has become an abstraction. Once it has left the hand of the producer and has forfeited its peculiarity as a real object, it has ceased to be a product and to be controlled by man. It has acquired a “ghostly objectivity,” and leads a life peculiar to itself. “At the first glance, a commodity seems a commonplace sort of thing, one easily understood. Analysis shows, however, that it is a very queer thing indeed, full of metaphysical subtleties and theological whimsies.” Cut adrift from the will of man, it ranges itself in mysterious ranks, acquires or renounces capacity for exchange, acts in accordance with laws of its own as player upon a phantom stage. In the market reports, cotton “rises,” copper “falls,” maize is “lively,” coal is “slack,” wheat is “jumpy,” and mineral oil “shows tendencies.” The things have acquired an independent life, and exhibit human gestures. Human beings, meanwhile, subordinate themselves to the things, allow the things to dictate human actions, become servants of the world of commodities. The commodity, though made by human hands, has become an idol, a fetish, which holds sway over its human makers. Marx speaks of the fetishistic character attaching to commodities. “This fetishistic character of the world of commodities is the outcome of the peculiar social quality of the labour which produces commodities . It is only the specific social relation between men which here assumes the phantasmagorial form of a relation between things.”

The fetishistic character likewise influences the whole atmosphere of capitalist economy. The fixing of prices, competition, the course of the market, the value of money, and so on, constitute mysterious phenomena in the world of commodities, phenomena which the capitalist regards with the same uncomprehending impotence as that with which the savage in the African forests regards the caprices of an idol. Money, in especial, “the reflexion of the relations of all other commodities clinging to one single commodity,” acquires dominion over men, exercising the tyrannical power of a demon, usurping authority over social and economic life. Money becomes a god.

Money is exchanged for commodities of equal value. Men, too, can be bought for money. Nay more, money is able to buy parts of human beings, able to recruit the manifestation of human vital functions. Thus it is that, for instance, human labour power appears in the market and offers itself for sale as a commodity. The owner of this commodity labour power is a human being who has, besides labour power, a stomach, and he must from time to time put food into his stomach unless he is to die of hunger. In order to acquire the things with which he can satisfy his hunger, in order to cover his nakedness, in order to keep himself alive, he must, wherever a commodity economy prevails, have money, for none of the necessaries of life are purchasable as commodities except for money. Consequently, as his only possible means of self-preservation, he must sell his labour power.

The buyer of the commodity labour power, acting in accordance with the customary regulations of exchange, pays a price which corresponds more or less to its value. This value, like all exchanges-values, is determined by the average cost of production at the time and place where the commodity is sold. The average cost of production of labour power depends upon the expenditure upon food, clothing, shelter, etc., requisite to produce human labour power day by day and to keep it in a fit condition. That is what determines the price of labour power, and the price of labour power is what we call wages.

If there are persons who own nothing but their labour power, and have no other means of livelihood than what they receive for the sale of their labour power, this is an outcome of historical evolution, as is vividly set forth in the Communist Manifesto. Such persons make their first appearance as a social category in the capitalist era. They are known as proletarians.

The proletarian is a free man. No longer tied to the soil as in the days of feudal serfdom, not restricted by any prescriptions of station or conventions of origin, freed from all the ties of the guilds, he is his own master, can freely dispose of his own person, his labour power, his skill.

But if he does not succeed in selling his labour power as a commodity, he has only one option, to starve. He is blessed with the gift of freedom; but, should he try to use that freedom for any other purpose than to sell his labour power, he is condemned to irretrievable starvation.

Inasmuch as labour power attaches to man as a quality inseparable from the individual, since it cannot be isolated from him, or utilized apart from him, the man as a whole, having sold his labour power, passes into the possession of the purchaser. Not, of course, with his stomach, his hunger and thirst, his need for rest, his individual wishes and claims, but only in respect of his labour power. For the purchaser, he is not a human being with a soul, feelings, individuality, happiness and unhappiness; he is not God’s image or the crown of creation; he is not even of like kind with the purchaser. For the purchaser, the man who has sold him labour power is nothing but labour power; nothing but arms, hands, fingers, capable of work; nothing but muscles, eyes, voice; nothing but capacity for labour, faculty for production.

The owner of money, who has bought labour power, becomes the effective owner of the labour power as soon as, in virtue of the process of production, he has been able to detach it from the worker. By placing the worker in a factory or workshop, and by setting the man to work there upon iron, wood, clay, yarn, or what you will, in such a way that commodities are produced, the owner effects the liberation of labour power from the worker and its crystallization as commodity value. The labour power has been absorbed by the raw material, has been consumed, and reappears in conjunction with the raw material as a commodity.

In the course of the labour process, thanks to the continued expenditure of labour power on raw material, there comes into existence a quantity of commodity value which ere long is equal to the quantity of money value which the supplier of labour power receives as the price of his labour power in the form of wages. There comes a moment when the owner of labour power and the owner of money are quits. It would seem obvious, on the face of it, that at this point, when service and equivalent balance one another, their relation must be broken off.

Nevertheless, the owner of money, the buyer of the commodity labour power, is a capitalist. He is using his money in order to increase it in amount. He wants to get more out of the productive process than he has put into it. Money must breed money. The money which, when thus set in motion, has the quality of promoting its own increase, is known as capital.

If he is to gain his end, the capitalist must invest his money in two different ways. First of all he has to provide the material requisites of production, must spend money on the purchase of raw materials, machinery, tools, the erection and equipment of workshops, and so on. Money invested in these things has not the power of spontaneous growth, and is therefore termed constant capital.

If production is to begin, human labour power must come into contact with constant capital. The capitalist buys labour power in the labour market, investing therein part of his capital. Thereupon labour power, brought into contact with raw materials, machinery, tools, etc., develops the mysterious capacity for expending itself in such a way that in the process of its own consumption it reproduces its own value. But it can do more than this, can produce value over and above. Inasmuch as the quantity of capital invested in labour power varies thus in amount, it is known as variable capital.

The capitalist is not content that labour power should create only as much commodity value as corresponds to the amount of capital value invested in wages. He wants a surplus. In order to get this, he compels the worker to go on expending labour power for a longer time than is necessary to pay back the wages. He prolongs the process of creating value into a period when it effects the enhancement of value. Thus the surplus is added to the equivalent for wages. Surplus labour time provides surplus value. Surplus value has come into existence. Capital has attained its end.

If the worker were fully aware of the nature of this process, he would perhaps put himself in a posture of defence against the capitalist when he reaches the point at which the production of surplus value begins, for he would feel that at this point the capitalist has begun to overreach him. Being a seller of a commodity, who wishes to exchange his commodity for an equivalent, he would see that at this point he is being forced into the position of a debtor who has to pay back value received with interest superadded. Since more is being demanded from him than he has been given, he will, in so far as he understands the process, regard the exchange as an unjust one, and recognize that he is being exploited.

But if he were to enter a protest, his protest would be of little avail. Wherever he may turn, he will find himself faced by capitalists who will only buy his commodity, labour power, on similar terms. In the capitalist world, labour power is only saleable upon such conditions. If the worker does not like the conditions, and will not accept them, he must refrain from the sale of his labour power. There is no constraint. He is not forced to sell it. Except for this-that if he does not sell it, he must starve! To avoid starvation, therefore, he takes the only other option, and accepts the conditions. His course of action is dictated by the circumstance that he is under the yoke of a particular commodity; is subject to the laws regulating the sale of his own commodity, labour power; is a slave to its fetishistic character.

Besides, the worker is in truth making a mistake when he believes himself to be cheated and overreached by the capitalist. The capitalist has honestly paid him the full value of his commodity, labour power. The capitalist did not decide the value of labour power. That value was determined by the cost of producing labour power as a commodity, with the result that the price of labour power in the labour market, the price which the capitalist pays as wages, corresponds, on the average, to the value of the labour power. The wages paid the worker by the capitalist for a day’s work enable the worker and his family to live for a whole day. In return for these wages, the worker must place himself at the capitalist’s disposal in the process of production for a whole working day.

If, in the course of the labour process, it becomes apparent that the worker is able, by his activities, to repay his wages (in the form of commodity values) in a shorter time than a whole working day, this phenomenon is the outcome of the peculiar character of the commodity, labour power. That commodity, like all other commodities, is capable of being consumed; but it differs from all other commodities in this respect, that, in the course of being consumed, it creates more value than it itself represents. Not only does it reproduce its own value, but creates surplus value in addition.

Marx was not the original discoverer of this peculiar faculty in the commodity, labour power. Observation and experience had disclosed the wonder centuries before. At a certain stage in the development of productive technique, labour becomes competent to produce a surplus beyond what is required for the consumption of the worker. As soon as this stage was reached, there was a motive for the deliberate utilization of labour power in order to produce a surplus; and, ultimately, the desire to obtain this surplus became the urge and the precondition for the inauguration of the capitalist system. The capitalist turned to account, and still turns to account, the peculiar characteristic of the commodity, labour power. He monopolizes its advantages. Capitalist production means production in order to secure surplus value. The primary and proper function of production, namely to supply human beings with the necessaries and the amenities of life, has passed into the background. “Capital, therefore, is not only what Adam Smith calls it, the command over labour. Fundamentally, it is the command of unpaid labour. All surplus value, whatever the form into which it may subsequently become crystallized-as profit, land-rent, interest, etc.-is, substantially, the materialization of unpaid labour time. The secret of the self-expansion of capital finds its explanation in this, that capital has at its disposal a definite quantity of other people’s unpaid labour.”

As compared with the worker, the capitalist is in the fortunate position of being stronger. Inasmuch as the worker is compelled, under the menace of starvation, to sell his labour power, the capitalist can impose the condition that he will only buy on terms advantageous to himself. The capitalist is able to gain surplus value because he is in a superior economic position. Thus the problem of the exploitation 0f the worker by the capitalist cannot be fought out in a hand-to-hand struggle between the one and the other. It is not a personal matter at all, and exploitation is not the outcome of the injustice of any particular capitalist. The problem is a social one, dependent upon the peculiarities of the capitalist system as a whole. The question of exploitation, therefore, is not a question of morality, or justice, or humanity; it is simply and solely a question of power, and here, indeed, a question of compulsion. The capitalist, like the worker, is subject to the compulsion of the capitalist system.

The superior power wielded by the capitalist finds expression, first of all, in the length of the working day. The more the working day is prolonged after the period at which the creation of the value of the labour power has come to an end, the longer will be the period during which capital is being increased, the greater will be the surplus labour and the surplus value. This surplus value becomes fluid as soon as the newly created commodity is sold in the market. It then returns into the capitalist’s pocket in the money form, and is known as profit.

But the working day has a natural limit, since a human being’s capacity for suffering exploitation has a limit. Even though it may be the capitalist’s ideal to keep the worker employed for twenty-four hours every day, it is not to his interest to wear out the worker prematurely, and thus to deprive himself of the requisite further supply of labour power. Consequently, the working day must be sufficiently short to enable the worker to recuperate his forces during the hours of leisure, and to bring up children until they shall become likewise fit for labour. Surplus value produced by means of prolongation of the working day is termed absolute surplus value. Its production constitutes the general foundation of the capitalist system.

Whereas, however, the length of the working day has limits, the capitalist’s hunger for surplus value is unlimited; and even if the prolongation of the working day cannot be effected directly, it can be effected indirectly. “In order to increase the period of surplus labour, the period of necessary labour is shortened by means which enable the equivalent of the wage of labour to be produced in a shorter time . . . . The production of relative surplus value revolutionizes out and out the technical processes of labour and the way in which society is subdivided into groups.” With every improvement in tools and machinery, and with increasing efficiency in the organization of the work of production, the capitalist is given new possibilities of indirectly lengthening the working day, and thus indirectly increasing surplus value.

When the evolution of production has attained a certain level, the increase of surplus value becomes a purely technical problem. The interest of the capitalist class in the advance of science, research, and technique; capitalist enthusiasm for discoveries, inventions, and the triumph of human genius-disclose themselves, in the last analysis, as expressions of satisfaction at the appearance of new possibilities of indirectly increasing the rate of surplus value and the sum total of profit.

Thus it is a persistent trend of capitalist development to bring about a relative increase in constant capital and a relative decrease in variable capital. But this change in the internal composition of capital has disastrous results. Inasmuch as profit is created by variable capital alone, a persistent fall in the rate of profit is an inevitable consequence. The rate of exploitation of labour increases, the total number of workers increases, the absolute mass of surplus value increases. “These are not mere possibilities; they are (apart from transient oscillations) inevitable upon the basis of capitalist production.” None the less, with each advance in technique, the relative rate of profit falls; the business of exploitation becomes, for the capitalist, continually a less profitable one in relation to the total outlay. Thus we have the absurd result that, the greater the absolute outlay, the less the relative yield. In this way capital gradually cuts off its own sources of supply. It increases by gnawing at its own roots. It perishes more hopelessly at these roots, the more luxuriantly it is flourishing above ground.

As an outcome of these inherent contradictions, capitalism must inevitably perish. A point must infallibly be reached at which the total quantity of profit at the lowered rate will be required for the accumulation of constant capital, and a point therefore at which production will have ceased to pay the capitalist. The point will have been reached at which capital will have become an absurdity because it will no longer provide profit for the capitalists. Marx says: “The capitalist method of production encounters a limit in the development of the forces of production, a limit which has nothing to do with the production of wealth as such; and this peculiar limit bears witness to the fleeting character of the capitalist method of production.”

The endeavour to increase the productivity of human labour is a necessary sequel to the existence of relative surplus value.

“By an increase in the productivity of labour, we mean a change in the labour process whereby the quantity of social labour time necessary for the production of a commodity is diminished, so that a smaller quantity of labour power becomes enabled to produce a greater quantity of use-value.”

The capitalist method of production begins with co-operation. “Alike historically and conceptually, the starting-point of capitalist production is where a large number of workers are aggregated at one time and in one place (or, if you like, upon the same field of labour), under the command of one capitalist, for the production and the same kind of commodity.” Each member of the co-operation is a fully adequate and independent producer. The whole labour process is effected by each member individually. It might seem, then, as if cooperation were nothing more than the simple addition of individual labour functions. But this is not the case. “Just as the offensive power of a squadron of cavalry or the defensive power of a regiment of infantry is very different from the sum of the powers for offence and defence which the individual cavalryman or infantryman can develop in isolation, so is the sum of the mechanical energies which unassociated workers can develop very different from the social potential which comes into being when many hands are simultaneously engaged upon the same undivided operation.” What has happened is, not merely that a new productive power, the power of a mass, has come into operation, but also that the productive power of the individual member of the co-operation has been intensified. For, “apart from the new energy created by the fusion of many energies into one united energy, it usually happens in productive work that the very existence of social contact arouses emulation and induces a certain stimulation of the animal spirits, whereby the efficiency of each individual worker is promoted; with the result that a working day of 144 hours comprising the conjoint 12-hour working days of a dozen persons who co-operate, yields a much larger aggregate product than the total product of 12 workers each of whom works 12 hours in isolation, or than the total product of a solitary worker who works for a total of 144 hours during 12 days in succession. The reason is that man is by nature, if not (as Aristotle says) a political animal, at any rate a social one . . . . When a worker co-operates systematically with other workers, he transcends his individual limitations and develops the capabilities that belong to him as member of a species.

Co-operation speedily involves the necessity for guidance. The capitalist assumes this function of guidance. In course of time, his command in the field of production becomes as indispensable as the command of the general in the battlefield. “Capitalist guidance and control do not present themselves exclusively as a function arising out of the very nature of the social labour process and appertaining to that process; they present themselves also as a function whose purpose it is to exploit a social labour process, one that is the outcome of the inevitable antagonism between the exploiter and the living raw material he exploits . . . . The capitalist is not a capitalist because he is a commander of industry; he becomes a commander of industry because he is a capitalist. Command in industry is an attribute of capital; just as, in the days of feudalism, command in war and a seat on the judges’ bench were attributes of landed property.”

So far, simple co-operation. The next step in the development of the forms of production leads to a cleavage of the process of production, which has hitherto been unified in the hands of the individual worker. The division of labour ensues. Manufacture originates-manufacture in the original sense of that term, as it was used before the days of power-driven machinery and large-scale production.

In some forms of manufacture, the workers who complete a product from start to finish are all assembled in one work place under the command of one capitalist, but are organized in groups each of which is engaged upon a particular phase of the elaboration. In other forms of manufacture, the workers who are united under the command of a single capitalist carry out only one or only some of the stages in the elaboration of a completed product. In either case, manufacture is a method of production in which the worker has ceased to be one who completes a whole commodity from start to finish. The handicraftsman has become a detail worker, one who is perpetually repeating a partial operation in the labour process.

The pauses that used to occur while the handicraftsman was changing from the use of one tool to the use of another have been discontinued. The pores in the labour day have been filled out with productive labour power. The process of production has been compacted, has been intensified, has been made more productive.

The detail worker is confined to the performance of a partial operation. Therewith he acquires the utmost dexterity in the handling of his tool. The perpetual repetition of the same narrow function develops his skill in the performance of that function to the highest degree.

Experience gained in the performance of each detail operation gives pointers for the perfection of the tools used in its performance. The intensification of manual dexterity leads to the extremest possible differentiation of the instruments of labour. “The manufacturing period simplifies, improves, and multiplies the implements of labour by adapting them to the exclusive and peculiar functions of the detail worker.”

The next step is the combination of tools, the combination of the technical aids to labour, for the purpose of speedier and more purposive functioning. Therein we find the material presuppositions for the origination of the machine. Whereas the specific machinery of the manufacturing period is the generalized worker who is a combination of a number of detail workers, is an added and multiplied human being; the machinery of the subsequent period is a highly elaborated and purposive combination of tools, a putting together of mechanical apparatus and instruments designed to carry on a unified productive function, a worker of steel and iron. Whereas the manufacturing system proper culminates as “an economic artifice” upon the broad basis of urban handicraft and rural home industry, the machine does away with handicraft “as the regulative principle of social production.”

With the entry of machinery into the field, capitalist development begins its victorious career. The industrial revolution is inaugurated.

The worker manipulating an isolated tool is replaced by a mechanism representing a mass of workers. His incompleteness, which consists, above all, in his incapacity for the incessant repetition of precisely similar movements, is made good by the perfectionment of a mechanical apparatus which, driven by natural forces, is able to repeat a particular movement millions upon millions of times with a precision far exceeding the limits of human capacity. “A system of machinery (whether, like weaving, it be one in which there is a mere co-operation among working machines of the same kind; or, like spinning, a combination of machines of different kinds) becomes a huge automaton as soon as it is driven by a self-acting prime motor.

An organized system of working machines which are one and all set in motion by the transmitting mechanism from a central automaton, constitutes the fully developed form of machinofacture. In place of the individual machine, we now have a mechanical monster whose body fills the whole factory, and whose demon power, hidden from our sight at first because of the measured and almost ceremonious character of the movement of his giant limbs, discloses itself at length in the vast and furious whirl of his numberless working organs.”

One industry after another is revolutionized. At length large-scale industry gains control over its own characteristic means of production, the machine, and produces machinery by machinery. The forces of steam are superadded, lifting machinery into the sphere of cyclopean wonders. “The mechanical lathe is a titanic reproduction of the ordinary foot-lathe; the planing machine is an iron carpenter who works upon iron with the same tool used by the living carpenter when he planes wood; the implement which cuts veneers in the London shipbuilding yards is a gigantic razor; the tool of the shearing machine, which cuts iron as easily as a tailor cuts cloth with his shears, is an enormous pair of scissors; and the steamhammer works with a head just like that of an ordinary hammer, but such a heavy one that Thor himself could not wield it.”

As a highly elaborated tool which has become independent of the worker, the machine enters into competition with the worker. The instrument of labour, enormously excelling the worker in its power of production, lays the worker low. The worker, who was formerly lord and master of the tool obedient to his hand, now becomes a servant of the machine, its appendage, a screw, a crank, in its mechanism. It makes him superfluous, forces down his value, becomes the most powerful of weapons for the repression of the periodical labour revolts against the autocracy of capital. By making quick returns on the capital invested in it essential to the capitalist, machinery enforces a prolongation of the working day. At the same time, thanks to improved construction and accelerated work, machinery becomes an objectified and systematically utilized means of extorting more labour in a given period of time-a means, that is to say, for the progressive intensification of labour. “In so far as machinery does away with the need for any considerable expenditure of muscular power, it becomes a means for the utilization of workers with comparatively little strength, and those whose bodily growth is immature but whose limbs are all the more supple. The labour of women and children was, therefore, the first word in the capitalist utilization of machinery . . . . In former days, the worker used to sell his own labour power, being ostensibly, in this respect, a free person. Now he sells his wife and his children. He becomes a slavetrader.”

All the advantages of machinery accrue to the capitalist.

In a shorter time, and at less expenditure of labour power, he obtains a larger quantity of commodities, and therewith a larger quantity of surplus value. Furthermore, with the aid of machinery and large-scale industry, he is continually destroying manufacture, handicraft, and home work, thus securing new markets, and forcing his way into an increasingly large number of branches of production. Thus he secures a progressively increasing share in the totality of production, and ultimately becomes the lord of the commodity market. “The revolution in the social methods of carrying on industry, a revolution which necessarily follows upon the revolution in the means of production, expresses itself in a medley of transitional forms.” Factory legislation has to intervene for the regulation of the activities of labour. But “the compulsory regulation of the working day in respect of its length, its pauses, the hours at which it begins and ends, the system of relays for children, the prohibition of the employment of children below a certain age, and so on-necessitates, on the one hand, an increased use of machinery and the replacement of human muscles by steam-power as a motive force. On the other hand, in order to gain in space what has been lost in time, there occurs an extension in the domain of the jointly used means of production, the furnaces, the buildings, etc. In a word, there ensues a greater concentration of the means of production, and a correspondingly greater aggregation of workpeople.”

In the domain of agriculture, likewise, machinery has a revolutionary influence, inasmuch as it destroys the bulwark of the old society, the peasant, and substitutes for him the wage worker. The countryside is assimilated to the town; traditions are swept away by reforms; lazy adhesion to irrational customary methods is replaced by the purposive technological application of science. “In agriculture, as in manufacture, the capitalist transformation of the process of production signifies, at the same time, the martyrdom of the producer; the instrument of labour becomes the means of subjugating, exploiting, and impoverishing the worker; the social combination and organization of the labour process, functions as an elaborate method for crushing the worker’s individual vitality, freedom, and independence.”

In his Principles of Political Economy, John Stuart Mill writes: “It is questionable, if all the mechanical inventions yet made have lightened the day’s toil of any human being.” There is no question, however, about this, that the technical inventions incorporated in machinery have transformed the process of production into a perennial source of wealth, and have made the capitalist the sole beneficiary of this wealth.

Capital produces profit. That is its purpose; that is its function. But profit is competent, in its turn, to produce capital. This closes the circle, and the circulation begins afresh.

The process which effects this is called, at first reproduction, and subsequently accumulation.

Simple reproduction is a mere repetition of the process of production upon the same footing. The worker receives as wages no longer, as at the outset of the process of production, a sum advanced by the capitalist, but part of the value he has himself created. He himself has reproduced the requisite variable capital. The remainder of the value, namely the profit, accrues to the capitalist, who consumes it. In these circumstances, under these conditions, production is repeated over and over again upon the existent foundation.

The worker, however, produces not merely his wages, but also himself. Inasmuch as he eats, drinks, and sleeps, he sees to it that his labour power shall be replaced from day to day, shall reappear in the labour market day after day. For the reproduction of capital it is indispensable that labour power should be continually renewed, should be eternalized. From the outlook of the process of reproduction, everything which the worker does for his own maintenance and for the maintenance of his class is reproduction.

If, however, production is to do something more than mark time, if it is to be an advance, if it is to be an evolution, constant capital must be reproduced as well as variable capital and labour power. Simple reproduction must develop into accumulation.

By accumulation is meant the retransformation of part of the acquired surplus value into capital, so that an expansion of the primary basis of production may occur. “At present we are disregarding whatever portion of the surplus value is consumed by the capitalist. Nor, for the moment, are we interested in the question whether the additional capital is tacked on to the original capital, or is applied separately to an independent process of expansion. It does not matter to us whether the capitalist who has accumulated it makes use of it, or whether he hands it over to others. What we have to bear in mind is that, side by side with the newly formed implements of capital, the original capital continues to reproduce itself and to produce surplus value; and that the same is true of every portion of accumulated capital in relation to the additional capital it engenders.”

Just as simple reproduction is continually reproducing the capital relation, so accumulation is continually reproducing this capital relation upon an extended scale; more capitalists or greater capitalists at one pole, more wage workers at the other. The accumulation of capital involves an increase in the proletariat.

In the general course of accumulation, a point is reached at which the development of the productivity of associated labour becomes the most powerful lever of accumulation. The organic composition of capital is revolutionized. Constant capital increases at the expense of variable capital, for it is the aim and the result of machinery to make human hands superfluous. Thanks to the increasing productivity of labour, the quantity of the means of production grows more quickly than the quantity of labour power incorporated in them. The need for labour power lags farther and farther behind the advance of accumulation. “The continual retransformation of surplus value into capital displays itself as a steady growth of the cap ital engaged in the process of production. This, in turn, becomes the foundation of an increase in the scale of production, and of the accompanying methods of increasing the productivity of labour and of bringing about an accelerated production of surplus value. If, therefore, a certain amount of accumulation manifests itself to be a necessary condition of the specifically capitalist method of production, the latter conversely causes an accelerated accumulation of capital. A specifically capitalist method of production therefore develops as the accumulation of capital develops; and the accumulation of capital develops as the specifically capitalist method of production develops. Both these economic factors, in virtue of their reciprocal relationships, furnish the impetus for that change in the technical composition of capital thanks to which the variable constituent grows continually smaller in comparison with the constant.”

This process has several consequences. The first of these is the concentration of capital. Since every accumulation becomes the means for new accumulation, accumulation, as it increases the quantity of wealth functioning as capital, increases its concentration in the hands of individual capitalists. The authority of capital over labour becomes condensed in nodal points, which undergo enormous enlargement. “At the same time, portions break away from the original capitals.” These new formations tend to interfere with the growth and the dominion of the old capitals. But the tendency towards disintegration is counter.acted by a tendency towards integration. Thanks to mutual attraction, already constituted capitals undergo concentration into a higher form; their individual independence is abrogated; lesser capitalists are expropriated by greater capitalists, many small capitals are transformed into a few great capitals. “Cap.. ital aggregates into great masses in one hand because, elsewhere, it is taken out of many hands. Here we have genuine centralization in contradistinction to accumulation and concentration.”

Competition is the motive force which determines all thesemovements, formations, aggregations. For the conquest of new markets, prices must be lowered, and prices can only be lowered if the productivity of labour is increased by perfected technique. Hence the urge towards the introduction of new machinery, more extensive plant, improved methods of production. Hence the levying of larger and ever larger aggregates of capital; the absorption of small enterprises by large ones; the development of productive foci into colossal structures and giant enterprises with the most highly elaborated technique, the best possible machinery, the most economical management.

“The lesser capitals, therefore, crowd into spheres of production which large-scale industry has not yet fully annexed, has conquered only here and there. In these fields, competition rages in direct proportion to the number and in inverse proportion to the magnitude of the competing capitals . . . . With the growth of capitalist production there comes into being an entirely new power, that of the credit system. To begin with, the credit system appears furtively, as it were, in the form of a modest helper of accumulation, drawing into the hands of individual or associated capitalists the monetary resources scattered over the surface of a society, and doing this by means of invisible threads. Ere long, however, it becomes a new and formidable weapon in the competitive struggle; and in the end it manifests itself as a gigantic social mechanism for the centralization of capital . . . . With the magnitude of social capital already functioning, and the degree of its increase, with the extension of the scale of production and the increase in the number of workers set in motion, with the development in the productivity of their labour, with the extended flow of all the sources of wealth, there is also an extension of the scale on which a greater attraction of workers by capital is associated with a greater repulsion of them. Therewith, there is an increasing rapidity in the change in the organic composition of capital and in its technical form; and more and more spheres of production become involved in this change, now simultaneously, and now alternately.” In connexion therewith there arises an excess of labour power, an excess relatively to the capacity of capital for applying labour to promote its own increase; there is formed an industrial reserve army which, in this unhappy posture of affairs, stations itself outside the factory gates, undercuts wages, attacks strikers in the rear, paralyses the workers’ class struggle, and (consisting of persons whose existence is perpetually insecure, and who are always in danger of falling down into the tatterdemalion proletariat) is perpetually being used by the capitalist class against the working class as a whole.

The capitalist system moves in the following circle. The anarchy of commodity production leads to competition. In the struggle of competition, the producer of the cheapest commodities wins the battle. Maximum cheapness is achieved by maximum productivity, and this is brought about by having the most efficient machinery and installations. For this, large aggregates of capital are requisite. Hence increasing accumulation upon a larger and ever larger scale. But the more extensive the machinery, the less extensive (relatively) the quantity of workers, and the smaller, therefore, the proportion of variable capital. Since, however, variable capital is the only constituent of capital which creates value, the rate of surplus value, though it may increase absolutely, is continually declining relatively. The larger, therefore, is the number of workers “set at liberty” by capital, and thus deprived of wages. Thereby, the power of purchase and of consumption is increasingly reduced in relation to the enormous quantity of commodities with which the market is flooded. If the unemployed are to be made capable of consumption, they must be given occupation in new or expanded branches of production. But for this, capital is needed, and capital can only be supplied by accumulation. To render accumulation possible, the rate of surplus value must be increased. To increase the rate of surplus value, the value of labour power must be reduced by cheapening commodities. But, in order to make commodities cheaper, productivity must be increased yet more, technique must be further improved, the installations must be yet further rationalized. For this, accumulation is indispensable. And so on, and so on. There is no issue from the vicious circle.

From time to time there ensues a pause in the mad circular dance, a pause brought about by the occurrence of an economic crisis. Purchasing power falls to a minimum. The storehouses are overfilled. The market cannot take up any more goods. The channels along which commodities ordinarily flow are blocked. No orders come to the factories. These work short time, or close down; workers are dismissed wholesale; production is discontinued; unemployment is rife, bread riots occur. After a while, the accumulated supplies are gradually used up, the storehouses slowly empty themselves, demand begins once more, there is a general stimulus to production, the crisis is overcome, things are on the up-grade, and at length production is at full swing once more. So it goes on until the next crisis begins. This cycle usually occupies about ten years. Throughout the nineteenth century, decade after decade, economic life was convulsed by these cyclical returns of glut and stagnation. Entangled in the mechanism of the system, and dominated by the mysterious fetishism of commodities (which is stronger than the human will), the bourgeoisie bows before the dictates of a necessity whose ways to it are unsearchable because the bourgeoisie itself is not merely the object and the Victim of this necessity, but also its favourer and beneficiary.

But the proletariat, burdened with all the costs, disadvantages, and terrors of the system, seeks to defend itself, and, as soon as it has learned where to place the crow-bar which will overthrow that system, it deliberately marshals its ranks for the great struggle.

When money is transformed into capital, when capital produces surplus value, and when surplus value once more becomes capital, this is a movement which occurs upon the extant basis of the capitalist method of production starting-point of that method of production?

Marx answers the question in the chapter entitled “Primary Accumulation.” He writes: “In political economy this primary accumulation plays much the same part that is played by original sin in theology. The origin of sin is supposed to be explained by a folk-tale. In like manner we are told, as regards primary accumulation, that in times long past there were two sorts of people: some of them, the chosen few, were industrious, intelligent, and, above all, thrifty; the others, lazy rascals, wasted their substance in riotous living. But there is a difference. The theological legend of the Fall tells us this much, at least, why man has been condemned to eat his bread in the sweat of his face. On the other hand, the economic history of the Fall reveals to us why there are persons who need do nothing of the kind. No matter! It is from this economic Fall that dates the poverty of the masses, who, for all time, however hard they may work, have nothing to sell but themselves; and thence, likewise, dates the wealth of the few, which continually grows, although the few have long since ceased to work.”

Such is the legend; such the idyll. The reality is very different. In the real world, the last word lies with force.

The process which creates the capital relation is nothing other than the “divorce of the worker from ownership of the conditions of labour,” a process which, on the one hand, transforms the social means of life and production into capital, and, on the other hand, transforms the immediate producers into wage workers. Primary accumulation severs the producer from the means of production. It occurs at the end of the feudalist epoch, with the cessation of adscription to the soil, of serfdom, of guild coercion. The serf and the handicraftsman are freed. But simultaneously the economic ground is cut from under their feet, and they are deprived of the guarantees which the ancient feudal institutions furnished for their existence. “In the history of primary accumulation we must regard as epochmaking all revolutions that acted as stepping-stones for the capitalist class in course of formation. Above all, this applies to those moments when great masses of human beings were suddenly and forcibly torn away from the means of subsistence, and hurled into the labour market as masterless proletarians. The expropriation of the agricultural producers, the peasants, their severance from the soil, was the basis of the whole process. In different countries, the history of this expropriation assumed different forms, running through its various phases in different orders of succession, and at different historical periods. Only in England can it be said to have had a typical development.”

These “free” proletarians, freed by the dissolution of the companies of feudal retainers, these ex-peasants, driven off the land by forcible expropriation, are absorbed into the rising manufactures. But they are absorbed in part only, for their numbers increase more rapidly than the process of production can incorporate them into its framework. Besides, those who have thus suddenly been uprooted from their traditional surroundings find it difficult to adapt themselves with equal suddenness to the discipline of the new conditions. Many of the masterless men become beggars, vagabonds, robbers, and for a long period are the terror of western Europe. Ultimately, in accordance with a newly inaugurated and barbarous legal code, they are flogged, branded, racked, and, in the end, are handed over like beasts of burden for use in the “Houses of Terror,” the manufactories and the factories.

The same economic and political evolution which brings about the formation of a landless, occupationless proletariat with no means of subsistence, favours the appearance of capitalist farmers and industrial capitalists. Unquestionably, too, guild masters, independent artisans, and even wage workers, are sometimes able, in one way or another, to become small capitalists, and, by gradually extending the scale on which they exploit wage labour, in conjunction with a corresponding accumulation of capital, some of these become capitalists on the grand scale. “During the childhood of capitalist production, what happened was often parallel to what had happened during the childhood of the mediaeval town system, when the question which of two fugitive serfs was to become a master and which a servant was mainly decided by which had run away before the other. But the snail’s pace of this method could not keep up with the needs of the new world-market which had come into existence thanks to the great discoveries at the close of the fifteenth century.” As anticipatory forms of modern capital, there arose in the Middle Ages trading capital and usurers’ capital. This money capital effects the opening up of the world, and discloses the sources of vast wealth. “The discoveries of gold and silver in America; the extirpation of the indigens in some instances, their enslavement or their entombment in the mines in others; the beginnings of the conquest and looting of the East Indies; the transformation of Africa into a precinct for the supply of the negroes who were the raw material of the slave trade-these were the incidents that characterized the rosy dawn of the era of capitalist production. These were the idyllic processes that formed the chief factors of primary accumulation. Hard upon their heels came the commercial war between the European nations, fought over the whole surface of the globe. It was opened when the Netherlands broke away from Spain; it assumed gigantic proportions in England’s anti-Jacobin war; and it found a recent sequel in the opium wars against China.”

In the annals of mankind, the history of capitalism is written in letters of blood and fire. Its development has left a broad trail of sweat, blood, and tears. W. Howitt writes: “The barbarities and desperate outrages of the so-called Christian race, throughout every region of the world, and upon every people they have been able to subdue, are not to be paralleled by those of any other race, however fierce, however untaught, and however reckless of mercy and of shame, in any age of the earth.” Quoting this in Capital, Marx adds: “The history of the colonial administration of Holland, the model capitalist nation during the seventeenth century, is, according to Thomas Stamford Raffles, sometime lieutenant-governor of Java, ’one of the most extraordinary relations of treachery, bribery, massacre, and meanness.’” Marx goes on to say: “The treatment of the aborigines was, naturally, worst of all in the plantations which were intended to serve only for export trade, such as the West Indies; and in rich and well-populated countries, such as Mexico and Hindustan, which were delivered over to plunder.”

Commercial supremacy led to industrial dominance. The colonial system “was a ’strange god’ who had mounted the altar cheek by jowl with the old gods of Europe, and who, one fine day, with a shove and a kick, swept them all into the dustbin.” Profit-making was now proclaimed to be the final aim of mankind. The system of public credit, of national debts, developed into an instrument for the capitalist seizure and subjugation of whole territories and States. “With the wave of an enchanter’s wand, the ’funds’ endowed barren money with the power of reproduction, thus transforming it into capital, and this without the risk and the trouble inseparable from its investment in industrial undertakings and even from putting it out upon usury.” In addition, the system of national debt “has given rise to joint-stock companies, to dealings in negotiable securities of all kinds, to stock-jobbing-in a word, to gambling on the stock exchange and to the modern bankocracy . . . . The colonial system, national debt, the heavy burden of taxation, protection, commercial wars, and so on-these offspring of the manufacturing period properly so-called-grew luxuriantly during the childhood of large-scale industry . . . . With the development of capitalist production in the manufacturing period, the public opinion of Europe had lost the last vestiges of shame and conscience . . . . The cotton industry, while introducing child slavery into England, gave at the same time an impetus towards the transformation of the slave system of the United States, which had hitherto been a more or less patriarchal one, into a commercial system of exploitation. Speaking generally, the veiled slavery of the European wage earners became the pedestal of unqualified slavery in the New World. . . .As Augier said, ’money comes into the world with a birthmark on the cheek’; it is no less true that capital comes into the world soiled with mire from top to toe, and oozing blood from every pore.

“What does the primary accumulation of capital, its historical origin, amount to? In so far as it is not the direct transformation of slaves and serfs into wage earners (a mere change of form), it signifies nothing other than the expropriation of the immediate producers, that is to say the making an end of private property based upon the labour of its owner.

Self-earned private property, the private property that may be looked upon as grounded on a coalescence of the isolated, individual, and independent worker, with his working conditions, is supplanted by capitalist private property, which is maintained by the exploitation of others’ labour, but of labour which, in a formal sense, is free.

“As soon as this process of transformation has sufficiently disintegrated the old society, has decomposed it through and through; as soon as the workers have been metamorphosed into proletarians, and their working conditions into capital; as soon as the capitalist method of production can stand upon its own feet-then the further socialization of labour and the further transformation of the land and of the other means of production into socially utilized (that is to say, communal) means of production, which implies the further expropriation of private owners, takes on a new form. What has now to be expropriated, is no longer the labourer working on his own account, but the capitalist who exploits many labourers.

“This expropriation is brought about by the operation of the immanent laws of capitalist production, by the centralization of capital. One capitalist lays a number of his fellow capitalists low. Hand-in-hand with such centralization, concomitantly with the expropriation of many capitalists by a few, the co-operative form of the labour process develops to an everincreasing degree; therewith we find a growing tendency towards the purposive application of science to the improvement of technique; the land is more methodically cultivated; the instruments of labour tend to assume forms which are only utilizable by combined effort; the means of production are economized through being turned to account only by joint, by social labour. All the peoples of the world are enmeshed in the net of the world market, and therefore the capitalist regime tends more and more to assume an international character. While there is thus a progressive diminution in the number of the capitalist magnates (who usurp and monopolize all the advantages of this transformative process), there occurs a corresponding increase in the mass of poverty, oppression, enslavement, degeneration, and exploitation; but at the same time there is a steady intensification of the wrath of the working class-a class which grows ever more numerous, and is disciplined, unified, and organized by the very mechanism of the capitalist method of production. Capitalist monopoly becomes a fetter upon the method of production which has flourished with it and under it. The centralization of the means of production and the socialization of labour reach a point where they prove incompatible with their capitalist husk. This bursts asunder. The knell of capitalist private property sounds. The expropriators are expropriated.

“The capitalist method of appropriation proceeding out of the capitalist method of production, and consequently capitalist private property, is the first negation of individual private property based upon individual labour. But, with the inexorability of a law of nature, capitalist production begets its own negation. It is a negation of a negation. This second negation does not re-establish private property; but it does re-establish individual property upon the basis of the acquisitions of the capitalist era; i. e. on co-operation and the common ownership of the land and of the means of production (which labour itself produces).”