The Everlasting Significance of Marx's Capital, Vygodsky, 1975


Marx left a vast body of work on economic questions. It includes numerous notebooks containing excerpts from books on political economy, drafts of several versions of Capital, Capital itself, and his letters to Engels and many other correspondents. All these documents (many of them still unpublished and kept in archives) are studied with great care by scholars in many countries. This exhaustive work is necessary because only Marx's economic legacy in its entirety can give people a correct and comprehensive idea of Marxist economic theory. Thorough study of the history of Capital is needed in order to master its ideas creatively and to be able to apply them in explaining contemporary economic processes. Understanding of Marx's creative method is necessary and highly instructive. Marx's exceptional scientific scrupulousness, the extensive material he used, his profound analysis of the material impress us as they did Marx's contemporaries a century ago. And more than that; it also teaches us a lot.

Marxist economic theory was not developed overnight. Marx devoted forty years of untiring, concentrated effort to the writing of Capital. He started the work in 1843 and continued it literally to the last day of his life. Every advance Marx made in comprehending the laws of social development cost him a tremendous effort, involving a colossal exertion of mental and physical powers. Every theoretical discovery, every page of the manuscript written to make a question clear in his own mind (as Marx liked to say) represent mountains of books, poured over and studied, piles of notes, hours, days, months and years of concentrated thought. Was such meticulous work over so many years necessary? Here is how Engels answered this question: "In all ... scientific researches which encompass such a wide area and such a mass of material it is only possible to achieve something worthwhile through years-long endeavour," he wrote in 1883, after Marx's death. "New and correct points of view on separate questions... suggest themselves more readily; but to comprehend the whole and organise it on new lines is only possible when one has exhausted it. Otherwise books like Capital would have been much more numerous." [5]

The present book does not aim to give a detailed account of the forty-year-long history of the writing of Capital. But you will learn of certain phases in its creation and catch a glimpse of how Marx worked.

1. In Quest of a "Prime Mover" (1843-44)

When we study Marx's method of work we are immediately struck by his determination to extract everything from every available source of material he is studying. Engels wrote, rather reproachfully, to Marx, concerning delays in the publication of Capital: " ... but I also know that the reason for the delay is always your own meticulousness." [6] This tremendous sense of scientific responsibility resulted from Marx's desire to penetrate to the core of a subject, to create a theory which would reflect as exactly as possible the fundamental tendencies of society's development.

The desire to obtain a fundamental knowledge of things was characteristic of Marx since his youth. From law, which he studied at Bonn and Berlin universities, he soon went on to philosophy and to its summit - Hegel. At 19, Marx wrote, "... and it again became plain to me that I could not get by without philosophy." [7] Hegelian philosophy equipped Marx with a powerful tool: the dialectical method. Five years later Marx began to contribute to the Rheinische Zeitung and then became an editor of that newspaper of the radical bourgeoisie, which was in opposition to the Prussian bourgeois state.

When he started working for the Rheinische Zeitung, Marx still shared the idealistic Hegelian view of the state as a factor determining social development. But a debate soon flared up in the Rheinische Landtag on the law on thefts of wood and the fragmentation of landed property giving Marx his first introduction to social problems. He saw quite clearly that the state acted on behalf of the property-owners and that legislation instead of regulating social relations served as their tool - the tool of private interest. Therefore, as Marx defended the poor peasants against the landlords' oppression and came out on behalf of the Moselle peasants against the government from the standpoint of Hegelian philosophy, using moral and legal rather than social and economic arguments, his criticism of the Prussian state lacked conviction. Marx was aware of this himself. But the tense day-to-clay political struggle against the Prussian government that Marx carried on in the Rheinische Zeitung pushed him, little by little, towards materialism, making him aware of the decisive role played by economic and social relations in the formation of law, society and the state. He wrote in the Rheinische Zeitung in the middle of 1842: "But philosophers do not grow out of the earth like mushrooms; they are the fruit of their time, of their people... The same spirit that builds philosophical systems in the brain of the philosophers builds railroads by the hands of the workers. "[8] Here Marx draws a highly interesting parallel between economic progress and development of philosophy.               

Particular attention must be paid to Marx's introduction to Utopian socialism and communism, which took place when he was working for the Rheinische Zeitung. On reading the works of Proudhon, Dézamy, Leroux and Considerant, Marx came to a highly important conclusion about the Utopian nature of their views and stated the need for the theoretical development of communist ideas. [9] All of Marx's subsequent activities were, in effect, devoted to that task, i.e., to transforming Utopian socialism into scientific socialism. The first step Marx took in that direction was to overcome Hegel's idealistic conception of the state and give a theoretical basis to the conclusions to which he had come when working for the Rheinische Zeitung. His major conclusion was that the state itself is the instrument of objectively existing socio-economic relations.

The amount of work done by Marx in connection with his critique of Hegel's philosophy of law is truly staggering. Once he doubted Hegel's idealistic view of the relationship between state and society, Marx began to look for the true correlation between them. For this purpose he went in the summer of 1843 to the town of Kreuznach, where he stayed alone till the end of October.

Marx examined a stupendous amount of historical material. He studied the history and state and social structure of France, Britain, Germany, the United States, Italy and Sweden, the French bourgeois revolution in the late 18th century, works by French, German, English and Italian historians, philosophers and statesmen. During July and August 1843 Marx filled five notebooks, subsequently called Kreuznacher Exzerpte, with excerpts from these works. He concentrated his attention mainly on feudal property and its influence on the class and political structure of society. Marx's historical research conducted at Kreuznach provided the basis on which he "turned" Hegel's idealistic conception of the state and law "inside out." This was also done in the summer of 1843, in the manuscript A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Law (unfortunately only parts of this wonderful manuscript have been preserved).

Marx examines and criticises Hegel's philosophy of law on the strength of a concrete analysis of historical development and political and social relationships between bourgeois society and the bourgeois stale. He clearly stated his own conception of the connection between the state and the "civil society," i.e., the totality of material social relations, the relations of property above all. "The family and civil society are the prerequisites of the state.... They are the driving force. By Hegel, they are, on the contrary, made by the real idea," [10]

                Late in October 1943 Marx moved to Paris where he was to take part in editing a review, the Deutsch-Franzosische Jahrbucher (German-French Yearbook) of which, however, only one number appeared. This was a double issue, which came out in February 1844. It contained two articles by Marx reflecting the results of his study of "civil society," of social relationships, which he undertook directly after his criticism of Hegel's philosophy of law.            

                Marx's knowledge of the Paris proletariat and its revolutionary traditions and generally of the French bourgeois society of 1789 and 1830 and its class antagonisms was put to use. "But the system of profit and commerce, of property and human exploitation leads ... to a rift inside contemporary society that the old society is incapable of healing ..."[11] Such is the first but profound Marxist description of bourgeois society.       

But how can the rift inside bourgeois society be overcome? Can it be overcome by criticising society? Marx thought so and set great store by such criticism. He writes: "I mean the reckless critique of all that exists ..." At the same time he insists on linking criticism with party politics and identifying it "with real battles." He writes further: "It is clear that the arm of criticism cannot replace the criticism of arms. Material force can only be overthrown by material force; but theory itself becomes a material force when it has seized the masses." [12] Marx thus arrived at the idea (which, up to then, he expressed in general philosophical form) that to abolish capitalist exploitation a social revolution was necessary.

So, in the chaos of fast-flowing human events Marx found the "prime mover" of human society, viz. material social relations, property relations. Therefore, the analysis of the basis of capitalist society, of the capitalist system of economy became the paramount task for Marx. His first, and highly fruitful, attempt at such analysis Marx made as early as 1844, in his famous Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844.

Marx was considerably influenced by Outlines of a Critique of Political Economy by Engels, published in February 1844. It was the first attempt at a scientific analysis of capitalist economy and scientific criticism of bourgeois political economy from the standpoint of the revolutionary working class. For the first time Engels raised the question as to whether capitalist private ownership was justifiable. In his Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 Marx also expounds the thesis that private property is not an eternal but historically transient phenomenon and must be abolished. But first of all Marx defined the "prime mover" he had found, stating the primacy, i.e. , the pre-eminent importance of material production for human society. "Religion, family, state, law, morality, science, art, etc. ," he wrote, "are only particular modes of production, and fall under its general law." [13]

His study of capitalist production as it was in his own day showed Marx that it was based on the exploitation of the worker by the capitalist, the system of wage-labour, which enabled the capitalist to appropriate a part of the products created by the worker. Here lies the source of capitalist profit. Pre-Marxian socialists said that this appropriation was illegitimate, that capital was a shameless swindle with regard to the worker, and wanted capitalist profit to be abolished without, however, changing capitalist production in any way. They did not understand that profit in capitalist society was the mainspring of production. Pre-Marxian socialists were Utopians, their views were in contradiction with actual reality, and that was why their attempts to reform bourgeois society had utterly failed. Nevertheless, evaluating their contribution towards tackling social problems, Engels wrote that theoretical communism "... will never forget that it rests on the shoulders of Saint-Simon, Fourier and Owen—three men who, in spite of all their fantastic notions and all their Utopianism, stand among the most eminent thinkers of all time and whose genius anticipated innumerable things the correctness of which is now being scientifically proved by us ..." [14] Utopian socialism, in Lenin's words, criticised capitalist society, it condemned and damned it, it dreamed of its destruction, it had visions of a better order and endeavoured to convince the rich of the immorality of exploitation." [15]

The Utopian socialists exposed many evils of bourgeois society. They insisted on the need for abolishing antagonistic social relationships and for establishing a different kind of society in which all men would be equal and no exploitation of man by man would exist. Although they were forerunners of scientific socialism, they still failed to analyse the essence of wage-slavery under capitalism, or to discover the laws governing the development of capitalism, or point out the social force capable of building the new society.

Marx's approach was entirely different. From the start, he set out to explain the natural process - "natural" to capitalist society of course - of exploitation of the worker by the capitalist, defining it as "the expression of a necessary course of development."[16]

This at once put the theory Marx was working out on a strictly scientific basis.

The chief problem to be elucidated in studying the process of capitalist exploitation is, in Marx's view, that the product of labour belongs to the capitalist, not to the worker, who regards it as an alien object. Thus the product of labour is alienated from labour. It must be said at once that at that stage of his research Marx merely approached the solution of this problem which is indeed all-important to the study of capitalist exploitation. Yet, raising it was itself an indication of the fundamental shift of emphasis in the development of scientific socialism.

In full conformity with the principle of the primacy of material production, Marx arrives at the conclusion that in order to explain the estrangement or alienation of the products of labour from the worker, one must go deeper into the process of production and scrutinise the relations which [take? SP] shape between the worker and the products, the worker and the objects of his production, because it is the relationship between the worker and production that underlies the labour relations in capitalist society. Thus Marx proceeds from his study of the alienation of the products of labour to the study of labour itself. The specific nature of labour under capitalism is described by Marx as alienation or self-alienation of labour. (Marx uses self-alienation as distinct from alienation to emphasise that the estrangement is the result of the worker's labour activity proper, that the source of estrangement is inside, not outside production.)

Marx writes in Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844: "But the estrangement is manifested not only in the result but in the act of production, within the producing activity, itself ... In the estrangement of the object of labour is merely summarised the estrangement, the alienation, in the activity of labour itself." [17]

Describing self-alienation of labour in bourgeois society, Marx points out that the worker's labour is not voluntary, but coerced; it is forced labour. Neither the worker in the act of production nor his labour itself belong to him. The worker's activity, says Marx, is not his spontaneous activity. Further. his activity is for the worker only a means to enable him to exist, which involves a gross impoverishment of human life. Both nature surrounding man and his spiritual aspect are alienated from him. Refinement of the requirements of the ruling class and of the, means to satisfy them gives rise to utterly gross simplification of the requirements of the working people. Lastly, as every working man under capitalism is estranged from his spiritual aspect, man is estranged from man.

Marx's study of the alienation of labour under capitalism is an integral part of his economic theory. At that point, it enabled him to provide only a very general description of the condition of the working class in bourgeois society. Subsequently, as we shall see, Marx expanded this theme, pointing out, besides new qualitative characteristics, quantitative relationships in which capitalist exploitation finds expression. (These relations are embodied in such categories of Marxist political economy as absolute and relative surplus-value, the organic structure of capital, etc.) However, these new qualitative and quantitative characteristics and relationships did not contradict, but merely served to develop and supplement his earlier general description of capitalist exploitation and the condition of the working people under capitalism, which he gave in the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844. Furthermore, these earlier descriptions proved far-reaching enough to explain many essential developments now taking place in industrially advanced capitalist countries. (It is this, perhaps, that explains the keen interest shown in the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 at present throughout the world. There is a vast literature to date on this early work of Marx.)

The rather high living standards attained by some capitalist countries are accompanied by greatly intensified capitalist exploitation and simultaneously by the growing estrangement of the masses from every aspect of the life of society. Gus Hall, General Secretary of the Communist Party of the United States, described the situation in these words: "In the minds of millions, in the capitalist world, there is growing a new criterion by which they measure and compare the two world systems.

"The comparisons are not now limited to industrial charts or prices of goods.

"What is placed on the scales now is the overall quality of life. Standards of physical comforts remain very important in determining the quality of life, but the yardstick is much broader now. It includes the total spectrum of human values, the order of priorities, dictated by the inherent laws of each system. It includes the moral, cultural and philosophical concepts nurtured by each system. Many of the new components that add up to a quality of life cannot be measured by charts." Gus Hall mentioned as a major qualitative characteristic of the position of working people in the capitalist countries "the growing sense of insecurity, alienation and frustration of not being involved." [18]

It is important to note that, as Marx showed, capitalist private property, the capitalist's power over production and the products of worker's labour is a direct consequence of alienation of labour. In turn, private property, which is a material embodiment of alienated labour, leads to further alienation of labour, which means that this relationship is reciprocal.

Thus the concept of alienated labour, as developed by Marx in Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, still only represented a very general description of the process of capitalist exploitation. Its inner workings were not disclosed by Marx at that time. The task was now to show how, after all, the relationship between worker and capitalist is based on commodity-money (i.e., exactly equivalent) relations dominating all aspects of bourgeois society. In other words, the task was to explain capitalist profit in terms of the law of value, the law of equivalent exchange. To solve this task, Marx carried to a greater depth his investigation of the process of material production, as a result of which he made his two great discoveries. The first was his creation of a materialist conception of history (or historical materialism), the elucidation of the law of the development of human society. The second was his exposure of the secret of capitalist production, the development of the theory of surplus-value, elucidating the economic law to which the movement of bourgeois society is subject. These two discoveries, which transformed Utopian socialism into scientific socialism, are the next topic of our discussion.

2. The First Great Discovery (1845-46)

From their joint investigation of material production, carried out in the middle of the 1840s at Brussels where they both lived at that lime, Marx and Engels could conclude that material production was a dialectical (i.e., indissoluble and at the same time contradictory) unity of its two aspects             the productive forces and the relations of production.

The productive forces of society, i.e., the means of labour society has at its disposal, make up the material core of production, showing how man is equipped for dealing with the forces of nature.

Production is, however, a social process, in the course of which people engaged in it establish definite production relations with each other. These relations, which form the social fabric of material production, are its other fundamental aspect.

What is, then, the dialectics of the productive forces and production relations? They are interdependent in that the development of production relations must correspond to the development of the productive forces. This dependence is relative, for while the productive forces on the whole are definitive in material production, and so, ultimately, to social development at large, the relations of production, in their turn, have a feedback effect on the development of the productive forces, stimulating or hampering them. The contradiction between the productive forces and relations of production is the fundamental contradiction in any society. The productive forces are more dynamic. They develop faster than production relations which are, to a certain extent, conservative. Therefore, when production relations begin to hold back the progress of the productive forces and become a fetter upon them, they are replaced by new production relations consistent with the more advanced productive forces. These relations of production exist until they also become a brake on the productive forces. Then they are again replaced by other, more progressive relations of production.

In class society, a definite pattern of material production is matched by a definite class pattern, and for this reason the contradiction between the productive forces and production relations emerges as a contradiction between different classes of society, taking the form of class struggle. Thus, according to Marx and Engels, the contradiction between the growing productive forces and their outmoded social form (production relations) is ultimately responsible for all historical collisions, being the cause of social revolutions which, for the duration of a definite historical period, bring into agreement the material core of production and its social fabric.

The materialist conception of history (or historical materialism), advanced by Marx and Engels, was a great discovery, a great scientific hypothesis, which at once made it possible to pose and answer scientifically the question of the law of the development of human society and of the probable tendencies of its development. For the first time in the history of science a conception of the development of human society was evolved, which showed how society functioned at every given moment of its existence, and how it developed in the course of history. At the basis of society is material production viewed as a unity of its two aspects in their development. It was possible at once to explain all previous history as the history of class struggle and to reveal the essence of that struggle.

But, of course, Marx and Engels were interested first and foremost in the history and chief tendencies of the development of the bourgeois society of their own time. Therefore, in their joint work The German Ideology, in which they expounded their materialist conception of history,[*] Marx and Engels brought this conception to bear specifically on capitalist society, formulating for the first time the main principles of the theory of scientific socialism. These principles amount to the following.

Capitalist society is characterised by an antagonistic, irreconcilable contradiction between the productive forces and production relations. When commodities were manufactured by individual independent producers from their own raw materials and with their own implements of individual production, the products of labour were legitimately appropriated by the producer. Under capitalism, the owner of the means of production appropriates the products of social labour, of the labour of others. Millions of working people go daily to their jobs at factories, building sites, laboratories, offices, agricultural enterprises. They have no means of production in their possession. On being fired from their jobs, they retain no connection with the enterprise that employed them. These people are wage-workers. Capitalists, on the other hand, own the means of production, they control vast factories, mineral resources, labour. They derive profit from the capital produced by other people's labour. Thus the development of large-scale industry under private property merely keeps widening the rift between capital and labour, for private property, Marx pointed out in Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, is nothing but power to dispose of others' labour, the exploitation of labour by capital. Development of the productive forces under capitalism deprives small commodity producers of the ownership of the instruments and means of production, turning the majority of the members of society into proletarians; the productive forces themselves often become destructive. Marx showed that the antagonistic contradiction between the productive forces and relations of production manifests itself, in particular, in the economic crises which periodically shake bourgeois economy, and hastens the collapse of the capitalist system. This contradiction, therefore, provides the basis for socialist revolution.

Bourgeois society is further characterised by the domination of men by social relations. Under conditions of the social division of labour on the basis of private property the productive forces turn into a social force which is not only independent of men's will and activity, but which itself dominates them. We have seen that the conversion of the products of men's activity into a material force which dominates them represents the alienation of this activity. This alienation can only be abolished in a communist society.

To understand Marx's train of thought, it is important to bear in mind the distinction between scientific socialism and various Utopian conceptions. This distinction was shown, in particular, in the fact that in scientific socialism the giant growth of the productive forces is regarded as the material prerequisite of a communist society. That was why Marx, unlike the Utopian socialists, regarded the development of large-scale capitalist production as a highly progressive factor. The abundance of goods, which is a necessary prerequisite of communism, can be achieved only if the development of the productive forces is at a high level. Marx and Engels wrote: ".. in general, people cannot be liberated as long as they are unable to obtain food and drink, housing and clothing in adequate quality and quantity." Without the highly developed productive forces, "... want is merely made general, and with destitution the struggle for necessities and all the old filthy business would necessarily be reproduced ..." [19]

From the class struggle in bourgeois society it follows that the proletariat must first of all win political power, i.e., carry out a revolution. In the course of this revolution the formation of a new, communist outlook takes place among the masses. The proletariat turns into a class really capable of building a new economic basis for society to replace private property. This new basis is social ownership which corresponds to the social character of the productive forces. Along with private property, the revolution abolishes also the alienation of the worker from the objects which he has produced but which do not belong to him and which he is subjugated by. Communism implies control and conscious domination over the forces which up to then had controlled men. The development of communist society is "subordinated to a general plan of freely combined individuals." [20] A socialist revolution destroys the material basis of the social division of labour imposed on people by force, abolishing the compulsory division of social activity, the antithesis between town and country above all. Marx showed that the personal freedom of the individual is possible only where there is social ownership. Only by destroying the system of wage-labour can the worker's personality be preserved.

To complete the description of the theory of scientific communism expounded in The German Ideology, it must be said that it was not until Marx and Engels had found in the depth of capitalist society the force which alone could and indeed was to build the new society--the proletariat, the working class—that socialism was put on a scientific basis for the first time and began to develop from Utopian socialism into scientific socialism.

The principles of scientific communism formulated in The German Ideology were carried forward in some works written by Marx and Engels in the latter half of the 1840s - in The Poverty of Philosophy, Wage-Labour and Capital and Manifesto of the Communist Party. These principles remained unshakable in the course of the further development of Marxist doctrine, lying at the very core of it, but they were substantially developed, amplified and made more concrete, and - what is very important - they were scientifically justified and proved.

                The elaboration by Marx and Engels of the materialist conception of history and its concrete application to bourgeois society, which made it possible to formulate the main principles of the theory of scientific communism, rested, as we saw, on the analysis of the dialectical unity of the productive forces and the relations of production within the framework of social production, which was provided in The German Ideology. At the basis of this unity (which will be dealt with at more length in the second part of this book) is the general methodological principle of Marxist theory, which requires that a distinction be made between the material content and social form of -every social phenomenon. This approach to social phenomena allows them to be considered from a historical angle, in the process of development, while simultaneously showing the source of this development, which is the contradiction between the material content and social form of phenomena.

In their works written in the 1840s Marx and Engels carried out the macroanalysis of social production. It was established that the material content of production is comprised of the productive forces while the relations of production make up its social form. The theory of scientific communism was the immediate conclusion from this macroanalysis of the structure of social production.

After this Marx naturally was faced with the task of providing further economic substantiation to the materialist conception of history and to the theory of scientific communism which naturally follows from this conception. This task could be solved only by means of microanalysis of capitalist production, in the process of a detailed examination of the system of capitalist relations of production considered in dialectical unity with the productive forces of capitalist society. As he subjected capitalist production to microanalysis, studying the fundamental processes going on in it, Marx laid bare the mechanism of its functioning, thus revealing the economic law of the movement of bourgeois society and the possible tendencies of its development, which was vital to the economic substantiation of the theory of scientific communism. Simultaneously, it was the second great discovery made by Marx, whereby socialism was finally transformed from a Utopia into a science. However, before dealing with this discovery, we must look at yet another important aspect of Marx's method of work.

3. The Booklover

In his fascinating Reminiscences of Marx and Engels[21] Paul Lafargue, the well-known revolutionary, describes Marx's study in his home in Maitland Park Road in London to which Marx and his family moved in the spring of 1864. It was a room on the first floor, with a broad window looking out onto the park, and the inevitable English fireplace. The walls were lined with bookcases filled with books and stacked up to the ceiling with newspapers and manuscripts. Books were also on two tables and on the mantelpiece. Books were everywhere, except on the leather sofa on which Marx used to lie down for a rest from time to time with a novel.

Nevertheless, the thousand-odd volumes which made up Marx's personal library comprised merely an infinitesimal part of the number of books Marx studied during his life. This is evident from the numerous notebooks in which Marx wrote down excerpts from the books lie read, often accompanying them by his own comments. The notebooks alone might make a sizable library.

By temperament Marx was not an armchair scholar but a revolutionary. Still, when filling in a "questionnaire" at his daughters' request, Marx's reply to what lie considered to be his favourite occupation was "book-worming." [22] Of course this questionnaire was done in jest, but as in every jest there was a grain of truth. Marx's theory did not emerge merely from an analysis of concrete capitalist reality. His study of countless books in a great variety of fields, above all in history, philosophy and political economy, enabled Marx to draw a faithful picture of the life of bourgeois society in motion and explain how it originated, functioned and developed.

Marx said that "It is only by substituting for conflicting dogmas the conflicting facts and real antagonisms which form their hidden background that political economy can be transformed into a positive science."[23] These facts Marx drew from books. Many concrete facts, e.g. , on the position of the working class, Marx found in Blue Books, the blue-covered statistical publications of the British Parliament. Just as the proofs of the first volume of Capital began to arrive, "...Blue Books came flying in between one after the other as I was whipping the chapter into final shape," Marx wrote to Engels, and I was delighted to find my theoretical results fully confirmed by the facts. "[24]

Most valuable facts were communicated to Marx by Engels, who had been working for many years at the office of his father, a Manchester textile mill owner. One of the manuscripts of Capital contains a direct reference to Engels - "As examples, Engels has given me ..." followed by an examination of expenditures on raw materials, wages and machinery in a spinning-factory. [25]

Elaborating the theory of economic crises, Marx made the significant conclusion that the renewal of machinery was the material ground for the explanation of the cyclic development of industrial production. If the conclusion was correct, it followed from it that such a renewal should take place not oftener than once every ten years, while Charles Babbage, a noted English economist, asserted that in Manchester the greater part of machinery was renewed on average every five years. At Marx's request, Engels made detailed calculations which clearly showed that "Babbage is quite wrong," as the actual term of renewal was "certainly not under ten years," but rather between ten and thirteen years and a half. "My best thanks for your explanations on machinery," Marx wrote back. "The figure of 13 years corresponds, as much as is needed, to the theory, too."[26]

Concrete factual material played an enormous part in the elaboration and substantiation of Marxist economic theory. Here are a few more illustrations.

When in 1862 Marx developed, while working on Capital, his theory of ground-rent, i.e., the income received in bourgeois society by landlords, he subjected to criticism the ground-rent theory proposed by David Ricardo, the famous English economist. Marx found Ricardo's theory had serious shortcomings as it was based on the Malthusian "law" of the deterioration of land fertility. As far back as 1851 Marx had set himself the task "to square the law of rent with the progress of fertility of agriculture in general." He had emphasised that it was after all "the only way to explain the historical facts and on the other hand to scrap Malthus's theory of the deterioration... of the land." [27] Marx carried out this intention in 1862. The decisive factor that disproved Ricardo's thesis on the steady increase of the price of grain was the table of average annual grain prices in England from 1641 to 1859.[28] The table left nothing of Ricardo's assertions which were based on the increase in prices observed over the period 1797-1815. Marx showed that for a period of more than two hundred years prices alternately moved up and down and that the formation of ground-rent was possible not only when inferior land was brought under cultivation, but when either better or worse land was cultivated and also regardless of whether the prices of farm produce increased, were unchanged or decreased.

Marx regarded the analysis of concrete facts of decisive importance. Criticising the followers of the French socialist Proudhon, who held that all the maladies of bourgeois society sprang from the faulty system of money circulation, Marx showed concretely that the Proudhonians' statistic evidence did not hold water, that "economic facts do not furnish them with the test of their theories; rather, they furnish the proof of their lack of mastery of the facts," [29]

But there were also facts of a different kind, theoretical facts of perhaps even greater importance to Marx's economic theory. Marx obtained these facts, which had been established in part by pre-Marxian political economy, by means of a critical study of the history of economic thought. His investigation of the history of bourgeois political economy supplied Marx with two paradoxical facts which the classical economic school, headed by Adam Smith and David Ricardo, proved unable to explain. The first of these facts was that in bourgeois society, in which there undoubtedly prevail commodity-money relations regulated by the law of value (i.e. , the law of equivalent exchange, by which the exchange of commodities is effected in accordance with the amount of socially necessary labour expended on their production), in this society, in its most important sphere, production, there takes place essentially non-equivalent, unequal exchange between labour and capital, i.e., the exploitation of workers by capitalists.

The existence of capitalist exploitation was established beyond doubt in the Adam Smith and Ricardo theory. Adam Smith wrote, for instance: "The value which the workmen add to the materials, therefore, resolves itself... into two parts, of which the one pays their wages, the other the profits of their employer..." [30] Thus the worker's unpaid surplus-labour is the source of surplus-value, of profit. The classical bourgeois economists went no farther than stating this fact. However, consistent observation of the propositions of the labour theory of value (the evolvement of this theory was the chief contribution of Smith and Ricardo for which their names have gone down in the history of political economy) required that it should be extended to include also surplus-value, that the law of value should be applied to explain capitalist exploitation, i.e., appropriation of the worker's unpaid labour by the capitalist. Otherwise, one had to reject, the labour theory of value. That was just what bourgeois economists, the followers of Smith and Ricardo, did. Their attempts to solve the problem failed and ultimately compelled the classical school to abandon the labour theory of value altogether.

Marx discovered the above-mentioned paradoxical fact when he was studying bourgeois political economy in the 1840s and 50s, and explained it, as we shall see further on, in 1857-58 in the manuscripts of Zur Kritik der politischen Oekonomie, which was the original version of Capital. The explanation of this fact, which made it possible to define the main propositions of the theory of surplus-value, constituted the second great discovery made by Marx.

Another, equally paradoxical, fact, also discovered by Marx as he analysed works by bourgeois economists, was that competition among capitalists regulated their profits depending on the share of each capital in the total capital and not on the surplus-labour each individual capitalist squeezes out of the workers. It meant that in the capitalist economy prices were not regulated on the basis of the law of value but on the basis of the law of the price of production, i.e., not in proportion to the labour expended but in proportion to the capital expended. It was all the more astonishing as in economic theory price is regarded as value expressed in money. Bourgeois political economists who had discovered this fact vainly sought to reconcile the two laws. For this purpose Ricardo simply equated value and the price of production, which at once brought him and his supporters into collision with facts and ultimately made them abandon the labour-theory of value. The task confronting the student in this case was to calculate the price of production from value, to explain on the basis of the law of value the fundamental shift in price formation which occurred with the transition from simple commodity to capitalist market economy. Marx solved this problem in the early 1860s, in his manuscript A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, the second rough draft of Capital. By the same token, the theory of surplus value was completed.

Lastly, we must mention yet another group of facts which were of significance to Marx's studies. These facts emerged from the understanding and portrayal of reality by geniuses of world literature. Along with the works of economists, philosophers and historians, Marx readily quoted Balzac, Dickens, Defoe, Shakespeare, Cervantes and other writers in Capital to illustrate his theoretical propositions. We find many pages in Marx devoted to facts drawn from novels: Gobseck's cupidity, utterances of Bill Sykes, a cut-throat portrayed by Dickens, Robinson Crusoe's adventures, and so forth. Marx thought very highly of Balzac, who, he said, was "...generally remarkable fur his profound grasp of reality." In his reminiscences of Marx, Paul Lafargue reports that Marx intended to write a review of La Comedie Humaine as soon as he had finished Capital. [31] In a letter to Margaret Harkness, an English authoress, Engels confessed that from Balzac's novels "even in economic details... I have learned more than from all the professed historians, economists and statisticians of the period together."[32] It is enough to recall, for instance, the brilliant pages in Volume I of Capital, in which Marx, giving a general description of social formations, uses the character of Robinson Crusoe, [33] to see that facts described in novels were used by Marx as sources to the same extent as empirical facts and facts of economic theory.

Sometimes knowledge gained from books is divorced from reality and conflicts with knowledge gained from first-hand experience of life. As we have seen, nobody could say that this was true of Marx. Together with Engels he founded an entirely new scientific theory, a revolutionary theory expressing the needs of the working class which had emerged on the historical scene. This theory did not spring out of thin air but was the direct development of all that was progressive and fundamental that mankind had achieved. Yet the intellectual wealth man possesses is contained above all in books. That was why Marx, who prized revolutionary action above everything else in the world, became a voracious reader. His knowledge of capitalist reality became wider and deeper as lie studied bourgeois economic literature. The Mont Blanc of facts on which Capital is built was extracted by Marx from hooks. For many years Marx spent whole days from morning till night in the reading room of the British Museum, the largest library in the world at that time, and then, until late, worked on his notes, synopses, excerpts, and filled thousands of pages of manuscripts comprising the various versions of one book - Capital.

4. The Second Great Discovery (1857-58)

Over a very short space of time, from October 1857 to May 1858, after fifteen years of studying capitalist economy, Marx produced a manuscript of over 1,200 typed pages which he entitled Grundrisse. Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy and which represents, as you know, the first rough sketch of Capital. The complete text of this manuscript was published for the first time in the Soviet Union in 1939, in German. In 1953, this edition was reproduced in the German Democratic Republic, and subsequently it was translated into Russian, Japanese, English, Italian, French, Spanish, Czech and Hungarian. The fact that it has become so widely read and has been the subject of numerous reviews is due to the prominent place it occupies in the history of Marxism, being the first exposition of Marx's theory of value on the basis of which he evolved the theory of surplus-value, the keystone of Marxist economic theory.

Marx made extensive use of Grundrisse in his work on Capital. However, it contains much that was not included in the final text of Capital. This refers above all to a number of vital points having to do with the substantiation of scientific, communism and being of particular relevance to the present.

Working on Grundrisse, Marx discovered the economic law of the movement of bourgeois society and showed on the basis of economic analysis that its revolutionary transformation into a communist society was inevitable. It is not at all surprising that Marx should subject the problems of this transformation, the problems of the emergence of communist society, to a detailed examination in this manuscript. As he developed his economic theory, Marx was forced to pay more attention to special economic questions (any study in depth of a problem invariably entails narrowing the field of inquiry). But while he was writing the original version of Capital he still studied the problems of economic theory over a very broad field selecting for the sake of comparison material which went outside the framework of Capital, and had a bearing on both pre-capitalist formations and on the future communist society. From this it must be clear why Grundrisse should have now become the object of such keen interest everywhere, and by no means only among Marxists. So let us examine it more closely.

At the basis of the theory of value put forward by Marx in Grundrisse is the conception of the commodity as the elementary "economic cell-form" of capitalism. This conception, which Marx arrived at when writing the manuscript, was later stated in the opening lines of the first volume of Capital: "The wealth of those societies in which the capitalist mode of production prevails, presents itself as 'an immense accumulation of commodities,' its unit being a single commodity. Our investigation must therefore begin with the analysis of a commodity." [34] We shall discuss the methodological significance of this discovery later on. At this point it is important to note that according to Marx a commodity is a dialectical, indissoluble and simultaneously contradictory, unity of use-value and value. As use-values, all commodities differ qualitatively. As values they are qualitatively the same, all being products of labour, and differ only quantitatively, in labour-time embodied in them. Use-value constitutes the material content of a commodity, its ability to satisfy some human want. Value, on the other hand, is the social form of a commodity as a product of labour. It is felt whenever one commodity is exchanged for another. In the process of exchange, one commodity became singled out (for various historical reasons it was gold) which became money—an embodiment, an equivalent of value. Before he can obtain the commodities he wants, the producer of a certain commodity has to exchange it for money, with which he proceeds to buy commodities from other producers.

But perhaps the most important point in the development of the theory of value by Marx was that from the conception of a commodity as a dialectical unity of use-value and value Marx passed to the conception of labour, by which commodities are produced, as dialectical unity of concrete (private) labour, which results in the creation of use-values, and abstract (social) labour, which forms the value of a commodity. The conception of the dual nature of labour makes up the main content of the Marxist theory of value by which it differs fundamentally from the labour theory of value advanced by the predecessors of Marx, the founders of bourgeois political economy. No economist before Marx had been able to see the dual nature of labour as a particular feature of commodity production, although some bourgeois economists were not far from grasping the dual nature of the commodity. Marx subsequently stressed the importance of the conception of the dual nature of labour, for, he wrote, "all understanding of the facts depends upon this."[35]

It is a peculiarity of bourgeois society, which is based on private property, that labour involved in the production of a commodity directly is private labour. Only when he comes to the market to sell a commodity does a capitalist learn whether or not the time expended on the production of the commodity was the socially necessary labour-time. Should the actual number of hours spent be greater than the socially necessary labour-time - which determines the value of a commodity - the capitalist will be unable to sell it or he will have to sell at a loss, at a price lower than the individual value of the commodity. Should the number of hours be equal to the socially necessary time, the individual value of the commodity is then equal to its social value, and its price is roughly equal to its value. Lastly, should the number of hours spent to produce the commodity be less than the socially necessary time, the capitalist will be able to sell it at a price above its individual value and pocket the extra profit. Thus, it is only when a commodity is brought to the market and turned into money that the social nature of concrete labour expended on its production is felt. The internal contradiction between the use-value and value of a commodity, between private and social labour involved in its production, is resolved in exchange, in the realisation of the commodity, whereby it turns into money.

Having disclosed the dual nature of labour and the products of labour in bourgeois society, Marx was able to proceed at once to the analysis of the relations of capitalism proper, i.e., the relations between labour and capital, to explain the mechanism of capitalist exploitation, to create the theory of surplus-value. What made these relations difficult to understand was that they appeared not at all what they were. "But," to quote Marx, "all science would be superfluous if the outward appearance and the essence of things directly coincided." [36] Indeed, we have already mentioned that the exchange involved in the sale and purchase of labour-power is essentially non-equivalent. Otherwise, where would the capitalist's profit come from? But this exchange proceeds in circumstances where commodity-value relations regulated by the law of value, the law of equivalent exchange, overwhelmingly prevail. Consequently, the exchange involved in the sale and purchase of labour-power should be explained also in terms of equivalent exchange and not in contradiction with it.

Marx showed that the relation between labour and capital includes two essentially different processes. First of all, it is the exchange itself between the worker and the capitalist, a business transaction whereby the capitalist "obtains the productive force which maintains and multiplies capital," [37] i.e., he gets the chance to dispose of the worker's labour-power, of his capacity to create new, surplus-value. Secondly, it is the process of labour itself, which derives from the material content of capitalist production and which actually serves to maintain and increase capital. Therefore – and that was the first point for the understanding of the mechanism of capitalist exploitation - the object of the deal made between the worker and the capitalist is not the worker's labour but his ability to work. A worker cannot sell labour, for labour is the process of the consumption of labour-power and that takes place in production, not in the market. As he owns no means of production, a worker can own neither labour process nor its products. All he does own is his ability to work, his labour-power. And this is what he sells to the capitalist. Hence, it is not labour but labour-power that is a commodity. Before Marx, nobody had noticed this fact.

Thus it is not labour but the labour-power, of the wage-worker that the capitalist pays for. Labour-power is sold to the capitalist at its value which depends on the value of the means of subsistence usually consumed by a worker and his family. The capitalist, on the other hand, can dispose of the use-value of the commodity - the labour power - which consists of the worker's ability to create new value in the process of labour. In other words, the wage-worker sells to the employer the right to dispose of his labour-power.

For example, during a week a wage-worker produces a certain amount of goods whose value is much greater than a week's value of labour-power. Under fixed hours, say, nine a day, only some of the time is spent on producing value equal to the value of labour-power. This is necessary labour which goes to produce tile equivalent of the worker's wages. The rest of the time the worker performs surplus-labour producing surplus-value which is kept by the capitalists, i.e., owners of the means of production. Marx defines surplus-value as the difference between the new value which the worker creates by his labour and the value of labour-power, which the capitalist pays the worker in wages.

It was very important to establish that the capitalist system creates all the conditions necessary and sufficient for the existence of surplus-value. The capitalist relations of production, founded on the capitalist private ownership of the means of production necessarily result in the fact that the worker's labour, and therefore the products of his labour, belong to the capitalist. The law of value, the law of equivalent exchange, as we saw just now, allows new value produced in the process of labour to be greater than the value of labour-power. Having bought labour-power, the capitalist gets the right of ownership of the product of surplus-labour as well as of the product of necessary labour. Lastly, in capitalist society the level of the productive forces' development, the productivity of social labour are such that necessary labour takes up merely a part of the working day. In other words, newly created value really does exceed the value of labour-power, i.e., surplus-value really does exist.

Thus Marx showed - and that was his second great discovery - that the appropriation by the capitalists of surplus-value produced by workers proceeds in full conformity with the inherent laws of capitalist economy, with the law of value, above all. Consequently, capitalist exploitation derives from the very substance of the capitalist relations of production. Under capitalism, exploitation is inherent in the process of production itself, the production of commodities being simultaneously the production of surplus-value. It immediately followed from this that the emancipation of the working class from capitalist exploitation cannot be achieved within the capitalist social system. In other words, the necessity of a socialist revolution became the obvious conclusion.

Marx showed further that the tremendous development of the productive forces under capitalism simultaneously made for the creation and accumulation of the material elements of a future communist society. These material elements - they will be dealt with in the third part of this book - determine the possibility of a socialist revolution. "But within bourgeois society, the society which rests on exchange-value," writes Marx, "there arise such relations of production as well as social relations which are so many mines to explode it ... if we did not find concealed in society as it is the material conditions of production and the corresponding relations of exchange prerequisite for a classless society then all attempts to explode it would be quixotic." [38] It is in the creation of such prerequisites for the transition to a communist society that the historical justification of capitalism and its progressive role lie. Capitalism alone could raise the productive forces to a level which makes possible the transition to communism and the harmonious development of all members of society.

In the Manifesto of the Communist Party ( 1848) Marx and Engels gave a brilliant description of communism as an association in which "the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all." [39] Now in this later work Marx discovered the material basis for such development. It was the surplus-product, the excess of the results of production over cost-price.

In bourgeois society the surplus-product becomes surplus-value and is appropriated by the capitalist class, and under communism it ensures "the full material conditions for the total, universal development of the productive forces of the individual," "creates the material elements for the development of the rich individuality which is as all-sided in its production as in its consumption." [40]

For how long can the progressive development of capitalism continue? This is how Marx answers this question: "No social order ever perishes before all the productive forces for which there is room in it have developed; and new, higher relations of production never appear before the material conditions of their existence have matured in the womb of the old society itself." As soon as the prevailing system of relations of production, i.e., the economic basis of society, has ceased to be the optimal social form of development of the productive forces, "further development appears as decay, and the new development begins from a new basis." [41] This conclusion is very important also for the investigation of the prospects of the development of the productive forces of modern capitalist society, which we shall discuss later.

The second great discovery of Marx, i.e., his theory of surplus-value we have just considered, brings home the organic, intrinsic connection between Marxist economic theory and the revolutionary propositions of Marxism. One is indissolubly linked with the other, for there is no accepting Marx's economic theory without accepting its revolutionary conclusions. That was why Lenin referred to Marxist political economy as "socialist political economy." [42]

The strictly scientific character of the revolutionary conclusions of Marxist theory and of its predictions as regards the future, communist society also sterns from the Organic connection of economics and politics. We have seen that Marx arrived at the conclusion about the economic necessity of the socialist revolution only after he had explained the mechanism of capitalist exploitation in terms of the law of value. Marx gives special prominence to the correspondence of the main principles of his economic theory and its revolutionary conclusions with the law of value which reflects the dominance of commodity-value relations in capitalist society. Consistency with the theory of value is to Marx a criterion of the truth of each theoretical conclusion. There was, however, yet another and equally important yardstick which Marx invariably applied in developing his theory. And this we shall presently discuss.

5. "I Administer Historical Justice..."

Our description of Marx's method of work would be very incomplete if we omitted to mention the historical aspect of his economic theory which invariably played an enormous part at every stage of its development. One of the most important features of Marx's method was that in his works analysis of the history of economic science and development of his own theory always ran parallel, combining into a single process of scientific inquiry. Historical and critical analysis is ever present in Marx's economic investigation both as the point of departure and the result of this study. Let us now take a closer look at it.

The history of bourgeois political economy inevitably furnished the starting point for Marxist economic theory, for Marx studied the economic relations prevailing in bourgeois society in his day from a historical aspect. The task he pursued was to disclose the economic law which the movement of capitalism obeyed. Marx found in the history of bourgeois political economy the reflection of the economic history of bourgeois society. If economic theory reflects reality more or less adequately, its history reflects the development of this reality. Consequently, by studying the history of economic theory one should be able to reproduce the process of economic development itself. Engels wrote: "The historical development of the literature of political economy provided a natural guiding thread with which criticism could link up, and the economic categories as a whole would thereby appear in the same sequence as in the logical development ... since indeed it is the actual development that is followed." [43] Therefore, the history of bourgeois political economy appears as an essential source of knowledge of the history of the capitalist economic system.

The study of the creation of Capital shows that the working out of each section of economic theory was always preceded by either more or less extensive inquiry into the history of bourgeois political economy. As Marx penetrated farther into the mechanism of capitalist exploitation, he extended the range of authors whose works he analysed, and his analysis became more detailed and thorough. Here are a few examples. Marx's first attempt to develop an economic theory of his own (in Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844) was accompanied by intensive study of bourgeois political economy in Paris. The appearance of The Poverty of Philosophy and Wage-Labour and Capital (the latter half of the 1840s) was preceded by a much wider study of the works of bourgeois economists at Brussels and Manchester.

The manuscript Critique of Political Economy (1857-58) in which Marx expounded his theory of value and surplus-value was written on the basis of an enormous number of notebooks in which Marx had compiled excerpts from works by bourgeois economists in the 1850s. Marx further elaborated the theory of surplus-value and evolved the theories of average profit, ground-rent, reproduction and crises, and productive labour as he worked on the Theories of Surplus-Value, the historical part of Capital.

Marx often called his economic investigations "criticisms" (the subtitle of Capital is A Critique of Political Economy). Criticism, as Marx understood it, meant criticism of bourgeois society, establishing the reasons for the necessity of its destruction and mankind's transition to a communist society. It was truly constructive, useful criticism.

As he studied the history of bourgeois political economy, Marx discovered the key problems of economic theory whose solution enabled him to evolve an entirely new economic doctrine. Thus the works of bourgeois economists, especially those of the classical Smith-Ricardo school, taken together posed questions of the nature and mechanism of capitalist exploitation, of exchange between labour and capital as the fundamental relation of production in bourgeois society, of the dual nature of labour and its products, of the worker's surplus-labour as the source of capitalist profit, of the economic antagonism of the classes of bourgeois society, and so on. Bourgeois thought posed these problems, thereby furnishing Marx with points of departure for his own investigation. At the same time, the bourgeois economists' failure to solve these problems - their failure to "split" labour and its product and investigate their dual nature, to see the elementary "cell-form" of capitalist economy, to view "labour-power" as a commodity and as the intermediate link in the exchange between labour and capital, to see capital as a relation of production, to see how value turns into the price of production all made it clear to Marx that no economic substantiation of scientific communism could be given on the basis of bourgeois political economy. Attempts of this kind undertaken by Ricardian socialists led them to arrive at utterly Utopian conclusions. Marx said in an interview in 1871: "It is hardly likely, for instance, that we could hope to prosper in our war against capital if we derive our tactics, say, from the political economy of Mill. He has traced one kind of relationship between labour and capital. We hope to show that it is possible to establish another." [44] The solution by Marx of aforementioned key problems formed the basis of the political economy of the working class.

A comprehensive investigation of the evolution of bourgeois political economy was carried out by Marx when he worked on the long manuscript in 1861-63 (the second draft of Capital), or more precisely on its central part which he called Theories of Surplus-Value. He intended to trace the bourgeois economists' views on this fundamental problem of economics. This work presented an all-embracing critical analysis of bourgeois political economy which made Marx and Engels regard the Theories of Surplus-Value as a sketch for the fourth and concluding volume of Capital, the final element in the structure of Marxist economic theory, containing its historical justification. And so it is commonly accounted to be.

The thing of particular interest to us today is that in connection with his analysis of the history of bourgeois political economy Marx considered a vast range of questions associated with the antagonistic contradictions of capitalism, with the position and struggle of the working class in bourgeois society. It was the further development of the theory of surplus-value the foundations of which were laid, as we have seen, in 1857-58. Some of these questions will he discussed in more detail in the third part of this book. So far we shall simply enumerate them.

As he carried on his critical investigation of the history of bourgeois political economy, Marx laid bare the roots of the subsistence theory of wages, a bourgeois theory which regards the value of labour-power as something permanent, independent of stages of historical development. His criticism of this conception permitted Marx later on to work out the main principles of the economic struggle of the working class in capitalist society for higher wages and shorter hours, and to prove the objective necessity and possibility of this struggle.

Marx's investigation of the problem of product ive labour made .it possible to ascertain the place of the working class in the structure of bourgeois society. His analysis of the process of capitalist production enabled Marx to conclude that economic crises were an inevitable attribute of capitalism. Of especial interest in the light of the current energy crisis in the capitalist countries is the fact that along with the crises of overproduction Marx considered also the crises of underproduction caused, for instance, by a shortage of raw materials. In connection with his analysis of accumulation of capital Marx investigated the influence of the latter on the position of the working class, discovering the objective tendency of its pauperisation and simultaneously pointing out the factors opposing this tendency, one of which is the workers' strike movement.

Elaboration of the theory of average profit and the price of production showed among other things that the capitalist class as a whole participates in the exploitation of the working class, forming a genuine "Masonic fraternity" in their opposition to the working class. The working class can answer this only one way - by uniting its ranks. Thus the slogan "Working, men of all lands, unite!" received its economic basis.

Consideration of Marx's method of work permits us to single out some of its characteristic features.

Marx proceeded from the fact that the paradoxical and conflicting forms in which reality manifests itself merely reflected its own paradoxical and conflicting nature. "Scientific truth," Marx said, "is always paradox, if judged by everyday experience, which catches only the delusive appearance of things." [45] Earlier on we mentioned that Marx was the first in the history of political economy to explain the contradictory mechanism of capitalist exploitation on the basis of the law of value. Marx was able to do it by discarding bourgeois economic dogma which asserted (judging by everyday experience, which catches only the delusive appearance of things) that it was his labour that the worker sold to the capitalist. Marx demonstrated that the contradictory character of the sale and purchase of labour-power (the contradiction, as we saw, is that the essentially non-equivalent exchange between the capitalist and the worker is nevertheless regulated by the law of value) reflects the antagonistic nature of bourgeois society.

The fundamental distinction of Marx's method from that applied by the bourgeois economists was manifest also in his solution of the second central problem of capitalist economy, in the explanation of the average rate of profit and the price of production in terms of the law of value. Striving to prove by all means the universal character of the law of value, Ricardo simply identified value and the price of production, discarding the problem as such. Marx approached it in a diametrically opposite way. He showed that the contradiction between value and the price of production was merely an illusion. He proved it by explaining the price of production in terms of value, instead of identifying these two different categories. On the contrary, in Marx's theory the price of production (equal to the cost-price plus the average profit) as a converted form of value (equal to the cost-price plus surplus-value) coincides with value only in exceptional cases. Only the total amount of surplus-value appropriated by the whole capitalist class is equal to the total amount of capitalist profit. In the same way, the sum of the prices of production is equal to the sum of values. On the other hand, the amount of profit obtained by an individual capitalist depends on the amount of the capital he has advanced. The greater it is, the greater the profit. The mechanism of capitalist competition rigidly regulates the distribution of the total profit among individual capitalists. Thus in this case too the contradictions in which the bourgeois economists had got hopelessly entangled were shown by Marx to be outward reflections of the objective contradictions of the capitalist system. On the surface of bourgeois society, surplus-value appears not as the product of surplus-labour but as the product of capital, i.e., it appears in the converted forms of profit and average profit. Accordingly, value appears in the converted form of the price of production. Outwardly it seems to be in contradiction to the theory of value but, as Marx showed, it is merely "an illusion which arises from the development of the thing itself...." [46]

To get to the bottom of capitalist reality, Marx thoroughly revised the most general, fundamental notions of political economy, such as labour, value, commodity, etc. We saw that this analysis had enabled Marx to discover the commodity as the elementary economic cell-form of capitalism containing in embryo all contradictions of bourgeois economy. In the same way the discovery of the dual nature of labour and its product, consistent application of the theory of value and its extension to the commodity peculiar to capitalism, i.e., to labour-power, gave Marx a point of departure for the development of the theory of surplus-value.

In the course of his revision of the basic principles of bourgeois economics Marx elucidated the original sources of various theories, ridding political economy of dogmatic accretions which conflicted with the intrinsic logic of science.

The story of the writing of Capital convincingly attests to the total scientific scrupulousness of Marx, who always put the interests of science first, and saw his duty as a scholar and proletarian revolutionary in getting at the truth. Condemning Malthus's subservience to the more reactionary classes of bourgeois society, Marx wrote: "But when a man seeks to accommodate science to a viewpoint which is derived not from science itself (however erroneous it may be) but from outside, from alien, external interests, then I call him 'base'." [47] His passionate abhorrence of the capitalist system did not prevent Marx, in contradistinction to the Utopian views of pre-Marxian socialists, from drawing the conclusion that, compared with the pre-capitalist formations, capitalism was progressive. It was this scientific conclusion that enabled him to discover the economic law of the movement of capitalism and detect in it the material and spiritual elements of the future society, which it is the historic mission of bourgeois society to create.

As a conscientious scientist, Marx never strove after popularity for popularity's sake. When his work Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (1859), which at that date only included the chapter on commodities and the chapter on money, came out, many, including some of his friends and associates, found his manner of presentation abstruse. Replying to these objections, Marx stressed that "scientific attempts to revolutionise a science can never be really popular." [48] As it was, Marx's work was relevant in the highest degree as it laid the groundwork for the analysis of capitalist economy, already elucidating "the specifically social, not the least absolute, character of bourgeois production in its simplest form, that of the commodity." [49] In other words, in this work the historically transient character of capitalism was explained. The lack of understanding which Marx's brilliant work met at the beginning evidently reflects—apart from the mental exertion it required—the habitually suspicious attitude towards abstract theory as scholastic humbug of no practical significance.

In a letter to Engels of May 16, 1868, Marx observed that in political economy points of practical interest and of theoretical necessity were widely divergent. Scrupulous analysis of the "economic cell-form" of capitalism might seem to some to be a mere splitting of hairs, a fuss about trifles. Yet these "trifles" were of fundamental importance to the theory of surplus-value. And if, to quote G. Gunnarson, a well-known theoretician and Scandinavian Social Democrat, today everybody recognises Marx's superiority as regards the explanation of the basic features of the development of capitalism—the task which bourgeois economics has understandably failed to solve,[50] Marx owes much of it to his dauntless courage, to his ability to go against the current, to his belief that "at the entrance to science, as at the entrance to hell, the demand must be posted:

Here all mistrust must be abandoned

And here must Perish every craven thought." [51]

[*] This remarkable book written in 1845-46 remained unpublished in the authors' lifetime and was published for the first time only in 1932.

[5] K. Marx, F. Engels. Collected Works, Vol. 36, p. 53, Russ. Ed.


[6] Ibid., Vol. 30, p. 11, Russ. Ed.


[7] K. Marx. Early Texts, Oxford, 1971, p. 6.


[8] Writings of the Young Marx on Philosophy and Society, Doubleday & Co. Inc. Garden City, New York, 1967, p. 122.


[9] K. Marx. Early Texts, Oxford, 1971, p. 48.


[10] K. Marx, F. Engels. Collected Works, Vol. I, pp. 224, 225, Russ. Ed.


[11] K. Marx. Early Texts, Oxford, 1971, p. 79.


[12] K. Marx. Early Writings, London, C. A. Watts & Co. Ltd., 1963, p. 52.


[13] K. Marx. Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, Lawrence & Wishart Ltd., London, 1970, p. 136.


[14] K. Marx, F. Engels. Selected Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1969, Vol. 2, p. 169.


[15] V. Lenin. Collected Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1963, Vol. 19, p. 27.


[16] K. Marx. Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, Lawrence & Wishart Ltd., London, 1970, p. 106.


[17] Ibid., p. 110.


[18] Our Friends Speak. Greetings to the 24th CPSU Congress, APN Publishing House, 1971, pp. 344, 345.


[19] K. Marx, F. Engels. Selected Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1969, Vol. I, p. 27.


[20] Ibid., p.70.


[21] Reminiscences of Marx and Engels, Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1957, pp. 71-86.


[22] Ibid., p. 266


[23] K. Marx, F. Engels. Selected Correspondence, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1965, pp. 212-213.    


[24] Ibid., p. 192.


[25] K. Marx, F. Engels. Collected Works, Vol. 47, p. 178, Russ. Ed.


[26] Ibid., Vol. 29, pp. 237-241.


[27] K. Marx, F. Engels. Selected Correspondence, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1965, p. 53.


[28] K. Marx, F. Engels. Collected Works, Vol. 26, Part II, pp. 140-143, 150-154, Russ. Ed.


[29] K. Marx. Grundrisse. Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy, Penguin Books, London, 1973, p. 119.


[30] K. Marx. Theories of Surplus-Value, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1969, Part I, p. 79.


[31] Reminiscences of Marx and Engels, Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1957, p. 75.


[32] K. Marx, F. Engels. Selected Correspondence, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1965, p. 402.


[33] K. Marx. Capital, Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1962, Vol. I, pp. 76-79.


[34] Ibid., p. 35.


[35] K. Marx, F. Engels. Selected Correspondence, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1965, p. 192.


[36] K. Marx. Capital, Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1962, Vol. III, p. 797.


[37] K. Marx. Grundrisse. Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy, Penguin Books, London, 1973, p. 119.


[38] Ibid., p. 159.


[39] K. Marx, F. Engels. Selected Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1969, Vol. 1, p. 127.                    


[40] K. Marx. Grundrisse. Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy, Penguin Books, London, 1973, pp.325, 515.


[41] Ibid., p. 541.


[42] V. Lenin. Collected Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1963, Vol. 15, p. 35.


[43] K. Marx, F. Engels. Selected Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1969, Vol. 1, p. 513.    


[44] [An Interview with Karl Marx, New York World, July 18, 1871] Labour Monthly, June 1972, p269.


[45] K. Marx, F. Engels. Selected Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1969, Vol. 2, p. 54.      


[46] K. Marx. Theories of Surplus-Value, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1969, Part II, p. 32.


[47] Ibid., p. 119.


[48] Letters to Dr. Kugelmann by Karl Marx, Co-operative Publishing Society of Foreign Workers in the USSR, Moscow, Leningrad, 1934, p. 24.


[49] K. Marx, F. Engels. Collected Works, Vol. 29, p. 375, Russ. Ed.


[50] G. Gunnarson. Socialdemokratiskt idéarv, Malmö, 1971, pp. 48-49.


[51] K. Marx, F. Engels. Selected Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1969, Vol. 1, p. 506.