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


Evolved more than a century ago, Marxist theory and its methods are applied with increasing success to the study of present-day reality - (socialist as well as capitalist): to the solution of concrete social problems of today. An immense contribution in this respect, as we have already noted, was made by Lenin, who was the first to apply Marx's doctrine creatively to the study of an entirely different historical epoch, the epoch of imperialism and proletarian revolutions, in which the worldwide transition to socialism has begun. Out of the multitude of contemporary problems we shall select three groups of questions for discussion: (1) Lenin's analysis of imperialism; (2) the position of the working class and he class struggle in contemporary capitalist society, and (3) some theoretical problems of a communist economy. Our object is to point out to the reader the underlying tendencies of social development which Marx explained in Capital and which are basic to the study of the problems referred to.

1. Analysis of Imperialism. Starting Points

In his analysis of imperialism Lenin based himself on the economic doctrine of Marx, who, Lenin wrote, "by a theoretical and historical analysis of capitalism had proved that free competition gives rise to the concentration of production, which, in turn, at a certain stage of development, leads to monopoly." [76] The fact that Lenin's investigation of imperialism is founded on Marx's economic doctrine and is its direct continuation shows that this doctrine contained all the necessary starting points enabling Lenin to carry out his investigation within the framework of Marx's theory. What were these starting points?

The fact that capitalism has entered an entirely new stage of development had already been partly observed by Engels, as is clear from some notes and addenda he supplied to Volume III of Capital in the 1880s and 90s, mentioning the appearance of "new forms" of capitalist concerns such as industrial and finance monopolies, the increase in export of capital, the division of the world among the largest companies, and so on. But of still greater importance was the fact that the theory of capitalist monopoly on which Lenin founded his investigation of monopoly capitalism was developed in Capital.

Pre-monopoly capitalism, which Marx investigated, was of course capitalism of free competition. Still, competition existed along with diverse forms of monopoly. First of all, the capitalist mode of production as such is based on the monopoly of ownership of the principal means of production by the ruling class, the capitalists. Marx wrote: " is the monopoly of capital alone that enables the capitalist to squeeze surplus-labour out of the worker..." [77] Further, Marx shows that the price of production is formed on the basis of capitalist competition in the conditions of the monopoly of capitalist ownership of the means of production. This is why similar goods appearing in the market at the same time must have one and the same, social, price of production and therefore the same market price. The social price of production ensures average profit to the whole capitalist class. "The capitalists," Marx wrote, "like hostile brothers, divide among themselves the loot of other people's labour which they have appropriated so that on an average one receives the same amount of unpaid labour as another." [78] Thus, as regards its exploitation of the working class, the capitalist class represents a single whole.

Yet the level of the social price of production is fixed by a group of capitalists dominating the market, who receive super-profit because their individual cost-price is lower than the social cost-price on which the social price of production depends. Under free competition the super-profit is temporary, "fluid." It disappears as soon as the other capitalists, by introducing technical innovations, manage to close the gap, improve the conditions of production, lower the cost-price and catch up with the capitalists in the leading group. Although highly unstable, super-profit does not altogether vanish but merely passes from one group of capitalists to another. The struggle for super-profit is the pivot of capitalist competition.

Apart from the monopoly of capitalist ownership of the means of production shared by the whole capitalist class, and apart from the monopoly position, within this class, of individual groups of capitalists dominating the market, there exists, under the specific conditions of capitalist agriculture, also a monopoly of the whole class of landowners and of separate groups within it, owning the best land. This form of monopoly ensures ground-rent to the landowners.

The most important expression of monopoly domination is monopoly price which contains monopoly super-profit, over and above the average profit. The monopoly super-profit. obtained by a group of capitalists which dominates the market because of lower cost-price, essentially differs from the monopoly super-profit obtained as ground-rent by landowners in that the latter form of monopoly super-profit is permanent, not temporary. It is the same monopoly, Marx wrote, which "...occurs in all spheres of industry and only becomes permanent in this one, hence assuming the form of rent as distinct from excess profit." [79] That was why Marx chose capitalist monopoly in agriculture as a convenient object for the study of capitalist monopoly in general.

It is an important feature of Marx's theory of capitalist monopoly that it explains monopoly price on the basis of the law of value. Earlier we dwelt on the important part the criterion of value plays in Marx's economic theory. In this case too Marx showed that while it converts the price of production into a monopoly price of production, monopoly super-profit does not affect the mechanism of price formation operating in bourgeois society. In fact, monopoly super-profit is the difference between the social price of production and the individual price of production at enterprises with the lowest cost-price.

Another important characteristic of capitalist monopoly is that it is not absolute but exists within the framework of capitalist competition. This extends even to the monopoly of land ownership, which loses effect only "if the owner is himself the farmer, and therefore in this individual case landed property does not confront capital." [80]

The theory of capitalist monopoly lucidly describes the economic means by which the capitalists and the landed proprietors ensure their own dominant position in bourgeois society and ensure the exploitation of the working class and all other working people. At the same time, the theory shows that only by abolishing the capitalist relations of production is it possible to end all forms of capitalist monopoly and all the attendant forms of exploitation, viz., the monopoly of the capitalist class as a whole getting average profit; the monopoly of the big capitalists additionally reaping super-profit; and the monopoly of the landowners drawing rent.

Under modern capitalism, the problem of monopoly price is of fundamental importance. Imperialism is characterised above all by monopoly domination, and monopoly price is the economic form in which this domination is realised. In the theory of imperialism worked out by Lenin monopoly price is, of course, explained, and it is explained in full accordance with the methodological requirements of Marx's theory of capitalist monopoly. This we shall presently proceed to demonstrate.

In Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism (1916) Lenin shows that in the epoch of imperialism the rapid growth of concentration of production logically gives rise to monopoly. This process causes production to be amalgamated on an enormous scale. Monopoly enterprises are at the same time technologically the most advanced, and this means that their individual cost-price is appreciably lower than the average social cost-price of production in a given industry. This makes for a stable difference between social and individual cost-price, i.e., it provides a stable source of monopoly super-profit. Thus, in the United States big corporations with a capital of more than a hundred million dollars, obtain per dollar of products sold more than three times as much profit as small concerns, with a capital less than a million dollars.

Under modern capitalism the technological superiority of monopoly enterprises is stable and enduring enough to ensure a practically constant monopoly super-profit. The Soviet scholar, Ya. Pevzner, justly observes in this connection: "Production and property have become so centralised that in every country the process of competition has advanced from a few dozen to some hundred capitalists big enough to enjoy a well-nigh impregnable position."[81] The monopolies extend their hold by diverse means, seizing sources of raw materials, amalgamating production, buying up patents, intentionally stimulating the organisation of relatively: small-size enterprises with higher cost-price, and so forth. As a result, the individual cost-price of monopoly concerns is permanently lower than the social cost-price in the same industry.

Further, it is very important that monopoly super-profit is available not only when the social price of production (which continues to regulate prices under the monopoly system as well) increases but also when it does not change or even when it drops. Quite obviously, the growth of the social price of production - which the monopolies encourage in every wayleads to the growth of super-profit. A case in point is the recent behaviour of the oil monopolies which seized upon the growing demand for energy to increase their fabulous profits still more.

But monopoly super-profit may be available and may even increase also when the social price of production diminishes, depending on whether the individual cost-price at monopoly enterprises diminishes. If, for instance, it diminishes to a greater extent than the social price of production, then the monopoly super-profit increases. Lenin pointed out in this connection that the possibility of reducing the cost-price and increasing profits by introducing technological improvements [82] was an important stimulus to development under imperialism as well, which offset another tendency, also induced by monopoly price, the tendency towards decay, towards the artificial slowing down of the growth of production.

At the same time, monopoly super-profit, resulting from the inflated social price of production, very clearly shows how under imperialism the fruits of the technological progress of society are appropriated by a handful of monopolists who increase their profits at the expense of society. Marx wrote in Capital, bearing in mind the landlords, that society "overpays for agricultural products in its capacity of consumer." [83] Under modern capitalism, under monopoly domination, monopoly prices and monopoly super-profits, society is overpaying not only for agricultural products but generally for all products made or sold by monopolies.

In his theory of imperialism Lenin repeatedly stressed that the monopolies exist and operate in a situation of ruthless competition. This fact confirms yet again that the value mechanism operates under modern conditions, too. Of course, the existence of monopolies impedes the formation of average profit and the price of production, yet it cannot abolish this tendency altogether.

The fact that Lenin's theory of imperialism is the natural sequel of Marx's economic doctrine is of fundamental significance for the substantiation of the theory of scientific communism in the current epoch. The epoch of imperialism, Lenin showed, has been marked by an enormous intensification of the exploitation of the working people by the ruling classes, exploitation which nevertheless proceeds, as before, within the framework of the general objective tendencies of capitalism. Lenin observes in this connection that pure imperialism simply does not exist, that it still is a superstructure resting on the old capitalism, on the old basis, out of which it grows and which it modifies and adjusts to its own needs, but which it is unable to destroy. This means that the conclusion about the necessity of the socialist revolution, which followed from Marx's doctrine, has been fully corroborated in the current epoch. At the same time, his study of imperialism suggested to Lenin entirely new conclusions on the possibility of the socialist revolution. Lenin has shown that this possibility at present has grown enormously, owing above all to essential changes in the process of amalgamation of production, viz., the development of the monopolies, and the development of monopoly capitalism into state-monopoly capitalism, which means the fullest possible material preparation for socialism.

Since Lenin's death fifty years ago these processes have made considerable headway. Monopoly has moved from industry to all other economic branches. The relation between monopoly and other forms of economy has altered a great deal. The monopolies have largely brought under their control non-monopoly production and established their control, in one way or another, over agriculture, the largest branch of non-monopoly production. The complexity of the organisational forms of industrial and banking monopolies, of the forms of finance capital, has greatly increased. The highest form of monopoly, state-monopoly capitalism, representing the merger of monopoly power and state power has developed to an extraordinary extent.

Bourgeois economists declare state intervention in the economy to be a new era in the history of capitalism. In this era, they say, the nature of capitalism has undergone a fundamental change and the economy emerging as a result of this change is not capitalist but "collectivistic." The state of the epoch of state-monopoly capitalism is called the "welfare state."

Is this really so? Has the modern capitalist state indeed ceased to be what Marx called it  - "concentration of bourgeois society in the form of the state" [84]-a committee for the management of the bourgeoisie's affairs? Has society ceased to he bourgeois? It is common knowledge that the capitalist state mobilises huge funds to finance the monopolies. Its economic role at present is characterised by the growing proportion of nationalised industries, larger investments in the economy and the growth of mixed joint-stock companies in which state and private-monopoly capital participates, and by attempts at economic programming by the state. The capitalist state plays an exceptionally big role in the militarisation of the economy. In the United States, a lion's share of the budget expenditure is allocated to military purposes. These constant injections into the military budget sustain monopoly profits at a high level, ensuring new investment opportunities for the monopolies.

The greater role of the state in the economy of modern capitalism is represented by its apologists as the abolition of capitalist property. But what state-monopoly capitalism seeks to do, above all, is to preserve the system of private property, to effect a redistribution of national wealth for the monopolies' benefit. Amalgamating production on a vast scale, so as to safeguard the positions of capitalism, state-monopoly capitalism exacerbates the contradictions of capitalism, making the replacement of capitalist production relations by socialist production relations an urgent necessity.

State-monopoly capitalism is developing under conditions of a scientific and technological revolution. New sources of energy are introduced in production which has become automated and machines begin to replace man in management, not only in production. Science becomes a direct productive force. On this basis the productivity of labour increases enormously. Yet, does the revolution in science and technology make the social revolution unnecessary? Are the capitalist and socialist social systems drawing closer together, as the supporters of the "convergence" theory allege? The answer is provided by analysis of the place occupied by the working class in the structure of modern bourgeois society. This analysis unequivocally confirms that the examination of the position of the working class under capitalism, carried out in Capital, is perfectly correct. This will be dealt with in the next section.

2. Marx's Economic Theory and the Working Class

Having evolved the theory of surplus-value and explained the mechanism of capitalist exploitation, Marx showed that capital was stored-up unpaid labour. This was a grave accusation made against the capitalists on behalf of the working class. But Marx went much farther than that. He showed (and we mentioned this earlier) that the appropriation of the workers' unpaid labour by the capitalists occurs on the basis of capitalism's inherent laws. It followed from this that the working class could only be liberated from capitalist exploitation by revolutionary means alone - by destroying the capitalist system. This conclusion is of exceptional significance today too, for it dispels all illusions about it being possible to alter radically the position of the working class by reforms, while leaving intact the capitalist relations of production.

Criticising petty-bourgeois reformism, Marx did not in any way imply that economic reforms were useless or had no influence on the capitalist economic system. But he wanted it to be clearly understood that no reforms of this kind could affect the foundations of the capitalist system. "It is necessary to see this clearly," he wrote meaning the Proudhonian projects for a monetary reform of capitalism, "in order to avoid setting impossible tasks, and in order to know the limits within which monetary reforms and transformations of circulation are able to give a new shape to the relations of production and to the social relations which rest on the latter." [85]

Arguing that it was necessary to overthrow bourgeois domination in a revolutionary way and to establish a dictatorship of the proletariat, Marx and Engels repeatedly stressed that the social revolution "might be effected entirely by peaceful and legal means," although, in view of the conditions in which capitalism developed at that time, they added that the ruling classes could hardly be expected "to submit, without a 'pro-slavery rebellion,' to this peaceful and legal revolution." [86]

The bloody events in Chile have confirmed this prediction. Nevertheless, the programmes of many Marxist parties in capitalist countries are based on the possibility of a peaceful development of the socialist revolution. The Marxist conclusion that the revolution is necessary certainly does not imply that the peaceful struggle of the working class to improve its economic and social position in bourgeois society is unnecessary or useless. This struggle, however, is regarded by genuine Marxists and revolutionaries as essential factor in the abolition of the capitalist system.

In his economic theory Marx always drew a clear distinction between the material content of capitalist economy, the progressive tendencies of its development stemming from the objective laws of large-scale industry, and its reactionary tendencies deriving from its antagonistic social form. Marx showed that it was the progressive tendencies in capitalism that determine the possibility of its being superseded by communism. This fundamental principle of Marxist theory gives the clue to the analysis of new economic and political developments, such as integration, nationalisation of industry, capitalist programming, and so on, that the working-class movement in the capitalist countries has currently to deal with.

Marxist parties come out against a dogmatic denial of the importance of the specific conditions for the workers' struggle brought about by these developments. Thus, far from denying the obvious fact that in capitalist society nationalised industries have nothing socialist about them, the working class in all capitalist countries is fighting for the further extension of the public sector of the economy, against the monopolies' efforts to return some industries to the private sector. In this case Marxists take into account the basic trends of modern social development. In an age of rapid progress of the productive forces, the state's active intervention in the economy (e.g., nationalisation of industry) is an objective necessity. Long ago, Engels considered these measures on the part of the bourgeois state "an economic advance, the attainment of another step preliminary to the taking over of all productive forces by society itself." [87]

While the monopolies seek to neutralise the democratic content of nationalisation, the working class fights for democratic, anti-monopoly forms of nationalisation, for extending nationalisation as much as possible and turning it into an instrument to curb monopoly rule. In this nationalisation is an important instrument for breaking up the modern capitalist system and reorganising society along socialist lines.

The Marxists pay most serious attention to the problem of capitalist integration, to the tendency of state-monopoly regulation of economic development both on the international and national scale. In present conditions integration is doubtlessly a means of enhancing monopoly control. The Marxist method, however, demands that analysis of the reactionary monopolistic form of integration be supplemented by analysis of its material content and that integration should be viewed also as a reflection of the progressive tendencies of the development of the productive forces.

Marxists are fighting for democratic forms of integration, counterposing to the Common Market the conception of an undivided Europe, the restoration of a world market, and the development of the international division of labour as the economic basis of peaceful coexistence of capitalism and socialism. This struggle calls for a strengthening of international solidarity of the working class in order to frustrate the monopolies' efforts to keep the workers' living standards as low as possible and in order that the working people in all countries benefit from each other's achievements. The democratic alternative to monopoly integration can succeed only if it has international scope.

One of the most important conclusions of Marx's economic theory, as we have seen, is that already in the womb of capitalism there mature "the elements for a new and higher form," [88] the elements of the communist mode of production. Marx considered one of such forms workers' co-operative factories which provided evidence that the capitalist was not a necessary figure in production. Simultaneously Marx warned the workers that only by winning political power would they be able to develop co-operative effort on a nation-wide scale, i.e., to liberate the masses in fact. Present-day co-operative societies in capitalist countries are mass organisations numbering millions of members. In the cities they are mostly factory workers and office employees. Co-operative property does not play any appreciable role in industrial production, but it is of considerable importance in agriculture. The share of the co-operative societies in retail trade turnover reaches as high as 15 per cent in some countries.

It must be said that under present-clay conditions, when enterprises are actually run by staff managers hired by the capitalists, the capitalists themselves are a still more unnecessary element in production.

Using in the workers' interest the forms of socialised labour developing already under capitalism, such as the co-operative movement (in agriculture as well) or democratic workers' control in nationalised enterprises, the working class makes these forms the jumping-off ground for the further struggle against capital. This position has nothing in common with reformist illusions such as. for instance, the idea that the turning over of small shares to workers will lead to socialism. Curiously enough, Marx, long ago, commented on this form of social demagogy describing "a certain share in profits" as "a special way of cheating the workers and of deducting a part of their wages in the more precarious form of a profit depending on the state of the business." [89] Neither nationalised nor joint-stock enterprises no matter how many shares workers have in them--alter the foundations of the social system. Still, these elements of transformation may lead towards such a change.

Describing the immense revolutionary significance of a theory giving a correct explanation of reality, Marx wrote: "Once the interconnection is grasped, all theoretical belief in the permanent necessity of existing conditions collapses before their collapse in practice." [90] Working for structural reforms, seeking to oust representatives of the capitalist class from the management of nationalised enterprises and enlist the participation of working people in management, the working class seeks to ensure its own leadership of the economy even under capitalism. The International Meeting of Communist and Workers' Parties (1969) stated that "In contrast to the Right and 'Left' opportunists, the Communist and Workers' Parties do not counterpose the fight for deep-going economic and social demands, and for advanced democracy to the struggle for socialism but regard it as a part of the struggle for socialism. The radical democratic changes which will be achieved in the struggle against the monopolies and their economic domination and political power will promote among the broad masses awareness of the need for socialism." [91]

A salient feature of Marx's economic theory as, incidentally, of the Marxist doctrine as a whole is its clear social character, its clear tendency to action, to practical expression. To know the world has always meant to a Marxist to transform it. The objective economic laws of bourgeois society are felt in the class struggle.

Marx disclosed the objective tendency of capitalist production towards the greatest possible exploitation of the working class. This tendency has been active throughout the entire history of capitalism. The three stages Marx discovered in the development of capitalism - co-operation of labour; division of labour in manufacture; machinery - are nothing but three stages of the process of subjugation of labour by capital. Each stage was marked by a further increase of exploitation, longer hours or more intensive labour, lower wages.

Drawing on extensive documentary material Marx showed that as a result of this tendency labour-power was prematurely exhausted and destroyed and that nothing could moderate this tendency except stubborn resistance from the working class. Marx proved this scientifically, proceeding from his analysis of the value of labour-power which, unlike the value of all other commodities, is the sum of two elements. The value of means of subsistence is merely the lowest limit of the value of labour-power, its purely physical minimum. Apart from it, the value of labour-power is affected by cultural, historical and social factors, the traditional standard of living, etc. Even so, Marx observes, "the range of the so-called prime necessities of life and the manner of their satisfaction mostly depend on the cultural standard of society, ...are themselves a product of history." [92] The lowest physical limit of the value of labour-power tends to fall (as a result of growing labour productivity and the diminishing value Of the means of subsistence) while its social limit rises as the cultural and social level of the working class becomes higher, and following the growing complexity of labour and higher skill requirements. Scientific and technological revolution makes the growth of intellectual standards of the working people a socially necessary, gradually under stood need, the satisfaction of which capitalism tries to limit in every possible way. Hence the workers' demands for educational reforms, for access to culture, etc.

There are also two aspects to the problem of the length of the working day. The objective tendency of capitalism is to prolong the working day as much as possible and to make it as intensive as possible. The actual length of the working day, however, as well as the amount of wages, are determined in the course of the struggle between the working class and the capitalists. Capitalist society has a vested interest in carrying exploitation of the working class to the furthest extent possible. Nothing but organised resistance by the workers can restrain capitalist greed. Marx stressed that "workers by themselves are unable - without acting as a class to bring their pressure to bear on the state and through the state on capital - to rescue from the harpy claws of capital even the free time needed for their physical preservation." [93] Thus Marx explained in economic terms why the workers in capitalist countries had to wage a struggle for shorter hours and higher wages.

Modern state-monopoly capitalism which employs every possible means of "rationalising" production is marked by extremely intensified exploitation of the working class. In the 18(10s Marx calculated that the rate of exploitation of the workers in Britain, which was at that time the most highly developed capitalist country of all, amounted to 100 per cent, i.e., half of the British workers' working hours were unpaid. As capitalism advanced, the worker was exploited not less but more. In 1899 the rate of exploitation in manufacturing in the United States amounted to 128 per cent, and in 1958 to 192 per cent. As we see, almost two in every three hours of work are unpaid. In the middle of this century 5 per cent of the US population appropriated a third of the total national income, i.e., the other 95 per cent of Americans accounted for two-thirds of the national income. According to a survey carried out by Letitia Upton and Nancy Lyons of Cambridge University, today the top twenty per cent of Americans own 77 per cent of personal wealth, which is three times more than the entire wealth of the bottom 80 per cent. The bottom 20 per cent receive less than 6 per cent of income, while the 10.4 million families in the richest fifth take over 40 per cent of income. [94] In this situation the struggle for higher wages and shorter hours is just as when Marx lived - the central form of the economic struggle of the working class.

The growth of wages in the post-war years was the result of the workers' stubborn struggle which developed particularly in the late 1950s and early 60s. However, the reduction of hours put into effect in some capitalist countries in recent years was too insignificant to offset any appreciable increase in the intensity of labour. Today the workers' movement seeks to exert more influence on economic relations in bourgeois society, even on such as the concrete process of capitalist reproduction, the economic cycle. Experience shows that it is possible to utilise some forms of state-monopoly capitalism (e.g., to use state ownership with a view to establishing democratic workers' control or even to use the Common Market in order to expose the international collusion of the monopolies) in the interests of the working class, depending on how advanced the workers' movement is. In this case, the democratic anti-monopoly struggle against modern capitalism concurs with the socialist aspirations of the masses.

The conclusions of Marx's economic doctrine as regards the position of the working class are summed up in the Marxist theory of the impoverishment of working people in bourgeois society, at the basis of which is the universal law of capitalist accumulation formulated by Marx. Marxists have done a great deal in recent years to expose all sorts of absurd assertions about this theory by bourgeois and reformist writers. First of all they have criticised the attempt to replace the genuine Marxist view by an over-schematic conception of the alleged continuous automatic process of absolute impoverishment, absolute deterioration of the position of the working people under capitalism. The actual meaning of Marx's theory of impoverishment is that in bourgeois society the worker always works merely for consumption; the difference is whether his consumption costs are greater or smaller. [95] Only the unceasing struggle of the working class prevents the capitalists from permanently impairing the conditions of its life and work. Nevertheless, comparison of the results achieved by the working class in its struggle against the capitalists to improve its position in bourgeois society on the one hand with the overall development of capitalism and the position of the capitalist class in bourgeois society on the other fully bears out Marx's conclusion about the increasing gap in the social status of workers and capitalists.

Marx pointed out that the possible improvement of the worker's living conditions changed nothing in the fact that as a result of growing labour productivity a still larger part of the working day is appropriated by capital. Hence the absurdity of wishing to disprove this law by means of statistical calculations proving that the worker's material position has improved here or there, in this relation or that, as a result of the development of labour productivity. [96] This is how Marxist theory sees the impoverishment of working people in bourgeois society.

The position of the working class today is characterised by the widening gap between the actual value of labour-power and real wages. The reason is the growth of the workers' socially necessary requirements which is due to the intensification of labour and the rising material, social and cultural standards of the working class. As a result, real wages lag behind the growth of the value of labour-power. The position of the working class is also greatly affected by the ever-growing threat of unemployment (sharply aggravated owing to the energy crisis) and actual unemployment brought about by automation and the intensification of labour. The "insecurity of existence" [97] mentioned by Engels keeps increasing. These objective facts convincingly bear out the Marxist impoverishment theory. Nothing but a social revolution and the conquest of political power can set the working class free.

The development of modern capitalism has also fully borne out another fundamental proposition of Marxist theory - on the growth of proletarisation in capitalist society. Describing this tendency, Marx noted in Capital that capitalist exploitation had so far existed in the world only as an exception. At present, however, the overwhelming majority of the population in capitalist countries are wage-workers, and wage-labour constitutes the basis of capitalism on a far larger scale than in Marx's own day. Whereas in the middle of the 19th century wage-workers accounted for 55-60 per cent of the gainfully employed population (about 82 per cent in Britain and 59.4 per cent in the United States), in the middle of this century wage-labour already accounted for 72-93 per cent of the gainfully employed population of the developed capitalist countries, with the exception of Japan and Italy (93.1 per cent in Britain and 88.6 per cent in the United States). Marx's description of capitalism has proved so profound, the tendencies of its development have been so clearly grasped that, according to Academician E.Varga, the Soviet economist, "present-day capitalism in the industrially developed countries much more closely resembles the capitalist society consisting of two classes - bourgeoisie and proletariat - that Marx assumed to exist as the starting point of his analysis, than it does the capitalism actually existing in Marx's lifetime.” [98]

Marx made it clear that he did not examine the "actual composition" of bourgeois society which, he wrote, "by no means consists only of two classes, workers and industrial capitalists." He noted "the constantly growing number of the middle classes, those who stand between the workman on the one hand and the capitalist and landlord on the other. The middle classes maintain themselves to an ever increasing extent directly out of revenue, they are a burden weighing heavily on the working base and increase the social security and power of the upper ten thousand." [99] According to the Soviet scholar S.Nadel, who based himself on 1964 data, [100] the present-day class composition of US society is (in percentages of gainfully employed population): bourgeoisie-3 per cent, proletariat - 78 per cent, petty bourgeoisie-11 per cent and intermediate sections-8 per cent. As the petty bourgeoisie as a class consists of small property owners in towns and villages who live wholly or chiefly by their own work, the middle classes, those standing between the working class and the capitalists, account, then, for 19 per cent of the total gainfully employed population of the United States.

Recent variations in the composition of the working class itself speak of the exceptional significance of the category of "total worker" introduced and examined in Capital. This category includes mental as well as manual workers directly participating in production and being wage-workers in relation to capital.

As production becomes more and more amalgamated under modern capitalism, the collective character of the labour process increases still more, going beyond the formation of the "total worker" and taking the shape of large industrial complexes which often include practically all workers engaged in an industry or a group of similar industries. Nevertheless, the current tendencies, such as the growth of the number of wage-workers employed outside material production proper, the growth of the number of office employees, the increased share of brainwork in the composition of the "total worker," and so on, does not mean "deproletarianisation" of the working class. Granted, one of the results of the scientific-technological revolution has been an increase in the number of white-collar workers. In highly developed capitalist countries they account for a quarter of the population engaged in industrial production. But just as much as the industrial proletariat, they have to sell their labour-power to the capitalists, they are threatened by unemployment owing to increasing automation, and their salaries are often less than skilled workers' wages. For all these reasons they often join the workers against the monopolies. In the course of this common struggle the social barriers still separating the proletarians working at a machine-tool and the proletarians working at a writing desk or drawing board are gradually overcome. Certainly, better understanding and closer contact between manual workers and intellectuals does not yet mean that they have merged into one group, that all social distinctions between them have disappeared. So far these distinctions (e.g. , the wage and educational level, etc.) effectively offset the factors bringing them together. Nevertheless, the introduction of the main laws of capitalist material production in the field of science and culture tends to erode the social barrier between the working class and the intellectuals and to unite these social groups in the anti-imperialist struggle.

The 1969 International Meeting of Communist and Workers' Parties stated: "In this age, when science is becoming a direct productive force, growing numbers of intellectuals are swelling the ranks of wage and salary workers. Their social interests intertwine with those of the working class ... The alliance of workers by hand and by brain is becoming an increasingly important force in the struggle for peace, democracy and social progress ..." [101]

Economic development today more than ever before calls for joint efforts by the working class on an international scale as well as within separate industries and countries. From Marx's economic theory, as we saw, it directly follows that regardless of ruthless competition the capitalist class operates as a united whole in exploiting the workers. The famous slogan, "Working men of all lands, unite!" is therefore founded on the objective position of the working class in the capitalist economic system. Today workers can only get their demands satisfied by resorting to trade union action within an enterprise or industry. The anti-monopoly, democratic alternative to the Common Market, to state-monopoly integration must of necessity be international, i.e. , it must reflect the interests of working people of all the countries involved in integration. It is plain that only international co-ordination of working-class action - through the trade unions, for example - can ensure success to the struggle against international monopoly capital.

Integration and the attendant interdependence of whole branches of production on a national and international scale make the situation favourable for industrial action by the working class, as every stoppage of production strikes at a group of monopolies. The success of this struggle directly depends on the proletariat's international solidarity. Here systematic contacts between parties of the working class have an important role to play. It is of utmost importance under present-day circumstances to subject economic processes to scientific analysis, to work out promptly joint methods of dealing with new forms of capitalist exploitation, and to co-ordinate the strategy and tactics of the international workers' movement.

The political integration of the working class of the capitalist and socialist countries is counterposed to the process of capitalist economic integration. The international unity of the working class alone can help to find solutions to cardinal problems facing society. And these arc vast problems indeed: the radical democratisation of economic development of whole regions or even of the world, the solution of the problem of national sovereignty, made particularly acute by the process of integration, the problem of relaxing international tensions and promoting co-operation between the socialist and the capitalist countries. The widest international co-operation of the working class alone can ensure a united front of peoples working for peace and for prevention of a nuclear catastrophe.

The changes that have occurred in the social structure of bourgeois society have opened up broad prospects for the revolutionary struggle of the working class, for the fulfilment of its world-historic role of leader of the socialist revolution, the leader of all the oppressed and exploited. A favourable situation for the promotion of the working class to a leading position in society and the establishment of a firm alliance between the proletariat and the peasant and petty bourgeois masses is created by the absolute and relative increase in the number of wage-workers in developed capitalist countries and the greater economic role of the industrial proletariat working in key sectors of the economy. Other factors at work are: the narrowing gap between the working conditions of workers and employees in various branches; the fact that the bulk of intellectuals are becoming wage-workers; the continuous ousting of small urban producers from material production and their increasing economic instability; the growing class stratification of farmers in the developed capitalist countries; the more active involvement of peasants and the semi-proletariat in the national-liberation struggle in most of the developing countries, along with the weakening of the position of feudal chiefs, landowners and the upper bourgeoisie.

3. Forecasts of a Communist Economy

Marx showed bourgeois society in Capital as a living whole, as a historically determined, transient stage in the development of mankind. As he analysed capitalism, Marx systematically compared it with both pre-capitalist formations and a future communist society. This feature of Marx's economic theory follows directly from his method of investigation in which, as we saw, historical and logical analysis are combined. This method gave Marx the opportunity to explain thoroughly the particular characteristics of capitalist society on the one hand, and to explain the economic law of its movement, to justify its inevitable replacement by communism, on the other. Obviously, Marx did not - nor could he - investigate in detail in Capital the society of the future. In a review of the first volume of Capital Engels wrote that those who thought they would learn from it what the thousand-year kingdom of communism would be actually like would be disappointed, for Marx gave only some very general hints of what would be after the social revolution. [102] But although Marx referred to a communist economy in very general terms, he still described its most essential features, giving a sufficiently complete picture of communism. In the current epoch, when the building of a new society has become a practical task for a third of mankind, Marx's forecast is of immense interest.

First of all it must be stressed that scientific forecasting presents tremendous problems. Academician N. Belov, a prominent Soviet physicist, justly observed that "every scientific long-term forecast unfortunately can only be approximate and can even be so far off that it may be at complete variance with what will actually happen." [103] This is how it is with the forecasting of physical phenomena. Social processes are much more difficult to forecast. And if we can now say that Marx's forecasts have proved to be highly reliable, it is thanks above all to the method of differentiating between the material content and social form of economic processes, which Marx applied. We dwelt on this method in the second part of this book. Marx's forecasts were founded each time on analysis of the material content of the economic system, and that gave them a completely realistic, scientific character.

On the strength of the researches carried out in Capital Marx gave in the Critique of the Gotha Programme (1875) a detailed description of the basic features of communist society at its is initial stage (the first or lower phase - socialism) and at the stage of its full development (the higher phase, communism). Marx believed that in both phases of communist society "based on common ownership of the means of production, the producers do not exchange their products; just as little does the labour employed on the products appear here as the value of these products, as a material quality possessed by them, since now, in contrast to capitalist society, individual labour no longer exists in an indirect fashion but directly as a component part of the total labour." [104] Comparing this conclusion with the real existence of commodity-money relations in socialist society today, sonic researchers (Marxists and non-Marxists, not to mention anti-Marxists) have arrived at the conclusion that there is an irreconcilable contradiction between the law of value and a socialist planned economy. Some bourgeois economists conclude, moreover, that the future of socialism depends on the outcome of the struggle between the law of value and socialist planning. Accordingly, they interpret the socialist countries' course for the further improvement of planning and economic stimulation of production, and in particular for the development of commodity-value relations, as a departure from socialism. Such assertions are erroneous because they stem from an identification of a concrete socialist economy with its abstract theoretical model given in Capital, which implies the creation of "the full material conditions for the total, universal development of the productive forces of the individual." [105] All such material conditions may be provided only in the higher phase of communism. As for the socialist phase, it is characterised by the insufficient maturity of social labour. Hence commodity production is necessary, and the law of value must operate in a socialist economy. The starting-points for achieving a correct solution of this most complex problem are contained in Marx's economic theory.

Considering in the Critique of the Gotha Programme the first phase of communist society [106], Marx proceeded from its transitional character. "What we have to deal with here," he wrote, "is a communist society, not as it has developed on its own foundations, but, on the contrary, just as it emerges from capitalist society; which is thus in every respect, economically, morally and intellectually, still stamped with the birth marks of the old society from whose womb it emerges." The first consequence of the transitional character of socialism is that in it the principle of distribution according to work, i.e. , in fact, the principle of equivalent exchange, predominates. "Accordingly," Marx continues, "the individual producer receives back from society - after the deductions have been made - exactly what he gives to it." Nevertheless. Marx. calls attention to the fact that in the first phase of communism both the content and form of equivalent exchange differ from the capitalist commodity exchange. The content becomes different as "under the altered circumstances no one can give anything except his labour, and because, on the other hand, nothing can pass to the ownership of individuals except individual means of consumption." And the form of equivalent exchange becomes different in that "... principle and practice are no longer at loggerheads, while the exchange of equivalents in commodity exchange only exists on the average and not in the individual case.” The latter proposition points to the planned character of the equivalent exchange under socialism.

The exchange of equivalents mentioned here by Marx does not, by itself, imply the operation of the law of value, although it is indeed the material basis for the operation of the law. Under the real conditions of socialism to this material basis the social form of value is necessarily added. Why? The level of the productive forces and the consequent level of socialisation of production in the real circumstances of socialism are such that directly social labour (and it is directly social owing to the predominance of the social ownership of the means of production) is not still completely social. Only under developed communism (in its higher phase) is the social form of production fully adequate to the material content of production. "In a higher phase of communist society," Marx wrote, "after the enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labour, and therewith also the antithesis between mental and physical labour, has vanished; after labour has become not only a means of life but life's prime want; after the productive forces have also increased with the all-round development of the individual, and all the springs of co-operative wealth flow more abundantly - only then can the narrow horizon of bourgeois right be crossed in its entirety and society inscribe on its banners: From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!" [107] Under socialism, however, private and social labour are not yet completely identical. The work done in each enterprise is relatively independent of the work done in other enterprises. Private labour has still to prove its social nature by marketing its products, by converting commodities into money. Under socialism (albeit on an entirely different basis, compared with capitalism, on the basis of social ownership) labour and the product of labour still retain the two-fold character, and so there remains the need to reduce concrete labour to abstract labour, to reduce a use-value to value, and so on.

Under socialism the products of labour have, on the one hand, the specific features of directly social planned production which exists on the basis of social ownership; on the other hand they are commodities. But even to the extent that a product of labour is a commodity it is essentially different from the commodity as a category of the capitalist economic system. It is different first of all because under socialism such category of commodity as labour-power does not exist. The very aim of socialist production makes it impossible for labour-power to become a commodity.

As he analysed the dialectics of the change of commodity production into capitalist production, Marx pointed out that "This result becomes inevitable from the moment there is a free sale, by the labourer himself, of labour-power as a commodity ..." [108] Thus the fact that under socialism labour-power does not become a commodity not only restrains commodity production so that it cannot "unfold all its hidden potentialities," but radically alters the very tendency of the development of commodity production, making it possible in principle for it to work for the socialist economy. Socialist ownership of the means of production determines the planned character of production under socialism as well as its relatively limited character (compared with capitalist production), since labour-power here is not a commodity. As in the first phase of communism the level of socialisation of production is not sufficiently high, the planning of social production is still unable to reflect adequately the objective development of the productive forces and must be of necessity supplemented by a system of commodity-money relations.

Such are, in general outline, the non-antagonistic contradictions between the productive forces and the relations of production in the economic sphere under socialism. From this we see how unjustifiable it is to contrast economic planning and the commodity-money relations. It is equally absurd to declare, as some people do, that socialism is merely a variant of commodity production, a "market socialism."

It is not our purpose here to dwell in detail on Marx's views on the economics of communism. All we wanted to do was to illustrate by a single example (which is, incidentally, of great importance to socialist production) that Marx's economic theory - provided, of course, it is approached in a truly dialectical, creative fashion --gives us the key to the processes going on at present.


That is all, dear reader, that the author set out to and that he possibly could say within the space of this small book. The many quotations in it show the author's desire to give the floor as often as possible to the central figure in the story, to Karl Marx, for the author is completely convinced that the best way of understanding a scientific theory is to go to the original source.

Before parting from the reader the author would like to draw his attention to the remarkable unity of Marx's doctrine, to the close cohesion of all its component parts. We have seen that the main propositions of the theory of scientific communism were formulated by Marx and Engels in the 1840s as conclusions from materialist conception of the history of human society. The development of this conception in turn provided the guidelines for Marx's economic researches, while the need for the further elaboration of the theory of scientific communism made these researches vitally necessary. Lastly, the elaboration of the economic theory substantially enriched the materialist conception of history. This interaction existed throughout the theoretical investigation pursued by Marx and Engels. It completely refutes the conjectures of the opponents of Marxism who counterpose to one another different aspects of Marx's doctrine, different stages in the development of this doctrine, and especially the doctrine itself and its revolutionary conclusions. Recognising Marx the scholar, bourgeois or revisionist theorists seek, as often as not, to separate him from Marx the revolutionary. Nothing could he more absurd than that.

Long ago, in 1845, the young Engels wrote with great conviction: "As confidently as we can derive a new proposition from some given mathematical axioms, so confidently can we draw from the existing economic relations and the principles of political economy the conclusion about the forthcoming social revolution." [109] Marx's enormous work on Capital, to which he devoted forty years of his life, made this bold prediction a reality. Mankind's transition to a new historical epoch, the epoch of the purposeful reorganisation of human society, predicted in Marx's theory, is under way, and nothing can stop it.

[76] V. Lenin. Collected Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1963, Vol. 22, p. 200.

[77] K. Marx. Theories of Surplus-Value, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1969, Part II, p. 94.

[78] Ibid., p. 29.

[79] Ibid., p. 163.

[80] Ibid., p. 305.

[81] Ya. Pevzner. Methods in K. Marx's "Capital" and Modern Capitalism, Moscow, 1969, p. 101, Russ. Ed.

[82] V. Lenin. Collected Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1964, Vol. 22, p. 276.

[83] K. Marx, Capital, Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1962, Vol. III, p. 646.

[84] K. Marx. Grundrisse. Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy, Penguin Books, London, 1973, p. 108.

[85] Ibid., pp. 145-146.

[86] K. Marx. Capital, Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1962, Vol. I, p. 6.

[87] K. Marx, F. Engels. Selected Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1969, Vol. 3, p. 144.

[88] K. Marx. Capital, Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1962, Vol. III, p. 799.

[89] K. Marx. Grundrisse. Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy, Penguin Books, London, 1973, p. 288.

[90] K. Marx, F. Engels. Selected Correspondence, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1965, p. 210.

[91] International Meeting of Communist and Workers' Parties, Moscow, 1969, Peace and Socialism Publishers, Prague, 1969, p. 24

[92] K. Marx, F. Engels. Collected Works, Vol. 47, p. 42, Russ. Ed.

[93] Ibid., p. 585.

[94] The New York Times, June 29, 1972, p. 39.

[95] See K. Marx, F. Engels. Collected Works, Vol. 47, p. 126, Russ. Ed.

[96] Ibid., p. 279.

[97] K. Marx, F. Engels. Critique of the Gotha Programme. A Contribution to the Critique of the Social-Democratic Draft Programme of 1891, Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1960, p. 54.

[98] E. Varga. Twentieth Century Capitalism, Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1962, p. 25.

[99] K. Marx. Theories of Surplus-Value, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1969, Part H, p. 573.

[100] Mirovaya ekonomika i mezhdunarodniye otnosheniya (World Economy and International Relations), No. 12, 1970, p. 67.

[101] International Meeting of Communist and Workers' Parties, Moscow, 1969, Peace and Socialism Publishers, Prague, 1969, p. 85.

[102] K. Marx, F. Engels. Collected Works, Vol. 16, p. 221, Russ. Ed.

[103] Literaturnaya gazeta (Literary Gazette), No. 33, August 14, 1968, p. 11.

[104] K. Marx, F. Engels. Selected Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1969, Vol. 3, p. 17.

[105] K. Marx. Grundrisse. Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy, Penguin Books, London, 1973, p. 325.

[106] K. Marx, F. Engels. Selected Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1969, Vol. 3, p. 17.

[107] Ibid., p. 19.

[108] K. Marx. Capital, Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1962, Vol. I, p. 587.

[109] Ibid.