A Textbook issued by the Economics Institute of the Academy of Sciences of the U.S.S.R




The Basis of Production Relations in the Capitalist System

With the transition from manufacture to large-scale machine industry the capitalist mode of production became predominant. In industry, in place of craft workshops and manufactories based on hand labour, factories and works appeared in which labour was equipped with complicated machinery. Largescale capitalist farms began to arise in agriculture, using comparatively developed agronomical technique and agricultural machinery. New techniques developed, new productive forms came into being, and new capitalist production-relations became predominant. An investigation of the productionrelations of capitalist society in their rise, development and decline makes up the principal content of Marx’s Capital.

The basis of the production-relations of bourgeois society is capitalist property in the means of production. Capitalist property in the means of production means the private property of the capitalists, not derived from their own labour, and used for exploitation of wage-workers. In Marx’s classic definition,

“the capitalist mode of production rests on the fact that the material conditions of production are in the hands of non-workers in the form of property in capital and land, while the masses are only owners of the personal conditions of production, of labour-power". (Marx, “Critique of the Gotha Programme", Marx and Engels, Selected Works, 1950, English edition, vol. II, p. 23.)

Capitalist production is based on wage-labour. Wageworkers are free from the ties of serfdom. But they are deprived of the means of production and compelled under threat of starvation to sell their labour-power to the capitalists. The exploitation of the proletariat by the bourgeoisie is the main feature of capitalism, and the relationship between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat is the fundamental class relationship of the capitalist system.

In countries where the capitalist mode of production prevails, alongside capitalist forms of economy more or less substantial survivals of pre-capitalist forms of economy have been preserved. “Pure capitalism" does not exist anywhere. Besides capitalist property there also exist in bourgeois countries the large-scale landed property of the landlords, together with the petty private property of simple commodity producers, peasants and craftsmen, who live by their own labour. Petty production plays a subordinate role under capitalism. The mass of petty commodity producers of town and country are exploited by the capitalists and landlords who own the factories and works, the banks, commercial institutions and the land.

The capitalist mode of production passes through two stages in its development: pre-monopoly and monopoly. The general economic laws of capitalism operate in both stages of its development. At the same time, monopoly capitalism is distinguished by a whole series of important special features, of which more later.

Let us now pass to examining the essential nature of capitalist exploitation.

Transformation of Money into Capital

Each unit of capital begins its career in the form of a certain sum of money.

Money does not in itself constitute capital. When, for instance, independent petty commodity producers exchange their commodities, money plays its part as a circulation medium but does not serve as capital. The formula of commodity circulation is: C (commodity)-M (money)-C (commodity), i.e., the selling of one commodity in order to buy another. Money becomes capital when it is used to exploit the labour of others. The general formula of capital is M-CM, i.e., buying in order to sell so as to make money.

The formula C-M-C means that one use-value is exchanged for another: a commodity producer hands over a commodity which he does not need and receives in exchange another commodity which he needs for use. The purpose of the circulation process is a use-value. In the formula M-C-M, on the contrary, the starting and finishing points of the movement coincide: at the beginning of the process the capitalist had money and at the end of it he has money. The movement of capital would be pointless if at the end of the process the capitalist had the same amount of money as at the beginning. The whole sense of the capitalist’s activity is that as the result of the operation he has more money than he had at the beginning. The purpose of the circulation process is an increase in value. Therefore the general formula of capital in its full form is: M-C-M’, with M’ standing for an increased amount of money.

Capital advanced by a capitalist, i.e., put into circulation by him, returns to its owner with a certain increment.

What is the source of this growth of capital? Bourgeois economists, in their endeavour to hide the true source of money-making by the capitalists, often assert that this increment comes about in the process of commodity circulation. This assertion is unsound. Consider the facts. If commodities and money of equal value, i.e., equivalents, are exchanged, none of the commodity owners can derive from circulation any value greater than that which is embodied in his own commodity. If sellers succeed in selling their commodities above their value, by 10 per cent, say, when they become buyers they have to pay back this 10 per cent to the sellers. Thus, what the commodity owners gain as sellers they lose as buyers. Yet in actual fact increments to capital are secured by the whole class of capitalists. Evidently, the owner of money, in order to become a capitalist, must find on the market a commodity which when consumed creates its own value and something over besides, more than it possesses itself. In other words, the owner of money must find on the market a commodity the use-value of which possesses the property of being a source of value. This commodity is labour-power.

Labour-power as a Commodity. Value and Use-value of the Commodity Labour-power

Labour-power, as the aggregate of physical and mental qualities of which a person disposes and which he puts into action whenever he produces material wealth, is a necessary element of production in any form of society. Only under capitalism, however, does labour-power become a commodity.

Capitalism is commodity production at the highest stage of its development, when labour-power too becomes a commodity. With the transformation of labour-power into a commodity, commodity production takes on a universal character. Capitalist production is based on wage-labour, and the hiring of a worker by a capitalist is nothing else than the buying and selling of the commodity labour-power: the worker sells his labour-power and the capitalist buys it.

When he has hired a worker, a capitalist has the worker’s labour-power at his free disposal. The capitalist uses this labour-power in the process of production; and that is where the increment to capital takes place.

Like every other commodity, labour-power is sold at a definite price, which is based upon its value. What is this value?

For the worker to retain his ability to work he must satisfy his need for food, clothing, footwear and housing. Satisfaction of these necessary vital requirements means restoring the vital energy-of muscles, nerves and brainswhich the worker has expended and putting him once more in a fit state to work. Furthermore, capital needs a constant flow of labour-power; for this reason the worker must be able to maintain not only himself but also his family. In this way the reproduction, i.e., the continuous renewal, of labourpower is ensured. Finally, capital needs not only unskilled but also skilled workers, able to handle complex machinery, while the acquisition of skill involves a certain outlay of labour on training. For this reason the expenses of producing and reproducing labour-power also include a definite minimum of expenditure on the training of the rising generations of the working class.

It follows from the above that the value of labour-power as a commodity is equal to the value of the means of existence which are necessary for the maintenance of the worker and his family. “The value of labour-power is determined as in the case of every other commodity, by the labour-time necessary for the production, and consequently, also the reproduction of this special article." (Marx, Capital, Kerr edition, vol. 1, p. 189)

In the course of the historical development of society both the level of worker’s customary requirements and also the means needed to satisfy these requirements have undergone changes. The level of a worker’s customary requirements varies from country to country. The special features of the historical path followed by a given country and the conditions in which the class of wage-workers was formed have much to do with determining the nature of these requirements. Climatic and other natural conditions also have a certain bearing on the workers’ requirements in respect of food, clothing and shelter. The value of labour-power includes not only the value of the consumer goods needed to restore the physical strength of the worker but also the cost of satisfying certain cultural requirements of himself and his family, engendered by the very conditions of society in which the workers live and are brought up (education of children, purchase of newspapers and books, visits to the cinema and the theatre, etc.). The capitalists try, all the time and everywhere, to reduce the material and cultural conditions of the working class to the lowest possible level.

When he begins in business, a capitalist buys everything that he needs for production: buildings, machinery, equipment, raw materials, fuel. Then he engages workers, and the production-process commences in the enterprise which he owns. When the commodity is ready, the capitalist sells it. The value of the finished commodity comprises: first, the value of the means of production expended (the raw material worked up, the fuel used, a certain part of the value of the buildings, machinery and tools); second, the new value created by the workers in the enterprise itself.

What does this new value consist of?

The capitalist mode of production presupposes a comparatively high level of productivity of labour, under which the worker needs only part of the working day to create value equal to the value of his labour-power. Let us suppose that one hour of simple average labour creates value equivalent to one dollar and the daily value of labour-power is equivalent to six dollars. In this case the worker, so as to pay for the daily value of his labour-power, would have to work six hours~ But the capitalist has bought his labour-power for the whole day, and he compels the worker to work not six hours but for an entire working day, lasting, say, twelve hours. During these twelve hours the worker creates value equivalent to twelve dollars, even though the value of his labour-power is equivalent only to six dollars.

We now see what the specific use-value of the commodity labour-power consists of for the person who buys it-the capitalist. The use-value of the commodity labour-power is its capacity to be the source of value, and withal, of more than it possesses itself.

The Production of Surplus-Value-Basic Economic Law of Capitalism

The value of labour-power and the value which is created in the process of using it are, in fact, two quite distinct magnitudes. The difference which exists between these magnitudes. is the necessary prerequisite for capitalist exploitation.

In our example, the capitalist, who has spent 6 dollars on hiring workers, obtains value created by their labour which is equivalent to 12 dollars. The capitalist recovers the capital which he originally advanced plus an increment or surplus equivalent to 6 dollars. It is this increment that constitutes surplusvalue.

Surplus-value is the value created by the labour of a wage-worker over and above the value of his labour-power and appropriated by the capitalist without payment. Thus, surplus labour is the result of the worker’s unpaid labour.

The working day in a capitalist enterprise is divided into two parts : necessary labour-time and surplus labour-time, and the labour of the wageworker into necessary and surplus labour. During the necessary labour-time the worker reproduces the value of his labour-power, and during the surplus labour- time he creates. surplus-value.

A worker’s labour, under capitalism, is a process of use by the capitalist of the commodity labour-power, or a process of extraction of surplus-value from the worker by the capitalist. The labour-process is characterised, under capitalism, by two fundamental peculiarities. First, the worker works under the control of the capitalist to whom the worker’s labour belongs. Second, not only does the worker’s labour belong to the capitalist but also the product of this labour. These peculiarities of the labour-process transform the wage-worker’s labour into a heavy and hateful burden.

The immediate aim of capitalist production is the production of surplusvalue. In accordance with this, productive labour means under capitalism only such labour as creates surplus-value. If the worker does not create surplusvalue, his work is unproductive work, useless for capital.

In contrast to the previous forms of exploitation-slave-owning and feudalcapitalist exploitation is masked. When the wage-worker sells his labour-power to the capitalist, this transaction appears at first sight to be an ordinary transaction between commodity owners, the usual exchange of a commodity against money, carried out in accord with the law of value. The transaction of buying and selling labour-power, however, is merely the outward form behind which is hidden the exploitation of the worker by the capitalist, the appropriation by the capitalist, without any equivalent, of the worker’s unpaid labour.

In order to clarify the essential nature of capitalist exploitation we will suppose that the capitalist, when he engages the worker, pays him the full value of his labour-power, determined by the law of value. It will be shown later when we examine wages that, unlike the prices of other commodities, the price of labour-power, as a rule, diverges below its value. This circumstance still further increases the exploitation of the working class by the capitalist class.

Capitalism enables the wage-worker to work, and consequently to live, only in so far as for a certain amount of his time he works gratis for the capitalist. If he leaves one capitalist enterprise, the most favourable thing that can happen to the worker will be to find himself in another capitalist enterprise, where he will be subjected to the same exploitation. When he exposed the system of wage-labour as a system of wage-slavery, Marx pointed out that whereas the Roman slave was bound by chains, the wage-worker was bound by invisible threads to his owner. This owner is the capitalist class as a whole.

Surplus-value, created by the unpaid labour of wage-workers, constitutes the common source of the unearned incomes of the various groups of the bourgeois class: industrialists, traders and bankers-and also the class of landowners.

Production of surplus-value is the basic economic law of capitalism. Analysing capitalism, Marx wrote: “Production of surplus-value is, the absolute law of this mode of production." (Marx, Capital, Kerr edition, vol. 1, p. 678.)

The essential features of this law consist in the production of surplus-value on an ever-increasing scale and the appropriation of it by the capitalists on the basis of bourgeois ownership of the means of production by means of increasing exploitation of wage-labour and the extension of production.

Capital did not invent surplus labour. Wherever society consists of exploiters and exploited, the ruling class pumps surplus labour out of the exploited classes. But unlike the slave-owner and the feudalist, who in conditions where natural economy prevailed used the greater part of the product of the surplus labour of the slaves and serf-peasants for the direct satisfaction of their needs and whims, the capitalist transforms the whole of what his wage-workers produce into money. Part of this money the capitalist spends on buying consumer goods and luxury articles, the rest he invests again, as additional capital, to bring him in further surplus-value. This is why capital displays, in Marx’s words, truly wolf-like greed for surplus labour.

The pursuit of surplus-value is the principal driving-force of the development of the productive forces under capitalism. None of the previous forms of society based on exploitation, neither slavery nor feudalism, possessed such a force, hastening forward the growth of technique.

Lenin called the doctrine of surplus-value the corner-stone of Marx’s economic theory. By disclosing in his doctrine of , surplus-value the essence of capitalist exploitation, Marx dealt a mortal blow to bourgeois political economy and its talk about the harmony of interests under capitalism, and gave the working class a spiritual weapon for overthrowing capitalism.

Capital as a Social Relation of Production. Constant and Variable Capital

Bourgeois economists call “capital" every instrument of labour and every means of production, beginning with the stones and sticks of primitive man. This definition of capital has the aim of concealing the essence of capitalist exploitation of the worker and of showing capital as some sort of eternal and unchanging condition for the existence of any human society.

In fact, the stones and sticks of primitive man served him as instruments of labour but were not capital. Neither are the tools and raw material of the handicraftsman capital, nor the Implements, seed and draught animals of the peasant who works his holding with his own labour. Means of production become capital only at a certain level of historical development, when they are the private property of a capitalist and serve as means of exploiting wagelabour. With the liquidation of the capitalist system the means of production pass into social ownership and cease to be capital. Thus, capital is not a thing but a social relationship of production which is historically transient in character.

Capital is value which, through the exploitation of wage-labour, brings in surplus-value. In Marx’s words, capital is “dead labour, that vampire-like, only lives by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more labour it sucks." (Marx, Capital, Kerr edition, vol. 1, p. 257.) Embodied in capital is the production-relationship between the class of capitalists and the working class, consisting in the fact that the capitalists as owners of the means and conditions of production exploit wageworkers who create surplus-value for them. This production-relationship, like all the other production-relations of capitalist society, takes the form of a relationship between things, and appears as if it were a property of things themselves-the means of production-to bring in an income for the capitalist.

This is what constitutes the fetishism of capital. Under the capitalist mode of production a deceptive appearance is created, as though the means of production (or a particular sum of money for which means of production can be bought), possess by themselves the miraculous property of providing their owner with a regular unearned income.

Different parts of capital play different roles in the process of producing surplus-value.

The entrepreneur spends a certain part of his capital on erecting a factory building, on purchasing equipment and machinery, on buying raw materials, fuel and auxiliary supplies. The value of this part of capital is transferred into the newly-produced commodity in proportion as the means of production are used up or worn out in the labour process. The part of capital which exists in the form of value of the means of production does not change its magnitude during the process of production, and is therefore called constant capital.

Another part of his capital is spent by the entrepreneur on the purchase of labour-power-on hiring workers. In return for this part of the capital which he lays out the entrepreneur receives at the end of the production process a new value which has been produced by the workers in his enterprise. This new value, as we have seen) is greater than the value of the labour-power bought by the capitalist. Thus that part of the capital which is spent on the hiring workers changes its magnitude in the production process: it grows as a result of the creation by the workers of surplus-value which is appropriated by the capitalist. The part of capital which is spent on the purchase of labour-power (i.e., on hiring workers) and grows in the process of production, is called variable capital.

Marx used the Latin letter “c" to signify constant capital and “v" to signify variable capital. It was Marx who first divided capital into its constant and variable parts. Through this division the special role played by variable capital employed in the purchase of labour-power was revealed. The exploitation of wage-workers by capitalists is the real source of surplus-value.

The discovery of the two-fold character of the labour embodied in a commodity provided Marx with the key for establishing the difference between constant and variable capital and exposing the essential nature of capitalist exploitation. Marx showed that the worker by his labour simultaneously creates new value and transfers the value of the means of production into the manufactured commodity. As a definite kind of concrete labour, the worker’s labour transfers the value of the used-up means of production into his product; while as abstract labour, as expenditure of labour-power in general, the same worker’s labour creates new value. These two aspects of the labour-process are distinguished quite tangibly. For example, when the productivity of labour in a particular branch of industry is doubled, a spinner transfers to his product during the course of a working day twice as much of the value of the means of production (because he works up a quantity of cotton twice as large), but he creates only the same amount of new value as before.

The Rate of Surplus-Value

The Rate of Surplus-Value The degree of exploitation of the worker by the capitalist is expressed in the rate of surplus-value.

The rate of surplus-value is the term used for the relation between the surplus-value and the variable capital, expressed as a percentage. The rate of surplus-value shows the proportions in which the labour expended by the worker is divided into necessary and surplus labour, or in other words, what part of the proletarian’s working day is spent in replacing the value of his labour-power and what part of it he spends working gratis for the capitalist.

Marx used the Latin letter “s" to stand for surplus-value and “s"/v to stand for the rate of surplus-value. In the case quoted above the rate of surplus-value, expressed as a percentage, would be: s/v=6 dollars/6 dollars x100=100 per cent.

The rate of surplus-value is in this case 100 per cent. What this means is that in the given case the worker’s labour is divided equally into necessary and surplus labour. As capitalism develops, the rate of surplus-value grows, expressing the increase in the degree of exploitation of the. proletariat by the bourgeoisie. Still more rapidly grows the mass of surplus-value, as the number of wage-workers. exploited by capital increases.

In his article “Workers’ Earnings and Capitalists’ Profits in Russia", written in 1912, Lenin set out the following calculations, showing the degree to which the proletariat was exploited in pre-revolutionary Russia. According to the findings of an official investigation of factories and works carried out in 1908 and tending, undoubtedly, to overestimate the figures for the size of workers’ earnings and underestimate those for the size of capitalist’s profits, the workers’ wages amounted to 555.7 million roubles, while the capitalists’ profit totalled 568.7 million roubles. The total number of workers employed in the enterprises of large-scale factory industry which were investigated was 2,254,000. Thus, a worker’s average wage was 246 roubles it year, while each worker provided the capitalists, on an average, with 252 roubles of profit annually.

Thus, in Tsarist Russia the worker spent less than half of his day working for himself and more than half working for the capitalist.

Two Ways of Increasing the Degree of Exploitation of Labour by Capital.
Absolute and Relative Surplus-Value

Each capitalist tries his utmost, with the aim of increasing surplus-value, to increase the share of surplus labour extracted from the worker. The increasing of surplus-value is effected in two main ways.

Let us take for example a working day of 12 hours, of which 6 hours are necessary and 6 are surplus labour. Let us show this working day as a line on which each division is equivalent to 1 hour.


The magnitude of the surplus labour-time has grown as a result of the absolute lengthening of the working day as a whole, while the necessary labour-time has remained the same. Surplus-value produced by lengthening the working-day is called absolute surplus-value.

The second method of increasing the degree of exploitation of the workers consists in arranging, while the overall length of the working day remains unchanged, for the surplus-value received by the capitalist to increase thanks to a reduction in the necessary labour-time. The growth of the productivity of labour in the branches of industry which manufacture goods consumed by the workers, and also in those supplying implements and material for the production of these consumer goods, leads to a reduction in the labour-time needed for their production. Consequently, the value of the workers’ means of subsistence decreases; and in accordance with this the value of labour-power declines. Where formerly 6 hours had to be expended to produce a worker’s means of subsistence, now this demands, say, only 4 hours. In a case like this the working day may be depicted in the following manner:


The length of the working day has not been altered, but the amount of surplus labour-time has grown as a result of the changed proportion between necessary and surplus labour-time. Surplus-value which arises from a reduction in necessary labour-time and corresponding increase in surplus labour-time as a result of an increase in the productivity of labour is called relative surplus-value.

Both ways of increasing surplus-value lead to intensifying the exploitation of wage labour by capital; but they play a different part at different stages of the historical development of capitalism. In the first stages of the development of capitalism, when technique was at a low level and progressed relatively slowly, the most important method was the increase in absolute surplus-value. In its hunt for surplus-value capital effected a radical revolution in former methods of production, the Industrial Revolution, which gave rise to large-scale machine industry. Capitalist simple co-operation, manufacture and machine industry, discussed above, in Chapters V and VI, were successive stages in the increase in the productivity of labour by capital. In the machine period, when rapidly developing technique made it possible to raise the productivity of labour in a short time, the capitalists brought about a tremendous intensification in the degree of exploitation of the workers first and foremost by effecting an increase in relative surplus labour. At the same time they continued as before to strive for a lengthening of the working day and especially to enhance the intensity of labour. Intensifying the workers’ labour means for the capitalist the same as lengthening the working day: lengthening the working day from 10 to 11 hours or heightening the intensity of labour by one-tenth gives him the same result in either case.

Extra Surplus-Value

An important role in the development of capitalism is played by the pursuit of extra surplus-value. It is obtained when individual capitalists introduce machines and production methods in their works which are more advanced than those used in the majority of enterprises in the same branch. In this way the individual capitalist achieves in his enterprise a higher productivity of labour compared with the average level which prevails in the relevant branch of production. As a result, the individual value of a commodity produced in this capitalist’s enterprise is lower than the social value of this commodity. As the price of a commodity is determined by its social value, however, the capitalist obtains a higher rate of surplus-value compared with the usual rate.

Let us take the following example. Let us suppose that a worker in a tobacco factory produces 1,000 cigarettes an hour and works twelve hours, during six of which he is creating value equivalent to the value of his own labour-power. If a machine is introduced in this factory which doubles the productivity of labour, this worker, working twelve hours as before, produces not 12,000 but 24,000 cigarettes. Part of the newly-created value, embodied (allowing for the value of the transferred part of the constant capital) in six thousand cigarettes i.e., the product of three hours, reimburses the factory-owner for the worker’s wages. The rest; of the newlycreated value, embodied (allowing for the value of the transferred part of the constant capital) in 18,000 cigarettes, i.e., the product of nine hours, remains with the factory-owner.

Thus, a reduction in the necessary labour-time takes place, with a corresponding lengthening of the surplus labour-time. The worker needs not even six hours but only three hours to replace the value of his own labour-power; his surplus labour has increased from six hours to nine. The rate of surplus-value has trebled.

Extra surplus-value is an excess of surplus-value above the usual rate, obtained by individual capitalists as a result of a decrease in the individual values of commodities produced in their enterprises.

The obtaining of extra surplus-value is only a temporary phenomenon for any particular enterprise. Sooner or later the majority of entrepreneurs in the same branch will introduce the new machinery, and whoever does not possess sufficient capital to do this will be ruined in the process of competition. As a result, the time socially-necessary for the production of the given commodity will be shortened and the value of the commodity reduced; and the capitalist who introduced the technical improvements earlier than the rest will cease to obtain extra surplus-value. Disappearing from one enterprise, however, extra surplus-value appears in another, where new and still more advanced machinery is being introduced.

Each capitalist aims only at his own enrichment. But the ultimate result of the separate actions of the individual entrepreneurs is the growth of technique, the development of the productive forces of capitalist society. At the same time the pursuit of surplus-value causes each capitalist to keep his technical achievements from his competitors, gives rise to trade secrets and technological hush-hush, Thus it becomes evident that capitalism sets definite limits to the development of productive forces.

The development of the productive forces under capitalism takes place in contradictory fashion. The capitalists introduce new machinery only when it will lead to an increase in surplus-value. The introduction of new machinery serves as the basis for an all-round increase in the degree of exploitation of the proletariat, lengthening of the working day and growth in the intensity of labour; the progress of technique takes place at the cost of numberless sacrifices and deprivations on the part of many generations of the working class. Thus, capitalism deals in most predatory fashion with the main productive force of society, the working class, the toiling masses.

The Working Day and its Limits. The Struggle to Shorten the Working Day

In their drive to raise the rate of surplus-value the capitalists try to lengthen the working day to its maximum length. The working day means that period of a given 24 hours during which the worker is at the enterprise and at the disposal of the capitalist. Were it possible, the employer would compel his workers to work 24 hours a day. A man needs, however, to spend a certain part of each day and night recovering his strength, resting, sleeping and eating. These needs determine the purely physical limits of the working day. Besides these, the working day also has moral limits, for the worker needs time to satisfy his cultural and social requirements.

Capital, in its insatiable greed for surplus labour, does not want to reckon with even the purely physical limits to the working day, let alone the moral ones. As Marx puts it, capital is ruthless towards the life and health of the worker. The rapacious exploitation of labour-power shortens the proletarian’s life-span and leads to an exceptional increase in the mortality rate among the working population.

In the period of the rise of capitalism the State power promulgated special laws in the interests of the bourgeoisie, for the purpose of compelling the wage-workers to work the maximum possible number of hours. In those days technique was still at a low level and the masses of peasants and craftsmen were still able to work independently, in consequence of which capital did not have a surplus of workers at its disposal. The situation changed with the spread of machine production and the growth of the proletarian population. Sufficient workers became available to capital, and they were obliged by the threat of starvation to accept enslavement to the capitalists. The need for State laws lengthening the working day declined. Capital became able to lengthen the working day to its utmost extent by means of economic compulsion. Under these conditions the working class began a stubborn struggle to shorten the working day. This struggle developed earliest in Britain.

As a result of a long struggle the British workers secured the passing in 1833 of a factory Act which restricted the labour of children under thirteen to eight hours and that of adolescents between thirteen and eighteen to twelve hours. In 1844 a law was passed restricting women’s hours of work to twelve and those of children to six and a half. In the majority of cases child labour and female labour were employed alongside that of men. For this reason a working day of twelve hours for all workers became general in enterprises affected by the factory legislation. By a law of 1847 the labour of adolescents and women was restricted to ten hours. A law of 1901 restricted working hours for adults to twelve in the first five days of the week and five and a half on Saturdays.

In proportion as the resistance of the workers grew, laws restricting the working day began to appear in other capitalist countries as well. After the passing of each law of this kind, the workers had to wage an unremitting struggle to ensure that it was implemented in practice.

A particularly stubborn struggle for legislative restriction of labour-time developed after the working class put forward as its battle-slogan the demand for an eight-hour working day. This demand was proclaimed in 1866 by the Labour Congress in America and the Congress of the First International, at Marx’s suggestion. The struggle for the eight-hour working day became an integral part not only of the economic but also of the political struggle of the proletariat.

In Tsarist Russia the first factory Acts were promulgated at the end of the nineteenth century. After the famous strikes waged by the Petersburg proletariat, the law of 1897 restricted the working day to 11½ hours. This law was, in Lenin’s words, a forced concession, won from the Tsarist government by the Russian workers.

On the eve of the first world war a working day of 10 hours prevailed in the majority of developed capitalist countries. In 1919, influenced by the bourgeoisie’s alarm at the growth of the revolutionary movement, the representatives of a number of capitalist’ countries, meeting at Washington, concluded a convention for introducing an 8-hour day internationally. Later however, all the big capitalist States refused to ratify this convention. Nevertheless, in many capitalist countries the 8-hour working day was introduced, under the pressure of the working class. But the employers made up for the reduction in the working day by acutely increasing the intensity of labour. In a number of capitalist countries, together with an exhausting intensity of labour, a long working day prevails, especially in industries producing armaments. An excessively long working day is the lot of the proletariat in the colonial and dependent countries.

Class Structure of Capitalist Society. The Bourgeois State

The Bourgeois State Characteristic of the slave-owning and feudal modes of production was the splitting-up of society into various classes and estates, forming a complex hierarchical social structure. The bourgeois epoch simplified class contradictions and replaced the diverse forms of hereditary privilege and personal dependence by the impersonal power of money, the unrestricted despotism of capital. Under the capitalist mode of production, society splits up more and more into two great antagonistic camps, into two opposed classes, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat.

The bourgeoisie is the class which possesses the means of production and uses them to exploit wage-labour. The bourgeoisie is the ruling class in capitalist society.

The proletariat is the class of wage-workers, deprived of means of production and therefore obliged to sell its labour-power to the capitalists. Machine production enables capital to subject wage-labour to itself completely. Proletarian status becomes the lifelong lot of the class of wage-workers. By force of its economic situation the proletariat is the most revolutionary class.

The bourgeoisie and the proletariat are the basic classes of capitalist society. So long as the capitalist mode of production exists, these two classes are inseparably linked together: the bourgeoisie cannot exist and become rich without exploiting the wage-workers; the latter cannot live unless they are hired by the capitalists. At the same time the bourgeoisie and the proletariat are mutually antagonistic classes, whose interests are opposed and irreconcilably hostile to each other. The development of capitalism leads to a deepening of the gulf between the exploiting minority and the exploited masses. Besides the bourgeoisie and the proletariat there exist also under the capitalist system the classes of landlords and peasants. These classes have survived from the previous, feudal system, but have to a considerable extent changed their nature in accordance with capitalist conditions.

Landlords are, under capitalism, a class of large landowners who usually lease land to capitalist tenants or small producers-peasants; or else conduct large-scale capitalist production, using wage-labour, on the land belonging to them.

The peasantry is the class of small producers who conduct their enterprises on the basis of private ownership of the means of production and by means of backward technique and hand labour. In bourgeois countries the peasantry forms an important part of the population. The main mass of the peasantry are mercilessly exploited by the landlords, kulaks, merchants and usurers, and go down into ruin. As the process of differentiation takes effect, there are continually becoming separated off from the peasantry, on one side a mass of proletarians and on the other kulaks or capitalists.

The bourgeois State, which arose in succession to the feudal State as a result of the bourgeois revolution, is a tool in the hands of the capitalists for subjecting and oppressing the working class and the peasantry. The bourgeois State protects capitalist private property in the means of production, guarantees the exploitation of the working people and puts down their struggle against the capitalist system.

Since the interests of the capitalist class are sharply opposed to those of the overwhelming majority of the population, the bourgeoisie is obliged to conceal in every possible way the class nature of its State. The bourgeoisie tries to present this State in the guise of something above classes, existing for the benefit of the whole people, as a State of “pure democracy". But in fact bourgeois “freedom" is freedom for capital to exploit the labour of others; bourgeois “equality" is an outward show hiding the inequality which exists in fact between the exploiter and the exploited, the satiated and the hungry, between the owners of the means of production and the mass of proletarians who possess only their own labour-power. The bourgeois State holds down the masses of the people by means of its administrative apparatus, police, army, courts, prisons, concentration camps and other means of coercion. As a necessary supplement to these means of coercion, means of ideological influence exist, through which the bourgeoisie maintains its domination. To this category belong the bourgeois press, the wireless, the cinema, bourgeois science and art, and the Church.

The bourgeois State is the executive committee of the capitalist class. Bourgeois constitutions have for their aim to consolidate social systems which are acceptable and profitable to the possessing classes. The basis of the capitalist system, private ownership of the means of production, is proclaimed sacred and inviolable by the bourgeois State.

The forms assumed by bourgeois States are extremely varied, but the essence of them all is the same: all these States are dictatorships of the bourgeoisie, and try by all possible methods to protect and strengthen the system of exploitation of wage-labour by capital.

As large-scale capitalist production grows, the numbers of the proletariat increase and it becomes more and more aware of its class interests, develops politically and organises for struggle against the bourgeoisie.

The proletariat is that class of working people which is linked with the advanced form of economy, large-scale production. “Only the proletariat-by virtue of the economic role it plays in large-scale production-is capable of, being the leader of all the toiling and exploited masses." (Lenin, “State and Revolution", Selected Works, 1951, English edition, vol. II, Pt. I, p. 224) The industrial proletariat is the most revolutionary, most advanced class of capitalist society, called upon to unite around it the working masses of the peasantry and all the exploited strata of the population and to lead them in the attack upon capitalism.


(1) Under the capitalist system the basis of production relations is capitalist ownership of the means of production which is used for exploiting wageworkers. Capitalism is commodity production at its highest level of development, when labour-power also becomes a commodity. Being a commodity, labour-power under capitalism has value and use-value. The value of the commodity labour-power is determined by the value of the means of subsistence necessary for the maintenance of the worker and his family. The use-value of the commodity labour-power consists in property of being the source of value and surplus-value.

(2) Surplus-value is the value created by the labour of the worker in excess of the value of his labour-power and is appropriated by the capitalist without compensation. The production of surplus-value is the basic economic law of capitalism.

(3) Capital is value which brings in surplus-value by exploiting wageworkers. Capital embodies the social relationship between the capitalist class and the working class. The different parts of capital play different roles in the process of producing surplus-value. Constant capital is that part of capital which is spent on means of production; this part of capital does not create new value and does not change its magnitude. Variable capital is that part of capital which is spent on the purchase of labour-power; this part of capital grows as a result of the creation by the workers of surplus-value which is appropriated by the capitalists.

(4) The rate of surplus-value is the proportion of surplus-value to variable capital. It expresses the degree of exploitation of the worker by the capitalist. The capitalists raise the rate of surplus-value by two methods-by the production of absolute surplus-value and by the production of relative surplusvalue. Absolute surplus-value is surplus-value created by means of lengthening the working day or raising the intensity of labour. Relative surplus-value is surplus-value created by means of shortening necessary labour-time and correspondingly increasing surplus labour-time.

(5) The class interests of the bourgeoisie and the proletariat are irreconcilable. The contradiction between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat is the main class contradiction of capitalist society. The bourgeois State is the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie which functions as an organ for the protection of the capitalist system and for holding down the working and exploited majority of society.