Valorisation/devalorisation: CapitalÂ’s unsustainable contradiction - Communism #13

To valorise itself, value must be partly invested in constant capital (purchase of equipment, buildings, raw materials...), and partly in variable capital (purchase of labour force). As its name suggests, constant capital only transmits its own value to the commodity produced, by way of work of course. The second part however (that part of variable capital which allowed the purchase of the labour force) has its value not only reproduced but also increased by the action of the labour force, by work. It is this second part that produces surplus-value. Indeed, labour force put into action, living work, is the only commodity capable of creating value and is therefore the only source of profit for capitalists.

The competition inherent to capital forces each capitalist to produce as cheaply as possible in order to impose himself in the face of his competitors. To do so, he is obliged to increase the productivity of his company. This productivity increase occurs by way of a growth in equipment and infrastructure (constant capital) and a relative cut-back of the labour force (variable capital). Consequently, there is less and less living work within the products with a resultant fall in the value of the means of production: this is devalorisation.

To counter this effect, the capitalists at first try to catch up by increasing the quantity of constant capital invested, at the expense of variable capital... resulting in a reinforcement of devalorisation! The mass of produced commodities will increase but each unit will contain less and less human labour and consequently less new value. Value can only realise itself if the commodity is finally sold. If there is no buyer, value won’t be realised and will therfore be lost, resulting in a further devalorisation.

With the generalisation of the increase in productivity, the quantity of work contained in each end-product decreases. The same applies to the means of production that produces these commodities. Ultimately, the value of the totality of products and the means of production decreases. The devalorisation becomes more and more violent.

All this movement leads to crisis. Existing capital experiences more and more difficulty in valorising itself. It is a period in which capitalists are forced to lay off proletarians, to cut wages, to destroy stocks of unsold commodities... Capital’s only way out is to destroy surpluses on a larger scale in order to boost valorisation: thus generalised war. Generalised war means the destruction of constant capital (factories, infrastructure, stocks,...) and of variable capital: the slaughter of proletarians on all fronts. In this way, merely a momentary solution to the crisis, Capital obtains a brutal devalorisation by the pure and simple destruction of men and objects functioning as Capital.

Fighting against decreased value by destroying value! This apparent paradox can be explained by the fact that the destruction of constant capital allows valorisation to be boosted (reconstruction) since the proportion of constant capital has suddenly dropped as compared to variable capital. And off they go again.

One could be led to believe that Capital follows an infinite circle, but this is not the case because the starting point of each cycle is never the same. Capital starts every cycle with an ever-increasing degree of technique and productivity meaning that the accumulation is greater and greater and the resulting destruction all the more considerable. It is an extending spiral rather than a process going round in circles. As time has gone by, the bourgeoisie has learned to delay the day of reckoning of the crisis (by destruction of stock, restructurisation, fictive capital, artificial increase in real demand...). But the longer it puts off the fall, the harder it will be due to the greater quantity of surplus capital.