The Humanism and Dialectic of Capital, Volume 1, 1867-1887

Blue Cover with Marx and Lenin's writing son Hegel in background

The Humanism and Dialectic of Capital, Volume 1, 1867-1887 from Raya Dunayevskaya's 1978 pamphlet Marx’s Capital and Today’s Global Crisis.

Submitted by UseValueNotExc… on November 28, 2022



1) The Split in the Category of Labor: Abstract and Concrete Labor, Labor and Labor Power

All understanding of the facts depends upon a comprehension of this dual character of labor.”–K. Marx

Marx begins CAPITAL as he began Critique, with an analysis of the dual character of the commodity. He moves straightaway from the duality of use-value and value of the commodity to the dual character of labor itself. He considers the analysis of abstract and concrete labor as his original contribution to political economy, “the pivot on which a clear comprehension of political economy turns.”1 He tirelessly reminds us, in his correspondence, that since “all” understanding depends upon this, “It is emphasized in the first chapter.”2 As we saw from his earlier writings, for Marx the whole of human history could be traced through the development of labor. The evolution of man from lower to higher stages takes place by means of the developing process of labor. Labor has transformed the natural conditions of human existence into social conditions. In primitive communism, labor was a mode of self-activity, the creative function of man, which flowed from his natural capacities and developed his natural talents further. In his contact with nature, primitive man, despite the limitations of his knowledge, exercised not only his labor power but his judgment as well. He thus developed himself and nature.

The social division of labor was the necessary prerequisite for moulding nature to man’s will and creating new productive forces. However, this undermined the collective nature of production and appropriation. Producers no longer consumed directly what they produced and they lost control over the products of their labor. Man is essentially a tool-making animal and the process of the production of his material life, the process of labor, means the process of the growth of the productive forces and his command over nature. We have seen Marx explain industry as “the real historic relation of nature, and consequently the science of nature, to man.”

The Industrial Revolution, the progress of natural science and the general technological advance so revolutionized the mode of production that finally there arose a true basis for freedom. However, with the division of labor–the most monstrous of which is the division between mental and manual labor–class societies arose. The separation of intellectual and physical labor stands in the way of man’s full development. Labor in class societies–whether they be slave, feudal or capitalist orders–no longer means the free development of the physical and intellectual energy of man. It has reached its most alienated aspect under capitalism where not only the product of his labor is alienated from the laborer, but his very mode of activity also. It has ceased to be “the first necessity of living” and has become a mere means to life. Labor has become a drudgery man must perform to earn a living, and not a mode of activity in which he realizes his physical and mental potentialities. He is no longer interested in the development of the productive forces and, in fact, the productive forces seem to develop independently of him. Labor has become a means of creating wealth and “is no longer grown together with the individual into one particular destination.”3

What is new in CAPITAL, both as compared to the early works where he uses the term alienated labor and calls for “its abolition,” and as compared to the Critique where it “is no longer grown together with the individual into one particular destination,” is that Marx now goes directly to the labor process itself. The analysis of the capitalistic labor process is the cornerstone of the Marxian theory. Here we see what kind of labor produces value–abstract labor–and how concrete individual labor with specific skills becomes reduced, by the discipline of the factory clock, to nothing but a producer of a mass of congealed, abstract labor.

There is no such creature as an “abstract laborer”; one is a miner or a tailor or a steelworker or a baker. Nevertheless, the perverse nature of capitalist production is such that man is not master of the machine; the machine is master of the man. Through the instrumentality of the machine, which expresses itself in the ticking of a factory clock, it has indeed become immaterial what the skill of man is so long as each produces a given quantity of products in a given time. Socially-necessary labor time is the handmaiden of the machine which accomplishes the fantastic transformation of all concrete labors into one abstract mass. Constant technological revolutions change how much labor time is socially necessary. If what took an hour to produce yesterday takes only one-half hour to produce today, that is what the factory clock is now set at. Specific skills do not count. All must subordinate themselves to the newly-set socially necessary time to be expended on commodities. Competition in the market will see that it be done.

Paid or unpaid, all labor is forced labor. Every instant of it. With his analysis of what kind of labor produces value and surplus value, and how this is done, Marx transcended Ricardo. At one and the same time, he extricated the Ricardian labor theory of value from its contradictions and transformed it into a theory of surplus value.

Some Marxists have treated the phenomenon of alienated labor as if it were a leftover from Marx’s Young Hegelian days that stuck to him before he succeeded in working his way out of philosophic jargon into “materialism.” The mature Marx, on the other hand, shows that to be the very pivot on which turns, not alone the science or literature of political economy, but the productive system itself. There is nothing intellectual or deductive about the worker’s individual skills being alienated from him to become social labor whose only specific feature is that it is “human.” It is a very real and very degrading labor process which accomplishes this transformation. It is called the factory. Marx's concept of the degraded worker seeking universality, seeking to be a whole man, transformed the science of political economy into the science of human liberation.

As· we showed, Marxism is wrongly considered to be “a new political economy.” In truth, it is a critique of the very foundations of political economy which is nothing else than the bourgeois mode of thought of the bourgeois mode of production. By introducing the laborer into political economy, Marx transformed it from a science which deals with things, such as commodities, money, wages, profits, into one which analyzes relations of men at the point of production. It is true that man’s cardinal tie, in this historic, that is, transitory, system called capitalism, is exchange and that this makes social relations between men appear as relations between things. But these things belie, instead of manifest, the essence. To separate the essence–the social relations–from the appearance–the exchange of things–required a new science that was at the same time a philosophy of history. That new phenomenon is Marxism.

It is characteristic of Marx, known the world over as the creator of the theory of surplus value, to disclaim the honor because the theory was “implicit” in the classical theory of labor value. What he did that was new, he said, was to make this explicit by showing what type of labor creates values and hence surplus values, and the process by which this is done. What kept others from seeing it, is that they had kept a goodly distance away from the factory. They remained in the market place, in the sphere of circulation, and it is this “which furnishes the ‘Free-trader Vulgaris’ with his views and ideas and the standard by which he judges society based on capital and wages.” But once you leave the market place where “alone rule Freedom, Equality, Property and Bentham,” you can perceive “a change in the physiognomy of our dramatis personae. He who before was the money owner, now strides in front as the capitalist; the possessor of labor power follows as his laborer. The one with an air of importance, smirking, intent on business; the other, timid and holding back, like the one who is bringing his own hide to market and has nothing to expect but–a hiding.”4

Ricardo had been unable to extricate his labor theory of value from the contradictions that befell it when it came to this most important exchange between capital and labor. Marx, on the other hand, was able to demonstrate how inequality arose out of the equality of the market.

That is because, in the millions of commodities exchanged daily, one and only one, labor power, is incorporated in a living person. A $5 bill or a piece of cloth has the same value in the market as at home or in the factory or in the pocket. Labor power, on the other hand, has first to be utilized, put to work in the factory. The laborer, therefore, can be, and is, made to work more than it takes to reproduce him. When he finds that out, his voice “stifled in the storm and stress of the process of production,” cries out: “That which appears on your side as self-expansion of value, is, on my side, an extra expenditure of labor power.”5 It is too late. His commodity, labor power, no longer belongs to him, but to the one who bought it. He is therefore told unceremoniously that he can quit if he wants to, but so long as he is in the factory he must work under the command of the capitalist. He must subordinate himself to the machine and obey the factory clock.

It is too bad that labor power cannot be disembodied from the laborer. If it could, he would let the laborer go and use only the commodity–labor power–which rightfully belongs to him since he has paid for it. Thus he concludes quite piously that he hasn’t violated any laws including the Ricardian law of value.

This is true. The law does hold in the factory. But in the factory “it” is no longer a commodity–“it” is the activity itself, labor. True, the living laborer is made to work beyond the value of his labor power. His sweat congeals into unpaid labor. That precisely is the “miracle” of surplus value: that labor power is incorporated in the living laborer, who can be, and is, made to produce a greater value than he himself is.

The failure of the Ricardian theory to explain the exchange between capital and labor, on the basis of its own primary law of labor value, meant the disintegration of that school. It was a fatal failure for it could not explain how it is that labor–the source and creator of all values–becomes the poorer the more values the worker creates. Utopian socialism could move nowhere because it remained a prisoner of the economic categories of Ricardo.

Marx broke through the barriers both because he split the categories created by classical political economy, and created new categories. He rejected the concept of labor as a commodity. Labor is an activity, not a commodity. It was no accident that Ricardo used one and the same word for the activity and for the commodity. He was a prisoner of his concept of the human laborer as a thing. Marx, on the other hand, showed that what the laborer sold was not his labor, but only his capacity to labor, his labor power.

Two principles are involved here, one flowing from theory and the other from practice. By splitting the old category, labor, into (1) labor as activity or function, and (2) ability to labor, or labor power, the commodity, Marx forged a new theoretical weapon with which to investigate the new material forces that developed outside of the old category. The very term, labor power, opened all sorts of new doors of comprehension. It enabled him to make a leap in thought to correspond with the new activity of workers.

Proof of this new power on the part of the theoretician, even as the new power in the worker, is to be seen most clearly in the short chapter in CAPITAL on “Cooperation.” Its twenty-five pages seem merely to describe how men work together to produce things, but in reality, by analyzing how men work together, Marx described how a new social power is created. He could discover this new social power in production because, first of all, he distinguished between the productivity of machines and the productivity of men. What characterizes CAPITAL from beginning to end is the concern with living human beings. Marx lived in the second half of the nineteenth century when most theoreticians believed that as technology advanced, all of humanity’s problems would be solved. Because Marx thought first and foremost of how the workers feel, he could anticipate the key question of our epoch: is productivity to be increased by the expansion of machinery or by the expansion of human capacities?

Capitalists and their ideologists think always of expanding productivity by more perfect machines. What happens to the worker as a result, well, that is just something that “can't be helped.” Their governing principle is to keep their eyes on economies and the expansion of machinery. That, said Marx, is “quite in keeping with the spirit of capitalist production.”

At the opposite pole from these, Marx was concerned with the worker’s “own personal productiveness.” That is the class line which he draws. Starting from these premises–so strange to the intellectual and so natural to the worker who has worked in large-scale production–Marx was able to discover that what is involved in the cooperation of many workers is a productive force. Marx is not dealing with a simple sum of individuals. No words can substitute for Marx’s: “Not only have we here an increase in the productive power of the individual by means of cooperation, but the creation of a new power, namely, the collective power of masses.”6

New powers are not easily imagined or created. It requires a revolution in thought to understand them, as it requires a revolution in society to create them. Marx analyzed this new social power. He indicated the new psychological powers that are developed through cooperation: “hands and eyes both before and behind.” He insisted that this new capacity must not be explained away merely by calling it a heightening in the mechanical force of labor; nor was it merely an extension of action over a greater space. What is developed is a new social force:

“The special productive power of the combined working day is, under all circumstances, the social productive force of labor, or the productive power of social labor. This power is due to cooperation itself. When the laborer cooperates systematically with others, he strips off the fetters of his individuality and develops the capacities of his species.”7

Marx has here deepened his earlier concept of the workers’ “quest for universality.” It is no longer an ideological force alone, it has now become a powerful material force as well. In Poverty of Philosophy, Marx wrote: “But from the moment that all special development ceases, the need for universality, the tendency towards an integral development of the individual begins to make itself felt.”8

In CAPITAL, he shows how the stripping off the fetters of individuality and the development of capacities of the human species, discloses what is second nature to workers as the result of years in large-scale production–the vast store of creative energy latent in them.

Capitalism knows this new social power as. a rival and an opponent. The capitalist Plan exists to stifle and suppress it. In his chapter on “Cooperation,” Marx first develops his concept of capitalist Plan, how to the workers “the connection existing between their various labors appears to them, ideally, in the shape of a preconceived plan of the capitalist, and practically in the shape of the authority of the same capitalist, in the shape of the powerful will of another, who subjects their activity to his aims.”9 Our age sheds a new illumination here since we see that management, whether state capitalist or private corporative, claims its Plan is necessary because the work is complicated and requires direction. The workers are not deceived by these claims. They know from their daily experiences of the wanton waste which goes hand in hand with the tyranny of capitalist Plans. The intellectuals are the ones who are deceived. They say there are two sides of the Capitalist Plan: the “good” side of leadership and foresight, and the “bad” side of domination.

This distinction exists only in their minds. Practically, in the lives of the workers the authority of the capitalists is “the powerful will of another who subjects their activities to his aims.” Here, again, because the only reality for Marx is the actual experience of the workers, he cuts through the treacherous illusions about Plan.

Ideology and economy are as integrally connected with the historic movement as are content and form to a work of literature.10 This shines forth from that most remarkable piece of analysis in the annals of political economy, “The Fetishism of Commodities.” In this section, Marx demonstrates that the appearance of capitalist wealth, as an accumulation of commodities, is not mere show. The appearance dazzles the sight and makes relations between men seem to partake of “the mystical character of commodities.” That a relationship between men appears as a relationship between things is, of course, fantastic. It is characteristic of the narrowness of bourgeois thought which not only created the fetishism, but became its victim. Even classical political economy, which discovered labor as the source of value, could not escape being held a prisoner by this “mystical character of commodities.”

Under capitalism, relations between men appear as relations between things because that is what “they really are.” The machine is master of man and consequently man is less than a thing. So perverse is the nature of capitalist production that the fantastic fetishism of commodities is its true nature. Marx states that only freely associated labor will be able to strip the fetishism off of commodities.

By tracing the dialectical development of this fetishism, Marx arrives at the class nature of the value form. That is when Marx first asks the question: Whence does the fetishism arise?–and answers, “Clearly from the form itself.” The fetishism of commodities is the opiate which passes itself off as the mind,11 the ideology of capitalistic society. It is false from top to bottom and holds prisoner both the capitalist and his intellectual representative. As far back as in the Communist Manifesto, Marx showed that the capitalists are unable to grasp the truth that capitalism is a transitional social order because they and their ideologists transform “into eternal laws of nature and reason the social forms springing from the present mode of production.” Because they do not see the future, the next social order, they cannot understand the present. Proletarian knowledge, on the other hand, grasps the truth of the present. Because it is not a passive, but an active force, it at the same time restores the unity of theory and practice.

2) The Marxian Economic Categories and the Struggle at the Point of Production: Constant and Variable Capital, or the Domination of Dead over Living Labor

“The Hegelian contradiction (is) the source of all dialectic.”12

In analyzing the economic system of capitalism, Marx wrote some five thousand pages, or about two million words. Throughout this gigantic work, he was able to use the categories already established by classical economy. He refined value–and with it surplus value–but he took over the categories themselves from classical economics. In three instances, and in three instances only, he had to create entirely new categories. These are: labor power, constant capital and variable capital. It cannot be stressed often enough that all the new categories flow from Marx’s original contribution to political economy–the analysis of the duality of labor itself–for it is out of the split in the category of labor into concrete and abstract labor that these new categories emerged. Having already dealt with labor power, we now turn to the other two categories.

Heretofore economic science had made a distinction only between fixed and circulating capital. This distinction flowed from the process of circulation, not from the process of production. The process of production, however, is what determines all else. Constant and variable capital are of the essence once you try to analyze the process of production itself. Labor power and means of production are of course the main elements of any social system of production but only under capitalism do they unite as “the different modes of existence which the value of the original capital assumed when from being money it was transformed into the various factors of the labor process”: variable capital and constant capital.

(1) Constant capital comprises the means of production and raw materials, the dead labor. They undergo no change in magnitude in the process of production. Their value has been established by the labor process from which they issued. In whole or in part they yield their value to the commodities, but they cannot yield more than they have.

(2) Variable capital is labor power in the actual process of production. It does undergo a variation in the magnitude since it reproduces not only its own value, but an unpaid surplus. In a word, the laborer cannot quit work when he sees he has already produced the equivalent of his wages because the factory clock says it is only noon, and not quitting time.

Marx is most specific and adamant about naming both factors of production capital.

There was dead labor or machines, or at least tools in precapitalist societies but dead labor did not dominate living labor. The savage was the complete master of his bow and arrow. It did not dominate him; he dominated it. The serf was without a tractor and had to use a wooden hoe. But that crude instrument did not have a value which asserted its independence in the process of production so that the energy of the living laborer was a mere means for its expansion. Automation, however, means that more and more machines need less and less living labor, and more and more efficient machines need less and less skill in the general mass of human labor.

The worker is unable to resist this “process of suction”13 because he is now but a component part of capital, “a simple, monotonous, productive force that does not have to have either bodily or intellectual faculties.” The radio assembler whose line has to produce 75 to 90 radios an hour will not stop to inquire into its mechanics. He will know only that it means making eight connections per radio, and the wires mean to him only blue, red and green colors so that his eye can pick them out without stopping to consider. He will twist about 4800 wires per day, and his hands will handle the pair of pliers with such speed that the chassis do not pile up alongside his bench. That will be proof to the boss that he can keep up with the line, that he is a good means for the expansion of value.

This, Marx calls the real subordination of labor to capital. That is how accumulated labor dominates living labor. It is this domination which turns accumulated labor into capital, a force divorced from the direct producer and exploiting him. Therein is the antagonism between accumulated labor and living labor. Living labor faces dead labor as its mortal enemy. Under capitalism, wrote Marx, all conditions of existence have become so concentrated and sharpened that they have been reduced to two: accumulated labor and living labor, that is to say, constant capital and variable capital.

The antagonism between accumulated labor and living labor becomes personified in the struggle between the capitalist and the worker but the mastery of the capitalist over the worker is “only the mastery of things over man, of dead labor over living labor.”14 Because the domination of dead over living labor characterizes the whole of modern society, Marx calls capital “value big with value, a live monster that is fruitful and multiplies.”15 Yet at every critical turn in history even Marxists, as we shall see when we deal with Rosa Luxemburg, have tried to denude these categories of their specifically capitalist character which, as Engels put it, gives them their “peculiar distinctness.” They have blinded themselves to Marx's methodology which took its point of departure from the real world in which he lived.

The economic reality determined the structure of Marx’s work. He no sooner established the two new categories–constant and variable capital–than he departed from the abstraction of theory to the actual struggles of the working class against what he called the capitalist’s “werewolf hunger for surplus labor,” which expresses itself at first in an unremitting attempt to lengthen the working day. Surplus value produced through the extension of the working day Marx calls absolute surplus value.

Whoever thinks that Marx spent sixty-four pages on “sob-story stuff” is totally blind to the fact that society itself would have collapsed had the worker not fought for the shortening of the working day. The section on the “Working Day” is one of the unique contributions to the analysis of human society. Any struggle by the workers to establish a normal working day was met with hostile opposition by the powers of the State as well as by the might of the capitalist. This “protracted civil war”16 curbed the capitalist’s disregard for human life. In three generations, capitalism used up nine generations of spinners. The workers learned labor solidarity and organized themselves against this mass slaughter.

Capitalism fought back with an even more potent factor than the State’s extension of the working day. Technological development made possible the extraction of greater surplus value within the same working day. By the time we reach Machinofacture, we can see how Marx’s new categories–constant and variable capital–illuminate the ever greater contradictions of capitalist production. The constant capital–the machinery–undergoes no change in value, no matter how light or how hard it is worked. The laborer, with his concrete type of labor, can transfer the value of the machine to the new product only to the extent of its original value, that is to say, the socially necessary labor time it took to produce it. As dead matter, machinery is incapable of creating value and gains nothing from the labor process. The capitalist is therefore fully dependent on his other type of capital, variable capital–the labor power of the living laborer, who, therefore, must be forced to produce ever more. When this can no longer be done through the lengthening of the working day, it must be done by speed-up. This is where the factory clock plays its part. It is now not merely a sort of counting machine for the quantity of output. It has become a measure of the intensity of labor itself. The surplus labor or value thus extracted is related directly to the wear and tear of the laborer himself. Where the extraction of surplus value, by lengthening the working day, was the production of absolute surplus value, the extraction of surplus value with a given working day is the production of relative surplus value. In machine-ism, capitalism has not merely a productive force; it has a force to strike down the hand of labor to the right degree of intensity and docility, “a barrack discipline.”17

When machine-ism is organized into a system, when it becomes the body of the factory, its spirit is incorporated in the factory clock. The function of the capitalist is to extract as much, and more, surplus value within the given working day, as he had previously extracted during an elastic working day. The machine must justify its cost of production by lengthening that part of the working day in which the worker produces the surplus above what is necessary to maintain him and have him reproduce his kind.

Cheaper goods make this possible. That is all the liberals saw. Marx saw the greater exploitation of the worker, the greater contradiction in capitalist production. From the very start Marx noted: “An increase in the quantity of use-values is an increase of material wealth. With two coats two men can be clothed, with one coat only one man. Nevertheless, an increased quantity of material wealth may correspond to a simultaneous fall in the magnitude of its value. The antagonistic movement has its origin in the two-fold character of labor.”18

At the beginning, the bourgeois ideologists’ relation to science was unambiguous. Professor Ure was most frank: “When capitalism enlists science into her service, the refractory hand of labor will always be taught docility.”19 The rejoicing was loud and clear. “One of the most singular advantages we derive from machinery,” Marx quotes Barbage, “is in the check it affords against the inattention, idleness and knavery of human agents.” If, with Automation, and the experience of a few revolutions, the capitalists and their ideologists boast only of “the magic carpet” of the new industrial revolution which “lightens” work, it is nevertheless true that machinery has not only superseded the skill and strength of the worker, it has put a greater nervous as well as physical strain on him the greater effort per unit of labor time. Marx saw all this one hundred years ago. He described the method whereby millions of specific types of labor are transformed into one abstract mass, and he focused on the domination of capital through the “peculiar distinctness” of his original categories: constant and variable capital.

The role played in the production of absolute surplus value by the struggle for the shortening of the working day is now played by the “Strife between Workman and Machinery.” Professional Marxists have too sophisticated an attitude to the revolts which have raged throughout the history of capitalism. They manage to “take the revolts for granted.”

They act as if they were ashamed (and many are) of the period when workers broke up machines. They would have “preferred” it if the workers had, instead, fought with “the real enemy” on the political front. Yet these very acts by the workers against the machines Marx called “revolts against this particular form of the means of production as being the material basis of the capitalist mode of production.” These professional Marxists thus miss the central point of Marxian theory that revolt marks every stage of capitalist progress. As Marx puts it: “It would be possible to write quite a history of the inventions, made since 1830, for the sole purpose of supplying capital with weapons against the revolts of the working class.”20 The revolt caused the change to advanced methods; the revolt saved the life of the country. In turn, each revolt caused a greater centralization, exploitation, socialization and greater organization, both objectively and subjectively, of the proletariat.

There are two movements in CAPITAL: the historical and the logical. The historical includes the origins of capitalism which Marx calls “The Primitive Accumulation of Capital.” The power of the State was employed “to hasten, in hothouse fashion, the process of transformation of the feudal mode of production into the capitalist mode.” Marx shows, first, that “the expropriation of the agricultural producer, of the peasant, from the soil, is the basis of the whole process,”21 and then says, of the genesis of the industrial capitalist: “The discovery of gold and silver in America, the extirpation, enslavement and entombment in mines of the aboriginal population, the beginning of the conquest and looting of the East Indies, the turning of Africa into a warren for the commercial hunting of black-skins, signalised the rosy dawn of the era of capitalist production. These idyllic proceedings are the chief momenta of primitive accumulation.”22 But all this is preliminary to the actual development of capitalist production.

The three stages of development of capitalist production itself are: (I) Cooperation; (2) Division of Labor and Manufacture; and (3) Machinofacture. Just as out of the historical development of the expropriated peasant, so out of the logical development of capitalism, we reach the point of no return–concentration and centralization of capital at one end, and the socialization and revolt of labor, at the other end.

The commodity of commodities in capitalist society is labor power. The whole society is governed by the necessity of producing labor power according to the labor time necessary for the production of this commodity. Hence the cost of the laborer is the first consideration of the capitalist. Let us repeat: it is his first consideration. He must keep its cost down.

Unless he constantly increases the amount of accumulated labor, expands, or reorganizes his plant or does all three things, the value of his productive system not only declines but disappears altogether. In normal times he loses his market because he cannot sell. In abnormal times he is defeated in battle and his whole productive system is bodily taken away from him. Therefore his main concern must always be to increase the value of such capital as he has. Now–and again we owe this to Marx–the only power of increasing the capital is the amount of living labor which he can apply to the capital which he already has. Therefore his main concern is to augment value, that is, to create surplus value, to gain a value greater than the value which he expends. This is the essence of capitalist production. This is what Marx called “the characteristic specific nature of capitalist production.”

The modern bourgeoisie has emasculated the word, revolutionary, so that it is equivalent to nothing but a violent overthrow in the dark of night, “a conspiracy.” In truth, as compared to every previous social order, capitalism was the most revolutionary not because of its violent overthrow of the old, feudal order, but because of its daily technological revolutions. In the Communist Manifesto, the young Marx had written:
“The bourgeoisie cannot exist without continually revolutionizing the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production and all the social relations. Conservatism, in an unaltered form, of the old modes of production, was on the contrary the first condition of existence for all earlier industrial classes. Constant revolution in production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation, distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.”

The mature Marx quotes precisely this passage when, in his analysis of “Machinery and Modern Industry,” he reaches the “absolute contradiction between the technical necessities of Modern Industry and the social character inherent in its capitalistic form,” and sees how “this antagonism vents its rage in the creation of that monstrosity, an industrial reserve army,” and “the devastation caused by a social anarchy which turns every economical progress into a social calamity.”23

Marx stresses that this is “the negative side.” He shows how the resistance of the workers is the positive aspect which compels Modern Industry “under the penalty of death” to replace the mere fragment of a man “by the fully developed individual, fit for a variety of labors, ready to face any change in production, and to whom the different social functions he performs, are but so many modes of giving free scope to his own natural and acquired powers.”24

Having traced the dialectical development of the two opposites, living labor and dead labor, labor and machinery, from “Cooperation” through the “Division of Labor and Manufacture” to “Machinery and Modern Industry,” Marx concludes that there is no other than the historical solution to the “revolutionary ferments, the final result of which is the abolition of the old division of labor, diametrically opposed to the capitalistic form of production and to the economic status of the laborer corresponding to that form.”25 The penalty of death hanging over the capitalistic mode of production, and the elements of the socialist society which are imbedded in the old, will clash head-on in “The Accumulation of Capital,” the final part of Marx's great work.

3) Accumulation of Capital, and the New Forces and New Passions

“It is the ultimate aim of this work to lay bare the economic law of motion of modern society.” (Preface to CAPITAL)

The historical and logical in CAPITAL are not two separate movements: the dialectic contains them both. It is not that Marx has interrelated them. It is the very nature and life of the one to contain the other. What Marx has as his underlying assumption is that history has not discharged theory from the need to transcend the given society. With Marx, theory is not kept above the earth, but rather takes its departure from reality, which is also its point of return. It is the reality out of which the movement comes, and what Marx does is to see that object and subject are kept as one. The two together, theory and practice, make up the truth at any moment. The very first sentence in the chapter which is the climax to the whole of Volume I–“The General Law of Capitalist Accumulation”–states: “In this chapter we consider the influence of the growth of capital on the lot of the working class.”26 This is not mere agitation. It can be and is expressed in the most precise scientific terms yet discovered to discern the law of motion of capitalist society. “The most important factor in this inquiry," Marx's very next sentence reads, "is the composition of capital.”

The law of the ever greater growth of machinery at the expense of the working class, which had heretofore been expressed as the growth of constant over variable capital, is now, when viewed as a totality, expressed as the value and technical composition of capital, which Marx calls “the organic composition of capital.” That is to say, they are part of the very organism and can no more be separated, one from the other, than can the head from the body and still live.

From the very beginning of CAPITAL we learned of the interdependence of use-value. Value, wrote Marx, may be indifferent to the use-value by which it is borne, but it must be borne by some use-value. This bodily form assumes added significance in the question of accumulation or expanded reproduction: “Surplus value is convertible into capital solely because the surplus product whose value it is, already comprises the material elements of new capital.”27

  • 1CAPITAL, Vol. I, p. 48. Pelican, p. 132.
  • 2Correspondence of Marx and Engels, letter of August 24, 1867.
  • 3Critique, p. 299.
  • 4CAPITAL, Vol. I, p. 195-196. Pelican, p. 280.
  • 5CAPITAL, Vol. I, p. 258. Pelican, p. 342.
  • 6CAPITAL, Vol. I, pp. 357-8. Pelican, p. 443.
  • 7CAPITAL, Vol. I, p. 361. Pelican, p. 447.
  • 8Poverty of Philosophy, p. 157.
  • 9CAPITAL, Vol. I, p. 364. Pelican, p. 450.
  • 10“A work of art that wants the right form is for that very reason no right or true work of art. . . . Real works of art are those where content and form exhibit a thorough identity. . . . The content of Romeo and Juliet may similarly be said to be the ruin of two lovers through the discord between their families: but something more is needed to make Shakespeare’s immortal tragedy.” –Hegel's Logic, p. 243.
  • 11See Hegel on “The Third Attitude to Objectivity”: “What I discover in my consciousness is thus exaggerated into a fact of the consciousness of all and even passed off for the very nature of the mind.” (Hegel's Logic, first. Wallace translation; in the second, more accessible edition, the wording is slightly different, see page 134.)
  • 12CAPITAL Vol. I, p. 654, footnote. Pelican, p. 744, ftn. 29.
  • 13Archives of Marx and Engel’s, Russian edition, Vol. II, (VII), p. 69. This is the famous “Chapter VI,” or original ending of CAPITAL, when it was in manuscript form. Chapter Six has been translated into English and is published in the Pelican Marx Library edition of Vol. I, “Results of the Immediate Process of Production,” pp. 949-1084.
  • 14Ibid., p. 35.
  • 15CAPITAL, Vol. I, p. 217. Pelican, p. 302.
  • 16CAPITAL, Vol. I, p. 327. Pelican, p. 412.
  • 17CAPITAL, Vol. I, p. 463. Pelican, p. 549.
  • 18CAPITAL, Vol. I, p. 53. Pelican, p. 37.
  • 19Philosophy of Manufacture.
  • 20CAPITAL, Vol. I, p. 476. Pelican, p. 563.
  • 21CAPITAL, Vol. I, p. 787. Pelican, p. 876.
  • 22CAPITAL, Vol. I, p. 823. Pelican, p. 915.
  • 23CAPITAL, Vol. I, p. 533. Pelican, p. 618.
  • 24CAPITAL, Vol. I, p. 534. Pelican, p. 618.
  • 25CAPITAL, Vol. I, p. 534. Pelican, p. 618.
  • 26CAPITAL, Vol. I, p. 671. Pelican, p. 762.
  • 27CAPITAL, Vol. I, p. 636. Pelican, p. 727.