Sunday, August 26, 2012

My Personal Very Own Introduction to Capital, Volume 1

Not that anyone asked me,  and particularly not that anyone not asking me has ever stopped me from doing anything, but I thought I would provide my own introduction to Volume 1.  The usual disclaimers apply-- I'm right, or pretty close to right, or closer to right than anyone else, or almost anyone else.  Those who really understand Marx will agree that I'm right, or pretty close to right, or closer to right than almost anyone else, except, of course themselves.   And I agree with them.  All of them.

When Marx is going through all the iterations of value, of the exchange forms, relative and equivalent, what is he doing?  He is engaging, in essence, a single question: "How is it that the usefulness of an object, a use-value, gets translated into, and expressed as, the exchangeable value of all other objects?"
How does this occur? What makes this process "work"? What property do all these articles have that makes them exchangeable, that is expressed in the process of exchange? Well, we can say, these are all products of human labor. Indeed. But not just any human labor; not just any human labor is associated with production not just of , but for exchange?
We are asking what makes them "equivalent" or "equivalentable"?  And that is human labor expressed as labor-time.  For value, for production of all objects as commodities, as values to occur,  labor itself must be socially organized as value-producing.  
Now if labor is organized as value-producing, as itself a value, and commodities can exchange based on the labor-time required for their production, or reproduction, then labor also exchanges for values equal to its own time of reproduction. 
Yet, the characteristic of the human labor process is that it can produce surplus, more than is required for its simple subsistence, its maintenance, in a "laboring day." So in exchanging the means of reproduction for this human labor, the capitalist obtains "free" the power of labor to produce surplus values, value greater than that needed to reproduce the laborer as a wage-laborer. 
Marx repeatedly makes the criticism that political economists never ask why, how labor presents itself, is forced to present itself in just that form-- as a commodity, as a value-producing commodity, that has no use for the laborers other than its use in the exchange process. 
Indeed, the political economists couldn't ask that without engaging the historical process of turning labor into wage-labor, and without encountering the limits to capitalist accumulation intrinsic to the existence of capital itself.
And then, as they say in the racing business, "They're off.  It's a run for the roses."
August 26, 2012

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Introducing, for the very first time, here or anywhere else, another Introduction

1. Nobody just writes an introduction to Marx's Capital, which is okay because I almost never read books introducing Marx's Capital.  It's like asking somebody else to get yet somebody else's phone number for you.  If it's your intent to call, then just introduce yourself, and get the number.

In general,  I never review books about other books. That's like watching drag queens lip-syncing to Tina Turner songs.  "Derivative" barely qualifies as an euphemism.  But.....but Marx's Capital isn't just any book.  To begin with, and the beginning carries itself right through to the end,  Capital is a lot more than its subtitle,  A Critique of Political Economy, implies.  That's because political economy is not a theory, a scholarly inquiry of and into capital accumulation.  It is the capitalists' theory of capital accumulation that fails to explain capital accumulation, and by design.

Political economy presents itself as an account of the historical genesis of capital, but Marx recognizes that this is history as rendered by an amnesiac.

Against divine right, political economy fastens first upon "nature" as the origin of capital, as in "it is the human nature to truck, barter, exchange." And from nature comes "destiny" as the ultimate arbiter, the co-signer on the perpetual lease on value, as in "it is nature's design that destines all to labor once and forever for capital."  Teleology is an alibi.

Political economy in its near perfect failure to account socially for the conditions of capital's origin and reproduction validates itself as the non-explanation of the economy it cannot, dare not, apprehend.  As "economics," political economy is the perfect agent, broker, politician for exchange value.

Marx's critique of capital is determined to explode both notions of nature and destiny as economic properties by exploring the conflicts, antagonisms, oppositions that in fact make up the historical and immediate basis for capital accumulation.

Accounting for that opposition is not the account of the development or the successive manifestations  of some supra-historical law, immutable in its very mutability,  of economics.  Marx is not about to reproduce "nature" or "destiny" as the characteristics of value in his critique of value.

2. The condition of origin of capital is its condition of reproduction.  Engels to the contrary notwithstanding,  Marx is not, with Capital, providing an historical account of "value's progress," of the expression of the "law of value" throughout different epochs.

Marx, beginning his critique of capital with the analysis of the commodity as it is produced by industrial capitalism, by the modern capitalism, initiates an exhaustive exploration of the facets of value.  This unveiling of value is overture and coda to theme of the  conflict embodied at the heart  capitalist production.  That conflict is between labor and the conditions of labor.  That conflict is the conflict between the labor process and the value process.  That conflict is expressed immanently in and by capitalism as the conflict between labor organized as value producing, and.............the production of value.

3. Marx, in his Grundrisse......hey wait a minute, this isn't supposed to be what I think of what Marx wrote in the Grundrisse.  This is supposed to be about what Heinrich wrote as an Introduction to the Three Volumes of Karl Marx's Capital, translated by Alexander Locascio, Monthly Review Press, 2012.   See what I mean, nobody can just write an introduction to Capital.  Everybody has a pony to ride.  Everybody has a horse in this race.  Everybody wants to argue what Marx meant when he wrote what he wrote; what Marx didn't mean when he wrote, or didn't, what he wrote.  Me too. 

Everybody wants to introduce others to just how correctly, clearly, properly I understand Marx's critique, and those others who think they understand...?   All those others?  Pay no attention to those others behind the curtain, the great and powerful Oz has spoken.  Me too.

Heinrich too. He starts by taking on the notion that presents the law of value  as "supra-historical,"  with all commodity production throughout history governed by the same principle as capitalist commodity production.

For that meta-law  to hold, we have to jettison the vital determination of value, of capital itself, that Marx unpacks, unfolds and spreads before us like Picasso unfolds guitars and wine bottles in his Cubist paintings. We have to disallow that the laws organizing an economy are nothing other than the projection of the specific social conditions of labor.  We have to discount, reject that the "objects"of the capitalist economy are immaterial to the real material of this economy;  that the object of production is the social reproduction of the subjects, the  owners and the producers,  as  classes owning  and classes producing.

We have to discard the transformation of non-capitalist commodity exchange where surplus product was expropriated, aggrandized, seized, or sold, leaving subsistence production intact,  into capitalist commodity exchange where all of production must the production of values in order to provide for subsistence, all products have to submit to exchange in order for the producers to survive.

We have to deny that the law of value is nothing other than the reflection of labor made into abstract labor, labor devoid of particularity, labor as time.

Capital's need for the expansion of value is determined by the fundamental condition of living labor within capitalism--  as value producing and useless to the laborers: as value producing because it is useless to the laborers save as a means of exchange.  Consequently, the commodities produced by this labor are likewise useless unless they can be realized in exchange as values; that is engage, command labor power again, always again, to expand the universe of commodity exchange, to expand the means of producing commodities as values themselves

So, because Heinrich, from jump street, pretty much demolishes the "super law of value" interpretation of Capital,  I really, really, really, wanted to like his An Introduction... really, really, really, more than I did. But I didn't.

Besides my horse is always in the gate; my horse is always ready to run

4.  "Economy of time, to this all economy ultimately reduces itself," wrote Marx in the Grundrisse.  All economy is the economy of time, but not all economy of time is the economy of value.   Not all economy is the reduction of labor power to the time lost to value.

When Heinrich gets down to the nits and grits of the extraction of surplus value things don't go all that well.  First, he states on page 94:

Capital, self-valorizing value, has no intrinsic limits to valorization, and for that reason no rate of valorization, once reached, is sufficient., the point of Marx's critique of capital is to illuminate what the intrinsic limits, the inherent restrictions to valorization are.  Marx calls this the "immanent critique."   These limits and restrictions are not just at the very origin to the valorization process itself.  They are the very origin of valorization.     No rate of valorization is sufficient, no rate of expansion is sufficient as all valorization, all expansion itself becomes a limit to further valorization.

In fact, if there is no intrinsic limit to valorization, then capital truly is a perfect organization of social labor. It is nature.  It is destiny.  While Heinrich simply may have chosen his words poorly, I think the notion that capital has no intrinsic limits to valorization informs Heinrich's presentation of Marx's work, and undermines that presentation.   He has a horse in this race all right, but halfway into it, he wants to call a halt, get off, and walk his mount off the track.

Heinrich discusses the distinction between absolute surplus value, and relative surplus value, and he misses the point.   In Marx's analysis absolute surplus value is the result of lengthening the total laboring time of the laborers to aggrandize the more surplus labor time, after the equivalent value to necessary labor time has been satisfied.  Relative surplus value  is the product of the relative reduction of the value of the labor power, the value necessary for reproduction of the laborers

Marx's point  is that one conditions the other, each determines the other, both exist only in the organization of the other. Absolute and relative surplus value are "co-conspirators"  in the capitalist mode of production, in the accumulation, expansion, reproduction of capital.

Marx is emphatic in this matter.  Says Karl, introducing himself:

The prolongation of the working-day beyond the point at which the labourer would have produced just an equivalent for the value of his labour-power, and the appropriation of that surplus-labour by capital, this is production of absolute surplus-value. It forms the general groundwork of the capitalist system, and the starting-point for the production of relative surplus-value. The latter presupposes that the working-day is already divided into two parts, necessary labour, and surplus-labour. In order to prolong the surplus-labour, the necessary labour is shortened by methods whereby the equivalent for the wages is produced in less time. The production of absolute surplus-value turns exclusively upon the length of the working-day; the production of relative surplus-value, revolutionises out and out the technical processes of labour, and the composition of society. It therefore presupposes a specific mode, the capitalist mode of production, a mode which, along with its methods, means, and conditions, arises and develops itself spontaneously on the foundation afforded by the formal subjection of labour to capital. In the course of this development, the formal subjection is replaced by the real subjection of labour to capital.

It will suffice merely to refer to certain intermediate forms, in which surplus-labour is not extorted by direct compulsion from the producer, nor the producer himself yet formally subjected to capital. In such forms capital has not yet acquired the direct control of the labour-process. By the side of independent producers who carry on their handicrafts and agriculture in the traditional old-fashioned way, there stands the usurer or the merchant, with his usurer’s capital or merchant’s capital, feeding on them like a parasite. The predominance, in a society, of this form of exploitation excludes the capitalist mode of production; to which mode, however, this form may serve as a transition, as it did towards the close of the Middle Ages. Finally, as is shown by modern “domestic industry,” some intermediate forms are here and there reproduced in the background of Modern Industry, though their physiognomy is totally changed.

If, on the one hand, the mere formal subjection of labour to capital suffices for the production of absolute surplus-value, if, e.g., it is sufficient that handicraftsman who previously worked on their own account, or as apprentices of a master, should become wage labourers under the direct control of a capitalist; so, on the other hand, we have seen, how the methods of producing relative surplus-value, are, at the same time, methods of producing absolute surplus-value. Nay, more, the excessive prolongation of the working-day turned out to be the peculiar product of Modern Industry. Generally speaking, the specifically capitalist mode of production ceases to be a mere means of producing relative surplus-value, so soon as that mode has conquered an entire branch of production; and still more so, so soon as it has conquered all the important branches. It then becomes the general, socially predominant form of production. As a special method of producing relative surplus-value, it remains effective only, first, in so far as it seizes upon industries that previously were only formally subject to capital, that is, so far as it is propagandist; secondly, in so far as the industries that have been taken over by it, continue to be revolutionised by changes in the methods of production.

From one standpoint, any distinction between absolute and relative surplus-value appears illusory. Relative surplus-value is absolute, since it compels the absolute prolongation of the working-day beyond the labour-time necessary to the existence of the labourer himself. Absolute surplus-value is relative, since it makes necessary such a development of the productiveness of labour, as will allow of the necessary labour-time being confined to a portion of the working-day. But if we keep in mind the behaviour of surplus-value, this appearance of identity vanishes. Once the capitalist mode of production is established and become general, the difference between absolute and relative surplus-value makes itself felt, whenever there is a question of raising the rate of surplus-value. Assuming that labour-power is paid for at its value, we are confronted by this alternative: given the productiveness of labour and its normal intensity, the rate of surplus-value can be raised only by the actual prolongation of the working-day; on the other hand, given the length of the working-day, that rise can be effected only by a change in the relative magnitudes of the components of the working-day, viz., necessary labour and surplus-labour; a change which, if the wages are not to fall below the value of labour-power, presupposes a change either in the productiveness or in the intensity of the labour.  [Capital, Volume 1, Chapter 16].

Absolute and relative are not identical but each conditions, each is a condition for, the other. 

In his Economic Manuscripts 1861-1863 [MECW, Vol 34], Marx writes:

We have considered absolute and relative surplus value separately. But in capitalist production they are bound together. And it is precisely the development of modern industry which shows how they develop simultaneously, how the working day is prolonged in the same degree as necessary labour time is reduced by the development of the social productive powers of labour. It is capital’s tendency to develop surplus value simultaneously in both forms.

Heinrich's "mishandling" of the various subsets of surplus value takes an odd turn when he includes this in the subset of absolute surplus value:

A lengthening of the workday does not just occur when the number of daily working hours is increased, but also when those hours are used more efficiently...Furthermore, an increase in the level of intensity of labor (that is, a speed-up of the labor process) has the same effect as lengthening of labor-time.  An intensified workday yields a larger value product than a normal workday, just as if the workday had been lengthened. [p.104]

Odd?  Yeah, more than a bit for this to appear in an "introduction" to Marx's Capital, since in the passage from Capital, Volume 1 quoted above Marx specifically includes changes in the intensity of the labor produce as affecting the magnitude of the relative surplus value. 

Of course, it-- the more efficient use of labor-time, speeding up the production process-- has "the same effect" as lengthening of the labor-time, just as absolute and surplus value are both surplus value.  However, more efficient use of labor time, and increasing the pace of production within the same working period are not identical to lengthening the working day because 1) there is no lengthening of the working day.  There is a reduction in the necessary time that the laborers expend in the reproduction of value equivalent to their wage 2) the speed-up in the labor process is the result of the introduction of machinery, the relative reduction in the labor power consumed in production, the amplification of the productivity of labor.  The more efficient use of labor-time, and the speeding up, are aspects of increased relative surplus value.  

My memory is not what it used to be, if I am remembering what it used to be correctly, which is itself in question, but nowhere do I recall Marx ever describing absolute surplus value as having any source other than the extension of the working day.

And because I too have a pony to ride, a horse in this race, let me continue. Heinrich writes:

The necessary labor-time must suffice to produce the value of the means of subsistence required by the labor-power for its own reproduction.  If the value of the labor-power is to be fully compensated (and this must be assumed if "normal" capitalist relations are being considered), then a reduction in necessary labor-time is only possible when either the quality and quantity of the means of subsistence considered necessary is reduced (meaning the "normal" standard of living of the working class is lowered, which is difficult to implement and which cannot happen permanently) or--and this is the typical case dealt with here--if the value of these means of subsistence decreases.[p.105, emphasis added]

Not to put too fine a point on it, but the "then" that I highlighted in bold is in direct conflict with the "if" that is underlined.  If the value of the labor power is fully compensated, then the compensation,  the wage, represents the value of all elements necessary for the reproduction of the laborer.  Reducing the quality and quantity of the means of subsistence necessary for the reproduction of the laborer in order to reduce the wage means the value of the labor power is not being fully compensated as it cannot be reproduced to its previous level, which was the level of full compensation.

Let's ride a bit further.   The "typical case" is described by Heinrich as one where the value of the means of subsistence decreases, allowing for the wage to drop.  This is taken to mean that  the productivity of labor "increases in those branches that produces means of subsistence" or "when the productivity increases in those branches that deliver raw material or machines" for the production of the means of subsistence (which is simply another way of saying the same thing).

Marx himself insists on the specificity of the increased productivity to this "department" of production.  And indeed, such a "typical case" in the decrease of the value of labor power because of the lower value of the means of subsistence due to increased productivity of labor occurs in the United States during 1873-1898 period of  the "long deflation."  Over the course of those years, nominal wages declined for workers.  However, the decline in the value of the means of subsistence, in the prices of food, clothing, shelter were even greater, so that real wages register an increase.

Before anyone gets too upset, this process was hardly an even, steady one.  This era might be called the "Gilded Age" but it wasn't a golden one for labor.  Peace, love, harmony, and bread did not flow undiluted from the taps of capital's golden kegs.   All the miseries of capitalism, miseries which accompany, even identify, its very robustness, continued to be reproduced.  All the obstacles that capitalism creates through its own valorization to its own further valorization were created and recreated. 

But let's continue.  The reduction in relative value of labor power through the reduction in the value of the means of subsistence through increased productivity of labor is a vital process for capitalism.  Marx writes that a certain level of productivity in agriculture is essential for capitalist development.  Let's add, that continuous improvement in the productivity of agriculture is necessary both for the capitalist development of agriculture, and capitalism as a whole, and not simply because of its impact on the inner relations, ratios, of necessary labor time to surplus labor time for the individual worker and/or the class of workers engaged in industrial production.  Amplification of the productivity of labor in agriculture is essential in that it provides for the expulsion of labor-power from the process of rural production and the "freeing" of labor for the production of value in industrial and urban settings.  Political economy likes to call this "creation of the domestic market."  The critique of political economy knows this expulsion as the real domination of capital.

What we have here is the fractal, at the level of agriculture, of the totality of capitalist production:  Labor engaged as labor-power through and only through its expulsion from the production process.  The division of labor that is so important to the aggrandizement of the productivity of labor by capital begins with the division, the separation,  of labor from its own means of subsistence.  The division of labor  that is so important to to the accumulation of capital is represented socially as the separation of the "necessary labor"-- that labor necessary for the production of the means of subsistence as commodities, from the "surplus labor" that can be commanded for the production of all other objects as commodities.

Now since all capitalist production is the production of commodities, and all commodities can, must, establish relations to each other as exchangeable values, as proportionate to each other,  it is no longer the case that the enhancement of relative surplus value depends on reducing the value of the means of subsistence.  The enhancement of relative surplus value requires that the value of the labor power, the equivalent to the value of the means of subsistence be reproduced in less time; hence Marx's inclusion of more efficient use of labor time and intensification of the labor process as components of relative surplus value.

At the same time, capital's limits to the valorization of agricultural production; capital's limits to the profitability of agricultural production become the image, the genetic lens providing insight into the limitations to the valorization of all capital. 

First and foremost, that limitation to the valorization of agricultural production is not simply consumption, the limited power of consumption of the population.  It is exchange.  That is to say that consumption can only occur when and if the consumers can exchange their labor power for the commodities of subsistence.  Such capitalist consumption, consumption designed to reproduce value, to reproduce labor-power as value producing cannot occur when the property forms inhibit the detachment of labor from subsistence, and it just so happens that the property forms that provide such obstacle are manifestations of private property.  As capital must expel labor power from the process of production in order to create surplus value, and must continuously expel such labor power to revalorize surplus value, it runs up against its own inability to create a "domestic market," to create the conditions of exchange for the valorization of capital.  Instead, capital, to preserve its own existence as private property must adapt, and adapt to the conditions of labor that mark, measure, index its own intrinsic limitations to valorization.   We call that intrinsic inhibition uneven and combined development, and whatever else anybody else wants to say about Trotsky, he provided this concrete application and extension of Marx's critique to the specific manifestation of "underdevelopment;"  identifying it as the product of the general "overdevelopment" of global capitalism. Credit due. and recognized.

5. It should be evident to the careful observer where Heinrich is going to go once he makes his "vital analysis" that there is no limit to valorization intrinsic to capital, poor choice of words or not.  We are going to find ourselves in the midst of the old arguments that say "The notion of imminent  capitalist collapse is not immanent in Marx's critique of capital,"  "Marx does not provide a comprehensive theory of crisis,"  "Marx's critique does not include a prophecy for the inevitability of proletarian revolution,"and the most important "no intrinsic limit to the valorization of capital" ever--- "Marx does not establish, nor is there, the tendency for the rate of profit to decline."

We are also going to get, rather hilariously, a single and short chapter "introducing" the reader to all, or none, of the issues Marx engages in Volume 2; a critique of Lenin's Imperialism [proving once again that nobody writes just an "introduction" to Marx, everybody has pony to ride; and a theory of the state.

Let's start with the easy stuff, Lenin's Imperialism.  Heinrich thinks that Lenin's analysis stands on "shaky ground"  "not only theoretically but empirically."  Heinrich is not alone. Actually Lenin's analysis has no theoretical grounds, if Marx's critique of capital is supposed to provide the categories for the analysis of the historical expressions of the demands and needs of capitalist accumulation.  But Heinrich slips away from these categories and actually slips into categories that Lenin and other "theoreticians" of imperialism [like Kautsky] would like to substitute for Marx's critique.  For example, Heinrich says:
At the international level, a multiplicity of states of widely varying economic, political, and military strength and with completely different interest face one another.  Between them, there exist disparate constellations of dependency and alliance, as well as antagonisms. 
At this point, let me interject,  "So what?" Or, "who gives a rat's ass?" Or, and even better, "this relates to the categories Marx develops, and wields like scalpels, to expose capitalism exactly how?"
...In this competition between states, every state attempts to win and maintain opportunities for itself.  An independent terrain of conflicts for power and influence between states is constituted.
Yeah?  And?
This terrain is not limited to the direct implementation of the economic interests of individual fractions of capital (although this also occurs).  Upon this terrain, the primary concern is the organization of an international "order" in the trade, currency, and military-political sectors. [p. 216].
Short version?  Of the first two sections?  The capitalists act like.... "hostile brothers."  Quelle surprise.  New York short version?  No shit, Sherlock.  You should have been a detective. 

Of the third section?  No, Sherlock, you're wrong.  the primary concern is not of the international order in trade, currency and military-political sectors.  The primary concern is of the accumulation of capital, the expansion of value.  More precisely, the primary concern is suppressing the proletariat.  The primary concern is conducting, now more openly, now more in disguise, class war against the working class on both the national and international stages.  The primary concern is driving up  profitability by driving down the cost of labor power even, if necessary,  below its value.  The primary concern is "clawing back" value from "v,"  so that, indeed, when you decide to beggar your neighbor, you really have something to beggar with. Evidence, references, data?  The history of the actions of  the US bourgeoisie vis-a-vis "its" workers and "its" partners since 1974.

Heinrich continues:
Finally, for the developed capitalist countries, the majority of which are poor in natural resources, a decisive point is the secure provision of raw materials and fuels.  However, the point is not the conquest of corresponding territories so much as the "organization" of trade and its conditions: calculable extraction and secure transportation, the mode of price formation, and the currency in which the trade is conducted.
Really?  Developed countries are "poor" in natural resources?  Exactly how does "poor" become an attribute of quantities of natural resources, of use values?  "Poor," "wealthy" are measures of social reproduction, and for Marx, they are determined by the aggrandizement of labor power. 

The United States, Great Britain, Norway, Denmark are not "poor" in raw materials; they are not poor in fuel supplies.  There is, indeed, a problem with the profitability, with the valorization of fuel productiion, but "abundance" or "shortage" are social measures, not natural ones.   Iraq, for example, was not invaded by the US in order to secure transportation, ensure a steady supply of the commodity, to prevent Iraq "adopting the euro" in its oil trade, or protect the mode of price formation.  As a matter of fact, and history, Iraq was invaded as a result of overproduction, the overproduction of oil as a commodity, the overproduction of the means of oil production as commodities, and the resulting decline in profitability impacting capitalist oil production.  Iraq was invaded to drive its production off the market, to preserve, extend, and enhance instability, volatility, disproportion in the oil markets, in order to drive the price of oil high enough that it could serve as a conduit to bring the depressed profitability of oil production, which is perhaps the most technically intensive sector of capitalist production, back to, and then above, the average profitability of capital, and in proportion to the size of the capital dedicated to this sector.

Amazing, isn't it, how the easy stuff gets us to the uneasy stuff? 

It's one thing to reduce Volume 2, the most tentative, unsorted, of Marx's manuscripts, including those of Theories of Surplus Value, the Grundrisse, and the other drafts that form the Economic Manuscripts [which I consider to be Marx's greatest works], to nine pages, and nine pages that do not engage with the problems Marx encounters, engages, in the volume.  It's one thing to miss completely the critical points of the volume  1) that the capitalist, after the first "turnover" of capital, is in effect only advancing to the workers as a wage due for the next cycle of production, their earnings from the previous cycle of production  2) that

no matter whether a commodity is the product of slavery, of peasants (Chinese, Indian ryots), of communes (Dutch East Indies), or of stated enterprise (such as existed in former epochs of Russian history on the basis of serfdom, or of half-savage hunting tribes, etc., commodities and money of such modes of production, when coming in contact with commodities and money representing industrial capital, enter as much into its rotation as into that of surplus values embodied in commodity-capital.  The character of the process of production form which they emanate is immaterial.  They perform the function of commodities on the market, and enter into the cycles of industrial capital as well as into those of the surplus-value carried in it.  It is the universal character of the commodities, the world character of the market, which distinguishes the process of the rotation of the industrial capital. [Volume 2, Chapter IV, "The Three Diagrams of the Process of Circulation"]
that 3)
It is true that capitalist production has for its general form the production of commodities.  But it is so and becomes more so in its development, only because labor itself here appears as a commodity, because the laborer sells labor, that is to say the function of his labor-power, and our assumption is that he sells it at a value determined by its costs of reproduction.  To the extent that labor becomes wage-labor, the producer becomes an industrial capitalist.  For this reason capitalist production (and the production of commodities does not reach its full scope, until the agricultural laborer becomes the wage-laborer.  [Ibid.]
that  4)
In so far as the capitalist personifies but his industrial capital, his own demand is only for means of production and labor-power.  His demand for Pm expressed in value, is smaller than his advanced capital; he buys means of production of a value smaller than his capital, and therefore much smaller than the value of the commodity capital which he takes back to the market.
As regards his demand for labor-power, its value is determined by the proportion of variable capital to his total capital, as expressed by V/CIts proportion in capitalist production decreases continually more than his demand for means of production.  His purchases of Pm steadily increase over his purchase of L. [Pm is, obviously, means of production; L is labor-power].
that 5)
All other circumstances being equal, the degree of fixity increases with the durability of the means of production.  This durability determines the magnitude of the difference between the capital-value fixed in the instruments of labor and between that part of its value which is yielded to the product in successive labor-processesThe slower this value is yielded--and some of it is given up in every repetition of the labor-process--the larger will be the fixed capital, and the greater will be the difference between the capital employed and the capital consumed in the process of production...[Chapter 8, "Fixed Capital and Circulating Capital"]
and that all of that is leading to this:
So much at least is evident that this cycle comprising a number of years, through which capital is compelled to pass by its fixed part, furnishes a material basis for the periodic commercial crises in which business goes through successive period of lassitude, average activity, overspeeding, and crisis.  It is true that the periods in which capital is invested are different in time and place.  But a crisis is always the starting point of a large amount of new investments.  Therefore it also constitutes, from the point of view of society, more or less of a new material basis for the next cycle of turnover. [Chapter 9, "The Total Turn-Over of Advanced Capital.  Cycles of Turn-Over"]

... it's one thing to ignore all of that, that Marx has here set out the basis for an analysis of uneven and combined development, for the analysis of overproduction, for lengthening turnover of capital as capital, that is to say value accumulated as the means of production, develops and expands, for the declining ratio of profitability to the total capital deployed in production, for the inevitable, and necessary, conflict between means and relations of production, and for, since all those are but aspects of the relation between labor and the conditions of labor, the eruption of class struggle; but it's another thing completely to use that ignorance to argue that Marx never provides a "comprehensive" theory of crisis; Marx never predicts the inevitability, the necessity of proletarian revolution; that Marx never proves the tendency of the rate of profit to decline is a "law,"  when in fact the proof of that law is not in the abstraction, the distillation, the explication of the internal metabolism of capitalism, but in the living relations of class, in the actual class struggle that is precipitated by exactly that decline; when indeed the intrinsic limits to the valorization of capital are in the overproduction of the means of production as capital; where the limit to profitability is the overproduction of the means of production as capital, in quantity and degree, to a point where labor-power cannot be exploited intensely enough.  "Enough to what?" you ask?  Enough to offset the continuing expulsion of labor power from production.

Now that's my horse, my lean horse for a long race, coming in at the finish.  Like I said, nobody just writes an introduction to Marx's Capital.   And nobody just writes a review of any such introduction.

S. Artesian
August 25, 2012

Monday, August 06, 2012

The Death Agony of Anti-Imperialism, Part 1


1.  On that side, the tub thumpers for the late Ghadafi and the not yet late Assad, once again and forever defending current and future ayatollahs, Perons, Hezbollahs, ANCs, Mugabes from “imperialist attack.”
On the other side, those who have just as ardently defended “democratic revolution,”  “national self-determination,”  the “popular struggle” as chinks in the armor of imperialism, even if it that defense requires tacit or explicit assent to the military intervention of a NATO, a UN.
It’s not a pretty thing, this death agony of anti-imperialism. Of course, at its peak, anti-imperialism wasn’t a pretty thing—the making of anti-imperialism, like the making of sausage, or money in the stock market, requiring massive amounts, and in the proper proportions, of belligerence, stupidity, arrogance, and blindness.
Once so inseparable, the anti-imperialist/democratic revolution/national liberation front has been broken by events in Libya and Syria. 
The apparent, and manifest, opposition of these two poles of anti-imperialism is the expression of the bankruptcy at the core of anti-imperialism.  That core is the separation, extraction, derivation of the, or a, “nation” from the property relations of capital, simultaneous with the separation, extraction derivation of the, or a, nation apart from the limitations to capital accumulation embodied in those exact same property relations.  Thus the “nation” appears as a being, oppressor or oppressed, dominant or subservient.
The conflict between “dominant” and “dominated” nation does not appear as developing from the condition critical for proletarian revolution, which is the inability capitalist domination of private property forms to sustain capitalist accumulation.  The “state of being” masks the condition of class struggle. 
We get, and in the neck, the “national revolution,”  “national self-determination,”  “national liberation,”  “popular unity,” all presented as intermediations of social revolution; as interpositions, when in fact each is an obstacle and in opposition to the proletarian revolution.
There are no “economics” to the national, the anti-imperial, the “democratic” revolutions, and thus there can be no reckoning of class, by class, for class, against another class, of classes bound and opposed to each other by the conditions of labor.
The struggle in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Iran, is detached, extracted, isolated from the global condition of capitalist accumulation.  It’s a “battle for democracy.”  It’s an “imperialist coup.”  It’s everything, except what it is.
2.  Every once in awhile, the question comes up:  “Why, how, has capitalism survived all these years?  How after all the years of overproduction and enforced scarcity, after all the massacres, exploitation, the feasting on blood, gristle and bones, after all the banquets of ashes, does this system survive?”
And every once in awhile, the answer is offered up:  “Because capitalism’s opponents, particularly those proclaiming to have apprehended Marx’s work, are so inept.  Because those who proclaim their deeper grasp of the principles of capitalist reproduction, have nothing in their hands.”
No sooner does that answer appear than it is rejected.  It must be rejected.  It is not, after all, a materialist analysis.  The answer, like the question, presupposes knowledge, or a particular type of knowledge, as the maker of history, in lieu of history.  “They think (incorrectly).  Therefore capitalism is (still).”
Worse, this mis-formulation is another iteration of the ancient catechism:
Q:  “What does the crisis of humanity amount to?”
A:  “The crisis of humanity reduces itself to a crisis of the proletarian leadership.”
Short version?  “If only……” 
3.  Capitalism has distinguished itself by configuring the state apparatus as a vector for accumulation.  The bourgeoisie have done this not simply as lenders to the “new” “revolutionary” state; nor simply as merchants provisioning army and parliament with costumes, grapeshot, rations, or telephones.  They have utilized the state as an enterprise for maintaining, disciplining, enforcing the specific organization of labor as wage-labor, and for “clawing back” portions of the variable capital paid out in wages, thus augmenting the mass of surplus value.
Private property, private bourgeois property, that is to say private ownership of the means of social production for the expansion of value is at one and the same time the origin and the limit to capitalist accumulation.  And it’s expensive; it’s expensive in terms of cost, and in terms of the proportion of revenues that must be rededicated to the process of accumulation.
In addition, the expense, the costs of doing business, include the organization of collective social labor… of abstract labor.  What is value, after all, if not abstract labor, or rather, labor abstracted?  It’s a costly business, requiring the permanent dispossession of labor, its detachment from everything save the demands of accumulation.  It’s a costly business, that in this abstraction of labor from everything save the demands of accumulation, accumulation of capital is itself identified concretely as the limit to the emancipation of labor. 
Whereas labor must become abstract, be abstracted, capital cannot.  Its realization depends on its exchanges of its appropriated, abstracted labor with, among, the “others” of its identity.  The uneven, by necessity, unbalanced, disparate nature of capitalist production, of production entombed within private ownership which is so essential to the distribution, apportionment of the total available surplus value, means every such exchange embodies a conflict between means and relations of production. 
Capital has no resolution for this conflict, offering only its reproduction, but the bourgeoisie can “bequeath,” delegate that conflict, and the social costs of marshaling labor as abstract labor, to the state, the “national state.”   
The “modern state” in the less than modern sectors of capitalism becomes the administrator of accumulation, the brokerage for the supply of labor as labor-power, and the nursery, the crèche for the bourgeoisie itself.
4.  In the 20th century, the state as nursery, broker, crèche, makes its entrance with the Mexican Revolution.  With Obregon raising the red battalions from the Casa del Obrero Mundial to battle the agrarian revolt, with the incorporation of the CROM;  later with the CTM replacing the CROM, with Cardenas following Obregon and supplanting Calles, with Lombardo-Toledano replacing Morones, the Mexican state conducts the counterrevolution within the revolution, enshrining “labor” in the expansion of bourgeois property.
In its own offices, appropriating and allocating wealth to its own officers, the state suckles an always emerging bourgeoisie.
An analogous [different origin, similar function] process is given life in Russia after the workers’ revolution expels the bourgeoisie.  There, what the bourgeoisie could not do is done through the state dispossessing labor from the organs of its own power, the soviets that represented the potential for the emancipation of labor as opposed to the mimicry of the relations of value production.  Again the state acts as counterrevolution within the revolution, but without the connection to bourgeois property, production as and for the accumulation of value, flourishes in the breakdown and disorganization of the economy.
The struggles in the Mideast are struggles precipitated by the failure of the national state in its role as organizer, broker, and incorporator of labor; in its role as distributor of value; in its function as vector for accumulation.  The “national revolution,” presented once as an intermediation to the proletarian revolution is exposed by the failure of the state as the opponent to proletarian revolution.
The “democratic revolt”  has no place to turn, and no standing.

Next:  Part 2 (no kidding, really?)
August 6, 2012