July 16, 2009
From Bela Kun:
Marx’s doctrine does more than expound the general law of development of human history. It also contains the special law of development of the capitalist method of production and of bourgeois society engendered by it.
The great secret of capitalist production and its concurrent bourgeois society was a sealed book to the best representatives of bourgeois economy who investigated the capitalist method of production and deemed it an eternal institution, as well as to be the best representatives of pre-Marxian utopian socialism who critisised and rejected the capitalist system. The discovery of surplus value by Marx revealed this secret of capitalist production and bourgeois society. The wage-worker in capitalist society sells his labour power to the owner of the means of production. It is not a question here of any relation of things: product of labour and means of production, but of relations between people of whom one has only his labour power while the other owns the means of production. Commodity labour power is endowed with the peculiar property that even when purchased at its full value it creates more value than the equivalent of its own value, i.e., than is necessary for the reproduction of the commodity labour power. The private appropriation of these unpaid surplus values is the basis of the capitalist method of production and it is precisely this surplus value which is the source from which the capitalist class draws its growing wealth.
The discovery of surplus value led not only to the discovery of the motive power of the development of capitalist production, but also to the discovery of the driving force of the struggle between the two classes arising historically under capitalism: the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. Socialism was no longer a fortuitous discovery of this or that “gifted mind” but recognised as a necessary consequence of capitalist development and of the class struggle.
Capital — created by the workers — brings about the ruin of the small producers. It multiplies the class of the wage-workers. By developing the forces of production (machines, etc.), it constantly increases the earnings of the capitalists derived from the work of the former. Capital becomes more and more concentrated and finally leads to monopolist domination by a handful of the most powerful magnates. Production becomes more and more socialised. Hundreds of thousands and millions of workers are embraced in a few industrial organisations. The product of their social labour is, however, appropriated by a mere handful of capitalists.
In the process of the concentration of capital, human labour power is increasingly displaced by machinery. This leads, on the one hand, to the most intensified accumulation of wealth for the capitalists; on the other, to increasing misery for the working class. This also gives rise to the giant army of the unemployed. This industrial reserve army renders possible a still more intensive exploitation of the working class by the capitalists.
This constant expansion of production (which is accompanied by a steady decline in the purchasing power of the masses), leads to crises of over-production which become more aggravated at each repetition and shake the capitalist system more and more.
This historical tendency of development of capitalism was strikingly epitomized in “Capital,” the main work of Marx, in the following words:
“The expropriation of the immediate producers was accomplished with merciless Vandalism, and under the stimulus of passions the most infamous, the most sordid, the pettiest, the most meanly odious. Self-earned private property, that is based, so to say, on the fusing together of the isolated, independent labouring-individual with the conditions of his labour, is supplanted by capitalistic private property, which rests on exploitation of the nominally free labour of others, i.e., on wages-labour.”
“That which is now to be expropriated is no longer the labourer working for himself, but the capitalist exploiting many labourers. This expropriation is accomplished by the action of the immanent laws of capitalistic production itself, by the centralisation of capital. One capitalist always kills many. Hand in hand with this centralisation, or this expropriation of many capitalists by few, develop, on an overextending scale, the co-operative form of the labour-process, the conscious technical application of science, the methodical cultivation of the soil, the transformation of the instruments of labour into instruments of labour only usable in common, the economising of all means of production by their use as the means of production of combined, socialised labour, the entanglement of all peoples in the net of the world-market, and this, the international character of the capitalistic regime. Along with the constantly diminishing number of the magnates of capital grows the mass of misery, oppression, slavery, degradation, exploitation; but with this too grows the revolt of the working-class, a class always increasing in numbers, and disciplined, united, organised by the very mechanism of the process of capitalist production itself. The monopoly of capital becomes a fetter upon the mode of production, which has sprung up and flourished along with, and under it. Centralisation of the means of production and socialisation of labour at last reach a point where they become incompatible with their capitalist integument. This integument is burst asunder. The knell of capitalist private property sounds. The expropriators are expropriated.”