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A CRITIQUE OF POLITICAL ECONOMY

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in return for the use of land or other things.
According to him, M1 physical su.bstances, by means of
which the propertiless produotive laborer who has no other
means of existence but the capacity of producing things,
can make use of his faculties, are in the possession of others
with opposite material interests, the consent of these is re-
quired in order that the laborer may find work; under these
circumstances, he says, it depends on the good will of the
capitalists how much of the fruit of his own labor the laborer
shall receive. And he speaks of "these defalcations" and of
their relation to the unpaid product, whether this is called
taxes, profit, or theft, etc.
I must admit that I do not write these lines without a cer-
tain mortification. I will not make so much of .the fact that
the anti-capitalist literature of England of the 20's and 30's
is so little known in Germany, in spite of the fact that Marx
referred to it even in his "POVERTY OF PHILOSOPHY,"
and quoted from it, as for instance that pamphlet of 1821,or
Ravenstone, Hodgskin, etc., in Volume I of "CAPITAL."
But it is a proof of the degradation into which officiM political
economy has fallen, that not only the vulgar economist, who
clings desperately to ,the coat tails of Rodbertus and really
has not learned anything, but also ,the duly installed profes-
"sor, who boasts of his wisdom, have forgotten their classical
economy to such an exten.t that they seriously charge Marx
Preface. 23
with having robbed Rodbertus of ,things which may be
found even in Adam Smith and Ricaxdo.
But what is there that is new about Marx's statements on
surplus-value? How is it that Marx's theory of surplus-
value struck home like a thunderbolt out of a clear sky, in
all modern countries, while the theories of all his socialist
predecessors, including Rodbertus, remained ineffective?
The history of chemistry offers an illustration which ex-
plains this:
Until late in the 18th century, the phlogistie theory was
accepted. It assumed that in the process of burning, a cer-
tain hypothetical substance, an absolute combustible, named
phlogiston, separated from the burning bodies. This theory
sufficed for the explanation of most of the chemical phenom-
ena then known, although it had to be considerably twisted
in some cases. But in 1774, Priestley discovered a certain
kind of air which was so pure, or so free from phlogiston,
that common air seemed adulterated in comparison to it. He
called it "dephlogisticized air." Shortly after him, Scheele
obtained the same kind of air in Sweden, and demonstrated
its existence in the atmosphere. He also found that this air
disappeared, whenever some body was burned in it or in the
open air, and therefore he called it "fire-air." "From these
facts he drew the conclusion that the combination arising
from the union' of phlogiston with one of the elements of
the atmosphere" (that is to say by combustion) "was noth-
ing but fire or heat which escaped through the glass." 2
Priestley and Scheele had produced oxygen, without
knowing wh_t they had discovered. They remained "lim-
ited by the phlogistic categories which they found at hamd."
The element, which was destined _ abolish all phlogistie
ideas and to revolutionize chemistry, remained barren in
their hands. But Priestley had immediately communicated
his discovery to Lavoisier in Paris, mad Lavoisier, by
means of this discovery, now analyzed the entire phlogistic
chemistry and came to the conclusion that this r, ew air was
Roscoe-Schorlemmer, Ausuehrliches Lehrbuch der Chemie. Braunsch-
weig, 1877, I, p. 13, 18.
24 Preface.
a new chemical element, that it was not the mysterious phlo-
giston whioh departed from a burning body, but that this
new element combined with the burning body. Thus he
placed chemistry, which had so long stood on its head,
squarely on .its feet. And although ,he did not _btainthe
oxygen simultaneously and independently of the other two
scientists, as he claimed later on, he nevertheless is the real
discoverer of oxygen as compared to the others who had pro-
duced it without knowing what they had found.
Marx stands in the same rel.a.tion to his predecessors in
the theory of surplus-value that Lavoisier maintains to
Priestley and Scheele. The existence of those parts of the
value of products, which we now call surplus-value, had been
ascertained long before Marx. It had also been stated with
more or less precision that. it consisted of that part of the
laborer's product for which its appropriator does not give
any equivalent. But there the economists hailed. Some
of them, for instance the classical bourgeois economists in-
vestigated, perhaps, the proportion in which the product
of 1.abet was divided among the laborer and the owner of
the means of production. Others, the socialists, declared
Chat this division was unjust and looked for utopian means
of abolishing ,this injustice. They remained limited by
the economic categories which they found at hand.
Now Marx .app_red. And he took an entirely opposite
view from all his predecessors. What they h_d regarded
as a solution, he considered a problem. He saw that he had
to deal neither with dephlogisticized air, nor with fire-air,
but with oxygen. He understood that it was not simply a
matter of sta.ting an economic fact, or of pointing out _he
¢_)nflict of bhis fact with "eternal justice and true morals,"
but ,of explaining a fact which was destined to revolutionize
_he entire political economy, and which offered a key for
the understanding of the entire capitalist production, pro-
vided you knew how to use it. With th.is fact for a start-
ing point Mark analyzed all the economic categories which
he found at hand, ju_ as Lavoisier had analyzed the cote-
Pre]ace. 25
gories of the phlogistic chemistry which he found at ,hand.
In order to understand what surplus-value is, Marx had to
rink out what value is. Therefore he had above all .to an-
alyze critically the Ricardian theory of value. Marx also
analyzed labor as to its capacity for producing value, and
'he was the first to ascertain what kind of l_bor it was ,_hat
produced value, and why it did so, and by what means it
acoomplished this. He found that value was nothing but
crystallized labor of this kind, and this is a point which
Rodbertus never grasped to his dying day. Marx then ana-
lyzed the relation of commodities to money and demonstrated
how, and why, thanks to the immanent character of value,
commodi.ties and tile exchange vf commodities must pro-
duce the epposition of money and commodities. His the-
ory of money, founded on this basis, is the first exhaustive
_reatment of t_ais subject, and it is ,tacitly accepted every-
where. He analyzed the transformation of money into
capital and demonstrated that this transformation is based
on the purchase and sale of labor-power. By substituting
labor-power, as a value-producing quality, for labor he solved
with one stroke one of the difficulties which caused bhe down-
fall of the Ricardian school, viz. : the impossibility of har-
monizing the mutual exchange of capital and labor with
_he Ricardian law of determining value by labor. By as-
certaining tahe distinction between consbant and variable
capital, 'he was enabled to trace the process of the forma-
tion of surplus-value in its details and thus to explain it,
a feat which none of his predecessors h,ad accomplished. In
other words, he found a distinction inside of capital itself
with which neither Rodbertus nor the capitalist economists
know what to do, but which nevertheless furnished a key for
the solution of the most complicated economic problems,
as is proved by this Volume II and will be proved still
more by Volume III. He furthermore analyzed surplus-
value and found its two forms, absolute and relative sur-
plus-value. And he showed bhat both of them had played
a different,