Front Page Titles (by Subject) SECTION I.—CAPITALIST PRODUCTION ON A PROGRESSIVELY INCREASING SCALE. TRANSITION OF THE LAWS OF PROPERTY THAT CHARACTERISE PRODUCTION OF COMMODITIES INTO LAWS OF CAPITALIST APPROPRIATION. - Capital: A Critique of Political Economy. Volume I: The Process of Capitalist Production
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SECTION I.—CAPITALIST PRODUCTION ON A PROGRESSIVELY INCREASING SCALE. TRANSITION OF THE LAWS OF PROPERTY THAT CHARACTERISE PRODUCTION OF COMMODITIES INTO LAWS OF CAPITALIST APPROPRIATION. - Karl Marx, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy. Volume I: The Process of Capitalist Production 
Capital: A Critique of Political Economy. Volume I: The Process of Capitalist Production, by Karl Marx. Trans. from the 3rd German edition, by Samuel Moore and Edward Aveling, ed. Federick Engels. Revised and amplified according to the 4th German ed. by Ernest Untermann (Chicago: Charles H. Kerr and Co., 1909).
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SECTION I.—CAPITALIST PRODUCTION ON A PROGRESSIVELY INCREASING SCALE. TRANSITION OF THE LAWS OF PROPERTY THAT CHARACTERISE PRODUCTION OF COMMODITIES INTO LAWS OF CAPITALIST APPROPRIATION.
HITHERTO we have investigated how surplus-value emanates from capital; we have now to see how capital arises from surplus-value. Employing surplus-value as capital, reconverting it into capital, is called accumulation of capital.21
First let us consider this transaction from the standpoint of the individual capitalist. Suppose a spinner to have advanced a capital of £10,000, of which four-fifths (£8000) are laid out in cotton, machinery, 8c., and one-fifth (£2000) in wages. Let him produce 240,000 lbs. of yarn annually, having a value of £12,000. The rate of surplus-value being 100%, the surplus-value lies in the surplus or net product of 40,000 lbs. of yarn, one sixth of the gross product, with a value of £2000 which will be realized by a sale. £2000 is £2000. We can neither see nor smell in this sum of money a trace of surplus-value. When we know that a given value is surplus-value, we know how its owner came by it; but that does not alter the nature either of value or of money.
In order to convert this additional sum of £2000 into capital, the master spinner will, all circumstances remaining as before, advance four-fifths of it (£1600) in the purchase of cotton, 8c., and one-fifth (£400) in the purchase of additional spinners, who will find in the market the necessaries of life whose value the master has advanced to them. Then the new capital of £2000 functions in the spinning mill, and brings in, in its turn, a surplus-value of £400.
The capital-value was originally advanced in the money form. The surplus-value on the contrary is, originally, the value of a definite portion of the gross product. If this gross product be sold, converted into money, the capital-value regains its original form. From this moment the capital-value and the surplus-value are both of them sums of money, and their reconversion into capital takes place in precisely the same way. The one, as well as the other, is laid out by the capitalist in the purchase of commodities that place him in a position to begin afresh the fabrication of his goods, and this time, on an extended scale. But in order to be able to buy those commodities, he must find them ready in the market.
His own yarns circulate, only because he brings his annual product to market, as all other capitalists likewise do with their commodities. But these commodities, before coming to market, were part of the general annual product, part of the total mass of objects of every kind, into which the sum of the individual capitals, i.e., the total capital of society, had been converted in the course of the year, and of which each capitalist had in hand only an aliquot part. The transactions in the market effectuate only the interchange of the individual components of this annual product, transfer them from one hand to another, but can neither augment the total annual production, nor alter the nature of the objects produced. Hence the use that can be made of the total annual product, depends entirely upon its own composition, but in no way upon circulation.
The annual production must in the first place furnish all those objects (use-values) from which the material components of capital, used up in the course of the year, have to be replaced. Deducting these there remains the net or surplus-product, in which the surplus-value lies. And of what does this surplus-product consist? Only of things destined to satisfy the wants and desires of the capitalist class, things which, consequently, enter into the consumption fund of the capitalists? Were that the case, the cup of surplus-value would be drained to the very dregs, and nothing but simple reproduction would ever take place.
To accumulate it is necessary to convert a portion of the surplus-product into capital. But we cannot, except by a miracle, convert into capital anything but such articles as can be employed in the labour-process (i.e., means of production), and such further articles as are suitable for the sustenance of the labourer, (i.e., means of subsistence.) Consequently, a part of the annual surplus-labour must have been applied to the production of additional means of production and subsistence, over and above the quantity of these things required to replace the capital advanced. In one word, surplus-value is convertible into capital solely because the surplus-product, whose value it is, already comprises the material elements of new capital.22
Now in order to allow of these elements actually functioning as capital, the capitalist class requires additional labour. If the exploitation of the labourers already employed do not increase, either extensively or intensively, then additional labour-power must be found. For this the mechanism of capitalist production provides beforehand, by converting the working class into a class dependent on wages, a class whose ordinary wages suffice, not only for its maintenance, but for its increase. It is only necessary for capital to incorporate this additional labour-power, annually supplied by the working class in the shape of labourers of all ages, with the surplus means of production comprised in the annual produce, and the conversion of surplus-value into capital is complete. From a concrete point of view, accumulation resolves itself into the reproduction of capital on a progressively increasing scale. The circle in which simple reproduction moves, alters its form, and, to use Sismondi's expression, changes into a spiral.23
Let us now return to our illustration. It is the old story: Abraham begat Isaac, Isaac begat Jacob, and so on. The original capital of £10,000 brings in a surplus-value of £2000, which is capitalised. The new capital of £2000 brings in a surplus-value of £400, and this, too, is capitalised, converted into a second additional capital, which, in its turn, produces a further surplus-value of £80. And so the ball rolls on.
We here leave out of consideration the portion of the surplus-value consumed by the capitalist. Just as little does it concern us, for the moment, whether the additional capital is joined on to the original capital, or is separated from it to function independently; whether the same capitalist, who accumulated it, employs it, or whether he hands it over to another. This only we must not forget, that by the side of the newly-formed capital, the original capital continues to reproduce itself, and to produce surplus-value, and that this is also true of all accumulated capital, and the additional capital engendered by it.
The original capital was formed by the advance of £10,000. How did the owner become possessed of it? "By his own labour and that of his forefathers," answer unanimously the spokesmen of political economy.24 And, in fact, their supposition appears the only one consonant with the laws of the production of commodities.
But it is quite otherwise with regard to the additional capital of £2000. How that originated we know perfectly well. There is not one single atom of its value that does not owe its existence to unpaid labour. The means of production, with which the additional labour-power is incorporated, as well as the necessaries with which the labourers are sustained, are nothing but component parts of the surplus product, of the tribute annually exacted from the working class by the capitalist class. Though the latter with a portion of that tribute purchases the additional labour-power even at its full price, so that equivalent is exchanged for equivalent, yet the transaction is for all that only the old dodge of every conquerer who buys commodities from the conquered with the money he has robbed them of.
If the additional capital employs the person who produced it, this producer must not only continue to augment the value of the original capital, but must buy back the fruits of his previous labour with more labour than they cost. When viewed as a transaction between the capitalist class and the working class, it makes no difference that additional labourers are employed by means of the unpaid labour of the previously employed labourers. The capitalist may even convert the additional capital into a machine that throws the producers of that capital out of work, and that replaces them by a few children. In every case the working class creates by the surplus-labour of one year the capital destined to employ additional labour in the following year.25 And this is what is called: creating capital out of capital.
The accumulation of the first additional capital of £2000 presupposes a value of £10,000 belonging to the capitalist by virtue of his "primitive labour," and advanced by him. The second additional capital of £400 presupposes, on the contrary, only the previous accumulation of the £2000, of which the £400 is the surplus-value capitalised. The ownership of past unpaid labour is thenceforth the sole condition for the appropriation of living unpaid labour on a constantly increasing scale. The more the capitalist has accumulated, the more is he able to accumulate.
In so far as the surplus-value, of which the additional capital, No. 1, consists, is the result of the purchase of labour-power with part of the original capital, a purchase that conformed to the laws of the exchange of commodities, and that, from a legal stand-point, presupposes nothing beyond the free disposal, on the part of the labourer, of his own capacities, and on the part of the owner of money or commodities, of the values that belong to him; in so far as the additional capital, No. 2, 8c., is the mere result of No. 1, and, therefore, a consequence of the above condition; in so far as each single transaction invariably conforms to the laws of the exchange of commodities, the capitalist buying labour-power, the labourer selling it, and we will assume at its real value; in so far as all this is true, it is evident that the laws of appropriation or of private property, laws that are based on the production and circulation of commodities, become by their own inner and inexorable dialectic changed into their very opposite.26 The exchange of equivalents, the original operation with which we started, has now become turned round in such a way that there is only an apparent exchange. This is owing to the fact, first, that the capital which is exchanged for labour-power is itself but a portion of the product of others' labour appropriated without an equivalent; and, secondly, that this capital must not only be replaced by its producer, but replaced together with an added surplus. The relation of exchange subsisting between capitalist and labourer becomes a mere semblance appertaining to the process of circulation, a mere form, foreign to the real nature of the transaction, and only mystify it. The ever repeated purchase and sale of labour-power is now the mere form; what really takes place is this—the capitalist again and again appropriates, without equivalent, a portion of the previously materialised labour of others, and exchanges it for a greater quantity of living labour. At first the rights of property seemed to us to be based on a man's own labour. At least, some such assumption was necessary since only commodity owners with equal rights confronted each other, and the sole means by which a man could become possessed of the commodities of others, was by alienating his own commodities; and these could be replaced by labour alone. Now, however, property turns out to be the right, on the part of the capitalist, to appropriate the unpaid labour of others or its product and to be the impossibility, on the part of the labourer, of appropriating his own product. The separation of property from labour has become the necessary consequence of a law that apparently originated in their identity.27
No matter how severely the capitalist mode of appropriation may seem to slap the face of the fundamental laws of the production of commodities, it does not arise from a violation, but from an application of these laws. A brief retrospect upon the succession of phases, whose climax the capitalist accumulation is, may serve once more to make this clear.
We have seen, in the first place, that the original transformation of a certain quantity of values into capital proceeded strictly according to the laws of exchange. One of the contracting parties sells his labour-power, the other buys it. The first receives the exchange-value of his commodity, while its use-value, labour, passes into the possession of the other. This second party then converts means of production belonging to him into a new product belonging to him by right through the instrumentality of labour also belonging to him.
The value of this product comprizes, in the first place, the value of the consumed means of production. Useful labour cannot consume these means of production without transferring their value to the new product. But in order to be saleable labour-power must be able to furnish useful labour in that line of industry in which it is to be employed.
The value of the new product comprizes, furthermore, the equivalent of the value of labour-power and a surplus-value. It does so for the reason that the labour-power sold for a certain length of time, such as a day, a week, etc., has less value than is produced by its employment during that time. The labourer, however, has received the exchange-value of his labour-power and given up its use-value in return, as happens in every sale and purchase.
The fact that this particular commodity labour-power has the peculiar use-value of supplying labour and creating value cannot affect the general law of the production of commodities. Hence, if the sum of values advanced in wages is not merely reproduce in the product, but also increased by a surplus-value, this is not due to an advantage gained over the seller, who received the value of his commodity, but simply to the consumption of this commodity by the buyer.
The law of exchange requires equality only for the exchange-values of the commodities passed from hand to hand. But it requires at the outset a disparity of their use-values, and has nothing to do with their consumption, which does not begin until after the trade has been made.
The original transformation of money into capital proceeds, therefore, in strict compliance with the economic laws of the production of commodities and with the property right derived therefrom. Nevertheless it has the following results:
(1) That the product belongs to the capitalist, not to the labourer;
Simple reproduction is but a periodical repetition of this first operation. Money is thereby transformed again and again into capital. The general law is not violated thereby, but rather finds an opportunity to manifest itself permanently. "Several successive exchanges have merely made of the last a representative of the first." (Sismondi, l. c., p. 70.)
Nevertheless we have seen that this simple reproduction suffices to impregnate this first operation, so far as it was considered an isolated transaction, with a totally different character. "Of those, who divide the national revenue among themselves, some (the labourers) acquire each year a new title to it by new labour, while others (the capitalists) have previously acquired a permanent title to it by primitive work." (Sismondi, l. c., p. 111.) The domain of labour is evidently not the only one in which primogeniture accomplishes wonders.
It does not alter matters any, if simple reproduction is replaced by reproduction on an enlarged scale, by accumulation. In the first instance the capitalist consumes the entire surplus-value, in the second he demonstrates his civic virtue by consuming only a part of it and converting the remainder into money.
The surplus-value is his property, it has never belonged to anybody else. If he advances it to production, he makes advances from his own funds just as he did on the day when he first came on the market. That this fund in the present case comes from the unpaid labour of his labourers, does not alter the matter in the least. If labourer B is employed with surplus-values produced by labourer A, then, in the first place, A supplied this surplus-value without having the just price of his commodity reduced by one farthing, and, in the second place, this transaction is none of B's concern. What B demands and has a right to demand is that the capitalist should pay him the value of his labour-power. "Both sides are gainers; the labourer, by having the fruit of his labour advanced to him" (that is, the fruit of the unpaid labour of others) "before he has performed any labour" (that is, before his own labour has borne any fruit); "the master, because the labour of this labourer was worth more than his wages" (that is, produced a value greater than that of his wages). (Sismondi, l. c., p. 135.)
True, the matter assumes an entirely different aspect when we look upon capitalist production in the uninterrupted flow of its reproduction, and when we consider the capitalist class as a whole and its antagonist, the working class, instead of the individual capitalist and the individual labourer. But in so doing we should be applying a standard which is totally foreign to the production of commodities.
In the production of commodities only sellers and buyers, independent of one another, meet. Their mutual relations cease with the termination of their mutual contract. If the transaction is repeated, it is done by a new contract, which has nothing to do with the former one, and only an accident brings the same seller once more together with the same buyer.
Hence, if the production of commodities, or a transaction belonging to it, is to be judged by its own economic laws, we must consider each act of exchange by itself, outside of all connection with the act of exchange preceding it and following it. And since purchases and sales are transacted between individuals, it will not do to seek therein relations between entire classes of society.
No matter how long may be the series of periodical reproductions and former accumulations through which the capital now invested may have passed, it always retains its primal virginity. So long as the laws of exchange are observed in every act of exchange, individually considered, the mode of appropriation may be completely revolutionised without in the least affecting the property right bestowed by the production of commodities. The same right remains in force, whether it be at a time when the product belonged to the producer, and when this producer, exchanging equivalent for equivalent, could enrich himself only by his own labour, or whether it be under capitalism, where the social wealth becomes in an ever increasing degree the property of those, who are in a position to appropriate to themselves again and again the unpaid labour of others.
This result becomes inevitable, as soon as labour-power is sold as a commodity by the "free" labourer himself. It is from that time on that the production of commodities becomes universal and a typical form of production. Henceforth every product is intended at the outset for sale, and all produced wealth passes through the circulation. The production of commodities does not impose itself upon the whole society, until wage-labour becomes its basis. And only then does it unfold all its powers. To say that the intervention of wage labour adulterates the production of commodities means to say that the production of commodities must not develop, if it wishes to remain unadulterated. To the same extent that it continues to develop by its own inherent laws into a capitalist production, the property laws of the production of commodities are converted into the laws of capitalistic appropriation.28
We have seen that even in the case of simple reproduction, all capital, whatever its original source, becomes converted into accumulated capital, capitalised surplus-value. But in the flood of production all the capital originally advanced becomes a vanishing quantity (magnitudo evanescens, in the mathematical sense), compared with the directly accumulated capital, i.e., with the surplus-value or surplus product that is reconverted into capital, whether it function in the hands of its accumulator, or in those of others. Hence, political economy describes capital in general as "accumulated wealth" (converted surplus-value or revenue), "that is employed over again in the production of surplus-value,"29 and the capitalist as "the owner of surplus-value."30 It is merely another way of expressing the same thing to say that all existing capital is accumulated or capitalised interest, for interest is a mere fragment of surplus-value.31
[21.] "Accumulation of capital; the employment of a portion of revenue as capital." (Malthus: Definitions, 8c., ed. Cazenove p. 11.) "Conversion of revenue into capital." Malthus: Princ. of Pol. Econ., 2nd Ed., Lond., 1836, p. 319.)
[22.] We here take no account of export trade, by means of which a nation can change articles of luxury either into means of production or means of subsistence, and vice versa. In order to examine the object of our investigation in its integrity, free from all disturbing subsidiary circumstances, we must treat the whole world as one nation, and assume that capitalist production is everywhere established and has possessed itself of every branch of industry.
[23.] Sismondi's analysis of accumulation suffers from the great defect, that he contents himself, to too great an extent, with the phrase "conversion of revenue into capital," without fathoming the material conditions of this operation.
[24.] "Le travail primitif auquel son capital a dû sa naissance." Sismondi, l. c., ed. Paris, t. I., p. 109.
[25.] "Labour creates capital before capital employs labour." E.g. Wakefield, England and America. Lond., 1833, Vol. II., p. 110.
[26.] Just as at a given stage in its development, commodity production necessarily passes into capitalistic commodity production (in fact, it is only on the basis of capitalistic production that products take the general and predominant form of commodities), so the laws of property that are based on commodity production, necessarily turn into the laws of capitalist appropriation. We may well, therefore, feel astonished at the cleverness of Proudhon, who would abolish capitalistic property by enforcing the eternal laws of property that are based on commodity production!
[27.] The property of the capitalist in the product of the labour of others "is a strict consequence of the law of appropriation, the fundamental principle of which was, on the contrary, the exclusive title of every labourer to the product of his own labour." (Cherbuliez, Riche ou Pauvre. Paris, 1841, p. 58, where, however, the dialectical reversal is not properly developed.)
[28.] Admire, therefore, the craftiness of Proudhon who wishes to abolish capitalist property by enforcing against it—the eternal property laws of the production of commodities.
[29.] "Capital, viz., accumulated wealth employed with a view to profit." (Malthus, l. c.) "Capital....consists of wealth saved from revenue, and used with a view to profit." (R. Jones: An Introductory Lecture on Polit. Econ., Lond., 1833, p. 16.)
[30.] "The possessors of surplus produce or capital." (The Source and Remedy of the National Difficulties. A Letter to Lord John Russell. Lond., 1821.)
[31.] "Capital, with compound interest on every portion of capital saved, is so all engrossing that all the wealth in the world from which income is derived, has long ago become the interest on capital." (London Economist, 19th July, 1859.)