THE CONVERSION OF SURPLUS-VALUE INTO
PROFIT AND OF THE RATE OF SURPLUS-VALUE INTO
THE RATE OF PROFIT.
COST PRICE AND PROFIT.
IN the first volume we analyzed the phenomena presented by the process of capitalist production, considered by itself as a mere productive process without regard to any secondary influences of conditions outside of it. But this process of production, in the strict meaning of the term, does not exhaust the life circle of capital. It is supplemented in the actual world by the process of circulation, which was the object of our analysis in the second volume. We found in the course of this last-named analysis, especially in part III, in which we studied the intervention of the process of circulation in the process of social reproduction, that the capitalist process of production, considered as a whole, is a combination of the processes of production and circulation. It cannot be the object of this third volume to indulge in general reflections relative to this combination. We are rather interested in locating the concrete forms growing out of the movements of capitalist production as a whole and setting them forth. In actual reality the capitals move and meet in such concrete forms that the form of the capital in the process of production and that of the capital in the process of circulation impress one only as special aspects of those concrete forms. The conformations of the capitals evolved in this third volume approach step by step that form which they assume on the surface of society, in their mutual interactions, in competition, and in the ordinary consciousness of the human agencies in this process.
The value of every commodity produced by capitalist methods is represented by the formula: C = c + v + s. If we subtract the surplus-value s from this value of the product, there remains only an equivalent for the value of the capital c + v expended for the elements used in the production of this commodity.
Take it that the production of a certain article requires the expenditure of a capital of 500 p.st., of which 20 p.st. are consumed by the wear and tear of instruments of production, 380 p.st. spent for materials of production, and 100 p.st. for labor-power. And let the rate of surplus-value be 100%. In that case the value of this product is equal to 400 c + 100 v + 100 s, or 600 p.st.
After deducting the surplus-value of 100 p.st., we have a remaining commodity-capital of 500 p.st., which is only an equivalent for the consumed capital of 500 p.st. This portion of the value of the commodity, which makes good the price of the consumed means of production and the price of the employed labor-power, replaces only the amount paid by the capitalist himself for this commodity and represents, therefore, from his point of view the cost price of this commodity.
However, the cost of this commodity to the capitalist, and the actual cost of this commodity, are two vastly different amounts. That portion of the value of the commodity which consists of surplus-value does not cost the capitalist anything for the reason that it costs the laborer unpaid labor. But on the basis of capitalist production, the laborer plays the role of an ingredient of productive capital as soon as he has been incorporated in the process of production. Under these circumstances the capitalist poses as the actual producer of the commodity. For this reason the cost price of the commodity to the capitalist necessarily appears to him as the actual cost of the commodity. If we designate the cost-price by k, we can transcribe the formula C = c + v + s into the formula C = k + s, that is to say, the value of a commodity is equal to the cost price plus the surplus-value.
In this way the classification of the various values making good the value of the capital consumed in the production of the commodity under the term of cost price expresses, on the one hand, the specific character of capitalist production. The capitalist cost of the commodity is measured by the expenditure of capital, while the actual cost of the commodity is measured by the expenditure of labor. The capitalist cost-price of the commodity, then, is a quantity different from its value, or its actual cost-price. It is smaller than the value of the commodity. For since C = k + s, it is evident that k = C - s. On the other hand, the cost-price of a commodity is by no means a mere heading in capitalist bookkeeping. The actual existence of this portion of value continually exerts its practical influence in the actual production of the commodity, because it must be ever reconverted from its commodity-form, by way of the process of circulation, into the form of productive capital, so that the cost-price of the commodity must always buy anew the elements of production consumed in its creation.
However, the cost-price as a heading in bookkeeping has nothing to do with the formation of the value of a commodity, or with the process of self-expansion of capital. When I know that five-sixths of the value of a commodity worth 600 p.st., or 500 p.st., represent but an equivalent for the capital consumed in its production and suffice only for the purchase of new material elements of the same capital, I know nothing as yet of the way in which these five-sixths representing the cost-price of the commodity are produced, nor do I know anything about the production of the last sixth which constitutes its surplus-value. Nevertheless we shall see in the course of our analysis that the cost-price plays in capitalist economics the false role of a category in the actual production of values.
Let us return to our example. Take it that the value produced by one laborer in an average social working day is represented by 6 shillings in money. In that case the advanced capital of 500 p.st. consisting of 400 c + 100 v represents the values produced in 1666 2/3 working days of ten hours each. Of this amount 1333 1/3 working days are crystallized in the value of the means of production amounting to 400 p.st. (400 c), and 333 1/3 working days are crystallized in the value of labor-power amounting to 100 p.st. (100 v). Having assumed a rate of surplus-value of 100%, the production of the new commodity costs an expenditure of labor-power amounting to 100 v + 100 s, or 666 2/3 working days of ten hours each.
We know, then, as shown in volume I, chapter VII, that the value of the newly created product of 600 p.st. is composed, 1), of the reappearing value of the constant capital of 400 p.st. expended for means of production, and 2), of a newly produced value of 200 p.st. The cost-price of the commodity, or 500 p.st., comprises the reappearing 400 c and one-half of the newly produced value of 200 p.st., that is to say 100 v. In other words, it comprises two elements of the value of the commodity which are of widely different origin.
Owing to the appropriate character of the labor expended during 666 2/3 working days of ten hours each, the value of the means of production consumed in this process, to the amount of 400 p.st., is transferred to the product. This previously existing value thus reappears as an element of the value of the product, but is not created in the process of production of this commodity. It exists as an element of the value of this commodity only for the reason that it previously existed as an element of the invested capital. The expended constant capital, then, is replaced by that portion of the value of the commodity which this capital transfers to the commodity of its own accord in the labor-process. This element of the cost-price, therefore, has an ambiguous meaning. On the one hand it passes into the cost-price of the commodity, because it is an element of that portion of the value of the commodity which replaces consumed capital. And on the other hand it forms an element of the value of the commodity only for the reason that it is the value of consumed capital, or because the means of production cost a certain sum.
It is different with the other element of the cost-price. The 666 2/3 working days expended in the production of the commodity create a new value of 200 p.st. One portion of this new value replaces only the advanced variable capital of 100 p.st., which is the price of the labor-power employed. But this advanced capital-value does not participate in the creation of the new value. So far as the advance of capital is concerned, labor-power counts as a value. But in the process of production, labor-power performs the function of creating value. The place of the mere value of labor-power in the advance of capital is taken in the actual process of productive capital by living labor-power which creates value.
This difference of the various elements of the value of a commodity which constitute the cost-price becomes evident whenever a change takes place either in the amount of the value of the expended constant capital or in that of the expended variable capital. For instance, let the price of the same means of production, or of the constant portion of capital, rise from 400 p.st. to 600 p.st., or fall to 200 p.st. In the first case it is not only the cost-price of the commodity which rises from 500 p.st. to 600 c + 100 v, or 700 p.st., but also the value of the commodity which rises from 600 p.st. to 600 c + 100 v + 100 s, or 800 p.st. In the second case, it is not only the cost-price which falls from 500 p.st. to 200 c + 100 v, or 300 p.st., but also the value of the commodity which falls from 600 p.st. to 200 c + 100 v + 100 s, or 400 p.st. Because the expended constant capital transfers its own value to the product, therefore the value of the product rises or falls with the absolute magnitude of that capital-value, other circumstances remaining the same. But on the other hand let us assume that, other circumstances remaining the same, the price of the same amount of labor-power rises from 100 p.st. to 150 p.st., or falls from 100 p.st. to 50 p.st. In the first case, the cost-price rises indeed from 500 p.st. to 400 c + 150 v, or 550 p.st., and in the second case it falls from 500 p.st. to 400 c + 50 v, or 450 p.st. But in either case, the value of the commodity remains unchanged at 600 p.st. In the first case it is 400 c + 150 v + 50 s, in the second 400 c + 50 v + 150 s, but in either case it is 600 p.st. The advanced variable capital does not transfer its own value to the product. The place of its value is taken in the product by a new value created by labor. Therefore a change in the value of the absolute magnitude of the variable capital, to the extent that it expresses merely a change in the price of labor-power, does not alter the absolute magnitude of the value of the commodity in the least, because it does not alter anything in the absolute magnitude of the new value created by living labor. Such a change influences only the relative proportion of the magnitudes of the two elements of the new value, one of which forms surplus-value, and the other of which makes good the variable capital and passes into the cost-price of the commodity.
The two elements of the cost-price, in the present case 400 c + 100 v, have only this in common that they are both of them elements of the value of the commodity replacing advanced capital.
But this actual condition of things must necessarily look reversed from the point of view of capitalist production.
The capitalist mode of production is distinguished from a mode of production based on slavery by this fact among others that in the former the value, or the price, as the case may be, of labor-power assumes the form of the value, or price, of labor itself, that is to say, the form of wages. (Volume I, chapter XIX.) The variable portion of the advanced capital, therefore, presents itself as a capital advanced in wages, as a capital-value paying for the value, or price, of all labor expended in production. Take it, for instance, that an average social working day of ten hours is represented by 6 shillings of money. In that case the advance of a variable capital of 100 p.st. expresses in money the value of a product created in 333 1/3 ten-hour days. But this value, being an element of the advance of capital for the purchase of labor-power, is not an element of the productive capital in the actual performance of its function. Its place in the process of production is taken by living labor-power. If the degree of exploitation of this labor-power is 100%, as it is in our illustration, then it is expended during 666 2/3 ten-hour days, and thereby adds to the product a new value of 200 p.st. On the other hand, the variable capital of 100 p.st. figures in the advance of capital as a capital invested in wages, or as the price of labor performed in 666 2/3 ten-hour days. Dividing 100 p.st. by 666 2/3, we obtain 3 shillings as the price of a working day of ten hours, equal in value to the product of five hours' labor.
Now, if we compare the advance of capital on one side with the value of commodities on the other, we find the following condition of things:
I. Capital advanced 500 p.st., consisting of 400 p.st. of capital expended in means of production (price of means of production) plus 100 p.st. of capital expended in wages (price of 666 2/3 working days, or wages for the same).
II. Value of commodities 600 p.st. of which 500 p.st. represent the cost-price (400 p.st. price of expended means of production plus 100 p.st. price of expended 666 2/3 working days) plus 100 p.st. surplus-value.
In this formula, the portion of capital invested in labor-power differs from that invested in means of production (such as cotton or coal) only by serving for the payment of a substantially different element of production. But it does not differ by serving in a different function in the process of creating the value of the commodities, and thereby in the process of self-expansion of capital. The price of the means of production reappears in the cost-price of the commodities, just as it figured in the advance of capital, and it does so for the reason that the means of production have been appropriately consumed. The cost-price of the commodities also contains the price, or wages, for the 666 2/3 working days consumed in the production of these commodities, which wages figured also in the advance of capital, likewise for the reason that this amount of labor has been appropriately expended. We see only finished and existing values, representing portions of the value of advanced capital which have passed into the value of the product, but no element representing newly created values. The distinction between constant and variable capital has disappeared. The entire cost-price of 500 p.st. now has the ambiguous meaning that it is that portion of the value of commodities worth 600 p.st. which makes good the capital of 500 p.st. expended in the production of these commodities, and that it owes its existence as a portion of the value of these commodities only to the fact of having previously existed as the cost-price of the consumed elements of production, namely means of production and labor, in other words, of having existed as an advance of capital. The capital-value reappears as the cost-price of commodities, because it had been expended as a capital-value.
The fact that the various elements of the value of the advanced capital have been expended for substantially different elements of production, namely for instruments of labor, raw materials, auxiliary substances, and labor, requires only that the cost-price of the commodities should buy a new supply of these substantially different elements of production. So far as the formation of this cost-price is concerned, only one distinction is appreciable, namely that between fixed and circulating capital. In our example we had set down 20 p.st. for wear and tear of instruments of labor (400 c being composed of 20 p.st. for wear and tear of instruments of labor and 380 p.st. for materials of production). Supposing the value of those instruments of labor to have been 1200 p.st. before the productive process began, it will exist after the production of the commodities in two forms, one of them being represented by 20 p.st. of the value of the commodities, and the other by 1200—20, or 1180 p.st., the remaining value of the instruments of labor in the possession of the capitalist, in other words, an element of his productive, not of his commodity-capital. On the other hand, the materials of production and wages, differ from the instruments of labor by being entirely consumed in the production of the commodities and transferring their entire value to that of the produced commodities. We have seen that the turn-over bestows upon these different elements of the advanced capital the forms of fixed and circulating capital.
The advance of capital, according to this, is 1680 p.st., consisting of 1200 p.st. of fixed capital plus 480 p.st. of circulating capital (380 p.st. of which are materials of production and 100 p.st. of which are wages).
But the cost-price of the commodities is only 500 p.st., namely 20 p.st. for the wear and tear of the fixed capital, and 480 p.st. for circulating capital.
This difference between the cost-price of the commodities and the advance of capital merely proves that the cost-price of the commodities is formed exclusively by the capital actually consumed in their production.
In the production of the commodities, instruments of production valued at 1200 p.st. are employed, but only 20 p.st. of this advanced capital are consumed in production. The employed fixed capital, then, passes only partially into the cost-price of commodities, because it is consumed only by degrees in their production. The employed circulating capital passes entirely into the cost-price of commodities, because it is entirely consumed in production. But what else does this prove than that the consumed portions of fixed and circulating capital, in the ratio of the magnitude of their values, pass uniformly into the cost-price of the commodities, and that this portion of the value of commodities originates solely with the capital consumed in their production? If this were not the case, it would be inexplicable why the advanced fixed capital of 1200 p.st. should not add, aside from the 20 p.st. which it loses in the productive process, also the other 1180 p.st. which it does not lose therein.
This difference between fixed and circulating capital with reference to the calculation of the cost-price affirms, we repeat, the apparent origin of the cost-price in the expended capital-value, or in the price paid by the capitalist himself for the expended elements of production, including labor. On the other hand, the variable portion of capital invested in labor-power is explicitly identified, under the head of circulating capital, with that portion of the constant capital which consists of materials of production, so far as the formation of value is concerned. And by this means the mystification of the process of self-expansion of capital is accomplished.
Hitherto we have considered only one element of the value of commodities, namely the cost-price. We must now occupy ourselves also with the other element of the value of commodities, namely the excess over the cost-price, or the surplus-value. In the first place, then, surplus-value is an excess of the value of a commodity over its cost-price. But since the cost-price is equal to the value of the consumed capital, into whose substantial elements it is continually reconverted, the additional value is an accretion to the capital expended in the production of the commodities and returning by way of the circulation.
We have seen previously that the surplus-value s owes its origin in point of fact to a change in the value of the variable capital v and is, therefore, really but an increment of variable capital. Nevertheless it is also an increment of the expended total capital c + v after the process of production has been completed. The formula c + (v + s), which indicates that s is produced by the conversion of a definite capital-value v, a constant magnitude, into a fluctuating magnitude by means of the labor-power paid by it, may also be represented as (c + v) + s. Before production began, we had a capital of 500 p.st. After production is completed, we have the same capital of 500 p.st. plus an increment of value amounting to 100 p.st.
However, the surplus-value is an increment, not only of that portion of the advanced capital which is assimilated by the process of production, but also of that portion which is not assimilated. In other words, it is an accretion, not only to the consumed capital which is made good by the cost-price of commodities, but also to the aggregate capital invested in production. Before the beginning of the production we had a capital valued at 1680 p.st., namely 1200 p.st. of fixed capital invested in instruments of production, only 20 p.st. of which are assimilated in the process by the commodities through wear and tear, plus 480 p.st. of circulating capital invested in materials of production and wages. At the close of the process of production we have 1180 p.st. remaining of the value of the productive capital plus a commodity-capital of 600 p.st. By adding these two amounts, we find that the capitalist now has values amounting to 1780 p.st. After deducting his invested total capital of 1680 p.st., the capitalist pockets a surplus of 100 p.st. In short, the 100 p.st. of surplus-value form as much an increment of the invested 1680 p.st. as of the 500 p.st., or that part of it which was assimilated by the production.
The capitalist understands well enough that this increment of value has its genesis in the productive manipulations of capital, that it is generated out of the capital. For this increment exists at the close of the productive process, while it did not exist at its beginning. So far as the capital assimilated in production is concerned, the surplus-value seems to arise equally from all its different elements consisting of means of production and labor. For all these elements contribute equally to the formation of the cost-price. All of them add their values, which are advanced as capital, to the value of the product, and they are not distinguished as constant and variable magnitudes. This becomes obvious, when we assume for a moment that all assimilated capital consisted either of wages exclusively, or of the values of means of production alone. In the first case, we should then have in place of the commodity-values 400 c + 100 v + 100 s the commodity-values 500 v + 100 s. The capital of 500, invested in wages, represents the value of all labor assimilated in the production of the commodity-value of 600 p.st., and therefore it constitutes the cost-price of this entire product. But the way in which this cost-price is formed, and in which the value of the expended capital is reproduced as a portion of the value of the product, is the only process in the formation of the value of this product known to us. We do not know anything of the way in which its surplus-portion of 100 p.st. is formed. It is the same in the second case, in which the value of the commodities would be equal to 500 c + 100 s. We know in either case that the surplus-value arises from a given value, because this value was advanced in the form of productive capital, no matter whether in the form of labor or of means of production. On the other hand, this advanced capital-value cannot form any surplus-value for the sole reason that it has been expended and constitutes the cost-price of the commodities. For the fact that it forms the cost-price of the commodities accounts precisely for the circumstance that it constitutes no surplus-value, but merely an equivalent replacing the expended capital. To the extent that it forms surplus-value it does so not in its specific capacity of expended, but of advanced and invested capital. In short, the surplus-value arises as much out of that portion of the advanced capital which makes good the cost-price of the commodities as out of that portion which is not made up by the cost-price. In other words, it arises equally out of the fixed and circulating components of the invested capital. The total capital serves substantially as the creator of values, the instruments of labor as well as the materials of production and labor. The total capital passes substantially into the actual labor-process, even though only a portion of it is assimilated by the process of self-expansion. This is, perhaps, the very reason why it contributes only in part to the formation of the cost-price, but totally to the formation of the surplus-value. However that may be, the outcome is that surplus-value arises simultaneously from all portions of the invested capital. This deduction may be materially abbreviated, by saying pointedly and briefly in the words of Malthus: "The capitalist expects equal returns on all parts of the capital advanced by him."
In its alleged capacity of an offspring of the advanced total capital, the surplus-value assumes the change of form known as profit. Hence a certain value is capital when it is advanced with a view to generating profit, or profit results from the investment of a value as capital. If we designate profit by p, we may convert the formula C = c + v + s, or k + s, into the formula C = k + p, in other words, the value of a commodity is equal to the cost-price plus the profit.
The profit, such as it presents itself here, is the same as the surplus-value, only it has a mystified form, which is a necessary outgrowth of capitalist modes of production. The genesis of the mutation of values must be transferred from the variable portion of capital to the total capital, because no distinction is noticeable between the constant and variable capital in the assumed formation of the cost-price. Because the price of labor-power assumes on one pole the form of wages, surplus-value appears at the other pole in the form of profit.
We have seen that the cost-price of a commodity is smaller than its value. Since C equals k + s, it follows that k equals C - s. The formula C = k + s reduces itself to C = k, or commodity-value equal to cost-price, only when s is zero, a case which never occurs on the basis of capitalist production, although peculiar market combinations may reduce the selling price of commodities to the level of their cost-price, or even below it.
Hence, if a commodity is sold at its value, a profit is realized, which is equal to the excess of its value over its cost-price, or equal to the entire surplus-value incorporated in the value of the commodity. But the capitalist may sell a commodity at a profit even when selling it below its value. For so long as its selling price exceeds its cost-price, even though it may be below its value, a portion of the surplus-value incorporated in it is always realized and thus a profit made. The value of the commodities in our illustration is 600 p.st., their cost-price 500 p.st. If the commodities are sold at 510, 520, 530, 560 or 590, p.st., they are sold respectively at 90, 80, 70, 40, or 10 p.st. below their value, and yet a profit of respectively 10, 20, 30, 60, or 90 p.st. is realized by their sale. It is evident that selling prices may fluctuate considerably between the value of a commodity and its cost-price. The greater the surplus-element of the value of commodities, the greater is the practical playroom of these fluctuating intermediate prices.
This explains such phenomena of daily occurrence in competition as underselling, abnormally low prices in certain lines of industry, etc. The fundamental law of capitalist competition, which political economy has not understood up to the present time, the law which regulates the general rate of profit and the prices of production determined by it, rests, as we shall see later, on this difference between the value and the cost-price of commodities, and on the resulting possibility to sell a commodity at a profit even below its value.
The minimum limit of the selling price of commodities is indicated by their cost-price. If they are sold below their cost-price, then the consumed elements of productive capital cannot be fully reproduced out of the selling price. If this sort of thing continues, then the value of the advanced capital disappears. This point of view is sufficient to incline the capitalist toward the opinion that the cost-price is essentially the inmost value of commodities, because it is the price required for the bare conservation of his capital. Furthermore, the cost-price of a commodity is the purchase price paid by the capitalist himself for its production, in other words, the purchase price determined by the process of production itself. For this reason, the surplus-value realized by the sale of a certain commodity appears to the capitalist as an excess of its selling price over its value, instead of an excess of its value over its cost-price, so that accordingly the surplus-value incorporated in a commodity is not realized by its sale, but arises out of the sale itself. We have thrown more light on this illusion in volume I, chapter V, under the head of "Contradictions in the General Formula of Capital." We merely revert at this point to that form in which it was reaffirmed by Torrens, among others, as an advance of political economy beyond Ricardo.
"The natural price consisting of the cost of production, or in other words, of the expenditure of capital in the production or manufacture of a commodity, cannot possibly include any profit....If a farmer advances 100 quarters of corn in the cultivation of his fields, and receives in return 120 quarters, the 20 quarters, being a surplus of the product above the investment, form his profit; but it would be absurd to call this surplus, or profit, a part of his expenditure....The manufacturer advances a certain quantity of raw materials, tools, and subsistence for labor, and receives in return a quantity of finished products. This finished product must contain a greater exchange-value than the raw materials, tools, and means of subsistence, by whose advance it was acquired." Torrens concludes, therefore, that the excess of the selling price over the cost-price, or the profit, is due to the fact that the consumers, "by a direct or circuitous exchange yield a certain larger portion of all ingredients of capital than it cost to produce them."
In fact, the excess over a certain magnitude cannot form a part of this magnitude. Therefore the profit, the excess of the value of a commodity over the expenditure of the capitalist, cannot form a part of this expenditure. Hence, if no other element than the advance of the capitalist enters into the formation of the value of a commodity, it is inexplicable that more value should come out of production than went into it, for something cannot come out of nothing. Torrens, however, dodges this creation out of nothing only by transferring it from the sphere of commodity-production to that of commodity-circulation. Profit cannot come out of the production of commodities, says Torrens, for otherwise it would already be contained in the cost of production, and that would not be a surplus over this cost. Profit cannot come out of the exchanges of commodities, replies Ramsay, unless it existed before this exchange. The sum of their values of the exchanged products is evidently not altered by their exchange. It remains the same as before this exchange. Incidentally we remark at this point, that Malthus invokes expressly the authority of Torrens, although he himself explains the sale of commodities above their value differently, or rather does not explain it, since all arguments of this sort ultimately amount to the same thing as the one-time famous negative weight of phlogiston.
In a society ruled by capitalist production, even the non-capitalist producer is dominated by capitalist conceptions. In his last novel, Les Paysans, Balzac, who is generally remarkable for his profound grasp of actual conditions, aptly describes how the little peasant, in order to retain the good will of his usurer, performs many small tasks gratuitously for him and fancies that he does not give him anything for nothing, because his own labor does not cost him any cash outlay. The usurer, on the other hand, thereby kills two flies at one stroke. He saves a cash outlay for wages and gets the farmer more and more tangled in the net of the spider of usury, by gradually ruining him through the deviation of his labor from his own fields.
The thoughtless conception that the cost-price of a commodity constitutes its actual value, and that surplus-value arises by selling the product above its value, so that commodities would be sold at their value, if their selling price were equal to their cost-price, that is to say, equal to the price of the means of production plus wages incorporated in them, has been heralded to the world as a newly discovered secret of socialism by Proudhon with his customary charlatanry in the guise of science. In fact, this reduction of the value of commodities to their cost-price constitutes the basis of his People's Bank. We have demonstrated in a preceding chapter that the various elements of the value of the product may be materialized in proportional parts of the product itself. (Volume I, chapter IX, 2.) For instance, if the value of 20 lbs. of yarn is 30 shillings, containing 24 shillings of means of production, 3 shillings of labor-power, and 3 shillings of surplus-value, then this surplus-value may be represented by 1/10 of the product, or 2 lbs. of yarn. Now, if these 20 lbs. of yarn are sold at their cost-price, at 27 shillings, then the purchaser receives 2 lbs. of yarn for nothing, or the article is sold 1/10 below its value. But the laborer has performed the same amount of surplus-labor, only in this case it accrues to the benefit of the purchaser of the yarn, not to its capitalist producer. It would be a mistake to assume that if all commodities were sold at their cost-price the result would be the same as if they had all been sold above their cost-price, at their real value. For even if the value of labor-power, the length of the working day, and the degree of exploitation of labor were the same everywhere, the quantities of surplus-value contained in the values of the various kinds of commodities would be unequal, according to the different organic composition of the capitals advanced for their production.
THE RATE OF PROFIT.
THE general formula of capital is M—C—M'. In other words, a certain quantity of values is thrown into circulation for the purpose of drawing a larger quantity out of it. The process by which this larger quantity is produced is capitalist production. The process by which this larger quantity is realized is the circulation of capital. The capitalist does not produce a commodity on its own account, he does not care for its use-value, nor does he consume it personally. The product in which the capitalist is really interested is not the tangible product itself, but the excess of the value of the product over the value of the capital assimilated by it. The capitalist advances the total capital without regard to the different roles played by its components in the production of surplus-value. He advances all these components uniformly, not merely for the purpose of reproducing the advanced capital, but rather with a view to producing a surplus-value in excess of it. He cannot convert the value of the variable capital advanced by him into a greater value except by its exchange for living labor and by the exploitation of this labor. But he cannot exploit this labor unless he advances at the same time the material requirements for the incorporation of this labor, namely instruments and materials of labor, machinery and raw materials. This he can do only by converting a certain amount of value in his possession into requirements of production. He could not be a capitalist at all, nor undertake to exploit labor, unless he enjoyed the privilege of owning the material requirements of production and finding at hand a laborer who owns nothing but his labor-power. We have already shown in the first volume that it is precisely the ownership of means of production by idlers which converts laborers into wage-workers and idlers into capitalists.
It is immaterial for the capitalist whether he is supposed to advance constant capital in order to make a profit out of his variable capital, or whether he advances variable capital in order to make a profit out of the constant capital; whether he invests money in wages in order to make his machinery and raw materials more valuable, or whether he invests money in machinery and raw materials in order to be able to exploit labor. Although it is only the variable portion of capital which creates surplus-value, it does so only on condition that the other portions, the material requirements of production, are likewise advanced. Seeing that the capitalist can exploit labor only by advancing constant capital, and that he can utilize his constant capital only by advancing variable capital, he lumps them all together in his imagination, and he is all the more apt to do so as the actual rate of his gain is not calculated on its proportion to the variable, but on its proportion to the total capital, in other words, that it is calculated on the rate of profit, not on the rate of surplus-value. And we shall see that the rate of profit may remain unchanged and yet may express different rates of surplus-value.
The cost of the product includes all those elements of its value which the capitalist has paid, or for which he has thrown an equivalent into circulation. This cost must be made good in order that the capital may merely be preserved, or reproduced in its original magnitude.
The value contained in a certain commodity is equal to the labor-time required for its production, and the sum of this labor consists of paid and unpaid portions. But the expenses of the capitalist consist only of that portion of materialized labor which he paid for the production of the commodity. The surplus-value contained in this commodity does not cost the capitalist anything, while it cost the laborer his labor just as well as that portion for which he is paid, and although it creates value and is embodied in the value of the commodity quite as well as the paid labor. The profit of the capitalist is due to the fact that he offers something for sale for which he has not paid anything. The surplus-value, or the profit, consists precisely of the excess of the value of the commodity over its cost-price, in other words, it consists of the excess of the total amount of labor embodied in the commodity over the paid labor contained in it. The surplus-value, whatever be its genesis, is a surplus above the advanced total capital. The proportion of this surplus to the total capital is expressed by the fraction s/C, in which C stands for the total capital. Thus we obtain the rate of profit s/C = s/(c+v), as distinguished from the rate of surplus-value s/V.
The rate of surplus-value measured by the variable capital is called rate of surplus-value. The rate of surplus-value measured by the total capital is called rate of profit. These two modes of measuring the same magnitude express different conditions or relations of this magnitude, owing to the difference of the two standards of measurement.
The transformation of surplus-value into profit must be deduced from the transformation of the rate of surplus-value into the rate of profit, not vice versa. And the rate of profit is indeed that from which historical research takes its departure. The surplus-value and the rate of surplus-value are, relatively, the invisible and unknown essence, while the rate of profit and the resulting appearance of surplus-value in the form of profit are phenomena which show themselves on the surface.
So far as the individual capitalist is concerned, it is evident that the only thing which interests him is the relation of surplus-value, of the excess of value at which he sells his articles, to the total capital advanced for the production of commodities. On the other hand, the definite relation of this surplus, and its internal connection, with the various components of capital does not interest him, for it is rather to his interest to indulge in vague notions relative to this definite relation and this internal connection.
Although the excess in the value of a commodity over its cost-price is created in the process of production, strictly so called, it is realized in the process of circulation. And it assumes so much more easily the semblance of arising from the process of circulation, as it depends in reality on the market conditions under competition whether any surplus is realized or not, or how much of it. It is not necessary to lose any words at this point about the fact that it is merely a different way of dividing the surplus-value, when a commodity is sold above or below its value, and that this different division, this change of proportions in which different persons share in the surplus-value, does not alter in the least the magnitude or the nature of that value. It is not alone the metamorphoses discussed by us in volume II which take place in the process of circulation, but they are accompanied by actual competition, the sale and purchase of commodities above or below their value, so that the surplus-value realized by the individual capitalist depends as much on the outcome of the mutual endeavor to outwit one another as on the direct exploitation of labor.
Aside from the working time, the time of circulation exerts its influence in the process of circulation and limits the amount of surplus-value realizable within a certain period. Still other elements arise in the process of circulation and influence the strict process of production. Both the strict process of production and the process of circulation continually intermingle, interpenetrate one another, and thereby incessantly falsify their characteristic marks of distinction. The production of surplus-value, and of value in general, receives new directions in the process of circulation, as we have previously shown. Capital passes through the cycle of its metamorphoses. Finally it steps, so to say, forth out of the internal organism of its life and enters into external conditions of existence, into conditions in which the opposites are not capital and labor, but capital and capital in one case, and individual buyers and sellers in another. The time of circulation and the working time cross one another's paths and seem to determine equally the amount of surplus-value. The original form in which capital and wage-labor meet one another is disguised by the interference of conditions which seem to be independent of them. The surplus-value itself does not appear to be the result of the appropriation of labor-time, but an excess of the selling price of commodities over their cost-price, so that this last named price is easily regarded as their intrinsic value, while profit appears as an excess of the selling price of commodities over their immanent value.
It is true, that the nature of the surplus-value impresses itself incessantly upon the consciousness of the capitalist during the process of production. This is shown, among other indications, by his greed for the labor-time of others, to which we called attention in the analysis of surplus-value. But in the first place, the strict process of production is but a fleeting stage passing continually into the process of circulation, just as this does into it, so that the more or less vague inkling of the source of the gains made in the process of production, the source of the surplus-value, stands at best on the same ground with the idea that the realized surplus is due to a movement of capital in the process of circulation and independent of the process of production, a movement of capital independent of its relation to labor. These phenomena of circulation are quoted by modern economists like Ramsay, Malthus, Senior, Torrens, etc., as direct proofs of the alleged fact that capital, in its mere material existence, independent of any social relation to labor which makes capital of it, may be a source of surplus-value quite as well as labor itself and without its help. In the second place, under the head of expenses, among which wages are classed the same as the price of raw materials, wear and tear of machinery, etc., the appropriation of unpaid labor figures only as a saving in the payment of an article added to the expense, only as a smaller payment for a certain quantity of labor. A saving is recorded in the same way, whenever raw materials are bought more cheaply, or the wear and tear of machinery decreases. In this way the appropriation of surplus-labor loses its specific character. Its characteristic relation to the surplus-value is obscured. And this is greatly facilitated, as shown in volume I, part VI, by the representation of the value of labor-power in the form of wages.
By posing equally as sources of an excess of value (profit), all elements of capital mystify the nature of the capitalist relation.
The way in which surplus-value is transformed into profit via the rate of profit is but a continued development of the perversion of subject and object taking place in the process of production. We have already seen that all subjective forces of labor in that process appeared as productive forces of capital. On the one hand, the value of past labor, which dominates living labor, is incarnated in the capitalist. On the other hand the laborer appears as materialized labor-power, as a commodity. This perverted relationship necessarily produces even under simple conditions of production certain correspondingly perverted conceptions, which represent a transposition in consciousness, that is further developed by the transformations and modifications of the circulation process proper.
We can see by the example of the Ricardian school that it is a mistake to attempt a development of the laws of the rate of profit directly out of the laws of the rate of surplus-value, or vice versa. In the head of the capitalist they are naturally not distinguished. In the formula s/C the surplus-value is measured by the value of the total capital advanced for its production and partly consumed in it, partly merely invested in it. Indeed, the formula s/C expresses the degree of self-expansion of the total capital advanced, or, to state it in conformity with the conception of the internal organic connection and nature of surplus-value, it indicates the proportion of the variation of the variable capital to the magnitude of the advanced total capital.
The magnitude of the value of the total capital has no direct internal relation to the magnitude of the surplus-value. So far as its material elements are concerned, the total minus the variable capital, in other words, the constant capital, consists of the material ingredients, the instruments and materials of production, required for the materialization of labor. In order that a certain quantity of labor may be incorporated in commodities and thereby produce value, a certain quantity of instruments and materials of production is required. According to the peculiar character of the incorporated labor, a definite technical relation is established between the quantity of labor and the quantity of means of production in which this labor is to be incorporated. To that extent there is also a definite relation between the quantity of surplus-value, or surplus-labor, and the quantity of means of production. For instance, if the necessary labor for the production of wages amounts to 6 hours daily, then the laborer must work 12 hours in order to perform 6 hours of surplus-labor, or produces a surplus-value of 100%. He uses up twice as many means of production in 12 hours as he does in 6. But nevertheless the surplus-value incorporated by him in 6 hours is not directly related to the value of the means of production used up in those 6, or in those 12 hours. This value is here immaterial. It is only the technically required mass which is important. It does not matter whether the raw materials or instruments of labor are cheap or dear, so long as they have the required use-value and are available in quantities proportioned to the technical demands of the labor to be incorporated in them. Now, if I know that x lbs. of cotton are consumed by one hour's spinning and cost a shillings, then I also know that 12 hours' spinning will consume 12 x lbs. of cotton costing 12 a shillings. And in that case I can calculate the proportion of the surplus-value to the value of the 12 as well as to that of the 6. But the relation of the living labor to the value of the means of production enters here only to the extent that a shillings serve as a name for x lbs. of cotton. For a definite quantity of cotton has a definite price, and therefore a definite price may also serve as an index to a definite quantity of cotton, so long as the price of cotton is not changed. If I know that I must let the laborer work for 12 hours, in order to appropriate for my own 6 hours of surplus-labor, and if I know the price of this quantity of cotton needed for 12 hours, then I have a circuitous means of determining the proportion between the price of cotton (as an index of the required quantity) and the surplus-value. But on the other hand, I can never make any conclusions from the price of the raw material as to the quantity that may be consumed by one hour's spinning, but not by 6 hours'. There is, then, no necessary internal connection between the value of the constant capital, nor the value of the total capital c + v, and the surplus-value.
If the rate of surplus-value is known and its magnitude given, then the rate of profit expresses nothing else but what it actually is, namely a different way of measuring surplus-value, this being measured by the value of the total capital, instead of the value of that portion of capital from which surplus-value directly originates by way of an exchange with labor. But in reality, in the world of phenomena, the conditions are reversed. Surplus-value is given, but only as an excess of the selling price of commodities over their cost-price. And it remains a mystery where this surplus is originated, whether it is due to the exploitation of labor in the process of production, or to overcharging the purchaser in the process of circulation, or to both. There is also given the proportion of the surplus-value to the value of the total capital, or the rate of profit. The calculation of this excess of the selling price over the cost-price of commodities on the value of the advanced total capital is very important and natural, because by its means the ratio is actually determined in which the total capital has been expanded, the ratio of its self-expansion. If the rate of profit is made the point of departure, there is no basis on which to make any conclusions regarding the specific relations between the surplus and the variable capital invested in wages. We shall see in a subsequent chapter what funny somersaults Malthus made in trying to get in this way at the secret of the surplus-value and of its specific relation to the variable capital. What the rate of profit actually shows is a uniform relation of the surplus to equal portions of the total capital, which from this point of view does not show any internal differences at all, unless it be that between fixed and circulating capital. And this difference is shown only because the surplus is calculated in two ways. In the first place it is calculated as a simple magnitude, as an excess of the selling price over the cost-price. In this form, the entire circulating capital enters into the cost-price, while of the fixed capital only the wear and tear enters into it. In the second place, the relation of this excess in value to the total value of the advanced capital is calculated. In this case, the value of the fixed capital is taken into the calculation entirely, the same as that of the circulating capital. In other words, the circulating capital enters both times in the same way, while the fixed capital enters the first time in a different, the second time in the same way as the circulating capital. Under these circumstances, the difference between the fixed and circulating capital is the only one which obtrudes itself.
The excess in value, then, if determined by the rate of profit, appears as a surplus generated annually, or during a definite period of circulation, by the total capital above its own value.
While the rate of profit differs numerically from the rate of surplus-value, the profit and the surplus-value are actually the same thing and numerically equal. However, the profit is a transformed kind of surplus-value, a form in which its origin and the secret of its nature are obscured and extinguished. Profit is, therefore, that disguise of surplus-value which must be removed before the real nature of surplus-value can be discovered. In the surplus-value, the relation between capital and labor is laid bare. But in the relation of capital and profit, that is to say, the relation between capital and that form of surplus-value which appears on one hand as an excess over the cost-price of commodities realized in the process of circulation, and on the other hand as a surplus determined by its relation to the total capital, the capital appears as a relation to itself, a relation in which it, as the original amount of value, is distinguished from a new value generated by itself. It is dimly recognized, that capital generates this new value by its movement in the processes of production and circulation. But the way in which this is done is surrounded by mystery, and thus surplus-value seems to be due to hidden qualities inherent in capital itself.
To the extent that we follow up the process of self-expansion of capital, the nature of the relation of surplus-value to capital becomes more and more mystified, and it becomes increasingly difficult to discover the secret of its internal organism.
In this first part, we shall consider the rate of profit as numerically different from the rate of surplus-value, while profit and surplus-value will be treated as the same numerical magnitude having only a different form. In the second part we shall see that the transformation continues and that profit presents itself as a magnitude differing also numerically from surplus-value.
THE RELATION OF THE RATE OF PROFIT TO THE RATE OF SURPLUS-VALUE.
WE have stated at the conclusion of the preceding chapter, and repeat it here, that we consider in this entire first part the amount of profit made by a certain capital to be equal to the full amount of surplus-value produced by means of this capital during a certain period of circulation. In other words, we leave aside for the present the fact that this surplus-value is split up into various secondary forms, such as interest on capital, ground-rent, taxes, etc., and that surplus-value is not identical, as a rule, with profit as appropriated on the basis of an average rate of profit, which will be discussed in part II.
So far as the quantity of profit is assumed to be equal to that of surplus-value, its magnitude, and that of the rate of profit, is determined by the relations of simple numerical magnitudes given or ascertainable in every individual case. The analysis, therefore, is first carried on purely on the field of mathematics.
We retain the terms used in volumes I and II. The total capital C consists of constant capital c and variable capital v, and produces a surplus-value s. The ratio of this surplus-value to the advanced variable capital, or s/v, is called the rate of surplus-value and designated by s'. Therefore s/v = s', and s = s'v. If this surplus-value is calculated on the total capital instead of the variable capital, it is called profit, p, and the ratio of the surplus-value s to the total capital C, or s/C, is called the rate of profit, p'. Accordingly, p' = s/C = s/(c+v). Now, substituting for s its equivalent s'v, we find p' = S'v/C = S'v/(c+v). And this equation may be expressed by the proportion p' : s' = v : C, or in words, the rate of profit is proportioned to the rate of surplus-value as the variable capital is to the total capital.
This proportion shows that the rate of profit, p', is always smaller than the rate of surplus-value, s', because the variable capital, v, is always smaller than the total capital, C, which is the sum of v + c, the variable plus the constant capital. The only exception to this rule is the practically impossible case, in which v = C, that is to say, in which no constant capital, no means of production, are advanced by the capitalist, but only wages.
However, our analysis must take into account a few other elements, which have a determining influence on the magnitude of c, v, and s. We shall mention them briefly.
There is, first, the value of money. We may assume this to be constant, throughout our analysis.
In the second place, there is the turn-over. We leave this element entirely out of consideration for the present, since its influence on the rate of profit will be treated later on in a special chapter. [We anticipate here only one point, namely that the formula p' = s' v/C is strictly correct only for one period of turn-over of the variable capital. But we may make it correct for an annual turn-over by substituting for s', the simple rate of surplus-value, the factor s'n, meaning the annual rate of surplus-value. The factor n in this term expresses the number of turn-overs of the variable capital during one year. (See chapter XVI, I, volume II.)—F. E.]
In the third place, the productivity of labor must be considered. Its influence on the rate of surplus-value has been thoroughly discussed in volume I, part V. The productivity of labor may also exert a direct influence on the rate of profit, at least of an individual capital. It has been demonstrated in volume I, chapter XII, that an individual capital may realize an extra profit, if it operates with a greater productivity than that of the social average and thereby produces its commodities at a lower value than the social average value of the same commodities. However, this case will not be considered for the present, since our premise in this part of the work is that the commodities are produced under normal social conditions and sold at their values. Hence we assume in each case that the productivity of labor remains constant. Under these circumstances the composition of the values of any capital invested in any line of industry, in other words, the proportion between the variable and constant capital, expresses a definite degree in the productivity of labor. As soon as this proportion is altered by other means than a mere change in the value of the material elements of the constant capital, or a change in the value of wages, it follows that the productivity of labor must likewise undergo a corresponding change. We shall see frequently, for this reason, that alterations affecting the factors c, v, and s imply also changes in the productivity of labor.
The same applies to the three remaining factors. namely the length of the working day, the intensity of labor, and the wages. Their influence on the mass and rate of surplus-value has been discussed in detail in volume I. It will be understood, therefore, that notwithstanding our assumption that these three factors remain constant there may be changes in v and s which may imply changes in the magnitude of these determining elements. In this respect we have but to remember that wages influence the quantity of surplus-value and the degree of the rate of surplus-value inversely from the length of the working day and the intensity of labor; that an increase of wages reduces the surplus-value, while a prolongation of the working day and an increase in the intensity of labor add to it.
Take it that a capital of 100 produces with 20 laborers by a working day of 10 hours and a total weekly wage of 20 a surplus-value of 20. Then we have 80 c + 20 v + 20 s, which implies that s' equal 100% and p' 20%.
Now let the working day be prolonged to 15 hours without an increase of wages. The total value produced by the 20 laborers is thereby increased from 40 to 60, since 10 : 15 = 40: 60. Seeing that v, the wages paid to the laborers, remains the same, the surplus-value rises from 20 to 40, and we have 80 c + 20 v + 40 s, implying that s' equals 200% and p' 40%. If, on the other hand, the working day remains unchanged at 10 hours, while wages fall from 20 to 12, the total value produced amounts to 40, but it is differently distributed. For v falls to 12, leaving a remainder of 28 for s. Then we have 80 c + 12 v + 28 s, whereby s' is raised to 233 1/3%, while the rate of profit, p', is as 28 to 92, or 30 10/23%.
We see, then, that both a prolongation of the working day (or a corresponding increase in the intensity of labor) and a fall in wages increase the mass, and thus the rate, of surplus-value. On the other hand, a rise in wages, other circumstances remaining the same, would lower the rate of surplus-value. Hence, if v rises through an increase of wages, it does not mean a greater, but only a dearer quantity of labor, and in that case s' and p' do not rise, but fall.
This indicates that a change in the working day, in the intensity of labor, and in wages cannot take place without at the same time altering v and s and their proportion, and therefore also p', which expresses the proportion of s to the total capital c + v. And it is also evident that a change in the proportion of s to v implies a corresponding change in at least one of the three determining elements of labor.
It is precisely this fact which reveals the specific organic relationship of variable capital to the movement of the total capital and its self-expansion, and also its difference from the constant capital. So far as it is a question of the generation of value, the constant capital is significant only for its value. It is immaterial for this question, whether a constant capital of, say, 1,500 p.st. represents 1,500 tons of iron at 1 p.st. each, or 500 tons of iron at 3 p.st. each. The quantity of the actual material, in which the value of the constant capital is incorporated, is immaterial for the question of the formation of value and the rate of profit. This rate varies inversely to the value of the constant capital, no matter what may be the proportion of the increase or decrease of the value of constant capital to the mass of its material elements.
It is different with the variable capital. Not its own value, not the labor incorporated in this capital, are of prime importance, but the fact that its own value implies the setting in motion of a grand total of labor whose quantity it does not express. This grand total of labor differs from the labor expressed in the value of the variable capital and paid by it in that it contains a certain amount of surplus-labor, which is so much greater, the smaller the value of the labor contained in the variable capital. Take it that a working day of 10 hours is equal to 10 shillings. If the necessary labor, which pays for the wages, or makes good the variable capital, is worth 5 shillings, then the surplus-labor amounts to 5 hours, or the surplus-value to 5 shillings. If the necessary labor amounts to 4 hours and is worth 4 shillings, then the surplus-labor is 6 hours and the surplus-value 6 shillings.
Hence, as soon as the value of the variable capital ceases to be an index of the amount of labor actually set in motion by it, as soon as the measure of this index is altered, the rate of surplus-value will vary inversely and at an inverse ratio.
Now let us pass on and apply the previously found equation of the rate of profit, p' = s' v/C, to the various cases possible. We shall change the value of the individual factors of s' v/C one after another and ascertain the effect of these changes on the rate of profit. In this way we obtain a number of different cases, which we may regard either as successively altered determinants of one and the same capital, or as different capitals existing side by side and compared with one another, no matter whether they exist in different lines of industry or different countries. In cases where the conception of some of our examples as successive conditions of the same capitals seems forced or impracticable, this objection is set aside by regarding them as illustrations of independent capitals.
We now separate the product s' v/C into its two factors s' and v/C. In the first place, we treat s' as a constant factor and analyze the effects of the possible variations of v/C. After that we treat the fraction v/C as constant and let s' go through its possible variations. Finally we treat all factors as variable magnitudes and thereby exhaust all cases from which rules concerning the rate of profit may be derived.
I. s' constant, v/C variable.
We make a general formula for this case, which comprises a number of sub-cases. Take two capitals C and C1, with their respective variable proportions v and v1, with equal rates of surplus-value s', and the rates of profit p' and p1'. Then p' = s' v/C and p1' = s' v1/C1.
Now let us make a proportion of C and C1, and v and v1, for instance let the value of the fraction C1/C = E, and that of v1/v = e. Then C1 = EC, and v1 = ev. Substituting in the above equation these values for p1', C1 and v1, we obtain P1' = s' ev/EC. Again, we may deduct a second formula from the above two equations, by transforming them into the equation p' : p1' = s' v/C: S' v1/C1 = v/C : v1/C1. Since the value of a fraction remains the same, if we multiply or divide its numerator or denominator by the same number, we may reduce v/C and v1/C1, to percentages, that is to say we may make both C and C1 equal to 100. Then we have v/C = v/100 and v1/C1 = v1/100. We may then drop the denominators in the above proportion and say that p' : p1' = v : v1. In other words, with any two capitals operating with the same rate of surplus-value the rates of profit are proportioned to one another as the variable capitals are to one another, calculated in percentages on their respective total capitals.
These two formulæ comprise all cases of variation of v/C.
Before we analyze these various cases, we make another remark. Since C is the sum of c plus v, of the constant and variable capital, and since the rates of surplus-value and of profit are generally expressed in percentages, it is convenient to assume that the sum of c plus v is also equal to 100, that is to say, to express c and v in percentages. It is immaterial for the determination, not of the mass, but of the rate of profit, whether we say that a capital of 15,000, composed of 12,000 of constant and 3,000 of variable capital, produces a surplus-value of 3,000, or whether we reduce this capital to percentages. So we may say that 15,000 C = 12,000 c + 3,000 v + (3,000 s), or that 100 C = 80 c + 20 v + (20 s). In either case the rate of surplus-value, s', equals 100% and the rate of profit, p', 20%.
The same is true in the comparison of two capitals. For instance, if we compare the foregoing capital with another, such as 12,000 C = 10,800 c + 1,200 v + (1,200 s), or 100 C = 90 c + 10 v + (10 s). In the last case, s' is 100% and p', 10%. And its comparison with the foregoing capital is easier by percentages.
On the other hand, if it is a question of changes taking place in the same capital, the expression by percentages is rarely convenient, because these peculiar alterations are almost always obliterated thereby. If a capital, expressed in percentages of 80 c + 20 v + 20 s assumes the percentages of 90 c + 10 v + 10 s, we cannot tell whether the change in the composition of percentages is due to an absolute decrease of v or an absolute increase of c, or to both. In order to ascertain this, we must have the absolute magnitudes in figures. But in the analysis of the following individual cases, everything depends on the question of the way in which the variations have been accomplished. Has 80 c + 20 v been changed into 90 c + 10 v by an increase of the constant capital without any change in the variable capital, for instance by changing 12,000 c + 3,000 v into 27,000 c + 3,000 v? Or has the same result been accomplished by leaving the constant capital untouched and reducing the variable capital, for instance by changing the above capital into 12,000 c + 1,333 1/3; v (corresponding to a percentage of 90 c + 10 v)? Or have both of the original capitals been changed into 13,500 c + 1,500 v (corresponding once more to percentages of 90 c + 10 v)? It is precisely these cases which we shall have to analyze, and in so doing we must dispense with percentages, or at least employ them only in a minor degree.
1. s' and C constant, v variable.
If v changes its magnitude, then C can remain unaltered only by a change in the opposite direction of c, the other component of C. If C consists originally of 80 c + 20 v, and if v is reduced to 10, then C can remain 100 only by an increase of c to 90; for 90 c + 10 v = 100. Generally speaking, if v is transformed into v ± d, into v increased or decreased by d, then c must be transformed into c + d, into c decreased or increased by the same amount, into c varying in the opposite direction from v, in order that the conditions of the present case be fulfilled.
Again, if the rate of surplus-value, s', remains the same, while the variable capital, v, changes, then the mass of surplus-value must change, since s = s'v, and since one of the factors of s'v, namely v, is invested with a different value.
The assumptions of the present case produce, aside from the original equation p' = s' v/C, still another equation by the variation of v, namely p1' = s' v1/C, in which v has become v1 and p1', the corresponding rate of profit, is to be sought.
It is found by the corresponding proportion:
p' : p1' = s' v/C : s' v1/C = v : v1.
That is to say, if the rate of surplus-value and the total capital remain the same, then the original rate of profit is proportioned to the new rate of profit produced by a change in the variable capital as the original variable capital is to the changed variable capital.
If the original capital was I) 15,000 C = 12,000 c + 3,000 v + (3,000 s), and if it is now II) 15,000 C = 13,000 c + 2,000 v + (2,000 s), then C is 15,000 and the rate of surplus-value 100% in either case, and the rate of profit of I), 20%, is proportioned to that of II), 13 1/3%, as the variable capital of I), 3,000, is to the variable capital of II), 2,000, that is to say 20% : 13 1/3% = 3,000 : 2,000.
Now, the variable capital may either increase or decrease. Take first an example in which it increases. Let a certain capital be constituted and operated as follows: I) 100 c + 20 v + 10 s. Then C equals 120, s' equals 50%, and p' equals 8 1/3%. Now let the variable capital increase to 30. In that case the constant capital must fall to 90, according to our assumption, which requires that the total should remain unchanged at 120. The amount of surplus-value produced will then rise from 10 to 15, the rate of surplus-value remaining constant at 50%. Our capital then is constituted as follows:
II) 90 c + 30 v + 15 s. C equals 120, s' equals 50%, and p', 12½%.
Now let us start out with the assumption that the wages remain unchanged. Then the other factors of the rate of surplus-value, namely the working day and the intensity of labor, must also be unchanged. Therefore the increase of v from 20 to 30 can signify only that more laborers are employed. In that case the total product in values also increases by one-half, from 30 to 45, and is distributed, the same as before, to 2/3 for wages and 1/3 for surplus-value. Simultaneously with the increase in the number of laborers the constant capital, the value of the means of production, has fallen from 100 to 90. We have before us, then, a case of decreasing productivity of labor combined with a simultaneous decrease of constant capital. Is such a case economically possible?
In agriculture and industries engaged in the extraction of substances, where a decrease in the productivity of labor and, therefore, an increase in the number of laborers are readily understood, this process is accompanied on the basis and within the scope of capitalist production, by an increase of constant capital, not by a decrease. Even if our assumed decrease of c were due merely to a fall in prices, an individual capital would be able to accomplish the transition from I) to II) only under very exceptional circumstances. But in the case of two independent capitals invested in different countries, or in different lines of agriculture or extractive industry, it would not be strange if more laborers (and therefore more variable capital) were employed on less valuable or fewer means of production in the case of one than in the other.
But let us have done with the assumption that the wages remain the same, and let us explain the rise of the variable capital from 20 to 30 by a rise of wages by one-half. Then we have another case. The same number of laborers continue to work with the same or slightly reduced means of production. If the working day remains unchanged, say at 10 hours, then the total product also remains unchanged. It was and remains 30. But this amount of 30 is now required to make good the consumed variable capital. The surplus-value would have disappeared. But we had assumed that the rate of surplus-value should remain constant at 50%, the same as in I). This is possible only if the working day is prolonged by one-half, increased to 15 hours. In that case 20 laborers produce in 15 hours a total value of 45, and all conditions would be fulfilled. We should have
II). 90 c + 30 v + 15 s. C would be 120, s', 50% and p', 12½%.
Under these circumstances the 20 laborers do not require any more instruments, tools, machines, etc., than in the case of I). Only the raw materials or auxiliary substances would have to be increased by one-half. If there were a fall in the prices of these materials, then the transition from I) to II) under the conditions of our assumed case might very well be accomplished even by an individual capital. And the capitalist would be somewhat compensated by increased profits for any loss incurred through the depreciation of his constant capital.
Now let us assume that the variable capital were to be reduced instead of increased. Then we have but to reverse our example. We have but to assume that II) is the original capital and to pass from II) to I). Then II), or 90 c + 30 v + 15 s changes into I), or 100 c + 20 v + 10 s, and it is evident that this transposition does not alter any of the conditions which regulate the respective rates of profit and their mutual relations.
If v falls from 30 to 20 because the number of laborers is reduced by one-third while the constant capital increases, then we have before us the normal case of modern industry, namely an increasing productivity of labor, an operation of a larger mass of means of production by fewer laborers. That this process is necessarily connected with a simultaneous fall of the rate of profit, will be demonstrated in the third part of this volume.
On the other hand, if v falls from 30 to 20 because the same number of laborers are employed at lower wages, while the working day remains the same, then the total product in values would remain 30 v + 15 s, or 45. Since wages have fallen to 20, the surplus-value would rise to 25, the rate of surplus-value from 50% to 125%, contrary to our assumption. In order to comply with the conditions of our case, the surplus-value, with its rate at 50%, must fall to 10. The total product must, therefore, fall from 45 to 30, and this is possible only by a reduction of the working day by one-third. Then we have, the same as before, 100 c + 20 v + 10 s. C equals 120, s', 50%, and p', 8 1/3%.
It need hardly be mentioned that this reduction of the working time with a fall in wages would not occur in practice. But this is immaterial. The rate of profit is a function of several variable magnitudes, and if we wish to know in what manner these variable magnitudes influence the rate of profit, we must analyze the individual effect of each seriatim, regardless of whether such an isolated effect is practicable with one and the same capital or not.
2) s' constant, v variable, C changed by the variation of v.
This case differs from the preceding one only in degree. Instead of c decreasing or increasing by as much as v increases or decreases, c remains constant. Under the modern conditions of great industry and agriculture the variable capital is but a relatively small part of the total capital. For this reason, the increase or decrease of the total capital, so far as either is due to variations of the variable capital, are likewise relatively small.
Let us start out again with a capital I) of 100 c + 20 v + 10 s. C equals 120, s' 50%, and p' 8 1/3%. This will then be transformed into II) 100 c + 30 v + 15 s, with C at 130, s' at 50%, and p' at 11 7/13%. The opposite case, in which the variable capital would decrease, would be symbolized by the transition from II) to I).
The economic conditions would be essentially the same as in the preceding case, and therefore require no reiteration. The transition from I) to II) implies a decrease in the productivity of labor by one-half. The assimilation of 100 c requires an increase of labor in II) by one-half over that of I). This case may occur in agriculture.
While in the preceding case the total capital remained constant, owing to the conversion of constant capital into variable, or vice versa, there is in this case a tie-up of additional capital, if the variable capital is increased, and a release of previously employed capital, if the variable capital decreases.
3) s' and v constant, c and C variable.
In this case, the equation p' = s' v/C is changed into p1' = s' v/C1. After eliminating the same factors on both sides, we have p1': p' = C: C1. In other words, if the rates of surplus-value are the same and the variable capitals equal, the rates of profit are inversely proportioned to the total capitals.
Take it that we have three different capitals, or three different conditions of the same capital, for instance
I) 80 c + 20 v + 20 s; C = 100, s' = 100%, p' = 20%
II) 100 c + 20 v + 20 s; C = 120, s' = 100%, p' = 16 2/3%
III) 60 c + 20 v + 20 s; C = 80, s' = 100%, p' = 25%
Then we obtain the proportions:
20% : 16 2/3% = 120 : 100, and 20% : 25% = 80 : 100.
The general formula previously given for variations of v/C when s' remained constant was p1' = s' ev/EC. Now it becomes p' = s' v/EC. For since v remains unchanged, the factor e, or v1/v, becomes equal to 1.
Since s'v equals s, the mass of surplus-value, and since both s' and v remain constant, it follows that s is not affected by any variation of C. The mass of surplus-value is the same after the change that it was before.
If c were to fall to zero, p' would be equal to s', that is to say, the rate of profit equal to the rate of surplus-value.
The alteration of c may be due either to a mere change in the value of the material elements of constant capital, or to a change in the technical composition of the total capital, that is to say a change in the productivity of labor in that line of industry. In the last named case, the increase in the productivity of social labor due to the development of industry and agriculture on a large scale would bring about a transition, in the above illustration, from III to I and from I to II. A quantity of labor paid with 20 and producing a value of 40 would first work up means of production valued at 60. With a further increase in the productivity, and the same value, the means of production would be worked up to the amount of 80, and later on of 100. A reversion of this succession would imply a decrease in productivity. The same quantity of labor would work up a smaller quantity of means of production, the business would be cut down. This may occur in agriculture, mining, etc.
A saving in constant capital increases on the one hand the rate of profit, and on the other sets free some capital. It is, therefore, of great importance for the capitalist. We shall analyze this point later on, and likewise the influence of a change of prices of the elements of constant capital, particularly of raw materials.
We see once more, by this illustration, that a variation of the constant capital uniformly affects the rate of profit, no matter whether this variation is due to an increase or decrease of the material elements of c, or merely to a change in their value.
4) s' constant, v, c, and C variable.
In this case, the general formula indicated at the outset, namely p' = s' ev/EC, remains in force. It follows from this, assuming the rate of surplus-value to remain the same, that
a) the rate of profit falls, if E is greater than e, that is to say, if the constant capital increases to such an extent that the total capital grows at a faster rate than the variable capital. If a capital of 80 c + 20 v + 20 s is transformed so that it becomes 170 c + 30 v + 30 s, then s' remains at 100%, but v/C falls from 20/100 to 30/200, in spite of the fact that both v and C have augmented, and the rate of profit falls correspondingly from 20% to 15%.
b) The rate of profit remains unchanged only in the case that e equals E, that is to say, if the fraction v/C retain the same value even if the fraction is apparently changed, in other words, if its numerator and denominator are multiplied or divided by the same number. It is evident that the capital 80 c + 20 v + 20 s and the capital 160 c + 40 v + 40 s have the same rate of profit, namely 20%, because s' remains at 100% and v/C represents the same value, whether we write it 20/100 or 40/200.
c) The rate of profit arises, when e is greater than E, that is to say, when the variable capital grows at a faster rate than the total capital. If 80 c + 20 v + 20 s becomes 120 c + 40 v + 40 s, then the rate of profit rises from 20% to 25%, because s' has remained the same and v/C has risen from 20/100 to 40/160, or from 1/5; to ¼.
If the variation of v and C follows the same direction, we may look upon this change of magnitude up to a certain degree as though both of them varied in the same proportion, so that v/C would be regarded as unchanged to that extent. Beyond this point only one of them would then vary, and by this means we should reduce this complicated case to one of the preceding simpler ones.
For instance, if 80 c + 20 v + 20 s becomes 100 c + 30 v + 30 s, then the proportion of v to c, and also to C, remains the same up to the point of 100 c + 25 v + 25 s. Up to that point, the rate of profit remains likewise unchanged. We may then take our departure from 100 c + 25 v + 25 s. We find that later increased by 5 and became 30, so that C rose from 125 to 130. This is identical with the second case, that of the simple variation of v and the consequent variation of C. The rate of profit, which was originally 20%, rises by this addition of 5 v to 23 1/13, always assuming the rate of surplus-value to remain the same.
The same reduction to a simpler case can take place, whenever v and C change their magnitudes in opposite directions. For instance, let us start out once more from 80 c + 20 v + 20 s, and let this become 110 c + 10 v + 10 s. In that case, the rate of profit would have remained the same, if the variation had proceeded to the point of 40 c + 10 v + 10 s. It would still have been 20%. By adding 70 c to this intermediate form, the rate of profit is lowered to 8 1/3%. Thus we have reduced this case to a case of variation of one magnitude, namely of c.
Simultaneous variations of v, c, and C, do not, then, offer any new points of analysis. For they may be reduced in the last resort to cases in which only one factor is variable.
Even the only remaining case has actually been covered, namely that in which v and C are numerically unchanged, while their material elements experience a change of value, so that v stands for a changed quantity of assimilated labor and c for a changed quantity of assimilated means of production.
For instance, in the capital 80 c + 20 v + 20 s, let 20 v indicate originally the wages of 20 laborers working 10 hours daily. Then let the wages of each laborer increase from 1 to 1¼. In that case 20 v pay only 16 laborers instead of 20. Now, if 20 laborers produce in 200 working hours a value of 40, then 16 laborers will produce in 160 working hours a value of only 32. After deducting 20 v for wages, only 12 would remain for surplus-value. The rate of surplus-value would have fallen from 100% to 60%. But since our assumption is that the rate of surplus-value shall remain constant, the working day would have to be prolonged by one-quarter, from 10 hours to 12½ hours. If 20 laborers, working 10 hours daily, or 200 hours, produce a value of 40, then 16 laborers, working 12½ hours daily, or 200 hours, will produce the same value, and the capital of 80 c + 20 v produces the same surplus-value of 20.
Vice versa, if wages fall to such an extent that 20 v indicates the wages of 30 laborers, then s' can remain unchanged only in the case that the working day is reduced from 10 to 6 2/3 hours. For 20 × 10 = 30 × 6 2/3 = 200 working hours.
We have discussed previously in these diverging assumptions, to what extent c may express the same value in money, and yet represent different quantities of means of production corresponding to different conditions. In reality this case will very rarely be practicable in its purely theoretical form.
As for the change of value of the elements of c, by which their mass is increased or decreased, it touches neither the rate of surplus-value nor the rate of profit, so long as it does not imply a change of magnitude in v.
We have now exhausted all possible cases of variation of v, c, and C in our equation. We have seen that the rate of profit may fall, rise, or remain unchanged, while the rate of surplus-value remains the same, for the least variation in the proportion of v to c, or to C, is sufficient to change the rate of profit.
We have seen, furthermore, that there is everywhere a certain limit in the variation of v where the constancy of s' becomes economically impossible. Since every one-sided variation of c must also arrive at a certain limit where v can no longer remain unchanged, we find that every possible variation of v/C has certain limits, beyond which s' must likewise become variable. In the variations of s', which we shall now discuss, this interaction of the different variable magnitudes of our equation will become still plainer.
II. s' variable.
We obtain a general formula for the rates of profit with variable rates of surplus-value, no matter whether v/C remains constant or not, by converting the equation p' = s' v/C into p1' = s1' v1/C1. Here p1', s1', C1, and v1 indicate the changed values of p', s', C, and v. Then we have p': p1' = s'v/C: s1' v1/C1. This may be manipulated into
p1' = s1'/s' × v1/v × c/c1 × p'.
1) s' variable, v/C constant.
In this case we have the equations p' = s' v/C and p1' = S1' v/C. In both of them v/C is equal. Therefore p': p1' = s': s1. That is to say, the rates of profit of two capitals of the same composition are proportioned as the corresponding two rates of surplus-value. Since it is not a question, in the fraction v/C, of the absolute magnitude of v and C, but only of their proportion to one another, this applies to all capitals of equal composition, whatever may be their absolute magnitude.
80 c + 20 v + 20 s; C = 100, s' = 100% p' = 20%.
160 c + 40 v + 20 s; C = 200, s' = 50%, p' = 10%.
100% : 50% = 20% : 10%.
If the absolute magnitudes of v and C are the same in both cases, then the rates of profit are also proportioned to one another as the masses of surplus-value: p': p1' = s'v: s1'v = s: s1. For instance:
80 c + 20 v + 20 s; s' = 100%, p' = 20%.
80 c + 20 v + 10 s; s' = 50%, p' = 10%.
20%: 10% = 100 × 20: 50 × 20 = 20 s: 10 s.
Now, it is evident that with capitals of equal absolute composition, or equal percentages of composition, the rates of surplus-value can differ only when either the wages, or the length of the working day, or the intensity of labor are different. Take the following three cases:
I. 80 c + 20 v + 10 s; s' = 50%, p' = 10%.
II. 80 c + 20 v + 20 s; s' = 100%, p' = 20%.
III. 80 c + 20 v + 40 s; s' = 200%, p' = 40%.
In the case of I, the total product in values is 30, namely 20 v + 10 s, in II it is 40, in III it is 60. This may come about in three different ways.
First, if the wages are different, so that 20 v expresses in every individual case a different number of laborers. Take it that capital I employs 15 laborers for 10 hours per day at a wage of 1 1/3 p.st. and that these laborers produce a value of 30 p.st, of which 20 p.st. make good the wages and 10 p.st. are surplus-value. If wages fall to 1 p.st., then 20 laborers may be employed for 10 hours, and they will produce a value of 40 p.st., of which 20 p.st. make good wages and 20 p.st. are surplus-value. If wages fall still more, for instance to 2/3 p.st., then 30 laborers may be employed for 10 hours, and they will produce a value of 60 p.st., 40 p.st. of which will represent surplus-value after deducting 20 p.st. for wages.
This case, in which the percentages of composition of the capital, the working day, the intensity of labor, are constant, while the rate of surplus-value varies on account of the variation of wages, is the only one in which Ricardo's assumption is correct, to-wit, that "profits would be high or low, exactly in proportion as wages would be low or high." (Principles, chapter I, section III, page 18 of the "Works of D. Ricardo," edited by MacCulloch, 1852.)
Secondly, if the intensity of labor varies. In that case 20 laborers produce with the same means of production in 10 hours of daily labor 30 pieces of a certain commodity in I, 40 pieces in II, and 60 pieces in III. Every piece represents, aside from the value of the means of production incorporated in it, a new value of 1 p.st. Since every 20 pieces make good the wages of 20 p.st., there remain 10 pieces at 10 p.st. for surplus-value in I, 20 pieces at 20 p.st. in II, and 40 pieces at 40 p.st. in III.
Thirdly, the working day may vary in length. If 20 laborers work with the same intensity for 9 hours in I, 12 hours in II, and 18 hours in III, then their total products, 30:40: 60 vary in the proportions 9: 12: 18. And since wages are 20 in every case, the surplus-value is 10, or 20, or 40 respectively.
An increase or decrease in wages, then, influences the rate of surplus-value, and, since v/C was assumed as constant, also the rate of profit, inversely, while an increase or decrease in the intensity of labor, a lengthening or shortening of the working day, influence them in the same direction.
2) s' and v variable, C constant.
In this case the following proportion applies: p': p1' = s' v/C: s1' v1/C = s'v: s1'v1 = s: s1.
The rates of profit are proportioned to one another as the corresponding masses of surplus-value.
A variation of the rate of surplus-value, while the variable capital remains constant, signifies a change in the magnitude and distribution of the product in values. A simultaneous variation of v and s' also implies always a change in the distribution, but not always a change in the magnitude of the product in values. Three cases are possible.
a) The variation of v and s' takes place in opposite directions, but by the same amount, for instance:
80 c + 20 v + 10 s; s' = 50%, p' = 10%.
90 c + 10 v + 20 s; s' = 200%, p' = 20%.
The product in values is equal in both cases, hence the quantity of labor performed likewise: 20 v + 10 s = 10 v + 20 s = 30. The difference is only that in the first case 20 are paid for wages and 10 remain for surplus-value, while in the second case wages are 10 and surplus-value 20. This is the only case in which the number of laborers, the intensity of labor, and the length of the working day remain unchanged, while v and s' vary.
b) The variation of s' and v takes place in opposite directions, but not by the same amount. In that case the variation of either v or s' is the greater.
I. 80 c + 20 v + 20 s; s' = 100%, p' = 20%.
II. 72 c + 28 v + 20 s; s' = 71 3/7%, p' = 20%.
III. 84 c + 16 v + 20 s; s' = 125%, p' = 20%.
Capital I pays for a product in values amounting to 40 with 20 v, II a value of 48 with 28, and III a value of 36 with 16. Both the product in values and the wages have changed. But a change in the product in values means a change in the amount of labor performed, and this implies a change either in the number of laborers, the hours of labor, or the intensity of labor, or in more than one of these.
c) The variation of s' and v takes place in the same direction. In that case it intensifies the effect of either.
90 c + 10 v + 10 s; s' = 100%, p' = 10%.
80 c + 20 v + 30 s; s' = 150%, p' = 30%.
92 c + 8 v + 6s; s' = 75%, p' = 6%.
In these cases the three products in value are also different namely 20, 50, and 14. And this difference in the magnitude of the respective quantities of labor reduces itself once more to a difference in the number of laborers, the hours of labor, and the intensity of labor, or of several or all of these factors.
3) s', v and C variable.
This case offers no new points of view and is solved by the general formula given under II, in which s' is variable.
The effect of a change in the magnitude of the rate of surplus-value on the rate of profit is summed up, according to the foregoing, by the following cases:
1) p' increases or decreases in the same proportion as s', if v/C remains constant.
80 c + 20 v + 20 s; s' = 100%, p' = 20%.
80 c + 20 v + 10 s; s' = 50%, p' = 10%.
100%: 50% = 20%: 10%.
2) p' rises or falls at a greater rate than s', if v/C moves in the same direction as s', that is to say, if v/C increases or decreases when s' increases or decreases.
80 c + 20 v + 10 s; s' = 50%, p' = 10%.
70 c + 30 v + 20 s; s' = 66 2/3%, p' = 20%.
50%: 66 2/3% 8lt; 10%: 20%.
3) p' rises or falls at a smaller rate than s', if v/C changes in the opposite direction from s', but at a smaller rate.
80 c + 20 v + 10 s; s' = 50%, p' = 10%.
90 c + 10 v + 15 s; s' = 150%, p' = 15%.
50%: 150% > 10%: 15%.
4) p' rises, while s' falls, or falls while s' rises, if changes in the opposite direction and at a greater rate than s'.
80 c + 20 v + 20 s; s' = 100%, p' = 20%.
90 c + 10 v + 15 s; s' = 150%, p' = 15%.
s' has risen from 100% to 150%, p' has fallen from 20% to 15%.
5) Finally, p' remains constant, while s' rises or falls, if v/C changes in the opposite direction, but at exactly the same rate, as s'.
It is only this last case which requires some further explanation. We observed in the variations of v/C that the same rate of surplus-value may be an expression of different rates of profit. We see now that the same rate of profit may be based on different rates of surplus-value. So long as s' is constant, any change in the proportion of v to C is sufficient to call forth a difference in the rate of profit. But if s' varies in magnitude, it requires a corresponding inverse change of v/C in order that the rate of profit may remain the same. This happens but exceptionally in the case of one and the same capital, or of two capitals in one and the same country. Take it that we have a capital 80 c + 20 v + 20 s; C = 100, s' = 100%, p' = 20%. And let us assume that wages fall to such an extent that the same number of laborers may be bought for 16 v instead of 20 v. Then we have released 4 v, and other circumstances remaining the same, our capital will have the composition 80 c + 16 v + 24 s; C = 96, s' = 150%, p' = 25%. In order that p' may be 20%, as before, the total capital would have to increase to 120, the constant capital, therefore, to 104, thus, 104 c + 16 v + 24 s; C = 120, s' = 150%, p' = 20%.
This would be possible only if the fall in wages were accompanied by a change in the productivity of labor, which would require such a change in the composition of capital. Or, it might be that the money-value of the constant capital would increase from 80 to 104. In short, it would require an accidental coincidence of conditions such as occurs very rarely. In fact, a variation of s' which does not imply a simultaneous variation of v, and thus of v/C is practicable only under very definite conditions. It may happen in lines of industry in which only fixed capital and labor are employed, while the materials of labor are supplied by nature.
But this is not so in the comparison of the rates of profit of two different countries. For in that case the same rate of profit is based as a rule on different rates of surplus-value.
It follows from all of these five cases that a rising rate of profit may be the companion of a falling or rising rate of surplus-value; a falling rate of profit go hand in hand with a rising or falling rate of surplus-value; a constant rate of profit exist by the side of a rising or falling rate of surplus-value. And we have seen under No. I that a rising, falling, or constant rate of profit may be based on a constant rate of surplus-value.
The rate of profit, then, is determined by two main factors, namely the rate of surplus-value and the composition of the value of capital. The effects of these two factors may be briefly summed up in the manner stated hereafter. We may, in this summing up, express the composition of capital in percentages, for it is immaterial for this point which one of the two portions of capital is the cause of variation.
The rates of profits of two different capitals, or of one and the same capital in two different successive conditions, are equal
1) If the percentages of composition of capital are the same and the rates of surplus-value equal.
2) If the percentages of composition are not the same, and the rates of surplus-value unequal, provided that the products of the multiplication of the rates of surplus-value by the percentages of the variable portions of capital (s' and v) are the same, that is to say, the masses of surplus-value (s = s'v) calculated in percentages on the total capital; in other words, if the factors s' and v are inversely proportioned to one another in both cases.
They are unequal
1) If the percentages of composition are equal and the rates of surplus-value unequal, in which case the rates of profit are proportioned as the rates of surplus-value.
2) If the rates of profit are the same and the percentages of composition unequal, in which case the rates of profit are proportioned as the variable portions of capital.
3) If the rates of profit are unequal and the percentages of composition not the same, in which case the rates of profit are proportioned as the products s'v, that is to say, as the masses of surplus-value calculated in percentages on the total capital.
THE EFFECT OF THE TURN-OVER ON THE RATE OF PROFIT.
THE effect of the turn-over on the production of surplus-value, and consequently of profit, has been discussed in volume II. It may be briefly summarized in the statement that the entire capital cannot be employed all at once in production, because the turn-over requires a certain lapse of time; for this reason a portion of the capital is always lying fallow, either in the form of money-capital, of a supply of raw materials, of finished but still unsold commodity-capital, or of outstanding bills not yet due; hence the capital active in the production and appropriation of surplus-value is always short by this amount, and the production and appropriation of surplus-value is curtailed to that extent. The shorter the period of turn-over, the smaller is the fallow portion of capital as compared with the whole, and the larger will be the appropriated surplus-value, other conditions remaining the same.
It has been shown explicitly in the second volume to what extent the mass of the produced surplus-value is augmented by the reduction of the period of turn-over, or of one of its two sections, the time of production and the time of circulation. But it is evident that any such reduction increases the rate of profit, since this rate expresses but the mass of surplus-value produced in proportion to the total capital employed in production. Whatever has been said in the second part of the second volume in regard to surplus-value, applies just as well to profit and the rate of profit, and requires no repetition at this place. We shall touch only upon a few of the principal points.
A reduction of the time of production is mainly due to an increase in the productivity of labor, a thing commonly called the progress of industry. If this does not require at once a considerable extra-outlay of capital for expensive machinery, etc., and thus a reduction of the rate of profit, which is calculated on the total capital, this rate must rise. And this is decidedly the case with many of the latest improvements in metallurgy and chemical industry. The recently discovered methods of making iron and steel, such as the processes of Bessemer, Siemens, Gilchrist-Thomas, etc., shorten formerly tedious processes to a minimum with relatively small expense. The making of alizarin, a red coloring substance extracted from coal-tar, produces in a few weeks, by the help of already existing installations for the manufacture of coal-tar colors, the same results which formerly required years. It took at least one year to mature the plants from which this coloring matter was formerly extracted, and it was customary to let them grow a few years before the roots were used for the purpose of making color.
The time of circulation is reduced principally by improved means of communication. In this respect the last fifty years have brought about a revolution, which can be compared only with the industrial revolution of the last half of the eighteenth century. On land the macademized road has been displaced by the railroad, on sea the slow and irregular sailing vessel by the rapid and regular steamboat line, and the entire globe has been circled by telegraph wires. The Suez Canal has fully opened Eastern Asia and Australia for steamer traffic. The time of circulation of a shipment of commodities to Eastern Asia was at least twelve months as late as 1847, and it has now been reduced to almost as many weeks. The two large centers of commercial crises, 1825-1857, America and India, have been brought from 70 to 90 per cent. nearer to Europe by this revolution of the means of communication, and have thereby lost a good deal of their explosive nature. The period of turn-over of the world's commerce has been reduced to the same extent, and the productive capacity of the capital engaged in it has been doubled or trebled. It goes without saying that this has not been without effect on the rate of profit.
In order to view the effect of the turn-over of the total capital on the rate of profit in its purest form, it is necessary to assume all other conditions of two compared capitals as equal. Aside from the rate of surplus-value and the working day it is especially the percentages of composition which we assume to be the same. Now let us select a capital A composed of 80 c + 20 v = 100 C. Let this have a rate of surplus-value of 100%, and let it be turned over twice per year.
The annual product is then 160 c + 40 v + 40 s. But for the purpose of ascertaining the rate of profit we do not calculate the 40 s on the turned-over capital-value of 200. We calculate it on the advanced capital of 100, and we obtain thus a rate of profit of 40%.
Now let us compare this with a capital B composed of 160 c + 40 v = 200 C, which has the same rate of surplus-value, 100%, but which is turned over only once a year.
The annual product of this capital is the same as that of A, namely 160 c + 40 v + 40 s. But the 40 s in this case are to be calculated on an advance of capital amounting to 200, so that the rate of profit of B is only 20%, or one-half that of A.
We find, then, that with capitals with equal percentages of composition, equal rates of surplus-value, and equal working days, the rates of profit are proportioned inversely as their periods of turn-over. If either the composition, or the rates of surplus-value, or the working day, or the wages, are unequal in the two compared cases, then other differences are naturally produced in the rates of profit. But these are not directly dependent on the turn-over, and do not concern us at this point. They have already been discussed in chapter III.
The direct effect of a reduced period of turn-over on the production of surplus-value, and consequently of profit, consists in the increased effectiveness given thereby to the variable portion of capital, as shown in volume II, chapter XVI, The Turn-Over of Variable Capital. It was demonstrated in that chapter that a variable capital of 500, which is turned over ten times per year, produces during this time as much surplus-value as a variable capital of 5,000 with the same rate of surplus-value and the same wages, turned over once a year.
Take a capital (I) consisting of 10,000 fixed capital, with an annual wear and tear of 10%, or 1,000, furthermore of 500 circulating constant and 500 variable capital. Let the rate of surplus-value be 100%, and let the variable capital be turned over ten times per year. For the sake of simplicity we assume in all following examples that the circulating constant capital is turned over in the same time as the variable, which is generally the case in practice. Then the product of one such period of turn-over will be
100 c (wear) + 500 c + 500 v + 500 s = 1,600.
And the product of one entire year, with ten such turn-overs, will be
1,000 c (wear) + 5,000 c + 5,000 v + 5,000 s = 16,000.
Then C is 11,000, s is 5,000, p' is 5000/11000, or 45 5/11%.
Now let us take another capital (II), composed of 9,000 fixed capital, with an annual wear and tear of 1,000, circulating constant capital 1,000, variable capital 1,000, rate of surplus-value 100%, number of annual turn-overs of variable capital 5. Then the product of each one of these turn-overs of the variable capital will be
200 c (wear) + 1,000 c + 1,000 v + 1,000 s = 3,200.
And the annual product (of all five turn-overs) will be
1,000 c (wear) + 5,000 c + 5,000 v + 5,000 s = 16,000.
Then C is 11,000, s is 5,000, and p' is 5000/11000, or 45 5/11%.
Take furthermore a third capital (III) with no fixed capital, 6,000 circulating constant capital, and 5,000 variable capital. Let the rate of surplus-value be 100%, and let there be one turn-over per year. Then the total product of one year is
6,000 c + 5,000 v + 5,000 s = 16,000.
C is 11,000, s is 5,000, and p' is 5000/11000, or 45 5/11%.
In other words, we have in all three of these cases the same annual mass of surplus-value, namely 5,000, and since the total capital is likewise the same in all three cases, namely 11,000, the rate of profit is also the same, namely 45 5/11%.
But now let us assume that capital (I) has only 5 instead of 10 turn-overs of its variable capital per year. In that case the outcome is different. The product of one turn-over is then 200 c (wear) + 500 c + 500 v + 500 s = 1,700. And the product of one year is
1,000 c (wear) + 2,500 c + 2,500 v + 2,500 s = 8,500.
C is 11,000, s is 2,500, p' is 2500/11000, or 22 8/11%. The rate of profit has fallen by one-half, because the time of turn-over has been doubled.
The amount of surplus-value appropriated during one year is therefore equal to the mass of surplus-value appropriated during one turn-over of the variable capital multiplied by the number of such turn-overs per year. If we call the surplus-value, or profit, appropriated during one year S, the surplus-value appropriated during one period of turn-over of the variable capital s, the number of turn-overs of the variable capital in one year n, then S = sn, and the annual rate of surplus-value S' = s'n, as demonstrated in Volume II, chapter XVI, I.
It is understood that the formula p' = s' v/c = s' v/c+v is correct only so long as the v of the numerator is the same as that of the denominator. In the denominator v stands for the entire portion of the total capital used on an average as variable capital for the payment of wages. In the numerator, v is determined in the first place by the fact that a certain amount of surplus-value s is produced and appropriated by it. The proportion of this surplus-value to the variable capital, s/v, constitutes the rate of surplus-value. It is only in this way that the formula p' = s/c+v is transformed into p' = s' v/c+v. Now the v of the numerator is more definitely described by stating that it must be equal to the v of the denominator, that is to say equal to the entire variable capital of C. In other words, the equation p' = s/C can be transformed into the equation p' = s' v/c+v only in the case that s stands for the surplus-value produced in one turn-over of the variable capital. If s stands for only a portion of this surplus-value, then s = s'v is still correct, but this v is then smaller than the v in C = c + v, because less than the entire variable capital has been employed in the payment of wages. On the other hand, if s stands for more than the surplus-value of one turn-over of v, then a portion of this v, or perhaps the whole, serves twice, namely in the first and in the second turn-over, and eventually it may serve in the subsequent turn-overs. The v which produces the surplus-value, and which represents the sum of all paid wages, is then greater than the v in c + v and the calculation becomes wrong.
In order that the formula for the annual rate of profit may be exact, we must substitute the annual rate of surplus-value for the simple rate of surplus-value, we must substitute S' or s'n for s'. In other words, we must multiply the rate of surplus-value, s', or, what amounts to the same, the variable capital v contained in C, with n, the number of turn-overs of this variable capital in one year. Thus we obtain p' = s'n v/C, which is the formula for the calculation of the annual rate of profit.
In most cases the capitalist himself does not know the amount of variable capital invested in his business. We have seen in chapter VIII of volume II, and shall see further along, that the only distinction which forces itself upon the capitalist within his capital is that of fixed and circulating capital. From the cash-box containing the money-part of the circulating capital in his hands, so far as it is not deposited in a bank, he takes the money to pay wages, and from the same cash-box he takes the money for raw and auxiliary materials. And he credits both expenditures to the same cash account. And even if he should keep a separate account for wages, it would show at the end of the year the amounts paid out for wages, that is vn, but not the variable capital v itself. In order to ascertain this, he would have to make a special calculation, of which we propose to give an illustration.
We select for this purpose the cotton spinnery of 10,000 mule spindles described in volume I. We assume that the data there given for one week of April, 1871, are in force during the whole year. The fixed capital incorporated in the machinery was valued at 10,000 p.st. The circulating capital was not given. We assume it to have been 2,500 p.st. This is a rather high estimate, but it is justified by the assumption, which we must always make in this discussion, that no credit was in force, in other words, no permanent or temporary employment of other people's capital. The value of the weekly product was composed of 20 p.st. for wear of machinery, 358 p.st. of circulating constant capital (rent 6 p.st., cotton 342 p.st., coal, gas, oil, 10 p.st.), 52 p.st. of variable capital paid out for wages, and 80 p.st. of surplus-value. The formula was, therefore
20 c (wear) + 358 c + 52 v + 80 s = 510.
The weekly advance of circulating capital consisted therefore of 358 c + 52 v = 410, and its percentages of composition were 87.3 c + 12.7 v. Calculating the entire circulating capital of 2,500 p.st., on this basis, we obtain 2,182 p.st. of constant and 318 p.st. of variable capital. Since the total expenditure for wages in one year was 52 times 52 p.st., or 2,704 p.st., it follows that the variable capital of 318 p.st. was turned over almost exactly 8½ times in one year. The rate of surplus-value was 80/52, or 153 11/13%. We calculate the rate of profit from these elements by inserting the above values in the formula p' = s'n v/C. Since s' is 153 11/13, n is 8½ v is 318, and C is 12,500, we have
p' = 153 11/13 × 8½ × 818/12,500 = 33.27%.
We test this result by means of the simple formula p' = s/C. The total surplus-value or profit, of one year amounts to 52 times 80 p.st., or 4,160 p.st. Dividing this by the total capital of 12,500, we obtain 33.28%, or almost the identical result. This is an abnormally high rate of profit, due to the extraordinarily favorable conditions of the moment (very low prices of cotton and very high prices of yarn). In reality this rate was certainly not maintained throughout the year.
The term s'n in the formula p' = s'n v/c stands for the same thing which was called the annual rate of surplus-value in volume II. In the above case it is 153 11/13% multiplied by 8½, or in exact figures 1,307 9/13%. A certain brave soul was shocked to the point of speechlessness over the abnormity of an annual rate of profit of 1,000%, which had been used as an illustration in that volume. Perhaps he will now settle down peacefully and contemplate this annual rate of surplus-value of more than 1,300% taken from the practical life of Manchester. In times of greatest prosperity, such as we have not seen for a long time, a similar rate is by no means rare.
By the way, this is an illustration of the actual composition of capital in modern great industry. The total capital is divided into 12,182 p.st. of constant and 318 p.st. of variable capital, a total of 12,500 p.st. In percentages this is 97½ c + 2½ v = 100 C. Only one-fortieth of the total capital serves for the payment of wages, but it is turned over eight times during the year.
Since very few capitalists take the trouble of making similar calculations with reference to their own business, the science of statistics is almost completely silent regarding the proportion of the constant portion of the total social capital to its variable portion. Only the American Census gives what is possible under modern conditions, namely the amount of wages paid in each line of business and the profits realized. These data are, of course, very doubtful, because they are based on uncontrollable statements of the capitalists, but they are nevertheless very valuable, and the only records available on this subject. In Europe we are far too delicate to expect such revelations from our great capitalists.—F. E.]
ECONOMIES IN THE EMPLOYMENT OF CONSTANT CAPITAL.
I. General Economies.
THE increase of absolute surplus-value, or the prolongation of surplus-labor and thus of the working day, while the variable capital remains the same and employs the same number of laborers at the same nominal wages, no matter whether overtime is paid for or not, reduces relatively the value of the constant capital as compared to the total and the variable capital, and thereby increases the rate of profit even aside from the growth and mass of surplus-value and a possibly rising rate of surplus-value. The volume of the fixed portion of constant capital, such as factory buildings, machinery, etc., remains the same, no matter whether they serve for 16 or for 12 hours in the labor-process. A prolongation of the working day does not require any new expenditures for this most expensive portion of the constant capital. Furthermore, the value of the fixed capital is thereby reproduced in a smaller number of periods of turn-over, so that the time for which it must be advanced in order to make a certain profit is abbreviated. A prolongation of the working day therefore increases the profit, even if overtime is paid, or even if it is paid better, up to a certain limit, than the normal hours of labor. The ever more pressing necessity for the increase of fixed capital in modern industry was therefore one of the main reasons which induced profit-loving capitalists to prolong the working day.
The same conditions do not obtain if the working day is constant. In that case it is necessary either to increase the number of laborers and with them to a certain extent the mass of fixed capital (buildings, machinery, etc.), in order to exploit a greater quantity of labor (for we leave aside the question of deductions from wages or depression of wages below their normal level), or, if the intensity of labor and the productivity of labor are to be augmented and more relative surplus-value produced, the quantity of the circulating portion of constant capital increases in those lines which use raw materials, since more raw material is worked up within a certain time. And in the second place, the mass of machinery set in motion by the same number of laborers also increases, in other words, both portions of constant capital increase. An increase in surplus-value, then, is accompanied by a growth of the constant capital, the growing exploitation of labor goes hand in hand with a heightened expenditure of the means of production by which labor is exploited, in other words, a greater investment of capital. The rate of profit is therefore reduced on one side while it increases on the other.
Quite a number of running expenses remain almost or entirely the same, whether the working day is long or short. The cost of supervision is smaller for 500 working men during 18 working hours than for 750 working men during 12 working hours. "The running expenditures of a factory at ten hours of labor are almost as high as at twelve hours." (Report of Factory Inspectors, October, 1848, page 37.) State and municipal taxes, fire insurance, wages of various permanent employes, depreciation of machinery, and various other expenses of a factory, run on just the same, whether the working time is long or short. To the extent that production decreases, these expenses rise as compared to the profit. (Reports of Factory Inspectors, October, 1862, page 19.)
The period in which the value of machinery and of other components of fixed capital is reproduced is practically determined, not by the mere duration of time, but by the duration of the entire labor-process during which it serves and wears out. If the laborers must work 18 hours instead of 12, it makes a difference of three days per week, so that one week is stretched into one and a half, and two years into three. If this overtime is not paid for, then the laborers supply the capitalists not only with the normal surplus-labor without receiving an equivalent, but also give one week out of every three, and one year out of every three, for nothing. In this way the reproduction of the value of the machinery is speeded up by 50% and accomplished in two-thirds of the time which would be ordinarily required.
We start in this analysis, and in that of the fluctuations of the prices of raw materials (chapter VI), from the assumption that the mass and rate of surplus-value are given quantities, in order to avoid useless complications.
We have already shown in our presentation of co-operation, of division of labor and machinery, that economies in the conditions of production, such as are found in production on a large scale, are mainly due to the fact that these conditions are social ones growing out of the combination of labor-processes. The means of production are worked up by the aggregate laborer, a co-operation of many laborers on an immense scale, instead of by laborers operating in a disconnected way or co-operating at best on a small scale. In a large factory with one or two central motors the cost of these motors does not increase at the same rate as their horse-powers and their resulting extension of activity. The cost of transmission of power does not grow at the same rate as the number of working machines set in motion by it. The frame of any individual machine does not become dearer at the same rate as the number of tools which it employs as its organs. And so forth. The concentration of means of production furthermore saves buildings of various sorts, not only for actual working rooms, but also for storage sheds, etc. It is the same with expenses for fuel, light, etc. Other conditions of production remain the same, whether used by many or by few.
This entire line of economies arising from the concentration of means of production and their use on a large scale has for its fundamental basis the accumulation and co-operation of working people, the social combination of labor. Hence it has its source quite as much in the social nature of labor as the surplus-value considered individually has its source in the surplus-labor of the individual laborer. Even the continual improvements possible and necessary in this line are due solely to the social experiences and observations made in production on a large scale through the combination of social labor.
The same is true of the second great branch of economies in the conditions of production. We refer to the reconversion of the excrements of production, the so-called offal, into new elements of production, either of the same, or of some other line of industry; the processes by which these so-called excrements are thrown back into the cycle of production and consequently of consumption, whether productive or individual. This line of economies, which we shall examine more closely later on, is likewise the result of social labor on a large scale. It is the abundance of these excrements due to large scale production which renders them available for commerce and turns them into new elements of production. It is only as excrements of combined production on a large scale that they become valuable for the productive process as bearers of new exchange-values. These excrements, aside from the services which they perform as new elements of production, reduce the cost of raw material to the extent that they are saleable. For a normal loss is always calculated as a part of the cost of raw material, namely the quantity ordinarily wasted in its consumption. The reduction of the cost of this portion of constant capital increases to that extent the rate of profit, assuming the amount of the variable capital and the rate of surplus-value to be given quantities.
If the surplus-value is given, then the rate of profit can be increased only by a reduction of the value of the constant capital required for the production of commodities. To the extent that the constant capital enters into the production of commodities, it is not its exchange-value, but its use-value, which is taken into consideration. The quantity of labor which the flax can absorb in a spinnery does not depend on its exchange-value, but on its quantity, assuming the degree of productivity of labor, that is to say, the stage of technical development, to be given. In like manner the assistance rendered by a machine to, say, three laborers does not depend on its exchange-value, but on its use-value as a machine. In one stage of technical development a bad machine may be expensive, in another a good machine may be cheap.
The increased profit gathered by a capitalist through the cheapening of such things as cotton, spinning machinery, etc., is the result of a heightened productivity of labor. Of course, this improvement was not introduced in the spinnery, but in the cultivation of cotton and the building of machinery. There it required a smaller expense for the fundamentals of production in order to materialize a certain quantity of labor and secure possession of a certain amount of surplus-labor. This means a reduction of the expense required for the appropriation of a certain quantity of surplus-labor.
We mentioned in the foregoing the savings realized in the process of production by the co-operative use of the means of production by socially combined laborers. Other economies, resulting in the expenditure of constant capital from the shortening of the time of circulation (a result brought about largely by the development of the means of communication) will be discussed later on. At this point we shall mention the economies due to progressive improvements of machinery, namely 1) of its substance, such as iron for wood; 2) the cheapening of machinery by the improvement of methods of manufacture, so that the value of the fixed portion of constant capital, while continually increasing with the development of labor on a large scale, does not grow at the same rate; 3) the special improvements enabling the existing machinery to work more cheaply and effectively, for instance, improvements of steam boilers, etc., which will be further discussed later on; 4) the reduction of waste through better machinery.
Whatever reduces the wear of machinery, and of the fixed capital in general, for any given period of production, cheapens not only the individual commodity, seeing that every individual commodity reproduces in its price its share of this wear and tear, but reduces also the aliquot portion of the invested capital for this period. Repair work, etc., to the extent that it becomes necessary, is figured in with the original cost of the machinery. A reduction of the expense for repairs, due to a greater durability of the machinery, reduces the price of this machinery correspondingly.
It may be said also of these economies, at least of most of them, that they are possible only through the combination of labor and are often not realized until production is carried forward on a still larger scale, so that they are due to an even greater combination of laborers in the direct process of production.
On the other hand, the development of the productive power of labor in any one line of production, for instance in the production of iron, coal, machinery, buildings, etc., which may be in part connected with improvements on the field of intellectual production, especially in natural science and its practical application, appears to be the premise for a reduction of the value, and consequently of the cost, of means of production in other lines of industry, for instance in the textile business or in agriculture. This follows naturally from the fact that a commodity, which issues as a product from a certain line of production, enters into another as a means of production. Its dearness or cheapness depends on the productivity of labor in that line of production from which it issues as a product. Thus it is at the same time a basic condition, not only for the cheapening of commodities into whose production it enters as a means of production, but also for the reduction of the value of constant capital, whose element it becomes, and thereby for the increase of the rate of profit.
The characteristic feature of this kind of economies in the constant capital due to the progressive development of industry is that the rise in the rate of profit in one line of industry is the result of the increase of the productive power of labor in another. That which the capitalist appropriates in this case is once more a gain which is the product of social labor, although not a product of the laborers directly exploited by him. Such a development of the productive power is traceable in the last instance to the social nature of the labor engaged in production; to the division of labor in society; to the development of intellectual labor, especially of the natural sciences. The capitalist thus appropriates the advantages of the entire system of the division of social labor. It is the development of the productive power of labor in its exterior department, in that department which supplies it with means of production, which relatively lowers the value of the constant capital employed by the capitalist and consequently raises the rate of profit.
Another raise in the rate of profit is produced, not by economies in the labor creating the constant capital, but by economies in the operation of this capital itself. On one hand, the concentration of laborers, and their co-operation on a large scale, saves constant capital. The same buildings, appliances for fuel and light, etc., cost relatively less for large scale than for small scale production. The same is true of power and working machinery. Although their absolute value increases, it falls relatively in comparison to the growing extension of production and the magnitude of the variable capital, or to the mass of labor-power set in motion. The economy realized by a certain capital within its own line of production is first and foremost an economy in labor, that is to say, a reduction of the paid labor of its own laborers. The previously mentioned economy is distinguished from this one by the fact that it accomplished the greatest possible appropriation of the unpaid labor in other lines in the most economical way, that is to say, with as little expense as a certain scale of production will permit. To the extent that this economy does not rest on the previously mentioned exploitation of the productivity of the social labor employed in the production of constant capital, or in an economy arising from the operation of the constant capital itself, it is due either directly to the co-operation and social nature of labor within a certain line of production, or to the production of machinery, etc., on a scale in which its value does not grow at the same rate as its use-value.
Two points must be kept in view here: First, if the value of c were zero, then p' would be equal to s', and the rate of profit would be at its maximum. In the second place, the most important thing for the direct exploitation of labor is not the exchange-value of the employed means of exploitation, whether they be fixed capital, raw materials or auxiliary substances. In so far as they serve as means to absorb labor, as media in and by which labor and surplus-labor are materialized, the exchange-value of buildings, raw materials, etc., is quite immaterial. That which is ultimately essential is on the one hand the quantity of them technically required for their combination with a certain quantity of living labor, and on the other hand their fitness; in other words, not only the machinery, but also the raw and auxiliary materials must be good. The good quality of the raw material determines in part the rate of profit. Good material leaves less waste. A smaller mass of raw materials is then needed for the absorption of the same quantity of labor. The resistance to be overcome by the working machine is also less. This affects in part even the surplus-value and the rate of surplus-value. The laborer consumes more time with bad raw materials than he would with the same quantity of good material. Wages remaining the same, this implies a reduction of the surplus-labor. Furthermore this affects materially the reproduction and accumulation of capital which depend more on the productivity than on the mass of labor employed, as shown in volume I.
The fanatic hankering of the capitalist after economies in means of production is therefore intelligible. That nothing is lost or wasted, that the means of production are consumed only in the manner required by production itself, depends partly on the skill and intelligence of the laborers, partly on the discipline exerted over them by the capitalist. This discipline will become superfluous under a social system in which the laborers work for their own account, as it has already become practically superfluous in piece-work. This fanatic love of the capitalist for profit is expressed, on the other hand, by the adulteration of the elements of production, which is one of the principal means of reducing the value of the constant capital in comparison with the variable capital, and thus of raising the rate of profit. In addition to this, the sale of these elements of production above their value, so far as this value reappears in the product, plays a considerable role in cheating. This practice plays an essential part particularly in German industry, whose maxim seems to be: People will surely appreciate getting first good samples and then inferior goods from us. However, these matters belong in a discussion of competition, and do not further concern us here.
It should be noted that this raising of the rate of profit by means of a depreciation in the value of the constant capital, in other words, by a reduction of its expensiveness, is entirely independent of the fact whether the line of industry, in which this takes place, produces articles of luxury, necessities of life for the individual consumption of laborers, or means of production. This circumstance would be of material importance only in the case that it would be a question of the rate of surplus-value, which depends essentially on the value of labor-power, and consequently on the value of the customary necessities of the laborer. But in the present case the surplus-value and the rate of surplus-value have been assumed as given. The proportion of the surplus-value to the total capital, which determines the rate of profit, depends under these circumstances exclusively on the value of the constant capital, and in no way on the use-value of the elements of which this capital is composed.
A relative cheapening of the means of production does not, of course, exclude the absolute increase of their aggregate values. For the absolute scope of their application grows extraordinarily with the development of the productive power of labor and the parallel extension of the scale of production. The economies in the use of constant capital, from whatever point of view they may be considered, are the result, either exclusively of the fact that the means of production serve as co-operative materials for the combined laborers, so that the resulting economies appear as products of the social nature of directly productive labor itself; or, in part, of the fact that the productivity of labor is developed in those spheres which supply capital with means of production, and in that case these economies present themselves once more as products of the development of the productive forces of social labor, provided only that the total labor is compared with the total capital, and not simply with the laborers employed by the individual capitalist owning this particular constant capital. The difference in this case is merely that the capitalist takes advantage not only of the productivity of labor in his own establishment, but also of that in other establishments. Nevertheless, the capitalist presumes that the economies of his constant capital are wholly independent of his laborers and have nothing at all to do with them. On the other hand, the capitalist is always well aware that the laborer has something to do with the fact whether the employer buys much or little labor with the same amount of money (for this is the form in which this transaction between the laborer and the capitalist appears in the mind of the latter). The economies realized in the application of constant capital, this method of getting a certain result out of the means of production with the smallest possible expense, is regarded more than any other power inherent in labor as a peculiar gift of capital and as a method characteristic of the capitalist mode of production.
This conception is so much less surprising as it seems to be borne out by facts. For the conditions of capitalist production conceal the internal connection of things by the utter indifference, alienation, and expropriation practiced against the laborer in the matter of the material means in which his labor must be incorporated.
In the first place, the means of production constituting the constant capital represent only the money of the capitalist (just as the body of the Roman debtor represented the money of his creditor, according to Linguet). The laborer comes in contact with them only in the direct process of production, in which he handles them as use-values of production, as instruments of labor and materials of production. The increase or decrease of the value of these things are matters which affect his relation to the capitalist no more than the fact that he may be working up either copper or iron. Occasionally, however, the capitalist likes to profess a different conception of the matter, as we shall indicate later on. He does so whenever the means of production become dearer and thereby reduce his rate of profit.
In the second place, so far as these means of production in the capitalist process of labor are at the same time means of exploiting labor, the laborer is no more concerned in the relative dearness or cheapness of these means of exploitation than a horse is concerned in the dearness or cheapness of the bit and bridle by which it is steered.
In the third place, we have seen previously that the social nature of labor, the combination of the labor of a certain individual laborer with that of other laborers for a common purpose, stands opposed to that laborer and his comrades as a foreign power, as the property of a stranger which he would not care particularly to save if he were not compelled to economize with it. It is entirely different in the factories owned by the laborers themselves, for instance, in Rochdale.
It requires hardly any special mention, then, that the general interconnection of social labor, so far as it expresses the productivity of labor in one line of industry by a cheapening and improvement of the means of production in another line, and thereby a raising of the rate of profit, affects the laborers as a matter foreign to them and concerning only the capitalists, since they are the ones who buy and own these means of production. The fact that the capitalist buys the product of the laborers of another line of industry with the product of the laborers in his own line, and that he disposes of the product of the laborers of another capitalist by virtue of having appropriated the unpaid products of his own laborers, is mercifully concealed for him by the process of circulation and its attending circumstances.
This state of things is further complicated by the fact that these economies in the employment of constant capital assume the guise of being due to the peculiar nature of the capitalist mode of production, and to the special function of the capitalist in particular. The thirst for profits and the demands of competition tend toward the greatest possible cheapening of the production of commodities, just as production on a large scale first develops in its capitalistic form.
Capitalist production promotes on the one hand the development of the productive powers of social labor, and on the other it enforces economies in the employment of constant capital.
However, capitalist production does not stop at the alienation and expropriation of the laborer, the bearer of living labor, from his interest in the economical, that is to say, rational and thrifty, use of the material requirements of his labor. In conformity with its contradictory and antagonistic nature, capitalist production proceeds to add to the economies in the use of constant capital, and thus to the means of increasing the rate of profit, a prodigality in the use of the life and health of the laborer himself.
Since the laborer passes the greater portion of his life in the process of production, the conditions of this productive process constitute the greater part of the fundamental conditions of his vital activity, his requirements of life. Economies in these requirements constitute a method of raising the rate of profit, just as we observed on previous occasions that overwork, the transformation of the laborers into laboring cattle, constitutes a means of self-expanding capital, of speeding up the production of surplus-value. Such economies are: The overcrowding of narrow and unsanitary rooms with laborers, or, in the language of the capitalist, a saving in buildings; a crowding of dangerous machinery into one and the same room without means of protection against this danger; a neglect of precautions in productive processes which are dangerous to health or life, such as mining, etc.; not to mention the absence of all provisions to render the process of production human, agreeable, or even bearable, for the laborer. From the capitalist point of view, such measures would be quite useless and senseless. No matter how economical capitalist production may be in other respects, it is utterly prodigal with human life. And its saving in one direction is offset by a waste in another, owing to the distribution of its products through trade and the competitive method. Capitalism loses on one side for society what it gains on another for the individual capitalist.
Just as capital endeavors to reduce the direct application of living labor to necessary labor, and to abbreviate the labor required for the production of any commodity by the exploitation of the social productiveness of labor and thus to use as little living labor as possible, so it has also the tendency to apply this minimized labor under the most economical conditions, that is to say, to reduce the value of the employed constant capital to its minimum. While the value of commodities is determined by the necessary labor-time contained in them, not by all of the labor-time incorporated in them, it is the capital which gives reality to this determination and at the same time reduces continually the labor-time socially necessary for the production of a certain commodity. The price of that commodity is thereby lowered to its minimum, since every portion of the labor required for its production is reduced to its minimum.
It is necessary to make a distinction in the economies realized in the employment of constant capital. If the mass, and consequently the amount of the value, of the employed capital increases, it means primarily a concentration of more capital in one hand. Now, it is precisesly this greater mass in one hand, going hand in hand, as a rule, with an absolute increase but relative decrease of the number of employed laborers, which permits economies in constant capital. From the point of view of the individual capitalist the volume of the necessary investment of capital, especially of its fixed portion, increases. But compared to the mass of the worked-up materials and of the exploited labor the value of the invested capital relatively decreases.
This will now be briefly illustrated by a few examples. We begin at the end, with economies in the conditions of production which are at the same time the living conditions of the laborer.
II. Economies in the conditions of labor at the expense of the laborers.
Coal Mines. Neglect of the most indispensable Expenditures.
"Owing to the competition between the proprietors of coal mines, expenses are kept down to the minimum required for overcoming the most palpable physical difficulties; and owing to the competition among the miners, whose numbers generally exceed the demand, they are glad to expose themselves to considerable danger and to the most injurious influences for a wage which is little above that of the day laborers in the neighboring country districts, more especially since mining permits them to utilize their children profitably. This double competition is fully sufficient...to effect the operation of a large portion of the mines with the most imperfect drainage and ventilation; very often with badly built shafts, bad piping, incapable machinists, with badly planned and badly constructed galleries and tracks and this causes a destruction of life, limb, and health, the statistics of which would present an appalling picture." (First Report on Children's Employment in Mines and Collieries, etc., April 21, 1829, page 129.) About 1860, the average of fatal accidents in the English collieries amounted to 15 men per week. According to the report on Coal Mines Accidents (February 6, 1862), the total deaths from accidents during the ten years from 1852-61 amounted to 8,466. But the report itself admits that this number is far too low, because in the first years, when the inspectors had just been installed and their districts were far too large, a great many accidents and deaths were not reported. The very fact that the number of accidents has decreased since the installation of the inspectors, in spite of their insufficient numbers and limited powers, shows the natural tendencies of capitalist production. Still the number of the killed is very large. These sacrifices of human beings are mostly due to the groveling greed of the mine owners. Very often they had only one shaft dug, so that there was not only no effective ventilation but also no escape if this shaft became clogged.
Looking upon capitalist production in its details, aside from the process of circulation and the excrescences of competition, we find that it is very economical with materialized labor incorporated in commodities. But it is more than any other mode of production prodigal with human lives, with living labor, wasting not only blood and flesh, but also nerves and brains. Indeed, it is only by dint of the most extravagant waste of individual development that human development is safeguarded and advanced in that epoch of history which immediately precedes the conscious reorganisation of society. Since all the economies here mentioned arise from the social nature of labor, it is just this social character of labor which causes this waste of the lives and health of the laborers. The following question suggested by factory inspector B. Baker is characteristic in this respect: "The whole question is one for serious consideration, in what way this sacrifice of infant life occasioned by congregational labor can be averted?" (Report Fact., October 1863, page 157.)
Factories. Under this head belongs the disregard for all precautions for the security, comfort, and health of the laborers, also in the factories. A large portion of the bulletins of casualties enumerating the wounded and slain of the industrial army belong here (see the annual factory reports). Furthermore lack of space, ventilation, etc.
As late as October, 1855, Leonard Horner complained about the resistance of numerous manufacturers against the legal requirements concerning protective appliances on horizontal shafts, although the dangerous character of these shafts was continually proved by accidents, many of them fatal, and although the appliance for protection against this danger was neither expensive nor interfered with the work. (Rep. Fact., October, 1855, page 6.) In their resistance against this and other legal requirements, the manufacturers are ably seconded by the unpaid justices of the peace, who are themselves manufacturers or their friends, and who render their verdicts accordingly. What sort of verdicts those gentlemen rendered was revealed by Superior Judge Campbell, who said with reference to one of them, against which an appeal was made to him: "This is not an interpretation of an act of parliament, it is simply its abolition." (L. c., page 11.) Horner says in the same report that in many factories machinery is started up without warning the laborers. Since there is always something to look after, even when the machinery is at a standstill, there are always many hands and fingers busy on it, and accidents happen continually from the omission of a mere signal. (L. c., page 44.) The manufacturers of that period had formed a union opposing the factory legislation, the so-called "National Association for the Amendment of the Factory Laws" in Manchester, which collected, in March, 1855, more than 50,000 p.st. by an assessment of 2 shillings per horse-power. This sum was to pay for lawsuits of the members of the association against court proceedings instigated by factory inspectors, all cases of this kind being fought by the union. The issue was to prove that killing is no murder when done for profit. The factory inspector for Scotland, Sir John Kincaid, relates of a certain firm in Glasgow that it used the old iron of its factory to make protective appliances for all its machinery, the cost being 9 p.st. 1 shilling. If this firm had joined the manufacturers' union, it would have had to pay an assessment of 11 p.st. on its 110 horse powers. This would have been more than the cost of all its protective appliances. But the National Association had been organized in 1854 for the express purpose of opposing the law which prescribed such protection. The manufacturers had paid no attention whatever to this law during all the time from 1844 to 1854. At the instruction of Palmerston the factory inspectors then informed the manufacturers that the law would hence-forth be enforced. The manufacturers immediately founded their union. Many of its most prominent members were justices of the peace who were supposed to carry out this law. When the new Minister of the Interior, Sir George Grey, offered a compromise, in April, 1855, to the effect that the government would be content with practically nominal appliances for protection, the Association declined even this, with indignation. In various lawsuits, the famous engineer Thomas Fairbairn permitted the manufacturers to throw the weight of his name into the scale in favor of economies and in defense of the violated liberty of capital. The chief of factory inspectors, Leonard Horner, was persecuted and maligned by the manufacturers in every conceivable manner.
But the manufacturers did not rest until they had obtained a writ of the Queen's Bench, which interpreted the Law of 1844 to the effect that no protective appliances were prescribed for horizontal shafts installed more than seven feet above the ground. And finally they succeeded in 1856 in securing an act of parliament entirely satisfactory to them, by the help of the hypocrite Wilson Patten, one of those pious souls whose ostentatious religion is always ready to do dirty work for the knights of the money-bag. This act practically deprived the laborers of all special protection and referred them to the common courts for the recovery of damages in cases of accident by machinery (which amounted practically to a mockery, on account of the excessive cost of lawsuits). On the other hand, this act made it almost impossible for the manufacturers to lose a lawsuit, by providing in a very nicely worded clause for expert testimony. As a result, the accidents increased rapidly. In the six months from May to October, 1858, Inspector Baker reported an increase of accidents exceeding that of the preceding six months by 21%. He was of the opinion that 36.7% of these accidents might have been avoided. It is true, that the number of accidents in 1858 and 1859 was considerably below that of 1845 and 1846. It was 29% less, although the number of laborers had increased by 20% in the industries subject to inspection. But what was the reason for this? So far as the moot question was settled in 1865, it was due mainly to the introduction of new machinery which was provided with protective appliances from the start and to which the manufacturer did not object because they required no extra expense. A few laborers had also succeeded in securing heavy damages for their lost arms and having this sentence upheld even by the highest courts. (Rep. Fact., April 30, 1861, page 31, and April 1862, page 17.)
This may suffice to illustrate the economies in appliances by which life and limb of laborers (also children) are to be protected against dangers arising in the handling and operating of machinery.
Work in Closed Rooms. It is well known to what extent economies of space, and thus of buildings, crowd the laborers into narrow rooms. This is intensified by economies in appliances for ventilation. These two economies, coupled with an increase of the labor time, produce a large increase in the diseases of the respiratory organs, and consequently an increase of mortality. The following illustrations have been taken from the Reports on Public Health, 6th report, 1863. This report was compiled by Dr. John Simon, well-known from our volume I.
Just as the combination of co-operative labor permits the operation of machinery on a large scale, the concentration of means of production, and economies in their employment, so it is the co-operation of large numbers of laborers in closed rooms and under conditions determined by the ease of manufacture, not by the health of the laborer, which is on the one hand the source of increased profits for the capitalist and on the other the cause of the waste of the lives and health of the laborers, unless it is counteracted by a reduction of the hours of labor and by special precautions.
Dr. Simon formulates the following rule and backs it up with abundant statistics: "To the extent that the population of a certain district is made dependent upon co-operative labor in close rooms, to the same extent, other conditions remaining the same, increases the rate of mortality in that district through pulmonary diseases." (Page 23.) The cause of this is bad ventilation. "And there is probably in all England not a single exception from the rule that in every district, which has an important industry carried on in closed rooms, the increased mortality of its laborers suffices to color the mortality statistics of the entire district with a decided excess of pulmonary diseases." (Page 24.)
The mortality statistics of industries carried on in closed rooms, as examined by the Board of Health in 1860 and 1861, show the following facts: The same number of men between the ages of 15 and 55, having a rate of 100 deaths from consumption and other pulmonary diseases in English agricultural districts, has a rate of 163 deaths from consumption in Coventry, 167 in Blackburn and Skipton, 168 in Congleton and Bradford, 171 in Leicester, 182 in Leek, 184 in Macclesfield, 190 in Bolton, 192 in Nottingham, 193 in Rochdale, 198 in Derby, 203 in Salford and Ashton-under Lyne, 218 in Leeds, 220 in Preston, and 263 in Manchester. (Page 24.) The following table gives a still more convincing illustration.
It shows the deaths from pulmonary diseases separately for both sexes, between the ages of 15 to 25, computed on every 100,000. The districts selected are those in which only the women are employed in the industry carried on in closed rooms, while the men are employed in all possible lines of work.
In the districts with silk-industries, in which the participation of men in factory work is greater, their death-rate is also higher. The death rate from consumption, etc., in both sexes reveals, according to the report, the atrocious sanitary conditions under which a large portion of our silk-industry is carried on." And this is the same silk-industry whose manufacturers, boasting of the exceptionally favorable and sanitary conditions in their establishments, demanded an exceptionally long labor-time for children under 13 years of age, and were granted permission in several instances. (Volume I, chapter X, 6.)
"None of the hitherto investigated industries will have presented a worse picture than that given by Dr. Smith of tailoring. The work rooms, he says, differ considerably in the matter of sanitation; but nearly all of them are overcrowded, badly ventilated, and to a high degree injurious to health...Such rooms are necessarily hot, as it is; but if the gas is lighted, for instance during a fog in the daytime, or in winter in the evening, the heat rises to 80 or even 90 degrees Fahrenheit (27 to 33 degrees C.) and causes a dripping perspiration and a precipitation of vapor on the glass panes, so that water is continually trickling down or dropping down from the skylight, and the laborers are compelled to keep some windows open, although they inevitably catch cold thereby.—He gives the following description of 16 of the most important shops of the West end of London: The largest cubic space alloted in these badly ventilated rooms to one laborer is 270 cubic feet; the smallest is 105 feet, the average being 156 feet per man. In a certain shop, which has a gallery running all around its sides and which receives light only from above, from 92 to 100 people are employed and a large number of gas jets lighted; the toilets are next door, and the room does not give above 150 cubic feet to each man. In another shop, which can be called only a dog kennel in a yard lighted from above and which can be ventilated only by one small window in the roof, from 5 to 6 people work in a room of 112 cubic feet per man." And "in these atrocious work rooms, described by Dr. Smith, the tailors work generally from 12 to 13 hours per day, and at certain periods work is continued for 14 to 16 hours." (Pages 25, 26, 28.)
(Page 30.) It must be noted, and has in fact been noted by John Simon, the chief of the Medical Department, who issued the report, that the mortality of the tailors, typesetters, and printers of London, for the ages from 25 to 35 years, has been reported too low, because the London employers in both lines have a large number of young people (probably up to 30 years of age) from the country engaged as apprentices and "improvers," that is to say, men who are being trained. These increase the number of employed on which the deathrates of London are computed. But they do not contribute at the same rate to the number of deaths in London, because their stay there is only temporary. If they get sick during this period, they return to their homes in the country to get well, and if they die there, they are registered in their own district. This fact affects the earlier ages still more and renders the death-rate figures of London for these ages completely valueless as standards of industrial violations of sanitary laws. (Page 30.)
The case of the typesetters is similar to that of the tailors. In addition to lack of ventilation, poisoned air, etc., their condition is aggravated by night-work. Their regular working time lasts from 12 to 13 hours, sometimes from 15 to 16. "Great heat and suffocating air as soon as the gas is lighted....It is not a rare occurrence that the fumes of a foundry, or the smell of machinery or of cesspools, rise from lower floors and aggravate the evils of the upper floors. The hot air of the lower rooms heats the upper ones by warming the floors, and if the rooms are low and much gas is burned in them, it is a great nuisance. It is still worse in places where steam engines are installed in the lower rooms and fill the whole house with undesirable heat...In general it may be said that the ventilation is defective throughout and totally insufficient to remove the heat and the products of combustion of the gas after sundown, and that conditions in many shops, especially if they were formerly living rooms, are most deplorable." In some shops, particularly for weekly papers, where boys of 12 to 16 years are also employed, work is carried on almost uninterruptedly for two days and one night; while in other printing shops, which make a specialty of job work, the laborer does not get a rest even on Sunday, so that his days of work are 7 instead of 6 per week. (Page 26, 28.)
The milliners and dress makers occupied our attention also in volume I, chapter X, 3, so far as overwork was concerned. Their work rooms are described in the present report by Dr. Ord. Even if they are better during the day, they become overheated, foul, and unhealthy during the hours in which gas is burned. Dr. Ord found in 34 shops of the better sort that the average number of cubic feet per worker was as follows: "In four cases more than 500; in four other cases 400-500; in five cases 200-250; in four cases 150-200; and finally in nine cases only 100-150. Even the most favorable of these cases barely suffices for continued work, when the room is not perfectly ventilated...Even with good ventilation the workshops become very hot and stuffy after dark on account of the many gas jets needed." And here follows a remark of Dr. Ord concerning one of the minor workshops operated for the account of a middleman: "One room, containing 1,280 cubic feet; persons present, 14; space for every person, 91.5 cubic feet. The girls looked haggard and neglected. There wages were said to be from 7 to 15 sh. per week, aside from tea...The hours of labor from 8 A. M. to 8 P. M. The small room, in which these 14 persons were crowded together, was badly ventilated. There were two movable windows and a fireplace, which was, however, closed. There were no special appliances of any kind for ventilation." (Page 27).
The same report states with reference to the overwork of the milliners and dress makers: "The overworking of young women in fashionable millinery stores prevails only for about 4 months in that monstrous degree which has elicited on many occasions the momentary surprise and indignation of the public. But during these months work is as a rule continued in the shop for fully 14 hours per day, and on accumulated rush-orders for days from 17 to 18 hours." In other seasons work in the shop is carried on probably for 10 to 14 hours; those working at home are regularly engaged for 12 to 13 hours. In the making of ladies' cloaks, capes, shirts, etc., including work with a sewing machine, the hours passed in the common work room are fewer, generally not more than 10 to 12, but, says Dr. Ord, "the regular hours of labor in certain houses, at various times, are subject to considerable extension by means of extra paid overtime, and in others work is taken home in order to be finished after the regular working time. We may add that either one of these methods of over-work is often compulsory." (Page 28). John Simons remarks in a footnote to this page: "Mr. Redcliffe, the secretary of the Epidemiological Society, who had especially frequent opportunities to examine the health of milliners and dressmakers of the first firms, found among 20 girls who said of themselves that they were "quite well" only one in good health; the others showed different degrees of physical exhaustion, nervous debility, and numerous functional troubles arising therefrom. He names as causes, in the first instance, the length of the working hours, which he estimates at a minimum of 12 hours per day even in the dull season, and secondly, 'overcrowding and bad ventilation of workrooms, air poisoned by gas lights, insufficient or bad food, and lack of provision for domestic comfort.'"
The conclusion at which the chief of the English Board of Health arrived, is that "it is practically impossible for laborers to insist on that which is theoretically their first sanitary right: the right of having their common labor freed from all needless conditions injurious to health, so far as may lie in the power of their employer, and at his expense, whatever may be the work to be accomplished by them for their employer. And while the laborers themselves are actually not in a position to enforce this sanitary justice, neither can they expect any effective assistance from the officials responsible for the enforcement of the Nuisance Removal Acts, in spite of the presumable intention of the legislator." (Page 29.)—"There will no doubt be some small technical difficulties in the way of determining the lowest limit where the employers shall be subject to regulation. But...in principle the claim to the protection of health is universal. And in the interest of myriads of working men and working women, whose lives are needlessly stunted and shortened by the infinite physical ills caused by their occupations, I venture to express the hope that the sanitary conditions of labor will just as universally be placed under fitting legal protection; at least sufficiently to safeguard an effective ventilation of all closed work rooms, and to restrict as much as possible the particular unsanitary influences naturally inherent in every dangerous line of industry." (Page 63.)
III. Economies in the Generation of Power, Transmission of Power, and Buildings.
In his report for October, 1852, L. Horner quotes a letter of the famous engineer James Nasmyth of Patricrofit, the inventor of the steam hammer, which contains substantially the following statements.
The public is little acquainted with the immense increase of motive power obtained through such changes of system and improvements (of steam engines) as he is mentioning. The machine power of the district of Lancashire was for almost forty years under the pressure of timid and prejudiced traditions. But now the engineers have been happily emancipated. During the last 15 years, but particularly in the course of the last 4 years (since 1848) a few important changes have taken place in the operation of condense steam engines. The result was that the same machines accomplished far more work, and that the consumption of coal was considerably decreased at the same time. For many years, since the introduction of steam power in the factories of this district, the velocity which was considered safe for condense steam engines, was about 220 feet of piston lift per minute, that is to say, a machine with a piston lift of 5 feet was limited by regulation to 22 revolutions of the shaft. It was not considered appropriate to drive the machine faster. And since the entire installation was adapted to this velocity of 220 feet of piston lift per minute, this slow and senselessly restricted motion prevailed in the factories for many years. But finally, either through a lucky unfamiliarity with this regulation, or for better reasons of some daring innovator, a greater velocity was tried, and, since the result was very favorable, this example was followed by others. The machine was given full rein, as the saying was, and the main wheels of the transmission gear were changed in such a way that the steam engine could make 300 feet per minute and more, while the machinery was kept at its former speed. This acceleration of the steam engine had become general, because it had been demonstrated that more available power was gained from the same machine, and that the movements were much more regular on account of the greater impetus of the driving wheel. The same steam pressure and the same vacuum in the condenser produced more power by means of a simple acceleration of the piston lift. For instance, if by appropriate changes we can accomplish that a machine yielding 40 horse power with 200 feet per minute makes 400 feet with the same steam pressure and vacuum, we shall secure exactly double that power, and since the steam pressure and the vacuum are the same in both cases, the strain on the various individual parts of the machine, and thus the danger of accidents, will not materially increase with an increase of speed. The whole difference is that we consume more steam in comparison to the accelerated movement of the piston, or at least approximately so; and furthermore, there is a somewhat more rapid wear of the bearings, or friction parts, but this is hardly worth mentioning. But in order to obtain more power with the same machine by speeding up the piston, more coal must be burned under the same steam boiler, or a boiler of a larger volume of evaporation must be employed, in short, more steam must be generated. This was accomplished, and boilers with a greater volume were installed with the old "accelerated" machines. These accomplished consequently as much as 100% more work. About 1842, the extraordinarily cheap generation of power with steam engines in the mines of Cornwall began to attract attention. The competition in cotton spinning compelled the manufacturers to seek the main source of their profits in economies. The remarkable difference in the consumption of coal per hour and horse-power shown by the Cornish machines, and likewise the extraordinarily economical performances of the Woolf Double Cylinder Machines, brought the question of fuel into the foreground, also in Nasmyth's district. The Cornish and the double cylinder machines furnished one horse-power per hour for every 3½ or 4 pounds of coal, while the machines in the cotton districts generally consumed 8 or 12 pounds per horse-power an hour. Such a marked difference induced the manufacturers and machine builders of Nasmyth's district to accomplish by similar means just such extraordinary economies as were then the rule in Cornwall and France, where the high prices of coal had compelled the manufacturers to restrict this expensive branch of their business as much as possible. This led to some very important results. In the first place, many boilers, one-half of whose surface remained exposed to the cold outer air in the time of high profits, were then covered with thick layers of felt, or bricks and mortar, and other material, by which the radiation of the heat, which had been generated at such high cost, was prevented. Steam pipes were protected in the same way, and the cylinders were also surrounded by felt and wood. In the second place, high pressure came into use. Hitherto the safety-valve had been weighted only so slightly that it opened at 4, 6, or 8 pounds of steam pressure per square inch. Then it was discovered that considerable coal could be saved by raising the pressure to 14 or 20 pounds. In other words, the work of a factory was accomplished by a considerably lower consumption of coal. Those who had the means and the enterprise carried the system of increased pressure to its full extension and employed judiciously constructed steam-boilers, which furnished steam at a pressure of 30, 40, 60, or 70 pounds per square inch, which would have scared an engineer of the old school to death. But as the economic result of this increased steam-pressure soon made itself felt in the unmistakable form of so many pounds sterling, shillings, and pence, the high pressure boilers for condensing machines became very common. Those who carried out the reform radically used the Woolf machines, and this took place in most of the recently built machines. These were the Woolf machines with two cylinders, in one of which the steam from the boiler furnishes power by means of the excess of pressure over that of the atmosphere, whereupon, instead of escaping as formerly after each stroke of the piston into the open air, it passes into a low pressure cylinder of about four times the volume of the other and, after accomplishing there some more expansion, goes to the condenser. The economic result obtained by such a machine is the performance of one horse-power per hour for every 3½ or 4 pounds of coal, while the machines of the old style required from 12 to 14 pounds for this purpose. A clever device permitted the adaption of the Woolf system with double cylinders, that is to say, the high and low pressure machine, to already existing machines and thus the increase of their performance and at the same time a reduction in the consumption of coal. The same result was obtained during the last 8 or 10 years by a combination of a high pressure machine with a condensing machine in such a way that the steam used in the former passed into the latter and drove it. This system is useful for many purposes. It would not be easily possible to obtain any accurate statistics of the increased performances of the same identical steam-engines supplied with some or all of these new improvements. But it is certain that the same weight of steam machinery now performs 50% more service on an average, and that in many cases the same steam-engine, which yielded 50 horse-powers at the time of the limited speed of 220 feet per minute, yields now more than 100 horse-powers. The highly economical results of the employment of high pressure steam in condensing machines, and the far greater demands made upon the old machines for the purposes of business expansion, have led in the last three years to the introduction of pipe boilers, by which the cost of steam generation is again considerably reduced. (Rep. Fact., Oct., 1852, pages 23 to 27.)
What applies to power generating, also applies to power transmitting and working machinery. According to Redgrave's report, on page 58 of the above-cited document, the rapid steps made in the development of improvements in machinery during the last years have enabled the manufacturers to expand production without additional motive power. The more economical employment of labor has become necessary through the shortening of the working day, and in most well-managed factories means are always considered by which production may be increased, and expenses decreased. Redgrave has before him a calculation, which he owes to the courtesy of a very intelligent gentleman in his district, referring to the number and age of the laborers employed in his factory, the machines operated in it, and the wages paid from 1840 to date. In October, 1840, his firm employed 600 laborers, of whom 200 were less than 13 years old. In October, 1852, they employed only 350 laborers, of whom only 60 were less than 13 years old. The same number of machines, with very few exceptions, were in operation, and the same amounts were paid in wages, in both years...
These improvements of machinery do not show their full effects until they are used in new and judiciously built factories.
According to the testimony of a cotton spinner in the factory reports for 1863, page 110, great progress has been made in the building of factories in which such improved machinery is to be installed. In the basement of his factory he twines all his yarn, and for this purpose alone he installs 29,000 doubling spindles. In this room and in the shed alone he saves at least 10% in labor. This is not so much the result of improvements in the doubling system, as of the concentration of machinery under one gearing. He can drive the same number of spindles with one single driving shaft, and thus he saves from 60 to 80% for gearing as compared to other firms. This furthermore results in a great saving of oil, grease, etc. In short, with perfected installations in his factory and improved machinery he had saved at least 10% in labor, not to mention great economies in power, coal, oil, grease, transmission belts and shafts.
IV. Utilisation of the Excrements of Production.
With the advance of capitalist production the utilisation of the excrements of production and consumption is extended. We mean by the former the refuse of industry and agriculture, and by the latter either the excrements, such as issue from the natural circulation of matter in the human body, or the form in which objects of consumption are left after being used. Excrements of production, for instance in chemical industries, are such by-products as are wasted in production on a smaller scale; iron filings collected in the manufacture of machinery and carried back into the production of iron as raw material, etc. Excrements of consumption are the natural discharges of human beings, remains of clothing in the form of rags, etc. The excrements of consumption have the most value for agriculture. So far as their utilisation is concerned, the capitalist mode of production wastes them in enormous quantities. In London, for instance, they find no better use for the excrements of four and a half million human beings than to contaminate the Thames with it at heavy expense.
The raising of the price of raw materials naturally leads to the utilisation of waste products.
The general requirements for the re-employment of these excrements are: A great quantity of such excrements, such as is only the result of production on a large scale; improvements in machinery by which substances formerly useless in their prevailing form are given another useful in reproduction; progress of science, especially of chemistry, which discovers the useful qualities of such waste. It is true, that great economies of this sort are also observed in small agriculture carried on like gardening, for instance in Lombardy, southern China, and Japan. But on the whole the productivity of agriculture under this system is obtained by great prodigality in human labor-power, which is drawn from other spheres of production.
The so-called waste plays an important role in almost every industry. The factory report for December, 1863, mentions as one of the principal reasons why farmers in many parts of England and Ireland do not like to grow flax, or do so but rarely, the great waste occurring in the preparation of flax by small scutch-mills driven by water. The waste is relatively small in cotton, but very considerable in flax. Good treatment in soaking and mechanical scutching may reduce this disadvantage considerably. In Ireland flax is frequently scutched in a very slovenly manner, so that from 28 to 30% are lost. All this might be avoided by the use of better machinery. So much tow fell by the side in the preparation of flax that the factory inspector reports having heard it said of some of the scutching mills in Ireland that the laborers carry the waste home and burn it in their fire-places, although it is very valuable. (Page 140 of the above report.) We shall speak of cotton later, in discussing the fluctuations of prices of raw materials.
The wool industry was carried on more intelligently than the preparation of flax. The same report states on page 107 that it was formerly the custom to veto the preparation of waste wool and woolen rags for renewed use, but this prejudice has been entirely dropped so far as the shoddy trade is concerned, which has become an important branch of the wool district of Yorkshire. It is doubtless expected that the trade with cotton waste will soon occupy the same rank as a line of business meeting a long felt want. Thirty years previous to 1863, woolen rags, that is to say pieces of all-wool cloth, etc., were worth on an average about 4 p.st. 4 sh. per ton. But a few years before 1863 they had become worth as much as 44 p.st. per ton. And the demand for them had risen to such an extent that mixed stuffs of wool and cotton were also used, means having been found to destroy the cotton without injuring the wool. And thousands of laborers were employed in 1863 in the manufacture of shoddy, and the consumer benefited thereby, being enabled to buy cloth of good quality at very reasonable prices. The shoddy so rejuvenated constituted in 1862 as much as one-third of the entire consumption of wool in English industry, according to the factory report of October, 1862, page 81. The truth about the "benefit" for the "consumer" is that his shoddy clothes wear out in one-third of the time which good woolen clothes used to last, and become threadbare in one-sixth of this time.
The English silk industry moved on the same inclined plane. From 1839 to 1862 the consumption of genuine raw silk had somewhat decreased, while that of silk waste had doubled. By the help of improved machinery it was possible to make this otherwise rather worthless stuff into a silk useful for many purposes.
The most striking instance of the utilisation of waste was furnished by the chemical industry. It utilises not only its own waste in new ways, but also that of many other industries. For instance it converts the formerly almost useless gas-tar into aniline colors, alizarin, and more recently even into drugs.
This economy through the re-employment of excrements of production must be distinguished from economies through the prevention of waste, that is to say, the reduction of excrements of production to a minimum and the maximum utilisation at first hand of all raw and auxiliary materials required in production.
The reduction of waste depends in part on the quality of the machinery in use. Oil, soap, etc., are saved to the extent that the parts of a machine are constructed accurately and polished. This refers to auxiliary materials. In part, however, and this is the most important part, it depends on the quality of the employed machines and tools whether a large or small portion of raw material is converted into waste in the process of production. Finally it depends on the quality of the raw material itself. This in turn is conditioned on the development of the extract industry and agriculture producing the raw material (the progress of civilisation strictly so called), and on the improvement of processes through which the raw materials pass before their entry into manufacture.
"Parmentier proved that the art of grinding grain was very materially improved in France in recent times, for instance since the time of Louis XIV, so that the new mills, compared to the old, can make as high as twice as much bread from the same amount of grain. In fact, the annual consumption of an inhabitant of Paris was at first placed at 4 setiers of grain, then at 3, finally at 2, while nowadays it is only 1½ setier, or about 342 lbs. per capita....In the Perche, in which I lived for a long time, the crude mills of granite and trap rock have been rebuilt according to the rules of advanced mechanics as understood for the last 30 years. They have been provided with good mill stones from La Ferté, the grain has been ground twice, the milling sack has been given a circular motion, and the output of flour has increased by one-sixth for the same amount of grain. I can easily explain the enormous discrepancy between the daily consumption of grain among the Romans and among us. It is due simply to the imperfect method of milling and bread making. In this connection I must explain a peculiar fact mentioned by Pliny, XVIII, c. 20, 2:...'The flour was sold in Rome, according to quality, at 40, 48, or 96 as per modius.' These prices, so high in proportion to the contemporaneous prices of grain, are due to the imperfect state of the mills of that period, and the resulting heavy cost of milling." (Dureau de la Malle, Economie Politique des Romains. Paris, 1840, I, page 280.)
V. Economies Due to Inventions.
These economies in the utilisation of fixed capital, we repeat, are due to the application of the requirements of labor on a large scale, in short, are due to the fact that these requirements serve as the first conditions of direct co-operative and social production, a co-operation within the primary process of production. On the one hand, this is the indispensable requirement for the application of mechanical and chemical inventions without increasing the price of commodities, and this is always the first consideration. On the other hand, only production on a large scale permits those economies which are derived from co-operative productive consumption. Finally, it is only the experience of combined laborers which discovers the where and how of economies, the simplest methods of applying the experience gained, the way to overcome practical frictions in carrying out theories, etc.
Incidentally it should be noted that there is a difference between universal labor and co-operative labor. Both kinds play their role in the process of production, both flow one into the other, but both are also differentiated. Universal labor is scientific labor, such as discoveries and inventions. This labor is conditioned on the co-operation of living fellow-beings and on the labors of those who have gone before. Co-operative labor, on the other hand, is a direct co-operation of living individuals.
The foregoing is corroborated by frequent observation, to-wit:
1) The great difference in the cost of the first building of a new machine and that of its reproduction, on which see Ure and Babbage.
2) The far greater cost of operating an establishment based on a new invention as compared to later establishments arising out of the ruins of the first one, as it were. This is carried to such an extent that the first leaders in a new enterprise are generally bankrupted, and only those who later buy the buildings, machinery, etc., cheaper, make money out of it. It is, therefore, generally the most worthless and miserable sort of money-capitalists who draw the greatest benefits out of the universal labor of the human mind and its co-operative application in society.
THE EFFECT OF FLUCTUATIONS IN PRICE.
I. Fluctuations in the Price of Raw Materials, and their Direct Effects on the Rate of Profit.
THE assumption in this case, as in previous ones, is that no change takes place in the rate of surplus-value. This assumption is necessary in order that this case may be analysed in its pure state. However, it would be possible that a certain capital, whose rate of surplus-value remains unchanged, might employ an increasing or decreasing number of laborers, in consequence of contraction or expansion caused by fluctuations in the price of raw materials such as we are about to analyse here. In that case, the mass of surplus-value might vary, while the rate of surplus-value remained the same. Still, it will be convenient to set aside also such a case as a side-issue. If improvements of machinery and changes in the price of raw materials simultaneously influence either the number of laborers employed by a certain capital, or the level of wages, one has but to tabulate 1) the effect caused by the variations of constant capital in the rate of profit, and 2) the effect caused by variations in wages on the rate of profit. The result then becomes apparent of itself.
But in general, it should be noted here, as in previous cases: If variations take place, either in consequence of economies in the constant capital, or in consequence of fluctuations in the price of raw materials, they always affect the rate of profit, even though they may leave the wages, and therefore the mass and rate of surplus-value, untouched. They change the magnitude of the C in s' v/C, and thus the value of the whole fraction. It is therefore immaterial, in this case, in contradistinction to what we found to be the case in our analysis of surplus-value, in which sphere of production these variations take place, whether the lines of production affected by them produce articles of food for laborers, or constant capital for the production of such articles, or not. The deductions made here apply just as well if these variations occur in the production of articles of luxury, and by the production of articles of luxury I mean all production not serving for the reproduction of labor-power.
In the raw materials we include here also the auxiliary substances, such as indigo, coal, gas, etc. Furthermore, so far as machinery falls under this head, its own substance consists of iron, wood, leather, etc. Its own price is therefore affected by fluctuations in the prices of raw materials used in its construction. To the extent that its price is raised through fluctuations, either in the price of the raw materials of which it consists, or of the auxiliary substances consumed in its operation, the rate of profit is lowered. And vice versa.
In the following analysis it will be necessary to confine ourselves to fluctuations in the price of raw materials, not so far as they go to make up the raw materials of machinery serving as means of production, or as raw materials in auxiliary substances applied in the operation of machinery, but in so far as they are raw materials contributing to the process in which commodities are produced. We make only this remark: The wealth of nature in iron, coal, wood, etc., which are the principal elements used in the construction and operation of machinery, presents itself here as a natural fertility of capital and becomes an element in determining the rate of profit, independently of the highness or lowness of wages.
Since the rate of profit is represented by s/C, or s/(c+v), it is evident that everything which causes a variation of the magnitude of c, and thereby of C, must also bring about a variation in the rate of profit, even if s and v, and their mutual proportions, remain unaltered. Now, raw materials constitute one of the principal portions of constant capital. Even in industries which consume no raw material, in the strict meaning, it enters as auxiliary material, or as a component part of machinery, etc., and fluctuations in its price influence to that extent the rate of profit. If the price of raw material falls by the amount d, then s/C, or s/(c+v), become s/(C-d), or s/((c-d)+v), in other words, the rate of profit rises. On the other hand, if the price of raw material rises, then s/C, or s/(c+v), become s/(C+d), or s/((c+d)+v), in other words, the rate of profit falls. Other circumstances remaining unchanged, the rate of profit falls and rises, therefore, inversely as the price of raw material. This shows, among other things, how important the low price of raw material is for industrial countries, even if fluctuations in the price of raw materials were not accompanied by variations in the selling sphere of the product, that is to say, quite aside from the relation of demand to supply. It follows furthermore that foreign trade influences the rate of profit, even aside from its influence on wages through the cheapening of the necessities of life, for it affects the prices of raw or auxiliary materials consumed in industry or agriculture. It is due to the imperfect understanding of the nature of the rate of profit and its specific difference from the rate of surplus-value that economists (like Torrens) give a wrong explanation of the marked influence of the prices of raw material on the rate of profit, as demonstrated by experience, and that on the other hand economists like Ricardo, who cling to general principles, misapprehend the influence of such factors as the world's trade on the rate of profit.
We may realise, then, the great importance of the abolition or reduction of tariffs on raw materials for industry. Already the first rational development of the protective system made the utmost reduction of import duties on raw materials one of its cardinal principles. This, and the abolition of the duty on corn, was the main object of the English free traders, who took also, above all, care to have the duty on cotton abolished.
The use of flour in the cotton industry may serve as an illustration of the importance of a reduction in the price of an article, which, although not strictly raw material, is an auxiliary and, of course, at the same time one of the principal elements of food. As long ago as 1837, R. H. Greg calculated that the 100,000 power looms and 250,000 hand looms then operated in the cotton mills of Great Britain consumed 41 million lbs. of flour in the smoothing of chains. To this was added a third of this quantity for bleaching and other processes. The total value of the flour so consumed was placed by him at 342,000 p.st. per year for the preceding ten years. A comparison with the prices of flour on the continent showed that the raise in the price of flour forced upon the manufacturers by the corn-laws amounted alone to 170,000 p.st. per year. For 1837, Greg estimated it at a minimum of 200,000 p.st., and he mentions the fact that one firm had to pay 1,000 p.st. more per year for flour. In consequence of this "Large manufacturers, careful and calculated business men, declared that 10 hours of labor per day would be enough, if the corn-laws were repealed." (Rep. Fact., Oct. 1848, page 98.) The corn-laws were repealed. Also the duties on cotton and other raw materials. But no sooner had this been accomplished than the opposition of the manufacturers to the Ten Hours Bill became more violent than ever. And when the ten hour day in factories nevertheless became a law soon after, the first result was an attempt to reduce wages all around.
The value of the raw materials and auxiliary substances passes entirely, and all at one time, into the value of the product in whose creation they are consumed, while the elements of fixed capital transfer their value only gradually to the product in proportion as they are worn away. It follows that the price of the product is influenced to a far higher degree by the price of raw materials than by that of fixed capital, although the rate of profit is determined by the total value of the capital, regardless of how much of this capital is consumed in the product. But it is evident—although we mention this merely incidentally, since we are still assuming that commodities are sold at their values, so that fluctuations of price caused by competition do not concern us here—that the expansion or restriction of the market depends on the price of the individual commodity and is inversely proportioned to the rise or fall of this price. For this reason we note in reality that a rise in the price of raw material is not accompanied by a corresponding rise of the price of the product, nor a fall in the price of the raw material by a corresponding fall of that of the product. Consequently the rate of profit falls lower in one case, and rises higher in the other, than it would if products were sold at their value.
Furthermore, the mass and value of the employed machinery grows with the development of the productivity of labor, but not in the same proportion as this productivity, in other words, not in the same proportion as the machine increases its output. Those lines of industry, which consume raw materials, so that the objects on which they expend their labor are themselves products of previous labor, express the growing productivity of labor precisely by the proportion in which a certain increased portion of raw material absorbs a definite quantity of labor. In other words, this increasing productivity is measured by the increasing amount of raw material converted into products, worked up into commodities, for instance, in one hour. To the extent, then, that the productivity of labor is developed, the value of raw material forms an ever growing component of the value of the product in commodities, not only because it passes wholly into them, but also because every aliquot part of the aggregate product contains an ever decreasing share of that portion which represents the wear of machinery and that other which represents newly added labor. In consequence of this falling tendency the other portion of value which represents raw material increases correspondingly, unless this growth is counterbalanced by a proportionate decrease in the value of the raw material due to a growing productivity of the labor required for its production.
Again, we know that the raw materials and auxiliary substances, the same as wages, form parts of the circulating capital and must be continually reproduced in their entirety through the sale of the product, while the machinery is renewed only to the extent that it wears out, a reserve fund being accumulated for that purpose. And it is not so essential that each individual sale should contribute its share to this reserve fund, so long as the total annual sales contribute their annual share. We see, then, once more that a rise in the price of raw material can curtail or clog the entire process of reproduction, since the price realised by the sale of the commodities may not suffice to reproduce all the elements of these commodities. Or, it may render a continuation of the process on a scale fitting for its technical basis impossible, so that either a portion of the machinery remains idle, or the whole machinery works only a part of the usual time.
Finally, the expense due to waste varies in direct proportion to the fluctuations in the price of raw material, rises and falls with them. Of course, there is a limit also in this case. In 1850 it was still reported, in the factory reports for April, 1850, page 17, that one source of considerable losses through the raising of the price of raw material would hardly be noticed by any one who is not a practical spinner, namely losses through waste. The reporting inspector had been informed that a rise in the price of cotton implied a greater rise in the expenses of the spinner than is indicated by the difference in price. The waste in the spinning of coarse yarns amounts to fully 15%. If this percentage causes a loss of ½ d. per lb. when cotton is worth 3½ d., then the loss increases to 1 d. per lb. as soon as cotton rises to 7 d. per lb. But when, as a result of the American Civil War, cotton rose to a height not equalled in almost a century, the report read differently. We learn from the factory reports of October, 1863, page 106, that the price then paid for cotton waste, and the return of the waste to the factory as raw material, offered some compensation for the difference in the loss through waste between Indian and American cotton. This difference amounted to 12½%. The loss in working up Indian cotton is 25%, so that really this cotton costs the spinner one-fourth more than he paid for it. The loss through waste was not so important while American cotton was quoted at 5 or 6 d. per lb., for it did not exceed ¾ d. per lb. But it became a matter for serious consideration, when cotton cost 2 sh. per lb. and the loss through waste amounted to 6d.
II. Appreciation, Depreciation, Release, and Tie-up of Capital.
The phenomena analysed in this chapter require for their full development the credit-system and competition on the world-market, the latter being the basis and vital element of capitalist production. These more concrete forms of capitalist production can be comprehensively presented only after the general nature of capital is understood. Moreover, such a presentation lies outside of the scope of this work and belongs in its eventual continuation. Nevertheless, the phenomena mentioned in the title of this chapter may be discussed at this stage in a general way. They are interrelated among themselves, and at the same time touch upon the rate and mass of profits. They are entitled to consideration right here for the further reason that they create the impression that not only the rate, but also the mass of profit—which is actually identical with the mass of surplus-value—could increase or decrease independently of the movements of surplus-value, whether it be its mass or its rate.
Are we to consider the release and tie-up of capital on one side, its appreciation or depreciation on the other, as different phenomena?
The question is first: What do we mean by the release and tie-up of capital? Appreciation and depreciation explain themselves. They do not signify anything but that a certain given capital grows or declines in value as a result of general economic conditions of some sort, for we do not discuss any particular fate of some individual capital. They indicate, in short, that the value of the capital invested in production rises or falls, aside from the question of its self-expansion by means of the surplus-labor employed by it.
By the tie-up of capital we mean that a certain portion of the total value of the product must be reconverted into the elements of constant and variable capital, if production is to proceed on the same scale. By the release of capital we mean that a portion of that part of the total value of the product which had to be reconverted into constant or variable capital up to a certain time becomes disposable and superfluous, provided production is to continue on the same scale. This release or tie-up of capital is different from the release or tie-up of revenue. If the annual surplus-value of a certain capital C is equal to x, then a reduction in the price of commodities consumed by the capitalists would suffice to procure the same enjoyments as before by means of x - a. In other words, a portion of the revenue equal to a is released, and may serve either for the extension of consumption or the reconversion into capital (for the purpose of accumulation). Vice versa, if x + a is needed in order to continue the same scale of living, then this scale must either be reduced or a portion of revenue equal to a and previously accumulated must be drawn upon as revenue.
The appreciation or depreciation may strike either the constant, or the variable capital, or both. In the case of the constant capital it may affect either the fixed, or the circulating portion, or both.
In the case of the constant capital we have to consider the raw materials and auxiliary substances, including half-wrought articles, all of which we comprise here under the term raw materials, furthermore, machinery and other fixed capital.
We referred in the preceding analysis especially to variations in the price, or the value, of raw materials, and to their influence on the rate of profit. And we announced the general law that, other circumstances remaining the same, the rate or profit is inversely proportioned to the value of the raw materials. This is unconditionally true of a capital newly invested in any business enterprise, where the investment of capital, that is to say the conversion of money into productive capital, is just taking place.
But aside from this capital in process of new investment, a large portion of the already functioning capital is engaged in the sphere of circulation, while another portion is busy in the sphere of production. One portion exists on the market in the shape of commodities waiting to be converted into money; another exists in the shape of money of some kind waiting to be reconverted into elements of production, finally, a third portion exists in the sphere of production, either in the primitive form of means of production (raw materials, auxiliary substances, half-wrought articles purchased on the market, machinery and other fixed capital), or as products in process of manufacture. The effect of appreciation or depreciation of any of these depends in a large measure on the relative proportions of these things. Let us leave aside, for the sake of simplicity, all fixed capital, and let us consider only that portion of constant capital which consists of raw materials, auxiliary substances, partly wrought articles, and commodities in the making or in a finished state.
If the price of raw material, for instance of cotton, rises, then the price of those cotton goods which were made while cotton was cheaper—both half-wrought articles like yarn, and finished goods like cotton fabric—rises along with that of the rest. So does the value of the cotton held in stock and waiting to be worked up and that of the cotton in process of being worked. This last-named cotton then represents by indirection more labor-time than was incorporated in it, and consequently it adds more value than its own original one to the product which it goes to make up, and more than the capitalist paid for it.
If, then, a rise in the price of raw materials finds on the market a considerable quantity of finished commodities, whatever may be the state of their perfection, the value of these commodities rises, and consequently the value of the existing capital is enhanced. The same is true for the supply of raw materials in the hands of the producers. This appreciation of value may indemnify the individual capitalist, or even an entire sphere of capitalist production, for the loss caused by a fall in the rate of profit incidental to a rise in the price of raw materials, or it may even more than make good that loss. Without entering into the details of the effects of competition, we may state for the sake of completeness that, in the first place, when the supplies of raw material held in stock are considerable, they tend to oppose a rise in the price of raw materials at the place where they are produced; and in the second place, when the half-wrought articles and finished goods press very heavily upon the market, they prevent the price of these things from rising in proportion to the price of their raw materials.
The reverse takes place when there is a fall in the price of raw materials. Other circumstances remaining the same, it increases the rate of profit. The commodities on the market, the articles in the making, and the supplies of raw material depreciate in value and thereby counteract the accompanying rise in the rate of profit.
The effect of a variation in prices of raw materials becomes so much more marked, the smaller a quantity of supplies exists in the sphere of production and on the market, for instance at the close of a business year, when great masses of raw materials are delivered anew, as happens in agriculture after the harvest.
We start in this entire analysis from the supposition that a rise or a fall in prices are the expressions of actual variations in value. But since we are here concerned in the effects of such variations in price on the rate of profit, it matters little what is at the bottom of them. The present statements apply just as well in the case that prices rise or fall, not on account of variations in value, but of the influence of the credit-system, competition, etc.
Seeing that the rate of profit is the expression of the excess of the value of the product over the value of the total capital advanced, a rise of the rate of profit due to a depreciation of the advanced capital would be accompanied by a loss in the value of capital. And a lowering of the rate of profit due to an appreciation of the advanced capital might be accompanied by gains.
As for the other portion of constant capital, such as machinery, and fixed capital in general, the appreciation of values taking place in them, and referring mainly to buildings, real estate, etc., they cannot be discussed without an understanding of the theory of ground rent, and do not belong in this chapter, for this reason. But they have a general importance for the question of depreciation.
There are, in the first place, constant improvements which lower relatively the use-value, and therefore the exchange-value, of existing machinery, factory equipments, etc. This process has a dire effect especially during the first epoch of newly introduced machinery, before it has reached a certain stage of maturity, when it becomes continually antiquated before it has had time to reproduce its own value. This is one of the reasons for the irrational prolongation of the working time customary at such periods, of working with day and night shifts, in order that the value of the machinery may be reproduced in a shorter time without having to place the figures for wear and tear too high. On the other hand, if a short period of effectiveness of machinery (its short term of life compared to anticipated improvements) is not compensated in this way, then it yields too much of its value to the product by moral wear, so that it cannot compete even against hand-labor.
When machinery, equipment of buildings, and fixed capital in general have reached a certain maturity, so that they remain unaltered in their basic construction, at least for an ordinary length of time, then a similar depreciation takes place in consequence of improvements in the methods of reproduction of this fixed capital. The value of machinery, etc., falls in that case, not because this machinery is rapidly crowded out and depreciated to a certain degree by new and more productive machinery, etc., but because it can be reproduced more cheaply. This is one of the reasons why large enterprises frequently do not flourish until they pass into the second hand, after their first proprietors have been bankrupted, so that their successors, who buy them cheaply, are enabled to begin with a smaller investment of capital at the very outset.
In the case of agriculture it is evident that the same causes which raise the price of the product or lower it must also raise or lower the value of capital, since this capital consists to a large degree of this product, such as grain, cattle, etc.
There still remains the variable capital for our consideration.
To the extent that the value of labor-power rises on account of a rise in the price of the means of existence required for its reproduction, or falls on account of a reduction of the value of these means of existence—and a rise or fall in the value of variable capital are but expressions of these two cases—a rise in surplus-value corresponds to such depreciation and a fall in surplus-value to such appreciation, assuming the length of the working-day to remain the same. But other circumstances—a release or tie-up of capital—may accompany such cases, and as we did not analyse them so far, we may briefly mention them now.
If wages fall in consequence of a depreciation of the value of labor-power (which may be accompanied even by a rise in the actual price of labor), then a portion of the capital hitherto invested in wages, is released. Variable capital is set free. For new investments of capital, this signifies a working with a higher rate of surplus-value. It takes less money than before to set in motion the same amount of labor, and in this way the unpaid portion of labor increases at the expense of the paid portion. But in the case of already invested capital not only the rate of surplus-value is raised, but a portion of the capital previously invested in wages is also released. It had been tied up until this time and formed a regular portion which had to be deducted from the proceeds of the product and advanced for wages, in order to perform the functions of variable capital, provided the business was to continue on its former scale. Now this portion becomes disposable and may be used for a new investment, either in the extension of the same business, or to perform a function in some other sphere of production.
Let us assume, for instance, that 500 p.st. were required at first to employ 500 laborers per week, and that now only 400 p.st. are needed for the same purpose. If the mass of value produced in either case was 1,000 p.st., then the mass of surplus-value produced per week in the first case was 500 p.st., and the rate of surplus-value 500/500, or 100%. But after the reduction of wages the mass of surplus-value will be 1,000-400, or 600 p.st., and its rate 600/400, or 150%. And this raising of the rate of profit is the only effect produced for any one who starts a new enterprise in this sphere of production with a variable capital of 400 p.st. and a corresponding constant capital. But in a business already existing when this takes place, the depreciation of the variable capital does not only increase the rate of surplus-value from 500 to 600 p.st., and the rate of surplus-value from 100 to 150%, but 100 p.st. of the variable capital are released and enabled to exploit more labor. The same amount of labor is then not alone advantageously exploited, but the release of 100 p.st. makes it possible to exploit more laborers with those 500 p.st. at the increased rate.
Now take the opposite case. Take it that the original proportion of division, with 500 laborers, was 400 v + 600 s, making 1,000, so that the rate of surplus-value was 150%. The laborer, in that case, received 4/5 p.st., or 16 shillings per week. Now, if in consequence of an appreciation of variable capital 500 laborers cost 500 p.st. per week, then each one of them will receive 1 p.st. per week, and 400 p.st. can employ only 400 laborers. If the same number of laborers as before is to be employed, then we must have 500 v + 500 s, or 1,000. The rate of surplus-value would have fallen from 150 to 100%, which is by one-third. If some new capital were now to be invested, the only effect felt by it would be this lower rate of surplus-value. Other circumstances remaining the same, the rate of profit would also have fallen, although not to the same extent. For instance, if c equals 2,000, we should have in the one case 2,000 c + 400 v + 600 s = 3,000. The rate of surplus-value would be 150%, the rate of profit 600/2400, or 25%. In the second case we should have 2,000 c + 500 v + 500 s = 3,000. The rate of surplus-value would be 100%, the rate of profit 500/2500, or 20%. However, for a capital already invested there would be a twofold effect. Only 400 laborers could be employed with 400 p.st., at a rate of surplus-value amounting to 100%. They would then produce only 400 p.st. of surplus-value. Furthermore, since a constant capital of 2,000 p.st. requires 500 laborers for its operation, 400 laborers could operate only a constant capital of 1,600 p.st. If production is to continue on the same scale as before and one-third of the machinery prevented from remaining idle, then the variable capital must be increased by 100 p.st., in order that 500 laborers may still be employed. And this can be accomplished only by tying up a hitherto disposable capital, so that a portion of the accumulation intended for an extension of production serves then merely for stopping a gap, or a portion reserved for revenue is added to the old capital. A variable capital increased by 100 p.st. produces then 100 p.st. less of surplus-value. More capital is required to employ the same number of laborers, and the surplus-value yielded up by each laborer is at the same time reduced.
The advantages resulting from a release, and the disadvantages resulting from a tie-up of variable capital, affect only capital already engaged and reproducing itself under certain determined conditions. So far as newly invested capital is concerned, the advantage on the one, or the disadvantage on the other side, are limited to a raising or lowering of the rate of surplus-value and a variation of the rate of profit accordingly, if not always in the same proportion.
The release and tie-up of variable capital, analysed in the foregoing, is the result of a depreciation or appreciation of the elements of variable capital, that is to say, of the cost of reproduction of labor-power. However, variable capital might also be released, if the development of the productivity, with the rate of wages unchanged, results in the possibility of getting along with fewer laborers for the operation of the same amount of constant capital. Vice versa, additional variable capital may be formed, if the productive power declines and more laborers are needed to operate the same mass of constant capital. On the other hand, if a portion of capital formerly employed in the capacity of variable capital is transferred to the constant capital, so that there is merely a different distribution between the components of the same capital, this has its influence on the rate of surplus-value and of profit, but does not belong in this discussion of the release and tie-up of capital.
We have already seen that constant capital may be released or tied up by a depreciation or appreciation of its component elements. Aside from this, it can be tied up only in the case that the productive power of labor increases (not to mention the case in which a portion of the variable is transferred to the constant capital), so that the same amount of labor creates a greater product and therefore operates a larger constant capital. The same may occur under certain circumstances when the productive power decreases, for instance in agriculture, so that the same quantity of labor requires more means of production, such as seeds, manure, drainage, etc., in order to produce the same output. Constant capital may be released without depreciation, when improvements, the harnessing of natural powers, etc., enable a constant capital of smaller value to perform the same technical services as those formerly performed by a constant capital of greater value.
We have seen in volume II that once that the commodities have been converted into money, sold, a certain portion of this money must be reconverted into the material elements of constant capital, and this in proportion to the technical nature of any given sphere of production. In this respect, the most important element in all lines—aside from wages, or variable capital—is the raw material, including the auxiliary substances, which are particularly important, in all lines of production that do not use any raw materials in the strict meaning of the term, for instance in mining and extractive industries in general. That portion of the price which has to make good the wear and tear of machinery plays mainly an ideal role in calculation, so long as the machine is at all in workable condition. It does not matter greatly whether it is paid and replaced by money to-day or to-morrow, or in any other section of the period of turn-over of the capital. It is different with the raw material. If the price of raw material rises, it may be impossible to make it good fully out of the price of the commodities after deducting the wages. Violent fluctuations of price therefore cause interruptions, great collisions, or even catastrophies in the process of reproduction. It is especially the products of agriculture, raw materials taken from organic nature, which are subject to such fluctuations of value in consequence of changing yields, etc., leaving aside altogether the question of the credit-system, for the present. The same quantity of labor may, in consequence of uncontrollable natural conditions, the favor or disfavor of seasons, etc., be incorporated in very different quantities of use-values, and a definite quantity of these use-values may have very different prices. If the value x is represented by 100 lbs. of the commodity a, then the price of one lb. of a equals x/100. If it is represented by 1,000 lbs., the price of one lb. is x/1000, etc. This is one of the elements in the fluctuations of the price of raw materials. A second element, which is mentioned at this point only for the sake of completeness, since competition and the credit-system are still outside of the scope of our analysis, is this: It is in the nature of the thing that vegetable and animal substances, which are dependent on certain laws of time for their growth and production, cannot be suddenly augmented in the same degree as, for instance, machines and other fixed capital, or coal, ore, etc., whose augmentation, assuming the natural requirements to be present, can be accomplished in a very short time in an industrial country. It is therefore impossible, and under a developed system of capitalist production even inevitable, that the production and augmentation of that portion of the constant capital which consists of fixed capital, machinery, etc., should run ahead of that portion which consists of organic raw materials, so that the demand for these last materials grows more rapidly than their supply, and their price rises in consequence. This rising of prices carries with it the following results: 1) A shipping of raw materials from great distances, seeing that the rising price covers greater freight rates; 2) an increase in their production, which, however, for natural reasons, will not be felt until the following year; 3) a using up of various hitherto unused accessories, and a better economising of waste. If this rise of prices begins to exert a marked influence on production and supply, the turning point has generally arrived at which the demand lets up on account of the protracted rise of the raw material and of all commodities made up of it, so that a reaction in the price of raw material takes place. Aside from convulsions due to the depreciation of capital in various forms, this reaction is also accompanied by other circumstances which will be mentioned immediately.
So much is evident from the foregoing: To the extent that capitalist production is developed, and with it the means of suddenly and permanently increasing that portion of the constant capital which consists of machinery, etc., and to the extent that accumulation is accelerated (as it is particularly in times of prosperity), to that extent does the relative over-production of machinery and other fixed capital increase, the relative underproduction of vegetable and animal raw materials become more frequent, the above described rise of their prices and the subsequent reaction more marked. And the revulsions increase correspondingly in frequency, so far as they are due to this violent fluctuation of one of the main elements of the process of reproduction.
Now, if these high prices collapse, because their rise had caused partly a falling off in the demand, partly an extension of production here, an importation of goods from remote and hitherto little noted or neglected regions of production in another place, and with them an excess of the supply over the demand, especially if this excess comes in with the old prices, then we have a result which offers various points of view. The sudden collapse of the price of raw materials checks their reproduction, and consequently the monopoly of the original producing countries, which are favored by the best conditions, is restored. It may be restored with certain limitations but still it is restored. The reproduction of the raw materials proceeds indeed, after the first impulse has been given, on an enlarged scale, especially in countries which have more or less of a monopoly of this production. But the basis on which production takes place after the extension of machinery, etc., and which, after some fluctuations, has to serve as the new point of departure, is very much enlarged by the occurrences of the last cycle of turn-over. At the same time the barely increased reproduction has been considerably checked in the secondary countries of supply. For instance, it can be easily shown by a reference to the export tables that, during the last thirty years (up to 1865) the production of cotton grows in India, whenever there has been a falling off in the American, and that there is after awhile a sudden drop and falling off in the Indian. During the period in which raw materials are high, the industrial capitalists get together in associations for the purpose of regulating production. So they did, for instance, after the rise of cotton prices in 1848, in Manchester, and a similar move was made in the production of flax in Ireland. But as soon as the immediate impulse has worn off, and the principle of competition reigns once more supreme, according to which one must "buy in the cheapest market" (instead of stimulating production in the most favored countries, as those associations attempt to do, without regard to the monetary price at which those countries may just happen to supply their product), the regulation of the supply is left once more to "prices." All thought of a common, far-reaching, circumspect control of the production of raw materials gives way once more to the belief that demand and supply will mutually regulate one another. And it must be admitted that such a control is on the whole irreconcilable with the laws of capitalist production, and remains for ever a platonic desire, or is limited to exceptional co-operation in times of great stress and helplessness. The superstition of the capitalists in this respect is so crude that even the factory inspectors lift their hands in surprise, in their reports. The variation of good and bad years, of course, leads at times to the production of cheaper raw materials. Aside from the direct effect of this on the extension of the demand, an added stimulant is found in the previously mentioned influence on the rate of profit. Thereupon the aforesaid process of a gradual overtaking of the production of raw materials by that of machinery, etc., is repeated on a larger scale. An actual improvement of raw materials in such a way that not only their quantity, but also their quality would come up to expectations, for instance supplying cotton of American quality from Indian fields, would necessitate a long continued, progressively growing, and steady European demand (quite aside from the economic conditions under which the Indian producer labors in his country). As it is, the sphere of production of raw materials is extended only convulsively, being now suddenly enlarged, and then violently contracted. All this, and the spirit of capitalist production in general, may be very well studied in the cotton crisis of 1861-65, which was further aggravated by the fact that raw materials were at times entirely missing which are one of the principal factors of reproduction. The price may also rise while there is an abundant supply, namely in the case that this abundance takes place under difficult conditions. Or, there may be an actual shortage of raw material. It was the last condition which originally prevailed in the cotton crisis.
The closer we approach in the history of production to our own times, so much more regularly do we find, especially in the essential lines of industry, the ever recurring fluctuation between a relative appreciation and the resulting depreciation of raw materials purloined from organic nature. The preceding statements will be verified by the following illustrations from reports of factory inspectors.
The moral of this story, which may also be deduced from other observations in agriculture, is that the capitalist system works against a rational agriculture, or that a rational agriculture is irreconcilable with the capitalist system, although technical improvements in agriculture are promoted by capitalism. But under this system, agriculture needs either the hands of the self-employing small farmer, or the control of associated producers.
We present now the following illustrations from the English factory reports.
According to R. Baker, factory reports for October, 1858, pages 56-61, the condition of business was then better. But the cycle of good and bad times was shortened with the increase of machinery, and to the extent that the demand for raw materials increases, the fluctuation in the conditions of business occur more frequently. For the time being confidence had been restored after the panic of 1857, and the panic itself seemed almost forgotten. Whether this improvement would be lasting, depended, in Baker's opinion, to a large extent on the price of raw materials. He saw indications that the maximum had already been reached, beyond which manufacture becomes less and less profitable, and finally ceases altogether to yield any profits. Taking the prosperous years in the worsted business, 1849 and 1850, it will be seen that the price of English carded wool was 13 d., and of Australian, 14 to 17 d. per lb., and that the average price of English wool, for the decade from 1841 to 1850, never exceeded 14 d., nor that of Australian 17 d. But at the beginning of the disastrous year 1857, Australian wool was quoted at 23 d. It fell in December, at the time of the worst panic, to 18 d., but rose once more in the course of the year 1858 to 21 d. English wool likewise began in 1857 with 20 d., rose in April and September to 21 d., fell in January, 1858 to 14 d., and rose subsequently to 17 d., so that it stood 3 d. per lb. higher than the average of the aforementioned 10 years. This shows, in Mr. Baker's opinion, that either the failures of 1857, which were due to similar prices, have been forgotten, or that barely enough wool is produced to keep the existing spindles running. Or the prices of fabrics may experience a lasting rise. But he has seen in his experience that spindles and frames multiplied in an incredibly short time, not only in numbers, but also in speed; that the English wool export to France rose at almost the same rate, while the average age of sheep in England and other countries was steadily reduced, since the population was rapidly increasing and breeders were trying to turn their stock into money as quickly as possible. He often was seriously alarmed, when he saw people, ignorant of these facts, invest their ability and their capital in enterprises whose success depended on the supply of a product which can be increased only according to certain organic laws. The conditions of supply and demand of all raw materials seems to explain to Mr. Baker many fluctuations in the cotton business as well as the condition of the English wool market in the fall of 1857 and the subsequent commercial crisis.
The most flourishing time of the worsted industry of the West-Riding of Yorkshire was from 1849 to 50. This industry employed 29,246 persons in 1838, 37,000 persons in 1843, 48,097 in 1845, 74,891 in 1850. (Factory Reports, 1850, page 60.) This prosperity of the carded wool industry began to excite certain forebodings in October, 1850. In his report for April, 1851, sub-inspector Baker says in regard to Leeds and Bradford that the condition of business is very unsatisfactory. The carded wool spinners are rapidly losing the profits of 1850, and the majority of the weavers do not make much progress. He believes that more wool machinery is momentarily standing idle than ever before, and the flax spinners are likewise discharging laborers and stopping machinery. The cycles of the textile industry are very uncertain, and he thinks that people will soon realise that no proportion is observed between the productivity of the spindles, the quantity of raw materials, and the increase of population. (Page 52.)
The same is true of the cotton industry. In the same report for October, 1858, we read that, since the fixing of the hours of labor in factories, the amounts of raw material consumed, of production, and of wages in all textile industries have been reduced to a simple rule of three. The inspector quotes from a recent lecture by Mr. Payns, who was then mayor of Blackburn, on the cotton industry, in which the industrial statistics of that region were very accurately compiled. The mayor said in substance that every actual horse-power operates 450 self-actor spindles with preparatory spinning machinery, or 200 throstle spindles, or 15 looms for cloth 40 inches wide, with machinery for reeling, warping and smoothing. Every horse-power employs two and a half laborers in spinning, or 10 in weaving. Their average wages are fully 10½ shillings per capita per week. The worked up average numbers are Nos. 30-32 for the warp and Nos. 34-36 for the woof. Assuming the product of one week's spinning to be 13 ounces per spindle, the weekly output of yarn would be 824,700 lbs., which imply a consumption of 970,000 lbs., or 2,300 bales of cotton valued at 28,300 p.st. In a circle of five miles around Blackburn the weekly consumption of cotton amounted to 1,530,000 lbs., or 3,650 bales, at a cost-price of 44,625 p.st. This is one-eighteenth of the entire cotton spun in the United Kingdom, and one-sixteenth of the entire mechanical weaving.
The inspector says that according to the calculations of Mr. Payns the total number of cotton spindles in the United Kingdom would be 28,800,000, and it would require 1,432,080,000 lbs. of cotton to keep them going at full speed. But the cotton imports, after deducting the exports, amounted in 1856 and 1857 only to 1,022,576,832 lbs. so that there must have been a shortage of 409,503,168 lbs. Mr. Payns, who had the kindness to discuss this point with the inspector, held that a computation of the annual consumption of cotton, based on the consumption of the Blackburn district, would total up too high, on account of the difference, not only of the numbers spun, but also of the excellence of the machinery. He estimated the total consumption of cotton per year in the United Kingdom at 1,000 million lbs. But if he is correct, and there is actually a surplus-import of 22½ million lbs., then the inspector thinks that demand and supply are nearly balanced, without taking into account the additional spindles and looms which are about to be erected in Mr. Payns' own district, according to him, and the same applies probably to other districts as well. (Pages 59, 60.)
III. General Illustration. The Cotton Crisis of 1861-1865.
Preliminary History, 1845-1860
1845. Prosperity of cotton industry. Price of cotton very low. L. Horner says on this point that he has not witnessed a more active period of business than that of the last summer and fall. Especially in the spinning of cotton. Throughout the entire six months he received every week reports of new investments of capital in factories. Now new factories were being built, now the few vacant ones had found new renters, now factories which were in operation were extended, new and stronger steam engines installed and more working machinery added. (Factory Reports, November, 1845, page 13.)
1845. The complaints are beginning. For some time the inspector hears general complaints among the manufacturers over the depressed state of their business. During the last six weeks, he says, various factories have begun working short time, generally 8 hours instead of 12. This seemed to become general. There had been a great rise in the price of cotton, while the price of the products had not alone not risen, but fallen to a lower figure than that before the rise in cotton. The great increase in the number of cotton factories during the preceding four years must have caused a strong increase in the demand for raw material and a large supply of products on the market. Both of these things must have operated to depress profits, so long as the supply of raw material and the demand for the product remained unchanged. But they actually had a far stronger influence, because the supply of cotton had recently been insufficient, and the demand for the product had let up in various inland and foreign markets. (Factory Reports, December, 1846, page 10.)
The rising demand for raw materials went, of course, hand in hand with the overstocking of the market with products. By the way, at that period the expansion of industry and the subsequent stagnation were not confined to the cotton districts. The carded wool district of Bradford contained in 1836 only 318 factories, but 490 in 1846. And these figures do not by any means express the actual extension of production, since the existing factories were at the same time considerably enlarged. This was especially true of the flax mills. According to the factory report, November, 1846, page 30, all of them had contributed more or less, during the preceding 10 years, to that overstocking of the market which was to blame for the stagnation of business at the time being. The depression in business followed naturally after such a rapid expansion of factories and machinery.
1847. In October, a money panic. Discount 8%. This was preceded by a collapse of railroad speculation, and of jobbing with East-Indian bills of exchange.
The factory report for October, 1847, page 30, states that Mr. Baker presented very interesting details concerning the rise in the demand for cotton, wool, and flax, in recent years, caused by the expansion of these industries. He held that the increased demand for these raw materials, particularly at a time when their supply had fallen far below the average, was sufficient to explain the prevailing depression in those lines of business, without reference to the insecurity of the money-market. This view was fully supported by the personal experience of the writer of the report, and by statements made to him by experts in business. All these various lines of business had been very much depressed, when discounts were still practicable at 5% and less. On the other hand, the supply of raw silk was abundant, prices reasonable, and the business correspondingly brisk until a few weeks previously, when doubtless the money-panic affected not only the dealers in raw silk, but still more their principal customers, the manufacturers of custom made goods. A glance at the published official reports showed that the cotton industry had increased by almost 27% during the preceding three years. As a result, cotton had risen in round figures from 4 d. to 6 d. per lb., while yarn, thanks to the increased supply, stood only a trifle above its former price. The wool industry commenced to expand in 1836. Since then it had grown by 40% in Yorkshire, and still more in Scotland. The increase in the worsted industry was still larger. The calculations showed in its case, for the same length of time, an expansion of more than 74%. The consumption of raw wool had, therefore, been very large. The linen industry showed since 1839 an increase of about 25% in England, 22% in Scotland, and almost 90% in Ireland, the consequence of this, and of the failure of flax crops, was that the price of the raw material rose by 10 p.st. per ton, while the price of yarn had fallen by 6 d. per bundle.
1849. Beginning with the last months of 1848, business revived. According to factory reports, 1849, pages 30, 31, the price of flax, which was so low that it guaranteed a reasonable profit under all possible future circumstances, induced manufacturers to push their business steadily. The wool manufacturers were very busy for a time in the beginning of the year. The writer of the report feared, however, that consignments of woolen goods often took the place of real demand, and that periods of seeming prosperity, that is to say, of full employment, did not always coincide with periods of legitimate demand. The worsted business was particularly good for some months. In the beginning of this period, wool stood especially low. The mill-owners had stocked them-selves at advantageous prices, and no doubt in considerable quantities. When the price of wool rose with the spring auctions, the mill-owners had the advantage, and they retained it, since the demand for goods became strong and irresistible.
On page 42 of the factory report for April, 1849, we read that, considering the fluctuations in the conditions of business, which had taken place in the factory districts for three or four years, it must be admitted that there is somewhere some great disturbing cause. May not the productive power of the increased machinery have become a new element?
In November, 1848, in May, summer, and up to October, 1849, business became more and more flourishing. The same report states on pages 42 and 43, that this applies particularly to the manufacture of goods from worsted yarn, which centers in Bradford and Halifax. At no previous time did this business approximate the extension which it had then. The speculation in raw materials, and the uncertainty of its probable supply, has always caused greater excitement and more frequent fluctuations in the cotton industry than in any other line of business. For the time being there was an accumulation of supplies of the coarser grades of cotton goods, which worried the small mill-owners and placed them at a disadvantage, so that some of them were working short time.
1850. April. Business continued brisk. Exception, according to factory report, April, 1850, page 54: There is a great depression in a portion of the cotton industry as a result of insufficient supplies of raw material precisely for coarse grades of yarn and heavy textures. It is feared that the increased machinery lately installed in the worsted business may bring about a similar reaction. Mr. Baker calculates that alone in the year 1849, the product of the looms in this business has grown by 40%, and that of the spindles by 25 to 30%, and the expansion is still continuing at the same rate.
1850. October. The factory report for October states on page 15 that the price of cotton continues to cause considerable depression in this line of industry, especially for such goods as require a considerable portion of the cost of production to be spent for raw material. The great rise in the price of raw silk has led to an aggravation of the situation in many instances, also in this line. And on page 33 of the same report we learn that the committee of the Royal Association for Flax Culture in Ireland was of the opinion that the high price of flax, together with the low level of prices of other agricultural products, had safeguarded a considerable increase in the production of flax for the ensuing year.
1853. April. Great prosperity. L. Horner says in the factory report for April, 1853, page 19, that at no time during the 17 years, in which he took official notice of the condition of the factory districts of Lancashire, has he seen such general prosperity. The activity in all lines was extraordinary.
1853. October. Depression in the cotton industry. Overproduction. (Factory Report, October, 1853, page 15.)
1854. April. The factory report for 1854, page 37, states that the wool business, while not brisk, furnished full employment for all factories. The same held good of the cotton industry. The worsted business was irregular throughout the entire preceding half year. There was a disturbance in the linen industry in consequence of the reduced supply of flax and hemp from Russia, on account of the war in the Crimea.
1859. According to the factory report for April, 1859, page 19, business was still depressed in the Scotch linen industry, because the raw material was scarce and dear. The low quality of the preceding crop in the Baltic countries, from which came the main supply, was expected to exert an injurious influence on the business of this district. On the other hand, jute, which displaced flax for many coarse goods, was neither uncommonly dear nor scarce. About one-half of the machinery in Dundee was spinning jute. The factory report for October, 1859, states on page 30, that in consequence of the high price of raw material, flax spinning is not yet profitable, and while all other factories are running on full time, there are various instances of idle flax machinery. The jute mills are in a satisfactory condition, since recently this material has fallen to a reasonable figure.
1861-64. American Civil War. Cotton Famine. The Greatest Illustration of an Interruption in the Process of Production through Scarcity and Dearness of Raw Material.
1860. April. The reporting inspector says in substance in factory report, April, 1860: I am pleased to be able to inform you that, in spite of the high price of raw materials, all textile industries, with the exception of silk, have been well employed during the last half year. In some of the cotton districts, laborers were advertised for, and secured by immigration from Norfolk and other rural counties. There seems to be a great lack of raw materials in all branches of industry. It is alone this lack which holds us back. In the cotton business, the number of factories erected, the extension of already existing ones, and the demand for laborers, has probably never been so great. Raw materials are sought on all sides.
1860. October. The factory report for October, 1860, states on page 37, that the condition of business in the cotton, wool, and flax districts has been good. It is reported to have been very good in Ireland, for more than a year, and would have been still better but for the high price of raw materials. The flax mills seem to be waiting with more impatience than ever for the opening of the resources of India by railroads, and for a corresponding development of its agriculture, in order to secure at last a supply of flax sufficient for their requirements.
1861. April. The factory report for April, 1861, states on page 33 that the condition of business for the time being was depressed. A few cotton goods factories were working short time, and many silk factories were running only a part of the time. Raw materials were dear. In almost every textile branch raw materials were quoted above the price at which they could be worked by the mass of the consumers.
It now became evident that the cotton industry had produced too much in 1860. The effect of this made itself felt for the next few years. The factory report for December, 1863, page 127, states that it took between two and three years for the world-market to absorb the overproduction of 1860. And the factory report for October, 1862, pages 28 and 29, says in so many words: The depressed condition of the markets for cotton goods in Eastern Asia, in the beginning of 1860, had a corresponding influence on the business in Blackburn, where on an average of 30,000 mechanical looms are almost exclusively engaged in the production of goods for this market. The demand for labor was, therefore, already restricted at this point many months before the effects of the blockade made themselves felt. Fortunately, many factories were thereby saved from ruin. The supplies rose in value so long as they were held in stock, and this prevented the appalling depreciation which is otherwise inevitable in such a crisis.
1861. October. According to the factory report for October, 1861, page 19, the business has been depressed for some time. It is not at all improbable that many factories will materially reduce their working time during the winter months. However, this was to be anticipated; quite aside from the causes which have interrupted the ordinary supply of cotton from America and the English exports, it would have been necessary to reduce the hours of labor during the coming winter, on account of the strong increase of production in the preceding three years, and the disturbance of the Indian and Chinese markets.
Cotton Waste. East Indian Cotton. (Surat.) Influence on the Wages of Laborers. Improvement of Machinery. Substitution of Starch Flour and Minerals for Cotton. Effect of this Starch Flour Ingredient on the Laborers. Manufacturers of Fine Grades of Yarn. Fraud on the Part of the Manufacturers.
An inspector writes in the factory report for October, 1863, page 63: A manufacturer thinks that, so far as the estimate of the cotton consumption per spindle is concerned, I did not sufficiently appreciate the fact that, when a cotton is dear, every manufacturer of ordinary yarns (say up to No. 40, mainly from 12 to 32) spins as fine grades as he possibly can, that is to say, he will spin No. 16 instead of 12, or 22 instead of 16, etc. And the weaver who works up these fine yarns, will raise his calico to the regular weight by adding so much more glue. This expedient is now used to a shameful degree. I have it on good authority that there are ordinary shirtings for export weighing 8 lbs. per piece, of which 2 lbs. were glue. Textures of other kinds are often given as much as 50% of glue, so that that manufacturer does not lie by any means who boasts of becoming a rich man by selling his fabrics at less money per pound than he paid for the yarn of which they are made.
We read furthermore in the same place: I have also been told that the weavers ascribe the growth of disease among themselves to the glue used in the woof of East-Indian Cotton and not merely consisting of flour, as heretofore. This substitute for flour is said to have the very great advantage of increasing the weight of fabrics considerably, so that 15 lbs. of yarn, after being woven, weigh 20 lbs. (This substitute was ground talcum, called China clay, or gypsum, called French chalk.) The wages of the weavers (meaning the laborers) have been very much reduced by the employment of substitutes for flour in the making of weaver's glue. This glue renders the yarn heavier, but also stiff and brittle. Every thread of the yarn passes in the loom through the bobbin, whose strong threads keep the woof in position. The stiffly glued woof continually causes breaks in the thread of the bobbin. Every break causes a loss of five minutes to the weaver for repairs. The weavers have to repair such breaks ten times as often as formerly, and the loom naturally turns out so much less during working hours. (Pages 42 and 43.)
In Ashton, Stalybridge, Oldham, etc., the working hours have been reduced by at least one-third, and are reduced still more every week. This reduction of the hours of labor is in many instances accompanied by a reduction of wages. (Page 13.) In the beginning of 1861, a strike took place among the mechanical weavers in some parts of Lancashire. Several manufacturers had announced a reduction of wages by 5 to 7.5%. The laborers insisted that the scale of wages should be maintained and the hours of labor reduced. This was not granted, and a strike was called. After one month, the laborers had to give in. But then they got both. Aside from a reduction of wages which the laborers finally accepted they also worked short time in many factories. (Factory Report, April, 1863, page 23.)
1862. April. The sufferings of the laborers had considerably increased since the last report was made. But at no time in the history of this industry have so sudden and so grievous ills been borne with so much quiet resignation and such patient self-respect. (Factory Report, April, 1862, page 10.) The proportion of the temporarily totally unemployed laborers does not seem to be much larger than in 1848, when there was an ordinary panic, which, however, was of sufficient force to induce the worried manufacturers to compile a similar statistics on the cotton industry as that now given out weekly. In May, 1848, 15% of all the cotton employes of Manchester were idle, 12% worked short time, while more than 70% worked on full time. On May 28, 1862, there were 15% idle, 35% working on short time, and 49% on full time. In the neighboring places, for instance at Stockport, the percentage of the idle and partly employed is higher, that of the fully employed lower, because coarser numbers are spun there than in Manchester. (Page 16.)
1862. October. According to the last official statistics, there were in the United Kingdom 2,887 cotton factories, of which 2,109 were in the districts of Lancashire and Cheshire. The reporting inspector knew well enough that a very large number of the 2,109 factories in his district were small establishments, which employed but a few laborers. But he was surprised when he found how large was the number of these. There were 392, or 19%, which had less than 10 horse-power motors (steam or water); 345, or 16%, had between 10 and 20 horse-powers; 1,372 had 20 horse-powers or more. A very large portion of the small manufacturers, more than one-third, had been laborers not very long ago. They are men without a command of capital. The main burden would fall upon the other two-thirds. (Factory Reports, October, 1862, pages 18, 19.)
According to the same report, 40,146, or 11.3% of the cotton employes of Lancashire and Cheshire, were then working full time; 134,767, or 38%, were working a part of the time; 197,721, or 50.7%, were unemployed. If we deduct from these figures the data referring to Manchester and Bolton, where mainly fine numbers were spun, a line little affected by the cotton famine, then the matter looks still more unfavorable, namely fully employed 8.5%, partly employed 38%, unemployed 53.3%. (Pages 19 and 20.)
It makes an essential difference for the laborers whether good or bad cotton is worked up. In the first months of the year, when the manufacturers sought to keep their factories going by using up all the cotton bought at cheap prices, much bad cotton went into factories that usually worked only with good cotton. The difference in the wages of the laborers was so great that many strikes took place because no living wage could be made at the old piece wages. In a few instances the difference due to the employment of bad cotton amounted to one-half of the total wages, even at full time. (Page 27.)
1863. April. In the course of this year, not more than about one-half of the cotton employes will work on full time. (Factory Report, April, 1863, page 14.)
A very serious inconvenience in the employment of East-Indian cotton, such as the factories must use at this time, is that the speed of the machinery must be considerably reduced with it. During the last years, everything has been tried to increase the speed, so that the same machinery might do more work. However, the reduced speed hits the laborer as much as the manufacturer. For the majority of the laborers are paid by the piece, the spinners receiving so much per lb. of yarn spun, the weavers so much per piece woven. And even the others, who work on weekly wages, will suffer a reduction through the restriction of production. According to the researches of the inspector, and the data received by him, referring to the wages of the cotton employes during the year, there is an average reduction of 20% in some cases as much as 50%, compared to the wages which were in vogue in 1861. (Page 13.) The amount earned depends on the quality of the material worked up. The condition of the laborers, so far as earnings are concerned, is much better now (October, 1863) than at the same time last year. The machinery has been improved, the raw material is better known, and the laborers overcome the difficulties better with which they had to struggle in the beginning. In the previous spring, the inspector was in a sewing school in Preston (a charity institution for unemployed). Two young girls, who had been sent to a weaving establishment on the strength of a promise that they would be able to make 4 shillings per week, asked to be readmitted to the school and complained that they could not make 1 shilling per week. The inspector has had information concerning self-acting minders, that is to say, men who operate a few self-actors, who had earned 8 sh. 11d. after 14 days of full employment, and their house-rent was deducted from this sum. The manufacturer returned one-half of this rent to them as a gift. (How generous!) The minders carried home the amount of 6 sh. 11 d. In some places the self-acting minders earned from 5 to 9 sh. per week, the weavers from 2 to 6 sh. per week, during the last months of 1862. At the time of the report there was a healthier condition of things, although even then the earnings in most districts had decreased still more. Other conditions contributed to the scanty earnings, aside from the shorter staple of East-Indian cotton and its impurity. For instance, it had become the custom to mix plenty of cotton waste with the Indian cotton, and this increases, of course, the difficulties for the spinner. Owing to the shortness of the fiber, the threads break more easily in drawing out the mule and twisting the yarn, and the mule cannot be kept going so regularly. Furthermore, one girl frequently can watch but one loom, because she must pay more attention to the threads. But few of them have more than two looms. In many cases the wages of the laborers have been reduced by 5, 7.5, and 10%. In the majority of cases the laborer must handle his raw material as best he may, and try to make wages at the ordinary scale to the best of his power. Another difficulty with which the weavers have sometimes to struggle is that they are supposed to make good fabrics out of bad materials, and are fined by deductions from their wages, if the work is not all that is desired. (Factory reports, October, 1863, pages 41-43.)
Wages were miserable, even in places where full time was worked. The cotton employes willingly offered themselves for all public labors, drainage, road building, stone breaking, street paving, which they did in order to get their keep from the authorities (although this amounted practically to an assistance for the manufacturers. See volume I, chapter XXV, 3.) The whole bourgeoisie stood guard over the laborers. If the worst of a dog's wages were offered, and the laborer refused to accept them, then the Assistance Committee struck him from their list. It was in a way a golden age for the manufacturers, for the laborers had either to starve or work at any price profitable for the bourgeois. The Assistance Committees acted as watch-dogs. At the same time the manufacturers, in secret agreement with the government, hindered emigration as much as possible, either for the purpose of having their capital, invested in the flesh and blood of laborers, ready at hand, or of safeguarding the squeezing of rent out of the laborers.
The Assistance Committees acted with great severity in this matter. If work was offered, the laborers to whom it was offered were stricken from the lists and compelled to accept. If they refused to begin work, the reason was that their earnings were but nominal, while the work was extraordinarily hard. (Page 97.)
The laborers were willing to perform any work for which they were employed in consequence of the Public Work Acts. The principles according to which industrial occupations were assigned, varied considerably in different cities. But even in places where work in the open air was not absolutely regarded as a labor test, this labor was either compensated with the bare ordinary charity sum, or so insignificantly better that it actually became a labor test. (Page 69.) The Public Works Act of 1863 was to remedy this evil and to enable the laborer to earn his wages as an independent day laborer. The purpose of this Act was threefold: 1) To enable local authorities to borrow money from the loan treasury commissioners (with the consent of the president of the state's central poor boards; 2) to facilitate improvements in the cities of the cotton districts; 3) to secure work and remunerative wages for the unemployed laborers. Up to the end of 1863, loans to the amount of 883,700 p.st. had been granted under this Act. (Page 70.) The enterprises started were mainly canalisation, road building, street paving, reservoirs for water works, etc.
Mr. Henderson, president of the committee of Blackburn, wrote with reference to this to factory inspector Redgrave, that in his entire experience in the course of this period of suffering and misery nothing had struck him more emphatically or given him so much pleasure as the serene willingness with which the unemployed laborers of his district accepted the work offered to them by the city council of Blackburn pursuant to the Public Works Act. A greater contrast could hardly be imagined than that between the cotton spinner, who formerly worked as a skilled man in the factory, and the day-laborer, who now works in a depth of 14 or 18 feet on a drainage canal. (They earned thereby about 4 to 12 sh. per week, according to the size of their families, and this last enormous amount had to provide sometimes for a family of eight. The gentlemen of the bourgeoisie derived a double profit from this. In the first place, they secured money for the improvement of their smoky and neglected cities at exceptionally low interest. In the second place, they paid wages to the laborers at a scale far below the ordinary.) Mr. Henderson thinks that this ready willingness on the part of the laborers to accept the offered employment implied great self-denial and consideration, and deserved all honor, since they were accustomed to an almost tropical temperature, to work in which skill and accuracy counted for more than muscular strength, and to wages which were double, or sometimes treble, of what they could earn now. In Blackburn the men were tried at all possible kinds of labor in the open air. They dug through a stiff and heavy clay soil to a considerable depth, they did drainage work, broke stones, built roads, made excavations for street canals to a depth of 14, 16, and sometimes 20 feet. Frequently they stood in mud and water from 10 to 12 inches deep, and they were exposed to a climate whose wet cold was not exceeded, or perhaps not equalled, in any other district of England. (Pages 91 and 92.) The attitude of the laborers has been almost faultless, their willingness to accept work in the open air and to get along on it. (Page 69.)
1864. April. Occasionally complaints about lack of laborers are heard in various districts, especially in certain branches, for instance weaving. But these complaints are due as much to the low wages which the laborers may earn in consequence of the bad kinds of yarn as to an actual scarcity of laborers in this particular line. Numerous disputes over wages took place during the preceding month between some manufacturers and their laborers. The inspector regrets that strikes occurred far too frequently. The effect of the Public Works Act is now resented by the manufacturers as a competition, and as a result the local committee of Bacup has suspended its activity. For although all the factories are not yet running, there has already been a lack of laborers. (Factory Report, April, 1864, pages 9 and 10.) It was indeed high time for the manufacturers to act. In consequence of the Public Works Act the demand for laborers grew so much that many a factory hand was making 4 to 5 shillings per day in the quarries of Bacup. And so the public works were gradually suspended; this new edition of the Ateliers nationeaux of 1848, which had this time been opened in the interests of the bourgeoisie.
Trying it on the Dog
Although the very reduced wages (of the fully employed), the actual earnings of the laborers in the different factories, have been given, it does not follow that they earn the same amount week after week. The laborers are exposed to great fluctuations at this place, in consequence of the continual experiments made by the manufacturers with different kinds and proportions of cotton and waste in the same factory. The "Mixtures," as they are called, are frequently changed, and the earnings of the laborers rise and fall with the quality of cotton mixtures. At times they earned only 15% of their former wages, and in one or a couple of weeks wages fell to 50 or 60%. Inspector Redgrave, who makes this report, then proceeds to figures of wages selected from practical life. The following examples may suffice:
A, weaver, family of 6 persons, employed 4 days in the week, 6 sh. 8.5 d.; B, twister, 4.5 days per week, 6 sh.; C, weaver, family of 4, 5 days per week, 5 sh. 1 d.; D, slubber, family of 6, employed 4 days per week, 7 sh. 10 d.; E, weaver, family of 7, employed 3 days, 5 sh., etc. Redgrave continues in substance: These data deserve attention, for they prove that labor would become a misfortune in some families, since it reduces not only the earnings, but depresses them so low that they become totally insufficient to satisfy anything but a small part of a family's absolute necessities, unless additional assistance were given in cases where the earnings of a family do not reach the amount which would be granted to them if all of them were unemployed. (Factory Reports, October, 1863, pages 50-53.)
In no week since June 5, 1863, has the average total employment of all laborers been more than 7 hours and some minutes. (Page 121.)
From the beginning of the crisis to March 23, 1863, nearly three million pounds sterling were expended by the poor boards, the central committee of charity, and the London Mansion House committee. (Page 13.)
In one district, in which perhaps the finest yarn is spun, the spinners suffer an indirect reduction of wages of 15% as a result of passing from Sea Island to Egyptian cotton.
In one extended district, in which cotton waste is used in large quantities as an admixture to Indian cotton, the spinners have had their wages reduced by 5%, and lost besides from 20 to 30% by working up Surat and waste. The weavers have dropped from four looms to two. In 1860 they made 5 sh. 7 d. on each loom, but in 1863 only 3 sh. 4 d. The fines, which amounted to from 3 to 6 d. per spinner on American cotton, now run as high as 1 sh. to 3 sh. 6 d. In one district, in which Egyptian cotton was used, mixed with East-Indian, the average earnings of the mule spinners in 1860 was from 18 to 25 sh., while it is only from 10 to 18 sh. now. This not exclusively due to deteriorated cotton, but also to the decreased speed of the mule, in order to give to the yarn a stronger twist, for which extra payment according to the wage scale would have been made in ordinary times. (Pages 43, 44, 45-50.) Although East-Indian cotton may have been worked here and there at a profit for the manufacturers, the wage list on page 53 shows that the laborers suffer from it, compared with 1861. If the use of Surat becomes a settled fact, the laborers would demand the same wages as in 1857. But this would seriously affect the profits of the manufacturers, unless it would be balanced by the price of either the cotton or the products. (Page 105.)
House-Rent. The house-rent of the laborers living in cottages belonging to the manufacturers, is frequently deducted from their wages, even if only short time is worked. Nevertheless the value of these buildings has fallen, and the cottages are now from 25 to 50% cheaper than formerly. A cottage which formerly rented from 3 sh. 6 d. per week, may now be had for 2 sh. 4d., and sometimes for less. (Page 57.)
Emigration. The employers were, of course, opposed to the emigration of the laborers, in the first place because they wished, in the expectation of better times in the cotton industry, to keep the means at hand for the profitable operation of their factories. In the second place some employers are owners of cottages in which their employes are to live, and at least some of them calculate without fail to collect at least a portion of the rent due them. (Page 96.)
Mr. Bernall Osborne says in a speech to his parliamentary constituents, on October 22, 1864, that the laborers of Lancashire had behaved like ancient stoic philosophers. Perhaps they acted like sheep?
TAKE it, in accordance with the assumption on which this section is based, that the mass of profit appropriated in any particular sphere of production is equal to the sum of the surplus-values produced by the total capital invested in this sphere. Nevertheless the bourgeois will not consider his profit as identical with the surplus-value, that is to say, with unpaid surplus-labor. And he will do so, for the following reasons.
1) He forgets the process of production in the process of circulation. He is of the opinion that surplus-value is made by his realisation on the value of commodities, which includes realisation on their surplus-value. [There is a blank at this place, indicating that Marx intended to dwell in detail on this point.—F. E.]
2) Assuming a uniform degree of exploitation, we have seen that the rate of profit may differ considerably according to the relative cheapness or dearness of raw materials and the experience of the buyer, according to the relative productivity, efficacy, and cheapness of the machinery employed, according to the greater or lesser perfection of the general equipment of the various stages of the productive process, the simplicity and effectiveness of the management, etc.; all this without reference to any modifications due to the credit-system, to the mutual cheating of the capitalists among themselves, to any favorable choice of the market. In short, given the surplus-value for a certain capital, it depends still very much on the individual business ability of the capitalist, or of his managers and salesmen, whether this same surplus-value realises a greater or smaller rate of profit and thus yields a greater or smaller mass of profit. The same surplus-value of 1,000 p.st., a product of 1,000 p.st. of wages, may be calculated in the business of A on 9,000 p.st., in the business of B on 11,000 p.st. of constant capital. In the case of A we have then p' = 1000/10,000, or 10%. In the case of B we have p' = 1000/12,000, or 8 1/3%. The total capital produces relatively more profit in the business of A than in that of B, although the variable capital advanced in either case is 1,000 p.st., and the surplus-value produced by it likewise 1,000 p.st., so that there is in both cases the same degree of exploitation of the same number of laborers. This difference in the materialisation of the same mass of surplus-value, or the difference in the rates of profit, may also be due to other causes. Still, it may be due wholly to a difference in business ability in both establishments. And this fact leads the capitalist to the conviction that his profits are due, not to the exploitation of labor, but at least, in part, to other circumstances independent of that exploitation, particularly to his individual activity.
The analyses of this part of the work demonstrate the erroneousness of the view (Rodbertus) according to which (in distinction from ground-rent, in the case of which the area of real-estate is said to remain the same and yet to produce a higher rent) a change in the magnitude of a certain capital is said to have no influence on the proportion of profit to capital, and thus on the rate of profit, on the assumption that the mass of capital, on which profits are calculated, grows simultaneously with the mass of profits, and vice versa.
This is true only in two cases. In the first place, it is true, assuming all other circumstances, especially the rate of surplus-value, to remain unchanged, if there is a change in the value of that commodity which is a money-commodity. (The same occurs in the case of a merely nominal change of value, the rise or fall of mere tokens of value while other circumstances remain the same.) Take it that the total capital amounts to 100 p.st., with a profit of 20 p.st., so that the rate of profit is 20%. Now, if gold rises or falls by 50%, the same capital, in the first eventuality, will be worth 150 p.st., which was previously worth only 100 p.st., and the profit will be worth 30 p.st., that is to say, it will be worth that much in money instead of 20 p.st., as before. In the second eventuality, the capital of 100 p.st. will be worth only 50 p.st., and the profit will be represented by the value of 10 p.st. But in either case 150 : 30 = 50 : 10 = 100 : 20 = 20%. But in all these cases there would have been no actual change in the magnitude of capital-value, but only in the money-expression of the same value and the same surplus-value. For this reason s/C, or the rate of profit, could not be affected.
The second case is that in which an actual change of magnitude takes place in the value, but without being accompanied by a change in the proportion of v to c, in other words, when the rate of surplus-value remains the same and the proportion of the variable capital invested in labor-power (considered as an index of the amount of labor-power set in motion) to the constant capital invested in means of production remains the same. Under these circumstances, we may have C, or nC, or C/n, for instance 1,000, or 2,000, or 500. If the rate of profit is 20%, the profit will be 200 in the first case, 400 in the second, and 100 in the third. But 200 : 1,000 = 400 : 2,000 = 100 : 500 = 20%, that is to say the rate of profit remains unchanged, because the composition of capital remains the same and is not effected by its change of magnitude. An increase or decrease in the mass of profit shows therefore merely an increase or decrease in the magnitude of the invested capital.
In the first case, then, there is but seemingly a change in the magnitude of the employed capital, while in the second case there is an actual change of magnitude, but no change in the organic composition of the capital, that is to say, in the relative proportions of the variable and constant portions. With the exception of these two cases, a change in the magnitude of the employed capital is either the result of a preceding change of value in one of the components of capital, and therefore of a change in the relative magnitudes of these components (unless the surplus-value itself varies with the variable capital); or, this change of magnitude (for instance in the case of enterprises on a large scale, the introduction of new machinery, etc.) is the cause of a change in the relative magnitudes of the organic components of capital. In all these cases, other circumstances remaining unchanged, a change in the magnitude of the employed capital must be accompanied simultaneously by a change in the rate of profit.
An increase in the rate of profit is always due to a relative or absolute increase of the surplus-value in proportion to its cost of production, for instance to the advanced total capital, or to a decrease in the difference between the rate of profit and the rate of surplus-value.
Fluctuations in the rate of profit, independently of changes in the organic components of capital, or of the absolute magnitude of the capital, may occur through a rise or fall of the value of the advanced capital, whether it be fixed or circulating, caused by a prolongation or reduction of the working time required for its reproduction, this change in the working time taking place independently of already existing capital. The value of every commodity, including the commodities of which capital consists, is determined, not by the necessary labor-time contained in it individually, but by the social labor-time necessary for its reproduction. This reproduction may take place under aggravating or under propitious circumstances, which differ from the conditions of original production. If it takes under altered conditions double the time, or half as much time, to reproduce the same material capital, and if the value of money remained unchanged, then a capital formerly worth 100 p.st. would be worth 200 p.st. or 50 p.st. If this appreciation or depreciation were to affect all parts of capital uniformly, then the profit would also be expressed correspondingly in double, or half, the amount of money. But if appreciation or depreciation imply a change in the organic composition of capital, if they imply a raising or lowering of the proportion between the variable and constant portions of capital, then the rate of profit, other circumstances remaining the same, will grow with a relatively growing, and fall with a relatively falling, variable capital. If only the money-value of the advanced capital rises or falls (in consequence of a change in the valuation of money) then the money-value of the surplus-value rises or falls in the same proportion. The rate of profit remains unchanged.