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1867 - 2017

150 Jahre

"Das Kapital"



Documents arranged by Wolfgang Eggers


Comintern (SH)




Volume I


Volume II

part 1

part 2


Volume III





Theories of

Surplus Value


Frederick Engels

Synopsis of Capital




Frederick Engels

Chapter X:

On Political Economy

was written by Karl Marx

(special edition)


Frederick Engels

The Wages System



Karl Marx

Wage-labor and Capital




Wages, price, and profit

Value, Price and Profit

Speech by Marx to the
First International Working Men's Association, June 1865



Karl Marx

A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy











Karl Marx' "Capital" (1933)

in Lithographs



Karl Marx

Works of Karl Marx 1867

December 1867

Written: December 6, 1867;
First published: in the supplement to Die Zukunft, No. 291, December 12, 1867

Social-Demokrat of November S9, General Meeting of the General Association of German Workers

Debate on the Working Day

Speaker: v. Hofstetten (Owner of the Social-Demokrat):

1) "Labour-power is today a commodity. [...] The purchase price" (read: the value) "of a thing" (read: commodity) "is determined by the working-time necessary to its production. The worker must work a certain number of hours to reproduce the value he has received for his labour-power: that is the necessary part of the working day, but by no means, the working day itself. To reproduce this, an indetermined part must" (why?) "be added; although it is indetermined, it has its necessary limits."

Karl Marx: Capital.
Critique of political Economy, 1867. Section: "The Working Day"

1) "We started with the supposition that labour-power is bought and sold at its value. Its value, like that of all other commodities, is determined by the working-time necessary to its production. If the production of the average daily means of subsistence of the labourer takes up six hours, he must work, on the average, six hours every day, to produce his daily labour-power, or to reproduce the value received as the result of its sale. The necessary part of his working day amounts to six hours, and is, therefore, caeteris paribus, a given quantity. But with this, the extent of the working day itself is not yet given... One of its parts, certainly, is determined by the working-time required for the continual reproduction of the labourer himself. But its total amount varies with the length or the duration of surplus-labour.... Although the working day is not a fixed, but a fluent quantity, it can, on the other hand, only vary within certain limits" (pp. 198, 199 [214-15]).

2) "One of these" (limits), "the maximum limit, rests in the physical possibility" (how can a limit rest in a possibility!) "of how long a man is able at all to work, as in order to keep alive he must also sleep, rest, dress and wash himself. The minimum limit is given by the demands of the prevailing level of culture of an epoch. The duration of the working day and the surplus-labour also differ in accordance with this level and with the existing legislation. Accordingly, there are eight, twelve, sixteen, yes even 18-hour working days."

2) "The minimum limit" (of the working day) "is, however, not determinable; of course, if we make the surplus-labour=0, we have a minimum limit, i. e., the part of the day which the labourer must necessarily work for his own maintenance. On the basis of the capitalist mode of production, however, this necessary labour can form a part only of his working day; the working day itself can never be reduced to this minimum. On the other hand, the working day has a maximum limit. It cannot be prolonged beyond a certain point. This maximum limit is determined by two things. First, by the physical bounds of labour-power. Within the 24 hours of the natural day a man can expend only a definite quantity of his vital force and the extent of this expenditure of force is a measure for his physically possible working-time. A horse, in like manner, can only work from day to day for 8 hours. During part of the day this force must rest, sleep; during another part the man has to satisfy other physical needs, to feed, wash and clothe himself, etc. Besides these purely physical limitations, the extension of the working day encounters moral ones. The labourer needs time for satisfying his intellectual and social wants, the extent and number of which are determined by the general level of culture... But both these limits" (the physical and moral maximum limits) "are of a very elastic nature, and allow the greatest latitude. So we find working days of 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18 hours" (p. 199).

Herr v. Hofstetten makes nonsense of the passage he plagiarises. Thus, for example, he lets the maximum limit of the working day be determined by purely physical, and the minimum limit by moral limitations, although he himself has earlier mechanically repeated that the necessary part of the working day, i.e., its absolute minimum limit, is determined by the working-time necessary to maintain the labour-power!

3) "Experience in England has shown that with a shorter working day the same surplus-labour is achieved, as in that case labour is greatly intensified."

3) On the intensification of labour and the achievement of equal or greater surplus-labour" by the enforced legal restriction of the working day in England see pp, 401-09.

4) "The endeavour of the capitalists therefore is to aim at the longest possible working day." (What nonsense! The endeavour to aim!) "But the worker possesses as sole commodity only his labour-power, and if in that a certain point is overstepped" (what does that mean: a point is overstepped in the labour-power?) "he must say I am used up (!), I have been killed." (Well done! He is still supposed to say that after he has already been killed!) "Hence," (because he must say that!) "the extent of his labour must be fixed in the interest of the labourer, so that his commodity, labour-power, is maintained and can be exploited as long as possible. Therewith he demands only his due." (He has just complained that he has been used up; now he demands as his due to be exploited!)

4) "The capitalist maintains his rights as a purchaser when he tries to make the working day as long; as possible, and to make, whenever possible, two working days out of one. On the other hand, the peculiar nature of the commodity sold implies a limit to its consumption by the purchaser, and the labourer maintains his right as seller when he wishes to reduce the working day to a definite normal duration... I will" (he says) "husband my sole wealth, labour-power... The use of my labour-power and the spoliation of it are quite different things... You pay me for one day's labour-power, whilst you that of three days. That against our contract and the law of commodity exchange. I demand, therefore, a working day of normal length, etc. (pp. 202, 201).

5) "In England this measure" (for the working day) "is fixed by law at 10 hours(!) and there are factory inspectors who report on the observance of this law to the Home Secretary. In many countries there are also laws limiting the labour of children: in Austria, in Switzerland, in America and in Belgium (!) similar laws are in preparation (!). In Prussia there are also the same laws, but there they exist only on paper and have never been put into practice. In America, since the end of the Civil War which led to the emancipation of the slaves, an eight-hour day has even been demanded. The International Working Men's Congress' also proposed an eight-hour day, in 1866."

5) "The Factory Act of 1850 now in force" (not in England, but in specific industries of the United Kingdom named by Marx) "allows for the average working day of 10 hours... Certain guardians of the law are appointed, Factory Inspectors, directly under the Home Secretary, whose reports are published half-yearly by order of Parliament" (p. 207).

...Limitations of the working day for miners exist in certain States of North America in reality, not just in preparation (p. 244), limitation of the working day in general in France (p. 251), for children in some cantons of Switzerland (p. 251), in Austria (p. 252), in Belgium nothing of the kind (ibid.). The ordinances of Messrs. v. d. Heydt and Manteuffel, etc., would be praiseworthy if they were put into practice (ibid.). "in the United States of North America, every independent movement of the workers was paralysed so long as slavery disfigured a part of the Republic... But out of the death of slavery a new young life at once arose. The first fruit of the Civil War was the eight hours agitation. At the same time the "The International Working Men 's Congress", made the following resolution: "...We propose eight hours work as the legal limit of the working day" (pp.279, 280).

In the same manner as Herr v. Hofstetten, the speaker who followed him, Herr Geib of Hamburg, bowdlerised the history of the English factory legislation given by Marx. Both gentlemen take the same care not to divulge the source of their wisdom.




Karl Marx

My Plagiarism of F. Bastiat by Karl Marx 1867

My Plagiarism of F. Bastiat
July 1868

Written: on about July 6, 1868;
First published: Marx and Engels Works, First Russian Edition, Vol XIII, Part I, Moscow, 1936


In . . . . . [1] a Bastiatite discovers that I have pinched the definition of the magnitude of value of commodities as being the "socially necessary labour-time" required for their production from F. Bastiat, and in bowdlerised form to boot. I could easily put up with this quid pro quo. For if that Bastiatite No. I finds Bastiat's definition of value and my own to be basically identical, Bastiatite No, II declares almost simultaneously in the Leipzig Literarisches Centralblatt of..............:"............"[2]

The sum total of Bastiatite No. I added to Bastiatite No. II would be that the whole army of Bastiatites would have forthwith to transfer to my camp and accept wholesale my exposition on capital. One will understand that it is only after much mental strife that I deny myself the pleasure of such an annexation.

The definition of value contained in my work Capital, published in 1867, is to be found two decades earlier in my work attacking Proudhon: Misire de la Philosophie, Paris 1847 (p. 49 seqq). Bastiat's words of wisdom on value did not see the light of day until some years later. I could not therefore have copied from Bastiat, though Bastiat could well have copied from me.

However, in fact Bastiat gives absolutely no analysis of value. He only dilates upon empty notions as consoling proof that "the world abounds in great and excellent daily services". It is well known that the German Bastiatites are all national liberals. I shall therefore do them also a "great and excellent service" by pointing out the specifically Prussian origin of Bastiat's store of wisdom. Old Schmalz was in fact a councillor to the Prussian government, if I am not mistaken, even a Prussian privy councillor. In addition he was a Demagogue hunter. In 1818 in Berlin this old Schmalz published a Handbuch der Staatswirthschaftslehre, The French edition of his handbook appeared in 1826 in Paris under the title of Economie politique. The translator, Henri Jouffroy, appeared on the title as "conseiller au service de Prusse". In the following quotation one will find Bastiat's notion of value in its essentials, not only as far as its content is concerned but even as regards its wording:

"Le travail d'autrui en general ne produit jamais pour nous qu'une economie temps, et [que] cette economie de temps est tout ce qui constitue sa valeur et son prix. Le menuisier, par exemple, qui me fait une table, et le domestique qui me porte mes lettres a la poste, qui me bat mes habits, ou qui cherche pour moi les choses qui me sont necessaires, me rendent l'un et l'autre un service absolument de meme nature; l'un et l'autre m'epargne et re ternps que je serais oblige d'employer moi-meme a ces occupations, et celui qu'il m'aurait fallu consacrer a acquerir l'aptitude et les talents qu'elles exigent"[3] (Schmalz, l.c., t. I, p. 304).



1 This space is left in the manuscript for the title Vierteljahrschrift fur Volkswirtschaft und Kulturgeschichle.-Ed.

2 This space is left in the manuscript for the date--July 4, 1868--and the following quotation: "Rejecting the theory of value is the only task facing anyone who opposes Marx; for if one concedes this axiom, then one must grant Marx nearly all the conclusions based on it, which he reaches by applying the strictest logic."-- Ed.

3 "The work of others only serves to save us time, and this time-saving is all that constitutes its value, and its price. The carpenter, for example, who makes me a table, and the servant who posts my letters, cleans my clothes or brings me the things I need, both render me the same service; they save me both the time which I would otherwise have to use to do those things myself, and the time I would otherwise have had to devote to acquiring the necessary skills.--Ed.


Frederick Engels

Outlines of a Critique of Political Economy

Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher

October and November 1843



Frederick Engels




Manchester, 23 August 1867

Dear Moor,

I have now worked through as far as sheet 36a approx,, and I congratulate you on the comprehensive way in which the most complex economic problems are elucidated simply and almost sensuously merely by arranging them suitably and by placing them in the right context. Likewise, in respect of subject-matter, on the quite splendid exposition of the relationship between labour and capital—for the first time here in its full context and complete. I was also greatly diverted to see how you have worked your way into the language of technology, which must surely have given you much trouble and on which account I had various MISGIVINGS. I have corrected several SLIPS OF THE PEN in pencil in the margin, and also ventured to make a few conjectures. But how could you leave the of the first volume of Capital outward structure of the book in its present form! The 4th chapter is almost 200 pages long and only has 4 sub-sections, indicated by four headings in ordinary print, which it is hardly possible to refer back to. Furthermore, the train of thought is constantly interrupted by illustrations, and the point to be illustrated is never summarised after the illustration, so that one is for ever plunging straight from the illustration of one point into the exposition of another point. It is dreadfully tiring, and confusing, too, if one is not all attention. It would have been highly desirable here to have subdivided the text more frequently and to have made the most important sections stand out more, and this must emphatically be done for the English version. In this exposition (especially of cooperation and manufacture) there are indeed several points that are not yet quite clear to me, where I cannot work out which facts lie behind the argument that is expressed solely in general terms.

To judge by the outward form of the exposition, this 4th chapter also appears to be the most hurriedly written and the least carefully revised. However, all that is of no import, the main thing is that our economists are not given a weak point anywhere through which they can shoot holes; I am indeed curious to hear what these gentlemen will say, they have not been left even the smallest opening. Roscher and his ilk will not be unduly perturbed, but for the people here in England who do not write for 3-year-olds, it is a different matter altogether.

I very much look forward to your sending me some more sheets as soon as you can, I particularly want to read the section on accumulation in its context.

Give your wife my best wishes. When are the girls coming back?


F. E.

First published in: Der Briefwechsel zwischen F. Engels und K. Marx, Bd. 3, Stuttgart, 1913



Karl Marx




[London,] 24 August 1867


I have received no further corrected proofsa since the 2 last that I sent you. I am exceedingly vexed with Meissner. He has obviously held back what Wigand has sent him in order to send everything at once—and save 4d. postage!

The same Meissner wrote me last week that he is printing a certain part of my preface specially (and he has indeed made the right choice) to send to the German newspapers. I wrote asking him to send me COPIES of it at once. I reckoned that you would translate the thing into English (I shall then give it to The Bee-Hive, which is taken by Mill, Beesly, Harrison, etc.), and Lafargue with Laura's help into French for the Courrier français, finally I wanted to send ONE COPY to my correspondent in America. To save the 4d., Meissner has sent nothing. He will be sending it all together. But a great deal of time is lost in the process!

The best points in my book are:

1. (this is fundamental to all understanding of the FACTS) the two-fold character of labour according to whether it is expressed in use-value or exchange value, which is brought out in the very First Chapter;

2. the treatment of surplus-value regardless of its particular forms as profit, interest, ground rent, etc. This will be made clear in the second volume especially. The treatment of the particular forms in classical political economy, where they are for ever being jumbled up together with the general form, is an olla potrida!

Please enter your desiderata,11 critical remarks, QUERIES, etc., on the corrected proofs. This is very important for me, as I am reckoning on a 2nd edition sooner or later. As regards CHAPTER IV, it was a hard job finding things themselves, i.e., their interconnection? But with that once behind me, along came one BLUE BOOK after another just as I was composing the final version, and I was delighted to find my theoretical conclusions fully confirmed by the a of the first volume of Capital - b hotchpotch - c recommendations - d See previous letter.

FACTS. Finally, it was written to the accompaniment of CARBUNCLES and daily dunning by creditors!

For the conclusion to the 2nd book (Process of Circulation), which I am writing now, I am again obliged to seek your advice on o n e point, as I did many years ago.

Fixed capital only has to be replaced in natura3 after, say, 10 years. In the meant ime, its value returns partially and gradatim,b as the goods that it has produced are sold. This PROGRESSIVE RETURN of the fixed capital is only required for its replacement (aside from REPAIRS and the like) when it becomes defunct in its material form, e.g., as a machine. Prior to that, however, these SUCCESSIVE RETURNS a r e in the capitalist's possession.

Many years ago I wrote to you that it seemed to m e that in this manner an accumulation fund was being built up, since in the intervening period the capitalist was of course using the returned money, before replacing the capital fixe with it. You d i s a g r e ed with this SOMEWHAT SUPERFICIALLV in a letter.458 I later found that MacCulloch describes this SINKING FUND as an accumulation fund!1 Being convinced that no idea of MacCulloch's could ever be right, I let the matter drop. His apologetic purpose here has already been refuted by the Malthusians, but they, too, admit the FACT.

Now, as a manufacturer, you must know what you d o with the RETURNS on capital fixe before the t ime it has to be replaced in natura.

And you must answer this point for me (without theorising, in purely practical terms).



K. M.






Vladimir I. Lenin


A Brief Biographical Sketch, with an Exposition of Marxism (1914)

[ Extract ]


Marx’s Economic Doctrine

“It is the ultimate aim of this work to lay bare the economic law of motion of modern society, i.e., capitalist, bourgeois society,” says Marx in the preface to Capital.. An investigation into the relations of production in a given, historically defined society, in their inception, development, and decline—such is the content of Marx’s economic doctrine. In capitalist society, the production of commodities is predominant, and Marx’s analysis therefore begin with an analysis of commodity.


A commodity is, in the first place, a thing that satisfies a human want; in the second place, it is a thing that can be exchanged for another thing. The utility of a thing makes is a use-value. Exchange-value (or, simply, value), is first of all the ratio, the proportion, in which a certain number of use-values of one kind can be exchanged for a certain number of use-values of another kind. Daily experience shows us that million upon millions of such exchanges are constantly equating with one another every kind of use-value, even the most diverse and incomparable. Now, what is there in common between these various things? Things constantly equated with one another in a definite system of social relations? Their common feature is that they are products of labour. In exchanging products, people equate the most diverse kinds of labour. The production of commodities is a system of social relations in which individual producers create diverse products (the social division of labour), and in which all these products are equated with one another in the process of exchange. Consequently, what is common to all commodities is not the concrete labour of a definite branch of production, not labour of one particular kind, but abstract human labour—human labour in general. All the labour power of a given society, as represented in the sum total of the values of all commodities, is one and the same human labour power. Thousands upon thousands of millions of acts of exchange prove this. Consequently, each particular commodity represents only a certain share of the socially necessary labour time. The magnitude of value is determined by the amount of socially necessary labour, or by the labour time that is socially necessary for the production of a given commodity, of a given use-value. “Whenever, by an exchange, we equate as values our different products, by that very act, we also equate, as human labour, the different kind of labour expended upon them. We are not aware of this, nevertheless we do it.” [Capital]. As one of the earlier economists said, value is a relation between two persons; only he should have added: a relation concealed beneath a material wrapping. We can understand what value is only when we consider it from the standpoint of the system of social relations of production in a particular historical type of society, moreover, or relations that manifest themselves in the mass phenomenon of exchange, a phenomenon which repeats itself thousands upon thousands of time. “As values, all commodities are only definite masses of congealed labour time.” [A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy]. After making a detailed analysis of the twofold character of the labour incorporated in commodities, Marx goes on to analyse the form of value and money. Here, Marx’s main task is to study the origin of the money form of value, to study the historical process of the development of exchange, beginning with individual and incidental acts of exchange (the “elementary or accidental form of value", in which a given quantity of one commodity is exchanged for a given quantity of another), passing on to the universal form of value, in which a number of different commodities are exchanged for one and the same particular commodity, and ending with the money form of value, when gold becomes that particular commodity, the universal equivalent. As the highest product of the development of exchange and commodity production, money masks, conceals, the social character of all individual labour, the social link between individual producers united by the market. Marx analyses the various functions of money in very great detail; it is important to note here in particular (as in the opening chapters of Capital in general) that what seems to be an abstract and at times purely deductive mode of exposition deals in reality with a gigantic collection of factual material on the history of the development of exchange and commodity production. “If we consider money, its existence implies a definite stage in the exchange of commodities. The particular functions of money, which it performs either as the mere equivalent of commodities or as means of circulation, or means of payment, as hoard or as universal money, point, according to the extent and relative preponderance of the one function or the other, to very different stages in the process of social production.” [Capital].

Surplus Value

At a certain stage in the development of commodity production money becomes transformed into capital. The formula of commodity circulation was C-M-C (commodity—money—commodity)—i.e., the sale of one commodity for the purpose of buying another. The general formula of capital, on the contrary, is M-C-M—i.e., the purchase for the purpose of selling (at a profit). The increase over the original value of the money that is put into circulation is called by Marx surplus value. The fact of this “growth” of money in capitalist circulation is common knowledge. Indeed, it is this “growth” which transforms money into capital, as a special and historically determined social relation of production. Surplus value cannot arise out of commodity circulation, for the latter knows only the exchange of equivalents; neither can it arise out of price increases, for the mutual losses and gains of buyers and sellers would equalize one another, whereas what we have here in not an individual phenomenon but a mass, average and social phenomenon. To obtain surplus value, the owner of money “must ... find... in the market a commodity, whose use-value possesses the peculiar property of being a source of value” [Capital].—a commodity whose process of consumption is at the same time a process of the creation of value. Such a commodity exists—human labour power. Its consumption is labour, and labour creates value. The owner of money buys labour power at its value, which, like the value of every other commodity, is determined by the socially necessary labour time requisite for its production (i.e., the cost of maintaining the worker and his family). Having bought enough labour power, the owner of money is entitled to use it, that is, to set it to work for a whole day—12 hours, let us say. Yet, in the course of six hours (“necessary” labour time) the worker creates product sufficient to cover the cost of his own maintenance; in the course of the next six hours (“surplus” labour time), he creates “surplus” product, or surplus value, for which the capitalist does not pay. Therefore, from the standpoint of the process of production, two parts must be distinguished in capital: constant capital, which is expended on means of production (machinery, tools, raw materials, etc.), whose value, without any change, is transferred (immediately or part by part) to the finished product; secondly, variable capital, which is expended on labour power. The value of this latter capital is not invariable, but grows in the labour process, creating surplus value. Therefore, to express the degree of capital’s exploitation of labour power, surplus must be compared not with the entire capital but only with variable capital. Thus, in the example just given, the rate of surplus value, as Marx calls this ratio, will be 6:6, i.e., 100 per cent.

There were two historical prerequisites for capital to arise: first, the accumulation of certain sums of money in the hands of individuals under conditions of a relatively high level of development of community production in general; secondly, the existence of a worker who is “free” in a double sense: free of all constraint or restriction on the scale of his labour power, and free from the land and all means of production in general, a free and unattached labourer, a “proletarian” , who cannot subsist except by selling his labour power.

There are two main ways of increasing surplus value: lengthening the working day (“absolute surplus value”), and reducing the necessary working day (“relative surplus value”). In analysing the former, Marx gives a most impressive picture of the struggle of the working class for a shorter working day and of interference by the state authority to lengthen the working day (from the 14th century to the 17th) and to reduce it (factory legislation in the 19th century). Since the appearance of Capital, the history of the working class movement in all civilized countries of the world has provided a wealth of new facts amplifying this picture.

Analysing the production of relative surplus value, Marx investigates the three fundamental historical stage in capitalism’s increase of the productivity of labour: (1) simple co-operation; (2) the division of labour, and manufacture; (3) machinery and large-scale industry. How profoundly Marx has here revealed the basic and typical features of capitalist development is shown incidentally by the fact that investigations into the handicraft industries in Russia furnish abundant material illustrating the first two of the mentioned stages. The revolutionizing effect of large-scale machine industry, as described by Marx in 1867, has revealed itself in a number of “new” countries (Russia, Japan, etc.), in the course of the half-century that has since elapsed.

To continue. New and important in the highest degree is Marx’s analysis of the accumulation of capital—i.e., the transformation of a part of surplus value into capital, and its use, not for satisfying the personal needs of whims of the capitalist, but for new production. Marx revealed the error made by all earlier classical political economists (beginning with Adam Smith), who assumed that the entire surplus value which is transformed into capital goes to form variable capital. In actual fact, it is divided into means of production and variable capital. Of tremendous importance to the process of development of capitalism and its transformation into socialism is the more rapid growth of the constant capital share (of the total capital) as compared with the variable capital share.

By speeding up the supplanting of workers by machinery and by creating wealth at one extreme and poverty at the other, the accumulation of capital also gives rise to what is called the “reserve army of labour”, to the “relative surplus” of workers, or “capitalist overpopulation” , which assumes the most diverse forms and enables capital to expand production extremely rapidly. In conjunction with credit facilities and the accumulation of capital in the form of means of production, this incidentally is the key to an understanding of the crises of overproduction which occur periodically in capitalist countries—at first at an average of every 10 years, and later at more lengthy and less definite intervals. From the accumulation of capital under capitalism we should distinguish what is known as primitive accumulation: the forcible divorcement of the worker from the means of production, the driving of the peasant off the land, the stealing of communal lands, the system of colonies and national debts, protective tariffs, and the like. “Primitive accumulation” creates the “free” proletarian at one extreme, and the owner of money, the capitalist, at the other.

The “historical tendency of capitalist accumulation” is described by Marx in the following celebrated words: “The expropriation of the immediate producers is accomplished with merciless vandalism, and under the stimulus of passions the most infamous, the most sordid, the pettiest, the most meanly odious. Self-earned private property [of the peasant and handicraftsman], that is based, so to say, on the fusing together of the isolated, independent labouring-individual with the conditions of his labour, is supplanted by capitalistic private property, which rests on exploitation of the nominally free labour of others.... That which is now to be expropriated is no longer the labourer working for himself, but the capitalist exploiting many labourers. This expropriation is accomplished by the action of the immanent laws of capitalistic production itself, by the centralization of capital. One capitalist always kills many. Hand in hand with this centralization, or this expropriation of many capitalists by few, develop, on an ever extending scale, the co-operative form of the labour process, the conscious technical application of science, the methodical cultivation of the soil, the transformation of the instruments of labour into instruments of labour only usable in common, the economizing of all means of production by their use as the means of production of combined, socialized labour, the entanglement of all people in the net of the world market, and with this the international character of the capitalistic regime. Along with the constantly diminishing number of the magnates of capital, who usurp and monopolize all advantages of this process of transformation, grows the mass of misery, oppression, slavery, degradation, exploitation; but with this too grows the revolt of the working class, a class always increasing in numbers, and disciplined, united, organized by the very mechanism of the process of capitalist production itself. The monopoly of capital becomes a fetter upon the mode of production, which has sprung up and flourished along with, and under, it. Centralization of the means of production and socialization of labour at last reach a point where they become incompatible with their capitalist integument. The integument is burst asunder. The knell of capitalist private property sounds. The expropriators are expropriated.” Capital, Volume I)

Also new and important in the highest degree is the analysis Marx gives, in Volume Two of Capital of the reproduction of aggregate social capital. Here, too, Marx deals, not with an individual phenomenon but with a mass phenomenon; not with a fractional part of the economy of society, but with that economy as a whole. Correcting the aforementioned error of the classical economists, Marx divides the whole of social production into two big sections: (I) production of the means of production, and (II) production of articles of consumption, and examines in detail, with numerical examples, the circulation of the aggregate social capital—both when reproduced in its former dimension and in the case of accumulation. Volume Three of Capital solves the problem of how the average rate of profit is formed on the basis of the law of value. This immense stride forward made by economic science in the person of Marx consists in his having conducted an analysis, from the standpoint of mass economic phenomena, of the social economy as a whole, not from the standpoint of individual cases or of the external and superficial aspects of competition, to which vulgar political economy and the modern “theory of marginal utility” [1] frequently restrict themselves. Marx first analyses the origin of surplus value, and then goes on to consider its division into profit, interest, and ground rent. Profit is the ratio between surplus value and the total capital invested in an undertaking. Capital with a “high organic composition” (i.e., with a preponderance of constant capital over variable capital in excess of the social average) yields a rate of profit below the average; capital with a “low organic composition” yields a rate of profit above the average. Competition among capitalists, and their freedom to transfer their capital from one branch to another, will in both cases reduce the rate of profit to the average. The sum total of the values of all the commodities in a given society coincides with the sum total of the prices of the commodities, but, in individual undertakings and branches of production, as a result of competition, commodities are sold not at their values at the prices of production (or production prices), which are equal to the capital expended plus the average profit.

In this way, the well-known and indisputable fact of the divergence between prices and values and of the equalization of profits is fully explained by Marx on the basis of law of value, since the sum total of values of all commodities coincides with the sum total of prices. However, the equating of (social) value to (individual) prices does not take place simply and directly, but in a very complex way. It is quite natural that in a society of separate producers of commodities, who are united only by the market, a conformity to law can be only an average, social, mass manifestation, with individual deviations in either direction mutually compensating one another.

A rise in the productivity of labour implies a more rapid growth of constant capital as compared with variable capital. Inasmuch as surplus value is a function of variable capital alone, it is obvious that the rate of profit (the ratio of surplus value to the whole capital, not to its variable part alone) tends to fall. Marx makes a detailed analysis of this tendency and of a number of circumstances that conceal or counteract it. Without pausing to deal with the extremely interesting sections of Volume Three of Capital, Vol. I devoted to usurer’s capital, commercial capital and money capital, we must pass on to the most important section—the theory of ground rent. Since the area of land is limited and, in capitalist countries, the land is all held by individual private owners, the price of production of agricultural products is determined by the cost of production, not on soil of average quality but on the worst soil; not under average conditions but under the worst conditions of delivery of produce to the market. The difference between this price and the price of production on better soil (or in better conditions) constitutes differential rent.

Analysing this in detail, and showing how it arises out of the difference in fertility of different plots of land, and out of the difference in the amount of capital invested in land, Marx fully reveals (see also Theories of Surplus Value, in which the criticism of Rodbertus is most noteworthy) the error of Ricardo, who considered that differential rent is derived only when there is a successive transition from better land to worse. On the contrary, there may be inverse transitions, land may pass from one category into others (owing to advances in agricultural techniques, the growth of towns, and so on), and the notorious “law of diminishing returns”, which charges Nature with the defects, limitations and contradictions of capitalism, is profoundly erroneous. Further, the equalisation of profit in all branches of industry and the national economy in general presupposes complete freedom of competition and the free flow of capital from one branch to another. However, the private ownership of land creates monopoly, which hinders that free flow. Because of that monopoly, the products of agriculture, where a lower organic composition of capital obtains, and consequently an individually higher rate of profit, do not enter into the quite free process of the equalisation of the rate of profit. As a monopolist, the landowner can keep the price above the average, and this monopoly price gives rise to absolute rent. Differential rent cannot be done away with under capitalism, but absolute rent can--for instance, by the nationalisation of the land, by making it state property. That would undermine the monopoly of private landowners, and would mean the sole consistent and full operation of freedom of competition in agriculture. That is why, as Marx points out, bourgeois radicals have again and again in the course of history advanced this progressive bourgeois demand for nationalisation of the land, a demand which, however, frightens most of the bourgeoisie, because it would too closely affect another monopoly, one that is particularly important and "sensitive” today: the monopoly of the means of production in general. (A remarkably popular, concise, and clear exposition of his theory of the average rate of profit on capital and of absolute ground rent is given by Marx himself in a letter to Engels, dated August 2, 1862. See Briefwechsel, Volume 3, pp. 77-81; also the letter of August 9, 1862, ibid., pp. 86-87.)

With reference to the history of ground rent it is also important to note Marx’s analysis showing how labour rent (the peasant creates surplus product by working on the lord’s land) is transformed into rent paid in produce or in kind (the peasant creates surplus product by working on the lord’s land) is transformed into rent paid in produce or in kind (the peasant creates surplus product on his own land and hands it over to the landlord because of “non-economic constraint”), then into money-rent (rent in kind, which is converted into money—the obrok [quit-rent] of old Russia—as a result of the development of commodity production), and finally into capitalist rent, when the peasant is replaced by the agricultural entrepreneur, who cultivates the soil with the help of hired labor. In connection with this analysis of the “genesis of capitalistic ground rent”, note should be taken of a number of profound ideas (of particular importance to backward countries like Russia) expressed by Marx regarding the evolution of capitalism in agriculture. “The transformation of rent in kind into money-rent is furthermore not only inevitably accompanied, but even anticipated, by the formation of a class of propertyless day-labourers, who hire themselves out for money. During their genesis, when this new class appears but sporadically, the custom necessarily develops among the more prosperous peasants, subject to rent payments, of exploiting agricultural wage-labourers for their own account, much as in feudal times, when the more well-to-do peasant serfs themselves also held serfs. In this way, they gradually acquire the possibility of accumulating a certain amount of wealth and themselves becoming transformed into future capitalists. The old self-employed possessors of land themselves just give rise to a nursery school for capitalist tenants, whose development is conditioned by the general development of capitalist production beyond the bounds of the countryside.” [Capital, Vol. III] “The expropriation and eviction of a part of the agricultural population not only set free for industrial capital the labourers, their means of subsistence, and material for labour; it also created the home market.” (Capital, Vol. I) In their turn, the impoverishment and ruin of the rural population play a part in the creation, for capital, or a reserve army of labour. In every capitalist country “part of the agricultural population is therefore constantly on the point of passing over into an urban or manufacturing [i.e., non-agricultural] proletariat.... This source of relative surplus population is thus constantly flowing.... The agricultural labourer is therefore reduced to the minimum of wages, and always stands with one foot already in the swamp of pauperism.” Capital, Vol. I) The peasant’s private ownership of the land he tills is the foundation of small-scale production and the condition for its prospering and achieving the classical form. But such small-scale production is compatible only with a narrow and primitive framework of production and society. Under capitalism, the “exploitation of the peasant differs only in form from the exploitation of the industrial proletariat. The exploiter is the same: capital. The individual capitalists exploit the individual peasant through mortgages and usury; the capitalist class exploits the peasant class through the state taxes.” [The Class Struggles in France] “The small holding of the peasant is now only the pretext that allows the capitalist to draw profits, interest and rent from the soil, while leaving it to the tiller of the soil himself to see how he can extract his wages.” (The Eighteenth Brumaire) As a rule, the peasant cedes to capitalist society—i.e., to the capitalist class—even a part of the wages, sinking “to the level of the Irish tenant farmer—all under the pretence of being a private proprietor.” (The Class Struggles In France) What is “one of the reasons why grain prices are lower in countries with predominant small-peasant land proprietorship than in countries with a capitalist mode of production?” [Capital, Vol. III] It is that the peasant hands over gratis to society (i.e., the capitalist class) a part of his surplus product. “This lower price [of grain and other agricultural produce] is consequently a result of the producers’ poverty and by no means of their labour productivity.” [Capital, Vol. III] Under capitalism, the small-holding system, which is the normal form of small-scale production, degenerates, collapses, and perishes. “Proprietorship of land parcels, by its very nature, excludes the development of social productive forces of labour, social forms of labour, social concentration of capital, large-scale cattle raising, and the progressive application of science. Usury and a taxation system must impoverish it everywhere. The expenditure of capital in the price of the land withdraws this capital from cultivation. An infinite fragmentation of means of production and isolation of the producers themselves.” (Co-operative societies, i.e., associations of small peasants, while playing an extremely progressive bourgeois role, only weakens this tendency, without eliminating it; nor must it be forgotten that these co-operative societies do much for the well-to-do peasants, and very little—next to nothing—for the mass of poor peasants; then the associations themselves become exploiters of hired labour.) “Monstrous waste of human energy. Progressive deterioration of conditions of production and increased prices of means of production—an inevitable law of proprietorship of parcels.” [Capital] Volume III In agriculture, as in industry, capitalism transforms the process of production only at the price of the “martyrdom of the producer.” “The dispersion of the rural labourers over larger areas breaks their power of resistance, while concentration increases that of the town operatives. In modern agriculture, as in the urban industries, the increased productiveness and quantity of the labour set in motion are bought at the cost of laying waste and consuming by disease labour power itself. Moreover, all progress in capitalistic agriculture is a progress in the art, not only of robbing the labourer, but of robbing the soil.... Capitalist production, therefore, develops technology, and the combining together of various processes into a social whole, only by sapping the original sources of all wealth—the soil and the labourer.” [Capital Volume III]

[1] The Theory of Marginal Utility—An economic theory that originated in the 1870s to counteract Marx’s theory of value. According to this theory, the value of commodities are estimated by their usefulness and not the amount of social labor expended on their production.



Frederick Engels

Letter from Engels to Victor Adler

In Vienna - 1895

(how to study "Capital" Volume II and III)






Frederick Engels

Reviews of Capital by Frederick Engels 1867

Review of Volume One of Capital for the Beobachter
December 1867

Written: between December 12-13, 1867;
First published: in the Beobachter, No. 303, December 27, 1867

K. Marx. Capital. Critique of Political Economy.
Volume One. Hamburg, Meissner, 1867

Whatever one may think of the tendency of the book before us, we believe we may say that it is one of those achievements which do honour to the German spirit. It is indicative that while the author is a Prussian, he is one of the Rhenish Prussians, who until recently liked to describe themselves as "compulsory Prussians" and, moreover, a Prussian who has spent the last few decades far from Prussia, in exile. Prussia itself has long ceased to be a country of any scientific initiative whatsoever, and especially in historical, political or social subjects such an initiative would be impossible there. One could say of it that it represents the Russian rather than the German spirit.

As for the book itself, one must distinguish clearly between two very disparate aspects of it: between, firstly its solid, positive expositions and, secondly, the tendential conclusions the author draws from them. The first are to a great extent a direct enrichment of science. The author there treats economic relations with a quite new, materialistic, natural-historic method. In this way he represents money and very expertly traces in detail the various successive forms of industrial production: co-operation, the division of labour and with it manufacture in the narrower sense, and lastly machinery, large-scale industry and the corresponding social combinations and relations which naturally grow one from the other.

As for the author's tendencies, we can here, too, discern again a two-fold trend. In so far as he endeavours to show that present-day society, economically considered, is pregnant with another, higher form of society, he merely strives to present as law in the social sphere the same process which Darwin traced in natural history, a process of gradual evolution. Up to now such a gradual transformation has indeed taken place in social relations from antiquity through the Middle Ages to the present; and as far as we know it has never been seriously claimed from any scientific quarters that Adam Smith and Ricardo have said the last word on the future development of present-day society. On the contrary, liberal teaching on progress also includes progress in the social sphere, and it is one of the arrogant paradoxes of so-called socialists to pretend that they alone have a lien on social progress. By contrast to the run-of-the-mill socialists we must recognize it as a merit of Marx that he traces progress where the extremely one-sided development of present-day conditions is accompanied by directly abhorrent consequences, as everywhere in the presentation of the great extremes of wealth and poverty resulting from the factory system as a whole, etc. Just by this critical conception of the subject the author has brought forward--certainly against his will--the strongest arguments against all socialism by the book.

It is quite a different matter with the other tendency, the author's subjective conclusions, with the manner in which he represents to himself and others the ultimate result of the present course of social developments. These have nothing to do with what we have called the positive part of the book; nay space permitted we could perhaps show that his subjective whims are refuted by his own objective exposition.

If Lassalle's entire socialism consisted in abusing the capitalists and flattering the Prussian rural squires, here we find the diametrical opposite. Herr Marx explicitly proves the historical necessity of the capitalist mode of production, as he calls the present social phase, and equally the superfluous nature of the merely consuming land-holding squirearchy. If Lassalle had big ideas about Bismarck's fitness to introduce the socialist Millennium, Herr Marx refutes his wayward pupil loudly enough. He not only explicitly declares that he will have nothing to do with any "Royal Prussian government socialism", he says straight out on p. 762 ff that the system now prevailing in France and Prussia would shortly bring about the rule of the Russian knout over Europe if it were not stopped in time.

Finally, we remark that above we have only been able to consider the main features of this big volume; in detail there is still much that could be said about it, but here we must pass it by. For this purpose there exist enough specialist journals, which will doubtless enter into this most remarkable phenomenon.


Frederick Engels

Reviews of Capital by Frederick Engels 1867

Review of Volume One of Capital for the Zunkunft
October 1867

Written: October 12, 1867;
First published: in the supplement to Die Zunkunft, No. 254, October 30, 1867

K. Marx. Capital. Volume One.
Hamburg, Meissner, 1867. 784 pp., octave

For every German it is a saddening fact that we, the nation of thinkers, have so far achieved so little in the field of political economy. Our famous men in this line are at best compilers like Rau and Roscher and, where anything original is produced, we have protectionists like List (who, however, is said to have copied a Frenchman) or socialists like Rodbertus and Marx. Our standard political economy actually seems to have set itself the aim of driving into the arms of socialism all who treat the science of political economy seriously. Have we not seen the whole of official economics daring to oppose a Lassalle on the well-known and recognised law on the determination of wages, and leaving it to Lassalle to defend people like Ricardo against Schulze-Delitzsch and others! Alas, it is true that scientifically they could not even cope with Lassalle and, whatever recognition their practical endeavours may have won, had to endure the charge that their entire science consists in watering down a Bastiat's harmonies which gloss over all contradictions and difficulties. Bastiat as an authority and Ricardo disowned that is our official political economy in Germany today! But indeed, how could it be otherwise? Alas, with us political economy is a field in which nobody takes a scientific interest; it is either a breadwinning study for the examinations in cameralistics or an aid to political agitation for which the merest smattering is thought sufficient. Is that the fault of our political dismemberment, our unfortunately still so little developed industry, or our traditional dependence for this branch of science on foreign countries?

In these circumstances it is always a pleasure when a book like the above comes to hand, in which the author, indignantly referring the current watered down or, as he aptly terms it, "vulgar political economy" back to its classical models concluding with Ricardo and Sismondi, also takes a critical attitude to the classics, but always endeavours to retain the path of strictly scientific analysis. Marx's earlier writings, in particular the treatise on money published in 1859 by Duncker in Berlin, were already distinguished by a strictly scientific spirit as much as by ruthless criticism, and to our knowledge our entire official political economy has not produced anything to refute them. But if it could not cope with the treatise of those days, how will it fare with the 49 sheets about capital now? Understand us rightly: we do not say that no objections can be made to the conclusions of this book, that Marx has brought forward proofs that are complete; we merely say: We do not believe that among all our political economists one can be found capable of refuting them. The studies made in this book are of the greatest scientific subtlety. We refer in particular to the masterly, dialectical arrangement of the whole, to the manner in which the concept of the commodity is already presented as implying money existing in itself and how capital is developed out of money. We acknowledge that we regard the newly introduced category of surplus-value as an advance; that we do not see what can be objected to the statement that not labour but labour-power appears on the market as a commodity; that we regard as quite in order the correction to Ricardo's law of the rate of profit, that surplus-value must be substituted for profit. We must confess that we are much impressed by the sense of history which pervades the whole book and forbids the author to take the laws of economics for eternal truths, for anything but the formulations of the conditions of existence of certain transitory states of society; we would, alas, look in vain among our official economists for that scholarship and acumen with which the various historical states of society and their conditions of existence are here presented. Studies like that on the economic conditions and laws of slavery, the various forms of serfdom and bondage and the origin of free labour have hitherto remained quite alien to our economic specialists. We would also like to hear the opinion of these gentlemen on the expositions given here of co-operation, division of labour and manufacture, machinery and large-scale industry in their historical and economic connections and effects; at any rate, they could here learn much that is new. And what in particular will they say of the fact which runs counter to all traditional theories of free competition and which is here nevertheless substantiated from official material, namely that in England, the fatherland of free competition, there is almost no industry left in which the daily working hours are not strictly prescribed by government intervention and which is not supervised by factory inspectors? And that nevertheless, not only do the individual industries prosper, in line with the reduction in working hours, but the individual worker also produces more in the shorter hours than he did previously in the longer hours?

Alas, we cannot deny that the particularly bitter tone which the author uses against the official German economists is not without justification. They more or less all belong to the "vulgar economists"; they have prostituted their science for the sake of momentary popularity and denied its great classical exponents. They Speak of "harmonies" and wallow in the most banal contradictions. May the severe lesson given them in this book serve to awaken them from their lethargy, to recall to them that political economy is not merely a milchcow providing us with butter but a science demanding serious and zealous application.



Frederick Engels


Review of Volume One of Capital for the Rheinische Zeitung
October 1867

Written: October 12, 1867;
First published: in the Marx-Engels Archives, Russian edition, Book II, Moscow, 1927

K. Marx. Capital. Critique of Political Economy.
Volume I. The Process of Production of Capital.
Hamburg, Meissner, 1867.

Universal suffrage has added to our present parliamentary parties a new one, the Social-Democratic Party. At the last elections to the North German imperial Diet it put up its own candidates in most big cities and in all factory districts, and succeeded in getting six or eight representatives elected. Compared with the last but one election it deployed much greater strength and we can therefore assume that, at least for the time being, it is still growing. It would be foolish to continue to treat the existence, activity and doctrines of such a party with genteel silence in a country where universal suffrage has placed the final decision into the hands of the most numerous and poorest classes.

However much the few social-democratic parliamentarians may be at loggerheads with each other, we can be sure that all factions of this party will welcome the present book as their theoretical bible, as the armoury from which they will take their most telling arguments. For this reason alone it deserves special attention. But it is also bound to cause a stir by its own content. If Lassalle's main argumentation--and in political economy Lassalle was only a pupil of Marx--was confined to repeating again and again the Ricardo so-called law of wages, we here have before us a work which with undeniably rare scholarship presents the whole relationship of capital and labour in its connection with economic science as a whole, and which makes it its final goal "to reveal the economic law of motion of modern society", and comes, after obviously sincere studies unmistakably conducted with expert knowledge, to the conclusion that the whole "capitalist mode of production" must be abolished. Moreover, we would like to draw particular attention to the fact that, in addition to the conclusions of the work, the author in its course represents a whole series of major points of political economy in quite a new light, and comes in purely scientific questions to results which markedly depart from hitherto current political economy, and which orthodox economists will have to criticise seriously and refute scientifically if they do not wish to see their hitherto current doctrines founder. In the interest of science it is desirable that the polemic on these particular points of political economy in quite a new light, and comes in purely scientific questions to results which markedly depart from hitherto current doctrines founder. In the interest of science it is desirable that the polemic on these particular points should develop very soon in the specialist literature.

Marx begins with the presentation of the relationship between commodity and money, the essence of which was already published some time ago in a special work. He then passes on to capital, and here we soon come to the crucial point of the whole work. What is capital? Money which changes into a commodity in order to change from a commodity into more money than the original amount. When I buy cotton for 100 talers and sell this for 110 talers, I establish my 100 talers as capital, self-expanding value. Now the question arises: whence do the ten talers come which I earn in this process, how does it happen that by two simple exchanges 100 talers become 110 talers? For political economy presupposes that in all exchanges equal value is exchanged for equal value. Marx now runs through all possible cases (variations in the price of commodities, etc.) to prove that under the presuppositions assumed by political economy the formation of 10 talers surplus-value from an original sum of 100 talers is impossible. Nevertheless, this process takes place daily, and the economists still owe us an explanation for this. Marx provides the explanation as follows: The riddle can only be solved if we find on the market a commodity of a very peculiar kind, a commodity the use-value of which consists in creating exchange-value. This commodity exists: it is labour-power. The capitalist buys labour-power on the market and makes it work for him so as to sell its product again. We must therefore in the first instance examine labour-power.

What is the value of labour-power? According to a well-known law it is the value of the means of subsistence necessary to maintain and reproduce the worker in the manner historically established in the given country and epoch. We assume that the worker's labour-power is paid for at its full value. We assume further that this value is represented in six hours' work a day, or half a working day. But the capitalist claims that he has bought the labour-power for a whole day and makes the worker work 12 hours or more. Hence with 12 hours of work he has acquired the product of six hours working-time without payment. Marx concludes: All surplus-value, whichever way it may be distributed, as capitalist gain, rent, tax, etc., is unpaid labour.

The struggle for the length of the working day arises from the interest of the factory owner to gain every day as much unpaid labour as possible and the opposite interest of the worker. Marx describes the course of this struggle in an illustration well worth reading, which fills about a hundred pages, taken from English large-scale industry; in spite of the protest of the factory owner, who was a champion of free trade, this struggle ended last spring in not only all factory industry, but all the small-scale and even domestic industry being brought under the restraints of the factory act which limits the daily work of women and children under 18 years of age--and therewith indirectly also that of men--in the most important industries to at most 10 1/2 hours. He also explains why English industry has not suffered, but on the contrary, gained thereby: since the work of every individual worker became more intense as its duration was shortened.

Surplus-value can, however, also be raised by another method than that of extending working-time beyond that needed to produce the necessary means of subsistence or their value. According to our previous assumption, a given working day of, say, 12 hours, contains six hours of necessary work and six hours of work used to produce surplus-value. If by some means we succeed in reducing the necessary working-time to five hours, there remain seven hours during which surplus-value is produced. This can be achieved by shortening the working-time needed to produce the necessary means of subsistence, in other words, by reducing their cost, and this again only by improvements in production. On this point Marx gives again a detailed illustration, examining and describing the three main levers by which these improvements are brought about: 1. co-operation, or the multiplication of the forces which results from the simultaneous and planned working together of many individuals; 2. the division of labour as it was developed in the period of manufacture properly so-called, i.e. up to about 1770; and, lastly, 3. machinery with the aid of which large-scale industry has developed since then. These descriptions are also of great interest, and reveal amazing expert knowledge, up to technical details...

We cannot go more deeply into the details of the studies on surplus-value and wages; to avoid misunderstandings we merely remark that wages are less than the total product of labour, as Marx proved by a number of quotations, and which is a fact not unknown to orthodox economics either. We must hope that this book will provide the opportunity for the gentlemen of the orthodox tradition to give us more enlightenment on this really strange point. It is most commendable that all factual examples given by Marx are taken from the best sources, mostly official parliamentary reports. We take this opportunity to support the author's plea made indirectly in the preface: that in Germany, too, working conditions in the various industries should be thoroughly investigated by government commissioners--who, however, should not be biased bureaucrats--and their reports submitted to the Imperial Diet and the public.

The first volume concludes with a discourse on the accumulation of capital. Much has already been written on this point, but we must confess that here too there is much given that is new, while the old is presented from new angles. Most original is the attempt to prove that the accumulation of a redundant population of workers goes hand in hand with the concentration and accumulation of capital, and that eventually both make a social revolution on the one hand necessary, on the other possible.

Whatever the reader may think of the author's socialist views, we believe to have shown above that he has here before him a work which stands way above the current social-democratic literature of the day. We add that except for the somewhat stark dialectical style on the first 40 pages and in spite of its scientific strictness, the work is very easy to follow and is made most interesting by the author's sarcastic manner of writing which spares no one.



Frederick Engels

Reviews of Capital by Frederick Engels 1867

Review of Volume One of Capital for the Elberfelder Zeitung
October 1867

Written: October 22, 1867;
First published: in the Elberfelder Zeitung, No. 302, November 2, 1867

Karl Marx on Capital
(Hamburg, Otto Meissner, Volume 1, 1867)

Fifty sheets of learned treatise to prove to us that the entire capital of our bankers, merchants, manufacturers and large landowners is nothing but the accumulated and unpaid labour of the working class! We recall that in 1849 the Neue Rheinische Zeitung raised the demand for a "Silesian milliard" in the name of the Silesian peasants. A thousand million talers, it was claimed, were illegally withdrawn from the Silesian peasants alone, to flow into the pockets of the large landowners when serfdom and feudal services were abolished, and this amount was demanded back. But the gentlemen of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung of old are like the late Sibyl with her books: the less they are offered, the more they ask. What are a thousand million talers compared with the colossal amount now demanded back in the name of the working class as a whole--for that is, surely, how we must understand it! If the entire accumulated capital of the propertied classes is nothing but "unpaid labour", it would appear to follow directly that this labour is to be paid later, that is, the entire capital in question is to be transferred to labour. That would indeed raise the question who in particular would be entitled to receive it. But joking apart! However radically socialist the present book is in its approach, however blunt and unsparing on all hands its treatment of people who as a rule are regarded as authorities, we must confess that it is a most scholarly work which has a claim to be regarded as most strictly scientific. The press has already frequently mentioned Marx's intention to sum up the results of his many years' studies in a critique of the whole of political economy to date and thereby to provide the scientific basis for socialist aspirations which neither Fourier nor Proudhon nor even Lassalle had been able to do. This work has already long since and frequently been announced in the press. In 1859 a "first part" appeared at Duncker's in Berlin, which, however, dealt only with matters without immediate practical interest and which therefore caused hardly a stir. The following parts did not appear and the new socialist science seemed destined not to survive its birthpangs. How many jokes were not made about this new revelation which was announced so often and yet never once seemed actually about to appear in public! Well and good, here is at last the "first volume"--fifty sheets as we have said--and nobody can maintain that it does not contain enough and more than enough that is new, bold and audacious and that this is not presented in thoroughly scientific form. This time Marx appeals with his unusual propositions not to the masses but to the men of science. It is up to them to defend their economic theories which are here attacked at their foundations, and give proof that capital is indeed accumulated labour but not accumulated unpaid labour. Lassalle was a practical agitator, and it could suffice to oppose him in practical agitation, in the daily press and at meetings. But here we have a systematic scientific theory, and here the daily press cannot help to decide, here only science can speak the last word. It is to be hoped that people like Roscher, Rau, Max Wirth, etc., will seize the opportunity to defend the up till now generally recognised political economy against this new and certainly not contemptible attack. The social-democratic seed has sprouted among the younger generation and the working population of many a place--through this book it will in any case find plenty of new nourishment.



Frederick Engels

Reviews of Capital by Frederick Engels 1867

Review of Volume One of Capital for the Dusseldorfer Zeitung
November 1867

Written: between November 3 and 8, 1867;
First published: in the Dusseldorfer Zeitung, No. 316, November 17, 1867

K. Marx. Capital. Critique of Political Economy.
Volume One. Hamburg, Meissner, 1867

This book will disappoint many a reader. In certain circles its appearance had been anticipated for years. Here the true secret socialist teaching and panacea was at last to be revealed, and many may have imagined, when at last they saw it announced, that they would now learn what the communist Millennium would actually be like. Anyone who had keenly awaited this pleasure made a great mistake. Indeed, he learns here how things should not be, and this he is told in detail with very outspoken bluntness on 784 pages, and he who has eyes to see will find here the demand for a social revolution clearly enough presented. Here it is not a question of workers' associations with state capital, as with Lassalle of old; here it is a question of abolishing capital altogether.

Marx is and remains the same revolutionary he has always been, and in a scientific work he would assuredly be the last to hide his views in this respect. But as for what is going to happen after the social revolution---on that he gives us only very dark hints. We learn that large-scale industry "matures the contradictions and antagonisms of the capitalist form of the production process and thereby at the same time the elements for the formation of a new society and the elements for exploding the old one"," and further that the abolition of the capitalist form of production "restores individual property but on the basis of the acquisitions of the capitalist era: i.e., of co-operation of freeworkers and the common ownership of the land and the means of production produced by labour itself".

With this we must rest content, and to judge by the present volume the promised second and third will also tell us little on this interesting point. For the present we must be contented with the "Critique of Political Economy", and there we get into a very wide field indeed. Here, of course, we cannot enter into the scientific consideration of the detailed conclusions presented in this voluminous book, we cannot even briefly repeat the main propositions put forward there. The more or less well-known principles of the socialist theory can all be reduced to the fact that in modern society the worker does not obtain the full value of the product of his labour. This proposition is also the red thread which runs through the present work, but it is made more acutely precise followed more consistently in all its implications, and knitted more closely into the main propositions of political economy or more directly placed in opposition to them than hitherto. This part of the work is distinguished to great advantage from all similar earlier writings we know by its attempt to be strictly scientific, and we see that the author takes seriously not only his own theory but science as a whole.

We found particularly striking in this book the author's conception of the propositions of political economy not, as is usual, as eternally valid truths but as the results of certain historical developments. While even the natural sciences are being transformed more and more into historical sciences--compare Laplace's astronomical theory, the whole of geology and the works of Darwin-- political economy has hitherto been just as abstract and universally valid a science as mathematics. Whatever may be the fate of the remaining propositions of this book, we regard it as a lasting merit of Marx to have put an end to this narrow-minded concept. After this work it will no longer be possible to treat slave labour, serf labour and free wage labour, for example, as economically alike, or to apply laws which are valid for modern large-scale industry, conditioned by free competition, without further ado to the conditions of antiquity or the guilds of the Middle Ages, or, when these modern laws do not fit ancient conditions, simply to declare the ancient conditions as heretical. The Germans of all nations have the greatest, nay, even a unique historical sense, and thus it is quite natural that it is again a German who traces the historical connections also in the sphere of political economy.



Frederick Engels


Reviews of Capital by Frederick Engels 1867

Review of Volume One of Capital for the Beobachter
December 1867

Written: between December 12-13, 1867;
First published: in the Beobachter, No. 303, December 27, 1867

K. Marx. Capital. Critique of Political Economy.
Volume One. Hamburg, Meissner, 1867

Whatever one may think of the tendency of the book before us, we believe we may say that it is one of those achievements which do honour to the German spirit. It is indicative that while the author is a Prussian, he is one of the Rhenish Prussians, who until recently liked to describe themselves as "compulsory Prussians" and, moreover, a Prussian who has spent the last few decades far from Prussia, in exile. Prussia itself has long ceased to be a country of any scientific initiative whatsoever, and especially in historical, political or social subjects such an initiative would be impossible there. One could say of it that it represents the Russian rather than the German spirit.

As for the book itself, one must distinguish clearly between two very disparate aspects of it: between, firstly its solid, positive expositions and, secondly, the tendential conclusions the author draws from them. The first are to a great extent a direct enrichment of science. The author there treats economic relations with a quite new, materialistic, natural-historic method. In this way he represents money and very expertly traces in detail the various successive forms of industrial production: co-operation, the division of labour and with it manufacture in the narrower sense, and lastly machinery, large-scale industry and the corresponding social combinations and relations which naturally grow one from the other.

As for the author's tendencies, we can here, too, discern again a two-fold trend. In so far as he endeavours to show that present-day society, economically considered, is pregnant with another, higher form of society, he merely strives to present as law in the social sphere the same process which Darwin traced in natural history, a process of gradual evolution. Up to now such a gradual transformation has indeed taken place in social relations from antiquity through the Middle Ages to the present; and as far as we know it has never been seriously claimed from any scientific quarters that Adam Smith and Ricardo have said the last word on the future development of present-day society. On the contrary, liberal teaching on progress also includes progress in the social sphere, and it is one of the arrogant paradoxes of so-called socialists to pretend that they alone have a lien on social progress. By contrast to the run-of-the-mill socialists we must recognize it as a merit of Marx that he traces progress where the extremely one-sided development of present-day conditions is accompanied by directly abhorrent consequences, as everywhere in the presentation of the great extremes of wealth and poverty resulting from the factory system as a whole, etc. Just by this critical conception of the subject the author has brought forward--certainly against his will--the strongest arguments against all socialism by the book.

It is quite a different matter with the other tendency, the author's subjective conclusions, with the manner in which he represents to himself and others the ultimate result of the present course of social developments. These have nothing to do with what we have called the positive part of the book; nay space permitted we could perhaps show that his subjective whims are refuted by his own objective exposition.

If Lassalle's entire socialism consisted in abusing the capitalists and flattering the Prussian rural squires, here we find the diametrical opposite. Herr Marx explicitly proves the historical necessity of the capitalist mode of production, as he calls the present social phase, and equally the superfluous nature of the merely consuming land-holding squirearchy. If Lassalle had big ideas about Bismarck's fitness to introduce the socialist Millennium, Herr Marx refutes his wayward pupil loudly enough. He not only explicitly declares that he will have nothing to do with any "Royal Prussian government socialism", he says straight out on p. 762 ff that the system now prevailing in France and Prussia would shortly bring about the rule of the Russian knout over Europe if it were not stopped in time.

Finally, we remark that above we have only been able to consider the main features of this big volume; in detail there is still much that could be said about it, but here we must pass it by. For this purpose there exist enough specialist journals, which will doubtless enter into this most remarkable phenomenon.



Frederick Engels

Reviews of Capital by Frederick Engels 1867

Review of Volume One of Capital for the Staats-Anzeiger fur Wurttemburg
December 1867

Written: between December 12-13, 1867;
First published: in the Staats-Anzeiger fur Wurttemburg , No. 306, December 27, 1867

K. Marx. Capital. Critique of Political Economy.
Volume One. Hamburg, Meissner, 1867

When we take the above work into consideration we certainly do got do so on account of the specifically socialist tendency which the author openly displays already in the preface.

We do so because, apart from this tendency, the work contains scientific expositions and factual material which deserve every consideration. We shall not enter into the scientific part either, since this is far from our purpose, and confine ourselves to the factual matters alone.

We do not believe that any work exists--either in German or a foreign language--in which the analytical fundamentals of more recent industrial history from the Middle Ages to the modern day are so clearly and completely summed up as on pages 302-495 of the present book in the three chapters: Co-operation, Manufacture and Large-scale Industry. Every single aspect of industrial progress is here emphasised in its proper place, according to merit, and even if the specific tendency comes through here and there, one must do the author justice for never moulding the facts to suit his theory but, on the contrary, seeking to present his theory as the result of the facts. He takes these facts always from the best sources, and where the latest state of affairs is concerned, from sources which are as authentic as they are at present unknown in Germany: the English Parliamentary Reports. German businessmen who consider their industry not merely from the standpoint of day-to-day business but regard it as an essential link in the whole development of large-scale modern industry in all countries and hence also take an interest in matters not directly concerning their own industry, will here find a copious source of instruction and will thank us for having directed their attention to it. For the time when every trade existed singly and quietly for itself alone has indeed long passed, now they all depend on one another and on the progress being made in distant lands as well as in the closest neighbourhood and on the changing economic situation of the world market. And if, as may well be, the new Customs Union agreements lead to a reduction in the present protective tariffs, all our manufacturers are likely to ask to he made better acquainted with the history of modern industry in general, so as to learn in advance how best to conduct themselves when such changes occur. Higher education, which up to now has saved us Germans again and again, in spite of the political dismemberment, would also in this case be the best weapon we could use against the crude materialism of the English.

This leads us to another point. With the new Customs Union legislation the moment may soon arrive when a uniform regulation of the working hours in the factories of the Union states will be demanded by the manufacturers themselves. It would be obviously unfair if in one state the working hours, especially of women and children, were entirely at the discretion of the manufacturer, while in another they were subject to considerable limitations. It will be difficult to avoid coming to an understanding on common regulations in this respect, and the more so if the protective tariffs were actually lowered. In this respect, however, we Germans have greatly insufficient, one could even say, no experience at all, and are entirely dependent on the lessons to be drawn from the legislation of other countries, particularly England, and from its fruits. And here the author has done a great service to German industry by giving the history of English factory legislation and its results in the greatest detail from official documents. (Cf. pp. 207-81 and 399-496, and passim.) This whole aspect of English industrial history is as good as unknown in Germany, and one will be surprised to learn that since a Parliamentary Act of the current year placed no fewer than a million and a half workers under government control, not only almost all industrial but even most of domestic and part of agricultural labour in England are now subjected to the supervision of officials and direct or, indirect time limits. We ask our manufacturers not to be deterred by the tendency of this book from seriously studying particularly this part of it; sooner or later the same question will surely be put before them!



Frederick Engels

Reviews of Capital by Frederick Engels 1867

Review of Volume One of Capital for the Neue Badische Landeszeitung
January 1868

Written: first half of January, 1868;
First published: in the Neue Badische Landeszeitung, No. 20, January 21, 1868

K. Marx. Capital. Critique of Political Economy.
Volume One. Hamburg, Meissner, 1867

We must leave it to others to deal with the theoretical and strictly scientific part of this work and criticise the new view the author gives of the origin of capital. But we cannot fail to draw attention to the great mass of most valuable historical and statistical material with which the author at the same time presents us and which almost without exception is taken from the official Commission Reports which have been put before the English Parliament. He is quite right to emphasise the importance of such commissions of inquiry for the study of the internal social conditions of a country. Provided the right people are found for them, they are the best means for a nation to learn to know itself; and Herr Marx is surely not wrong in saying that similar investigations conducted in Germany would lead to results which would definitely horrify us. Before they were introduced, there was not an Englishman either who knew how the poorer classes of his country lived!

It stands to reason, moreover, that without such investigations all social legislation will be made with only half the knowledge of facts available and often quite in the dark, as they now say in Bavaria. The so-called "inquiries" and "investigations" of German authorities have not remotely the same value. We know the bureaucratic routine only too well: forms are sent round, one is glad if they are returned filled in some way or another; the information thus supplied is all too often sought precisely among those who are interested in hushing up the truth. Compare with that the investigations of English commissions on working conditions in individual industries, for example. Not only the manufacturers and masters, but also the workers down to the little girls are interviewed, and not only these, but doctors, Justices of the Peace, clergymen, teachers, and moreover anyone who can give any kind of information on the matter. Every question and every answer is taken down in shorthand and printed word for word, and is attached to the whole material on which the commission report with its conclusions and proposals is based. The report and its material at the same time proves in detail whether and how the commissioners have fulfilled their duty and makes things very difficult for individual bias. The details as well as innumerable examples can be read in the above book itself. Here we want only to emphasise the one point, that in England the expansion of the freedom of trade and business has gone hand in hand with the expansion of the legal limitation of the working hours for women and children, and therewith the placing of almost all industries under the supervision of the government. Herr Marx gives us a detailed historical presentation of this development, showing how first, since 1833, spinning and weaving mills were in this way limited to a 12-hour working day; how after a long struggle between manufacturers and workers the working hours were at long last fixed at 10 1/2--6 1/2 for children--and then, beginning in 1850, one industry after another became subject to this factory law. First the cotton printers (already in 1845), then in 1860 the dying and bleaching works, in 1861 the lace and hosiery manufactures, in 1863 the potteries, wallpaper factories, etc., and eventually in 1867 almost all the remaining industries of any importance. One can form a picture of the significance of this last Act of 1867 when one learns that it places no fewer than a million and a half women and children under the protection and the control of the law. We emphasise this point particularly because in this respect things are, alas, bad indeed with us in Germany, and we must thank the author for having dealt with it in such detail and made the facts accessible to the German public for the first time. This will be the view of every friend of humanity, whatever he may think of the theoretical propositions of Herr Marx.

Space does not permit us to enter into other valuable materials from the history of industry and agriculture, but we are of the opinion that no one interested in political economy, industry, workers' condition, the history of culture and social legislation, whatever standpoint he may hold, should leave this book unread.



Frederick Engels

Reviews of Capital by Frederick Engels 1867

Review of Volume One of Capital for the Demokratisches Wochenblatt
March 1868

Written: between March 2 and 13, 1868;
First published: in the Demokratisches Wochenblatt, Nos. 12 and 13, March 21 and 28, 1868

Marx's Capital


Demokratisches Wochenblatt, No. 12, March 21, 1868

As long as there have been capitalists and workers on earth no book has appeared which is of as much importance for the workers as the one before us. The relation between capital and labour, the axis on which our entire present system of society turns, is here treated scientifically for the first time, and at that with a thoroughness and acuity such as was possible only for a German. Valuable as the writings of an Owen, Saint-Simon or Fourier are and will remain--it was reserved for a German first to reach the height from which the whole field of modern social relations can be seen clearly and in full view just as the lower mountain scenery is seen by an observer standing on the top-most peak.

Political economy up to now has taught us that labour is the source of all wealth and the measure of all values, so that two objects whose production has cost the same labour time possess the same value and must also be exchanged for each other, since on the average only equal values are exchangeable for one another. At the same time, however, it teaches that there exists a kind of stored-up labour, which it calls capital; that this capital, owing to the auxiliary sources contained in it, raises the productivity of living labour a hundred and a thousandfold, and in return claims a certain compensation which is termed profit or gain. As we all know, this occurs in reality in such a way that the profits of stored-up, dead labour become ever more massive, the capitals of the capitalists become ever more colossal, while the wages of living labour become ever smaller and the mass of the workers living solely on wages becomes ever more numerous and poverty-stricken. How is this contradiction to be solved? How can there remain a profit for the capitalist if the worker receives in compensation the full value of the labour he adds to his product? Yet this ought to be the case, since only equal values are exchanged. On the other hand, how can equal values be exchanged, how can the worker receive the full value of his product, if, as is admitted by many economists, this product is divided between him and the capitalist? Political economy up till now has been helpless in the face of this contradiction, and writes or stutters embarrassed meaningless phrases. Even the previous socialist critics of political economy have not been able to do more than to emphasise the contradiction; no one resolved it, until now at last Marx has traced the process by which this profit arises right to its birthplace and has thereby made everything clear.

In tracing the development of capital, Marx starts out from the simple, notoriously obvious fact that the capitalists increase the value of their capital through exchange: they buy commodities for their money and afterwards sell them for more money than they cost them. For example, a capitalist buys cotton for 1,000 talers and resells it for 1,100, thus "earning" 100 talers. This excess of 100 talers over the original capital Marx calls surplus-value. Where does this surplus-value come from? According to the economists' assumption, only equal values are exchanged and in the sphere of abstract theory this, of course, is correct. Hence the purchase of cotton and its resale can just as little yield surplus-value as the exchange of a silver taler for thirty silver groschen and the re-exchange of the small coins for a silver taler, a process by which one becomes neither richer nor poorer. But surplus-value can just as little arise from sellers selling commodities above their value, or purchasers buying them below their value, because each one is in turn buyer and seller and things would therefore again balance. Just as little can it arise from buyers and sellers reciprocally overreaching each other, for this would create no new or surplus-value, but only divide the existing capital differently among the capitalists. In spite of the fact that the capitalist buys the commodities at their value and sells them at their value, he gets more value out than he puts in. How does this happen?

The capitalist finds on the commodity market under present social conditions a commodity which has the peculiar property that its use is a source of new value, is a creation of new value, and this commodity is labour-power.

What is the value of labour-power? The value of every commodity is measured by the labour required for its production. Labour-power exists in the form of the living worker who requires a definite amount of means of subsistence for his existence as well as for the maintenance of his family, which ensures the continuance of labour-power also after his death. The labour-time necessary for producing these means of subsistence represents, therefore, the value of the labour-power. The capitalist pays for it weekly and purchases thereby the use of one week's labour of the worker. So far messieurs the economists will be pretty well in agreement with us as to the value of labour-power.

The capitalist now sets his worker to work. In a certain period of time the worker will have performed as much labour as was represented by his weekly wages. Supposing that the weekly wages of a worker represent three workdays, then, if the worker begins on Monday, he has by Wednesday evening replaced to the capitalist the full value of the wages paid. But does he then stop working? Not at all. The capitalist has bought his week's labour and the worker must go on working during the last three days of the week too. This surplus-labour of the worker, over and above the time necessary to replace his wages, is the source of surplus-value, of profit, of the steadily growing increase of capital.

Do not say it is an arbitrary assumption that the worker works off in three days the wages he has received, and works the remaining three days for the capitalist. Whether he takes exactly three days to replace his wages, or two or four, is to be sure quite immaterial here and hence varies according to circumstances; the main point is that the capitalist, besides the labour he pays for, also extracts labour that he does not pay for, and this is no arbitrary assumption, for the day the capitalist were to extract from the worker in the long run only as much labour as he paid him in wages, on that day he would shut down his workshop, since indeed his whole profit would come to nought.

Here we have the solution of all those contradictions. The origin of surplus-value (of which the capitalists' profit forms an important part) is now quite clear and natural. The value of the labour-power is paid for, but this value is far smaller than that which the capitalist manages to extract from the labour-power, and it is precisely the difference, the unpaid labour, that constitutes the share of the capitalist, or more accurately, of the capitalist class. For even the profit that the cotton dealer made on his cotton in the above example must consist of unpaid labour, if cotton prices did not rise. The trader must have sold [it] to a cotton manufacturer, who is able to extract a profit for himself from his product besides the 100 talers, and therefore shares with him the unpaid labour he has pocketed. In general it is this unpaid labour which maintains all the non-working members of society. The state and municipal taxes, as far as they affect the capitalist class, as also the rent of the landowners, etc., are paid from it. On it rests the whole existing social system.

It would, however, be absurd to assume that unpaid labour arose only under present conditions where production is carried on by capitalists on the one hand and wage-workers on the other. On the contrary, the oppressed class at all times has had to perform unpaid labour. During the whole long period when slavery was the prevailing form of the organisation of labour, the slaves had to perform much more labour than was returned to them in the form of means of subsistence. The same was the case under the rule of serfdom and right up to the abolition of peasant corvee labour; here in fact the difference stands out palpably between the time during which the peasant works for his own maintenance and the surplus-labour for the feudal lord, precisely because the latter is carried out separately from the former. The form has now been changed, but the substance remains and as long as "a part of society possesses the monopoly of the means of production, the labourer, free or not free must add to the working-time necessary for his own maintenance an extra working-time in order to produce the means of subsistence for the owners of the means of production" (Marx, p. 202).


[Demokratisches Wochenblatt, No. 13, March 28, 1868]

In the previous article we saw that every worker employed by a capitalist performs two kinds of labour: during one part of his working-time he replaces the wages advanced to him by the capitalist, and this part of his labour Marx terms the necessary labour. But afterwards he has to go on working and during that time he produces surplus-value for the capitalist, an important part of which constitutes profit. That part of the labour is called surplus-labour.

Let its assume that the worker works three days of the week to replace his wages and three days to produce surplus-value for the capitalist. In other words, it means that, with a twelve-hour working day, he works six hours daily for his wages and six hours for the production of surplus-value. One can get only six days out of the week, and even by including Sunday only seven at the most, but one can extract six, eight, ten, twelve, fifteen or even more hours of work out of every single day. The worker sells the capitalist a working day for his day's wages. But, what is a working day? Eight hours or eighteen?

It is in the capitalist's interest to make the working day as long as possible. The longer it is, the more surplus-value it produces. The worker correctly feels that every hour of labour which he performs over and above the replacement of his wages is unjustly taken from him; he learns from bitter personal experience what it means to work excessive hours. The capitalist fights for his profit, the worker for his health, for a few hours of daily rest, to be able to engage in other human activities as well, besides working, sleeping and eating. It may be remarked in passing that it does not depend at all upon the good will of the individual capitalists whether they desire to embark on this struggle or not, since competition compels even the most philanthropic among them to join his colleagues and to fix working hours to be as long as theirs. The struggle for the fixing of the working day has lasted from the first appearance of free workers in the arena of history down to the present day. In various trades various traditional working days prevail; but in reality they are seldom observed. Only where the law fixes the working day and supervises its observance can one really say that there exists a normal working day. And up to now this is the case virtually solely in the factory districts of England. Here the ten-hour working day (ten and a half hours on five days, seven and a half hours on Saturday) has been fixed for all women and for youths of thirteen to eighteen, and since the men cannot work without them, they also come under the ten-hour working day. This law has been won by English factory workers by years of endurance, by the most persistent, stubborn struggle with the factory owners, by freedom of the press, the right of association and assembly, as well as by adroit utilisation of the divisions in the ruling class itself. It has become the palladium of the English workers, it has gradually been extended to all important branches of industry and last year to almost all trades, at least to all those employing women and children. The present work contains most exhaustive material on the history of this legislative regulation of the working day in England. The next North German Imperial Diet" will also have factory regulations to discuss and in connection therewith the regulation of factory labour. We expect that none of the deputies that have been elected by German workers will proceed to discuss this bill without previously making themselves thoroughly conversant with Marx's book. There is much to be achieved here. The divisions within the ruling classes are more favourable to the workers than they ever were in England, because universal suffrage compels the ruling classes to court the favour of the workers. Under these circumstances, four or five representatives of the proletariat are a power, if they know how to use their position, if above all they know what is at issue, which the bourgeois do not know. And for this purpose, Marx's book gives them all the material in ready form.

We will pass over a number of further excellent investigations of more theoretical interest and will pause only at the final chapter which deals with the accumulation or amassing of capital. Here it is first shown that the capitalist mode of production, i.e. that inaugurated by capitalists on the one hand and wage-workers on the other, not only continually regenerates capital for the capitalist, but at the same time also continually produces the poverty of the workers; thereby it is provided for a constant regeneration of, on one hand, capitalists who are the owners of all means of subsistence, all raw materials and instruments of labour, and on the other hand, the great mass of the workers, who are quantum of the means of subsistence which at best just suffices to keep them able-bodied and to bring up a new generation of able-bodied proletarians. But capital does not merely reproduce itself: it is continually increased and multiplied--and thereby its power over the propertyless class of workers. And just as it itself is reproduced on an ever greater scale, so the modern capitalist mode of production reproduces the class of propertyless workers also on an ever greater scale, in even greater numbers. "...Accumulation of capital reproduces the capital-relation on a progressive scale, more capitalists or larger capitalists at this pole, more wage-workers at that.... Accumulation of capital is, therefore, increase of the proletariat" (p 600). Since, however, owing to the progress of machinery, owing to improved agriculture, etc., fewer and fewer workers are necessary in order to produce the same quantity of products, since this perfecting, that is, this making the workers superfluous, is more rapid than even the growth of capital, what becomes of this ever-increasing number of workers? They form an industrial reserve army, which, when business is bad or middling, is paid below the value of its labour and is irregularly employed or is left to be cared for by public charity, but which is indispensable to the capitalist class at times when business is especially lively, as is palpably evident in England--but which under all circumstances serves to break the power of resistance of the regularly employed workers and to keep their wages down. "The greater the social wealth ... the greater is the relative surplus-population, or industrial-reserve-army. But the greater this reserve-army in proportion to the active (regularly employed) labour-army, the greater is the mass of a consolidated (permanent) surplus-population, or strata of workers, whose misery is in inverse ratio to its torment of labour. The more extensive, finally, the lazarus-layers of the working class, and the industrial reserve-army, the greater is official pauperism. This is the absolute general law of capitalist accumulation" (p. 631)

These, strictly scientifically-proved--and the official economists are taking great care not to make even an attempt at a refutation--are some of the chief laws of the modern, capitalist, social system. But does this tell the whole story? By no means. Marx sharply stresses the bad sides of capitalist production but with equal emphasis clearly proves that this social form was necessary to develop the productive forces of society to a level which will make possible an equal development worthy of human beings for all members of society. All earlier forms of society were too poor for this. Capitalist production is the first to create the wealth and the productive forces necessary for this, but at the same time it also creates, in the numerous and oppressed workers, the social class which is compelled more and more to claim the utilisation of this wealth and these productive forces for the whole of society--instead of their being utilised, as they are today, for a monopolist class.



Frederick Engels

Reviews of Capital by Frederick Engels 1867

Review of Volume One of Capital for the The Fortnightly Review
June 1868

Written: on about May 22 - June 28, 1868, Signed Samuel Moore;
First published: in Russian, in Letopisi marksizma, No. 1, 1926

Karl Marx on Capital


Mr. Thomas Tooke, in his inquiries on currency, points out the fact that money, in its function as capital, undergoes a reflux to its point of issue, while this is not the case with money performing the function of mere currency. This distinction (which, however, had been established long before by Sir James Steuart) is used by Mr. Tooke merely as a link in his argumentation against the “Currency men” and their assertions as to the influence of the issue of paper-money on the prices of commodities. Our author, on the contrary, makes this distinction the starting point of his inquiry into the nature of capital itself, and especially as regards the question: How is money, this independent form of existence of value, converted into capital?

All sorts of businessmen--says Turgot--have this in common, that they buy in order to sell; their purchases are an advance which afterwards is returned to them.

To buy in order to sell, such is indeed the transaction in which money functions as capital, and which necessitates its return to its point of issue, in contradistinction to selling in order to buy, in which process money may function as currency only. Thus it is seen that the different order in which the acts of selling and buying follow upon each other, impress upon money two different motions of circulation. In order to illustrate these two processes, our author gives the following formulae:

To sell in order to buy: a commodity C is exchanged for money M, which is again exchanged for another commodity C; or; C—M—C.

To buy in order to sell: money is exchanged for a commodity and this is again exchanged for money: M—C—M.

The formula C—M—C represents the simple circulation of commodities, in which money functions as means of circulation, as currency. This formula is analysed in the first chapter of our book which contains a new and very simple theory of value and of money, extremely interesting scientifically, but which we here leave out of consideration as, on the whole, immaterial to what we consider the vital points of Mr. Marx's views on capital.

The formula M—C—M, on the other hand, represents that form of circulation in which money resolves itself into capital.

The process of buying in order to sell: M—C—M, may evidently be resolved into M—M; it is an indirect exchange of money against money. Suppose I buy cotton for £1,000.--and sell it for £1,100.--; then, in fine, I have exchanged £1,000 for £1,100, money for money.

Now, if this process were always to result in returning to me the same sum of money which I had advanced, it would be absurd. But, whether the merchant, who [had] advanced £1,000, realises £1,100, or £1,000, or even £900 only, his money has gone through a phase essentially different from that of the formula C—M—C; which formula means, to sell in order to buy, to sell what you do not want in order to be able to buy that what you do want. Let me compare the two formulae.

Each process is composed of two phases or acts, and these two acts are identical in both formulae; but there is a great difference between the two processes themselves. In C—M—C, money is merely the mediator; the Commodity, useful value, forms the starting and the concluding point. In M—C—M, the commodity is the intermediate link, while money is the beginning and the end. In C—M—C the money is spent once for all; in M—C—M it is merely advanced, with the intention to recover it; it returns to its point of issue, and in this we have a first palpable difference between the circulation of money as currency and of money as capital.

In the process of selling in order to buy, C—M—C, the money can return to its point of issue on the condition only that the whole process be repeated, that a fresh quantity of commodity be sold. The reflux, therefore, is independent of the process itself. But in M—C—M, this reflux is a necessity and intended from the beginning; if it does not take place, there is a hitch somewhere and the process remains incomplete.

To sell in order to buy, has for its object the acquisition of useful value; to buy in order to sell, that of exchangeable value.

In the formula C—M—C, the two extremes are, economically speaking, identical. They are both commodities; they are, moreover, of the same quantitative value, for the whole theory of value implies the supposition that, normally, equivalents only are exchanged. At the same time, these two extremes C—C are two useful values different in quality, and they are exchanged on that very account.--In the process of M—C—M, the whole operation, at the first glance, appears meaningless. To exchange £100 for £100, and that by a roundabout process, appears absurd. A sum of money can differ from another sum of money by its quantity only. M—C—M, therefore, can only have any meaning by the quantitative difference of its extremes. There must be more money drawn out from circulation than had been thrown into it. The cotton bought for £1,000 is sold for £1,100 = £1,000 + £100; the formula representing the process, thus, changes to M—C—M, in which M'= + DM, M plus an increment. This DM, this increment, Mr. Marx calls surplus-value. The value originally advanced not only maintains itself, it also adds to itself an increment, it begets value, and it is this process which changes money into capital.

In the form of circulation C—M—C, the extremes may, certainly, also differ in value, but such a circumstance would here be perfectly indifferent; the formula does not become absurd if both extremes are equivalents. On the contrary, it is a condition of its normal character that they should be so.

The repetition of C—M—C is limited by circumstances entirely extraneous to the process of exchange itself: by the requirements of consumption. But in M—C—M, beginning and end are identical as to quality, and by that very fact the motion is, or may be, perpetual. No doubt, M + DM is different in quantity from M; but still it is a mere limited sum of money. If you spend it, it will cease to be capital; if you withdraw it from circulation, it will be a stationary hoard. The inducement once admitted for the process of making value beget value, this inducement exists as much for M' as it existed for M; the motion of capital becomes perpetual and endless, because at the close of each separate transaction its end is no more attained than before. The performance of this endless process transforms the owner of money into a capitalist.

Apparently, the formula M—C—M is applicable to merchants' capital alone. But the manufacturer's capital, too, is money which is exchanged for commodities and re-exchanged for more money. No doubt, in this case, a number of operations intervene between purchase and sale, operations which are performed outside of the sphere of mere circulation; but they do not change anything in the nature of the process. On the other hand, we see the same process in its most abbreviated form in capital lent on interest. Here the formula dwindles down to M—M', value which is, so to say, greater than itself.

But whence does this increment of M, this surplus-value arise? Our previous inquiries into the nature of commodities, of value, of money, and of circulation itself, not only leave it unexplained, but appear even to exclude any form of circulation which results in such a thing as a surplus-value. The whole difference between the circulation of commodities (C—M—C) and the circulation of money as capital (M—C—M) appears to consist in a simple reversion of the process; how should this reversion be capable of producing such a strange result?

Moreover: this reversion exists for one only of the three parties to the process. I, as a capitalist, buy a commodity from A, and sell it again to B. A and B appear as mere sellers and buyers of commodities. I myself appear, in buying from A, merely as an owner of money, and in selling to B, as owner of a commodity; but in neither transaction do I appear as a capitalist, as the representative of something which is more than either money or commodity. For A the transaction began with a sale, for B it began with a purchase. If from my point of view there is a reversion of the formula C—M—C, there is none from theirs. Besides, there is nothing to prevent A from selling his commodity to B without my intervention, and then there would be no occasion for any surplus-value.

Suppose A and B buy their respective requirements from each other directly. As far as useful value is concerned they may both be gainers. A may even be able to produce more of his particular commodity than B could produce in the same time, and vice versa, in which case they both would gain. But it is different with regard to value in exchange. In this latter case equal quantities of value are exchanged, whether money serves as the medium or not.

Considered in the abstract, that is to say excluding all circumstances which are not deducible from the inherent laws of the simple circulation of commodities, there is in this simple circulation, besides the fact of one useful value being replaced by another, a mere change of form of the commodity. The same value in exchange, the same quantity of social labour fixed in all object, remains in the hands of the owner of the commodity, be it in the shape of this commodity itself, or in that of the money it is sold for, or in that of the second commodity bought for the money. This change of form does not in any way involve any change in the quantity of the value, as little as the exchange of a five pound note for five sovereigns. Inasmuch as there is merely a change in the form of the value in exchange, there must be exchange of equivalents, at least whenever the process takes place in its purity and under normal conditions. Commodities may he sold at prices above or below their values, but if they are, the law of the exchange of commodities is always violated. In its pure and normal form, therefore, the exchange of commodities is not a means of creating surplus-value. Hence arises the error of all economists who attempt to derive surplus-value from the exchange of commodities, such as Condillac.

We will, however, suppose that the process does not take place under normal conditions, and that non-equivalents are exchanged. Let every seller, for instance, sell his commodity 10 per cent above its value. Caeteris paribus, everybody loses again as a buyer what he had gained as a seller. It would be exactly the same as if the value of money had fallen 10 per cent. The reverse, with the same effect, would take place if all buyers bought their goods 10 per cent below their value. We do not get an inch nearer to a solution by supposing that every owner of commodities sells them above their value in his quality as a producer, and buys them above their value in his quality as a consumer.

The consistent representatives of the delusion that surplus-value arises from a nominal addition to the price of commodities presuppose always the existence of a class which buys without ever selling, which consumes without producing. At this stage of our inquiry, the existence of such a class is as yet inexplicable. But admit it. Whence does that class receive the money with which it keeps buying? Evidently from the producers of commodities--on the strength of no matter what legal or compulsory titles, without exchange. To sell, to such a class, commodities above their value, means nothing but to recover a portion of the money which had been given away gratuitously. Thus the cities of Asia Minor, while paying a tribute to the Romans, recovered part of this money by cheating the Romans in trade; but after all, these cities were the greatest losers of the two. This, then, is no method of creating surplus-value.

Let us suppose the case of cheating. A sells to B wine of the value of £40 for corn of the value of £50. A has gained £10 and B has lost £10, but betwixt them, they have only £90 just as before. Value has been transferred but not created. The whole capitalist class of a country cannot, by cheating one another, increase their collective wealth.

Therefore: If equivalents are exchanged, there arises no surplus-value, and if non-equivalents are exchanged, there arises no surplus-value either. The circulation of commodities creates no new value. This is the reason why the two oldest and most popular forms of capital, commercial capital and interest-bearing capital, are here left entirely out of consideration. To explain the surplus-value appropriated by these two forms of capital otherwise than as the result of mere cheating, a number of intermediate links are required which are still wanting at this stage of the inquiry. Later on we shall see that they both are secondary forms only and shall also trace the cause why both appear in history long before modern capital.

Surplus-value, then, cannot originate from the circulation of commodities. But can it originate outside of it? Outside of it, the owner of a commodity is simply the producer of that commodity, the value of which is established by the amount of his labour contained in it and measured by a fixed social law. This value is expressed in money of account, say, in a price of £10. But this price of £10 is not at the same time a price of £11; this labour contained in the commodity creates value, but no value which begets new value; it can add new value to existing value, but merely by adding new labour. How, then, should the owner of a commodity, outside the sphere of circulation, without coming into contact with other owners of commodities--how should he be able to produce surplus-value, or in other words, to change commodities or money into capital?

“Capital, then, cannot originate from the circulation of commodities, and no more can it not originate from it. It has to find its source in it, and yet not in it. The change of money into capital has to be explained on the basis of the laws inherent to the exchange of commodities, the exchange of equivalents forming the starting-point. Our owner of money, as yet the mere chrysalis of a capitalist, has to buy his commodities at their value, to sell them at their value, and yet to extract more money from this process than he had invested in it. His development into the capitalist butterfly has to take place within the sphere of the circulation of commodities, and yet not within it. These are the terms of the problem. Hic Rhodus, hic salta” [144-45].

And now for the solution:

“The change in the value of the money, which is to be transformed into capital, cannot take place in that money itself; for, as means of purchase and means of payment, it merely realises the price of the commodity which it buys or pays for, while if it remained in its money-form, without being exchanged, it could never change its value at all. No more can the change arise from the second act of the process, the re-sale of the commodity, because this merely changes the commodity from its natural form into the form of money. The change must take place with the commodity which is bought in the first act M—C; but it cannot take place in its value in exchange, because we exchange equivalents; the commodity is bought at its value. The change can only arise from its value in use, that is from the use which is made of it. In order to extract value in exchange from the use of a commodity, our owner of money must have the good luck to discover, within the sphere of circulation, in the market, a commodity, the useful value of which is endowed with the peculiar quality of being a source of exchangeable value, the using-up of which is the realisation of labour and therefore the creation of value. And the owner of money finds, in the market, such a specific commodity. the power to work, the labour-power.

“By power to work, or labour-power, we understand the sum total of the physical and mental faculties which exist in the living person of a human being and which he puts into motion when he produces useful values.

“But in order to enable the owner of money to meet the labour-power as a commodity in the market, several conditions have to be fulfilled. In itself, the exchange of commodities does not include any other relations of dependence except such as arise from its own nature. On this supposition, labour-power can appear as a commodity, in the market, so far only as it is offered for sale, or sold, by its own owner, the person whose labour-power it is. In order to enable its owner to sell it as a commodity, he must be able to dispose of it, he must be the free proprietor of his labour-power, of his person. He and the owner of money meet in the market, and transact business, as each other's peers, as free and independent owners of commodities, so far different only, that the one is the buyer and the other the seller. This relation of equality before the law must continue; the owner of the labour-power can, therefore, sell it for a limited time only. If he were to sell it in a lump, once for all, he would sell himself, he would from a free man change into a slave, from an owner of a commodity into a commodity... The second essential condition to enable the money-owner to meet labour-power as a commodity in the market, is this: that the owner of the labour-power, instead of selling commodities in which his labour has been embodied, be compelled to sell this, his labour-power itself, such as it exists in his own personality.

“No producer can sell commodities different from his own labour-power, unless possessed of means of production, raw materials, instruments of labour, etc. He can make no boots without leather. Moreover, he requires the means of subsistence. Nobody can feed upon future products, upon useful values the production of which he has not yet completed; as on the first day of his appearance on the stage of the world, man is compelled to consume before and while he produces. If his products are produced as commodities, they must be sold after production, and can satisfy his wants after the sale only. The time of production is lengthened by the time required for sale.

“The change of money into capital, thus, requires that the money-owner meet in the market the free labourer, free in that double sense, that he, as a free person, can dispose of his labour-power; and that, on the other hand, he have no other commodities to sell; that he be entirely unencumbered with, perfectly free from, all the things necessary for putting his labour-power into action.

“The question why this free labourer meets him in the market, has no interest for the money-owner. For him, the labour-market is only one of the various departments of the general market for commodities. And, for the moment, it has no interest for us either. We stick to the fact theoretically, as he sticks to it practically. One thing, however, is clear. It is not nature which produces, on the one hand, owners of money and of commodities, and on the other, owners of nothing but their own labour-power. This relation does not belong to natural history; nor is it a social relation common to all historical periods. It is evidently the result of a long historical process, the product of a number of economical revolutions, of the destruction of a whole series of older [...] strata of social production.

“The economical categories which we have previously analysed bear in the same manner the impress of their historical origin. The existence of a product in the form of a commodity involves certain historical conditions. In order to become a commodity, the product must not be produced as the immediate means of subsistence of the producer. Now, if we had inquired: How and under what circumstances do all, or at least the great majority of products adopt the form of commodities?--we should have found that this occurs exclusively on the basis of a specific system of production, the capitalistic mode of production. But this inquiry was entirely foreign to the analysis of commodity. The production and circulation of commodities may take place, while the overwhelming mass of products--produced for immediate domestic self-use--is never changed into commodities; while, thus, the process of social production, in all its breadth and depth, is, as yet, far from being ruled by value in exchange...or, in analysing money, we find that the existence of money presupposes a certain development of the circulation of commodities. The peculiar forms of existence of money, such as the form of simple equivalent, or of means of circulation, means of payment, hoard, or universal money, as either one or the other may prevail, point to very different stages of the process of social production. Still, experience shows that a relatively crude state of the circulation of commodities suffices to produce all these forms. But with capital it is quite different. The historical conditions necessary for its existence are far from being created simultaneously with the mere circulation of commodities and money. Capital can originate when the owner of the means of production and subsistence meets, in the market, the free labourer offering for sale his labour-power, and this one condition implies ages of historical development Thus capital at once heralds itself as a specific epoch of the process of social production.” [145-149]

We have now to examine this peculiar commodity, the labour-power. It has a value in exchange, as all other commodities; this value is determined in the same way as that of all other commodities: by the time of labour required for its production, which includes reproduction. The value of labour-power is the value of the means of subsistence necessary for the maintenance of its owner in a normal state of fitness for work. These means of subsistence are regulated by climate and other natural conditions, and by a standard historically established in every country. They vary, but for a given country and a given epoch they are also given. Moreover, they include the means of subsistence for the substitutes of worn-out labourers, for their children, so as to enable this peculiar species of owners of a commodity to perpetuate itself. They include, finally, for skilled labour, the expense of education.

The minimal limit of the value of labour-power is the value of the physically absolute necessaries of life. If its price falls to this limit, it falls below its value, as the latter involves labour-power of normal, not of inferior quality.

The nature of labour makes it evident that labour-power is used after the conclusion of the sale only;--and in all countries with capitalist mode of production, labour is paid after having been performed. Thus everywhere the labourer gives credit to the capitalist. Of the practical consequences of this credit given by the labourer, Mr. Marx gives some interesting examples from Parliamentary papers, for which we refer to the book itself.--

In consuming labour-power, its purchaser produces at once commodities and surplus-value; and in order to examine this, we have to leave the sphere of circulation for that of production.

Here we find at once that the process of labour is of a double nature. On the one hand it is the simple process of production of useful value; as such, it can and must exist under all historical forms of social existence; on the other hand, it is this process carried on under the specific conditions of capitalistic production, as before stated. These we have now to inquire into.

The process of labour, on a capitalistic basis, has two peculiarities. Firstly, the labourer works under the control of the capitalist who takes care that no waste is made and that no more than the socially indispensable amount of labour is spent upon each individual piece of work. Secondly, the product is the property of the capitalist, the process itself being carried on between two things belonging to him: the labour-power and the means of work.

The capitalist does not care for the useful value, except so far as it is the incorporation of exchangeable value, and above all, of surplus-value. His object is to produce a commodity of a value higher than the sum of value invested in its production. How can this be done?

Let us take a given commodity, say cotton yarn, and analyse the quantity of labour embodied in it. Suppose that for the production of 10 lbs of yarn we require 10 lbs of cotton, value 10/- (leaving waste out of consideration). There are further required certain means of work, a steam-engine, carding-engines and other machinery, coal, lubricants, etc. To simplify matters, we call all these “spindle” and suppose that the share of wear and tear, coal, etc., required for spinning 10 lbs of yarn, is represented by 2/-. Thus we have 10/- cotton +2/- spindle=12/-. If 12/- represent the product of 24 working hours or two working days, then the cotton and spindle in the yarn incorporate two days' labour. Now, how much is added in the spinning?

We will suppose the value, per diem, of labour-power to be 3/-. and these 3/- to represent the labour of six hours. Further, that six hours are required to spin 10 lbs of yarn by one labourer. In this case 3/- have been added to the product by labour, the value of the 10 lbs yarn is 15/- or 1/6d. per lb.

This process is very simple, but it does not result in any surplus-value. Nor can it, as in capitalistic production things are not carried on in this simple way.

“We supposed the value of labour-power was 3/- per diem and that 6 hours' labour was represented by that sum. But if half-a-day's labour is required to maintain a labourer for 24 hours, there is nothing in that to prevent the same labourer from working a whole day. The exchangeable value of labour-power, and the value which it may produce, are two entirely different quantities, and it was this difference which the capitalist had in his eye when he invested his money in that commodity. That it has the quality of producing useful value, was a mere conditio sine qua non inasmuch as labour must be invested in a useful form in order to produce value. But our capitalist looked beyond that; what attracted him was the specific circumstance that this labour-power is the source of exchangeable value, and of more exchangeable value than is contained in itself. This is the peculiar 'service' which he expects from it. And in doing so, he acts in accordance with the eternal laws of the exchange of commodities. The seller of the labour-power realises its exchangeable, and parts with its useful value. He cannot obtain the one without giving away the other. The useful value of the labour-power, labour itself, no more belongs to its seller, than the useful value of sold oil to an oil-merchant. The capitalist has paid the value per diem of the labour-power; to him, therefore, belongs its use during the day, a day's labour. The circumstance that the maintenance of the labour-power for one day costs half a day's labour only, although this labour-power can be made to work a whole day; that, therefore, the value created by its use during a day, is twice as great as its own daily value--this circumstance is a peculiar piece of good luck for the buyer, but not at all a wrong inflicted upon the seller.

“The labourer, then, works 12 hours, spins 20 lbs of yarn representing 20/- in cotton, 4/- in spindle, etc., and his labour costs 3/-,--total, 27/-. But if 10 lbs of cotton absorbed 6 hours of labour, 20 lbs of cotton have absorbed 12 hours of labour, equal to 6/-. The 20 lbs of yarn now represent 5 days of labour; 4 in the shape of cotton and spindle, etc., 1 in the shape of spinning labour; the expression, in money, for 5 days' labour, is 30/-; consequently the price of the 20 lbs yarn is 30/-, or 1/6d. per lb. as before. But the sum total of the value of the commodities invested in this process was 27/-. The value of the product has increased beyond the value of the commodities invested in its production by one-ninth. Thus 27/- have been transformed into 30/-. They have produced a surplus-value of 3/-. The trick has, at last, succeeded. Money has been converted into capital.

“All the conditions of the problem have been solved, and the laws of the exchange of commodities have in no way been violated. Equivalent has been exchanged against equivalent. The capitalist, as purchaser, has paid every commodity at its value: cotton, spindles, etc., labour-power. After which, he did what every buyer of commodities does. He consumed their useful value. The process of consumption of the labour-power, at the same time process of production of the commodity, resulted in a product of 20 lbs of yarn, value 30/-. Our capitalist returns to the market and sells the yarn at 1/6 d. per lb., not a fraction above or below its value, and yet he extracts 3/- more from circulation than he originally invested in it. The whole of this process, the transformation of his money into capital, passes within the sphere of circulation, and at the same time not within it. By the intervention of circulation, because the purchase, in the market, of the labour-power was its indispensable condition. Not within the sphere of circulation, because this merely initiates the process of value begetting value, which is performed in the sphere of production. And thus tout est pour le mieux dans le meilluur des mondes possibles.” [174-176]

From the demonstration of the mode in which surplus-value is produced, Mr. Marx passes to its analysis. It is evident, from what precedes, that only one portion of the capital invested in any productive undertaking directly contributes to the production of surplus-value, and that is the capital laid out in the purchase of labour-power. This portion only produces new value; the capital invested in machinery, raw material, coal, etc., does indeed re-appear in the value of the product pro tanto, it is maintained and reproduced, but no surplus-value can proceed from it. This induces Mr. Marx to propose a new subdivision of capital into constant capital, that which is merely reproduced--the portion invested in machinery, raw materials and all other accessories to labour;--and variable capital, that which is not only reproduced, but is, at the same time, the direct source of surplus-value--that portion which is invested in the purchase of labour-power, in wages. From this it is clear, that however necessary constant capital may be to the production of surplus-value, yet it does not directly contribute to it; and, moreover, the amount of constant capital invested in any trade has not the slightest influence upon the amount of surplus-value produced in that trade. Consequently, it ought not to be taken into consideration in fixing the rate of surplus-value. That can be determined only by comparing the amount of surplus-value to the amount of capital directly engaged in creating it, that is to say, the amount of variable capital. Mr. Marx, therefore, determines the rate of surplus-value by its proportion to variable capital only: if the daily price of labour be 3/-, and the surplus-value created daily be also 3/-, then he calls the rate of surplus-value 100 per cent. What curious blunders may result from reckoning, according to usual practice, constant capital as an active factor in the production of surplus-value, is shown in an example from Mr. N. W. Senior, “when that Oxford professor, noted for his scientific attainments and his beautiful diction, was invited, in 1836, to Manchester, in order to learn political economy there (from the cotton spinners) instead of teaching it in Oxford. ”--[207]

The working-time in which the labourer reproduces the value of his labour-power, Mr. Marx calls "necessary labour”; the time worked beyond that, and during which surplus-value is produced, he calls "surplus-labour”. Necessary labour and surplus-labour combined form the "working day”.--

In a working day, the time required for necessary labour is given; but the time employed in surplus-labour is not fixed by any economical law, it may be longer or shorter, within certain limits. It can never be zero, as then the inducement for the capitalist to employ labour would have ceased; nor can the total length of the working day ever attain 24 hours, for physiological reasons. Between a working day of, say, six hours, and one of 24, there are, however, many intermediate stages. The laws of the exchange of commodities demand that the working day have a length not exceeding that which is compatible with the normal wear and tear of the labourer. But what is this normal wear and tear? How many hours of daily labour are compatible with it? Here the opinions of the capitalist and those of the labourer differ widely, and, as there is no higher authority, the question is solved by force. The history of the determination of the length of the working day is the history of a struggle about its limits, between the collective capitalist and the collective labourer, between the two classes of capitalists and working men.

“Capital, as has been stated before, has not invented surplus-labour. Wherever a portion of society holds the exclusive monopoly of the means of production, there the labourer, slave, serf, or free, has to add, to the labour necessary for his own subsistence, an increment of labour in order to produce the means of subsistence for the owner of the means of production, be that owner an Athenian kalos kaloqos, an Etruscan theocrat, a civis Romanus; a Norman baron, an American slave-owner, a Wallachian boyar, a modern landlord or capitalist.” [218].

It is, however, evident that in any form of society where the value in use of the product is more important than its value in exchange, surplus-labour is restrained by the narrower or wider range of social wants; and that under these circumstances there does not exist necessarily a desire for surplus-labour for its own sake. Thus we find that in the classical period surplus-labour in its extremist form, the working to death of people, existed almost exclusively in gold and silver mines, where value in exchange was produced in its independent form of existence: money.

“But wherever a nation whose production is carried on in the more rudimentary forms of slavery or serfage, lives in the midst of a universal market dominated by capitalist production, and where therefore the sale of its products for exports forms its chief purpose--there to the barbarous infamies of slavery or serfdom are superadded the civilised infamies of over-working. Thus in the Southern States of America slave-labour preserved a moderate and patriarchal character while production was directed to immediate domestic consumption chiefly. But in the same measure as the export of cotton became a vital interest to those states, the over-working of the negro, in some instances even the wearing-out of his life in seven working years, became an element in a calculated and calculating system... Similar with the corvees of the serfs in the Danubian principalities.” [219]

Here the comparison with capitalist production becomes particularly interesting, because, in the corvee, surplus-labour has an independent, palpable form.

“Suppose the working day counts six hours of necessary and six hours of surplus-labour; then the labourer furnishes the capitalist with 36 hours of surplus-labour a week. He might as well have worked three days for himself and three days for the capitalist. But this is not at once visible. Surplus-labour and necessary labour are more or less mixed together. I might express the same relation thus, that, in every minute, the labourer works 30 seconds for himself and 30 more for the capitalist. But with the serfs' corvee it is different. The two kinds of labour are separated in space. The labour, which, for instance, a Wallachian peasant performs for himself, he performs on his own field, his surplus-labour for the boyar he performs on the boyar's estate. The two portions of his labour exist independent of each other, surplus-labour, in the shape of corvee, is completely separated from necessary labour.” [219-220]

We must refrain from quoting the further interesting illustrations from the modern social history of the Danubian principalities, by which Mr. Marx proves the boyars there, aided by Russian intervention, to be quite as clever extractors of surplus-labour as any capitalist employers. But what the Reglement organique, by which Russian General Kisseleff presented the boyars with almost unlimited command over the peasant's labour, expresses positively, the English Factory Acts express negatively. “These acts oppose the which the Russian almost unlimited inherent tendency of capital to an unlimited exploitation--we ask pardon for introducing this French term, but there does not exist any English equivalent--of the labour-power, by forcibly putting a limit to the length of the working day by the power of the State, and that a State ruled by landlords and capitalists. Not to speak of the working class movement which was daily gaining greater dimensions, this limitation of factory labour was dictated by the same necessity which brought Peruvian guano on the fields of England. That same blind rapacity which in the one case had exhausted the soil, in the other case had attacked the vitality of the nation at its root. Periodical epidemics here spoke as plainly, as in France and Germany, the necessity for constantly reducing the standard of height for soldiers.” [229]

To prove the tendency of capital to extend the working day beyond all reasonable limits Mr. Marx quotes amply from the Reports of the Factory Inspectors, of the Children's Employment Commission, the Reports on Public Health and other Parliamentary Papers, and sums up in the following conclusions:

"What is a working day? How long is the time during which capital may be allowed to consume the working power on paying for its value per diem? How far may the working day be extended beyond the time necessary for reproducing the working power itself? Capital, as we have seen, replies: the working day counts full 24 hours, excepting those few hours of rest without which the labour-power absolutely refuses to renew its services. It is a matter of course that the labourer during the whole of the live-long day is nothing but labour-power; that ail his disposable time is working-time and belongs to value-begetting capital... But in this madly blind race after surplus-labour, capital outruns not only the moral, but also the purely physical maximum limits of the working day... Capital does not care for the duration of life of the working power... it produces its premature exhaustion and death, it effects the prolongation of the working-time during a given period by shortening the labourer's life.” [249-251]

But is not this against the interest of capital itself? Has capital, in the long run, not to replace the cost of this excessive wear and tear? That may be the case theoretically. Practically, the organised slave trade in the interior of the Southern States had raised the practice of using up the working power of the slave in seven years to an acknowledged economical principle; practically, the English capitalist relies upon the supply of labourers from the agricultural districts.

“He sees a constant over-population, that is, an over-population as compared with the capacity of capital to absorb living labour, though this over-population be formed by a constant current of crippled, quickly fading generations of men, pressing upon their successors and plucked before maturity. Certainly, to an uninterested observer, experience would show on the other hand how soon capitalist production, though dating, historically speaking, from yesterday only, has attacked the vital root of national strength, how the degeneration of the industrial population is retarded only by the constant absorption of agricultural elements, and how even these agricultural labourers, in spite of fresh air and that principle of natural selection which is so specially powerful amongst them, have already begun to decline. Capital, which has such capital motives to deny the sufferings of the working classes in the midst of which it exists, capital will be disturbed in its practical activity as little and as much by the prospect of future degeneracy of the human race and of inevitable ultimate depopulation, as by the possible fall of the earth into the sun. In every joint-stock 'limited' swindle, every participator knows that the thunderstorm will come sooner or later, but every one expects that the lightning will fall on the head of his neighbour, after he himself shall have had time to collect the golden rain and store it up safely. Apres moi le deluge! is the battle-cry of every capitalist and of every capitalist nation. Capital, therefore, is reckless of the health and life of the labourer, unless society compels it to act otherwise [...] And, upon the whole, this disregard of the labourer does not depend upon the good or bad will of the individual capitalist. Free competition imposes the immanent laws of capitalist production upon every individual capitalist in the shape of extraneous compulsory laws.” [254-255]

The determination of the normal working day is the result of many centuries of struggle between employer and labourer. And it is curious to observe the two opposing currents in this struggle. At first, the laws have for their end to compel the labourers to work longer hours; from the first statute of labourers 23rd Edward III (1349) up to the eighteenth century, the ruling classes never succeeded in extorting from the labourer the full amount of possible labour. But with the introduction of steam and modern machinery, the tables were turned. So rapidly did the introduction of the labour of women and children break down all traditional bounds to working hours, that the nineteenth century began with a system of overworking which is unparalleled in the history of the world, and which, as early as 1803, compelled the legislation to enact limitations of working hours. Mr. Marx gives a full account of the history of English factory legislation up to the Workshops Act of 1867, and draws from it these conclusions:

1) Machinery and steam cause overwork, at first, in those branches of industry where they are applied, and legislative restrictions are, therefore, first applied to these branches; but in the sequel we find that this system of overwork has spread also to almost all trades even where no machinery is used, or where the most primitive modes of production continue in existence. (Vide Children's Employment Commission's Reports.)

2) With the introduction of the labour of women and children in the factories, the individual “free” labourer loses his power of resistance to the encroachments of capital and has to submit unconditionally. Thus he is reduced to collective resistance; the struggle of class against class, of the collective workmen against the collective capitalists begins.

If we now look back to the moment when we supposed our “free” and “equal” labourer to enter into a contract with the capitalist, we find that, under the process of production, a good many things have changed considerably. That contract, on the “part of the labourer, is not a free contract. The daily time during which he is at liberty to sell his working power is the time during which he is compelled to sell it; and it is merely the opposition of the labourers, as a mass, which forcibly obtains the enactment of a public law to prevent them from selling themselves and their children, by a “free” contract, into death and slavery. “In the place of the grandiloquent catalogue of the inalienable rights of man, he has now nothing but the modest Magna Charta of the Factory Act.”--[288]

We have next to analyse the rate of surplus-value and its relation to the total quantity of surplus-value produced. In this inquiry, as we have done hitherto, we suppose the value of labour-power to be a determinate constant quantity.

Under this supposition, the rate of surplus-value determines at the same time the quantity furnished to the capitalist by a single labourer in a given time. If the value of our labour-power be 3/- a day representing six hours' labour, and the rate of surplus-value be 100 per cent, then the variable capital of 3/i- produces every day a surplus-value of 3/-, or the workman furnishes six hours of surplus-labour every day.

Variable capital being the expression in money of all the labour-power employed simultaneously by a capitalist, the sum total of the surplus-value produced by the labour-power is found by multiplying that variable capital by the rate of surplus-value; in other words it is determined by the proportion between the number of working powers simultaneously employed, and the degree of exploitation. Either of these factors may vary, so that the decrease in the one may be compensated by the increase of the other. A variable capital required to employ 100 labourers with a rate of surplus-value of 50 per cent (say 3 hours of daily surplus-labour) will produce no more surplus-value than half that variable capital, employing 50 labourers at a rate of surplus-value of 100 per cent (say six hours of daily surplus-labour). Thus, under certain circumstances and within certain limits, the supply of labour at the command of capital may become independent of the actual supply of labourers.

There is, however, an absolute limit to this increase of surplus-value by increasing its rate. Whatever may be the value of labour, whether it be represented by two or by ten hours of necessary labour, the total value of the work performed, day after day, by any labourer, can never attain the value representing 24 hours' labour. In order to obtain equal quantities of surplus-value, variable capital may be replaced by prolongation of the working day within this limit only. This will be an important element in explaining, hereafter, various phenomena arising from the two contradictory tendencies of capital: 1) to reduce the number of labourers employed, i.e. the amount of variable capital, and 2) yet to produce the greatest possible quantity of surplus-labour.

It follows further: “The value of labour being given, and the rate of surplus-value being equal, the quantities of surplus-value produced by two different capitals are in direct proportion to the quantities of variable capital contained in them. [...] This law flatly contradicts all experience founded upon the appearance of facts. Everybody knows that a cotton spinner who [...] works with a relatively large constant, and a relatively small variable capital, does not, on that account, obtain a lesser ratio of profit than a baker who puts in motion relatively little constant and relatively much variable capital. To solve this apparent contradiction, a good many intermediate links are required, just as, starting from elementary algebra, a great number of intermediate links are required in order to understand that o/o may represent a real quantity.” [293]

For a given country and a given length of working day, surplus-value can be increased only by increasing the number of labourers, i.e. by an increase of population; this increase forms the mathematical limit for the production of surplus-value by the collective capital of that country. On the other hand, if the number of labourers be determined, this limit is fixed by the possible prolongation of the working day. It will be seen hereafter that this law is valid for that form only of surplus-value which has been hitherto analysed.

We find, at this stage of our inquiry, that not every amount of money is capable of being converted into capital; that there is an extreme minimum for it: the cost of a unit of labouring power and of the means of labour necessary to keep it going. Suppose the rate of surplus-value to be 50 per cent, our infant-capitalist would be required to be able to employ two workmen in order to live, himself, as a workman lives. But this would prevent him from saving anything; and the end of capitalist production is not merely preservation, but also and chiefly increase of wealth.

“To live twice as well as a common labourer, and to retransform one half of the surplus-value produced into capital, he would have to be able to employ eight workmen. He might certainly take his share of the work, along with his workmen, but be would still remain a small master, a hybrid between capitalist and labourer. Now, a certain development of capitalist production renders it necessary that the capitalist should devote the whole of the time during which he acts as a capitalist, as capital personified, to the appropriation and control of other people's labour, and to the sale of its products. The restrictive guilds of the Middle Ages attempted to check the transformation of the small master into a capitalist by fixing a very low maximum to the number of workmen which each was allowed to employ. The owner of money or commodities changes into a real capitalist only then, when he is able to advance, for the purpose of production, a minimum sum far higher than this medieval maximum. Here, just as in the natural sciences, the correctness is proved of the law discovered by Hegel that mere quantitative changes, at a certain point, imply a qualitative difference.” [295-296]

The minimum amount of value required to change an owner of money or commodities into a capitalist varies for different stages of the development of capitalist production, and for a given stage of development, it varies for different branches of industry.

“During the process of production detailed above, the relation of capitalist and labourer has changed considerably. First of all, capital has been developed into command of labour, i.e. into command over the labourer himself. Personified capital, the capitalist, takes care that the labourer performs his work regularly, carefully and with the required degree of intensity.

“Further, capital has been developed into a compulsory relation which obliges the working class to perform more labour than is prescribed by the narrow circle of their own requirements. And as a producer of other people's industry, as an extortioner of surplus-labour and exploiter of labour-power, capital far exceeds in energy, recklessness, and efficiency all former systems of production, though they were based upon direct forced labour.

“Capital, at first, takes the command of labour under such technological conditions as it finds historically established. It does not, therefore, necessarily at once change the mode of production. The production of surplus-value, in the form hitherto analysed, that is to say by mere prolongation of the working day, appeared independent of every change in the mode of production itself. It was quite as efficient in the primitive baking trade as in modern cotton-spinning.

“In the process of production considered as a mere process of labour, the relation between the labourer and his means of production is not that of labour and capital, but that of labour and the mere instrument and raw material of productive action. In a tannery, for instance, he treats the skins as a mere object for labour. It is not the capitalists whose skin he tans. But things change as soon as we look upon the process of production as a process of creating surplus-value. The means of production at once change into means of absorbing other people's labour. It is no longer the workman who employs the means of production, it is the means of production which employ the workman. It is not he who consumes them as material elements of his productive action; it is they which consume him as the ferment of their own vital process; and the vital process of capital consists in nothing but its progressive motion as value begetting value. Furnaces and workshops which have to stand idle at night, without absorbing labour, are a pure loss to the capitalist. Therefore furnaces and workshops constitute a 'title upon the night-work of the hands'. (See Reports of Children's Employment Commission, 4th Report, 1865, pages 79 to 85.) The mere change of money into means of production changes the latter into legal and compulsory titles upon other people's labour and surplus-labour.” [296-297]

There is, however, another form of surplus-value. Arrived at the utmost limit of the working day, another means remains to the capitalist for increasing surplus-labour: by increasing the productivity of labour, by thereby reducing the value of labour, and thus shortening the period of necessary labour. This form of surplus-value will be examined in a second article.