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The Value In Knowing About Surplus Value

Our parliamentary system of democracy is characterised as the only true freedom through which all social ills can be eradicated, guaranteeing to the people the opportunity of re-shaping society as they choose. In all class societies, there is one class that rules (dictates) over others. Capitalism is no exception In Britain democracy has a long history. Parliament as an important political institution superceding the feudal monarchy was achieved in the seventeenth century. The capitalist class has gained considerable experience in the use of Parliament and are in a strong position to divert the workers’ resistance and struggles into ’safe’ channels. The educational system, the mass media, religion, a host of other organisations perpetuate a belief in capitalist democracy; that is, promote faith and trust in the democratic facade and conceal from the people the realities of capitalist rule behind it. The workers are ’educated’ to accept the ideas of capitalism with a view to turning them from class struggle and persuading them that their interests are identical with those of their own capitalists engaged in the exploitation of fellow-workers. It is, therefore, important for them to ensure that the organisations of the working class are prevented from posing a threat to the continued existence of the system. They try to control the workers’ organisations directly and from within. Socialism is far from discarding political activity, (but there is more to politics than what happens in Parliament). Parliament’s control over the forces of law and order, the armed forces, education and a, number of other services means that it cannot be ignored.

Socialism can be built only when the working class has taken political power from the capitalist class: that is when there has been a revolution. Socialism would change our way of life. That is what makes the struggle worthwhile. No greater transformation of the conditions of life has been conceived of as a possible achievement of mankind itself. The aim of our movement makes it necessary that the revolutionary character of socialism be openly proclaimed. Socialism will be possible only when the workers decide that they are determined to lay the living conditions of mankind on a new foundation. The whole future of humanity rests on the emergence of a class-conscious working class as the creative force in society. The class struggle is important and cannot be avoided because it marks the road towards the class-free society. With the end of class oppression, the state disappears. We can play no part in the building of the new society – that privilege must be left to those who come after us. Marx wrote ‘The measure of wealth will no longer be labour time, but leisure time.’ Marx elsewhere referred to socialism as ‘the realm of freedom’. He looked forward to the ending of the division between mental and physical labour, which he saw as the reduction of the worker to ‘a fragment of a man’. Instead of labour-power being sold as a commodity he saw production being carried on by ‘freely associated labour’. Courage and determination are required, but it is also necessary that everything possible be done towards spreading socialist knowledge among as many workers as possible. Solidarity is an urgent necessity if we are to further the cause of socialism.

Socialism does not mean mere governmental ownership or management. The State of to-day, nationally or locally, is only the agent of the possessing class. By socialism, we mean the common ownership and control of the whole of the world’s industry. The entire means of production and distribution thus being common property, there would no longer be a propertied class to make a profit out of exploiting their employees or from the interest from financial speculation which now divides society into two classes. Classes would disappear. Socialism embraces all the relations of human life. The establishment of socialism means a complete change in society in all its aspects. The world’s social wealth will be made to serve to satisfy human wants and desires, not profit.


The kernel of the whole capitalist system of production for profit, with its exploitation and impoverishment of the proletariat, is that profit is not made on the market, but in the workshop, in the mine and the factory. Profit is derived from the surplus value which is wrung from the unpaid labour of the workers. Surplus-value is the difference between the cost of labour-power to the capitalist and the amount of labour-power he is able to extract from his workpeople. Labour-power is the capacity for labour inherent in the worker, and it is this capacity or quality which the capitalist buys in the labour market as a commodity. We are assuming a modern capitalist society in which there are no slaves, and the workers are free. Consequently, the capitalist does not buy the workman, neither does he buy labour; that is to say, labour actually expended or in operation. What he buys, when he engages a worker for a given time, is the power to labour which is contained in the body of the labourer. The labourer and the capitalist meet on the market, the one as a seller the other as a buyer, in the same way as do the buyers and sellers of other commodities. The exchange-value of labour-power is precisely the same as that of any other commodity, determined by the amount of socially necessary human labour expended in its production; in other words, and in the language usually employed by economists, the return to labour — WAGES — is determined by the cost of subsistence of the labourer. For it is by this subsistence that the labour- power is continually reproduced. The capitalist buys labour-power at its cost of production in labour, but the amount of labour which the workman expends, that is to say, the capacity for labour, or the labour-power, which the capitalist buys, and which the worker incorporates in the commodities he produces, is a very much greater quantity than is expended in the production of that labour-power, and it is this difference, a difference which the capitalist gets for nothing, which constitutes surplus-value. The capitalist obtains this surplus-value owing to his monopoly of the means of production, which enables him to extend the working day, beyond the hours necessary to produce the subsistence of the labourer; by the employment of machinery, by which the labour of the workman is made more effective; and by the organisation of labour, which has the effect of intensifying the expenditure of labour. The labourer cannot, as a rule, command more than the actual exchange-value of his commodity, that is to say, his cost of subsistence, in return for his labour-although his wages, like the prices of all commodities, sometimes rise above this and sometimes fall below — because, although apparently free, he is really not free. He must sell his labour-power in order to live; he has no other commodity to dispose of, and, having no ownership in or control over the means of production, he cannot employ himself. Consequently, he has to find a purchaser for his commodity and must accept the terms that purchaser will offer — subject only to two conditions, his own cost of subsistence and the fluctuations of the market. Machinery itself is the product of labour, and is, as we have pointed out, used for the purpose of exploiting labour; but of itself, it creates no value. The sum total of the value of a commodity represents the sum total of the average labour employed in its production, including that involved in producing the raw material and the amount of the wear and tear of the machinery used up in the commodity, but the surplus-value comes from unpaid labour only. Because the profit of the immediate capitalist employer only forms a portion of the total surplus-value. Out of that total, the landlord draws his rent for the land upon which the factory is built; the owner of the factory takes a share himself as rent for the factory; as do also the middleman, the dealer, and all those who handle the commodities for the purpose of making a profit. The fees of the lawyer who maybe engaged in drawing up the deeds, etc., the tithes of the clergy, the salaries of public officers, and in short the rewards or payments of all those who are not themselves engaged in the immediate work of production, these, as well as the remuneration of the contractor engaged in the building of the factory or repairing the machinery; the profit of the broker who sells the raw material, and so on, are all derived from the surplus-value wrung from the unpaid labour of the workers.


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