Exploitation and oppression goes hand in hand in class societies, having reached new peaks under capitalism. To unravel the real nature of exploitation in capitalism is therefore an important part of the struggle against it. That is what Marxist economics is all about. We are concerned to understand the underlying realities of capitalist economy. We recognise that capitalism is a particular form of human society in which one class owns and controls the means of production while the other major class, the working class, is reduced to the status of sellers of labour-power in order to facilitate the maximum production of exchange values, which in turn facilitates the maximum growth of capital itself. Capital then is an expression of a particular class control, but one that is in perpetual motion as capitals compete with one another, compelling each to grow. This in turn necessitates the exploitation of working people to take the form of the production of values and surplus values. The only common social factor in this whole circuit of social activity is human labour. For that reason Marxists talk of labour as the source of value. Marx referred to socially-necessary labour as being the measure of value. Differences in skills and types of work are reduced to homogeneous units of ‘abstract’ labour or ‘labour in general’ in the same way that capital, in order to expand, abstracts from the concrete or physical nature of goods and services (use-values) reducing them all to values. The principle is simple enough. All the consumed goods and services are themselves die result of labour, living and dead. Workers of higher skills will therefore have consumed greater amounts of socially-necessary labour and accordingly both the value of their labour-power (wages) and the use-value of their labour (work) to capital will be enhanced.
Capitalists demand for the bosses a “fair and just return upon their investments.” But why should the bosses get a return on “THEIR” capital? What do they mean when they say it’s “theirs”?
Such capital is “theirs” only by virtue of property “rights” – “rights” written into law by themselves to maintain the fiction of justice for their confiscation of the produce of labour. The source of such capital is no mystery. Capital represents the stored-up labour of millions of workers accumulated in the hands of the bosses. Nor is the role of such capital any. mystery. “Capital,” the great teacher of socialism, Karl Marx, said, “is dead labour that vampire-like only lives by sucking living labour and lives the more, the more labour it sucks.” With the greed of every capitalist, they believe that the additional labour daily stored up in machines by the sweat and toil of the workers should “return” to the bosses. Once workers realise, however, that the “return” should be to them instead of to the bosses, they will have begun to see the socialist solution. The boss has no other interest in the worker. Meanwhile, however, all the accumulated labour of the workers, stored up in machines, becomes ever more potentially productive of goods which, utilised for the workers, would unfold possibilities of unlimited development. But, capitalism, no matter how it plans and hopes and prays, would never actually be able to do more than drive the worker to the bedrock of subsistence – although there is plenty to provide a featherbed of luxury for all. Only socialism, where the stored-up labour is utilised for the social good, can realise the potentialities of human productivity and spiritual development. Only when accumulated labour belongs to those who produce it – to the worker who turns the wheels.
The decisions which effect the whole of society, such as what to produce, how much to produce, when and where to produce it, and how to use and distribute it are the decisions which affect the total resources of the economy, and the lifestyle and opportunities of everyone within society. Control over these resources and decisions, that is society's management of the economy, is the socialist alternative to capitalism.