ΔM, that is. The difference between M’ and M. As in M-C-M’, the circuit which Marx identifies with capital (the circuit of money as capital).

The difference is surplus value, which is really what I’m on about. M-C-M’ is really M-C(mp+lp)…P…C’-M’ where mp=means of production and lp=labor power and …P… indicates production. Which is to say, the capitalist, our man Moneybags, makes an initial outlay for means of production (say, buildings and tools/machinery and raw materials) and for labor power (workers), which are then combined to produce a new product which is then sold for an amount greater than Moneybags’ outlay for mp and lp. The difference between the outlay and take home is the profit or surplus value (for now we’ll say profit and surplus value are the same; we’re also going to leave aside accumulation for now and just assume it happens normally).

Let’s say Moneybags spends $1000 and makes $1500. Let’s say annually. In that case the change in M is $500. Moneybags spends $500 on means of production and $500 on labor power (hiring ten workers for the year) and makes $500 over and above his costs. So far so good, right? All good and Marxly? Well, hold on a sec.

I’ve been reading about slavery recently, as the last few posts on here indicate. I’ve also been skimming the exchange between Le Colonel Chabert and Le Mikel Beggsert in the comments section of this post (wish I had the time and energy and sleep etc to really follow it closely and participate – one of these days I’ll catch up), which is in part about what value and surplus value is, who produces it. As I’ve understood it anyway – perhaps wrongly – slavery wasn’t productive of surplus value. (The difference between M and M’ is the difference between the value workers add to the finished product and what those workers are paid in wages.) I’m not sure that Mike meant that or not, but it’s related to how I read his remark from the discussion I linked to:

A major part of Marx’s project in Capital and elsewhere is to show how the system of exchange of equal values can maintain a structure of exploitation and surplus labour. Thus ’surplus value’. That doesn’t mean necessarily that surplus value accounts for the totality of exploitation in a capitalist society. But I think we can talk about that without needing to confuse it with the system of value.

A problem is that it is impossible to quantify non-value exploitation because there is no money/exchange/competition relationship that can be said to homogenise non-value-productive labour-time in the way value-productive labour-time is. But of course the same thing applies to slave or feudal exploitation – it cannot be quantified – but we wouldnt’ say it didn’t exist.

It strikes me that Mike is wrong (and I’ve been wrong) about the point on slavery. Slavery can be (surplus) value productive and can fit into the circuit M-C-M’.

Back to Moneybags: S Moneybags the slave owner and his cousin W Moneybags both spend $1000 a year to get a product they then sell for $1500.

W hires ten workers, pays them $50 each for the year, and pays $500 for tools and building and upkeep and raw materials. W does this for 20 years.

S purchases 10 slaves for $500 a year, having reasonable evidence that the average working life for his purchased slaves will be 20 years for an average cost of $25 per slave per year they are able to work. He also pays for their means of subsistence (food, housing, medicine, etc, all the things that W’s workers provide for themselves [S’s slaves provide some of these things for themselves too but S isn’t always aware of that]) at an average of $25 per year, which added to the purchase price of the slave makes for $50 a year per slave or $500 a year for labor power. S also pays $500 a year for tools and building and upkeep and raw materials as does W.

It seems to me that in both cases W and S Moneybags each perform the circuit M-C-M’ – laying out $1000 (consisting in $500 for purchase of means of subsistence and $500 to purchase labor power) in order to get a product which they then sell for $1500 – once per year for 20 years. How is S not producing surplus value? And how are S’s laborers not measurably exploited while W’s are? (Mike had said that slave exploitation wasn’t quantifiable.) (Where ‘exploit’ means ‘to extract surplus value or surplus labor from’.) It doesn’t seem to me that the absence of wages makes a difference here as to whether or not surplus value is produced.

On a slightly related note, from Tom Downey Planting a Capitalist South, Downey writes of mills and a factory in Vaucluse, South Carolina, the proprietors of which used to slaves

“to fill their labor requirements. In 1836 almost half of the factory’s operatives were slaves, who could be found at work in every department except weaving, where “whites are said to have the advantage” besides being “equally cheap.” Some operatives were hired from neighboring slaveholders. Edgefield farmer Lark Swearingen leased one of his slaves, Letty, to John Bauskett at Vaucluse for $100 per annum, besides selling cotton and fodder to the factory. But most slave operatives came to Vaucluse from the factory’s owners, who angled to further profit from their manufacturing investment by supplying Vaucluse with a portion of its labor. Paul Fitzsimons hired out slaves to Vaucluse, as did George MacDufffie, who employed at least five of his younger male and female slaves at Vaucluse as well as a carpenter, Jesse, and his wife. In return, MacDuffie sought a total of $1000 in annual wages. Likewise, John Bauskett transferred several hands from his plantation to work at Vaucluse. By 1840, Bauskett employed almost one-fourth of his own slaves (27 of 112) in his cotton mill, while a visitor asserted that all the slaves working in the mill belonged to the factory’s proprietors.” (126.)

In this example, Bauskett did with his 26 slaves what I called S Moneybags. In the interaction between Bauskett, Swearingen, and Letty, Bauskett is like W Moneybags – he hires a worker and pays that worker wages. It makes no difference to Bauskett/W Moneybags if those wages are paid to the worker (Letty) or to someone else (in this case, Swearingen). In chapter ten of v1 of Capital, Marx writes of workers “selling, by voluntary contract with capital, themselves and their families into slavery and death.” Arguably, the slavery here is metaphorical for Marx – waged slaves are not literally slaves. Perhaps. But what about the families? The workers in this quote are presumably men, but even if not they are likely adults. Some of those men and maybe women end up selling their children into the factory. Marx quotes a Mr. Charles Parsons who writes in a letter that his “indignation has been aroused again and again at the sight of poor children whose health has been sacrificed to gratify the avarice of either parents or employers.” Parsons’ indignation is over parents who send their children into factories for the wages those children will earn, something closer to slavery than the condition of the adult workers. (In the context of discussing child labor in this chapter Marx writes “The “House of Terror” for paupers” – I believe this a Bentham reference but I’ll have to double check – “of which the capitalistic soul of 1770 only dreamed, was realised a few years later in the shape of a gigantic “Workhouse” for the industrial worker himself. It is called the Factory.” The factory as workhouse is precisely a claim that “free” labor is involuntary labor.

Marx adds that at the time of his writing “in most processes of production the co-operation of the children, young persons, and women is indispensable.” And “One set of masters, this time as before, secured to itself special seigneurial rights over the children of the proletariat. These were the silk manufacturers.”

In the chapter on machinery, ch15, Marx writes that

“In some branches of the woollen manufacture in England the employment of children has during recent years been considerably diminished, and in some cases has been entirely abolished. Why? Because the Factory Acts made two sets of children necessary, one working six hours, the other four, or each working five hours. But the parents refused to sell the “half-timers” cheaper than the “full-timers.” (…) Machinery also revolutionises out and out the contract between the labourer and the capitalist, which formally fixes their mutual relations. Taking the exchange of commodities as our basis, our first assumption was that capitalist and labourer met as free persons, as independent owners of commodities; the one possessing money and means of production, the other labour-power. But now the capitalist buys children and young persons under age. Previously, the workman sold his own labour-power, which he disposed of nominally as a free agent. Now he sells wife and child. He has become a slave-dealer. The demand for children’s labour often resembles in form the inquiries for negro slaves, such as were formerly to be read among the advertisements in American journals.

“My attention,” says an English factory inspector, “was drawn to an advertisement in the local paper of one of the most important manufacturing towns of my district, of which the following is a copy: Wanted, 12 to 20 young persons, not younger than what can pass for 13 years. Wages, 4 shillings a week. Apply &c.”

The phrase “what can pass for 13 years,” has reference to the fact, that by the Factory Act, children under 13 years may work only 6 hours. A surgeon officially appointed must certify their age. The manufacturer, therefore, asks for children who look as if they we’re already 13 years old. The decrease, often by leaps and bounds in the number of children under 13 years employed in factories, a decrease that is shown in an astonishing manner by the English statistics of the last 20 years, was for the most part, according to the evidence of the factory inspectors themselves, the work of the certifying surgeons, who overstated the age of the children, agreeably to the capitalist’s greed for exploitation, and the sordid trafficking needs of the parents. (…) In spite of legislation, the number of boys sold in Great Britain by their parents to act as live chimney-sweeping machines (although there exist plenty of machines to replace them) exceeds 2,000. (…) Whenever the law limits the labour of children to 6 hours in industries not before interfered with, the complaints of the manufacturers are always renewed. They allege that numbers of the parents withdraw their children from the industry brought under the Act, in order to sell them where “freedom of labour” still rules, i.e., where children under 13 years are compelled to work like grown-up people, and therefore can be got rid of at a higher price. “

Arguably, at least for some marxists, the condition Marx is discussing here with child labor and all that might be considered an immature capitalism – capitalism which has not yet come into its own because the lack of restraint (from class conflict and labor law – itself a product or compromise derived from class conflict) has not yet pushed capital to maximize relative surplus value instead of absolute surplus value. I’m not convinced of that, but in any case that’s not the point. Even conceding for the sake of argument this periodization, the immature capitalism which exploits children and so on is still a capital relation, which means surplus value exists. In the cases of women and children, it’s not at all clear to me that there’s a tremendous difference in kind between the sale of their labor power and the sale of Letty’s labor power by Swearingen, in the sense that value production occurs even when the purchase price of that labor power (in this case, a wage) is paid to someone other than the laborer – that is, when the labor power purchased does not legally belong to the person whose body is the container for that labor power (because children and married women at this time, like slaves, were not self-owners).