15 July 2009


In response to yesterday’s CU revival, Comrade Alroy Taai wrote:

“Dominic, this is great news! A little request: many youths (and some older comrades) that has not been exposed to the classics need to start first with some basic material on things like dialectical and historical materialism. Also the basics on colonialism. Could you assist with developing a course for ‘first time users’?”

Well, the gap that the CU is filling for the time being is the classics gap, and one of the reasons why the works of Marx, Engels, Lenin and others do survive as classics is because they are simply the best, and literally as simple as they can be. Nevertheless, Cde Alroy’s suggestion is well understood, and the CU will assist.

The first assistance is to give an introduction to the day’s main (“backbone”) text in the blog. This I did not do yesterday, but I will try do it from now on, sometimes below the links, like today (scroll down). I have done a short intro to the chapters from Capital on Wages (and what could be more basic to capitalism than wages?) that were posted yesterday, plus another short intro on the next part, posted today, on the Accumulation of Capital (also basic).

In fact, Comrade Alroy, Karl Marx’s Capital Volume 1 is very basic altogether, and Marx takes care to put the important bits into simple language, as I will try to demonstrate in my intros, and he moves slowly, and in a carefully planned way through the material, and when he thinks it necessary he repeats. He does also deal with colonialism, in the very last chapter of Capital, Chapter 33.

The second is to offer, today, the CU “conspectus” of Tony Buzan’s “Use Your Head”, which is a very good guide on how to study (that is any study, whether CU, Matric, University, Post-grad, Professional, or any other). Among the advice it gives is that you should always skip over parts of a text that you don’t understand. Later on, we will come back to “pedagogy” as such, which is the theory of teaching and learning, with a particular stress on how to get profound ideas into the dialogue of ordinary people, because that is what, as revolutionaries, we have to do.

Third is to give you a quick way in to the scheme of thinking in Engels’ “Socialism, Utopian and Scientific” that was posted yesterday, in the shape of Lenin’s “Three Sources and Three Component Parts of Marxism”. Lenin tries to say as much in eighteen hundred words as Engels said in sixteen thousand words, using a very similar layout.

Fourth is to commit the CU to posting a “course” on the “basics” soon (it is already in draft).

Click on these links:

CU Backbone posting:

1867, Marx, Capital, Volume 1, 23 and 24, Accumulation of Capital (14246 words)

CU additional posting:

1913, Lenin, Three Sources & Three Component parts of Marxism (1838 words)

1974, Tony Buzan, Use Your Head (4174)

Note that nearly all the Marx, Engels and Lenin texts of the CU have been downloaded from Marxists Internet Archive, which is a vast store of revolutionary literature.

Intro to Capital Volume One, Chapters 19, 20 and 21 on Wages (posted yesterday).

Marx begins by saying that the "value of labour… is an expression as imaginary as the value of the earth”. The commodity that is exchanged by the worker for money is not labour, but labour-power. After that, the entire product of the worker’s labour for the contracted time belongs to the boss. The product of the worker is greater than the payment given for the worker’s labour-power. The difference is surplus-value. The extraction of surplus-value from workers in this way is the defining characteristic of capitalism.

Through the three given chapters on wages Marx continues to discuss this basic point in different ways. The minimum price of labour power is that which is sufficient to keep the worker going until the next day. Or, it may be calculated over a worker’s lifetime, as Marx demonstrates here, and divided out to give an average day-rate. In all cases, including piece-work, the capitalist pays only for labour-power, and at the minimum price that will ensures the return of the worker to the workplace, next day.

Marx finishes Chapter 21 by declaring that if, under piece-work, the workers think they can get more by producing more, the boss will remind them quickly of the true relationship, which is not payment for labour, or the product of labour, but only payment for maintenance and reproduction of labour power.

“The capitalist rightly knocks on the head such pretensions as gross errors as to the nature of wage-labour. [19] He cries out against this usurping attempt to lay taxes on the advance of industry, and declares roundly that the productiveness of labour does not concern the labourer at all.”

Intro to Capital Volume One Chapters 23 and 24, the Accumulation of Capital

“The conversion of a sum of money into means of production and labour-power, is the first step taken by the quantum of value that is going to function as capital. This conversion takes place in the market, within the sphere of circulation. The second step, the process of production, is complete so soon as the means of production have been converted into commodities whose value exceeds that of their component parts, and, therefore, contains the capital originally advanced, plus a surplus-value.”

Thus Marx describes the working of capitalism, and he goes on to describe this cycle as the origin of capital. As chapter 23 goes on, Marx describes the position of the working class in terms that are easy to understand today. This chapter of Capital speaks of what has in recent years been referred to as the “accumulation path”. Marx concludes Chapter 23 by saying:

“Capitalist production, therefore, under its aspect of a continuous connected process, of a process of reproduction, produces not only commodities, not only surplus-value, but it also produces and reproduces the capitalist relation; on the one side the capitalist, on the other the wage-labourer.”

And he begins Chapter 24 by saying:

Hitherto we have investigated how surplus-value emanates from capital; we have now to see how capital arises from surplus-value. Employing surplus-value as capital, reconverting it into capital, is called accumulation of capital.”

Later on, Marx writes that the result of capitalistic production is threefold:

1) “that the product belongs to the capitalist and not to the worker;

2) “that the value of this product includes, besides the value of the capital advanced, a surplus-value which costs the worker labour but the capitalist nothing, and which none the less becomes the legitimate property of the capitalist;

3) “that the worker has retained his labour-power and can sell it anew if he can find a buyer.”

This and the subsequent is material that is familiar and widely accepted today. Accumulate, accumulate! That is Moses and the prophets!” says Marx.


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