21 July 2009

How business works

Today is a repeat posting of the last part of the CU division of Karl Marx’s Capital Volume 1, because we are going through it chapter by chapter. See the links below, and the Intro to Chapter 32 that follows. Tomorrow’s will carry an Intro for the book’s last chapter, Chapter 33, on Colonialism.

The other link given today is to a recent Declaration of the National Cooperative Association of South Africa’s Executive Council, held on the 4 July 2009.


Since we are considering Capital, Volume 1, it seems a good time to ask some questions about co-operatives. We published the following words, yesterday:

“What makes a business work as capitalism is a dual relationship. The first part of it is the relationship between the worker and the capitalist. The second part is the relationship of the capitalist with his market. If these two relationships do not exist, or are faulty, then a capitalist business will not survive.”

The first question is: If the above is true of capitalist businesses, then is it not also true of co-operatives? In other words, do co-operatives not have to extract surplus value from workers? And do they not depend for their existence on having a market? In other words again, do they not have to compete for business with all comers, including bourgeois capitalist business?

On the other hand, is it possible to have co-operatives that are government-funded and that are supplying to government (local, provincial or national), so that government is their market? Is this real, or is it welfare? What is the cultural nature of co-ops? Are co-ops life, or are they work? How broad is the vision of the co-op?

Click on these links:

CU Backbone posting:

1867, Marx, Capital, Volume 1, 31, 32 and 33, Industrial Capitalism, Colonialism (8265 words)

CU additional posting:

Declaration of NCASA Executive Council, 4 July 2009 (476 words)

Intro to Chapters 32 of Karl Marx's Capital, Volume 1 (33 to follow)

Chapter 32 of Capital, Volume 1 contains about 1000 words in only four paragraphs. It is like a full sweep of history from the past of slaves and serfs through present capitalism to the future, when the expropriators will be expropriated.

For the sake of this blog let us take one of the four paragraphs:

“As soon as this process of transformation has sufficiently decomposed the old society from top to bottom, as soon as the laborers are turned into proletarians, their means of labor into capital, as soon as the capitalist mode of production stands on its own feet, then the further socialization of labour and further transformation of the land and other means of production into socially exploited and, therefore, common means of production, as well as the further expropriation of private proprietors, takes a new form. That which is now to be expropriated is no longer the laborer 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.

The paragraph continues:

“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 labor-process, the conscious technical application of science, the methodical cultivation of the soil, the transformation of the instruments of labor into instruments of labor only usable in common, the economizing of all means of production by their use as means of production of combined, socialized labor, the entanglement of all peoples 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 monopolise 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. Centralisation of the means of production and socialisation of labour at last reach a point where they become incompatible with their capitalist integument. Thus integument is burst asunder. The knell of capitalist private property sounds. The expropriators are expropriated.

In the historical tendencies of capitalism, Marx sees the seed of its own destruction.


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