29 June 2012

The Communist Manifesto


The Classics, Beginnings, Part 2a

The Communist Manifesto is constantly re-published

Bourgeois, Proletarians and Communists

The Communist Manifesto is a classic by any standards. It is never out of print and is stocked in ordinary bookshops all over the world, selling steadily year after year.

The work was started in mid-1847 in England by Frederick Engels and Karl Marx when Marx was 29 and Engels was 27. The work was published in January or February of 1848, just in time for the outbreak of revolutions all over Europe.

All of the Communist Manifesto is memorable, but especially the first two parts (“Bourgeois and Proletarians”, and “Proletarians and Communists”), attached. The third part is called “Socialist and Communist Literature” and the fourth part, of one page is called “Position of the Communists in Relation to the Various Existing Opposition Parties”. A fifth part that was drafted but not included is the catechism- or FAQ-style document called “The Principles of Communism” drafted by Frederick Engels.

Bourgeois and Proletarians

The new masters, the formerly slave-owning but now capitalist bourgeoisie, also known as burghers or burgesses, were a class that had grown up in the towns under the rule of rural-based feudalism. Marx and Engels were convinced that the bourgeoisie were themselves sooner or later going to be overthrown by the working proletariat. This was the class of free citizens (i.e. not slaves) owning nothing but their Labour-Power, that the bourgeoisie had brought into existence by employing them. The bourgeoisie were taking over from the feudal lords by revolution. They would themselves be toppled by revolution – proletarian revolution – said Marx and Engels.

Commissioned to write the Manifesto by the Communist League, Marx and Engels struggled to meet the agreed deadline, but came through with a magnificent text published just prior to the February, 1848 events in Paris. These events brought the proletariat as actors on to the stage of history to an extent that had never been seen before, thoroughly vindicating Engels and Marx.

Short as it is, the Manifesto is so rich and so compressed as to be saturated with meaning. It is practically impossible to summarise. Here are some of the most extraordinary sentences of the first section of the Manifesto:

The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.

Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other - bourgeoisie and proletariat.

The executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie.

All fixed, fast frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify.

All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real condition of life and his relations with his kind.

The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the entire surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connections everywhere.

Proletarians and Communists

The second part of the Communist Manifesto contains statements about the Communist Party, about the family, about religion, and frank statements about the bourgeoisie.

The second part shows, among other things, the centrality of the relations of production that create and sustain the effect known as capital, which then in turn defines everything else in bourgeois society.

“Proletarians and Communists” also looks forward to the way that society can be changed, and thus serves to remind us that Marx’s work is always intentional, and is never merely empirical, descriptive or disinterested.

“The average price of wage labour is the minimum wage, i.e., that quantum of the means of subsistence which is absolutely requisite to keep the labourer in bare existence as a labourer,” wrote Marx and Engels.  

“But does wage labour create any property for the labourer? Not a bit. It creates capital, i.e., that kind of property which exploits wage labour, and which cannot increase except upon conditions of begetting a new supply of wage labour for fresh exploitation.”

They finish the section with this unforgettable, classic vision:

“…a vast association of the whole nation… in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.”

28 June 2012

The Poverty of Philosophy


The Classics, Part 2

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and his daughters, by Gustave Courbet, 1865

The Poverty of Philosophy

In Chapter 2 of his 1917 between-two-revolutions work “The State and Revolution”, V I Lenin notes that The first works of mature Marxism — The Poverty of Philosophy and the Communist Manifesto — appeared just on the eve of the revolution of 1848.”

Among other things, “The State and Revolution” was Lenin’s course on The Classics, moving through the works of Marx and Engels and revealing the spine or theme of a entire body of work - the Marxist “canon”.

We have already looked at this question. The German Ideology and the Theses on Feuerbach, written between 1845 and 1847, was not published in full until 1932, long after Lenin’s death in 1924. These works should therefore also be recognised as the “first works of mature Marxism”.

 So we can see a reasonably clear-cut beginning to the “canon” of Marxism, in terms of time and of specific works: the “Theses on Feuerbach”, written in Brussels in early 1845, followed by “The German Ideaology”, and then by “The Poverty of Philosophy”, and then by the “Communist Manifesto” in the beginning of 1848. But what is the nature of this beginning, as revealed in these works?

One part of the answer to this question is polemic This is a kind of argument that proceeds from criticism of an opponent’s ideas expressed in text, which is then carefully examined and dissected. These works are polemical. “The German Ideology” was a polemic against Bruno Bauer and Max Stirner, the latter being an anarchist who had previously published a book called “The Ego and Its Own”. Another anarchist opponent of Marx and Engels in the early 1840s was Wilhelm Weitling, who wrote a book called “Gospel of Poor Sinners”, published in 1847.

The Poverty of Philosophy, started in January 1847 and published the same year, was a polemic against a third anarchist, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, who had written a book called “The Philosophy of Poverty”.

In case we should get too particular about the term “anarchism”, it can help to recall what Lenin wrote in Chapter 3 of The State and Revolution, namely that “anarcho-syndicalism… is merely the twin brother of opportunism.” The imprecision of anarchism is one of its faults. Its distinction from bourgeois and petty-bourgeois liberalism is not clear. Marx’s polemic is directed against these faults, and others.

We may as well use this opportunity to remind ourselves that there was no innocent Garden of Eden for Marxism before it was assailed by anarchists, “ultra-lefts”, revisionists, reformists and all sorts of deviationists, escamoteurs and demagogues. In fact, there was not even as much as one minute of peace for Marxism before it had to contend with all of these kinds of opponents. On the contrary, Marxism was actually conceived within this very same argument. The argument with the anarchists was itself the creative act. There was no Marxism prior to its polemical fights with anarchism, and Marxism is fated to contend with these same foes in their many variations until the day that class struggle finally ends, and the communist parties disband themselves.

The selected text from The Poverty of Philosophy, downloadable via the link given below, is a compilation of Part 3 of Chapter 2, together with the last pages of the book.

It is not necessary for our present purposes to follow every twist and turn of Marx’s argument in Part 3 of The Poverty of Philosophy. Most of it is in any case lucid and clear, although it is sometimes not easy to tell which is Marx’s own voice, and which is Marx speaking satirically, in Proudhon’s voice.

Some highlights include the following passage, where Marx anticipates both Capital Volume 3 and also the current banking crisis and US home-loan bubble:

“Competition is not industrial emulation, it is commercial emulation. In our time industrial emulation exists only in view of commerce. There are even phases in the economic life of modern nations when everybody is seized with a sort of craze for making profit without producing. This speculation craze, which recurs periodically, lays bare the true character of competition, which seeks to escape the need for industrial emulation.”

In the final part, Marx begins by advocating “combination”, which is the creation of mass democratic organisations, especially trade unions. He finds the “twin brothers” - the reformist bourgeois economists, and the utopian socialists - both arguing against combination; yet he notes that the more advanced the countries become, the greater is the degree of combination. Association then takes on a political character, says Marx.

In the final page Marx writes:

“An oppressed class is the vital condition for every society founded on the antagonism of classes. The emancipation of the oppressed class thus implies necessarily the creation of a new society… The condition for the emancipation of the working class is the abolition of every class…there will be no more political power properly so-called, since political power is precisely the official expression of antagonism in civil society... …the antagonism between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie is a struggle of class against class, a struggle which carried to its highest expression is a total revolution.”

This is classic Marxism.

The image above is a reproduction of a painting of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon made in 1865 by the Realist painter and revolutionary Gustave Courbet . In 1871 Courbet was placed in charge of all art museums by the Paris Commune. After the fall of the Commune, Courbet was punished and exiled to Switzerland, where he died.

25 June 2012

Engels and the Labour Movements

The Classics, Beginnings, Part 1b

Frederick Engels, 1841

Engels and the Labour Movements

The Marxists Internet Library’s Encyclopedia’s entry on Rheinische Zeitung starts thus:

“The Rheinische Zeitung für Politik, Handel und Gewerbe was founded on January 1 1842. It was, generally, a pro-democracy reformist publication of the Rhine's bourgeois opposition to Prussian absolutism. [Dr] Karl Marx wrote his first news article for it on May 5 1842 [his 24th birthday]. By October 1842, he was named editor.

“On November 16 1842, en route to England, Engels paid a visit to the Rheinische Zeitung offices – where he first met the new editor. Engels' time in England would result in a series of articles for the RZ – and those would, in turn, lead to his famous book, The Condition of the Working Class in England.”

The Rheinische Zeitung was Karl Marx’s first, and probably his only ever regular employer, but the record shows that Frederick Engels had an article published in the Rheinische Zeitung even before Marx arrived there. Therefore they must have known each others’ writing even before they met in 1842.

The two teamed up for good in Paris, in August 1844, by which time Marx was already in exile from his native Germany. The question in this first part of our “Classics” course remains: When did these two become “Marxists”? And the answer is that the crucial transition took place through their joint writing of “The German Ideology”, from 1845 onwards.

A related question could be: What did each of them separately bring to “Marxism”? The text today can serve to show that Frederick Engels brought with him a strong sense of the historical destiny of the working class. It is the chapter on “Labour Movements” from Engels’ “The Condition of the Working Class in England” (download linked below).

It seems that by 1844 when they re-met in Paris, these two young men, Engels at 24 and Marx at 26 years old, had both already formed the unusual opinion that the working class was destined to be the gravedigger of the capitalist bourgeoisie.

For all of the historical materialism, and the later discovery of the Marx’s theory of surplus value, yet without a candidate for the role of free-willing revolutionary agent and Subject of History there was never going to be a communist movement. Marx and Engels agreed that the revolutionary Subject was bound to be the working proletariat, and they never subsequently wavered from that view.

Engels’ research into the working class in (at the time) its most advanced condition in the world was quite crucial for both of their ability to take the partisan view in favour of the working class that they did take. It gave them the empirical, abstract factual knowledge that allowed them to concretise their revolutionary project with confidence. Hence this book of Engels’ book, his first, is certainly a classic. As he put it in our downloadable chapter:

“These strikes… are the strongest proof that the decisive battle between bourgeoisie and proletariat is approaching. They are the military school of the working-men in which they prepare themselves for the great struggle which cannot be avoided…”

It is a classic in at least two other ways. It is a classic example of the well-organised marshalling and synthesis of library research, interview research and personal observation. It is also a classic of urban social theory or urbanism, of which it is a pioneering example.

Image: Frederick Engels in his military year, 1841.

23 June 2012

The German Ideology

The Classics, Beginnings, Part 1a

The German Ideology

From August 1844 when they re-met in Paris, France, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels began a lifelong collaboration, and immediately began to write together the book that was published the following year as “The Holy Family” - a polemic against the “Young Hegelians”, otherwise called “The Free”, a group of German political intellectuals (“Saint Bruno” Bauer, “Saint Max” Stirner, and others).

But it was in their second major joint work that the two managed to firmly lay down the basics of what we know as Marxism in the book called “The German Ideology”, again critiquing the Young Hegelians and now also Ludwig Feuerbach. This manuscript was written between 1845 and 1847 but it was never published, or even prepared for publication, during the lifetimes of the two authors, Marx and Engels.

The “Theses on Feuerbach” that we studied as our previous item are said to be notes of Marx’s in preparation for “The German Ideology”, according to the Preface to this work in Progress Publishers’ Collected Works of Marx, which also says of “The German Ideology” and its associated writings:

“They were all written between the spring of 1845 and the spring of 1847, during Marx’s stay in Brussels, where he moved in February 1845 following his deportation from France by the Guizot government. Engels came to Brussels from Barmen in April 1845 and remained till August 1846. This was the period when Marxism was finally evolved as the scientific world outlook of the revolutionary proletariat. Marx and Engels had arrived at the decisive stage in working out the philosophical principles of scientific communism.”

This, then, is the Holy Grail for those who seek the precise origin of “Marxism”. Progress Publishers go on:

“It was in The German Ideology that the materialist conception of history, historical materialism, was first formulated as an integral theory. Engels said later that this theory, which uncovered the genuine laws of social development and revolutionised the science of society, embodied the first of Marx’s great discoveries (the second being the theory of surplus value) which played the main role in transforming socialism from a utopia into a science.”

What is this thing called “historical materialism”? Here are two paragraphs from the chapter of The German ideology that is downloadable via the link below.

"This conception of history depends on our ability to expound the real process of production, starting out from the material production of life itself, and to comprehend the form of intercourse connected with this and created by this mode of production (i.e. civil society in its various stages), as the basis of all history; describing it in its action as the state, and to explain all the different theoretical products and forms of consciousness, religion, philosophy, ethics, etc. etc. arise from it, and trace their origins and growth from that basis. Thus the whole thing can, of course, be depicted in its totality (and therefore, too, the reciprocal action of these various sides on one another)…

"It shows that history does not end by being resolved into "self-consciousness as spirit of the spirit", but that in it at each stage there is found a material result: a sum of productive forces, an historically created relation of individuals to nature and to one another, which is handed down to each generation from its predecessor; a mass of productive forces, capital funds and conditions, which, on the one hand, is indeed modified by the new generation, but also on the other prescribes for it its conditions of life and gives it a definite development, a special character. It shows that circumstances make men just as much as men make circumstances.”

Later on the work says says “In reality and for the practical materialist, i.e. the communist, it is a question of revolutionising the existing world, of practically attacking and changing existing things.”

The point is to change the world, as the eleventh Thesis on Feuerbach says.

In the last part of the chapter, in the part called “Ruling Class and Ruling Ideas”, you will read the following well-known, classic words:

The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it. The ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships, the dominant material relationships grasped as ideas; hence of the relationships which make the one class the ruling one, therefore, the ideas of its dominance.”

The Progress Publishers Preface quotes Marx as writing, in 1859, about “The German Ideology”: “We abandoned the manuscript to the gnawing criticism of the mice all the more willingly as we had achieved our main purpose — self-clarification.”

Image: Statue of Marx and Engels in Marx-Engels-Forum, Berlin, Germany.

22 June 2012

Marx: Theses on Feuerbach


The Classics, Part 1

Marx: Theses on Feuerbach

Any one of the eleven short Theses on Feuerbach (download linked below) would be adequate on its own as a topic for discussion in a study circle. The most famous of them is the last one:

“Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.”

The attached document shows Marx, in 1845, as being firmly in the camp of those humanists for whom the active, free-willing Subject is the centre and the starting point of all philosophy and all politics.

It puts Marx in the opposite camp from those “materialists” who regard the human as derivative of, and secondary to, the purely physical. Marx never shifted from this strong and logical position. Marx poses the Subject in a dialectical relation with the Objective universe, but the Subject is the one with the initiative. The Subject makes things happen. The Subject can change the world – and that’s the point.

This is different from the idealism that ignores the material world, and it is equally different from the materialism that prioritises the mechanical over the mental. Thus, Marx settles the controversy over “dialectical materialism” right here, at the very beginning of Marxism.

Ludwig Feuerbach’s intervention into the philosophical debates of the early 1840s created a sensation in the intellectual crucible that included Marx and Engels as well as the “Young Hegelians”, with whom Marx and Engels were in the process of falling out.

Reading the eleven “Theses” reveals that Marx immediately recognised Feuerbach as a materialist, but also that he at once rejected Feuerbach’s particular and limited kind of anti-religious and anti-subjective materialism.

Thesis number two says that truth is a practical question. This is something that is repeated later on in the “classics” of Marxism. It again reinforces the assertion that the world or universe is a human world or universe. “It is men who change circumstances” says Marx in the third Thesis, and “human activity or self-change can be conceived and rationally understood only as revolutionary practice.”

The subsequent Theses develop this understand through to Thesis 10 which says: The standpoint of the old materialism is civil society; the standpoint of the new is human society or social humanity.”

This is a good reminder that for Marx in particular, the term “civil society” only means “bourgeois society”, and that therefore for Marxists, “civil society” is something to be overcome and transcended, and not something to be put on a pedestal and worshipped.

Image: Karl Marx being arrested in Brussels, 1840s.

21 June 2012

What is a Classic?


The Classics, Part 0, Introduction

“Classics Illustrated” comic

What is a Classic?

There is no last word on what the Marxist “Classics” are, or might be. There will be no attempt here to lay down a definitive, prescriptive “canon”. Instead, what we will be doing is creating a skeleton or framework around which individuals might wish to build up or to flesh out their own ideas of what “The Classics” consist of.

In this course on "The Classics" we will go from Marx and Engels in the mid-1840s to Lenin, Luxemburg and Gramsci, towards the mid-1920s. We will use some material that already appears in our other courses, together with works that have not yet been used in any of these courses, but which are “classics” nonetheless.

The one “classic” we will not include is Karl Marx’s “Capital”. The CU has a separate ten-week course on Capital, Volume 1, and another ten-week course covering Volumes 2 and 3. But we will include part of Marx’s “Wages, Price and Profit”, and part of his “Introduction to a Critique of Political Economy”, both of which are classics in their own right but which also give more than a taste of the great “Capital”.

Lenin in his “The State and Revolution” (a classic, and itself a review of the classics) wrote that in his opinion “The Poverty of Philosophy”, written and published in 1847, is “the first mature work of Marxism”.

But we will begin in Brussels, Belgium, in early 1845, shortly after Marx and Engels had (in Paris, in August 1844) teamed up. As we know, they stuck together until death parted them. We will begin with the short piece of work by Karl Marx that is known as the “Theses on Feuerbach”, named as such by Frederick Engels, and published by Engels in 1888, five years after the death of Karl Marx.

15 June 2012

Revenues and their Sources


Revenues and their Sources

Capital Volume 3, Part 7, Revenues and their Sources

The last part, of the last volume, of “Capital”, begins as Volume 1 ended, with a reminder that capital is not a thing, but is a relationship. In Part 1 of our chosen text, Chapter 48, The Trinity Formula (download linked below) Marx writes:

Capital, land, labour! However, capital is not a thing, but rather a definite social production relation, belonging to a definite historical formation of society, which is manifested in a thing and lends this thing a specific social character. Capital is not the sum of the material and produced means of production. Capital is rather the means of production transformed into capital, which in themselves are no more capital than gold or silver in itself is money. It is the means of production monopolised by a certain section of society, confronting living labour-power as products and working conditions rendered independent of this very labour-power, which are personified through this antithesis in capital…”

Shortly afterwards, Marx turns to a summary of the illusory and impossible conception of the same relationship as seen by self-serving “vulgar” bourgeois economists, starting like this:

“Vulgar economy actually does no more than interpret, systematise and defend in doctrinaire fashion the conceptions of the agents of bourgeois production who are entrapped in bourgeois production relations. It should not astonish us, then, that vulgar economy feels particularly at home in the estranged outward appearances of economic relations in which these prima facie absurd and perfect contradictions appear and that these relations seem the more self-evident the more their internal relationships are concealed from it, although they are understandable to the popular mind. But all science would be superfluous if the outward appearance and the essence of things directly coincided. Thus, vulgar economy has not the slightest suspicion that the trinity which it takes as its point of departure, namely, land — rent, capital — interest, labour — wages or the price of labour, are prima facie three impossible combinations.”

Later in this paragraph (section III of the chapter), Marx refers to Volume 1 (“Book 1”) and contrasts the irrational bourgeois concept of value with the true understanding of surplus value.

To finish by returning to Engels’ introductory remarks: Yes, Capital Volume 3 is important. It is not superfluous. Volume 3 is directly helpful in the current circumstances of “Global Economic Meltdown” and “Debt Crisis”. But Volume 3 does not render Volume 1 redundant. On the contrary, Volume 3 relies upon and leans upon Volume 1 and constantly confirms Volume 1, throughout.

The last Chapter of Capital Volume 3 is Chapter 52, “Classes”, and it ends: “[Here the manuscript breaks off.]

Engels provided a supplement to Volume 3 which can be found on MIA, here.

Picture: A representation of the Christian “Holy Trinity”. “Pater”, “filius” and “spiritus sanctus” are Father, Son and holy spirit (Holy Ghost), and “deus” is God. “Est” means “is”, and “non est” means “is not”. These are “prima facie” three impossible combinations. If all are God, then it follows in logic that all must be the same as each other; but the diagram says they are not the same as each other. This is a logical “non sequitur” (i.e. “it does not follow”).

Marx is not challenging Christianity. Christians may, as some of them do, accept the Trinity as an article of faith, while others may say (as do the Jesuits, for example) that the Trinity may be a mystery, but we must constantly strive to understand it by reason.

Marx is rather saying that the Christian Trinity is not reconcilable by logic, and the bourgeois Trinity of capital, land, and labour likewise does not constitute three of a kind, and so, like the Christian Trinity, this bourgeois Trinity it does not constitute a logical unity.

8 June 2012

Ground Rent


Ground Rent

Capital Volume 3, Part 6, Transformation of Surplus-Profit into Ground-Rent

In this 11-chapter part of Capital Volume 3, Karl Marx relates capital (reproduction of surplus value) to the much older, pre-capitalist concept and practice of rent. He shows how rent became, and remains, part of the capitalistic system.  Our chosen Chapter 38 (download linked below) deals with the “surplus-profit” over and above the general rate of profit, that may arise from fortuitous factors like the possession of a waterfall; and the concept of differential rent as a means of taking account of such a variation from the norm.

But first, let us exploit the summarising paragraphs on rent, given below in a shortened version, which Marx gives in the Introduction to this section. Note that, as Marx reminds us, these remarks bear upon the question of mining as much as they bear upon agriculture:

“The analysis of landed property in its various historical forms is beyond the scope of this work. We shall be concerned with it only in so far as a portion of the surplus-value produced by capital falls to the share of the landowner. We assume, then, that agriculture is dominated by the capitalist mode of production just as manufacture is; in other words, that agriculture is carried on by capitalists who differ from other capitalists primarily in the manner in which their capital, and the wage-labour set in motion by this capital, are invested. So far as we are concerned, the farmer produces wheat, etc., in much the same way as the manufacturer produces yarn or machines. The assumption that the capitalist mode of production has encompassed agriculture implies that it rules over all spheres of production and bourgeois society, i.e., that its prerequisites, such as free competition among capitals, the possibility of transferring the latter from one production sphere to another, and a uniform level of the average profit, etc., are fully matured. The form of landed property which we shall consider here is a specifically historical one, a form transformed through the influence of capital and of the capitalist mode of production, either of feudal landownership, or of small-peasant agriculture as a means of livelihood, in which the possession of the land and the soil constitutes one of the prerequisites of production for the direct producer, and in which his ownership of land appears as the most advantageous condition for the prosperity of his mode of production.

“Just as the capitalist mode of production in general is based on the expropriation of the conditions of labour from the labourers, so does it in agriculture presuppose the expropriation of the rural labourers from the land and their subordination to a capitalist, who carries on agriculture for the sake of profit…

“For our purposes it is necessary to study the modern form of landed property, because our task is to consider the specific conditions of production and circulation which arise from the investment of capital in agriculture. Without this, our analysis of capital would not be complete… (Or, instead of agriculture, we can use mining because the laws are the same for both.)

“Landed property is based on the monopoly by certain persons over definite portions of the globe, as exclusive spheres of their private will to the exclusion of all others. With this in mind, the problem is to ascertain the economic value, that is, the realisation of this monopoly on the basis of capitalist production.

“With the legal power of these persons to use or misuse certain portions of the globe, nothing is decided. The use of this power depends wholly upon economic conditions, which are independent of their will. The legal view itself only means that the landowner can do with the land what every owner of commodities can do with his commodities. And this view, this legal view of free private ownership of land, arises in the ancient world only with the dissolution of the organic order of society, and in the modern world only with the development of capitalist production…

“In the section (in Volume 1) dealing with primitive accumulation we saw that this mode of production presupposes, on the one hand, the separation of the direct producers from their position as mere accessories to the land (in the form of vassals, serfs, slaves, etc.), and, on the other hand, the expropriation of the mass of the people from the land.

“To this extent the monopoly of landed property is a historical premise, and continues to remain the basis of the capitalist mode of production, just as in all previous modes of production which are based on the exploitation of the masses in one form or another. But the form of landed property with which the incipient capitalist mode of production is confronted does not suit it. It first creates for itself the form required by subordinating agriculture to capital. It thus transforms feudal landed property, clan property, small peasant property in mark communes — no matter how divergent their juristic forms may be — into the economic form corresponding to the requirements of this mode of production.

“One of the major results of the capitalist mode of production is that, on the one hand, it transforms agriculture from a mere empirical and mechanical self-perpetuating process employed by the least developed part of society into the conscious scientific application of agronomy, in so far as this is at all feasible under conditions of private property; that it divorces landed property from the relations of dominion and servitude, on the one hand, and, on the other, totally separates land as an instrument of production from landed property and landowner — for whom the land merely represents a certain money assessment which he collects by virtue of his monopoly from the industrial capitalist, the capitalist farmer; it dissolves the connection between landownership and the land so thoroughly that the landowner may spend his whole life in Constantinople, while his estates lie in Scotland. Landed property thus receives its purely economic form by discarding all its former political and social embellishments and associations, in brief all [its] traditional accessories…

“The rationalising of agriculture, on the one hand, which makes it for the first time capable of operating on a social scale, and the reduction ad absurdum of property in land, on the other, are the great achievements of the capitalist mode of production. Like all of its other historical advances, it also attained these by first completely impoverishing the direct producers.”

Once again, Marx refers back to matters dealt with in Volume 1.

Among other things, Marx is here providing us with explanations as to why the land question in South Africa is so intractable. Land is part of capitalism, and so are mines. There can be no going back, but only forward, because in its productive aspect land has never been more socialised. Only in its ownership can land become more socialised, and it can only be fully re-socialised by the complete abolition of capitalism.

As with banking, so also with landowning: Under capitalism the take is a portion of surplus-value. This part shows how such rent arises and how it is calculated for the various conditions, of which the first example given is as clear as any, and can serve as typical.