Reply to James Daly on political economy

Mike Ballard swillsqueal at
Thu Dec 12 15:45:16 MST 2002

--- Jurriaan Bendien <J.Bendien at> wrote:
> James asked:
> I am not an expert on the subject, but can I raise
> some questions? Didn't
> Marx
> say a Spinning Jenny (or money) is not capital;
> capital is capital only
> within
> a capitalist system -- which is not what Stalin
> presided over..."

Well maybe.  Capital is also a social relation.  Where
you have wage-labour, you have Capital.  Here's Karl
on the subject:

Karl Marx
Wage Labour and Capital


The Nature and Growth of Capital


Capital consists of raw materials, instruments of
labor, and means of subsistence of all kinds, which
are employed in producing new raw materials, new
instruments, and new means of subsistence. All these
components of capital are created by labor, products
of labor, accumulated labor. Accumulated labor that
serves as a means to new production is capital.

So says the economists.

What is a Negro slave? A man of the black race. The
one explanation is worthy of the other.

A Negro is a Negro. Only under certain conditions does
he become a slave. A cotton-spinning machine is a
machine for spinning cotton. Only under certain
conditions does it become capital. Torn away from
these conditions, it is as little capital as gold is
itself money, or sugar is the price of sugar.

In the process of production, human beings work not
only upon nature, but also upon one another. They
produce only by working together in a specified manner
and reciprocally exchanging their activities. In order
to produce, they enter into definite connections and
relations to one another, and only within these social
connections and relations does their influence upon
nature operate — i.e., does production take place.

These social relations between the producers, and the
conditions under which they exchange their activities
and share in the total act of production, will
naturally vary according to the character of the means
of production. With the discover of a new instrument
of warfare, the firearm, the whole internal
organization of the army was necessarily altered, the
relations within which individuals compose an army and
can work as an army were transformed, and the relation
of different armies to another was likewise changed.

We thus see that the social relations within which
individuals produce, the social relations of
production, are altered, transformed, with the change
and development of the material means of production,
of the forces of production. The relations of
production in their totality constitute what is called
the social relations, society, and, moreover, a
society at a definite stage of historical development,
a society with peculiar, distinctive characteristics.
Ancient society, feudal society, bourgeois (or
capitalist) society, are such totalities of relations
of production, each of which denotes a particular
stage of development in the history of mankind.

Capital also is a social relation of production. It is
a bourgeois relation of production, a relation of
production of bourgeois society. The means of
subsistence, the instruments of labor, the raw
materials, of which capital consists — have they not
been produced and accumulated under given social
conditions, within definite special relations? Are
they not employed for new production, under given
special conditions, within definite social relations?
And does not just the definite social character stamp
the products which serve for new production as

Capital consists not only of means of subsistence,
instruments of labor, and raw materials, not only as
material products; it consists just as much of
exchange values. All products of which it consists are
commodities. Capital, consequently, is not only a sum
of material products, it is a sum of commodities, of
exchange values, of social magnitudes. Capital remains
the same whether we put cotton in the place of wool,
rice in the place of wheat, steamships in the place of
railroads, provided only that the cotton, the rice,
the steamships — the body of capital — have the same
exchange value, the same price, as the wool, the
wheat, the railroads, in which it was previously
embodied. The bodily form of capital may transform
itself continually, while capital does not suffer the
least alteration.

But though every capital is a sum of commodities —
i.e., of exchange values — it does not follow that
every sum of commodities, of exchange values, is

Every sum of exchange values is an exchange value.
Each particular exchange value is a sum of exchange
values. For example: a house worth 1,000 pounds is an
exchange value of 1,000 pounds: a piece of paper worth
one penny is a sum of exchange values of 100 1/100ths
of a penny. Products which are exchangeable for others
are commodities. The definite proportion in which they
are exchangeable forms their exchange value, or,
expressed in money, their price. The quantity of these
products can have no effect on their character as
commodities, as representing an exchange value , as
having a certain price. Whether a tree be large or
small, it remains a tree. Whether we exchange iron in
pennyweights or in hundredweights, for other products,
does this alter its character: its being a commodity,
or exchange value? According to the quantity, it is a
commodity of greater or of lesser value, of higher or
of lower price.

How then does a sum of commodities, of exchange
values, become capital?

Thereby, that as an independent social power — i.e.,
as the power of a part of society — it preserves
itself and multiplies by exchange with direct, living

The existence of a class which possess nothing but the
ability to work is a necessary presupposition of

It is only the dominion of past, accumulated,
materialized labor over immediate living labor that
stamps the accumulated labor with the character of

Capital does not consist in the fact that accumulated
labor serves living labor as a means for new
production. It consists in the fact that living labor
serves accumulated labor as the means of preserving
and multiplying its exchange value.

Mike B)

"Man first begins to philosophize when the necessitites of life are supplied."  Aristotle

"determinatio est negatio"  Spinoza

"There are no ordinary cats."  Colette

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