Peter Grimes interview on Indymedia

Charles Brown cbrown at
Tue Nov 4 12:01:06 MST 2003

DMS wrote:
>And if it's energy, presented as an ahistorical category, as simply 
>ENERGY, then we are obligated to point out that Marx missed the boat, 
>because as an ahistorical category, the analysis based on energy had to 
>be accessible at every stage of development.  Marx should have known.  
>It's energy, nature--not the appropriation of nature by human, 
>collective, labor.


CB: Yes, labour, but Marx does discuss _labour_ as an ahistorical as well as
historical category ( see below)

"We shall, therefore, in the first place, have to consider the
labour-process independently of the particular form it assumes under given
social conditions. "

Also, Melvin's theory of the communist class posits a change in the class
structure/property relations caused by technological ( robots, cybernetics,
digitalization) change. It posits a change in property relations caused by a
development in the human/Nature relationship. So, why not investigate
_other_ human/Nature relationships, such as human/water or human/oil
relationships , as potential roots of a cause of change of property
relationships ?

Capital Vol. I
Part III:
The Production of Absolute Surplus-Value 


Section 1 - The Labour-Process or the Production of Use-Values
Section 2 - The Production of Surplus-Value 


The capitalist buys labour-power in order to use it; and labour-power in use
is labour itself. The purchaser of labour-power consumes it by setting the
seller of it to work. By working, the latter becomes actually, what before
he only was potentially, labour-power in action, a labourer. In order that
his labour may re-appear in a commodity, he must, before all things, expend
it on something useful, on something capable of satisfying a want of some
sort. Hence, what the capitalist sets the labourer to produce, is a
particular use-value, a specified article. The fact that the production of
use-values, or goods, is carried on under the control of a capitalist and on
his behalf, does not alter the general character of that production. We
shall, therefore, in the first place, have to consider the labour-process
independently of the particular form it assumes under given social
Labour is, in the first place, a process in which both man and Nature
participate, and in which man of his own accord starts, regulates, and
controls the material re-actions between himself and Nature. He opposes
himself to Nature as one of her own forces, setting in motion arms and legs,
head and hands, the natural forces of his body, in order to appropriate
Nature's productions in a form adapted to his own wants. By thus acting on
the external world and changing it, he at the same time changes his own
nature. He develops his slumbering powers and compels them to act in
obedience to his sway. We are not now dealing with those primitive
instinctive forms of labour that remind us of the mere animal. An
immeasurable interval of time separates the state of things in which a man
brings his labour-power to market for sale as a commodity, from that state
in which human labour was still in its first instinctive stage. We
pre-suppose labour in a form that stamps it as exclusively human. A spider
conducts operations that resemble those of a weaver, and a bee puts to shame
many an architect in the construction of her cells. But what distinguishes
the worst architect from the best of bees is this, that the architect raises
his structure in imagination before he erects it in reality. At the end of
every labour-process, we get a result that already existed in the
imagination of the labourer at its commencement. He not only effects a
change of form in the material on which he works, but he also realises a
purpose of his own that gives the law to his modus operandi, and to which he
must subordinate his will. And this subordination is no mere momentary act.
Besides the exertion of the bodily organs, the process demands that, during
the whole operation, the workman's will be steadily in consonance with his
purpose. This means close attention. The less he is attracted by the nature
of the work, and the mode in which it is carried on, and the less,
therefore, he enjoys it as something which gives play to his bodily and
mental powers, the more close his attention is forced to be. 
The elementary factors of the labour-process are 1, the personal activity of
man, i.e., work itself, 2, the subject of that work, and 3, its instruments.

The soil (and this, economically speaking, includes water) in the virgin
state in which it supplies [1] man with necessaries or the means of
subsistence ready to hand, exists independently of him, and is the universal
subject of human labour. All those things which labour merely separates from
immediate connexion with their environment, are subjects of labour
spontaneously provided by Nature. Such are fish which we catch and take from
their element, water, timber which we fell in the virgin forest, and ores
which we extract from their veins. If, on the other hand, the subject of
labour has, so to say, been filtered through previous labour, we call it raw
material; such is ore already extracted and ready for washing. All raw
material is the subject of labour, but not every subject of labour is raw
material: it can only become so, after it has undergone some alteration by
means of labour. 
An instrument of labour is a thing, or a complex of things, which the
labourer interposes between himself and the subject of his labour, and which
serves as the conductor of his activity. He makes use of the mechanical,
physical, and chemical properties of some substances in order to make other
substances subservient to his aims. [2] Leaving out of consideration such
ready-made means of subsistence as fruits, in gathering which a man's own
limbs serve as the instruments of his labour, the first thing of which the
labourer possesses himself is not the subject of labour but its instrument.
Thus Nature becomes one of the organs of his activity, one that he annexes
to his own bodily organs, adding stature to himself in spite of the Bible.
As the earth is his original larder, so too it is his original tool house.
It supplies him, for instance, with stones for throwing, grinding, pressing,
cutting, &c. The earth itself is an instrument of labour, but when used as
such in agriculture implies a whole series of other instruments and a
comparatively high development of labour. [3] No sooner does labour undergo
the least development, than it requires specially prepared instruments. Thus
in the oldest caves we find stone implements and weapons. In the earliest
period of human history domesticated animals, i.e., animals which have been
bred for the purpose, and have undergone modifications by means of labour,
play the chief part as instruments of labour along with specially prepared
stones, wood, bones, and shells. [4] The use and fabrication of instruments
of labour, although existing in the germ among certain species of animals,
is specifically characteristic of the human labour-process, and Franklin
therefore defines man as a tool-making animal. Relics of bygone instruments
of labour possess the same importance for the investigation of extinct
economic forms of society, as do fossil bones for the determination of
extinct species of animals. It is not the articles made, but how they are
made, and by what instruments, that enables us to distinguish different
economic epochs. [5] Instruments of labour not only supply a standard of the
degree of development to which human labour has attained, but they are also
indicators of the social conditions under which that labour is carried on.
Among the instruments of labour, those of a mechanical nature, which, taken
as a whole, we may call the bone and muscles of production, offer much more
decided characteristics of a given epoch of production, than those which,
like pipes, tubs, baskets, jars, &c., serve only to hold the materials for
labour, which latter class, we may in a general way, call the vascular
system of production. The latter first begins to play an important part in
the chemical industries. 
In a wider sense we may include among the instruments of labour, in addition
to those things that are used for directly transferring labour to its
subject, and which therefore, in one way or another, serve as conductors of
activity, all such objects as are necessary for carrying on the
labour-process. These do not enter directly into the process, but without
them it is either impossible for it to take place at all, or possible only
to a partial extent. Once more we find the earth to be a universal
instrument of this sort, for it furnishes a locus standi to the labourer and
a field of employment for his activity. Among instruments that are the
result of previous labour and also belong to this class, we find workshops,
canals, roads, and so forth. 
In the labour-process, therefore, man's activity, with the help of the
instruments of labour, effects an alteration, designed from the
commencement, in the material worked upon. The process disappears in the
product, the latter is a use-value, Nature's material adapted by a change of
form to the wants of man. Labour has incorporated itself with its subject:
the former is materialised, the latter transformed. That which in the
labourer appeared as movement, now appears in the product as a fixed quality
without motion. The blacksmith forges and the product is a forging. 
If we examine the whole process from the point of view of its result, the
product, it is plain that both the instruments and the subject of labour,
are means of production, [6] and that the labour itself is productive
labour. [7] 
Though a use-value, in the form of a product, issues from the 

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