[OPE-L:3378] Gil's necessary conditions

From: michael a. lebowitz (mlebowit@sfu.ca)
Date: Tue May 30 2000 - 14:57:14 EDT

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        Gil really seems to gone off the deep end into neoclassical theory in 3369.

At 08:47 PM 5/28/2000 -0400, he wrote:

>A) Marx identifies two necessary conditions for the capitalist mode of
>production: first that workers are completely expropriated:
>"...the capitalist mode of production and accumulation, and therefore
>capitalist private property as well, have for their fundamental
>condition...the expropriation of the worker." (p940, Penguin ed);
>and second, that excessive capital accumulation by those who have the
>wealth doesn't drive the profit rate to zero. Obviously Marx argues this
>won't happen--he gives two mutually reinforcing arguments why it won't in
>Ch. 25--but at least he recognizes the logical possibility of excessive
>B) Granting both of these conditions is tantamount to ensuring that capital
>is *absolutely* scarce in any given production period;.....

        Certainly we can all agree on the first condition that Gil identifies.
However, the second condition for capitalist productive relations (which,
rather than the capitalist mode of production--- the "specifically
capitalist mode of production", at least--- are the premise for the
beginning of CAPITAL) is that capital has "seized possession of production"
(cf GRUNDRISSE,853,859); i.e., the option for now-propertyless producers of
renting means of production from their owners is closed-- leaving only the
option of selling labour-power, working under the direction, etc of capital
and having no property rights in the product of labour-- thus, capitalist
productive relations.
        Marx separates these two conditions clearly in Vol. I, Ch. 28 when he says:

"It is not enough [A--ML] that the conditions of labour are concentrated at
one pole of society in the shape of capital, while at the other pole are
grouped masses of men who have nothing to sell but their labour-power. Nor
is it enough [B--ML] that they are compelled to sell themselves
voluntarily" (Vintage,899).

        (It is appropriate in passing to ask--- what are both the rupture in
property rights and the seizure of possession of production by capital "not
enough" *for*? The answer is the reproduction of capitalism as an organic
system. Marx's 3rd condition is that the development of the capitalist mode
of production has produced "a working class which by education, tradition
and habit looks upon the requirements of that mode of production as
self-evident natural laws. The organization of capitalist production, once
it is fully developed, breaks down all resistance" (899). Ie., the premise
for capitalism as an organic system is that it produces its premises in the
necessary bourgeois economic form--- especially the working class; this
last, of course, is a premise put into question whenever workers struggle
for their own goals, as Marx well knew.)

        So, what is Gil doing when he keeps insisting that surplus value does not
require production under capitalist relations of production? For one, he is
underlining (quite correctly, in my view) the fact that Marx does not
adequately specify condition B (ML) at the outset of chapter 6, and thus it
appears that the rupture in property rights in itself is a sufficient
condition (as opposed to being merely a necessary condition) for capitalist
production. Had Marx specified this condition B-- just as he did A, then
much of Gil's protest would have been precluded.
        The other thing Gil is doing is failing to distinguish between the "being"
of capital and the "becoming" (anti-Hegelians cover your eyes!). Marx
distinguishes very clearly between "historic presuppositions" (like
accumulating capital by means of usury and merchant activity) which are
part of the "becoming" of capital and those conditions and premises which
are the product of "real capital" (Grundrisse, 459-60), ie. when capitalist
production as such exists--- and it is the latter which is the subject of
        In contrast, Gil admits he is talking about production which is not
occurring under capitalist relations; ie., it is production occurring under
*other* relations of production which, however, are subject to the
parasitic extraction of surplus. Merchants and usurers pump surpluses in
the form of surplus value from, eg., independent peasant producers,
craftsmen, feudal lords, slave-owners, and under some conditions this may
lead to the non-reproduction of the latter relations--- but, then again, it
may not because merchants and usurers are not the residual claimants. (Gil
can find this described as "contested reproduction" in a paper I gave in
Cuba in February.) In short, the surplus value that Gil is talking about
has little to do with capitalist production or the subject matter of
CAPITAL, and to confound it with the latter by talking about a common
characteristic of scarcity of capital simply confuses what should be pretty


Michael A. Lebowitz
Economics Department
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, B.C., Canada V5A 1S6
Office: Phone (604) 291-4669
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