[OPE-L:5249] Re: state and workers'ownership and (un)productive labor

From: Gil Skillman (gskillman@mail.wesleyan.edu)
Date: Fri Mar 23 2001 - 18:34:44 EST

Jerry writes, among other things, 

>Another kind of ownership possible under
>capitalism, generally under exceptional
>circumstances, is workers-ownership. Do the
>workers at those enterprises produce
>surplus-value? (Gil: are you listening?).
>Although I might be accused of being "formal"
>(Rakesh, I believe, once wrote in connection
>with a thread on whether slave labor was
>productive of surplus value, that I was "being
>formalistic to the point of tears" -- or words to
>that effect), I would say, "No".  Yes, the
>worker-owners can produce goods which are
>sold on the market and come to be treated as
>if they were commodities. And, indeed, they
>do produce commodities if you believe that
>a commodity is any object which has both a
>use-value and an exchange-value (i.e. a product
>with a use-value that was produced in order
>to be sold).  Yet, from my "formalistic"
>perspective, unless labor is capitalistically-
>employed then it can not produce surplus value.
>Gil might counter with some quotes from Volume
>3. Fair enough. Yet, the question is what is the
>most consistent way of conceiving of productive

I'm always listening, Jerry.  The passages you mention are indeed in Volume
III, particularly in Chs. 20, 24, and 33, and passages supporting the
notion that surplus value can be and has been produced outside of the
specifically capitalist production process can also be found in the
Resultate and the Economic Manuscript of 1861-63.  

But hey, why look there?  We need not look beyond Volume I, and Marx's
"formalistic" treatment of surplus value found there.  In Chapter 4 Marx
defines surplus value as the increment (M'-M) arising from the circuit of
capital M-C-M', so long as this increment is understood to correspond to
the "valorization" of the value originally advanced with M.  In Chapter 5,
we find out that "valorization" means that the increment must result from
value *newly created* through production enabled by the initial advance of
capital.  That's it, as far as Marx's *formal* definition goes.  

Therefore, worker-owned firms produce surplus value if they borrow money
from capitalists, and the interest is paid out of gross revenues generated
by production.  The interest paid under these conditions corresponds to
surplus value.  

More generally, I'd argue against confusing the *definition* of surplus
value with the *economic conditions* under which surplus value is
understood to emerge.  


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