Re: [OPE] How to read Capital

Date: Thu Apr 03 2008 - 08:33:26 EDT

I highlighted those passages I had in mind. But there are also so many other similar passages in many other places. I am taking these passages from the chapter 26 of the volume 1 because you were referring to this chapter. 

Paul C

Your quote from marx certainly does not back you up.
We have seen how money is changed into capital; how
through capital surplus-value is made, and from
surplus-value more capital. But the accumulation of capital
pre-supposes surplus-value; surplus-value pre-supposes
capitalistic production; capitalistic production presupposes
the pre-existence of considerable masses of capital and of
labour-power in the hands of producers of commodities. The
whole movement, therefore, seems to turn in a vicious
circle, out of which we can only get by supposing a
primitive accumulation (previous accumulation of Adam Smith)
preceding capitalistic accumulation; an accumulation not the
result of the capitalistic mode of production, but its
starting point. 

This primitive accumulation plays in Political
Economy about the same part as original sin in theology.
Adam bit the apple, and thereupon sin fell on the human
race. Its origin is supposed to be explained when it is told
as an anecdote of the past. In times long gone-by there were
two sorts of people; one, the diligent, intelligent, and,
above all, frugal elite; the other, lazy rascals, spending
their substance, and more, in riotous living. The legend of
theological original sin tells us certainly how man came to
be condemned to eat his bread in the sweat of his brow; but
the history of economic original sin reveals to us that
there are people to whom this is by no means essential.
Never mind! Thus it came to pass that the former sort
accumulated wealth, and the latter sort had at last nothing
to sell except their own skins. And from this original sin
dates the poverty of the great majority that, despite all
its labour, has up to now nothing to sell but itself, and
the wealth of the few that increases constantly although
they have long ceased to work. Such insipid childishness is
every day preached to us in the defence of property.
M. Thiers, e.g., had the assurance to repeat it with
all the solemnity of a statesman to the French people, once
so spirituel. But as soon as the question of
property crops up, it becomes a sacred duty to proclaim the
intellectual food of the infant as the one thing fit for all
ages and for all stages of development. In actual history it
is notorious that conquest, enslavement, robbery, murder,
briefly force, play the great part. In the tender annals of
Political Economy, the idyllic reigns from time immemorial.
Right and “labour” were from all time the sole means of
enrichment, the present year of course always excepted. As a
matter of fact, the methods of primitive accumulation are
anything but idyllic.

In themselves money and commodities are no more
capital than are the means of production and of subsistence.
They want transforming into capital. But this transformation
itself can only take place under certain circumstances that
centre in this, viz., that two very different kinds of
commodity-possessors must come face to face and into
contact; on the one hand, the owners of money, means of
production, means of subsistence, who are eager to increase
the sum of values they possess, by buying other people’s
labour-power; on the other hand, free labourers, the sellers
of their own labour-power, and therefore the sellers of
labour. Free labourers, in the double sense that neither
they themselves form part and parcel of the means of
production, as in the case of slaves, bondsmen, &c., nor
do the means of production belong to them, as in the case of
peasant-proprietors; they are, therefore, free from,
unencumbered by, any means of production of their own. With
this polarization of the market for commodities, the
fundamental conditions of capitalist production are given.
The capitalist system pre-supposes the complete separation
of the labourers from all property in the means by which
they can realize their labour. As soon as capitalist
production is once on its own legs, it not only maintains
this separation, but reproduces it on a continually
extending scale. The process, therefore, that clears the way
for the capitalist system, can be none other than the
process which takes away from the labourer the possession of
his means of production; a process that transforms, on the
one hand, the social means of subsistence and of production
into capital, on the other, the immediate producers into
wage-labourers. The so-called primitive accumulation,
therefore, is nothing else than the historical process of
divorcing the producer from the means of production. It
appears as primitive, because it forms the pre-historic
stage of capital and of the mode of production corresponding
with it.

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