[OPE-L:6549] [OPE-L:14] Re: Variable Capital

Gerald Levy (glevy@pratt.edu)
Mon, 18 May 1998 16:39:34 -0400 (EDT)

Eduardo wrote:

> Jerry wrote:
> >... since in the quote by Marx that you cite, there is no
> >indication that variable capital as such exists as living labor in the
> >production process. It seems to me that saying that v equals the means of
> >subsistence for workers is very different from saying that v equals living
> >labour itself. In the first case, v equals the money advanced to
> >workers. But, the money advanced to workers is different from the workers
> >themselves.
> I disagree. I do think that in the that quotation there is
> “indication that variable capital as such exists as living labor
> in the production process”. Let me quote part of it again:
> One part of capital, and thereby the capital in its entirety, is
> transformed into a variable magnitude by the fact that instead of
> money - which is a constant magnitude - or the
> means of subsistence as which it may appear and which are
> likewise constant magnitudes, it is exchanged for *living labour-power - a
> value creating force*, something which can be smaller or greater, which can
> manifest itself as a variable magnitude and which in fact always enters the
> process of production as a fluctuating, developing magnitude and hence as
> one contained within different limits, rather than as a magnitude
> that has become fixed". (Results of the Immediate Process of Production,
> In: Capital, vol. 1, Vintage Books, p. 983-984).

Marx says above that it (i.e. that portion of money capital that is v) "is
exchanged for *living labour-power - a value creating force*". That simply
reinforces the point I was making: to say that (variable) capital is
***"exchanged for"*** living labour-power is very different from saying
that v *is* living-labour.

> Moreover, in a quote that I have presented in a previous post
> Marx sates that:
> “But in the process of production the place of the $90 is taken
> by the labour-power which sets itself in motion, *dead labour is
> replaced by living labour*, something stagnant by something
> flowing, a constant by a variable. The result is the reproduction
> of v plus an increment of v." (Capital, vol. 1, p. 322, Vintage Books,
> chapter 9 - The rate of surplus-value).

To say that the ***"result"*** is "the reproduction of v plus an increment
in v" is very different from saying that living labour *is* v.

> It seems to me that our disagreement relates to what means the purchase of
> LP by the capitalist: if I have understood you correctly, you are saying
> that the purchase of LP implies into the transformation of money into LP.

What I'm saying is that when viewed from the perspective of a circuit of
capital (and temporally), the purchase and re-purchase of the commodity
labour-power (because of the use-value, i.e. value-creating ability, of
living labour) requires that some portion of capital assumes the form of
money capital which can be exchanged for that commodity.

Thus, let's say that capital begins a period of production (period 1)
with M with which they purchase c + v. A pre-condition for period 2 (M')
is then that the commodity product is sold and thereby
surplus-labour-time can be converted into capital with which c + v can be
purchased for the upcoming period.

> What I’m saying is that with the purchase of LP the capitalist obtains the
> right to the use-value of the commodity LP. I think that the quotation I
> have presented above substantiate my interpretation

Yes, the right to control the use of a commodity is implied (normally and
in this case) by its sale. In this case, however, control over the use of
the commodity LP is affected by the fact that living labour themselves can
attempt to exercise some control over their alienated labour.

In solidarity, Jerry