[OPE-L:6548] Re: Variable capital

Gerald Levy (glevy@pratt.edu)
Thu, 14 May 1998 09:59:13 -0400 (EDT)

Eduardo wrote on Tue, 5 May:

> Let me present another textual evidence to support my argument:
> "The position is otherwise with that portion of capital we have called
> variable but which only becomes the really variable portion of capital when
> it has been exchanged for labour power. In reality, money - the portion of
> capital that the capitalist has expends on the purchase of labour power -
> is nothing but the means of subsistence available on the market (or dumped
> on it on certain terms), and destined for the individual consumption of the
> workers. Money then is only the transmuted form of these means of
> subsistence which the worker immediately transforms back into means of
> subsistence as soon as he receives it... 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 lining 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).

In the quotation above Marx says that variable capital is exchanged for
labour-power and that this money equals the means of subsistence required
for the individual consumption of workers [who are productive labourers,
JL]. This is different, however, from saying:

> What I'm saying is that variable capital exists as living labor within the
> immediate process of production and therefore, at the end-point (time t +
> h) the magnitude of capital (which now exists as commodity capital) has
> increased. It ceases to exists as living labour but it has now been
> incorporated into the commodity capital.

... 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.

Perhaps another way to consider what happens to v in the process of
production is to examine the matter from the standpoint of a circuit of
capital: M - C ... P ... C'- M'. When money capital in the form of v + c
is advanced for the purchase of labour-power and means of production
respectively, "P" can commence. Although v + c exist on the capitalists'
books, what exists in the production process are living and dead labour.
>From this perspective c + v appear at the beginning of a circuit of
capital but they are transformed into labour-power and means of production
during the production process. After the conclusion of the production
process *and after the realization of commodity values* their form of
existence can be transformed back into v + c. We know that the
*realization* of commodity values is required for v to exist again
in the next period of production since v exists in monetary form. I.e. the
commodity product must be *sold* -- exchanged for money -- before
capitalists have the money capital required to purchase addition c + v.

In solidarity, Jerry