XIII

Wages of Labour

Profit of Capital

[XIII. 1.]
"This economic constitution condemns men to such abject employments, such desolate and bitter degradation, that by comparison savagery appears like a royal condition. Prostitution of the non-owning class in all its forms. Rag-and-bone men." [C. Pecqueur, p. 417-18, 421 ]
....Charles Loudon, in his work Solution du probleme de la population, gives the number of prostitutes in England as 60-70,000. The number of women of doubtful virtue is stated as equally large.
...."The average life span of these unfortunate creatures on the streets, after they have embarked on their career of vice, is about six or seven years. This means that, if the number of 60-70,000 prostitutes is to be maintained, there must be in the three kingdoms at least 8-9,000 women a year who take up this infamous trade--i.e., roughly 24 victims a day, which is an average of one an hour. So, if the same proportion is true for the whole surface of the planet, then at all times there must be one-and-a-half million of these unhappy creatures." [Charles Loudon, Solution du probleme de la population et de la subsistence, soumise a un medecin dans une serie du lettres, Paris, 1842, p. 229 ]
...."The population of the poor grows with their poverty, and it is at the most extreme limit of need that human beings crowd together in the greatest numbers in order to fight among themselves for the right to suffer....In 1821, the population of Ireland was 6,801,827. By 1831, it had risen to 7,764,010; that is, a 14 per cent increase in 10 years. In Leinster, the most prosperous of the provinces, the population only grew by 8 per cent, while in Connaught, the poorest of the provinces, the increase was as high as 21 per cent."
(Extract from Inquiries Published in England on Ireland, Vienna, 1840.) [Eugene Buret, De la misere des classes labourieuses en Angleterre et en France, 2 vols., Paris, 1840, Vol. I, pp. 36-7 ]

....Political economy regards labour abstractly, as a thing; labour is a commodity; if the price is high, the commodity is much in demand; if it is low, then it is much in supply; the price of labour as a commodity must fall lower and lower. [ibid., p. 43 ] This is brought about partly by the competition among the workers themselves.
"... the working population, seller of labour, is forced to accept the smallest part of the product...Is the theory of labour as a commodity anything other than a disguised theory of slavery?
Why then was labour regarded as nothing more than an exchange value?" [Eugene Buret, p. 43]

....The big workshops prefer to buy the labour of women and children, because it costs less than that of men.
...."Vis-a-vis his employer, the worker is not at all in the position of a free seller....The capitalist is always free to employ labour, and the worker is always forced to sell it. The value of labour is completely destroyed if it is not sold at every instant. Unlike genuine commodities, labour can be neither accumulated nor even be saved.
[XIV. 1.]

[XIII. 2.]
The producer is acquainted with neither the needs nor the resources, neither the demand nor the supply. He sells when he wants, then he can, where he wants, to whom he wants and at the price he wants. The same goes for buying. In all this he is at all times the plaything of chance, the slave of the law of the strongest, of the least pressed, of the richest.... While at one point there is a shortage of wealth, at another there is a surfeit and squandering of the same. While one producer sells a great deal, or at high prices and with an enormous profit, another sells nothing or sells at a loss.... Supply is ignorant of demand, and demand is ignorant of supply. You produce on the basis of a preference or a fashion prevalent among the consuming public; but by the time you are preparing to put your commodity on the market, the mood has passed and some other kind of product has come into fashion.... The inevitable consequences are continual and spreading bankruptcies, miscalculations, sudden collapses, and unexpected fortunes; trade crises, unemployment, periodic surfeits and shortages; instability and decline of wages and profits; the loss or enormous waste of wealth, of time, and of effort in the arena of fierce competition." [Pecqueur, p. 414-16]
....Ricardo in his book [On the Principles of Political Economy et al] (rent of land): Nations are merely workshops for production, and man is a machine for consuming and producing. Human life is a piece of capital. Economic laws rule the world blindly. For Ricardo, men are nothing, the product everything. In Chapter 26, of the French translation, we read:
...."To an individual with a capital of 20,000 pounds, whose profits were 2,000 per annum, it would be a matter quite indifferent whether his capital would employ a hundred or a thousand men... is not the real interest of the nation similar? Provided its net real income, its rents and profits, be the same, it is of no importance whether the nation consists of 10 or 12 million inhabitants." [Ricardo, pp. 234-5]
...."In truth, says M. de Sismondi, it remains only to desire that the king, who has been left quite alone on the island, should, by continuously cranking up a number of automatons, get all England's work done."
[J. C. L. Simonde de Sismondi, Nouveaux principes d'economic politique, 2 volumes, Paris, 1819, II, p. 331]
...."The master who buys a worker's labour at a price so low that it is barely enough to meet his most pressing needs is responsible neither for the low wages nor the long hours of work: he himself is subject to the law which he imposes.... Misery is the product not so much of men as of the power of things." [Buret, I, p. 82]
...."The inhabitants of many different parts of Great Britain have not capital sufficient to improve and cultivate all their lands. The wool of the southern counties of Scotland is, a great part of it, after a long land carriage through very bad roads, manufactured in Yorkshire, for want of capital to manufacture it at home. There are many little manufacturing towns in Great Britain, of which the inhabitants have not capital sufficient to transport the produce of their own industry to those distant markets where there is demand and consumption for it. If there are any merchants among them,

[XIV. 2.]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Send comments to: Lemmaesthetics@freeuk.com The Hypertext Manuscripts of Karl Marx, Paris 1844. Copyright Gary Tedman 2001-3.