VII

Wages of Labour

Profit of Capital

Rent of Land

[VII. 1.]
....According to the political economist, labour is the only means whereby man can enhance the value of natural products, and labour is the active property of man. But, according to this same political economy, the landowner and the capitalist, who as such are merely privileged and idle gods, are everywhere superior to the worker and dictate the law to him.
...According to the political economist, labour is the only constant price of things. But nothing is more subject to chance than the price of labour, nothing exposed to greater fluctuations.
....While the division of labour increases to the productive power of labour and the wealth and refinement of society, it impoverishes the worker and reduces him to a machine. While labour gives rise to the accumulation of capital, and so brings about the growing prosperity of society, it makes the worker increasingly dependent on the capitalist, exposes him to greater competition and drives him into the frenzied world of overproduction, with its subsequent slump.
Whilst according to the political economist the interest of the worker is never opposed to the interest of society, society is always and inevitably opposed to the interest of the worker.
....According to the political economist, the interest of the worker is never opposed to that of society: (1) because the rise in wages is more than made up for by the reduction in the amount of labour time, with the other consequences explained above, and (2) because in relation to society the entire gross product is net product, and only in relation to the individual does the net product have any significance.
...But that labour itself--not only under present conditions, but in general and insofar as its goal is restricted to the increase of wealth--that labour itself is harmful and destructive, follows from the analyses made by the political economists, even though they themselves are unaware of it.
...In theory, ground rent and profit on capital are deductions made from wages. But, in reality, wages are a deduction which land and capital grant the worker, an allowance made from the product of labour to the worker, to labour.
....The worker suffers most when society is in a state of decline. He owes the particular severity of his distress to his position as a worker, but the distress as such is a result of the situation of society.
....But, when society is in a state of progress, the decline and impoverishment of the worker is the product of his labour and the wealth produced by him. This misery, therefore, proceeds from the very essence of present-day labour.
....A society at the peak of prosperity--an ideal, but one which is substantially achieved, and which is at least the goal of the economic system and of civil society--is static misery for the worker.
....It goes without saying that political economy regards the proletarian--i.e., he who lives without capital and ground rent, from labour alone, and from one-sided, abstract labour at that--as nothing more than a worker. It can, therefore, advance the thesis that, like a horse, he must receive enough to enable him to work. It does not consider him, during the time when he is not working, as a human being. It leaves this to criminal law, doctors, religion, statistical tables, politics, and the beadle.
....Let us now rise above the level of political economy and examine the ideas developed above, taken almost word for word from the political economists, for the answers to these two questions:
....(1) What is the meaning, in the development of mankind, of this reduction of the greater part of mankind to abstract labour?
....(2) What mistakes are made by the piecemeal reformers, who either want to raise wages and thereby improve the situation of the working class, or--like Proudhon--see equality of wages as the goal of social revolution?
....In political economy, labour appears only in the form of wage-earning activity.
[VIII. 1,2,3.]



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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