– K.C. Adams –
Since Karl Marx presented his economic analysis to the world, the proletarian movement has gained enormous experience and maturity and extended its reach throughout the globe. Many well-meaning people quote Karl Marx’s analysis of capital using all the same terms and classifications from his works. It does Marx a great disservice to keep repeating his thesis without accounting for changes in the objective and subjective conditions.
In the 1850s, when Marx wrote his analysis of the stupendous economic developments taking place in the world, the working class was in its infancy, arising in step with the overthrow of petty production and the feudal autocracy. Even in its infancy, comprised of first and second generation proletarians still mostly uneducated, exploited to the bone, and without any say or control over their lives, the working class movement showed to the world that it was the class of the future. The rapidly developing objective and subjective conditions were poised to transform workers into modern conscious beings capable of fashioning modern socialized relations of production in conformity with the socialized productive forces that gave rise to them, and capable of leading humanity in a historic struggle to eliminate class privilege and the inhumanity of humans exploiting humans.
As petty production crumbled throughout the world under the onslaught of socialized industrial mass production, the greatest product of the new productive forces, the working class, set the world on a course towards socialism, internationalism, empowerment, democracy, a modern definition of rights and a nation-building project of its own making.
In 1871, the working class stormed the barricades and seized control of Paris but failed to consolidate its grasp on power for reasons Marx analyzed and explained in his Civil War in France. The experience taught the working class that to succeed in its own nation-building project, it must replace the existing bourgeois state, including importantly the police power, with institutions and a state of its own making.
The failure of the Paris Commune was corrected in practice a little more than four decades later when Lenin led the Russian proletariat and its allies to victory in the Great October Socialist Revolution of 1917, smashing to smithereens the existing Tsarist/bourgeois state and replacing it with a socialist state under the control of the working class in alliance with the peasantry, which was still numerous in the vast countryside.
The socialist victory in Russia quickly put an end to the First Imperialist World War. Under the leadership of Lenin’s Communist Party the revolution spread widely, soon creating the Soviet Union. The nation-building project of the working class in close alliance with the peasantry became a beacon of hope for oppressed humanity everywhere, inspiring the growing legions of workers and their allies to organize their own Communist Parties to lead their movements for emancipation from class and colonial oppression.
Worldwide, the working class was undergoing immense transformation in both quantity and quality as socialized industrial mass production swept aside petty production in region after region. The increasing demands of industrial mass production for the application of science and technique spurred the need for educated workers. The Soviet Union spearheaded the rapid development of mass public education, health care and journalism to serve the people and their movements for change. The working class formed Communist Parties in every country and involved workers in actions with analysis to defend their rights and achieve their immediate and long-term objectives.
In quality, the working class was rapidly transforming itself from an uneducated, downtrodden mass to optimistic literate individuals and activists within their collectives capable of analyzing the concrete conditions and formulating their own independent agenda and theory. The reality of a modern working class reaching into every nook and cranny of the world, not just as the most numerous class but with a new quality and ability to think and analyze and sum up its vast experience in politics and nation-building is a far cry from the working class and concrete conditions when Marx wrote his famous economic works.
Marx made it clear that the analysis of the economic developments in those early days of the overthrow of petty production could only be explained from the vantage point of the owners of the means of production, the descendents and inheritors of the bourgeois merchants and their intelligentsia who led the attack on petty production and the feudal autocrats. To serve the working class and communist movement, Marx set himself the task to dissect the cell of the capitalist economy, a commodity, into all its bits and pieces and trace its tortuous journey from production as use-value to exchange-value and back again as use-value while viewing the process from the vantage point of an owner of the means of production.
Marx explained how the economy forced bourgeois owners of the means of production into spontaneous actions beyond their control and fashioned their aim to exploit the working class for private profit without concern for humanity or the environment. He showed how the owners of the competing parts of the capitalist economy engaged in actions dictated by the way the economy directed them to act, forcing them to spread throughout the world in a relentless competitive drive for resources, investment opportunities, markets and workers to exploit, all the while engaging in unbridled exploitation of workers in their own countries and unspeakable violence against the colonial peoples and robbery of their wealth, land and resources.
Marx showed how the anarchy of production without conscious control results in recurring economic crises and that the whole was pushing the competing owners of parts of the economy into increasingly violent clashes amongst themselves and with the working class. He and Engels revealed as early as 1848 with the publication of the Communist Manifesto that the working class, the most important product of the transformation to socialized industrial mass production, was destined to resolve the contradictions of the period and put humanity on a conscious planned pathway towards the elimination of classes and class society.
The working class through organizing itself and strengthening its quality as a socially conscious class for itself and for all humanity was marching inevitably towards a climactic confrontation with the owners of the means of production over the control and direction of the economy. This confrontation is centred on the necessity to bring relations of production into conformity with socialized industrial mass production.
Marx left a legacy of material that not only teaches how people should view the concrete conditions of his day in the nineteenth century but a guide as to how they can analyze their own concrete conditions today in a similar manner to point the way forward. Simply to restate Marx’s economic theories will not do. More is expected of the working class than the ability to cite already existing theory.
Marx’s analysis lifted a heavy burden of doubt and uncertainty from the minds of working class leaders and the intelligentsia of the time. It clarified for all and sundry that the working class was the producer of all goods and services and that in doing so produced the profit so coveted by the bourgeois owners of the means of production.
To end four millennia of class privilege and exploitation of humans by humans, history has directed the working class to gain control of the means of production and importantly the new value it produces and put the entire amount to use in the people’s interest. It is in their interest to move society forward in a nation-building project in accordance with modern definitions and its own agenda to emancipate itself and eliminate class privilege and social classes.
With the historic feat of the victory of the Great October Socialist Revolution and the spread of communism, mass education and socialized industrial production worldwide, the international working class became a class of itself, for itself and by itself with its own thinking, politics and ability to analyze independently. The necessity arose to let the original Marxist economic analysis play an even greater role in the lives of the working class by developing it from the perspective of the antithesis within the social relation, the working class.
The social relation between the working class and the owners of social wealth called capital has already been breached and is bound to resolve itself again into a synthesis — a new working class liberated from the social relation. The transitional capitalist form between petty production of the feudal autocrats and socialized industrial mass production of the modern working class can and should be explained from the perspective of the antithesis in the social relation, the working class.
Workers in the former Soviet Union or wherever they have gained control over the means of production within a nation-building project or anywhere for that matter in today’s world of socialized industrial mass production did not then and could not now view themselves as producing a “value over and above the cost of production — as the source of profit, interest and rental incomes.” Such a view is that of the thesis, the bourgeois owners of social wealth in the social relation capital.
The working class has taken Marx’s economic analysis and developed it, just as it should with any science. Any economic analysis today has to start from the present concrete conditions and their developments just as Marx analyzed the concrete conditions during his period. The objective conditions to complete the transition to socialized industrial mass production with matching socialized relations of production are evident in the massive growth of the socialized productive forces throughout the world, international trade, the dominant size of the working class everywhere and the accumulated experience of class struggle and theory and the ideology of Contemporary Marxist-Leninist Thought.
Theory lags behind practice and the concrete conditions. It could not be otherwise, as theory and ideas emerge from practice and the summing up of experience, not from previous ideas or from the sky. The working class needs its own leadership and independent politics and to put into practice its ability to analyze, theorize and ideologize. The summing up of the experience of the nation-building project in the Soviet Union and an economy under the control of the actual producers, the seizure of control from the Soviet working class by a new bourgeoisie that emerged from within its midst, the current retreat of revolution and the analysis of the contemporary economic conditions around the world, which are fully mature and ready to make the final break with petty production of the feudal era, require modern definitions and economic terms and classifications from the perspective of the actual producers of value, the working class. The antithesis in the social relation capital, the working class, has two hundred years of experience in the class struggle and a wealth of theory and its own ideology. The working class is poised for the historic battle to resolve the oppressive dialectic once and for all and become a dynamic synthesis, the new working class marching forward in a direction set in accordance with the objective and subjective conditions.
The terms and classifications from Marx as formulated in his earthshaking work Das Kapital have served us well and continue to enlighten us. The working class today is charged with the responsibility of turning the terms and classifications upside down and making the actual producers, the working class, the centre of the economic analysis. Putting the working class at the centre expresses in theory what has already happened in practice in the former Soviet Union and what is poised to happen again throughout the world in a yet more conscious manner — the resolution of the oppressive social relation capital and its elimination within nation-building projects of the working class all over the globe.
The source of profit is indeed the work-time of the working class on means of production:
– workers produce the added-value that is seized as profit by those who own and control the means of production;
– workers reproduce their own value, the reproduced-value they claim both individually and socially in payment over a lifetime for their capacity to work and to guarantee their reproduction and availability to work; and
– workers transfer and preserve in the social product the transferred-value from the machines and material they use during the production process.
Through work-time, workers transfer into production the consumed value from already existing fixed and circulating value from machines and material, which Marx classified as “fixed and circulating constant capital,” which in modern terms is classified as fixed and circulating transferred-value.
In the modern world view, the human factor, the working class, sits at the centre of production and all emanates out from its work-time on the means of production and is explained from this vantage point.
Workers are the producers of what Marx classified as “surplus value,” which in modern terms is classified as added-value.
Workers are the reproducers of what Marx classified as “variable capital,” which in modern terms is classified as reproduced-value.
From its own perspective, the modern educated working class with its own thinking, analysis, theory, ideology and independent political agenda is not a “cost of production” to anyone, including itself, those who own and control the means of production or to the economy. Through work-time, workers produce new value comprised of added-value and reproduced-value. Those two forms of new value remain in constant contradiction until the social relation capital is resolved through revolution. Freed from the domination of the oppressive social relation, the economy and all the value workers produce, reproduce and transfer, the new and old value come under the control of the actual producers and their new state institutions to serve the people’s interest, the general interests of society and to guarantee the well-being and rights of all.