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|Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Vol. II. The Process of Circulation of Capital; Marx, Karl|
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|Preface, by Friedrich Engels|
This pamphlet is but the farthest outpost of an entire literature which the Ricardian theories of value and surplus-value directed against capitalist production in the interest of the proletariat, fighting the bourgeoisie with its own weapons. The entire communism of Owen, so far as it plays a role in economics and politics, is based on Ricardo. Apart from him, there are still numerous other writers, some of whom Marx quoted as early as 1847 in his "POVERTY OF PHILOSOPHY" against Proudhon, such as Edmonds, Thompson, Hodgskin, etc., etc., "and four more pages of et cetera." I select from among this large number of writings the following by a random choice: "An Inquiry into the Principles of the Distribution of Wealth, Most Conducive to Human Happiness, by William Thompson; a new edition. London, 1850." This work, written in 1822, first appeared
in 1827. It likewise regards the wealth appropriated by the non-producing classes as a deduction from the product of the laborer, and uses pretty strong terms in referring to it. The author says that the ceaseless endeavor of that which we call society consisted in inducing, by fraud or persuasion, by intimidation or compulsion, the productive laborer to perform his labors in return for the minimum of his own product. He asks why the laborer should not be entitled to the full product of his labor. He declares that the compensations, which the capitalists filch from the productive laborer under the name of ground rent or profit, are claimed in return for the use of land or other things. According to him, all physical substances, by means of which the propertiless productive laborer who has no other means of existence but the capacity of producing things, can make use of his faculties, are in the possession of others with opposite material interests, the consent of these is required in order that the laborer may find work; under these circumstances, he says, it depends on the good will of the capitalists how much of the fruit of his own labor the laborer shall receive. And he speaks of "these defalcations" and of their relation to the unpaid product, whether this is called taxes, profit, or theft, etc.
I must admit that I do not write these lines without a certain mortification. I will not make so much of the fact that the anti-capitalist literature of England of the 20's and 30's is so little known in Germany, in spite of the fact that Marx referred to it even in his "POVERTY OF PHILOSOPHY," and quoted from it, as for instance that pamphlet of 1821, or Ravenstone, Hodgskin, etc., in Volume I of "CAPITAL." But it is a proof of the degradation into which official political economy has fallen, that not only the vulgar economist, who clings desperately to the coat tails of Rodbertus and really has not learned anything, but also the duly installed professor, who boasts of his wisdom, have forgotten their classical economy to such an extent that they seriously charge Marx
with having robbed Rodbertus of things which may be found even in Adam Smith and Ricardo.
|Part II, Chapter 13|
In agriculture, both the longer duration of the working period and the great difference between working period and productive period are combined. Hodgskin truly says with regard to this circumstance that the difference in the time (although he does not here distinguish between working time and productive time) required to get the products of agriculture ready and that required for the products of other branches of production is the main cause for the great dependence of farmers. They cannot market their goods in less time than one year. During this entire period they must borrow from the shoemaker, the tailor, the smith, the wagonmaker, and various other producers, whose articles they need, and which articles are finished in a few days or weeks. In consequence of this natural circumstance, and as a result of the more rapid increase of wealth in other branches of production, the real estate owners who have monopolized the land of the entire country, although they have also appropriated the monopoly of legislation, are nevertheless unable to save themselves and their servants, the tenants, from the fate of becoming the most dependent people in the land. (Thomas Hodgskin, Popular Political Economy, London, 1827, page 147, note.)