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Commodity Production

A Lesson in Terms

 Distinctions the workers must understand

 Wealth used for the reproduction of wealth is capital, says the orthodox school of political economy. This definition can only arise through failure to understand the fact that only in certain historical conditions and in a certain mode of production, does wealth become capital.

 It is the habit of the orthodox school to treat of the present system of society as though it had always existed and always will. Hence wealth and capital are to them synonymous.

A World Without Commodities

In explaining the conditions under which commodity production and money exist, Marx helps us understand the characteristics of a new society in which they would no longer exist. 

A new society without commodity production, money, and markets? A society where production is carried out solely to meet our human needs, with all the social wealth held in common. Why is this idea still so widely ridiculed as a utopian daydream, even by those who are deeply dissatisfied with the ‘status quo’? ‘That sounds nice but it’ll never work’—is the predictable response we hear. 

A Short Guide to Capitalism

Capitalism can be defined as a world-wide economic system involving commodity-production by wage-labour, driven by the imperative to make profits and to accumulate them as more and more capital.

Generalised commodity-production, nearly all wealth being produced for sale on a market: 'Commodity' is a term inherited by Marx from the Classical Political Economists Adam Smith and David Ricardo who used it to mean an item of wealth produced for sale on an 'anonymous' market, that is without knowing in advance who the buyer will be. This existed before capitalism, but only on the margins. With capitalism, the production of commodities becomes general with nearly all items of wealth produced for sale. As such they have an 'exchange value', or, in money terms, a price, which is ultimately related to the amount of labour that needs to be spent to produce them from start to finish.

Socialist Economics: 5 - Capital

“The lazy men squandered their substance whilst the diligent saved theirs—thus Capital was born from thrift.” This fairy tale has about as much real application to the origins of Capital as Adam’s Rib has to the origins of women. The important point is: how are private fortunes created and how do they grow?

We know that prior to the capitalist system of production the producers owned their means of production, and the primitive accumulation of capital is nothing less than the process of divorcing the producers from their means of production and turning them into capital. When this process is completed historically we arrive at the situation which exists today, where the producers are totally alienated from the social means of production. They are propertyless wage-workers selling their life-activity to their employers, with enough to live on and sometimes not even that.

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