Asked & Answered: What becomes of Surplus-Value?

[To the editor]
“Dovedale,” Shoebury.
Dear Sir,— Adam Smith, Mill and many others state that all the surplus value which is converted into capital is returned to the workers in the form of wages and consumed by them. Karl Marx, in “Capital,” contradicts this, but gives no reason, saying he will analyse the matter in another book.
I cannot follow Marx here, and should be obliged if you could spare space for a few lines of explanation in your vigorous paper. Is Marx referring to the fact that two thirds will be returned to the capitalists as surplus value while only one third will reach the workers in the form of wages ?


Your statements of Adam Smith’s and Mill’s contention need confirmation. Can you give us exact references to these authors? The same would be helpful in the case of “Capital.” While awaiting these references we might deal generally with your query.

The whole of the wealth produced is the result of the energy of the working class being applied to natural resources.

The forms under which this wealth exists does not, alter the fact. Hence if the workers had all the wealth returned to them, whether as wages or anything else, it is clear that the capitalist class would starve to death.

On the contrary, they lead luxurious lives and enjoy the best of everything produced.

Then they can only obtain this share by robbing the workers, and this share is evidently a portion of “surplus value”—that is, value over and above that needed to maintain the workers.

It is impossible to say exactly how much this surplus is, not only because of lack of complete returns, but also because of the fact that it is disposed of in different ways. A portion is used to increase the capital of industry, as in the provision of new machinery, premises, etc. A portion is spent in the scramble for markets in travellers, agents, and advertising ; while the ground-landlord claims a part and the tax gatherer must be paid.

We see, then, that not only the capitalist, but a host of hangers-on have to be supported, and obviously the only source of their support is the etc necessary to keep the toiler in a fit condition to go on producing.

The fact that there are many labourers thus “surplus” produced by the workers over the amount needed for their own maintenance.

J. F.

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