Letters: Asked and Answered
“Rent, Interest and Industrial Profit are only different names for different parts of the surplus value of the commodity, or the unpaid labour enclosed in it, and they are equally derived from this source and from this source alone.”
“The surplus value or that part of the total value of the commodity in which surplus labour or unpaid labour of the workingman is realised, I call Profit. The whole of that Profit is not pocketed by the employing capitalist. The monopoly of land enables the landlord to take one part of that surplus value under the name of rent, whether the land is used for agricultural buildings or railways, or for any other productive purpose. On the other hand, the very fact that the possession of the instruments of labour enable the employing capitalist to produce surplus value, or what comes to the same, to appropriate to himself a certain amount of unpaid labour, enables the owner of the means of labour, which he lends wholly or partly to the employing capitalist—enables, in one word, the money-lending capitalist to claim for himself under the name of interest another part of surplus value, so that there remains to the employing capitalist as such only what is called industrial or commercial profit”
Comrade Coates has not grasped the fact that surplus labour, surplus value, and profit are not, strictly speaking merely different names for the same thing. They are distinct stages of a process. Without the change of form, realisation, or sale of the repository of surplus value, the last stage, “profit.” cannot come into being. As Marx says (“Capital,” Vol. I., p. 79):-
“The leap taken by value from the body of the commodity, into the body of the gold, in the salto mortale of the commodity. If it falls short, then, although the commodity is not harmed, its owner decidedly is.”
Surplus labour (and the same applies to all labour) does not become surplus value unless it is embodied in a use-value to someone else, and there can be no profit unless this use-value is sold. In this sense, therefore, and in this limited sense only, the act of realising surplus value is a source of profit.
Taking the bus trust as a normal capitalist concern, it is clear that the number of fares is of vital importance to it, for on this depends its profit Yet from Comrade Coates’s bald statements one might infer that the trust would be just as prosperous if its buses ran empty! Obviously the advent of the passenger is essential to the making of profit. Each additional fare enables more surplus labour to be realised and more profit obtained, and may in consequence be not inaccurately described as a farther source of profit to the trust.
The sentence disputed would not be improved by the wording proposed by Comrade Coates, which only says the same thing more awkwardly. It was, moreover, quite beside the purpose of the article to give a scientific dissertation on value. Brevity was necessary in order to confine attention to the main issue.
Notwithstanding this, it is difficult for the poor scribe to believe that the phrase could be misunderstood except by by means of a deliberate mental squint.
W. Austin (Small Heath) asks us to explain the meaning of the passage in the “Communist Manifesto“: –
“In bourgeois society, therefore, the past dominates the present. In communist society the present dominates the past.”
Under capitalism the past dominates the present because the mesas of production, developed from the past, and possessed to-day by the few, dominate the lives of the producers, and forms the general structure sod relations of society.
Under communism the means of production would be consciously manipulated for the benefit and happiness of the members of society. The past development and experience would then be used knowingly by the members of the communist society for their well being. This would be the domination of the past by the present as, instead of the members being dominated by a method of production, the method of production would be controlled by them.