From the archives of the WSP (India) 3/3

Capitalism and Revolution


“Capital is a collective product. … Capital is, therefore, not a personal, it is a social power.” – Marx and Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party, Moscow, 1977, p. 51

Marx discerned that capital “presents itself as an independent substance” –

“Capital, also, is a social relation of production. It is a bourgeois production relation, a production relation of bourgeois society.” (Marx, Wage Labour and Capital, pp.27-32)

“… capital is not a thing, but a social relation between persons, established by the instrumentality of things.” (Marx, Capital, Vol. I, Moscow, 1974, p.717)

According to Marx, “capital is necessarily also a capitalist. The idea of some socialists, that we need capital but not capitalists, is completely false. … The concept of capital implies the capitalist. … Capital is essentially a capitalist.” (Pre-Capitalist Economic Formations, International Publishers, New York, pp. 118-19)

Marx portrayed: capital itself is capitalist; the capitalist is only “capital personified”; capital is “self-expanding value” ( ) – “self-valorizing value” – “value that expands”. Capital is active and self-expanding.

He evaluated: “The self-expansion of value as the determining purpose, as the compelling motive” (Capital, Vol. II, Moscow, 1974, p. 103) of the circuits of capital – money, productive and commodity.

“Capital as self-expanding value embraces not only class relations, a society of a definite character resting on the existence of labour in the form of wage-labour.” (Marx, Capital, Vol. II, Moscow, 1974, p.108)

Production Relation

Capital signifies a distinctive production relation – capital / wage-labour relation – employer/employee relation. It is an all-encompassing global system of slavery on the tight rein of capital. Capitalists are slaves of profits just as much as workers are slaves of wages. They are the functionaries of capital. To get rid of this predatory and masked slavery, therefore, the whole of humanity requires a radical change – a revolutionary change in the very foundation of society – to the relation of production whereby everybody will be free from the clutch of capital. The task, however, rests on the initiative of the workers of the world collectively – as the class conscious and organized working class of the world. They will have to accomplish the long-pending World Socialist Revolution that will replace the present decadent, lopsided, exploitative, oppressive,

top-down, bureaucratic, dehumanizing relation of production with an egalitarian, participatory democratic, bottom-up relation of production. The current capitalist government over people will give way to the socialist administration of things – the administration of affairs of life. This will usher the whole of humanity into a new era of freedom and affluence.

Wages Slavery

Wages are the price of labour-power sold by the workers to the capitalists in a system of legalized slavery. Even if the workers are paid the full value of their only commodity – their labour power – they are still exploited simply because they are paid for their labour-power and not for their labour that they put at the disposal of their employers.

In Marx’s words, “the scientific understanding” about wages is “that wages are not what they appear to be – namely, the value, or price, of labour – but only a masked form for the value, or price, of labour-power. Thereby, the whole bourgeois conception of wages hitherto, as well as all the criticism hitherto directed against this conception, was thrown overboard once and for all. It was made clear that the wage worker has permission to work for his own subsistence—that is, to live, only insofar as he works for a certain time gratis for the capitalist (and hence also for the latter’s co-consumers of surplus value); that the whole capitalist system of production turns on the increase of this gratis labour by extending the working day, or by developing the productivity – that is, increasing the intensity or labour power, etc.; that, consequently, the system of wage labour is a system of slavery, and indeed of a slavery which becomes more severe in proportion as the social productive forces of labour develop, whether the worker receives better or worse payment.”

“The only difference as compared with the old, outspoken slavery is this, that the worker of today seems to be free because he is not sold once for all, but piecemeal by the day, the weak, the year, and because no one owner sells him to another, but he is forced to sell himself in this way instead, being the slave of no particular person, but the whole property-holding class.” – Friedrich Engels, The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844, pp. 114-115,…

“Ostrinski calls the current system “wage slavery.” Although America claims to be the land of the free, Ostrinski explains that political freedom doesn’t alleviate the grinding misery of wage slavery. He adds that socialism is necessarily a worldwide movement: any one nation that achieves success will be crushed by the others around it.” Upton Sinclair, The Jungle, 1906;

Marx Foresaw

“The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionising the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society,” wrote Marx and Engels in 1848 in the Communist Manifesto. Capital as “self-expanding value” (V = c+v+s, where V = Value, c = constant capital, v = variable capital and s = surplus value) constantly coerces its personified functionaries, the capitalists, to look for maximum profit by raising the rate of surplus value (exploitation) i.e., by raising “s/v” that pushes up the organic composition of capital or “c/v”, which reciprocally (tendentiously though) reduces the rate profit “s/(c+v)”.

The very process that gave rise to value and exchange value asserts itself via alienation and competition. The law of competition for accumulation leads to a progressively higher technical composition of capital i.e., an increase in the amount of past labour incorporated in machinery, plant, etc compared to living labour, a constant raising the social productivity of labour. In value terms this expresses itself in a progressively higher organic composition of capital (OCC) i.e., “c/v”, or a constant increase in its constant constituent “c” at the expense of the variable one “v”, or reversely, a constant relative decrease in its variable vis-à-vis constant. “The immediate result of this is that the rate of surplus value “s/v”, at the same, or even a rising, degree of labour exploitation, is represented by a constantly falling general rate of profit “s/(c + v)”.” (Marx, Capital, Vol. III, Moscow 1974, pp. 212-13) This again leads the capitalists to go in for countervailing measures to reverse the tendency by unceasing technological advancement. And, you know, it is inbuilt in the market system that the rates of profits globally tend to be equalized via averaging process – giving rise to an average rate of profit. Bigger and bigger the OCCs, the lower and lower are their own individual rates of profits. Then why should a firm go in for a higher OCC at all? The reason is that they can go on accumulating by extracting a larger portion of global profits over and above their own individual profits from the profits of the industries and agriculture having lower OCCs via averaging processes of all profits.

True, Marx and Engels didn’t live to see the precise future course of scientific and technological developments and their specific forms of manifestations that would emerge from the hectic pursuit of profit. They were dealing mainly with capital’s fledging period. So in capital’s ascending phase, when the productive forces were developing within the womb of expanding and protruding capitalist mode of production, they could only observe the forthcoming historical trends. Marx’s materialist conception of history had imbued him with penetrating insight and profound predictive power whereby he brilliantly foresaw the impending state of affairs with far-reaching consequences to occur. As Marx observed in 1858:

“Invention then becomes a business, and the application of science to direct production itself becomes a prospect which determines and solicits it. But this is not the road along which machinery, by and large, arose, and even less the road on which it progresses in detail. This road is, rather, dissection [Analyse] – through the division of labour, which gradually transforms the workers‟ operations into more and more mechanical ones, so that at a certain point a mechanism

can step into their places. … Thus, the specific mode of working here appears directly as becoming transferred from the worker to capital in the form of machine, and its own labour capacity devalued thereby. Hence the workers’ struggle against machinery. What was the living worker’s activity becomes the activity of the machine. … the progress of technology, or the application of this science to production. … Labour no longer appears so much to be included within the production process; rather, the human being comes to relate more as watchman and regulator to the production process itself. (What holds for machinery holds likewise for the combination of human activities and the development of human intercourse.) No longer does the worker insert a modified natural thing [Naturgegenstand] as the middle link between the object [Objekt] and himself; rather, he inserts the process of nature, transformed into an industrial process, as a means between himself and inorganic nature, mastering it. He steps to the side of the production process instead of being its chief actor. … his degradation therefore to mere worker, subsumption under labour. The most developed machinery thus forces the worker to work longer than the savage does, or than he himself did with the simplest, crudest tools. … As the basis on which large industry rests, the appropriation of alien labour time, ceases, with its development, to make up or to create wealth, so does direct labour as such cease to be the basis of production, since, in one respect, it is transformed into a supervisory and regulatory activity; but then also because the product ceases to be the product of isolated direct labour, and the combination of social activity appears, rather, as the producer. … just as the conquest of the forces of nature by the social intellect is the precondition of the productive power of the means of labour as developed into the automatic process, on one side, so, on the other, is the labour of the individual in its direct presence posited as suspended individual, i.e. as social, labour. Thus the other basis of this mode of production falls away.” (Marx, Grundrisse, Penguin Books in association with New Left Review, 1981, pp. 704-709)


You know that for a revolution to happen nowadays two essential conditions must mature – 1) subjective i.e., revolutionary will and organisation of the immense majority of the working class world over and, 2) objective i.e., material productive abundance for all. Unceasing development of science and technology leading to artificial intelligence – robotics and automation – has revolutionized the forces of production that have outgrown the current relations of production by creating the technological basis for a leisure society. Now I think, you all will agree with me that for some time now abundance-for-all is knocking at our doors just for acceptance, but the class responsible for its revolutionary reception – the working class – is up till now perplexedly lagging behind failing simply to will, organize and vote towards that end – the awesome “fear of freedom” – which is why we are still stuck with the capitalist relations of production. We are at the threshold of the bona fide “Maximum Programme”; not that we have any “Min-Max” programme anyway. We have only one programme WORLD SOCIALISM right here and now.

BINAY SARKAR, May 1, 2018

World Socialist Party (India)