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810
MARX


be always higher than the value of the employed labour-force. Hence the capital employed in buying labour-force, i.e. in wages, is called variable capital. It is the tendency of capitalist production to reduce the amount spent in wages and to increase the amount invested in machines, &c. For with natural and social, legal and other limitations of the working day, and the opposition to unlimited reduction of wages, it is not possible otherwise to cheapen production and beat competition. According to the proportion of constant to variable capital, Marx distinguishes capitals of lowest average and highest composition, the highest composition being that where proportionately the least amount of variable (wages) capital is employed.

The ratio of the wages which workmen receive to the surplus value which they produce Marx calls the rate of surplus-value; that of the surplus-value produced to the whole capital employed is the rate of projit. It is evident, then, that at the same time the rate of surplus-value can increase and the rate of profit decrease, and this in fact is the case. There is a continuous tendency of the rates of profit to decrease, and only by some counteracting forces is their decrease temporarily interrupted, protracted, or even sometimes reversed. Besides, by competition and movement of capitals the rates of profit in the different branches of trade are pressed towards an equalization in the shape of an average rate of profits. This average rate or profits, added to the actual cost price of a given commodity, constitutes its price of production, and it is this price of production which appears to the empirical mind of the business man as the value of the commodity. The real law of value, on the contrary, disappears from the surface in a society where, as to-day, commodities are bought and sold against money and not exchanged against other commodities. Nevertheless, according to Marx, it is also to-day this law of value (“ labour-value ) which in the last resort rules the prices and profits.

The tendency to cheapen production by increasing the relative proportion of constant capital-the fixed capital of the classical economist plus that portion of the circulating capital which consists of raw and, auxiliary materials, &c.-leads to a continuous increase in the size of private enterprises, to their growing concentration. It is the larger enterprise that beats and swallows the smaller. The number of dependent workmen-“ proletarians ”-is thus continually growin, whilst employment, only periodically keeps pace with their number. Capital alternately attracts and repels workmen, and creates a constant surplus-population of workmen-a reserve-army for its requirements-which helps to lower wages and to keep the whole class in economic dependency. A decreasing number of capitalists usurp and monopolize all the benefits of industrial progress, whilst the mass of misery, of oppression, of servitude, of deprivation, and of exploitation increases. But at the same time the working class continuously grows in numbers, and is disciplined, united and organized by the very mechanism of the capitalist mode of production. The centralization of the means of production and the socialization of the mode of production reach a point where they will become incompatible with their capitalist integument. Then the knell of capitalist private property will have been rung. Those who used to expropriate will be expropriated. Individual property will again be established based upon co-operation and common ownership of the earth and the means of production produced by labour.

These are the principal outlines of Das Kapital. Its purely economic deductions are dominated throughout by the theory of surplus-value. Its leading sociological principle is the materialist conception of history. This theory is in Das Kapital only laid down by implication, but it has been more connectedly explained in the preface of Zur Kritik and several works of Engels. According to it the material basis of life, the manner in which life and its requirements are produced, determines in the last instance the social ideas and institutions of the time or historical epoch, so that fundamental changes in the former produce in the long run also fundamental changes in the latter. A set of social' institutions answer to a given mode of production, and periods where the institutions no longer answer to the mode of production are periods of social revolution, which go on until sufficient adjustment has taken place. The main subjective forces of the struggle between the old order and the new are the classes into which society is divided after the dissolution of the communistic or semi-communistic tribes and the creation of states. V And as long as society is divided into classes a class war will persist, sometimes in a more latent or disguised, sometimes in a more open or acute form, according to circumstances. In advanced capitalist society the classes between whom the decisive war takes place are the capitalist owners of the means of production and the non-propertied or wage-earning workers, the “ proletariat." But the proletariat cannot free itself without freeing all other oppressed classes, and thus its victory means the end of exploitation and political repression altogether. Consequently the state as a repressive power will die out, and a free association will take its place. Almost from the first Das Kapital and the publications of Marx and Engels connected with it have been subjected to all kinds of criticisms. The originality of its leading ideas has been disputed, the ideas themselves have been declared to be false or only partially true, and consequently leading to wrong conclusions; and it has been said of many of Marx's statements that they are incorrect, and that many of the statistics upon which he bases his deductions do not prove what he wants them to prove. In regard to the f1i'st point, it must be conceded that the disjecta membra of Marx's value theory and of his materialist conception of history are already to be found in the writings of former socialists and sociologists. It may even be said that just those points of the Marxist doctrine which have become popular are in a very small degree the produce of Marx's genius, and that what really belongs to Marx, the methodical conjunction and elaboration of these points, as well as the finer deductions drawn from their application, are generally ignored. But this is an experience repeated over and over again in the history of deductive sciences, and is quite irrelevant for the question of Marx's place in the history of socialism and social science.

It must further be admitted that in several places the statistical evidence upon which Marx bases his deductions is insufficient or 1nconcl us1ve. Moreover-and this is one of the most damaging admissions-it repeatedly happens that he points out all the phenomena connected with a certain question, but afterwards ignores some of them and proceeds as if they did not exist. Thus, e.g., he speaks at the end of the first volume, where he sketches the historical tendency of capitalist accumulation, of the decreasing number of magnates o capital as of an established fact. But all statistics show that the number of capitalists does not decrease, but increase; and in other places in Das Kapital this fact is indeed fully admitted, and even accentuated. Marx was, as the third volume shows, also quite aware that limited liability companies play an important part in the distribution of wealth. But he leaves this factor, too, quite out of sight, and confuses the concentration of private enterprises with the centralization of fortunes and capitals. By these and other omissions, quite apart from developments he could not well foresee, he announces a coming evolution which is very unlikely to take place in the way described.

In this and in other features of his work a dualism reveals itself which is also often observable in his actions in life-the, alternating predominance of the spirit of the scholar and the spirit of the radical revolutionary. Marx originally entitled his great social work Criticism of Political Economy, and this is still the sub-title of Das K apital. But the conception of critic or criticize has with Marx a ver pronounced meaning. He uses them mostly as identical with fiindamentally opposing. Much as he had mocked the “ critical criticism ” of the Bauers, he is in this respect yet of their breed and relapses into their habits. He retained in principle the Hegelian dialectical method, of which he said that in order to be rationally employed it must be “ turned upside down, ” i.e. put upon a materialist basis. But as a matter of fact he has in many respects contravened against this prescription. Strict materialist dialectics cannot conclude much beyond actual facts. Dialectical materialism is revolutionary in the sense that it recognizes no finality, but otherwise it is necessarily positivist in the general meaning of that term. But Marx's opposition to modern society was fundamental and revolutionary, answering to that of the proletarian to the bourgeois. And here we come to the main and fatal contradiction of his work. He wanted to roceed, and to a very reat extent did proceed, scientifically. Notliin was to be deduced from preconceived ideas; from the observed evolutionary laws and forces of modern society alone were conclusions to be drawn. And yet the final conclusion of the work, as already noted, is a preconceived idea; it is the announcement of a state of society logically opposed to the given one. Imperceptibly the dialectical movement of ideas is substituted for the dialectical movement of facts, and the real movement of facts is only considered so far as is compatible with the former. Science is violated in the service of speculation. The picture given at the end of the first volume answers to a conception arrived at by speculative socialism in the 'forties. True, Marx calls this chapter “ the historical tendency of capitalist accumulation, ” and “ tendency” does not necessarily mean realization in every detail. But on the whole the language used there is much too absolute to allow of the interpretation that Marx only wanted to give a speculative icture of the goal to which capitalist accumulation would lead if unliampered by socialist counteraction. The epithet “ historical ” indicates rather that the passage in question was meant to give in the main the true outline of the forthcoming social revolution. We are led to this conclusion also by the fact that, in language which is not in the least conditional, it is there said that the change of capitalist property into social property will mean “ only the expropriation of a few usurpers by the mass of the people.” In short, the principal reason for the undeniable contradictions in Das Kapital is to be found in the fact that where Marx has to do with details or subordinate subjects he mostly notices the important changes which actual evolution had brought about since the time of his first socialist writings, and thus himself states how far their presuppositions have been corrected by facts. But when he comes to general conclusions, he adheres in the main to the original propositions based upon the old uncorrected presuppositions. Besides, the complex character of modern society is greatly underestimated, so that, e.g., such important features as the influence of the changes of traffic and aggregation on modern life are scarcely considered at all; and industrial and political problems are viewed only from the aspect of class antagonism, and never under their administrative aspect. With regard to the theory of surplus value and its foundation, the theory of labour-value, so much may be