04 March 2011

Value, Price and Profit

Basics, Part 8

Value, Price and Profit

By 1865 Karl Marx (pictured) had long since solved the theoretical problems of his work, “Capital”, on Surplus Value, and in that year he gave the well-known address to a gathering of workers that afterwards became a popular publication under the name “Value, Price and Profit”, also sometimes called “Wages, Price and Profit” (downloadable compilation linked below). The first volume of “Capital” was published two years later.

This short book has served the labour movement well, down the years. Among other things, it debunks the argument, still attempted by employers and their apologists in South Africa today, that wage rises will cause unemployment.

It shows how commodities, including commodity Labour-Power, are normally sold at their full value, yet how, at the same time, the worker is getting swindled every day. It explains this apparent paradox.

It encourages workers to struggle for better wages and conditions, but it also (prefiguring Lenin’s argument against “Economism” four decades later in “What is to be Done?”) shows clearly why trade unionism, without political organisation, will never succeed in throwing off the yoke of capital.

The abridged version of “Value, Price and Profit”, linked below, can serve as the short, or “basic”, version of “Capital” that so many people long for. It will help us to get a better grip on some of the key concepts in “Capital, Volume 1” such as Labour, Value, Labour-Power, and above all, Surplus-Value.

For this purpose we have put aside many of the sections of “Value, Price and Profit”. The work is available on the Internet for anyone who would like to read it in full. The best source for Marxist classics in general on the Internet is the Marxists Internet Archive (MIA).

Here is the last part of Value, Price and Profit:

“…the working class ought not to exaggerate to themselves the ultimate working of these everyday struggles. They ought not to forget that they are fighting with effects, but not with the causes of those effects; that they are retarding the downward movement, but not changing its direction; that they are applying palliatives, not curing the malady. They ought, therefore, not to be exclusively absorbed in these unavoidable guerilla fights incessantly springing up from the never ceasing encroachments of capital or changes of the market. They ought to understand that, with all the miseries it imposes upon them, the present system simultaneously engenders the material conditions and the social forms necessary for an economical reconstruction of society. Instead of the conservative motto, "A fair day's wage for a fair day's work!" they ought to inscribe on their banner the revolutionary watchword, "Abolition of the wages system!"

Please download and read this text via the following link:

Further reading:

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