Marx's Capital — 1867-2017: 150 years of decoding capitalism. Workers' Liberty 3/59

“The Bible of the working class”

Submitted by Matthew on 5 October, 2017 - 10:44 Author: Martin Thomas

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Karl Marx’s book Capital was published 150 years ago, on 14 September 1867, the fruits of over fifteen years’ study.

Marx was then fairly well-known in the European and US workers’ movements, through his activity in the First International, founded in September 1864. His Communist Manifesto of 1848, which had become a rarity since revolutionary socialist activity receded in the early 1850s, had been republished and translated, and was circulating well.

Where do profits come from?

Submitted by Matthew on 5 October, 2017 - 10:37 Author: Martin Thomas

How do capitalists make profits? An individual capitalist can profit by cheating, or by what orthodox economists call “technological rents” (the ability to charge a higher price for a distinctive product, or to command royalties). But that is no explanation for the whole capitalist class.

Grundrisse and wage-slavery

Submitted by Matthew on 5 October, 2017 - 9:22 Author: Martin Thomas

How can wage-labour reasonably be described as wage-slavery? If a worker makes a free contract, as an individual equal before the law, with an employer, isn’t that a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work? Shouldn’t the word “exploitation” be reserved for exceptional cases where workers are exceptionally at a disadvantage in the wage-bargain, rather being the word being used (as Marxists use it) for all wage-labour?

The Grundrisse, Marx’s “rough draft” of 1857-8, offers a faster-burning and more vivid first draft of the answers to these questions which Marx develops in Capital.

A dialogue with the future

Submitted by Matthew on 5 October, 2017 - 9:13 Author: Martin Thomas

Native Americans and Native Australians were flummoxed when they saw European settlers buying and selling land. When the Russian revolutionary Victor Serge came to the West in 1936, he found it hard to explain to his 16 year old son, born and brought up in the Soviet Union, how big factories could be privately owned.

Wages, Price and Profit

Submitted by Matthew on 5 October, 2017 - 9:02 Author: Martin Thomas

At the same time as he was readying Capital volume 1 for publication, Marx gave an exposition of his view on workers’ struggles over wages in a report (in effect a lecture) delivered at two successive meetings of the General Council of the First International, on 20 and 27 June 1865. The exposition was not published at the time. It was found and published only in 1898, after Engels’ death, by Karl Marx’s daughter Eleanor, under the title Wages, Price, and Profit (or in some editions Value, Price, and Profit).

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