Graphic Witness: Hugo Gellert
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Hugo Gellert: Karl Marx' 'Capital' in Lithographs

page 29. THE LABOR PROCESS AND THE PROCESS OF PRODUCING SURPLUS VALUE


THE LABOR PROCESS AND THE PROCESS OF PRODUCING SURPLUS VALUE

The use of labor power is labor. The buyer of labor power consumes it by setting the seller of labor power to work. Thereby the latter becomes what he was before [only] potentially: labor power in action, a worker. . . .

The elementary factors of the labor process are: first, purposive activity, or the labor itself; secondly, its subject matter; and thirdly, its instruments.

The soil (and this, economically speaking, includes water) in the virgin state in which it supplies man with the necessaries of life, with ready-made means of subsistence, forms, without any spontaneous activity on man's part, the general subject matter of human labor. All those things which labor merely separates from their immediate connection with their environment are the naturally given subject matter of labor. For example, fish, caught and removed from their natural element, water; timber, which falls to the ground in the primeval forest; ores, broken away from the outcrop lodes. If, on the other hand, the subject matter of labor has already been, so to say, filtered through previous labor, we speak of it as raw material. For example, chance-found ores after they have been washed. All raw material is the subject matter of labor; but we cannot say, conversely, that all the subject matter of labor is raw material. The subject matter of labor only becomes raw material when the substance in question has already been changed in some way by means of labor.

The instrument of labor is a thing, or a complex of things, which the worker interposes between himself and the subject matter of his labor, and one which serves as the conductor of his activity. He makes use of the mechanical, physical, and chemical properties of things as means of exerting power over other things, and in order to make these other things subservient to his aims. . . . Just as the earth is his primitive larder, so, likewise, is it his primitive tool-house. For example, it supplies him with the stone he uses as a missile, or for grinding, pressing, and what-not. The earth itself is an instrument of labor; but when used as such in agriculture it needs, in addition, a number of other instruments of labor; and agriculture presupposes a comparatively high development of labor power. . . .

From the dawn of human history, man, in addition to making use of elaborated stones, pieces of wood, bones and shells, turns to account the services of domesticated animals as instruments of labor -- these beasts, tamed, modified, bred by human labor, being among the chief of the primitive instruments of labor. . . .

Though a use-value issues from the labor process in the form of a product, other use-values, the products of earlier labor processes, enter into the present labor process as means of production. The use-value which is the product of one labor process becomes means of production in another. Products, therefore, are not only results of the labor process, but at the same time conditions thereof.

. . . Animals and plants, which people are apt to regrd as natural products, may not merely be the products of last year's labor, but may, in their extant form, be the products of a transformation which has been going on through many generations, under human control and aided by human labor. Apart from such instances, the instruments of labor in general [tools] show, for the most part, very obvious traces of past labor. . . .

Whenever a product enters as a means or production into a new labor process, it forfeits its character as a product and becomes nothing more than a factor in the process. A spinner regards spindles as merely the instruments with which he spins; and he regards flax as merely the subject matter of his work of spinning. But certainly no one man can spin without spinning materials and spindles. The pre-existence of these is assumed when the work of spinning begins. To the spinner it is a matter of no moment that flax and spindles are the products of previous labor. . . .

Now let us return to our would-be capitalist. We left him (page 28) just after he had bought in the open market all the essntials for a labor process: the materials factors, the means of production; and the personal factor, or the labor power. . . .