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

page 31. THE PRODUCTION OF SURPLUS VALUE


THE PRODUCTION OF SURPLUS VALUE

In truth, there is nothing very strange about the result. The value of 1 lb. of yarn is 1s. 6d., and therefore, in the commodity market, our capitalist had to pay 15s. for 10 lbs. . . .

Let us look into the matter more closely. The value of the day's labor power was 3s. because there was embodied in it half a day's labor, that is to say, because the means of subsistence necessary every day for the production of labor power cost half a working day. But the past labor which is hidden away in the labor power, and the living labor which that labor power can render, are two very different things.

The daily cost of maintenance of labor power, and the daily output of labor power, are two very different things. The former determines the exchange-value of labor power; the latter, its use-value.

Though it be true that only half a day's labor is requisite to maintain the worker throughout the twenty-four hours of the day, this does not prevent his working for the whole working day of twelve hours. The value of labor power, and the value which that labor power creates in the labor process are, therefore, two completely different magnitudes. This difference in the values was what the capitalist had in mind when he bought the labor power.


Of course it was essential that the labor power should have a useful quality, should be able to make yarn, or boots, or what-not, for labor must be expended in a useful form if it is to produce value. But the really decisive point was that this commodity labor power had the specific use-value of being a source of value, of being able to produce more value than it itself had. That is the specific service which the capitalist expects from labor power.

In his dealings with labor power, he acts in accordance with the eternal laws of the exchange of commodities. In fact, the seller of labor power, like the seller of any other commodity, realizes its exchange-value and alienates its use-value. He cannot get the former without disposing of the latter.

The use-value of labor power, the labor itself, does not belong to the seller of labor power any more than the use-value of oil that is sold belongs to the oilman who has sold it. The owner of money has paid for the value of a day's labor power, and to him therefore belongs the use-value of the labor during that day, a whole day's labor.

It is true that the daily maintenance of the labor power costs only half a day's labor, and that nevertheless the labor power can work for an entire working day, with the result that the value which its use creates during a working day is twice the value of a day's labor power. so much the better for the purchaser but it is nowise an injustice to the seller.

Our capitalist foresaw all this, and that was why he was so cheerful. In the workshop, the worker finds the means of production required, not merely for a 6 hour labor process, but for a 12-hour labor process. If 10 lbs. of cotton absorbed 6 working hours, and were thereby transformed into 20 lbs. of yarn, then 20 lbs. of cotton will absorb 12 hours of labor, and will be transformed into 20 lbs. of yarn.

Let us examine the product of this lengthened labor process. In the 20 lbs. of yarn, 5 working days have been objectified, 4 in the consumed cotton and fraction of spindle, and 1 absorbed by the cotton during the process of spinning. Well, the gold expression of 5 working days is 30s., or £1 10s. This, therefore, is the price of the 20 lbs. of yarn.

Now, as before, 1 lb. of yarn costs 1s. 6d. But the total of the values used up in the process of production amounts to 27s., whereas the value of the yarn amounts to 30s. The value of the product is one-ninth more than the values advanced to effect its production. As a result, 27s. have been transformed into 30s. a surplus value of 3s. has been added. The trick has at last been successful, money has been changed into capital. . . .

If we now compare the process of creating value and the process of creating surplus value, we see that the process of creating surplus value is merely the process of creating value prolonged beyond a certain point. If the process or creating value continues only up to the moment when the value of labor power paid by the capitalist has been replaced by a new equivalent, we have nothing more than a simple process of creating value. But as soon as the process of creating value is prolonged beyond this moment, it has become a process of creating surplus value. . . .