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

page 39. COOPERATION


COOPERATION

. . . Even when there is no change in the method of work, the simultaneous application of the energies of a considerable number of workers effects a revolution in the objective conditions under which the labor process is carried on.

The buildings in which the work is done, the storehouses for raw material, the implements and utensils employed simultaneously by the associated workers -- in a word, parts of the means of production -- are now jointly consumed. In one sense, the exchange-value of these means of production is not increased; for the exchange-value of commodities (including means of production) is not increased simply because their use-value is more effectively utilized. In another sense, the means of production are on a larger scale for associated, rather than for unassociated, labor. A room in which twenty weavers work at twenty looms must be larger than a room in which one independent weaver and a couple of journeymen work. But the building of one workshop for twenty persons costs less labor than does the building of ten workshops in each of which two persons work. Speaking generally, the value embodied in means of production which are concentrated for joint use on a large scale does not grow proportionally with the growth in the comprehensiveness and in the useful effect of these means. . . .

When many workers labor purposively side by side and jointly, no matter whether in different or in interconnected processes of production, we speak of this as cooperation.

. . . The effects achieved by associated labor could not be achieved by unassociated labor; or, if achieved by the latter at all, would need a far longer time, or could only be effected on a pigmy scale. What is operative here is not merely an increase of individual productive power by cooperation, but also the creation of a new productive power, the productive power of masses.


Apart from the new energy created by the fusion of many energies into one united energy, it usually happens in productive work that the very existence of social contact arouses emulation and induces a certain stimulation of the animal spirits, whereby the efficiency of each individual worker is promoted . . . The reason is that man is by nature, if not (as Aristotle says) a political animal, at any rate a social one.

. . . The productivity of the worker as an associated worker is the productivity of capital. The enhanced productivity of labor which results from association is something that develops free, gratis, as soon as the workers are placed in certain conditions -- and capital places them in these conditions. Because the superior productivity of associated labor costs capital nothing, and because (on the other hand) the worker does not manifest this superior productivity until his labor belongs to capital, the superior productivity seems to be a natural attribute of capital, is erroneously ascribed to a productive energy supposed to be inherent in capital.

How amazing may be the effects of simple cooperation may be learned from an examination of the titanic works of the Asiatics, the Egyptians, the Etruscans, etc., of ancient days . . .

Just as the social productivity of labor -- developed by virtue of cooperation -- assumes the specious semblance of being the productivity of capital, so does cooperation itself assume the aspect of being a specific form of the capitalist process of production, as contrasted with production by isolated independent workers or even by small masters. The change to cooperation is the first change undergone by the actual labor process when subjected to the dominion of capital. This change occurs spontaneously. Its essential prerequisite, the simultaneous occupation of numerous wage workers in the performance of the same labor process, is the starting-point of capitalist production -- a starting-point which coincides with the birth of capital. If therefore, the capitalist method of production appears. on the one hand, to be historically indispensable for the transformation of the labor process into a social one; on the other hand, this social form of the labor process manifests itself as a method utilized by capital to increase the productivity of that process, and thus to facilitate the more profitable exploitation of labor.

. . . Simple cooperation remains the dominant form of cooperation in those branches of production in which capital is at work upon a large scale, but where neither the division of labor, nor machinery, as yet plays an important part.

Cooperation is always a basic element of capitalist production. While it constitutes the germ of more complex forms, it continues to exist side by side with these in its simple or rudimentary shape as above described.