Whatever the form of the process of production in a society may be, that process must either be continuous, or else it must pass periodically through the same phases. A society can no more cease to produce than it can cease to consume. Regarded as a connected whole and in the perpetual flux of its renewal, every social process of production is, therefore, at the same time a process of reproduction. . . .
The process of production is initiated by the purchase of labor power for a definite period, the initiation being perpetually renewed when the term for which the labor power has been bought expires, and when, therefore, a definite productive period, a week, a month, etc., as the case may be, is finished. But the worker is not paid until his labor power has been exercised, and has realized, in the form of commodities, not only its own value but surplus value as well.
The worker, therefore, has produced not only surplus value (which, for the present, we regard merely as a fund to meet the private consumption of the capitalist); he has also produced, before it flows back to him in the form of wages, the fund out of which he himself is paid, the variable capital
; and he secures employment only as long as he continues to reproduce this fund. . . .
What is continually flowing back to the worker in the form of wages is a portion of the product that is continually being reproduced by him. True, the capitalist pays him the commodity value in money, but this money is only a metamorphosed form of the product of labor.
While the worker is transforming part of the means of production into product, part of his earlier product is being retransformed into money. What pays for his labor today, or during the next six months, is his labor of last week, or of the last six months.
The illusion begotten by the money form disappears instantly if, instead of contemplating a single capitalist and a single worker, we contemplate the capitalist class and the working class as a whole. The capitalist class is continually giving to the working class delivery orders in the money form, delivery orders which enable the workers to secure for themselves part of the products which they themselves have produced and which the capitalist class has appropriated. These delivery orders are no less continually handed back by the workers to the capitalist class, and in this way the workers acquire whatever share of their own products accrues to them. But the real nature of the transaction is masked by the commodity form of the product and the money form of the commodity.
Variable capital, therefore, is nothing more than a particular historical phenomenal form of the fund for providing the necessaries of life, or the labor fund which the worker needs for his own maintenance and reproduction -- a fund which he must himself continually produce and reproduce, whatever may be the system of social production. If the labor fund constantly flows to him in the form of money that pays for his labor, this is because his own product constantly flows away from him in the form of capital. But the fact that the labor fund assumes this phenomenal form does not affect the other fact, that what is advanced to the worker by the capitalist is only the worker's own labor, realized in a product. . . .
Quite apart . . . from any accumulation, the mere continuity of the process of production, or, in other words, simple reproduction
, necessarily ends, sooner or later in the conversion of all capital into accumulated, or capitalized, surplus value. Even though, when this capital made its entry into the process of production, it may have been property acquired by the personal labor of its owner, sooner or later it becomes value appropriated without an equivalent, the unpaid labor of others materialized either in money or in some other form. . . . When a capitalist converts part of his capital into labor power, he thereby augments his total capital. He kills two birds with one stone. He profits not only by what he receives from the worker, but by what he gives to the worker. The capital given in exchange for labor power is converted into necessaries of life, and the consumption of these serves to renovate, to reproduce as it were, the muscles, nerves, bones and brains of existing workers, and to promote the begetting of new workers. . . .
The individual consumption of the worker, whether within or without the workshop or the factory, whether within or without the labor process, forms, therefore, a factor of the production and reproduction of capital; just as is the cleaning of machinery, whether it be done during the labor process or during a pause in the labor process. The fact that the worker consumes the means of subsistence to please himself and not to please the capitalist is irrelevant. . . .The capitalist process of production regarded as a connected whole, or as a process of reproduction, therefore produces, not only commodities, not only surplus value, for it also produces and reproduces the capitalist relation itself; produces and reproduces, on one side the capitalist, and on the other the wage worker.