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

page 60. HISTORICAL TENDENCY OF CAPITALIST ACCUMULATION


HISTORICAL TENDENCY OF CAPITALIST ACCUMULATION

Capitalist production is marked from the outset by two specific traits:

(1) It produces its products as commodities. The fact that it produces commodities does not distinguish it from other modes of production. Its peculiar mark is that the prevailing and determining character of its products is that of being commodities.

This implies, in the first place, that the laborer himself acts in the role of a seller of commodities, as a free wage worker, so that wage labor is the typical character of labor. In viewing the foregoing analyses, it is not necessary to demonstrate again that the relation between wage labor and capital determines the entire character of the ode of production. The principal agents of this mode of production itself, the capitalist and the wage worker, are to that extent merely personifications of capital and wage labor. They are definite social characters, assigned to individuals by the process of social production. They are products of these definite social conditions of production. . . .

(2) The other specific mark of the capitalist mode of production is the production of surplus value as the direct aim and determining incentive of production. Capital produces essentially capital, and does so only to the extent that it produces surplus value. We have seen . . . that a mode of production peculiar to the capitalist period is founded upon this. This is a special form in the development of the productive powers of labor, in such a way that these powers appear as self dependent powers of capital lording it over labor and standing in direct opposition to the laborer's own development. . . .

. . . To the extent that the labor process is a simple process between man and nature, its simple elements remain the same in all social forms of development. But every definite historical form of this process develops more and more its material foundations and social forms. Whenever a certain maturity is reached, one definite social form is discarded and displaced by a higher one.

The time for the coming of such a crisis is announced by the depth and breadth of the contradictions and antagonisms, which separate the conditions of distribution, and with them the definite historical form of the corresponding conditions of production, from the productive forces, the productivity, and development of their agencies. A conflict then arises between the material development of production and its social form.

. . .Capitalist monopoly becomes a fetter upon the method of production which has flourished with it and under it. The centralization of the means of production and the socialization of labor reach a point where they prove incompatible with their capitalist husk. This bursts asunder. The knell of capitalist private property sounds. The expropriators are expropriated.

The transformation of scattered private property based upon individual labor into capitalist property is, of course, a far more protracted process, a far more violent and difficult process, than the transformation of capitalist private property (already, in actual fact, based upon a social method of production) into social property. In the former case we are concerned with the expropriation of the mass of the people by a few usurpers; in the latter case we are concerned with the expropriation of a few usurpers by the mass of the people.


("The progress of industry, which the bourgeoisie involuntarily and passively promotes, substitutes for the isolation of the workers by mutual competition, their revolutionary unification by association. Thus the development of large-scale industry cuts from under the feet of the bourgeoisie the ground upon which capitalism controls production and appropriates the products of labor. Before all, therefore, the bourgeoisie produces its own gravediggers. Its downfall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable. . . .

"Among all the classes that confront the bourgeoisie today, the proletariat alone is really revolutionary. Other classes decay and perish with the rise of large-scale industry, but the proletariate is the most characteristic product of that industry. The lower middle class -- small manufacturers, small traders, handicraftsmen, peasant proprietors -- one and all fight the bourgeoisie in the hope of safe-guarding their existence as sections of the middle class. . . . They are reactionary, for they are trying to make the wheels of history turn backwards."
-- Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party, London, 1848.)