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



The circulation of commodities is the starting-point of capital. . . .

The primary distinction between money as money and money as capital is nothing more than a difference between their respective forms of circulation.

The simplest form of the circulation of commodities is C – M – C, the transformation of a commodity into money, and the re-transformation of money into a commodity; selling in order to buy. However, side by side with this form, we find another, which is specifically different. We find the form M – C – M, the transformation of money into commodities, and the re-transformation of commodities into money, buying in order to sell. Money that circulates in the latter way is thereby transformed into capital, is already potential capital.

. . . The simple circulation of commodities (selling in order to buy) is a means for carrying out a purpose which lies outside the domain of circulation; a means for the appropriation of use-values, for the satisfaction of wants. The circulation of money as capital, on the other hand, is an end in itself, for the expansion of value can occur only within this perpetually renewed movement. Consequently, the circulation of capital has no limits.

It is as the conscious representative of this movement that the owner of money becomes a capitalist. His person, or rather his pocket, is the point from which money sets out and the point to which it returns.

The objective purpose of this circulation, the expansion of value, is his subjective aim; and only in so far as the increasing appropriation of abstract wealth is the sole motive of his operations does he function as a capitalist, or as personified capital endowed with will and consciousness. Thus use-value is never to be regarded as the direct aim of the capitalist. Nor is the profit on any single transaction his aim, for what he aims at is the never-ending process of profit-making. . . .

The form which circulation takes when money becomes capital conflicts with all the laws we have hitherto studied concerning the nature of commodity, of value, of money, and even of circulation itself.

. . . Whereas . . . both parties to an exchange can gain as regards use-value, it is impossible for both to gain as regards exchange-value. Here we must rather say: "Where equality exists, there can be no gain. . . . ."

The formation of surplus value, and therefore the transformation of money into capital, cannot be explained either on the supposition that the seller sells commodities above their value, or upon the supposition that the buyer buys them below their value. . . .

Turn and twist as we may, the sum total remains the same. If equivalents are exchanged, then no surplus value is created; and if non-equivalents are exchanged, still no surplus value is created. Circulation, the exchange of commodities, does not create value.

. . . Since, however, it is impossible to explain the transformation of money into capital, the creation of surplus value simply as an outcome of circulation, it would seem that merchants' capital can arise only because the merchant, who parasitically thrusts himself in between the buying producer and the selling producer of commodities, manages to overreach both. In this sense, Benjamin Franklin says: "War is robbery, commerce is generally cheating." If we are to explain the expansion of merchants' capital as due to anything more than the cheating of the producers of commodities, we shall have to discuss a long series of intermediate links, which are still lacking to us at the present stage, when we are only concerned with the circulation of commodities and its simple factors.

. . . Mr. Moneybags, who is as yet only an embryo capitalist, must buy his commodities at their value, and must sell them at their value; but at the end of the process, he must draw more value out of circulation than he puts into it at starting. From being a caterpillar he must grow into a butterfly, and this transformation must simultaneously take place in the sphere of circulation and outside the sphere of circulation. Such are the conditions of the problem. That is the nut we have to crack!