22 February 2010

Value, Price and Profit


Value, Price and Profit

By 1865 Karl Marx (pictured) had solved the theoretical problems of his work, “Capital”, on Surplus Value, and in that year he gave the well-known address to a gathering of workers that afterwards became a popular publication under the name “Value, Price and Profit”, also sometimes called “Wages, Price and Profit”. The first volume of “Capital” was published two years later.

This short book has served the labour movement well, down the years. Among other things, it debunks the argument, still attempted by employers and their apologists in South Africa today, that wage rises will cause unemployment.

It shows how commodities, including commodity Labour-Power, are normally sold at their full value, yet how, at the same time, the worker is getting swindled every day. It explains this apparent paradox.

It encourages workers to struggle for better wages and conditions, but it also (prefiguring Lenin’s argument against “Economism” forty years later in “What is to be Done?”) shows clearly why trade unionism, without political organisation, will never succeed in throwing off the yoke of capital.

The abridged version of “Value, Price and Profit”, linked below, can serve as the short, or “basic”, version of “Capital” that so many people long for. It will help us to get a better grip on some of the key concepts in “Capital, Volume 1” such as Labour, Value, Labour-Power, and above all, Surplus-Value.

For this purpose we have put aside many of the sections of “Value, Price and Profit”. The work is available on the Internet for anyone who would like to read it in full. The best source for Marxist classics in general on the Internet is the Marxists Internet Archive (MIA).