Karl Marx’s Capital

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(1846 - 1892)
Carlo Cafiero (1 September 1846 – 17 July 1892) was an Italian anarchist, champion of Mikhail Bakunin during the second half of the 19th century and one of the main proponents of anarcho-communism and insurrectionary anarchism during the First International. (From : Wikipedia.org.)


This document contains 15 sections, with 33,813 words or 207,275 characters.

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Translator’s note It’s with great pride and anticipation that I present this first complete English translation of Carlo Cafiero’s summary of Karl Marx’s Capital. My ultimate hope is that this work will further Cafiero’s original goal in writing this book: to develop class consciousness and the knowledge of basic Marxian economics among workers, activists, and students. Given the length of Capital, Volume 1, those without the adequate time or skill set may be put off in reading it in its entirety. However, this summary, while not a substitute, is undoubtedly an adequate primer. Not only is it an easily digestible length, but it fully encapsulates the major points of Marx’s analysis of production, accumulation of capital, and the exploitation of labor. Cafiero’s dynamic and impassioned prose is sure to inspire a similar feeling in the hearts of readers, and his inclusion of large portions of Marx’s ori... (From : TheAnarchistLibrary.org.)

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Marxists Internet Archive, 2008 Carlo Cafiero accomplished an important work in drafting this summary of Capital, approved and looked over by experts and even by Marx himself, not only because it is able to synthesize the thinking of the “master” in a few pages, but also because it is able to convey Capital’s message in an impassioned, yet concise, manner, in a tenacious and complete, as well as illuminating, writing. It is not that this writing is sufficient to ascertain all of the contents of that immense work and milestone that is Marx’s Capital, but it certainly has the value and capacity to better acquaint the reader with the universe of Marxist works, Capital included; this is no small task in an age like ours, in which Marxism unfortunately enjoys a lack of fame, due to the rule of bourgeois capital and to so many preconceptions and false myths surrounding communism. One cannot... (From : TheAnarchistLibrary.org.)

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Preface Italy, March 1878 A profound feeling of sadness struck me, studying Capital, when I thought that this work was, and who knows how much longer it would remain, entirely unknown in Italy. But if that is, I then said to myself, I want to say that my duty is to work for all people, so that this would no longer be. And what to do? A translation? Phew! That wouldn’t help at all. The people who can understand the work of Marx, such that he has written, certainly know French, and can make use of J. Roy’s beautiful translation, fully reviewed by the author, who says it even deserves to be consulted by those who speak the German language. It’s a very different group of people for whom I must work. It’s divided into three categories: the first is composed of workers gifted with intelligence and of a certain education; the second, composed of young people who came out of the bourgeoisie, and have embr... (From : TheAnarchistLibrary.org.)

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A commodity is an object that has two values; a use value and an exchange value, or an appropriately determined value. If I have, for example, 20 kilos of coffee, I can either consume it for my own use, or exchange it for 20 meters of canvas, or for a suit, or for 250 grams of silver, if, instead of coffee, I need one of these three commodities. The use value of a commodity is based on the actual qualities of the commodity itself, is meant to equal such qualities based on its qualities, and not any other needs. The use value of 20 kilos of coffee is based on the qualities of the coffee; these qualities being such that they make it clear to all that it is apt for us to drink, but they don’t enable us to clothe ourselves, or give us material for a shirt. It is for this reason that we are able to gain from the use value of 20 kilos of coffee, only if we feel the desire to drink coffee; but if instead we need a shirt, or to wear a suit that costs the use value of... (From : TheAnarchistLibrary.org.)

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Carefully examining the formula of capital, it can be noted in the last analysis that the matter of the accrual of capital is resolved in the following way: finding a commodity that profits more than what it costs; finding a commodity that, in our hands, can give rise to value, so that, by selling it, we come to amass more money than we spent to buy it. In short, it must be an elastic commodity that, stretched however much in our hands, can grow in value. This very singular commodity indeed exists and it is called labor power, or labor force. For example, here is a money-owner, who possesses a large amount of wealth, and wants to use his wealth to give rise to capital. He comes into the marketplace solely in search of labor power. Let’s follow his process. He walks around the marketplace, and meet a proletarian, who came solely to sell their only commodity: labor power. The worker, however, is not selling his labor power in whole, not completely, but only part... (From : TheAnarchistLibrary.org.)

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Capital, just born, feels quickly the need for nourishment to develop itself; and the capitalist, who lives now but for the life of the capital, attentively worries about the needs of this being, which has become his heart and soul, and he finds a way to satisfy himself. The first method, employed by the capitalist in favor of his capital, is the extension of the workday. It’s certain that the workday has its limits. Foremost, a day only consists of 24 hours; it is then necessary from these 24 hours to cut a certain number, because the worker must satisfy all his physical and moral needs: to sleep, feed himself, rest his strength, etc. “But both these limiting conditions are of a very elastic nature, and allow the greatest latitude. So we find working-days of 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18 hours, i.e., of the most different lengths. “The capitalist has bought the labor-power at its day-rate. To him its use-value b... (From : TheAnarchistLibrary.org.)

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Labor power, producing a greater value than how much something is worth, that is a “surplus,” has created capital; enlarging then this surplus value with prolongation of the workday, has given sufficient nourishment to the capital for its infancy. The capital grows, and the surplus value must increase to satisfy the grown need. Increase of surplus value, however, does not mean, like we saw before, the extension of the workday, which eventually also has its necessary limits, although it is a very elastic length. For what little time there is that the capitalist leaves to the worker for the satisfaction of his most basic needs, the workday will always be less than 24 hours. The workday meets then a natural limit, and the surplus value, consequently, an insurmountable obstacle. Let’s represent the workday with the line A–B. A D C B The lette... (From : TheAnarchistLibrary.org.)

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It’s been a bit since we haven’t dealt with the facts of our capitalist, who must have certainly prospered in the meantime. Let’s go back to his workshop, where we may have the pleasure of seeing our friend, the spinner, again. Here we are. Let’s enter. Oh, surprise! There’s no longer one worker, but now a large number of workers find themselves at work. All quiet and in order as if they were many soldiers. The lack of guards and inspectors is seen as supervisors who walk among the ranks, all observing, giving orders, or overseeing the the execution is by the books. Of the capitalist nothing is seen, not even a shadow. A glass door opens inside, maybe it will be him; let’s see. It’s a solemn person, but it’s not our capitalist. The supervisors carefully stand around him, and they receive his orders with the utmost attention. The sound of an electric doorbell is heard; one of the supervisors runs to put his ear to the m... (From : TheAnarchistLibrary.org.)

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When the Capitalist gathers the workers to perform the various tasks, which make up all of the labor for a commodity, in his workshop, he gives an entirely special nature to simple cooperation; he establishes the division of labor and manufacturing; which is none other than “a productive mechanism whose parts are human beings” (Marx, Capital, vol. 1, ch. 14, sec. 1). Although manufacturing is always based on the division of labor, it also has a double origin. In fact in some cases manufacturing has brought together the different processing needs for the completion of a commodity in the same workshop, which first, like so many special trades, used to be distinct and divided up; in other cases it has divided, while keeping them in the same workshop, the different work operations, that before used to make up a whole of the completion of a commodity. “A carriage, for example, was formerly the product of the labor... (From : TheAnarchistLibrary.org.)

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John Stuart Mill, in his Principles of Political Economy, says: “Hitherto it is questionable if all the mechanical inventions yet made have lightened the day’s toil of any human being” (Mill, Principles of Political Economy, ch. 6). This was not their purpose. Like every other development of the productive force of labor, capitalist use of machinery does not tend to lower the price of commodities, to shorten the part of the day, in which the worker labors for himself, in relation to lengthening the other, in which he works only for the capitalist. It is a particular method for making relative surplus value. But who is it that ever thinks of the worker? If the capitalist looks after him, it is only to study a better way of exploiting him. The worker sells his labor power, and the capitalist buys it, as the only commodity that, with its surplus value, can enable him to give birth to and grow capital. The capitalist,... (From : TheAnarchistLibrary.org.)

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The supporters of the capitalist mode of production pretend that salary is payment for labor, and surplus value the product of capital. But what is labor value? Labor, either still in the worker, or already out; that is to say, labor, either the force, the power to do something, or the thing itself already done: in short, labor, either labor power, or the commodity. The worker cannot sell labor that’s already left him, ie the thing he produces, the commodity, because this belongs to the capitalist, and not to him. Because the worker could sell labor that’s already left him, ie the commodity he produced, he would need to possess the means of production and raw materials, and so he would be the merchant of the commodities he produced. But he doesn’t possess anything, he is a proletarian, who, to live, must sell to others the only good that rests in him, that is his power or force to work, labor power. The capitalist therefore can buy nothing besides... (From : TheAnarchistLibrary.org.)

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If we observe the formula of capital, we easily comprehend that its conservation is placed completely in its successive and continuous reproduction. In fact, capital is divided, as we already know, in two: into constant, that is, and variable. Constant capital, represented by the means of production and raw materials, is worn away continuously during the process of labor. Tools are used, machinery used, carbon, tallow, etc., that is needed by the machinery, and finally the building is used. At the same time, however, that the labor is able in such a way to wear away constant capital, it is also reproduced in the same proportions in which it uses it. Constant capital finds itself reproduced in the commodity in the proportions in which it was used during its production. The value used of the means of production and the raw materials is always reproduced exactly in the value of the commodity, as we have already seen elsewhere. If, therefore, constant capital comes to b... (From : TheAnarchistLibrary.org.)

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Here we are at the end of our drama. We met a worker at the market one day, come to sell his labor power, and we saw him negotiate as equals with the money-owner. His still didn’t know how hard the Calvary road would be that he had to climb, not yet had the most bitter cup approached his lips, all of which had to be gulped down to the last dregs. The money-owner, not yet become a capitalist, was nothing more than a modest owner of a little wealth, timid and uncertain of the success of his new enterprise, in which he was investing his fortune. We the saw how the scene came to change. The worker, after having generated, with his first overwork, capital, was oppressed by the excessive labor of an extraordinarily prolonged day. With relative surplus value the labor time necessary for his maintenance was restricted and that of overwork prolonged, destined to always nourish capital more richly. In simple cooperation we saw the worker in a... (From : TheAnarchistLibrary.org.)

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The disease is sweeping. It’s been a long time that the workers of the civilized world have known it; certainly not all, but a great number, and these are already preparing the means of action to destroy it. They have considered these: That the first source of every human oppression and exploitation is private property; That the emancipation of workers (human emancipation) will not be founded upon a new class rule, but upon the end of all class privileges and monopolies and upon the equality of rights and duties; That the cause of labor, the cause of humanity, does not have borders; That the emancipation of workers must be done at the hands of the workers themselves. And so a mighty voice has shouted: “Workers of the world, unite! No more rights without duties, no more duties without rights! Revolution!”... (From : TheAnarchistLibrary.org.)

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Cafiero to Marx Les Molières, 27 July 1879 Most Esteemed Sir, I’m sending with the same courier two copies of your work Capital, summarized briefly by me. I wanted to deliver them to you sooner, but only now was I able to obtain some copies by the benevolence of a friend, who with his intervention was able to affect the publication of the book. In fact, if the publication could have been done at my expense, I would have desired to submit the manuscript to your examination beforehand. But in fear of seeing a favorable opinion escape me, I hurried to allow the publication proposed to me. And it is only now that I was able to address you in the hopes that you may say if I was able to comprehend and express your exact concept. I pray, sir, that you appreciate the expressions of my deepest respect and that you put your trust in me. Most devotedly, Carlo C... (From : TheAnarchistLibrary.org.)


1879 :
Karl Marx’s Capital -- Publication.

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