"Surplus" versus "Surplus Value"?

Charles Brown CharlesB at CNCL.ci.detroit.mi.us
Fri Apr 14 10:57:42 PDT 2000

>>> Curtiss Leung <bofftagstumper at yahoo.com> 04/14/00 01:33PM >>
(1) Suppose that "surplus" refers to the actual use-values produced over and above what's consumed. Why can't I use the term "surplus value" to refer to the *magnitude* of that surplus relative to some metric (not necessarily money, just to make things looser)?


CB: Of course , you can refer to it as "surplus value" , but such usage would just be confusing, because Marx has already used that lexical item to refer specifically to the surpluses exploited by the capitalists, and socialism/communism is specifically distinguished and defined by the abolition of exploiting ruling classes , most immediately the capitalist class.

Call it "surplus product" in communism. Or as implied below, surplus use-value. The full name of value in Marx's scheme is exchange value. Surplus value is surplus exchange value. ________

(2) Say the answer to question (1) is no, for whatever reason. OK, fine. So then we've got a surplus of use-values which is not quantified as "surplus value."

Then I have to ask: well, without this quantification, how am I or whatever organization through which production is rationally planned able to figure out if we're actually producing a surplus or deficit? If it's been decided that production should accumulate for the social reserve fund, how do I determine what the reserve fund contains? Worst of all, how can it be determined if improper accumulation/exploitation hasn't crept in through the back door?


CB: It doesn't seem likely that someone can accidentally exploit. The idea is that private property in the basic means of production will be abolished. No one will as a private individual or small group of private individuals "own" basic means of production, and hire wage laborers who sell their labor power, etc. ,etc. Without the institution of private property , which has a number of definitonal components, accidental exploitation cannot occur.


My intuition is that by taking about "surplus" rather than "surplus value" simply emphasizes the experience of production after capitalism -- workers become the subjects and agents of the productive process rather than capital seeming to have those roles -- but that "surplus value" as a measure of what -- IF ANY -- surplus the producers choose to create has to persist.

So that surplus and the measure of that surplus are under the control of the producers, rather than being expropriated from them -- and this control is what's intended by the phrase "transparent economic relationships." In other words not direct production for use, but a division of labor organized by the producers.

Yes? No? Maybe? -- ________

CB: Yes, there is still an division of labor. As Engels and Marx say in The Manifesto:

"When, in the course of development, class distinctions have disappeared, and all production has been concentrated in the hands of a vast association of the whole nation, the public power will lose its political character. Political power, properly so called, is merely the organized power of one class for oppressing another. If the proletariat during its contest with the bourgeoisie is compelled, by the force of circumstances, to organize itself as a class; if, by means of a revolution, it makes itself the ruling class, and, as such, sweeps away by force the old conditions of production, then it will, along with these conditions, have swept away the conditions for the existence of class antagonisms and of classes generally, and will thereby have abolished its own supremacy as a class.

In place of the old bourgeois society, with its classes and class antagonisms, we shall have an association in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all. "


More information about the lbo-talk mailing list