Capital and Labor


Capital and Labor
VOL. 107 NO. 7


What is capital? There are many answers -- but only one of them is correct.

An understanding of the term is essential to an understanding of capitalism and socialism. In CAPITAL AND LABOR, Arnold Petersen analyzes many of the misconceptions and lies on the real nature of capital and furnishes the scientific definition of the term.

A typical lie about capital is that it is an animate thing with hopes and fears, and that it is capable of responding to external and internal stimuli.

An example of capital's "animism" is the frequent assertion that capital "has become highly nervous." Such absurd assertions include the claims that "capital is a wage earner" and "capital and labor are brothers."


These nonsensical "attributes" of capital are given the attention they deserve in CAPITAL AND LABOR. Then the scientific definition of capital is given to clear the term of the nonsense that capitalist propagandists have piled upon it to get down to an examination of the operations of the system of exploitation.

"Capital," the pamphlet quotes Daniel De Leon, "is that portion of wealth which, being privately owned in a society where proletarians abound, is used to produce more wealth by a system that exploits the capital-less proletarians."

Karl Marx's discussion of the nature of capital is then given.

"Capital consists of raw materials, instruments of labor, and means of subsistence of all kinds, which are employed in producing new raw materials, new instruments and new means of subsistence. All these components of capital are created by labor, products of labor, accumulated labor. Accumulated labor that serves as a means to new production is capital. So say the [capitalist] economists. What is a Negro slave? A man of the black race. The one explanation is worthy of the other." "A Negro is a Negro. Only under certain conditions does he become a slave. A cotton-spinning machine is a machine for spinning cotton. Only under certain conditions does it become capital. Torn away from these conditions, it is as little capital as gold by itself is money, or as sugar is the price of sugar." "It is only the dominion of past, accumulated, materialized labor over immediate living labor that stamps the accumulated labor with the character of capital."

The pamphlet then presents a simple picture of the process of the exploitation of workers by means of "the dominion of past, accumulated, materialized labor over immediate living labor." The presentation serves as a fine introduction to the study of Marx's CAPITAL.


In addition, the consequences of the abolition of capitalism are given. "Capital as such will disappear, that is, the instruments of production, etc., will lose their capital character, and simply become what they are -- means for producing use values for the consumption of the producers....Gone also, then, will be the market in the sense the term now conveys, hence also the quest for foreign markets, the primary cause of wars...."

The above points are taken from the essay "Capital" in CAPITAL AND LABOR. The pamphlet also includes several other essays, among them two that show how capitalism exploits labor and how labor can emancipate itself from wage slavery.

Capital and Labor is one of the most useful that inquiring workers can secure as an introduction to the study of economics. We urge all readers of THE PEOPLE to study it and to pass on its lessons to their coworkers and friends.