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Surplus Value
HEN the laborer has sold his labor power to the

the boss sets him to work for ten (10) hours, with the tools and upon the materials which he has provided. But in, say, the first three hours of the working day the laborer produces exchange-values for the boss equal to the exchange-value of his labor power for the whole day, say $3.00. The values created by the worker in the first three hours compensate the boss for the day's wage which he pays the worker.

But the worker does not quit working at the end of three hours, for he has agreed to work for ten hours. He continues creating values during the remaining seven hours. That is to say that for seven hours of his working day the worker creates values for which he receives no compensation, or that seven hours of the worker's daily time is devoted to creating values which the boss appropriates but for which he pays the worker nothing. The employer will claim that he is paying the worker for ten hours, and cite or show his contract to prove that he does. It is under the cover of this assumption that the exploitation of the worker under capitalism has been so successfully hidden.

This, as made clear by Marx, reads, (Value, Price and Profit,, page 79) “But by paying the daily or weekly (exchange-Ed.) value of the spinner's laboring power the capitalist has acquired the right of using that laboring power during the whole day or week. He will, therefore, make him work say, daily, twelve hours. Over and above the six hours required to replace his wages, or the value of his laboring power, he will, therefore, have to work six other hours, which I shall call hours of surplus labor, which surplus labor will realize itself in a surplus value and a surplus produce."

Paid and Unpaid Labor Time It is quite easy to discern the exploitation of the chattel slave. He was provided with a living according to the standard of the slaves in slave society, and the products of his labor belonged to the master. There is no difficulty in seeing the nature and extent of the exploitation

The exploitation of the serf also is apparent. He tilled his lord's acres for the greater part of the year and his own allotment the rest of the time.

But the wage worker appears to be paid for all of his time, when actually he is only paid for part of it. The balance of the time (seven hours) he labors and receives no equivalent. So the working time of the laborer is divided into two distinct periods: time for which he is paid, and time for which he receives no return-paid labor time and unpaid labor time.

Then it follows that commodities, which are the fruits of the expenditure of labor power by the worker -the crystallization of it-have in them also two elements—paid and unpaid labor.

As these commodities exchange with one another on the basis of the socially necessary labor time required to produce them, it follows that their exchange time is the sum of the paid and the unpaid labor time—the total time in each of them.

Marx, Value, Price and Profit, page 87: “The value of a commodity is determined by the total quantity of labor contained in it. But part of that quantity of labor is realized in a value, for which an equivalent has been paid in the form of wages; part of it is realized in a value for which no equivalent has been paid. Part of the labor contained in the commodity is paid labor; part is unpaid labor."

So the boss, buying the labor power of the wage worker, uses it to obtain values for which he gives the worker nothing in return—surplus values. This difference between his wage and the values resulting from his labor is what enables the capitalist to grow rich and keeps the worker poor.

Under capitalism it is not termed robbery. It is, indeed, considered highly respectable and moral; it is

legalized and sanctified; approved by our "best citizens” and is euphoniously designated business.


1. What happens when the worker sells his labor

power? 2. How is the working day divided as regards the

working time of the laborer? 3. How was the chattel slave exploited? The serf? 4. How is the wage worker exploited ? 5. Is there any difference between the chattel slave,

the serf and the wage worker? Explain what it is. 6. Explain surplus value by Marx's illustration of the

spinner. Apply it to a farm hand. 7. If the wage worker sells his labor power for ten

hours how does the boss exploit him? 8. How is the present slavery of the workers hidden

from them? 9. What part of the I. W. W. preamble covers this

process of working class exploitation? 10. In your opinion why do the workers fail to recog

nize their robbery in production?


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The Source of Profit. N THE last article we discovered that the wage worker produces a surplus of values in the course of the

working day which accrues to the boss-values for which the boss gives the laborer no return.

As Marx puts it: “The surplus value, or that part of the total value of a commodity in which the surplus labor or unpaid labor is realized, I call Profit.” (Value, Price and profit, page 89.)

The average person believes that profit is made by charging for things a price above their value; by cheating, or in some devious way, but nothing can be further from fact than such a supposition. While there is robbery it does not take place over the counter, but has already taken place where the laborer works and while he was working, and it resolves itself into the unpaid labor crystallized in the commodities.

It is not by charging in excess of their values, but by selling (exchanging) them at their real values that profit is made. Let us again refer to Marx, “By selling, therefore, the commodity at its value, that is, as the crystallization of the total quantity of labor bestowed upon it, the capitalist must necessarily sell at a profit. He sells not only what has cost him an equivalent, but he sells also what cost him nothing, although it has cost his workman labor. The cost of the commodity to the capitalist (money cost-Ed) and its real cost (labor cost-Ed) are different things. I repeat, therefore, that normal and average profits are made selling commodities not above, but at their real values.” (Value, Price aná Prifit, pages 87-88.)

When the capitalist takes his commodities into the market he exchanges with other capitalists for their commodities, and when the exchange is effected the capitalists, by exchanging for the real value of their commodities, all make a profit, for each of them will have pocketed that share of each commodity which cost them nothing. This is what Marx terms “normal and average profit.” It is this that inspires capitalist production. If cheating were the rule there would be no cohesion among the capitalists, but it is imperative for their interest, for the continuation of the exploitation of wage labor, that profits be made legally. They have made laws (rules) to enforce this practice as a measure of safety, of course, for themselves.

The Profit System. Profits are the logical fruit of capitalist industry. They are inherent in this system of production and exchange. Capitalism has been appropriately termed the "profit system.” Its products are commodities, and its production is for exchange. Production of commodities for exchange, with profit for its objective.

While its products are use values, it produces them only in the light of exchange values—things that will sell. Of course, people will only buy them when they intend to use them. To the capitalist they are things that will sell and for which he receives more than they cost him to produce—they are a means of profit.

A failure to understand the source and the nature of profit—surplus values out of which the wage worker is exploited-leads the average worker to believe that he is robbed in the purchase of the commodities he buys as a consumer. The workers who act upon this assumption are hunting the remedy in the wrong direction. For a rise in the price of the commodities which he must purchase means that the labor time necessary to produce his labor power has been increased. He must, and, when he understands, he will seek more pay from the employer. Whenever, and from whatever cause, the purchasing power of wages falls below what is required to enable the worker to maintain the established living standard he has received the equivalent of a cut in wages. Whether it be due to a rise in the price of commodities, or reflects a depreciation of the value of gold, it is to be repaired only by a corresponding increase in his wage; he, as a worker, must seek redress out of the measure of surplus value; he must increase the mea

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