Surplus Value Is Inevitable Under Capitalism

Marx thus makes surplus value the inevitable accompaniment of a capi­talist economy. In a system in which commodity values and wages are determined as they are, and in which the worker is free to and must sell his labor power as a commodity to a capitalist employer, surplus value must arise. It is no more created by the grasping of the capitalist than it can be eliminated by the opposition of the workers. Within the framework of a capitalist order, surplus value would disappear only if capitalist em­ployers were to refrain from making the working day longer than the hours required to produce the worker's means of subsistence, or if the workers were to force their wages up enough to absorb surplus value. The former, Marx held, could not happen because it would be suicidal for the capitalist employers to give up the sole source of their livelihood. Nor could the latter happen, because economic principles operating in a capitalist sys­tem prevent wages from rising above a subsistence level.

Surplus Value—The Driving Force in Capitalism

Not only was surplus value inevitable under the capitalist system, but to Marx it was the heart and soul of that system. The capitalist employer occupied a key position. During earlier historical stages of capitalism, he exercised personal initiative in the organization of production, and he con­tinued even in the mature stages of capitalism to hire others to do the di­recting while he retained the passive role of the immediate supplier of funds to pay labor. Ths attempt to acquire surplus value acts as a key in­centive to the production of commodities in the capitalism system.

Our capitalist has two objects in view; in the first place, he wants to pro­duce a use value that has a value in exchange, . . . and secondly, he desires to produce a commodity whose value shall be greater than the sum of the values of the commodities used in its production. . . . His aim is to produce not a use value, but a commodity also; not only use value, but value; not only value, but at the same time surplus value.

Thus the existence of surplus value is so inextricably tied up with the forces of production in a capitalist order that if production is to take place surplus value must be realizable. Since surplus value cannot be sev­ered from the machinery of a capitalist order, its ethical justness cannot be considered separately from that of the entire system of which it is an in­herent part.