- Capitalism and Alternatives -

Taking risks and other apologia for small capitali

Posted by: Barry Stoller on January 29, 19100 at 12:24:38:

In Reply to: Gotcha! posted by Fred on January 28, 19100 at 17:57:04:

: Betty isn't a capitalist, and her little story isn't the story of capitalism. But this image is what capitalist societies inculcate into their people, even though the reality is the opposite of this case. Betty incurs risks, but capitalists don't. They have the media, the legislature and military force on their side, and Betty is safe only as long as she behaves herself.

This statement is as incorrect as your facetious one.

Capitalism is the valorization of surplus value to reproduce (or expand) capital. Once someone sets to task the alienated labor-power (socialized labor) of a worker---even ONE worker---to appropriate surplus value for the purpose of reproducing capital, the scientific criteria of capitalism has been met.

Marx shed no sentimental tears for the small holders of capital that centralized capital regularly crushes (although he hoped that the middle class, once proletarianized, would join the proletariat in the struggle against capital). Indeed, the whole dialectical movement of capital necessitates the centralization of the means of production FOR communism. The precondition of communism is socialized labor. This contradicts any insinuation that communism fights for the rights of small capitalists (however charmingly mom & pop they may be).

Capitalism negates individual private property (in the means of production), creating socialized labor (cartels, trusts, etc.). Because capitalism retains individual ownership (private property) of socialized labor, contradictions arise between the mode of production and the social relations. Communism---modern, Marxist communism---is the transformation of this private ownership of socialized labor into public ownership of socialized labor. This is the 'negation of the negation' Marx mentions in chapter 32 of Capital.

When the small capitalists fight centralized capital for survival, they impede the dialectical development of the very characteristics of capitalism that communism requires, i.e. centralization of labor and further socialization of labor. Marx and Engels, in The Communist Manifesto explicitly called the shopkeepers 'reactionary, for they try to roll back the wheel of history' (International 1948, p. 19).

To differentiate between small capital and large capital is certainly important in understanding dialectics and the objective conditions for class struggle---but to sentimentalize small capital, as your post does, is to reject much of what is important in Marxism.

Furthermore, that capitalists take risks is in itself no virtue unless we understand WHAT is being risked. What capitalists---large or small---risk is the surplus labor of the working class. This surplus labor was 'freely' exchanged with capitalists ONLY because the means of production are monopolized by the capitalists. To risk what has been gained through coercion is no virtue.

Follow Ups:


The Debating Room Post a Followup