Marx’s Economic Manuscripts of 1861-63
Part 3) Relative Surplus Value

a) Cooperation

Volume 30, MECW, p. 255-264

This is the basic form Division of labour presupposes cooperation or is only a specific form of cooperation. The same is true of a workshop based on the use of machinery, etc. Cooperation is the general form on which all social arrangements for increasing the productivity of social labour are based, and it merely receives further specification in each of these. But cooperation is itself at the same time a specific form, existing alongside its more highly developed and closely specified forms (just as it is a form which transcends its hitherto developments).

As a form which is distinct from its own further developments or specifications, and which exists in distinction, separately from them, cooperation is the most rooted in nature, the crudest and the most abstract of its own varieties; but in any case it continues in its simplicity, in its simple form, to be the basis and prerequisite of all its more highly developed forms.

Cooperation is therefore first of all the direct collective labour — unmediated by exchange — of many workers in order to produce the same result, the same product and the same use value (or utility). In production under slavery. (Cf. Cairnes.) [187]

It is firstly the collective labour of many workers. Hence its initial prerequisite is the existence of an agglomeration, a heaping up of many workers in the same area (in one place), all working at the same time; or this already constitutes the material existence of cooperation. This prerequisite underlies all its more highly developed forms.

The simplest, as yet not further specified mode of cooperation is evidently the performing, not of different operations, but of the same one by people working simultaneously and in association in the same area; but their activity must be simultaneous in order to bring about a definite result or to achieve this within a definite time. This side of cooperation, too, persists in its more highly developed forms. Many people do the same thing at the same time under the division of labour as well. Even more so in the automatic workshop.

Hunting presents one of the oldest forms of this kind of cooperation. The same can be said of war, which is only a man-hunt, a more highly developed hunt.[188] The effect produced by, for example, the charge of a cavalry regiment could not be produced by the individual members of the regiment, taking each one in isolation, even though during the charge each individual only acts as an individual, in so far as he acts at all. The gigantic structures erected by the Asiatics are another example of this kind of cooperation, indeed the importance of this simple form of cooperation emerges very strikingly in building. An individual may build a hut, but the construction of a house requires that many people should do the same thing at the same time. An individual may row a small boat; a large skiff requires a definite number of oarsmen. In the division of labour this side of cooperation emerges in the principle of the proportion of multiples, which are to be apportioned to each particular branch. In the automatic workshop the main effect stems not from the division of labour but from the sameness of the work performed by many people at once. For example, the spinning mules set in motion simultaneously by the same motor are watched over simultaneously by so and so many spinners.

The merit of Wakefield’s new system of colonisation is not that he discovered or [IV-144] promoted the art of colonisation, nor that he made any fresh discoveries whatsoever in the field of political economy, but that he naively laid bare the narrowmindedness of political economy without being clear himself as to the importance of these discoveries or being to the slightest degree free from that narrow-mindedness.

The point is that in the colonies, particularly in their earliest stages of development, bourgeois relations are not yet fully formed; not yet presupposed, as they are in old established countries. They are in the process of becoming. The conditions of their origin therefore emerge more clearly. It appears that these economic relations are neither present by nature, nor are they things, which is the way the political economists are rather inclined to view capital, etc. We shall see later how Mr. Wakefield solves this mystery in the colonies, to his own astonishment.[67] Here we shall confine ourselves, for the time being, to citing a passage which bears on this simple form of cooperation:

* “There are numerous operations of so simple a kind as not to admit a division into parts, which cannot be performed without the cooperation of many pairs of hands. For instance the lifting of a large tree on a wain, keeping down weeds in a large field of growing crops, shearing a large flock of sheep at the same time, gathering a harvest of corn at a time when it is ripe enough and not too ripe, moving any great weight; everything in short, which cannot be done unless a good many pairs of hands help each other in the same undivided employment, and at the same time” * (E. G. Wakefield, A View of the Ail of Colonization etc., London, 1849, p. 168).

Catching fish for example. Result when many act at once — as in hunting. Building railways. Digging canals, etc. This kind of cooperation in the public works of the Egyptians and Asiatics. The Romans employed their armies like this in Public Works. (See the passage in Jones.)

We have already seen, in considering absolute surplus value, that once the rate is given the amount of surplus value depends on the number of workers simultaneously employed; so far, therefore, on their cooperation. However, it is precisely here that the difference between absolute and relative surplus value — in so far as the latter presupposes an increase in and therefore a development of the productive power of labour — emerges in striking fashion. If, in place of 10 workers, each of whom works 2 hours of surplus labour, 20 workers are employed, the result will be 40 surplus hours instead of 20, as in the first case. 1:2 = 20:40. The ratio is the same for the 20 as for the one. Here we only have the addition or multiplication of the hours worked by the individuals. Cooperation as such makes absolutely no difference to the ratio here. Now, in contrast, we are considering cooperation as a natural force of social labour, in so far as the labour of the individual attains a productivity by means of cooperation which it would not have attained as the labour of the isolated individual. E.g. if 100 people mow simultaneously, each of them only works as an individual and does the same work. But the result achieved, that in this definite period of time, before the hay has rotted, etc., the mowing has been done — this use value has been produced — is alone the result of the fact that 100 people have simultaneously borne a hand in this work. In other cases an actual increase of strength occurs. E.g. in lifting etc. Loading a heavy burden. A power is created here which is not possessed by the individual in isolation, but only when he works together with others at the same time. In the first case he could not extend his sphere of action as far afield as would be necessary for the achievement of the result. In the second case he could not develop the necessary power at all, or only with infinite loss of time. The time taken by 10 people to load a tree into a cart is less than one-tenth of the time one individual would take to achieve the same result (if he could do it at all). The result is that through cooperation things can be produced in a shorter time than would be possible for the same individuals when working in the same numbers but scattered about in isolation, or use values can be produced which would otherwise be impossible to produce at all. An individual cannot do in 100 days, indeed often 100 individuals cannot do in 100 days, what 100 can do in one day through cooperation. Here, therefore, the productive power of the individual is increased by the social [IV-145] form of labour. Since this makes it possible to produce more in less time, the necessary means of subsistence or the conditions required for their production can be produced in less time. Necessary labour time diminishes. Relative surplus time is thereby made possible. The latter can be extended, the former reduced.

“The strength of each man is very small, but the union of a number of very small forces produces a collective force which is greater than the sum of these partial forces, so that merely by being joined together these forces can reduce the time required, and extend their field of action” (G. R. Carli, note 1, p. 196, to Pietro Verri, Meditazioni sulla economia politica etc., Custodi, Parte Moderna, Vol. XV).

//It may perhaps be recalled here that in many branches of industry this simple form of cooperation permits the communal use of the conditions of labour, e.g. fuel, buildings, etc. But this does not concern us here. It should rather be considered under Profit.[189] Here we only need to look at how far the ratio of necessary to surplus labour is directly affected, not the ratio of surplus labour to the total amount of capital laid out. This must also be kept in mind in the sections that follow.//

//It is not absolutely necessary for the workers to be united together in the same location. If 10 astronomers make the same observations from the observatories of different countries, etc., that is not a division of labour but the performance of the same labour in different places, a form of cooperation. // But also, at the same time, concentration of the means of labour.

Extension of the sphere of action; curtailment of the time during which a particular result is attained; and finally, the creation of forces of production the isolated worker is completely incapable of developing: all these are characteristic both of simple cooperation and of its more differentiated forms.

In simple cooperation it is only the amount of human force which produces the effect. The place of the one individual with two eyes, etc., is taken by a many-eyed, many-armed, etc., monster. Hence the gigantic works of the Roman armies. The great public works of Asia and Egypt. Here, where the state spends the revenue of the whole country, it has the power to set in motion great masses of people.

* “It has happened in times past that these Oriental States, after supplying the expenses of their civil and military establishments, have found themselves in possession of a surplus which they could apply to works of magnificence or utility, and in the construction of these their command over the hands and arms of almost the entire non-agricultural population [ ... ], and this food, belonging to the monarch and the priesthood, afforded the means of creating the mighty monuments which filled the land ... in moving the colossal statues and vast masses, of which the transport creates wonder, human labour almost alone was prodigally used ... topes and reservoirs of Ceylon, the Wall of China, the numerous works of which the ruins cover the plains of Assyria and Mesopotamia” * (Richard Jones, Text-book of Lectures on the Political Economy of Nations, Hertford, 1852, p. 77).
* “The number of the labourers, and the concentration of their efforts sufficed"*

// The number and concentration of workers is the basis of simple cooperation. //

* “We see mighty coral reefs rising from the depths of the ocean into islands and firm land, yet each individual depositor is puny, weak and contemptible. The non-agricultural labourers of an Asiatic monarchy have little but their individual bodily exertions to bring [IV-146] to the task; but their number is their strength, and the power of directing these masses gave rise to the palaces and temples etc. It is that confinement of the revenues which feed them to one or a few hands, which makes such undertakings possible” * (l.c., [p.] 78).

// Continuity of labour is, in general, peculiar to capitalist production; but it only develops fully with the development of fixed capital, which we shall discuss later.[190]//

This power of the Egyptian and Asiatic kings and priests or the Etruscan theocrats in the ancient world has in bourgeois society passed to capital and therewith to the capitalists.

Simple cooperation, as also its more developed forms, and altogether any means of heightening the productive power of labour, fall under the labour process, not the process of valorisation. They heighten the efficiency of labour. The value of the product of labour, on the other hand, depends on the necessary labour time required for its manufacture. efficiency of labour can therefore only reduce the value of a particular product, it cannot raise it. But all the methods which are employed to heighten the efficiency of the labour process reduce necessary labour time (to a certain degree), and thus increase surplus value, the part of the value which accrues to the capitalist, although the value of the total product remains determined as before by the total quantity of labour time employed.

“The mathematical principle that the whole is equal to the sum of its parts becomes false when applied to our subject. regarding labour, the great pillar of human existence, it may be said, that the entire product of combined exertion infinitely exceeds all which individual and disconnected efforts could possibly accomplish” (Michael Thomas Sadler, The Law of Population, Vol. 1, p. 84).

Cooperation — i.e. its application by the capitalist, i.e. the owner of money or commodities — naturally requires concentration in his hand of means of labour, and likewise of means of subsistence (the part of capital exchanged for labour). The employment of one man for 360 days during the year requires a capital 360 times smaller than the employment of 360 men on one and the same day.

The social productive power which arises from cooperation is a free gift. The individual workers or rather labour capacities are paid, and paid as separate ones. Their cooperation, and the productive power which arises therefrom, is not paid for. The capitalist pays 360 workers; he does not pay for the cooperation of the 360 workers: for the exchange between capital and labour capacity takes place between capital and the individual labour capacity. It is determined by the exchange value of the latter, which is just as independent of the productive power this labour capacity attains under certain social combinations as it is of the fact that the time for which the worker works and can work is longer than the labour time required for his own reproduction.

Cooperation, which is a productive power of social labour, appears as a productive power of capital, not of labour. And this transposition takes place within capitalist production in respect of all the productive powers of social labour. This refers to real labour. just as the general, abstractly social character [IV-147] of labour — i.e. the exchange value of the commodity — presents itself as money, and all the qualities the product possesses as the representation of this general labour present themselves as qualities of money, in the same way does the concrete social character of labour present itself as the character and quality of capital.

In fact: Once the worker enters into the actual labour process he is already incorporated qua labour capacity into capital, he no longer belongs to himself but to capital, and therefore the conditions under which he works are rather the conditions under which capital works. However, before he steps into the labour process he enters into contact with the capitalist as the individual owner or seller of a commodity; this commodity is his own labour capacity. He sells it as an isolated commodity. It becomes social once it has entered into the labour process. The metamorphosis his labour capacity undergoes thereby is something external to it, in which it does not participate; it is rather something which is done to it. The capitalist buys not one but many individual labour capacities at the same time, but he buys them all as isolated commodities, belonging to isolated, mutually independent commodity owners. Once they enter into the labour process, they are already incorporated into capital, and their own cooperation is therefore not a relation into which they put themselves; it is the capitalist who puts them into it. Nor is it a relation which belongs to them; instead, they now belong to it, and the relation itself appears as a relation of capital to them. It is not their reciprocal association, but rather a unity which rules over them, and of which the vehicle and director is capital itself. Their own association in labour — cooperation — is in fact a power alien to them; it is the power of capital which confronts the isolated workers. In so far as they have a relation to the capitalist as independent persons, as sellers, it is the relation of isolated, mutually independent workers, who stand in a relation to the capitalist but not to each other. Where they do stand in a relation to each other as functioning labour capacities, they are incorporated into capital, and this relation therefore confronts them as a relation of capital, not as their own relation. They find that they are agglomerated. The cooperation which arises from this agglomeration is for them just as much an effect of capital as the agglomeration itself. Their interconnection and their unity lies not in themselves but in capital, or, the social productive power of their labour arising therefrom is a productive power of capital. just as the power of individual labour capacity not only to replace but to increase itself — surplus labour — appears as a capacity of capital, so does the social character of labour and the productive power which arises from that character.

This is the first stage at which the subsumption of labour under capital no longer appears as a merely formal subsumption but changes the mode of production itself, so that the capitalist mode of production is a specific mode of production.[55] The subsumption is formal, in so far as the individual worker, instead of working as an independent commodity owner, now works as a labour capacity belonging to the capitalist, [IV-148] and therefore under his command and supervision; also works no longer for himself but for the capitalist; the means of labour, moreover, no longer appear as means to the realisation of his labour: his labour appears instead as the means of valorisation — i.e. absorption of labour — for the means of labour. This distinction is formal in so far as it can exist without causing the slightest alteration of any kind in the mode of production or the social relations within which production takes place. 71 With cooperation a specific distinction already enters the picture. The work takes place under conditions in which the independent labour of the individual cannot be carried on — and indeed these conditions appear as a relation dominating the individual, as a band with which capital fetters the individual workers.

The collaboration of many people, whose association itself is a relation alien to them, whose unity lies outside them, gives rise to the necessity for command, for overall supervision, as itself a condition of production, as a new kind of labour, labour of superintendence, made necessary and conditioned by the cooperation of the workers, just as in any army there is a need for people with the power of command, a need for command, if it is to function as a unified body, even when all its members belong to the same arm of the service. 16 This command is an attribute of capital, although the individual capitalist can in his turn hand over its implementation to specialised workers, who nevertheless represent capital and the capitalist over against the army of workers. (Slavery, Cairnes.[187])

In so far as specialised work of this kind arises out of functions created by capitalist production itself, it is of course absurd to use capital’s performance of these functions to prove the necessity of its existence. It is a tautology. It is as if one were to wish to justify slavery to the Negroes by saying that as slaves they needed the overseer with his whip, who was as necessary to their production as they themselves. But he is necessary only because and in so far as they are slaves — on the basis of slavery. In contrast to this, in so far as cooperation requires a director, as in an orchestra for example, the form this takes under the conditions of capital and the form it might take otherwise, e.g. in the case of association, are completely different things. In the latter case it is a specialised function of labour alongside others, but not as the power that brings about the workers’ own unity as something alien to them, and the exploitation of their labour as an act committed upon them by an alien power.

Cooperation may be continuous; it may also be merely temporary, as in agriculture with the harvest, etc.

The essence of simple cooperation remains simultaneity of action, a simultaneity whose results can never be attained by the temporal succession of the activities of the individual workers.

What remains most important is: This first transposition of the social character of labour as social character of capital, of the productive power of social labour as productive power of capital; and finally the first transformation of the formal subsumption under capital into a real alteration of the mode of production itself.

[IV-138a][191] Destutt de Tracy distinguishes as means for increasing the productivity of labour:

1) Concours de forces. (simple cooperation.) “Is it a matter of defending oneself? Ten men can easily resist an enemy who would have destroyed all of them by attacking them one after another. Is a heavy object to be moved? The burden heavy enough to oppose an invincible resistance to the efforts of a single individual yields straight away to several people acting together. Is it a question of undertaking a complex piece of labour? Many things must be done simultaneously. One person does one thing, while another does something else, and they all contribute to an effect that a single man would be unable to produce. One rows while the other holds the rudder, and a third casts the net or harpoons the fish; in this way fishing enjoys a success that would be impossible without this cooperation” (l.c., p. 78).

In this second form of cooperation there is already a division of labour taking place, because many things must be done simultaneously, but this is not a division of labour in the true sense. The 3 people can alternately row, steer and fish, although in the act of cooperation each of them only does the one thing. The real division of labour, in contrast; consists in this, that

“when a number of men work for each other, each of them can devote himself exclusively to the occupation for which he is most suited, etc.” (l.c., p. 79). [IV-138a]