Communist Youth Organization

The Youth Branch of The Workers’ Communist Party of Iran

A Better World

Programme of the Worker-communist Party

Social and Intellectual Basis of Worker Communism

Part 4

Foundations of capitalism


The present society is no doubt complex and sophisticated. Billions of people are in continuous interaction in elaborate arrays of economic, social and political relations. Technology and production have acquired gigantic dimensions. Humanity's intellectual and cultural life, just as its problems and difficulties, are broad and diverse. But these complexities only keep out of sight simple and comprehendible realities that make up the economic and social fabric of the capitalist world.

Like any other class system, capitalism is based on the exploitation of direct producers - the appropriation of a part of the product of their labour by the ruling classes. The specific character of every social system in different historical epochs lies in the particular way in which this exploitation in each system takes place. Under slavery not only the slave's product but he himself belonged to the slave- owner. He worked for the slave-owner, and in return was kept alive by him. In the feudal system the peasants either handed over part of their produce to the feudal lord, or performed certain hours of forced and unpaid labour. Under capitalism, however, exploitation has quite different bases.

Here the main producers, i.e. the workers, are free; they don't belong to anyone, are not appendages of any estate, they are in bondage of any lord. They own and control their own body and labour power. But workers are also 'free' in yet another sense: they are `free` from the ownership of means of production, and so in order to live, they have to sell their labour power for a certain length of time, in exchange for wages, to the capitalist class - i.e. a small minority that own and monopolise the means of production. The workers have to then buy their means of subsistence - the goods they themselves have produced - in the market from the capitalists. The essence of capitalism and the basis of exploitation in this system is the fact that, on the one hand labour power is a commodity, and, on the other hand the means of production are the private property of the capitalist class.

Without living human labour power that sets instruments of labour to work and creates new products, the existence of human society, the very survival of human beings and satisfaction of their needs, is inconceivable. This is true of any system. But in capitalism labour power and means of production are shut off from each other by the wall of private property; they are commodities and their owners must meet in a market. On the face of it, the owners of these commodities enter into a free and equal transaction: the worker sells his/her labour power for certain periods, in exchange for wages, to the capitalist, i.e. the owner of the means of production; the capitalist employs this labour power, uses it up and makes new products. These commodities are then sold in the market and the revenue begins the production cycle anew, as capital.

However, behind the apparently equal exchange between labour and capital lies a fundamental inequality; an inequality which defines the lot of humanity today and without whose elimination society will never be free. With wages, workers only get back what they have sold, i.e. the ability to work and to show up in the market once again. By its daily work the working class only ensures its continued existence as worker, its survival as the daily seller of labour power. But capital in this process grows and accumulates. Labour power is a creative power; it generates new values for its buyer. The value of the commodities and services produced by the worker at any cycle of the production process is greater than the worker's total share and that portion of the products which goes into restoring the used up materials and wear and tear. This surplus value, taking the form of an immense stock of commodities, belongs automatically to the capitalist class, and increases the mass of its capital, by virtue of the capitalist class's ownership of the means of production. Labour power in its exchange with capital only reproduces itself, while capital in its exchange with labour power grows. The creative capacity of labour power and the working class's productive activity reflects itself as the birth of new capital for the capitalist class. The more and the better the working class works, the more power capital acquires. The gigantic power of capital in the world today and its ever-expanding domination of the economic, political and intellectual life of the billions of inhabitants of the earth is nothing but the inverted image of the creative power of work and of working humanity.

Thus, exploitation in capitalist society takes place without yokes and shackles on the shoulders and feet of the producers- through the medium of the market and free and equal exchange of commodities. This is the fundamental feature of capitalism which distinguishes it in essence from all earlier systems.

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