C-M-C (Us) vs. M-C-M’ (Them)

David McNally makes an interesting distinction between capitalists and everyday people “As a rule,” McNally notes, “when capitalists enter the market, their purpose is entirely foreign to the motivations of most people. For most of us, money is a means to get commodities that sustain life. We sell a commodity (usually our labor power), get money in return, and use that money to buy commodities to consume. Put as a simple formula, we are regularly engaged in the cycle C-M-C, where C represents commodities and M stands for money. The whole point of engaging in the market, therefore, is to procure the commodities that make life possible. But things are very different for a capitalist enterprise. For a business, the operative principle is M-C-M'. The capitalist begins with money (M), then buys commodities (C), such as machines, raw materials, and labor power, with which to produce new commodities (like bread or jeans) that are sold for money (M'). Money, not commodities for consumption, becomes the end goal of production. But that only makes sense for a capitalist if the second sum of money is bigger than the first, which is why it is designated as M'. Otherwise the capitalist would simply be going through the whole cycle of investment only to come out with the same sum of money with which he began.” David McNally Global Slump: The Economics and Politics of Crisis and Resistance (PM Press, 2011), 73

Most of us engage with the market (primarily by renting out our core human capacity for work to more privileged others) to survive, to purchase simple use values that make life possible. (The unelected dictatorship of money and the unelected dictatorship of employment are dialectically entwined). Capitalists care about nothing but exchange value and profit and engage the market to exploit the world and its people. There would be no point in their investment without exploitation. And there would be no point in paying us wages and salaries without surplus value — extra labor value going to them beyond the commodity price of our labor power. When profit and its critical ingredient surplus value are deemed unattainable, they toss us into the gutter where, as members of the reserve army of labor, we help them bid down the commodity value of the labor power of their active labor army

Leave a comment