Here, Marx recognizes that so-called "free labour," in contrast to slave or feudal labour, is not genuinely free:
"But the worker, whose only source of income is the sale of his labour-power, cannot leave *the whole class of buyers, i.e., the capitalist class*, unless he gives up his own existence. He does not belong to this or that capitalist, but to the *capitalist class*; and it is for him to find his man, *i.e.*, to find a buyer in this capitalist class."
From Chapter 3 of Wage Labour and Capital by Marx, entitled "By what is the price of a commodity determined?"
From supply and demand, from competition *between* buyers and sellers, but not *just* between buyers and sellers, but also *within* each group. The results of competition *between* buyers and sellers are thus heavily influenced by competition *within* each group, and one group's victory is necessarily the other group's defeat.
But what are supply and demand orbiting around?
They are orbiting around the *costs of production*. Supply and demand are perhaps stochastic processes, but the resulting prices over time have distributions, and those distributions, on a broad enough sampling size across a market, have definite shapes that orbit about the cost of production.
Further, a commodity's cost of production is itself equivalent to the labour-time requisite for its production.
But if commodities circle the costs of production, then how does one *accumulate capital* as opposed to merely *consume commodities*?
Marx recognizes that this happens on account of "the dominion of past, accumulated, materialized labour over immediate living labour." That dominion itself arises from an "independent social power" (the capitalist class) that grows "by [*unequal*] exchange with direct, living labour-power" (the working class).
Marx goes on to describe this unequal exchange in chapter six of Wage-Labour and Capital, titled "Relation of Wage-Labour to Capital."
The key characteristic that makes this exchange unequal is that the labourer must surrender his *labour-power* --which has the unique ability to create not just enough value to subsist itself, but also to create a surplus of value-- for that mere *subsistence*, whilst the capitalist keeps the surplus value created.
The notions of nominal/money wages, actual/real wages, and relative wages are also elucidated by Marx, with emphasis on the fact that political economy is a *social* phenomenon, and as such, that relative wages are the most informative metric to use, as they lay bare the paltry proportion of newly created value that the working class receives *in relation to* the newly created value that the capitalist steals.
In chapter eight of Wage-Labour and Capital, titled "The interests of capital and wage-labour are diametrically opposed--effect of growth of productive capital on wages," Marx documents the zero-sum nature of the distribution of surplus. If wage-labourers receive more, the capitalists receive less, and vice versa.
The last chapter (nine) of Wage-Labour and Capital, titled "Effect of capitalist competition on the capitalist class, the middle class, and the working class," highlights the consequences of the process of capital accumulation on each of those classes, and shows how the tendency for the rate of profit to fall creates periodic crises. The embryos of Lenin's later contributions to Marxism in Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism, can be found in this chapter.
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