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IMarxian Economics.


I Marxian Economics. I COMMODITIES. Despite the war the I.L.P. rooms were filled with comrades. As usual, a discussion was raging, and it appeared that one young com- rade was explaining certain phases of Econom- ics. I approached nearer and heard a young man whose Christian name was Billy, saying, "You see, comradeis, we must first consider a commodity." What's a commodity?" inquired Jasper. Well, to be concise." replied Bill, "it is an article which is produced for sale or exchange. A commodity is first of all a thing outside us;. which has the 'quality of satisfying some sort of human desire." "Oh! I follow," interjected Stanley. "You mean this apple, which I picked from our orch- ard. satisfies my desire; therefore, it's a com- modity." Quite so!" was the chorus. "No! no!" exclaimed Bill, 'not so fast, gen- tlemen. I want to explain at this point two features of a commodity. Firstly, it is the use- fulness of a thing which caters for a, desire. And this part of a commodity is called its use-value." You mean. interrupted Moses—whose ser- ious expression always commands respect- "that the function or utility of a watch, boot, table, and so forth is called the use-value." Yes," answered Billy, "you've got it. The use-value cannot be separated from the article." "Proceed!" cried the company. "What is the second feature of a commodity?" "No: listen carefully," continued the Econo- mist "The second feature of a commodity is more difficult to understand. It is called an ex- change value. The company sprained its ears to catch every word. Let me give you an illustration," proceed- ed Billy. Take my watch, which incidentally, is the only article I have of any value outside the pawnshop. It. we will say, will exchance with a bicycle, a bottle of whisky, a suit of clothes, and so forth. If this is possible with the watch—to exchange for other things— we say it possesses an exchange value." "Half a tick!" shouted George, who, up to this time had been silent. "The use-value of the watch is to keep correct time, or to be an or- nament we can say; but the exchange-value seems to posesss a mysterious form; we cannot see it or touch it." You've hit it 1" eried Billy. "The exchange- value is an expression. When my watch exchan- ges with the bottle of whisky I know by this manifestation it has an exchange-value. Memor- ise this, gentlemen. The exchange-value can only be expressed and realised in actual ex- change." A wave of understanding seem to flow over the company; they re-adjusted themselves on their chairs and some re-lit their pipes. Then everything that fulfils a desire has both a use-value and an exchange-value?" in- quired W. T. "No! no!" retorted Billy. "W e heard about Stanley's apple. It certainly appeased his hun- geir, which was its use-value, but it had no exchange-value, because it was not exchanged.. I have made a wheel barrow at home; it has a use-value because it is useful to me. but I've seen nothing of its exchange-value, because its such a crude thing that no one would accept in exchange for anything else." "Now you see, Comrades." continued Bill, A thing can be a use-value without being an exchange-value. But a thing cannot be an ex- change-value without being an use-value. "Explain your last remark, please. Billy Bach?" inquired one or two. Well. I've already explained how a thing can be a use-value and yet not be an ex- change-value, by the illustration of the apple and my w heelbarrow. My barrow is useful to me therefore, it has a use-value; but it will not exchange—Jienc^e it follows it has no ex- change-value. The company assented. Now, my majfcch will exchange with George's bicycle-, which meams that the watch is of some purpose to George; therefore, he accepts it in exchange for his bike.' Don't you see my watch will only exchange for the bone shaker because it's useful to George." This is it," interposed Moses. "A thing will exchange because it's useful. It's use value is an indispensible condition of its exchange abiJity, but it can be useful without exchanging abilitBy, illy's wheelbarrow." —.as l v. Y ou've got it. Good! exclaimed Billy. "You've got i?. We've belaboured this point, but it's worth it, since to a clear unde-rstanding: of commodities it's important to comprehend the use-value and exchange-value" Now to follow, gentlemen. Wires we see that a watch will exchange with a bilke,' whisky and hundreds of other things, what is it that. strikes us?" asked Billy. Silence followed for a few minutes, but at last up jumped Stanley, having recovered from the effects of his home-grown apple, and shout- ed Why, we notice that there must be some substance in every commodity which enables it to exchange." Quite right," replied Billy. "Commodit- ies in their thousands exchanging with each other tells us there must of necessity be some- thing which is common to all of them. Some- thing of the sameness about them all. which makes exchange possible. Now, lads, have you an idea what is it that is common to all com- modities which enables them to exchange? Is it their colour? No. in this they differ. Is it their weight? No. some are lighter than others." Well, Billy," interrogated the company. It's nothing to do with their physical or material make-ups. So don't keep us in sus- pense." "Listen, gentlemen." replied Billy. "That which is common to all commodities, and which therefore makes exchange possible is that they are all embodiments of human labour." "Well! Well! Well!" shouted Moses. "So it is. We can all see that now." But wait," interposed Billy. It is not human labour merely. but of a special kind. And here we must disperse, since the time ip gone. We will continue our chat at some future time, when we will examine what this special kind of labour is." J. B. ALLEtf.

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