Social Scientist. v 11, no. 127 (Dec 1983) p. 35.

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Class Struggle and Transition to Specifically Capitalist Form of Production: Some Conclusions of a Study of Coir Industry in Kerala

MARX HAS OUTLINED the broad phases of evolution of capitalist organisation of industrial production. Each of these broad phases is demarcated from the others by its characteristic form of organisation of the labour process and/or by the characteristic technology. In the early stages of capitalist development, capital merely takes over the existing forms of organisation of the labour process and its handicraft technology. In the earliest phase of this subordination of labour to capital where wage labour relations have not yet crystallised and the technical base of production continues to be traditional, petty production is under varied degrees and forms of subordination to merchant capital. The autonomy of the petty producer is illusory since merchant capital dominates producers through various mechanisms such as the control of consumption or production debts. However, the petty producer, even when under the merchant, continues to be the owner of the instruments of production.

The destruction of such petty production facilitates the concentra tion of the means of production. The workers are now dispossessed of their means of production and have to earn their living through the sale of their labour-power. This phase is called simple cooperation because there is no detailed division of labour yet within each separate process of production. The entrepreneurs of the new organisation may be merchant capitalists or successful petty producers transformed into capitalists. Simple cooperation is only a prelude to the introduction of division of labour both according to the wares produced as well as the details of the production process. This latter is the stage of manufacture.

In all these phases the form of organising the labour process undergoes significant changes but its technical base continues to be handicraft. It is only under modern factories, where the machine becomes the technical base of production, that production breaks away from its traditional moorings and assumes a specifically capitalist character.

* Centre for Development Studies, Trivandrum.

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