Chapter VI (unpublished)

Roger Hilton, Untitled, 1953


Presentation of the newly released edition of Karl Marx's manuscript

This new volume, published by Boitempo in the Marx-Engels collection, was an old desire, endowed with twofold motivation. The first is to present to the Brazilian readership, studious and interested in Marx's work, the first translation made from the German original of the exceptional text Result of the immediate production process, which became known in Brazil as Chapter VI (unpublished). The second motivation appears as an appendix to the text.

It is the publication of questionnaire for workers prepared by Marx for a workers' survey in France, which became known as worker survey, in a translation made, also for the first time, of the manuscript in English (compared with French, the language in which it was originally published). Accompanying the volume, we also include Marx's letter to Friedrich Adolph Sorge, dated November 5, 1880, in which Marx mentions the worker survey.

With this publication, the Marx-Engels collection fills a large gap by making it possible to read Marxian manuscripts translated from Marx-Engels-Gesamtausgabe (MEGA). The texts gathered here bear the indelible mark of Marx's work. While the Chapter VI is an important analytical moment of his production, the worker survey refers to the importance of the working class's self-awareness about its own condition. Given the density of Marxian production, both texts have a long, rich, plural and controversial history of interpretation around the world. In this brief presentation, we would like to indicate just some of the historical dimensions of the Chapter VI and worker survey and highlight what we consider its main analytical movements, inviting the reader to continue this story himself.

Chapter VI (between Books I and II of Capital)

O Chapter VI - Result of the immediate production process it was written in the middle of a crucial decade in the development of Marxian reflections. The period between 1857 and 1867 was one in which Marx's critical studies of bourgeois political economy and the working class took the form that will appear in The capital. In that decade, the process of writing his main work went through what is commonly considered as three different drafts: the first, starting with the floorplans, in 1857-1858, culminated in the so-called urtext [Original text] and in the publication of For the critique of political economy, in 1859; the second refers to the economic manuscripts of 1861-1863, when Marx wrote parts that would later compose Books I and III of The capital, and when he makes the theoretical confrontation that will result in the Theories of surplus value; the third concerns the economic manuscripts from 1863-1865. It is in this last period that The capital is written, for the first time, in three books, which deal with the capital production process, its circulation and its global configuration.

The outline of Book I, on the process of capital production, was probably written between mid-1863 and mid-1864. For MEGA editors, the structure of this first volume would possibly differ little from the first edition that went public, in 1867. It would thus present the following chapters:

Transformation of money into capital; The production of absolute surplus value; The production of relative surplus value; Complementary investigations on the production of absolute and relative surplus value; Capital accumulation process; Result of the immediate production process.

Of this possible configuration and the material that would compose it, only the Chapter VI has been preserved, along with a few loose sheets of the rest of the material. Conceived as a text that would close Book I of The capital and would serve as a “bridge” to Book II, the Chapter VI it has, at the same time, a dimension of conclusion and recapitulation of the reflections of Book I and of opening for Book II. Thus, he presents a synthesis of central arguments of Marxian reflection, in a decisive period of his intellectual production.

The text remained unfinished, however, and was not incorporated into any of the editions of The capital. There are no conclusive indications as to why Marx did not finish writing the chapter and include it in Book I. Ernest Mandel, in the mid-1970s, ventured the hypothesis that the Chapter VI would not fit the way Marx conceived the structure of The capital, that is, as a dialectically structured “artistic whole”.

In turn, in 1988, the editors of MEGA argued that possibly Marx would have discarded the text because the discussions present in it would already be in the other chapters of Book I. Furthermore, the theorization of merchandise as a product of capital, carried out there by Marx, would demand analyzes that would only be done in Book III.

In any case, the first publication of the Chapter VI occurred simultaneously in German and Russian, in 1933, in volume II (VII) of the periodical Arkhiv Marksa i Engelsa [Archive of Marx and Engels] edited by the Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute, attached to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The text gained prominence, however, only with the publication of excerpts organized by Maximilien Rubel, in 1967, followed by the full version in German and Italian editions (in 1969), French (in 1971) and English (in 1976). In Brazil, the Chapter VI was published (in 1978) by Livraria Editora Ciências Humanas, translated from Spanish into Portuguese, compared with the German edition.

This great editorial diffusion, which continued into the XNUMXst century, is due to the analytical and synthetic richness of the text. Such is the strength of Chapter VI, which we will highlight here just a few points, in order to invite readers to delve into the multiple and rich dimensions of the manuscript.

In it, Marx refers to the commodity quite concretely, not only as a prerequisite for capitalist production, but as a result of its productive process and, as such, usually as a single part of a mass of similar commodities, which always has as horizon the generation of surplus value. On the other hand, Marx analyzes the different forms of fetishism typical of capital society, an expression of the peculiar social division of labor mediated by things, showing the reflections of this fetishism in the interpretations of bourgeois economists.

One of the most expressive moments of the Chapter VI it is in the detailed Marxian elaboration about what is productive and unproductive work for capital. We can say, in short, that productive work is defined as that whose central attribute is the generation of surplus value. Its conceptualization is categorical: productive work is that which values ​​capital and generates surplus value. Marx even goes so far as to state that productive work is that which directly creates surplus value (repeated formulation in The capital, excluding, however, the word directly).

Marx also adds that productive work is that paid for by money capital, differentiating it from rent, which is the mode of payment intended for unproductive work, which generates use value, but not exchange value.

This rigorous and complex definition of the differences between productive work and unproductive work for capital, which we only indicate here, is a nodal issue, the effective understanding not only of the functioning of the capitalist mode of production but also of the countless challenges present when one has as objective overcoming it is central, especially at this moment when the metabolic system of capital reaches its highest level of lethality and destructiveness.

Another important point is the one in which the author conceptualizes the process of valorization of capital as resulting mainly from material production, but which may also occur, sporadically, in non-material production. This is because productive or unproductive work is a social relationship, a given social form that allows the valorization of capital. This leads him to say that work that is the same, in terms of its nature, can be both productive and unproductive. What essentially defines and differentiates them is their participation (or not) in the process of creating surplus value. 

Based on this formulation, Marx presents the following conclusion: if all productive work is waged, the reverse is not true. Not all wage labor becomes productive for capital. But he adds that, even when it is unproductive, this does not eliminate the fact that this form of work is essential for the maintenance and reproduction of the capitalist mode of production.

Among so many other points that we could mention here, we have the categorical definitions of formal subsumption and real subsumption of labor to capital. The formal subsumption of labor under capital found validity in the manufacturing phase, when work preserved its productive expertise and dexterity, while the real subsumption of labor under capital became a typical expression of the phase that Marx called great industry. With the advent of machinery, labor activity converted male and female workers into machine appendages, sorts of automatons in relation to machinery and capital. This categorization is certainly one of the most precious analytical moments of the Chapter VI.

There is, finally, one more point that we would like to indicate and that has become absolutely essential for a better understanding of current capitalism: less than the result of isolated work, the productive work that capital increasingly develops is that resulting from a capacity of socially combined work. This means that surplus value is a social process and, consequently, that the working class is a broad, heterogeneous, multiple and composite social complex.

The importance of these theses becomes more evident as a wide range of services is increasingly designed by the logic of commodification, that is, it increasingly participates in the process of generating surplus value, whether in a predominantly material way, or through its growing traces of immateriality, both present, increasingly intertwined and interrelated, in the new global productive chains.

Among the hypotheses that we presented earlier based on some scholars of Marxian work, we can suggest, then, that the Chapter VI it was not published in full by the author because some of its formulations were reworked in later years. It is always good to remember, as we find in a well-known dialogue with his daughters, that one of Marx's fundamental precepts was by omnibus dubitandum (doubt everything).

But we also know that, even though it is not fully included in Book I of The capital, several of the theses present there are maintained, as can be seen, for example, in Chapter XIV (“Absolute and relative surplus value”, Book I, Section V), and in other scattered indications in Books II and III, as well as in the manuscripts of the Theories of surplus value.

The worker survey: self-research of the working class

More than fifteen years separate the probable date of writing of the Chapter VI the one in which the text that appears as an appendix to this volume was written. Marx's manuscript titled questionnaire for workers was written in the first half of April 1880. With the title of worker survey (survey ouvriere), was published in La Revue Socialiste, no. 4, on April 20, 1880 and, simultaneously, in 25 copies addressed to “all workers' societies, all socialist and democratic groups or circles, to all French newspapers and to all people who request it”.

La Revue Socialiste it had been launched in January 1880 and was directed by Benoît Malon, with the collaboration of Paul Lafargue, Jules Guesde and Gabriel Deville. The periodical added a short introductory text to the number that contained the questionnaire written by Marx, emphasizing that no French government, whether monarchical or bourgeois republican, had applied a serious survey on the situation of the working class in France. According to this “Introduction”, the official survey carried out by the government of England, on the contrary, would have revealed the ills of capitalist exploitation, and the consequences of this would have been the introduction of legal restrictions such as the limitation of the working day to ten hours, the regulation child labor and women etc.

Sarcastically, the newspaper said that the initiative to use its meager resources to carry out a workers' poll could encourage the French republican government to follow the example of the English monarchy and implement an effective survey on the situation of the working class in France. More importantly, the introductory text to the questionnaire emphasized that only male and female workers could, in fact, describe their own situation and that only their struggle could overcome their ills, and the workers' responses would provide material for research that would be published in the journal and later assembled into an independent volume.

La Revue Socialiste it made no reference to Marx's authorship. However, in the letter of November 5, 1880 to Friedrich Adolph Sorge, which forms part of this volume, Marx mentions that he had drawn up the questionnaire for the periodical. This first redaction was written in English and has an addition by Charles Longuet, which, for the MEGA editors, would also indicate that Longuet provided the French translation.

Between the original and the publication of La Revue Socialiste there are some differences. Marx divided the poll into four large sections, which were maintained by the magazine. In this one, however, a continuous numbering was chosen, not restarting the count from each section, as it is done in the original. Two issues were added by the journal: ano. 88 asked workers to report the actions of courts dealing with work-related issues; ano. 101 referred to general observations that the workers wanted to make. In addition, some changes to Marx's text were made by the magazine, which are registered here in the translation work and careful comparison of Ronaldo Vielmi Fortes.

A worker survey outlines a fertile path of research on the living conditions of the working class. It has become a valuable guide and a basic methodological path on how to better apprehend the daily life of the working class, on how to “appropriate the material in its details, analyze its different forms of development and trace its internal nexus”, so that, in then, one can “adequately expose the real movement”.

Marx's questionnaire accompanies his conception that science can only be effectively rigorous if it is able to overcome the “mystical envelope” and thus move towards a dialectical analysis. Contrary to an apparent axiological neutrality, the Marxian formulation was always incisive in indicating that abstractions and the unveiling of the real could only be effected through an ontology that, unlike all previous ones, was simultaneously dialectical and materialist. The two texts published here are living expressions of this proposition.

Hilde Weiss, in a classic article on the worker survey, published in 1936, offers a good introduction to the questionnaire, highlighting the new elements present in it, with “its method of obtaining data directly from the workers”, as well as offering a pioneering “a true and rigorous description of the conditions of the working class and the way of his release”.

The author added: “Simply by reading the hundred questions, the worker would be led to perceive the trivial and evident facts mentioned there as elements of a general picture of his situation”. Therefore, the “simplicity and rigor of questions of worker survey represent progress in relation to previous research”, which “was private and official”, which occurred because previous researchers, “even if they had the intention, could not perceive the true character of social evils, because they used inadequate means to collect your information. They were addressed almost exclusively to factory owners and their representatives, to factory inspectors where such people were located, or to government officials.”

The importance of worker survey lies, we reiterate, in offering a fertile path of research on the living conditions of the working class. The set of questions – from the simplest to the most complex, from the most empirical to those that required reflection – encompassed almost everything that concerned the working class. We will not anticipate its many points here, but we will warmly invite you to read it.

It was not by chance, then, that this small text had so much influence, among researchers, as well as among workers' action militants. A Survey appeared at a particular moment in the organization of the working class in France. Almost ten years earlier, the experience of the Paris Commune had shaken Europe, but suffered a heavy defeat. Working conditions in France were, of course, far from idyllic: French workers worked between ten and twelve hours a day, were paid wages below the cost of reproducing their lives and their families, and were prohibited from organizing into trade unions. .

However, at the time of the publication of the text, strikes were proliferating in Paris and other major cities in France. In the letter to Friedrich Sorge reproduced in this volume, Marx optimistically refers to the prospects for class organization in France. Unlike the sects and radical bourgeois leaders of the past, according to him, “the first real movement of workers in France” would then emerge.

The questionnaire thus sought to subsidize this potential organization based on a deep investigation of the demands of the class. It was not, however, a new idea from Marx and the labor movements. In mid-1866, while a member of the Central Council of the International Working Men's Association (AIT), Marx drafted the document entitled “Instructions for Delegates of the Provisional General Council. The singular questions", which was read as a report by the Central Council of the AIT at the Geneva Congress, in September 1866. Among the various points addressed, the text suggested a combination of international efforts for a "statistical investigation of the situation of the working classes of all countries, an investigation that must be carried out by the working classes themselves”. A general outline of the survey, much smaller than the 1880 questionnaire, accompanied the document, with the comment that it could be adapted to the realities of each country. Responses would be gathered by the AIT Central Council and published in an overall report.

Marx's recommendation on statistical investigation was unanimously approved by the Congress of Geneva. The congresses in Lausanne (1867), Brussels (1868) and Basel (1869) highlighted the need to carry out the proposal approved in 1866. Its implementation, however, was hampered, among other reasons, by the organization's lack of resources .

Almost fifteen years later, obstacles to the application of the research remained in France. If the editors of La Revue Socialiste had managed to distribute a significant number of questionnaires across the country, responses to them appear to have been sparse. In the issue of July 5, 1880, the periodical published a note in which it stated that it had already received some responses, but urged readers and friends of the magazine to hasten the sending so that they could then begin the work of elaborating what called “Job notebooks”. After that, however, there were no more references to the worker survey or its results in La Revue Socialiste.

Given that few responses were obtained, Hilde Weiss offers her explanatory hypotheses: in contrast to Marx's optimism about the organization of workers in France, the author argues that, still under the impact of the Paris Commune massacre, the period was one of regression, which extended to the “labor movement in general”. Our hypothesis, however, takes up with more emphasis a clue alluded to by Weiss: a questionnaire of that size and richness would require the worker a long time to write his answers, something made impossible by the factory conditions, work, exhaustion and the almost non-existent free time. .

A worker survey written by Marx, however, would show impressive dissemination and vitality. As Clark McAllister has recently commented, it was widely circulated as late as the 1880s. Divided into several parts, it was published between May and July 1880, in Geneva, in the periodical Precursor with the title of Ouvrière survey in France, accompanied by the introduction of La Revue Socialiste. It also appeared in Italy in La Lotta, with the title of Inchiesta operaia, in the editions of July 1st and 28th of the same year, confiscated by repression.

Also in July 1880, Marx's poll was published by the revolutionary periodical Rownosc'', organized in Geneva by Polish militants in exile and sent to Poland. It had its own introduction in which it was stated that the survey of La Revue Socialiste it was conceived for the French context and, therefore, did not contemplate all aspects of the lives of Polish workers.

A future questionnaire adapted to the situation in Poland would be needed, despite the common problems faced by the working class in different countries. With a revolutionary perspective and a language based on the daily life of the class, the periodical highlighted the self-knowledge of workers as a necessary step for overcoming diverse prejudices and for the fight against the causes of their misery and suffering. The effort of the Polish revolutionaries, although not without problems, was already an indication of how the worker survey would be creatively appropriated in the XNUMXth century.

The questionnaire written by Marx was published by the Communist Party of Great Britain in 1933. It appeared in the Zeitschrift for Social Forschung, from the Institute for Social Research in Frankfurt, in 1936. It arrived in the United States through the periodical The New International, in 1938, and found in the Correspondence, a group formed around CLR James, Raya Dunayevskaya, Grace Lee Boggs, Selma James and others, a rich formulation, by helping and encouraging the recording and analysis of the experiences of workers, blacks, women and young people made by them same. O Correspondence had an important dialogue with the Socialism or Barbarism, in France, which, in turn, influenced the Quaderni Rossi and the working class in Italy.

Between us, the worker survey it appeared in 1964, in the translation of Marx's texts organized by Tom Bottomore and Maximilien Rubel and, later, as an appendix in the book by Michel Thiollent Methodological critique, social investigation and worker poll.

This leads us to a necessary touch of the personal memory of one of the authors of this presentation: we made contact with the worker survey, which was quite unknown among us, in the mid-1970s, in the master's degree in political science at the Institute of Philosophy and Human Sciences (IFCH) at the State University of Campinas (Unicamp), when studying the sociology of work discipline, taught by prof. Michel Thiollent, a sociologist of French origin who presented us, for the first time, with the force and power of this small piece of writing. Strength, it is no exaggeration to say, which is in inverse proportion to its small size. No wonder it remains alive and influential in the XNUMXst century.

*Ricardo Antunes is a full professor of sociology at Unicamp. Author, among other books, of Pandemic capitalism (boitempo).

* Murillo van der Laan is a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Sociology at Unicamp.


Karl Marx. Chapter VI (unpublished). Manuscripts from 1863-1867, Capital, Book I e worker survey. Translation: Ronaldo Vielmi Fortes. São Paulo, Boitempo, 2022, 174 pages (

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