Translator’s Preface,

Eden and Cedar Paul,

Karl Marx, Capital, volume one, Everyman, London, 1928.

 This translation has been made from the fourth German edition of Das Kapital, Book One, Der Produktionsprozess des Kapitals. Published in 1890, seven years after the author’s death, that edition was revised by Engels, and is the definitive form of the original text. Subsequent German editions have been mere reprints. Occasionally we have referred to M.J. Roy’s French translation of 1873, an especially important version inasmuch as the title-page informs us that it was revised throughout by the author. As regards certain points of special difficulty, we have also referred on several occasions to the Russian translation. Of course, Moore and Aveling’s translation, which appeared in 1886, and J.B.’s translation of the first nine chapters (Bellamy Library) have not been ignored; the former, in particular, deserved close study, seeing that it was published under the auspices of Friedrich Engels. That translation, however, was made from the third German edition of Das Kapital. In the present version we have throughout relied upon the definitive German text as final arbiter.

            Those interested in the story of the various editions will find details in the prefaces which we have relegated to an appendix. In many respects their interest is now chiefly historical, and we felt that readers of the new translation would like to come as soon as possible to the author’s main text.

            Two matters call for special explanation: style and terminology.

            As regards the former, the translators of Marx have only a choice of evils. He was a polyglot, and his writings bristle with foreign interpolations into an otherwise extremely lucid German. In Das Kapital his extensive quotations are often given in the original language, but are sometimes translated into his mother tongue. Stylistically, no doubt, it would have been better to translate only from the German, and to leave in Greek, Latin, Italian, French, etc, what the author chose to give in those various mediums. Another possibility would have been to reproduce the polyglot originals, and to add in each case an English rendering. But this would have been ponderous, and would have swelled a bulky text and voluminous notes immoderately. We have therefore accepted the only remaining alternative, and have translated everything. As readers of Aesop, familiar with the fable of the Old Man, his Son, and the Donkey, we are aware that we cannot expect to please Everyman – and his father! If we satisfy those numerous persons who have not made a specialty of linguistics, and who think that the main business of a translator is to translate, we shall have gained our end.

            Marx is often supposed to be a difficult writer. He is not. But he writes on difficult subjects. One reason for the prevalent opinion has now been dealt with. Another, and weightier, reason is the crux of terminology. Though extremely precise, he was not much inclined to define his concepts in set terms. For instance, the present treatise on capitalist production does not contain a formal definition of ‘capital’, though the essence of what Marx has to say involves (as does so much of his terminology) a use of the word which contrasts in many respects with what other economists mean by it – or amplifies what they mean by it. The fact is that the whole book is his definition, though the book is not his  whole definition, since the definition was continued in the posthumous volumes that also under the title of Das Kapital, and in those (really part of Das Kapital) which bear the title of Theorien uber den Mehrwert  …. ‘Theories of Surplus-Value’. Readers should therefore note that the work now issued comprises ‘Book One’ of a more extensive scheme. The occasional forward references to other ‘Books” are to matter which was never finally revised by Karl Marx. The present volume contains the whole of what most people mean when they speak of ‘Marx’s Capital’.

            Chary though Marx was of definitions, he does define a good many terms. Such terms have usually been italicised where the definition occurs, and a list of them will be found under the caption ‘Definitions’ in the Index. [Reproduced on file ‘Marx’s Defintions’.]

            The main difficulty as to Marxist terminology will have been surmounted by those who grasp the significance of ‘value’, ‘exchange-value’, and ‘use-value’, as employed by Marx. The definition of these terms emerges from a careful study of Chapter One, ‘Commodities and Money’. This is the only really difficult chapter in Capital (Capitalist Production), and those who have mastered it will understand all the rest with ease. Persons beginning the study of Marxian economics by reading the present book may be helped by the explanation that in this opening chapter Marx is contemplating the highly abstract entity ‘value’, sometimes predominantly as the ‘magnitude of value’; that he looks upon exchange-value as the ‘form of value’ or ‘value form’, as contrasted with the ‘substance of value’, i.e. ‘value’ proper; and that there is nothing distinctively ‘Marxian’ in the sense he attaches to the term ‘use-value’, which means for him exactly what it means for other economists, value-in-use, a ‘good’, something which ‘satisfies a want’. For the rest, he means two very different things when he speaks of ‘value’ and when he speaks of ‘exchange-value’, although certainly highly distinguished exponents of Marxism have declared the terms to be synonymous. The difficulty has arisen because in an earlier work, Zur Kritik der politischen Oekonomie (‘Critique of Political Economy’) 1859, Marx throughout used the term, ‘exchange-value’ in these sense which subsequently, in Capital, he came to attach to ‘value’. He inverted his terminology. Hence these tears. But the usage of Capital supersedes, once for all, the usage of the Critique.

Concerning this matter, consult W. H. Emmett’s The Marxian Economic Handbook and Glossary (George Allen & Unwin, 1925), a book which through written for use with Moore and Aveling’s translation, will be found extremely valuable by readers of this new edition. The ideal introduction to Marxian study has yet to be written. But Emmett’s book makes a good beginning.

            A minor, but still important, terminological difficulty concerns the use of the works ‘manufacture’ and ‘manufacturer’. As Marx himself says in the present work As Marx himself says in the present work (footnote to page 213), ‘manufacture’ came into use in this country to describe the system of manual commodity production characterized by the division of labour, the system that replaced production by the craft guilds. When, in the course of the industrial revolution, power-driven machinery came to pay a predominant part in production, the word manufacture was still used to describe the productive process, and to-day it is mainly used to describe certain kinds of production that are aided by steam or electric power. A ‘manufacturer’ was at first either the worker engaged in manufacture in the earlier sense, or else the entrepreneur organising and carrying on such manufacture. Nowadays an entrepreneur producing commodities on a large scale by power-driven machinery with the aid of associated labour is usually spoken of as a manufacturer. But much of the earlier part of Capital deals with the transition from manufacture proper to production by power-driven machinery, and Marx avoids speaking of the latter as ‘manufacture’. He distinguishes throughout between the system of manufacture, and the system to which in this English version we give the name of ‘machino-facture’. He never calls the entrepreneur engaged in machino-facture a ‘manufacturer’, but always a ‘Fabrikant’, which we have rendered ‘factory owner’. These explanations would be superfluous, were it not that in the quotations with which Capital abounds, and which are mainly from English sources, the words ‘manufacture’ and ‘manufacturer’ are used in varying senses which sometimes conflict with the main text.

              In conclusion we should like to warn readers who may make a cursory comparison between the table of contents of this new version and that of Moore and Aveling’s translation, against hastily concluding that there are extensive differences in the subject-matter. It is true that the English rendering of 1886 is divided into eight parts, and subdivided into thirty-three chapters, whereas the new translation contains only seven parts and twenty-five chapters. This is merely because, in the later editions of Das Kapital, certain chapters were degraded into mere sections of chapters, while Part Eight of the original work, entitled ‘So-Called Primary Accumulation’, was reduced to the status of the penultimate chapter in Part Seven, ‘The Accumulation of Capital’. As a reference to the prefaces will show, there are no fundamental differences between earlier and later editions of the book.