Profit at its most basic is the difference between the money a business obtains from the sale of its products and the money it has to spend on producing them.
One of Marx’s crucial discoveries in the field of political economy was that the working class of wage and salary earners gets paid less than the value of the goods it creates, the difference being a surplus value which accrues to the owning class in the form of ground rent, interest and profit. Capitalism turned human labour power into a commodity – something bought and sold. When capitalists buy a worker’s labour they buy the worker’s capacity to work for a full day. Wages are set, however, like every other commodity, by the value of labour-power needed to reproduce them, which in the case of labour is the value of food, clothing, etc. needed to keep the worker in a fit condition to work. But the value of ‘labour power’ is different from the value created by the worker’s labour and this difference, called surplus value, belongs to the capitalist. The working day under capitalism therefore divides into two parts; ‘necessary labour’ when the workers actually earns what they are paid in wages, and ‘surplus labour’ which is the time spent producing ‘surplus value’ for the capitalist employer. The aim of capitalist production is the production of surplus value.The new value added by labour in the process of production to the previously existing value of the raw and other materials is divided into wages and surplus value, which goes to the capitalist employer and is the source of profit. Profits are made in the sphere of production but only “realised” in the market. What is so vital about profit that makes this necessary? It is the source of the capitalist’s capital. The more capital they can accumulate out of the profits accruing to them the more effectively can they compete–by investing in more productive technologies to undercut their competitors–and thus claim a larger share of the market for themselves. If they did not do this then their competitors would, and could knock them out of business. Economic competition between enterprises fuels the drive towards capital accumulation. This in turn necessitates profit maximisation which expresses itself as a continuous downward pressure on wages (reinforced by competition between workers on the labour market.)
We’re the ones who build things, make things, provide services, make things work, provide the ideas. But though we build the world around us, it does not belong to us. Everything that has been built around us is the result of our work and yet we don’t work for ourselves. We produce not for ourselves, but at the behest’s and whims of others. The worker is compelled to labour for the purpose of producing something to satisfy the wants of others who, holding the things necessary for his life, thereby control him. He is, therefore, still a slave.We are the ones who are told what to produce, how to produce it, how much, and how fast.We are the ones who receive a paycheque, be it high or low, not for selling what we produce but for selling our power to work. With that paycheque we try to buy back what we make. The source of someone else’s profits comes from our work.
Speculation is the use of money-capital, not to invest in the production of new wealth and new surplus value, but unproductively to try and swindle other capitalists’ out of their past profits. It’s a zero-sum game in which the total amount of profits remains the same but merely gets redistributed differently amongst capitalists depending on their speculative skills.
Individualists or Libertarians attack socialism because you fear the whole of the wealth of society shall be owned by a number of persons incorporated into a State or a bureaucracy, instead of being, as at present, owned by private individuals. They maintain that the right of the individual is supreme, and condemns any action on the part of a State or collection of individuals, that interferes with your desires. But socialists are not statists, that if the working class was compelled to work for a State instead of for individual employers then wage-slavery is not abolished, but is intensified. The worker to-day, while compelled to work for an employer, still has some sort of a choice among those masters, but with the State as the only employer he is compelled to work for that employer and under all of that employer’s conditions, or take the only other alternative – starvation. State-capitalism ( or as some like to call it State-Socialism) would intensify slavery, but state- capitalism is not socialism.