Andrzej Wajda Explains Surplus Value

A Generation was Andrzej Wajda’s first major film, made in 1954 when he was 28-years-old, the year after Stalin’s death. Since the Polish government in 1954, still headed by the Stalinist Bolesław Bierut, required its filmmakers to stick largely to the principle of “socialist realism,” Wajda did not yet have the artistic freedom he would acquire after the ascension of Władysław Gomułka in 1956. A Generation, therefore, contains a heavy dose of communist propaganda.

One happy accident of the Bierut government’s restrictive censorship laws and the necessity for Wajda to inject a heavy dose of Marxism into a film about a troubled youth in German occupied Poland was a result of how Wajda knew how to explain Marxist concepts in a simple, lucid manner. The idea of “surplus value” isn’t the most difficult Marxist concept. It still takes some time and effort to learn, but in A Generation, when an older worker, who’s also a communist organizer, explains to the film’s hero Stach Mazur why he’s being screwed at his first real job, the director makes it all look ridiculously simple.


4 thoughts on “Andrzej Wajda Explains Surplus Value”

  1. ..good article….capitalism did not create capitalists….capitalists created capitalism….meaning any economic system is simply a created ‘reality’….no more based on physics and biology than parlour magic or common religions….in order that this absurdity appears as constructed abstract and logic, we do not need cause and effect, we need only cause and biased effect, assumed effect, ,enforced effect….the ‘truth’ is not to be found searching in the system because any economic system is based on a desired effect ……….ie in physics , apples fall towards the earth only but in economics we can make them fall in any direction desired ,into one hand only even…for this upside down world to happen we need only compliance, we need only agree the Hatter is not actually mad to receive our tea….. we need only to all agree, not to so much disagree, as not to be disagreeable……..

    1. Another good, short, lucid account of the concept of “surplus value.”

      Adhering to David Ricardo’s labour theory of value, Karl Marx held that human labour was the source of economic value. The capitalist pays his workers less than the value their labour has added to the goods, usually only enough to maintain the worker at a subsistence level. Of the total worth of the worker’s labour, however, this compensation, in Marxian theory, accounts for only a mere portion, equivalent to the worker’s means of subsistence. The remainder is “surplus labour,” and the value it produces is “surplus value.” To make a profit, Marx argued, the capitalist appropriates this surplus value, thereby exploiting the labourer.

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