[OPE-L:2668] Proof from Marx that Hegel is NOT required to understand him?

From: Paul Zarembka (zarembka@acsu.buffalo.edu)
Date: Sat Apr 01 2000 - 17:15:27 EST

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I have just completed some digging and can offer the following as "proof",
or as close to proof as one can get without a smoking gun, that Marx
himself did NOT believe late in life that dialectics and Hegel was needed
to understand his [Marx's] theory. This will require a few paragraphs but
it is not very long and I'd really appreciate opinions from those who
DISAGREE and would defend the crucial importance of Hegel. The basic
argument is

a. Marx thought the Russian economist N. Sieber "excellent" and a
SUBSTITUTE for reading *Capital*.

b. Plekhanov shows that Sieber was, by self-admission, ignorant of Hegel
and dialectics.

c. Therefore, by example, Marx is informing readers that Hegel and
dialectics is NOT needed to understand him [Marx].

I am trying to obtain Sieber's book, but I think it is going to be a long
shot (unless anyone out there knows of it!).

Paul Z.

(I am quoting from a possible addition to my accumulation paper:)

An oft-cited passage from Marx's "Afterword to the Second German Edition",
dated January 24, 1873, has been used to claim that Marx remained wedded
to dialectics until the end of his life. However, another passage in the
same "Afterword" has been overlooked by most (Oakley, p. 78, represents an

    'As early as 1871, N. Sieber, Professor of Political Economy in the
University of Kiev, in his work 'David Ricardo's Theory of Value and of
Capital', referred to my theory of value, of money and of capital, as in
its fundamentals a necessary sequel to the teaching of Smith and Ricardo.
That which astonishes the Western European in the reading of this
excellent work, is the author's consistent and firm grasp of the purely
theoretical position. (Marx, *Capital, Volume 1*, Progress, p. 26)'

A couple of sentences later, Marx quotes Sieber to defend himself against
attack for being metaphysical, 'In so far as it deals with actual theory,
the method of Marx is the deductive method of the whole English school, a
school whose failings and virtues are common to the best theoretical
economists.' And should anyone think Marx's appreciation of Sieber a
fluke, we again find in Marx's very last work in 1881 recording a
repetition of his appreciation of Sieber: 'Mr. Wagner could have
familiarized himself with the difference between me and Ricardo both from
*Capital* and from *Sieber's work* (if he knew Russian)' (Marx, 1881, p.
534). In other words, Marx is telling readers that Sieber is just as
valuable for understanding his own work as reading Marx directly -- no
small compliment!

Now, was Sieber knowledgeable about and influenced by Hegel? Plekhanov,
*The Development of the Monist View*, has a direct answer. The answer is
'no'! In 1879 Sieber translated at least a part of Engels'
*Anti-Duhring*. Sieber says in his foreword, "we for our part shall
refrain from passing judgement as to the worth of this method of
application to various branches science" (as cited in Plekhanov, p. 800).
Plekhanov cites more of the passage and concludes that this Russian
economist "remained in ignorance of the significance of Hegel in the
development of modern economics", because "as a serious scientist who does
not rely on the opinion of others but is accustomed to studying a subject
first-hand, [Sieber], though he knew of Engel's opinion of Hegel, did not
consider himself for all that entitled" to pass his own judgement

Conclusion: Marx is referring readers to a Russian economist, who has no
opinion of his own about dialectics nor any special knowledge, yet who
conveys Marx's theory accurately, in Marx's own judgement. In my reading,
this observation cuts through all the discussion about the Hegelian
influence in Marx's *Grundrisse* and can be offered as the best proof that
Marx's mature work in political economy is not dependent upon Hegel and

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