[OPE-L:2714] Re: Marx's *Capital*: Europe and Russia

From: C. J. Arthur (cjarthur@pavilion.co.uk)
Date: Tue Apr 04 2000 - 14:47:41 EDT

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An important reference here is James White: Karl marx and the Origins of
Dialectical Materialism. The second half is all about the alleged
incompatibility of the Russian case with marx's dialectic. White argues
(implausibly imo) that this is why marx could not finish Capital.
>[2696]Is there the beginning of a possible merger between some of the themes
>in the "slaves and value" thread and the thread on Sieber? Perhaps.
>Patrick wrote in [OPE-L:2695]:
>> I [don't?, JL) accept the "rigid sequence of modes of
>> production" argument either. I think it's a useful brief historical
>> description of Europe, but not necessarily the rest of the world.
>In Marx's research on Russia, especially as it relates to peasant
>communes, and his communication with Russian revolutionaries, one can
>observe somewhat of a shift away from the sequence of modes of production
>as presented in the "Preface" to _A Contribution to the Critique of
>Political Economy_.
>Thus, in Marx's reply to Zasulich (March 4, 1881), he wrote:
> "In analysing the genesis of capitalist production, I said:
> At the heart of the capitalist system is a complete
> separation of the producer from the means of production
> ... *the expropriation of the agricultural producer* is the
> basis of the whole process. Only in England has it been
> accomplished in a radical manner. ... *But all the other
> countries of Western Europe* are following the same
> course. (*Capital*, French ed, p. 315.)
> The 'historical inevitability' of this course is therefore
> *expressly* restricted to *the countries of Western Europe*.
> The reason for this restriction is indicated in Ch. XXXII:
> '*Private property*, founded upon personal labour ... is
> supplanted by *capitalist private property*, which rests on
> exploitation of others, on wage-labour' (*loc. cit., p. 340).
> In the Western case, then, *one form of private property is
> transformed into another form of private property*. In the case
> of the Russian peasants, however, *their communal property*
> would have to be *transformed into private property*.
> The analysis in *Capital* therefore provides no reasons either
> for or against the vitality of the Russian Commune. But the
> special study have made of it, including a search for original
> source-material, has convinced me that the commune is the
> fulcrum for social regeneration in Russia. But in order that it
> might function as such, the harmful influences assailing it on
> all sides must first be eliminated, and it must then be assured
> the normal conditions for spontaneous development". (From
> Shanin ed. _Late Marx and the Russian Road_, p. 124).
>(It might be interesting to have a discussion comparing the Russian
>peasant communes of the late 19th century to the autonomous zone created
>in Chiapas by peasant-revolutionaries, don't you think?)
>In his "Letter to the Editorial Board of Otechestvennye Zapiski", Marx
> "The chapter on primitive accumulation claims no more than to
> trace the path by which, in Western Europe, the capitalist
> economic order emerged from the womb of the feudal economic
> order" (Ibid, p. 135)
>Later in the letter , Marx reproaches a critic who:
> "absolutely insists on transforming my historical sketch of the
> genesis of capitalism in Western Europe into a
> historico-philosophical theory of the general course fatally
> imposed on all peoples, whatever the historical circumstances
> in which they find themselves placed, in order to arrive
> ultimately at this economic formation which assures the greatest
> expansion of the productive forces of social labour, as well as
> the most complete development of man. But I beg his pardon.
> This is to do me both too much honour and too much disrespect"
> (Ibid, p. 136)
>Again there is the warning against generalizing what we might call the
>"European experience" and an emphasis on *contingency* in the change from
>one social formation to another. Thus, he goes on to give an example of
>what happened in Roman history and how it ended not with wage-labour
>but with slavery for the "Roman proletarians". Comparing this situation to
>that of 'poor whites' in the southern US, Marx notes: "Thus events of
>striking similarity, taking place in different historical context, led to
>totally disparate results (capitalism in US; slave mode of production in
>Rome, JL). By studying each of these developments separately, and then
>comparing them, one may easily discover the key to this phenomenon. But
>success will never come with the master-key of a
>general-historico-philosophical theory, whose supreme virtue consists in
>being supra-historical". (Ibid)
>Yet another revealing late work by Marx, co-authored with Engels, is the
>"Preface to the Second Russian Edition" of the _Manifesto of the Communist
>Party". M&E concluded that as follows:
> "If the Russian revolution becomes the signal for proletarian
> revolution in the West, so that the two complement each other,
> then Russia's peasant communal land-ownership may serve as the
> point of departure for a communist development".
>That was written on January 21, 1882. It says something rather
>significant about the relationship of the possible Russian revolution, and
>the peasant commune system there, to the possibilities for spreading the
>international revolutionary process. It also goes against the grain for
>those who have insisted that the revolutionary movement must develop first
>in the advanced capitalist nations. It would seem, in conclusion, that
>Marx was far less rigid in his perspective on historical transitions than
>many, if not most, of the Marxists since.
>In solidarity, Jerry

P. S. Please note that I have a new Email address,
but the old one will also run until the summer. (To be doubly sure load both!)

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