[OPE-L:2727] Summary of Sieber by Andrzej Walicki

From: Paul Zarembka (zarembka@acsu.buffalo.edu)
Date: Wed Apr 05 2000 - 14:46:28 EDT

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Below is an one-and-one-half-page summary of Sieber by Andrzej Walicki, *A
History of Russian Thought from the Enlightment to Marxism*, Chapter 18,
"From Populism to Marxism", Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1979, pp.
436-37 (translated from the Polish by Hilda Andrews-Rusiecka). Walicki
considers Sieber an antecedent to Russian "Legal Marxism" and an important
influence on Plekhanov. Walicki also notes that Sieber considered Marx
"first and foremost a disciple and continuator of Ricardo" (compare Marx
being a discipline of Hegel). In addition, there is discussion of the
relation between the 1871 edition Marx cited and the 1885 edition.

Note that the direct transliteration from Russian to English below has his
name as Ziber, not what we see in *Capital* and "Notes on Wagner": Sieber.
Also, note that I could not find, in his 5-volume *Selected Works*, the
Plekhanov article cited by Walicki. Finally, there is no evidence here
whether Walicki's reading of Sieber's thoughts, if correct, were ever
known to Marx. I have found in Marx, CW, Vol.45, Marx writing Danielson on
15 Nov. 1878, that he had received in 1877 an article of Sieber's -- see
p. 343. The 1871 book was received by Marx sometime before January 18,
1873, but after Marx's request to Danielson on December 12, 1972 (Marx
learned Russian in 1870-71) -- see CW Vol. 44, pp. 457, 469.

Paul Z.

Paul Zarembka, on OS/2 and supporting RESEARCH IN POLITICAL ECONOMY at
********************** http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/PZarembka

    Chapter 18: FROM POPULISM TO MARXISM 436-37

    A forerunner of Struve was N. Ziber, a professor at the university of
Kiev and author of the study *David Ricardo and Karl Marx*, which was well
thought of by Marx himself.(54) The book as a whole was not published
until 1885, but parts of it--a dissertation on Ricardo's theory of value
(1871), and a series of articles entitled "The Economic Theory of Marx"--
had appeared in the 1870's and had contributed greatly to the
popularization of Marxism among members of "Land and Freedom." It is worth
noting that Ziber's writings exerted a considerable influence on the young
Plekhanov, who quoted from them in his article "The Law of the Economic
Development of Society and the Tasks of Socialism in Russia." Soviet
scholars have tended to see Ziber in a much more favorable light than
Struve, and have emphasized his pioneering role in propagating Marxism in
Russia. In the other hand, if we are considering the general typology of
different variants of Russian Marxism, it cannot be denied that it was
Ziber who also initiated the liberal-economic interpretation of Marxism
later taken up by the Legal Marxists. For Ziber, Marx was first and
foremost a disciple and continuator of Ricardo. "*Capital*," he wrote, "is
nothing but a continuation and a development of the same principles on
which the doctrine of Smith and Ricardo is founded. (55)

Ziber's main emphasis was on the evolutionary inevitability of capitalism.
Social formations, he wrote, aye not a matter of choice but the inevitable
result of natural development; men's conscious interference cannot achieve
more than a midwife who may shorten the birth pangs. The necessity of
passing through the capitalist phase is implied by the universal law of
economic development; it is possible to counteract some socially harmful
effects of industrialization by factory legislation on the English model,
but "the attempt to liquidate capitalism before it is ready to liquidate
itself is tantamount to trying to lift oneself up by one's own hair". (56)
Economic development is evolutionary and its natural phases cannot be
skipped or artificially shortened: the institutional structure of the
state always adjusts itself automatically to the economic base.

Ziber's faith in automatic progress was so strong that he believed
socialism would take over without a revolution as soon as it became
economically justified. The inauguration of the new system, he thought,
ought to be decided on by an international congress of the highly
industrialized states.

A man of Ziber's views was bound to be implacably hostile to Populism. He
was convinced that the peasant commune was doomed to extinction and that
the development of the economy required the expropriation and
proletarianization of a major part of the Russian peasantry. "Nothing will
come of the Russian peasant if he is not put through the industrial
boiler," was one of his sayings. It was axiomatic to him that the
scattered output of small, independent producers must be replaced by
large-scale capitalist production. No wonder Akselrod commented in a
letter to Plekhanov that Ziber's theory led Russian socialists to a
depressing conclusion: "The fate of the peasantry must be left to the
spontaneous process of history, and we ourselves must become liberals or
simply sit down and fold our hands." (57)

    54. See the afterword to the second German edition of *Capital*.
    55. N. I. Ziber, *lzbrannye ekonomicheshie proizvedeniia* (M, 1959),
vol. 1, p. 556
    56. Ibid., vol. 2, p. 673.
    57, *Perepiska G. V. Plehhanova i P. B. Ahselroda* (M, 1925), V01. 2,
P. 197.

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