[OPE-L:3313] Mattick on Luxemburg

From: Paul Zarembka (zarembka@ACSU.BUFFALO.EDU)
Date: Wed May 24 2000 - 11:11:18 EDT

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Below I offer my commentary on Mattick, Sr.'s reading of Luxemburg's
*Accumulation of Capital".

Comments on or off list, welcome. Paul Z.


Mattick (*Economic Crisis and Crisis Theory*, citations to the 1981
English translation by his son, pp.88ff) has an extensive discussion of
Luxemburg. He begins by saying that she wanted to scientifically prove
imperialism's basis in capitalist production. This may be correct, but
can be misleading if it is taken that her theory is merely
"instructmental" to her politics. Unfortunately, this is an very common
method for reading Luxemburg and tends to put off deeper analysis.
Indeed, Mattick continues by sustaining a dismissal of Luxemburg, albiet
in a serious vein. First, we can note that, from the first part of
Luxemburg's *Accumulation*, Mattick quotes only pages 117-119; from her
second part on the "Historical Exposition of the Problem" there are no
quotations. Bukharin delimited his own attention to Luxemburg albiet in a
different manner. Similarly, Lenin, after the first two chapters, made no
marginal notes within any of the remainder of Luxemburg's first part (see
Section II, Zarembka, "Accumulation of Capital, its Definition: A Century
after Lenin and Luxemburg":
http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/PZarembka/len-lux.htm ). Lack of
attention to this first part, basic to Luxemburg's argumentation, is
therefore repeated by Mattick. The Russian edition of *Accumulation*
apparently did not even bother to translate her second part (judging from
Dunayevskaya, 1982, in which citations to the Russian edition move from
pagination at the end of the first part immediately to the beginning of
the third part).

Mattick shows clear awareness that, for Luxemburg, the problem is not one
of production of surplus value, but rather of its realization, and that
crises are "crises of overproduction, characterized by quantities of
unsold goods". But then he immediately adds that "it had nothing to do
with Marx's theory of accumulation" (p.90). Seemingly to demonstrate
Luxemburg's disconnection from Marx, Mattick proceeds to survey two of her
leading critiques, Bauer (1913) and Bukharin (1924), taking the latter
first. Mattick reports that Bukharin "saw the basis of Luxemburg's false
theory in her identification of the accumulation of capital with that of
money capital" (p.92; also, p.110). While I have provided a long
quotation from Luxemburg showing that such a statement by Bukharin is an
unconsiousable distortion (see citation above), we find Mattick accepting
the distortion uncritically. Mattick then continues with a half-paragraph
(pp.92-93) elaborating Bukharin -- the half-paragraph comprises the only
point directly raised, via Bukharin, against Luxemburg:
    "... She imagined that the share of the surplus value that must be
accumulated as additional capital must first be transformed into money
capital already at the hand within the system.... Bukharin, however,
pointed out that, like capital itself, surplus value appears in various
forms: as commodities, as money, as means of production, and as labor
power. For each of these the money form is not to be identified with the
total surplus value in its various forms. Surplus value must go through
its money phase, only not as a whole, at one time, but rather bit by
bit.... The total surplus value does not have to encounter a sum of money
equivalent to it, although every commodity, in order to be realized, must
be turned into money...." (pp.92-93)

Where does Luxemburg say otherwise? Mattick (pp.93-95) doesn't provide
page citation to either Luxemburg or Bukharin. Bukharin does say that
"the fact that the movement of the total social capital is accompanied by
an accumulation of money capital (as Marx correctly stresses) in no way
means that the accumulation of capital is equivalent to the accumulation
of money capital, that is identical with the latter" (p.194) and goes on
to say that, while true for individual capitalists "this in no way means
that the total capitalist realizes his surplus value in one transaction by
exchanging the commodity heap against a heap of gold of equivalent value
at one stroke" (pp.194-95, which he calls a "Rosaist" idea). In other
words, Mattick is repeating Bukharin without critical attention. Mattick
goes on to tie Bukharin's own crisis theory to Lenin's and then he
indicates that he shares Rosdolsky's (1968, pp.472-483) view that Lenin's
view is close to, but not identical with, Tugan-Baranowsky's
disproportionalities theory (see also Zarembka, cited above, Section II).
The reader is left with the sense that Mattick wants to include Luxemburg
in his discussion but his real interests are elsewhere (as can be
confirmed as we move forward).

The next page of Mattick's book contains the only citations to the
nine-chapter first part of Luxemburg's book (i.e., to pages 117-19 within
her Chapter 6, "Enlarged Reproduction"), followed by reporting Bauer's
critique of Luxemburg which seems to interest Mattick more than
Bukharin's, given Bauer's tie-in to, and Mattick's interest in,
Grossmann's (1929) work. With Bauer taking on "the task of repulsing"
Luxemburg's attack on Marx regarding realization, Mattick first mentions
Bauer's interest in population growth and sides with Luxemburg who, unlike
Bauer, "stood completely on the terrain of Marx's theory, for which it is
the mechanism of production and accumulation that adapts the number of
employed workers to the valorization requirements of capital, and not
accumulation that is adapted to population growth" (p.99). Mattick also
remarks on a few other points of contention but misses the seemingly
technical issue of Bauer's inappropriate transfer of units of value from
Department II to Department I in the process of Bauer's exposition
attempting to demonstrate the possibility of realization. This important
issue is surveyed in Zarembka (cited above, Section III). Mattick,
however, turns to the issue of Marx's assumption of a fully capitalist
world. He claims that if this were indeed Marx's procedure it would argue
against Luxemburg for "without a doubt the reproduction schemes [of Marx]
show that even under the conditions they assume, the circuit of capital is
conceivable on an expanded scale" (p.100). But Mattick has now hit the
issue, then failed to deal with it: Luxemburg is denying most forcefully
the accuracy of such a statement and Mattick is doing no more than
asserting her error in reading Marx, but not her argumentation (for which
she devoted a book of 475 pages). And this failure is directly connected
to his failure to even discuss the "technical" issue of Bauer's
transferring value. Surely, the problem with Mattick and many others
(excepting, however, Luxemburg's biographer Froelich, 1939, p.160;
Rosdolsky, 1968, pp.497-99; and perhaps Dunayevskaya) is that their
understanding gets undermined by the simplicity of mathematical equations
and they miss the issue of its connection to real material life.

Mattick also claims that accumulation "without regard for actual social
needs or even for the valorization requirements of capital" is what
characterizes surplus value production and therefore is "nothing to be
wondered at" (p.115). In other words, all considerations of use-value can
be obliterated. In this respect, he seems to have missed comments of both
Marx and Lenin that consumption cannot be overlooked:

     "...In actual fact, the analysis of realization showed that the
formation of a home market for capitalism owes less to articles of
consumption than to means of production. From this it follows that
Department I of social production (the production of means of production)
can and must develop more rapidly than Department II (the production of
articles of consumption). Obviously, it does not follow from this that
the production of means of production can develop in complete independence
of the production of articles of consumption and outside of all connection
with it. In respect of this, Marx says: ...'constant capital is never
produced for its own sake but solely because more of it is needed in
spheres of production whose products go into individual consumption.' In
the final analysis, therefore, productive consumption (the consumption of
means of production) is always bound up with individual consumption and is
always dependent on it." (Lenin, ""A Note on the Question of Market
Theory (Apropos the Polemic of Messrs. Tugan-Baranovsky and Bulgakov)",
p.59; also cited in *Development of Capitalism in Russia*. The original
Marx quotation is in Volume 3, p. 305, Progress.)

The omission is, however, consistent with a failure to understand the
depth of Luxemburg's critique for which the use-values being produced in
an effort to produce and realize surplus value must be acknowledged.

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