[OPE-L:3374] Re: Re: Mattick on Luxemburg

From: Paul Zarembka (zarembka@ACSU.BUFFALO.EDU)
Date: Tue May 30 2000 - 12:04:46 EDT

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I have to get Mattick's _Anti-Bolshevik Communism_ before I could respond
to certain portions of Rakesh's message.

Please note the character of much of Rakesh's reporting of Mattick -- much
is merely Mattick reporting Grossmann. There is really not much here from
Mattick as a distinct human being on Luxemburg (except perhaps 112ff in
Mattick). We might as well go to the horse's mouth, so to speak --

Below I indicate where Grossmann is being quoted, and where finally we see
something of Mattick to which I respond.

Paul Z.

******************** http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/PZarembka

bhandari@Princeton.EDU (Rakesh Bhandari) said, on 05/30/00:

>One thing to remember about Mattick is that he tried to combine
>Luxemburg's political theory and Grossmann's economic theory in his
>formulation of council communism. ...

[Interesting. Economic theory and political theory are independent: use
an economic theory from basically a supporter of Stalin to be used for
purposes of council communism. Good luck. P.Z.]

>Then Mattick notes Grossmann's critique, but Mattick's criticism of Bauer
>and Lenin is as scathing as yours.

[Actually, Lenin didn't publish anything on Luxemburg and we don't exactly
know what he would have come up with it. I am not "scathing" about
something which did not appear. P.Z.]

>Mattick quotes Grossmann about why...

>Mattick quotes Grossmann

>Now Mattick then quotes Grossmann: ...

>Of course in Economic Crisis and Crisis Theory, Mattick thinks Grossmann
>has given the false impression that it may be possible to have smooth
>inter-departmental transfers after transformation into production prices.

Now Rakesh moves away from Grossman and reports the "most sophisticated"

> The point however is that nothing--not harmonism, underconsumption, or
>disequlibrium--can be said about the real course of capital accumulation
>on the basis of the schema. We even find the most sophisticated Marxists
>today claiming that the "possibility of balanced growth, or accumulation
>without crisis, was shown by Marx through his reproduction schemes"
>(Webber and Rigby, p. 148)

>But the schema have completely unrealistic conditions built into
>them--Webber and Rigby go on to build one which does have an economy wide
>average rate of profit and equal rates of growth between both depts
>(which is supposed to be a more realistic assumption) but *fixed
>production techniques* as given in an input output matrix and thus
>constant values; and on this basis they then claim that they can show the
>possibility of a "golden age" growth path which evidently is supposed to
>have some relation to the actual course of accumulation after WWII.

>But all such schema are pitched at a high level of abstraction and
>constructed on the basis of completely unrealistic assumptions--to keep
>this in mind is the key point--and Bauer, Luxemburg, Hilferding and
>others were all caught up in trying to determine the course of
>accumulation, as well as alternations between equilibrium growth and
>disequilibrium, on the basis of the study of such schema. There is even
>Hilferding's quip that "it is not at all so bad that this second volume
>is so little read, since under certain conditions it could be interpreted
>as a hymn of praise for capitalism."

Value, surplus value, rate of surplus value, constant capital, variable
capital are all at the same level of (high?) abstraction. For example,
you cannot touch "value". Or, how about the controversy over how to
measure constant capital -- TSS vs. others.

>This misunderstanding of the nature of such schema is Mattick's critique
>of Luxemburg and all other participants in this debate (see also Mattick
>Jr's essay in Arthur and Reuten, eds. Circulation of Capital). Such
>schema cannot show the course of accumulation or lay out ever more
>realistically the actual parameters of growth depending on how one varies
>technical coefficients or departmental growth rates--all such schema
>construction can be only be an arbitary intellectual exercise. Webber and
>Rigby's model is no more realistic than Bauer's than Marx's.

Luxemburg is not working toward a "realistic" model of accumulation, at
least not before understanding the problem with Marx's presentation,
offered through the publication of his draft material as Vol. 2 of
_Capital_. Luxemburg's purpose is quite different from Grossmann's.

>What any such scheme can demonstrate however is that "the possibility of
>reproduction depends on the circulation of goods containing definite
>quantities of labor time, represented in the form of values and use
>values and distributed in a definite way" (Mattick), and even though
>these necessities will be unnoticed, they nevertheless must be respected,
>behind the backs of the producers if the accumulation of capital is to be

OK (Of course I could argue that the concept "accumulation of capital" is
once again used ambiguously, but I'll abstain from that for this

>And of course because it is this problem that Marx is in fact
>investigating in vol 2 that he finds it perfectly permissible to simply
>assume away the problem of constant revolutions in value, though nothing
>realistic about capital accumulation can be said on the basis of such an
>assumption. At this point, his system remains completely formal, lacking
>any relation to a dynamic reality.


> But all this and more can be abstracted from given that Marx is focused
>here on the abstract problem of the general distribution of social labor
>that needs to happen if accumulation is to be possible; to then turn
>around and try to make such schema more realistic to determine the actual
>course of accumulation through more careful specification of parameters
>is to totally miss the necessarily idealized and completely fictional
>status of any scheme.

Luxemburg is not guilty of this.

>Luxemburg is guilty of this to the extent that she tries to prove the
>necessity of underconsumption on the basis of the schema (and one can
>turn the scheme against her by simply constructing one in terms of
>production price which then shows that accumulation need not be haunted
>on a perennial basis by underconsumption); Bauer is also guilty of
>confusion since he tried to prove the possibility of harmonism on the
>basis of a scheme.

Suppose we borrow from another debate on this list and stay with Marx's
terrain of price-value equivalence so as to work with the schema in value
terms on its own merits. What now (recognizing its "unreality")?

>Marx's crisis theory however is not built on the reproduction schemes, no
>matter how modified, but on what had already been isolated in Vol
>1--upward pressure on the OCC and the falling rate of profit to which
>that gives rise.

I myself have not raised the issue of crisis theory at all. I have been
on a prior terrain of theoretical clarification (for better or worse).
The same prior terrain is Luxemburg's in _The Accumulation of Capital_.
Are Rakesh and I on the same page?

>Mattick also does not agree with Bukharin in Economic Crisis and Crisis
>Theory. He thinks he has given a better answer to the problem posed by RL
>than either Bauer or Bukharin. That is, Mattick offers an analysis of
>credit as the source of the money for the transformation of commodity
>values into additional capital, and of the limits on the extension of
>that credit. Please see pp.112ff of Economic Crisis and Crisis Theory.

Mostly it reads like a favorable book report, at least with regard to
Bukharin's criticisms of Luxemburg's _Accumulation of Capital_. Page 93
has some criticism of Bukharin but not connected to Luxemburg. Remember
in 1924, Bukharin is siding with Stalin in the post-Lenin drama and is
siding with anti-Luxemburgists inside the German CP (even Mattick, p.92,
is aware of this). Perhaps of some interest, Bukharin's original language
was Russian but he collaborated in its immediate translation into German
the same year.

I will recheck pp. 112ff on credit -- which Rakesh offers as Mattick's
(only?) contribution to this debate.

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