[OPE-L:3797] Unimportance of the Transformation Problem

From: Alejandro Ramos (aramos@btl.net)
Date: Fri Sep 08 2000 - 12:35:26 EDT

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Paul Z.,

many thanks for your favorable words in ope-l 3771 regarding my article
"Value and Price of Production: New Evidence on Marx's Transformation

I read your reaction "I think his paper cannot be ignored by those within
the Marxist tradition" as saying that the interpretation I give it's, let's
say, plausible, and worth of consideration.

I'm not claiming that this is the *only* possible interpretation --the
"final answer"-- about the matter. To pronounce such "final answer" is in
fact impossible because what Marx left was a draft, and a draft will be
always a matter of controversy among later interpreters. My point is
therefore that there is *another* possible interpretation of the text,
different from that given by the *bourgeois opposition* (Tugan-Baranowsky
and Bortkiewicz ), in which all the noise they made is simply, as you say
"a tempest in a tea pot".

Consequently, the whole idea that, regarding this point, there is a "fatal
logical mistake" in Marx's theory is based in what is actually a unilateral
and biased (even distorted) reading of the textual evidence, given by
people who were *declared Marx's enemies*, and conventionally presented as
the "last word" on the matter.

>From this point of view, I find certainly unfortunate that many Marxists
(in seemingly good faith) still insist on the idea that the *only possible*
reading of the textual evidence is that given by people like
Tugan-Baranowsky, or ignoring (or discarding) any other reading as wholly
indefensible. It's one of the paradoxes of this debate that people claiming
to be faithful to Marx are actually defending the writings of
Tugan-Baranowsky whose declared purpose was to show that Marx's theory was
essentially wrong. This is clearly *not* your case, despite the known fact
that you give little importance to this specific debate. This is why I'm
very grateful with your reaction.

Alejandro R.

There is a very interesting, new paper by Alejandro Ramos, "Value and
Price of Production: New Evidence on Marx's Transformation Procedure",
*Int. Journal of Political Economy*, Winter 98-99 but only in print very
recently. The basic message is that Engels' edition of Volume 3 left out
portions of text in which Marx clearly puts forward a second illustration
of the transformation problem. Furthermore, Bortkiewicz even distorted
what Engels did publish, distorted in a manner to support his own
two-system interpretation of Marx's attempted solution.

Bourgeois opposition to Marx (Bortkiewicz and Tugan-Baranowsky) tried to
stir up a tempest in a teapot and actually were pretty successful in their
endeavor (even Bortkiewicz's distortion has not been noticed by many -- he
simply, presumably deliberately, left out portions of Marx's tables --
Chapter 9, Volume 3, see second and third tables).

Ramos' paper may not be the final answer, but I think his paper cannot be
ignored by those within the Marxist tradition (those outside will continue
to do their thing, I suppose).

Below is my response to Chai-on in 3753:

"Chai-on Lee" <conlee@chonnam.ac.kr> said, on 09/06/00:

>Paul would fall into a self-contradiction if he still finds any
>difference between total surplus value and total profit, and total value
>and total price while arguing "Let's get over the transformation

I don't think the difference between total surplus value and total profit
is any more or less important than the transformation problem overall.
Ramos' paper touches on this issue (p. 62).

>As far as we can ignore those who discriminate between value
>and price in every aspect, we can get over the transformation problem and
>move to much more significant subjects. They have been tying us for
>hundred years to such a trivial subject. I think Marx was right and we
>need not bother to derive labor-values from price data. Let us just
>assume the aggregate prices of constant capital elements to be identical
>to the value of constant capital and the aggregate prices of labor-powers
>as identical with the variable capital value. The debate is a

The above corresponds my point of view -- that too much time spent on this
debate is a waste of our collective intellectual resources (although of
course brand new evidence like Ramos' need to be brought out).

Related to this issue, I think that the recent dialogue Fred began is
dependent upon there being a transformation problem of serious importance.
If we go with the assumption of Volume One, I do not see how Fred is
raising any issue at all, in spite of his efforts to get our attention
(sorry, Fred, but this is how I see it).

Paul Z.

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