[OPE-L:5167] was Marx an economist?

From: Gerald_A_Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@email.msn.com)
Date: Wed Mar 14 2001 - 22:39:55 EST

Dear Steve (K):

Sometimes when you refer to Marx being an 
economist I think you are joking, sometimes I
think you are serious or only half-joking.

I don't know if you _fully_ appreciate that Marx
was a revolutionary, a communist. He was not
an economist. Indeed, he would have viewed 
such a designation as an insult.

Writing _Capital_ was not only an intellectual 
task -- it was a political act that he viewed as
essential. Indeed, it is worthwhile noting that 
in 1865 he resigned from a sub-committee of
the [First] International so that he would have
more time to write _Capital_ (see 7/31/65
latter to Engels). 

Here was a person who was banished from
many European countries and had spent his
time in jail. For his beliefs, he spent his lifetime
in abject poverty and had to rely to a great extent
on the financial generosity of Engels (which
certainly must have been hard for a very proud
man). This also meant that his wife and children 
lived in poverty. Ultimately his lifestyle -- caused
by his unending and lifelong dedication as a 
revolutionary and a spokesperson for the working-
class movement -- led to his death ... while still 
basically a young man.

To lose sight of his political beliefs is to thus lose
sight of the man. Everything that he did in his 
adult life was an expression of his political 

To get closer to your critique, I want you to
think some more about the above and recall
that Marx considered his theory of surplus-value
to be one of his two greatest "discoveries" in 
political economy. From that perspective, his
position that wage-labor is the sole source of
value and surplus-value is  more than a
theoretical position -- it is an expression of his
politics. It is his explanation for the exploitation
of the working-class and it has truly revolutionary
implications about what is required to end that
exploitation. It is not just another part of his 
theory -- it is a cornerstone.

I wonder if you can imagine the disdain with which
Marx would view the proposition that means of 
production create new value? One does not have
to read a whole lot of the _Theories of Surplus
Value_ to get an answer. On the one hand, he 
viewed such perspectives as fetishistic to the
extent that it attributes to things (means of
production) an ability that only labor (and a
particular social form of labor at that) can do.
It turns the world upside down where the illusion
appears that the commodities produced by labor
are themselves creative of value (thus it is an
example of commodity fetishism). Moreover, it 
has pernicious political implications to the extent
that it leads towards the bourgeois conception
that land, labor, *and capital* create value. Marx
treated such theories, you will recall, with great

The above is not intended as a critique of your
perspective. Rather, it is intended to focus
attention on how your perspective of the
implications of Marx's theory is so completely
are at variance not only with Marx's intent
in writing _Capital_ but his entire adult life.

Marx was not an economist -- never forget that

And, by the way, the revolution will come! And,  
I hope that the members of this list will live long
enough to see that day. Indeed, I hope to stand
shoulder-to-shoulder with many of them some day
at the barricades. And then, in the words of the
poet J. Bruce Glasier, "We'll turn things upside


In solidarity, Jerry

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