[OPE-L:6286] Re: grossman (response to paul z)

From: Rakesh Bhandari (rakeshb@stanford.edu)
Date: Sat Jan 12 2002 - 01:29:54 EST

Paul Z wrote:

>Grossman pulls a similar operation against Sismondi.  In 1924 he is quite
>appreciative of Sismondi (a French original article appearing in Warsaw),
>while in 1934 his tune is completely different regarding Sismondi (he must
>have read Lenin's views on Sismondi in the meantime since now his remarks
>are indisquishable from Lenin's).

Paul, you have obviously not read grossman's 1934 entry on Sismondi 
for the Encylopaedia of the Social Sciences in a long time! A more 
appreciative note to a man whom he credits as the founder of theories 
of capitalist dynamics I cannot imagine. Yes he takes issue with his 
underconsumptionism (while noting that Malthus and Robertus and later 
many Marxists took from him), but praises him for his devastating 
attacks on the abstractions of classical economics; moreover, he 
finds much with which to agree in sismondi's understanding of 
disproportionality crises, which are inherent not as a result of 
failure to anticipate demand correctly in the respective branches but 
as a result of the unevenness of technical change.

Paul Z, to imply that Grossmann refused to write in praise of 
sismondi as a result of lenin's negative views is simply wrong.

And the praise of Sismondi reaches new heights in his 1943 piece for 
the Journal of Political economy. Now Sismondi is a theoretical 
historian of the first rank!

You also wrote:

>The article is a 1941 manuscript (*Capital and Class* doesn't tell you
>where it comes from), first published in 1969 in German original.
>The very first sentence is the type I find annoying in Grossman:
>"The dominant view of Marx is to regard him as a student of and successor
>to the Classical economists; as an economist who 'completed' that work".
>He then footnotes a pretty long list of culprits of whom LENIN IS NOT
>LISTED.  Yet Lenin's (1913) "three sources" of Marxism article has the
>"Adam Smith and David Ricardo, by their investigations of the economic
>system, laid the foundations of the labor theory of value.  Marx continued
>their work; he provided a proof of the theory and developed it
>consistently.  He showed that the value of every commodity is determined by
>the quantity of socially necessary labor time spent on its production."

that grossman held his tongue for reasons of party discipline is 
indeed possible and likely.  but grossmann was by nature (it seems) a 
choleric guy, and he does not spare lenin rapier like criticism in 
law of accumulation and the breakdown (catastrophe) of the capitalist 
system (1929). Grossmann was not impressed with Lenin's work as a 
piece of theoretical reasoning, and he did not try to hide this from 
anyone. And I think this says more about Grossman's scientific 
integrity than whether he included Lenin's name in an obscure 

  However,  it seems obvious that Grossmann argued that Lenin was 
closer to Marx's theory than Luxemburg and Sternberg were with their 
underconsumptionism. Even as profound a critic of Lenin as Mattick Sr 
grants that Lenin did more to preserve the revolutionary core of 
Marx's critique of political economy than other 2nd Intl thinkers. 
Paul Z, I know we disagree about this harsh treatment of Luxemburg, 
but I don't think it was motivated by politics as much as by Rosa L's 
incomprehension according to Grossmann of the nature and implications 
of Marx's theory, esp. the reproduction schemes.

At any rate,   I find little positive reference to Lenin in 
Grossman's writings but as Rick Kuhn has demonstrated grossman's 
theoretical work was shaped by the organizational work that he did 
with the working class. So it is possible that for party reasons 
Grossmann did not always name Lenin when attacking positions that 
Lenin, along with others, held. It would be interesting to get Rick 
Kuhn's views on this. especially his comparative analysis of their 
respective ideas of the party.

moreover, we would need to make a careful study of lenin's work to 
determine whether he did not understand the differences between the 
marxian and classical labor theory of value.

there is the controversial criticism by mattick sr, korsch and 
pannekoek that lenin criticized machian idealism from the perspective 
of bourgeois materialism, not historical materialism. Did Lenin 
criticize the subjective turn in bourgeois economics from the 
perspective of the classical labor theory, not the Marxian theory? I 
don't know. It would seem the more interesting question is whether 
Bukharin on whom I would imagine Lenin was dependent here grasped the 
differences between the classical theory of labor value and the 
marxian labor theory of value. And I would say that there are some 
very important places where bukharin lays out the differences in the 
two labor theories of value. Which is not to say that there are not 
devastating criticisms to be made of bukharin's methodology for the 
study of bourgeois ideology (geoffrey kay has written one such 
criticism, if i remember).

moreover, lenin did refer (i have read in secondary sources)  in his 
hegel notebooks  to the contradictions of the commodity which 
contained within itself the contradictions of the system as a whole. 
i don't believe that this could have been known to grossmann, 
however. But it suggests that Lenin's understanding of the commodity 
may have been at a higher level than Ricardo.

>In my opinion, Grossman is a tricky fellow and many times one has to pay as
>much attention to the silences as to the opinions (e.g., anti-Luxemburgism)
>to get a fuller understanding of what he is up to.

And do not forget that Grossmann praises Luxemburg for defending the 
revolutionary core of marxism against revisionists. In a sense, his 
greatest praise in his magnum opus is for her.


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