[OPE-L:6473] Re: N. Sieber

From: Paul Zarembka (zarembka@ACSU.BUFFALO.EDU)
Date: Wed Jan 30 2002 - 22:17:36 EST

Christopher Arthur <cjarthur@waitrose.com> said, on 01/28/02 [OPE-L:6461]:

>R E S E A R C H     I N     P O L I T I C A L     E C O N O M Y
>     Volume 19 (2001)
>Paul Zarembka, Editor

>I have just received this and I underline that it has a translation of
>Sieber's 1871 chapter on Marx and two excellent scholarly essays on
>Sieber. On these grounds I think everyone should urge their college
>libraries to get it in - it can be bought as a stand alone hardback from

    This would be a good idea.

>JAI Press, Elsevier. Paul Z is to be congratulated on getting this stuff
>together. It fills a real gap in our knowledge. So  was Marx right to
>praise S. in the Afterword to Capital?
>1) Marx only asked for the book in Dec 1872 and the Afterword is dated Jan
>24th 1873. Bearing in mind Marx had only been studying Russian a short
>while and the incredibly short time he must have had at his disposal, the
>judgment in Capital is very much off the cuff. (Tho. not that in On Wagner
>of course.)

    I understand the Marx knew Russian by this time VERY well.  I think we
need to presume it was no barrier.   Marx asked Danielson for the book in a
letter of December 12, 1872, and had it no later than Jan. 18, 1873 (Marx
to Danielson).  The fourth chapter is the only one on Marx and indeed I
checked and there are very few explicit references to Marx anywhere else in
Sieber's 1871 book.  So, Chapter 4 is the key and it is not all that long
(29 pp. in English).

    So, if Marx had 3 weeks with the Sieber book, he could have had a
serious opinion on the parts on himself by Jan. 24, 1873.  He could even
have a serious opinion in 6 days (the minimum time he had).

>2) Half the chapter is simply a summary of Marx's first edition chapter 1
>so there is little space for comment.
>3) In so far as Sieber's summary can be faulted it is because he replaces
>concrete/abstract with useful/human. Not all the time; but this is
>significant for my next point.
>4) Sieber's first substantial 'interpretive' comment is that "Labour is
>itself value, Marx says". But Marx does not!! Sieber then draws the
>logical conclusion that value and abstract labour are ahistorical and
>asocial categories; only exchange value is the specific form of their
>appearance in commodity society. Unlike later Marxists Sieber had the
>excuse that he was working from the first edition. Marx subsequently
>inserted the sentence 'Labour is not itself value". 

    The full text of the 4th English edition rendered into English in the
Progress edition is:

    "Human labour-power in motion, or human labour, creates value, but is
not itself value. It becomes value only in its congealed state, when
embodied in the form of some object. In order to express the value of the
linen as a congelation of human labour, that value must be expressed as
having objective existence, as being a something materially different from
the linen itself, and yet a something common to the linen and all other
commodities. The problem is already solved."

    I'd like to get to the bottom of when "not itself value" was introduced
by Marx.  Also, I'm cc'ing James White and David Smith to see if Sieber
corrected himself in his later expanded 1885 work (Chris Arthur would like
to know this also.)

>At first I got excited
>thinking this must have been a direct riposte to Sieber but the proofs of
>the second edition chapter 1 were done early in '72 hence before Marx got
>the book. (I have not yet checked whether the sentence first appeared in
>the second eidtion or the French edition tho'.) Some other
>misinterpretation must have prompted this insertion by Marx.
>I can only think that Marx must have overlooked Sieber's mistake in his
>hurried survey of it.

    I'm not convinced -- given the time Marx probably had with the book.

>5) So what did Marx like? The second, more substantial discussion, is on
>money. Here Sieber really does deserve high marks for theoretical
>perspicacity. he has grasped the value form and the essential role of
>money in integrating the econmy.

    What seems clear to me is that Sieber figured out a lot of what Marx
was up to, on his own, in Russia, and this impressed Marx.  Actually, what
bothers me most in Sieber is his 1871 sentence concluding that Marx
imparted "to Ricardo's theory a fuller and more complete form, and also
endorse its validity with new proofs".  This suggests a continuity from
Marx to Ricardo which I believe to be incorrect and yet is part of the
Sieber-Plehanov-Lenin legacy that is a step backwards.

>6) Of course there may have been other good things in the book that we do
>not have translated here that Marx liked.

    I believe there is not much else explicitly on Marx in Sieber 1871.

    Paul Z.

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