[OPE-L:6579] Tugan -> Hilferding and schema; where is Lenin?

From: Alejandro Ramos (aramos@btl.net)
Date: Wed Feb 13 2002 - 16:43:17 EST

Re: Paul Z 6565:

Thanks for your recent posts on this matter.
I think Hilferding is a key player in the development of the "Marxian
Economics" mainstream interpretation. As his work was *supported by Lenin*
without many reservations, he was one of the ways by which Tugan
*anti-Marx* tradition was *silently* introduced in the left, and accepted
by most of the people. As Tugan was an openly right-wing man --and Lenin's
enemy-- his work couldn't be directly cited or used by the left. This is
perhaps a reason why you cannot find modern editions of his works.
Hilferding, on the contrary, was supported by Lenin despite he was
certainly on Tugan's side in many relevant issues, as your citations show.
Or, from another angle, perhaps this only reveals Lenin's ambiguity
regarding Tugan's interpretations of Marx. --The "commonalities" you
mention in another post.

Note that a similar situation happened when Sweezy introduced the
"transformation problem" into the anglo-saxon official academia. Here, the
father of the creature was, again, Tugan, but Sweezy chose not to publish
his texts but Bortwiewicz's. Why? My *hypothesis* is that, if you read
Tugan, you can see directly that he is not simply "correcting" Marx but
saying that he has *a different theory*, in which value is produced by
capital, nature and labor *together*. Bortkiewicz --who *conceptually* adds
nothing  to Tugan's work, only re-formulates it with funny algebra--
presents the matter merely as a "correction". Sweezy, a leftist, was thus
confortable with Bortkiewicz, not with Tugan; any leftist may be
confortable with Hilferding *because he had Lenin's approval*. (Bort's
funny algebra was a bonus: the Economic Journal ed board could see that
Marx, too, had some "math" behind, as the "modern" economists...)

>Alejandro said in [OPE-L:6556], replying to Paul Bullock in [OPE-L:6555]:
>>You may be forgetting here the *political* use Tugan-Baranowsky did of the
>>schemas in order to argue that capitalism would be a self replicating
>>entity, founding a tradition which started to crop up with Bortkiewicz and
>>reached its peak with Okishio, Morishima et al. and still is healthy and
>>alive with us.
>First, note that both Lenin's *Imperialism* and Bukharin's *Imperialism*
>comment favorably on Hilferding's *Finance Capital* as background for their
>own work.  
>Hilferding, in turn, has the following favorable citation to
>    "... Indeed, the largely ignored analyses in the second volume of
>*Capital* are, from the standpoint of pure economic reasoning, the most
>brilliant in that whole remarkable work.  Above all, an understanding of
>the causes of crises is quite impossible without taking into account the
>results of Marx's analysis." (p. 243, Bottomore edition, 1981)  Hilferding
>at this point has a footnote that "M. Tugan-Baranowsky deserves credit for
>calling attention to the significance of these investigations for the
>problem of crises in his *Studien zur Theorie und Geschichte der
>Handelkrisen in England*.  The curious thing is that this needed to be
>pointed out at all." (p. 420, fn. 5).

Not a word here about the controversial nature of Tugan's own
interpretation of the schemes!

>Hilferding does not cite Lenin anywhere in his book (nor Kautsky;
>Luxemburg's work, of course, came later).  So, I read the above as a
>further support for the importance of Tugan over Lenin within the Marxist
>tradition Alejandro points to.
>In two later footnotes, Hilferding has a couple of criticisms of Tugan, the
>first regards his inappropriately pointing to idle money as a powerful
>stimulus during crisis (p. 284 and p. 421, fn. 1), while the second could
>also be largely applicable to Lenin (was Hilferding acquainted with Lenin's
>work in the 1890s, published in Russian?).  The latter is worth quoting in
>    "An extreme instance of this confusion [neglecting specific 'use
>values' if disruptions are to be avoided] is to be found in
>Tugan-Baranowsky's theory of crises.  By taking account only of the formal
>economic categories of capitalist production, it overlooks the natural
>conditions of production which are common to all systems of production,
>whatever their historical form, and thus arrives at the curious conception
>of a system of production which exists only for the sake of production,
>while consumption is simply a tedious irrelevance.  If this is 'madness'
>there is method in it, and a Marxist one at that, for it is just this
>analysis of the specific historical structure of capitalist production
>which is distinctively Marxist.  It is Marxism gone mad, but still Marxism,
>and this is what makes the theory so peculiar and yet so suggestive. 
>Without being quite aware of it, Tugan seems to sense this.  Hence his
>vigorous polemic against the 'sound common sense' of his critics." (pp.
>421-422, fn. 4)

This passage is amazing: While Tugan openly states that his theory is not
Marx's (see below), Hilferding says that "It is Marxism gone mad, but still

Tugan writes, for example, in Ch. 1 of the "Studies..."

"I do not employ the usual Marxian terminology (constant capital, variable
capital, surplus-value) because I do not stand on the ground of Marx's
theory of surplus-value. In my opinion, there is no difference at all
regarding the creation of surplus-product -i.e. of rent- between the human
labor-power and the dead instruments of labor. One can describe with the
same right as variable capital both the machine and the human labor-power
since both of them create surplus product. " Research in Political Economy,
18, 2000, p. 80 (my translation)

But, additionally, Hilferding points out a neglection of the use-value
analysis in Tugan's theory. Quite the contrary. Tugan does reduce the
schemes to the use-value aspect of the commodity. His key assumption is the
exclusion of *money* from the analysis and, therefore, the exclusion of

In Chapter 1 of the Studies, Tugan writes:

"The valorization of social capital takes place by mediation of money.
Commodities must be sold in order to be transformed into new commodities.
Yet, in the abstract analysis of the social reproduction of capital, we can
leave out of account completely the role of money in this reproduction.
This does not mean that we deny that the interruptions in the money
circulation provoke disturbances in the process of the reproduction of
social capital. But, for the moment, is not our task to investigate such
interruptions. As far as money plays only a mediating role in exchange,
products are purchased with products. We proceed from this assumption in
the following analysis." (p. 65)

Of course, he never proceeds in another way than this. In his "abstract
analysis of the social reproduction of capital" capitalism is reduced to a
barter economy. In such a framework is pretty easy to show that there are
no crises unless some physical "disproportions" arise and, of course, to
"demonstrate" that value is "redundant", and that technical change rises
the profit rate ---bright insights of modern Marxian Economics, already
discovered by Tugan.

>For completeness, let me note that, yet later still, Hilferding refers to
>Tugan's "excellent and reliable account of the history of crises in
>England." (p. 422, fn. 1)

Not a word regarding the theoretical problems.

>I sense that Tugan learned (correctly or not) from criticism received from
>Lenin in the 1890s but Tugan is far more the responsible party.  It is
>Luxemburg who confronts both but especially Tugan (but not Hilferding, whom
>she ignores for some reason I haven't fully figured out -- I do know she
>received a letter pointing out her omission).

Right. I think Luxemburg fights precisely to escape from the opresive
"abstract analysis of the social reproduction of capital" assumption in
which Tugan had introduced Marx's theory. My doubt is: Wasn't she accepting
without discussion Tugan's reformulation of Marx's theory?


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