[OPE-L:7137] Re: Re: Frederick Engels at Highgate Cemetary -- March l7, l883

From: dashyaf@easynet.co.uk
Date: Thu May 09 2002 - 11:22:58 EDT

At 19:42 06/05/02 -0400, you wrote:
>As you say,  Engels _could have_ been referring to the LTGRPD.
>Yet,  as we know,  the drafts for what became Volume 3 were
>not published by Engels until after his death.  Nor do we have
>reason to believe that Engels read the drafts prior to Marx's
>death -- do we?   Nor do we have reason to believe that Engels,
>prior to Marx's death, read the drafts for what were later published
>as the _Grundrisse_  -- do we?   Nor, of course, did Marx refer to
>the LTGRPD as  the "law of motion" of bourgeois society.  However,
>I will grant you that, _if_ you interpret "this work" to mean all of
>_Capital_, then it is a reasonable possibility.  It would, however,
>make the remainder of  what became Volume 3  somewhat of an
>anti-climax   (and Marx had a dramatic flair and the 'climax' of his
>'stories'  was generally reserved for the end.)
>There have been a number of interpretations of what the "economic
>law of motion" is.   E.g. one author claimed that the General Law
>of Capitalist Accumulation was for Marx "the Law of Motion of
>Capitalist Society".  What is most troubling about this interpretation
>is that the author stated it as fact rather than identifying it as
>speculative.  The least the author could have done was to suggest
>this as one possible interpretation  -- and, even better,  offer some
>arguments for _why_ the GLCA should be understood as _the_
>law of motion --  rather than merely putting forward such a bold,
>unsubstantiated assertion as if it were self-evident.  In the same
>source, that author advised _others_ on "How to Teach Capital".
>That author's name was Raya Dunayevskaya  ("Outline of Marx's
>Capital",  Detroit, News and Letters Committee,   l979,  pp. 53-54;
>originally published with the pseudonym of Freddie Forrest.)
I find your reasoning extremely misleading as it attempts to separate the 
more concrete expression of the law of capital accumulation from the law...

Many years ago I tried to develop the argument in my 'Marxist theory of 
crisis capital and the state'. There I argued:

'The general law of capitalist accumulation from the standpoint of capital 
(and the capitalist) represents itself  'on the surface of the phenomenon' 
as the tendency of the rate of profit to fall. This is not a mechanical or 
algebraic relation but the expression of the contradictory nature of the 
accumulation process from the standpoint of capital.'

This answers Chris Arthurs' point I think

The point is further developed in the next few paragraphs of the article - 
unfortunately it is not online or recently publlished...

The further concretisation of the law will I agree go much further than 
Capital did but the method of moving from the abstract to the concrete is 
what has to be put into practice...the earlier abstractions are contained 
in the later concrete expressions of the law of motion of capitalist 
society etc..

In this context it is really not serious to argue that Engels was unaware 
of the importance of the law of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall 
in Marx's analysis of capitalism. After all they were in constant contact 
and discussion with each other as Marx developed his position. In addition 
the method of enquiry and that of presentation are entirely different - 
even the opposite I remember Marx saying somewhere. So Engels and Marx 
would have been aware of much of the material for Capital before it was 
presented in the form that we are aware of.

>I.  What exactly *is* the bearing of the LTGRPD to the mission of
>overthrowing  capitalism and the liberation of the working class?

If we understand Capital as a critique of political economy and, therefore 
also,   an ideological critique of utopian and opportunist conceptions of 
socialism - eg Proudhon and the Ricardian socialists then the significance 
of the law is clearer...

There is a tendency of the rate of profit to fall as productivity increases 
and workers are more exploited - not less... This expresses the limits of 
capitalist production which will continually drive the system into 
crisis... While no crisis is the final crisis of capitalism, the outcome of 
any severe crisis will be determined by the political balance of class 
forces, and the ideological struggle is a crucial component in this 
process. Dealing with opportunist positions is part of that struggle.

>II.  In addition to being a part of a critique of political economy, is it
>part of an implicit critique of *reformism*?    Yet, doesn't such a
>critique require for its fuller development a  comprehension of the
>state-form  (something that Marx  abstracted from in  _Capital_)?
>And, can't  a critique of reformism be developed without grasping
>the significance of the LTGRPD?

It requires a concrete analysis of many factors including the role of 
imperialism and its ability to corrupt labour organisations etc. My 
articles on the labour aristocracy and imperialism are an attempt  to 
further develop our understanding of the concrete forms of the phenomena. I 
find it incredible how Marxists can discuss capitalism yet ignore 
imperialism and its political impact on the working class movement in the 
present-day Marxist discussion.

>III.  Put in the context of comprehending the  dynamics of  the current
>crisis,   don't we have to move _beyond_ a comprehension of the
>LTGRPD  as  presented  in Volume 3?  Indeed wasn't Marx well aware
>of these limitations?   E.g.  in  Vol 3, Ch. l4, Section 2 Marx indicates --
>  in a short paragraph -- that a  "reduction in wages below their value"
>is "one of the most important factors in stemming the tendency for
>the rate of profit to fall"  yet "has nothing to do with the general
>analysis of capital,  but has its place in an account of competition,
>which is not dealt with in this work".   So how would you  employ this
>factor -- *along with others not  discussed at length (or at all) in
>  _Capital_  by Marx* -- to comprehend  the  _current crisis_ and  the
>tasks of  overthrowing  capitalism and  participating in the
>self-emancipation of the proletariat which was,  as Engels (and you)
>reminded us, Marx's "real mission in life"?

By concrete analysis of the'phenomenon' - in no way opposed to the further 
development of the law...

>IV.  A follow-up question: as you are aware,  Lenin  (and the rest of
>the Bolshevik theoreticians) didn't make much of the LTGRPD.
>Indeed, in general,  Lenin -- along with other Bolsheviks -- advanced
>disproportionality and/or underconsumptionist theories of crisis
>(see Richard B. Day's  _The 'Crisis' and the 'Crash'_.)  Yet, he -- along
>with others -- made a revolution anyway.    Wouldn't this  seem to
>suggest that a grasp of the LTGRPD is *not essential*  from the
>standpoint of Lenin's and Marx's  "real mission in life" ?

Yes I am, although I think Day's view is over simplified. But Lenin's 
theorising was related directly to the political struggle - in his writings 
against the Narodniks he attempted to undercut their illusions by showing 
the degree and consequences of the development of capitalism in Russia. In 
Imperialism... he develops his positions in a different way to deal with 
Kausky among others. Lenin and Rosa Luxemburg, for example, were foremost 
revolutionaries because they made the choice to take the side of the 
oppressed masses. They used their Marxism for immediate political purposes 
as arguments against those who,  through their opportunist standpoints and 
influence in the working class movement, were attempting to lead the 
movement into disaster. In Rosa Luxemburg's case she paid for that with her 
life. That I reject her theoretical argument  on crisis theory in the 
Accumulation of Capital throws little light on the outcome of the struggle 
in that period. Theories about imperialism and the labour aristocracy 
would,  hence the significance of Lenin's writings in that period. The 
development of theory is a concrete question. The most advanced theorists 
such as Plekhanov and Kautsky eventually sided with the bourgeoisie and 
their remarkable theoretical contributions to Marxist theory didn't help in 
this regard. That is why the real development of Marxist theory can never 
be separate from political struggle and therefore a political movement - it 
becomes a class issue. So much we could have learnt from Marx's Thesis on 

All this is an attempt to briefly summarise my position but I would like to 
think that those who were seriously interested in these questions would at 
least look at my writings over the last 20 years or so in Fight Racism! 
Fight Imperialism! - our website has some of the material at

http://www.rcgfrfi.easynet.co.uk or www.revolutionarycommunist.com

In solidarity

David Yaffe

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