[OPE-L:7150] Re: Re: Frederick Engels at Highgate Cemetary -- March l7, l883

From: paul bullock (paulbullock@ebms-ltd.co.uk)
Date: Fri May 10 2002 - 18:06:54 EDT


With regard to your view of Lenin, a expressed below, I quote from his 'Essay on Karl marx' CW Vol21 p67
"..A rise in the productivity of labour implies a more rapid growth of constant capital as compared with variable capital. Inasmuch as surplus value is a function of variable capital alone, it is obvious that the rate of profit (the ratio of surplkus value to the whole capital, not its variable part alone) tends to fall.'

Now in Lenin the rise in the organic composition of capital is central to many of his polemics, so this Point IV of yours below about  'underconsumption' etc really doesn't stand up. EG 'On the so called market question', CW Vol I,  about which I refered earlier,  and 'A note on the question of market theory' CW Vol4, also the Dev of Cap in Russia. CW 3

There always seems to me to be  a peculiar view  about 'underconsumption' ....if there is a shortage of profits in relation to capital so far accumulated, then the motive for accumulation is blunted.This is in fact a lack of capitalistic employment of resources and so 'underconsumption' in relation to the existing mass of commodities including labour power awaiting sale. It is rather the explanation, and the content of 'underconsumptionism'  that Engels and Marx were able to provide, an entirely different perspective which gives the word a new/ utterly different sense than the dreary lack of demand merchants. So when in his letters Engels refers to lack of demand he means  something fundamentally different to our millionaire Keynes.


paul B.
  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: gerald_a_levy 
  To: ope-l@galaxy.csuchico.edu 
  Sent: Tuesday, May 07, 2002 12:42 AM
  Subject: [OPE-L:7123] Re: Frederick Engels at Highgate Cemetary -- March l7, l883

  Re David Y's [7l2l] :

  > I would like to think that he could have been referring to the law of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall - 'the most important law of modern political economy and the most essential one for understanding the most complicated relationships. It is the most important law from an historical standpoint....' (Grundrisse p654 1953 German edition) <

  Hi David. Thanks, as always,  for your comments.

  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.) 

  > More important in the speech of Engels was the following:
  For Marx was before all else a revolutionist. His real mission in life was to contribute, in one way or another, to the overthrow of capitalist society and of the state institutions which it had brought into being, to contribute to  the liberation of the modern proletariat, which he was the first to make conscious of its own position and its  needs, conscious of the conditions of its emancipation. Fighting was his element. And he fought with a passion...

  The clause "in one way or another" is interesting -- and, I 
  think, quite accurate.  It reflects how Marx at various points 
  in his life attempted to contribute in _various_ ways to the
  revolutionary movement.

  > His law of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall has some bearing on this point - much of the discussion on Marx today seems to have none! <

  Excuse me if you think you've already answered some of the 
  following questions in-print previously, but I think they are 
  important enough to ask anyway -- and may spark an interesting 

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

  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?

  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"?

  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" ?   

  In solidarity, Jerry

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