[OPE-L:7151] Re: Frederick Engels at Highgate Cemetary -- March l7, l883

From: gerald_a_levy (gerald_a_levy@msn.com)
Date: Sat May 11 2002 - 06:21:57 EDT

Re Paul B's [7l50]:

> 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 surplus 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. <

Hi Paul.
Well, the point wasn't that Lenin was unaware of the LTGRPD.  
The point  was that he (like others during the same time  period, 
including  Kautsky,  Hilferding, Bauer, Luxemburg, Bukharin, 
Preobrazhensky, et al) didn't "make much of it" and, by inference,
that it wasn't _essential_ to Lenin's perspective and life's work
[i.e. his revolutionary praxis.]

Let us recall that David Y  suggested that the LTGRPD was (most 
probably)  the "law of motion" that Engels was referring to at Marx's 
grave.  This  interpretation seems to me to rest on the perspective 
that the LTGRPD is  _the_  cause of capitalist crisis. Lenin never -- did 
he? -- suggested that.    Instead, he -- like other theoreticians of the 
period (most notably, Kautsky)  tended to advance multi-causal theories 
of crisis in which if the LTGRPD was identified as a cause of crisis it 
was just one of many "contradictions of capitalism" and causes of crisis.

> 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. <

I agree that underconsumptionism is a much-abused word. Indeed, 
I have  read many exchanges (and especially heard some verbal 
exchanges) where  if someone said "demand" or "markets", then they 
were accused (often with  great flourish) of being underconsumptionists.   
And I certainly agree that  what has been taken by some to be 
underconsumptionist in  Lenin (or   Kautsky, etc.)  is not Keynesian.   
Yet, it does seem to me that there is a  mix of underconsumption (and 
disproportionality) perspectives in much of Lenin's writings on crisis
(certainly more so than in David Y's writings, for instance.)   Indeed, I 
think  that one can find _far more_    references in Lenin to 
underconsumption and disproportionality as causal mechanisms for 
crisis  than the LTGRPD.

This, of course, is a separate question from the _larger_ questions:

a) is it best to conceive of capitalist crisis being caused by a number of
inter-related forces (a multi-causal theory) or should the LTGRPD be seen
as the "primary" cause of crisis?

b) regardless of what one's answer to a) is,  how does one articulate the
relationship between these (and other, e.g.  labor power shortage) 
explanations of capitalist crisis? 

c) does the weight of empirical, especially historical, evidence seem to 
support one explanation against others?

d) a side question (that has been emphasized by Makoto):  if one has the 
perspective that the LTGRPD is the cause of  crisis, how does one explain 
the _periodicity_ of crisis from that perspective?

In solidarity, Jerry

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" ?   

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