Re: [OPE-L] A startling quotation from Engels.

From: Paul Cockshott (wpc@DCS.GLA.AC.UK)
Date: Thu Aug 09 2007 - 11:46:06 EDT

Hard to fully asses this without a copy of Rodbertus.
Paul Cockshott

-----Original Message-----
From: OPE-L on behalf of Alejandro Agafonow
Sent: Thu 8/9/2007 12:15 PM
Subject: [OPE-L] A startling quotation from Engels.
Dear Friends:
I would like your advice concerning a startling -for a non-Marxist socialist like me- quotation from Frederick Engels, The Poverty of Philosophy, Preface to the First German Edition. []
He seems to reject what has come to be the standard account of Marxism, including Engels himself.

Alejandro Agafonow

«[.] continual deviations of the prices of commodities from their values are the necessary condition in and through which the value of the commodities as such can come into existence. Only through the fluctuations of competition, and consequently of commodity prices, does the law of value of commodity production assert itself and the determination of the value of the commodity by the socially necessary labour time become a reality. [.] To desire, in a society of producers who exchange their commodities, to establish the determination of value by labour time, by forbidding competition to establish this determination of value through pressure on prices in the only way it can be established, is therefore merely to prove that, at least in this sphere, one has adopted the usual utopian disdain of economic laws. [.] competition, by bringing into operation the law of value of commodity production in a society of producers who exchange their commodities,
 precisely thereby brings about the only organisation and arrangement of social production which is possible in the circumstances. Only through the undervaluation or overvaluation of products is it forcibly brought home to the individual commodity producers what society requires or does not require and in what amounts. But it is precisely this sole regulator that the utopia advocated by Rodbertus among others wishes to abolish. And if we then ask what guarantee we have that necessary quantity and not more of each product will be produced, that we shall not go hungry in regard to corn and meat while we are choked in beet sugar and drowned in potato spirit, that we shall not lack trousers to cover our nakedness while trouser buttons flood us by the million -Rodbertus triumphantly shows us his splendid calculation, according to which the correct certificate has been handed out for every superfluous pound of sugar, for every unsold barrel of spirit, for
 every unusable trouser button, a calculation which "works out" exactly, and according to which "all claims will be satisfied and the liquidation correctly brought about".»

«If he had investigated by what means and how labour creates value and therefore also determines and measures it, he would have arrived at socially necessary labour, necessary for the individual product, both in relation to other products of the same kind and also in relation to society's total demand. He would thereby have been confronted with the question as to how the adjustment of the production of separate commodity producers to the total social demand takes place, and his whole utopia would thereby have been made impossible. This time he preferred in fact to "make an abstraction", namely of precisely that which mattered.»

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