[OPE-L] A startling quotation from Engels

From: David Laibman (dlaibman@SCIENCEANDSOCIETY.COM)
Date: Thu Aug 16 2007 - 17:29:01 EDT

Hi all,
    I can't resist throwing in a word or two!
    Paul C. quite rightly points out that the two quotes from Engels --
one from *Anti-Duhring* and one from *The Poverty of Philosophy* --
address different contexts: the first, a communist society in which all
labor is consciously social and allocated according to plan; the second,
a commodity economy.  The second quote is from work addressing
Proudhon's and Rodbertus's fanciful and utopian proposals, and
emphasizing the role of objective evolutionary necessity in social
transformation.  It opposes *abolition* of value and its replacement by
labor tokens.  The quote from *Anti-Duhring* refers to a higher stage,
in which the conditions for the emergence of fully conscious social
calculation have matured.  So the quotes are not inherently
contradictory, but they do reveal a tension.  Rejecting utopian schemes
to simply implement that which can only emerge gradually over time,
through purposeful action, the question still remains concerning *how*
commodity-money relations are to be transformed, and eventually
transcended; *how* to prevent the reproduction/reemergence of negative
social phenomena associated with spontaneous value formation; and so forth.
    It is always instructive to find tensions within the thinking of
Marx and Engels.  If we treat them not as prophets but as innovative
scientists, we won't be "startled" even to find contradictions,
contradictions that cannot be resolved without our making choices
concerning the formulations that we find most productive and fruitful.
If M&E were still alive, they would be ruthlessly going through their
own work, revising, correcting, developing.  We should do no less.
    In solidarity,

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