[OPE] question re published letters Engels

From: Jurriaan Bendien <adsl675281@telfort.nl>
Date: Sun May 10 2009 - 06:25:41 EDT

I cannot trace a bona fide source for this quotation from a letter Engels
wrote to Kautsky. Joseph Green who cites this quote
http://home.flash.net/~comvoice/25cLaborHour.html also cannot locate its
source. The letter by Engels to Kautsky of 20-9-1884 available in the MIA is
about a completely different subject.

Charles Bettelheim is not a reliable guide to Marx and Engels, and for
example, like Paresh Chattopadhyay, he retrospectively suddenly changed his
mind about the nature of the Russian revolution, so that what he had
previously described as a proletarian revolution, in one fell swoop became a
full-fledged "bourgeois" revolution, even although the Russian bourgeoisie
was expropriated and disempowered, and in not a few cases exterminated.
These Marxist priests are intellectual tyrants, and if reality does not fit
with their moralistic and spiritual schematism, "reality has to take a
hike". Personally, I don't want anything to do with that sort of ideological

But suppose that Engels really did say what he allegedly said in that
letter, then it would certainly be very close to what Marx believed (cf.
Cap. Vol. 1, pp. 171-173 Penguin edition) except that for Marx, there were
many gradations of evolution from "value fixed by custom" to "value fixed by
abstract labourtime" and "value fixed by conscious collective decision".
These subtleties are of course lost on the vulgar Marxists.

Apart from a few mostly rather trivial differences in formulations, in my
judgement the views by Marx and Engels on value were in substance exactly
the same - both of them however spoke of value and its forms rather loosely,
on quite a few occasions. Presumably Marx would never have entrusted Engels
with the challenge of editing his manuscripts, if he had not believed that
Engels - an intimate friend through four decades - was competent to do an
excellent job on them, in the intended spirit.

Substantively I think what Marx means is, that with the development of
commodity production, the value-content of the product of labour, namely the
quantity of abstract labour it represents, becomes an objectified,
autonomized economic force, which begins to organise and regulate the labour
(this is a bit different than jabbering about "the market").

In that case, it is not that the organisation of work has to conform to the
(personally held) values of human beings, but rather that the structuration
of work and its valuation has to conform to impersonal, objectified economic
value. Work becomes just work, a quantity of hours which indeed may not have
anything to do with the worker in a personal sense, and exists as an
abstract object, independently of the worker.

The point of the distinction between "value" and "exchange value" is, that
for Marx, "value regulates exchange value", even although it observably
seems to be exactly the other way around.

It seems to the "valueform theorists", for example, that "the market"
dictates the nature of labour activities, but in reality, it is the sum
total of labour activities of society as a whole, which dictates the
particular labour activities, via market-exchange as the intermediary or

If commodity exchange is abolished in favour of other allocation methods,
this objectified force of value disappears, and therefore exchange value can
no longer be regulated by value. But this does not mean:

(1) that human beings stop making value comparisons between products,
(2) that they no longer think that their products have (customary) values.
(3) that exchange value necessarily disappears completely.

It just means that the conscious value judgements people make "about the
allocation of economic resources of society as a whole" begin to control the
allocation of society's resources directly. Valuation does not become less
important in this, but becomes more important, albeit in a different form:
instead of a reified, objectified value exerted on subjects, a socially
aware valuation by human subjects themselves.

Friedrich von Hayek knew all this very well, but his criticism is simply,
that if you remove the "objectified force of value asserted through
markets", goods will be misallocated and human beings malformed, because
self-interested economic actors are incapable of allocating goods such that
their self-interest and the social interest are reconciled; the only
objective criterion of social utility is market demand, and the only just
rewards and penalties for economic action are delivered by the market.

The result of non-market allocation will be all kinds of uneconomic,
oppressive and bureaucratic relationships which can only be repaired, if you
"let the market pick the winners". You need that market discipline, because
if you don't have it, people will just pursue self-interest at the expense
of society.

But scientific economics (as distinct from ideological economics, whether
Marxist or Hayekian or American) is very aware that the misallocation of
resources can occur equally because of market allocation, or because of
non-market allocation methods, and indeed that what is regarded as a
misallocation, is itself partly an ethical judgement, linked to a
(class-determined) perception of economic purpose.

The conclusion of all that is, that reconciling self-interest and social
interest is simply not something that can be achieved by economic
engineering alone, at best economics is an "aid" to it.

All this is lost on the "valueform theorists" and the fascist-parasitic New
Marxist Exploiting Class, who want to "smash value" and destroy markets, in
order to impose their bureaucratic dictatorship over the proletariat. These
tyrants seem rather benign imbeciles, while they are just waffling about
"commodity", "value", "dialectical materialism" etc. but they become brutal
dictators when they acquire real power. Consequently, we must be very much
on guard against these Marxist enemies of human progress, and cut them down
before they get real power.


You say you'll change the constitution
Well, you know
We all want to change your head
You tell me it's the institution
Well, you know
You better free your mind instead
But if you go carrying pictures of chairman Mao
You ain't going to make it with anyone anyhow

- The Beatles, "Revolution"

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