Re: [OPE] question re published letters Engels

From: Paul Cockshott <>
Date: Mon May 11 2009 - 05:26:49 EDT

I can not speak for Jurrian here, who is evidently very able to express
his own views, but I must say that my own opinion of Bettleheim went
down over time. I was impressed with him as an undergraduate, but as the
70s progressed and successive volumes of his work on the USSR came out
and seemed to tell me little that I did not know from other sources,
and as he showed the same obssession with the very early years as one
gets with Trotskyist historians or with Carr, I became disenchanted. I
had been hoping for a good historical treatment of the 40s to the 60s
and found very little of substance.
Allin and I made some brief criticisms of him in our critique of

B.R.Bapuji wrote:
> While referring to Charles Bettelheim and Paresh Chattopadhyay,
> Jurrien used certain expressions which should not have found place in
> the discussions of the list. While recognizing the fact that he has
> the right to differ with any one including Marx, Jurrian should not
> have used such expressions as 'Marxists Priests', 'Intellectual
> tyrants' and 'ideological rubbish'.
> If Jurrien wants to dismiss the analyses of Bettelheim or
> Chattopadhyay he should demonstrate, not simpy assert, how they went
> wrong in their analyses.
> Without doing so, if Jurridian resorts to such unwarranted comments,
> the said expressions will only apply to him.
> We would like to register our protest against such comments.
> Ranganayakamma,
> Bapuji.
> B.R.Bapuji, Professor ,
> Centre for Applied Linguistics & Translation Studies [CALTS] ,
> University of Hyderabad, Central University post office,
> HYDERABAD-500 046. (Phone: 040-23133655,23133650 or 23010161).
> / Residence address: /
> 76, Lake-side Colony, Near Durgam Cheruvu, [End of Road opp:Madapur
> Police Station] , Jubilee Hills post, Hyderabad-500033.
> (Phone: 040-23117302)
> --- On *Sun, 5/10/09, Jurriaan Bendien /<>/* wrote:
> From: Jurriaan Bendien <>
> Subject: [OPE] question re published letters Engels
> To: "Outline on Political Economy mailing list"
> <>
> Date: Sunday, May 10, 2009, 11:25 AM
> I cannot trace a bona fide source for this quotation from a letter Engels wrote
> to Kautsky. Joseph Green who cites this quote
> 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
> rubbish.
> 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 nexus.
> 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.
> Jurriaan
> 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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