[OPE-L:498] Re: abstract labor

Michael A. Lebowitz (mlebowit@sfu.ca)
Fri, 17 Nov 1995 02:46:41 -0800

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In message Fri, 10 Nov 1995 11:32:19 -0800, akliman@acl.nyit.edu writes:

> Mike Lebowitz says that I (Andrew) was too harsh in my criticism of Engels
>for inserting a passage into Ch.1 of _Capital_ which said that, in order
>bto be a commodity, the product must be transferred to another by means
> of exchange.
> It is not clear why Mike objects to my saying that this was
> unconscionable, but I surmise from his post that Mike thinks it was okay
> because it accords with (what Mike thinks is) Marx's own view. Even if
> that is the case--which I deny--I would still reiterate my complaint.
> My original post did not explain the basis of my complaint, so let me
> explain why it does not *depend* on whether Engels' insertion concurs
> with Marx's view.
> The problem is that Engels presumed to speak for Marx. True, he noted
> that he as editor had inserted this comment, but he said he was doing so
> because some readers had misunderstood Marx's view, thinking that any
>Puse-value produced for others [such as foods produced on the feudal
> lord's plot] were commodities. Engels thus made a crucial theoretical
> statement, not as his own view, or as his *interpretation* of Marx, but
> as a *clarification* of Marx. But he provides absolutely no evidence
> that this was Marx's view. He simply allows himself to "represent" a
> dead guy who can no longer speak for himself. (In contrast, Mike points
> to a passage in Marx and says that it corresponds to the view that to be
> a commodity, possession must be transferred by exchange. Now I think it
> doesn't correspond, but Mike's procedure enables the reader to decide
> for him/herself and is clearly an *interpretation*. Engels did not do
> this.)
> That Engels presumed to speak for Marx is a real problem, because of the
> clout he had throughout Social Democracy at that time. He did not guard
> against his view being accepted via "appeal to authority." People even
> used to speak of "Marx and Engels" as if they were one person. This
> still goes on, and of course we've all seen people illegitimately use
> statements by Engels as statements by Marx.
> Now, as an isolated example, this would not be so bad. But Engels
> presumed to speak for Marx again and again. Terrell Carver has shown
> that Engels _Anti-Duhring_, in the form we know it today, differs from
> the version that Marx saw, so that is is wrong to impute the views
> therein expressed to Marx. Moreover, Carver gives real reason to doubt
> that the mss. was "approved" by Marx. (I don't remember the article,
> but I will provide the cite if anyone asks--I have to dig it out). And
> Raya Dunayevskaya, in _Rosa Luxemburg, Women's Liberation, and Marx's
> Philosophy of Revolution_, shows that there are significant differences
> between the views and methodology of Marx's _Ethnological Notebooks_ and
> Engels' _Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State_. Engels
> had claimed (no doubt innocently) that his work was a "bequest" from
> Marx--i.e., he gave the impression that he was working up for
> publication what Marx had done in the _EN_. She broadens the argument
> to say that all of post-Marx Marxism has been rooted in a truncated view
> of Marx's work, and that other post-Marx Marxists, even the best, also
> presumed they knew Marx when they did not. E.g., David Ryazonov, the
> Bolshevik archivist, characterized the _EN_ as "inexcusable
> pedantry"--without having actually READ the Notebooks!
> As a result, we have all come to think we know *Marx's* historical
> materialism when actually what we know is not the whole, and what we
> know is influenced by the official seal of authenticity given to Engels'
> particular interpretation.

It so happens that I basically agree with what Andrew says above
and would add to this the problem in Engel's argument that the logical order
and the historical order are the same (which is contrary to Marx in the
Intro to the Grundrisse). In *this* case, though, Engels did clearly indicate
that he was inserting this as editor (and, as I noted, the view he
introduced appears quite similar to Marx in the next chapter). In contrast,
while Engels did stress that he was the author of Vol. III, Ch. 4, he
doesn't point out that in Vol II he commented that he thought that Marx made
too much of this question of turnover of capital; ie., he wrote a chapter on
something he disagreed with Marx about!

> ****
> Mike brings up the old issue of whether workers produce value or whether
> they only produce products, so that the products acquire value when
> they're sold, and because they're sold. I really don't want to get into
> this issue, because in my experience, debating the issue doesn't go
> anywhere. Mike provides a popular quote. I've got my own quotes.
> (This does not imply that I agree with his interpretation of his
> quote--I think production of value is not the same as "realization" of
> value through sale.) Given that fact, and given that we know there's no
> way to resolve the question--there are two opposed theories involved--it
> seems to be that the only fruitful question to discuss across the two
> views is: "Can we understand apparently contradictory quotes from Marx
> in a consistent, internally coherent manner, that makes sense out of his
> discussion of the question *as a whole*?" This is a question in the
> history of ideas, which is not everyone's cup of tea--but I for one would
> be very interested in discussing it.
Well, it may be that we would get to the point where Andrew's question
was all that we could consider. However, I think I should protest at this
premature closure of the discussion. I cited a quote from Marx (a popular
qnote, indeed) and rather than reconcile his argument with this particular
popular quote, Andrew responds and says I've got my quotes, too. (I have a
list.) Come on, Andrew, was that quote "Marx's view"? If so, who should we
be harder on--- Engels, who offers a similar point in his inserted comment,
or those who substitute their "interpretations" for "Marx's view"?
Michael A. Lebowitz
Economics Department, Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, B.C., Canada V5A 1S6
Office: (604) 291-4669; Office fax: (604) 291-5944
Home: (604) 255-0382
Lasqueti Island: (604) 333-8810
e-mail: mlebowit@sfu.ca