[OPE-L:3001] RE: Developing Marx

andrew kliman (Andrew_Kliman@msn.com)
Tue, 10 Sep 1996 21:41:29 -0700 (PDT)

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A reply to Jerry's ope-l 2997.

In response to my stated desire to have Marx's Marxism live and be developed,
Jerry had written earlier that "I have already on several occasions expressed
my dissent from this perspective on a method of inquiry and investigation
appropriate for
critical political economy ...."

I characterized this as a lack of "sympathy" with the effort to develop Marx's
Marxism. Jerry has now objected to this characterization. I'm happy to
rephrase my point as: "...you already know that you dissent from this
perspective on a method of inquiry and investigation appropriate for critical
political economy." How this differs from a lack of sympathy is unclear to
me, however. I should also note that, in my view, the development of Marx's
Marxism and the development of critical political economy are 2 different

Jerry also writes: "What I said -- repeatedly -- is that we as part of the
process of investigation are required to critically evaluate all existing
thought -- including that of Marx. I also said that Marx himself *never*
suggested that he had "completed" his work and that he *never* asked others to
uncritically accept "Marx's Marxism" (more later)."

Andrew: Nor do I ask anyone uncritically to accept Marx's Marxism, or do so
myself. I agree with the requirement of critically evaluating all existing
thought. Jerry's response seems to presume that the task of rediscovering and
developing Marx's Marxism is incompatible with a critical attitude towards it.
I not only think they are compatible, but that it is impossible to
comprehend, much less develop, anything unless one has a critical attitude
towards it. But as I am using "critical," it doesn't mean external or
disinterested, or necessarily imply rejection of some aspect of Marx's

I also asked Jerry why he put "scare-quotes" around the term "Marx's Marxism."
He has replied that "To use quotation marks around a phrase that someone else
used can not reasonably be interpreted as the use of "scare quotes." Since you
repeatedly quoted the expressions of others, should we interpret your use of
quotes as "scare-quotes"?"

I don't think this response tells the whole story. It seems clear to me that
Jerry is skeptical of the category of Marx's Marxism, as evidenced by the
following from his latest post:

"Marx himself *never* suggested that he had "completed" his work and that he
*never* asked others to uncritically accept "Marx's Marxism" .... As you have
repeatedly emphasized, there are different interpretations of Marx. What,
then, does the expression "*Marx's* Marxism" mean especially since Marx
explicitly said that he was not a Marxist?"

I'll return to this in a moment. But let me first address another point. I
had asked what was the use of answering Jerry's questions, about how I think
Marx's Marxism needs to be developed and how the TSS interpretation of his
value theory relates to that, because Jerry already knows he's not "in
sympathy" with this effort. Jerry now responds that it was legitimate for him
to ask these questions. Sure. I wasn't accusing you of prying, Jerry. I
just don't see that any purpose would be served by my detailing the finer
points of an effort from which you already know you dissent, and from which I
know that most members of the list dissent.

That doesn't mean I'm unwilling to engage in dialogue, only that I don't want
to go the whole nine yards when the very first step is going to be challenged.
So let's start with the first step, the threshold question: does Marx's
Marxism exist? This is something I WOULD like to get discussion around.
Let me start with a few points.

First, I think it is misleading to say that Marx never suggested that he had
"completed" his work. In a well known letter (the "artistic whole" one, if I
remember) Marx said that he wouldn't publish anything unless he had the whole
complete, in front of him. Thus Capital I is complete, in his view.
Moreover, Vol. II is anticipated in summary form in Vol. I, as are the key
theoretical conclusions of Vol. III. We also know that he wrote the work more
or less in reverse order. Hence Capital as published by Marx is theoretically
complete, which is not to deny that more fleshing out of fine points is
possible, or that Marx failed to complete all the other work he wanted to do
(e.g., a publication on what is rational in the Hegelian dialectic, his
ethnological studies). But the claim concerning the theoretical completeness
of Capital does deny, for instance, that theoretical results of others that
*contradict* or *fail to replicate* those of Vol. I can be justified as being
compatible with Marx's work on the ground that it is "incomplete."

Second, to my knowledge, Marx never made an unconditional statement that he
was not a Marxist. Rather, he said, *if* this or that is Marxism, *then* I'm
not a Marxist. The implication is the opposite of what Jerry suggests. That
is, Marx had a clear conception of *his* Marxism and what was incompatible
with it (e.g., neutrality with respect to the US Civil War on the basis of
opposition to both wage- and chattel-slavery). Moreover, he opposed the
Gotha Program on the ground that it constituted a retrogression of the
Eisenachers, a supposedly Marxist party, from theoretical and philosophical
principles. That opposition is inexplicable if Marx lacked a clear concept of
his Marxism. The same is true for his battles against other socialist
tendencies throughout his life, including in the International. I suspect
that if Marx were alive today, he'd be saying a lot if "if this is Marxism
..." in response to a lot of things accepted as one or another Marxism.

Third, as Jerry notes, I have repeatedly emphasized that there are different
interpretations of Marx. But that doesn't mean "anything goes." I have also
repeatedly emphasized that the relative adequacy of different interpretations
can and must be tested, and tested against the empirical (textual and
historical) evidence. Thus, I have repeatedly emphasized that justifications
of one's differences from Marx on the ground that one his "correcting" his
work are illegitimate if the allegations of his internal inconsistency are
false (as the TSS interpretation has shown in connection with all allegations
of internal inconsistency in the quantitative dimension of Marx's value
theory). And I have also repeatedly emphasized that, unless allegations of
internal inconsistency are *proven*, different interpretations need to be
evaluated, as interpretations, according to how well they are able to make
sense of the whole. This standard has mostly been ignored, and IMHO the
couple of criticisms of it that have been raised confuse interpretation with
theory construction. I'd WOULD like to have more discussion of it.

Of course, nothing in the above implies that it is illegitimate to dissent
from Marx, only that it is illegitimate to cover up such dissent by reference
to "incompleteness" or "inconsistency" that doesn't actually exist.

Fourth, the most important question is: what does "Marx's Marxism" mean? For
there to be a Marx's Marxism instead of a series of differences and "ruptures"
(Althusser) throughout his life, there must be a whole that unifies all the
moments. As Kant noted in repsonse to criticisms of his Critique of Pure
Reason as being inconsistent, the apparent inconsistencies vanish once one has
the "idea of the whole." What then, if anything, is the "idea of the whole"
that allows us to speak of Marx's Marxism? I am convinced by Dunayevskaya's
extended argument in Rosa Luxemburg, Women's Liberation, and Marx's Philosophy
of Revolution that the whole of Marx's Marxism and every moment of its
development is a development of his philosophy of "revolution in permanence."
The argument is a complex one, which I certainly can't reproduce here, if at
all, but this is another thing I would like to have more discussion of with
listmembers who have studied this work.

Andrew Kliman