[OPE-L:3977] 102 years later

Gerald Lev (glevy@pratt.edu)
Tue, 14 Jan 1997 08:44:27 -0800 (PST)

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In 1894, Engels published Marx's drafts for the third volume of _Capital_.

Although Marx had said in 1866 (2/13 letter to Engels) that his manuscript
was "finished", he added: "the manuscript, gigantic in its present form,
could not be made ready for publication by anyone but me, not even by
you." Yet, following Marx's death in 1883, Engels inherited the
responsibility of editing and publishing what became V2 and V3 (and the
1851-63 drafts were to await partial publication as _TSV_ by Kautsky still

Engels was to discover for himself how "finished" Marx's drafts were. Some
indications of the "finished" character of V3 can be seen in Ch. 4 ("The
Effect of Turnover on the Rate of Profit") written entirely by Engels and
Ch. 52 on "Classes" (1 1/2 pages long).

This was a far cry from Marx's original 6-book-plan:

I. Capital
II. Landed-Property
III. Wage-Labour
IV. The State
V. International Trade
VI. World Market and Crises

While there is disagreement concerning the status of Books 2 and 3
(Rosdolsky argues that they were later included in _Capital_; Mike L.
argues that they were not), what became of Books 4-6?

Quite simply, they were not written.

What became of the book on "Competition" that Marx evidently planned to
write when he wrote the drafts for V3?

It was not written.

Yet, the importance of the subject to Marx can be seen in his comments at
the beginning of Ch. 6, Section 2 ("Revaluation and Devaluation of Capital:
Release and Tying-Up of Capital"), in Ch. 18 ("The Turnover of Commercial
Capital. Prices", see p. 426 Penguin ed.), and in Ch. 14 ("Counteracting
Factors", see Ibid, p. 342).

Marx's inability to complete his original plan can, of course, be
understood when one remembers that he was, after all, only one person who
was active in revolutionary movements and who suffered -- horribly -- from
debilitating diseases near the end of his life. Neither can one blame
Engels. He did the best he could with what he inherited (and, in some
cases, perhaps ill-understood).

Yet, what can we say in defense of the Marxists who followed Marx who
wrote on political economy?

Initially, there were many debates among German, Austrian, and Russian
Social Democrats related to developing Marx. There were, for instance,
debates on theories of crises, imperialism, inflation, the agrarian
question, etc.. For the most part, those debates took place in the late
XIX century or the early XX century.

What has been debated and developed since the 1940's?

In the late 1960's and 1970's, there was renewed attention to the subject
of imperialism and the internationalization of capital. There were also
important debates on the state (although the connection of those debate
to "basic theory" remained rather vague).

What have Marxist economists been discussing since the mid-1970's?


a) the transformation [again]

b) the Okishio Theorem [over and over again]

c) empirical work

There is, of course, nothing wrong with any of these tasks. Indeed, one
could argue convincingly that they *deserved* much attention. Yet, the
first two of these tasks (transformation, Okishio) were essentially
defensive tasks imposed upon Marxists by critics of Marx. The third task
-- important in its own right -- was not a task of developing theory _per

Putting aside the question for now of landed property and wage-labour
(Books 2-3), what is the justification now for not concentrating on
developing Marxist theory re a) the state; b) international trade; c)
world market and crisis; and, d) competition?

What is the justification for treating V3 as if it was the "last word" in
"basic theory"? Surely, *by Marx's own standards*, it was incomplete and
fragmented (the same could be said of V2).

As we approach the XXI century, how much longer will we wait before we
systematically examine these topics? What is the political
and theoretical justification for *not* examining these subjects -- 102
years later?

In solidarity, Jerry