[OPE-L:4494] Re: Sraffa: a Marxist economist?

Gerald Lev (glevy@pratt.edu)
Sat, 22 Mar 1997 12:29:10 -0800 (PST)

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I sent a post to the "Post-Keynesian Thought" list asking for information
regarding this question. David Andrews sent the following response to me
which he has since given me permission to forward to this list.
In Solidarity, Jerry

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sat, 22 Mar 1997 11:26:29 +0000
From: "Andrews, David R" <XANDREWS@maple.lemoyne.edu>
To: Gerald Levy <glevy@pratt.edu>
Subject: Sraffa a Marxist? Almost certainly yes.


Which list has been discussing this? I'd be very interested as I've done
a lot of work on Sraffa. It's unlikely that he would have said he was a
Marxist to anyone outside of a very close circle even if he were. He
chose to keep a very low profile and didn't say much. I believe John
Straight or someone similar named him as a secret member of the CP in
Cambridge. I could probably find the reference if you were
interested. There is some textual evidence that he considered himself a
marxist in his communications with Gramsci. The fact that he served as a
main liason between Gramsci and the leadership of the Italian CP while G.
was in prison. In a letter to Keynes in the 1920's he said he had never
been a member of any political party.

Here is an excerpt from a paper I've written:

"Sraffa wrote in a 1924 letter to Gramsci:

My political opinions are unchanged -- or worse still, I have become
fixed in them; just as up till 1917, I was fixed in the pacifist
socialism of 1914-1915 -- which I was shaken out of by the discovery,
made after Caporetto and the Russian Revolution of November, that the
guns were precisely in the hands of the worker-soldiers (Gramsci, 1978,
p. 229).
There may be alternative readings of this, but the obvious reading is
that armed workers shook Sraffa out of his pacifism and into a more
revolutionary socialism. This was clearly Gramsci's conclusion. The
focus of the letter was the role of the Communist Party in opposition to
fascism. Sraffa disagreed with Gramsci over when communism would be
relevant: "I accept a great deal of what you write to me, but as
solutions to problems which will arise after the fall of fascism . . .
And I can only conclude that the Communist Party, today, can do nothing
or almost nothing positive" (Gramsci, 1978, p. 229). Sraffa said that he
thought this opinion was not incompatible "with being a Communist"
(Gramsci, 1978, p. 230).
From this, Gramsci drew the conclusions that Sraffa "has faith in
our party and considers it the only one capable of permanently resolving
the problems posed and the situation created by fascism" (Gramsci, 1978,
p. 231); and that

"[Sraffa] has remained isolated since the contacts he had with us in
Turin, he has never worked among workers, but he is certainly still a
Marxist. It will only be necessary to keep in contact once again in
order to resuscitate him and make him an active element of our party"
(Gramsci, 1978, p. 218)."
[end of excerpt]

S. and Gramsci had been quite close and G. was therefore in a position to

Hope this is helpful.

David Andrews