[OPE-L:4506] In defence of Marx's Marxism

Alan Freema (a.freeman@greenwich.ac.uk)
Mon, 24 Mar 1997 03:06:48 -0800 (PST)

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Jerry writes [4502]
"I don't really approve of Alan's suggestion to Ajit in
[4491] that he "let fly" against Fred because he is going to
be away for a while."

He suggests we consider an extended passage from Fred,
also while he is away. I respect his motives but I would like
to discuss, not Fred's general views but a specific
theoretical position he advances, namely, I repeat [2193]

the value of constant capital and the value of labor-power
are not equal to the values of the means of production and
the means of subsistence, respectively...[they] are then
determined as the value represented by these given money
quantities of constant capital and variable capital.

A year or so ago we established some definite theoretical
propositions which let us advance in discussion, namely:

(a) We broadly agreed that there is a single-system
interpretation which is what Fred spells out above, with
two variants, temporal and simultaneous.

(b) The proposition above is common to both and leads to
the conclusion that Marx's transformation of values into
prices is consistent.

(c) the temporal variant also leads to a conclusion the
simultaneous version rejects, that the refutation of Marx's
theory of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall
generally known as the Okishio theorem, is false.

An interesting encounter is now taking place between this
suppressed body of thought and the 'New Interpretation'.
This encounter is at last placing this suppressed body of
thought in the public domain from which both Marxist and
neoclassical orthodoxy have systematically excluded it.

I am concerned that instead of this we are discussing some
personalised construct called 'K-M' Marxism. I think this is
a reversion to the methods of neoclassical economics, which
always defines theories not by their content but by their
authorship; which invariably substitutes persons for ideas.

Perhaps my English sarcasm is too easily misunderstood but I
light-heartedly suggested that Ajit 'let fly' at Fred's
statement in order to focus on a theoretical proposition
instead of a person. This is the proposition that the value
of constant and variable capital are given by the value
expressed in the money that pays for them. This is what we
all hold in common, and which Duncan in his recent review
and paper I think accepts has some validity.

I think we risk losing sight of this enormously important
change in the landscape of Marxist theory, and failing to
draw out its consequences. Its significance for me is that
the main argument for the exclusion of Marx by neoclassical
economics for eighty years is refuted.

It means that the inconsistency proof against Marx does not
hold. Whether or not one agrees with the proposition, if it
is accepted as a valid interpretation of Marx, then the
inconsistency proof cannot be true. This means that Marx's
Marxism exists.

This can be established, moreover, without any need to
determine whether Fred, K-M, Alan, Sraffa, or Ajit, are
*correct*. All we need to agree is this statement is *valid
as a reading of Marx*. That is what makes it possible for
this basic simple proposition to be held in common between
different Marxisms that will debate for many years to come.
I am concerned we do not lose sight of this very important
opportunity in our eagerness to launch into these many

We can inflict a decisive blow against orthodoxy and in
defence of Marx. The conclusion above means that the best
brains of economics who, as Steedman says, examined the
logic in the refutation of Marx for eighty years and failed
to find the flaw in it, got it wrong.

The searchlight can now swing round. Instead of interminably
discussing the weaknesses in Marx, we can and should take a
second, very searching look, at the thinking which led to
this wrong conclusion. We can and should resume, in the
spirit of 'going beyond Marx', Marx's own project of the
Critique of Political Economy and apply this to *modern*
political economy, which has excluded Marx for eighty years
and been caught with its pants down. We should ask, where it
got the concepts and arguments from, that led it to this
wrong conclusion.

This, not the personal works of Fred Moseley, is what I
think Ajit's position calls upon us to discuss. For, if Ajit
is correct and Marx was a surplus approach economist, then I
would very much like to know whether he considers it flows
from this that Marx was indeed inconsistent. I suspect,
though I don't know, that he doesn't think this flows and I
would like to hear his arguments. Or, if he does think Marx
was inconsistent then I would like to have a debate with him
on this question.

I would like Ajit to tell us (and I would like us to listen)
why he thinks Marx is a surplus approach economist, what is
wrong with the above theoretical proposition, whether this
theoretical proposition is completely excluded or merely
debatable, and so on.

That is, let us lower the heat by discussing *theory*
instead of *people*, and by continuing to insist on what we
hold in *common* as well as what *divides* us.