[OPE-L:4648] Re: The Tactical Status of Andrew's Debating Logic

andrew klima (Andrew_Kliman@msn.com)
Wed, 2 Apr 1997 22:25:05 -0800 (PST)

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A VERY quick response to Gil's ope-l 4647. It really deserves more care and
time than I can give it at present, but I certainly will have no time to deal
with it as a whole until after the EEA.

But I do want to clarify one thing. Gil writes

"As I stated at the time, the reason I withdrew from it was my exasperation
over a) your suggestion that I was attempting somehow to show "that
Bortkiewicz 'proved', as he claimed to have done, that Marx's account of the
value/production price transformation involved a self-contradiction" (my
argument had nothing whatsoever to do with defending this so-called 'proof")
and b) your suggestion that in
pursuing the issues I raised I was somehow "hindering this effort [to reach
a society of freely associated individuals]" through "blather about
nonexistent 'errors' and 'incompleteness.' These were, I felt and still
believe, complete red herrings that substituted guilt by association for

There were two separate discussions in which we were engaged. The questions I
have reiterated did not arise in the thread to which Gil refers, but in the
other one.

The comments to which Gil refers were made in my ope-l 3965. Let me quote:

"I am proud to say that I do indeed have a higher standard of what constitutes

a proof of logical inconsistency than do the professional Marx-bashers. Do
you really think, Gil, that Bortkiewicz 'proved,' as he claimed to have done,
that Marx's account of the value/production price transformation involved a
self-contradiction? Is it up to the standard of, say, Debreu's proof of the
existence of a competitive general equilibrium?"

Here I did not state that Gil's intention was to try to show that Bortkiewicz
proved anything. Nor is it what I meant. Not in the least. It was, rather,
a response to Gil's comment in ope-l 3963 that "to my (and many others')
reading there really are errors in Marx's analysis in Capital, at least by
standards of meaning and logic employed by most people, an assessment which is
independent of whether one adopts a "simultaneist" or "successivist" view of
Marx's value theory." My question to Gil was an attempt to probe a bit more
deeply into what his "standards of meaning and logic" are, by taking one of
the most famous and important alleged proofs of inconsistency as an example.

Also in ope-l 3965, I wrote:

"For Gil, 'the substantive bottom [is], whether or not there are errors in the

details of Marx's argument in _Capital_, we now know there is a logically
coherent sense in which capitalist profit and interest can be said to
represent the exploitation (understood as systemic coercion based on class
inequalities) of workers.'

"For me, the substantive bottom line is that Marx's Humanist philosophy of
revolution-in-permanence is crucial if we are ever to reach a society of
freely associated individuals, and that blather about nonexistent 'errors' and

'incompleteness' serves to hinder this effort, because Marx's own Marxism gets

discredited and/or distorted and because people who could be doing important
work spend their time patching up nonexistent holes."

Here I did not state that Gil was hindering anything or engaging in blather
about anything. Nor did I mean to imply this. Not in the least. What I was
trying to do was to "lay my cards on the table" the way that Gil himself had
just done. He had stated his "bottom line," the raison d'etre of his project.
I was trying to do the same. The point was to try to explain why I take the
whole internal inconsistency issue more seriously, or at least accord it
greater centrality, than he does. And it all makes perfect sense: if one's
aim is to prove that nonlabor incomes arise from exploitation, the internal
inconsistency issue is not all that important. But that's not my aim, not at
all, and in light of my own aim, the creation of a space for Marx's own
Marxism to exist, the internal inconsistency issue is indeed central. That
which is internally inconsistent has no right to exist as it is.

I am sorry for the misunderstanding.

I hope to return to the rest of Gil's post sometime next week.

Andrew Kliman