[OPEL:6201] Kliman said what?

andrew kliman (Andrew_Kliman@CLASSIC.MSN.COM)
Fri, 20 Feb 98 04:43:19 UT

A reply to the PIAF:

From: owner-ope-l@galaxy.csuchico.edu on behalf of David Laibman
Sent: Thursday, February 19, 1998 12:29 PM
To: OPE list
Subject: Laibman said what?

One might have thought that, before he started in with his flame about "TSS
true believer[s]" and what I "apparently ha[ve]difficulty believing," David
Laibman might have bothered to read my post and thereby understand the context
of my remarks which Jurriaan excerpted. I realize David deleted my post, but
we do have archives. I also would have been happy to forward my post to him
had he simply asked.

Yet this isn't really surprising or new. The "20th-century Marxist" tradition
has always disparaged others' concern to understand what authors "really

In case others do care, and for the record, here is what I wrote, IN CONTEXT:

Jurriaan had written: "1. I don't think there is a 'fatal logical
contradiction' in Marx's ideas about productive labour,..."

I responded: "This raises the question of whether a 'non-fatal' logical
contradiction is present. The putative 'correctors' and 'completers' of his
work claim rather commonly that logical contradiction is present, but it isn't
fatal, as is shown by their 'correction' or 'completion,' which supposedly
rescues one or another result of Marx's (while jettisoning others). But this
begs the
question, since what criteria exist for deciding whether a particular logical
contradiction is fatal or not?

"For instance, in a paper at the EEA conference two years ago, David Laibman
claimed that the value theory of the '20th-century Marxists' 'corrected'
Marx's 'errors' but preserved and rigorously built upon the 'foundation
concepts' of his value theory. In my paper, I responded that he had offered
no criterion -- other than his personal intuition -- for deciding which
concepts of Marx's are foundational and which aren't.

"Laibman singled out the exploitation theory of profit, which he said is
retained by the '20th-century Marxists' (we now know that's incorrect; see my
'Simultaneous Valuation and the Exploitation Theory of Profit are
Incompatible,' a draft of which I posted to this list last month). Yet he
said nothing about the law of the tendential fall in the profit rate, which
the '20th-century Marxists' clearly do not replicate, but which Marx
considered to be in every respect the most important law of modern political

David writes: "Andrew apparently has difficulty believing that anyone who is
not a TSS true believer can affirm the validity and importance of the LTFRP.
Well I can, and do."

No doubt you do.

But let us not play games. When you refer to "the" LTFRP, David, do you mean
Marx's *own* law? In the paper to which I referred, you call Marx's s/(c+v)
"incorrect." I'd be interested in knowing how Marx's own law is valid even
though it measures its object in an invalid manner.

Or do you mean by "the" law someone else's theory of how the profit rate can
fall, some "20th-century Marxist's," say?

David also writes: "Incidentally, Marx did at one point say that the LTFRP is
'the most important law of political economy.' He also, at another well known
point, said that the final cause of crises is the limitation of working class
consuming power, compared to the tendency of capitalism to develop the
productive forces in an unlimited manner (paraphrase). He also made the
decision not to include the material on the LTFRP in Volume I of CAPITAL, even
though it existed in ms. long before 1867."

Good. Three facts in search of an explanation.

David seems to want immediately to latch onto ONE PARTICULAR INTERPRETATION of
these facts: "So I must agree with those who accept the fact of significant
ambiguity and incompleteness in Marx's texts ...."


Before jumping to the conclusion that an author is to blame for "ambiguity and
incompleteness," to the exclusion of other possibilities (e.g., one doesn't
understand sufficiently), isn't it necessary to attempt to check whether other
interpretations ARE possible?

Doesn't a reader owe an author that much?

David concludes: "... which only means that present-day Marxists must make up
our own minds about the order of importance of Marx's various inquiries, and
the way we should put them together." Obviously, David wants the right to
pick and choose. Well, no one questions that right. What I question, and
what saddens me deeply, is when the resulting hodgepodge, truncation, etc. is
then attributed to Marx.

Moreover, I protest against David's implicit denial of MY right NOT to pick
and choose. Similarly, the false allegations of Marx's "internal
inconsistency" deny me that right, because they falsely allege that Marx's
*own* value theory cannot be true. They therefore try to coerce me, and
coerce all of us, into picking and choosing, amalgamating, revising,
truncating, "completing," "correcting," etc.

Now, if the allegations were true, that would be different. We would indeed
not have the right to refrain from picking and choosing. So the whole
question boils down to whether those who lodge these allegations can prove

In the present case, then, if David wants to pick and choose, fine by me. But
before he compels the rest of us to do the same, I humbly request that he
*prove* that the three facts in question force us to concur with his own
conclusions, that, in other words, no alternative interpretation is possible.

Andrew Kliman