[OPE-L:1498] Re: Re: Lapides and Marx's wage theory

michael a. lebowitz (mlebowit@sfu.ca)
Tue, 19 Oct 1999 01:02:33 -0700

At 05:05 PM 10/18/1999, you wrote:
>Mike, I have just forwarded to you the prior exchange between myself and
>Ajit. I take it you have Lapides' on Ajit. I cannot help but notice the
>following in your commentary on Lapides:

>Mike, I don't know the personal issues here but just reading thru what you
>write it seems to me you are over-doing whatever case you have.

        Thank you very much for sending me the exchange for my file. And, I do
appreciate your concern about the severity of my comments. I'm sure you
must recognise from the many exchanges I've been in over the years on PEN-L
and OPE-L that accusations of the type I've made in this case are rather
unusual for me.
        As it happens, I don't know Lapides personally. The sequence of events is
that his 1992 S&S article in passing criticised the position I had advanced
in my book. I responded, setting out the sequence of Marx's references on
assuming the standard of necessity constant, etc. (much as in my recent
message to the list) and posing the questions I quoted. He chose not to
respond, and I thought the matter was closed. After the list discussion on
his book, I sought it out in the university library and, upon reading it,
came to the conclusion indicated about his scholarly integrity. I apologise
to you and all other list-members if I disturbed you with the nature of
those comments; however, I *did* want to communicate to you my conclusion,
as disturbing as I found it myself.

> Is it not
>uncommon to miss certain passages (if Lapides did) from a writer of how
>many CW volumes?

        On specific passages, my criticism stressed his failure to incorporate
contrary evidence from Marx (a) which was pointed out to him earlier in my
S&S article and (b) was on the very pages of the CW he otherwise cited.

> And I'm not exactly sure that Lapides has to answer your
>S&S article? Of course, as things turn out he may reply with some much
>more pointed remarks, I'm just a little disturbed by the tone of what you
>are starting out here.

        I'm not especially interested in engaging in a debate with Lapides. What
I've had to say on the subject of the missing book is out there in articles
and book, and I regard my comment on Lapides as basically for the record---
particularly for anyone who had followed the discussion.

>Actually the substance of the dispute between the two of you can be quite
>interesting, at least for me: the paper I just posted is largely
>supportive of Luxemburg (on another issue) who, I think, would be close to
>your position on wages. On the other hand, I just noticed Lenin in his
>Collected Works, Vol. 41, a lecture plan which includes
> "4.'Normal' conditions for the consumption of the commodity
>'labor-power' are determined by the worker's [sic] struggle against the
>capitalist" (p.232).
>which I take to be a good part of Lapides' position.

        Actually, my position is *precisely* the one you cite for Lenin. As I
stated in my book:

"_Rather, the level of necessary needs is itself revealed to be a product,
a result--- the result of class struggle._ That is the historical and
social element in the value of labour-power. Indeed, Volume I of Capital
introduces the level of necessary needs as an unexplained historical
presupposition, as 'pre-history'." (Beyond Capital, p.57)
        In fact, the focus on class struggle (and a critique of determinism and
economism) is the central theme of my book, and a critical concept
introduced is "the degree of separation among workers". And, that is
precisely why criticism of the assumption of a fixed standard of necessity
is significant-- as long as that assumption is maintained, productivity
gains in production of necessaries must mean a fall in the value of
labour-power and thus production of relative surplus value. Remove that
assumption, however, and that increased productivity means, ceteris
paribus, "that workers will be able to secure _additional_ use-values-- a
larger bundle which incorporates the same portion of the total social
labour.... Accordingly, it is _not_ the gain in social productivity as such
which reduces necessary labour and the relative position of workers. Only
the increased degree of separation among workers brought about by the
introduction of machinery ensures that productivity will rise relative to
the real wage..." (94-5)
        If Lapides' position also involves the emphasis upon class struggle, then
that is an irony of the situation.

        in solidarity,
Michael A. Lebowitz
Economics Department
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, B.C., Canada V5A 1S6
Office: Phone (604) 291-4669
        Fax (604) 291-5944
Home: Phone (604) 872-0494
        Fax (604) 872-0485
Lasqueti Island: (250) 333-8810

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