[OPE-L:1610] Re: Lapides' chapter 11

Gerald Levy (glevy@pratt.edu)
Thu, 28 Oct 1999 20:41:01 -0400 (EDT)

Before responding directly to Kenneth's comments that appeared as
[OPE-L:1606], I want to emphasize that his comments therein did not
confront what I view as the main thrust of my remarks in
[OPE-L:1593] and [OPE-L:1598]. Namely:

1) that the evidence that he has put forward does not support his
   strongly-stated conclusions. See points #2 and #4 in [1593] and all of

2) that the chosen method of presenting Marx's perspectives on this topic
   in chronological order does not address the basic *theoretical* and
   *logical* questions associated with the "plans" debate. See point #5
   in [1593].

Moreover -- and I will make this point explicitly for the first time now
-- if one chooses to let Marx speak in his own words in the chronological
order of his writings believing that this evidence is sufficient "as is"
to come to a "conclusive" understanding about what has been "shown", then
Marx should have been allowed to speak for himself without interpretive
comments between those quotes. In other words, KL was presenting the
material as if KM was speaking; whereas, in reality it was both KM and
KL who were speaking.

Now, I turn to respond to some of Kenneth's comments and questions:
> Am I understanding your position correctly if I phrase it as the
> proposition that Marx's theory is not sufficient--particularly in the
> area of wage labor--for working people to accomplish the revolutionary
> transition to socialism? It seems to me that how we feel about this
> question will affect our interpretation of the missing book debate.

No, it is my perspective that the theory of capitalism presented in
_Capital_ is incomplete for its stated "aim". E.g. I think that the
subjects of the state, foreign trade, and world market and crises are
important subjects that are not developed in _Capital_. They were not
developed there, from my perspective, because the logic that Marx was
using to present his theory required that they be addressed in subsequent
volumes. Thus, the topic of, e.g. the state-form, must be addressed at a
level of abstraction different from _Capital_. Thus, from my perspective,
the "plans debate" fundamentally concerns the logic employed in the
ordering and layering of categories required to comprehend the nature of
capitalism in thought.
> I'm not sure why you find it troubling if someone professes to believe
> that Marx's writings, particularly his economics, are the basis for the
> modern working class and communist movements. Is it because, as you
> suggest, that "it can not legitimately be deduced that what Marx left
> us is either 'sufficient' or 'not sufficient' from a *theoretical*
> perspective"? Are you, in other words, an agnostic in relation to
> Marx's doctrine? It appears as though you are.

No, I am not "agnostic" to Marx. Rather, I was suggesting that what is
viewed as "sufficient" or "not sufficient" from the standpoint of
revolutionary politics is not the same thing as what is "sufficient" or
"not sufficient" from the standpoint of *theory*. Thus, an analysis of
the state-form is *logically* required irrespective of whether Marx's
other writings on the state are "sufficient" from a political perspective.
This does not mean that I view politics and theory as completely separate
subjects. What it does mean is that I don't view politics and theory
as identical. One significant difference, for example, between his popular
writings on politics and _Capital_ is the importance of *abstraction* to
the later (as, for example, Marx indicates in the "Preface to the French
Edition" of Volume 1).
> I first became acquainted with this list through its online archives,
> which features a portrait of Marx on its homepage. I was led to believe
> that the OPE list is for Marxist economists.

That is mostly the case, although some others (including philosophers,
sociologists, and political scientists) are subscribers.

> Do you consider yourself a Marxist,


> and
> if so what does that identification mean to you,

It means that I share a common "world view" with other Marxists, rather
than any particular interpretation of Marx. From my perspective, part of
what being a Marxist means is that we exercise critique towards all,
*including Marx*. And, it is my belief, that Marx would demand no less of

> and further how do you
> reconcile that with your doubts that his theory is an adequate basis
> for the working-class movement? (N.B. I say "basis," not a compendium
> of answers to all questions.)

I believe that the working-class movement will have to come up with its
own answers and can not rely on the writings of any one person to serve
as a "basis", i.e. a guide to action.

I believe that *we*, i.e. those Marxists who are critically examining
political economy, have the responsibility of examining not only what Marx
wrote but what other Marxists write and what non-Marxists write in a
critical vein. What is at issue here, perhaps, is the *extent* to which we
must take a critical stance towards Marx's writings.

> Moreover if you want to
> separate politics from Marx's doctrine then I don't see either how you can
> call yourself a Marxist.

I don't separate politics from Marx's doctrine. Neither do I confuse
theory which is presented at a very abstract level of analysis with
concrete, practical political questions.

> My own approach has been to locate in all of Marx's writings those
> formulations that are relevant to the question of wage theory in order to
> allow the reader to absorb this material without having to go through all
> the years of research that I took bringing it together.

It would have been better, imo, to let the reader decide for herself or
himself what to conclude from a reading of those writings by Marx.

In solidarity, Jerry

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