Re: [OPE-L] Anton Pannekoek's refutation of Henryk Grossman

From: Patrick Bond (pbond@MAIL.NGO.ZA)
Date: Mon Apr 23 2007 - 01:51:56 EDT

(I sent a query on this to Rick Kuhn, author of the superb new Grossman
biography. Here's his reply, forwarded with permission...)


At 23/04/2007 08:26 AM, you wrote:
> This line seemed fairly devastating; but your view?
> Marx speaks of over-accumulation precipitating a crisis, of there
> being too much accumulated surplus value which is not invested and
> which depresses profits. But Grossmann's collapse comes about through
> there being too little accumulated surplus value.

The passage is confused. Overaccumulation in Marx refers to the volume
of constant capital involved in production, not to uninvested capital.
Where does Marx write of "there being too much accumulated surplus value
which is not invested and which depresses profits", and what does this
mean? Pannekoek is mixing up accumulated capital and the surplus value
produced in a single circuit.

Grossman identifies increasing accumulation of capital (an increasing
mass of accumulated capital and a rising organic composition) as leading
to a declining rate of profit and hence capitalism's tendency to break down.

The passage you quote seems to be the conclusion of Pannekoek's
substantive argument, made several paragraphs above. Argument and
conclusion are separated by some paragraphs about crisis as opposed to
collapse, which serve to demonstrate that P does not grasp Marx's (and
Grossman's) method. Pannekoek's substantive argument is that as the rate
of profit falls, the rate of accumulation can slow down and everything
will be fine. But at the level of abstraction of the reproduction
schemes, that is not the case. If the surplus value used for
accumulation (ie additional investment beyond the level of investment in
the previous circuit) in one circuit of capital is less than the
increase in production at the end of the previous circuit, then the
difference between the two is surplus value that cannot be realised and
this results in the scheme to break down too.The point of Grossman's use
of a modified version of Bauer's reproduction scheme was precisely to
demonstrate that it results in breakdown /whatever /the rate of
accumulation specified in it.

Note also that parts of Pannekoek's article are lifted without
acknowledgement from Varga and Korsch, see top p. 266 of /Henryk
Grossman and the recovery of Marxism/.

Having written this, it occured to me that Mattick had replied to
Pannekoek and I looked at that. His point seems to be the same as mine:

'Let us assume (which is not the case), that the critic is right. But
even in then nothing is raised against the theory of breakdown. Here too
under the assumptions changed according to the wishes of the critic, the
continuation of accumulation becomes more and more difficult, and must
finally, just as much, entirely cease. No surplus of capital arises, but
there is still insufficient valorisation, although slower, which brings
accukulation to a halt, quite apart from the fact that the decline and
finally disappearance of the consumption of the capitalists makes
accumulation "pointless". In this case too, a crisis situation is
unavoidable, even without surplus capital, which can only be overcome
through the continuation of accumulation, [at a rate] which is beyond
the "ability" of the capitalists, which excludes the /proportional/
deployment of the reduced surplus value.' Paul Mattick 'Zur Marx'schen
Akkumulations- und Zusammenbruchstheorie' /Raetekorrespondenz/ 4 1934
reprinted in Korsch, Mattick, Pannekoek /Zusammenbruchstheorie des
Kapitalismus oder Revolutionaeres Subjekt/, Karkin Kremer Verlag, Berlin

Sorry about the inelegant translation which I did on the fly. Although
an English version is not listed in a detailed biblio of Mattick's work
I have just checked, perhaps the essay is in one of Mattick's books in
English, but those are at work and I am at home at the moment.

All the best


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