[OPE] Friedrich Engels on the value germ in his criticism of prof. Dühring

From: Jurriaan Bendien <adsl675281@telfort.nl>
Date: Mon May 11 2009 - 16:20:35 EDT

John Milios appears to be correct, Engels did write that bit to Kautsky. The
English translation cited is adequate. Engels states his view clearly in
Part 3 chapter 4 of his 1876-1878 criticism of Prof. Dühring, written with
Marx's approval (though it's not proved whether Marx read all of it, or
whether he wrote bits of it; most probably I think Engels wrote the whole

The concept of value is the most general and therefore the most
comprehensive expression of the economic conditions of commodity production.
Consequently, this concept contains the germ, not only of money, but also of
all the more developed forms of the production and exchange of commodities.
The fact that value is the expression of the social labour contained in the
privately produced products itself creates the possibility of a difference
arising between this social labour and the private labour contained in these
same products. If therefore a private producer continues to produce in the
old way, while the social mode of production develops this difference will
become palpably evident to him. The same result follows when the aggregate
of private producers of a particular class of goods produces a quantity of
them which exceeds the requirements of society. The fact that the value of a
commodity is expressed only in terms of another commodity, and can only be
realised in exchange for it, admits of the possibility that the exchange may
never take place altogether, or at least may not realise the correct value.
Finally, when the specific commodity labour-power appears on the market, its
value is determined, like that of any other commodity, by the labour-time
socially necessary for its production. The value form of products therefore
already contains in embryo the whole capitalist form of production, the
antagonism between capitalists and wage-workers, the industrial reserve
army, crises.

His objection to Prof. Duhring is then the following:

To seek to abolish the capitalist form of production by establishing "true
value" {D. K. G. 78} is therefore tantamount to attempting to abolish
Catholicism by establishing the "true" Pope, or to set up a society in which
at last the producers control their product, by consistently carrying into
life an economic category which is the most comprehensive expression of the
enslavement of the producers by their own product. Once the
commodity-producing society has further developed the value form, which is
inherent in commodities as such, to the money form, various germs still
hidden in value break through to the light of day. The first and most
essential effect is the generalisation of the commodity form.

"So defined", value must by definition disappear if commodity production is
abolished, and it is argued that economic planning will be according to
direct social utility without market mediation:

>From the moment when society enters into possession of the means of
production and uses them in direct association for production, the labour of
each individual, however varied its specifically useful character may be,
becomes at the start and directly social labour. (....) It will not express
the simple fact that the hundred square yards of cloth have required for
their production, say, a thousand hours of labour in the oblique and
meaningless way, stating that they have the value of a thousand hours of
labour. It is true that even then it will still be necessary for society to
know how much labour each article of consumption requires for its
production. It will have to arrange its plan of production in accordance
with its means of production, which include, in particular, its
labour-powers. The useful effects of the various articles of consumption,
compared with one another and with the quantities of labour required for
their production, will in the end determine the plan. People will be able to
manage everything very simply, without the intervention of much-vaunted

>From Part 3 chapter 2:

With the seizing of the means of production by society production of
commodities is done away with, and, simultaneously, the mastery of the
product over the producer. (...) The extraneous objective forces that have
hitherto governed history pass under the control of man himself. Only from
that time will man himself, with full consciousness, make his own history -
only from that time will the social causes set in movement by him have, in
the main and in a constantly growing measure, the results intended by him.
It is the humanity's leap from the kingdom of necessity to the kingdom of
freedom. To accomplish this act of universal emancipation is the historical
mission of the modern proletariat.


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