Monday, April 24, 2023

Marx and Engels Collected Works

Several editions have been published of the works of Marx and Engels. One can also look in the Marxists Internet Archive. Many individual works have been published in various translations in various places. Marx's manuscripts ended up in the Institute of Social History (ISH), in Amsterdam.

A first attempt was started in 1927, the first Marx-Engels Gesamtausgabe (MEGA), in which the works were to be published in their original languages. This project was never completed. David Riazanov, the first editor, was shot in 1938, after the usual show trial. The Institute of Marxism-Leninism of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) sponsored a Russian edition, published from 1928 through 1947. A second Russian edition was begun in 1955. It contains 47 books, with some volumes published across more than one book.

Activity by the Institute of Marxism-Leninism of the Socialist Unity Party (SUP), that is, the communist party of the German Democratic Republic, in Berlin, led to the publication of the Marx-Engels Werke (MEW). The MEW contains 44 books, and its publication began in 1956.

Progress Publishers, in Moscow, issued English translations of at least some of the work of Marx and Engels. Some, but not all, translations were based on the MEW. For example, Volume 1 of Capital in this series is the English edition of 1887, translated by Samuel Moore and Edward Aveling and edited by Engels.

The Marx-Engels Collected Works (MECW) consists of 50 volumes, in an english translation. It was published from 1975 to 2004. It is published by Lawrence & Wishart in London and International Publishers Company in New York. The MECW was the result of collaboration among the communist parties of Great Britain and the United States, the Institute of Marxism-Leninism of the CPSU and of Progress Publishers. The Institute of Marxism-Leninism of the SUP assisted. Lawrence & Wishart made an online version available in 2010. See also here.

The second Marx-Engels Gesamtausgabe (MEGA) is planned to contain 114 volumes. The works are in their original languages, show variations among various editions, and include commentary. The second MEGA edition was begun in 1975 by the SUP, in Berlin, and the Institute of Marxism-Leninism of the CPSU, in Moscow. The Internationale Marx-Engels-Stiftung, in Amsterdam took over sponsorship after 1989.

Tables 1, 2, and 3 list works in the MECW by Marx, by Marx and Engels, and by Engels, respectively. I do not list newspaper articles, letters, and speeches that were not published separately. Some of the unlisted newspaper articles, such as coverage of a trial of communists in Cologne, are as lengthy as some of the listed works. And Marx's work on the First International are important to a history of socialism. Furthermore, there are manuscripts by Marx, such as an essay on calculus, which are of interest to a consideration of the full range of his work and are not included in the MECW. Nevertheless, these tables contain the most widely discussed works by Marx and Engels, even though some were not published until well into the twentieth century.

Table 1: Selected Works by Marx
Difference between the Democritean and Epicurean philosophy of nature (doctoral dissertation)1840-1841190219461
Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Law1843192719703
On the Jewish Question1843184319263
Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 (The Paris Manuscripts)1844193219593
Theses on Feuerbach1845188819385
The Poverty of Philosophy1847184719006
Wage-Labour and Capital1849184918919
The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte18521852189711
Grundrisse der Kritik der Politischen Okonomie (Outlines of the Critique of Political Economy)18581939-1941197328-29
A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy: Part One18591859190429
Herr Vogt1860186017
Theories of Surplus Value, Part 11861-18631905-191030, 31, 34
Theories of Surplus Value, Part 21861-18631905-191031
Theories of Surplus Value, Part 31861-18631905-191032, 33
Economic Manuscript of 1861-18631861-186330-34
Value, Price and Profit18651898189820
Capital, V. 11863-18671867188735
Capital, V. 21865-18811885190736
Capital, V. 31864-18661894190937
The Civil War in France18711871187122
Critique of the Gotha Programme18751891189124
Table 2: Selected Works by Marx and Engels
The Holy Family, or Critique of Critical Criticism: Against Bruno Bauer and Company1844184519564
The German Ideology1846193219645
The Communist Manifesto1848184818506
Table 2: Selected Works by Engels
Outlines of a Critique of Political Economy1843184319593
The Condition of the Working Class in England1845184518874
The Peasant War in Germany185018501870?, 1875?10
Revolution and Counterrevolution in Germany18521852185211
Herr Duhring's Revolution in Science (Anti-Duhring)18781878190725
Socialism: Utopian and Scientific18801880189124
Dialectics of Nature188219251985?25
The Origin of the Family18841884190226
Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy18861886190326

These editions of the collected works produced some surprises. The 1844 manuscripts inspired an anti-Stalinist literature, based on a young Marx. Under this reading, Marx was at first a humanist, concerned with overcoming alienation. On the other hand, Althusser agreed that a break existed in Marx's thought, but preferred the later Marx. The Grundrisse seems like a challenge to these views. I had not previously known that Theories of Surplus Value was part of a larger manuscript. The second MEGA, as Heinrich (2021) notes, reveals surprising changes in the opening chapters of Capital, destabilizing established readings. Interpretations in the twentieth century are entangled with political struggles among socialists, communists, and others.

Thursday, April 20, 2023

'The' Labor Theory of Value

1.0 Introduction

This post argues that there is more than one labor theory of value.

2.0 The Labor Theory of Property

John Locke argued that what one mixes one labor with, one has a right to own. One could read Marx's Capital as a reductio ad absurdum of this labor theory of property. I disagree with this reading.

3.0 Labor Commanded as a Theory of Welfare

Given a unit of money - one dollar or one british pound - the labor commanded by that money is the amount of person-years of labor you can hire with that money. This quantity of the labor is the reciprocal of the wage. The following quotation from Adam Smith, I assert, is NOT a statement of a theory of value:

"The real price of everything, what everything really costs to the man who wants to acquire it, is the toil and trouble of acquiring it. What everything is really worth to the man who has acquired it, and who wants to dispose of it or exchange it for something else, is the toil and trouble which it can save to himself, and which it can impose upon other people. What is bought with money or with goods is purchased by labour as much as what we acquire by the toil of our own body. That money or those goods indeed save us this toil. They contain the value of a certain quantity of labour which we exchange for what is supposed at the time to contain the value of an equal quantity. Labour was the first price, the original purchase-money that was paid for all things. It was not by gold or by silver, but by labour, that all the wealth of the world was originally purchased; and its value, to those who possess it, and who want to exchange it for some new productions, is precisely equal to the quantity of labour which it can enable them to purchase or command." -- Wealth of Nations, Book 1, Chapter 5: Of the real and nominal price of commodities, or their price in labour, and their price in money.

Smith is interested in a measure of wealth. The money price varies too much for this purpose. I do not recall why Smith rejects the price of corn, that is, the price for the most common food of the people. I think he finds it also quite variable.

4.0 Labor Embodied as Natural Prices

Adam Smith, however, does has a labor theory of value. He states:

"In that early and rude state of society which precedes both the accumulation of stock and the appropriation of land, the proportion between the quantities of labour necessary for acquiring different objects seems to be the only circumstance which can afford any rule for exchanging them for one another. If among a nation of hunters, for example, it usually costs twice the labour to kill a beaver which it does to kill a deer, one beaver should naturally exchange for or be worth two deer. It is natural that what is usually the produce of two days or two hours labour, should be worth double of what is usually the produce of one day's or one hour's labour." -- Wealth of Nations, Book 1, Chapter 6: Of the component parts of the price of commodities.

This labor theory of value only holds for an imaginary pre-historic society with no private property. Under capitalism, the labor commanded by a commodity exceeds the labor embodied in it, the latter being what is most commonly meant by the labor value of a commodity. One can read Smith as asserting that the profits on stock and the rent of land result from the exploitation of workers. Profits and rent are the result of value added by workers not paid out in wages.

5.0 The Ricardian Socialists

John Francis Bray, John Gray, Charles Hall, Thomas Hodgskin, 'Piercy Ravenstone', William Thompson, and others are known as the Ricardian socialists. Thompson (2002) argues that they drew more on Smith than Ricardo. Generally, they read Smith as explaining the returns to capital and land as a matter of exploitation and took the labor theory of value as a normative theory about what prices should be.

Accordingly, they advocated reforms to get rid of parasitical returns to capital and land. Some suggested the founding of banks that would issue labor notes. I think this idea was advocated not only so that the worker would get the full value of their product, but had something to do with abolishing the instability seen in economic crashes and business cycles. Some actually founded banks and volutary communities to implement these ideas. Nearby here, Ithaca has HOURs as labor notes. I have seen stores that say they accept them, but have never seen one.

Karl Marx rejected the claim that workers had a right to the whole product of their labor. This was a point that Marx raised against Ferdinand Lasalle, as well as against the Ricardian socialists.

6.0 Ricardo and a Simple Labor Theory of Value

Ricardo presented a simple labor theory of value as a descriptive theory of prices in a capitalist economy. He takes the distinction between market prices and 'natural' prices from Smith, ultimately, I guess, from William Petty. Market prices tend to and bob around natural prices, also known as prices of production. Suppose the whole distribution over time of the labor inputs used to manufacture two commodities is the same. Then the ratio of their prices of production will, indeed, be the ratio of their labor values.

But Ricardo immediately considers, in later parts of the first chapter of his Principles what happens when, say, the ratio of fixed capital and circulating capital varies among the methods with which commodities are produced. And he realizes that a simple labor theory of value cannot be exactly true. This is why Ricardo is sometimes described as having a 93 percent labor theory of value. He does not think land presents a fatal complication. One can calculate embodied labor values on marginal land that pays no rent. He searches for an 'invariable standard' which he ultimately decides is best approximated by a commodity of average capital intensity.

James Mill, Jane Marcet, John Ramsay McCulloch, Harriet Martineau, Robert Torrens, and J. S. Mill followed, popularized, and built on Ricardo Some have claimed that such followers of Ricardo had a confused understanding of Ricardo's theory of value.

7.0 Marx, a Simple Labor Theory of Value in Volume 1, and the Volume 3 Invariants

Marx was appreciative of Ricardo. But Marx says that Ricardo does not examine the value-form. Ricardo, according to Marx, does not analyze the preconditions of capitalism, for example, how it is that workers are available to be hired for money, how their labor-power is available on the market as a commodity.

Not only did Marx criticize Ricardo for ignoring the distinction between labor-power and labor. The labor value of labor is a meaningless phrase. Marx also argued that Ricardo was not able to abstract interest on money, profits on capital, and rent on land into the generalization of surplus value. Ricardo has a distinction between fixed and circulating capital, but cannot see Marx's distinction between constant and variable capital. So Ricardo has no notion of the organic composition of capital. Ricardo's theory of value and distribution, like Marx's does not need the imposition of Say's law. According to King (1983) precursors for all these notions can be found in the works of the Ricardian socialists.

Marx, in volume 1 of Capital, considers how labor must be distributed among industries to sustain production in a commodity-producing economy. He focuses on how surplus value is generated when labor-power is a commodity bought and sold on a labor market. For these purposes, he adopts a simple labor theory of value. Market prices tend towards ratios in the proportion of embodied labor values.

In volume 3, Marx depicts value as generated as in volume 1, but redistributed among industries. Prices of production are such that the same rate of profits is obtained in all industries. He asserts the rate of profits is the same in the value system and in the system of prices of production. Furthermore, total profits is supposedly equal to total surplus value, and total values are equal to total prices. These invariants hold in the production of a commodity of average organic composition of capital, in some sense.

In later chapters in Volume 3, Marx proceeds to an even lower level of abstraction. He considers different types of rent and financial capital.

8.0 Conclusion

These theories present opportunities for confusion and muddle, for talking past one another. Does Smith have a labor theory of value? Ricardo? Marx? Is a labor theory of value supposed to be a measure of wealth, a descriptive theory for prices in a capitalist economy, or a theory of economic planning in a post-capitalist society? And then, of course, some are ignorant and of bad faith. And those who have their own, but different, interpretations of the transformation problem, can get into honest argument.

  • J. E. King. 1983. Utopian or scientific? A reconsideration of the Ricardian Socialists. History of Political Economy 15(3): 345-373.
  • Anton Menger. 1899. The Right to the Whole Produce of Labour: The Origin and Development of the Theory of Labour's Claim to the Whole Product of Industry.
  • Noel W. Thompson. 2002. The People's Science: The Popular Political Economy of Exploitation and Crisis 1816-34. Cambridge University Press.

Monday, April 17, 2023

What Is Leninism?

Table 1: Selected Events
1853 - 1856Crimean war.
1861Emanicpation of the serfs under Alexander II.
1877 - 1878Russo-Turkisk war.
1881Alexander II assassinated by a Narodnik conspiracy.
1883Plekhanov founds Emancipation of Labor Group, struggles against Narodniks.
1898Russian Social Democratic Labor Party founded, first congress.
1900 - 1901First publications of Iskra, an all-Russian underground newspaper for the RSDLP.
1902Lenin publishes What is to be done?
1903Second party congress of RSDLP, splits into Bolsheviks and Mensheviks.
1904 - 1905Russo-Japanese War
1905Russian revolution (failed).
1906First election to the Duma.
1914Start of Worl War I, with assassination on 28 June of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.
5 to 8 September 1915Zimmerwald conference.
February (old style) 1917Revolution, Nicholas adbicates. Provisional government formed.
April (old style) 1917Lenin and companions arrive through Germany in sealed car; publishes April Theses.
June? 1917First congress of soviets
August (old style) 1917Failed Kornilov coup attempt.
October (old style) 1917Bolshevik revolution.
October (old style) 1917Second congress of soviets.
1917 - 1923Russian civil war
March 1918Brest-Litovsk Treaty.
11 November 1918Armistice day.
5 to 12 January 1919Spartacist Revolution.
2 to 6 March 1919Founding of Communist International (Third International) at congress in Moscow.
21 March to 1 August 1919Hungarian Soviet Repulbic.
28 June 1919Signing of Treaty of Versailles.
27 February 1921Founding of International Union of Socialist Parties (Second and One-Half International).
March 1921Kronstadt Rebellion.
1921New Economic Policy replaces War Communism.
May 1922Lenin's first stroke
December 1922Formation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR)
21 January 1924Lenin dies.

1.0 Introduction

A prior question is when did Leninism become a recognized tendency? Presumably, it was not immediately with the 1902 publication of What Is To Be Done? But certainly by the year of his death, as can be seen in Stalin's lectures, delivered at Sverdlov University in April 1924. I think 'Leninism' or 'Marxism-Leninism' became a name in the early 1920s.

2.0 A Definition and Remarks on Russia's Backwardness

Stalin defines Leninism:

"Leninism is Marxism of the era of imperialism and of the proletarian revolution. To be more exact, Leninism is the theory and tactics of the proletarian revolution in general, the theory and tactics of the dictatorship of the proletariat in particular."

Several scholars in the second international had provided analyses of imperialism, trusts, and finance capital. Lenin was not even the only Bolshevik to write extensively about imperialism; Bukharin also had a book.

The theory of imperialism provided a justifaction for why the first socialist revolution need not occur in the most advanced, industrialized capitalist country. Capitalism became a global system, including colonies. A revolution outside the metropole could be a strike at the weakest link.

Others knew that, according to classical Marxism, the proletariat revolution was supposed to first happen in advanced capitalist economies. Here is a bit from Gramsci, before he was the leader of the Italian Communist Party:

"That is what happens under normal conditions. When events are repeated with a certain regularity. When history develops through stages which, though ever more complex and richer in significance and value, are nevertheless similar. But in Russia the war galvanized the people's will. As a result of the sufferings accumulated over three years, their will became as one almost overnight. Famine was imminent, and hunger, death from hunger, could claim anyone, could crush tens of millions of men at one stroke. Mechanically at first, then actively and consciously after the first revolution, the people's will became as one.

Socialist propaganda put the Russian people in contact with the experience of other proletariats. Socialist propaganda could bring the history of the proletariat dramatically to life in a moment: its struggles against capitalism, the lengthy series of efforts required to emancipate it completely from the chains of servility that made it so abject and to allow it to forge a new consciouness and become a testimony to a world yet to come. It was socialist propaganda that forged the will of the Russian people. Why should they wait for the history of England to be repeated in Russia, for the bourgeoise to arise, for the class struggle to begin, so that class consciousness may be formed and the final ctastrophe of the capitalist world eventually hit them? The Russian people - or at lest a minority of the Russian people - has already passed through these experiences in thought. It has gone beyond them. It will make use of them now to assert itself just as it will make use of Western capitalist experience to bring itself rapidly to the same level of production as the Western world. In capitalist terms, North America is more advanced than England, because the Anglo-Saxons in North America took off at once from the level England had reached only after long evolution. Now the Russian proletariat, socialistically educated, will begin its history at the highest level England has reached today. Since it has to start from scratch, it will start from what has been perfected elsewhere, and hence will be driven to achieve that level of economic maturity which Marx considered a necessary condition for collectivism..." -- Antonio Gramsci, The revolution against Capital, 24 December 1917.

I think this points to a recurring tension in anti-colonial struggles. Should socialists support bourgeois and liberal positions and rebellions, without an immediate proletarian government conducting socialist planning?

3.0 The Start of Marxism in Russia

Plekhanov introduced Marxism to Russia. His 1891 book argues against the Narodniks, who were intellectuals championing the peasants, only recently freed from serfdom. Later, the Socialist Revolutionaries was a party championing the peasants. Some Left Socialist Revolutionaries entered the government after the October revolution. But Marxists like Plekhanov championed the working class. The peasants, although numerically superior, could only be allies.

Here I should mention that this history is mostly a history of illegal movements. Many of those important in the struggles leading up to the October revolution spent time in internal exile, in Siberia, or in external exile. Conferences and congresses were held outside Russia. Legal publications used 'Aesopian' language. Nevertheless, legal Marxism was a movement in Russia in the 1890s, with Pyotr Struve and Mikhail Tugan-Baranovsky as the most prominent members.

4.0 A Vanguard Party, What is to be Done, and the Founding of Iskra

I think an important component of Leninism as the orgainization of a revolutionary party, as specified in his 1902 pamplet, What is to be done? Like the overwhelming majority of Lenin's major works, he spends a lot of time arguing against other comrades, often with personal remarks. Here his target is 'economism', the idea that socialists should concentrate on strikes and organizing industrial sites, trying to increase pay, decrease hours, and improve working conditions.

Lenin argued that social democrats should agitate on all fronts. This comprehensiveness seems to fit his personality, where he devoted his life to being a professional revolutionary. He was capable of dropping somebody after decades of friendship if that person was advocating something important he disagreed with. His arguments extended to the philosophy of science, as was being impacted by, say, the theory of relativity.

Trade unions can only bring trade union consciousness, according to Lenin. What is needed is a vanguard, a party with close connections to the workers that brings a social-democratic consciouesness.

Lukúcs, in his essay, 'Towards a methodology of the problem of organisation' (September 1922), discusses the "dialectical relation between 'final goal' and 'movement', i.e. between theory and practice." "Organisation is the form of the mediation between theory and practice." "The Communist Party is the organised form of - the first conscious step towards the realm of freedom." "The process of revolution is - on a historical scale - synonymous with the process of the development of proletarian class consciousness." The communist party is supposed to be an objective expression of the most advanced class consciousness of the workers, not a replacement. Communists need to pay close attention to all strata in the working class. The workers are supposed to be no longer be merely the object of history, but its subject as well. In his essay 'Class consciousness', Lukúcs writes "For a class to be ripe for hegemony means that its interests and consciousness enable it to organise the whole of society in accordance with those interests." In his book, he also discusses vulgar Marxism, which is deterministic.

As an immediate task, Lenin argued for the publication of an all-Russian newspaper, Iskra.

5.0 The Split at the Second Congress of the RSDLP and Democratic Centralism

The start of a major split in the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party arose at the second party congress, held initially in 1903 in exile in Brussels. Participants included representatives of the editorial board of Iskra; Makhov, representing two votes of the Nikolayev Committee; the Bund (Jewish Workers' Union); and Rabocheye Dyelo, which was a newspaper for social democrats in exile.

The split was ostensibly focused on paragraph 1 of the party rules. Lenin's draft had the following:

"A member of the Party is one who accepts its programme and who supports the Party both financially and by personal participation in one of the Party organisations."

Paragraph 1 as formulated by Julius Martov at the Congress and adopted by the Congress stated:

A member of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party is one who accepts its programme, supports the Party financially, and renders it regular personal assistance under the direction of one of its organisations.

Lenin wanted a tighter focus on professional revolutionaries, and this goes along with his concept of democratic centralism. At party congresses and meetings of the central committee, there should be the freest discussion. Once a vote has been conducted, all groups and circles, organizations and members of the party are expected to follow the direction decided upon. Martov's formulation was much looser. As Lenin put it, any professor or striker could call themselves a party member, despite not being bound by party discipline or working with a party organization.

Even though Martov prevailed on paragraph 1, he and his Mensheviks ended up in the minority. Apparently, Bolshevik means 'majority' in Russian, and Menshevik means 'minority'. Lenin was in the majority only because the Bund and the Rabocheye Dyelo group walked out. Plekhanov and Trotsky sided with Lenin at the Second Congress. But Plekhanov soon joined the Mensheviks, and Trotsky went his own way until rejoining the Bolsheviks in 1917. As late as spring 1906, an attempt at re-unification was tried at an unity congress of the RSDLP. The Mensheviks were in the provisional government formed in the February 1917 revolution, but not in the soviet government established in the October revolution.

6.0 The 1917 Russian Revolutions

The Tsar abdicated in the February revolution. The parliamentary government found themselves in charge as the provisional government. Kerensky eventually became prime minister. Political parties included the constitutional democrats (Cadets), Mensheviks, and the Socialists Revolutionaries. The SRs followed in the tradition of the Narodniks, without the terrorism. Some Left Socialists Revolutionaries joined the government established by the October revolution, since the Bolsheviks was implementing the SR agrarian program.

The soviets constituted a parallel government. A soviet is a council, perhaps for a village, a regiment, or a factory. Such soviets elected delegates to a regional soviet which, in turn, elected delegates to a more wide-ranging body, eventually to a national soviet. The Petrograd and other soviets sprang up during the 1905 revolution. The members were promptly arrested when that revolution failed. In Lenin's April theses, he implicitly draws some parallels to the Parisian communards, which Engels famously declared to be what the dictatorship of the proletariat looks like. Lenin also called for the Bolshevik party to change their name to the Communist Party and for the establishment of a new international, the Communist International (Comintern).

7.0 The Revolutionary Government

Leon Trotsky was the chairman of the Petrograd soviet, which set up the Military Revolutionary Committee. Petrograd was the Russian capital at the time. The October Revolution occurred when the Military Revolutionary Committee took over key sites in Petrograd, including the Winter Palace, and arrested the members of the provisional government. Moscow had its own uprising.

The Second Congress of Soviets met, with 670 delegates, as the October revolution unfolded. They needed some smaller sort of body to act as an executive. That would be the Council of People's Commissars, and that was the new soviet government. Lenin was its chairman. Other members included Trotsky, Anatoly Lunacharsky, and Stalin. The congress proclaimed the revolution:


The Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies has opened. It represents the great majority of the Soviets. There are also a number of Peasant deputies. Based upon the will of the great majority of the workers, soldiers, and peasants, based upon the triumphant uprising of the Petrograd workmen and soldiers, the Congress assumes power.

The Provisional Government is deposed. Most of the members of the Provisional Government are already arrested.

The Soviet authority will at once propose an immediate democratic peace to all nations, and an immediate truce on all fronts. It will assure the free transfer of landlord, crown, and monastery lands to the Land Committees, defend the soldiers' rights, enforcing a complete democratization of the Army, establish workers' control over production, ensure the convocation of the Constituent Assembly at the proper date, take means to supply bread to the cities and articles of the first necessity to the villages, and secure to all nationalities living in Russia a real right to independent existence.

The Congress resolves: that all local power shall be transferred to the Soviets of Workers', Soldiers', and Peasants' Deputies, which must enforce revolutionary order.

The Congress calls upon the soldiers in the trenches to be watchful and steadfast. The Congress of Soviets is sure that the revolutionary Army will know how to defend the Revolution against all attacks of Imperialism, until the new Government shall have brought about the conclusion of the democratic peace which it will directly propose to all nations. The new Government will take all necessary steps to secure everything useful to the revolutionary Army, by means of a determined policy of requisition and taxation of the propertied classes, and also to improve the situation of the soldiers' families.

The Kornilovtsi-Kerensky, Kaledin, and others, are endeavoring to lead troops against Petrograd. Several regiments, deceived by Kerensky, have sided with the insurgent People.

Soldiers! Make active resistance to the Kornilovets-Kerensky! Be on guard!

Railway men! Stop all troop-trains being sent by Kerensky against Petrograd!

Soldiers, Workers, Clerical employees! The destiny of the Revolution and democratic peace is in your hands!

Long live the Revolution!

The All-Russian Congress of Soviets of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies Delegates from the Peasants' Soviets"

The Constituent Assembly met on 5 January 1918. Its dissolution was justified by the claim that its election was based on ballots drawn up before the October revolution and thus outdated, not reflecting the split between the Socialists Revolutionaries and the Left Socialists Revolutionaries.

8.0 Lenin's Influence on How to Read Marx

Above, I have not said much about Marx at all. I suppose I would find something about political economy in Lenin's 1899 book, The Development of Capitalism in Russia.

In his 1913 pamphlet, The Three Sources and Three Component Parts of Marxism, Lenin says that the three sources of Marxism are German philosophy, English political economy, and French socialism. I do not know how influential this claim was; the first two sources are obvious. I would like to emphasize so-called Ricardian socialists, who were not French, for the last source. Nevertheless, Marx and Engels were part of a socialist movement that predated them.

Somewhere, probably in notes not published in his lifetime, Lenin says that you cannot understand Marx's Capital if you have not read Hegel's Logic. I do not like Hegel. I have read a bit of Christopher Arthur.

I suppose I am not the only one to read Marx's Remarks on the Gotha Program with Lenin's State and Revolution in mind, and vice versa.

9.0 Conclusion

Elements of Leninism include a workers' vanguard party, democratic centralism an alliance with peasants in anti-imperialist struggles,and a government of soviets dominated by the communist party.

  • Christopher Hill. 1971 (1947). Lenin and the Russian Revolution. Penguin Books.
  • Leszek Kolakowski. . Main Currents of Marxism (3 volumes). New York: W. W. Norton.
  • Vladimir Lenin. 1902. What is to be done? Collected Works: Vol. 5
  • Vladimir Lenin. 1904. One step forward, two steps back. Collected Works: Vol. 7
  • Vladimir Lenin. 1908. Materialism and empirio-criticism. Collected Works: Vol. 14
  • Vladimir Lenin. 1914 - 1916. Conspectus of Hegel's book The Science of Logic. Collected Works: Vol. 38
  • Vladimir Lenin. 1917a. Imperialism, the highest stage of capitalism. Collected Works: Vol. 22
  • Vladimir Lenin. 1917b. The tasks of the proletariat in the present revolution ('April Theses'). Collected Works: Vol. 24
  • Vladimir Lenin. 1918. The state and revolution. Collected Works: Vol. 25
  • Vladimir Lenin. 1920. 'Left-wing' communism: an infantile disorder. Collected Works: Vol. 31
  • Georg Lúkacs. 1971. History and Class Consciousness: Studies in Marxist Dialectics. Merlin Press.
  • Julius Martov. 1938. The State and Socialist Revolution.
  • Georgi Plekhanov. 1891. The Materialist Conception of History.
  • John Reed. 1966 (1919). Ten Days that Shook the World. Penguin Books.
  • Joseph Stalin. 1945. The foundations of Leninism, in Problems of Leninism. Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House.

Tuesday, April 11, 2023


Friday, April 07, 2023

On Marginal Productivity: Some Propositions Of Price Theory

In mainstream economics, marginal productivity does not determine distribution. Furthermore, every correct proposition of marginal productivity theory is consistent, under competitive conditions, with Marx's claim that workers are exploited by capitalists.

Assume technology is given, the economy is in a stationary state, and one knows what technique is chosen. (Ludwig von Mises called a stationary state an 'evenly rotating economy'.) The technique consists of a list of the physical inputs and outputs in each industry in which a commodity is produced. Following convention, I call such a list in a given industry, a process. I assume the chosen technique is cost-minimizing. Furthermore, inputs are themselves produced commodities, with the exception of (types of) labor and land.

Under the assumptions of, say, certain models of circulating capital, pure fixed capital, or extensive rent, the cost-minimizing technique is a function of the real wage. One can generalize the model, to have multiple types of labor inputs, say 'unskilled' and 'skilled' labor. And the prices of all commodities are functions of the wage, as well.

I like a discrete description of technology. For each industry, the processes for producing the output commodity can be described by a production function that approximates a continuously differentiable production function. The value of the marginal product of labor is not found by multiplying the price of the output commodity by the derivative of the production function. Rather, it is, at least at non-switch points, formed out of an interval bounded by right hand and left hand derivatives of the production function. And the wage is equal to the marginal product of labor in these models in this sense; it lies within the appropriate bounds.

In an example of the reswitching of techniques, the same cost-minimizing technique can be cost-minimizing for two non-overlapping intervals of wages. In both intervals, the real wage is equal to the marginal product of labor in the above sense. Yet the same physical flows of inputs and outputs between industries and to consumers can be consistent with these ranges. Workers might not get higher wages because they have raised their (marginal) productivity in some physical sense. Rather, through some sort of class struggle they have won higher wages. And this may result in a tendency for the economy to approach a steady state where these higher wages are consistent with the same marginal physical products.

One can do labor-value accounting with the cost-minimizing technique. Given that technique, what would prices be if the wage was at its maximum, where capital does not obtain any accounting profits? These are labor values. In Leontief input-output analysis, they are also known as employment multiplers. One can evaluate the value of the capital goods used up in production with these labor values. Likewise, one can calculate the labor value of the commodities represented by the wage and by the surplus product obtained by capitalists. If and only if the wage is less than its maximum, the labor value of the net output is more than the labor value represented by wages. This is exploitation, as Marx defined it. And it obtains in these sort of models as a matter of mathematics; Nobuo Okishio christened this the fundamental theorem of Marxism.