Practical political importance of LTV

Louis N Proyect lnp3 at columbia.edu
Thu Nov 3 11:30:03 MST 1994


On Thu, 3 Nov 1994, Justin Schwartz wrote:

> I agree that the reality of exploitation--that most profit comes from
> forced surplus (value) transfer--is the real message of the LTV. But that
> reality had better not depend on the LTV, because the theory is a mess.
>

Louis Proyect:

I've been reading anti-LTV posts to this list and to the PEN-List for what
seems like an eternity. Would it be possible for Justin, Steve K. or any
other anti-LTV'ers to put their views into something as concise and
simple as this:

"What is 'peculiar' about the worker's commodity, labour-power? It is
peculiar in that, unlike any other commodity, it can create more value
than it is itself worth. When the workman hires himself out, he sells
his labor-power not merely for the time it takes to produce the value of his
own wages, but for the length of the full working day. If the working day
is ten hours, and the time necessary to produce the value of the
laborer's wages equals six hours, then there will be four hours left
during which time the labourer is working not for himself, but for his
employer. The six hours Marx calls necessary labor-time, the four hours
surplus labor-time. Of the value of the total product of the ten hour's
labor, six-tenths will equal wages, and four-tenths will equal surplus
value which is appropriated by the employer and forms his profits."

(Man's Worldly Goods--Leo Huberman, p.229)

Here's my challenge. Anybody can understand the passage above (apologies
in advance for Huberman's gender-insensitive language, he wrote his book
in 1936). Marx and Huberman wrote for a working-class audience. The
Sraffaists seem to write for an academic audience and much of their
argumentation is impenetrable to anybody lacking advanced training in
mathematics and an economics doctorate.

So could anybody in the anti-LTV crowd put their ideas into simple terms
that are understandable by a novice like myself. Please don't refer me to
a file on an FTP site somewhere, and please try to use approximately the
same number of words as Huberman. If Huberman could make the LTV theory as
understandable as he does in as few words and with such a simple
vocabulary, then anti-LTV'er should rise to the occasion. If it's
impossible to get your ideas across in the same 'popular' fashion, then
perhaps it might be fair to question whether Sraffaist economics will ever be
embraced by the disenfranchised and exploited. Marx worked very hard to
get his ideas across to the masses; shouldn't we expect the same from his
detractors.


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