Value and bridges

Chris Burford cburford at
Sun Nov 5 12:08:28 MST 1995

Value and Bridge.

The comments on my post on the value debate reflect on 
the process of this list. Jim J and Scott M who periodically make
bridges connecting this list with actual industrial or democratic 
struggles, have asserted the right of non-academic economists to decide 
whether they themselves accept the Marxist version of the law of value.

Steve, has invited me and others on the other hand to cross a bridge to 
read a paper published by John in 1982. John on yet another hand has 
come back to answer in clear language the lay questions posed by 

I think this is all good. It is a process in which no one contributor,
and certainly no one contribution, can do everything or understand 
everything but the overall effect is to deepen the understanding of the 
relevance of marxist economics. It requires bridges to be built 
between theory and practice in several ways.

To Scott:

Scott takes me up on passage where I was trying tomake links with 
Steve. I do not want to expand at great length. 

I do not hold with a 
patronising view that non-intellectuals cannot understand Marx's 
economics. I think they may understand it better than intellectuals.

I was criticising economistic study groups on "Wages Price and Profit" 
(called your side of the Atlantic, "Value Price and Profit"), which 
triumphantly show that the worker is exploited by the boss, and 
if possible should get a wage rise. Although Marx needed to refute 
Citizen Weston, in practice an understanding of Marx's economics is 
not necessary for workers to go on strike for a wage rise, or to stop 
a wage cut.

The value of Marx's economics is not economistic struggle but political 
struggle, showing how the entire capitalist system has a logic 
arising from the relentless drive for capital to accumulate regardless of 
the personality of the capitalist. Nice or nasty, the capitalist must
try to cut the labour content of the commodities sold, and has no choice 
but to consider doing this at the expense of the workers. 

To prepare however for political power, the question must be asked 
whether under socialism there will be CEO's for large car factories 
like those of General Motors. Workers are not just sellers of their labour
power, they are purchasers of commodities. Among the reasons why millions
of East Germans walked through the Wall within the space of a week, 
was not just because they wanted the freedom to buy bananas, but they
also wanted the freedom to buy better quality Volkswagens rather than 
having to put their name down on a 15 year waiting list for a smelly 
Trabant. Perhaps the Trabant factory should have had a CEO more on the 
ball about quality and customer satisfaction, and if it had, those workers
would not now be out of a job. 

To Steve:

I appreciate you giving me and other list readers the opportunity 
to consider John's paper but to be realistic I probably will not be
able to make it. You refer to passages in Grundrisse. I have  
partly caught up with the debate when I was away. There seems to be a bit
of a standoff. You do not seem to have convinced many people that
there are the logical errors in the passages of Marx that you point out.
On the other hand we have to accept that you see logical errors. It is 
not the end of the world if this standoff continues. It does seem to 
me to be a valid point by Jim Miller that Marx did not edit Grundrisse,
and it is not a major point even if a few passages are misleading (and
I do not think this has been established).

It appears to me to be a much more serious weakness of the LTV if someone 
such as Doug says, that for him, the LTV is largely irrelevant.

The absence of this bridge is potentially really serious and I wonder
what Doug means by value theory when he makes this sort of comment. This 
may be more important in making common cause with reformist left-wing 
economists, than arguing fine points of dialectical logic about 
a detailed analysis that only makes sense to the reader if he or 
she is willing to read from the point of view of labour 
power being a uniquely significant commodity.  

Chris B, London.

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