value: Silver is not Ahab

Juan Inigo jinigo at
Tue Oct 31 20:12:25 MST 1995

How does Steve Keen quote Marx, or how to avoid mistaking Captain Silver
for Captain Ahab

The first basis on which Steve Keen's rises his theory that Marx

>* Failed to show that non-labor inputs are not sources of
>surplus value. His assertion that they were not source of surplus
>was based on a misapplication of his own logic.

is his "value/use-value dialectics." As it has been shown in this list by
me and others, this "dialectics" has no substance other than a constant
terminological manipulation of the sort 'now it's quantity, now it's
quality,' 'now it's use-value, now it's surplus-value,' 'now it's a
productive-consumption of a use-value, now it's a transfer of use-value,'
'now it's a production of value, now it's a transfer of value.'

The second basis Steve presents as his support is a mass of quotations from
Marx. Steve assumes he can use Marx this way just by violently taking these
quotations out of context, and boldly asserting that they say right the
opposite of what they actually say, or that they are clear proofs of Marx's
self-contradictions. This has been already pointed out during the current
discussion by others and me, and in a previous round by Fred Mosely too.

But there is a particular quotation that suffices to show the extent to
which Steve tortures Marx's texts to make them confess whatever he wants.
Steve has included this "quotation" in his Thesis, in his posts to this
list a year ago, and again now. According to Steve recent post:

>I have no argument with the proposition that labor-power
>is unique, and therefore priveleged in some sense. It
>just happens that the sense is not as a source of surplus
>value. Marx did argue this in Capital, but I argue that
>his grounds for it were erroneous in terms of the logic
>he developed in the Grundrisse.
>The proposition that there should be a privileged commodity
>which is solely the source of value is something which *was*
>in Marx up until the Grundrisse. Then, while developing what
>I call the dialectic of the commodity--the dialectical
>relationship between use-value and exchange-value--he
>specifically repudiated the notion that any one commodity
>could be the "opposite" of capital, and hence the source of
>surplus value. This analysis begins with a footnote on
>pp. 267-68, where he first realises that the classical
>treatment of use-value vis-a-vis exchange-value may in
>fact be expanded dialectically.
>"The only use value, i.e. usefulness, which can stand
>opposite capital as such is that which increases, multiplies and
>hence preserves it as capital." (p. 271.) Searching
>for the Hegelian opposite of capital, Marx finds that it cannot
>be a particular commodity "but all commodities":
>"the opposite of capital cannot itself be a particular
>commodity, for as such it would form no opposition to capital,
>since the substance of capital is itself use-value; it is not
>this commodity or that commodity, but all commodities." (p. 271.)
>So there is not one priveleged commodity: all commodities
>form the opposite of capital.
>What happens next, in my opinion, is a logical mistake,
>which allows the concept of a priveleged commodity to
>reappear. Despite having said that no single use-value can
>form the opposite of capital, Marx now concludes that
>labor is that single use-value:
>"The communal substance of all commodities, i.e. their
>substance not as material stuff, as physical character, but their
>communal substance as *commodities* and hence *exchange
>values*, is this, that they are objectified labour... The
>only use value, therefore, which can form the opposite pole to
>capital is labour (to be exact, value creating, productive
>labour...)." (p. 272.>
>So my argument is that there is not one priveleged commodity--
>vis a vis value creation--but all commodities,...

Steve repeats here what he claims in his Thesis under the pompous title of
"Marx's Logical Errors" that "this formidable logician must have made ...
in applying his own logic - errors of sufficient complexity to fool himself
as well as a century of his followers" and that Steve is going to reveal
and correct for us. Besides, Steve repeats this quotation in the subsection
"The Application: The Dialectic of the Commodity."

In fact, there is only a slight difference in it: the crucial quote from
Grundrisse p. 271 is stated in Steve's thesis as follows:

"The only use-value, i.e. usefulness, which can stand opposite capital  as
such is that which increases, multiplies and hence preserves it as
capital... the opposite of capital cannot itself be a particular
commodity, for as such it would form no opposition to capital, since  the
substance of capital is itself use-value; it is not this commodity  or that
commodity, but all commodities." [Grundrisse, p. 271.]

The colon that immediately relates the two parts of the quotation are here
suspension points.

When I saw for the first time Steve's quotation of Marx in a post he
presented a year ago, (with the quote in the "Marx's Logical Errors"
version) I was really amazed. Could have Marx, always so meticulous in his
developments, really fall into such a crude contradiction as Steve was
making evident through Marx's own texts? So my first step was to take
Marx's quotations in context. And since I found, let's say, "some
differences" with Steve's transcription in my Spanish version of
Grundrisse, I checked the point with another Spanish translation, an
Italian and a French translation, and of course, with the original German
text. (by the way, as you can see I have always taken Steve's assertions
seriously, probably more seriously than what he has preferred and
positively more seriously than what they deserve).

Now, Marx real text in p. 271 actually reads (as I haven't got the English
edition, my translation may differ in the words from the published one, but
this is not the point at stake here):

"... The only use-value, i.e. usefulness, which can stand opposite capital
as such is that which increases, multiplies and hence preserves it as
        In the second place. Capital is money, by definition, but money
that does not any longer exists under its simple form of gold and silver,
nor even as money in opposition to circulation, but under the form of all
substances: commodities. Therefore, thus far, capital does not contradict
use-value, but, beyond money, it only exists in use-values. These
substances that belong to it are now, therefore, perishable, they would not
even have exchange value at all if they have no use-value; *as use-values*
they lose their value, they dissolve themselves through merely natural
physicochemical processes if they are not really used, or they completely
disappear if they are really used. *From this point of view (Nach dieser
Seite),* the opposite of capital cannot itself be a particular commodity,
for as such it would form no opposition to capital, since the substance of
capital is itself use-value; it is not this commodity or that commodity,
but every commodity. The communal substance of all commodities, i.e.,
*their substance not as material stuff*, as physical character, but their
communal substance as _commodities_ and hence _exchange values_, is this,
that they are _objectified labor_. The only thing that is opposed to
_objectified labor_ is _non-ovjectified_ labor, ..., _labor_ as
_subjectivity_. ... The only use value, therefore, which can form the
opposite term to capital is _labor (to be exact, value-creating labor, that
is, productive labor_." (Grundrisse, Dietz Verlag, pp. 182-183) (*emphasis

 Where has Marx's "from this point of view" gone in Steve's quotation? And
"this point of view" precisely is that of the material production process
of capital. Outside circulation, every commodity (including labor-power
itself) is opposite as a use-value to the capital materialized in it
because this use-value is going to be brought to its term, naturally or in
production. The specific social determination that makes sense of this
opposition through which capital must change its material form to achieve
its only aim of self-increasing its value, only enters the exposition once
that material opposition has been developed. So only after this stage in
the development of commodities as the unit of use-value and value is
reached, does labor-power appear determined as a specific commodity (which,
as its use-value is to produce exchange value, is in itself the realization
of that, up to then, not yet developed "use-value determined by exchange
value itself"). From the point of view of the material production process,
capital is opposed to every commodity. From the point of view of the
valorization process (that is, capital as such) capital is opposed to the
very specific commodity whose use-value is socially determined as the
capacity to produce the corresponding general social relationship, i.e.,
value: labor power.

All the secret of the self-contradiction that Steve euphemistically
_discovered_, but actually _produced_ himself in Marx text, comes down to
allowing the suspension points or a colon run over a full stop, some
complete sentences, and, most significantly, over the beginning of the
closing sentence that states that what follows corresponds to "this point
of view", when precisely a 'point of view' specifically opposed in the
original text to the one that opens the quotation has been presented in the
immediately preceding but equally omitted sentence. Quite a crude way of
turning other person's texts into a complete contradiction and nonsense!
Which text could keep any meaning at all after being manipulated in such a

Steve has produced Marx's "self-contradiction," not only by exercising his
ordinary violation of the proper rules of scientific quotation, that
exclude isolating a part of a text from its meaningful context. Steve has
gone beyond this point by cutting out from the original text some complete
sentences and, specifically, the true grammatical subject Marx refers to in
what is left as a second part, that now appears as immediately related to
the first one, that is the very opposite of that cut out grammatical

This is a crude FALSIFICATION.

Steve has some different, rather funny, names for it. When I pointed out
Steve's falsification last year through this list, he tried to justify what
is unjustifiable by claiming:

- that "you cannot get away with lengthy quotes in edited works," so "the
trick is to abbreviate without losing the meaning.": the obvious fact that
he has not only lost the meaning but crudely inverted it, starts to show
the kind of "trick" Steve has actually practiced. But this falsity directly
shows as soon as we recall that his falsified quotation appears twice with
the cut out part missing in Steve's Thesis, where no edition restrictions
apply, and Steve himself has asserted concerning it that it is the
"preferably" source, "given the detail required here".

- that his "abbreviations here (in the list) are an attempt to make what
I'm arguing accessible to more than just the 4 or 5 of us who are debating"
since long post are not read: everybody knows here that Steve enjoys
posting messages even longer than mine. The cut out 2Kb wouldn't have
changed anybody's interest in the discussion, but, of course, they would
have left Steve with nothing to debate about in the first place.

- that "Of course, it is sometimes necessary for the sake of brevity, and
even of clarity, to omit a part of the quoted original (or even to change
its order or to introduce some grammatical links)": "grammatical links"?
Steve spells "clarity," f-a-l-s-i-f-i-c-a-t-i-o-n.

- that he has used "epillets (?) ... It alerts the reader that some text
has been omitted,  and they are in a position to consult the original.":
scientific bona fide is something that the readers of Steve's texts must
surely leave aside.

- "That (including suspension points), by the way, is not a practice which
has been adhered to by Marxists in the past.": the old trick of driving the
attention away from him by pointing out to some well-known Marxists that
enjoy the same vice of sweeping away meaningful text in quotations without

- that "I agree that such a practice can result in the writer omitting what
other readers may regard as crucial in the original": interpreting one part
or the other of the text to be crucial has to be actually read here as a
matter of following the rules of elementary syntax: which is the
grammatical subject of each sentence? However limited and "tortuous" my
English prose, I do know the answer to this question, and this seems to be
more than what Steve can say on his favor here!

- that "I resent any implication that I have made my case by  selective
quotation, especially since you have not read my (pub)lished work on this
subject. If you really wish to challenge me--rather than simply rile me--
...": yes, the old trick of the falsifier's petulant ethical indignation!
And, by the way, quite a familiar claim in Steve's pedantic "read me, read
this, read that," isn't it? But since I have read his published work ...

Would Steve invent yet another excuse now?

The true fact is that Steve can claim that his theory finds support in Marx
only by falsifying Marx's texts, and trying to cover this falsification by
using the most pedantic, "of breathtaking proportions," tone!

Now, maybe it is to the sort of _adversity_ presented here that Steve
refers to when he claims:

>I have also had plenty of (unsatisfactory)
>experience of discussing this issue over the Internet,...

My present post is a proof by itself that his assertion that

> of the problems with the Internet
>form of debate is that opinions such as you
>developed of my interpretation of Marx can easily
>be developed, because what you see is only a
>snippet of the full picture your "opponent" has.
> ...
>The academic peer review process that exists behind
>academic journals on the one hand, and academic theses
>on the other, is of course much slower than Internet
>But it has the advantage that a reviewer/examiner is
>confronted with a completely constructed work, which
>represents the thinkers views as best as the thinker
>can put them. The review process itself can hone both
>those views, and their presentation.

is yet another falsity. What happens is that the Internet cannot assure
Steve "the advantage" of the complacent comments from his tutor and
academic peers in apologetics, just a clean open discussion. And this is
something Steve cannot deal with. His last reply to Jim Miller shows, as he
reaches an all-time peak in his endless pedantry, that he can only reply a
substantiated criticism by appealing to the most degraded ad-hominem and
ad-verecundiam (to the authority of people that have "discovered" that Marx
gets things wrong, so he needs to be saved from his "errors" or just left
aside, of course) arguments. The only other way that Steve knows to face a
substantiated criticism of his theory is just to ignore it, as he has
claimed and showed he is doing with mine now.

So, concerning John Ernst's

>it seems to me that the position Steve takes if nothing else
>can be treated within Marx as part of Marx's discussion of the "Trinity
>Formula."  Thus, it would become the position of a capitalist, albeit
>one who is intellectually honest.

As Marx points out, there is no place today for intellectual honesty from
the position of the capitalist, only vulgar economy. And it is no news that
to fulfill its reason of existence (the apologetics of capital), vulgar
economy has never hesitated in resorting to any means, among which
intellectual dishonesty as it is shown by falsifying a quotation is of
course a quite common one. So, honestly, ... John, you are not hoping
aboard the Pequod with Captain Ahab; you are hoping aboard the Hispaniola
with Captain Silver!

In my next post I will show to which port this "refereed" Silver is taking
his ship, made of falsified and dismembered quotations glued together with
his own vulgarities and the frantic pedantic claims "you haven't read this,
you haven't read that" concerning the most spread current vulgarities on
Marx and Marxism, when the question of the proletariat's revolutionary
action becomes immediately visible.

Juan Inigo
jinigo at

     --- from list marxism at ---


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