Forwarded from Jurriaan Bendien (reply to Richard)

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Thu Feb 8 13:26:14 MST 2001

To Richard Fidler:

My 1986 English translation of the essay "Marx's theory of primitive
accumulation and the industrialisation of the Third World" can be obtained
from myself (it is only available on paper at present). The central
argument of the paper is that the historical process of the creation and
expansion of surplus-value must be understood as "a dialectical unity of
three different moments, namely the unequal exchange of unequal values, the
 equal exchange of equal values, and the unequal exchange or equal values".

German original: in Folgen einer Theorie - Essays ueber 'Das Kapital" von
Karl Marx (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1967). French version: in Victor Fay (ed),
En Partant du Capital. Paris: Editions  Anthropos, 1968. Dutch version: in
Ernest Mandel, Vervreemding en Revolutionaire  Perspectieven. Amsterdam:
Van Gennep, 1973 Spanish Version: in the journal Pensamiento Critico,
Havana: volume 36,  January 1970

As regards the letter to Andre Gunder Frank, this is located in the Andre
Gunder Frank papers deposited in the International Institute for Social
History, and is dated 19 February 1975. I cannot provide the exact text
now, because then I can get into trouble with property rights and proper
acknowledgement. However, very briefly, Ernest just raises the question  of
 why capitalism developed in Western Europe of all places, rather than
(let's say) in China, or in the Islamic countries, or India, which for
centuries were economically more advanced and more sophisticated than
Europe. Which is a good question - why the breakthrough in Europe ? Mandel
argues, because the more advanced agriculture in the East led to a bigger
population growth; to feed this population, large-scale irrigation works
happened to be necessary there, and consequently a centralisation of the
agrarian surplus-product was required (by the state presumably). In
consequence you had a politically weak bourgeoisie there, and what Mandel
calls a "discontinuous" process of accumulation on their part
("discontinuous" presumably because the proprietors were periodically
expropriated, or went broke through overtaxing etc.). In the West, you had
a lower labour productivity in agriculture, and a more sparse population.
But this, argues Mandel, enabled a relative fragmentation (dispersion) of
political power, and the rise of a politically more powerful bourgeoisie.
In the 15th century Europe, the periodic expropriations and confiscations
of bourgeois wealth by aristocrats and kings in fact come more or less to
an end, enabling a shift towards "continuous accumulation". These factors
Mandel feels must be added to the explanation by Marx in the Grundrisse,
where Marx contrasts private landownership in the West, with communal-state
 property in the East. In the essay I translated, he reiterates what he
said  in Marxist economic theory, namely that a lot of the wealth which
made the  "take-off" in accumulation possible in Western Europe was
plundered from  other continents.

All of this is quite suggestive, but it's only a hypothesis. You get this
often in Mandel - he was a very fertile thinker, he brims with ideas, but
he rarely has the opportunity to work them out really thoroughly, in the
scholarly-scientific sense. However he did inspire many other people such
as Andre Gunder Frank (although Frank might say it was the other way round,
 I don't know), and here in Holland people like Fritjof Tichelman, whose
work "The social evolution of Indonesia" sets a standard of Marxist
scholarship by my way of thinking. Fritjof published important essays on
"The breakthrough of capitalism" and about the evolution of Russian society
 over the last centuries, but unfortunately these aren't translated into

This whole subject area is also ideologically of interest, because of what
Prof. Frank Furedi calls the "new ideology of imperialism". With the waning
 of the national liberation movements and the renewed confidence of the
Western political classes, you get wholly new explanations of why "the West
 is the best and always was". For example, David Landes in a recent book
extols the superiority of European civilisation, and tries to explain a lot
 of reasons for this superiority. Personally I value European culture, but
I  wouldn't make many of the arguments that Landes does...


Jurriaan (j.bendien at

Louis Proyect
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