Value theorists at war

Louis Proyect lnp3 at SPAMpanix.com
Mon Feb 26 07:24:29 MST 2001


[This comes from the archives of OPE-L, a mailing list of perhaps 80-100
professors and PhD candidates devoted to arcane discussions of the
"transformation problem", etc. I visit it from time to time for amusement.
Andrew Kliman, one of the regulars on OPE-L who belongs to the "News and
Letters" sect-cult around the late Raya Duneskaya (she was "Forrest" to CLR
James's "Johnson" in the 1950s), has been embroiled in a huge controversy
with the editors of Review of Radical Political Economy (RRPE) which was
launched in the 1960s by the Union of Radical Political Economists (URPE).
URPE, like much of the tenured left, has edged a few degrees to the right
since those days and has discussed dropping the word "Radical". The
journal, by some accounts, has fewer subscribers (excluding libraries) than
this mailing list. Furthermore, all of the subscribers seem to be cut from
the same cloth: academic Marxists with few connections to the mass movement
haggling over rival interpretations of crisis theory, etc. Kliman submitted
an article to the journal last year which was rejected. Claiming political
discrimination against his own particular spin on value theory, he has
raised hell on and off the Internet. This is a record of the latest
flare-up at the International Working Group on Value Theory confab, held
recently in NYC. Reading this stuff reminds me how distasteful the whole
process of submitting to scholarly journals is and how fortunate I am to be
a computer programmer, making an honest living.]

1) Gerald Levy:

I was threatened today by Andrew Kliman.

It took place after the last session for today's meetings of the IWGVT
mini-conference in New York City.

I was talking to Fred Moseley while waiting for the elevator. Andrew
approached us, pointed a finger at me, and said:

"You better watch your step".

He did this in front of several witnesses, including Fred.

My first reaction was to laugh and ask: "Are you threatening me?".

He did not answer me but instead looked at me momentarily with a very
stern, serious (and what I viewed as threatening) expression.

He did the above knowing full well that I have a serious heart condition
having lived through a heart attack in 1997 and unstable angina and
angioplasty less than a year ago.

I view the above as a serious threat and an attempt to bully and intimidate
me into silence about his perspectives on political economy. A short
description of what I said earlier in the day in open session appears at
the end of this message.

I call upon the IWGVT Conference Organizer, Alan Freeman, to denounce this
blatant threat and attempt by Kliman to suppress my perspective and
intimidate and bully me.

I call upon the Conference itself to defend me by denouncing Andrew Kliman
for his threatening behavior and to insist that it not happen again.

In solidarity, Jerry

--------------------------------------------------------------------

Earlier in the day I addressed two comments to Andrew at the IWGVT sessions.

In one session, Andrew asked all in attendance the question: "What can
allow value theory to progress?". He then added that what was needed was
for different interpretations of Marx to be tested. In my comment, I noted
that Andrew was making the *presumption* that the answer to the question
"What can allow value theory to progress?" is in Marx's writings and can be
found by testing interpretations of Marx.

In the next session, and shortly before the incident described above,
Andrew made basically the same slip which I called him on. He suggested
that he was part of a group who were "defenders of Marx". I noted that we
were supposed to be discussing differing interpretations of Marx rather
than attempting to become "defenders of Marx".

While Andrew obviously didn't like my comments, some did. In any event, I
had the right to make the statements I did and in no way disrupted the
conference for others or behaved in an aggressive or menacing manner (as
did Andrew).

====

2. Patrick Mason:

Fellow OPE-Lers:

To paragraph Gil Scott-Heron, I'd said I wouldn't bother to engage in any
more discussions like this. I made a mistake.

I was a referee was for RRPE for 9 years, from 1991 - 2000. During that
time I refereed many papers related to one dimension or another of value
theory. I refereed papers from every conceivable Marxian, radical,
progressive, Sraffian, or other perspective. Never, not once, did I or
anyone who also refereed the same paper that I was assigned to engage in
either an individual or concerted effort to suppress or otherwise limit any
author's access to the pages of the RRPE.

The charge of suppression lacks merit.

I am no longer an editor of the RRPE. So, I do not speak for the journal,
its editors, or its steering committee. Rather, I speak as one who thinks
that the journal remains an invaluable voice for those carrying out
heterodox research. I strongly encourage every member on this list to
totally disregard any accusation that the RRPE has sought to suppress the
work of any individual or the perspective of any group of Marxian economists.

Honor and integrity demands that anyone who makes a public claim of having
suppress to present prima facie evidence that such suppression may actually
have taken place. If no prima facie evidence is forthcoming, charges of
political suppression should cease.

Nevertheless, for those who believe the false attack on the integrity,
honor, good name and character of unnamed and often un-thanked board of
editors at the RRPE, there is a very simple solution - present your work to
one of the very many alternative journals that are available. Science and
Society, Cambridge Journal of Economics, Review of Political Economy, and a
host of other competing but comradely journals are available. If one feels
that one cannot publish in the RRPE, then simply submit one's work to
another journal.

Anybody can charge anyone with anything at anytime they wish.

Thanks be to the God, the right to be heard doesn't carry an obligation to
be taken seriously.

Peace, Patrick L. Mason

===

3. Gil Skillman:

In political economy as elsewhere, it is surely difficult to launch a new
paradigm and have it accepted as part of the standard discourse of the
discipline. Andrew Kliman and his fellow exponents of the TSS
interpretation of Marxian value theory have no doubt encountered these
difficulties in full measure. Presuming this to be the case, I can
certainly understand that feelings of intense frustration might arise from
the effort to promote the paradigm, and that such frustrations might induce
a perception of orchestrated attempts to "suppress" the new approach.

But to understand is not to agree. I categorically deny Andrew's claim that
the Editorial Board of RRPE has "suppressed" TSS research in any relevant
sense of the term. The "evidence" alluded to by Andrew does not begin to
establish grounds for this claim. Furthermore, relevant considerations not
mentioned by Andrew argue strongly against any such conclusion.

I stated in my previous post on this topic that I could not and would not
respond specifically to Andrew's charges, and it remains the case that
there are certain points centrally relevant to this dispute that I cannot
discuss, in part due to the need to respect certain people's privacy as
well as the integrity of RRPE's editorial process (about which more later).
But despite this handicap, I feel I must respond in some detail to Andrew's
charges, due to the persistence and seriousness of his claims and out of
respect for the membership of this list.

Andrew has alluded to two bases for his allegation. The first is a summary
of RRPE's treatment of "8 manuscripts submitted by proponents of the
TSSI..." The second refers to statements by 2 referees of a single
submission of his. Regarding the first point, his statement, reproduced in
full, is as follows:

"It is not a matter of referees rejecting *my* papers per se. Of the last 8
manuscripts submitted by proponents of the TSSI to the RRPE (not ROPE), 1,
a paper of mine on the Okishio theorem, was accepted. 5 have been rejected,
including a *book review* written by an author with a publication list
longer than your arm. (The RRPE's rejection rate on book reviews is only
about 10%.) What about the remaining 2 manuscripts? Oh, they were returned
without even being sent to referees."

Let's examine this claim more closely.

1) Concerning the "remaining 2 manuscripts" that were "returned without
even being sent to referees":

With regard to at least one of these manuscripts, Andrew is not revealing
the full circumstances surrounding its return. It is his prerogative not to
do so, of course, but I would just suggest that knowledge of these
circumstances would create legitimate doubt, at minimum, that the
manuscript's return necessarily resulted from any deliberate attempt to
"suppress" a particular line of research.

The RRPE has no record of a second manuscript being returned without being
sent to referees. Unless this alleged return was related to the set of
circumstances alluded to above, there is only one plausible reason for this
to occur outside of simple human error, namely that the manuscript did not
conform to our "Instructions to Contributors" (listed on the inside back
cover of each issue)--e.g., it wasn't in the proper format, or exceeded 40
pages in length, or something of that nature.

Let me amplify this point: our managing editor, who initially receives the
manuscripts, is not a practicing political economist, and thus has no idea
what the TSS paradigm is or why it matters, what a paper written in this
paradigm would look like, or what is the roster of its practitioners. Thus
she could have no basis for returning a manuscript with the aim of
"suppressing" this approach.

In light of the foregoing, I extend an invitation to Andrew. Presumably you
know the identity of the author of this allegedly returned 2nd manuscript.
Please urge him or her to resubmit it, and if it is unaffected by the set
of circumstances mentioned above and conforms to our instructions to
contributors, its unrefereed return was simply a mistake, and I'll
personally follow up to ensure that it is sent out to referees.

2) Concerning the remaining 6 cases: as Andrew mentions, one was a book
review, which is judged by a different set of criteria than that for
article submissions and accordingly has a low rejection rate on the whole.
But it is impossible to make any sort of judgment about bias on the basis
of a sample size of one, even if the rejection rate for the relevant
population were .10% rather than 10%.

3) This leaves 5 article submissions, of which one was accepted. This is
still an incredibly small sample from which to draw any meaningful
conclusions. But I will note, since Andrew did not, that our average rate
of acceptance for refereed article submissions is about 26%. 26% of 5 is
1.3, which, rounded to the nearest integer value, is 1.

Thus, the TSSI experience of 1 acceptance out of 5 refereed article
submissions is consistent with the average rate of acceptance for all
refereed article submissions. Not only does this outcome fail to establish
grounds for Andrew's claim of "suppression," it is evidence, insofar as the
small sample size permits, for the *absence* of any such bias.

Even if I threw back into the mix both the book review and the manuscript
returned for reasons other than human error or nonconformance to our
editorial standards, the expected unbiased rejection rate for a sample of 7
submissions is just .26 times 7 = 1.82, which rounds up to 2. So at its
very strongest, Andrew's "evidence" on this point is based on a tiny sample
drawn from a very large population, for which the actual acceptances were 1
less than would be expected given a complete lack of bias. Could anyone
without a vested interest on this question derive a conclusion as
categorical as Andrew's from such paltry "evidence"?

4) This is not the end of the matter. According to Andrew, a total of 5
TSSI submissions from this set of 8 was rejected by RRPE. But he neglected
to mention that our editorial decisions on submissions are not limited to
simple "acceptance" or "rejection." Unlike the practice at most other
journals, we have *two* categories of the latter: outright rejection, and
rejection of the submission in question coupled with strong encouragement
for the author to submit a new draft *on the same subject matter* in which
certain fundamental problems identified in the presented draft are
corrected. This would of course be an absurd offer to extend to any author
whose work the Ed Board intended to "suppress," since reviewing new
submissions, even ones that are eventually rejected, takes significant time
and effort.

I know of at least one submission among the remaining 5 for which the
author was *strongly* urged by the referees to submit a new draft. To the
extent that the "rejections" indicated by Andrew were in fact coupled with
encouragement to submit an emended draft on the same topic, his "evidence"
for "suppression" can at least as easily be read as evidence that RRPE
*promotes* dissemination of the TSS approach to value theory, since it
would hardly be in the interests of its authors to present their work in a
problematic light.

===

4. Gerald Levy:

Sunday, February 25

Another day, another scandal.

A minute or so after the last Saturday session of the IWGVT mini-conference
in NYC and in the room where the session was held, I approached Ted McGlone
whom I hadn't seen in a couple of years. I shook his hand and we had a
pleasant conversation for about a minute.

Andrew Kliman then put his hand on Ted's shoulder and said: "You know
you're talking to the enemy? He's going to post on OPE-L ...." At that
point, I simply said "I'm not going to talk about this now" and removed
myself from the room.

In referring to me as "the enemy" there was no indication all that he was
joking.

So on Friday Andrew Kliman, in open session, suggested that we needed to
become "defenders of Marx" (which sounds to me suspiciously like the Jesuit
idea that they are "defenders of Christ"). The next day a Marxist who does
not share all of his perspectives on Marx's theory is called "the enemy".

The IWGVT has always claimed that they are in favor of "pluralism". Andrew
is a former Co-Organizer of the IWGVT. This is a strange idea of pluralism,
it seems to me: we, the "defenders of Marx", are going to sponsor a
conference at the EEA and we invite our "enemies" to participate.

Another troublesome question that could be posed is how different tactics
against those Marxists who are now understood to be part of "the enemy" can
be rationalized.

Lastly, as a Marxist I have always thought that our enemies are *class
enemies* rather than other Marxists who adhere to differing interpretations
of Marx. I thought other Marxists shared that understanding ... I guess I
was wrong. Does anyone else think I am "the enemy"? Who are the other
Marxists who are "the enemy"?

In solidarity, Jerry


Louis Proyect
Marxism mailing list: http://www.marxmail.org






More information about the Marxism mailing list