[Marxism] Rosa Lichtenstein versus JB on dialectical contradictions
sartesian at earthlink.net
Sat Oct 3 09:05:10 MDT 2009
I should first say, I'm no philosopher. I've read Marx, Feuerbach, Hegel,
Russell, Wittgenstein. Mostly Marx, then Hegel... Hegel brought me to
tears, and not tears of joy.
OK I'm no philosopher. Neither was Marx, although unlike Marx, I never
studied the subject formally.
My take on Rosa's debate is a little unusual, if not for others , certainly
for me, being a partisan of dialectics-- at least I think I am-- or I think
I am, therefore I am, or I might be. Anyway... First-- I am more than
sympathetic of Rosa's argument that Marx did not create a dialectical
materialism, I am in complete agreement. IMO, those who think there is a
"dialectical materialism" to Marx's work are taking a giant step backward.
Marx is not creating a new philosophy, a philsophy of the universe, a
philosophy of science or nature or anything else. He is, in the beginning
grappling with...he is grappling with what he and Engels call the "rational
kernel" that he extracted from Hegel. And that core is the real content of
What Marx finds in Hegel, in the Hegel's presentation of "spirit,"
"consciousness" making itself manifest in the world is an alienated
expression for the real content of history. And what is the unalienated
expression, what is that real content? For Marx, it is the social
organization of labor. The materialism is history. The materialism is
But my take is, as I said, unusual, in that I think Marx clearly takes over
words, methods, "tactics," from Hegel in his analyses of contradiction,
necessity, immanence in capital's existence.
What is the "dialectical contradiction" Marx explores? Philosophy has proven
itself incapable of answering that, and we must, to be consistent with Marx
find the answer in history, in the social organization of labor. That
contradiction is the relation of capital and wage-labor. Each exists only in
the organization of the other.
Capital, to be capital, must organize labor in a specific form in order to
access, appropriate surplus value. To do this, the means of production must
be monopolized by the class of [emerging] capitalists-- but they are
monopolized in a manner that makes them essentially useless when not
yielding exchange-value and profit. For that to occur, labor itself must be
organized as useless, as offering no mechanism for the laborer to subsist,
save in the exchange of the ability to labor in return for the means of
subsistence [or the medium for their purchase]. So while capital belongs to
the capitalist as private property, the private property can only exist with
a specific social organization of labor.
Capital can go nowhere without dragging this, wage-labor, its complementary
opposite with it.
Now for capital to aggrandize greater portions of the source of the surplus
value, it must not only organize, aggrandize labor as wage-labor, it must
simultaneously aggrandize and expel such labor from the production process.
The more capital accumulates, the more it exchanges itself with wage-labor,
the less, relatively, of itself it exchanges with wage-labor. And it is this
contradiction, dialectical contradiction, that leads to the overproduction
of capital and the decline in the rate of profit.
The more capitalist property expands, the less that property is capable of
providing the return that is necessarily the end, and the beginning, the
realization and the extinction of capital's circuits.
Now these processes of capital are historical, material, social processes.
Marx wasn't making philosophical inquiries, no more than he weas making a
"new" political economy. Capital is no work of political economy. It is the
history of capitalism's internal metabolism, almost like a teasing-apart of
the strands of DNA to find the patterns of replication. Economics is nothing
but concentrated history. History is the social organization of labor.
Marx really is, or supposed to be, the end of philosophy and political
economy. I think Marx makes this breakthrough most evident not so much in
the Theses on Feuerbach, but in two later works, Class Struggles in France,
1848-1850, and, IMO, the 2nd greatest work of historical materialism ever
produced, The 18th Brumaire... (Trotsky's History of the Russian Revolution
being number 1).
And of course, there is Marx's preface to the 2nd edition of Vol 1, when he
explicitly declares himself a dialectician....
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