[Marxism] Rosa Lichtenstein versus JB on dialectical contradictions

S. Artesian 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 
human history.

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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