[Marxism] Marx and LTRPF

Philip Ferguson philipferguson8 at gmail.com
Fri Oct 2 19:40:07 MDT 2015

MM wrote: "hat isn't a comfortable message for people who are still looking
for some theoretical deus ex machina that will sort everything out, if only
we rub the relevant parts of the three volumes of Kapital together in the
right way. But it isn't necessarily pessimistic."


In fact, I'd say it's an optimistic view in the sense that Roberts
(following Marx and LTRPF) shows that crisis is *inherent* in capitalism,
the system simply can't escape it and therefore the possibility of
overthrowing capitalism can't be avoided either.  It is always present,
whether it is really, really weak (as at present) or strong (1930s
Depression, period at the end of the post-WW2 boom as well).

I'm not arguing, of course, that immiseration causes revolution -
frequently it results in demoralisation and passivity.  But improvements in
workers' general conditions leading to rising expectations which are then
blocked by a slump certainly can help radicalise workers' thinking.

In New Zealand we had a long period of workers' passivity, from the start
of the 1950s until the end of the 1960s.  The two key factors in this
passivity were the defeat of the left of the labour movement in a massive
industrial battle that went on for most of the first half of 1951 on the
one hand and the long postwar boom on the other hand.

Workers' expectations rose considerably during the boom.  Then, suddenly,
in 1968 there was a nil general wage order.  Rising expectations met the
impact of the falling rate of profit and the result was a renewal of class

This went on until the fourth Labour government (1984-1990_ which confused,
demoralised and largely crushed the working class.  The class, however, had
one more fight in it.  This was against the National Party government's
Employment Contracts Act of 1991.  The biggest working class mobilisations
in NZ history took place, the union bureaucrats took fright and put the
brakes on, preventing a general strike.  The class was smashed and hasn't
recovered.  We've now had 24 years of working class passivity, with only an
occasional scrap - the scraps which our side has won have produced big
enough victories to inspire renewed resistance across wider sectors of the
class while the scraps that have been lost have reinforced the general aura
of pessimism in the class.

These days falling rates of profit don't have much political resonance
because the class has been pushed back so far and is relatively atomised,
certainly in terms of consciousness.  In this atmosphere attacks on Marx
tend to get some traction, which is why some comrades are attracted to
Heinrich and others' 'critiques' of the law of the tendency of the rate of
profit to fall.

Bizarre at an intellectual level when you see how clearly LTRPF is laid out
in vol 3 of *Capital*.  It's not as if it's just a few tiny scraps of
references here and there in Marx!

There are also some excellent works on this by Rosdolsky (the two-volume
'The Making of Marx's *Capita*l' - I think you can also get it in a single
volume - Grossman's magisterial *The Law of Accumulation* and most of the
economic writings of Paul Mattick, from *Marx and Keynes* to *Economic
Crisis and Crisis Theory*.)


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