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Original Analyses of Marx’s Capital in the Marcuse/Dunayevskaya Correspondence Paper read at “Marcuse and the Frankfurt School for a New Generation”, sponsored by York University, University of Kentucky, and the International Marcuse Society, October 29-31, York University
1 Russell Rockwell Conference on Marcuse and the Frankfurt School for a New Generation York University, University of Kentucky, and the International Marcuse Society October 29-31, York University Original Analyses of Marx’s Capital in the Marcuse/Dunayevskaya Correspondence Marcuse and Raya Dunayevskaya carried on a correspondence between the years 1954- 1979, the year of Marcuse’s death. However, the most active years of this correspondence were in the earlier period, say 1955-65, continuing though tapering off after publication of Dunayevskaya’s first book, Marxism and Freedom, in 1958. Marcuse read and commented on many of Marxism and Freedom’s draft chapters. He provided important support for Dunayevskaya’s bid to complete the ambitious manuscript. Marcuse wrote the preface for the work, which included chapters on Hegel, Marx’s early (1844) manuscripts, and the several volumes of Marx’s Capital; other chapters took up Social Democracy, Stalinism, the Soviet Union’s economy, and the American scene (especially the new stage of automated production, which developed during World War II, and intensified in its aftermath). Original analyses of Marx’s Capital emerged in the course of this correspondence. Some of the originality stemmed from the emergence of Marx’s Grundrisse (the preparatory work for Marx’s Capital) in 1939-41, and the original German edition published in 1953. The Grundrisse made clear the central contribution of the Hegelian dialectic through all of Marx’s work, but it also high-lighted Marx’s concepts of post-capitalist society, making possible deeper interpretations of this all-important theme in the development of Capital itself. To jump ahead a little, Marcuse in his preface to Dunayevskaya’s work commented on Marxism and Freedom: It has often been emphasized that Marx's philosophical writings which preceded the Critique of Political Economy prepared the ground for Marxian economics and politics. After a long period of oblivion or neglect, these philosophical writings became the focus 2 of attention in the 'Twenties, especially after the first publication of the full text of the German Ideology and of the Economic-Philosophical Manuscripts. However, the inner identity of the philosophical with the economic and political "stage" of Marxian theory was not elucidated (and perhaps could not be adequately elucidated because a most decisive link was still missing, namely, the Grundrisse der Kritik der Politischen Oekonomie of 1857-1858, first published in 1939 and 1941). Dunayevskaya's book goes beyond the previous interpretations. It shows not only that Marxian economics and politics are throughout philosophy, but that the latter is from the beginning economics and politics. With the perspective of the Marcuse/Dunayevskaya correspondence, in the following I want to focus on the coalescence of Dunayevskaya’s and Marcuse’s original analyses of Marx’s Capital, which I believe are especially relevant in this time of capitalist crisis. Many are asking questions like, “must economic collapse always lead to stabilization, recovery, and the perpetuation of capitalist social relations?” Such a focus requires some context, including the prior work on Capital (or its themes) that each of the two authors engaged in during the 1940s World War II years; in addition, I think it will be fruitful to sketch out the “dialogue” on Capital (or its themes), which continued in the aftermath of Marxism and Freedom’s completion. Marcuse’s interpretation of Marx’s Capital in Reason and Revolution Thus for Marcuse the starting point is his 1941 Reason and Revolution: Hegel and the Rise of Social Theory. In that work, Marcuse’s most focused discussion of Marx’s Capital may be found in the chapter, “Analysis of the Labor Process”. Before describing that chapter, it should be noted that references to Reason and Revolution have often erroneously imputed to Marcuse’s work that “Hegel and the rise of social theory” referred to a movement from Hegel’s “abstract” to Marx’s more “concrete” concepts. To the contrary, Marcuse regarded the rise of 3 social theory to be within Hegel’s philosophy. For example, Marcuse regarded Hegel’s last major work, Philosophy of Right, as already the turn to social theory—within philosophy. By the same token, Marcuse’s works did not assert that the social theory developed in Marx’s Capital was some sort of direct concretization of abstract dialectical ideas, instead writing: [T]he social world becomes a negative totality only in the process of an abstraction, which is imposed upon the dialectical method by the structure of its subject matter, capitalist society. We may even say that the abstraction is capitalism’s own work, and that the Marxian method only follows this process. Marx’s analysis has shown that capitalist economy is built upon and perpetuated by the constant reduction of concrete to abstract labor (p. 313). In the chapter on “The Analysis of the Labor Process” Marcuse traced the concept of “abstract labor” to Marx’s work, which distinguished capitalism from prior social formations. Already in the first chapter of Capital Marx put forth the thesis that a two-fold character of labor was what distinguished capitalism. Traditionally, labor (the natural condition of human existence) was “productive activity directed to the adaptation of nature”, while the process in which labor power becomes an abstract quantitative unit characterizes a “specifically social form of labor.” And while abstract labor is prevalent in capitalism, traditional labor is preserved within it in a certain form—in Marx’s dialectical terms, there is a transformation into opposite— concrete labor becomes a mere “form of appearance” of abstract labor. The dialectic of concrete and abstract labor refers to the forms of value—use and exchange. In Capital, Marx unfolds the relationship of abstract and concrete labor, providing for the development and trajectory of society as capitalist society. Abstract labor provides the basis for what Marx, borrowing from classical political economy’s labor theory of value, developed as capitalism’s “law of value”. Labor time is the measure of a commodity’s value. All productive activity becomes the production of commodities, exchangeable for the others, given the correct 4 proportions. However, the one commodity that stands out among the others is labor power itself. It is, as Marcuse notes, “the only commodity whose use-value it is to be ‘a source not only of value, but of more value than it has itself’”. The value of labor power is equivalent to the means of subsistence sufficient to recreate the commodity labor power (the ability of the worker to reproduce her or him self to work another day). (The level of “subsistence” is socially determined). In terms of the labor process, Marcuse points out that Marx’s analysis in Capital puts forth the thesis that “concrete labor” does not create value, it does no more than preserve as value the means of production and transfers (piecemeal) this value of the means of production to the commodity. However, new value is indeed created in the labor process—it is a function of the expended labor time, part of which covers the means of subsistence of the worker. Marcuse notes, “The ‘surplus value’ created by the abstract universal labor hidden behind its concrete form, falls to the buyer of labor power without any equivalent, since it does not appear as an independent commodity” (p. 307). Hence the concept of value (the capitalist form of wealth), surplus value, and labor power as their sole source, underpins Marx’s theory of class exploitation. Moreover, because technological development tends, in fact, aims to replace direct labor in the production process to shorten the part of the universal working day needed to reproduce the working class, thereby increasing the surplus part of value, it can be said that the general cause of capitalist economic crisis is the following: while direct labor (labor time) is the source of value (the specifically capitalist form of wealth), the capitalist tendency is to replace this source by automating production, using more and more advanced forms of technology. 5 Marcuse’s chapter on “The Analysis of the Labor Process” is strikingly original in places, like on the significance of concrete labor’s adding no new value to a commodity. It also outlines the more well-known conclusions of Marx’s Capital I just reviewed. But Marcuse’s main objective is to high-light the “originality” and “specificity” of the social formation intrinsic to capitalism. Marcuse asks, in what ways is the labor that characterizes capitalism, “a specifically social form of labor”, as opposed to traditional forms in which labor was essentially, “a natural condition of human existence, productive activity directed to the adaptation of nature”? Marcuse provides as examples several characteristic features of capitalist society, which reflect the law of value determined by the prevalence of abstract labor: if productive activity is not oriented to the satisfaction of individual needs (but rather to creation of value and surplus value) how does the system of universal commodity production tend to fulfill these needs? Marcuse interprets Marx’s analysis to suggest that the law of value— according to which distribution of labor among the different branches of production determines which commodities did and did not supply a social need—integrates social relations through the market. These developments imply supersession of the freedom of the individual and routine waste of social labor time (commodities that remain unsold because they do not fulfill a need or whose production cost more than the socially necessary labor time). Dunayevskaya and the Soviet Union’s World War II Revision of Marx’s Value Theory Interestingly enough, it was precisely the dual character of labor—characteristic of the capitalistic social formation alone—that was at the center of an article that appeared in the midst of World War II, “Some Questions of Teaching Economics”. This article appeared in a 1943 6 edition of the Russian journal, Pod Znamenem Marxizma (Under the Banner of Marxism). (The article was unsigned, hence the responsibility of the editors, among whom was the respected Russian Marxist theorist, L.A. Leontiev). While, as I have just discussed, Marcuse’s Reason and Revolution only a couple of years earlier had included an interpretation of Marx’s Capital that emphasized the dialectic of abstract and concrete labor as underlying the specificity of the capitalist social formation, the Russian article attempted to simultaneously concede that this specific form of labor and with it the law of value prevailed in the Soviet Union, and the Soviet Union was a socialist (not a capitalist) society. Raya Dunayevskaya translated this article, rendering the title as “Teaching Economics in the Soviet Union”, and published it along with a commentary. Dunayevskaya’s critical commentary took special note of the article’s assertions that, 1) the social and technical division of labor in the Soviet Union mandated pay differentials between, on the one hand, intellectuals and technical workers and, on the other, unskilled and/or manual workers; 2) the law of value operated in the Soviet Union (contrary to all previous official party positions), and yet the Soviet Union was a socialist society; and, 3) that the key concept from one of Marx’s most concise writings on post-capitalist society (“Critique of the Gotha Program”), “To each according to his needs”, could be changed to, “To each according to his work”, and still reflect a socialist Soviet Union. Dunayevskaya argued in effect that neither the market (nor its absence), nor property form (state or private ownership of the means of production), were determinates of capitalist society. The Russian article’s theoretical concession of a two-fold character of labor, along with the admission that workers’ wages were paid according to work instead of the distribution of the means of consumption according to need, implied that the law of value, including a class-based 7 extraction of surplus value, determined not just individuals’ wages, but the capitalist trajectory of war-time and a post-war Soviet Union as well. The Dunayevskaya translation and commentary eventually drew Left economists, such as Paul Baran, Oscar Lange and Leo Rogin, into a debate on the Russian economy that reached the front page of the New York Times in 1943. Post-Capitalist Society in Dunayevskaya’s Marxism and Freedom and Marcuse’s Preface A couple of years earlier, Marcuse’s Reason and Revolution had already touched on the other side of Marx’s famous concept of post-capitalist society—“From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs”. While the Russian revision of Marx’s law of value in the midst of World War II, and even Dunayevskaya’s critique, focused on the, “to each according to his needs” part, Marcuse already had touched upon the significance of the, “From each according to his abilities” part. Often interpreted by Marxists to simply mean “labor”— work as hard and as long as you can to build “socialism”—Marcuse had included an entire section in Reason and Revolution titled, “The Abolition of Labor”, pointing out that Marx’s concept of post-capitalist society assumed such a radically different mode of productive activity that Marx hesitated to name it labor at all. Interpreting Marx’s, “from each according to his abilities”, Marcuse concludes, “Mankind becomes free only when the material production of life is a function of the abilities and happiness of associated individuals”. And, earlier in Reason and Revolution, in fact in a section still on Hegel’s philosophy, Marcuse had brought in (without explicit reference) Marx’s Capital, Volume 3’s concept of post-capitalist society, that is, “the shortening of the labor day as the condition for man’s passing into the ‘realm of freedom’”. We need to quote the entire passage, as it remains the key, along with analyses in the Grundrisse, for 8 Marx’s concepts of post-capitalist society, which were central to the Marcuse/Dunayevskaya dialogue. Marx writes: It is one of the civilizing aspects of capital that it extorts…surplus labor in a manner [surplus value] and in conditions that are more advantageous to social relations and to the creation of elements for a newer and higher formation than was the case under earlier forms of slavery, serfdom, etc. Thus on the one hand it leads towards a stage at which compulsion and the monopolization of social development (with its material and intellectual advantages) by one section of society at the expense of another disappears; on the other hand it creates the material means and the nucleus for relations that permit this surplus labor to be combined, in a higher form of society, with a greater reduction of the overall time devoted to material labor...The realm of freedom really begins only where labor determined by necessity and external expediency ends; it [the realm of freedom] lies by its very nature beyond the sphere of material production proper...Freedom, in this sphere [material production proper], can consist only in this, that socialized man, the associated producers, govern the human metabolism with nature in a rational way, bringing it under their collective control instead of being dominated by it as a blind power; accomplishing it with the least expenditure of energy and in conditions most appropriate for their human nature. But this always remains a realm of necessity. The true realm of freedom, the development of human powers as an end in itself, begins beyond it [labor in material production, realm of necessity], though it can only flourish with this realm of necessity as its basis. The reduction of the working day is the basic prerequisite. In the text of Marxism and Freedom, Dunayevskaya ties Marx’s analysis here to the young Marx for, “whom the creative role of labor is the key to all else” (p. 145). While bringing in Marx’s Grundrisse, she claims that, the actual necessity of revolt will arise out of the fact that capitalism…is destroying society. The only force which can overcome this necessity therefore is freedom which in itself and for itself inseparably combines objective conditions, subjective activity and purpose. In the Grundrisse Marx said that once the productive process is “stripped of its antagonistic form”, the “measure of wealth will then no longer be labor time, but leisure time.” Dunayevskaya’s conclusion from her collation of passages from the Grundrisse and Capital Volume III here is as follows: The free time liberated from capitalist exploitation would be for the free development of the individual’s powers. 9 Marcuse’s Preface, wherein he demonstrates how Dunayevskaya’s book “goes beyond the previous interpretations”, even follows the sequence Dunayevskaya presented in the text of Marxism and Freedom—Marx’s Capital, Volume III passages on the realm of necessity and the realm of freedom followed by quotations from the Grundrisse, which served to elaborate the Capital passages. Marcuse’s Preface essentially restates Dunayevskaya’s analysis of the importance of the reversal of labor time and free time as fundamental to the realization of a post- capitalist society, but precedes it with some original analyses: Socialism fulfills itself not in the emancipation and organization of labor, but in its “abolition.” As long as man’s struggle with nature requires human toil for procuring the necessities of life, all that can be attained in this sphere is a truly rational societal organization of labor. Its establishment at the stage of advanced industrialism is “only” a political problem. For Marx, it is to be solved by a revolution which brings the productive process under the collective control of the “immediate producers.” But this is not freedom. Freedom is living without toil, without anxiety: the play of human faculties. The realization of freedom is a problem of time: reduction of the working day to the minimum which turns quantity into quality. A socialist society is a society in which free time, not labor time, is the social measure of wealth and the dimension of the individual existence… A potentially significant difference with Dunayevskaya’s position emerges here. It revolves around Dunayevskaya’s conclusions that the passages in Capital, Volume III and in the Grundrisse show that, “the creative role of labor is the key to all else” (p. 145). Marcuse’s Preface interprets the creativity outside of labor as central if not exclusively relevant to post- capitalist society; Dunayevskaya’s interpretation posits the creativity of labor itself as central in the realization of a post-capitalist society. Hence the question arises: were Marcuse’s particular claims for the achievements of Marxism and Freedom based on his own interpretations of the theoretical links between the 10 Grundrisse, Capital, and the young Marx (and even Marxism and Freedom itself) that were actually substantially inconsistent with Dunayevskaya’s interpretations? Marcuse’s elaboration of his views of the Grundrisse and Capital, Volume III suggest that this was the case. Marcuse concluded that socialism is “conditioned upon advanced industrial production with the highest degree of mechanization”. Dunayevskaya, on the basis of the same texts, had drawn a different conclusion: “the creative role of labor is the key to all else.” Dunayevskaya’s conclusion seemed to adhere closer to Marx’s text: Marx, in the key relevant passage in Capital, Volume III, wrote: “Freedom, in this sphere [material production] can consist only in this, that socialized man, the associated producers, govern the human metabolism with nature in a rational way…accomplishing it with the least expenditure of energy and in conditions most appropriate for their human nature…” Clearly, the standard Marcuse identified—“highest degree of mechanization”—may represent conditions radically opposed to those conditions, “most appropriate for workers’ human nature.” For example, in terms of workers’ freedom in a post-capitalist society there may be a technological level that is optimum rather than the maximum attainable in respect to human creativity and the “human metabolism with nature”. Dialogue on Capital and Post-Capitalist Society in the Correspondence We can now turn to the Marcuse/Dunayevskaya correspondence for a more in-depth look at the subtle but perhaps consequential differences reflected, on the one hand, in Dunayevskaya’s text and, on the other, Marcuses’s Preface. In a brief note (June 7, 1957), Marcuse asks 11 Dunayevskaya for a brief statement on the main thesis (or theses) of Marxism and Freedom, which might help expedite his writing of the Preface. In her reply a few days later, Dunayevskaya describes the “central point” as, “the philosophical foundation of Marxism”, which she elaborates, writing, “[Not] only are Marx’s economic categories social categories but they are thoroughly permeated with the humanism that came out of the working-class struggles for the shortening of the working day. As Marx put it [in Capital’s Chapter 10 on ‘The Working Day’] the mere question, when does my day begin and when does it end, was on a higher philosophic level than [in Marx’s words], ‘the pompous catalogue of the Declaration of the Rights of Man’. What is true of Volume I of Capital is true of the logic and scope of Volumes II and III…where I show all of history to Marx was the struggle for freedom, which, as its basis, is the shortening of the working day, and only from there do we go from the realm of necessity to the realm of freedom” (June 11, 1957). Marcuse began to realize some certain key theoretical differences he had with Dunayevskaya only after submitting his Preface. In response to publishers’ pre-publication brochures that emphasized the “American roots of Marxism”, and that Marx, “completely recreated the structure of Capital under the impact of the American Civil War”, Marcuse asked Dunayevkskaya for clarification of these points. In a letter of October 11, 1957, Dunayevskaya defends the theses in Marxism and Freedom concerning the “American roots of Marxism” and Marx’s “recreation of the structure of Capital under the impact of the Civil War”. In part, Dunayevskaya explains: After three intensive years--1863-66--of reworking Capital, Marx is still not satisfied. On February 10, 1866 [in a letter to Engels], we hear why: "Historically I developed a part about the working day which did not enter into my first plan." After he has finished working out the immense section on Working Day he writes again to Engels and shows how happy he is that the American workers "by correct instinct" came to the same formulation on the eight hour day that he had worked out for the Geneva Congress of the 12 First International. This he brings directly into Capital (end of Ch. X) when he quotes that Baltimore Resolution [and] ties it in with the First International. [Here Dunayevskaya appears to be referring to Marx's letter to Ludwig Kugelmann (October 9, 1966), where Marx wrote: "The American Workers' Congress at Baltimore, which took place at the same time [as the Geneva Congress of the First International] caused me great joy. The slogan there was organization for the struggle against capital, and remarkably enough, most of the demands which I drew up for Geneva were also put forward there by the right instinct of the workers." Also, in Capital Marx writes, "Thus the working-class movement on both sides of the Atlantic, which had grown instinctively out of the relations of production themselves, set its seal on the words of the factory inspector, R.J. Saunders; 'further steps toward a reformation of society can never be carried out with any hope of success, unless the hours of labor be limited, and the prescribed limit strictly enforced’”]. Dunayevskaya’s letter continues: [Marx] further ties in white and black labor. [The full passage Dunayevskaya refers to in Marx’s Capital is as follows: "In the United States of America, every independent workers' movement was paralysed as long as slavery disfigured a part of the republic. Labor in a white skin cannot emancipate itself where it is branded in a black skin. However, a new life immediately arose from the death of slavery. The first fruit of the American Civil War was the eight hours' agitation, which ran from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from New England to California, with the seven-league boots of the locomotive. The General Congress of Labour held at Baltimore in August 1866 declared: 'The first and great necessity of the present, to free the labor of this country from capitalistic slavery, is the passing of a law by which eight hours shall be the normal working day in all States of the American Union. We are resolved to put forth all our strength until this glorious result is attained'" [MCIF, p.414]]. With these passages we can see that the Marcuse/Dunayevskaya correspondence thus provides important documentation both of the process by which original analyses of Capital developed and significant theoretical differences that otherwise would be difficult to perceive in Marcuse’s preface and Dunayevskaya’s text alone. Today’s Relevance of the Marcuse/Dunayevskaya Correspondence on Marx’s Capital 13 It may be interesting to note that while both Marcuse and Dunayevskaya confronted the Great Depression and the ensuing war both theoretically and practically, neither experienced a second economic collapse on the level of our current Great Recession, which is entering its third year. This explains why much of their dialogue on Marx’s Capital, capitalist crises, and a potential post-capitalist society based on new forms of work and time for creative self- development has been in danger of being lost just at the time when it may have the most value for the current generation facing economic collapse and endless wars. There is no guarantee that the current stabilization will inevitably lead to recovery and the reestablishment of capitalism as the “natural” and/or normal state of affairs. Millions remain under and unemployed. Everything points to a "jobless recovery" like no other. Workers are experiencing soaring unemployment, reduced hours, and forced part-time jobs. These represent involuntary "free time," the result of what Marx called "value production"--in which the self-development of people and material well-being are nothing but its by-product. The current kinds of increases in free time are all about restoring, preserving, and perpetuating the capitalist mode of production. The worst thing we can do, however, is to stop there, and fail to follow the logic of capital to its conclusion, to Marx's look ahead to post-capitalist society.
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