A History of Marxian Economics, Volume I

A History of Marxian Economics, Volume I: 1883-1929

Copyright Date: 1989
Pages: 373
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    A History of Marxian Economics, Volume I
    Book Description:

    The first volume of this critical history covers the social, political, and theoretical forces behind the development of Marxian economics from Marx's death in 1883 until 1929, the year marking the onset of Stalin's "revolution from above," which subsequently transformed the Soviet Union into a modern superpower. During these years, Marxists in both Russia and Germany found their economic ideas inextricably linked with practical political problems, and treated theory as a guide to action. This book systematically examines the important theoretical literature of the period, including insightful works by political functionaries outside academia--journalists, party organizers, underground activists, and teachers in the labor movement--presented here as the primary forgers of Marxian economic thought.

    Beginning with Engels's writings, this book analyzes the work of leading Marxist economists in the Second International, then concludes with a review of the intellectual movements within the Marxian political economy during the 1920s. A second volume treating the period from 1929 to the present will follow.

    Originally published in 1989.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6052-4
    Subjects: Political Science, Business

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
    M. C. Howard and J. E. King
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xi-xiv)

    In this first volume we take the history of Marxian economics from the death of Karl Marx in 1883 to 1929, the year which saw both the onset of the Great Depression in the capitalist world and the beginnings of Stalin’s ‘revolution from above’ which subsequently transformed the Soviet Union into a modern superpower. The second volume of this work will bring the story of Marxian political economy up to the present day.

    Judged by its own criteria it might be thought that an intellectual history of Marxism is unimportant. As it is widely understood today, Marxism assigns ideas to...

  5. Part I THE GERMAN CONTRIBUTION, 1883–1914

    • 1 Friedrich Engels and the Marxian Legacy, 1883–95
      (pp. 3-20)

      Karl Marx died on 13 March 1883 at the age of 64, leaving much of his intended political economy unwritten and an even greater proportion unpublished. Since the publication of volume I ofCapitalin 1867, he had worked only sporadically on the remaining volumes, devoting an increasing proportion of his time to his other intellectual interests (for a discussion of some of these, see Chapter 7 below). The manuscripts which were to form the basis of the second, third and fourth volumes were subjected - as he once put it, regarding a different work - to ‘the gnawing criticism...

    • 2 Engels and the ‘Prize Essay Competition’ in the Theory of Value
      (pp. 21-41)

      In his preface to the second volume ofCapital, Friedrich Engels vigorously defended Marx against the accusation that he had stolen his theory of surplus value from J. K. Rodbertus. This charge of plagiarism dated from the 1870s and had been made by both Rodbertus himself and by his disciple Rudolf Meyer.¹ Its rebuttal was a matter of some urgency. In the early 1880s the dominance of Marxist ideas within German Social Democracy (which had never been especially secure) was under attack from a powerful ‘Rodbertus movement’ led by Meyer, which exercised a considerable attraction for socialist-inclined intellectuals and threatened...

    • 3 First Debates in Value Theory, 1895–1914
      (pp. 42-64)

      As we saw in the previous chapter, Marx had alluded briefly in volume I ofCapitalto the complications posed for his theory of value by the existence of free competition. In part II of the third volume he described the problem in considerable detail and set out his own solution to it. Competition in the market for labour power equalises the rate of exploitation in all industries, since in equilibrium both the working day and the real wage will be uniform, and so too will be the amount of surplus value that capitalists can extract from each worker employed....

    • 4 Bernstein, Kautsky and the Revisionist Controversy
      (pp. 65-89)

      In the second half of the nineteenth century Germany experienced extremely rapid economic development, which transformed the Empire (itself completed as a political unit only in 1871) from a relatively backward and largely agricultural area into one of the world’s major industrial powers. The population grew from 35 million in 1849 to 65 million in 1910, and while the numbers in rural communities remained almost constant at 25 million the urban population quadrupled. There was a massive expansion in the output of coal, metal products, heavy engineering, the shipbuilding industry, chemicals and electrical goods, pig iron alone increasing from barely...

    • 5 Finance Capital and Imperialism: Karl Kautsky and Rudolf Hilferding
      (pp. 90-105)

      The final quarter of the nineteenth century saw a number of important changes in the world capitalist economy and in the political relations between the Great Powers. Whereas the late 1860s witnessed the closest ever approximation to universal free trade, the trend thereafter was towards increased protectionism, together with growing monopolisation primarily through the establishment of trusts and cartels. World trade continued to grow more rapidly than industrial output, and between 1870 and 1914 there was a massive migration of people from Europe to the newly-settled areas of North and South America, Australia and South Africa. This was accompanied by...

    • 6 Capital Accumulation, Imperialism and War: Rosa Luxemburg and Otto Bauer
      (pp. 106-126)

      After 1907 the divisions within the SPD became more and more apparent. The right wing of the party, although always in the minority, advanced the revisionist case with increasing confidence against the left, whose belief in the inevitability of economic breakdown contributed greatly to their revolutionary political perspective. The central ground was occupied (at the theoretical level) by Kautsky and Hilferding. As we saw in the previous chapter, Kautsky’s centrism was increasingly slanted towards the right. Thus the left’s attack on class collaboration and the illusion of peaceful social change was directed against Kautsky himself.

      By far the most important...


    • 7 The Inheritance of Russian Marxism
      (pp. 129-145)

      From the outset of its theoretical development Germanic Marxism was joined by a second stream which originated further east, in Russia. However, Marx’s legacy to Russian Marxists was by no means the same as that to the German socialists. Although the works to which they had access were essentially the same,¹ the contents were more ambiguous in the Russian context because of the underdevelopment of Russian capitalism and the character of tsarist absolutism. Furthermore, Marx expressed specific views on Russia which were often not well-founded and, moreover, had little relation to his overall theory of historical development. For these reasons...

    • 8 The Political Economy of Plekhanov
      (pp. 146-164)

      About 1880, as the ‘Late Marx’ was emerging, the young Plekhanov was moving in an exactly contrary direction. He broke with his populist past, embraced a Marxism which incorporated central themes of the mature Marx, and began the process by which his ideas subsequently attained dominance in Russian revolutionary circles. The fact that he knew Marx’s own views on Russia to diverge from his own,¹ and that he received scant encouragement from Engels or other leaders of Marxism for many years after Marx’s death,² speaks for his intellectual confidence. Plekhanov’s theoretical abilities are attested by the fact that the general...

    • 9 Populism and Orthodox Marxism in the 1890s
      (pp. 165-183)

      Plekhanov developed his Marxism primarily in opposition to populist intellectuals. The underdeveloped nature of the Russian labour movement in the 1880s meant that his immediate aim became that of converting revolutionaries of the intelligentsia to his position, rather than seeking to influence the proletariat directly.¹ Plekhanov’s attack on populism, however, was part of a broader Marxist critique. The first round had been fired by Engels in 1873,² and debates with populism in Russia were to end only with Stalin’s collectivisation in the late 1920s. The high point of the controversy came between 1894 and 1899, when there was a significant...

    • 10 Russian Revisionism
      (pp. 184-200)

      During the course of Marxism’s rise to prominence in the 1890s, two distinct groups of Marxists evolved away from orthodoxy: the ‘legal Marxists’ and the ‘economists’. Orthodoxy was defined by adherence to the tenets of Plekhanov’s system, and the repudiation of any allegation that Marx’s and Engels’s work might be in need of correction or amendment, rather than merely being applied to new circumstances; its principal proponents were Plekhanov himself and Lenin. The ‘legal Marxists’ included P. B. Struve, M. Tugan-Baranovsky and S. N. Bulgakov; Tugan-Baranovsky was by far the most important economic theorist. Their position prior to 1900...

    • 11 Lenin’s Political Economy, 1905–14
      (pp. 201-221)

      Prior to 1900 Lenin’s political economy was not marked by originality. As we have seen in Chapter 9, some novel features are evident but the overall framework was that provided by Plekhanov. Similarly, the economic theory which Lenin fashioned during the First World War rested upon the work of others, notably Hilferding and Bukharin (see Chapter 13 below). This latter stage in Lenin’s thought is undoubtedly the most important since it provided the theory underlying the Bolshevik revolution. Between these two periods, however, Lenin himself created a new and imaginative political economy, and one which provided a fresh perspective upon...

    • 12 Trotsky on Uneven and Combined Development
      (pp. 222-242)

      In the preface to the first volume ofCapital,Marx had written: ‘The country that is more developed industrially only shows, to the less developed, the image of its own future.’¹ Both Plekhanov and Lenin adhered to this perspective, as we have seen in Chapters 8 and 11. Their economics focused upon the development of Russian capitalism from the relations of commodity production – thereby following the structure ofCapitalitself – and their political strategies were each geared to accelerating the Westernisation of Russia. By contrast, Leon Trotsky denied Marx’s claim.² He did so by formulating a political economy which...

    • 13 Imperialism and War: Bukharin and Lenin on Monopoly Capitalism, 1914–17
      (pp. 243-266)

      The outbreak of the First World War in August 1914 did not immediately bring a fundamental change in Lenin’s analysis of capitalism, or in his view that Russian backwardness precluded anything other than a democratic revolution in that country. Although the nature of capitalism as a world system figured much more prominently in his work of the war years, most elements of hisImperialism,¹ written in 1916, can be found in his pre-war writings,² and he retained allegiance to his formula of the ‘democratic dictatorship’ until the early months of 1917.³ Equally Plekhanov and the Mensheviks remained committed to their...


    • 14 The Revival of Revisionism
      (pp. 269-285)

      The outbreak of the First World War in August 1914 shattered the already precarious unity of the European socialist movement. A large majority in the Marxist parties of all the important combatant powers supported the war efforts of their respective states, with greater or lesser degrees of enthusiasm. Otto Bauer and Rudolf Hilferding, for example, joined the Austrian army as a matter of course, without apparently even considering any alternative course of action. In Germany the patriotic fervour of the SPD’s right wing produced an appalling display of chauvinistic casuistry in which the military victory of the Hohenzollern Empire was...

    • 15 The Transition to Socialism: Communist Economics, 1917–29
      (pp. 286-315)

      The October revolution opened up a new chapter in Marxian political economy. The transition to socialism was placed on the agenda as a practical issue. Since there was little guidance to be found in the writings of either Marx and Engels, or in the work of the theorists of the Second International, Bolshevik thinkers were forced to develop an economics indicating how this could be accomplished. Innovation would have proved necessary in any event because the seizure of power had occurred on the periphery of world capitalism. As the Russian revolution was in a sense a ‘revolution againstCapital’,¹ even...

    • 16 Henryk Grossmann and the Breakdown of Capitalism
      (pp. 316-336)

      In Chapter 14 we saw how the renewed dynamism and appparent stabilisation of the world capitalist economy influenced Marxian analysis in the 1920s. Orthodox social democrats like Kautsky and Hilferding stole the clothes of the earlier revisionists to argue that, in the epoch of ‘organised capitalism’, major economic crises had become improbable. Against them were ranged a handful of neo-Luxemburgists (most prominently Fritz Sternberg) who continued to assert the inevitability of a realisation crisis, and the Trotskyists, stridently insisted upon the impending necessity of further imperialist wars (see Chapters 14 and 15 above). One common strand unites these otherwise disparate...

  8. Conclusion
    (pp. 337-340)

    In 1883 Marxian economics appeared to be a relatively simple matter. Its substance was contained in a handful of basic texts, in effect volume I ofCapitalsupplemented by theCommunist ManifestoandAnti-Dühring.These writings were subject to interpretation only by Marx and Engels themselves, and their intellectual dominance over their followers was unquestioned. They had concentrated upon a range of issues which, though immensely important, was also rather narrow. Marxian political economy consisted of the theories of value and exploitation, capital and surplus value, accumulation and crisis, the emergence and imminent transcendence of capitalism, all viewed from the...

  9. Index of Names
    (pp. 341-346)
  10. Index of Subjects
    (pp. 347-359)