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The Inevitability
of Communism (6)


In the preface to his book, Hook ( page x ) has taken pains to anticipate the reproach of smuggling idealistic factors into Marxism. But his dialectic, which fails to take a rational view of science and which is a purely conceptual one, is bogged in idealism none the less. He doesn't know, for instance, what to look for behind the category value or behind political economy. In his distinction between "science" and "Marxism" on a purely scientific basis, he has actually got no further than Hegel. The theoretical science of the proletariat is either practice or is not science. The Marxian dialectic is not a special, "subjective" science; it is the practice of the proletarian revolution, and theoretical only insofar as this theory is concrete, actual practice.

That Hook is far from being clear on this point is proved by the fact that although he is willing to have a distinction made between science and Marxism, he rejects the application of this distinction in regards to economy. From our standpoint, there is no distinction to be made between science and Marxism, and hence also none between economics and political economy. But the refusal of this distinction for economics, while allowing it to science, is, on the basis of the Hook argumentation, a sign of complete confusion and a throwback into idealist dialectics. When, for example, Hook reproaches Engels with lending support to reformism, which made Marxism a science, through his monistic tendency, which comes to light most clearly in his preface to the second and third volumes of Capital, Hook illustrates only his own incomplete grasp of the real nature of Marxism. He writes ( pages 29-30 ) :

"But more important still, in bringing to completion and publishing the second and third volumes of Das Kapital Engels gave final currency to the notion that the economic theories of Marx constituted a hypothetic-deductive system of the type exemplified by scientific theories überhaupt, instead of being an illustration of a method of revolutionary criticism. In so doing Engels failed to develop the important sociological and practical implications of Marx's doctrine of the "fetishism of commodities." He devoted himself to the task of explaining how the law of the falling rate of profit could be squared both with the empirical fact that the rate of profit was the same irrespective of the organic composition of capital, and with the labor-power definition of exchange value .....

Nowhere, so far as I know, does Engels properly comment on Marx's own words in the preface to the second edition of the first volume, 'that political economy can remain a science only so long as the class struggle is latent or manifests itself only in isolated or sporadic phenomena.' It cannot be too strongly insisted upon that Marx did not conceive Das Kapital to be a deductive exposition of an objective natural system of political economy, but a critical analysis -- sociological and historical -- of a system which regarded itself as objective. Its sub-title is Kritik der Politischen Oekonomie. Criticism demands a standpoint, a position. Marx's standpoint was the standpoint of the class conscious proletariat of Western Europe. His position implied that a system of economics at basis always is a class economics."

Later, Hook goes on to assert, Engels perceived his error; and Hook produces in the appendix of his book a series of Engel's letters designed to confirm this statement. But it is impossible, even for Hook himself, to get more out of these letters than that Engels here laments the fact that Marx and himself, in the press of work, had devoted too little attention to the subjective moments of history. There is not a word of revision of the standpoint represented by him in the preface to Capital, which was regarded there not only as a critique of political economy but the analysis of the laws of social movement in general.

According to Hook, Das Kapital consisted only in a critique of political economy, which revealed from the standpoint of the proletariat the purely historical character of capital. But how does this critique reveal the transitory character of capitalist production ? Why is criticism able to uncover this ? "Because the proletariat wants to change society," Hook in effect asserts later, "therefore the will discovers in the mode of economic production the decisive factor in social life." ( page 181 ). To Marx, however, it is not the will but the existence of the proletariat, not the relations of production, but the development of the productive forces, ( which determines the willing as it determines the social relations ), which is the starting point for his historical survey. Das Kapital reveals the broader contradiction between man and nature as a contradiction which all social orders have conditioned and which compelled the development of the productive forces. It indicates too the narrower contradictions arising within this process by which relations of production are formed and again destroyed. If bourgeois science to Hook is not the only science, science überhaupt, then he has no right to regard bourgeois political economy as economics überhaupt. But whereas in the former case, following Hook, science stands above classes, one is not justified, again according to Hook, in setting economics above classes. To us, however, political economy, like bourgeois science is an attained level of general human development, objective and true insofar as it is progressive. To recognize it as an historical level presupposes a knowledge of the character, the general traits, of the laws of social change. This recognition was hindered through class rule; it was first the existence of the proletariat as a class which abolishes all classes, which enabled awareness of the laws of social change, an awareness which, however, must first become practical to enable living in accordance with those laws.

Political economy is not an eternal category, for the reason that it is only the verdinglichte, objectified ( exchange )-relation between human beings who overshadow the real content of economics. The economic categories with which Marx operated were objectively given; they belong to bourgeois society. Marx's critique consisted in the fact that he illumined them with the correct consciousness, that of the proletariat, not with the necessarily false one of the bourgeoisie. The fetishistic, false consciousness conditioned by the level of the productive forces, and which had to stop with Hegel, Ricardo, and Adam Smith, could not, like Marx, who saw in the proletariat the antithesis of bourgeois society, theoretically see the synthesis which first disclosed the feature common to all societies. Marx pointed out, for example, how manufacture developed out of the social division of labor, out of manufacture the modern factory system, which in turn presses on to become monopoly capital. The dynamicist, Marx, directed himself to such a "senseless" matter as simple reproduction merely to prove the impossibility of the thing. In all of which Marx wished to show that the productive forces are the basis of all relations of production. In communism too, the productive forces, "economics," will be further developed. If the increasing productive forces bring about the bourgeois relations of production and further develop the productive forces, so these latter in turn determine the tempo of their further development, and at a certain point of their development are restrained by the relations of production. Since no equilibrium ( Statik ) exists, these relations must be changed. In this general process of necessity, in this material process, "political economy" merely represents a certain level, but a significant level in that it is the preliminary condition for a period of human history which works with correct consciousness and therefore controls matters instead of being determined by them. Already in the introduction to the Critique of Political Economy Marx makes this connection clear; which proves to us that the criticism of bourgeois society was at the same time the uncovering of the laws of economic movement in general. He says :

"Bourgeois society is the most highly developed and the most complicated historical organization of production. The categories in which its relations are expressed, the understanding of their structure, at the same time furnish insight into the structure and productive relations of all the bygone forms of society, on the ruins and elements of which it has been built up. Of these societies there drag along in it, side by side, still unsubdued remnants as well as mere hints which have developed into perfected meanings. The anatomy of man is a key to the anatomy of the ape."

So in laying bare the laws of capitalist movement Marx has laid bare the laws of social movement in general. Engels was therefore right when he saw in Das Kapital more than Hook has seen, to whom it is merely a critique. And when Engels, to Hook's regret, instead of concerning himself with the fetishism of commodities, engaged with the problems of the average rate of profit, the theory of value, etc., in order to show that all capitalist phenomena can be traced back to the law of value, he was doing nothing other than what in Hook's opinion he failed to do : he was revealing the fetishist character of commodities. This fetishism conceals the actual process, but does not change it. Only a false consciousness, caught in the net of commodity fetishism, puzzles itself with market and price problems and fails to realize that all movements of capital are governed by the law of value as by an inner law. That Marx held the same view and, as Engels asserted, intended more than a critique, is shown by the following passage from a letter written by Marx in 1886 with reference to a critic of his concept of value :

"The poor fellow fails to see that even if my book contained not a single chapter on value, the analysis I give of the real relations would contain the proof and the demonstration of the real relations of value. The twaddle about the necessity of proving the concept of value rests only upon the most complete ignorance both of the matter in question and of the methods of science. That any nation which ceases to work, I will not say for a year, but for a few weeks, would die of hunger, is known to every child. He also knows that the masses of products corresponding to the different needs demand different and quantitatively determinate masses of the total social labor. That this necessity for the division of social labor in determinate proportions can absolutely not be abolished by reason of the determinate form of social production but can only change its manner of appearance, is obvious. Natural laws cannot be abolished at all. What can be changed in historically different conditions is only the form in which these laws operate. And the form in which this proportional division of labor operates, in a state of society in which the connection of social labor asserts itself as private exchange of the individual products of labor, is nothing other than the exchange-value of these products."

And so Das Kapital is constructed upon a two fold view of development : On the one hand, it observes development as a natural process and on the other, Marx treats it according to the historical-social form it assumes at any particular time. In the chapter on the fetishist character of commodities Marx shows what exchange value really is. It is not something natural, but a social relationship by which society is determined as by an actual thing. Exchange value, value production, is just an expression of social backwardness, and has its source in the still insufficient development of the forces of production. It is therefore an historical category, which is overcome by the increasing forces of production. So that the fetishism of commodities merely shows that man is not yet in a position to master production, and consequently production governs man.

In the Robinson Crusoe example, which Marx employs in discussing communism, he shows what is back of exchange value, and then in the third volume of Capital he says : "however prices may be regulated, it is seen that the law of value governs their movement." According to Hook, in the so much less important excursions of Engels in his preface to the second and third volumes of Capital, Engels merely emphasizes this phrase of Marx, which is nothing but an illustration of the fetishistic character of commodities, a character which does not admit the socially necessary labor time as the measure of value, though in reality it operates in spite of all modifications. So that political economy is the expression of the social form in which, at a certain plane of history, natural laws operate. And on this capitalistic plane, value cannot be comprehended by the false consciousness of the bourgeoisie. If bourgeois economy is interested in the way the market price was determined, if accordingly it was satisfied with the law of supply and demand, then Marx inquired about the origin of price and found it in the law of value. He thus uncovered the fetishism of commodities as the social "consciousness" under capitalism, in which the workers are separated from the means of production. It is not until this separation of producers and means of production is abolished that commodity society, with the false consciousness that is necessarily a part of it, can be brought to an end. And it is only on the basis of this fetishism that the distinction between "science" and "Marxism" is possible. The abolition of the one is bound up with the abolition of the other. Theoretically, this is already presupposed in Marxism, for man constructs in his head before he acts. Marx was able to actualize the Hegelian dialectic, Marxism can be actualized only through the Revolution. Or, as Marx put it : "It is not enough that thought presses on to become actuality, actuality must itself press on to become thought."

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