Letters to Leo Löwenthal

Translated from German by Rick Kuhn

Series:

Translator Rick Kuhn

Series:

Translator Rick Kuhn

Rick Kuhn

Abstract

In his essay, Henryk Grossman made a powerful case for the continued relevance of Marxist economics. He argued that Capital is a fundamentally coherent whole, structured by Marx’s method of moving systematically from more abstract to more concrete levels of analysis. Despite considerable subsequent debate and research, Grossman’s account remains the outstanding contribution to our understanding of this aspect of Marx’s principal work.

Rick Kuhn

Whereas most previous and later discussions of Marx’s transformation of values into prices of production have focused on his mathematical procedure, Henryk Grossman addressed the logic of its place in the structure of Capital. On this basis he criticised underconsumptionist and disproportionality theorists of economic crises for inappropriately basing their accounts on the level of analysis of the value schemas in the second volume of Capital. Such a criticism cannot be made of Grossman’s and Marx’s explanation of systemic crises in terms of the tendency for the rate of profit to fall. Grossman’s article still provides insights into Marx’s analysis of capitalism and his theory of economic crises, unsurpassed in the subsequent literature.

Rick Kuhn

Abstract

Henryk Grossman's discussion of economic crises was designed to complement his Leninist understanding of politics. For Grossman, as for Marx, the fundamental contradiction of capitalist production is between the unlimited scope for expanding the output of use-values and restrictions imposed by the framework of producing profits. The increasing weight of capitalists' outlays on dead compared to living labour, which is the only source of new value, gives rise to the system's tendency to break down and, hence, to economic crises. Deep financial crises can only be understood in the context of developments in production and particularly movements in the rate of profit. The initial widespread hostility to Grossman's development of Marxist economics can mainly be explained in terms of the logics of Social-Democratic and Stalinist politics. In contrast to dominant views on the Left today, the Marxist tradition in which Grossman stood places the construction of organisations capable of assisting the working class' conquest of political power at the heart of the responsibility of socialists. Grossman's political practice expressed his understanding of the close relationship between capitalism's breakdown tendency and the importance of building a revolutionary party.

Series:

Translator Rick Kuhn