Marx-Engels Correspondence 1868

Marx To Ludwig Kugelmann
In Hanover

Source: MECW, Volume 43, p. 67;
First published: abridged in Die Neue Zeit, Stuttgart, 1901-1902 and in full in Pisma Marksa h Kugelmanu (Letters of Marx to Kugelmann), Moscow-Leningrad, 1928.

London, 11 July 1868

Dear Friend,

The children are getting on well, though still weak.

Thank you very much for the things you sent. Definitely do not write to Faucher, otherwise this mannequin pisse will feel too important. All he has achieved is that, if a second edition appears, I shall aim a few necessary blows at Bastiat where I speak about the magnitude of value. This wasn’t done before, since the 3rd volume will contain a separate and extensive chapter about the ‘vulgar economy’ gentry. Incidentally, you will find it quite natural that Faucher and consorts derive the ‘exchange value’ of their own scribblings not from the amount of labour power expended, but from the absence of such expenditure, that is from ‘saved labour’. Moreover, the worthy Bastiat did not even himself make this ‘discovery’, so welcome to these gentry, but just ‘cribbed’ it, in his usual manner, from much earlier authors. His sources are of course unknown to Faucher and consorts.

As for the Centralblatt, the man is making the greatest concession possible by admitting that, if value means anything at all, then my conclusions must be conceded. The unfortunate fellow does not see that, even if there were no chapter on ‘value’ at all in my book, the analysis I give of the real relations would contain the proof and demonstration of the real value relation. The chatter about the need to prove the concept of value arises only from complete ignorance both of the subject under discussion and of the method of science. Every child knows that any nation that stopped working, not for a year, but let us say, just for a few weeks, would perish. And every child knows, too, that the amounts of products corresponding to the differing amounts of needs demand differing and quantitatively determined amounts of society’s aggregate labour. It is self-evident that this necessity of the distribution of social labour in specific proportions is certainly not abolished by the specific form of social production; it can only change its form of manifestation. Natural laws cannot be abolished at all. The only thing that can change, under historically differing conditions, is the form in which those laws assert themselves. And the form in which this proportional distribution of labour asserts itself in a state of society in which the interconnection of social labour expresses itself as the private exchange of the individual products of labour, is precisely the exchange value of these products.

Where science comes in is to show how the law of value asserts itself. So, if one wanted to ‘explain’ from the outset all phenomena that apparently contradict the law, one would have to provide the science before the science. It is precisely Ricardo’s mistake that in his first chapter, on value, all sorts of categories that still have to be arrived at are assumed as given, in order to prove their harmony with the law of value.

On the other hand, as you correctly believe, the history of the theory of course demonstrates that the understanding of the value relation has always been the same, clearer or less clear, hedged with illusions or scientifically more precise. Since the reasoning process itself arises from the existing conditions and is itself a natural process, really comprehending thinking can always only be the same, and can vary only gradually, in accordance with the maturity of development, hence also the maturity of the organ that does the thinking. Anything else is drivel.

The vulgar economist has not the slightest idea that the actual, everyday exchange relations and the value magnitudes cannot be directly identical. The point of bourgeois society is precisely that, a priori, no conscious social regulation of production takes place. What is reasonable and necessary by nature asserts itself only as a blindly operating average. The vulgar economist thinks he has made a great discovery when, faced with the disclosure of the intrinsic interconnection, he insists that things look different in appearance. In fact, he prides himself in his clinging to appearances and believing them to be the ultimate. Why then have science at all?

But there is also something else behind it. Once interconnection has been revealed, all theoretical belief in the perpetual necessity of the existing conditions collapses, even before the collapse takes place in practice. Here, therefore, it is completely in the interests of the ruling classes to perpetuate the unthinking confusion. And for what other reason are the sycophantic babblers paid who have no other scientific trump to play except that, in political economy, one may not think at all!

But satis superque. [enough and more than enough] In any case, it shows the depth of degradation reached by these priests of the bourgeoisie: while workers and even manufacturers and merchants have understood my book and made sense of it, these ‘learned scribes’ (!) complain that I make excessive demands on their comprehension.

I would not advise reprinting Schweitzer’s articles, though Schweitzer has made a good job of them for his paper.

You would oblige me if you sent me a few issues of the Staats-Anzeiger.

You should be able to get Schnacke’s address by enquiring at the Elberfelder.

Best greetings to your wife and Fränzchen.

K. M.

Apropos. I have received an article by Dietzgen about my book; I am sending it to Liebknecht.