Skip to Content

Marx and the Sunday Times

Some readers of the George Schwartz column in the Sunday Times of September 15th will have been surprised to see a headline “But Marx didn’t say so” and still more surprised at the opening paragraph:

    “The process of enlightenment goes on apace, and at such a pace that one is apt to be bedazzled. I say this somewhat ruefully because an article in the current number of the Economica on “Marxian Value Reconsidered” almost persuades me to become a Marxian.”

Schwartz quoted extensively from the article in question to show, among other things, that Marx never believed capitalism would collapse through breakdown in a crisis; on the contrary, as Marx himself put it: “There are no permanent crises,” and that Marx did not accept a theory of general over-production.

“The trouble arises,” says Schwartz, in his paraphrase of Marx, “because the economy does not progress evenly. The very dynamism of capitalist enterprise brings about miscalculations and disproportionalities. The respective equilibriums of the various lines of production are constantly being disturbed and the conflict periodically leads to a crises which necessitates a transformation of the system.”

At this point Mr. Schwartz draws back from his passing feeling of affinity with Marx and offers to discuss amicably with the ghost of Karl the problem of seeking corrective action for capitalism’s maladjustments.

The article from which Schwartz quotes is by Thomas Sowell of Rutgers University USA, and in the August issue of Economica (London School of Economics, 10s) Sowell sets out to explain (with numerous quotations and references to sources) the meaning of Marx’s law of value and its place in the general framework of his analysis of capitalism, and to show how Marx’s approach to economics differed from that of other economists. Sowell also examines Marx’s views on crises and disposes of some common misconceptions-to the surprise of Mr. Schwartz. It may surprise both Sowell and Schwartz to know that recognition of the wrongness of the “collapse” theories is not new for the SPGB. In the 1932 crisis, for example, in a short pamphlet “Why capitalism will not collapse,” earlier crises were examined and the conclusion drawn:

    ". . . there is no simple way out of capitalism by leaving the system to collapse of its own accord. Until a sufficient number of workers are prepared to organize politically for the conscious purpose of ending capitalism, that system will stagger on indefinitely from one crisis to another."

At that time leaders of the ILP and the Communist Party were hysterically proclaiming the imminent collapse of capitalism.

Edgar Hardcastle