Henryk Grossman 1931

Grossman to Paul Mattick Sr,
June 21st, 1931

Written: 1931;
First Published: 1969;
Source: Grossmann to Paul Mattick Sr, June 21st, 1931 in Grossmann, Henryk, 1969. ‘Briefe Henryk Grossmanns an Paul Mattick über Akkumulation’, in Henryk Grossmann, Marx, die klassische Nationalökonomie und das Problem der Dynamik. Europäische Verlaganstalt, Frankfurt am Main, 86-88.
Translated: Rick Kuhn;
Transcription/Markup: Steve Palmer;
Proofread: Steve Palmer
Copyleft: InternetArchive(marxists.org) 2005. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the Creative Commons License.; Reproduced here with the permission of the translator, Rick Kuhn.

But I did not want to give the impression that I derive the breakdown tendency from Bauer’s scheme. Indeed, I emphasized in the book that Bauer’s scheme is unrealistic. That position is a direct implication of my methodological piece on the ‘Plan for Capital’; Bauer makes unrealistic, false assumptions and I just wanted to pursue his argument ad absurdam. Someone ironically said against me that in my book capitalism breaks down not as a result of the suffering of the workers but the suffering of the capitalists. This objection does not touch me but Bauer. That is a result of his scheme, as he assumes that capitalism at best accumulates at a rate of 10% a year and that workers, at best, receive a [total] wage that grows by 5% a year. In reality these assumptions do not apply. There are precisely struggles between workers and capitalists over the distribution of surplus value. It is insufficient for both an adequate level of wages and the required rate of accumulation. One can only be achieved at the expense of the other. Hence the intensification of class struggles. The development of the situation in the United States, England and Germany over the past two years confirms this diagnosis 100 per cent. I do not maintain that surplus value declines. It can grow. And nevertheless it is insufficient because accumulation (as it requires an ever greater organic composition) swallows a continuously larger part of the surplus value.

[If capitalists secure their income, then wages are insufficient and] an objectively revolutionary situation arises: the system shows that it cannot secure the living conditions of the population. From this objective situation and through it the class struggle intensifies. That is, the subjective factor, whether the working class through its struggles is capable of overturning the system, only becomes significant with the objective situation in this phase of development. Obviously the idea that capitalism must break down ‘of itself’ or ‘automatically’, which Hilferding and other socialists (Braunthal) assert against my book, is far from being my position. It can only be overturned through the struggles of the working class.

But I wanted to show that the class struggle alone is not sufficient. The will to overturn capitalism is not enough. Such a will cannot even arise in the early phases of capitalism. It would also be [in]effective without a revolutionary situation.[1] Only in the final phases of development do the objective conditions arise which bring about the preconditions for the successful, victorious intervention of the working class. Obviously, as a dialectical Marxist, I understand that both sides of the process, the objective and subjective elements influence each other reciprocally. In the class struggle these factors fuse. One cannot ‘wait’ until the ‘objective’ conditions are there and only then allow the ‘subjective’ factors to come into play. That would be an inadequate, mechanical view, which is alien to me. But, for the purposes of the analysis, I had to use the process of abstract isolation of individual elements in order to show the essential function of each element. Lenin often talks of the revolutionary situation which has to be objectively given, as the precondition for the active, victorious intervention of the proletariat. The purpose of my breakdown theory was not to exclude this active intervention, but rather to show when and under what circumstances such an objectively given revolutionary situation can and does arise.

Bauer’s scheme is insufficient on many grounds… I wanted to demonstrate that the result of even this, his mistaken scheme is breakdown and not equilibrium. I do not want, however, to identify myself with Bauer’s scheme under any circumstances

1. From the sense of this paragraph (and consistency with his argument elsewhere), Grossman seems to have left out a negative particle from this sentence. [RK]