Karl Kautsky

The Economic Doctrines of Karl Marx


KARL KAUTSKY, at the height of his powers, was one of the greatest Marxist scholars. The Economic Doctrines of Karl Marx is one of his most useful works and students of economic science will find it of considerable value.

As this edition is intended to be of particular service to students, the Publications Committee of the N.C.L.C. thinks it necessary to offer the following short notes on phrases which, if not explained, might mislead students new to the subjects.

On page 14 (line 20) appears a quotation which suggests that “the value of the world’s commodities” represents “the combined labour-power of the community.” This might be true in a. world in which the capacity of all members of society was fully used for the common benefit. It is, however, work done (labour) rather than capacity to work (labour-power) which imparts value to commodities. Our existing world allows, and indeed compels, vast quantities of labour-power to remain unused, while those who possess it spend their days in undesired unemployment. The commodities at present produced, therefore, are far fewer and less valuable than would be the case if “the combined labour-power of the community” were properly used.

In the nineteenth and twentieth lines of page 153, reference is made to “the value of his (the worker’s) labour-time.” Obviously what is meant is the value of the worker’s labour-power for the given period. The new student needs to bear in mind that what the wage-earner is normally paid for any period of labour always falls short of the value created by him in that time. Towards the end of the book (e.g., on pages 182, 188, 189, and elsewhere) the phrase “price of labour” or “price of labour-time” is used on several occasions on which, if the term “price of labour-power” had been used, it would have been easier for the student to realise the fundamental difference, in Marxian theory, between “labour” and “labour-power.”

Finally, on page 154, at line 3, our author speaks of a machine which “reproduces its value.” This phrase suggests that there is something actually creative in the machine itself, whereas the truth is that the machine can merely have its value transferred piecemeal to the commodities in the production of which it is used. It is vital for the student of Marxian economics constantly to bear in mind that human labour is the sole creator of value.

Readers of this book are recommended to consult our Outline of Economics and our Outline of Finance – see outside back cover.

N.C.L.C. Publishing Society Ltd.,
15 South Hill Park Gardens, London, N.W.3.


Last updated on 22.11.2003