Samezō Kuruma

An Inquiry into Marx’s Theory of Crisis

Japanese title: “Marukusu no kyōkō ron no kakunin no tame ni”;
First published: Sep. 1930 issue of the Journal of the Ohara Institute for Social Research, (Vol. VII, No. 2);
Source: Chapter 2 of Kyōkō kenkū (Investgation of Crisis), Tokyo: Otsuki Shoten, 1965;
Translated: for by Michael Schauerte;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) 2007.

Kuruma at his desk

Among Marxists today there are sharp differences of opinion regarding the question of crisis and related issues. This situation suggests the need for new inquiry into Marx’s theory of crisis, and at the same time speaks to the fact that a major obstacle is blocking the path to achieving this. Where could this obstacle be said to be located? Various responses, from numerous perspectives, can of course be offered. But the most direct obstacle, at least as far as examining Marx’s theory of crisis, seems to be the incomplete nature of his system for a critique of political economy—and of the theory of crisis that accompanies it—and the fact that has not been adequately recognized. So our new effort here must begin with an awareness of this situation.

Some important hints regarding Marx’s original conception for the totality of his critique of political economy can be obtained by examining the passages cited below.

The first example comes from one part of a manuscript Marx entitled an “Introduction to Critique of Political Economy” [published as Introduction to Grundrisse]:

The order obviously has to be (1) the general, abstract determinants which obtain in more or less all forms of society, but in the above-explained sense. (2) The categories which make up the inner structure of bourgeois society and on which the fundamental classes rest. Capital, wage labor, landed property. Their interrelation. Town and country. The three great social classes. Exchange between them. Circulation. Credit system (private). (3) Concentration of bourgeois society in the form of the state. Viewed in relation to itself. The “unproductive” classes. Taxes. State debt. Public credit. The population. The colonies. Emigration. (4) The international relation of production. International division of labor. International exchange. Export and import. Rate of exchange. (5) The world market and crises. (Grundrisse)

In his “Preface” to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, published subsequently, Marx indicates that “a general introduction, which I had drafted, is omitted,and the passage just quoted is part of this “general introduction” written from August 23, 1857, according to Kautsky.

Chronologically, this Introduction was followed by a letter Marx wrote to Lasalle on February 22, 1858, where he writes:

The whole is divided into 6 books: 1. On Capital (contains a few introductory Chapters). 2. On Landed Property. 3. On Wage Labor. 4. On the State. 5. International Trade. 6. World Market generally speaking the critique and history of political economy and socialism would form the subject of another work, and, finally, the short historical outline of the development of economic categories and relations yet a third. (Collected Works, vol. 40)

About forty days after writing this letter, Marx discussed this plan in more detail in an April 2 letter to Engels:

The following is a short outline of the first part. The whole thing is to be divided into 6 books: 1. On Capital. 2. Landed Property. 3. Wage Labor. 4. State. 5. International, Trade. 6. World Market.

1. Capital falls into 4 sections. a) Capital en général (This is the substance of the first installment) b) Competition or the interaction of many capitals. c) Credit where capital, as against individual capitals, is shown to be a universal element. d) Share capital as the most perfected form (turning into communism) together with all its contradictions. The transition from capital to landed property is also historical, since landed property in its modern form is a product of the action of capital on feudal, etc., landed property. In the same way, the transition of landed property to wage labor is not only dialectical but historical, since the last product of modern landed property is the general introduction of wage labor, which then appears as the basis of the whole business.

Well (It is difficult for me today to write), let us now come to the corpus delicti.

I. Capital. First section: Capital in general (Throughout this section. wages are invariably assumed to be at their minimum. Movements in wages themselves and the rise and fall of that minimum will be considered under wage labor. Further, landed property is assumed to be zero, i.e. landed property, as a special economic relation is of no relevance as yet. Only by this procedure is it possible to discuss one relation without discussing all the rest.) (Collected Works, vol. 40)

Finally, Marx states the following in his Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy:

I examine the system of bourgeois economy in the following order: capital, landed property, wage-labor; the State, foreign trade, world market. The economic conditions of existence of the three great classes into which modern bourgeois society is divided are analyzed under the first three headings; the interconnection of the other three headings is self-evident. The first part of the first book, dealing with Capital, comprises the following chapters: 1. The commodity, 2. Money or simple circulation; 3. Capital in general. The present part consists of the first two chapters. (Collected Works vol. 29)

If we compare the four passages above, there are some slight differences between them. For example, in the Introduction [to Grundrisse] cited initially, Book 1 is referred to as dealing with the “general, abstract determinants, ” whereas this is subsequently omitted as an independent heading. Moreover, in this Introduction, “capital” is followed by “wage labor” and “landed property, ” whereas in the other passages “landed property” appears before “wage labor. ” Setting aside these points, however, we can see that apart from this or that complex or simple point, the basic structure is the same. Furthermore, I think that Marx mentions the “world market and crisis” in the last part of the citation from the Introduction, instead of the “world market” as in the other passages, as a mere simplification that does not signify the subsequent elimination of the theory of crisis.

Marx’s ambitious plan, however, was never realized. Only one book of his work A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy was every published, as is well known. In the course of preparing to write this book, Marx felt the need to fundamentally revise it. The new version of his initial manuscript was to later become Capital. In the case of Capital, the only book that Marx himself prepared for publication was volume 1, but Engels edited volumes 2 and 3 based on the manuscripts left by Marx, so Capital itself is basically in a completed form. The question remains, however, of the relation between all three volumes of Capital to Marx’s original conception of a critique of political economy. This is one problem that has extremely important significance to us. To address this I would like to begin by looking at four different views.

First, there is the view that the three volumes of Capital are the fundamental parts of the study of “capital” which itself forms the essential part of the entire conception of the critique of political economy. In other words, the three volumes are thought to correspond to “capital in general” within Marx’s plan (see the April 2 letter to Engels).

The second view is that these volumes do not relate to “capital in general” since they include the investigation of specific issues such as competition, credit, etc., and could thought instead to correspond to the entirety of “capital.”

Third, is the view that the three volumes do not merely deal with the issue of “capital” within Marx’s plan but also encompass “landed property” and “wage labor” as well. This view is based on the fact that in Capital Marx has already carried out a detailed investigation of wage labor and landed property in addition to the investigation of “capital.”

The fourth and final view is that it is not possible for the three volumes of Capital to encompass the entire concept of Marx’s initial overall plan. This argument is based on the idea that Marx completely altered his original plan when he discontinued A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy.

There is no question that solving this problem is of the utmost importance to the study of Marx’s theory of crisis. Strangely, however, until recently this has either not been dealt with at all, or not dealt with adequately to generate an acceptable solution.

Here I would like to look at a few theorists who I have come across, beginning with Karl Kautsky, who in an Introduction to a new edition of A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy writes:

The sharp critic Marx was even more critical towards himself than towards others. Even when the gist of his own thinking displayed no defects, he would turn over the object of investigation to consider it from a different perspective, and seek to make his presentation even more self-evident. Thus, the structure of Capital was different from that of his work published in 1859 under the title A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy. This fact is immediately clear from reading the first few lines of his Preface to that work where he says that the totality of A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy is planned to be divided into six books, from capital to the world market], and comparing the plan developed there to that which he actually followed for Capital. (Translated from the Japanese version of Kautsky’s edition of A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy)

Despite Kautsky’s declaration here, if we only compare the two, the difference between them certainly cannot be clarified. In order to clarify this, we must assume that Capitalis a comprehensive work that covers the entire plan of the critique of political economy. On the basis of this premise, the entire plan of the critique of political economy and the structure of Capitalshould be directly compared, with the comparison indicating the fundamental difference between them. But the statement that Capitalis a comprehensive work that spans the entirety of the conception of the critique of political economy is itself a question that must be considered. Or rather, the consideration of the organization of the capitalistic economy in the order of “capital, ” “landed property,” etc. is a sort of commitment on the part of Marx as made clear in the Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy. If Marx in Capitalhad completely altered his original plan, the gist of this should have been rejected in some manner in that work. But we cannot find any mention of this in Capital. Indeed, in the beginning of the Preface to Capital, Marx clearly writes: “The work, the first volume of which I now submit to the public, forms the continuation of my A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy published in 1859.” Therefore, apart from the possibility of some other special reason, the natural explanation would be to assume that the original plan is preserved within Capital. If a person were to say that this is not the case, and that there is some special reason, he would be obliged to shed light on what this reason is. Despite this, Kautsky in the passage presumes that the fundamental abandonment of the original plan in Capital is somehow self-evident, without offering any explanation of this. His attitude is truly baffling. And yet, in his Introduction to Theories of Surplus Value, written subsequently, Kautsky argues in the opposite manner:

Putting together this work [manuscript of Theories of Surplus Value] was very difficult from the outset in terms of organization. It had the same arrangement that we saw in A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, with a discussion of theoretical thought followed by a presentation of the historical development of this thought. Moreover, the presentation is not merely a description but critical, and this thought itself includes more advanced investigations. The approach of the book starts with simple phenomena and progresses towards more complex things, and the historical description of new thought, and theoretical criticism and positive development, eventually is entangled in an increasingly broad and multifold investigation. As a result, even though I tried to bring the description of surplus-value and the history of its phenomenal forms...into more exact order, this manuscript, which has no trace of the materials being externally organized, could not at al overcome its confused character for everyone except its author.

My own belief is that because of the increasingly difficulty of shaping the materials into a clear form while preserving the structure of the previous manuscripts, Marx in 1863 abandoned all of the previous manuscripts and followed a new, clear structure that can be seen in the 1867 work Capital, so that Marx decided to start his work over again from the beginning. And in the new structure, the history of theory is completely set aside and was to be a special matter presented as a final volume. (translated from Japanese)

Kautsky, in other words, ascribes Marx’s discontinuation of A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, to write Capitalfrom the beginning, to the difficulty of the initial descriptive method that sought to interweave a logical description into Theories of Surplus Value. According to this view, there was no reason at all to alter the fundamental plan, at least as it was developed in the Introduction [to Grundrisse], so that the difference between the initial plan and Capitalsolely comes down to a partial, technical difference regarding how to incorporate the theories of surplus value. That is all. In his Introduction to Capital, Kautsky clearly writes:

Strictly speaking, this is certainly not sufficient for grasping the entire process of all three volumes of Capital, and therefore each of its parts, from every direction. This is because the three volumes are not yet a complete work. This was complete within Marx’s mind, but it was not completed on paper. (translated from Japanese)

This statement by Kautsky clearly contradicts his view in the passage quoted earlier. But he presents these mutually contradictory views as if they were self-evident, offering no explanation whatsoever. Thus, not only can we not look to Kautsky to solve this problem, but he does not even clearly the problem to begin with.

Compared to this, the conclusion offered by Robert Wilbrandt is quite clear. In his book Karl Marx, he accounts for the many misunderstandings of Capital as stemming from its unfinished nature:

This extraordinary work [Capital] would be full of further noteworthy ups and downs. It was originally planned as the first of six books [as indicated in the Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy]. Thus the only volume of Capital that was published by Marx himself, volume 1, is incomplete in two senses. That is, first of all, this was just one of many volumes, that would be hard to understand without the subsequent volumes, for which reason it has been misunderstood throughout an era. The second volume published after his death, and finally the third volume that was issued as two thick books and seen as contradicting volume 1, much later made a mistaken impression of volume 1 seem correct, and were understood as being a totality with volume 1. Secondly, this itself was only one part of a totality, i.e. one book among six books. The author considered these entire six books as providing the solution to many problems, and these types of problems were avoided in Capital, which was one book of the entire work—or only hinted at or indicated—and left for subsequent volumes.

Wilbrandt is clearly advancing the second of the four views we introduced earlier. But he does not provide any explanation of why he adopts this second view. It seems that he has never had any doubt that Capital corresponds to the part on “capital” in the original plan.

Unlike Wilbrandt, Kawakami Hajime, in his book Shihon-ron nyūmon (Introduction to Capital), expresses his own doubts:

I am unable to say anything definitive about the final form of Marx’s plan for the entire structure of his political economy.

And Kawakami has the following to say, after citing Marx’s April 2, 1858 letter which I quoted earlier:

Marx’s A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, published in 1859, corresponds to the first half of book one mentioned in his letter, entitled “capital in general,” and according to the plan at the time book one was to contain chapter one on the commodity, chapter two on money, and chapter three on capital in general. The Capital that we have today is a developed version of his book on “capital in general,” but there is the question of whether this later development was a change in Marx’s plan. In other words, after bringing the first book on capital to an end by going on from capital to deal with competition, credit, and joint-stock capital, would he have continued his work in the order of going on to a book two on landed property, a book three on wage labor? Currently I am unable to offer a definitive view on this.

But in Issue 87 of his journal Shakai mondai kenkyū (Investigation of Social Problems), published later, these doubts are gone, with Kawakami clearly adopting the second view:

Capital only corresponds the first book—“capital”—of six major books. In addition to the question of capital, there were the problems of landed property and wage labor, and even after completing consideration of these problems, there were further the problems of the state, international issues, and the global market. (p. 2)

Unfortunately, however, we cannot find any explanation by Dr. Kawakami that accounts for why he ultimately overcame his own doubts to adopt the second view.

Next let’s turn to Fukumoto Kazuo’s Keizaigaku hihan no tame ni(Towards a Criticism of Political Economy), where on pages 159 and 209 he considers “the system of the critique of political economy and the system of Capital,” and the “scope of Marx’s Capitalwithin the critique of political economy.” But the reasons he offers are vague and hard to grasp. For instance, in the conclusive part, he writes:

This thus demonstrates that the ultimate “ascending” stage in Capital does not go beyond the boundaries of the second heading Marx lists in his Introduction to Grundrisse [i.e. capital, wage labor and landed property].

This seems at first sight to be the third view, but meanwhile Fukumoto cites the following passages from Marx to support this conclusion:

As before it is assumed that the commodity is sold at its value. The competition between capitals is not considered. Similarly the system of credit is not considered. (Theories of Surplus Value Book 2, chapter 2)

As well as the following passage:

A critique of [Sismondi’s views] belongs to a part of my working dealing with the real movement of capital (competition and credit) which I can only tackle after I have finished this book. (Theories of Surplus Value Chapter 19)

Even setting aside the inappropriateness of using a passage that predates Marx’s plan as a basis for considering whether the initial plan changed or not in the case of Capital, it must be pointed out that the content of the passages cited certainly do not back up Fukumoto’s conclusion. Marx in these passages is clearly stating that “competition” and “credit”—and in the first passage the transformation of value into production price as well, which is to say problems dealt with in the third volume of Capital—belong to a subsequent stage. It is difficult to understand how one can adopt the third view based on such clear statements. Sadly, here as well, not only is the problem not solved, it is not even posed, left instead in a state of confusion.

Henryk Grossmann recently [1929] presented an article entitled “Die Aenderung des ursprunglichen Aufbauplans des Marxschen ’Kapital’ und ihre Uraschen” (Causes of the Changes in the Original Plan of Marx’s Capital) in the Archiv fur die Geschichte des Sozialismus und der Arbeiterbewegung, where he argues that the fourth view mentioned above must be adopted. His argument comprises two parts, as indicated in the title. First he aims to demonstrate that Marx’s plan was changed in Capital, and then secondly elucidate the reasons for this change. But it is the first point that has fundamental significance for his entire argument and is directly related to the problem we are dealing with.

This first part of Grossmann’s argument is developed in the form of an attack on the view of Wilbrandt that we looked at earlier. Although Grossmann is full of confidence, and sometimes even adopts a scornful tone, he diverges at times from the topic a hand so that he does not necessarily penetrate to the heart of the matter. Still, since he was at least the first to consider this problem to some extent, and attempt to provide various evidence for a solution, here I would like to examine his views in as much detail as possible and use this as a suggestion for developing my own view.

The main basis (?) Grossmann offers to support his view that the original plan changed completely in Capital seems to involve the following:

1. A passage from Kautsky’s Introduction added to the new edition of A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy. This is the passage that I already cited and commented on. Grossmann, however, even while doubting Kautsky’s “overall observations of Marx’s work,” adopts Kautsky’s declaration in a completely uncritical fashion, mocking Wilbrandt for not perceiving what Kautsky thought was clear “at a glance.” For someone who at least recognizes a problem is located here, and attempts to arrive at the truth, this attitude of Grossmann is baffling.

2. Marx’s August 15, 1863 letter to Engels, where he writes: “In one respect, my work (preparing the manuscript for the press) is going well. In the final elaboration the stuff is, I think, assuming a tolerably popular form, aside from a few unavoidable M—Cs and C’Ms. On the other hand, despite the fact that I write all day long, it’s not getting on as fast as my own impatience, long subjected to a trial of patience, might demand. At all events, it will be 100 percent. more comprehensible than No. 1. When, by the by, I consider my handiwork and realize how I’ve had to demolish everything and even build up the historical section out of what was in part quite unknown material, I can’t help finding Izzy [Lasalle] a bit of a joke; for he has already got ’his’ political economy in hand and yet everything he has peddled around hitherto has shown him to be a callow schoolboy who trumpets abroad as his very latest discovery...” Grossmann offers the following remarks about this letter: “From his August 15 letter we can already know that Marx ’had to repeat everything.’ Here it is made clear that the change in the plan has already been completed.” (p. 313) In other words, Grossmann interprets the line “habe alles umschmeissen müssen” [note] as clarifying that the plan had already been changed—and the change in the plan does not mean that his description had been improved to some extent but rather that the entire system was fundamentally changed. But it is hard to grasp his reason for concluding from this one line that the fundamental plan was changed. [note: Rather than interpreting this one line as meaning that Marx had entirely changed his previous plan, it seems more obvious to interpret it as meaning that he had overturned the previous doctrines in every area of political economy. If one also considers the part about the “historical section” or the part about comparing his own work to that of Lasalle, I think there is almost no room for doubt in this respect.]

3. The October 3, 1866 letter from Marx to Kugelmann. Grossmann has the following to say about this letter: “Not only can we know ’at a glance’ that the plan changed only from the confirmation (?) by Kautsky, but this is also clearly demonstrated by Marx himself—as can be seen from his letter to Kugelmann. In other words, according to the new outline of the plan he conveyed to Kugelmann, in the four books that had been divided by us, Capital was basically completed, and in the four books before us as a whole —apart from the fact of defects in the description of particular parts, a missing chapter, or that the logical order is interrupted at times—there is not only the entirety of the material to be dealt with but at the same time, as Engels notes [in the Preface to Capital vol. 2] “what Marx intended to say on the subject is said there, somehow or other.”

If we look up exactly what Marx wrote to Kugelmann concerning the change of his plan, we can find the following from his October 13, 1866 letter:

My circumstances (endless interruptions, both physical and social) oblige me to publish Volume One first, not both volumes together, as I had originally intended. And there will now probably be 3 volumes. The whole work is thus divided into the following parts:

Book I. The Process of Production of Capital; Book II. The Process of Circulation of Capital; Book III. Structure of the Process as a Whole; Book IV. On the History of the Theory.

The first volume will include the first 2 books. The 3rd book will, I believe, fill the second volume, the 4th the 3rd. It was, in my opinion, necessary to begin again ab ovo in the first book, i.e., to summarize the book of mine published by Duncker [A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy] in one chapter on commodities and money. I judged this to be necessary, not merely for the sake of completeness, but because even intelligent people did not properly understand the question, in other words, there must have been defects in the first presentation, especially in the analysis of commodities.

The letter to Kugelmann, just quoted by Grossmann, might be thought to indicate one aspect of this change. Apart from this, however, there is no other similar information that can be found. But within this information, exactly where can it be confirmed, as Grossmann argues, that Marx himself fundamentally changed his original plan? Marx does indicate that the initially planned two-volume Capital was expanded, to become three volumes. Also, the intention to simultaneously publish two volumes was changed, so that the first volume alone would be initially published. And unlike the initial schedule, the new book would not be a mere continuation of the old book but rather start over with the analysis of the commodity again. But no matter how this information is viewed, it cannot be interpreted as a confirmation of a fundamental change of the original plan. The only possibility that remains is that Marx is indicating the plan to divide Capital into the four parts of “the process of the production of capital,” etc. Grossmann views this as a recognition of the “proposal of a new plan” that is “a clear confirmation by Marx himself.” But is this actually the case?

First of all, there is no question that Marx writes that “the whole work (Das ganze Werk) is thus divided into the following parts.” But there is not necessarily a reason here to interpret “the whole work” as meaning the entire system of his works on political economy.” This should be seen as a reference to the work approaching publication that Marx often discussed in his letters to Kugelmann—i.e. Capital as the fundamental part of his critique of political economy—and in this case this interpretation is the inevitable one. This should be clear from what Marx writes after this.

Secondly, Grossman sees the proposal for the parts that Capital is to be divided into (such as “the process of the production of capital”), as a “proposal for a new plan,” but this is completely counter to the truth. I cannot say exactly when this sort of proposal was made by Marx, but we can at least come across the following reference made in a March 11, 1858 letter to Lasalle: “It [the first book of A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy] contains 1. Value, [note] 2. Money, 3 capital in General (the process of the production of capital; process of its circulation; the unity of the two, or capital and profit; interest)...” [note: Marx later replaces “value” with “commodity” but this change is not related to the question we are dealing with here.] ( Collected Works, vol. 40, p. 287)

According to this letter, then, the proposal to deal with the production process of capital, etc. was at the very least already raised in March 1858, and we can see that this was a proposal for the content to make up “capital in general” in the fundamental part of A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy.

This is not the extent of the matter, however. According to the information provided by Kautsky in his Introduction to the third volume of Theories of Surplus Value, Marx, in a manuscript apparently written in December 1862, called the first part of his work planned at the time “the process of the production of capital” and the third part “ capital and profit,” and listed in some detail the planned content. And if we compare this to the actual first and third volumes of Capital, we can see that except for a few differences the essence of the content is the same. We can thus know that, at least as of December 1862, there was already a work planned whose content is more or less the same as Capital. On the other hand, in a letter to written Kugelmann on December 28, the same month this manuscript was written, Marx conveys the following information:

I was delighted to see from your letter how warm an interest is taken by you and your friends in my critique of political economy. The second part has now at last been finished, i.e. save for the fair copy and the final polishing before it goes to press. There will be about 30 sheets of print. It is a sequel to Part I [A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy], but will appear on its own under the title Capital, with A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy as merely the subtitle. In fact, all it comprises is what was to make the third chapter of the first part, namely “Capital in General.” Hence it includes neither the competition between capitals nor the credit system. What Englishmen call “The Principles of Political Economy” is contained in this volume. It is the quintessence (together with the first part), and the development of the sequel (with the exception, perhaps, of the relationship between the various forms of state and the various economic structures of society) could easily be pursued by others on the basis thus provided. As soon as I have a fair copy of the manuscript (upon which I shall make a start in January 1863), I shall bring it to Germany myself, it being easier to deal with publishers on a personal basis. There is every prospect that, as soon as the German edition appears, arrangements will be made in Paris for a French version. I have absolutely no time to put it into French myself, particularly since I am going either to write the sequel in German, i.e. to conclude the presentation of capital, competition and credit, or condense the first two books for English consumption into one work.

The following becomes clear if the content of this letter is considered along with the account in the manuscript just mentioned. Namely, in the same month of December 1862, Marx on the one hand said that he was planning a work whose content is nearly identical to that of what became Capital, while on the other hand he called the work he was planning a “sequel” to “Part I” of A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, saying that “it comprises is what was to make the third chapter of the first part, namely ’Capital in General’” and therefore “includes neither the competition between capitals nor the credit system.” I think that this undeniable fact provides a nearly decisive solution to the problem we are considering. But this solution certainly does not agree with the view of Grossmann, and indeed is the opposite. Counter to Grossmann’s view, today’s Capitalis not a comprehensive work that takes the place of the entire original plan of a critique of political economy. Rather, it merely encompasses “capital in general.” Within this, “competition and credit” as the conclusion of the “presentation of capital” are not included. Therefore, it must be assumed that the specific presentations of landed property, wage labor, the state, foreign trade and the world market are also not included.

4. From the discussion above, I think the errors of his view should be clear, but I would also like to look at the grounds Grossmann offers to support his view. He writes the following in opposition to the opinion of Wilbrandt:

The following counter question must be offered to such a view. Is it really true that [Marx in Capital]”averted the presentation of these problems [i.e. the problems that Wilbrandt said were outside the framework of Capital]? Is it really true that he only first dealt with ground rent, wage labor and foreign trade later? Wilbrandt does not seem to realize that in Capital all of these problems are analyzed...” (pp. 307-8; translated from Japanese)

For Grossman it seems a clear and unquestionable fact that the analysis of problems such as ground rent, wage labor and foreign trade was completed in Capital. But is this really the case? Granted, the third volume of Capital includes a part entitled the “transformation of surplus profit into ground rent,” which provides a detailed analysis of ground rent. And in volume one there is certainly a rather involved investigation of wage labor. But is it really the case that this analysis of ground rent and wage labor corresponds to the content planned for “landed property” and “wage labor” as parts within the initial plan for the critique of political economy? In other words, can it be said that this analysis itself signifies the special analysis of “landed property” and “wage labor”? Or could it rather be said that this is nothing more than the consideration of landed property and wage labor to the extent necessary to clarify the general character of capital? Grossmann has completely overlooked the existence of a crucially important question herein. When Wilbrandt says that the discussion of “landed property,” “ground rent” and other problems lie outside of the framework of Capital, this certainly does not mean that these problems were not pursued at all within Capital, but only that the special discussion of these problems likes outside of the framework of Capital. Anyone who glances at the table of contents for the third volume of Capitalcan see that Marx deals with “the transformation of surplus profit into ground rent” just as it is clear that a chapter in the first volume deals with “wage labor.” Even the most careless person could manage to perceive this fact. In fact, the careless person in this case is Grossmann himself, who fails to perceive that here lies a decisively important question that requires clarification.

But this problem cannot be dealt with merely by indicating the carelessness of Grossmann. We need to advance further by providing a solution to the problem itself. That is to say, we need to consider whether the discussions of wage labor and ground rent in Capitalrepresent the special discussion of “wage labor” and “landed property.”

The key to solving this problem should of course be sought within Capitalitself. If we look at the crucial sections of the first and third volumes of Capitalregarding this, we can in fact come across the following passages. First, in part six (“Wages”) in volume one, Marx writes:

Wages themselves again take many forms, a fact not recognizable in the ordinary economic treatises which, exclusively interested in the material side of the question, neglect every difference of form. An exposition of all these forms however, belongs to the special study of wage labor, not therefore to this work. Still the two fundamental forms must be briefly worked out here.

According to this, the explanation of the various forms of wages clearly lies outside the framework of Capital, belonging instead “to a special study of wage labor” (in die spezielle Lehre von der Lohnarbeit). (Regarding wages, we can also see the third volume of Capital.

In the presentation of ground rent in volume three, we find the following:

The analysis of landed property in its various historical forms is beyond the scope of this work. We shall he concerned with it only in so far as a portion of the surplus-value produced by capital falls to the share of the landowner. For our purposes it is necessary to study the modern form of landed property, because our task is to consider the specific conditions of production and circulation which arise from the investment of capital in agriculture. Without this, our analysis of capital would not be complete. (Capital, vol. 3, ch. 37)

One of the big contributions of Adam Smith was to have shown that ground-rent for capital invested in the production of such agricultural products as flax and dye-stuffs, and in independent cattle-raising, etc., is determined by the ground-rent obtained from capital invested in the production of the principal article of subsistence. In fact, no further progress has been made in this regard since then. Any limitations or additions would belong in an independent study of landed property, not here. (Capital, vol. 3, ch. 37)

The interest on capital incorporated in the land and the improvements thus made in it as an instrument of production can constitute a part of the rent paid by the capitalist farmer to the landowner, but it does not constitute the actual ground-rent, which is paid for the use of the land as such—be it in a natural or cultivated state. In a systematic treatment of landed property, which is not within our scope, this part of the landowner’s revenue would have to be discussed at length. (Capital, vol. 3, ch. 37)

We can find other similar passages, but from the passages cited above alone, we can see that various problems concerning “landed property” were not “within our scope” in Capital, and that separate from the study of ground rent in Capital there is an “independent theory of landed property” and that the “systematic treatment of landed property that is outside the realm of the plan” in Capital is preserved within a plan for the future.

There remains, however, a point that is the kernel of a related question. Namely, in the April 2, 1858 letter to Engels cited earlier, Marx clearly writes:

I. Capital. First section: Capital in general (Throughout this section. wages are invariably assumed to be at their minimum. Movements in wages themselves and the rise and fall of that minimum will be considered under wage labor. Further, landed property is assumed to be zero, i.e. landed property, as a special economic relation is of no relevance as yet. Only by this procedure is it possible to discuss one relation without discussing all the rest.)

Here, of course, the issue of wages is not raised. In Capital as well, wages are “invariably assumed to be at their minimum.” This is not the case for landed property, however. Part six of the third volume of Capital, as is well known, discusses the “transformation of surplus profit into ground rent,” and there it is not the case that “landed property is assumed to be zero,” and “landed property as a special economic relation” is already clearly being dealt with. This must be considered a change from the initial plan discussed in the letter above. We have to consider approximately when this change occurred, what factors determined it, and the degree of influence it had on the overall plan. Fortunately, Marx’s letters to Engels provide the following key to solving this problem. To begin with, if we look at his June 18, 1862 letter to Engels, there is the following:

Incidentally, another thing I have at last been able to sort out is the shitty rent business (which, however, I shall not so much as allude to in this part). I had long harbored misgivings as to the absolute correctness of Ricardo’s theory, and have at length got to the bottom of the swindle. (Collected Works, vol. 41, pp. 380-1)

But only around one month after writing this letter, in a August 2 letter, Marx writes:

I now propose after all to include in this volume an extra chapter on the theory of rent, i.e. by way of “illustration” to an earlier thesis of mine. (Collected Works, vol. 41, p. 394)

Marx also says that he will then explain the consequent transformation of value into production price, and the related establishment of absolute ground rent, as well as elucidate how the defects in Ricardo’s theory of value necessarily led to a violent rejection of absolute ground rent, whereas his own theory of value is consistently able to clarify such rent.

Taking these letters into consideration, the following is clear. Between June 18 and August 2, 1862, Marx first altered his original plan and decided to “include in this volume [Capital]...the theory of rent.” This did not mean, however, that he transferred the entire content of his work on “landed property,” which was one of the six main books planned, to the book on “capital in general.” Rather, the theory of rent would be “included” to the degree necessary in order to serve as an “illustration” to Marx’s “earlier thesis.” I do not really want to venture into speculation on why Marx felt that this limited change in his plan was necessary. It is the case, though, that without explaining to some degree ground rent—and absolute ground rent in particular—it would certainly not be possible to completely consider the transformation of value into production price, which Marx had decided to include within “capital in general.” From this perspective, it was natural that Marx would have keenly perceived this in the course of establishing his new theory of absolute ground rent. And according to Marx, it was precisely at this time that he first succeeded in establishing this new theory. His June 16 letter is the first time to notify his trusted friend of this happy event, while his August 2 letter is the first time to inform Engels of the content of his theory in some detail. When Marx says in the former letter that he will “not so much as allude” to the theory of rent in the volume on “capital in general,” this seems to be connected to the fact that at the time he had not yet resolved to make changes to the original plan, and his decision to do so only crystallized as the result of his subsequent consideration. Thus, within Capital, we can find a part entitled the “transformation of surplus profit into ground rent.” Marx—as he clearly writes in this part—says that it does not signify a special investigation of landed property, and that he is concerned with landed property” only in so far as a portion of the surplus-value that capital produces falls to the share of the landowner.” (Capital, vol. 3, p. 751) As before, the “independent theory of landed property” or the “systematic handling of landed property” are “outside of the realm of the plan.”

But the issues of “wage labor” and “landed property” are only one part of the whole. The original plan also called for three main books dealing with “the state,” “international trade” and the “world market.” Can the special discussion of any of these problems be found within Capital? Counter to the view of Grossmann, the following questions must be raised.

We have already considered all the grounds for Grossmann’s argument, and clarified what is lacking in each, and how there are no reasons justifying the view that Marx’s original plan—or at least its framework—subsequently changed. At the same time, we clarified that Capital corresponds to “capital in general” in the original plan, which means that it was to be followed by “competition” and “credit” (although questions remain regarding whether this in turn would be followed by “joint stock capital” or not), thus completing the book on “capital” as one of the six main books, so that this along with “landed property” and “wage labor,” as well as “the state,” “international trade” and “global market,” this would complete the entirety of the criticism of political economy. — This is what we have sought to make clear.

Given this, the problem naturally enters a second stage. Namely, if Marx’s plan for a critique of political economy was only realized to this extent, what state does this leave his theory of crisis? In seeking to consider this problem, the first thing to bear in mind is a section of the second volume of Theories of Surplus Value entitled “Accumulation of Capital and Crisis” (translated from the Japanese heading). Even though this heading itself was provided by the editor Kautsky, rather than Marx himself, the question of crisis is dealt with there in a relatively cohesive fashion, and we can find many suggestive arguments there. This still does not mean that the content of this part expresses Marx’s ultimate special theory of crisis. Indeed, its content is actually from a much earlier stage and represents a preliminary consideration. This is clear from the inherent nature of the entire manuscript, and from the content of the arguments developed in this part, particularly the fact that in the descriptions it is often indicated that the concrete investigation of crisis belongs to a subsequent part. In Capitalas well, one can find various explanations of crisis, but this does not extend beyond a reference to the issue within the processes of the logical description of capital in general—or “the inner organization of the capitalist mode of production, in its ideal average” (Capital, vol. 3, chapter 48)—and none of this can be seen as the special investigation of crisis. In that book as well we can often find clear indications by Marx that the concrete investigation of crisis belongs to a subsequent work.

It is clear, therefore, that Marx’s theory of crisis, along with the system of his critique of political economy, was left in an incomplete state. The problem thus involves how to develop a special Marxist theory of crisis from the various studies regarding crisis that can be found in a latent state in Marx’s Capital. But to consistently solve this problem we must elucidate the inherent relation between the investigations found within Capital and the special theory of crisis. To do this, we need to trace back further to elucidate Marx’s entire plan in order to clarify crisis and the relation between this plan and his critique of political economy.

First of all, then, what plan did Marx originally have for the elucidation of crisis? Needless to say, this plan was fundamentally determined by his general grasp of the essence of “crisis,” as is often clearly indicated in Marx’s works in the following sort of passages.

The commercial crises of the nineteenth century, and in particular the great crises of 1825 and 1836, did not lead to any further development of Ricardo’s currency theory, but rather to new practical applications of it. It was no longer a matter of single economic phenomena -- such as the depreciation of precious metals in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries confronting Hume, or the depreciation of paper currency during the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth confronting Ricardo -- but of big storms on the world market, in which the antagonism [contradiction] of all elements in the bourgeois process of production explodes. (A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy; Collected Works, vol. 29, p. 412)

The world trade crises must be regarded as the real concentration and forcible adjustment of all the contradictions of bourgeois economy. ( Theories of Surplus Value)

In world market crises, all the contradictions of bourgeois production erupt collectively. ( Theories of Surplus Value)

Here we can see the most direct expression of Marx’s grasp of the “world market crises” particular to modern production—i.e. a general crisis that rocks every sector of production on a global scale. What sort of plan is necessary, then, to clarify the specific sort of crisis (world crisis) grasped as such? It is clear that since crisis is the collective explosion of every contradiction of capitalist production, and their real concentration, the problem comes down to how to pursue the process of the necessary development of these contradictions that come to collectively explode and be concentrated in reality, and how to theoretically reconstitute this. How did Marx actually pursue this problem, and how did he develop this—and to what extent? These are questions that we need to elucidate.