Friday, May 27, 2005

Rosdolsky on Marx's 'use-value'

Karl Marx and the Problem of Use-Value in Political Economy.

Chapter 3 from The Making of Marx’s ‘Capital’
Pp.74-95. Pluto Press, London 1977.

[1. originally published in the Swiss Journal Kyklos, 1959]

Before proceeding to a presentation of the contents of the Rough Draft we want to raise a methodological question which has been very neglected in previous marxist literature, [2. We can name two works which constitute an exception: first, the work of the Russian economist I.I. Rubin on Marx’s Theory of Production and Consumption of 1930, which was unfortunately unavailable to the author; second (at least in part) Grossman’s last work on Marx, die klassische Nationalokonomie und das Problem der Dynamik, (mineographed) New York.] the answer to which, however, contributes fundamentally to our knowledge of the Rough Draft. The issue is that of the role of use-value in Marx’s economics.


Among Marx’s numerous critical comments on Ricardo’s system the most striking can be found only in the Rough Draft, namely that Ricardo abstracts from use-value in his economics, [3. Grundrisse, Penguin, 1973 p.267] that he is only ‘exoterically concerned’ [4. ibid p.647] with this important category, and that consequently for him it ‘remains lying dead as a simple presupposition’. [5. ibid. p.320]

We should now examine this criticism more closely. Strangely enough, it concerns not only Ricardo, but also many of Marx’s pupils, as it has been a tradition among marxist economists to disregard use-value, and place it under the scope of ‘knowledge of merchandise’ (Warenkunde). For example, Hilferding in his reply to Bohm-Bawerk: ‘The commodity is the unity of two different aspects. As a natural thing it is the object of a natural science –as a social thing, it is an object of a social science, political economy.

The object of economics is the social aspect of the commodity, of the good, insofar as it is a symbol of social inter-connection. On the other hand the natrual aspect of the commodity, its use-value, lies outside the domain of political economy.’ [6. R. Hilferding, Bohm-Bawerk’s Criticism of Marx, Lifton NJ, Kelley, 1949, p.130]

At first glance this appears to be simply a paraphrase of the well-known section from Marx’s Contribution. However, how does this passage actually read in Marx?
‘To be a use-value is evidently a necessary prerequisite of the commodity, but it is immaterial to the use-value whether it is a commodity. Use-value as such, since it is independent of the determinate economic form, lies outside the sphere of investigation of political economy. It belongs to this sphere only when it is itself a determinate form.’ [7. Contribution, p.28]

It must be conceded that the original differs considerably from the copy,
[8. Bernstein notices this immediately and chafes Hilferding ih his discussion of the latter’s text (in Dokumenten des Sozialismus 1904 Heft 4, pp.154-570) on the subject of the discrepancy between his formulation of the question and Marx’s own. He writes, ‘Marx is not so daring as to throw use-value completely out of political economy’, and if Hilferding does this, ‘then he stumbles from his lofty position as an interpreter of Marx into depths far below those of the university professors whom he holds in such low regard’. However, these sarcastic remarks do not obscure the fact that Bernstein himself had no idea how to deal with the discrepancy, and was only able to solve it through a convergence of Marx’s theory with the economists of the ‘psychological school’.
Hilferding’s reply turned out to be very weak. ‘Use-value can only be designated a social category when it is the conscious aim of society, when it has become an object of its conscious social action. It becomes this in a socialist society, whose conscious management sets as its aim the preodcuction of use-values; however, this is in no way the case in capitalist society . . . However, although use-value can be designated as a social category in a socialist society it is not an economic category, not an object of theoretical economic analysis, since a consciously directed relation of production does require this analysis.’ (Neue Zeit No 4, 1904, pp.110-11)]
and that Hilferding’s arbitrary reproduction of these sentences is tantamount to clumsy distortion of Marx’s real view.

Or, we can take a more recent marxist author, P.M. Sweezy. In his work the Theory of Capitalist Development, which is intended to popularise Marx’s economics, we read: ‘Marx excluded use-value (or as it would now be called, ‘utility’) from the field of investigation of political economy on the ground that it does not directly embody a social relation. He enforces a strict requirement that the categories of economics must be social categories, i.e. categories which represent relations between people. It is important to realise that this is in sharp contrast to the attitude of modern economic theory . . .’ [9. op.cit. p.26]

Sweezy’s presentation does not differ substantially from that normally found in popularisations of marxist economics. [10. The Philospher Marcuse goes to the other extreme when he writes, ‘when Marx declares that use-value lies outside the scope of economic theory, he is at first describing the actual state of affairs in classical political economy. His own analysis begins by accepting and explaining the fact, that, in capitalism, use-values appear only as the “material bearers of exchange-value” (Capital 1, p.126 (36)). His critique then refutes the capitalist treatment of use-values and sets its goals on an economy in which this relation is entirely abolished.’ (Reason and Revolution, p.304).

The arbitraryness of this interpretation is immediately obvious. In the first place the passage quoted from the Contribution is not conerned exclusively with classical political economy, but with political economy in general. Secondly, Marx nowhere states that use-values are only ‘material depositories of exchange-value’, but rather that they are so ‘at the same time’, which is quite another question. Finally, Marx never set himself the task of combating the capitalist treatment of use-values, but rather of scientifically explaining the fact, peculiar to capitalism (and to commodity production in general), that for use-values to be able to satisfy human needs, they must first prove themselves as exchange-values.]

However, in his case the mistake is even less forgivable, as not only did he have access to the Theories of Surplus-Value, but also the Marginal Notes on A. Wagner, [11. Marx’s last economic work, printed in MEW Vol. 19, pp.335-89. An English translation was published in Theoretical Practice, Issue 5, spring, 1971.] where Marx discusses the role of use-value in his economic theory in great detail.

He says there on Wagner, ‘Only a vir obscurus, who has not understood a word of Capital could conclude: Because Marx dismisses all the German professional twaddle on “use-value” in general in a footnote on “use-value” in the first edition of Capital and refers the reader who would like to know something about real use-value to “manuals dealing with merchandise’” [12. See Contribution, p.28] therefore use-value plays no role for him . . . If one is concerned with analysing the “Commodity”, the simplest concrete economic entity, all relations which have nothing to do with the object of analysis must be kept at a distance. However, what there is to say about the commodity, as far as use-value is concerned, I have said in a few lines; but, on the other hand, I have called attention to the characteristic form in which use-value –the product of labour – [13. this should read, ‘insofar as it is the product of labour’.] appears in this respect; namely, “A thing can be useful and the product of human labour, without being a commodity. Whoever directly satisfied his own needs with the product of his own labour creates, indeed, use-values, but not commodities. In order to produce the latter, he must not only produce use-values, but use-values for others, social use-values . . .” [14. Quoted from Capital I. p.131 (40).]

Hence use-value itself – as the use-value of a “commodity” – possesses a historically specific character . . .It would therefore be sheer wordspinning to use the opportunity provided by the analysis of the commodity – because it presents itself as, on the one hand a use-value or good, and on the other a “value” – to add on all kinds of banal reflections about use-values or goods which do not form part of the world of commodities [in the way that standard university economics does.] . . .

On the other hand the vir obscurus has overlooked the fact that I do not stop short in my analysis of the commodity at the double manner in which it present itself, but immediately go on to say that in the double being of the commodity there is represented the twofold character of labour, whose product the commodity is useful labour, i.e. the concrete modes of labour which create use-values, and abstract labour, labour as the expenditure of labour-power, irrespective of whatever “useful” was it is expended (on which my later representation of the production process is based); that in the development of the value-form of the commodity, in the last instance of its money-form and hence of money, the value of the commodity is represented in the use-value of the other, i.e. in the natural form of the the other commodity; that surplus-value itself is derived from a “specific” and exclusive use-value of labour-power, etc. etc. That is, use-value plays a far more important part in my economics, than in economics hitherto, [15. Marx refers here, of course, to the economics of Smith and Ricardo.] but N.B. that it is only ever taken into account when this arises from the analysis of given economic forms, and not out of arguing backwards and forwards about the concepts of words “use-value” and “value”. [16. MEW Vol. 19, p.371]

This then is Marx’s view. It is clear from this that the traditional marxist interpretation of Hilferding, Sweezy et al. Cannot possibly be correct, and that in this instance the authors mentioned above –without knowing it – do not follow their teacher, Marx, but rather Ricardo, the man he criticises.


However, what is the basis of Marx’s critique, and how should we actually interpret the objections to Ricardo which are mentioned at the beginning? To answer this we have to go back to the basic methodological assumptions of the marxist system.

We know that, in contrast to the Classical school, Marx’s entire theoretical effort was directed at uncovering the ‘particular laws which govern the emergence, existence, development and death of a given social order, and its replacement by another higher one’. [17. J.J. Kaufman’s description of Marx’s method of investigation –quoted by Marx in the Afterword to the Second Edition of Volume I of Capital, p.102 (19)]

He thus regarded the capitalist mode of production as ‘merely a historical mode of production, corresponding to a certain limited epoch in the development of the material conditons of production’, [18. Capital, III, p.259.] and the categories of bourgeois economics as ‘forms of thought expressing with social validity the conditions and relations of a definite, historically determined mode of production’. [19. Capital, I, p.169 (76).]

But how can a theory arrive at a knowledge of such particular laws, which have only a historical claim to validity? And how can these laws be brought into consonance with the general economic determinants which apply to all social epochs since ‘all epochs of production have certain features in common’, a fact which ‘arises already from the identity of the subject, humanity, with the object, nature’.
[20. Grundrisse, p.85. Hence, ‘no society can go on producing, in other words, no society can reproduce, unless it constantly reconverts a part of its products into means of production, or elements of fresh products’. (Capital I p.711 (566). For this purpose, therefore it must maintain a certain production between the growth of the industries producting the means of production, and those producing the means of consumption (Departments I and II in Marx’s schemes of reproduction), accumulate reserves etc. On the other hand, in any society, a certain quantity of surplus labour has to be carried out by the members of that society in order that it may have ‘at its disposal, so to speak, a fund for development, which the very increase in population makes necessary’ (Theories I, p.102), ‘If we strip both wages and surplus-value, both necessary and surplus labour, of their specifically capitalist character, then certainly there remain not these forms, but merely their rudiments, which are common to all social modes of production,’ (Capital III, p.876). And finally, ‘No society can prevent the disposable labour-time of society one way or another from regulating production.’ (MEW Vol 32, p.120. And consequently this material basis of the determination of value will also have considerable significance under socialism. (Cf. Capital III, p.851.)]

Consequently, nothing is easier that ‘to confound or extinguish all historical differences under the general human laws’, by picking out these common characteristics. [21. Grundrisse, p.87.]

For example, ‘even though the most developed languages have laws and characteristics in common with the least developed, nevertheless, those things which determine their development’ must express ‘the distinction between what they have in general and what they have in common’. Similarly the task of political economy is, above all, the investigation of the laws of development of the capitalist period, which it studies ‘so that in their unity’ (the unity between this period with earlier ones through the features which they have in common), ‘the essential difference is not forgotten’. [22. ibid. p.85.]

But what constitutes development in the sphere of the economy? It is precisely that process in which it expresses its specific social character! ‘To the extent that the labour-process is solely a process between man and nature, its simple elements remain common to all forms of social development. However, each definite historical form of this process marks a further development in its material basis and social forms.’ [23. Capital III, p.883.]

Here it is the social forms which are the decisive factor – as distinct from their naturally given ‘content’. They alone represent the active, forward-moving element, [24. Cf. Hegel’s Science of Logic, Volume II, p. 79. ‘Matter is determined as indifferent: it is the passive as against the active . . . Matter must be formed and Form must materialise itself – must in Matter give itself self-identity and persistence.’] for ‘natural laws cannot be abolished at all. What can change in historically different circumstances is only the form in which these laws assert themselves.’ [25. ‘Marx’s letter to Krugelmann’, 11 July 1868. Selected Correspondence, p.196.]

We cannot go any more closely here into the fundamental marxian distinction between ‘Form’ and ‘Content’ in economics. (The influence of Hegel’s Logic is easily discernible here. [26. The Russian political economist I.I. Rubin wrote in another context: ‘One cannot forget that, on the question of the relation between content and form, Marx took the standpoint of Hegel and not of Kant. Kant treated form as something external in relation to the content, and as something which adhere to the content from the outside. From the standpoint of Hegel’s philosophy, the content is not in itself something to which form adheres from the outside. Rather, through its development, the content itself gives birth to the form which was already latent in the content. Form necessarily grows from the content itself.’ (Essays on Marx’s Theory of Value, Detroit: Black and Red 1972, p.117.)])

One fact though is certain: for Marx it is the economic forms which serve to distinguish the particular modes of production, and in which the social relations of economic individuals are expressed. For example, as he says when criticising Rossi : ‘the “forms of exchange” seem [to Rossi] to be a matter of complete indifference. This is just as if a physiologist were to say that the different forms of life are a matter of complete indifference, since they are all only forms of organic matter. It is precisely specific character of a mode of social production. A coat is a coat. But have it made in the first form of exchange, (a: the form in which the tailor produces the coat for sale ready-made.) and you have capitalist production and modern bourgeois society; in the second, (b: the form in which the tailor is provided with the material and a wage by the person who wants the coat.) and you have a form of handicraft which is even compatible with Asiatic relations of those of the Middle Ages etc.’ [27. Marx’s comments here refer to the following sentence from Rossi: ‘Whether one buys ready-made clothes from a tailor, or whether one gets them from a jobbing-tailor who had been given the material and a wage, as far as the results are concerned the two actions are perfectly similar.’ (Theories I, p.295.)]

For, ‘in the first case the jobbing tailor produces not only a coat, he produces capital; therefore also profit; he produces his master as a capitalist and himself as a wage-labourer. When I have a coat made for me at home by a jobbing tailor, for me to wear, that no more makes me my own entrpreneur (in a sense of an economic category) than it makes the entrepreneur tailor an entrepreneur when he himself wears and consumes a coat made by his workmen.’[28. Theories I, pp.295-96.]

And in another passage: ‘The agricultural labourers in England and Holland who receive wages which are “advanced” by capital “produce their wages themselves” just like the French peasant or the self-sustaining Russian serf. If the production process is considered in its continuity, there the capitalist advances the worker as “wages” today only a part of the product which he produced yesterday. Thus the difference does not lie in the fact that, in one case, the worker produces his own wage, and does not produce them in the other . . . The whole difference lies in the change of form, which the labour fund produced by the worker undergoes, before it returns to him in the form of wages . . .’ [29. Theories III, p.424. (Cf. Grundrisse, p.87.)]

Hence it is the specific social forms of production and distribution which, in Marx’s view, constitute the real object of economic analysis; and it is just this ‘lack of the theoretical understanding needed to distinguish the different form of economic relations’ combined ‘with a crude obsession with the material’ which characterises previous economics, even in its best representatives. [30. Theories I, p.92 and Capital I, p.682 (542); Capital III, p.323.]

Only R. Jones and Sismondi are exempt from this criticism.
[31. ‘What distinguishes Jones from the other economists (except perhaps Sismondi) is that he emphasises that the essential feature of capital is its socially determined form, and that he reduces the whole difference between the capitalist and other modes of production to this distinct form.’ (Theories III, p.424.)]

With this we come to the end of our methodological excursus. Meanwhile the reader will have noticed that we have simultaneously answered – in very general terms – the question of the role of use-value in Marx’s economics. How did that passage run which we quoted at the beginning, from Marx’s Contribution? In its ‘independence from the determinate economic form’ use-value ‘lies outside the sphere of investigation of political economy. It belongs in this sphere only when it is a determinate form itself.’

In other words, whether use-value should be granted economic significance or not can only be decided in accordance with its relation to the social relations of production. It is certainly an economic category to the extent that it influences these relations, or is itself influenced by them. However, apart from that – in its raw ‘natural’ characteristics – it falls outside the scope of political economy. Or, as it says in the Grundrisse : ‘Political economy has to do with the specific social forms of wealth or rather the production of wealth. The material of wealth, whether subjective, like labour, or objective, like objects for the satisfaction of natural or historical needs, initially appears as common to all epochs of production.

This material therefore appears initially as mere presupposition, lying quite outside the scope of political economy, and falls within its purview only when it is modified by the formal relations or appears as modifying them.’
[32. Grundrisse, p 852. Cf. The parallel section on p.881. ‘The first category in which bourgeois wealth presents itself is that of the commodity. The commodity itself appears as the unity of two aspects. It is use-value, i.e. object of the satisfaction of any system whatever of human needs. This is its material side, which the most disparate epochs of production may have in common, and whose examination therefore lies beyond political economy. Use-value falls within the realm of political economy as soon as it becomes modified by the modern relations of production, or as it in turn intervenes to modify them.’]


Regarded in this way, the question of the difference between Marx and Ricardo on the role of use-value in economics no longer presents any difficulties. It cannot be related to their basic theories of value since both subscribed to the labour theory of value. From the standpoint of the labour theory of value the utility or use-value of the products of labour cannot be granted any influence in the creation of value; their use-value must rather appear as a simple presupposition of their exchangeability. However, it in no way follows from this that use-value has no economic significance at all, and that it should simply be excluded from the sphere of economics.

In Marx’s view this is only correct in the case of simple commodity circulation (the exchange form C-M-C). Simple circulation ‘consists at bottom [33. In original, ‘au fond’.] only of the formal process of positing exchange-value, sometimes in the role of the commodity, at other times in the role of money’. [34. Grundrisse, p.256.]

How exactly the commodities to be exchanged were produced (i.e. whether they originated in a capitalist or pre-capitalist economy), and how they will be consumed after exchange is incidental to the economic study of simple commodity circulation. The protagonists here are simply buyers and sellers, or rather the commodities put up for sale by them, which establish their social connection on their behalf. The real aim of exchange –the mutual satisfaction of the needs of the commodity producers – can only be fulfilled if the commodities simultaneously prove themselves to be values, if they are successfully exchanged for the ‘universal commodity’, money. Consequently the social change of matter takes place in the change of form of the commodities themselves.

And in this situation the change of form is the only social relationship between the commodity owners – ‘the indicator of their social function, or their social relation to each other’. [35. ibid. p.241.] However, as far as the content outside the act of exchange is concerned, this ‘content can only be . . . 1) the natural particularity of the commodity being exchanged 2) the particular natural need of the exchangers of both together, the different use-values of commodities being exchanged’. [36. ibid. p.242.] However the content as such does not determine the character of the exchange relation. In fact, use-value simply constitutes ‘the material basis in which a specific economic relation presents itself’ and ‘it is only this specific relation which stamps the use-value as a commodity . . . Not only does the exchange-value not appear as determined by use-value, but rather, furthermore, the commodity only becomes a commodity, insofar as its owner does not relate to it as use-value.’ [37. ibid. p.881.] Hence in this situation, where exchange ‘takes place only for the reciprocal use of the commodity, the use-value . . . the natural peculiarity of the commodity as such, has no standing as an economic form’, - is not ‘a content of the relation as a social relation’. [38. ibid. p.267.] Consequently only the change of form of the commodity and money has economic significance, and the presentation of simple commodity exchange has to be confined to this change of form alone. [39. ‘If we want to examine the social relation of individuals within their economic process, we must keep to the characteristic form of this process itself.’ (Grundrisse, German edn. P.914.)]

However, although this is correct for simple commodity exchange, nothing would be more erroneous, states Marx, than to conclude ‘that the distinction between use-value and exchange-value, which falls outside the characteristic economic form in simple circulation, . . . falls outside it in general . . . For example, Ricardo, who believes that the bourgeois economy deals only with exchange-value, and is concerned with use-value merely exoterically, derives the most important determinations of exchange-value precisely from use-value, from the relation between the two of them: for instance, ground-rent, the minimum level of wages, and the distinction between fixed and circulating capital, to which he imputes precisely the most significant influence on the determination of prices; likewise in the relation of demand to supply etc.’ [40. Grundrisse, pp.646-47.]

Ricardo was indeed right to say that ‘exchange-value is the predominant aspect. But of course use does not come to a halt because it is determined only by exchange; although of course it obtains its direction thereby’. [41. ibid. p.267.] ‘To use is to consume, whether for production or consumption. Exchange is the mediation of this act through a social process. Use can be posited’ through exchange and be a mere consequence of exchange; then again exchange can appear merely as a moment of use, etc. From the standpoint of capital (in circulation), exchange appears as the positing of use-value, while on theother hand its use (in the act of production) appears as positing for exchange, as positing for exchange-value. Similarly with production and consumption. In the bourgeois economy (as in any) they are posited in specific distinctions and specific unities. The point is to understand these specific distinguishing characteristics . . . and not, as Ricardo does, to completely abstract from them, or like the dull Say, to make a pompous fuss about nothing more than the presupposition of the word “utility”.’ For ‘Use-value itself plays a role as an economic category. Where it plays this role . . . the degree to which use-value exists outside economics and its determinate form and not merely as presupposed matter . . . is something which emerges from the development itself.’ [42. ibid. pp.646, 267.]


So when, according to Marx, does use-value as such become modified by the formal relations of bourgeois economy, and when, in its turn, does it intervene to modify these formal relations – that is, as a ‘determinate economic form’ itself?

In the Marginal Notes on A. Wagner, which have already been cited, Marx points out that even in simple commodity circulation, with the development of the money-form of the commodity, the value of a commodity must be represented in ‘use-value, i.e. in the natural form of the other commodity’. In Marx’ view this does not only mean that money must be a commodity as a matter of course, i.e. possess use-value in its material, but also, that this use-value is connected to quite specific physical properties of the money-commodity which make it capable of fulfilling its function. We read in the Rough Draft : ‘The study of the precious metals as subjects of the money relation as incarnations of the latter, is therefore by no means a matter lying outside the realm of political economy, as Proudhon believes, any more than the physical composition of paint, and of marble lie outside the realm of painting and sculpture. The attributes possessed by the commodity as exchange-value, attributes for which its natural qualities are not adequate, express the demands made upon those commodities which are the material of money par excellence. These demands at the level at which we have confined ourselves up to now [i.e. the level of pure circulation of metals] are most completely satisfied by the precious metals.’ [43. ibid. p.174.]

The commodities which fulfill the function of the universal equivalent, can double their use-value precisely because of their specific attributes, which make them the only material for money. They contain ‘besides their particular use-value as a particular commodity’, a ‘universal’ or ‘formal’ use-value. [44. ‘The formal use-value [of money] unrelated to any real individual need,.’ (Contribution, p.89)]

This latter use-value is itself a characteristic form, i.e. it arises from the specific role, which it [the money-commodity] plays as a result of the all-sided action exerted on it by the other commodities in the process of exchange.’ [45. Contribution, p.47.] With this, the ‘material change and the change of form coincide, since in money the content itself is part of the characteristic economic form.’ [46. Grundrisse, p.667.]

The second example which Marx refers to in the Marginal Notes is of decisive importance – the exchange between capital and labour. If we look, for example, at simple commodity circulation, as it occurs ‘on the surface of the bourgeois world’, in retail trade, ‘a worker who buys a loaf of bread, and a millionaire who buys the same thing, seem, in this act, to be simply buyers, as the grocer who confronts them is simply a seller. The content of these purchases, like their extent, here appears as completely irrelevant compared with the formal aspect.’ [47. ibid. p.251]

However the matter looks quite different if we proceed from this exchange on the surface, to the exchange which determines the essence of the capitalist mode of production – that between capital and labour. For, if in simple circulation, ‘commodity A is exchanged for money B, and the latter then for the commodity C, which is destined for consumption – the original object of the exchange for A – then the use of commodity C, its consumption, falls entirely outside circulation; is irrelevant to the form of the relation . . . is of purely physical interest, expressing no more than the relation of the individual in his natural quality ot an object of his individual need.
What he does with commodity C is a question which belongs outside the economic relation,’ [48. ibid. p.274.]

In contrast to this, in the exchange between capital and labour, it is precisely the use-value of the commodity purchased by the capitalist (i.e. labour-power) which constitutes the presupposition of the capitalist production process and the capital relation itself. In this transaction the capitalist exchanges a commodity whose consumption ‘coincides directly with the objectification (Vergegenstandlichung) of labour i.e. with the positing of exchange-value’. [49. Grundrisse, German ed. P.944.] Consequently, if ‘the content of use-value was irrelevant in simple circulation’ here, by contrast, ‘the use-value of that which is exchanged for money appears as a particular economic relation . . . falls within the economic process because the use-value here is itself determined by the exchange-value’. [50. Grundrisse, pp.274-75, 311.]

Hence if the creation of surplus-value, as the incvrease in the exchange-value of capital, is derived from the specific use-value of the commodity labour-power, then political economy must in turn restrict the share of the value-product acccruing to the worker to the equivalent of the goods necessary to maintain him, and consequently must allow this share to be determined at bottom by means of use-value. [51. ‘Ricardo regards the product of labour in respect of the worker only as use-value – only the part of the product which he needs to be able to live as a worker. But how it comes about that the worker suddenly only represent use-value in the exchange, or only draws use-value from the exchange is by no means clear to him.’ (ibid. p.551)] In this instance, too, the category of use-value has an impact on the economic relations of the capitalist mode of production.

We can confirm now use-value constantly influences the forms of economic relations in the circulation process of capital. We disregard here the many ways in which the material nature of the product affects the duration of the working period and the circulation period, [52.Cf. especially Chapters V, XII, and XIII of Capital II.] and proceed directly to the distinction which is basic to the circulation process –that between fixed and circulating capital, which Marx refers to in his polemic against Ricardo, which we have already cited.

As far as fixed capital is concerned, it only circulates ‘as value to the degree that it is used up or consumed as use-value in the production process. But the time in which it is consumed and in which it must be repreoduced in its form as use-value depends on its relative durability. Hences its durability, or its greate or lesser perishability –the greater or smaller amount of time during which it can continue to perform its function within the repeated production processes of capital – this aspect of its use-value here becomes a form-determining moment i.e. a determinant for capital as regards its form, not as regards its substance. The necessary reproduction of fixed capital, together with the proportion of the total capital consisting of it, here modify, therefore, the turnover time of the total capital and thereby its valorisation.’ [53. Grundrisse, p.685. Cf. Capital II, pp.170-71.]

Thus, in the categories of fixed and circulation capital, ‘the distinction between the [three] elements [of the labour process] as use-values . . . appears as a qualitative distinction within capital itself, and as the determinant of the complete movement (turnover).’ [54. Grundrisse, p.692.] This therefore represents yet another instance where use-value enters into the process of capital as an economic factor.[55. In this regard we should refer to the instruments of labour which, ‘as capital united with the land’, function in the form of factory buildings, railways, bridges, tunnels, docks etc. The fact that such instruments of labour are ‘localised, attached to the soil by their roots, assigns to this portion of fixed capital a peculiar role in the economy of nations. They cannot be sent abroad, cannot circulate as commodities in the world market. Title to this fixed capital may change, it may be bought and sold, and to this extent may circulate ideally. These titles of ownership may even circulate in foreign markets, for instance, in the form of stocks. But a change of the persons owning this class of fixed capital does not alter the relation of the immovable, materially fixed part of the national wealth to its movable part.’ (Capital II, p.166.)]

However, the role of use-value is seen most clearly in the reproduction process of aggregate social capital, as it is presented in Part III of Volume II of Capital. At the beginning of this section Marx points out that as long as the analysis was simply one of the reproduction process of an individual capital (i.e. as in Volume I), ‘the natural form of the commodity-product was completely irrelevant to the analysis . . . whether it consisted of machines, corn or mirrors’. In Volume I it was simply ‘presupposed on the one hand that the capitalist sells the product at its value, and on the other that he finds within the sphere of circulation the objective means of production for restarting the process’. For, ‘the only act within the sphere of circulation on which we have dwelt was the purchase and sale of labour-power as the fundamental condition of capitalist production’. [56. ibid. pp.356-57.] However, ‘This merely formal [57. i.e. bearing in mind the form of the process.] manner of presentation is no longer adequate in the study of an aggregate social capital’, in the reproduction of which the problem is not merely the replacement of value, but also the replacement of material, and consequently everything depends on the material shape, on the use-value of the value-product. [58. Capital II, p.398. The well-known schemes of reproduction of Tugan-Baranovsky and Otto Bauer suffer precisely from not having observed this methodological postulate.]

The same point is made in the Theories, the difference being that Marx expressly refers to the significance of use-value as an economic category: ‘In considering surplus-value as such, the original form of the product, hence of the surplus-product, is of no consequence. It becomes important when we consider the actual process of reproduction, partly in order to understand its forms, and partly in order to grasp the influence of luxury production etc. on reproduction.’ [59. Capital II, p.407.] ‘Here’, Marx stresses, ‘is another example of how use-value as such acquires economic significance.’ [60. Theories III, pp.251-52. In another passage in the same work Marx examines the question as to whether ‘a part of the surplus-value can be directly transformed into constant capital . . . without first having been alienated’. He writes: ‘In industrial areas there are machine-builders who build whole factories for the manufacturers. Let us assume one-tenth is surplus-product, unpaid labour, whether this tenth, the surplus-product, consists of factory buildings which are build for a third party and are sold to them, or of factory buildings which the producer builds for himself – sells to himself – clearly makes no difference. The only thing that matters here is whether the kind of use-value in which the surplus labour is expressed can re-enter as means of production into the sphere of production of the capitalist to whom the surplus belongs. This is yet another example of how important is the analysis of use-value for the determination of economic phenomena.’ (Theories II, pp.488-89.)]

We now proceed to those subjects dealt with in Volume III of Capital. We can find numerous examples here of the significance of use-value as an economic category. This is obvious in the case of ground-rent, which Marx (like Ricardo) derives ultimately ‘from the relation of exchange-value to use-value. The importance of use-value is shown in relation to the rate of profit, insofar as this is dependent on fluctuations in the value of raw materials. For, ‘it is especially agricultural produce proper, i.e. raw materials taken from organic nature, which . . . is subject to fluctuations of value in consequence of changing yields etc. Owing to uncontrollable natural conditions, favourable or unfavourable seasons etc. the same quantity of labour may be represented in very different quantities of use-values, and a definite quantity of these use-values may therefore have very different prices’. [61. Capital III, pp.117-18.]

Such variations in price, ‘always affect the rate of profit, even if they loeave the wage untouched and hence the rate and amount of surplus-value too’. [62. ibid. p.115. Another example is provided by the uneven development of the different spheres of production in the capitalist economy. We read in Volume III, ‘The fact that the development of productivity in different lines of industry proceeds at substantially different rates and frequently even in opposite directions, is not due merely to the anarchy of competition and the peculiarities of the bourgeois mode of production. Productivity of Labour is also bound up with natural conditions, which frequently become less productive as productivity grows – inasmuch as the latter depends on social conditions. Hence the opposite movements in these different spheres – progress here, retrogression there. Consider only the influence of the seasons, for instance, which determines the available quantity of the bulk of raw materials, the exhaustion of forest lands, coal and iron mines etc.’ (ibid. p.260.)]

We should also devote special attention to the influence of use-value on the accumulation of capital.

Grossman writes : ‘In Marxist literature up till now stress has been laid merely on the fact that the mass of the value of the constant capital grows both absolutely, and in relation to the variable capital in the course of capitalist production and the accumulation of capital, with the increase in the productivity of labour, and the transition to a higher organic composition of capital. However this phenomenon only constitutes one side of the process of accumulation, in that it is regarded from the aspect of value. In fact, it cannot be repeated too often that the reproduction process is not merely a process of valorisation but also a labour process – it produces not merely values, but also use-values’. And, ‘looked at from the aspect of use-value, the increase in productive capacity does not only operate in the direction of the devaluation of existing capital, but also in the direction of a quantitative increase in the objects of use.’ [63. Grossman, Das Akkumulations-un Zusammenbruchsgesetz des kapitalistischen Systems, pp.326-28.] The effect that this has on the accumlation of capital can be read in Volume III of Capital. [64. Cf. In addition Capital I, pp.752-53. (604-05)]

It states there : ‘The increase in productive power can only directly increase the value of the existing capital, if by raising the rate of profit it increases that portion of the value of the annual product which is reconverted into capital . . . Indirectly however, the development of the productivity of labour contributes to the increase of the value of existing capital by increasing the mass and variety of use-values [65. ‘If one has more elements of production (even of the same value) the technical level of production can be expanded; then, at the same mass of value of capital more workers can be employed in the production process, who, will therefore produce more value in the next cycle of production.’ (Grossman, op. cit. P.330.)] in which the same exchange-value is represented and which form the material substance i.e. the material elements of capital, the material objects making up the constant capital directly and the variable capital at least indirectly. More products which may be converted into capital, whatever their exchange-value, are created with the same capital and the same labour, hence also additional surplus labour and therefore create additional capital.’ For ‘the amount of labour which a capital can command does not depend on its value, but on the mass of raw and auxiliary materials, machinery and elements of fixed capital and necessities of life, all of which it comprises whatever their value may be. As the mass of labour employed and that of surplus labour increases, there is also a growth in the value of the reproduced capital and in the surplus-value newly added to it.’ [66. Capital III. P.248.]


The problem of supply and demand is dealt with in particular detail in Volume III of Capital. This problem is closely related to that of the much discussed question of socially necessary labour-time, which has already bgeen broached in Chapter 2 above. [67. Cf. p.51.]

Right at the beginning of Volume I we read, ‘Socially necessary labour-time is the labour-time required to produce any use-value under the conditions of production mormal for a given society and with the average degree of skill and intensity prevalent in that society.’ And, that ‘which determines the magnitude of the value of any article is therefore the amount of labour socially necessary or the labour-time socially necessary for its production.’ [68. Capital I, p.129 (39).]

We encounter this ‘technological’ meaning of the concept of socially necssary labour-time again and again in Capital, and in other of Marx’s works. However, we also encounter another meaning, according to which labour can only count as ‘socially necessary’ if it corresponds to the aggregate requirements of society for a particular use-value.

In Volume I of Capital we read, ‘Let us suppose that every piece of linen in the market contains nothing but socially necessary labour-time. In spite of all this all these pieces taken as a whole may contain superfluously expended labour-time. If the market cannot stomach the whole quantity at the normal price of 2 shillings a yard this proves that too great a portion of the total social labour-time has been expended in the form of weaving. The effect is the same as if each individual weaver had expended more labour-time upon his particular product than was socially necessary. As the German proverb has it : caught together, hanged together. All of the linen on the market counts as one single article of commerce, and each piece of linen is only an aliquot part of it. And in fact the value of each single yard is also nothing but the materialisation of the same socially determined quantity of homogeneous human labour.’ [69. ibid. p.202 (107).]

Marx expresses the same idea in numerous other passages. And Engels even combined both meanings in one definition when he stated in the course of an attack on Rodbertus, ‘If he had investigated by what means and how labour creates value and therefore also determines and measures it, he would have arrived at socially necessary labour, necessary for the single product, both in relation to other products of the same kind, and also in relation to society’s total demand.’ [70. Engel’s Preface to Marx’s Poverty of Philosophy, p.20.]

The amalgamation of these two meanings of ‘socially necessary labour’ has been seen as an intolerable contradiction by numerous writers. [71. See the review of the relevant literature in the instructive study by T.Grigorovici. Die Wertlehre bei Marx and Lassalle. Beitrag zur Geschichte eines wissenschaftlichen Misverstandnisses 1908. Cf., also Diehl’s Sozialwissenshaftliche Erlauterungen zu D. Ricardo Grundgesetzen, I, 1905, pp.125-28.]
In reality the contradiction is only apparent; it is in fact a question of different levels of analysis, which require operating with two different, but mutually complementary concepts.

Volume III of Capital states on this : ‘To say that a commodity has a use-value is merely to say that is satisfied some social need. So long as we dealt with individual commodities only,k we could assume that there was a need for a particular commodity – its quantity already implied by its price – without inquiring further into the amount of the need which has to be satisfied. This quantity is, however, of essential importance, as soon as the product of an entire branch of production is placed on one side, and the social need for it on the other. It then becomes necessary to consider the extend i.e. the amount of this social need.’ [72. Capital III, p.185. The same line of thought can also be found in the Rough Draft pp.404-05.]

In other words : The analysis so far has proceeded from a series of simplifying assumptions. First it was assumed that commodities are exchanged at their values, and second, that they always find a buyer. Only in this way was it possible to outline the production and circulation process of capital in pure form, without the influence of distrubing ‘accompanying circumstances’. Now is the time, however, to bring into the economic analysis the moment of supply and demand which has so far been neglected, but which must at last be given its due.

As far as supply is concerned, this mean, in the first instance, that instead of one individual commodity (or the amount of commodities produced by a single capitalist), we now have to posit the aggregate product of an entire branch of production. For the individual commodity the determination of socially necessary labour-time proceeeds from the fact that ‘the individual value of the commodity (and what amounts to the same under the present assumption, its selling price) should coincide with its social value’. [73. Capital III, p.182.] However, the matter is quite different when it is a question of the aggregate product of a branch of production. Here the requirement of socially necessary labour-time can only apply for the entire mass of commodities; and so consequently the individual value of commodities has to be distinguished from their social value. Social value assumes the form of market value, which represents the average value of the sum of commodities, from which, consequently, the individual values of some commodities must always diverge : they must either stand above or below the stated market value.

This is because we can generally distinguish three categories of producers in each branch of production : producers who produce under above-average, average and below-average conditions. ‘Which of the categories has a decisive effect on the average value, will in particular depend on the numerical ratio or the proportional size of the categories.’ [74. Theories II, p.204.] As a rule this will be the average category. In this case that part of the total amount of commodities produced under the poorer conditions will have to be sold off below their individual value, whereas the commodities produced under the above average can secure an extra amount of profit. However, it may be the case that either the class producing under the better conditions, or that under the worse conditions will predominate. In the first instance the commodities produced under the better conditions will determine the market value; in the second instance, those produced under the poorer conditions.

The determination of market value appears in this way if we look exclusively at the mass of commodities thrown on to the market, ignoring the possibility of an imbalance between supply and demand. Hence, ‘provided that the demand is large enough . . . to absorb the whole mass of the commodities at the values which have been fixed [by competition among the buyers] . . . the commodity will still be sold at its market value, no matter which of the three above-mentioned cases regulate the market value. The mass of commodities not only satisfied a need but satisfies it to its full social extent. [75. Capital III, p.185.]

However, we know that in the capitalist mode of production, ‘there exists an accidental rather than a necessary connection between the total amount of social labour applied to a social article . . . on the one hand, and the extent of the demands made by the society for the satisfaction of the need gratified by the article in question, on the other. Every individual article, or every definite quantity of a commodity may, indeed, contain no more than the social labour required for its production, and from this point of view the market value of this entire commodity represents only necessary labour, but it this commodity has been produced in excess of the existing social needs, then so much of the social labour-time is squandered and the mass of the commodity come to represent a much smaller quantity of social labour in the market than is actually incorporated in it . . . the reverse applies if the quantity of social labour employed in the production of a certain kind of commodity is too small to meet the social need for that commodity.’ [76. ibid. p.187.]

In both cases the ‘determination of market value which we [previously] outlined abstractly’ is modified, in the sense that ‘of the supply is too small, the market value is always regulated by the commodities produced under the least favourable circumstances and if the supply is too large, always by the commodities produced under the most favourable conditions; that therefore it is one of the extremes which determines the market value, in spite of the fact that if we proceed only from the relation between the amounts of the commodity produced under different conditions, a different result should obtain.’ [77. ibid. p.185.]

So it can be seen that which of the categories (of producers) determines market value depends not only on their proportional strength, but also, in a certain sense, on the relation of supply and demand. But doesn’t this completely invalidate Marx’s theory of value? Not at all. This would only be true if each time demand out-weighed supply, or vice versa, this led to a proportional increase or fall in market value itself. However, in this case the market value would be identical with the market price, or it would –as Marx expressed it – ‘have to stand higher than itself’. [78. ibid. pp.279-71.] For, according to Marx’s conception, market value can only move within the limits set by the conditions of production (and consequently by the individual value) of one of the three categories.

We read in the section of the Theories devoted to ground-rent that : ‘A difference between market value and individual value arises in general not because products are sold absolutely above their value, but only because the value of the individual product may be different from the value of the product of the whole sphere . . . The difference between the market value and the individual value of a product can therefore only be due to the fact that the definite quantities of labour with which different parts of the total product are manufactured have different degrees of productivity. It can never be due to the value being detemined irrespective of the quantity of labour altogether employed in this sphere.’ [79. ibid. pp.270-71.]

Thus, if as a consequence of the market situation, the mass of commodities is sold above the individual value of the commodities produced under the worst conditions, or alternatively below the individual value of those produced under the best conditions, the market price would indeed diverge from the market value. [80. Cf. ibid. p.268. ‘This market value itself can never be greater than the value of the product of the least fertile class’ (the coal mine). ‘If it were higher this would only show that the market price stood above the market value. But the market value must represent real value.’] This regulation of the occasional fluctuations of market price is, or course, the main function allotted to the relation of supply and demand in the system of bourgeois economics.

It is evident that our interpretation of Marx’s theory of market value diverges very considerably from that normally presented in marxist literature. The following passage by Grigorovici could serve as an example. ‘ “If the demand is large enough to absorb commodities at their market value”, says marx, “this commodity will be sold at its market value, no matter which of the three aformentioned cases regulates it. This mass of commodities does not merely satisfy a need, but satisfies it to its full social extent. Should their quantity be smaller or greater, however, than the demand for them, the market prices will diverge from the market value”, i.e. the market price will exceed or fall below the market value; market price and market value will not coincide.’ The author concludes, ‘Thus, what affects the relation of supply and demand, or in other words the demand-moment is not a change in market value, but simply a divergence of market price from the market value of the commodity, although in both the first and second cases it seems as if the market value itself has changed, as a result of the change in the relation of supply and demand; because in the first case the commodity produced under the poorer conditions seems to regulate market value, and in the second the commodity produced under the better,’ [81. Grigorovici, op.cit. P.37.]

This then is Grigorovici’s view. However, what does the passage from Volume III, which we have already cited in part, actually say on this point?

‘Should demand for this mass also remain the same, this commodity will be sold at its market value, no matter which of the three aforementioned cases regulates this market value . . . Should their quantity be smaller or greater, however, than the demand for them, there will be divergencies between the market price and the market value. And the first divergence is that if the supply is too small, the market value is always regulated by the commodities produced under the least favourable circumstances, and, if the supply is too large, always by the commodities produced under the most favourable conditions; that therefore it is one of the extremes which determines the market value, in spite of the fact that if we proceed only from the relation between the amounts of the commodity produced under different conditions, a different result should obtain.’ [82. Capital III, p.185.]

The formulation is not at all clear, and consequently can give rise to uncertainties. However, Marx expresses himself more precisely on p.179 of Volume III. He writes: ‘At a certain price, a commodity occupies just so much place on the market. This place remains the same in case of a price change only if the higher prices accompanied by a drop in the supply of the commodity, and a lower prices by an increase of supply. And if the demand is so great that it does not contract when the prices is regulated by the value of commodities produced under the least favourable conditions, then these determine the market value. This is only possible if demand is greater than usual, or if supply drops below the usual level. Finally, if the mass of commodities produced exceeds the quantity disposed of at average market values, the commodities produced under the most favourable conditions regulate the market value.’

We in no way want to deny that there are passages in Marx which seem to prove the opposite of what has just been said. [83.It should not be forgotten, as Engels remarked, that the manuscript for Volume III only represents a ‘first extremely incomplete draft’.] What is important, however, is not to ‘explain’ thse unclarities away on the basis of a falsely conceived marxist orthodoxy, but rather to understand and interpret the true meaning of Marx’s explanations in terms of their ‘inner logic’. And we consider that our interpretation of the passages on market value corresponds better with Marx’s theory as a whole, in particular with his theory of ground-rent, than the interpretations which are to be found in Grigorovici and others.

However, this is not the place to to into this special problem in detail. Our point was only to show that Marx, in strictly logical fashion, deals with the problem of ‘socially necessary labour-time’ on two different levels, and that his aim in doing this was to place the moment of social demand, i.e. use-value, in its true light.

In another passage in Volume III we read: ‘It continues to be a necessary requirement that the commodity represent use-value. But if the use-value of individual commodities depends on whether they themselves satisfy a particular needs, then the use-value of the mass of the social product depends on whether it satisfies the quantitatively determined social need for each particular kind of product in an adequate manner, and whether the labour is therefore proportionately distributed among the different spheres in keeping with these social needs, which are quantitatively circumscribed . . . The social need, that is the use-value on a social scale, appears here as a determining factor for the amount of total social labour-time which is expended in various specific spheres of production is but a more developed expression of the law of value in general, although the necessary labour-time assumes a different meaning here. Only just so much of it is necessary for the satisfaction of social needs. It is use-value which brings about this limitation.’ [84. Capital III, pp.635-36. Cf.Theories I, p.204.]

And so we can see again how use-value operates as such in the relations of the bourgeois economy, which is based on exchange-value, and consequently how it becomes an economic category itself.

With this last example, we come to the end of our analysis. Future research into Marx will decide whether the extracts which we have cited from the Rough Draft prove us correct, and actually lead to a partial revision of previous interpretations of Marx’s economic theory, as we believe they must. We can, however, allow ourselves one final remark; that it was clearly Marx’s own unique method of analysis which enabled him to elaborate his opposition to Ricardo in such an original and logical fashion. Engels was surely right when he perceived in Marx’s treatment of use-value, and its role in political economy, a classic example of the use of the ‘German dialectical method’. [85. See his review of Marx’s Contribution (1859) in MEW Vol.13, p.476.]

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

John Stone on Zionism

Polemic: Against Zionism

By John Stone

Israel has just celebrated its 50th anniversary. The 'peace settlements' have pushed the PLO leadership, Egypt and Jordan to recognise Israel. It seems that Syria and other Arab states will do the same. There are almost 4 million Jews in the State of Israel and many elements of a Hebrew-speaking nation. Is it the time to abandon our demand for the destruction of the Israeli state and its replacement with a secular, multi-ethnic, democratic and Soviet Palestine, and to advocate a united front with the PLO and the Zionist left in order to achieve a bi-national state or a two-state solution to the Arab- Israeli conflict? This article will examine the programmatic positions of the most left-wing Zionists. We will explain what the Marxist position on the Palestine question must be and why we cannot recognise any national rights of Israel.

Left Zionism's backward evolution.

In the early years of the Communist International, Poalei Zion (Workers Zion) participated as observers in some of its activity. This current tried to fuse Marxism with Jewish nationalism. For them the Jews where a nation without a territory. In order to make a socialist revolution the Jews needed first to create its own state and multi-class society.

Poalei Zion initially accepted the possibility of a bi-national Arab-Hebrew state but later they backed the division of Palestine and the creation of a pure Jewish state. Poalei Zion became one of the pillars of the MAPAM, which achieved around one fifth of the votes in the first Israeli elections. The MAPAM initially combined Marxist and Leninist phraseology with its active integration in the Hagana (Israeli army), the Histadrut (Israeli anti-Palestinian corporate union) and the Labour Zionist cabinets. They built many kibutzim and they believed that these islands of rural collectivism where the seeds of socialism.

MAPAM survived as the left wing of Zionism and many Labour governments. It backed Israel in all its wars against the Arabs. In the late 1940s the MAPAM capitalised on the pro-Moscow sentiment that was created all over the world resulting from Hitler's defeat and Stalin’s backing the creation of Israel. Before the creation of the Israeli state many thought that the Jews where in general an oppressed people despite that the Zionists wanted to transform them into colonial settlers against the Arab native population. However, Israel became an oppressor whose existence was based in the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of native Palestinians, and the founding of a US pillar against all the anti- imperialist movements in the Middle East.

A "Marxist" movement that adapts to forms of third-world nationalism can survive with some radical proposals. However, a socialist movement that became an apologist of an expansionist and colonialist power would become more and more reactionary. Moving to the right MAPAM was loosing its initial roots and became confused with the pragmatic Zionists.

Around ten years ago MAPAM, Shilumit Aroni's Ratz and Shinui created Meretz, a political front that in 1997 became officially a united party. Ratz was a movement in favour of constitutional rights and Shinui was an ultra-liberal organisation committed to Thatcherite economics in a context of liberal concessions to the Palestinians. The Shinui believed that the best way to develop an open `free market' was to allow Israel to be a county at peace with its neighbours and with the capacity to export capital to them.

On February 1997 the founding convention of the new Meretz Party adopted its `Basic Principles'. In it there is no mention of the struggle against imperialism or for socialism and for a working class based party. MAPAM simply abandoned any class reference. Meretz proclaimed the combination of `the values of enlightened liberalism and democratic socialism'. A few countries had already experienced the fusion between their political extremes on economic issues. Just as it is impossible to fuse oppressive nationalism with any form of socialism, nor is it possible to combine Thatcherite economics with any form of progressive economic reforms. The former Zionist collectivists abandoned their initial goals and accepted a neo-liberal agenda.

MAPAM gave up all its former demands for state intervention and rural collective expansions. Now it accepts neo-conservative economics. `Initiative, profitability, and fair competition between all sections of the economy will be facilitated'. Meretz is in favour of privatising some of the companies that the `left Zionists' put under public ownership. They only oppose privatisation of natural monopolies, education, postal service and the welfare state. The rest, transport, communications, industries, arm production, etc. could be sold.

For an exclusionist state

In all of its Basic Principles Meretz does not mention the struggle against anti-Semitism. The main purpose of Zionism is to "struggle against assimilation which threatens the existence of the Jewish people in the Diaspora". Assimilation means that Jews should abandon their religious-cultural values and became assimilated into the nations in which they live. They want to stop that process. In places in which the Jewish workers are struggling alongside their own class brothers and sisters against the bosses, they want to divide the workers. The Jews have abandoned other workers to migrate to Israel in order to help Zionist capitalists to build their own state.

"The Zionist objective of the State of Israel is to provide an open door for any Jew. Aliya [mass Jewish emigration to Israel] is also a source of reinforcement for the State of Israel. Meretez sees Aliya to Israel, with the goal of gathering the majority of the Jewish people in the state".

Meretz wants to move the majority of the fifteen million Jews all over the planet to Israel. Eight million Jews in Israel would be a strong basis for maintaining a state. Its aim is doubly reactionary. On the one hand they try to dislocate many Jews (some of which were the basis of many socialist and progressive movements in their own countries) from their own homelands and to divide the working classes. On the other hand they want to use the Jewish as colonial tools to consolidate a state founded on the expulsion of its native population.

Regarding the Arabs, Meretz is the most `heretical' of all the Zionists. It is in favour of granting the right to create a weak state in a minority of their former lands for `the Palestinian Arab people, which has lived in this land for generations and which is now beginning to realise its right to national self-determination'. The ones who are starting `to realise its right to national self-determination' are, precisely, Meretz. The Palestinians fought for their own state in the 1947-48 wars and even before (like in the 1936 upheavals). It was the Zionists who destroyed their aspirations.

In which territories will Meretz grant a Palestinian state? "In a context of the permanent settlement, Israel will be obliged to vacate most of the territories occupied during to the Six Day War." Before the mass expulsions of Palestinians after the creation of Israel, two thirds of Palestine where inhabited by Arabs. In 1947 the UN resolved to divide that land in around two halves. In 1947 Israel managed to conquer around 40% of the Palestinian half. Therefore the territories that Israel occupied after 1967 represents a small fraction of Palestine.

For the left Zionists the Palestinians should accept not only the loss of the majority of their land but also of some of the post-1967 occupied territories as well as their historically claimed capital. For the Palestinians Jerusalem is their capital. For the Christian and Islamic Arabs it is one of their holy cities where they were the majority of its population from the beginning of the first millennium until 1948. Until 1967 Eastern Jerusalem (where is the historical city) was in Arab hands. Since then the Zionists have tried to buy Arab land or to expel Palestinians. For Meretz "Jerusalem, Israel's capital, will never again be divided."

First the Zionists expelled the Palestinians. Next its left wing `discovered' that they want national rights. Now, its most radical wing is prepared to concede a sort of independent Bantustan for them. For Meretz the new Palestinian State should occupy less than a half of that half of Palestine that the UN undemocratically resolved to give them in 1947. The Palestinians should give up 100% of Jerusalem and at least 75% of the land in which they where the majority of the population when the British left 50 years ago.

The new Palestinian State should not have a contiguous territory and between its two main areas (Gaza and the West Bank) Israel should be allowed to maintain a heavily guarded territory. The Palestinian State not only would have to accept the ethnic cleansing of its own people by Israel but also to be an impotent and unarmed scattered country surrounded and patrolled by Middle East's main Nuclear Power.

Meretz is also in favour of keeping and developing the strength and superiority of the Israel army: "The protective might provided by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is the main guarantee for Israel's security, even in an era of peace. The strength of the IDF and its technological and personal superiority over all the other armies in the region must be ensured."

Israel a reactionary military machine

Israel has one of the most reactionary military machines. It destroyed the Palestinian State in 1948 and led to millions of Palestinians being forced to live in the worst humanitarian conditions. Israel sided with France and the UK against Nasser's nationalisation of the Suez Canal. It invaded Egypt in 1956,19 67 and 1973; Jordan and Syria in 1967 and 1973. It helped the Kingdom of Jordan's bloody repression of the Palestinians in 1970. It occupied southern Lebanon in the 1980s.

It unconditionally supported every US and NATO reactionary movements against any regime that has had clashes with imperialism in the Middle East (Libya, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, etc.). It backed Turkey against the Kurds, the largest nation without a state. It was one of the main enemies of all the de-colonising and anti-imperialist movements through the entire planet. It legalised torture and killed many Arab children in the Intifada and in its terrorist bombing and incursions into Lebanon. It helped the anti-`terrorist' commands in Somoza's Nicaragua and in Peru. And what does it mean to "ensure" IDF's "superiority"? Perhaps to develop more nuclear and bio-chemical weapons which can be used to make a holocaust that could be a thousand times more devastating than Der Yasin?

In a country that has a very strong Jewish colonialist-fundamentalist camp, Meretz appeared as the most extreme Zionist force concerning civic rights. In the state of Israel every Jew who was born in any other part of the globe can have citizenship automatically. However, a Palestinian whose family inhabited that land for centuries, is a second class citizen and does not have the right to return to the land or home from which he/she was expelled in 1948 or 1967.

No Palestinian occupies any leading position in any Israeli government, the state or the army. Who decides who is a Jew? It is not a secular entity or even any Jewish religious congregation. That right is in the hands of the most orthodox and archaic rabbinate. This is such a reactionary body, that even the US Conservative Jews are to its left. The State of Israel does not have a constitution because it is based on a Jewish religious code.

Meretz 'radicalism' is limited to "the separation of religious institutions from the institutions of the state". Israel should be "governed by the rule of law, rather than by the rule of the Halakha." Nevertheless, Meretz vindicates that "Jewish heritage and the Jewish legal core are a cornerstone of our national culture and a source of inspiration in our lives and in creativity".

As we saw, Meretz' programme does not have any reference to the working class. It has very reactionary goals. It wants to keep a Jewish identity based in elements of Jewish religion. It tries to separate progressive Jews from their non-Jewish compatriots and to transform them into colonial settlers, dispossessing a native population. It wants to maintain a purely Jewish exclusionist state. It has a neo-liberal anti-working class economic programme. It differs from the hard-liners only in the sense that it is prepared to soften the rabbinical influence on the state institutions and allow Palestinian 'self-determination' in the form of a fragmented and powerless 'independent' Bantustan.

The peace accords, instead of pushing 'socialist Zionists' to the left, are causing a backward evolution towards neo-liberalism and reaction. Despite the possibility of organising common demonstrations and actions with them against the colonialist settlers and hard-liners, it is impossible to make any kind of anti-imperialist united front with currents that are advocating an imperialist and segregationist solution to the Palestinian question.

Zionism has no single progressive aspect

The doctrine of Zionism was created by Theodor Hertzl. He wanted to convince the Tsar and all the great powers that the best solution to the `Jewish question' was to provide the Jews with a state. Instead of being persecuted, the Jews could `expand ‘Western civilisation'’ against `barbarians'. Hertzl offered his services to transform the Jews into a colonialist tool against native peoples.

When Zionism was born (one century ago) hundreds of thousands of Jews were very active in the labour and anti-capitalist movement and many socialists were Jews (as was Marx, Trotsky, Luxemburg, Zinoviev, Kamenev etc). Zionism was also used to divide the Jew workers from their fellow classmates. If Marxists advocate the unity of all the workers of all nations and communities against the capitalists, the Zionists advocated the unity of the Jewish workers with and behind the capitalist Jews and their imperialist associates against other peoples. The Zionist emigration to Palestine had a reactionary goal. Jewish capitalists, unions and co-operatives excluded the natives from their ranks. Arab lands where purchased and given to Jewish colonial settlers. The Arab population felt that they were being driven away from a new colonialist movement.

After the holocaust the imperialist powers and the USSR where prepared to give the Jews a state in Palestine. In 1947 the UN partitioned British Palestine and created two states. In its war against its neighbours, Israel captured many Arab lands and the rest of the Palestinian lands where taken by Egypt and the Transjordan kingdom (since then it became Jordan). Comprising less than 10% of the world's Jewish population Israel was created as the homeland for all the Jews. The Jewish minority in Palestine (most of them where settlers born in Europe) took most of the country. Zionism managed to transform a persecuted people into Western colonialists. Zionism did not end with anti-Semitism. On the contrary, it produced the expulsion of most of the Jews from the Arab world (a region which had a much less anti-Jewish traditions than the West). Zionism became another form of anti-Semitism. A new state was created expelling and oppressing a Semitic people (the Palestinian Arabs).

Marxists need to address the Israeli Jewish working class. A big difference that we have with the Arab nationalists and fundamentalists is that they don't want to create a bridge or form an alliance with the Jewish proletariat. We should support the Hebrew workers struggles for better wages and labour conditions, against privatisation and for de-militarisation and civic rights.

However, we need to understand that imperialism can create communal privileges amongst one ethnic section of the working class against another section. In South Africa and Northern Ireland the White or Unionist workers achieved better social conditions than the Black and Republican workers. Some of the most reactionary terrorist forces where recruited amongst that layer of privileged workers.

We need to address the most oppressed sections of the proletariat. The anti-Unionists in the six counties and the Black workers in South Africa are the vanguard of the anti-imperialist movement. The actions of these layers should influence workers from the privileged communities. The only way to win the workers from the oppressor states is to win them to solidarity with the most oppressed sections of society and to show them that, instead of maintaining their privileges, they need to fight together with all the working class against their common enemies: the capitalists.

Marxists are champions of the right of self-determination for every nation. However, we can deny such rights in some concrete circumstances, like when the national right of one community would clash with the rights of another community. In Northern Ireland and South that would mean an attack on the oppressed population. The same principle we apply to Israel. The Africa we are against the right of the Protestant Unionists and the Afrikaners to form their own states because, like the Israeli nation, they would have their inception in the oppression of the native population.

A society created around discrimination

While the Boers and Ulster Protestants can show that they were the majority of the population of some part of their lands for many centuries and that they had some historical-territorial continuity, the Israeli Jews only started to arrive to Palestine in this century. They arrived from all the corners of the planet. The Jews from Western or Eastern Europe, Yemen, Mesopotamia, Maghreb, Central Asia, Kurdistan, the Caucasus, South Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, Australasia, India or Ethiopia had different histories, cultures, histories, traditions, religious practices, languages and races. Some of them evolved in a near complete isolation from other Jewish communities. There are tens or even hundreds of different Jewish religious congregations. The only thing that unites all of them is their common belief in the first Testament and in a common vindication of the old Jerusalem faith.

Hebrew, a 'dead' classical language only used for religious rituals and education, was modernised and transformed into the new `national' language. In order to develop Hebrew, Zionists undermined Ladino, the traditional Jewish mother tongue of the Jews in the Ottoman empire based in old Spanish, and Yiddish, the traditional European Jewish language based in old German. The Bolsheviks, on the contrary, massively promoted Yiddish Publications, Higher Education institutions, schools and even set up a territory (Birobidjan) for the development of the Yiddish culture and language.

Arabic was the language spoken by the overwhelmingly majority of the population in Palestine until 1948. Around half of the Jews that came to Israel after 1948 came from Oriental countries where most of them had Arabic as their mother tongue. Like all discriminatory society Israel had a system based in different levels of privileges. The Arabs are the most oppressed. Among the Jews, Oriental Jews are oppressed by Azkanazim Jews of European origins. The Black Jews (Falasha) suffer racism and discrimination. The Chief rabbinate does not fully recognise Falasha as having Jewish status. They are a sort of inferior Jew.

Israeli society is also divided amongst religious believers. The most orthodox minority (like the small Naturei Carta) is against the Israeli state because they think that a Jewish state could only be created with a Messiah and that the actual one tries to eliminate the Jewish traditional community in order to create a modern secularised state. The majority of the orthodox (the `crows') wants a fundamentalist Talmudic and segregationist state. They even attack non-orthodox Jews when they drive cars on the Sabbaths (holy Saturdays) or when they see women with `improper' clothes. Many Israelis wants a modern and secularised life.

Most nation-states were created claiming the continuity of a people that lived in the assigned territory for many centuries. Most of the nations, despite having an official religion, adopted some secular and non-confessional legal basis. Pakistan was divided from India around religious allegiances. However, most of the people that inhabited Pakistan where the native population. In India Marxists are against the creation of Khalistan. A Sikh state could be based in a community that is the majority of the population of certain parts of the Punjab. However, it would be created under religious and segregationist/communalist basis and would became a reactionary tool against the most secularised Sikhs and the Indian population.

The Israeli nation cannot offer any territorial-historic continuity. Until the last century less than 5% or even 1% of Palestine where Jews. The Jews which arrived in that land had different histories and they and their immediate ancestors lived mainly in other countries or continents. Their only territorial claim to that land was that of descent from the old Israelis who inhabited that land 2,000 years ago. The Welsh, Gaelic and Bretons could claim Britain and even most of Western Europe because the Celts where the majority of the population 2,000 years ago. Different regions in the Balkans and Eastern Europe could have been claimed by Albanians, Serbs, Greeks, Bulgarians, Macedonians, Germans, Hungarians, Turks or Polish because
only one century ago they used to be the majority of the population. With this kind of territorial claims the Canaanites or the Philistines, who inhabited Palestine before the Jews -as the Bible related- bloodily invaded them, could have better claims. In fact, The Palestinians can claim to be the direct descendants of them.

A Jewish state can be created only around some religious allegiances because that is the only thing in common that all Jews share. A secular state would mean a republic based on a constitution in which every citizen has equal rights. In the Bolshevik Soviet Union, Jews, who were only 2% of the people, were allowed to lead the Red Army, the two main Soviets and the ruling International Party. Would an Israeli entity allow an Arab to become Prime Minister, mayor of Jerusalem or chief of the army? This is impossible because the state is founded on religious segregation. A Jewish state in a territory that was populated by a heterogeneous Jewish minority for less than half a century and founded on the expulsion and oppression of its native population, can only survive by means of its Apartheid character.

Can we recognise the right of a Jewish nation?

Palestinians (and progressive Jews) should not recognise the right of Israel to exist. A two-state solution would imply that the Palestinians must renounce most of their lands from which they were pushed in the last five decades.

In Argentina, Australia and the USA the native population was largely wiped out and new modern White settler nations where created on the basis of massive European emigration. We cannot demand that these big countries should be given back to their original peoples. The indigenous populations where reduced to few hundreds of thousands. On the other side tens of millions now constitute industrialised societies. In these countries we defend the First Nations rights to use their mother tongue in their education and every day life, to have lands and even to achieve self-government in the areas that remain under their control.

Palestine does not offer the same scenario. The Zionists could not annihilate large chunks of the local population. There are more than four million Palestinians living under Israeli control or in neighbouring countries. The Palestinian working class and intelligentsia are among the Middle East's most enlightened and militant ones. Palestinian fighters are at the forefront of the region's anti-imperialist struggles. Palestinian demonstrations are a major source of inspiration especially for the hundreds of millions of Arab and Muslim masses.

The idea that the Arabs have to accept the colonist entity as a nation with the right to have its own state, is a demand to surrender made by the most pro-imperialist wings of the ruling classes. The left-wing Palestinians are resisting that capitulation. If the Arab left came to terms with Israel it would reinforce the Islamic fundamentalist attempt to monopolise the anti-Zionist Arab sentiment. That would be a colossal tragedy.

A bi-national Israeli/Arab State would be an unworkable contradiction. Palestine is the historical denomination of a territory. It does not have an exclusive, segregationist or religious connotation. Christians and Muslims, and even some non-Zionist Jews, also use that name. Israel means by its name the desire to create a separate and pure Jewish communalist state. It is possible to talk about a bi-national or bi-lingual country in Belgium or Wales. In these places different linguistic-cultural communities developed alongside each other without any strong degree of discrimination.

In Spain, Iran, the Andes, India and other countries it is possible to argue in favour of the right of self-determination for all its components or even for a multi-national federation. Basque, Kurds, Quechuas, Tamils are oppressed nationalities which had historical roots in territories in which they were the majority of the population for centuries.

A bi-national Israeli-Palestinian state would not be based on the equality of both communities. The Arabs have the worst jobs and not have the same rights as the Zionists. Israel and Aliya are inseparable. Israel needs to grant citizenship to every Jew no matter if he/she was born in Argentina or Australia and has never been before in the country. Israel provides housing, jobs and benefits to theJewish emigrants while the Arab native population are denied their rights to return to their lands or homes and they cannot have important positions in the state, the police or the army.

Marxists oppose Aliya. We are, of course, in favour of free frontiers and against people's displacement. We want open borders for all the Jews, Gypsies and other peoples who suffer discrimination. However, we have to oppose colonialist emigration. We opposed the French or Italian attempts to resettle poor peasants or workers as colonial tools in Northern Africa. We rejected the Rabat's kingdom mass march on Western Sahara because they wanted to solve a land problem in Morocco at the expenses of the Sarahui local population. A democratic secular Palestine should welcome citizens from all countries but they could not accept émigrés that try to create a segregationist state at the expense of the original people.

In Ecuador the Council of Indian Nations (CONAI) demand that this state should accept its multi-national character. The achievement of that goal would imply a great conquest for all the Indian peoples. In Palestine the native population is not fighting to be considered just one of several cultural and national components of the state. Israel is, by definition, based in a Jewish supremacist and segregationist platform and in the necessity to ethnically cleanse Palestine. The Palestinians are claiming their land back. Their historical aim was to refuse to recognise the state that deprived them of their lands and citizenship.

We are not in favour of a bi-cultural Northern Ireland or of a bi-national White/Black South Africa. It does not mean that we are in favour of a clerical Catholic all-Ireland or for expelling all the Whites from South Africa. It means that the former privileged community has to accept that they should stop considering the rest of the population as inferior and to accept that they should be an equal minority.

We are for the destruction of a purely Jewish segregationist and confessional state. But that does not mean that we want to drive all Jews into the sea or to support yet another genocide. We want to convince as many Jews as we can that the best thing for them is to unite with the Arab workers in order to create a secular non-religious and non-racist egalitarian republic.

The communists promoted the Yiddish culture and they designated a territory for Jewish colonisation. The Jews did not arrive in Birobidjan as a racist segregationist colonist who tried to exclude the native peoples. They coexisted peacefully with the locals. Today, for example, Birobidjan's Slav majority is very keen in maintaining the Jewish identity of that country as a means of attracting investment, technology and people.

In countries where the Jews constituted a compact oppressed majority in some territories (like the Falasha in Ethiopia) it was possible to advocate their right of self-determination, including autonomy or separation. However that right could not be extended to a group of people that wants to come into a new country to ethnically cleanse the local population.

Zionism needs to trample on the rich cultural and linguistic traditions of the Arab, Ladino, Yiddish, Falasha and other Jewish communities in order to create a new Hebrew oppressive nation which is forged in bloodiest battles against the Arab natives. We need to emphasise the fact that the Israeli Jew community is, in fact, a multi-ethnic amalgam. Zionists try to unite them against a common enemy: the native Arab peoples. We should not help them in doing that.

We need to defend many of these communities against the Zionists attempts to deny some of their most progressive traditions (like the Yiddish working class movements) and its discriminatory conditions in Israel. Begin and Likud tried to use the Oriental Jew resentment against the Azkenazim in a reactionary way: trying to transform them into the most patriotic anti-Arab pro-Israeli force. We should address the oriental Jews explaining that their enemies are not the Arab neighbours or natives but the capitalists and Zionists.

A socialist, secular, multi-ethnic Republic.

Our demand is for a socialist, secular, multi-ethnic and democratic Palestinian republic. In that country there live scores of communities: non-religious Jews and Arabs, secularised Russian-speaking Jews, Ladino-speaking Jews, Yiddish-speaking Jews, Arab-speaking Jews, Hebrew-speakers; non-Talmudic Jews (Samaritans, Falasha, Karaite), as well as Hasidic and non-Hasidic Jews; various Christian congregations (Armenians, Copts, Catholics (Roman and Orthodox); Maronnites, Protestants, etc.); Muslims (Shias, Sunni, etc.); Druses, Bedouins, Bahai, etc.

All these communities should have equal rights. No single community should impose its own religion onto the state. A secular constitution with a secular civic code should regulate their activities. There would not be special treatment for those of the same religion that come from other countries. Palestinians should have the right to return.

A democratic multi-ethnic Palestine could only be achieved as a result of a socialist revolution based on workers councils and militias. It would also be part of a Socialist Federation of the Middle East. In that context not only Palestinians would have the right to return but also Arab Jews would have the right to return to Syria, Morocco, Iraq and other Arab countries. Kurds, Assyrian and other nationalities would achieve self-determination and equal rights.

LCMRCI December 1998