An Interview with Kevin B. Anderson
PDF Version: Interview.
Interview with Kevin Anderson by Ayob Rahmani of Saamaan-no [New Order]
London, November 2009
(Transcribed by Jeb Sprague in May 2010 and checked by Anderson in June 2010)
Question: First of all, Kevin Anderson, thank you for accepting my invitation and thank you for your time.
Kevin Anderson: I’m very glad to be speaking with you.
Question: Kevin, We are approaching the second anniversary of the Persian edition of Capital, Vol. 1, translated by Hassan Mortazavi. Can you explain the significance of the differences between the French edition and the English/German editions?
Kevin Anderson: This is a very interesting question. At his death, Marx left two editions of Capital, Vol. 1 behind, which were different from each other. One was the second German edition of 1873, and the other the French edition of 1872 to 1875. The French edition was published in serial form, in a journal, partly because the publisher didn’t have enough money to publish it as a book right away. So you can see by those dates that the French edition is actually the later edition because the later part of the translation wasn’t finished until 1875. And Marx knew French very well. For example he wrote books in French, like The Poverty of Philosophy when he was young. The Germans have to read that book in translation. Marx’s 1881 letter to the Russian revolutionary Vera Zasulich and his 1846 letter to Annenkov about the materialist method and against Pierre-Joseph Proudhon are also written in French. Marx wrote French almost as easily as in German, and later in English as well. So even though Capital was translated into French from the German, Marx changed something in almost every paragraph.
He made a lot of changes; in a sense it’s a third edition of Vol. 1 of Capital. And it’s the last edition that Marx personally prepared for publication, which is what makes it so interesting. The differences from the German edition — lots of times its just a word or a phrase here or there — are often about fairly technical points in political economy, and some of them are just clarifying a point. But, the two examples that I mention in my article [published as one of the prefaces to the 2008 Persian edition of Capital] relate to the significance of revolutionary movements and social developments outside Europe, or at least outside Western Europe. At two very crucial points, Marx changes a sentence and adds new material. This concerns the model, the economic model outlined in Vol. 1 of Capital in the part on primitive accumulation, where it shows the breakup of feudalism in England, the consolidation of large-scale landed property, and the development of commercial agriculture. He specifies in the French edition that this is the pathway that Western Europe will have to go through, because Western Europe is already beginning to undergo a capitalist transformation. But as far as the rest of the world is concerned, he now leaves it open.
There are two such passages. One appears early in the book, where he wrote that the more developed country shows the less developed the image of its own future. In the French edition he changes this, adding the phrase, “for those countries that have begun to enter the pathway of industrialization.” That’s a big qualifier, for in the 1870s there aren’t that many countries that are entering the pathway of industrialization: Germany, France, the U.S., etc. It does not apply to Russia, or to India. Even though India is a colony and in a way part of the global capitalist system, it is not industrializing in the 1870s either. Here he is clarifying his position, or maybe he’s changing his view a little, but we can’t be absolutely sure.
There is a second passage that’s quite similar, in one of the chapters in primitive accumulation. This passage is well known because he quotes it in his letter to Vera Zasulich. He also quotes it in the 1877 letter written to the Russian journal Otechestvennye Zapiski [Notes of the Fatherland]. This is the letter where he writes that he does not have a general historical philosophical theory by which to interpret all societies. He holds that you have to look systemically at each society. Then he refers to the French edition of Capital. And he quotes this second passage. Thus, we should know this passage too but a lot of people don’t. In this passage he talks about primitive accumulation, the uprooting of the peasantry, the consolidation of property in the hands of a new commercial/agricultural bourgeoisie. He says this is taking place in different ways, in different countries. It has variations, he writes, but in England it takes the “classic form”. That’s what the German and English editions of Capital say. In the French edition, which he quotes in these letters to Russians, he drops the phrase about England as the classic form. Instead he writes that all the countries of Western Europe are going through this process. Again, he limits the scope of his model of primitive accumulation to a few societies. Of course, if your society begins to become capitalist, then it’s got to fall under all of the laws of capitalist development, value theory, and so forth as outlined in Vol. 1 of Capital. If it’s not yet industrializing, however, then the future is contingent. There are different possibilities. This is very interesting, I think, in terms of Marxist method, Marxist dialectical method. It’s not a formalistic method. With the dialectical method, the way you concretize it might lead to different conclusions for a precapitalist society or a capitalist one. Thus, Marx is very creative in how he looks at these problems, and he is very specific about the social development of these different societies like India and Russia at that time. He also looks at China, but India and Russia were the principal societies outside Western Europe and North America that he was looking at really closely throughout his life.
Question: The next question that comes to my mind is, why did Engels ignore or overlook the changes that Marx made to the French edition of Capital, Vol. 1?
Kevin Anderson: He didn’t overlook all of them. Engels actually incorporated quite a few of them, and he says so in his 1890 preface. This is for the edition we mostly go by for the English and German editions, the 1890 edition, which is the fourth German edition of Capital, as edited by Engels. He writes in the preface that he looked at the French edition, at the German edition, and a lot of the letters and plans that Marx left behind. This is because Marx had some outlines, where he had made clear what he was going to use in the French edition for the next German edition. He made clear that the French edition was superior in some ways. Also, and I should have said this earlier, in his letter to German comrades accompanying the Critique of the Gotha Program in 1875, he said he would soon be sending them the French edition of Capital. He’s telling this to the Germans. There actually was a third German edition of 1883, published just after Marx’s death, where Engels quickly brought in some of the things from the French edition. But in the 1890 fourth German edition he brought in a lot more things. Engels also had the benefit of the 1886 English edition. Marx was quoting hundreds and hundreds, maybe even thousands of passages from reports about the English economy, quoting Adam Smith and Ricardo and all these people. These quotes were in German in Capital. For the English Edition, Marx’s daughter Eleanor went to the library and checked every single quote because in the English edition you have to give them in English, you can’t just translate them back from the German edition.
Thus, Engels had access to all this and he incorporated the parts that he thought were better in the French edition, and in other places he used the German edition, and he says so in the preface. Why did he not include more from the French edition? All along, Engels had a less positive appreciation of the French edition than the German edition. There are letters in the 1870s between Marx and Engels, where Engels says (because Marx sends him part of the French edition before it was published) he didn’t think it sounds as good in the French language. He says the French sounds undialectical, even that the French language has some limitations that don’t allow you to express fully the Marxist position. Marx responds and says that Engels should keep reading the French edition, where he will find some things that are better. I don’t know if Engels was ever convinced of that. I think he had some prejudice against the French edition, and maybe even against French culture a little bit. In any case in one those letters he calls modern French a straightjacket in which it is impossible to think dialectically.
Of course, anyone has to make these kinds of decisions in creating an edition. But Engels should not have said that now we have a definitive version of Capital. What he should have said was that in the future someone needed to publish a really scholarly edition that would let the reader decide. Where the French edition is different than the German then there should be footnote or a note in the margins. Let the reader see what the differences are. This is what the Marx-Engels-Gesamtausgabe has finally done with most of these changes. The problem is that for over 100 years we have a text of Capital, Vol. 1 that is incomplete. And as you can see from what I said before, with some of these passages we can argue about whether they are really important or not, but others are clearly pretty important. It’s really quite unfortunate that the way the Marxist movement operated, at least orthodox Marxism, was a little bit like a religion, with the official authority going first to Marx, then to Engels, then to Lenin and so forth. And so to lot of people, if you started questioning how Engels edited Capital, then you were attacking Marxism. So you couldn’t really say this or people would get very angry. In China or the Soviet Union you could actually get in trouble for that.
Question: The first version of Capital was published in 1867 when Marx was alive. The French edition was published in 1872 and 1875 when Marx made some changes as you mentioned. The second and third volumes were edited by Engels from Marx’s drafts. How much do you think Engels distorted in Vol. 2 and Vol. 3 of Capital? How can we trust that Capital, Vol. 2, and Capital, Vol. 3, are really Marx’s work?
Kevin Anderson: What we have to do with all of these texts is publish them in full, and that’s what the Marx-Engels-Gesamtausgabe (MEGA) is doing for Capital. In fact, the MEGA’s section on Capital is almost finished. They’re publishing all of the drafts that Marx wrote, and then they’re also publishing Capital, Vols. 2 and 3, all with a lot of footnotes indicating the textual differences. Scholars are examining this. In German there are already articles appearing on this. For a long time this is going to be a subject of debate, because now almost all the texts will be published in German, and I hope they will be translated into English and other languages some day as well, so we’ll all have access to these drafts. For example, I know in one passage in the draft for Vol. 2 that Engels left out, where Marx talks about Hegel and he indicates a major intellectual debt. He says I’ve always been a student or pupil of Hegel, but Engels didn’t include that in Vol. 2. I’m not a specialist in Vols. 2 and 3, but I know that Hassan Mortazavi is working on a translation of Vol. 2 for which my colleague Peter Hudis is writing an introduction. Hassan Mortazavi is going to be taking note of some of these differences, so in this way, the new Persian edition of Capital is probably better than any of the English editions. People who read Persian, even if they’ve read Capital in English or German (except for the Marx-Engels Gesamtausgabe version), should read the Persian edition as well.
Question: What is the relevance of Marx in the 21st century given the deepest economic crisis since the 1930s?
Kevin Anderson: Well, I think that there’s wide agreement, even from some of the more progressive or serious parts of the bourgeoisie, that Marx’s critique of capitalism and his description of crisis is more relevant than before, I think there’s a return to Marx in that sense, already for the past ten years or more. I remember that during the 150th anniversary of the Communist Manifesto in 1998 they were already saying that. In Britain it was published in 1998 in this very expensive edition that you could put on a coffee table, with a preface by Eric Hobsbawm. Hobsbawm’s position, which is the position of a lot of people, is that Marx’s critique of capital still holds a lot of importance, but Marx’s discussion of socialism and the new society, has become irrelevant. Supposedly everybody knows this: communism failed, social democracy failed. This is again the dominant bourgeois opinion. It’s not that people are happy with the current state of capitalism, but as Margaret Thatcher said, “There is no alternative.” Of course I disagree with that and I think right now is a time when we need to look at Marx’s concept of socialism. But again, as with Capital, Vol. 1, we need to go directly to Marx and criticize Engels, Lenin, and of course Stalin and Mao and these kind of people. For example, Marx saw himself as part of a democratic movement of the nineteenth century, as part of the left wing of that democratic movement. This is something that was distorted by the 20th century. We have forgotten that Marx is someone who wrote in the Communist Manifesto that “the freedom of each is the condition of the freedom of all.” In the 1844 Manuscripts Marx wrote that the individual is the social entity, the social essence.
Marx was very interested in a lot of issues. Liberals attack Marx for not being interested in many things in which he in fact was interested. Marx was also interested in the social individual who was not a prisoner of the value form and capitalist social relations. Some parts of Marx are truer today then when he wrote them. For example, the concept of commodity fetishism is truer today than it was at the time he wrote about it. He wrote that human relations have become as relations between things, but in Marx ‘s day we didn’t really know what that was fully, I mean experientially. But as a theoretician, as a really great thinker, Marx was describing the conditions that he was living in but also anticipating the future. It is often said that Marx didn’t write very much about communism or socialism. Of course it is true that Marx didn’t agree with utopian socialism, where you elaborate a detailed model. But those statements by Marx have been misused because he did have certain ideas about socialism. A lot of the critiques he made of people like Proudhon or Mikhail Bakunin are about what socialism is not. And there are a number of places where Marx talks positively about socialism. One of course is in The Civil War in France, where Marx writes that the Paris Commune created the political form through which the workers might be able to work toward our economic emancipation from capitalism.
The Paris Commune didn’t establish socialism, because they were still living under the value form, but it was a political form of direct democracy, not only in the neighborhood or in the political administration, but also in the workplace where workers took over production and elected their managers. A lot of people talk about that kind of type today; they say we should have self-management or democratic workplaces. They say that is what socialism is. A lot of leftists say it is extending democracy to the workplace. That’s necessary but it is not sufficient. Because if you have a democratic workplace that’s operating within the global capitalist market, you’d have to vote to exploit yourselves or else you would not survive as an economic entity. Now you could probably humanize working conditions somewhat, just like trade unions and minimum wage laws humanize certain aspects of capitalism. But it never works in the long run. In the long run, capitalism always finds ways to circumvent these reforms, which are always temporary. Thus, Marx’s idea of socialism is something we need to look at. Here it is crucial to examine Marx’s concept of humanism, radical humanism, as a critique of the alienation of capitalism. This is because Marxists have too often thought of the problem of capitalism as immiseration, and low wages and poverty and unemployment. Today this is certainly true but such a perspective is insufficient.
In Michael Moore’s film “Capitalism: A Love Story,” at one point Moore talks to his father, a retired autoworker at the site of an abandoned factory. His father says that here there used to be a factory, where we had had a union, we had good wages, and there was a sense of community in the factory. To a lot of crude Marxists this is their image of socialism: that we all work in a factory and that we are equal. But if you were working on an assembly line this would still be alienated labor, because in his deeper critique of capitalism Marx says we need to unite mental and manual labor. That is what he says in the Critique of the Gotha Program. For example, we have a split between mental and manual labor that goes back to the earliest precapitalist class societies, all the way back to Ancient Egypt, Persia, or Mesopotamia. The Persian shahs had all those braids in their beards. Think of how much labor it took to have those. This was proof that they never worked — that they had time to have all that stuff done. That division between mental and manual labor goes way back and it has to be broken down. As Marx and Engels write in The German Ideology, we might fish in the morning and do philosophy in the evening. To Marx, this is the creative possibility for all human beings. This side of Marx is very important for the discussion of socialism. Socialism of course has to mean greater equality, and the end of poverty, but it’s much more than that. It is allowing a new type of human being to come into existence. As he writes in the Grundrisse, once the narrow bourgeois form has been peeled away, and the oppressed control the wealth that has been created, work time can be increasingly turned into leisure time, and leisure time can be for creative pursuits. You see this theory expressed forcefully also in the young Marx, although you can see these themes throughout his work.
Finally, let me say something on the dialectic, or the dialectical method, really the dialectic as it should be called. I don’t like the phrase dialectical method because this can be construed as just a method, like a technique or a set of rules. But the dialectical approach to society and history is really at the core of everything. George Lukács said that in a way the dialectical method is the most important part of Marx. My mentor Raya Dunayevskaya said that Hegel is the source of Marx’s dialectic, especially where Hegel was the most abstract. This is not where Hegel was talking about the supposed backwardness of Indian culture in his Philosophy of History. It is where he was talking about the dialectic at a very abstract level, talking about negation, about the negation of the negation, about negativity as the source of all creative movement, negativity and contradiction, the human subject, absolute negativity. These kinds of dialectical categories are really important because this is the way Marx approaches and carries out his analysis. We can’t just repeat Marx. We have to do our own analysis of contemporary capitalism. Some people want to make the dialectic into an undifferentiated abstraction and they accuse Marx (the postmodernists for example) of operating at very, very abstract and general levels of thinking that don’t really describe the specificity of human experience enough, that his dialectic leaves out categories like sexual identity, race, gender, or culture. But in fact Marx’s dialectic was very concrete. Marx made clear throughout his work that you can’t just take the dialectic as a general principle. It could not just be applied in a positivistic manner in order to reach a conclusion in a schematic fashion. The dialectic has to be recreated for each situation and each historical period and it’s a very difficult process. It gives you an indication where to go, but it’s not a formula.
Question: You are co-editor of the Rosa Luxemburg Reader, which has also been translated into Farsi by Hassan Mortazavi. Why did you think it was necessary to edit this book and to do so in a new way? What can we learn from Rosa Luxemburg today?
Kevin Anderson: Well I think there are four or five points from Rosa Luxemburg that were very important to Peter Hudis and me as we assembled this volume. While most of them were already in Marx, she highlights and develops them. Luxemburg also wrote in the period after the Russian revolution. She incorporates that, and also the period of imperialism, which are developments Marx did not experience.
First of all, Luxemburg is a critic of modern imperialism. Marx did not really live to see fully the development modern imperialism. While there are some flaws concerning her approach to imperialism (and this is obviously open to argument), as we argued in our introduction, she really took very seriously the problem of imperialism and she put this at the center of Marxism. She and Lenin both did so, although Luxemburg did so earlier. She was superior to Lenin in that she really carried out detailed analyses of the social structures of China, of India, and some of the other societies impacted by imperialism, for example, North Africa and southern Africa. Her critique of imperialism was very important.
Second, her critique of reformism is very crucial, as seen in her first well-known book Reform or Revolution? There was a lot of reformist socialism then and there is quite a bit more now. Personally, I think that capitalism cannot ultimately be reformed. Marx thought that some of the more democratic capitalist countries like England and America might be able to achieve socialism by constitutional means, but he didn’t mean by this reforming capitalism; he meant going beyond capitalism. What he meant was that someone could be elected president of the United States on a socialist platform but then there would probably be a counter-revolutionary uprising and they would have a fight. But in this case the cause of socialism would have the weight of law and elected office on its side.
A third important point for Luxemburg was her critique of Lenin and of authoritarianism inside the socialist movement. In 1918, just after the Russian revolution, she made a very forceful critique. She opposed the idea of a one party state. She supported the Russian revolution, she supported the idea of a second socialist revolution, and she supported a soviet republic as opposed to a bourgeois parliamentary one. She supported the idea of factories and workplaces having representation as opposed to primarily neighborhood /community representation where all the classes and sectors could be mixed together. But she criticized Lenin and Trotsky for the way that they formulated this and the way that they developed their revolutionary dictatorship. She really predicted what the future problems would be in Soviet Russia.
Luxemburg makes several earlier critiques of Lenin on the form of the party.
Like Luxemburg, Lenin is concerned with the problem of reformism and opportunism, which are creeping into the socialist movement. Lenin thinks that the way to stop reformism and opportunism is by having very strict rules of membership and that everyone has to enforce these rules. Luxemburg said in 1904 that it was really a broader question than that, that opportunism is a theoretical and political problem and has to be combated at that level.
This is Luxemburg’s critique from 1904, that a lot of people know, that talks about this question of organizational rules. Even more people know about the one in 1918 that talks about the single party state in Russia. But there’s also a critique of Lenin from 1911 that we translated for the first time into English for the Rosa Luxemburg Reader. Previously it has been only available in German and Polish as far as I know, before which it was hidden by the Stalinists for many years. It was not even made public until ten or fifteen years ago. It is called the “Credo”. In the “Credo,” Luxemburg discusses all the tendencies in Russian Marxism: Trotsky, the Mensheviks, etc., and she criticizes all of them. She critiques Lenin for being organizationally very narrow and wanting to fight over every single small question, for example. But what is very clear and perhaps new here, because everyone knows she was critical of Lenin, is that she is much more critical of everyone else. At the same time as she is criticizing him, she says that she is closer to Lenin than any of the other Russian Marxists. She is much more critical of Trotsky, this at a time when Trotsky was closer to the Mensheviks. Of course, this is Trotsky before he became a Bolshevik. So while it is clear that she’s critical of Lenin, she’s closer to Lenin than any of the other Marxists.
The fourth point is also not well known, Luxemburg’s relationship to women’s emancipation and problems of women. This aspect of Luxemburg was first brought out in Raya Dunayevskaya’s Rosa Luxemburg, Women’s Liberation, and Marx’s Philosophy of Revolution. There are really two dimensions to this point. One is Luxemburg’s writings, where there were four or five essays on women and we published all of those for the first time in English. Previously, only two of them had ever appeared in English. Some of them are particularly interesting.
In one of the articles we translated for the first time, she is attacking the Belgian socialist party because they had left women’s voting rights out of their party platform. The Socialist International at that time had a principle in favor of women’s suffrage, but the Belgians left it out. On the left, some still think of women’s rights as part of liberalism. In this case in Belgium though, the socialists were in coalition with the bourgeois liberal party, which was actually much more conservative than the socialists on women’s rights. Then the socialists compromised by sacrificing their position on women’s rights to form this coalition. Luxemburg attacks them for that abandonment of their socialist principles. Also in this article, Luxemburg writes that even inside the socialist movement there are a lot of bourgeois and patriarchal attitudes towards women. She argues that this is a problem that is inside the party and that has to be dealt with.
In another article we translated for this volume, she discusses proletarian women. She writes that they are the poorest of the poor, and she talks not only about Germany but also the rubber plantations of South America, where women were being worked to death. The poorest of the poor will be at the forefront of the coming revolution, she writes. She sees the most oppressed members of the working class, the women, as in the vanguard. Also in her writings on slavery, on ancient Greek slavery, she emphasizes that lots of these slaves were women, and that this involved sexual exploitation.
And then there is also Luxemburg’s life. She lives from 1871 to 1919. She is killed in 1919 by proto-fascists. She begins her political career about 1895 and this is not a time when there were women in top leadership positions in the Tory party, or the constitutionalist parties in Iran. I don’t think anyone besides the socialists did this, but the German socialist party had among its top leadership a woman, Luxemburg, and she also led one wing of the Polish socialist movement. This did not come easily, however, and it was a struggle. You can look at it from two sides. From one side you could say the socialists were very tolerant and progressive, that these early socialists had a woman for one of their top leaders and recognized her as such. But from another angle you could say they were very sexist because there are letters between Karl Kautsky and some of his colleagues where they use very derogatory language referring to Luxemburg personally, saying women are aggressive, irrational, etc. Today few socialists even in a private letter would ever say such a thing. In those days this attitude was almost in the open. They didn’t publish it, but it was the kind of thing people said behind her back.
Question: In my opinion, Stalinism doesn’t come out of the blue. I think you can trace these things from Leninism. Do you agree with this statement?
Kevin Anderson: Yes, I think Lenin is a contradictory figure. I think there are many valuable things in Lenin, and therefore I don’t consider myself an anti-Leninist, but I don’t consider myself a Leninist either. With Luxemburg, and Lenin, and Trotsky, I believe we have to make critiques, but then we also have to appreciate some of their contributions. And of course another origin of Stalinism is social democracy because they were the first ones who set up these hierarchal parties. When Lenin says in What Is to Be Done? that socialism comes from outside the working class, that the intellectual educated in socialism brings that to the worker, he is quoting Kautsky. This kind of vanguardism was a standard social democratic idea. Thus, the reformist socialism that was supposedly innocent of totalitarianism is also part of the root of it, in the sense that their theory was connected to the concept of the vanguard party. Once in power, vanguard parties in the Leninist sense have too often led us down the road to totalitarianism.
Question: You are a member of the U.S. Marxist-Humanists. Why Marxist-Humanist, not just Marxist?
Kevin Anderson: Well, as I was saying before, I think the humanist side of Marxism is something that needs to be emphasized. Stalinism and other distortions and deformations of Marxism create the need to bring the humanist side out more explicitly. A second reason to emphasize the humanist side is that this differentiates Marxism from postmodernism and post-structuralism, these currently influential radical philosophies. I don’t want to say that these are bourgeois philosophies, because they are part of the left-wing critique of society. But humanism helps us to envision a new society, which is one of the valuable things about it. It helps us see the principles around which to strive for and build a new society.
I don’t think you can grasp Marx fully without seeing his thinking as humanistic, Marx is not only a critic of capitalism, but he is doing so on the basis of a radical humanist perspective about the human being’s capacities and possibilities. You could talk to people that could be working on an assembly line and you could say, “Well aren’t you alienated?” and they could respond, “No, we like our jobs. We can listen to the radio while we’re working. We’re happy.” But what Marx would say is that we — intellectuals as well as workers — are so much prisoners of the limitations of the capitalist society in which we live, that we don’t even begin to know what our capacities are. The ancient Greeks had a concept of humanism but it was for a very small aristocracy that was to be educated by philosophers like Socrates. They would become full human beings; they would be athletes, as well as scholars, and everything else. They would have practical wisdom as well philosophical wisdom, mathematics as well as philosophy. But Marx thinks that as every human being has those capacities. He doesn’t say everyone is equal intellectually; he doesn’t say everyone is going to be an Einstein. That would be ridiculous. But he is saying there is a huge reservoir of untapped creativity in human beings. This is very important. As you know, since the 1950s and 1960s the young Marx has been widely translated. The orthodox Marxists have resisted it, for example, in the East German edition of Marx’s Collected Works [Marx-Engels Werke] they put the 1844 Manuscripts in the supplementary volumes at the end! Today there is more awareness of Marx’s fundamental humanism. I would say today almost everyone agrees that Marx was a humanist. But then the postmodernists attack Marx for being a humanist. And for Marxist-Humanists, the term humanism is very important for distinguishing us from other positions. We use it as a form of shorthand to distinguish our form of Marxism from Stalinism, Maoism, or even Trotskyism.
Question: Some people think Marx was humanist in his early writings, but after that they don’t describe Marx as a humanist writer. What do you say to that?
Kevin Anderson: This is what Mao said. I would say that it is pretty evident that humanist themes run throughout Marx’s work. For example in Capital, Vol. 3, he says that in a new society we would go beyond the realm of necessity, to the true realm of freedom, of “human power that is its own end.” This is toward the end of Capital, Vol. 3, in the chapter on the trinity formula. And in the Critique of the Gotha Program, he writes of ending the split between mental and manual labor. This too is a humanist point. Marx talks at the end of his life about Russia. It is as a humanist that he does not want to see the Russians go through the suffering that the British went through during the early period of capitalism, that of primitive accumulation. We can see humanism throughout Marx’s work and I think this is pretty well recognized now by Marx scholars. Maybe there is not always a recognition of Marx’s humanism as such, but I think most Marx scholars today would say that there isn’t a huge division between the young Marx and the Marx of Capital. Of course there is evolution and development. In 1844, he didn’t have a concept of surplus value; he didn’t have a concept of labor and labor power. There are lots of concepts he didn’t have in 1844, but the general dialectical basis didn’t come later; it was already there in 1844. In his 1844 “Critique of Hegelian Dialectic,” he absorbs Hegel but he also critiques him. That is where he talks about Hegel’s concept of negativity as a creative principle.
Question: In part of Louis Althusser’s critique of Marx’s early writings, he says that we have to ignore the discussion in first chapter of Capital, Vol. 1 on fetishism because it is too Hegelian.
Kevin Anderson: One thing about Althusser to note is that even though he was French, he rejected the French edition of Capital, Vol. 1. He actually said we should focus on the German edition of Capital edited by Engels. He said that in his preface to the French edition of Capital. He said this edition isn’t good enough; we should go read the German edition. I think it is almost ridiculous for Althusser to say we should skip chapter 1 of Capital. Actually, he just says you shouldn’t read it first, because the reader will become too humanistic, so the reader should begin with the other parts. This notion actually started with Stalin in the 1940s. In fact this was the subject of Raya Dunayevskaya’s first publication in the American Economic Review in 1944 on the teaching of Capital in the Soviet Union. The Russians decided that they had to change the teaching of Capital in the universities. Students should not start with chapter one, but read the book in historical order. They should begin with primitive accumulation, then chapters like the one on the working day, and then end with chapter one. Althusser is similar. He is afraid that the reader is going to become too idealistic from reading chapter 1 first. Althusser wants us to start with these more overtly materialist parts. His fear is rooted in the fact the fetishism chapter has a sort of combination of idealism with materialism. This is a point that can be found in the young Marx too. In 1844, he says he is neither an idealist nor a materialist, but refers to a humanism or naturalism as the truth uniting both. I would argue that he is creating a dialectical unity of materialism and idealism.