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Rosa Luxemburg

Chapter 1
The Questions At Issue

Habent sua fata libelli – books have their fates. When I wrote my Accumulation a thought depressed me from time to time: all followers of Marxist doctrine would declare that the things I was trying to show and carefully substantiate were self-evident. Nobody would voice a different opinion; my solution of the problem would be the only possible one imaginable. It turned out very differently: a number of critics in the Social Democratic press declared that the book was totally misguided to start with and that such a problem calling for solution did not exist at all. I had become the pitiful victim of a pure misunderstanding. There were events connected with the publication of my book which must be called rather unusual. The ‘review’ of the Accumulation which appeared in Vorwärts[1] of 16 February 1913 was striking in tone and content even to the less involved reader; and all the more astonishing since the criticized book is purely theoretical and strictly objective, and directed against no living Marxist. Not enough. Against those who had published a positive review of the book a high-handed action was taken by the central organ. A quite unique and somehow funny event – a purely theoretical study on an abstract scientific problem was censured by the entire staff of a political daily paper (of whom probably two at the most may have read the book). They did this by denying to men like Franz Mehring[2] and J. Karski[3] any expert knowledge of economics, but allowed only those who pulled my book to pieces to be ‘experts’. Such a fate has happened to no other party publication as far as I know and over the decades Social Democratic publishers have certainly not produced all gold and pearls. All these events clearly indicate that there have been other passions touched on, one way or another, than ‘pure science’. But to judge that properly one has first to know at least the main points of the material in question.

What is this so vehemently opposed book about?

To the reading public some external accessories like frequently used mathematical formulae seem to be a great deterrent. In the criticism of my book these formulae are especially the focus. Some of the esteemed critics have undertaken to teach me a lesson by constructing new and even more complicated formulae. The sheer sight of them brings quiet horror to the ordinary mortal. We shall see that my critics’ preference for the formulae is not a matter of chance, but linked very closely to their points of view on the subject. Yet the problem of accumulation is itself purely economic and social; it does not have anything to do with mathematical formulae and one can demonstrate and comprehend it without them. Marx uses constructed mathematical models in the section on reproduction of the gross social capital in his Capital, so did Quesnay, the founder of the physiocratic school of economics[4] as an exact science a hundred years before. But that was simply to help in explaining and clarifying their theories. It also assisted Marx as well as Quesnay to illustrate that the economic processes of bourgeois society are as much determined by strict laws as the processes of physical nature, in spite of superficial confusion and the apparent rule of individual caprice. My writings are partly based on Marx, partly critical of him – especially where he does not go any further into the question of accumulation than to devise a few models and suggest an analysis. This is where my critique begins, and so I must naturally use Marx’s formulae with Marx’s models. I could not arbitrarily omit them and I wanted especially to show the insufficiency of his line of argument.

Let us now try to understand the problem in its simplest form: the capitalist form of production is governed by the profit motive. Production only makes sense to the capitalist if it fills his pockets with ‘pure income’, i.e. with profit that remains after all his investments; but the basic law of capitalist production is not only profit in the sense of glittering bullion, but constantly growing profit. This is where it differs from any other economic system based on exploitation. For this purpose the capitalist – again in contrast to other historical types of exploiters – uses the fruits of exploitation not exclusively, and not even primarily, for personal luxury, but more and more to increase exploitation itself. The largest part of the profits gained is put back into capital and used to expand production. The capital thus mounts up or, as Marx calls it, ‘accumulates’.

As the precondition as well as the consequence of accumulation, capitalist production widens progressively. To do this, the goodwill of the capitalist is not sufficient. The process is tied to objective social conditions which can be summed up as follows. Primarily, there must be a sufficient labour force. Historically, once capitalist production is functioning and fairly consolidated, capital ensures this through its own mechanisms:

  1. by just enabling the worker to support himself for further exploitation and for reproduction;
  2. by forming a constantly available reserve army of the industrial proletariat by the proletarianization of the middle class as well as by facing the worker with the competition of machines.

After this condition is fulfilled, i.e. the proletariat is securely available for exploitation and the mechanisms or exploitation itself are governed by the wage system, a new basic condition of capital accumulation emerges – the possibility of selling the goods produced by the workers to recover, in money, the capitalist’s original expenses as well as the surplus value stolen from the labour forces. ‘The first condition of accumulation is that the capitalist must have contrived to sell his commodities, and to reconvert into capital the greater part of the money so received.’[5] A steadily increasing possibility of selling the commodities is indispensable in order to keep the accumulation a continuous process. Capital itself (as we see) creates the basic condition for exploitation. The first volume of Marx’s Capital analysed and described this process in detail. But what about the opportunities of realizing the fruits of this exploitation; what about the market? What do they depend on? Can capital itself, or its production mechanisms, expand its market according to its needs, in the same way that it adjusts the number of workers according to its demand? Not at all. Here capital depends on social conditions. Capitalist production has this in common with all other historical forms of production, in spite of fundamental differences between them. Objectively it has to fulfil the material needs of society, although subjectively only the profit motive matters. This subjective aim can only be reached so long as capital fulfils its objective task. The goods can be sold and the incoming profit turned into money only if these goods satisfy the requirements of society. So the continuous expansion of capitalist production, i.e. the continuous accumulation of capital, is linked to the equally continuous growth of social requirements. But what are the requirements of society? Can they somehow be more closely defined, measured, or must we depend only on this vague term? In fact, they seem intangible if one surveys the-surface of day-to-day economic life from the standpoint of the individual capitalist. A capitalist produces and sells machines. His customers are other capitalists, who buy his machines to produce more goods. The one can sell more of his goods as the others expand their production. He can accumulate faster if others accumulate faster in their branches of production. This would be the ‘requirements of society’ on which our capitalist is dependent: the need of other capitalists is the precondition for the expansion of production. Another capitalist produces and sells the means of subsistence to the workers. The more workers are employed by other capitalists (and by himself), the more goods he can sell and the more capital he can accumulate. But how can the ‘others’ expand their plants ? Obviously through the other capitalist; for example, the producers of machines, or means of subsistence, buying their goods in increasing measure.

So the social requirement, on which the accumulation of capital depends, seems at a closer look to be the accumulation of capital itself.

The more capital accumulates, the more it accumulates; it is all reduced to this blatant tautology, a dizzy circle. One cannot make out where it begins, or where the impelling force is. We are turning round in circles and the problem eludes our grasp. But it does so only for as long as we approach it from this superficial viewpoint, or examine it from the popular platform of vulgar economics, individual capital.

The pattern immediately takes shape if we approach it from the standpoint of total capital, once we see the process of capitalist production as a whole. This is the only relevant and right way. It is the standpoint Marx develops systematically for the first time in the second volume of Capital, and on which he bases his whole theory.

The self-sufficient existence of the individual capital is indeed only an external form, the surface of economic life, which only the vulgar economists use as their sole source of knowledge. Beneath that surface and through all contradiction of competition there remains the fact that all individual capitals in society form a whole. Then existence and movement are governed by common social laws which, with the unplanned nature and anarchy of the present system, only work behind the back of the individual capitalist. When one looks at capitalist production as a whole, then social requirements become a measurable quantity which can be divided into sections.

Let us imagine that all goods produced in capitalist society were stacked up in a big pile at some place, to be used by society as a whole., We will then see how this mass of goods, is naturally divided into several big portions of different kinds and destinations.

Always, in any form of society, production has to provide two things. First it has to feed society, clothe it and satisfy cultural needs through material goods, i.e. it must produce the means of subsistence in the widest sense of the word for all classes and ages. Secondly, each form of production must replace used up raw materials, tools, factories and so on to allow the continued existence of society and the provision of work. Without the satisfaction of these two major requirements of any human society, cultural development and progress would be impossible. Even capitalist production with all its anarchy, and without injuring the profit motive, must meet these demands. Accordingly we will find in this aggregate of capitalist commodities produced, a large proportion for replacing the means of production used up in the year before. These are the raw materials, machinery, buildings, etc. (what Marx calls constant capital) which various capitalists must produce for each other and then exchange, so that production can be kept up in all branches. According to our assumption so far, it is capitalist business that provides all the necessary means for the work process. The exchange of commodities on the market is an internal or family matter between capitalists. The required money for this process, of course, comes out of the capitalists’ pockets – as every employer must lay out the money capital in advance – and returns into the pockets of the capitalist class after the exchange on the market has taken place.

As we only assume the replacement of the means of production to its former extent, the same amount of money will suffice to keep this periodic process going and let the money return into the capitalists’ pockets for a period of rest. A second large department of commodities must contain means of subsistence for the population, as in every society. But how is the population structured in capitalist society, and how does-it get its means of subsistence?

Two basic structures are characteristic of the capitalist mode of production. Firstly, a general exchange of goods, i.e. nobody receives anything from the social stock of commodities without the means of purchase – money. Secondly, the capitalist wage system, i.e. the majority of the working population, must exchange its labour power with capital to acquire means of purchase, while the propertied class receives its means of subsistence only by exploiting this relationship. Thus capitalist production presupposes two great classes: capitalists and workers, who differ entirely in their acquisition of means of subsistence. The workers must be fed to maintain their labour power for further exploitation, however little their individual fates concern the capitalist. From the total quantity of commodities produced by the workers, a certain share is assigned to them by the capitalists, in direct proportion to their usefulness in production. The workers receive wages in money form to purchase these goods. By means of exchange the working class thus receives a certain sum of money every year. With this they buy their provisions from the social stock of commodities, which are, of course, the property of the capitalist; these provisions are allotted to them according to their cultural level and the stage of the class struggle. The money that initiates this second big exchange again comes out of the capitalists’ pockets. Every capitalist must advance the necessary money capital to purchase his labour force – what Marx calls ‘variable capital’ – in order to keep his enterprise going. But this money returns, down to the last penny, into the pockets of the capitalists as a class, after the worker has bought his means of subsistence (and every worker must do so to maintain himself and his family) – since it is the capitalists who sell means of subsistence to the workers as commodities. But what about their own consumption? The means of subsistence already belong to the capitalists in the form of the commodity stock before exchange, by virtue of capitalist relations, according to which all commodities – except for labour-power – come into this world as the property of the capitalist. Of course, precisely because they are commodities, the ‘better’ class of provisions come into being as the property of many individual private capitalists. Therefore, as with constant capital, a general exchange must take place between capitalists before they can enjoy their own means of subsistence. This exchange, too, must be conducted with money, and the capitalist himself has brought the necessary amount into circulation. Once again, as with the renewal of, constant capital, this is an internal, family arrangement of the employing class. Once more, this money-returns whence it began – into the pockets of the capitalists as a class.

The same mechanism of capitalist exploitation which regulates the wage system ensures that the necessary amount of goods and luxuries is produced for the capitalists. If the workers only produced as much as they actually needed, then from the standpoint of capital it would be pointless to employ them. It begins to make sense when the worker provides enough to maintain his employer, over and above what he needs for himself – i.e. his wage: when he produces what Marx calls surplus value. And this surplus value has to provide, among other things, the provisions and luxuries required by the capitalists, as by any other exploiters in the course of history. All that is left for the capitalists to do is to go to the frightful bother of mutual exchange and to obtain the necessary money-means, in order to maintain the hard and spartan existence of their class and ensure its natural reproduction.

So far we have dealt with two big portions of the aggregate quantity of commodities in society: means of production to repeat the work process and means of subsistence to maintain the population, i.e. the working class and the capitalists.

Of course, what we have described could easily seem to be a creation of fancy. What living capitalist knows or cares what and how much is necessary to replace the used-up gross capital and to feed the entire population? Is it not the case that every capitalist goes blindly on producing, competing with others, and hardly sees what is happening in front of his nose? But there must obviously be invisible rules which somehow work in all this chaos of competition and anarchy, otherwise capitalist society would have been in ruins long ago. And it is the whole purpose of political economy as a science (and particularly of Marx’s economic studies) to trace these hidden laws which organize the whole of society in the midst of the confusion of private enterprise. We have now to trace these objective invisible rules of capitalist accumulation – the amassing of capital through progressive extension of production. The laws which we expound here are not authoritative for the conscious actions of individual capitals; indeed, no general institution exists in society that would consciously construct and operate these laws Consequently, production today is like a lurching drunkard, fulfilling its tasks through all these gluts and dearths, price instability and crises. But price instability and crises have only one function in society: to integrate chaotic private production into its broad general context, without which it would soon disintegrate. Let us here try to sketch, with Marx, the relation between total capitalist production and social needs. We will omit the specific capitalist methods of price fluctuation and crises, and concentrate on the basics.

There must be more than those two big portions of the social stock of commodities which we have dealt with so far. If the exploitation of the workers were only to permit a luxurious life for the exploiters, we would have a kind of modernized slave system of medieval feudalism, but not the modern rule of capital. Its aim and goal in life is profit in the form of money and accumulation of money capital. So the actual historical purpose of production only begins when exploitation aims beyond that. The surplus value must not only allow the capitalist class a living ‘befitting their rank’, but must also contain a part destined for accumulation. This actual purpose is so important that workers are only employed if they produce this profit and if there is the expectation that it can be accumulated in money-form.

In our assumed total stock of commodities in capitalist society we must accordingly find a third portion, which is destined neither for the renewal of used means of production nor for the maintenance of workers and capitalists. It will be a portion of commodities which contains that invaluable part of the surplus value that forms capital’s real purpose of existence: the profit destined for capitalization and accumulation. What sort of commodities are they, and who in society needs them?

Here we have come to the nucleus of the problem of accumulation, and we must investigate all attempts at solution. Could it really be the workers who consume the latter portion of the social stock of commodities? But the workers have no means beyond the wages covering bare necessities which they receive from their employers. Beyond that there is no possible chance of their being consumers of capitalist commodities, however many unsatisfied needs they may have. It is also in the interest of the capitalist class to make this portion of the gross social product and means of purchase as scarce as possible. According to the standpoint of the capitalists as a class – it is important to see this standpoint in opposition to the abstruse ideas of the individual capitalist – workers are not, like others, customers for their commodities, but simply the labour force, whose maintenance out of part of its own produce is an unfortunate necessity, reduced to the minimum society allows.

Could the capitalists themselves perhaps be the customers for that latter portion of commodities by extending their own private consumption? That might be possible, although. there is enough for the ruling class in any case, even with its luxurious whims. But if the capitalists themselves were to spend the total surplus value like water there would be no accumulation. That would mean, from the standpoint of capital, a fantastic relapse into a sort of modernized slave economy, or feudalism. Of course, this is conceivable and even practised occasionally in reverse: we could discern capitalist accumulation with forms of slavery and serfdom up until the sixties of the last century in the United States, still today in Rumania and various overseas colonies. But the other way, modern exploitation with a free wage system followed by ancient or feudal squandering of the surplus value, neglecting accumulation, this deadly sin against the spiritus sanctus of capital is unthinkable. Again, the standpoint of total capital differs basically from that of the individual employer. For the individual, the luxury of ‘high society’ is a desirable expansion of sales, i.e. a splendid opportunity for accumulation. For all capitalists as a class, the total consumption of the surplus value as luxury is sheer lunacy, economic suicide, for it is the destruction of accumulation at its roots.

Who then could be the buyer and consumer of that portion of commodities whose sale is only the beginning of accumulation? So far as we have seen, it can be neither the workers nor the capitalists.

But are there not all sorts of strata in society like civil servants, military, clerics, academics and artists which can neither be counted among the workers nor the employers? Must not all these categories of the population satisfy their needs, and could they not be the wanted purchasers of the surplus commodities? Once more: yes, they could for the individual capitalist! It is different again if we take the employers as a class, if we consider gross social capital. In capitalist society all those strata are economically only the hangers-on of the capitalist class. If we ask where the civil servants, clerics, officers, artists, etc., receive their means of purchase, we see that it is partly maintained out of the pockets of the capitalists, partly out of the wages of labour (via the indirect tax system). Economically these groups cannot be a special class of consumers, as they do not have any independent sources of purchasing power, but are included as parasites in the consumption of the two major classes, workers and capitalists.

So we still do not see any customers for the latter portion of commodities, who could initiate the process of accumulation.

In the end, the solution of the problem is quite simple. Perhaps we are acting like the rider who is desperately looking for the nag he is sitting on. Perhaps the capitalists are mutual customers for the remainder of the commodities – not to use them carelessly, but to use them for the extension of production, for accumulation. Then what else is accumulation but extension of capitalist production? Those goods which fulfil this purpose must not consist of luxurious articles for the private consumption of the capitalists, but must be composed of various means of production (new constant capital) and provisions for the workers [variable capital].

All right, but such a solution only pushes the problem from this moment to the next. After we have assumed that accumulation has started and that the increased production throws an even bigger amount of commodities on to the market the following year, the same question arises again: where do we then find the consumers for this even greater amount of commodities? Will we answer: well, this growing amount of goods will again be exchanged among the capitalists to extend production again, and so forth, year after year? Then we have the roundabout that revolves around itself in empty space. That is not capitalist accumulation, i.e. the amassing of money capital, but its contrary: producing commodities for the sake of it; from the standpoint of capital an utter absurdity. If the capitalists as a class are the only customers for the total amount of commodities, apart from the share they have to part with to maintain the workers – if they must always buy the commodities with their own money, and realize the surplus value, then amassing profit, accumulation for the capitalist class, cannot possibly take place.

They must find many other buyers who receive their means of purchase from an independent source, and do not get it out of the pocket of the capitalist like the labourers or the collaborators of capital, the government officials, officers, clergy and liberal professions. They have to be consumers who receive their means of purchase on the basis of commodity exchange, i.e. also production of goods, but taking place outside of capitalist commodity production. They must be producers, whose means of production are not to be seen as capital, and who belong to neither of the two classes – capitalists or workers – but who still have a need, one way or another, for capitalist commodities.

But where are those buyers? Apart from the capitalists with their entourage of hangers-on, there are no other classes or strata in society today.

Here we get down to the heart of the problem. Marx, in the second volume of Capital, as in the first, presupposes that capitalist production is the sole and exclusive mode of production. He says in the first volume

Here we take no account of export trade, by means of which a nation can change articles of luxury either into means of production or means of subsistence, and vice versa. In order to examine the object of our investigation in its integrity, free from all disturbing subsidiary circumstances, we must treat the whole world as one nation, and assume that capitalist production is everywhere established and has possessed itself of every branch of industry.[6]

And in the second volume:

‘Apart from this class, according to our assumption – the general and exclusive domination of capitalist production – there is no other class at all except the working class.’[7]

Under this condition, there are only capitalists cum hangers-on and workers in society; other classes, other producers and consumers are nowhere to be found. In that case, capitalist production is faced with the insoluble question which I tried to point out above.

You can twist and turn it as you wish, but so long as we retain the assumption that there are no other classes but capitalists and workers, then there is no way that the capitalists as a class can get rid of the surplus goods in order to change the surplus value into money, and thus accumulate capital.

But Marx’s assumption is only a theoretical premise in order to simplify investigation. In reality, capitalist production is not the sole and completely dominant form of production, as everyone knows, and as Marx himself stresses in Capital. In reality, there are in all capitalist countries, even in those with the most developed large-scale industry, numerous artisan and peasant enterprises which are engaged in simple commodity production. In reality, alongside the old capitalist countries there are still those even in Europe where peasant and artisan production is still strongly predominant, like Russia, the Balkans, Scandinavia and Spain. And finally, there are huge continents besides capitalist Europe and North America, where capitalist production has only scattered roots, and apart from that the people of these continents have all sorts of economic systems, from the primitive Communist to the feudal, peasantry and artisan. Not only do all these social and productive forms co-exist, and co-exist locally with capitalism, but there is a lively intercourse of a specific kind. Capitalist production as proper mass production depends on consumers from peasant and artisan strata in the old countries, and consumers from all countries; but for technical reasons, it cannot exist without the products of these strata and countries. So there must develop right from the start an exchange relationship between capitalist production and the non-capitalist milieu, where capital not only finds the possibility of realizing surplus value in hard cash for further capitalization, but also receives various commodities to extend production, and finally wins new proletarianized labour forces by disintegrating the non-capitalist forms of production.

This is only the bare economic content of the relationship. Its concrete design in reality forms the historic process of the development of capitalism on the world stage in all its colourful and moving variety.

First, the exchange relation of capital with its non-capitalist environment confronts the difficulties of a barter economy, secure social relations and the limited demand of patriarchal peasant economy and artisan production. Here capital uses ‘heroic means’, the axe of political violence. Its first act in Europe is the revolutionary conquest of the feudal barter economy. Overseas, it begins with the subjugation and destruction of traditional communities, the world historical act of the birth of capital, since then the constant epiphenomenon of accumulation. Through destruction of the primitive barter relations in these countries, European capital opens the doors to commodity exchange and production, transforms the population into customers of capitalist commodities and hastens its own accumulation by making mass raids on their natural resources and accumulated treasures. Since the beginning of the nineteenth century, accumulated capital from Europe has been exported along these lines to non-capitalist countries in other parts of the world, where it finds new customers and thus new opportunities for accumulation on the ruins of the native forms of production.

Thus capitalism expands because of its mutual relationship with non-capitalist social strata and countries, accumulating at their expense and at the same time pushing them aside to take their place. The more capitalist countries participate in this hunting for accumulation areas, the rarer the non-capitalist places still open to the expansion of capital become and the tougher the competition; its raids turn into a chain of economic and political catastrophes: world crises, wars, revolution.

But by this process capital prepares its own destruction in two ways. As it approaches the point where humanity only consists of capitalists and proletarians, further accumulation will become impossible. At the same time, the absolute and undivided rule of capital aggravates class struggle throughout the world and the international economic and political anarchy to such an extent that, long before the last consequences of economic development, it must lead to the rebellion of the international proletariat against the existence of the rule of capital.

This, in brief, is my conception of the problem and its solution. At first glance it may appear to be a purely theoretical exercise. And yet the practical meaning of the problem is at hand – the connexion with the most outstanding fact of our time: imperialism. The typical external phenomena of imperialism: competition among capitalist countries to win colonies and spheres of interest, opportunities for investment, the international loan system, militarism, tariff barriers, the dominant role of finance capital and trusts in world politics, are all well known. Its connexion with the final phase of capitalism, its importance for accumulation, are so blatantly open that it is clearly acknowledged by its supporters as well as its enemies. But Social Democracy refuses to be satisfied with this empirical knowledge. It must search for the precise economic rules behind appearances, to find the actual roots of this large and colourful complex of imperialist phenomena. As always in these cases, only precise theoretical knowledge of the problem at its roots can provide our practical struggle against imperialism with security, aim and force – essential for the politics of the proletariat. Before Marx’s Capital appeared, the fact that there was exploitation, surplus labour and profits, was well known. But only the precise theory of surplus value, the wage laws and the industrial reserve army, as Marx bases them in his theory of value, have given a strong foundation for the practical class struggle, on which the German and, in its footsteps, the international labour movement developed until the World War [First World War]. That theory alone is not enough; that one can sometimes connect the best theory with the worst practice is shown by the present collapse of German Social Democracy. This collapse did not occur as a result of Marxist theory, but in spite of it, and it can only be overthrown by bringing the practice of the labour movement into harmony with its theory. In the class struggle as a whole, as in each important part of it, we can only gain a secure foundation for our position from Marx’s theory, from the buried treasures found in his fundamental works.

There is no doubt that the explanation for the economic roots of imperialism must be deduced from the laws of capital accumulation, since, according to common empirical knowledge, imperialism as a whole is nothing but a specific method of accumulation. But how is that possible, if one does not question Marx’s assumptions in the second volume of Capital which are constructed for a society in which capitalist production is the only form, where the entire population consists solely of capitalists and wage labourers?

However one defines the inner economic mechanisms of imperialism, one thing is obvious and common knowledge: the expansion of the rule of capital from the old capitalist countries to new areas, and the economic and political competition of those countries for the new parts of the world. But Marx assumes, as we have seen in the second volume of Capital, that the whole world is one capitalist nation, that all other forms of economy and society have already disappeared. How can one explain imperialism in a society where there is no longer any space for it?

It was at this point that I believed I had to start my critique. The theoretical assumption of a society of capitalists and workers only – which is legitimate for certain aims of investigation (as in the first volume of Capital, the analysis of individual capital and its practice of exploitations in the factory) no longer seems adequate when we deal with the accumulation of gross social capital. As this represents the real historical process of capitalist development, it seems impossible to me to understand it if one abstracts it from all conditions of historical reality. Capital accumulation as the historical process develops in an environment of various pre-capitalist formations, in a constant political struggle and in reciprocal economic relations. How can one capture this process in a bloodless theoretical fiction, which declares this whole context, the struggle and the relations, to be non-existent?

Here especially it seems necessary, in the spirit of Marxist theory, to abandon the premise of the first volume, and to carry out the inquiry into accumulation as a total process, involving the metabolism of capital and its historical environment. If one does this, then the explanation of the process follows freely from Marx’s, basic theories, and is consistent with the other portions of his major works on economics.

Marx himself only posed the question of the accumulation of gross capital, but his answer went no further. As a basis for his analysis, he first selected that pure capitalist society; but not only did he not take this analysis to its conclusion, he also broke off at just this central question. In order to illustrate his conception he constructed some mathematical models, but hardly had he started on their significance for practical social possibilities and their verification from this standpoint when sickness and death forced him to stop writing. It was clearly left to his pupils to solve this problem (like many others), and my Accumulation was intended as an attempt in this direction.

The solution I proposed might have been judged as correct or incorrect; it could have been criticized, contested, supplemented; or another solution could have been produced. None of this happened. What followed was quite unexpected: the ‘experts’ explained that there was no problem to be solved! Marx’s illustrations in the second volume of Capital were a sufficient and exhaustive explanation of accumulation; the models there proved quite conclusively that capital could grow excellently, and production could expand, if there was no other mode of production in the world than the capitalist one; it was its own market, and only my complete inability to understand the ABC of Marx’s models could persuade me to see a problem here.

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[1] [Vorwärts was the central daily newspaper of the Social Democratic Party of Germany, SPD, published in Berlin.]

[2] [Franz Mehring (1846-1919). Biographer of Karl Marx and close collaborator of Rosa Luxemburg in her anti-war propaganda, 1914-18. Joined the SPD at the age of forty-six and was a brilliant contributor to its newspapers and journals. With Luxemburg and Liebknecht, he helped to found the Spartakus League in 1919 which was the immediate forerunner of the KPD (Communist Party of Germany).]

[3] [J. Karski, pseudonym for Julian Marchlewski. He was one of the leaders of the SDKP (Social Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland). Karski worked for many years in Germany as an SPD journalist. In 1919 he went to Russia and became an active member of the Bolshevik party. Died in 1925.]

[4] [Physiocrats. Eighteenth-century school of economists. The main strand in their theories was that only agricultural labour was productive. For elaboration and criticism see Karl Marx, Theories of Surplus Value, pt.1 (Moscow).]

[5] Karl Marx, Capital (Foreign Language Publishing House, Moscow 1965), Vol.I, p.564.

[6] Capital, Vol.I, p.581, footnote 1.

[7] ibid., Vol.II, p.348.

Last updated on: 16.12.2008