Orthodox Marxists from Kautsky to Lenin

Orthodox Marxists from Kautsky to Lenin failed to understand key ideas in Marx’s Capital, specifically on the role of the wage relation, work practices and the ‘alienation’ of the worker.

Orthodox Marxists from Kautsky to Lenin

TOPIC: Orthodox Marxists from Kautsky to Lenin failed to understand key ideas in Marx’s Capital, specifically on the role of the wage relation, work practices and the ‘alienation’ of the worker.

Orthodox Marxists from Kautsky to Lenin
Orthodox Marxists from Kautsky to Lenin

If this statement is true, what are its implications for studying Marx and Marxism?

INSTRUCTIONS: This question is really about the labour process, which was a central concern of Marx in Capital, whilst ‘state politics‘ only featured in the margins of his work. According to some (Colletti), much of what has passed as ‘Marxism’ (from the Soviet Union to Western Trotskyism) really took its impetus from Engels’ influence on 19th-century Russian philosophy (also see McLellan). Meanwhile, Cleaver argues that ‘orthodox’ Marxism lost touch with struggles against the imposition of work (and the commodification of the worker) and over the ‘labor process’, or how tasks are actually structured.

Orthodox Marxists from Kautsky to Lenin

‘Marxism’ subsequently became a social theory of power-grabbing ‘state’ politics and control over the distribution of surpluses, rather than a critique of how those surpluses are produced. However, from the 1970s, many researchers began to look at ‘the world of work’ again (Braverman), reading Capital in a new light. This question provides an opportunity to discuss the reassessment of Marx which has taken place due to scholarship since the 1960s.

Orthodox Marxists from Kautsky to Lenin Sources

Braverman, H., 1974, Labour and Monopoly Capital: The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century. New York Monthly Review Press.

Cleaver, H., 1979, Reading Capital Politically Austin: University of Texas Press.

Colletti, M., 1979, ‘Introduction’, in Marx, K., Early Writings. Harmondsworth: Penguin.

McLellan, D., 1979, Marxism After Marx: An Introduction. 2nd Edition. Basingstoke: Macmillan.

Robins, K. & Webster, F., 1985, ‘Luddism: New Technology and the Critique of Political Economy’, in Levidow, L. & Young, B., eds., Science, Technology and the Labour Process. Volume 2. London: Free Association Books.

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