spring 2022

No. 10: Communism and value

The central question in this issue is how we can understand communism in relation to Marx's categories abstract labour and value. Are these inseperable from the commodity form and capitalist society or will they, on the contrary, live on under the control of the associated producers? We publish both Swedish translations and original contributions on this theme that we have been working with off and on—mostly off—since no. 9. With this tenth issue we also put an end to the project that kicked off more than twenty years ago. However, we look forward to continue the discussion in other contexts.

This tenth and final issue of the Swedish journal riff-raff is being published eleven years after the last one. A fact that may provoke laughter among all the cynics, greedy for cold comfort, who populate the tiny, parliamentary-orientated extra-parliamentary Swedish left. A fact that we neither can nor want to do anything about.

Endnotes: Communisation and value form theory
In Endnotes 1 we described the emergence of the theory of communisation in France in the years following May 68. The following text and others in this issue operate within this perspective of communisation, but they also draw heavily upon theoretical developments in the area of Marxian value-form theory and, in particular, upon the tendency of “systematic dialectic” which has emerged in recent years.

Isaak Rubin: Abstract labour and value in Marx’s system
Comrades, I have chosen abstract labour and value as the theme of my lecture for two reasons: firstly, I know that the question of abstract labour and the form and content of value has been the subject of heated debate in your seminars. Because of this I decided to organise my lecture in such a way that I may deal with the problem of abstract labour in detail, while covering the question of value, its form and content at the same time. The second reason which persuaded me to select this theme is that it is the central problem of all Marxist theory.

Isaak Dashkovskij: Abstract labour and the economic categories of Marx
The detailed elaboration of Marxist economic theory, which already several years is conducted in the Soviet Union, gave in many directions fruitful results: larger clarity of understanding, more exact formulation of the laws and positions on a series of new problems, not touched upon in pre-revolutionary Marxist literature. But every silver lining has its cloud. So too it happens, that the new attempts of "deepening" theory lead to "splitting empty abstractions into four empty parts."

Introduction to two fragments on value
Below are two texts by Marx not before translated into Swedish. The first one, with the title “Value” is from the Grundrisse (1857–8), interestingly taken from the very end of these Manuscripts. It consists of a first and, as will be seen, unfinished sketch of how the editions to follow of Marx's great critique of political economy, with some minor revisions in the different editions (of 1859, 1867, and 1872) came to be introduced.

Karl Marx: Value
The first category in which bourgeois wealth presents itself is that of the commodity. The commodity itself appears as unity of two aspects. It is use value, i.e. object of the satisfaction of any system whatever of human needs.

Karl Marx: Value-objectivity as objectivity held in common
Commodities obtain value-expression (value-form) only in relation to each other. The expression of value of a commodity is therefore constantly only given in its value-relation to another commodity. Where does this come from? How does this property common to all forms of value of the commodity arise from the concept of value?

Per Henriksson: Communist values. Or a positive theory of socialism?
This text is an effort to address certain problems related to how to understand revolution as communisation, and the more fundamental, seemingly Marxological, question about value and abstract labour. Its aim is to discuss how, and with what categories and concepts, we are to understand the value form and therewith the laws of motion of the capitalist mode of production, as well as the abolishing of these laws by the establishment of communist relations. What spurred the writing of these remarks was the need to discuss, and reply to, the critique directed towards a communisation perspective from Peter Åström as well as the understanding of value and abstract labour at the basis of his critique.
Peter Åström: From the commodity to communism
The present article, taking the commodity form as its point of departure, is an attempt to summarise important parts of Marx's analysis of capital so as to answer
  • what is value;
  • what does the abolition of capital imply; and
  • how can a communist reorganisation of social reproduction be envisaged?