If You Don’t Understand the Second Product, You Understand Nothing About Marx's Capital

Michael A. Lebowitz
LeftStreamed - Recorded in Athens -- 14 January 2017:

If You Don’t Understand the Second Product,
You Understand Nothing About Marx's Capital

The following talk was given at the International conference "150 years
Karl Marx's Capital - Reflections for the 21st century" held in Athens,
Greece on January 14-15, 2017. Organized by the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung -
Athens Office in cooperation with Theseis, the conference discussed the
actuality of Marx's theoretical system of the critique of political economy
150 years on from the publication of Capital Volume I.

In this presentation, Lebowitz notes: "Unfortunately, for many who have
followed Marx in name and others who never pretended to do so, there is
only one product -- the change in circumstances, the change in the object
of labour. The second product -- the change in human beings, the change in
the subject of labour -- is ignored. The political effects of this
blindness can be seen everywhere. In the countries of ‘real socialism’
where the absence of self-government and self-management produced a working
class with neither the capacity nor the will to prevent the restoration of
capitalism. In the social democrats who, convinced that they are cleverer
than capital, use the strength of the working class as a credible threat in
their negotiations rather than as a force to be built and built and,
accordingly, emerge from the most disgraceful defeats as immaculate as they
were innocent. In political parties of the left which, rather than treating
social movements as multiple sites for developing the capacities of the
working class, view them as fertile ground for the recruitment of cadres
for their disciplined phalanxes and celebrate in their solitary gatherings
the distilled purity of their brands and their preparedness for the next
October. It is not only political practice, however, that has suffered from
the eclipse of the second product. Without an understanding of the
centrality of the key link between human development and human capacity, we
are blind to the limitations of Marx's Capital."

Michael A. Lebowitz is professor emeritus of economics at Simon Fraser
University in Vancouver, Canada, and the author of The Contradictions of
"Real Socialism": The Conductor and the Conducted, The Socialist
Alternative: Real Human Development, Beyond Capital: Marx's Political
Economy of the Working Class, Build It Now: Socialism for the 21st Century
and Following Marx: Method, Critique, and Crisis. His latest book is The
Socialist Imperative: From Gotha to Now.

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