Marx in the East

Paula Rauhala


Simultaneously with the 1968 movement an interest in Marx’s critique of political economy revived – not only among the students and scholars of West-European academies such as France, Italy or West-Germany, but also in the countries of East-Bloc. And of course it did, Marx-research was usually accepted at the universities (Marx-researchers encountered problems in the East as they did in the West, but these problems were different) and Marx-Engels Werke was edited in Berlin and Moscow. Finally, one of greatest inspirers of the new readings of the Capital was the publication of its first draft, the “Grundrisse” in 1939-41 in Soviet Union and 1953 in GDR.
The researchers of both blocs could interact with each other especially through German literature, since despite the Berlin Wall, there was no language barrier.
The West-German Neue Marx-Lektüre and the Capital-renaissance among West-German students and scholars from the 1960’s onwards is usually understood as a purely Western phenomenon, in juxtaposition with the Eastern Marxism-Leninism. But it seems to me that the “Eastern” Marx-research influenced much more on the formation of this school than it is usually understood.
At least the eminent forerunner of the Neue Marx-Lektüre, Hans-Georg Backhaus knew East-German and Soviet research quite well. In his key texts from the late 1960’s and mid-1970’s (Dialektik der Wertform, Materialien zur Rekonstruktion der Marxschen Werttheorie I, II & III) Backhaus discusses with such an important East-German scholars as Wolfgang Jahn, who studied extensively bourgeois economists views on Marx’s theories of value and surplus value, famous economist Fritz Behrens among others and Walter Tuchscheerer, who researched the genesis of Marx’s Capital.
Besides commenting on Soviet economics textbooks, available in German, Backhaus comments on important Soviet philosopher Evald Ilyenkov´s understanding of Marx´s method, as well as Mark Rosental, and Vitaly Vygodsky, known as a MEGA-editor who wrote important studies on the formation of Marx´s Capital.
Also the first critique of the West-German Neue Marx-Lektüre comes from GDR. Philosopher Peter Ruben (1977) criticized its interpretation of Marx´s concept of value as "an autonomous subject of bourgeois society" for a mystification of Marx's economic theory.

value theory - value form analysis - Socialism - GDR - BRD