by Reid Kane Kotlas 

Image: Georges Braques,
Bottles and Fish (1909)


Originally posted on Reid Kane’s tumblog.

To have a system and to have none

Contrary to Hegel, who sought to consummate in theory the system that emerged as humanity rendered itself the necessary product of history, Marx is thought to have definitively indicted this system, or at least what it became. Marx’s critique is understood as a ‘systemic’ critique, a critique not of the actions of individuals or groups but of the whole social structure within which individuals and groups are bound to adopt the social roles that give them actuality. Marx offered no alternative system however, and that alternative which was eventually offered in his name ended in calamity.

Yet Marx did not offer such a critique. Rather, he recognized that the system had already become self-critical, and that this criticism was now advancing in the form of the struggles of the proletariat. It was with this struggle that Marx identified his criticism, a criticism which is nothing if not a critical participation in the political struggle, and thus a struggle to transform the ‘system’ on its own basis. “By raising the representative system from its political form to the universal form and by bringing out the true significance underlying this system, the critic at the same time compels this party to go beyond its own confines, for its victory is at the same time its defeat.” Continue reading

Isaak Rubin

Marx and “Wertkritik”

A video and panel description 

Image: Photograph of Isaak
Rubin with his wife


A panel held on April 6, 2013, at the 2013 Platypus International Convention at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Originally posted on Platypus’ media website.



Perhaps one of the most influential developments in Marxist thought coming from Germany in the last decades has been the emergence of value critique. Building on Marx’s later economical works, value critics stress the importance of abolishing value (the abstract side of the commodity), pointing out problems in traditional Marxism’s emphasis on the “dictatorship of the proletariat”. The German value critical journal Krisis has famously attacked what they believed was a social democratic fetishization of labor in their 1999 Manifesto Against Labor. Such notions have drawn criticism from more “orthodox” Marxists who miss the role of the political in value critique and the possibility of immanent transformation through engaging the realities of capitalist societies. Did the later Marx abandon his political convictions that he expressed in the “Manifesto”? What about his later political writings, such as his “Critique of the Gotha Program” in which he outlines the different phases of early communism? Is Marxism a scientific project as claims from value critics indicate? Was Marx trying to develop of a “science of value” in his later works? What can value critique teach us after the defeat of the Left in 20th century? Did traditional Marxism necessarily have to lead to the defeat of the Left?

PLEASE NOTE: Due to technical errors, the last fifteen minutes of the video are cut off. The audio version is complete, however.


  • Elmar Flatschart (EXIT)
  • Jamie Merchant (Permanent Crisis)
  • Alan Milchman (Internationalist Perspective)

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