Condemn Libelous Attack on Marx Scholar

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I wasn’t sure whether the following is appropriate for this site, but Stéphane suggested that it was. His statement supporting retraction of the libelous review, and others, come after the article at www.marxisthumanistinitiative.org/philosophy-organization/condemn-libelous-attack-on-marx-scholar.html. If you, too, would like to call for retraction, you can use your real name, or a pseudonym, or request that your name be withheld. Statements in French are fine. Statements can be sent to me at akliman@pace.edu or to mhi@marxisthumanistinitiative.org.

Dear Colleagues,
If you’ve ever been the victim of libel, you know that it isn’t only illegal and immoral. It can also cause the victim intolerable emotional distress.

Indeed, it has. So I’m reaching out to you.

PLEASE join those who have already called for a retraction of the libelous review, by writing to me or to the address given at the end of the following article. And please forward this message to friends and colleagues.

Background information on this matter is available at www.iwgvt.org/rrpe.
Best wishes,
Andrew Kliman.

Condemn Libelous Attack on Marx Scholar

September 17, 2011 by MHI  

Fifteen scholars from eight different countries have called for the retraction of a book review containing allegations that are false and harmful to the professional reputation of Andrew Kliman, an internationally recognized Marx scholar. Those who have called for a retraction include Rick Kuhn, a recipient of the Isaac Deutscher Memorial book prize, and Eduardo Maldonado Filho, former president of the State Development Authority of Rio Grande Do Sul, Brazil.

“The most obvious of several falsehoods”

Kliman’s 2007 book, Reclaiming Marx’s “Capital,” argued that some alleged internal inconsistencies in Capital remain “unproved” and are “implausible.” According to the libelous book review, Kliman wrote that the reason they are unproved and implausible is that “there exists a group of scholars who claim that no such internal inconsistency exists.” The reviewer then commented, “Following such reasoning, one could then also argue that the existence of a group of scholars who argue that the theory of evolution is false and that creationism is consistent with empirical evidence, must lead us to reject the claims of evolutionism as unproved and implausible. … This foreshadows the major weakness of this book: a lack of rigor in reasoning.”

The scholars who have called for a retraction of the review characterize this as “the most obvious of the several falsehoods” it contains. They note that Kliman actually wrote that what makes the allegations of inconsistency unproved and implausible is the fact that an interpretation of Capital exists that eliminates the inconsistencies. “It is one thing to write that X is unproved because some people claim that X is false, and an entirely different thing to write that X is unproved because there exists an interpretation of the evidence according to which X is false,” they wrote in their call for a retraction. “The first statement is ludicrous; the second is quite reasonable.”

Bludgeoning Marx

The review was published in an economics journal that has long disparaged the interpretation of Marx’s value theory to which Kliman and others subscribe. Mike Dola, a member of Marxist-Humanist Initiative, said that this interpretation “constitutes a major challenge to the overtly or covertly dismissive attitude toward Marx that pervades academic economics. The review is just the latest of a series of attacks against it. The charges of inconsistency have been wielded like a bludgeon, and the old guard feels mortally threatened now that their bludgeon’s being taken away. But others appreciate the fact that [this interpretation] has made it harder to reject Marx without even examining his work first.”

The scholars’ call for retraction charges that the review’s “falsehoods were willful.” It notes that the reviewer, Ajit Sinha, was informed that his claims were false and that he acknowledged receipt of this information long before his review appeared.

Other reviews of Reclaiming Marx’s “Capital” have praised it highly. Writing in the leading journal of the history of economics, Bill Lucarelli said that it “stands like a beacon in recent academic controversies over Marx’s theory of value” and that “Kliman succeeds quite admirably.” Eduardo Maldonado Filho wrote that it “constitutes the most important contribution to political economy of the last three decades.” And in a review that called Reclaiming Marx’s “Capital” “the right book coming at the right time,” Mike West wrote that “the 100-year-old claims of internal inconsistency against Marx’s value theory can finally be laid to rest.”

Left: Gary Mongiovi. Center: bludgeon. Right: Karl Marx.

Reckless disregard for the truth

West’s review, published in the World Review of Political Economy, had earlier been rejected by Gary Mongiovi, co-editor of the Review of Political Economy, on the grounds that West “accepts Kliman’s line uncritically, and utterly fails to acknowledge that sensible arguments have been levelled against it.” Mongiovi is also a member of the editorial board of the journal that published the libelous review, Review of Radical Political Economics, which has thus far refused to retract it, stating that “[r]eaders ought to be allowed to decide for themselves” and that the call for retraction “strikes us as an attempt to stifle free debate.” Mongiovi has identified himself as the editor who approved Sinha’s review, even though it contained what he said “may have been a cheap shot,” and even though he and the editorial board have been unwilling to defend its accuracy. “[W]e take no stand on whether Sinha accurately depicted your meaning,” he wrote to Kliman.

Marxist-Humanist Initiative condemns the publication of the libelous review and joins the call for a retraction. Speaking on behalf of MHI, Anne Jaclard stated, “No one believes that Kliman wrote that something is unproved just because some people claim that it’s unproved. No one thinks they can get others to believe it, either. That’s not the purpose of their defamatory attack. The purpose is to show that truth and falsehood are irrelevant here: might makes right. They are trying to humiliate and demoralize Kliman, to punish him for exposing the baselessness of their longstanding campaign against Marx, and, above all, to warn students and others who are sympathetic to the project of reclaiming Capital that they will not tolerate it.” Jaclard noted that when the editorial board refused to retract the libelous review, it stated that “anyone who puts before the public an argument” on this topic “must expect” similar treatment.

Kliman hailed the statement by Sarah Thornton that “[w]hen one journalist misrepresents the facts in order to attack another, the issue is not freedom of speech. It is malicious falsehood. … [I]f by any chance you make a factual mistake, you need to correct the record as quickly as possible.” In July, a British court found that a review of Thornton’s book Seven Days in the Art World had libeled her, and it compelled The Telegraph, which published the libelous review, to pay Thornton more than $100,000 in damages as well as her legal fees. “Libel and those who practice it are immoral,” Kliman said.

Statements supporting retraction of the libelous review can be sent to Marxist-Humanist Initiative at mhi@marxisthumanistinitiative.org.

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This article was first published in With Sober Senses, at http://www.marxisthumanistinitiative.org/philosophy-organization/condemn-libelous-attack-on-marx-scholar.html


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