When our friends in Italy proposed to organise their May 21, 2002 conference, I was still in Argentina. I immediately emailed Mino Carchedi and Andrew Kliman. I think the letter is of historic importance, so I reproduce it below.
Mino: (email address redacted)
Drewk: (email address redacted)
Hi! I am currently in Argentina where I have been giving another cycle of conferences for the comrades of IADE and also familiarising myself with what is going on here, in order to be able to organise some solidarity.
Andrew contacted me so that we could make a jointly agreed response about the Rome conference so that the comrades of the Rete can proceed with the invitations and so I am writing with our response. As I think I said before, it is precisely when things are going well that it is important to pay the greatest attention to detail and that is the reason for wanting to consult as fully as possible at this stage. I hope that the slight delay this introduces has not caused you difficulty but we wanted to be sure there were no misunderstandings by consulting fully at this last stage.
For the same reason our suggestion is that you communicate our views by sending Luciano the attached letter. I am certain you will agree with it, but in the unlikely event that you do not, unless you are so alarmed by it that you think it will endanger the conference (which again I think is very unlikely) we feel, to avoid misunderstandings, that Luciano should receive the actual text of the letter so he knows exactly and unambiguously what we think.
I think however he will be pleased, and so will you.
Andrew has been in touch with me in Argentina where I am organising solidarity with the struggle that is going on here. He has informed me about the new arrangements for the meeting in Rome. We wish to convey our enthusiasm that this debate is taking place and our gratitude to your organisation for setting it up. It is not an exaggeration to say that we consider it of historic significance that a debate is taking place in front of trade unionists and political activists, about the interpretation and validity of Marx’s theory of value. We will do everything we can to make it a success. Please proceed with the invitations.
As I think I said before, it is precisely when things are going well that it is important to pay the greatest attention to detail, to maximise the opportunities for success. We are glad also, therefore, of the constructive discussion we are having about the details for the conference organisation and appreciate the time you have taken to consult with us and hear our concerns. It will contribute greatly to the success of the conference because it will allow us to prepare most fully and effectively.
We feel your hands must be free, as the organisers of the conference, to ensure its functioning and therefore the most important thing is that you go ahead with the invitations and the arrangements as they now are, keeping us informed so that we can continue to prepare. We have only two requests, but we leave it to your judgement to decide whether you are in a position to accommodate them. The first request is quite uncomplicated; we want to ensure that there is English language publicity so that the fact of the conference can be publicised outside Italy. The second request is that the participants be asked to contribute, subsequent to the conference, a written version of their remarks for possible publication.
So as to avoid any misunderstandings, and also to ease any concerns that you have about our commitment to the collaboration, we set out the reasoning below.
For us this conference marks a decisive step forward for the political battle, world-wide, which the IWGVT has been waging for over ten years, to secure recognition for Marx’s theory of value and for a proper debate around the interpretation of this theory which establishes its consistency and legitimacy, against the censorship and suppression it has suffered. That is why we are enthusiastic about it.
We wish to therefore to explore with you all the ways in which the fact that this conference is taking place, can aid us in taking this discussion forward in the rest of the world.
Our first concern is to be able to make known in the rest of the world the fact that this debate is taking place. As soon as publicity is available we would like to ensure that there is English language material, which can be used to inform those in the rest of the world who are interested in value theory, that the debate is taking place.
As concerns the publication of the debate itself; as Andrew and myself have signalled, it is very important for the discussion on value theory that the content of this historic debate, now taking place in Italy, is known in the rest of the world, where it will assist our struggle. It is for this reason that we greatly appreciated the production of an English-language version of the previous seminar. We would like therefore, before, during, and after the conference, to investigate all possible ways that the present debate and its outcome can appear in the English language.
We are prepared to do all necessary technical work to facilitate this; to look for a publisher, to secure translations, to undertake distribution arrangements, and so on. We make this offer not to take the organisation out of your hands but to ensure, if it presents problems for you, that you are not burdened by it beyond your resources.
I understand from Andrew, via Mino, that you are concerned that any English language publication should mention the work of yourselves, of CESEP and of Proteo. We are not only in favour of this but enthusiastic about it and indeed, we would hope that you would be willing to contribute an introduction since, from our point of view, the historic aspect of the discussion is precisely the role that the Italian trade union and communist movement has played in it.
It is also however important that material is available to be published. Above all we want to ensure that the publication demonstrates the debate itself; not just our own contributions but the responses to them from our opponents. In the past, we have found it extremely difficult to secure such responses; we find, frankly, that it is just at the moment when their embarrassment is the most obvious, that the opponents of Marx cease discussion on the questions at issue. This greatly contributes to the general atmosphere of ‘censorship by silence’ against which we have been fighting for so long in the stifling corridors of leftist academia, from which you yourself have also suffered.
This is the reason that we hope some commitment can be secured from the participants to provide material. It may be necessary to make an exception for some of them, for example the political leaders, and as with all the arrangements we leave this entirely to your judgement. Also we appreciate that guarantees of publication should not be offered since, first of all, we may wish to edit the material and second, we have not yet begun the work of securing a publisher since we do not yet have your consent.
However we also feel that a commitment from the participants, in general, to produce written material, provides the best framework for a serious debate, and a good guarantee that they will take the conference seriously and measure their intervention into it.
Yours in comradeship and solidarity