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.”
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 email@example.com.
[EDITORS’ NOTE, October 8: readers may be interested in Andrew Kliman’s related essay, “Marx’s Struggle against Defamation: A 150th Anniversary Tribute to Herr Vogt.”]
[EDITOR’S NOTE, October 10: Some people, especially students and those who have dealings with academic journals, may be reluctant to openly support retraction, fearing with good reason that the author’s opponents or people affiliated with journals may retaliate against them. We therefore welcome statements of support that use pseudonyms or that provide no name. And we do not publish e-mail addresses without authorization.]
Additional Statements Supporting Retraction
(list in ongoing formation)
Lies usually go unpunished in economics, so it is heartening to see that MHI is gathering support for retraction of Sinha’s review –– an action which I strongly support. But I wonder whether the action should go further? It is extraordinary that Mongiovi disclaims any responsibility for the accuracy of what he is responsible for printing. If true, he should be removed from his editorship even if the review is retracted.
–– Victoria Chick, Emeritus Professor of Economics, University College London, United Kingdom
I support Andrew Kliman. Clearly the description of the argument in his book is factually wrong, and the refusal to correct the error amounts to intentional libel. The fact that deliberate and absurd misrepresentation is deemed a mere rhetorical device by these editors demonstrates how authoritarian the current culture is.
–– Douglas Lain, U.S.
I most emphatically support the call directed to the editorial board of the Review of Radical Political Economics to retract the libelous review of Reclaiming Marx’s “Capital,” which appeared in the pages of its journal (Summer 2009). In solidarity,
–– Mike West, U.S.
Of course I am with you.
–– Stéphane Julien, La Bataille socialiste, France (Bataille_socialiste@yahoogroupes.fr)
Sinha’s review, containing obvious falsehoods or libel in his review of Kliman’s book, Reclaiming Marx’s Capital, needs to be retracted. False interpretations or statements about other’s work, with an obvious political direction that is consistent with the philosophy of the journal the review was published in, degrades scholarship.
–– Jasenn Zaejian, PhD, U.S. (http://relatedness.org)
I wish to sign petition supporting Professor Kliman.
–– Peggy Powell Dobbins, PhD, U.S. (www.peggydobbins.net)
I’m sorry to read about this unfortunate affair. My own writings have been subjected to gross misinterpretation once or twice so I fully sympathize with you. I’m willing to subscribe to the protest letter, if this is of any help, although I doubt that this would actually result in the retraction of the review. But maybe it would serve as some kind of warning to reckless reviewers, before they caricature other people’s views.
–– Ishay Landa, Israel
Honest differences sharply expressed are always proper; libel–never. Please add my name to Andrew’s supporters.
–– Barry Finger, U.S.
I believe that the Editorial Board of RRPE should print a retraction of Ajit Sinha’s review of Andrew Kliman’s Reclaiming Marx’s “Capital.” In my estimation, Sinha willfully misrepresented Kliman’s argument, as claimed by the group of scholars who sent a letter calling for a retraction. The claim, in response, that Sinha would argue that his interpretation is entirely plausible, evades the question of whether the editorial board should take such a position seriously. Kliman’s remarks were clearly taken out of context, and “two rounds of significant revisions” should have remedied this obvious failure. The letter signed by fifteen scholars is clearly not an attempt to “stifle free debate,” but is a needed call for higher standards of academic integrity in Marx scholarship. The best policy is to acknowledge an oversight and move forward.
–– David Adam, U.S.
I read the “review” by Ajit Sinha, compared it with Kliman’s book and read the OPE-L discussion. Here’s my (uncensored) result: This review is a venomous piece of shit. Sinha is either an idiot or –– as I suppose –– a conscious and brazen falsifier! I’m glad to join those fighting againt this libelous attack!
–– Michael Schmid, Germany
I fully support your position. What do you expect from bourgeois journals? I am attacked regularly by liberal-leftists, postmodernists, and even some anarchists who are not Marxists. In some cases I consider it a badge of honor. In this case you really have a strong case. I will join the call for the retraction.
–– Immanuel Ness, U.S.
You can add my name to the list of those asking for a retraction of the review.
–– Alex Steinberg, U.S., member of Board of Directors of the Pacifica Foundation (in a personal capacity)
I support the retractation of the libelous review.
–– Esteban Mercatante, Karl Marx Institute, Argentina (www.ips.org.ar)
I would think the author of that review would be only too happy to retract that sentence.
And that the journal would encourage him to. Why has this not happened?
–– Sam Friedman, U.S.
Thanks for sending me the link “Condemn Libelous Attack on Marx Scholar.” It’s very important to never accept these defamations. And as you see you are not alone, having a lot of support, of course also from Germany. But don’t let this inconvenience cause you a heart attack, Andrew. These … persons … ain’t worth keeping you away from your scientific work.
–– Hans-Peter Büttner, Germany
A genuine example where ideology is used as the last line of defence. As I said in my Amazon comment of Andrew’s book “This title should settle the debate in Marx’ favour.” And it seems it has succeeded. Evidence of this is the refusal to retract the libellous review of the book, which, frankly, exposes the ideological and non-scientific nature of this ‘last stand’.
–– Thoralf Dassler, United Kingdom
–– Mansour Omeira [place not identified]
Please add my name to the list of signatories. Sinha’s misrepresentation of Kliman’s arguments, apparently willfully, is absolutely outrageous. A retraction of the review is clearly in order.
–– Seth Weiss, U.S..
I support the demand for retraction; see my comments above and below.
–– Anne Jaclard, U.S.
Best wishes to Andrew, and long live Marxism.
–– Fabien Tarrit, France
The unconscionable part of Sinha’s review comes down to the opening paragraph. I am happy to go on record in support of the scholars who signed the Open Letter on two grounds: (1) the factual misrepresentation of Kliman’s actual argument in RMC; and (2) the clear breach in ordinary standards of scientific integrity, wholly unworthy of a journal of the stature of RRPE.
––Tom Jeannot, Professor of Philosophy, U.S.
Please add my name to the list of your supporters.
––Maurizio Leonardi, United Kingdom
One purpose of Reclaiming Marx’s “Capital” was to let Marx finally speak for himself. In attacking Kliman’s work not with honest critique but by malicious libel, the reviewer tries to prevent this from happening. Shame on any publication that publishes dishonest work of this kind without retraction while purporting to be “radical.”
––Mike Dola, U.S.
I demand that RRPE retract the book review and publish an apology to Mr. Kliman for publishing such a slanderous review. For an organization that supposedly prides itself on intellectual integrity and academic protocol, this is a morally reprehensible thing.
––Ray McKay, U.S.
I am not affiliated with Professor Kliman in any way. The left in general, and Marxists in particular, should be grateful for the exciting and extremely relevant insights that Andrew Kliman has produced. Instead, we see pettiness of the lowest kind. The review of Kliman’s work should not be published because it is dishonest and disgraceful.
––Dr. Will Denayer, Ireland