by Ralph Keller
Editor’s note: The author, a university teacher, is writing under the pseudonym “Ralph Keller” to protect the identities of staff and students.
Open Letter to the Editorial Board of Historical Materialism
I am writing to call on the editorial board of Historical Materialism to retract Lopes and Byron’s “Phenomenology, Scientific Method and the Transformation Problem”, published in Historical Materialism, 2022, Vol. 30., No. 1, pp. 209–236. My call is prompted by Kliman’s 2023 rebuttal to the article, titled “Value, Price & Prattle: A response to Lopes, Byron, and Historical Materialism”. Based on verifiable evidence, the rebuttal demonstrates Lopes and Byron’s blatant misrepresentation of Marx’s original work and the Temporal Single System Interpretation (TSSI).
I attach a factsheet to this letter that summarises the evidence that lays bare Lopes and Byron’s amateurish and sloppy scholarly conduct in their article. For example, on p. 230 they write: “[a]ll Marx claims in that section [first page of Chapter 3 of Capital I] is that ‘money as a measure of value is the necessary form of appearance of the measure of value which is immanent in commodities, namely labour time’. Yet, he never states that labour-time is also a measure”. Frankly, this is L&B’s greatest misrepresentation of the original text because they state what Marx actually said, but then, in the very next sentence, allege that he did not say it!
There are many more blatant and egregious instances in which their paper misrepresents Marx’s original work as well as the TSSI of Marx. The examples included in my factsheet demonstrate that Kliman’s rebuttal does not just offer a “different perspective”. They reveal, instead, that Lopes and Byron make demonstrably false claims throughout their article.
But Lopes and Byron are not the only ones at fault here. Much more so than they, it is Historical Materialism’s attitude—not caring whether it is publishing misrepresentations and falsehoods— that has allowed Lopes and Byron’s article to be included in Vol. 30, No. 1. Indeed, Sebastian Budgen’s response, in which he refuses to retract the article, displays this attitude rather strikingly.
Let me be clear: if Kliman were to accept the invitation to present his rebuttal as merely a “different perspective”, he would be accepting if not endorsing Historical Materialism’s lack of concern to distinguish fact from fiction. This is out of the question for him, as it is for me. And it would be for Marx, who must be turning in his grave.
Because Historical Materialism thus far refuses to retract Lopes and Byron’s article, I cannot in good conscience ask my students to read the journal. I will make time in class to discuss the article—as an example of how an allegedly reputable journal has become a social-media outlet. I will make it clear to my students that the only scholarly option is for Historical Materialism to retract Lopes and Byron’s article.