This paper first appeared in the very first issue of Revolutionary Communist, a Marxist review/journal based in Britain, in 1974. It was later slightly edited with some revisions and appeared in the second edition of Revolutionary Communist 1, published in 1976. While some older readers may be familiar with Yaffe’s work on these issues, as it was well-known and influential at the time, many younger readers will probably not have seen this.
by David Yaffe (1974 and 1976)
‘Has Struve, who has managed to discern the “harmfulness” (sic!) of repeating Marx, failed to notice the harmfulness of uncritically repeating the fashionable corrections of fashionable bourgeois “science”?’ (Lenin) 
Of all the fashionable ‘corrections’ of Marx’s Capital, none has been performed so often as the transformation of values into prices. From Bortkiewicz (1907)  to Samuelson (1971) , bourgeois ‘science’ has felt itself impelled to improve, correct or revise Marx on this question. With Sweezy’s introduction of the Bortkiewicz ‘correction’ of Marx to the English speaking world in 1946 , another round of ‘solutions’ began. Although many differ in form from the Bortkiewicz/Sweezy contribution, and some avoid the more obvious errors, they treat the problem in a more or less similar way.
Bortkiewicz was a Ricardian and he went to great lengths to defend Ricardo against Marx’s systematic attack. In his treatment of value and price, and in his ‘solution’ to the transformation problem, he is a consistent Ricardian. It is, therefore, not surprising that with the problem being presented in a Ricardian way, the appearance of Sraffa’s Production of Commodities by Means of Commodities  – a thoroughly Ricardian text – has more recently given a new life to the transformation ‘problem’. What all these Ricardian type solutions have in common is a failure to grasp Marx’s method in ‘Capital’ and little or no understanding of the categories of value and price. Value and capital cease to have a social significance, to express, in fetishistic form, social relations under the capitalist mode of production. The substance of value – abstract human labour – is replaced by its magnitude, units of labour-time, and capital is simply reduced to dated labour-time inputs. The social relations, usually introduced by these critics of Marx as the rate of exploitation, is an empirically ‘given’ fact or a mathematically, and presumably sociologically, acceptable explanation of positive profits. It is given once the bundle of commodities forming the wage paid to the workers (in embodied labour-time units, of course) and total income are known. A social process is replaced by technical coefficients and social relations by the distribution of the production between the social classes. 
The method of Marx, the dialectical representation in Capital, is not a ‘”hegelese” form of reasoning’  that can simply be discarded as so much unnecessary ballast, That is why Lenin remarked:
‘It is impossible completely to understand Marx’s Capital, and especially the first chapter, without having thoroughly studied and understood the whole of Hegel’s Logic. Consequently, half a century later, none of the Marxists understood Marx!!’ 
The failure to understand Marx’s Capital, and especially its first chapter, does indeed (more…)