Marx's Theories of surplus value - Georgi Plekhanov

Theories of surplus value Marx Plekhanov
Adam Smith statue

The Russian translation of Part 1 of Theories of surplus value appeared in 1906. Part 2 (Ricardo) consisted of two volumes. The first volume (1907) contained an article by Rosa Luxemburg. The second volume of Part 2 appeared in 1925. Part 3 appeared in 1924 (From Ricardo to vulgar economy).

Submitted by Noa Rodman on January 7, 2017

References in Russian: Теории прибавочной стоимости. По оставшейся рукописи «К критике политической экономии» Маркса.

Part 1:
Из неизданной рукописи «К критике политической экономии». Выпуск I. Зачатки теории прибавочной стоимости до Адама Смита включительно. Перевел с издания К. Каутского П. Стрельский, под редакцией и с предисловием Г. Плеханова. Изд. Журнала «Образование». Санкт-Петербург. 1906. типография товарищества «Общественная польза». 335 стр.

Part 2, volume 1:
II. Давид Рикардо. Часть I. Перевод с немецкого П. Тучапского под редакцией М. Бернацкого. С приложением отзыва Р. Люксембург. Кн-во Е. Горской. Киев. 1907. (pp. 252)

Part 2, volume 2:
Translator: С. Салитан. Publisher: «Прибой» (Leningrad)

Part 3:
Eds. Riazanov and Stepanov. Translators Bazarov and Stepanov, Moscow, Gosizdat.

Lunacharsky excerpted and prefaced a passage from the first part, on Malthus and Ricardo in Obrazovanye 1906, No. 2, pp. 95-101. See attached file (downloaded from: The quote Lunacharsky gives from Marx runs from:

Utter baseness is a distinctive trait of Malthus


when the plagiarist exaggerates it, he always makes “a business” of such an exaggeration.

Plekhanov's preface to the Russian translation of Part 1 of Theories of surplus value:

Preface to the translation of the book of K. Marx Theories of surplus value

A few words from the editor of the translation.

Being accepted for the editing of the first Part of the 'fourth volume' of Capital, I intended to provide it with an introduction, clarifying the significance of this work of Marx, as a material, shedding a new light on the role of our author in the history of economic science. But now I find that such an introduction will be more appropriate in the last Part of the offered work:1 when in the hands of the Russian reader will be the whole material interesting me, and he will have a full opportunity to verify the correctness of my judgment. Now I I consider it possible to make only the following brief comments.

'Critics' of Marx readily and often accused him of borrowing: some said that he borrowed his theory of surplus-value from Rodbertus; others claimed that this theory was borrowed by him from Thompson and some other English socialists. But read carefully the offered work, and you will see, that the same view on the production of surplus-value, which was found, for example, by Menger in Thompson, belongs to Adam Smith and in a certain sense even to Turgot. So if we talk about Marx's borrowing, it is necessary to go further and one must say that this writer has borrowed his theory from Adam Smith: in the offered work one can find quotes from the Wealth of nations, no less compelling, than those that Menger made from the book of Thompson about the distribution of national income. Thus, the criticism acquires an extremely wide scale. But this scale also reveals its absurdity. In fact, to say, that Marx borrowed his theory of surplus-value [from] political economy, means to portray this 'borrowing' in a very peculiar light. It suffices to compareWealth of nations with Capital to see what fine development Marx gave to the germ of the correct view on the nature and origin of surplus-value, which is already found in Adam Smith. And this solves the whole issue; in this lies the whole matter. A tree, no doubt, 'borrows' from the seed from which it comes; but the tree separates from the seed by a whole – and very difficult – process of development. The same must be said on the relation of Marx's theory to the theory of Smith: the first, no doubt, 'borrowed' from the second; but the first separates from the second by a rich process of development, and by this development science is obliged in the most important way to Marx.

The same idea can be explained by another comparison. Already Guizot, Augustin Thierry and other historians of the Restoration and the July Monarchy found the most indubitable germ of a correct view on the nature and origin of class struggles.2 But only in Marx this indubitable germ developed into a fine and coherent theory. It is the same with the theory on surplus-value. And the more the reader will get acquainted with the 'fourth volume' of Capital, the more he will be convinced of that.

Already the offered part clearly shows that this new 'volume' of Marx represents a capital contribution in the history of economic thought, – such a contribution which hitherto no writer had vigorously done. But to dwell on this is hardly necessary; this catches the eye by itself.

Translated from the Collected works of Plekhanov Volume 2: 40–1.

  • 1Plekhanov was editor only of the first Part. (NR)
  • 2On this, see my preface to my translation of the famous Manifesto. – note by Plekhanov. (The Initial Phases of the Theory of the Class Struggle)



Noa Rodman

7 years 6 months ago

In reply to by

Submitted by Noa Rodman on January 9, 2017

Correction to the source: this comes actually from volume 2 of Plekhanov's Philosophical-literary legacy (1973), online at:

(Предисловие к переводу книги К. Маркса «Теории прибавочной стоимости»] Несколько слов от редактора перевод)


7 years 6 months ago

In reply to by

Submitted by Steven. on January 9, 2017

Thanks for this. I have added the author name to the Authors, People and Groups tag box. I also moved the Karl Marx tag to this box, as he is an author/person. In future if you could add author names to this box that would be great