“Still both the popularized literature of Social Democracy and parts of Engels’s writings (which, by the way, were endorsed by Marx) strongly emphasize the existence of “surplus-value” as the herald of a dawning socialist society. Likewise, ‘Capital Vol. I’ abounds with passages characterizing surplus-value as “exploitation”. Whenever human relations are involved, the term “exploitation” carries a moral meaning. In German the term derives from world “loot”, hence, in the case of capitalist economy, “exploitation” connotes robbery in disguise. After all aren’t capitalists depicted as social bandits, robbing the working class? But how can we reconcile this moral undertone with Engels’s passage? It seems to me that Engels attempts to answer this question himself: “Something appearing false from an economic point of view might still be correct in a world-historical sense. If moral mass-consciousness declares as unjust an economic fact like slavery or serfdom, this is the proof that the economic fact has outlived its purpose. In other words, ‘other economic facts have emerged’, making the old ones both unbearable and untenable. Consequently, ‘behind’ a formal economic falsity there may hide a ‘true economic content'”.” [Eduard Bernstein, How Is Scientific Socialism Possible?, 1901] [in Eduard Bernstein, a cura di Manfred Steger, Selected Writings of Eduard Bernstein, 1900-1921, 1996]

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