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Economic Ideas of Ferdinand Lassalle

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In this article we will discuss about the economic ideas of Ferdinand Lassalle.

In the development of German Socialism Lassalle occupies a pride of place. Lassalle was educated at Breslau and Berlin and was a brilliant person and a promising scholar. He was well acquainted with the writings of Marx and he again and again referred to Marx as his master.

Like Marx, Lassalle believed that the capitalist exploit the labour by paying him subsistence wages and pocketing the surplus. But to win the masses, he invoked not the doctrine of exploitation of the worker by the proprietors but the brazen law of wages which is the title by which he chose to call the Ricardian law of wages.

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His chief title to fame is the establishment of the General Association of German workers in 1863. It later developed into Social Democratic Party. Both Rodbertus and Lassalle are responsible for unconsciously laying the social and moral foundations of the State Socialism.

Lassalle felt that capitalism must be abolished and producer’s association must be established in its place with a grant of credit by the state. To this end he also wanted universal suffrage so that the workers could control state power. In such a state of affair workers could get their fruits of their productivity. Lassalle’s contribution is quite insubstantial in theory, but significant in action.

Both Marx and Lassalle advanced a theory that wages of labour under capitalism tended always everywhere towards subsistence level. But Lassalle differed from Marx on several points. Lassalle was sceptical about the efficacy of trade unions in improving the workers position under capitalism. Whereas Marx strongly believed in the value of trade unions.

Secondly, Lassalle explained the theory of wages in terms of Malthusian law of population. But Marx did not explain the theory of wages mainly in terms of the Malthusian theory of population. The effect of these differences was that “whereas Lassalle argued that nothing could be done to help the workers without the capture of the State machine, Marx looked forward rather to a revolution based on the development of the workers movement as an economic force than to a predominantly political agitation for universal suffrage”.

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To Gray, “Lassalle’s position may be said to be based theoretically on a Marxian foundation. He differs from Marx with regard to the programme of action for the immediate future. He also differs from Marx in his conception of what State is and of what can be done by and through the State”.

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