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Jacques Camatte
Bl ack Red
Detroi t
The essays included in the present work first appeared in the
journal In variance (Annee VI, Serle II, No. 3, 1973) with the titles,
"Errance de I'humanite; Conscience repressive; Communisme," and "Declin
du mode de production ou declin de I'humanite?" The author
of these Jacques worked with Amadeo and the
group of theoreticians were known as the Italian communist
left. After the events which took place in France in May of 1968,
Caratte, together with his comrades on In variance, began a critical
analysis of the activities of the Italian communist left, the work of
Bordiga as well as the work of Marx. The title of the journal originally
referred to "the invariance of the theory of the proletariat," the theory of
the League of Communists and the First International. By 1973 critics
said of this journal that "nothing varies more than In variance. By 1973
Camatte and his comrades, pursuing the critical analysis they had begun,
were led to conclude that "what is invariant is the aspiration to rediscover
the lost human community, and this cannot take place through a re
establishment of the past, but only through new creation." Their theoret
ical quest led them to a complete rejection of the theory of revolutionary
parties and organizations, the theory of revolutionary consciousness, the
theory of the progressive development of productive forces. "The French
May movement showed that what is needed is a new mode of living, a
new life." (The above quotations are from the last article in Invariance
No. 3, 1973.)
Works by Bordiga and Camatte are available (in Italian) from Ed.
I nternati onal, Casella Postale 177, 17100 Savona, Italy. Issues of
In variance are available (in French) from J. Camatte, B.P. 133, 83 170
Brignoles, France. The essays in the present work were translated from
French by Fredy Perlman with assistance from Camatte; the illustrations
were selected and prepared by Allan Foster; Lorraine Perlman and Judy
Campbell participated in the photography, printing and binding. The cover
is a detail from a painting by Dali; the two pictures facing the first page
of each essay are by Kley; the remaining illustrations are composed from
advertisements, "the discourse of capital." The present work is available
from Black & Red, P.O. Box 9546, Detroit, Michigan, 48202.
I. The Wanderi ng of Humanity 5
1. Despoti sm of Capi tal 5
2 . Growth of Product ive Forces;
Domsti cati on of Hu man Bei ngs 16

3. Repressi ve Consci ousness 25

4. Communi sm 32
II. Decl i ne of the Capitalist Mode of
Producti on or Decl i ne of Humanity? 47
The Wandering of Humanity
Repressive Consciousness
1. Despotism of Capital
When capital achieves real domination over society, it
becomes a material commu nity, overcomi ng val ue and the
l aw of val ue, which survive onl y as somethi ng "overcome."
Capital accompl ishes this i n two ways: I) the quantity of
l abor i ncl uded in the product-capital di mi nishes enormousl y
( deval ori zation) ; 2) the exchange rel ati on tends i ncreasi ngl y
to di sappear, first from the wage rel ation, then from al l
economi c transaction!. Capital , whi ch ori gi nal l y depended on
the wage rel ation, becomes a despot. When there i s val ue i t is
assi gned by capi tal .
Capital i s capital i n process. I t acquired t hi s attribute
with the ri se of fictive capital , when the opposition val oriza
tion/deval orization sti l l had meani ng, when capital had not
yet rea l l y overcome the law of val ue.
Capital i n process is capi tal i n constant movement; it
capi tal i zes everythi ng, assimil ates everything and makes it its
own substance. Havi ng become autonomous, i t i s "reified
for m" in movement. It becomes i ntangi bl e. It revital izes its
bei ng-that vast metabol ism whi ch absorbs ancient exchanges
or reduces them to exchanges of a biol ogical type-by
despoi l i ng al l human bei ngs i n thei r var ied activities, however
fragmented these may be (this is why capital pushes human
beings to engage in the most diverse activities)' It is humanity
that is exploited. More than ever the expression "exploitation
of man by man" becomes repulsive.
I n its perfected state, capital is representation. Its rise
to this state is due to its anthropomorphization, namely to its
capitalization of human beings,
and to its supersession of the
old general equivalent, gold. Capital needs an ideal re
presentati on, si nce a representati on wi th su bstance i nhi bi ts
i ts process. Gol d, i f i t i s not tota l l y demonet i zed, can no
l onger pl ay t he rol e of standard. Capi tal i zed human acti vi ty
becomes the standard of capi tal , unt i l even th i s dependence
on val ue and i ts l aw begi n to di sappear compl etel y. Thi s
presupposes t he i ntegrati on of human bei ngs i n t he process of
capi tal and the i ntegrati on of capi tal i n the mi nds of human
bei ngs.
Capital becomes representati on through the fol l owi ng
hi stori cal movement: exchange val ue becomes autonomous,
human bei ngs are expropri ated, hu man acti vi ty i s reduced to
l abor, and l abor i s reduced to abstract l abor. Thi s takes pl ace
when capi tal ri ses on the fou ndati on of the l aw of val ue.
Capi tal becomes autonomous by domesticati ng the human
bei ng. After anal yzi ng- di ssecti ng-fragment i ng the human
being, capi tal reconstructs the human bei ng as a functi on of
its process. The ruptu re of the body from the mi nd made
possi bl e the transformati on of the mi nd i nto a computer
which can be prog rammed by the l aws of capi tal . Preci sel y
because of thei r mental capaci ti es, human bei ngs ar e not onl y
enslaved, but turned i nto wi l l i ng slaves of capital . What seems
l i ke the greatest paradox i s that capi tal i tsel f rei ntroduces
This does not exclude an opposite movement: capital forces
human beings to be human.
subjectivity, which had been eliminated at the time of the
rise OJ exchange value. All human activity is exploited by
capital. We can rephrase Marx's statement, " Labor, by adding
a new value to the old one, at the same time maintains and
eternizes [capital]
, ,
to say: all human activity "eternizes"
Capital as representation overcomes the old contradic
tion between monopoly and competition. Every quantum of
capital tends to become a total i ty; competiti on operates
between the various capital s, each of which tends to become
the total ity. Producti on and circu l ati on ar e uni fi ed; the
ancient oppositi on between u se val ue and exchange val ue
l oses i ts raison d'etre. Besides, consu mption i s t he uti l izati on
of not onl y material products but mostl y representations that
i ncreasi ngl y structure human bei ngs as bei ngs of capi tal and
revital ize capi tal as the general representati on. Pri ces no
l onger have the functi on they had i n the per i od of formal
domi nati on of capital , when they were representations of
valu e; they become mere i ndi ces or signs of representations
of capi tal . Free goods are not impossi bl e. Capital cou l d
assign a speci fic quantity of i t s products t o each programmed
i ndivi dua l; this quanti ty might depend on the requ ired
acti vi ty i mposed on this i ndivi dual . Such a despotis m wou l d
be more powerfu l than the present one. Human bei ngs wou l d
wi sh they had the money whi ch had "given" them free access
to the diversity of products.
Duri ng its devel opment capi tal al ways tended to negate
cl asses. Th i s has fi nal l y been accompl ished through the
uni versal i zation of wage l abor and the formati on-as a transi
ti ona l stage-of what is cal l ed the u ni versal cl ass, a mere
col l ecti on of prol etarianized men and women, a col l ection of
Karl Marx, Grundrise, London: Pelican, 1973, p. 365.
slaves of capital. Capital achieved complete domination by
mystifying the demands of the classical proletariat, by
dominating the proletarian as productive laborer. But by
achieving domination through the mediation of labor, capital
brought about the disappearance of classes, since the capital
ist as a person was simultaneously eliminated. 3 The State
becomes society when the wage relation is transformed into a
rel ati on of constrai nt, i nto a stati st rel ati on. At the same ti me
the State becomes an enterpri se or racket whi ch mediates
between the di fferent gangs of capi tal .
Bourgeoi s soci ety has been destroyed and we have the
despoti sm of capi tal . Class confl i cts are repl aced by struggl es
between the gangs-organ i zati ons whi ch are the vari ed modes
of bei ng of capi tal . As a resu l t of the domi nati on of re
presentati on, al l organi zati ons whi ch want to oppose capi tal
ar e engu l fed by i t; they are consumed by phagocytes.
It i s the real end of democracy. One can no l onger hol d
that there i s a cl ass whi ch represents futu re humani ty, and a
lOIltOIt there is no party, no group; there can be no del ega
ti on of power.
Adverti si ng crassl y refl ects the fact that capi tal i s re
presentati on, that it survi ves because i t i s representati on i n
the mi nd of each human bei ng ( i nternal i zi ng what was
xter nal i zed). Adverti si ng is the di scou rse of capi tal :

Here we se a convergence with the Asiatic mode of produc
tion, where classs could never beome autonomous; in the capitalis
mode of production they are absorbed.
See the book of D. Verres, Le disours du capitalisme, Ed.
L'Herne. Interesing material will als be found in the works of
Baudrillart: Le systeme de objets and Pour une critique de Jonomie
pliti que du signe, Ed. Gallimard.
thing is possible, all norms have disappeared. Advertising
organizes the subversion of the present for the sake of an
apparently different future.
"We now face the problem of letting the average
American feel moral when he flirts, when he spends,
even when he buys a second or third car. One of the
basi c probl ems of thi s prosperi ty i s to gi ve peopl e
sancti on and j usti fi cati on to enjoy i t, to show them
that maki ng thei r l ives a pl easure i s moral and not
i mmoral . Thi s permi ssi on given to the consumer to
freel y enjoy l i fe, th i s demonstrati on that he has a r i ght
to surrou nd h i msel f wi th products that enr i ch h i s
exi stence and give hi m p l easu re, shou l d be one of the
mai n themes of al l adverti si ng and of every project
designed to i ncrease sal es. "
The di si ntegrati on of consci ousness whi ch can be seen
i n mani festa
i ons l i ke the women's l i berati on movement, the
gay l i berati on movel1ent and anti -psych iatry (wh ich are onl y
possi bl e after t he work of Freud, Rei ch, and t he femi ni st
movement at the begi nni ng of thi s centu ry) i s not part of the
si mul taneous emergence of revol uti onary consci ousness, but
onl y refl ects the end of bourgeoi s soci ety based on val ue, on
a fi xed standard whi ch affected al l l evel s of human l i fe. The
disi ntegrati on began when the general equ i val ent confl i cted
with ci rcu l ati on. If the former general equ ival ent gave way, i t
was l ost. The State had to force a l l subjects to respect a
normal cy based on a standard whi ch establ i shed the val ues of
Dichter, cited by Baudri l lart in Le systme de objets, pp.

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society. The law of value imprisoned human beings, forcing
them into stereotypes, into fixed modes of being. The highest
development of morality appeared in Kant's categorical
imperative. By engulfing the general equ by becoming
its own representation, capital removed the prohibitions and
rigid schemas. At that point human beings are fixed to its
movement, which can take off from the normal or abnormal,
moral or immoral human being.
The fi ni te, l i mi ted hu man bei ng, the i ndivi dual of
bourgeoi s soci ety, is di sappear i ng. Peopl e are passionatel y
cal l i ng for the l i berated hu man bei ng, a bei ng who i s at once
a soci al bei ng and a Gemeinwesen. But at present i t i s capi tal
that i s recomposi ng man, gi vi ng hi m form and matter;
communal bei ng comes i n the form of col l ecti ve worker,
i ndivi dual i ty i n the form of consumer of capi tal . Si nce capi tal
i s i ndef i ni te i t al l ows t he hu man bei ng to have access to a
state beyond the fi ni te i n an i nfi n i te becomi ng of appropria
ti on whi ch is never real i zed, renewi ng at every i nstant the
i l l usi on of total bl ossomi ng.
The human bei ng i n the i mage of capi tal ceases to
consi der any event defi n i tive, but as an i nstant i n an i nfi ni te
process. Enjoyment i s al l owed but i s never possi bl e. Man
becomes a sensual and passi ve voyeur, capi tal a sensual and
suprasensual bei ng. Hu man l i fe ceases to be a process and
becomes l i near. Aspi red by the process of capi tal , man can no
l onger be "h i msel f. " Th i s aspi rati on evacuates hi m, creati ng a
vacuu m whi ch he must conti nual l y sati sfy wi th representa
ti ons (capi tal ) . More general l y, capi tal in process secures i ts
domi nati on by maki ng every process l i near. Thus i t breaks
the movement of natu re, and this l eads to the destructi on of
nature. But i f thi s destructi on might endanger its own
process, capi tal adapts i tsel f to nature (by anti -pol l ut i on, for
exampl e) .
1 1
The non-living becomes autonomous-and triumphs.
Death in life: Hegel had intuited Nietzsche described it,
Rainer Maria Rilke sang about Freud almost institu-
tionalized it (the death exhibited it as
buffoon and the it: live death."
The fem movement has individualized it:
"The male likes death-it excites him sexually and,
already dead i nsi de, he wants to di e. "
The autonomy of form affects al l aspects of l i fe
domi nated by capi tal Knowl edge is val i d onl y if it i s
formal i zed, i f i t i s empti ed of content. Absol ute knowl edge i s
tautol ogy real i zed; i t i s dead form depl oyed over al l
knowl edge. Sci ence is i ts systemati zation ; epi stemol ogy i s i ts
I n the era of i ts real domi nati on, capital has run away
(as the cybernet i cians put i t) , i t has escaped
I t is no l onger
Valerie Solanas, The SCUM Manifesto (The Society for Cutting
Up Men), New York: Olympia Press, 1970.
We analyzed the autonomization of capital in Le Vie chapitre
idit du Capital et I'oeuvre eonomique de Marx ( 1966), particularly
in the notes added in 1972.
In a future article we will analyze this subject more thoroughly
by showing that Marx had raised the problem without recognizing it in
its totality, and by analyzing the capitalist mode of production of
today. This will also lead us to define labor and its role in the
ent of humanity. G. Brule already bean such an analysis in
his article in In variance No. 2, Serie I I : "Le travail, I e travail productif
et les mythes de la classe ouvriere et de la classe moyenne. " ( Labor,
productive labor and the myths of the working class and the middle
I n general we can say that the concept of labor is reductive: it
encompasses only one part of human activity. But the call for its
1 2
controlled by human beings. ( Human beings in the form of
proletarians might, at least passively, represent a barrier to
capitaL) It is no longer limited by nature. Some production
processes carried out over periods of time lead to clashes with
natural barriers: increase in the number of human beings,
destruction of nature, pollution. But these barriers cannot be
theoretically regarded as barriers which capital cannot super
sede. At present there are three possible courses for the
capitalist mode of production (in addition to the destruction
abolition is a call for the destruction of this remainder of activity,
which is a utopian demand of capital. The proj ect of communism
inserts itself into the context of human life, activity being no more than
a modality of expression. Love, meditation, day-dreaming, play and
other manifestations of human beings are placed outside the field of life
when we trap ourselves within the concept of labor. Marx defined l abor
as an activity
hich transforms nature or matter for one or another
purpose, but the concept of nature can no longer be accepted as it is. I n
the period of dominatio
of capital, the human being is no l onger in
contact with nature (especially during work). Between nature and the
individual lies capital. Capital becomes nature.
On the other hand, in his so-called "philosophical" works, Marx
clearly refers to all human activity and asserts that communism cannot
be reduced to the l iberation of labor. This position does not completely
disappear from the rest of Marx's works, and survives alongside the
"revolutionary reformist" conception expressed in Capital. For the
Marxiss the problem is subsequently simplified: they exalt labor, pure
and simple. In Trotsky's work, for example, there is no longer a trace of
Marx's complex analysis, but rather a dislay of the language of
domestication, the language of capital : "The entire history of humanity
is a hisory of the organization and eucation of social man for labor,
with a view to obtaining from him greater productivity. " (Terrorism
and Communism [ French e. : Paris: Ed. 10/ 18, 1963, p. 2 18] .)
1 3
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1 4
of humanity-a hypothesis that cannot be ignored):
-complete autonomy of capital: a mechanistic
where human beings become simple accessories an
automated system, though still retaining an executive
-mutation of the human being, or rather a change of
the species: producti on of a perfectl y programmabl e
bei ng which has l ost al l the characteristics of the
species Homo spiens. This wou l d not requi re an
automatized system, since th i s perfect human bei ng
wou l d be made to do whatever i s required;
-general ized l unacy: i n the place of hu man bei ngs, and
on the basi s of thei r present l i mi tati ons, capi tal real izes
everythi ng they desire ( normal or abnormal ) , but
human bei ngs cannot fi nd themsel ves and enj oyment
continual l y l ies in the future. The human bei ng is
carri ed off i n the ru n-away of capi tal , and keeps i t
gOi ng.
The resu l t is ul ti matel y the same: the evol ution of the
human bei ng i s frozen, sooner i n one case than in another.
These possi bi l i ties are abstract l imi ts; i n real i ty they tend to
u nfol d si mul taneousl y and i n a contradi ctory manner. To
conti nue on i ts i ndefi nite course, capital i s forced to cal l on
the acti vi ty of human bei ngs, t o exal t thei r creativity. And
to secure its permanence, capi tal has to act qu ickl y. It runs
i nto barri ers of ti me and space whi ch are l inked to the
decrease of natural resou rces (whi ch cannot all be repl aced
by synthetic substi tutes) and the mad i ncrease of human
This possibility i s described and exalted i n Future Shock by
Alvin Tofler.
1 5
population (which causes the disappearance of numerous
forms of life).
It becomes clear that raising the banner of labor or its
abolition remains on the terrain of capital, within the frame
work of its evolution. Even the movement toward u nlimited
generalization of desire is isomorphic to the indefinite move
ment of capital.
The capitalist mode of production is not decadent and
cannot be decadent. Bourgeoi s soci ety di si ntegrated, to be
su re, but thi s di d not l ead to communi sm. At most we can
say that communi sm was affi rmed i n opposi ti on to bou rgeoi s
soci ety, but not i n opposi ti on to capi tal . The run-away of
capi tal was not perceived; in fact th i s run-away was real i zed
onl y wi th the ri se of the fasci st, Nazi , popu l ar front move
ments, the New Deal , etc. , movements whi ch are transi tions
from formal to real domi nati on. It was thought that com
muni sm was emergi ng from the social i zati on of human ac
ti vi ty and thus from the destructi on of pri vate property,
whi l e i n fact capi tal was emergi ng as a materi al communi ty.
2. Growth of Productive Forces;
Domesticati on of Human Bei ngs
The capital i st mode of producti on becomes decadent
onl y wi th th outbreak of effective revol uti on agai nst capi tal .
As of now, human bei ngs have been decayi ng f or a century,
they have been domesti cated by capi tal . Thi s domesti cati on
i s the source of the prol etariat's i nabi l i ty to l i berate
humani ty. Productive forces conti nue to grow, but these are
forces of capital .
1 6
"Capitalist production develops technique and the
combination of the social production process only by
simultaneously using u p the two sources from which
all wealth springs: the land and the laborer."g
It makes no sense to proclaim that humanity's pro
ductive forces have stopped growing, that the capitalist mode
of production has begun to decay. Such views reveal the
inability of many theoreti cians to recogni ze the ru n-away O!
capi tal and thus to u nderstand communi sm and the com
mun i st revol uti on. Paradoxi cal l y, Marx anal yzed the de
composi ti on of bou rgeoi s soci ety and the condi ti ons for the
devel opment of the capi tal i st mode of producti on: a soci ety
where productive forces cou Id devel op freel y. What he
presented as the project of communi sm was real i zed by
capi tal .
Marx el aborated a dialecti c of the devel opment of
productive forces. 10 He hel d that human emanci pati on
depended on ,thei r fu l l est expansi on. Communi st revol uti on
-therefore the end of the capi tal i st mode of producti on-was
Marx, Capital, Vol . I [Le Capital, L. I , t. 2, p. 182. )
This requires a detai l ed study which wou l d incl ude the
anal ysis of l abor. I n the articl e which fol l ows we begin this study: it
presents the first concl usions we've reached. I n particul ar we want to
anal yze the stage of this decadence of humanity, how it is expressed,
etc. I n addition we want to show the intimate connection between the
movement of val ue and the dial ectic of the productive forces. The end
of the movement of val ue and of capital is the end of a mode of
representation and destroys its autonomy. The Marxian dial ectic wil l be
compl etel y overcome.
1 7
to take place when this mode of production was no longer
"large enough" to contain the productive forces. But Marx is
trapped in an ambiguity. He thinks that the human being is a
to and that the human being
as a to its development as power. Marx also
suggests that capital can escape from the human barrier. He is
led to postulate a self-negation of capital. This self-negation
takes the form of crises which he perceived either as
moments when capi tal i s restructu red (a regenerati on carri ed
out by the destructi on of products i nhi bi ti ng the process:
another reason why capi tal i sm must di sappear) , or as the
actual moment when capi tal i s destroyed.
I n other words, whi l e provi di ng the el ements necessary
for u nderstandi ng the real domi nati on of capi tal over soci ety,
Marx di d not devel op the concept; he di d not recogni ze the
run-away of capi tal . For Marx, gol d remai ned a barri er to
capi tal , the contradi cti on between val ori zati on and de
val ori zati on remai ned i n force, and the pl u nder and estrange
ment of prol etari ans remai ned an obstacl e to the evol uti on of
capi tal.
" I n the devel opment of productive forces there comes
a stage when producti ve forces and means of i nter
course are brought i nto bei ng, whi ch, u nder the
exi sti ng rel ati onsh i ps, onl y cause mi sch i ef, and are no
l onger producti ve but destructive forces ( mach i nery
and money) . . .
( Before conti nu i ng the ci tati on, we shou l d menti on the
retardati on of those who procl ai m that capi tal now devel ops
onl y destructive forces. It tu rns out that for Marx, i n 1847,
capi tal i s destructi on; he conti nued to hol d thi s vi ew. )
1 8
" ... and connected with this a class is called forth,
which has to bear all the burdens of society without
enjoying its advantages, which, ousted from society, is
forced into the most decided antagonism to all other
classes; a class which forms the majority of all
members of society, and from which emanates the
consciousness of the necessity of a fundamental revolu
tion, the communist consciousness, which may, of
course, arise amor]g the other classes too through the
contempl ation of the situation of this c1ass."
The prol etariat is the great hope of Marx and of the
revolutionaries of his epoch. This is the class whose struggle
for emancipation wil l liberate al l h umanity. Marx's work is at
once an analysis of the capitalist mode of production and of
the proletariat's role within it. This is why the theory of
va l ue and the theory of the proletariat are connected, though
not directly:
"The alove appl ication of the Ricardian theory, that
the entire social product belongs to the workers as
their product, because they are the sol e real producers,
l eads directl y to communism. But, as Marx i ndicates
t oo in the above-quoted passage, formally it is
economical ly i ncorrect, for it is simpl y an application
of moral ity to economics. Accordi ng to the laws of
bourgeois economics, the greatest part of the product
does not bel ong to the workers who have produced it.
If we now say: that is u njust, that ought not to be so,
t h e n that has nothi ng immediately to do with
economics. We are merel y sayi ng that this economic
fact is in contradiction to our sense of morality. Marx,
Engel s, Marx, The German Idelogy, [Moscow, 1964, p. 85.|
1 9
therefore, never based his communist demands upon
this, but upon the inevitable collapse of the capitalist
mode of production which is daily taking place before
our eyes to an ever greater degree

Marx did not develop a philosophy of exploitation, as
Bordiga often recalled. How will the capitalist mode of pro
duction be destroyed, and what does the "ruin" consist of?
( Engel s, i n 1 884, provi ded arguments for those who today
speak of the decadence of capi tal i sm.) Thi s i s not speci fi ed.
After Marx the prol etari at was retai ned as the cl ass necessary
for the fi nal destructi on, the defi ni tive abol i ti on of capi ta l
i sm, and it was taken for granted that the prol etari at wou l d
be forced to do thi s.
Bernstei n grasped thi s aspect of Marx's theory, and
appl i ed hi msel f to demonstratirg that there were no contra
di cti ons push i ng toward di ssol uti on.
But thi s l ed Bernstei n
to become an apol ogi st for the ol d bourgeoi s soci ety whi ch
capi tal was about to destroy, especi al l y after 1 91 3; con
sequentl y hi s work does not i n any way cl ari fy the present
si tuati on.
Marx l eft us materi al wi th whi ch to overcome the
theory of val ue, and al so materi al neessary for overcomi ng
t he theory of the prol etari at. The two theor i es ar e rel ated,
and justi fy each other. I n the IuDdItssa, Marx prai ses the
Engels, "Preface" to The Povert of Phiosphy by Marx,
Ne York: 1 963, p. 1 1 .
1 3
See particularl y "The Movement of I ncome in Modern
ciety" and "Crises and Possibilities of Adaptation" in Preupposi
tions of Scialism and the Tass of Social Democracy, Rowohlt Verlag,
pp. 73ft.
capitalist mode of production, which he considers revolu
tionary. What is not stated explicitly is that the proletariat
has this attribute to the extent that it carries out the internal
laws of capitalism. The proletariat is present in the analysis.
Marx postulates that the proletariat's misery will necessarily
push it to revolt, to destroy the capitalist mode of produc
tion and thus to liberate whatever is progressive in this mode
of production, namely the tendency to expand productive
I n Capital the prol etariat is no l onger treated as the
cl ass that represents the dissol ution of society, as negation at
work. The cl ass in question here is the working c l ass, a cl ass
which is more or l ess i ntegrated in society, which is engaged
in revol utionary reformism: struggl e for wage increases,
struggl e against heavy work i mposed on women and chi l dren,
struggl e for the shorteni ng of the worki ng day.
At the end of the fi rst vol ume, Marx expl ains the
dynamic which l eads to the expropriation of the ex
propriators, 10 the increase of misery
which wil l force the
prol etariat to rise agai nst capital .
I n the third vol u me, and al so in the Critique of the
Gotha Programme, Marx does not descri be a real dis
conti nuity between capital ism and communism. Productive
forces conti nue to grow. The disontinu ity l ies in the fact
that the goal of production is inverted (after the revol ution;
i. e. , the disconti nuity is temporal ). The goal ceases to be
weal th, but human bei ngs. However, if there is no real dis-
1 4
Here we should be careful , as Bordiga justly observed, not to
reduce this to an economic concept.
1 5
Marx, Capital, Vol. I, New York: Random House, pp.
continuity between capitalism and communism, human
beings must be wilfully transformed; how else could the goal
be inverted? This is Marx's revolutionary reformism in its
greatest amplitude. The dictatorship of the proletariat, the
transitional phase (in the Grundrisse it is the capitalist mode
of production that constitutes this transitional phase: this is
obviously extremely relevant to the way we define com
munism today) is a period of reforms, the most important
bei ng the shorteni ng of the working day and use of the l abor
voucher. What we shou l d note here, though we cannot i nsi st
on i t, i s the connecti on between reformi sm and di ctatorship.
The prol etari at seems to be needed to gu i de the de
vel opment of producti ve forces away from the pol e of val ue
toward t he pol e of humani ty. I t may happen that the pro
l etari at i s i ntegrated by capi tal , but-and thi s i s abused by
vari ous Marxi sts-cri ses destroy the prol etari at's reserves and
reinstate i t i nto i ts revol uti onary rol e. Then the i nsu rrecti on
agai nst capi tal i s possi bl e agai n.
Thus Marx's wor k seems l argel y t o be the authenti c
consci ousness of th" capi tal i st mode of producti on. The
bourgeoi si e, a nd the capi ta l i sts who fol l owed, were abl e to
express onl y a fal se consci ousness with the hel p of thei r
vari ous theori es. Further more, t he capi tal i st mode of pro
ducti on has real i zed Marx's prol etari an proj ect. By remai ni ng
on a narrowl y Marx i st terrai n, the prol etari at and i ts theoreti
ci ans were outfl anked by the fol l owers of capi tal . Capi tal ,
havi ng achi eved real domi nati on, rati fi es t he val i di ty of
Marx' s

work i n i ts reduced form (as hi storical materi al i sm) .

Whi l e German prol etari ans at the begi nni ng of thi s century
thought thei r acti ons were destroyi ng the capi tal i st mode of
producti on, they fai l ed to see they were onl y tryi ng to
manage i t themsel ves. Fal se consci ousness took hol d of the
prol etari at.
Historical materialism is a glorification of the wander
ing in which humanity has been engaged for more than a
century: growth of productive forces as the condition sine-
qua-non for liberation But definition all quantitative
growth takes place in the of the the false
Who will measure the of the forces
to determine whether or not the great day has come? For
Marx there was a double and contradictory movement:
growth of productive forces and immiseration of proletarians;
this was to lead to a revolutionary collision. Put differently,
there was a contradiction between socialization of produc
tion and private appropriation.
The moment when the productive forces were to reach
the l evel required for the transformation of the mode of
production was to be the moment when the crisis of capital
ism began. This crisis was to expose the narrowness of this
mode of production and its i nabi l ity to hold new productive
forces, and thus make visibl e the antagonism between the
productive forces and the capital ist forms of production. But
capital has ru n away; it has absorbed crises and it has suc
cessfu l l y provided a social reserve for the prol etarians. Many
have nothi ng l eft to do but to ru n on ahead: some say the
productive forces are not devel oped enough, others say they
have stopped growi ng. Both reduce the whol e problem either
to organizi ng the vanguard, the party, or resort to activities
designed to raise consciousness.
Devel opment in the context of wanderi ng is devel op
ment in the context of mystification. Marx considered
mystification the resu l t of a reversed rel ation: capital, the
product of the worker's activity, appears to be the creator.
The mystification is rooted in real events; it is rea lity in
process that mystifies. Somethi ng is mystified even through a
struggl e of the prol etariat against capital ; the generalized
mystification is the triumph of capital. But if, as a con
sequence of its anthropomorphization, this reality produced
by mystification is now the sole reality, then the question has
to be put differently. 1) Since the mystification is stable and
real, there is no point in waiting for a demystification which
would only expose the truth of the previous situation.
2) Because of capital's run-away, the mystification appears as
reality, and thus the mystification is engulfed and rendered
i noperative. We have the despotism of capital .
The assertion that t he mystification is sti l l operative
wou l d mean that human bei ngs are abl e to engage in real
rel ations and are conti nual l y mysti fi ed. I n fact the mysti fica
tion was operati ve once and became real i ty. I t refers to a
historical stage compl eted i n the past. This does not el iminate
the i mportance of u nderstandi ng and studyi ng i t so as to
understand the movement whi ch l eads to the present stage of
the capi tal ist mode of producti on a nd to be aware of the real
actors through the ags.
Both the myst i fyi ng- mysti fi ed real i ty as wel l as the
previ ousl y mystif i ed real i ty have to be destroyed. The
mysti fi cati on is only "visi bl e" i f one breaks (wi thout i l l usi ons
about the li mi tat i ons of thi s beak) wi th the representati ons
of capi ta l . Marx's work is very i mportant for this break. But
i t contai ns a major f l aw: i t fai ls to expl ai n the whol e
magni tude of the mysti fication because it does not recogni ze
the ru n-away of capital .
E a r l i er, revol ut ion was possi bl e as soon as the
mysti ficat i on was exposed; the revol ut ionary process was its
dest ruction. Today the hu man bei ng has been engu l fed, not
onl y i n the deter mi nat ion of cl ass where he was trapped for
centuri es, but as a bi ol ogi cal bei ng. It is a total i ty that has to
be destroyed. Demysti fi cation is no l onger enough. The
revol t of hu man bei ngs th reatened i n the i mmedi acy of t hei r
daily lives goes beyond demystification. The problem is to
create other lives. This problem lies simultaneously outside
the ancient discourse of the workers' movement and its old
practice, and outside the critique which considers this move
ment a simple ideology (and considers the human being an
ideological precipitate).
3. Repressive Consciousness
Mystification does not onl y affect capital ist society
but also affects the theory of capital ism. Marxist theory
el evated to the rank of prol etarian consciousness is a new
form of consciousness: repressive conscious ness. We wi l l
descri be some of its characteristics, l eavi ng aside the probl em
of determining whether or not a l l forms of consciousness
th roughout history are repressive.
The obj ect of repressive consciousness is the goal
whi ch it thi nks it control s. Si nce there is a gap between this
goal and immediate' real ity, this consciousness becomes
theologica l and refi nes the differences between the mi nimum
or i mmediate program a nd t he maximum, futu re, or mediate
program. But the l onger the path to its real ization, the more
consciousness makes itsel f the goal and reifies itsel f i n an
organization which comes to incarnate the goal .
The proj ect of this consciousness is to frame real ity
with its concept. This is the sou rce of al l the sophisms about
the di vergence between obj ective and subj ective el ements. It
exists but it cannot be. And precisel y because of its i nabi l ity
to be, it has to negate and scorn whatever is tryi ng to emerge,
to be.
I n other words, it exists but it needs certain events to
be real. Since it is a product of the past, it is refuted by every
current event. Thus it can only exist as a polemic with
reality. It refutes everything. It can survive only freezing,
increasingly totalitarian. I n order to it
has to be organized: thus the mystique of the party, of
councils, and of other coagulations of despotic consciousness.
All direct action which does not recognize this
consciousness (and every politi cal racket pretends to embody
the true consciousness) is condemned by i t. Condemnation is
fol l owed by justi fication: i mpati ence of those who revolt,
l ack of maturi ty, provocati on by the domi nant class. The
picture is compl eted by li tanies on the peti t-bourgeois
character of the eter nal anarchists and the utopi anism of
i ntel lectual s or young peopl e. Struggl es are not real u nless
they revi ve cl ass consciousness; some go so far as to wi sh for
war, so that th is consci ousness wi l l at l ast be produced.
Theory has tu rned i nto repress ive consciousness. The
prol etari at has become a myth, not i n terms of i ts existence,
but i n terms of i ts revol uti onary role as the class which was
to l i berate a l l hu man i ty and thus resol ve all socio-economi c
contradi cti ons. I n real i ty i t exists i n al l cou ntries charac
teri zed by the formal domi nation of capi tal , where th is
prol etari at sti l l consti tutes the majori ty of the popu l ati on; i n
cou ntri es characteri zed by the real domi nati on of capi tal one
sti l l fi nds a l arge nu mber of men and women i n condi tions
of 19th centu ry prol etari ans. But the activity of every party
and every group i s organi zed around the myth. The myth i s
thei r sou rce. Everyth i ng begi ns wi th the appearance of this
cl ass whi ch is defi ned as the onl y revol utionary class' i n
h istory, or a t l east as the most revol utionary. Whatever
happened before is ordered as a fu nction of the ri se of thi s
cl ass, and ear l i er events are secondary i n rel ati on to those
lived or created by the proletariat. It even defines conduct.
Whoever is proletarian is saved; one who is not must expiate
the defect of non-proletarian birth by various practices, going
so far as to serve terms in factories. A group achieves re
only at the moment when it is able to
exhibit one or several "authentic" proletarians. presence
of the man with calloused hands is the guarantee, the cer
tificate of revolutionary authenticity. The content of the
program defended by the group, its theory, even its acti ons,
cease to be i mportant; all that matters is the presence or
a bsence of the "proletari an." The myth maintai ns and revives
the antagonism between i ntel l ectual and manual . Ma ny
counci l ists make a cu l t of anti-i ntel l ectualism which serves
them as a substitute for theory and j ustification. They can
pronou nce any i diocy; they' l l be saved; they're proletarians.
Just as it is thought by many that one who leaves the
party thereby ceases to be revol utionary, so it is considered
i mpossi bl e to be revol utionary without cl aiming one's pro
l etarian positipn, without taki ng on the vi rtues thou ght to be
prol etari an. The cou nter-revolution ends at the mythical
frontiers which separate the prol etariat from the rest of the
soci al body. Any action is j ustifi ed in the name of the
prol etarian movement. One does not act because of a need to
act, because of hatred for capital , but because the prol etariat
has to recover its cl ass base. Action and thought are u nvei l ed
by intermediaries.
This is how, especial ly after 1945, the prol etariat as
revol utionary cl ass outl ived i tsel f: through its myth.
A historical stu dy of prol etari an revol utionary move
ments wou l d shed l ight on the l imited character of this cl ass.
Ma rx h i msel f cl ear l y exposed its reformist character.
Fundamentall y, from 1848, when it demanded the right to
work, to 1917- 1923, when it demanded fu l l empl oyment and
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self-management by workers' unions, the proletariat rebelled
solely within the interior of the capitalist system. This seems
to conflict with Marx's statements in his "Critical Notes on
the Article 'The King of Prussia and Social Reform. ' By a
Prussian" : "But at this moment the proletariat really
manifested itself as a class without reseres, as a total
negation. It was forced to create a profound rupture which
makes possible an understanding of what communist re
volution and therefore communism can be.
, ,
16 Marx was
ri ght; but the capi ta l ist mode of production, i n order to
survi ve, was forced to anni h i l ate the negati on whi ch under
mi ned i t. The prol etari at whi ch is outsi de of soci ety, as Marx
and Engels say i n The German Ideology, i s i ncreasi ngl y
i ntegrated i nto soci ety; i t i s i ntegrated to the extent that i t
struggl es for suri val , for rei nforcement; the more i t organi zes
i tsel f, the more i t becomes reformist. It succeeds, wi th the
German Soci al ist Party, i n for mi ng a counter-soci ety whi ch is
fi na l l y absorbed by the soci ety of capi tal , and the negat i ng
movement of the prol etari at is over.
Di dn't Kautsky, Bernstei n and Leni n si mpl y recogni ze
the real i ty of the workers' movement when they decl ared
that i t was necessary to u ni te it wi th the soci a l ist movement:
"The workers' movement and soci al ism are i n no way
i denti cal by natu re" (Kautsky)?
Doesn't Leni n's discredi ted statement that the p ro
l etari at, l eft to itsel f, can onl y attai n trade-union consci ous
ness, descri be the truth about the cl ass bou nd to capi tal ? It
1 6
Marx, Eary Writings, London: Pelican, 1 974, pp. 401 -420.
1 7
Which proves that it was impossible to hol d on to a "classist"
discours and behavior while maintaining the basic "aclassist" thesis of
the neessity of the proletariat's sel f-neation.
can be criticized only from the standpoint of the distinction,
made by Marx in The Poverty of Philosophy, between class as
object of capital and class as subject. Without a revolutionary
upheaval the proletariat cannot beome a subject. The
process through which it was to become a subject implied an
outside, external consciousness, which at a given moment
would become incarnated in the proletariat. This conscious
ness coming from the outside is the most reified, the most
estranged form of repressi ve consci ousness! Consequently,
the poi nt is not to rehash the debate and return to Marx, but
to recognize that the cycle of the prol etarian cl ass is now
over, first of al l because its goal s have been real ized, secondl y
because i t is no l onger t he determinant i n the g l obal context.
We have reached the end of the historical cycl e duri ng which
humanity (especial ly the part situated in the West) moved
withi n class societies. Capital has real ized the negation of
cl asses-by means of mystification, since it retains the
confl icts and col lisions which characterize the existence of
cl asses. The real ity i s the despotism of capi tal . It i s capital we
must now face, not the past.
Al most al l socia l democrats were aware of the divorce
between the real , reformist movement of the working cl ass
and the social ist goal . Bernstei n procl ai med that it was
necessary to adapt once and for a l l , cl ear l y and straight
forwardl y, not hypocritical l y ( l ike the majority of the social
ists) by maki ng revol utionary procl amations i n order to hide
compromises. 1 8 At the same time, i t became i ncreasi ngl y

0n this subject, se the book by H. Mueller published in
92, De Klasenkampf in der Deutshen Sozialdemokratie, Verlags
kooperative Heidelberg- Frankfurt-Hanover-Berlin, 1969. This book
clearly shows the duality-duplicity of men like Bebel, who expressd
themslves as "rightiss" in parliament and as "leftiss" at workers'
problematic to define and delimit the proletarian class. This
problem became so acute that by the beginning of this
all revolutionaries were trying to define the
in terms of consciousness: Luxemburg, Pannekoek
Lenin, the etc.
Russian revolution merely increased the urgency of
specifying the proletarian class; this is the context of
Korsch's attempts, and especially of Lukacs' History and
Class Consciousness. Later on Bordiga held that the class
should be defi ned i n terms of the mode of production which
it builds. Thus it can be a cl ass for itsel f onl y from the
moment when its actions move toward this goal , onl y to the
extent that it recognizes its program (which descri bes this
mode of production) . For Bordiga, it exists when t he party
exists, because the program can onl y be carried by the party.
"We sti l l need an object, the party, to envision the com
munist society.
, ,
But to the extent that men and women
are abl e to move on their own toward communism, as is
evident amOrg you ng peopl e today, it becomes obvi ous t hat
this object, the party, is not needed.
I n su m, for party as wel l as counci l advocates, the
probl em of action wou l d l argel y be reduced to fi ndi ng a
direct or i ndirect means for ma ki ng the prol etariat receptive
to its own consciousness-si nce i n this view the prol etariat i s
itsel f onl y through its consciousness of itsel f.
meetings, who told one audience it would be very long before the
principles of scialism could be realized, while telling another that
socialism was around the corner. This book is als interesting becaus it
contains positions which were later to be taken up by the KAPD
(German Communist Workers' Party).
Bordiga at meeting in Milan, 1960.
4. Communism
R evo lutionary reformism-the project of creating
socialism on the foundation of capitalism and in continuity
wi t h t h e c a pita l ist mode of production-disi ntegrated
between 1913 and 1945. I t is the end of what tu rned out to
be an i l l usion: the i l l usion of bei ng abl e to di rect the de
vel opment of the productive forces in a di rection which
differed from the one they had taken in real ity. We can
actual l y agree with Marx's view that after 1848 communism
was possi bl e precisel y because the irruption of the capita l ist
mode of production had broken a l l soci al and natural barriers
and made free devel opment possi bl e. But the mental ity, the
representations of peopl e were such that they cou l d neither
concieve nor perceive such a future. They were too de
pendent on the mi l l enari an movement of val ue, or they were
too debi l itated by the limitations of the perverted remai ns of
thei r ancient communities, to be abl e to set out on a new
path to reach another community. Even Marx and E ngel s
ul ti matel y considered capital isl a neessary moment, and
thought that al l human beings everywhere wou l d i nevitabl y
come to experience it. Onl y the revol ts of the Russian
popu l ists, and their desire to avoid the capital ist road, made
u nderstand hi s error. But thi s recognition was in
sufficient. From the middl e of the 1 9th centu ry, with the
justi fication provi ded by Marxi st theory (the theory of the
prol etari at) , al l hu manity set out to wander: to devel op
producti ve forces.
If we can no longer accept Marx's theoretical analysis
of the role of the productive forces, we can nevertheless agree
with him after a detour. Capital enslaves humanity in the
very name of humanity because it is anthropomorphized.
This is nothing other than the reign of death. Human beings
are dominated by their past being, while they contemplate it.
It is a process which continually starts over again. Capital
penetrates thought, consciousness, and thus destroys human
beings such as they have been produced by centuries of cl ass
society. Their l oss of substance is the loss of their former
being, which capital has pumped out of them. Si nce this
process is al most over, capital is now turning from its attack
against the past dimension of h u manity to an attack agai nst
its future dimension: it must now conquer imagi nation. The
human being is t hus despoi led and tends to be reduced to t he
biol ogical dimension. The phenomenon reaches t he roots. I n
other words, t he devel opment of productive forces appears to
have been necessary for the destruction of old schemas,
modes of thought, archaic representations which l imited
human bei ngs ( thi s destruction i s now bei ng anal yzed by
phi l osophers l ike Foucau l t) . Threatened in their purel y
biol ogical existence, human bei ngs are begi nni ng to rise
against capital . It is at this poi nt that everythi ng can be
re-conquered by general ized creation. But this becoming is
not simpl e, u ni li near. Capital can sti l l profit from the
creativity of hu man bei ngs, regenerating and resubstan
tial izi ng itsel f by pl u nderi ng thei r imagi nations. The im
portance and profu ndity of the struggl e can be grasped i n the
face of the al ternative: commu nism or destruction of the
human species. And it shou l d not be forgotten that duri ng
the wandering various revol utionary movements l ooked for
an exit and various possibilities were blocked; they can now
manifest themselves.
We have to stop and destroy the repressive
which inhibits the emergence of communism.
do this we have to
prolongation the mode of and stop
thinking it is enough to suppress exchange value and make
use value triumphant. This dichotomy no longer signifies
anythi ng. Use value i s ti ed to value even if it revolves arou nd
the pri ncipl e of uti l i ty i nstead of productivi ty; related to the
direct domi nation of h u ma n bei ngs, it is i nseparable from
pri vate property.
Absol ute i rreversi bi l i ty i s not a fact of hi story. Possi bi l i ti es
whi ch appeared thousa nds or hundres of years ago were not abol i shed
for a l l ti me. Hi story i s not a Mol och whi ch swa l l ows possi bi l i ti es,
condemni ng the human future to an i nevi tabl e and i rremedi abl e de
spoli ation. I n that case hi story wou l d be no more than a j usti fi cati on
for what happened. Many woul d l i ke to reduce hi story to t hi s, maki ng
it the worst of despots.
Hegel ' s p h i l o so p h y wi t h i t s di alecti c of supersessi on
(Aufhebung), of movement whi ch abol i shes a nd preserves at one and the
sme ti me, was an attempt to sal vage what human bei ngs had produced
in earlier epochs. Hegel was troubl ed by the probl ems of l oss of real ity,
of the mul ti pli ci ty of mani festati ons and possi bl es, etc. Thus he
attached enormous i mportance to memory ( see parti cu l arl y the chapter
"Abslute Knowledge, " i n the Phenomenolog
of Mind. )
By contrast, the movement of capital aboli shes the memory of
its previ ous stages (by mystifi cation and magic) as wel l as the stages of
humanity, and presnts itself, as it is, at its highes level of devel op
ment-the "reified (or ossified) form" ( See Marx, Theries of Surplus
Value, [ Mosow: 1971] , Vol. I I I , chapter on " Revenue and i ts Sources.
Vulgar Political Economy. "
Communism is not a new mode of production
; it is
the affirmation of a new community. It is a question of
The concept of mode of production is in reality valid for
mode of as the concept of class is in
The concept of
in attributes. I t becomes impoverished
when we move from the 184 Manusripts and The German Ideology
to Capital. I t is closely related to the concept of nature and also t o a
certai n conception of the human being. I n other words, we have a much
more compl ex "given" when we can examine it onl y in rel ation to the
existence of initial communist communities and their dissolution. The
separation of the human being from the community (Gemeinwen) is a
despoliation. The humn being as worker has lost a mound of attributes
which formed a whole when he was related to his community.
The process of expropriation of human beings is real . Those
who do not understand this do not understand what capital is. Man has
been reduced to an inexpressive being; he has lost his senses, and his
activity has been reduced to quantified labor . Man tur ned into abstract
being longs for music which still preserves the ancestral sensuality (thus
the vogue of jazz and South American music) . The reduced human
being now has only one element relating hi m to the external world:
sexuality which fills the void of the senses. I t is precisely this which
explains the pan-sexuality, or more exactly the pansexualization of
being which Freud i nterpreted as an i nvariant characteristic of human
beings, whereas i t is the result of their mutilation. What is the sub
conscious if not the affective- sensual life of the human bei ng repressed
by capital? The human being has to be domesticated, shaped to a
rationality which he must internalize-the rationality of the process of
production of capital. Once this domestication is achieved, the human
being i s dispossessed of this repressed snsual life which becomes an
objet of knowledge, of science; i t becomes capitalizable. The un
conscious, beoming an obj ect of commerce, is thinly sliced and re
tailed in the market of knowledge. The unconscious did not always
exis, and it exists now only as a component in the discourse of capital;
this is also true of human perversions.
Reuced to perfect inexpressivity, the human being increasingly
beome comparable point by point to the elementary particle studied
by nuclear physics, where one can find the principles of the psychology
of the capitalized human being who is moved by the field of capital.
being, of life, if only becau se there is a fundamental dis
placement: from generated activity to the living being who
produced it. Until now men and women have been alienated
by this production. They will not mastery over pro
duction, but will create new relations among themselves
which will determine an entirely different activity.
Nor is communism a new society.
2 2
Society grows out
of the subjugation of some ethnic groups by others, or out of
the formation of cl asses. Society is the networ k of social
rel ations which quickl y become despotic i ntermediaries. Man
i n soiety is man ensl aved by society.
Communism puts an end to castes, cl asses and the
division of l abor ( onto which was grafted the movement of
val ue which i n tu rn ani mates and exal ts this division) . Com
munism is first of al l u nion. I t is not domination of natu re
but reconci l iation, and thus regeneration of natu re: human
beings no l onger treat natu re s i mpl y as an objet for thei r
devel opment, as a usefu l thi ng, but as a subj ect ( not i n the
phi l osophic sense) not separate from them i f onl y because
natu re is in them. The natu ral ization of man and the
1 t is also unsound to speak of primitive society. We will
subsantiate this by making a new analysis of primitive communities. I f
it i s true that Marx's work does not deal adequately with the existence,
development and dissolution of primitive communities, it is not true
that Marx is absolutely wrong beause of Europocentrism or the spirit
of enlightenment, namely that his work suffers from the same short
comins as bourgeois theory. The majority of those who hold this view
have ot understood the question of community in Marx's work and
have reduced his work to a simple hisorical materialism.
What Marx's work lacks is a detailed analysis of the way "the
eonomy" appears in primitive communities and provokes their dis
We should add that it is becoming increasingly misleading to
speak of capitalist sciety. We will return to this.
humanization of nature (Marx) are realized; the dialectic of
subject and object ends.
What follows is the destruction of urbanization and
the formation of a multitude of communities distributed over
the earth. This implies the suppression of monoculture,
another form of division of labor, and a complete trans
formation of the transportation system: transportation will
di mi ni sh consi derably. Only a communal (communi tari an)
mode of l i fe can al low the h u man bei ng to rule his re
producti on, to l i mi t the (at present mad) growth of popu l a
ti on without resorti ng to despicabl e practi ces (such as
destroyi ng men and women).
The domination of one group over another, the soci ety
of classes, ori gi nates in the sedentari zation of the hu man
bei ng. We sti l l l i ve wi th the myths generated at the ti me of
this fixati on somewhere i n our mother-earth: myths of the
homel and, the forei gner; myths which l imi t the visi on of the
world, whi ch mutil ate. It is obvi ous that the reacti on cannot
be a retu rn to a nomadism of a type practi ced by ou r distant
a ncestors who were gatherers. Men and women wi ll acqu i re a
new mode of bei ng beyond nomadism and sedentarism.
Sedentary lives compou nded by corporeal i nactivity are the
root cause of al most al l the somatic and psychological i l l
nesses of present-day human bei ngs. An active and unfixed
l i fe wi l l cure all these probl ems without medi ci ne or
psychi atry.
The passage to communism i mpl ies a transformati on of
technique. Technology is not a neutral thing; i t is determined
by the mode of producti on. I n the West, more than else
wh e r e , t h e various modes of producti on i ncreasi ngl y
separated human beings from technol ogy, which was origi nal
l y no more than a modal i ty of human bei ng. The cal l for a
convenient technol ogy is a cal l for a technology whi ch is
again a prolongation of the human being and not an
autonomous thing at the service of an oppressive being. 23
Human beings in communism cannot be defined as
simple users; this would be communism conceived as a ter
restrial paradise where people dispose of what there is with
such immediacy that human beings are indistinguishable from
nature (man, as Hegel said in this context, would be an
animal). Human beings are creators, producers, users. The
entire process is reconstituted at a higher level, and for every
individual. I n relations between individuals, the other is no
1 n primitive communities human beings rul e technol ogy.
Technol ogy starts to become autonomous in ancient Western society,
and this was feared by the ancients. Technol ogy forces man to copy
nature, even if later he can find a procedure not found in nature; thus
he is subj ected to a compul sry procedure, a how-to-do, a sort of
natural order. He seems to l ose the capacity to create freel y. ( On this
subject, see the comments of J.P. Vernant in M
the et penso chez les
gres, Ed. Maspero. ) When human beings no longer fear tehnol ogy,
they simultan
ousl y become reconci l ed with art, which had been
disparaged at the end of sl ave sciety. This took pl ace at the time of the
Renaissance, when phi l
sophers defined man as a being who makes
himsl f (See Cassirer, Individual and Cosmos in Renaisance Phio
) . But the devel opment of technol ogy did not l ead man toward
nature; on the contrary, it l ed to the expropriation of man and the
destruction of nature. The human being increasingl y loses the facul ty of
creativity. In this sense, the fear of the ancients was justified.
From the phi l osphers of the Renaissance, through Descartes
and Hegel , to Marx, the human being is define in rel ation to tech
nol ogy (man is a tool-maker : Franklin) and to production. To go
beyond Marx, it is necessry to re-examine the "human phenomenon"
from the disintegration of primitive communities until today and to
rethink the works of philosophers and economists from Aristotle to
Marx in order to undersand more cl earl y how human beings perceived
themsl ves in a period when val ue and then capital dominate, and in
order to understand how, now that we have come to the end of the
phenomenon value, we can conceive humanity, and thus communism.
longer considered in terms of utility; behavior in terms of
utility ends. The sexes are reconciled while retaining their
differences; they lose the differences and rigid oppositions
produced by millenia of antagonism.
few characteristics should adequately
how the movement of ascent to the human community can
be conceived.
We are all slaves of capital. Liberation begins with the
refusal to perceive onesel f i n terms of the categories of
capital , namel y as prol etarian, as member of the new middl e
cl ass, as capital ist, etc. Thus we al so stop perceiving the
other-i n his movement toward l iberation-in terms of those
same categories. At this poi nt the movement of recognition
of human bei ngs can begi n. This is obviousl y onl y the begi n
ning of the l iberation movement, and is conti nual l y threat
ened with fai l ure. Refusing to take this into accou nt denies
the power of capital . What has to be perceived is a dynamic.
We are sl aves; our goal is not to become masters, even
without sl aves, but to abol is h the entire dial ectic of master
and sl ave. This goal cannot be real ized by the establ is hment
of communities which, al ways isol ated, are never an obstacl e
to capital , can easi l y be surrou nded by capital , and are no
more than deviations i n rel ation to its nor m (deviations
which make that norm visi bl e for what it is) . Nor can the goal
be reached by t he cul tivation of one's individual bei ng, i n
which one woul d fi nal l y fi nd t he real human bei ng. I n real i ty
these approaches shou l d be connected. Perceiving onesel f as a
human bei ng u nshackl ed by any attributes al ready removes
the dog col l ar imposed by cl ass society. The desi re for com
muni ty is absol utel y necessary. The reaffirmation of i n
divi dual i ty (especial l y i n i ts temporal aspect) is a rej ection of
domesti cation. But t his is i nadequate even as a first el ement
of rebel l ion; the human being is an individual ity and a
Gemeinwesen. The reduction of the human bei ng to hi s
present inexpressive state could take place only because of
the removal of Gemeinwesen, of the possibility for each
individual to absorb the universal, to embrace the entirety of
human relations within the entirety of time. The varied
religions, ilosophies and theories are mere substitutes for
this essential component of human being. Since communism
i s the death of sameness, of repeti tion, human bei ngs will
emerge in all thei r diversity; Gemeinwesen will be affirmed
by each. This implies that as of now we reject the despotism
of a rel igion, a phi l osophy, a theory.
The refusal to be trapped by a theory is not a rejection
of a l l theoretical refl ection. It is just the opposite. But this
refusal does postu l ate that the theoretical act is insufficient.
Theory can cal l for the reconci l iation of senses and brai n but
it remai ns withi n the bou dari es of this separation. What must
be affi r med is the whol e of l i fe, the entirety of its manifesta
tions, the whol e unified bei ng. It may sti l l be necessary to
proceed with the hel p of Marx's i nsights, for exampl e, but it
becomes increasi ngl y imbeci l e to procl aim onesel f a Marxist.
F u rt hermore, l ike repressive consciousness, theory can
become a simpl e al ibi for inaction. At the start, the refusal to
act might be perfectl y j ustifiabl e. Neverthel ess, separation
from real ity often l eads to fai l ure to perceive new pheno
mena which shape it. At that point theory, i nstead of hel pi ng
establ ish contact with real ity, becomes an agent of separa
tion, of removal , and in the end is transformed into a pro
trusion, an ej ection from the worl d. Waiting is particul ar l y
diff i cul t for those who do not want to recogni ze that others
can arri ve at theory wi thout us, our group, or ou r party as
intermediaries. Theory, l i ke consciousness, demands ob
j ectification to such an extent that even an i ndivi dual who
rej ects pol itical rackets can el evate theory to the status of a
racket. In a su bject posing as revolutionary, theory is a
despotism: everyone should recognize this.
After the domination of the body by the mind for
more than two millenia, it is obvious that is still a
of this domination.
It is the whole of life that becomes determining. All
the varied productions of the past-art, philosophy, science
are fragments. They are elements of the vast despol iation of
hu man beings as well as attempts to remedy it. But t he point
is no longer to realize art or philosophy; capital has already
done this in its way; the poi nt is to conquer and create
another world: a world where all the biological potentialities
of the species can fi nally develop. I n this vast movement, it is
futil e to want to present oneself as the repository of truth.
First of all truth, like value, needs a measure, a standard, a
general equival ent, a norm, hence a State. Secondly, truth is
never more than one truth. The historical i nflation of this
concept parallels the ever more thorough destruction of
hu man bei ngs. Nothi ng less can be proposed than another life
where the gestures, the words, the imaginations and all the
feel ings of human bei ngs will no longer be chai ned, where
senses and brai n will u nite-onl y this u nion can eliminate all
the fixations of madness. It is obvious that all this can onl y
be conquered by the destruction of the capitalist mode of
production. It i s al l of humanity perceived through time that
is hosti l e to capital. Hu man bei ngs wi l l have to u ndergo a
profound revol utionization to be able to oppose capital; the
actions of this movement are accompanied by the production
of revol utionaries.
The emergence of revol ution in al l the domai ns of our
lives l eads some peopl e to overemphasize the pl aces where
they fel t this emergence.
Revolution does not emerge from one or another part
of our being-from body, space or time. Our revolution as a
project to reestablish community was necessary from the
moment when ancient communities were destroyed. The
reduction of to an which was
to resolve the contradictions posed by the capitalist mode of
production was perniciou s. Revolution has to resolve all the
old contradictions created by the class societies absorbed by
capital, all the contradictions between relatively primitive
communities and the movement of exchange val ue cu rrentl y
bei ng absorbed by the movement of capital ( in Asia and
especial l y i n Africa) . Beyond this, the revol utionary move
ment is the revol uti on of natu re, accession to thought, and
mastery of bei ng with the possibi l ity of using t he prefrontal
centers of the brain which are thought to rel ate to the
imagination. Revol ution has a biol ogical and therefore cosmic
dimension, consideri ng our u niverse l imited ( to the sol ar
system) ; cosmic a l so i n t he meani ng of t he ancient phi l o
sophers and flystics. This means that revol ution is not onl y
the object of t he passion of ou r epoch, but al so that of
mil l ions of human bei ngs, starti ng with ou r ancient ancestors
who rebel l ed agai nst the movement of exchange val ue which
they saw as a fatal ity, passi ng through Marx and Bordiga
who, i n thei r dimension as p rophets, witnessed this inex
tinguishabl e passion to fou nd a new community, a human
community. Wanti ng t o situate t he revol ution is l ike wanti ng
to fix its height. Sa i nt-J ust said that revol ution cou l d not
stop unti l happi ness was real ized, thus showing the fal sity of
wanting to j udge men i n terms of the purel y historical
material facts of a given epoch. The huma n being is never a
pure bei ng-there. He can onl y be by supersedi ng and he
cannot be onl y that which has to be superseded ( Nietzsche) .
Structural l y and biol ogical l y man is a supersession because h e
is an overpowerful being. In other words, human beings are
explorers of the possible and are not content with the im
mediately realizable, especially if it is imposed on them. They
lose this passion, this thirst for creation-for what is the
search for the possible if not invention?-when they are
debased, estranged, cut off from their Gemeinwesen and
therefore mutilated, reduced to simple individuals. It is only
with the real domination of the capitalist mode of produc
tion that the human bei ng is completely evacuated.
Al l the revol utions of the species are revolutions which
try to go beyond the present moment, beyond what is
p e r mi t t 0O b y t h e devel opment of productive forces
(Bordiga) . This reach beyond the possibl e is what constitutes
the conti nuity among the human generations, j ust as the
perspective of communism conceived as the destruction of
cl asses, exchange, and val ue constitutes the conti nuity among
the varied revol utionari es; this is what, fol lowi ng Marx, we
cal l the historical party.
The struggl e agai nst reduction of the ampl itude of the
revol ut ion is al ready a revol utionary struggl e. The reader
shou l d not be astonished if to support this ampl itude we
refer to authors cl assi ca l l y tagged rel igious, mystical , etc.
What matters is the reappropri ation of Geminwesen (and
past bei ngs are part of it) , whi ch can onl y be done after the
uni fication of the species, and this u nification can onl y be
conceived by graspi ng the aspiration, desire, passion and wil l
for commu nity expressed through the ages. The human being
can "mul taneousl y be a Gemeinwesen onl y if humanity l ives
in commu nity. As soon as fragmentation appears, the need to
recompose a u nity emerges. I n the West this u n ity had a
"Origine et fonction de la forme parti" ( 1 961 ), publ ished in
Invariance, No. 1 , Serie I.
mediate and coercive form: the individual was defined by the
State; knowledge was a means for hierarchization and for
justification of the established order; the vicious circle of
practicetheory emerged.
Communist revolution is complete revolution. Bio
logical, sexual, social, economic revolutions are no more than
partial attributes ; the predominance of one is a mutilation of
revol uti on, whi ch can onl y be by bei ng al l .
Communi st revol uti on can be concei ved onl y i f i t i s
grasped through the hi story and pal eontol ogy of human
bei ngs as wel l as a l l other l ivi ng bei ngs. By graspi ng thi s we
become aware that, i f thi s revol uti on has l ong been necessary,
i t can now be rea l i zed. Ear l i er i t was possi bl e but not u n
avoi dabl e. There were sti l l other "human" paths i n that they
sti l l a l l owed a human devel opment; speci fi cal l y, they a l l owed
the external i zati on of human powers. Now al most everythi ng
has been external i zed and pl undered by capi tal , whi ch de
scri bes the onl y path other than communi st revol uti on: the
total negati o
of human bei ngs. Therefore we must under
stand our worl d; we must u nderstand the despoti sm of
capi ta l and the movement of rebel l i on breaki ng out agai nst i t.
Thi s act of u nderstandi ng whi ch i s taki ng pl ace not onl y
i ntel l ectual l y but al so sensual l y (the rebel l i on i s t o a l arge
extent bodi l y rebel l i on) can onl y be reached by rejecti ng the
wanderi ng and the repressive consci ousness.
| |
Decline of the Capital ist Mode of Production
or Decline of Humanity?
i t has often been thought and wri tten that communi sm
would blossom after the destruction of the capi tal ist mode of
production, whi ch would be u ndermined by such contra
dicti ons that i ts end wou l d be i nevitabl e. But numerous
events of this century have unfortu natel y brought other
possi bil i ti es i nto view: the return to "barbari sm, " as anal yzed
by R. Luxembu rg and the enti re left wing of the German
workers' movement, by Adorno and the Frankfu rt School ;
the destructi on of the human speci es, as is evident to each
a nd a l l today; final l y a state of stagnation in which the
capital ist mode of production su rvives by adapti ng itsel f to a
degenerated hu manity which l acks the power to destroy it. I n
order t o understand the fai l u re of a futu re that was thought
i nevitabl e, we must take i nto accou nt the domestication of
hu man beings i mpl emented by al l cl ass societies and mai nl y
by capital , and we must anal yze t he autonomization of
capital .
We do not intend t o treat these historical deviations
exhaustivel y i n a few pages. By commenti ng on a passage i n
Marx's Grundrisse we can show that it is possibl e to under
stand the autonomization of capital on the basis of Marx's
work, and we can a lso see the contradictions in Marxi st
thought and its inabi l ity to sol ve the probl em. The passage is
from the chapter on the process of circu l ati on. To under
stand it, we shou l d keep in mind what Marx had said shortl y
before this passage:
"Circul ation time thus appears as a barrier to the
productivity of l abour an increase in necessary
labour time a decrease in surplus labour time a
decrease in surplus value an obstruction, a barrier to
the self-realization process [Selbstverwertungsprozess}
of capita! . "l
Here Marx makes an extremely important digression :
"There appears here the u niversal izi ng tendency of
capital , which disti nguishes it from al l previous stages
of production, and t hus becomes the presupposition of
a new mode of production, which is fou nded not on
the devel opment of the forces of production for the
purpose of reproduci ng or at most expandi ng a given
condition, but where the free, u nobstructed, pro
gressive and u niversal devel opment of the forces of
production is itsel f the presupposition of society and
hence of its reproduction; where advance beyond the
poi nt of departu re is the onl y presupposition. "
What makes capital a barrier is not stated here, whereas
its revol utionary, positive aspect is emphasized (this aspect is
emphasized on many other pages of the Grundrisse, and of
Capital) : the tendency toward u niversal devel opment of the
forces of production. However, and this is what interests u s
here, capital cannot real ize th i s; i t wi l l be the task of another,
superior mode of production. The futu re of society here
takes the form of an i ndefi nite, cumu l ative movement.
"This tendency-which capital possesses, but which at
the same time, since capi tal is a l i mi ted form of pro-
Marx, Grundriss, London: Pelican, 1973, p. 539.
2/bid. , p. 540.
duction, contradicts it and hence drives it towards
dissolution-distinguishes capital from all earlier modes
of production, and at the same time contains this
element, that is posited as a mere point of
transition. "3
Hence capital is driven towards dissolution by this
contradiction. It is a pity that Marx did not here mention
what he u nderstands by " l imited form of production, " si nce
this keeps us from "seeing" cl earl y what he means by contra
diction in this specific case. This conditions the under
standi ng of the statement that the capital ist mode of pro
duction is a transitory form of production. Even without an
expl anation of the contradiction, we can u nderstand it as
fol lows: the capita l ist mode of production is not eternal
-Marx's pol emical argu ment against the bourgeois ideo
l ogues. This is the content of his mai n statements. B ut
another argu ment is embedded i n the precedi ng one: the
capital ist mooe of production is revol utionary and makes
possibl e the passage tp another, superior social form where
human beings wi l l no l onger be dominated by the sphere of
necessity (the sphere of the production of material l ife) and
where a l ienation wi l l cease to exist.
Today, after the bl ossoming of Marxism as a theory of
devel opment, another part of th is sentence appears basic:
there is a conti nu u m between the two periods. What is a
transition if not the opposite of a break? This continu u m
consists of the devel opment of the forces of production.
From which fol l ows the shamefu l but real rel ationship:
Marx-Leni n-Stal in! But this is not our topic. Our aim is to
determine what constitutes the productive forces and for
whom they exist, accordi ng to Marx in the Grundrisse.
"All previous forms of society-or, what is the same, of
the forces of social production-foundered on the
development of wealth, "
Wealth resides in the productive forces and in the
results of their action, There is a contradiction here which,
according to Marx, characterizes the totality of human
hi story: weal th is necessary and therefore sought, but i t
destroys soci eti es. Soci eti es must therefore oppose its de
vel opment. Thi s i s not the case i n the capi tal i st mode of
production (it thu s destroys a l l other soci al formations) ,
whi ch exal ts the productive forces, but for whom?
"Those thi nkers of anti qu i ty who were possessed of
consci ousness therefore di rectl y denou nced weal th as
the di ssol uti on of the communi ty fGemeinwesenJ.
The feudal system, for i ts part, fou ndered on u rban
i ndustry, trade, modern agri cul tu re (even as a resu l t of
i ndi vi dual i nventi ons l i ke gu npowder and the print ing
press). Wi th th' devel opment of weal th-and hence
al so new powers and expanded i ntercou rse on the part
of i ndi vi dual s-the economi c condi ti ons on whi ch the
communi ty fGemeinwesenJ rested were di ssol ved,
al ong wi th the pol i ti cal rel ati ons of the vari ous con
sti tuents of the communi ty whi ch corresponded to
those condi ti ons: rel i gi on, i n whi ch i t was vi ewed i n
i deal i zed form (and both [ rel i gi on and pol i tical re
l ati ons] rested in tu rn on a given rel ati on to natu re,
i nto whi ch al l productive force resol ves i tsel f); the
character, out l ook, etc. of the i ndi vi dual s. The de
vel opment of sci ence al one-Le. the most sol i d form of
weal th, both i ts product and i ts producer-was suf-
ficient to dissolve these communities. But the devel op
ment of science, this ideal and at the same time
practical wealth, is only one aspect, one form in which
the devel opment of the human productive forces, Le.
of wealth, appears. Considered ideal l y, the
a given form 'of consciousness sufficed to kill a
whole epoch. I n reality, th is barrier to consciousness
corresponds to a defi ni te degree of devel opment of the
forces of materi al producti on and hence of weal th .
True, there was not on l y a devel opment on the ol d
basi s, but al so a devel opment of this basis itsel f. "5
For Marx, the producti ve forces are human ( from the
human bei ng) a nd they are for the human bei ng, for the
i ndi vi dual . Sci ence as a producti ve force ( thus a l so weal th, as
was al ready shown i n the Io44 Manuscripts and i n The
German Ideology) is determi ned by the devel opment of these
forces and corresponds to the appearance of a l arge nu mber
of external i zati ons, a greater possi bi l i ty to appropri ate
nature. Even i f i t takes an ambi guous form, the bl ossomi ng of
the human bei ng i s possi bl e; it i s the moment when, i n the
devel opment of the domi nant cl ass, i ndivi dual s can fi nd a
model of a fu l l er l i fe. For Marx, the capi ta l i st mode of
producti on, by push i ng the devel opment of productive
forces, makes possi bl e a l i berati ng autonomi zati on of the
i ndivi dual . Thi s i s i ts most i mportant revol uti onary aspect.
"The hi ghest devel opment of thi s basis itsel f (the
fl ower i nto wh i ch i t transforms itsel f; but i t i s always
thi s basi s, this p l ant as fl ower; hence wi l ti ng after the
fl oweri ng and as a consequence of the f l ower i ng) i s the
poi nt at which i t i s itsel f worked out, devel oped, i nto
/bid. , pp. 5
- 5
the form in which it is compatible with the hi ghest
devel opment of the forces of producti on, hence also
the richest development of the individuals. As soon as
this point is reached, the further development appears
and the new begins a new
There is decay because the development of individuals
is blocked. It is not possi bl e to use this sentence to support
the theory of the decl i ne of the capi tal ist mode of
producti on
si nce it wou l d have to be stated that the dec l i ne
started, not at the begi nni ng of th is centu ry, but mi ni mal l y i n
the mi ddl e of the previ ous centu ry; or else i t wou l d have to
be shown that the decl i ne of i ndivi dual s is si mu l taneousl y the
decl i ne of capi tal , whi ch contradi cts what can be observed;
Marx hi msel f repeatedl y expl ai ned that the devel opment of
capital was accompani ed by the destructi on of h u man bei ngs
and of natu re.
When di d the devel opment of producti ve forces ac
company the devel opment of i ndivi dual s in di fferent
soci eti es? When was the capital ist mode of producti on revol u
ti onary for i tsel f and for h u man bei ngs? Do the producti ve
forces advance conti nual l y, i n spite of moments when
i ndi vi dual s decay? Marx sai d: " . . . the fu rther devel opment
appears as decay . . . " Do the productive forces stagnate; does
the capi tal ist mode of producti on decay?
6,bid. , p. 541.
As is done by Victor i n Revolution Interationale No. 7, serie
I , p. 4 of the article "Volontarisme et confusion."
Various authors have spoken of stagnation and declining
production between the two worl d wars. Bordiga always rejected the
theory of the decline of the capital ist mode of production as a gradual
ist deformation of Marx's theory (see "Le renversement de la praxis
dans la theorie marxiste," in Invariance No. 4, srie I.
The remainder of Marx' s digression confirms that the
decay refers to human beings. Individuals blossom when the
productive forces allow them to develop, when the evolution
of one parallels the evolution of the other. By means of a
comparison with the pre-capitalist period, Marx shows that
capital is not hostile to wealth but, on the contrary, takes u p
its production. Thus it takes u p the development of pro
ductive forces. Previously the development of human bei ngs,
of thei r community, was opposed to the devel opment of
wea l th ; now there is somethi ng l ike symbiosis between them.
For this to happen, a certai n mutati on was necessary: capi tal
had to destroy the l imited character of the indivi dual ; this is
another aspect of its revol utionary character.
"We saw earl ier that property in the conditions of
production was posited as identical with a l imited,
defi nite form of the community [GemeinwesenJ; hence
of the indivi dual with the characteristics-l im ited
characteristics and l imited devel opment of his produc
tive forces-required to form such a commun i ty
[GemeinwesenJ. This presupposition was itsel f in turn
the resu l t of a l imited historic stage of the devel op
ment of the productive forces, of weal th as wel l as the
mode of creati ng it. The purpose of the community
[GemeinwesenJ, of the i ndividual -as wel l as the
condition of production-is the reproduction of these
spcific conditi ons of producti on and of the in-
dividual s, both singl y and in thei r soci al groupi ngs and
rel ations-as l ivi ng carriers of these conditions. Capi tal
posits t he producti on of wealth itsel f and hence the
u niversal devel opment of the productive forces, the
constant overthrow of i ts prevai l i ng presuppositions, as
the presuppositi on of its reproducti on. Val ue excl udes
no use value; i. e. includes no particular kind of
consumption etc. , of intercourse etc. as absolute con
dition; and likewise every degree of the development
the social forces of production, of intercourse, of
knowledge etc. appears to it only as a barrier which it
strives to overpower.
, ,
This passage has momentous consequences. There is no
reference to the prol etariat; it is the revol utionary role of
capital to overthrow the prevai l i ng presuppositions. Marx h ad
a l ready sid this, i n a more stri king manner:
"It is destructive towards a l l of this, and constantl y
revol utioni zes i t, teari ng down al l the barriers which
hem in the devel opment of the forces of production,
the expansi on of needs, the a l l-sided devel opment of
production, and the expl oi tati on and exchange of
natural and menta l forces. "
1 o
We are forced U take a new approach toward the
manner i n which Marx situated the prol etari an cl ass i n the
context of the conti nual u pheaval carri ed out by the capital
i st mode of producti on. What i s i mmedi atel y evi dent is that
the capital ist mode of producti on i s revol utionary i n rel ati on
to the destruction of ancient soci al rel ations, and that the
prol etari at is defi ned as revol uti onary i n rel ation to capital .
But i t i s at th is poi nt that the probl em begi ns: capital i sm i s
revol ut i onary because i t devel ops t he productive forces; the
prol etari at cannot be revol uti onary i f, after its revol uti on, i t
devel ops or al l ows a di fferent devel opment of the producti ve
forces. How can we tangi bl y di sti ngu i sh the revol uti onary
9Marx, Grundris, p. 5
/bid. , p.
role of one from that of the other? How can we j ustify the
destruction of the capitalist mode of production by the
proletariat? This cannot be done in a narrowly economic
context. Marx never faced this problem because he was
absolutely certain that the proletarians would rise against
capital. But we have to confront this problem if we are going
to emerge from the impasse created by our acceptance of the
theory accordi ng to whi ch the producti on rel ati ons come
i nto confl i ct wi th the devel opment of the producti ve forces
(forces whi ch were postu l ated to exi st for the hu man bei ng,
si nce if thi s were not the case, why wou l d human bei ngs
rebel?) I f the producti ve forces do not exi st for human bei ngs
but for capi tal , and i f they confl i ct with producti on rel ati ons,
then thi s means that these rel ati ons do not provi de the
proper structu re to the capi tal i st mode of producti on, and
therefore there can be revol uti on whi ch i s not for human
bei ngs (for exampl e, t he general phenomenon whi ch i s cal l ed
fasci sm) . Consequentl y cap i tal escapes. In the passage we are
exami ni ng, Marx makes a remarkabl e statement about the
domi nati on of capi tal :
" Its own presuppositi on-val ue-i s posited as product,
not as a l ofti er presu ppositi on hoveri ng over produc
ti on.
, ,
Capi tal domi nates val ue. Si nce l abor is the substance of
val ue, it follows that capi tal domi nates human bei ngs. Marx
refers onl y i ndi rectl y to the presuppositi on whi ch is al so a
product: wage l abor, namel y the exi stence of a l abor force
whi ch makes val ori zati on possi bl e:
1 1
/bid. , p. 541 .
"The barrier to O0| t0| is that this entire developmnt
proceeds in a contradictory way, and that the work
ingout of the productive forces, of general wealth etc. ,
knowledge etc. , appears in such a way that the working
individual 0| | 0n0t0himself [sich enUussert]; relates to
the conditions brought out of him by his labor as those
not of his own but of an al ien wealth and of his own
, , 1 2
How can thi s be a l i mit for capital? One mi ght suppose
that u nder-consumpti on by the workers causes crises, and the
fi na l crisis. This i s one possi bi l ity; at l east i t appears that way
at certai n ti mes. Marx al ways refused to grou nd a t heory of
cri ses on thi s poi nt, but th is di d not keep h i m from menti on
i ng thi s u nder-consu mpti on. For Marx capital has a barri er
beause i t despoi l s the worki ng i ndivi dual . We shou l d keep i n
mi nd that he is argu i ng agai nst apol ogists for capital and
wants to show that the capital ist mode of producti on is not
eternal and does not ach i eve hu man emanci pati on. Yet i n the
cou rse of h is anal ys is he poi nts to the possi bi l ity for cap ital
to escape from human condi ti ons. We percei ve that i t i s not
the productive forces that become autonomous, but capital ,
si nce at a gi ven moment t he productive forces become "a
barri er whi ch i t str ives to overpower. " This takes p l ace as
fol l ows: the productive forces a re no l onger producti ve forces
of h uman bei ngs but of capi ta l ; they are for capital .
1 3
The despol i ati on ( al i enati on) of the worki ng i ndivi dual
cannot be a barri er for capital , unl ess Marx means barri er i n
1 2
This is what Marx shows when he analyzes fixed capital in the
Grund and also in Book I of Capital where he analyzes the
transformation of the work process into a process of production of
capital (see als Un chapitre inedit du Capital, Paris: Ed. 10/1 8, 1971 ).
the sense of a weakness; such a weakness would make capital
ism inferior to other modes of production, particularly if we
contrast this weakness to the enormous deelopment of
productive forces which it impels. In Marx's work there is an
ambiguity about the subject to which the productive forces
refer: are they for the human being or for capital? This
ambigui ty grounds two interpretations of Marx. The ethical
interpretation (see especially Ru bel) emphasi zes the extent to
whi ch Marx denou nces the destructi on of the human bei ng
by capi tal , and vi gorousl y i nsi sts that the capi tal i st mode of
producti on can onl y be a transi tory stage. The i nterpretati on
of Al thusser and hi s school hol ds that Marx does not succeed
i n el i mi nati ng the human bei ng from hi s eonomi c anal yses,
whi ch refl ects h i s i nabi l i ty to abandon i deol ogi cal di scou rse,
from whi ch fol l ows Al thusser's probl em of correctl y l ocati ng
the epi stemol ogi cal break.
It is possi bl e to get out of thi s ambi gu i ty. If capi tal
s u cc e e ds i n overcomi ng thi s barri er, i t achi eves ful l
autonomy. Thi s i s why Marx postu l ates that capi tal must
abol i sh i tsel f; thi s abol i ti on fol l ows from the fact that i t
cannot devel op the productive forces for human bei ngs
whi l e i t makes possi bl e a u ni versal , vari ed devel opment
whi ch can onl y be real i zed by a superi or mode of pro
ducti on. Thi s contai ns a contradi cti on: capi tal escapes
from the grasp of hu man bei ngs, but i t must per i sh
because it cannot devel op human productive forces. Thi s
al so contradi cts Marx' s anal ysi s of the destructi on of
h u man bei ngs by capi tal . How can destroyed human
bei ngs rebel ? We can, i f we avoi d these contradi cti ons,
consi der Marx a prophet of the decl i ne of capital , but
then we wi l l not be abl e to u nderstand h i s work or the
present si tuati on. The end of Marx' s digressi on cl ar i fi es
these contradi cti ons.
"But this antithetical form is itself fleeting, and
produces the real conditions of its own suspension.
The resu I t i s: the tendentially and potentially
general development of the forces of production-of
wealth as such-as a basis; likewise, the universality
of intercourse, hence the world market as a basis.
The basis as the possibility of the universal develop
ment of the individual, and the real development of
the i ndivi dual s from t his basis as a constant suspen
sion of its barri er, which is recognized as a barrier,
not taken for a sacred l i mit. Not an i deal or
i ma gined u niversal ity of the i ndivi dual , but the
u niversal ity of his real and idea l rel ations. Hence
al so the grasping of his own history as a process,
and the recognition of nature ( equal l y present as
practica l power over natu re) as his real body. The
process of devel opment itsel f posited and known as the
presupposition of the same. For this, h owever, neces
sary above a l l that the fu l l devel opment of the forces
of producti on has become the conditi on of produc
ti on; and not that specific conditi ons of producti on are
posited as a l imit to the devel opment of the productive
forces. "
If this process is to concern i ndivi dual s, capital has to
be destroyed and the productive forces have to be for human
beings. I n the articl e, . "La KAPD et I e mouvement pro
l etari en,
, ,
we referred to this passage to i ndicate that
the human bei ng is a possi bi l i ty, giving a foundation to the
statement: the revol uti on must be human. This i s i n no way a
Marx, Grundrls, pp. 541 -542.
1 5
/nvariance, Seri e I I , No. 1 .
discourse on the human being conceived as invariant in every
attribute, a conception which wou l d merel y be a restatement
of immutabi l ity human nature. But we have to point
out that this is sti l l since the devel opment of
which, to Marx, wil l take pl ace in
a superior mode of production, is precisel y the same devel op
ment presentl y carried out by capital . The l imit of Marx is
that he concei ved communi sm as a new mode of producti on
where producti ve forces bl ossom. These forces are u n
dou btedl y i mportant, but thei r exi stence at a certai n l evel
does not adequatel y defi ne communi sm.
For Marx, capi ta l overcomes i ts contradi cti ons by
engul fi ng them and by mysti fyi ng real i ty. It can onl y ap
parentl y overcome i ts narrow base, i ts l i mi ted nature whi ch
resi des i n the exchange of capi tal -money agai nst l abor force.
Capi tal must i nevi tabl y come i nto confl i ct wi th thi s pre
supposi ti on; thus Mar speaks of the opposi ti on between
pri vate appropri ati on and soci al i zati on of producti on. Private
appropri ati on of what? Of sur pl us val ue, whi ch presupposes
the prol etari an, and
hus the wage rel ati on. But the ent i re
devel opment of capi tal (and Marx' s own expl anati ons are a
preci ous ai d i n understandi ng it) makes the myst i fi cati on
effecti ve, maki ng capi tal i ndependent of human bei ngs, thus
enabl i ng i t to avoi d the confl i ct wi th i ts presupposi ti on. One
mi ght say that the confl i ct neverthel ess persi sts, as a resul t of
the total process: soi al i zati on. Thi s is true. But the soci al i za
ti on of producti on and of human acti vi ty, the u ni versal
devel opment of the product ive forces and thus the destruc
ti on of the l i mi ted character of the human bei ng-al l thi s was
onl y a possi bl e grou nd for communi sm; i t di d not pose
c o mmuni sm automati cal l y. Furthermore, the acti on of
capi ta l tends consta nt l y to destroy communi sm, or at l east to
i nhi bi t i ts emergence and real izati on. To transform thi s
6 1
possible ground into reality, human interention is necessary.
But Marx himself showed that capitalist production in
tegrates the proletariat. How could the destruction of human
beings and of nature fail to have repercussions on the ability
of human beings to resist capital and, a fortiori, to rebel?
Some will think we are attributing to Marx a position
which is convenient to u s. We will cite an extraordinary
"What preci sel y disti ngu ishes capi tal from the master
serant rel ati on is that the worker confronts [ capi tal ]
as consu mer and possessor of exchange val ues, and that
i n the form of the pssessor of money, i n the form of
money he becomes a si mpl e center of ci rcu l ati on-one
of i ts i nfi ni tel y many centers, i n which h is speci fi ci ty
as worker is exti ngu ished. "
l 6
One of the modal i ti es of the re-absorbti on of the
revol uti onary power of the prol etari at has been to perfect i ts
character as consu mer, thus catch i ng it i n the mesh of capi tal .
The prol etari at ceases to be the cl ass that negates; after the
formati on of the worki ng cl ass i t dissol ves i nto the soci al
body, Marx anti ci pates the poets of the "consu mr soci ety"
and, as i n other i nstances, he expl ai ns a phenomenon whi ch i s
obsered onl y l ater and then fal sel y, i f onl y i n terms of the
name given to i t.
The precedi ng observati ons do not l ead to a fatal isti c
pti on (thi s t i me negati ve) , such as: whatever we do,
there's no way out ; it's too l ate; or any other mi ndl ess
defeati sm whi ch wou l d generate a sickeni ng patch-work
reformi sm. Fi rst we h ave to draw the l esson. Capi tal has run
away from human and natu ral barri ers; human bei ngs have
6Marx Grundrise, pp.
been domesticated: this is their decadence. The revolu tionary
solution cannot be found in the context of a dialectic of
productive forces where the indi vidual wou Id be an element
the contradiction. analyses
prolaim a for human who,
some, are residue without consistency. This
means that the discourse of science is the disourse of capital,
or that science is possible only after the destruction of
human beings; it is a di scourse on the pathol ogy of the
human bei ng. Thus i t i s i nsane to ground the hope of l i bera
ti on on si ence. The posi ti on is a l l the more i nsane where, as
wi th Al thusser, it cannot make its own break, l i qui date i ts
"archeol ogy, " si nce i t rema i ns fai thfu l to a prol etari at-a
prol etari at which i n thi s concepti on i s merel y an obj ect of
capi tal , an el ement of the structure. B ut thi s i neffi ci ent,
destroyed human bei ng i s the i ndivi dual produced by cl ass
soci eti es. And on thi s we agree: the human bei ng is dead. The
onl y possi bi l i ty for another human bei ng t o appear i s our
struggl e agai nst our domesti cati on, ou r emergence from i t.
Humani sm and si enti sm ( a nd the fol l owers of "ethi cal
si ence" a fa Monod are the most absol ute sl aves of capi tal )
are two expressi ons of the domesti cati on of humani ty. Al l
those who nu rse the i l l usi on of the deadence of capi tal
revi ve anci ent humani st concepti ons or gi ve bi rth to new
sci enti fi c myths. They remai n i mpermeabl e to the revol u
ti onary phenomenon ru n ni ng through ou r worl d.
Unti l now a l l si des have argued as i f human bei ngs
remai ned unchanged i n di fferent cl ass soci eti es and u nder the
domi nati on of capi tal . Thi s i s why the rol e of the soci al
context was emphasi zed ( man, who was fundamental l y good,
was seen to be modi fi ed posi ti vel y or negati vel y by the soci al
context) by the materi al i st phi l osophers of the 1 8th century,
whi l e Marxi sts emphasi zed the rol e of an envi ronment con-
ditioned by the development of productive forces. Change
was not denied, and after Marx it was repeated that history
was a continual transformation of human nature. Never
theless it was held explicitly or implicitly that an irreducible
element continued to allow human beings to revolt against
the oppression of capital . And capitalism itself was described
in a Manichean man ner: on one side the positive pole, the
proletariat, the liberating class; on the other the negative
pole, capital. Capital was affirmed as necessary and as having
revol uti oni zed the l i fe of human bei ngs, but it was descri bed
as an absol ute evi l in rel ati on to the good, the prol etari at.
The phenomenon wh i ch emerges today does not i n the l east
destroy the negative eval uati on of capi tal , but forces us to
general i ze i t to the cl ass whi ch was once antagoni sti c to i t
a nd carri ed wi th i n i tsel f a l l the posi ti ve el ements of hu man
devel opment and today of h u mani ty i tsel f. Thi s phenomenon
i s the reomposi ti on of a commu ni ty and of human bei ngs by
capi tal , refl ecti ng hu man commu ni ty l i ke a mi rror. The
theory of t he l ooki ng gl ass cou l d onl y ari se when t he human
bei ng became a tau tol ogy, a refl ecti on of capi tal . Wi thi n the
wor l d of the despoti sm of capi tal ( thi s i s how soci ety appears
as of today) , nei ther a good nor an evi l can be di sti ngu i shed.
Everythi ng can be condemned. Negati ng forces can onl y ari se
outsi de of capi ta l . Si nce capi tal has absorbed al l the ol d
contradi cti ons, t he revol uti onary movement has t o rej ect the
ent i re product of the devel opment of cl ass soci eti es. Thi s i s
the crux of i ts stru ggl e aga i nst domesti cati on, agai nst the
decadence of the hu man speci es. Thi s i s the essenti al moment
of te process of formati on of revol uti onari es, absol utel y
necessary f or the producti on of revol uti on.

Jacques Camatte
May, 1 973