Capitalism and class struggle in the USSR - Neil C. Fernandez

Neil C. Fernandez's book on capitalist nature of Soviet Union and working class struggle in it.

The critical considerations of the various "Marxist" theories of Soviet capitalism are looked at in this book. The theory of Soviet capitalism constitues an important contribution to the overall Marxist critique of exchange-value and money; and it will assist the classist critique with the identification of important targets on which to concentrate the fire of critique in relation to the development of capitalism at a global level. The various "Marxist" theories are considered in what they say about the working class and its struggle. Special attention is paid to the strengths and weaknesses of Marxist works by Castoriadis, Dunayevskaya and James, Ticktin and Chattopadyay. In the final chapter, Marx's concepts of the reproduction of labour-power and the relationship between small-scale circulation and capital accumulation, which Negri has shown to be of such importance, are taken up with particular gusto in context of the USSR. The categories of relative and absolute surplus value are considered in a Soviet context in specific relation to the distinction between productivity growth and labour intensification, and in relation to class antagonism.

Capitalism and Class Struggle in the USSR, A Marxist Theory - Neil C. Fernandez.pdf9.36 MB

Chapter 1

Chapter 1 of Neil Fernandez's Capitalism and Class Struggle in the USSR - A Marxist Theory, Ashgate, Aldershot UK, 1997, which also serves as a useful historical overview of modern radical theory.

From the book's introduction:


In Chapter 1 we present our main theoretical concepts. Describing the overall theoretical orientation as communist, we present two ideas as fundamental. These are, first, that the basic stuff of history is class struggle; and second, that the essence of class struggle is class antagonism. References are made to the work of Marx; and Marxist theoretical positions are summarised which might be denoted as anti-Statist, Autonomist, and world-revolutionary, and described as anti-elitist, and-ideological, and struggle-based. In order to emphasise the radical nature of the approach, and specifically of the view taken of autonomous working class struggle, we outline positions on leftism,

trade unionism, and so on, as they have been developed in western Europe. Other writers who have adopted a similar approach (Negri, Cleaver, Pannekoek, Debord) are also referred to, but restrictions of time and space have meant that there is no discussion of opposing views, such as those espoused by empiricists or functionalists, democrats or Leninists. Nor do we deal at length with apparent weaknesses in the various communist works quoted."



Chapter 1 of "Capitalism and Class Struggle in the USSR" (Neil C. Fernandez, 1997)


A Communist Approach

In this chapter we present the theory and concepts which underlie and inform the work as a whole. Since the nature of the USSR is considered in context below (Chapter 3), as is the class struggle within its borders (Chapter 7), the current chapter is confined to considerations deemed to be the most over-arching. Core ideas are introduced according to their usage within a radical tendency which is most usefully described as 'theoretical communism.' As will become clear, this tendency's thought has been greatly influenced by the school of Autonomist Marxism (especially Negri), from which in particular it takes its strong insistence on the fundamental importance of antagonistic class polarity. [1] But at the same time it is both eclectic and fundamentally critical - highly critical, in fact, of some of Autonomism's weaknesses.[2] Influences in the present century have also included council communism (especially Pannekoek), the Situationist International (especially Debord), and the writings of the French theoretician Barrot.[3] The most important concepts are given in bold when they first appear in the main text.


It is convenient to clarify the theoretical starting-point with reference to Marx's conception of the class struggle and communism.

First, it is taken as axiomatic that "the history of all hitherto existing societies is the history of class struggles." (Marx and Engels 1848, p.67). In any society which is not communist - that is, in any society founded upon exploitation, in any class society- there is held to be a necessary struggle between the exploiters and the exploited. In the most general terms possible, the underlying categories which relate to this struggle are those of the surplus product and the control over its extraction. The surplus itself is defined as that part of the social product which, rather than going to fulfil the needs of the producers, is appropriated instead by the exploiters. In other words, it is a category defined by the exploitation by one social group of the productive activity of another. And clearly the extraction of this surplus must be subject to some sort of control.

It is further understood that the extraction of the surplus product is a process which differs from one kind of exploitation to another. And since it is the existence of the surplus product which determines the existence of exploitation in the first place, it can only be the form of this extraction which determines the nature of the specific exploitative relationship. As Marx puts it:

the specific economic form in which unpaid surplus labour is pumped out of the direct producers determines the relationship of domination and servitude, as this grows directly out of production itself and reacts back on it in turn as a determinant. On this is based the entire configuration of the economic community arising from the actual relations of production. (1894, p.927)

The form of extraction of surplus labour has a double aspect. Not only is there the material thing being extracted, the objective surplus product; there is also the process itself, the raw exploitation of thinking, feeling, productive human beings. Thus the nature of the overall set of social production relations, or mode of production, can best be defined by two categories which form a pair. These are, first, the form taken by the surplus product; and second, the form of control which is exercised over its extraction, over the labour which produces it. In determining the nature of the mode of production, these two categories must also determine the overall conditions in which the struggle unfolds between the exploiters and the exploited.[4]

Given the unified nature of the specifically capitalist mode of exploitation, under which the exploited have no control even over the production of goods which they themselves consume, it is held that the class struggle under capitalism is an antagonism which expresses itself across the entire society. (Marx and Engels 1848, pp.33-35). Indeed, the struggle of those exploited by capitalism antagonises not only the control of production narrowly considered but also the entire logic of the reigning society.

In terms of the critique of this capitalist mode of exploitation, the methodological implications of the insistence on the centrality of class struggle are takcn from Marx's Grundrisse as read by Negri. In the latter's words,

materialism and dialectics have given us totality and difference as well as the structural link which subjectively unites them. But that is not enough. It remains insufficient as long as this structure, this totality is not internally split, as long as we do not succeed in grasping not the structural (capitalist) subjectivity but the subjectivities which dialectically constitute the structure (the two classes in struggle).( 1979, p.44)

In other words, Autonomist theory hypostatises neither the 'contradictions of capital,' nor the laws of crisis, but the class struggle. Hence the theory's 'voluntarism,' which has led Negri to describe the methodology as being that of the 'point of view,' as opposed to that of the 'totality.' (1984, pp.56-58).

The understanding gained by applying this methodology

does not in anyway become transcendent in relation to the formation and development of the [two] subjects. The method of the `point of view' works on the traces, symptoms and experiences of rupture andrecomposition of the subjects. It reconstructs the general framework without losing sight of the subjects' singularity: it is more a forced movement ahead from the reality of class relations than a theoretical mastery over them. The analytical materialism of this advance is no less rigorous than in the method of the totality; but the specifically political dimension appears with a freshness that the latter often fails to express.(pp.56-57)[5]

Explaining the approach, Cleaver writes that

In the class war, as in conventional military encounters, one must begin with the closest study of one's own forces, that is, the structure of working class power. Without an understanding of one's own power, the ebb and flow of the battle lines can appear as an endless process driven only by the enemy's unilateral self-activity. When the enemy regroups or restructures, as capital is doing in the present crisis, its actions must be grasped in terms of the defeat of prior tactics or strategies by our forces - not simply as another clever move. That an analysis of enemy strategy is necessary is obvious. The essential point is that an adequate understanding of that strategy can be obtained only by grasping it in relation to our own strengths and weaknesses...

It serves little purpose to study the structures of capitalist domination unless they are recognized as strategies that capital must struggle to impose.(1979, pp.42-43)

It is not necessary to hold that there is a`crisis of capitalism,' or even that one was evident in the 1970s, to adopt this approach.

The contradiction between the two sides of the class struggle is thus understood as being 'antagonistic' rather than 'dialectical' in the usual sense. Such a conception is derived from the materialist view that the essentially anti-capitalist content of working class struggle is its tendency to disrupt the rational, 'integrative' functioning of exploitation. Rather than theorising a 'dialectical' relation between capital and labour, therefore, Autonomist theory grasps the respective natures of the poles of capitalism's fundanmental class contradiction according to what it is that actually makes them contradictory poles: that is, not their interpenetration within an 'entity', conceived philosophically in terms of `necessary mediation,' but their antagonism.[6] "Outside of antagonism, not only is there no movement, but the categories do not even exist." (Negri 1979, p.9).

The Autonomist approach can be clarified in terms of the distinction between the working class in itself and the working class for itself.

The working class in itself is constituted of all those who are forced to sell their labor-power to capital and thus to be labor-power. It is a definition based purely on a common set of characteristics within capital. The working class for itself (or working class as working class, defined politically) exists only when it asserts its autonomy as a class through its unity in struggle against its role as labor-power. (Negri 1979, p.74)

Defining the latter category in different words in the Grundrisse, Marx writes that

the opposite of capital cannot itself be a particular commodity [i.e. not even labour power-NCF], for as such it would form no opposition to capital, since the substance of capital is itself use value; it is not this or that commodity, but all commodities. The communal substance of all commodities, i.e. their substance not as material stuff, as physical character, but their communal substance as commodities and hence exchange values, is this, that they are objectified labour, labour which is still objectifying itself, labour as subjectivity. (pp.271-72)

But whereas Marx defines this labour as productive labour (pp. 272-73, 304-05), as "that which produces capital," Negri, stressing the general social level of the function of value, holds that it is no longer possible to distinguish between productive labour and that which is reproductive. Whether or not Marx's "heavily reductive definition" is attributable to the "noxious effect of the limits of the workers' movement," as Negri asserts (1979, pp.63-65, 182-84), it is Negri's position which is relied upon.

In this connection it is useful to compare the Autonomist position with that developed by Castoriadis, since in going 'beyond Marx' both emphasise that the evolution of capitalist society is a product of the antagonistic thrusts and parries of two main class subjects. (Castoriadis 1960-61). Like the Autonomists, Castoriadis also insists (p.264) on the important and historically 'formative' role of the "implicit, informal, daily and hidden struggle at the point of production," and rejects the idea that since 1945 a crisis of capitalism could conceivably result from the operation of 'objective laws' or dialectical contradictions. (1958, p.240) The two theories differ greatly, however, in their understanding of the relationship between working class and labour-power. In Castoriadis's terms, the "extraction of use-value from labour-power' a process of bitter struggle in which, half the time, so to speak, the capitalists are the losers." (1960-61, p.248). Formal enterprise organisation conflicts with informal enterprise organisation (1958, pp. 170-72), and capitalist bureaucratisation with an autonomous struggle tending to push towards a 'transitional society' where work would be managed directly by the workers.[7] Outside of production, meanwhile, the class struggle either no longer expresses itself at all, or else does so only in a "truncated and distorted way." (1960-61, p.229). The Autonomist view of the class-for-itself is completely different. Autonomous struggle is not the struggle of 'labour-power' against its transformation into a capitalist use-value; rather, it is the emergence within social labour-power of the working class as a separate subject.[8] It is the movement of need. More generally, it is the non-exploitative assertion of needs and desires, and the appropriation of resources to fulfil them; and hence it operates not only in the workplace but also on the terrain of the 'social wage' and looting.[9] As 'proletarian self-valorisation' - a somewhat ill-chosen term - it relates to use-value, rather than simply to labour-power. This does not mean that Negri is right to view it as the struggle to acquire whatever is thought to have a use (1979, p.137)[10]; nor should it detract from the fact that it tends towards a seizure and non-exploitative use of the material means of production, towards a new organisation of labour. Simply, as Negri himself has shown (1971), it subverts the enterprise-form and work (forced labour) in general. (See also Echanges et Mouvement 1979; Negri 1978, chap.4; and Zerzan 1974). And in doing so it embodies the possibility of the abolition of work and its replacement by what Kay and Mott call the "direct unity of needs and capacities" (1982, p.29). (See also Black 1985).

In theoretical terms the categories of 'working class in itself' and 'working class for itself are brought together again within the category of class composition. For Negri this is defined as

that combination of political and material characteristics - both historical and physical - which makes up: (a) on the one hand, the historically given structure of labour-power, in all its manifestations, as produced by a given level of productive forces and relations; and (b) on the other hand, the working class as a determinate level of solidification of needs and desires, as a dynamic subject, an antagonistic force, tending towards its own independent identity in historical-political terms.(1982, p.209)

The class composition of the working class is determined by the class struggle.

As yet, there are no Autonomist studies of the history of the USSR,[11] so an example of the application of this approach is perhaps best provided by Negri's work on Keynesianism. (1968). In the beginning, Negri argues, Keynesianism appeared as a response by capital to workers' success in making wages 'sticky downwards.' By tying wage increases to productivity increases, the bourgeoisie attempted to harness working class struggle as a sort of motor of economic development.

With Keynes, capitalist science takes a remarkable leap forward: it recognises the working class as an autonomous moment within capital. With his theory of effective demand, Keynes introduces into political economy the political notion of a balance of power between classes in struggle. (p.28)

Working class struggle, however, was able to subvert the Keynesian strategy by setting in motion a mobility in the labour market, and by means of the process whereby "the mass worker [of large factories] ... spread the infection of his subjective behaviour into the fabric of proletarian society [i.e. outside the world of work]." (1982, p.211).[12] Capital's response this time was both political, as evidenced by the Italian repression which began in 1979 (Red Notes 1981), and directly economic, as demonstrated by the increasing parcellisation of industrial tasks, the growth of part-time and precarious work, and the rise in unemployment, sickness, and homelessness fuelled and institutionalised by the 'Thatcherite' free-market offensive. It would, no doubt, be going too far to suggest that the growing disaffection with the law and the party system, as exemplified by the eruption of a major riot in London in 1990 (the biggest in Britain for over a century), and a full-scale insurrection in Los Angeles in 1992 (ditto for the US), heralded a new counter-offensive by the working class. But both sets of events did influence macroeconomic policy: in the UK, by helping force the abolition of the poll tax, and in the US by forcing the government to spend more on the inner cities. In the American case, time will tell whether or not this means higher spending on inner city wages, either individual or social. Meanwhile the ongoing 'third industrial revolution,' associated not only with information technology but also with genetic engineering, involves a ruling class strategy of altering the terrain of battle in ways which have yet to be fully theorised.[13]

The methodology is clear. The complexity of historical change and continuity is examined not in terms of the internal contradictions of capitalism, nor those of its administration, but in terms of the antagonism between two subjects: on the one hand, capital's dialectic, which seeks to harness working class potential to the yoke of capitalist development; on the other, working class subjectivity, which certainly pushes for higher wages, but whose logic is separate, non dialectical and 'autonomous.' Since this antagonism is understood as being permanent within capitalist society, the view that the working class is essentially passive is consequently written off as 'myth.' (Gorman 1990).

The second plank of our theoretical approach concerns the relation between class struggle and communism. Here the understanding is taken from that which Marx expressed when discussing what was new in his work:

What I did that was new was to demonstrate: 1) that the existence of classes is merely linked to particular historical phases in the development ofproduction; 2) that class struggle necessarily leads to the dictatorship of the proletariat; 3) that this dictatorship itself only constitutes the transition to the abolition of all classes and to a classless society. (1852b, p.64)

This classless society is understood as a world human community in which "the free development of each [would be] the condition for the free development of all." (Marx and Engels 1848, p.87). As the young Marx puts it succinctly, it is the

complete return of man to himself as a social (i.e. human) being - a return accomplished consciously and embracing the entire wealth of previous development.... [It is] the genuine resolution of the conflict between man and nature, between man and man, ...between the individual and the species. (1932, p.20)

In such a society the foundations of capitalism (wage-labour, commodity economy and money) would no longer exist: private property would have been abolished, along with nations, the State, classes, and all forms of exploitation. The means of achieving this goal are seen as those of social revolution. Carried out by the international working class, this revolution would enforce what Blanqui and Marx referred to as the dictatorship of the proletariat: the power of the formerly dispossessed, and all who join them, to bring non-exploitative social relations to complete victory against exploitative social relations and those who defend them. Finally, the forces currently working for such a revolution are defined not as ideas, but as those of "the real movement which abolishes the present state of things," the "old mole" undermining capitalist domination in the here and now. (Marx and Engels 1846, p.47; Marx 1856b, p.300).

This much would seem familiar. The ideologies and practice of opponents of communism, however, often employed in the name of communism itself - a phenomenon Marx and Engels observed as early as 1848 [sec. 3]) - suggest that further clarification is required.

Communism[14] implies the elimination of work in favour of a "new type of free activity." (SI 1963, p.102; see also Marx and Engels 1846, pp.85 and 220, and SI 1961, p.64). As the group L'Insecurite Sociale has put it:

As communism is the creation of new social relationships between people which would bring about a quite different human activity, it must be understood that production would not be what it is today without money. If we can, for want of a better term, still speak of production to express the process by which a part of human activity would be devoted to reproducing existence and in which would be expressed the human ability to create, to innovate and to transform, the disappearance of exploitation and the abolition of money would mean that this production would not involve the subjection of people to it since it would be they who would decide its aims, its means and its conditions. It would therefore be an expression of their humanity and would not strip them of other dimensions (love, play, dreaming, etc.). (1984, p.11l)


Along with the disappearance of commercial value would disappear the division of the human being into a producer and aconsumer. In communist society, consumption would not be opposed to production since there would be no contradiction between being concerned with oneself and concerning oneself with someone else.... Unless this was imposed by the nature of a product, people would no longer need to hurry all the time as they would no longer be constrained by the necessity to produce commodities. The "consumer" would not be able to blame the "producer" for what he or she did by invoking the money that had been paid since none would be given in exchange, but simply to criticise from the inside, not from the outside. What would be at issue would be their common effort. (p.13)

It should perhaps be added that this is not a novel vision.

Such a goal is seen as incompatible with all conceptions of a transitional society. (See Buick 1975). The creation of communism is accepted as being something processual, but is identified with the direct communisation of social relations, rather than with the onset of a stage accessible only after a transition through 'socialism.' (See the journal La Banquise, and L'Insecurite Sociale 1984 ). The "transition to the abolition of all classes" is thus understood in very straightward fashion: it is the process of replacing capitalist or other exploitative sociaI relations with communist ones. In Negri's well-chosen words,

it is not the transition that reveals itself (and eliminates itself) in the form of communism, but rather it is communism that takes the form of the transition. (1979, p.153) (italics original)

It is recognised, of course, that the controllers of capital will not give up the means of production, and hence their command over labour-power, peacefully. On the contrary, they will make maximum use of their most important weapon: the capitalist State. Being an obstacle of an essentially military nature, this can only bw destroyed by military means. To enable the spread of non-exploitative, non-monetary social relations it will therefore be necessary to wage class war against the State on a world level. And the organisation of the revolutionary side in this war is what we define as the dictatorship of the proletariat.

This, however, does not imply that the social revolution is dependent upon a prior 'political' revolution understood as the appropriation of 'political power.' One cannot deduce from the need for anti-State action that there must also be a process of 'political transition' which must first reach completion before the process of social change can begin. For even while means are being employed which will not exist after the victorym - that is, violent means - the achievements of the revolutionaries are always in essence social. In short, the liberated area grows. Some sort of centralised organisation will be necessary, certainly - for constructive reasons as much as destructive ones -but there is no point in calling it a 'state' because there is no intervening 'political' period between the revolution and communism. Being above all social, the revolution is the transition: it is the communisation process. The periodisation is therefore as follows: first, for a short time, there is the organisation of violent action to destroy whatever obstacles cannot be destroyed in any other way; next, this violence comes to an end. Constructive aims are pursued, and other obstacles tackled and removed, both during the war and afterwards.

The difference between revolutionary transition and the establishment of a new political regime or a new kind of State can also be understood in terms of the non-institutionalisation of revolutionary struggle. Since the revolution would cease to be a revolution were it to institutionalise its relationship with its enemies, or to seek to do so, the dictatorship of the proletariat cannot but be anti-Statist. (Pannekoek 1912, pp. 119-36; Debord 1967, para. 179).[15] It seeks not to rule over its enemies, but to destroy them. Of course this does not mean that some of its former enemies cannot become friends; but what it does mean is that the power of the self-abolishing proletariat necessarily involves the intensive and extensive spread of communist social relations.[16] That is its whole point. Here, as Pannekoek puts it, "sword and trowel are one." (1947-49, p,107).

In relation to the construction of the new society, the further point can be made that communism is conceived of as Marx understood it in 1844, that is, as undifferentiated into phases, rather than as he described it in 1875, as consisting of a "first phase" where distribution would be according to work.[17] (Marx 1832, pp.87-101; Marx 1875; Crump 1975). Of course it seems likely that for a time immediately following the victory in the revolutionary war some goods might have to be rationed. And it is even more likely that extensive rationing would have been necessary during the war itself. But since people would not be competing with each other to get hold of things they needed or wanted, the basis of this rationed distribution and consumption would not be privative appropriation. Similarly, since the production of important things would be an issue for everybody, collectively and subjectively, nor would the basis of production be private labour. Thus the use of rationing by social revolutionaries, either during the war or in its aftermath, would not keep the new social relations at an identifiably 'lower stage.' Indeed we would go further and state that even long after monetary relations and the State had disappeared globally there might occasionally arise circumstances when the inhabitants of a communist civilisation might make use of rationing, and in doing so they would not be putting the overall social relations in any danger. The reason for this is that neither during the transition nor during the subsequent unchallenged reign of communist social relations would the type of 'scarcity' which might lead people to organise rationing be comparable to the enforced social relation of scarcity formerly associated with commodity exchange and the concomitant atomisation of individuals. (See Fernandez 1984, p.19). Rather than being a problem for the individual, it would be a problem for the community.

In rejecting the theory of stages we are not arguing that communist civilisation, once victorious, would become static. Communist society would indeed advance, both in the negative sense of solving the remaining problems inherited from the old society; and in the positive sense of changing and exploring the natural environment and developing human needs and potential. But the point regarding distribution is essentially the same as the point we have made regarding the overthrow of the State: communist organisation does not organise that which is not communist.

Finally, we have asserted that the forces already at the proletariat's disposal are understood as constituting a social tendency which is inherently antagonistic to capital. In accordance with materialist methodology, therefore, the insistence on proletarian autonomy excludes any idea that the class by itself is incapable of developing revolutionary consciousness. If the proletariat is capable of overthrowing capital by intensifying its struggle, then ipso facto it is capable of achieving the required consciousness. No overlap is imagined between this communist conception on one hand, and that of a Kautskyist-Leninist 'injection' of consciousness on the other. (Lenin 1902, p.98; see also Barrot 1977). The essence of proletarian autonomy is understood to be non-exploitative human need - the only kind of fully human need - and its manifestation is understood as necessarily tendential towards the full realisation of communism.[18]


On the basis of the above understanding, critics have also made use of further concepts of a more specific kind. In the main these have been developed in relation to capitalism in the West, but in order to illustrate the radicality of the view taken of class antagonism, we shall list some of them here. They cannot, of course, be applied automatically to non-western capitalism, but they will nonetheless help to illustrate the meaning of the insistence on proletarian autonomy. Those chosen can be grouped under two headings: capitalist politics, and the incorporation of struggle.

Capitalist Politics

One of the tendency's major tenets is that the autonomous proletarian movement grows in strength the more independent it is of the political 'spectrum,' indeed, the more hostile it is towards its constituent parts. Thus there is the concept of capitalist politics, understood as comprising the entire tableau from extreme right to extreme left.[19] The struggles which the participants in such politics are engaged in are seen as revolving fundamentally around the management of the capitalist State and economy.

Debord has further explained how

the historical moment when Bolshevism triumphed for itself in Russia and when social-democracy fought victoriously for the old world marks the inauguration of a state of affairs which is at the heart of the domination of the modern spectacle: the representation of the working class radically opposes itself to the working class. (1967, para.100)

In the past century this representation has often been associated with the non-communist idea that changes in the existing society - such as an increased dose of nationalisation, participation, welfare expenditure, social mobility, or 'planning' - would amount to the creation of a new one. Specific terminology is therefore needed to denote those sections of the capitalist political spectrum which propagandise about the need for 'socialism' and 'communism' and aim to build a base in the working class. These are divided as follows.[20]

The left, in loose usage, is taken to denote all such sections lumped together. More strictly, it denotes those which, being more moderate, do not seek disorder. Thus in western Europe the left includes mainstream 'Socialist' Parties - to the extent that they still present themselves as 'socialist' - and, with a similar rider, the former 'Communist' Parties too. TheFrench Socialist Party, whose members sang the Internationale at party occasions, is considered to to have been on the left until the mid-1980s, as was the British Labour Party until the mid-1990s. whereas the British Liberal Democratic Party is not. Part of the Scottish National Party is also positioned as left-wing: namely, that which presents its nationalistic and pro-independence ideology as being pro-working class. The nominally analogous British National Party would not be described as left-wing, since its brand of nationalism is racist first and foremost.

Extreme left and leftistj (from the French, gauchiste) are the terms used to designate groupings which are more extreme than the left. The changes they seek to implement often involve violence and usually a significant change in the legal system. Whereas Trotskyists stress nationalisation, anarchosyndicalists stress the power of unions in industry, and 'Red Greens' the need for a comprehensive environmental policy. Much of the energy of these groups is (or was) spent on denouncing the 'official' left as insufficiently representative of the working class, or as 'treacherous', with the implication that working class people should switch their support away from the politicians of the left to the politicians of the extreme left. Correspondingly, most parts of the extreme left have a Leninist conception of the division between 'political' and 'economic' struggles, and adopt a 'substitutionist' position on class consciousness.[21]

The term ultra-leftist is used to describe those sections whose ideas are more radical than those of the left, the Leninists and the anarchosyndicalists, but who are nonetheless loath to reject ideas and forms of activity which conflict with the communist project. For example, they might oppose each and every force which would substitute itself for the working class, but still support some sort of self-managed capitalist economy. (See, for example, the advocacy of wage equalisation in Castoriadis 1957, pp.126-27 and Solidarity 1961, p. 11.)Or they might even understand the need to abolish wage-labour, but still propagandise in such a way as to encourage workers to put their hopes in some force other than proletarian autonomy: a supposed economic crisis, for example (see Revolution Sociale), or an ostensibly 'cure-all' organisational form such as the workers' council. Ultra-leftists are usually active in criticising the left and extreme left, and in encouraging workers to organise. They are distinct from the extreme left in that they do not retrospectively 'support' past counterrevolutions, such as the Bolshevik one in Russia or the Republican one in Spain. And unlike most leftists they do) not support any of the world's nationalist 'liberation movements.'

Another political term which needs to be mentioned is democracy. Democracy is understood as involving a form of relationship between the capitalist State and capiatalist civil society such as that established by bourgeois political revolution.

In democracy, man does not exist for the sake of law, but the law exists for the sake of man. (Marx 1843a, p.88)


In criticising Bauer's project of political emancipation, Marx explains:

The rights of man as such are distinguished from the rights of the citizen. Who is this man who is distinct from the citizen? None other than the member of civil society. Why [in the New Hampshire constitution] is the member of civil society simply called 'man', and why are his rights called the rights of man? How can we explain this fact? By the relationship of the political state to civil society, by the nature of political emancipation.

The first point we should note is that the so-called rights of man, as distinct from the rights of the citizen, are quite simply the rights of the member of civil society, i.e. of egoistic man, of man separated from other men and from the community. (1843b, pp.228-29)

Marx focuses on one particular right of man in order to illuminate the whole:

the right of man to freedom is not based on the association of man with man but rather on the separation of man from man. It is the right of this separation....

...The practical application of the right of man to freedom is the right of man to private property....

...[This individual freedom], together with this application of it, forms the foundation of civil society. It leads each man to see in other men not therealisationbut the limitation of his own freedom. (pp.229-30)

'Security' in this sense is thus

the supreme concept of civil society, the concept of police, the concept that the whole of society is there only to guarantee each of its members the conservation of his person, his rights and his property....

But in fact

...Not one of the so-called rights of man goes beyond egoistic man, man as a member of civil society, namely an individual withdrawn into himself, his private interest and his private desires and separated from the community. In the rights of man it is not man who appears as a species-being; on the contrary, species-life itself, society, appears as a framework extraneous to the individuals, as a limitation of their original independence. The only bond which holds them together is natural necessity, need and private interest, the conservation of their property and then egoistic persons. (p.230)

Democracy, then, is a political form, a Statist form, which involves not just a specific relationship between the State and civil society, but also a corresponding ideology of that relationship. Everyone who is a member of civil society - otherwise known as the 'people', the 'public,' the 'country,' or the 'nation' - and capitalist democracy intends this to mean virtually everyone who lives on the territory claimed by a given State, or at least everyone who is adequately accessible to the means by which that State spreads its ideology, and who is not a 'foreigner' - is also portrayed in some sense as a 'member' of that State, or in other words as a 'citizen.' In other words: whatever a person owns, whatever his economic status, whether he lives in a hostel for the homeless, a council house, or a castle, whether he is a worker, a major share-holder in a large company, or the head of the civil service, whether he lives on welfare payments or off of a private income, he is an 'equal,' a person with equal political rights. One of his main rights, of course, is his right to vote. The circumstances in which he can be deprived of this right are extremely exceptional - if he is reclassified as a foreigner or a minor, for example, or if he is confined to a mental institution - and even then the deprivation is not irrevocable. In a well-functioning democracy, almost everyone will be allowed to keep their right to vote throughout their lifetime, precisely because it is a main plank of the State's ideology that the State simply recognises everyone's 'entitlement' to take part in the political 'life of the community.' Similarly, everyone is assumed to possess a formal and equal legal personality, which they are at full liberty to exercise howsoever they wish according to the rules of the State's judicial system. At the core of democratic ideology there lies the public and even ritual emphasis of formal equality.

It is further evident that political democracy is closely bound up with the less political civil rights - or 'civil liberties' - associated with bourgeois life, such as the right to one's own business in both senses of the term. In general, people actually have a right to do whatever they please so long as they act within the law. Of course they are sometimes granted other kinds of 'right' too, such as the right to receive social security payments. But since these kinds of right do not carry anything like an illusion of 'inalienability' - as any claimant knows -they are not among the rights we are discussing, and are perhaps better classified as special kinds of wage payments. Depending on the relation of forces in the class struggle, these latter rights can be removed under democracy, or indeed they can be granted under fascism. More relevant is the fact that the civil rights associated with political democracy necessarily imply the right of the State to function - and the underlying functions of the State are, first, to embody the organised might of the ruling class, and second, to represent the supposed 'general interest' of a cross-class, usually national, 'community.' Civil rights necessarily come together with the 'equal' duty of submission to this might and this representation. And like political rights they are ideally independent of who someone is and what their relationship is to other people and the means of production.


But what is really defended by the ideology of civil liberty at a deeper level is precisely what comes after the 'whethers' and 'whatevers' listed above, precisely that which civil rights present themselves as being independent of: namely, the existing economic relations, the social production relations which determine the nature of the society. The real subtext to the ideology that people in a certain country are 'free' states that workers and employers are actually in the same game (buying and selling); that no-one, however rich he might be, has any rights that someone else does not; that no-one is obliged to sell something he owns at the price someone offers him instead of keeping hold of it, or to buy something he has expressed an interest in and been quoted a price for; that everyone can in principle buy whatever they want as long as they have enough money and the owner is willing to sell it to them; or, in short, that everyone's pound or franc is worth the same, that 'money has no smell.' Not by accident did the famous French 'Declaration of Rights' of 1789 recognise the rights of property as natural, inalienable, sacred, and inviolable. (See Cobban 1963, p.164). When the electoral property qualification gives way to universal suffrage, these economic rights become a 'given,' something which is held to be 'self-evident': that is, not necessary to justify. Everyone can own money and property, and in advanced countries virtually everyone does. No market is fully 'free,' of course, but many are often apparently 'fair' according to their own rules. Gangsters must purchase their weapons; and membership of bourgeois and petty-bourgeois networks can be bought, one way or another. Money does 'talk' - anyone's money. In reality, of course, this does nothing whatsoever to reduce the inequality inherent in the exclusion of the vast majority from control over the means of production; in the exchange of labour-power for the wage; in the exploitation of the labour-power thus purchased; in the dictatorship of the ruling class, the controllers of capital. But unlike the democracy of ancient times, modem democracy helps conceal this by subsuming the exploited into civil society: and at the same time it rests upon that subsumption. Democracy can therefore be said to achieve its fullest expression under capitalism (ICG 1987); and democratic ideology, in the sense in which it incorporates the ideology of civil liberty, to be an adequate form- a tendentially schizophrenogenic form - of advanced capitalist false consciousness.

The Incorporation of Struggle

The concepts given in the preceding section were those denoting the relations of representative capitalist politics. The ones listed in this section relate to the dynamics of class struggle.

Proletarian autonomy has been described as something separate from, and antagonistic to, the logic of capital. Since this logic is understood as one of harnessing working class potential, it follows that the advancement of autonomy implies resistance to the imposition of mediated, 'negotiated,' institutionalised forms of struggle. Conceptual tools are therefore required in order to be able to understand the meaning of incorporation.

It is necessary to begin by emphasising that workers' autonomy is a reality, and that to see it as purely interstitial within a context of incorporation would be to adopt the viewpoint of capital - or rather, the viewpoint which capital would like to be able to have. As Negri puts it, then, it

seems...fundamental to consider the totality of the process of proletarian self-valorisation as alternative to, and radically different from, the totality of the process of capitalist production and reproduction. I realise that I am exaggerating the position, and oversimplifying its complexity. But I also know that this 'intensive road,' this radical break with the totality of capitalist development, is a fundamental experience of the movement as it stands today.

Today the process of constituting class independence is first and foremost a process of separation....

...Working class self-valorisation is first and foremost de-structuration of the enemy totality, taken to a point of exclusivity in the self-recognition of the class's collective independence. (1978, p.97)

Incorporation must thus be seen as part of this enemy totality.

This can be clarified with reference to the contribution of the council communists. Thus Pannekoek, in a major controversy with Kautsky in 1912, gave his view that

The proletariat's organisation - its most important source of strength - must not be confused with the present-day form of its organisations and associations, where it is shaped by conditions within the framework of the still vigorous bourgeois order. The nature of this organisation is something spiritual - no less than the whole transformation of the proletarian mentality. It may well be that the ruling class...succeeds in destroying the workers' organisations; but, for all that, the workers will remain as they were.... The same spirit, compounded of discipline, cooperation, solidarity, the habit of organised action, will live in them more vividly than ever, and will create new forms of intervention. (1911-12)

What Pannekoek was theorising - to put it in modem language - was the relation between the power of the autonomous working class and the type of organisation within which it invested its hopes. His view was that if struggle intensified, workers would intervene in new ways, independently of both parliament and trade unions. (See Bricianer 1969, chap. 3). The whole process would a development of their autonomy, their collective 'self-activity.' In Germany in 1918, new forms of organisation indeed appeared - action committees, factory organisations, and workers' and soldiers' councils (Raten) - in what was a forceful revolutionary movement opposed to both social democracy and trade unionism. The fast-forming 'council communist' tendency, however, did not simply adopt Pannekoek's earlier insights: they nuanced their position in the light of experience. Thus Ruhle and his comrades denounced the official workers' councils after a week, identifying them as a brake on the movement. Whilst continuing to advocate the council form, they launched a struggle to create new councils that fought directly for the dictatorship of the proletariat. (Authier and Barrot 1976, p.83). In 1920 Pannekoek spoke for the tendency as a whole when he wrote of the need for proletarian autonomy to mature in opposition to incorporative forms of organisation. (1920, pp. 111-16).22 In itself no particular form provided an answer to incorporation, since what was most important was the basis of subversion: namely, the workers' self-organised and antagonistic advancement from their existing position of power. But the trade union form could not be made other than a form of incorporation.


Even under 'normal' conditions, when there is no revolutionary movement, the contradiction does not disappear between, on one side, trade unionism, and on the other, workers' autonomy and its need for development. As Brendel explains:

From the very first day of their existence unions have had the task of mediating between capitalists and workers, order to extinguish the flames of conflict between the two parties, not to kindle the fire by pouring oil into it, mediating in order to stabilize the antagonistic relationship of workers and capitalists, not to destroy it.... Not a single union would ever have been accepted for a single day by any capitalist or employers' association if it had not shown its capacity of operating a combination of defending and integrating workers, or, to be more precise, of integrating them into the capitalist system by defending them to a certain extent and with regard to specific problems. On the other hand not a single union would ever have been accepted for a single day by any worker or group of workers if it had not defended them to a certain extent and with regard to specific problems. That's what mediation means. (1992, p.30)

The trade union is seen as the form par excellence of the 'encadrement' of workers' struggle. (See GOC 1929, Zerzan 1974, Echanges et Mouvement 1977, and Wildcat 1986 and 1992). More concretely, it is defined as a large, permanent organisation of workers in a specific branch or sector, disposing of a permanent apparatus and functioning both to 'represent' workers' interests in negotiations with the aim of maintaining a firm and fast modus vivendi between workers and management; and to regulate strike action - and prevent it from becoming out of control - when there is no other alternative. In practice this means opposing the dynamic whereby workers reject the whole project of a modus vivendi and fight for their own class interests without regard to what is viable from the point of view of the economy. But regardless of what views the workers may hold, reject this project is precisely what their struggle must do - tendentially in extreme fashion, always in some fashion and to some extent. Another way of looking at trade unions involves recognising that they seek to monopolise through representation not only the apparent enforcement of workers' interests within a specific part of the capitalist economy, but also, on that basis, the communication with workers elsewhere. In practice this means defending the structure and logic of the economy which workers' power necessarily tends to disrupt and undermine. Based on and reinforcing both the divisions within the working class, and its 'integration' within the economy, the trade union form is understood to be obligatorily defensive of a society founded on wage-labour, and hostile to the advancement of working class subjectivity.

Two further concepts have been found to be particularly useful in the communist consideration of the barriers to the development of autonomous struggle. The first is that of workers' democracy. This is understood both as an ideology concerning the advancement of struggle, and as a form of organisation. It is defined in terms of three characteristics. First, there is the application of the principle according to which, wherever possible, decision must follow discussion and precede action. Second, the minority must always submit to the decision of the majority. Third, each worker involved in a struggle must have an equal say, regardless of level of interest, involvement, or commitment. (ICG 1987). Workers' democracy has been described as "the application of democratic parliamentarian rules at the heart of the proletarian 'mass' organs (assemblies, unions, councils,...)." (p.52). Although rarely seen in its purest form - where workers, for example, would respect the other workers' 'right' to strike-break - even in other forms it restrains the advancing dynamic by tending to dissolve the offensive community of struggle into an institutionalised collection of atomised individuals, tied together by means of 'rights.'

The second concept is that of


, understood as a system wherein as many economic decisions as possible are taken at enterprise level. Behind the retention of the enterprise form, there lies all that it entails: privative appropriation, exchange, and - if we ignore 'mutualist' utopias of simple commodity production - capitalism. (Negation [1974?]; Sabatier 1977, pp. 27-28). One type of self-management requires specific mention: namely, workers' management, or the management of an enterprise by its workers. (This is to be differentiated from workers' control, or the right of workers to inspect the books and be consulted on matters of policy). (Brinton 1970, i-xv). Workers' management is seen as a debureaucratised form of capitalist economy, a sort of fantastic 'reconciliation' of workers' interests with those of enterprise capital.



It is readily apparent that the overall theoretical orientation outlined above has been greatly conditioned by a sympathetic reading of Marx. We certainly consider it to be in close accordance with Marx's basic attitude towards the role of the class struggle in history, the self-assertion of the proletarian class in particular, and the tendency towards communism. As is made clear in the first part of Chapter 3 below, it also relies heavily upon Marx's historical and materialist critique of capitalist political economy. (1867, 1885, etc.). In these terms, it is evidently Marxist.

At the same time, it cannot usefully be described as 'orthodox Marxist,' since it neither relies upon, nor follows on from, the political and theoretical positions developed within the various traditions associated with the Second and Third Internationals.[23] It is, on the contrary, highly 'heterodox.' Being neither social-democratic nor Leninist, it is the product rather of a wholly separate 'heritage' associated notably with the council communists, the Situationists, and the Autonomists.

The adoption of such an orientation implies a position regarding both social democracy and Leninism which is not only 'different,' but also antagonistic. In short, both of these other sets of positions are perceived not simply as being oblivious to proletarian autonomy in theory, but as expressing social interests and aspirations which are radically opposed to it in practice. Social democracy and Leninism - alongside, for that matter, anarchism[24] - are understood to be but parts, in both theory and practice, of the widespread 'representation of the working class' which arose in the late 19th century and which has wholly opposed itself to working class autonomous practice (or power). (See Debord 1967, para. 100). It follows that whereas the approach described above, along with the theoretical positions of the three movement on which it has drawn, can usefully be characterised as communist, the positions of 'orthodox Marxism,' of social democracy and Leninism, cannot be so characterised.

The matter then remains of the use of the term Marxist

. Two points in particular should be clear in relation to this. First, the theories produced by the application of various 'orthodox Marxist' approaches are perceived to have been wholly out of line with the theoretical approach, the practical orientation, and the revolutionary intent displayed by Marx himself from the 1840s on. As Debord has described,


Marx's theory is fundamentally beyond scientific thought, and it preserves scientific thought only by superseding it; what is in question is an understanding of struggle, and not of law. (1967, para.81)

This is true even if it was the "deterministic-scientific facet" [emphasis added] in Marx's own thought which

was precisely the gap through which the process of 'ideologization' penetrated, during Marx's own lifetime, into the theoretical heritage left to the workers' movement. (para.84)


Recently this view has been developed highly successfully by Shortall, who demonstrates how the 'closure' within Capital, which Marx enacted in order to focus upon capital as an objective and positive system outside of class subjectivity, is essentially provisional in nature. And since it is provisional, even this scientific analysis necessarily points 'beyond itself to a unitary communist critique. (1994).

Second, the communist insistence on proletarian autonomy and subjectivity, on thc power disposed of by the working class, while describable as Marxist, cannot be reconciled with any sort of epistemology which argues the 'correctness' of a position with reference mainly or solely to an exegesis of the works of Marx. W have no intention here of arguing in depth that any position is 'true' to Marx, with all its rivals being 'false.' To argue thus would imply not only making a full-scale analysis, in the light of various historical developments, of many of the numerous interpretations of Marx's positions (and, crucially, their material roots: see Goldner 1991); but also making a detailed critique of certain of Marx's positions themselves. These are not among the aims of the present work.

As a consequence, we have found it possible, and indeed useful, to have more leeway with the term Marxist than with the term communist. When used in inverted commas (Chapter 5), the former term thus denotes the various positions which are straightforwardly social-democratic or Leninist; when used without them, it denotes those positions which might not necessarily be communist - these are considered in the first section of Chapter 6 -but which have been developed outside of the mainstream of 'orthodox Marxism' in such a way as to underline, however weakly or strongly and with whatever reservations, the autonomous power of the workers as a category independent of representation. (These we consider in the second part of that chapter).[25] The term communist, meanwhile, without inverted commas, will be used to denote the principles outlined above and influenced by the three specific tendencies mentioned.

Since all the theories and positions considered are assessed according to the same criteria, the a priori nature of this classification will not constitute a hindrance to the precision of the critique. Indeed, providing as it does a reminder of the underlying theoretical and critical orientation we have described in this first chapter, it will on the contrary prove of clarificatory significance in the chapters to follow.


A theoretical approach has been defined in which the most important organising ideas are as follows. First, in the words of the Communist Manifesto, the history of all existing societies is seen as a history of class struggle. Second, this struggle is understood not merely as an objective 'conflict of interests,' but as an antagonism in the literal sense: that is, as an irreducible contest between class subjects or subjectivities. Third, the fundamental 'tendency' of proletarian struggle, understood to express truly human need, is seen as being towards a revolution which would bring about communism on a world scale. Fourth, and in accordance with the ideas put forward by Marx and the Situationists, communism is understood to be a society without money, commodities, the State, wage-labour, and exploitation, wherein work would be eliminated in favour of a new type of productive activity.

As an example of the application of a communist approach, we have outlined further concepts on a less abstract level in relation to the West. Capitalist politics, described as a struggle to manage the capitalist State and economy, is taken to include the entire spectrum from extreme right to extreme left. Democracy, or the rights of the member of civil societyto citizenship, is a political form which expresses in profound fashion the capitalist principles of separation and atomisation.

Finally, proletarian autonomy is defined negatively as subversion, as the negation of capital's tendency to incorporate workers' struggle. Concepts relevant to this incorporation include trade unionism, which expresses incorporation both into the national economy as a whole and into one of its sectors or branches or enterprises; workers' democracy, which consists of an adoption of bourgeois 'parliamentary' attitudes by workers in struggle; and self-management, which binds workers to the enterprise-form and therethrough to the market. (See Figure 1.1).


Figure 1.1 Main Concepts Introduced in Chapter 1




CAPITALIST POLITICS  ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ INCORPORATION

left, extreme left  ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- trade unions

ultra-left   ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- workers' democracy

democracy ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------  workers' self-management



ANTAGONISM--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- COMMUNISM

SUBJECTIVITY------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ SOCIAL REVOLUTION/COMMUNISATION

AUTONOMY --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- DICTATORSHIP OF THE PROLETARIAT




1 This insistence is especially manifest in Negri's discussion of Marx's Grundrisse (1979), first published in English in 1984.

2 See the criticisms made in Notes 13 and 21 below. A full critique of the Autonomist oeuvre would only be feasible, of course, in the context of an overall consideration of the development not only of revolutionary theory but also of autonomous class practice. This would demand both a knowledge of Italian and another book.

3 Important works and collections of works include: Pannekoek 1912, 1920, 1934, and 1947-49, Ruhle 1924 (council communist); SI Anthology 1953-71, Debord 1967 (Situationist); Negri 1967-83,1973-74,1978 and 1979, Cleaver 1979, Kay 1975 and 1979a (Autonomist); Barrot and Martin 1972-74, and Barrot 1979. Journals include: A Communist Effort (London); Aufheben (Brighton,*); La Banquise (Paris); Communist Headache (Sheffield,*); L'Insecurite Sociale (Paris); Internationale Situationniste (Paris); Midnight Notes (New York,*); Proletarian Gob (Reading,*); Radical Chains (London,*); Wildcat [in German] (Karlsruhe,*); Wildcat [in English, unconnected with the above] (London,*); Workers' Playtime (London); and Zerowork (New York). (* = current). A detailed history of much of the communist theoretical tendency is given in La Banquise 1983; also useful are the essays on various tendencies in Rubel and Crump 1987.

4 Under capitalism the surplus takes a value form and the control over its extraction takes the form of the wages system, to which we return in Chapter 3.

5 A confusion could arise here around the concept of the 'political.' Rather than using it in its etymologically correct meaning, to refer to the State, Negri and the other Autonomists use it to denote social subjectivity and struggle.

6 The term 'antagonism' is sometimes misused to denote simply a conflict of interests. (See for example Szelenyi 1979). Here it is used in its proper meaning of an active conflict between subjects (from the Greek avti, against, and aywviotns, combatant, actor). 7 For Castoriadis the "central problem of socialism" is "in short, the question of the management and goals of work." (1960-61, p.302; see also 1957). Behind this view lies the belief that the current separation between production and consumption will continue to exist under 'socialism.' The Situationist International criticised such conceptions for abandoning "the very core of the revolutionary project, which is nothing less than the suppression of work in the ordinary sense (as well as the suppression of the proletariat) and of all the justifications of previous forms of work." (1963, p.102). See also Negation 1974. In the 1980s communist journal La Banquise a distinction is emphasised between travail and activite, with the former term denoting work and the latter labour, either forced or free. (La Banquise 1986). (See also the piece from L'Insecurite Sociale 1984 quoted in the main text). The connotations of 'activity' are highly relevant and in some ways clearer than those evoked by the English terms 'labour' or even 'free labour.' However, the recognition that communism is based on activity and not work must now be distinguished from the subjectivist - and usually individualist - expression of opposition to work/labour (as a supposed whole) from the standpoint of 'radical subjectivity' or 'play.' (See for example Vaneigem 1967). Our own understanding of communism rests on the firm insistence that the overthrow of the alienation of labour necessarily brings to victory the movement towards 'realised human nature'; and, equally fundamentally, on the insistence that this movement, while not yet victorious, necessarily takes a class form.

8 "The working class is defined by its struggle against capital and not by its productive function" (Zerowork 1975, p.3). This refers, of course, to the class-for-itself.

9 Seen from the point of view of capital, groups of dispossessed people undoubtedly exist who are outside of the employed workforce but who are still 'working class' in the sense that they are worth being paid (directly or indirectly) for being 'productive' (actually or potentially). These include non-employed dependants of employed workers who help to reproduce another person's labour-power both physically and psychologically (for example, housewives); those whose capacity to sell their labour-power is expected to appear in the future (for example, workers' children, the employable unemployed and sick, and many r efugees); and the nurturers of those who are likely to develop such a capacity (for example, unemployed mothers receiving welfare, or grandmothers looking after children whose parents are out at work) - three groups which overlap in various ways both with each other and with the employed working class. The relative sizes of the different groups is evidently subject to considerable variation, but in the Soviet context we would cite as an example the immense amount of work done by single (widowed) grandmothers in caring for future workers, an economic fact very closely related to the low level or non-existence of official unemployment. In addition, even those retired workers and permanently unemployed people who do not fall into any of the above categories - for example, some unemployable single mothers whose children have grown up, and some of the unemployable disabled - often play a role in the psychological reproduction of employed labour-power; and in this sense they too can be 'productive.' From an oppositional point of view, we would stress that whilst some of these permanently unemployed people may not technically belong to the working class, they are nonetheless dispossessed of both the means of production and their own labour-power - even if capital can find no use for it - and can and do struggle for their needs in such a way as to participate in the struggle of a broader class: the proletariat. The extent to which they are allowed some kind of access to means of consumption - via 'social wage' or contributory pension - is determined precisely through such struggle in all its complexity, particularities, divisions and disorganisation; its organisation and subjective unity (successfully restricted by capital to a local level, and evidently subject to numerous mediations); and, to a not completely negligible degree, its existence as a global totality. Recognition of these facts will facilitate an understanding of how in an exploitative society even the operation of the category of human need depends on social, class struggle. More precisely, it operates not only in struggle but also through struggle.

10 Negri's exact words are that "use-value is for the proletariat an immediate revindication and immediate practice of power." (p.137).

11 For an Autonomist-influenced view of class struggle in the USSR, see Chapter 7 below. For a brief comment on Negri's marginal comments on the struggles in Eastern Europe, see the first footnote in Chapter 6.

12 One could, of course, criticise this statement by observing that the extra-workplace struggles of working class women, for example, were hardly 'spread' to them by male mass workers. But the main point is that in the course of struggle a single class broadened the area of its strength.

13 It should be noted that Autonomist Marxism, whilst it understood very well the relationship between class struggle and the crisis of Keynesianism, has more or less collapsed in its efforts to understand the changes of the 1980s and 1990s. Either it has fallen into a kind of post-Frankfurt school concentration upon 'difference,' focusing on 'culture' in a way formerly associated with various left-wing intellectuals from Gramsci to Bahro, albeit with the more modern terminology of 'plurality,' 'multipolarity,' and 'information' (see for example, Guattari and Negri 1985, Negri 1990, and Witheford 1994); or else it has theorised the supposedly subversive nature of the politics of single-issue campaigns (see Cleaver 1989), thereby tending to block off its escape routes from subcultural anti-imperialist leftism. (For the rudiments of a much more useful and classist discussion of the information revolution and present changes, see Tillium 1994).

14 While some communists (for example, Rubel and Crump 1987) use the words 'socialism' and 'communism' interchangeably, we have followed the majority in preferring to use the latter word exclusively.

15 See also Ryan's discussion of Negri's work on the State form (1977) which has yet to be translated into English. "Law is the form of relation between the organization and command of exploitation.... There is no proletarian law. Therefore, in the transition to communism, law founded on antagonism will become extinct. The State of law will no longer be possible." (Ryan 1993, p.210, referring to Negri 1977).

16 Thus from this point of view the concept of the defence of the revolution is meaningless.

17 In the Critique of the Gotha Programme (1875) Marx jots down a few thoughts on the transition from capitalism to communism. Whilst recognising that the decisive factor is the transformation of the underlying social relations, he states that "corresponding" to this social transformation there must also be a "transition in the political sphere." During this time there is still a 'state,' but this state can "only take the form of a revolutionary dictatorship ofthe proletariat." (p.355). The bourgeois State will havebeen destroyed; and since the purpose of the new state is to help abolish money, wages, and classes, it too ceases to exist at the moment of these relations' final disappearance. In fact, it is in its nature to wither away from the moment it is set up. Even after it has disappeared, though, the new communist society is still 'stamped with birth-marks' from the society out of which it has emerged. Social development, in other words - and one should note that Marx does not portray the 'means of production' as determinant - is insufficient to allow the free distribution of everything according to need. In this 'first stage' of the stateless, moneyless, classless society, it is thought, some kind of rationing would be unavoidable, and Marx makes the suggestion that this would best be organised according to labour-time vouchers. Only once people have freed themselves from "subjugation ... to the division of labour," and only once the "all-round development of individuals [had] increased their productive powers," can the "more advanced phase then begin," and rationing be dispensed with. (pp.346-47).

This view, espoused consistently by Buick (1975, 1978) and Chattopadhyay (1994, pp. 116-18) - although Buick disagrees about labour-time vouchers and argues that the 'political transition period' will be very short (1975, p.70) - is somewhat different from our own. At the same time, however, it is radically opposed to the usual leftist view on the 'economics of transition.' Thus the latter holds that money, the State, wages, and classes would still exist in a "transitional society," the basis of which would supposedly be the "hybrid combination" [sic] of commodity production and "non-capitalist economic planning" (E. Mandel 1974, p.10): or more simply, nationalisation. Trotsky even writes that the transition from capitalism to socialism in the USSR must actually mean the "extraordinary extension" of commodity relations. (1936, p.67). Marx's view of 1875 is equally opposed to the Leninist view of the 'politics of transition'. In generalised form this states that in each country the 'transitional' economy, complete with money, commodities, and wages, would be administered by a 'socialist' national government (or a "socialist state") - supposedly until the material means of production were sufficiently developed for it to cease to exist. (Trotsky 1936, pp.45-56). Whilst Marx, though, found no use for any concept of a 'socialist state,' the gap between Marx and Leninism is considerably greater than might be inferred even from this. See, for example, Lenin's assertion in The State and Revolution that "under communism there remains for a time not only bourgeois right, but even the bourgeois state, without the bourgeoisie!" (1917b, p.94, emphasis added). On a practical level, this corresponded to the Bolsheviks' inheritance of the State apparatus formerly wielded by Tsarism and the Provisional Government. On a theoretical level, it is not only anti-communist, if the term communist is to retain any meaning at all; it is also an extreme distortion even of Marx's later position.

Although rarely expressed openly, the idea underlying the Leninist theory of 'transition' is that even under 'socialism' the workers - assumed still to be a distinct class! - will not be particularly inclined to produce. Thus they will have to be subjected - by their own 'representatives' - to a combination of economic incentives and political (that is, State-mediated) discipline. At this point one can see how reformism, substitutionism, and the belief that the working class on its own is incapable of reaching a revolutionary consciousness and making a social revolution, form a single whole.

18 Or as Marx puts it, "when the proletariat proclaims the dissolution of the existing world order, it is only declaring the secret of its own existence." (1844, p.256).

19 The following definitions are not completely rigorous. Given that the usage of such tems as 'left' and 'extreme left' is based on these tendencies' self-description, however, and given that the ideas which demarcate the communist tendency have been detailed above, such definitions are not necessary in the present context.

20 Communist usage of the terms 'left,' 'extreme left' and 'ultra-left' in these meanings was developed in western Europe, particularly in France. Even in this region, though, these politics have undergone a major decline, as the intra-capitalist struggle between left and right has fallen in importance on the general basis of a victory of the right. Many former left-wing parties, such as the British Labour Party, have actually joined the right.

21 It is worth pointing out in this context that some communists have argued, with substantial justification, that the Autonomists did not, in practice, break effectively with leftism even at the peak of their influence in the 1970s. (Insurrezione 1984). Specifically, neither political vanguardism nor national liberationism were ever put properly into question. Despite its pathbreaking theoretical contribution, Autonomism cannot therefore be seen as part of the communist tendency in the same way as groups and journals of an anti-vanguardist and anti-nationalist orientation.

We would suggest in partial explanation that although Autonomist Marxism always had the strength of being commendably 'up-to-date' and indeed forward-looking, it also had the weakness of being unable, even in the 1970s, fully to compensate for its lack of a fruitful encounter with earlier communist theoretical contributions, particularly those of the council communists and the Situationists. Bologna, for example, in discussing in a comparative context the workers' councils movement of 1918 in Germany, fails altogether to consider the practical (and armed) force of the council communist workers' organisations which arose as part of that movement. (1972). Despite his useful concentration on class composition, especially in the United States, his omission to consider the ideas and experience of European council communism can then reinforce his assumption that Russian Bolshevism was still some kind of a proletarian manifestation even as late as the civil war. (pp.90-91). Such views in turn reinforce the failure to reach a full rejection of partyism.

Moreover, Autonomist Marxism, unlike Situationist theory, has little or no concept of false consciousness. But a theoretical understanding of the fact that the working class necessarily holds power which is tendentially disruptive of the realisation of capitalist imperatives, so long as it remains untied to a full understanding of means of integration, can quite feasibly allow a movement from the original 'workerism' (operaismo) of the 1960s towards a positive appraisal of various kinds of accommodation, or at least to an abdication from the need to criticise them wholesale. The idea of global communist revolution can then be shifted towards a concept of the 'permanent' contestational occupation of a militant or sub-cultural 'area of autonomy,' corresponding in effect to a form of self-management. (See Insurrezione 1984).

Such a concept does not appear to be completely contradictory to the idea of Autonomist Marxism as it is understood by Cleaver, who coined the term. In outlining what it covers, he lists the following areas of interest (or points recognised):

1. the autonomy of the working class vis-a-vis capital, 2. the autonomy of workers vis-a-vis their official organizations, e.g., trade unions or parties, [and] 3. the autonomy of various sectors of the class from each other, e.g., that of blacks from whites, women from men, etc. (1997, p. 1)

We would argue that from a communist point of view it is Point 1 that is essential, and that whilst this directly implies Point 2, it does not imply Point 3, with which it actually conflicts. This is because the concept of the autonomy of a 'sector' of the class can only go against the understanding that it is class struggle as a globality that determines class.

It has also been possible to ignore or obscure the relevance of Point 2. The case of the early 'workerist' theorist Tronti, who in 1967 decided to espouse the 'really-existing workers' politics' of the Communist Party of Italy -which in the late 1970s became a main force in the Italian judicial repression of the principally Autonomist-influenced radical movement (see Red Notes 1979) - was admittedly exceptional. More recently, though, Lebowitz has been able, while elaborating a largely Autonomist theory of the primacy of class struggle, to maintain a more orthodox view of the trade unions as the "critical organising centre of the working class" and the State as a 'mediator of labour' which is apparently independent of capital. (1992, pp.149-51).

22 Pannekoek's view that any future capitalist collapse would have as its essential ingredient the "will to revolution of the proletariat" (1934, pp.78-79) should serve as a caveat against over-estimating the originality of Autonomism.

23 The International Workingmen's Association, or First International, did not formulate an agreed ideology of any comparable type.

24 On social democracy, see for example Pannekoek 1919 and 1920; on Bolshevism, Voline 1947 orBrinton 1970; on the conflict between proletarian autonomy and the anarchist union the National Confederation of Labour (CNT) during the Spanish civil war, Seidman 1988, pp.1-14.

25 Chattopadhyay's work does not fall easily into any of these three categories. Adopting a viewpoint which is neither social-democrat nor Leninist, he undoubtedly understands the need for working class self-liberation. (1994, p.148). Moreover, unlike Dunayevskaya and James, Castoriadis, and Ticktin, he rejects the concept of a 'transitional society' (pp.116-18) - albeit on the basis of Marx's Critique of the Gotha Programme (see Note 17 above). But he does not bring working class struggle into his theory of Soviet capitalism - or at least not explicitly - and theorises in a highly 'objectivist' fashion. Most important in the present context, however, is the fact that his critique of Soviet capitalism's historical development raises questions which seem all but to cry out for a 'classist' resolution. For this reason we have considered his work in the second section of Chapter 6. As with the example of Autonomism, which stresses workers' autonomy but bears the weaknesses referred to in the notes above - and as indeed with the critique of the USSR advanced by Ticktin, which emphasises workers' power without focusing explicitly on class antagonism - this will hopefully serve as good illustration of the need to be wary of over-tidy, dogmatic classifications.