First published in 1995 in France: Section One, “The Historical Balance Sheet” includes chapters on: communist movements throughout history; Marx and Engels and communism; “Real” vs. “Formal” domination of capital and the importance of this distinction for understanding the failure of the old workers movements (capitalism was not “obsolete” prior to 1945). Section Two, “Perspectives”, contains an extensive discussion of: the economic roots of capitalism’s current crisis (the “final stage of its cycle”); the communist revolution; and socialism.
Communism Has Not Yet Begun – Claude Bitot
Author’s Preface to the Spanish Edition
This preface to the Spanish edition of this book, first published in France in 1995, provides the opportunity to clearly set forth the resolutely determinist conception that informed the book’s assessment of communism’s past as well as its future, without which the latter would be unintelligible.
Marx’s great contribution was to have revealed the laws and tendencies that are engendered with “an iron necessity” by the capitalist mode of production. Marx also claimed, with reference to England, that “the most industrially developed country only shows the less developed countries the image of their own future”. This prediction has been fully confirmed. Since Marx’s time capitalism has done nothing but expand and grow, in the process of transformation from a still totally “formal” domination to an increasingly “real” domination (a transition explained in this book).
This capitalist determinism explains why the communist movement of the past, whose balance sheet is set forth in this book, could not succeed in its revolutionary enterprise of overthrowing capitalism. The latter, programmed in such a way as to reach the end of its historical trajectory, had sufficient resources and solvency to confront such a movement and thus engineer its downfall. Hence the successive defeats, the dead ends, the capitulations and the deformations experienced by the communist movement, to the point where today one could say that nothing remains of it, at a time when its perspective is totally eclipsed. If it has not completely disappeared, nothing is left of it except a weak, vacillating and flickering appeal. Thus, it is said that communism might be “one possibility” among others of history, a “choice” on the part of humanity that could be taken provided that humanity makes “the correct choice”. Why is this “possibility” better than any other? No one knows. Why the “correct choice” rather than “a mistaken one”? No one knows this either. In short, the fact that nothing is known amounts to full indeterminism and everything is left to a vague “free will”. In fact, the time is long past when revolutionary fervor was in the ascendant, and militants proclaimed communism in a resolute manner, without equivocations, as if it had already come about.
Such “disenchantment” did not arise by chance. It derives from modern capitalist domination, which has “rationalized” the world in such a way that it has created a world in its own image: a world driven by economic and social determinisms that are thought to be eternal and from which no one can escape including the capitalists. “There is no future”, as the English punks said.
From this moment on, finding ourselves in a closed world, padlocked and without a key, must we conclude, together with the minions of capitalism, that this is “the impassable and limitless horizon of humanity”, inviting those peoples who have not yet totally surrendered to it to stop procrastinating? Once again it is the merit of Marx that he shed light upon the fact that the laws and tendencies that rule the capitalist mode of production will ultimately enter into an increasingly striking contradiction with the productive forces that capitalism caused to arise, which will bring about its collapse, by finally making such a contradiction unendurable. Marx therefore concluded that capitalism, as a mode of production, was only a transitory form that corresponded to a “particular historical stage of the development of production”.
In other words, if there is an economic determinism that has worked in favor of capitalist development, there is also a determinism that tends to interrupt that development, thereby serving notice to capitalism that it has reached its limits. This zone of limitation, which we call “the end of the historical cycle” of capitalism, can now be discerned by means of various indices. The productive forces have reached such a degree of development that capital’s fixed portion (machines and plant) has far outdistanced living capital (workers’ labor power), the sole creator of value, which means capitalism is sawing off the branch upon which it rests: it simultaneously makes the exploitation of living labor the source of its profits but also suppresses it. Hence the rate of profit—the stimulus for capitalist production—is constantly diminished, while this process is accentuated by an extraordinary expansion of unproductive labor (labor that does not create surplus value), to prevent a no less stupendous level of unemployment, which becomes a real absurdity for capitalist production, which conceives of the utilization of labor power only in terms of producing surplus value. It is true that capital attempts to counteract this decline of the rate of profit, but it is becoming more and more difficult to do so: attacks on wages, social “conquests”, the “welfare state” that it created for the purpose of social regulation, not without posing a risk for the good stability of the capitalist system, which has seen the “social peace” giving way to social explosions that are ultimately becoming uncontrollable. Which is why, for the present, governments temporize, more or less hoping for better days (“strong growth”, “full employment”), which is in turn a way of acknowledging that the problem is still posed in its totality. As for the capitalists, their inability to invest fruitfully in the real economy leads them to hope for compensation in the fictitious, stock market economy, where it seems that money can be magically made from money without passing through production. But this increasing financialization of capital that we have witnessed over the last couple of decades is also reaching its limits, the “financial bubbles” that break out periodically, turning masses of capital into dust, and thus indicating the artificial side of such an operation.
From this end of the historical cycle of capitalism, which could encompass an entire period (measured on this scale, 30 or 50 years are nothing), and which will be, as it advances, the stage for increasingly severe economic crises accompanied by equally severe social crises, we do not deduce the “possibility” of communism, but its imperious necessity. In other words, we are saying that communism (which all the bourgeois commentators have announced is dead and buried) will rise from the ashes like the Phoenix, not because it is a “beautiful utopia” (there is no more utopia!) but because it will be inscribed along determinist lines that leave no other choice other than this way out, the only one that is viable due to the enormous development of the productive forces which has taken place, henceforth rendering any steps backward towards earlier forms of exploitation and domination impractical, as is demonstrated by the failures—whatever anyone may say—of the various regressive movements we have seen (religious fundamentalisms, micro-nationalisms, ethnic identity movements), which are capable of causing harm but which are still incapable of transforming their gloomy dreams into reality.
How will such a determinism unfold, which leads towards communism? First of all, we reject that imbecilic ideology which, confusing determinism with an insipid fatalism, holds that men no longer have to do anything except simply wait passively and peacefully for some mysterious or magical power to act in their stead and thereby grant them a “happy ending”. This is how gods, prophets, saviors and other charlatans are presented. Determinism, in its eminently Marxist sense, is just the opposite: it pushes men into action, it compels them to fight, it incites them to act and to exercise their will and thus to abandon their usual inertia. Furthermore, there is nothing mysterious about it because of its economic and social determinations. This economic and social determinism that impels towards action has a name: the class struggle, the motor of history, as Marx called it. For it is by way of this struggle, which is today still rejected and held in check, that the proletarian masses will succeed in clearing the way to communism; this struggle which, as Marx told Weydemeyer 150 years ago (Letter dated March 5, 1852), “necessarily leads to the dictatorship of the proletariat” and “that this dictatorship itself only constitutes the transition to the abolition of all classes and to a classless society”. The communist movement of the past did not originate in the mind of an especially inspired thinker, but as a result of the ruthless exploitation of man by man that characterized the early days of capitalism. The proletariat of that era contributed a more or less utopian dimension to this struggle. Today’s proletariat (that is, in its widest sense, the majority of the active population) will enter the struggle without any poetic illusions or preconceived ideologies. Coldly and realistically, it will assess the situation by pronouncing it all the more intolerable the more that capitalism has in the meantime caused substantial productive forces to arise (in fact, for the needs of communism, there are already too many in the highly developed countries) that will make the poverty, the misery and the uncertainty of existence all the more unendurable. For communism has not yet begun!