2009 text by Theorie Communiste outlining what they think the process of communisation would look like. There is also a part 2, 'Communisation vs Spheres', linked below.
“The ultimate point of the reciprocal implication between the classes is that in which the proletariat seizes the means of production. It seizes them, but cannot appropriate them. An appropriation carried out by the proletariat is a contradiction in terms, because it could only be achieved through its own abolition.”
The seizure of the elements of capital. Appropriation or communisation
What is at stake in communisation is the overcoming of a defensive position, in which proletarians fight to maintain their conditions and therefore their reciprocal implication with capital, through a seizure of capital, not in the sense of a socialisation, i.e. a mode of managing the economy, but rather by constituting a community of individuals that are directly its constituents. It is true that societies, i.e. communities dominated and represented by a class, also always constitute the unity of individuals that belong to them, but individuals are only members of societies as average class individuals; singular individuals have no social existence. Communisation is accomplished through seizing the means of subsistence, of communication, of transport and of production in the restricted sense. The communisation of relations, the constitution of a human community / communism, is realized for, in and through the struggle against capital. In this struggle, the seizure of the material means of production cannot be separated from the transformation of proletarians into immediately social individuals: it is one and the same activity, and this identity is brought about by the present form of the contradiction between the proletariat and capital. The radical difference from socialisation is that it is not a matter of changing the property status of the material means of production. In communisation there is no appropriation of goods by any entity whatsoever; no state, commune, or council to represent and dominate proletarians in expropriating capital and thus carry out an appropriation. Changing the property regime entails the constitution of a new form of economy, namely socialism, even if it is called an economy of solidarity. When socialism was really possible, communism was postponed to the end of time, and yet socialism could never be what it claimed to be: the transition to communism. This fact made it finally the counterrevolution adequate to the only real revolution of the period. Communisation doesn’t constitute an economy. It makes use of everything, but has no other aim than itself. Communisation is not the struggle for communism; it is communism that constitutes itself against capital.
The embroilment of communisation and socialisation
If the action of communisation is the outlet of class struggle in the revolutionary crisis, the same act of seizure could be, as we have seen, either communisation or socialisation. Any action of this type can take one or the other form; it all depends on the dynamic and on the context, constantly in transformation. In other words: everything depends on the struggle against capital, which either deepens and extends itself or loses pace and perishes very quickly. Everything also depends on the struggle within the struggle against capital. The constitution of communism is embroiled with the constitution of one last alternative socio-economic capitalist form. Until communisation is completed there will be a permanent tendency for some entity to be constituted which strives to make the seizure of material means into a political and economic socialisation. The persistence of such a brake, able to be utilised by a capitalist counter-revolution, consists in the persistence until the very end of a dimension within the revolutionary movement of the affirmation and liberation of labour, because the revolutionary movement is and remains a movement of the class of labour even in the overcoming of activities as labour. The affirmation remains as long as capital is not yet abolished; this is to say, as long as capital still exists as opposed to the proletariat, even the proletariat on the point of abolishing it, i.e. of abolishing itself. In this context the proletariat retains a positivity, even if this positivity of labour is not reaffirmed by capital anymore; rather it is reactivated in the revolutionary process, as social reproduction becomes a process dependent on the action of proletarians.
Past revolutions show us only too well: “the red flag can be waved against the red flag” until the Freikorps arrive
Capital “will not hesitate” to proclaim once again that labour is the “only productive activity” in order to stop the movement of its abolition and in order to reassert its control over it as soon as it can. This dimension can only be overcome by the victory of communisation, which is the achieved abolition of the capitalist class and the proletariat. The overcoming of the counter-revolution will not always be irenic, it will not always take place “within the movement” and it will not be a true and quicker version of the “withering of the state” which was foreseen in socialism. Any form, whether it be a state form or a para-state form, will always do anything to maintain itself even in the name of its ultimate withering! This sclerosis and perpetuation are not “counter-revolutionary tendencies within the revolution”, but rather The counter-revolution. The capitalist counter-revolution in opposition to the revolution.
Communism doesn’t fight against democracy, but the counter-revolution claims to be democratic
It is in the very name of the abolition of classes that radical democracy will do everything to maintain or restore elective structures, which it claims are necessary to prevent the formation of a new ruling stratum, one self-appointed and uncontrolled. The constitution of communism is embroiled with the constitution of a final form of socialism even if the movement that bore it, the labour movement, has definitively disappeared.
The struggle to “bring to reason” the fractions of the proletariat which are most active in the expropriation of capital will be all the more violent when it presents itself as the defence of the democratic revolution, refusing to let the minority compromise the gains of the majority.
The defence of gains is the possibility of a counter-revolutionary phase
Communisation will never make any gains. All the expropriations that constitute the immediate community will have their character as pure expropriations and wildcat takeovers contested. They will be proclaimed socialisations as soon as the movement decelerates, and a para-state authority is set up in order to defend what at that moment appears as gains and as elements of the formation of a potential new economy. The class recognizes itself as divided and diverse in order to abolish itself. The abolition of the proletariat as the dissolution of other classes implies the internal need of the proletariat for these other classes, to absorb them in dissolving them and, at the same time, the contradiction with them. Communisation lives constantly in the conditions of its own sclerosis. Everything will happen on a geographical plane, a horizontal plane, and not on a sectoral plane differentiating types of activities. Limits will be everywhere, and the generalized embroilment of revolution and counter-revolution will manifest itself in multiple and chaotic conflicts. The proletariat abolishes itself in the human community that it produces. It is the inner and dynamic contradictions within such a process that give content and force to the counter-revolution, because in each one capital can regenerate itself. Because for the class to abolish itself is to overcome its autonomy, wherein the content and force of the capitalist counter-revolution reside.
Extension is the movement of victory; deceleration that of counter-revolution.
Without it being an explicit strategy, capital will struggle to recover social control in two ways. On the one hand, states will fight to re-establish their domination and restore exploitation. On the other hand, capitalist society will continue to maintain itself on the totally ambiguous bases of popular power and self-management. In formal subsumption, workers had long demanded the entire product of labour; this demand will now find a new lease of life and will constitute the ideal content for the reproduction of capitalist relations and a basis for a “solid” resistance against communisation. These factions may fight against each other or align themselves depending on the situation and hence on the development of the movement of communisation. The action of the capitalist class could be as much military as it could consist in social counter-measures and the construction of conflicts based on the capacities of the capitalist mode of production. The revolution itself could push the capitalist mode of production to develop in an unforeseeable manner, from the resurrection of slavery to self-management. But above all the reproduction of the capitalist mode of production will occur in a diffuse way as close as possible to the revolution, reproducing itself in all the moments where communisation is led by its own nature into a sclerosis of the simple organisation of the survival of proletarians, that is, into socialisation. The capitalist class can equally centralise its counter-revolutionary action in the State as it can decentralize the confrontation by regionalising it, dividing the classes into social categories, even ethnicising them, because a situation of crisis is also an inter-capitalist conflict. If, in an inter-capitalist conflict, one of the capitalist sites manages, through the general devalorisation that the crisis entails, to represent a global solution for all capitals, it will represent such a solution for the vanquished as well.
The revolution will not be won in a straight line
Some fractions of the insurgent proletariat will be smashed, others will be “turned back”, rallying to measures for the conservation of survival. Other insurrections will pick up where they leave off. Certain of those turned back or bogged down will resume wildcat expropriations, and the organisation of the struggle by those who struggle and uniquely for the struggle, without representation, without control by anyone in the name of anything, thereby taking up once again the constitution of communism, which is not a goal of the struggle but rather its content. Counter-revolutionary ideologies will be numerous, starting perhaps with that of the survival of the economy: preserving economic mechanisms, not destroying all economic logic, in order to then construct a new economy. The survival of the economy is the survival of exchange, whether this exchange uses money, any kind of voucher or chit, or even simply barter, which can be adorned with the name of mutual aid between workers! The situation where everything is for free and the complete absence of any form of accounting is the axis around which the revolutionary community will construct itself. Only the situation where everything is for free will enable the bringing together of all the social strata which are not directly proletarian and which will collapse in the hyper crisis. Only the situation where everything is for free will integrate/abolish all the individuals who are not directly proletarian, all those “without reserves” (including those whom revolutionary activity will have reduced to this condition), the unemployed, the ruined peasants of the “third world”, the masses of the informal economy. These masses must be dissolved as middle strata, as peasants, in order to break the personal relations of dependence between “bosses” and “employees” as well as the situation of “small independent producers” within the informal economy, by taking concrete communist measures which force all these strata to join the proletariat, that is, to realise their “proletarianisation”…
Proletarians who communise society will have no need of “frontism”. They will not seek out a common program for the victims of capital. If they engage in frontism they are dead, if they remain alone they are also dead. They must confront all the other classes of society as the sole class not able to triumph by remaining what it is. The measures of communisation are the abolition of the proletariat because, in addition to its unification in its abolition, they dissolve the basis of existence of a multitude of intermediate strata (managerial strata of capitalist production and reproduction) which are thereby absorbed into the process of communisation and millions (if not billions) of individuals that are exploited through the product of their labour and not the sale of their labour-power. At the regional level as much as at the global one, communisation will have an action that one could call “humanitarian”, even if this term is currently unpronounceable, because communisation will take charge of all the misery of the world. Human activity as a flux is the only presupposition of its collective, that is to say individual, pursuit, because, as it is self-presupposing, it has no conception of what a product is and can thus give plentifully. The proletariat, acting as a class, dissolves itself as a class through these acts of seizure, because in them it overcomes its “autonomy”.
Democracy and the solidarity economy will be the two big ideological constructions to defeat.
Democracy and the solidarity economy will combine with other systems depending on the time and place. They will combine above all with the ideology of communities that could be very diverse: national, racial, religious. Probably more dangerous: the spontaneous and inevitable constitution of local communities (“we are at home here”). Such communities will be of infinite variations and their ideologies can take on all political hues: conservative, reactionary, democratic, and of course, above all revolutionary – and here the embroilment of revolution and counter-revolution is the rule. For there is no situation that, viewed unilaterally, would be without a way out for capital. It is the action of the proletariat that will prevent capital from producing a superior mode of valorisation for which it can always find the conditions in every crisis and every confrontation with the proletariat, from these three points of view:
- Diversification and segmentation of the proletariat
- Dissolution and absorption of multiple exploited strata outside of a direct subsumption of their labour to capital
- Inter-capitalist conflicts recruiting the proletariat for whom these conflicts have a integrative and reproductive function
All of this provides the counter-revolution with its force and its content, which are in a direct relation with the immediate, empirical necessities of communisation (its dynamic contradictions, or the contradictions of its dynamic).
There is no ideological struggle; the practical struggle is theoretical.
One must not imagine the anti-ideological struggle as distinct from communisation itself. It is through communisation that ideologies are fought, because they are part of what the movement abolishes. The constitution of communism cannot avoid violent confrontations with the counter-revolution, but these “military” aspects do not lead to the constitution of a front. If such a front is constituted the revolution will be lost, at least where the front is situated, and until its dissolution. The revolution will be both geographic and without any fronts: the starting points of communisation will always be local and will undergo immediate and very rapid expansion, like the start of a fire. Even once extinguished these fires will smoulder under self-management and citizen communities. Communism will arise from an immense fight. The process of communisation will indeed be a period of transition, but not at all a calm period of socialist and/or democratic construction between a chaotic revolutionary period and communism. It will itself be the chaos between capital and communism. It is clear that such a prospect, though well-founded, has nothing exciting about it! It is neither “barbarism”, a meaningless term, nor the royal road of the tomorrows that sing!1 This is a perspective that is anchored in the current situation of capital and in struggles – in the current struggle between the proletariat and restructured capital in its crisis. It is a perspective which poses the overcoming of these struggles, not in a straight line, but in a deepening of the crisis of capital currently occurring.
The embroilment of the revolution and counter-revolution implicates all organisation which the movement of class struggle takes on. Any given organisation, any collective, or any other form can be the form taken by organised struggle or else tend towards the representation of this struggle, and develop, in a situation of the crumbling of the state, toward a para-state form. It is not a matter of the opposition between organisation and spontaneity (everything is always spontaneous and organised) but of the opposition between expropriation and appropriation, communisation and socialisation; the latter necessitating that society exists, that is to say that it is something other than “people”, than the “people” of which we shall now speak. In the struggle in 2003 in France we could see proletarians construct between themselves what could be called an inter-subjectivity that was not beholden to the unions, leaving the latter to organise a merely scenic representation of this unity. Nevertheless the struggle did not overcome the general limit of what it was at the time: radical democratism, the political consolidation of the limits of the struggle as a class through proposing solutions to the “problems of capital”, for example the “defence of public services”. This was truly an inter-subjectivity in that (still proletarian) subjects linked together in the face of their object — capital. In Greece in 2008 the riot was fundamentally an inter-subjectivity. In confronting the question of democracy, the inter-subjectivity of the Greek rioters confronted class belonging as an exterior constraint, through the absence of demands, and beyond the foreclosure represented by radical democratism. In the movement of the abolition of capital, the latter (capital) is de-objectified: the subject-object relation is abolished along with the capital-proletariat relation. (We should remember that this abolition is the content of the revolutionary process, communisation, and as long as it is not yet finished there will still be a subject-object relation, even if the subject is in the process of abolishing its object as such; it is in this relation that the abolition is achieved, that is to say that proletarians abolish the capital which makes them proletarian, i.e. pure subjects confronted with the object — capitalist society as a whole). The revolutionary process of de-objectification of capital is thus also a process of the destruction of the separated subjectivity of the proletariat. It is this process which we designate as the self-transformation of proletarians into immediately social individuals. This transformation can never be said to have occurred before it is completed; in this sense it is proletarians that make the revolution all the way to the end, because all the way to the end they abolish the capital that makes them proletarians.
Communisation and socialisation do not form a contradiction
The contradiction remains that between capital and the proletariat. It does not become an internal contradiction within the proletariat. Even if a total opposition between the two perspectives arises, they are embroiled with one another and both implicated in the contradiction capital–proletariat. The struggle of the proletariat against capital becomes the abolition of classes by the expropriation of capital. But this very action, in its opposition to capital, revives the affirmation of labour when it is interrupted by the capitalist class (it is there that the gains exist as we have seen). This provisional affirmation, which is an affirmation of labour by default, advances a social state whose outcome would be a social State, thus a counter-revolutionary form. In this case, the revolutionary movement must oppose itself to that which it itself has just posed. The process of self-transformation into immediately social individuals can, in the struggle against capital and thus the capitalist class, also be a struggle against proletarians defending the proletarian condition. A struggle of communisation against socialisation.
The counter-revolution is constructed on the limits of the revolution
This is what this text has tried to show a little more “concretely”. In the period that saw the revolutionary attempts from 1917 to 1937, the general structure of the capital-proletariat contradiction bore within it the affirmation of the class of labour and thus the construction of socialism. Now the contradiction bears within it the calling into question of class belonging and thus the general structure poses communisation. This structure doesn’t mean that limits don’t still exist, even if the direction of the movement is toward their overcoming. The limit is consubstantial with every revolutionary measure, and this limit is only overcome in the following measure. It is the class character of the movement of communisation which is its limit. This movement is the overcoming of its own limited character, since it is the abolition of classes and thus of the proletariat. The proletarian is the individual deprived of objectivity, whose objectivity is opposed to him in capital. He is reduced to pure subjectivity, he is the free subject, bearer of a labour-power only able to become labour in action after being sold, and then put to work by its capitalist owner. The subject free of everything is bound to objectivity in itself, the fixed capital that subsumes its labour-power, submitting it to incorporation into the labour process. The abolition of capital is the abolition of objectivity in itself through the seizure of material means, and the abolition of the proletarian subject through the production of the immediately social individual. It is what we call the simultaneous de-subjectification and de-obectification produced by the seizure of the social totality, an action that destroys this totality as something distinct from individuals. The distinct totality is the independent society, through its division into classes and its representation by the dominant class. The abolition of classes is the abolition of society. The creation of socialist or even “communist” society is always the maintenance of the independence of the community from its members, which are only social by the mediation of society. Communism is the end of all mediation between individuals and their constantly changing groupings of affinity. But in the revolution there is still mediation by capital since revolutionary activity is the abolition of capital! Communisation, in so far as it is mediated by its own object, always carries the possibility that its mediation autonomizes itself in the constitution of the revolution as a different structure than revolutionary action. This tendency towards institutionalisation of the revolution, and the victory of capital, will continually exist. Communisation is revolution within the revolution, the overcoming of class autonomy, but revolution and counter-revolution are continually face to face. The steps of communisation are those of a tightrope walker.
B.L. June 2009
See the second part of this series: 'Communisation vs Spheres'
Taken from the website of the 2009 communist summercamp.
- 1The tomorrows that sing is a phrase employed by the French communist party and its official poet Louis Aragon to describe their claim on the future.