4. The Libertarian Communist Programme

Submitted by libcom on April 4, 2005

(1) Aspects Of Bourgeois Rule - Capitalism And The State
Before we show the goals and solutions of libertarian communism we must examine what kind of enemy we're faced with.

From what we can know of human history we see that ever since human societies have been divided into classes (and especially since the division of social labour), there have been conflicts between the social classes and, from the earliest demands and revolts, as if a chain of struggles fought for a better life and a more just society.

Anarchist analysis considers that modern day society, like all those which came before it, is not a single unit - it is divided into two very different camps, different as much in their situation as in their social function: the proletariat (in the broad sense of the word) and the bourgeoisie.

Added to this is the fact of the class struggle, whose character may vary - sometimes complex and imperceptible, sometimes open, rapid and easy to see.

This struggle is very often masked by clashes of secondary interests, conflicts between groups of the same class, complex historical events which at first sight don't have any direct connection with the existence of classes and their rivalry. Basically though this struggle is always directed towards transforming contemporary society into a society which would answer the needs wants and sense of justice of the oppressed and through this, in a classless society, liberating the whole of humanity.

The structure of any society always expresses in its laws, morality and culture the respective positions of the social classes - some exploited and enslaved, the others holding property and authority. In modern society economics, politics, law, morality and culture all rest on the existence of the privileges and monopolies of one class and on the violence organised by that class to maintain its supremacy..

The capitalist system is very often considered as the only form of exploitative society. But capitalism is a relatively recent economic and social form and human societies have certainly known other kinds of slavery and exploitation since the clans, the barbarian empires, the ancient cities, feudalism, the cities of the Renaissance and so on.

Analysis of the birth, development and evolution of capitalism was the work of the movement of socialist theoreticians at the start of the 19th Century (Marx and Engels did not more than systematise them), but this analysis gives a poor account of the general phenomenon of oppression by one class or another, and of its origin.

There is no point getting involved in debate as to whether authority came before property or the other way round. The present state of Sociology does not allow us to settle the matter absolutely, but it seems clear that economic, political, religious and moral powers have been closely linked from the very beginning. In any case, the role of political power cannot be limited to its merely being the tool of economic might powers. In that way analysis of the phenomenon of capitalism was not accompanied by adequate analysis of the phenomenon of the State, because people were concentrating on a very limited part of history and only the anarchist theoreticians, especially Bakunin and Kropotkin, strove to give its full importance to a phenomenon which too often was limited to the State of the period of capitalism's rise.

Today the evolution of capitalism, passing from classical capitalism to monopoly capitalism, then to directed and to State capitalism, is giving rise to new social forms which the summary analyses of the State can no longer account for.

What is Capitalism?
(a) It is a society of rival classes where the exploiting class owns and controls the means of production.

(b) In capitalist society all goods - including the power of waged labour - are commodities.

(c) The supreme love of capitalism, the motive for the production of goods, is not peoples needs but the increasing of profit, that is the surplus produced by workers, the extra to what is absolutely necessary for them to stay alive.

This surplus is also called plus-value.

(d) Increase in the productivity of labour is not followed by the valorisation of capital which is limited (under-consumption). This contradiction, which is expressed by the 'tendency to fall of the rate of profit', creates periodic crises which lead the owners of capital to all sorts of carry-ons: cut-backs in production, destruction of produce, unemployment, wars and so on.

Capitalism Has Evolved:
(1) Pre-capitalist era: from the end of the Middle Ages the merchant and banking bourgeoisie develops within the feudal economy.

(2) Classical or Liberalist or Private Capitalism: individualism of the owners of capital, competition and expansion (after the early accumulation of capital, by dispossession, pillage, ruin of the peasant population etc. the capitalism which has established itself in Western Europe has a world to conquer, enormous sources of wealth and markets which appear to be vast).

The bourgeois revolutions, by getting rid of feudal restraints, help the new system to develop.

It is industrialisation and technical progress which have been the basis for the existence of the capitalist mode of production and for the transition from the mercantile bourgeoisie of the 15th, 16th and 17th Centuries to the industrialist capitalist bourgeoisie. They continue to develop.

Throughout this period crises are infrequent and not too serious. The state plays a background role as competition gets rid of the weak - it is the free play of the system. It is the time of gas and coal in the technical sphere; of property, the individual boss, competition and free trade in the economic; parliamentarianism in the political; total exploitation and the most dreadful poverty of the wage-earners in the social.

(3) Monopoly Capitalism or Imperialism: productivity increases but markets constrict or don't increase at their previous rate. Fall in the rate of profit of over accumulated capital.

Agreements (trusts, cartels, etc.) replace competition, joint-stock companies replace the individual boss, protectionism intervenes, the export of capital comes to be added to that of commodities, financial credit plays a major role, the merger of banking capital with industrial capital creates financier capital which tames the state and calls on its intervention.

It is the time of petrol and electricity in the technical sphere; of agreements, protectionism, the over-accumulation of capital and the tendency to fall of the rate of profit, of crises in the economic; of wars, imperialism and the growth of the State in the political. War is essential if crises are to overcome - destruction frees markets. In the social sphere: poverty for the working class but social legislation limits certain aspects of exploitation.

(4) State Capitalism: everything that characterised the previous stage is accentuated. Wars are no longer enough to overcome crises. A permanent war economy is needed which will invest huge amounts of capital in the war industries while adding nothing to a market already over-congested stuffed with goods; an appreciable profit is procured by State orders.

This period is characterised by the State's seizure of the most important sections of the economy, of the labour market.

The State becomes capitalism - client, purveyor and overseer of works and labour power - and so assures itself of every increasing control of planning, culture and so on.

Bureaucracy develops, discipline and regulation are imposed on labour.

Exploitation and the wage earning class remain, as do the other essential features of capitalism, but with the appearance of socialising forms (regulations, Social Security, retirement pensions) which mark the enslavement of more and more of the proletariat.

State capitalism has various forms: German National Socialism, Stalinist National Socialism, ever increasing state control in the 'democracies' but appearing in a comparatively restricted form (due to a still vast reserve of plus value from their colonies). Politically as economically this period tends to take on a totalitarian form.

So Statism reveals itself in forms simultaneously political, economic and cultural: State finance, war economy, huge public works, conscripted labour, concentration camps, forced movement of populations, ideologies which justify the totalitarian order of things (for example, a counterfeit version of Marxist-Leninist ideology in the USSR, race in Hitler's National Socialism, Ancient Rome in Mussolini's Fascism, etc.).

The State
If capitalism, despite its transformations, or its adaptations, helps its permanent features (plus value, crises, competition, etc.) ... the State can no longer be regarded simply as the public Organisation of repression in the hands of the ruling class, the agent of the bourgeoisie, capitalism's copper.

An examination of the forms of the State previous to the period of the rise of capitalism, and of the present day forms of the State, leads us to see the State as being important other than just as an instrument. The Mediaeval, the State of the absolute monarchies of Europe, the State of the Pharaohs etc... were realities in their own right, they constituted the ruling State - Class.

And the State of the imperialist stage of capitalism, the State of today, is tending away from being superstructure to itself becoming 'structure'.

For the ideologies of the bourgeoisie the State is the regulator organ is modern society. This is true, but it is that because of a form of society which is the enslavement of a majority to a minority. It is therefore the organised violence of the bourgeoisie against the workers, it is the tool of the ruling class. But alongside this instrumental aspect it is tending to acquire a functional character, itself becoming the organised ruling class. It is tending to overcome the conflicts between the controlling groups on politics and economics. It is tending to fuse the forces which hold political and economic power, the different sectors of the bourgeoisie, into a single bloc, whether to increase its capacity for internal repression or to add to its expansive power abroad. It is moving towards the unity of politics and economics, extending its hegemony over all activities, integrating the trade unions etc ... transferring the waged worker as properly defined into a modern serf, completely enslaved but with a minimum of safeguards (allowances, Social Security, etc). It is no longer an instrument but a power in itself.

At this stage, which is being brought about in every country, even the U.S.A., was attempted by Nazism and almost perfectly attained in the USSR, one may wonder if it is still correct to speak of capitalism: perhaps this level of development of the imperialist stage of capitalism should not rather be seen as a new form of exploitive society which is already something other than capitalism? The difference then would be no longer quantitative but qualitative: it would no longer be a question of a degree of capitalism's evolution but of something else, something really quite new and different. But this is chiefly a matter of appreciation, of terminology, which may seem premature and without real importance at present.

It is enough for us to express as follows the form of exploitation and slavery towards which bourgeois society is tending: the State as a class apparatus and as Organisation of the class, simultaneously instrumental and functional, superstructure and structure, is tending to unify all the powers, every form of domination, of the bourgeoisie over the proletariat.