Workers and capital - Mario Tronti

What has been translated of Mario Tronti's 1966 book, Operai e Capitale (Workers and Capital).

Submitted by Juan Conatz on May 23, 2012


Juan Conatz

11 years 4 months ago

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Submitted by Juan Conatz on May 23, 2012

Anyone know what order these excerpts (chapters?) go in?


11 years 4 months ago

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Submitted by ocelot on May 23, 2012

The French translation of Tronti's Operai e capitale is online in its entirety here:

From that full translation, the following chapter headings:

Marx hier et aujourd’hui [Marx yesterday and today]
L’usine et la société [Factory and society]
Le plan du capital [The plan of capital - retitled: Social Capital]

Lénine en Angleterre [Lenin in England]
Une vieille tactique au service d’une nouvelle stratégie [An old tactic in the service of a new strategy]
1905 en Italie [1905 in Italy]
Classe et parti [Class and Party]

Marx, force de travail, classe ouvrière [Marx, Labour Power, Working Class]
1. Hegel et Ricardo [Hegel and Ricardo]
2. L’échange argent/travail [The work/money exchange]
3. Critique de l’idéologie [Critique of ideology]
4. Maudit soit Juin ! [Cursed be June!]
5. La particularité de la marchandise force de travail
[The particularity of the labour power commodity]
6. Travail productif [Productive labour]
7. Qu’est-ce que le prolétariat ? [What is the proletariat?]
8. Les formes de la lutte [The forms of struggle]
9. Le travail comme non-capital [Work as non-capital]
10. Le mot d’ordre : la valeur-travail [The watchword: labour-value]
11. La classe [The class]
12. La stratégie du refus [The strategy of refusal]
13. Tactique = organisation [Tactics = organisation]
14. Lutte contre le travail [Struggle against labour]

The Progressive era [retitled: Workers and Capital]
L’époque de Marshall [The Marshall epoch]
La social-démocratie historique [Historic social-democracy]
La lutte de classe aux États-Unis [Class struggle in the USA]
Marx à Detroit [Marx in Detroit]
Sichtbar machen [Making visible]


11 years 4 months ago

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Submitted by Entdinglichung on May 23, 2012

the German edition:


11 years 2 months ago

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Submitted by OCT on July 14, 2012

Hello! Me and a group of people are working on a full translation of Workers and Capital. We're working from the Spanish and French translations, possibly the german one too. But we are missing the original Italian and can't seem to find either a physical copy or a .pdf file.
Can anyone help us out please?


10 years 6 months ago

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Submitted by Nate on March 5, 2013

This article is also from Tronti's book -

In case anyone's interested, here's the pagination for these excerpts.

Social Capital - p64 Spanish / p60 Italian
Lenin In England - p93 Spanish / p89 Italian
The Strategy of the Refusal - p244 Spanish / p234 Italian
Struggle Against Labor - p262 Spanish / p259 Italian
Workers and Captial - p275 Spanish / p267 Italian


10 years 6 months ago

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Submitted by georgestapleton on March 6, 2013

The Progressive era [retitled: Workers and Capital]
L’époque de Marshall [The Marshall epoch]
La social-démocratie historique [Historic social-democracy]
La lutte de classe aux États-Unis [Class struggle in the USA]
Marx à Detroit [Marx in Detroit]
Sichtbar machen [Making visible]

Actually this entire post-script is translated as 'Workers and Capital', not just the section "The Progressive Era".

Editted to ad a link to this thread which explains the some of situation with the translation.


10 years 3 months ago

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Submitted by Nate on July 1, 2013

Another piece of the book is translated now, here

And I just realized that this piece - - isn't listed above. That's also part of the book. It'd be good if these and the one I mentioned in my last comment were added to the list in the original post. I tried to do it but couldn't figure it out.


10 years 3 months ago

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Submitted by Harrison on July 1, 2013

There is a bunch more stuff here as well, i'll have a go at adding it later today.

I found Lenin in England an interesting read. Think i was introduced to tronti by the 'Rethinking class' article in a paper handed out at the last london bookfair.


10 years 3 months ago

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Submitted by Harrison on July 1, 2013

ok, i'm having problems because it seems i do not have permission to edit some articles. for the ones i couldn't edit that didn't have any comments or social retweets/facebook likes, i just posted up new and better versions, properly ordered in the book.

my newer duplicates have better text formatting, and also added 'Key Quotes' for the quote section, so it would make sense to delete the older versions i couldn't edit as they've barely been shared on social media, and are not as good as my new duplicate.

the duplicates are
my new one:
the old one i couldn't edit:

my new one:
the old one i couldn't edit:

my new one:
the old one i couldn't edit:

(Please delete the above old duplicates)

The chapters i haven't duplicated because they are popular on social media, but I need (but don't have permissions) to add to the book / correct section of the book, and also add Key Quotes: (the title also needs to be changed as it is not the full text but only the introduction to Marx, labor-power, working class)

Note: i'm using this website as a contents page guide.

Joseph Kay

10 years 3 months ago

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Submitted by Joseph Kay on July 1, 2013

I've bumped your permissions to 'contributor', does that help?


10 years 3 months ago

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Submitted by Harrison on July 1, 2013

Hey thanks, I was able to successfully submit changes (awaiting moderation) for

but I wasn't able to submit changes for

nor to delete the three old duplicates


10 years 2 months ago

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Submitted by Harrison on July 2, 2013



10 years 2 months ago

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Submitted by Ed on July 2, 2013

Sorry, I'm a bit pissed and maybe not understanding properly but can you put the ones you want deleted all togther below.. cheers..


10 years 2 months ago

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Submitted by Harrison on July 2, 2013

sure thing, the ones that need to be deleted are these

and this one needs to be added to the section 'Initial Theses' of this book, with a page weight of 12


1 month 3 weeks ago

Submitted by Entdinglichung on August 7, 2023

he passed away today:

Initial Hypotheses

The initial hypotheses proposed by Mario Tronti in Operai e capitale (Workers and Capital). Incomplete, due to lack of a full english translation the book.

Submitted by Harrison on July 1, 2013

Marx Yesterday and Today

Panzieri, Tronti, Decari and Negri
Panzieri, Tronti, Decari and Negri

Tronti's article Marx Yesterday and Today (1962) from Operai e Capitale

Submitted by Anonymous on July 1, 2013

“We cannot stop accepting today the fundamental Marxist affirmations, in the same way that a serious physicist cannot stop being Newtonian, with the difference, among others, that in the camp of sociology there needs to pass numerous generations before an Einstein can emerge. This figure will not emerge until the work of Marx has bared all its historical fruit.” This was the conclusion that Rudolf Schlesinger reached after he worked through Marx’s thought as well as the whole historical period marked by him. It is important to note this conclusion in order to advance a few initial comments- working hypothesis with the purpose of their deepening and verifying.
And, before anything else, a premise: a project which seeks to take on the discourse of the contemporary validity of a few fundamental Marxist affirmations has to confront Marx not in his own time, but in our time. Capital should be assessed on the basis of the capitalism of today. In this way we can demonstrate, once and for all, the ridiculous and banal petit bourgeois assertions that Marx’s work is, simultaneously, product and explanation of a society of small scale commodity production.
One of Marx’s fundamental thesis is the following: at the social base of capitalism, its inherent historical process always realizes a logical operation of abstraction, which strips the object of all casual and occasional elements, immediately assumed by its contingent presence, in order to discover and valorize its permanent and necessary sides, those which designate it as a specific product of a historically determined reality and makes it, as a result, valid for its whole existence. The process of capitalist development carries within itself the work of simplifying its own history, making its ‘nature’ reveal itself ever and more pure, stripping itself of all inessential contradictions in order to expose that deep or fundamental contradiction which simultaneously reveals it and condemns it. In this sense, capitalist development is the truth of capitalism itself: in fact, only capitalist development can expose capitalism’s secret. This secret, expressed from the point of view of the bourgeoisie, becomes the ultimate mystification of capitalism for everyone, in everyone’s reach, or in other words, the ultimate truth capital is capable of and, as a consequence, the ideological instrument of its indefinite stabilization. The same secret, seen from the working class perspective, is transformed into the greatest scientific comprehension of the true nature of capitalism, through an analysis of the previous results of its own history; it is transformed, through the discovery of that ultimate contradiction of capitalism, and as a result, into the theoretical instrument of its coming destruction. If it is true that it is here- at the social base of the most advanced capitalism- where that decisive confrontation between working class and capital takes place, it is also true that it is also on the same terrain upon which we should express the class struggle between worker’s theory and bourgeois ideology.
Another fundamental thesis of Marx is the following: it is the most advanced point which explains the least developed and not vice-versa; it is capital which explains ground rent and not vice versa. As such, the verification of a particular thought should be achieved not on the social terrain which apparently produced it but in that which subsequently surpassed it: precisely because it was the last which, in reality, produced it. Like this Marx did not put Hegel in confrontation with the backwards situation in semi-feudal Germany but with the most advanced capitalistic developments in Europe, at the same time constraining Ricardo to give an immediate answer to the problems that his own time put to him. As a result, the Marx of today cannot eternally continue to ‘settle scores’ with his old philosophical conscience; he should instead be ‘cemented’ through an active encounter with the modern reality of contemporary capitalism: in order to understand and destroy it, because it is this that is the moment of verification and it is this which is required of or imposed by working class inquiry. It is not a matter of coincidence that today when bourgeois thought constructs existentialist romances about the ‘alienation of human essence’, keeping itself entranced before a few unfortunate sentences in the Manuscripts of 1844, it is not a matter of coincidence that working class thought returns to Capital, for a classic model of scientific analysis of the present as a function of revolutionary struggle which seeks to abolish and overcome it.
In a very poignant page from his book, Michaud has the courage to express in words an idea which I judge to be very widespread if not in a state of confused sensation [no estado de sensacao confusa]: “the appearance in some respect, in our epoch, of a pre-Marxist ideological situation.” Is he correct in expressing himself this way? In what sense can we say this? The answer to these questions can potentially shine some light over some dark places.
The thought of Marx- as any authentically revolutionary thought- tends to destroy what exists in order to construct that which does not. There exists then two parts, distinct in themselves but organically united, which form this thought. One is the “ruthless criticism of all that exists”, which in Marx is expressed as the discovery of the mystified procedure of bourgeois thought and, as a consequence, as theoretical demystification of capitalist ideologies. The other is the “positive analysis of the present” which produces from the maximum level of scientific comprehension the future alternative to the current present. One is the critique of bourgeois ideology; the other scientific analysis of capitalism. In the work of Marx these two moments can be apprehended, divided logically and chronologically successive: from The Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right to Capital. This does not mean, therefore, that this procedure should be repeated in this precise division and in this succession. Marx himself, when he addressed classical political economy and retread that same path which had led him to discover, through the means of analysis, a few general abstract relations, knew quite well that that path was not to be repeated; on the contrary, it was necessary to start from those simple abstractions- the division of labour, money, value- in order to then reach, once again, the “living unity”: the populace, the nation, the State, the world market. In the same manner, today, once the point of arrival of Marx’s work is reached –Capital- it is necessary to use it as a point of departure: once we reach an analysis of capitalism, it is from here that we must start again. Inquiry around certain determinant abstractions- wage-labour, the modifications in the organic composition of capital, value under oligopolistic capitalism- should be the point of departure in order to arrive at a new ‘living unity”: the people, democracy, the political State of neo-capitalism, the international class struggle. It is not by accident that this was the path undertaken by Lenin: The development of capitalism in Russia to The State and Revolution. It is not by accident either that bourgeois ideology and all the reformist ideologies of the working class seek the inverse path.
All this however is still insufficient: since it is not enough to grasp the specific character which today the analysis of capitalism should assume, it is also necessary, simultaneously, to grasp the specific character which the critique of ideology should assume. And here we should start then from a precise assumption, operating according to one of those excessive/forcing biases which are the positive characteristics of the science of Marx, stimulants for new thoughts and active intervention in practical struggle. Now, the assumption is the following: an ideology is always bourgeois, since it is always the mystified reflex of the class struggle on the capitalist terrain.
Marxism has been conceived as the “ideology” of the worker’s movement. This is a basic error since its point of departure, its “act of birth” was precisely the destruction of all ideology through the destructive criticism of all bourgeois ideologies. The process of ideological mystification is only possible, indeed, on the basis of modern bourgeois society: this has been and continues to be the bourgeois point of view on/over bourgeois society. For those who have glanced at the opening pages of Capital, even only once, can see that the process is not one of a process of pure thought which the bourgeoisie consciously chooses to mask the fact of exploitation but instead it is the result of the process itself, real and objective, of exploitation.In other words, it is the result of the process itself and the mechanism of development of capitalism in all its phases.
It is because of this that the working class does not need an “ideology.” Since its existence as a class, that is, its presence as an antagonistic reality against the global capitalist system, its organization as a revolutionary class, do not link it to the mechanism of that development but make it instead, yes, independent of it and opposed to it. Better yet: the more that capitalist development advances the more autonomous can the working class become in relation to capitalism; the more the system “perfects” itself the more the working class should become the maximum contradiction within the system, to the point of making its survival impossible and at the same time making it possible and, as a result, necessary the revolutionary rupture which liquidates and overcomes the capitalist system.
Marx is not the ideology of the worker’s movement: it is its revolutionary theory. A theory which was born as the critique of bourgeois ideologies and which must daily live from that criticism- it should continue to be the “ruthless criticism of all that exists.” A theory that came to constitute itself as the scientific analysis of capitalism and that should feed from each moment of that analysis and at certain times should identify itself with it when it is necessary to recuperate the lost ground and bridge the gap, the distance, which has opened up between the development of things and the postponement and verification of the research and its instruments/tools/means [strumenti]. A theory which only lives as a function of the revolutionary practice of the working class, that provides weapons for its struggle, develops instruments/tools for its knowledge, isolates and magnifies the objectives of its action. Marx has been and continues to be the point of view of the worker over bourgeois society.
If the thought of Marx is the revolutionary theory of the working class, if Marx is the science of the proletariat, on what basis and how has one part, at least, of Marxism turned into a populist ideology, an arsenal of banal platitudes to justify all possible compromises in the course of class struggle? Here the task of the historian is great. In the meantime this simple fact is evident by itself: if ideology is part, is a specific articulation, determined historically, of the mechanism proper of the development of capitalism, to accept this “ideological” dimension- to construct a working class ideology- this can only mean one thing: that the working class movement has itself become- as such- in part, a passive articulation of capitalist development; it has suffered a process of integration within the system, a process which can have various phases and levels but which nonetheless has the same consequences of provoking different phases and different levels- that is, different forms- of that reformist practice which is ultimately seen today, in appearance, implicitly in the very concept of the working class. If ideology in general is always bourgeois, an ideology of the working class is always reformist: this is the mystified mode through which is expressed and, at the same time, inverted [rovesciata], its revolutionary function.
If this is true, from this follows that the process of demystification must today pass through Marxism itself, it should conceive itself as well as a process of the deideologization of Marxism. I refer here to Marxism and not the work of Marx, for the discourse required on the latter is quite diverse. This is, naturally, a work of internal criticism of Marx’s own work, of the separation and choosing of some major directions that it contains. Those that should be focused on and valued are those in which scientific generalizations are exercised at the highest level and where, therefore, the analysis of capitalism demonstrates in a powerful way a dynamic understanding of the system, individualizing and judging the substantive tendencies which continually modify capitalism and revolutionize it internally. On the other hand, those parts that should be isolated and pushed aside are those in which that type of generalization at the scientific level appear to have not been attained and where, as a result, immediate generalizations of relative particulars of a particular state of the development of capitalism which ends up covering up the character of capitalism as a whole. This internal criticism- which represents in a certain sense the self-criticisms of Marx- is something different from the work of demystification of a few Marxist theories. This last point speaks not with respect to the work of Marx, but to a certain part of Marxism.
We are used to speaking today with a certain degree of irony and contempt of vulgar Marxism: this we even learned from Marx himself. The diverse judgments and attitudes of Marx towards classical political economy are well known, which he himself called vulgar economics. The merit of classical political economy is the effort to reduce, through analysis, the different forms of wealth to their intrinsic unity, depriving them of the figures in when they coexist independently one of the others: classical economics seeks to understand the internal connection of facts, liberating them from the multiplicity of phenomenal forms. In doing this, even in operating according to its specific process of mystification, classical economics is able to proceed hand in hand with the real development of social antagonisms and, thus, with the objective level of class struggle implicit within capitalist production. However, there exists within political economy- or better yet: there emerges at a specific stage in its development- an element which represents within it “the simple reproduction of the phenomenon” as its simple representation: and it is this which is its vulgar element, which at a certain point is separated and isolated from the rest as a particular representation of economy in general. The more the real contradictions advance, the more difficult and complex is their reproduction on the plane of thought, the more difficult and slow is the analysis at the scientific level – and ever more does that vulgar element opposes itself to this work as an autonomous and alternate [sostitutivo] element to it, “until it finds its best expression in a compilation academically syncretic and classical without character”; vulgar economics becomes increasingly apologetic and “seeks to eliminate with verbiage” all contradictory thoughts through which real contradictions are expressed. When we read these pages from Marx and we think about vulgar Marxism we are tempted to think that everything has been said.
In the meantime, however, there is an essential point which must be added. If it is true that mystification today has penetrated the roots of Marxism and if it is true there are objective reasons which led and continue to lead this process of vulgarization- then the most urgent task is that of identifying these objective reasons, not only to simply know them, but to struggle against them. It is necessary to be clear in this respect. This is not about a struggle simply at the theoretical level. This is not about opposing a neo-scholasticism of pure Marxists against the old academy of vulgar Marxists. We must take the struggle to the real terrain: conceiving the theoretical task itself as a moment of the class struggle. Once convinced of the necessity of this, let us say, Marxian purification of Marxism; once that scientific level of analysis of capitalism is regained and which should be applied to the whole complexity of international phenomenon; once the scientific unity of the thought of Marx is recovered and once again verified, that unity which is expressed in an organic unity of economics and sociology, of political theory and real, practical struggle- from here, from this point it is necessary to start again, or rather, from this point we have to leap, finding once again the real forces which should guide this process, the objective conditions which necessarily produce them, the material reasons which will make, once again, of theory itself a material force.
Today, perhaps more than ever, the truth of the Leninist thesis is highlighted in full force: there does not exist a revolutionary movement without revolutionary theory. When it is felt to be expressed on the part of all the requirement of seeing and understanding the strategic perspective of the revolution, beyond the blind day to day tactics, then we can understand how great today is this necessity of theory, that captures and understands the entire arch of the antagonistic forces of the capitalistic system and breaks that arch at a decisive point thereby contributing to maintaining those forces divided, as much as theory could help to make them united and homogeneous. And, in the meantime, never has the opposite been as true as it is today: that revolutionary theory is not possible without a revolutionary movement. Therefore the theorist himself today should focus his energies and lend a hand to the practical work of rediscovery and reorganization of the only truly subversive forces which live within capitalism; he should once again become conscious of his existence and contribute towards giving a materially organized form to the revolutionary instance which in that existence is objectively expressed. In the last instance, the process of the demystification of Marxism is not possible without worker’s power. Therefore, worker’s power – the autonomous organization of the working class- is the real process of demystification since it is the material base of revolution.
In that sense, the principal polemical objective of the Marx of today cannot be anymore Vulgarokonomie , vulgar economics, not even under its current form of vulgar Marxism. In as much as the latter has as a presupposition and result, simultaneously, the Vulgarpolitik vulgar politics of the worker’s movement, it is against this vulgar politics which needs to be struggled against. However, it is necessary to choose well the ways in which to struggle and the task of contemporary Marxists cannot be exhausted in those ways. It is an obvious principle, even though it has been wrongly interpreted many times: the internal criticism of the worker’s movement should express itself always as an external struggle against the class enemy. Therefore, the internal criticism of Marxism should be expressed first of all as a struggle against bourgeois thought. Today then the destructive criticism of all neo-capitalist ideologies should be the necessary point of departure in order to reach, once again, the critique of all ideology, including all reformist ideologies of the worker’s movement. We saw, however, that currently the analysis of capitalism should, in a certain way, precede the critique of ideology, in the sense that it should form its basis. We can, then, say that today the positive analysis of the present- that is, the formulation of important insights from practical struggle and the rediscovery and reorganization of the material forces which should lead it forward- has to necessarily precede and form the basis for the negative destruction of all ideological and political mystifications.
We can thus conclude in the following manner: the ideological situation of today is perhaps pre-Marxist, with the difference that the theoretical situation is perhaps pre-Leninist. Which is to say, that today, the way to begin is not to once again trace the path before Marx nor after Lenin. It is, perhaps, and I say this in a consciously provocative manner, the path of today, perhaps, is to once again accomplish the leap from Marx to Lenin. From the analysis of contemporary capitalism to the elaboration of a theory of the proletarian revolution on the basis of modern capitalism. The worker’s revolution- with all of its means at its disposal- should become once again, and concretely, the minimum program of the worker’s movement. Already once the working class rediscovered Marx through Lenin and the result was the October revolution. When this repeats itself, the death knells will sound- as Marx said- for capitalism in the world.
(January 1962)
From Operarios e Capital
Translated from Portuguese and Italian by Guio Jacinto


Factory and Society

Submitted by Harrison on July 1, 2013

At the end of the III section of Capital, after finishing the section on absolute surplus value, Marx returns to distinguish the two faces of capitalist production and, as a result, the two points of view from which the capitalist production of commodities can be considered: labour process and process of valorization. In the first, the worker does not treat the means of production as capital, the worker consumes the means of production as material of his productive activity; in the second, “it is not the worker who uses the means of production, but the means of production which use the worker”, and hence it is capital that consumes labour-power. It is true that already in the labour process capital develops as command over labour, of labour power and, therefore, the worker; it is only in the valorization process that there develops a coercive relation, which forces the working class to surplus-labour and, from there, the production of surplus value. Capital is able to capture, it in its own way, the unity of the labour process with the process of valorization; and captures it in an ever greater manner the more that capitalist production develops and the more that the capitalist form of production grasps all the other spheres of society, invading the whole network of social relations. Capital puts labour- and is forced to put it- as the creator of value, but then sees value- and is forced to see it- as the valorization of itself. Capital sees the labour process solely as a process of valorization, it sees labour-power solely as capital; it alters the relation between living labour and dead labour, between the creative force of value and value; it can do so to the degree in which it is able to recuperate the whole process of social labour within the process of valorization of capital, in the degree that it can integrate labour-power within capital.
In the bourgeois mystification of capitalist relations, these last two processes go together and in a parallel manner, they both appear objectively and necessary. The correct way to see them is to see them distinct in their unity, to the point of opposing them as contradictory processes which exclude each other alternatively; material action of the dissolution of capital implanted in the decisive point of its system.
The method through which previous/dead labour is transformed everyday into capital is clear. This is the motive why bourgeois economists eulogize the merits of dead/previous labour. In fact, it is this, under the form of the means of labour, which collaborates once again in the living labour process; hence why the importance of labour is attributed to the figure of capital which it assumes. The capitalist form of labour coincides in this case with the means of production in which labour has objectified itself with to the point that the practical agents of capitalist production and its ideologues “are incapable of thinking the means of production different from , separate from, the social antagonistic mask which today they take on.” As a result, dead labour, like any natural force, provides a free service to capital: and when it is invested and put into motion by living labour, it accumulates and reproduces itself as capital. It is more difficult to reach an understanding of the method through which living labour is completely caught and engulfed within this process, as a necessary part of its development. “It is a natural quality of living labour to conserve the old value in the same time it is producing the new value.” Labour “conserves and perpetuates, always under new forms, a capital value that is always growing.”; even more, the more that efficiency grows, the volume, the value of its means of production, the more there advances accumulation which inevitably accompanies the development of its productive force. “This natural force of labour presents itself as the auto-conservation of capital in which it is incorporated, precisely in the same way that the social labour forces of production present themselves as quality of capital and as the constant appropriation of surplus-value by the capitalist appears as the constant self-valorization of capital. All the forces of labour are projected as the forces of capital….”
The capitalist mode of production presents to itself surplus-value and the value of labour-power as “aliquot parts of the production of value”: it is this which hides the specific character of the capitalist relation, “or in other words, the exchange of variable capital for living labour-power and the corresponding exclusion of the worker form the product.” While all the developed forms of the process of capitalist production are forms of cooperation, the development of capitalist production itself re-proposes and generalizes the “false appearance of a relation of association in which the worker and the capitalist share the product according to the different proportions of the factors of its formation.” It is upon this base that, at the superficial level of bourgeois society, the retribution of the worker appears as the price of labour: necessary price or natural price, which expresses in monetary terms the value of labour. Marx correctly emphasizes that the value of labour is an imaginary expression, irrational definition, phenomenal form of the substantial relation which is the value of labour power. But what is the necessity of this appearance? Is it a subjective choice to hide the substance of the real relation, or is it not instead the real manner of making function the mechanism of the relation? Exemplary, in this respect, is the manner in which value and price of labour-power present themselves in the transfigured form of the salary. The real movement of the salary appears to demonstrate that it is not the value of labour-power that is being paid, but instead the value of its function, the value of labour itself. For capitalist production it is indispensable that labour-power presents itself as labour pure and simple and that the value of labour is paid under the form of the salary. Let’s think of the second particularity of the form of the equivalent; when concrete labour is turned into the phenomenal form of its opposite, of human abstract labour. It is not concrete labour that, in the relation of value, possesses the general quality of being abstract human labour. On the contrary, being human labour in the abstract is its proper nature, being concrete labour is only the phenomenal form of determinant form of the realization of that nature. This complete inversion is inevitable given that the labour represented in the product of labour is only creative of value to the degree in which it is abstract human labour, the using up dispensing of human labour power. Isn’t it true that “value transforms every product of labour into a social hieroglyph?” The value of labour power expresses in the salary, simultaneously, the capitalist form of the exploitation of labour and its bourgeois mystification; it gives us the nature of the capitalist relation of production in an inverted manner.
Labour, is turned, on this basis, into the necessary mediation for labour-power to transform itself into salary: the condition for living labour presenting itself solely as variable capital, labour-power solely as part of capital. Value, in which is represented the price of a day’s labour, should appear then as the value or price of the labour day in general. In the salary there disappears precisely every trace of the division of the working day into necessary labour and surplus-value. All of labour emerges as paid labour; it is this which distinguishes wage labour from other historical forms of labour. The more that capitalist production develops and the system of its forces of production, the more the paid and non paid parts of labour are confused in an inseparable manner. The diverse forms of the payment of the wage are no more than different manners of expressing, at different levels, the constant nature of this process. We understand then “the decisive importance that the metamorphosis of value and price of labour-power under the form of the wage, or in other words, in the value and price of labour itself. Under this phenomenal form which turns the real relation invisible and destroys precisely its opposite, there is founded all the juridical ideas of the worker and the capitalist, all the mystifications of the capitalist mode of production, all the illusions of liberty…etc.” We can follow the history of the variety of forms of the wage through the whole development of capitalist production: the unity each time more complex which is established in its heart between labour process and valorization process, between labour and labour-power, between variable and constant part of capital, and hence, between labour-power and capital.
The salary is nothing more than wage labour considered from another point of view. The determinate character which labour has as an agent of production appears in the salary as the determination of distribution. The salary presupposes wage labour, as profit presupposes capital. “These determinate forms of distribution presuppose determinate social characteristics of the conditions of production and determinate social relations between agents of production.” The salary is provided, gives us as already superseded “the crude gross separation between production and distribution.” The determinate manner in which we take part in production determines the particular forms of distribution. The “relations and modes of distribution appear as a result solely as the inverse of the agents of production.”
Establishing what is the relation that exists between distribution and production is “evidently a question that falls within production itself.” Exchange is the mediating moment, on the one hand, between production and distribution, and on the other, between production and consumption: in the first case exchange is an act direct included in production; in the second case it is completely determined by it, if it is correct that exchange for consumption presupposes the division of labour, that private exchange presupposes private production, that a determinate intensity and expansion of exchange presupposes a determinate expansion and organization of production. It is on this basis that in general it was attempted to express an immediate identity between production and consumption: to the degree that one has a consumptive production and a productive consumption. Or we find a reciprocal dependence between them: production as means for consumption and consumption as the end of production. One can be presented as the realization of the other and vice versa: consumption consumes the product, production produces consumption. But Marx himself had already mocked those literate socialists and the prosaic economists that played with this Hegelian identity of opposites. We only need to add to the list those vulgar sociologists, also prosaic and literate, but not socialists and economists. “The most important thing to emphasize is that production and consumption….appear in whatever case as moments of a process in which production is the effective point of departure and because of that the moment which includes and overcomes the others and…the act in which the whole process renews itself.” Production, distribution, exchange and consumption are not identical; they represent moments of a totality, differences within a unity.” This unity is composed of an “organic aggregate” and it is clear that, in the interior of this organic aggregate the diverse moments established between them a reciprocal action. Production as well, in its unilateral form, is determined by the other moments. But “production supersedes not only itself, in the antithetic determination of production, as well as the other moments.” It is from production that the process begins anew. “A production determines as a result a consumption, a distribution, an exchange of determinate relations, beyond the determinate relations between these diverse moments.” The necessity to appeal to these elementary concepts of Marx demonstrates in itself the objective existence of many too many “Marxists” inclined to repeat “the insipidness of the economists that treat production as an eternal truth, relegating the terrain of distribution to history.”
If we consider capital directly in the process of production, we cannot cease to continually distinguish the two fundamental moments: the production of absolute surplus value, where the relation of production appears in its most simple form and can be immediately captured, whether by the worker or the capitalist: the production of relative surplus value, specifically capitalist production, where we have at the same time the development of the social productive forces and their transfer directly from labour to capital. It is solely at this point- when all the social productive forces of labour emerge as autonomous internal forces of capital- that we can explain in all its wealth the whole process of circulation. At this level, the realization of surplus value not only hides the specific conditions of its production as it appears as its effective creation. This appearance too is also functional to the system.
Alongside labour time, there enters into action circulation time. The production of surplus-value receives new determinations in the process of circulation: “capital runs the cycle of its transformations; supersedes, its organic internal life entering into external relations of life, relations in which it opposes, not capital and labour, but capital and capital, on the one hand, and individuals as buyers and sellers, on the other.” At this point, all the parts of capital emerge equally as fountains of exceeding value and, because of this, all at the origins of profit. The extortion of surplus labour loses its specific character: its specific relation with surplus value is obscured: it is for this reason that the metamorphosis of the value of labour-power in the form of the salary serves. The transformation of surplus value and profit is effectively determined as much by the process of production as the process of circulation. But the mode of this transformation is nothing more than the ultimate development of the inversion of relations which we had verified in the interior of the process of production: when all the subjective productive forces of labour are presented as the objective productive forces of capital. “On the one hand, value, dead labour, which dominates living labour, is personified in the capitalist; on the other , instead, the worker appears as labour-power purely objective, as commodity.” “The effective process of production, as unity of process of direct production and process of circulation, engenders new forms, in which we continually loose ever more the internal connecting thread, the relations of production are autonomized in relation to the other and the constitute parts of value consolidated in autonomous forms separate from one another.”
Already in the analysis of the simplest categories of the capitalist mode of production, commodities and money, we can completely understand the process of mystification which transforms social relations into the property of things and the relation of production itself into a thing. In capital, and with the development of its successive determinations, “this inverted and cursed world” develops and imposes itself ever more. At the base of the capitalist mode of production, the existence of the product as a commodity and the commodity as the product of capital implies the “objectification of the social determinations of production and the subjectification of the material fundamentals of production itself.” It is not by mistake that the specific capitalist mode of production implants its roots, first, in relative surplus value and, following, in the metamorphosis of surplus value into profit: particular form of the development of the social productive forces of labour, which appear as the autonomous forces of capital opposed to the worker, precisely because they are, in fact, a form of the domination of capital over the worker. “Production for value and surplus value implies….the always active tendency to reduce the necessary time for production of a commodity, or in other words, its value, under the social medium in each moment. The desire to reduce the cost price to the minimum turns into the strongest pressure for the increase in the social productive force of labour which, appears nonetheless solely as a continuous increase of capital.” All we need to do is focus on the fanaticism of the capitalist in the economizing of the means of production; economizing in the employment of constant capital and at same time in labour.
“Capital tends not only to reduce to the indispensable direct living labour, and to reduce continually, through the exploitation of the social forces of production of labour, necessary labour for the finishing of the product, that is, to economize to the maximum living labour direct employed; it also has to, beyond this, the tendency to employ in the most economical conditions this labour reduced to the limits of the indispensable, that is, to reduce in to the minimum the applied constant capital.” An increase in the rate of profit, beyond giving a more modern exploitation of the productivity of social labour in production of constant capital, derives “from the economizing of employing constant capital itself.” This economizing is possible, only with its base, the highest concentration of the means of production, the only base that could give a location for their mass utilization. As a result, “ it is only possible for the collective aggregate worker and , a lot of the times, it can only be realized in organized works at a large scale, that is, attaining a combination of workers even more greater at the direct process of production. “ Like this, the means of production are consumed in the productive process, with the sole criteria, on the part of the collective worker, and not under a fractioned form on the part of a mass of workers without a reciprocal connection. Then, “the economizing in the conditions of production which characterized large scale production derives essentially from the fact that such conditions operate as factors of social labour, of labour socially coordinated, that is as social factors of labour…It has its origins, then, in the social character of labour, in the same way that surplus value comes from surplus labour of each singular worker considered in an isolated manner.” Nonetheless, the economizing of constant capital, of employment in the conditions of production, as specific instrument to increase the rate of profit, emerges to the capitalist as an aspect completely estranged to the worker, “it emerges in a manner even more clear than the others inherent in labour, as a force inherent to capital” property of the capitalist mode of production and, hence, function of the capitalist. “Such a representation is even less surprising to the degree to which it corresponds the appearance of facts and to the degree in which the capitalist relation hides, effectively , the intimate structure of the phenomenon, for the total indifference, exteriority and strangeness in which it places the worker in relation to the conditions of realization of his labour”, to the point of turning “reciprocally strange and indifferent, on the one hand, the worker, representative of living labour, on the other, the economically employment, that is, rational, of the conditions of labour.”
Like this, through the immediate social nature of labour, there is extended and deepened the domination, ever more exclusive of capital over the conditions of labour and through this domination, with employment ever more rational of all the conditions of production, there develops and specifies the capitalist exploitation of labour-power. The means of production are no longer simply, from this moment, objective property of capital, but subjective function of capital. The worker which finds himself with them in the process of production recognizes them only, as a result, as use values of production, instruments and material of labour. The worker returns to see the whole process of production from the point of view of view of process of simply labour. The unity of the process of labour and the process of valorization remains only in the hands of the capitalist; from now on, the worker can only understand the whole of the process through the mediation of capital; labour-power not only exploited by the capitalist, but integrated within it.
The development of capitalism brings within it the development of capitalist exploitation. The latter, brings within it the development of the class struggle; the legislation on the factories to the rupture of the State. The struggle for the regulation of the working day sees the capitalist and the worker, one in front of the other, still as buyer and seller. The capitalist defends his right to buy surplus labour, the worker the right to sell less of it. “Right versus right….between equal rights, force decides.” On the one hand, the power of the collective capitalist, on the other, of the collective worker. It is through the mediation of legislation, with the intervention of the law, through the use of right, that is to say, it is on the political terrain that, for the first time, the contract of buying and selling between singular capitalist and isolated worker is transformed into a relation of force/power between the class of capitalists and the working class. It appears that this is the ideal terrain in which to develop the general struggle of the class: this was how it was, in fact, historically, its birth. In order to evaluate the possible generalization of this moment, we have to understand the specific traces which characterize it, that is, the determinant manner in which it functioned within a certain type of the development of capitalism. It is not by coincidence that Marx introduces the chapter on the struggle for the working day when he is discussing the passage from absolute surplus value to relative surplus value, from capital that captures the process of labour as it finds it to capital that puts, upside down, this very same process of labour, until it molds it to its image and similarities. The struggle for the regular working day historically places itself in the middle of this process. Given the natural impulse of capital in the sense of prolonging the working day, it is correct that the workers got together through a living force, as a class, a law of the State, a social barrier, which impeded them from accepting slavery, “through the means of a voluntary contract with capital.” The struggle of the working class constrained the capitalist into changing the form of its domination. Which means that the pressure of labour-power is capable of constraining capital in modifying its very own internal composition and that it intervenes inside of capital as essential component of capitalist development, that is it pushes forward, from within, capitalist production, until it makes it trespass completely all its external relations of social life. That which appears in the most advanced state of development as a spontaneous function of the worker, disintegrated relatively to the conditions of labour and integrated relative to capital, emerges in the most backward state with the legal necessity of a social barrier which impedes the destruction of labour-power, founding, or providing the basis at the same time for a specifically capitalist form of exploitation. Political mediation assumes in each one of these moments a specific place. It is not written that the bourgeois political terrain lives eternally in the sky of capitalist society.
The transformations in the material mode of production and the corresponding mutations in the social relations between producers “creates firstly monstrous excesses, provoking after, as antithesis to the excesses, social control which determines by law the regular working day and makes it uniform.” All “those minuscule dispositions, which regulate with such military uniformity to the sound of bells, periods, limits and pauses of work were not in fact products of parliamentary subtleties; they developed little by little according to the situation as natural laws of the modern mode of production.” The English parliament was able to understand through experience that, “a coercive law can perfectly eliminate, with its orders, all the so called natural obstacles of production which opposed to the limitation and regulation of the working day.” The law over the factories introduced in one branch of industry, fixed/put a limit to the factory boss so that it could remove all technical obstacles. “The law on the factories like this, forces the maturation of the material elements for the transformation of the system of manufacture into a factory system; contemporarily, it accelerates, through the necessity of a greater dispensing of capital, the ruin of small artisans and the concentration of capital.” In this sense, “the legislation on the factories, first conscious and planned reaction of society in the spontaneous figure assumed by its process of social production, is a necessary product of large scale production, large scale industry.” With the violent intervention of the State, the collective capitalist first attempts to convince and then reaching the point of constraining the individual capital to conform to the general necessities of capitalist social production. The exploitation of labour power can occur even if there is an economizing of labour; as the continuous increase on the part of constant capital goes hand in hand with the growing economization in the employment of constant capital itself. It is only on this basis that it is possible, at a certain point, a process of generalization of capitalist production and its development at a higher level. The clashing of the classes on the political terrain, the political mediation of the class struggle, was in this case, simultaneously, the result of a certain level of development and the condition for that development in conquering its own autonomous mechanism, a mechanism from which that point forward went very far, to the point of recuperating political mediation itself, the political terrain of the class struggle itself. “If the generalization of the legislation on the factories was inevitable, as means of physical and intellectual defence of the working class, on the other hand, it generalizes and accelerates the transformation of dispersed labour process, realized at a minimal scale, into combined processes on a large social scale, and with this, the concentration of capital and the exclusive domination of the factory regime. It destroys all the antiquated forms and transitory forms of capital, substituting them with its direct domination, without a mask. In this way, it also turns general the direct struggle against this domination.”
Before anything else, it is necessary to consider this as the point of arrival of a long historical process that parts from the production of absolute relative surplus value and reaches, by necessity, to the production of relative surplus value; from the forced prolonging of the working day to the increase, which appears spontaneously, of the productive force of labour ; to the pure and simple extending of the process of production in its entirety to its internal transformation, which leads it to continually revolutionize the process of labour, in an ever more organic function and dependence of the valorization process. The relation, which before could be easily established, between the sphere of production and the other social spheres is now transformed into a relation that is much more complex between the internal transformations of the sphere of production and the internal transformations of the other spheres. It is transformed, beyond this, into a relation that is much more mediated, organic and mystified, more evident and hidden at the same time, between capitalist production and bourgeois society. The more that the determinant relation of capitalist production grasps the social relation in general, the more it appears to disappear within the latter as a marginal aspect. The more that capitalist production penetrates in profundity and invades, in extension, the totality of social relations, the more society appears as a totality relative to production and production as a particularity relative to society. When the particular generalizes itself, is universalized, it appears represented as general, as universal. In the social relation of capitalist production, the generalization of production expresses itself as the hypostatization of society. When specifically capitalist production has already weaved the whole web of social relations, it itself emerges as a generic social relation. The phenomenal forms reproduce themselves with immediate spontaneity, as current forms of thought: “the substantial relation should be discovered by science.” If we limit ourselves to a purely ideological approach of this reality, we do nothing more than reproduce this reality as it presents itself, inverted in its appearance. If we want to understand the intimate material link of the real relations a theoretical effort is needed of scientific penetration which, before anything else, strips the object—bourgeois society—of all its mystified phenomenal forms, that have been ideologized, in order to isolate and attain its hidden substance which is and continues to be the relation of capitalist production.
In that formidable work that is The Development of Capitalism in Russia, Lenin in speaking about large scale mechanized industry, establishes firstly that the scientific concept of the factory does not correspond to the common sense understanding of it. “In our official statistics, and in general in our literature, by factory it is understood to be an industrial establishment greater or smaller which employs a greater or smaller number of salaried workers. Following Marx, by large scale machine industry (factory) is understood solely as a certain level, precisely the most advanced level, of capitalism in industry.” Lenin sends us to the 4th section in book 1 of Capital and especially to the passage from manufacture to large scale industry, where the scientific concept of the factory serves precisely to signal the “forms and phases through which the development of capitalism in industry passes in a given country.” At a certain state of its development, if capital wants to lower the value of labour-power it is inevitably forced to increase the productive force of labour; it is forced to transform as much necessary labour into surplus-labour and, like this, to put upside down all the technical and social conditions of the labour process, of revolutionizing from within the mode of production. “In capitalist production, the economy of labour via the development of the productive force of labour does not have as its objective the shortening of the working day.” It does have as its objective the shortening of the labour time necessary for the production of labour-power and, because of that, for the production of a determinant quantity of commodities. Like this, the increase in the productive force of labour should, before anything else capture the branches of industry whose products determine the value of labour-power. “but the value of a commodity is only determined by the quantity of labour which gives it its ultimate form, but also, and in the same manner, by the mass of labour contained in the means of production…Hence, the increase in productive force and the corresponding cheapening of commodities in the industries which provide the material elements of constant capital, also lower the value of labour-power.” If we understand this process, not from the singular capitalist point of view, but from the point of view of capitalist society in its totality, we will see that general rate of surplus-value increases to the same degree in which the value of labour-power decreases. “The labour of exceptional productive force operates as potential labour,” or in other words, it creates in the same periods of time superior values to those created by median social labour. For this reason, the capitalist that applies the perfected mode of production, appropriates, through the means of surplus-labour, of a greater part of the working day relative to that appropriated by other capitalists in the same industry. “He does, singularly, what capital does at a higher level in the production of relative surplus value.” The coercive law of competition operates, then, in the manner of introducing and generalizing the new mode of production; but competition itself, the external movements of capital, are nothing more than another mode through which the “immanent laws of capitalist production” are presented, of which a” scientific analysis of competition is only possible when we have understood the intimate nature of capital, in the same way that the apparent movements of the celestial bodies is only intelligible for those that know their real movement.” In fact, it is at this point that the general rate of surplus-value, for it to be positively untouched by this process, has the necessity of re-dimensioning/ reshaping continually the value of labour-power, of revolutionizing the conditions of the process of labour, of generalizing and accelerating the mode of capitalist social production: point of departure which will, after, make of capitalism a formidable historical system of development of the social productive forces.
Capitalist development is organically linked to the production of relative surplus value. And relative surplus value is organically linked to all the internal vicissitudes of the process of capitalist production, that distinct and ever more complex unity between process of labour and process of valorization, between the transformations in the conditions of labour and the exploitation of labour-power, between the technical and social process together, on the one hand, and capitalist despotism, on the other. The more that capitalist development advances, that is, the more the production of relative surplus value penetrates and extends, the more that the circle-circuit production-distribution-exchange-consumption is necessarily closed. That is, the relation between capitalist production and bourgeois society, between factory and society, between society and State achieves, to an ever greater degree a more organic relation. At the highest level of capitalist development, the social relation is transformed into a moment of the relation of production, the whole of society is turned into an articulation of production, that is, the whole of society lives as a function of the factory and the factory extends its exclusive domination to the whole of society. It is upon this basis that the machinery of the political State tends to ever more identify with the figure of the collective capitalist; it is turned ever more into the property of the capitalist mode of production and, as a result, function of the capitalist. The process of the unitary composition of capitalist society, imposed by the specific development of its production, no longer tolerates that there exist a political terrain, even if this is formally independent of the web of social relations. In a certain sense, it is true that the political functions of the State begin today to be recuperated by society, with the slight difference that this is the society of classes of the capitalist mode of production. Consider this a sectarian reaction against those who see in the modern political State the neutral terrain of the struggle between capital and labour. Heed some prophetic words from Marx that have not been superseded in the political thought of Marxism: “It is not enough that the conditions of labour present themselves as capital on one side and as men who have nothing to sell but their labour-power on the other. It is also not enough to constrain these men to sell themselves voluntarily. To the degree that capitalist development progresses, there develops a working class that, by education, tradition and habit recognizes as obvious natural laws the demands of that mode of production. The organization of the process of production overcomes all resistances…; the silent coercion of the economic relations places the seal of the capitalist over the worker. It is true that extra economic power, immediately, continues to be used, but only exceptionally. In the normal course of things the worker can remain confident that in the natural laws of production, that is, on his dependence in relation to capital, which is born from the very conditions of production and that these guarantee and perpetuate.”
One of the instruments which function within this process is precisely the mystified relation which is established, at a determinant level of development, between capitalist production and bourgeois society, between the relation of production and the social relation—consequence of the mutations that intervened in the heart of the social relation of production and premise for this relation to be once again conquered as a natural law. It is only apparently paradoxical that, the factory being a particularity, even though essential, of society, it can maintain its specific traits in face of the whole reality. When the factory seizes the whole of society—all of social production is turned into industrial production—the specific traits of the factory are lost within the generic traits of society. When the whole of society is reduced to the factory, the factory—as such—appears to disappear. It is on this material basis that is repeated and concludes, at a real higher level, the maximum ideological development of bourgeois metamorphoses. The highest level of the development of capitalist production signals the most profound mystification of all the bourgeois social relations. The real growing process of proletarianization presents itself as formal process of tertiarization. The reduction of all forms of labour to industrial labour, of all types of labour to the commodity labour-power, presents itself as the extinction of labour-power itself as commodity and, as a result, as the depreciation of its value as a product. The payment of whatever price of labour in terms of salary presents itself as the absolute negation of capitalist profit, as the absolute elimination of the surplus-labour of the worker. Capital, which disorganizes and reorganizes the process of labour according to its growing necessities of the process of valorization, presents itself as already as a spontaneous objective potential of society which self-organizes and as such develops itself. The return of state political functions in the structure of civil society presents itself as the contradiction between State and Society; the functionality ever more straight/narrow of politics and economy, as possible autonomy of the political terrain relative to economic relations. Resuming, the concentration of capital is, at the same time, the exclusive domination of the factory regime, both historic results of modern capitalism, are inverted, the first, in the dissolution of capital, as determinant social relation, the second, in the exclusion of the factory from the specific relation of production. That is why capital appears as the objective wealth of society in general and the factory as the particular mode of the production of “social” capital. This is what emerges to the crude bourgeois eyes of the vulgar sociologist. When the scientist himself is reduced to a salaried worker, wage labour is beyond the limits of scientific knowledge, or more correctly, it is transformed into the terrain of the exclusive application of that false bourgeois science of technology. It is useless to add that all of this is still to occur and we will only occupy ourselves when it does occur. “Whoever wants to represent whatever living phenomenon in its development should, inevitable and necessary confront the dilemma: advance the facts or stay behind.”
This is a principle of method to be used permanently going forward. Even when it forces us to choose that savage/ferocious unilaterality which strikes so much fear in the moderate soul of so many “professional revolutionaries.” Even more when this is present, not, of course, as a subjective illusion, arbitrary act of the mind, but as a real process of objective development, which is not about following it but anticipating it. No one tries to forget by force the existence of the world exterior to production. Putting the accent on one of the parts signifies recognizing and demanding the essentiality of this part relative to the others. Even more when this particular aspect, by its very nature, generalizes itself. The scientific unilaterality of the workers point of view is not to be confused with a mystical reduction ad unum. It is, instead, looking at distribution, exchange and consumption from the point of view of production. And, from within production, looking at the process of labour from the point of view of the process of valorization and the process of valorization from the point of view of the labour process. In other words, to understand the organic unity of the process of production, which founds, provides the basis for, the unity of the process of production, distribution, exchange and consumption. The global dynamic of this process can be understood whether with the partiality of the collective capitalist, or the socially combined worker; only that the first presents it with all the functional despotism of its conservative appearances and the second reveals it with all its liberatory force of its revolutionary development.
The social relation of capitalist production sees society as a means and production as an end: capitalism is production for production. The same sociality of production is nothing more than the medium for private appropriation. In this sense, at the base of capitalism, the social relation is never separated from the relation of production; the relation of production is identified ever more with the social relation of the factory; the social relation of the factory acquires each time a greater and direct political content. It is capitalist development itself which tends to subordinate the whole political relation to the social relation, the whole social relation to the relation of production, the whole relation of production to the relation of the factory, because only this permits it to start after, from within the factory, the inverse path: the struggle of the capitalist to destroy and reconstruct in its image the antagonistic figure of the collective worker. Capital attacks labour on its very own terrain; it is only from within labour that capital can disintegrate the collective worker to integrate, following, the isolated worker. We no longer have simply the means of production on the one hand, and the worker on the other, but all the conditions of labour, on the one hand and the worker, which labours, on the other; labour and labour-power opposed one to the other and both united within capital. Attained this point, the ideal of the most modern capitalism is to recuperate the primitive relation of simple buying and selling contracted between the individual capitalist and the isolated worker: having, hence, one of them in their hand the social power of monopoly and the other the individual subordination through the paying of the position of labour. The silent constraint of the economic relations puts by itself the seal of capitalist domination over the worker. The current legislation over the factories consists in the rationalization of capitalist production. The constitution within the factory sanctions “the exclusive domination of the factory regime” over the whole of society.
Its true: this will in turn render “equally general the direct struggle against this domination.” In fact, attained this point, not only is it possible as it is historically necessary to plant the general struggle against the social system within the social relation of production, to put into crises bourgeois society in the heart of capitalist production. For the working class, it is essential to once again travel, with all its class consciousness, the path dictated by capitalist development, viewing the State from the point of view of society, society from the point of view of the factory and the factory from the point of view of the worker. With the goal of continually recomposing the material figure of the collective worker against capital which seeks to dismantle it; more, with the objective to begin to dismember the intimate nature of capital in the potentially antagonistic parts which organically compose it. To the capitalist that attempts to oppose labour and labour-power from within/inside the collective worker, we respond counterposing labour-power and capital in the interior of capital itself. At this point, capital attempts to dismember the collective worker and the worker tries to dismember capital; this is no longer right contra right, decided by force, but, instead, directly, force against force. This is the ultimate state of the class struggle at the highest level of capitalist development.
The error of the old maximalism consisted in conceiving this opposition, from the exterior; it saw the working class completely outside of capital and, like this, as its general antagonist. From here the incapacity of any scientific knowledge and the sterility of all practical struggle. It is worth more today to say that, from the point of view of the worker, we should look, not directly at the condition of the workers, but directly to the situation of capital. The worker should also recognize to capital, in its analysis, a privileged post, precisely the privilege which capital objectively possess within the system. Not only: the working class should materially discover itself as a part of capital if it wants to oppose the whole of capital to itself. It should recognize itself as a particular of capital if it wants to present itself as its general antagonist. The collective worker is opposed not only to the machine, as constant capital, but to labour-power itself, as variable capital. It has to reach the point of having as its enemy the whole of capital therefore itself as a part of capital. Labour should see labour-power as its enemy, as a commodity. It is on this base that the capitalist necessity of objectifying in capital all the subjective potency of labour can be transformed, on the workers part, into the maximum recognition/understanding of capitalist exploitation. The attempt at the integration of the working class within the system is what may provoke the decisive rupture of the system, bringing the class struggle to its highest level. There exists a moment in development in which capitalism finds itself in this state of necessity; if that moment passes, capital has won for a long period; if the organized working class can break it for the first time on this terrain, then the model of workers revolution under modern capitalism is born.
We saw the commodity labour-power as the properly active side of capital, as the natural source of the whole capitalist dynamic. Protagonist, not only of the expanded reproduction of the process of valorization, but of the continual revolutionary transformations of the process of labour. The technological transformations themselves are dictated and imposed by the modifications effected in the value of labour-power. Cooperation, manufacture and large scale industry are nothing more than “particular methods of the production of relative surplus value”, different forms of the economy of labour that, on its parts, provoke growing mutations in the organic composition of capital. Capital depends more on labour-power each time; it should then, as a result, possess it in a more complete manner each time, as it possess the natural forces of production; it should reduce the working class itself to a natural force of society. The more that capitalist development advances, the more that the collective capitalist has the necessity of seeing all labour within capital: the more necessity it has in controlling all of the movements, interior and exterior, of labour-power; the more it is forced to programme, in the long term, the relation capital-labour, as the index of the stability of the social system. When capital conquered all the exterior territories to capitalist production properly termed, it begins its process of internal colonization; on the other hand, when the circuit of bourgeois society is definitively closed—production, distribution, exchange and consumption—we can say that there begins the true and proper process of capitalist development. At this point, the process of objective capitalization of subjective forces of labour is and should be accompanied by the process of the material dissolution of the collective worker and, therefore, of the worker himself, as such; reducing the worker to the property of the mode of production and, as a following, function of the capitalist. It is clear that, on this basis, the integration of the working class within the system is transformed into a vital necessity of capitalism: the workers refusal of this integration impedes the system from functioning, making possible one only other alternative: the dynamic stabilization of the system or the workers revolution.
Marx says that “of all the instruments of production, the greatest productive force is the revolutionary class itself.” The process of capitalist production is already in itself revolutionary: it maintains in continuous movement and operates an incessant transformation of all the productive forces, including the conscious and living productive force which is the working class. The development of the productive forces is the “historical mission” of capitalism. It is true that it founds at the same time its maximum contradiction: that is why the incessant development of the productive forces cannot cease to provoke the incessant development of the greatest productive force, the working class as revolutionary class. It is this that should compel (impulse) the collective worker to value, consciously, the objectively revolutionary content of capitalist development: to the point of forcing it to anticipate development, if it does not want to remain behind. Because of this, as a result of this, the workers revolution should not be realized after, when capitalism has already destroyed itself in catastrophic general crises, nor can it come before, when capitalism has not even reached its specific cycle of development. It can and should be realized contemporaneously to that development; it should present itself as internal component of that development and at the same time, as its internal contradiction, in the same way as labour-power, that only from within/the interior of capital can put into crises the whole of capitalist society. Only the revolutionary development of the working class can turn efficient and evident, at the same time, the fundamental contradiction between the productive forces and the social relations of production: without that development, the contradiction is nothing more, effectively, than a potential fact, but not real, a pure and simple possibility, as with the possibility of crises at the level of C—M—C. The level of the productive forces is not measured by the level of technological progress but by the degree of revolutionary consciousness (awareness) of the working class. More correctly, the first is the capitalist measure, which conceives the worker solely as a human appendage of its machines; the second is the measure of the organized workers movement, which organizes, precisely on this basis, the process of rupture of the social relation that cages the revolutionary experience of the working class. In this sense, the contradiction between the productive forces and the social relations of production is nothing more than the exterior expression of another contradiction that lives completely from within/in the interior of the social relation of production: the contradiction between the socialization of the process of production and the private appropriation of the product, between individual capitalist which attempts to decompose that socialization and the collective worker which recomposes it front of it, between the bosses attempt at economic integration and the political response of the workers antagonism. It is not by coincidence that we speak of these things. This process is currently in development in Italy, for everyone to see. On this terrain will be decided for a long period of time the alternative between capitalism and socialism. The political party of Italian capitalism appears to have understood this; the parties of the workers movement have not.
It is not a question of eliminating by force all the other contradictions, which subsist and are, therefore, more evident for all, appearing, as a result, more essential to the comprehension of the whole. Instead, it is about acquiring and knowing this elementary principle that, at a determinant level of capitalist development, all the contradictions between the various parts of capital should be expressed in the fundamental contradiction between working class and the whole of capitalism; only at this time is the socialist revolutionary process opened. To express all the contradictions of capitalism through the working class means to say immediately, for itself, that these contradictions are unsolvable within capitalism itself, sending us therefore beyond the system which engenders them. This is because the working class within capitalism is the only unsolvable contradiction of capitalism, or more correctly, it turns into such from the moment in which it self-organizes as a revolutionary class. No to the organization of the oppressed class, to the defense of the interests of the labourers; nor to the form of class organization for government, manager of capitalists interests, but instead, yes, to the organization as antagonistic class: self-political government of the working class in the capitalist economic system. If the formula of the “dualism of powers” has any sense, it should be this one. That consciousness should be brought to the worker from the exterior and that such a task belongs to the party no longer constitutes the problem for today. The solution already exists and is directly dictated by the development of capitalism, by capitalist production which has touched the limits of bourgeois society, by the factory which imposed henceforth its exclusive domination on the whole of society. Political consciousness should be brought by the party, but from within, the interior of the process of production. There is no one that thinks today that we can launch a revolutionary process without political organization of the working class, without a workers party. Many still think, however, that the party can direct the revolution remaining closed/cut off from the factory, that political action only begins where the relation of production ends and that the general struggle against the system is that which develops in the vertices of the bourgeois State, of which has itself turned, in the meantime, into the particular expression of the social necessities of capitalist production. Take note: this is not about renouncing the Leninist rupture of the machinery of State, as inevitably happens with all those who walk about through the democratic path. It is about anchoring the rupture of the State in society, the dissolution of society in the process of production, the destruction of the relation of production within the social relation of the factory. The bourgeois State machinery today has to be destroyed in the capitalist factory.
Whether we start from Capital, or from the actual level of capitalist development, the analysis reaches the same conclusions. We cannot still say, at this time, that these conclusions are proved: it is necessary to return, from the beginning, run along another path; to experiment once again the significance of the Marxist theory of capitalist development, which turns ever more into the historical knot of all the problems, to liberate it from all the ideological incrustations which put to sleep a part of the workers movement in the opportunist wait of the catastrophic fall, contributing to integrate the other part in the autonomous mechanism of an undefined stabilization of the system. This is what will be done following this discourse.
It is sufficient to remember the preliminary necessity of recuperating the most correct path, whether for theoretical analysis, or practical struggle. Factory-society-State—this is the point in which today, coincide scientific theory and subversive praxis, the analysis of capitalism and the workers revolution. This is enough to verify the correctness of this path. The “scientific conception” of the factory is that which today opens the path to the most complete comprehension/understanding of the present and, simultaneously, to its complete destruction. Precisely because of this the factory is situated at the point of departure of the new construction, of which it must start from if it wants to construct and grow the workers State completely within the new relation of production of socialist society.
Translated by Guio Jacinto


Social Capital

The alternative title for this chapter is 'The Plan of Capital'.

Submitted by Harrison on July 1, 2013

At the beginning of the third section of Book II of Capital, Marx distinguishes between the direct process of the production of capital and the total process of its reproduction. The former includes both the work process as well as the value-creating process. As we shall see, the latter includes both the process of consumption mediated by circulation, as well as the process of reproduction of capital itself. In the different forms assumed by capital within its cycle, and even more in the different forms assumed by this cycle, the movement of individual capital turns out to be a part of the total movement of social capital. “Every individual capital forms, however, but an individualized fraction, a fraction endowed with individual life, as it were, of the aggregate social capital, just as every individual capitalist is but an individual element of the capitalist class.” 1 Marx says that, if we consider the annual function of social capital according to its result, i.e., if we consider the annual commodity product furnished by society, we see that it includes both the social reproduction of capita I as well as its productive and individual consumption. “It comprises also the reproduction (i.e., maintenance) of the capitalist class and the working class, and thus the reproduction of the capitalist character of the entire process of production:”2 i.e., simple reproduction on an invariant scale which immediately appears a part of a more complex reproduction on a broader scale. Thus, it becomes a particular moment and a real factor of the accumulation of capital-accumulation no longer of individual capital, but of social capital; broadened reproduction within it of the capitalist class on the one hand, and of the working class on the other. Capital’s process of socialization is the specific materials base upon which is founded, on a certain level, the process of development of capitalism. The determinate formation of a capitalist society presupposes the production of social capital as an already accomplished historical act, which is already acknowledged as a natural fact. The figure of the collective capitalist, as a functionary of total social capital, is itself the product of a determinate level of capitalist production. Against it, both as a presupposition and as a result, the total social labor as the class of organized workers-social labor-power as a class-acquires objective material existence. Capital’s “plan” comes primarily about from the necessity of making the working class function as such within social capital. The growing socialization of the capitalist relation of production does not bring with it the socialist society, but only growing power for the workers within the capitalist system.

Of the three forms expressing the cyclic process of capital the third form, the cycle of commodity-capital (C’….C’), is the only one in which value-capital appears already as a point of departure of its value-creation. In the cycle of monetary capital and in that of productive capital, the point of departure is always the original value-capital, yet to be transformed into value (valorizzare). The whole movement is only the movement of the anticipated value-capital. C’ on the other hand, as a relation of capital, immediately implies both the cycle of value-capital as well as that of surplus-value-and of a surplus-value already in part spent as rent, and in part accumulated as capital. To depart from C’ means to depart from the total commodity-product as commodity-capital. In it individual consumption and productive consumption enter as conditions of the cycle; and if the productive consumption comes about through every individual capitalist, individual consumption immediately presents itself only as a social act. The transformation that obtains within this cycle concerns the magnitude of the value of capital. Thus, it is not the result of a formal shift mg of monetary capital in the circulation process, but of a material change of productive capital in the process of production. The cycle C’. . . C’ presupposes, within its trajectory, other industrial capital. But we have seen that its point of departure is no longer only the originally anticipated value-capital, but the value-capital already transformed into value. Its movement, “From its inception thus reveals itself as the total movement of the industrial capital.”3 But not only as “a form of movement common to all individual industrial capitals, but simultaneously also as a form of movement of the sum of the individual capitals, consequently of the aggregate capital of the capitalist class.”4

Now, industrial capital finds itself simultaneously in all the different stages of its cycle and goes successively through the different functional forms of all three cycles. In fact, the total process is the unity of the three cycles. The total cycle is the real unity of the three forms. Precisely because of this, the total cycle, for every single functional form of capital, presents itself as its specific cycle. “It is a necessary prerequisite of the aggregate process of production, especially for the social capital, that it is at the same time a process of reproduction and hence a circuit of each one of its elements.”5 A part of capital, as commodity-capital, always is transformed into money. Another as monetary-capital is transformed in productive capital and still another, as productive capital, is once again transformed in commodity-capital. “The continuous existence of all three forms is brought about by the circuit the aggregate capital describes… its forms are hence fluid and their simultaneous hero are brought about by their succession.”6 As value that transforms itself into value, capital can only be a continuous movement, a cyclic process that goes through different stages and assumes different forms of development. “The circuit-describing process of capital means constant interruption, the learning of one stage and the entering into the next, the discarding of one form and the assuming of another.” Yet, the continuity is “the characteristic mark of capitalist production.”7 It is in individual capitals that “the continuity of the reproduction is at times more or less interrupted.”8 When social capital as value undergoes a revolution of value, individual capital is always in danger of going under if it does not adjust to the conditions of this change of value. “The more acute and frequent such revolutions in value become, the more does the automatic movement of the new independent value operate with the elemental force of a natural process, against the foresight and calculation of the individual capitalist.”9 In this case, the mechanism of the cycle comes to a stop, production is reduced, and the entire process of development is forced to a halt: “Every stagnation in succession carries disorder into co-existence.” 10 Hence the necessity to find a nexus among the cycles of individual capitals, understood as partial movement of the process of reproduction of the total social capital. In fact “the continuity… of the aggregate process is achieved only in the unity of the three circuits.”11 Only “aggregate social capital always has this continuity.”’2 Social capital undergoes precisely what is undergone in “a ramified factory system”, where the process flows with the maximum regularity and uniformity, where the product is constantly in the various stages of its process of formation and constantly passes from one phase of production to anothere”’3

Furthermore, if we take capital as individual capital, the natural form that is assumed by the commodity-product turns out to be altogether irrelevant to the analysis. We are now directly dealing with the process of production of value and with the value of its products. This mode of exposition, however, appears purely formal as soon as we come to consider the total social capital and its value-product. The movement whereby a part of the value of the products is again transformed into capital while another part goes into individual consumption both of the capitalist and of the working class “form a movement within the value of the product itself’ as soon as the result of total capital comes to be expressed in this value: “this movement is not only a replacement of value but also a replacement in material and is therefore as much bound up with the relative proportions of the value-components of the total social product or with their use-value, their material shape.” 14 The value reproduced in the means of production must be at least equal to the constant part of the value of social capital. Thus, e.g., the part of the social work-day that produces means of production produces nothing more than new constant capital, i.e., it produces only a product meant to enter in productive consumption. While the part of the social work-day which produces means of consumption produces only new variable capital and new surplus-value. Better yet, it produces products in whose natural forms arc realized the value of variable capital and surplus-value. Each of these two parts of the social work-day produces and reproduces (and therefore accumulates) constant capital, variable capital and surplus-value of both main sections together, that of the means of production and that of the means of consumption. The work-day, which in the production of individual capital appeared immediately cut into necessary labor and surplus-value, and only mystified in its realization in the form of wage, now appears, in the production of social capital, actually divided between a constant part and a variable part of capital: between production-reproduction of the one and production-reproduction of the other, in each of which is included both production and consumption, means of production and means of consumption, productive consumption and individual consumption. Now the social work-day functions directly within the process of production of social capital. Within this process of production it produces, reproduces, and accumulates new capital; it produces-reproduces and accumulates new labor-power. At this level the division between necessary labor and surplus-labor does not disappear at all: it is simply generalized, i.e., socialized in the total process of capitalist production.

There is a social surplus-labor which is taken from the working class and which ends up by socializing the very existence of surplus-value. But social surplus-value is nothing more than the profit of social capital: it has nothing to do with the super-profits that the thefts of monopolies extract from all the pores of society. It is all a process which has, as its material base and at the same time as its final objective, a maximum degree of socialization of capitalist production, socialization of labor-power and, therefore, socialization of capital. “Speaking of the point of view of society, and therefore considering the aggregate product of society, which comprises both the reproduction of social capital and individual consumption, we must not lapse into the manner copied by Proudhon from bourgeois economy and look upon this matter as though a society with a capitalist mode of production, if reviewed en bloc, as a totality, would lose this its specific historical and economic character. No, on the contrary. We have, in that case, to deal with the aggregate capitalist. The aggregate capital appears as the capital stock of all individual capitalists combined.”15

According to Marx, profit is nothing more than the surplus-value calculated in social capital. Actually, surplus-value and profit are the same thing – quantitatively identical from the masses’ viewpoint. Profit is the mystified form in which surplus-value appears, in the same way that wage is the mystified form in which the value of labor-power appears. It is only in surplus-value that the relation between capital and surplus-value is made clear, “capital appears as relation to itself”‘ 16 What disappears here is the very organic difference between the constant and the variable part of capital: surplus-value confronts only aggregate and indistinct capital. And this process is already accomplished when the process of production and circulation of capital is accomplished, along with the production and realization of surplus-value: when broadened reproduction flows and, therefore, accumulation advances. Yet, there is a point within this process which allows the entire development to make a leap. And it is when the whole of capitalist production comes to produce a general rate of profit and, consequently, an average profit. The fundamental idea of the average profit is based on the principle that “the capital in each sphere of production must share pro rata to its magnitude in the total surplus-value squeezed out of the labourers by the total social capital; or, that every individual capital should be regarded merely as a part of the total social capital, and every capitalist as a shareholder in the total social enterprise.”’7 At this point, the profit that the individual capitalist takes in, is different from the surplus-value that he extracts. At this point profit and surplus-value are actually different magnitudes. Only exceptionally or accidentally does the surplus-value actually produced within a particular sphere of production coincides with the profit contained in the sales price of the commodity.

Already in the simple transformation of surplus-value in profit, “the portion of the value of a commodity forming the profit” is distinguished “from the portion forming its cost-price”. Thus “it is natural that the conception of value should elude the capitalist at this juncture…so that his profit appears to him as something outside the imminent value of the commodity.”18 This appearance receives confirmation, solidity and structure within the historical base which corresponds to the profit of average social capital when all capitals tend to realize, in the prices of the commodities that they produce, not the directly produced particular surplus-value, but the average social profit, i.e., they seek to realize the price of production. Price of production here means cost plus cost multiplied by the average rate of profit (k + kp’ ). In fact, the price of production contains the average profit. Only accidentally or exceptionally, the average profit is determined by the labor not paid and absorbed in an individual sphere of production. Ordinarily, i.e., according to the law, it is determined by the total exploitation of labor, as carried out by total capital. “At a given degree of exploitation, the mark of surplus-value produced in a particular sphere of production is then more important for the aggregate average profit of social capital and then for thus for the capitalist class in general, than for the individual capitalist in any specific branch of production. It is of importance to the latter only in so far as the quantity of surplus-value produced in this branch helps to regulate the average profit.”19 But capitalists and therefore the economists as well, says Marx, certainly do not generally realize the structure of this process. in the same way that they do not specifically realize that “in such crude and meaningful form ”we can glimpse that the value of commodities is determined by the labor contained in them.”20

To a given rate of exploitation of labor there corresponds a given level of capitalist development. Not vice-versa. It is not the intensity of capital that measures the exploitation of workers. On the contrary: it is the determinate historical form of surplus-value that uncovers the ultimate social determination of surplus-value. On the basis of social capital, average profit is no longer simply the phenomenal and mystified form of social surplus-value, it is no longer only the ideological expression whose function is to hide the exploitation of the working class behind the “labor of capital.” The average profit of social capital is an historically well-determined category which follows immediately an advanced process of socialization of capitalist production and immediately precedes a further process of development and of relative stabilisation. It is from the very beginning naturally implicit in the system of capital, yet it intervenes historically not as a specific gradual passage point from one phase of capitalist development to the next but as truly abrupt leap full of dangerous contradictions for the capitalist class and of miraculous possibilities for the labor movement. The history of the successive determinations of capital, i.e., the development of the historical contradictions of capitalism, can offer, in many points and at different levels, the possibility to break the cyclic process of production and reproduction of capitalist social relations. Ana it is not necessarily the case that those possibilities are directly connected to the periods of catastrophic crisis in the system: they can be directly connected to a growing phase of development which creates a positive movement in the whole social texture of production without presupposing that the latter is owned and organized by the capitalist class-without being organically articulated within capitalist development. We must not believe in an absolute self-consciousness, in all the phases of capitalism and of its functionaries. Capital’s self-consciousness is a late acquisition during its maturity.

Lenin wrote that “…the idea of seeking salvation for the working class in anything save the further development of capitalism is reactionary.” 21 The working class suffers more for the shortcomings of capitalist development than capitalism itself. In fact, the bourgeois revolution offers the greatest advantages to the proletariat: in a way, it is “in the highest degree advantageous to the proletariat.” 22 The bourgeois revolution continually reproduces itself within capitalist development. It is the permanent form expressing the growth of productive forces, the solidification of the technological levels, the class-tensions within the relations of production, the system’s growing expansion over all of society, and the ensuing political struggle between capital’s general interest and the capitalists’ particular interests. The bourgeoisie’s politically moderate soul is engaged, throughout the whole course of its history, to give a gradual peaceful form to the continual revolutionary upsets of its own economic mechanism.” It is to the advantage of the bourgeoisie for the bourgeois revolution not to sweep away all the remnants of the past too resolutely, but keep some of them, i.e., for this revolution not to be fully consistent, not complete, and not to be determined and relentless. Social-Democrats often express this idea somewhat differently by stating that the bourgeoisie betrays its own self, that the bourgeoisie betrays the cause of liberty, that the bourgeoisie is incapable of being consistently democratic.” 23 At different levels, the proletariat is called to collaborate in the development. At different levels it must choose the specific form of its political refusal.

There is a point in which it is still the development of capitalist production in itself which can precipitate the capitalist system into a crisis. Labor’s answer can come so immediate as to provoke a high degree of class-struggle, and the coming into being of a revolutionary process that goes behind the system. Thus, the take-off of capitalist society can offer the historical occasion for a revolution with socialist content: if the labor movement finds itself politically better organized than the bourgeoisie. But it would be an error to generalize this movement. We are using it here only to reiterate that a revolutionary rupture of the capitalist system can occur at different levels of capitalist development. We cannot expect that the history of capitalism be concluded, in order to begin to organize the process of its dissolution.

The growing process of capitalist socialisation brings itself to a point in which the production of capital must pose the task of constructing a specific type of social organization. When capitalist production has been generalized to cover all of society-all social production has become capitalist production-only then, on this basis, a truly capitalist society arises as a determinate historical tact. The social character of production has been extended to such a point that the entire society now functions as a moment of production. The sociality of capitalist production can now lead to a particular form of socialization of capital – the social organization of capitalist production. This is the arrival point of a long historical process. In the same way that capitalist production presupposes the generalization of simple mercantile production that only capital-as a specific fact-is able to historically realize, so the formation of a capitalist society presupposes the generalization of specifically capitalist production that only social capital – and the Gesamtprozess of its production-is historically able to realize. In other words, as Marx put it, it is the totality of the capitalists against the individual capitalist. i.e., the totality of the capitalists of any particular sphere of production. Here social capital is not just the total capital of society: it is not the simple sum of individual capitals. It is the whole process of socialization of capitalist production: it is capital itself that becomes uncovered, at a certain level of its development, as social power.

Even in terms of individual capital, capital is a social relation, and the individual capitalist is the personification of this relation: he is a function of his own capital. and the direct expression of his private property. But in terms of social capital, capital comes to represent all capitalists, and the individual capitalist is reduced to an individual personification of this totality: the direct functionary, no longer of his own capital, but of the capitalist class. At this point, the management of the individual enterprise can still remain in the hands of manager, its property is the property of capital and it appears as an objective part of social wealth.

Actually, this social wealth now finds its private proprietor in the figure, itself historically determinate, of the collective capitalist which, on the one hand is the supreme mediation and composition of all particular bourgeois interests, while on the other it is the direct representative of the general social interest for capital. The collective capitalist is the form assumed by power in the hands of social capital-the power of capitalist society upon itself, capital’s self-government, and therefore government of the capitalist class, capitalism’s maximum result and probably the final form of its existence. We must not take seriously the bourgeois arguments concerning State intervention in the economy: at a certain level of development this apparent external intervention is nothing more than a very advanced form of self-regulation of the economic mechanism or, in certain cases, it serves to put back in motion that type of mechanism at a higher level. Capitalist planning itself can be a particular moment within the development of capital. The specific general trait remains the objective historical existence of social capital.

“Under capitalist production it is not merely a matter of obtaining an equal mass of value in another form-be it that of money or some other commodity-for a mass of values thrown into circulation in the form of a commodity, but it is rather a matter of realizing as much surplus-value, or profit, on capital advanced for production, as any other capital of the same magnitude, or pro rata to its magnitude in whichever line it is applied. It is, therefore, a matter, at least as a minimum of selling the commodities at prices which yield the average profit, i.e., of prices of production. In this form capital becomes conscious of itself as a social power in which every capitalist participates proportionally to his share in the total social capital.”24 The particular interest of the individual capitalist, or of capital in a determinate sphere of production reduces, in these conditions, to the possibility of obtaining, in the direct exploitation of its own workers, a particular gain, a profit higher than the average. It practically reduces to the different figures of super-profit, to the various possible forms for extracting a supplementary surplus-value, to the different external movements inherent to the new “mechanism” of oligopolistic competition. Individual enterprises, or entire “privileged” productive activities, along with the propulsive function of the whole system, constantly tend to break from within the total social capital in order to subsequently re-compose it at a higher level. The struggle among capitalists continues, but now it functions directly within the development of capital. Given that 44the average rate of profit depends on the intensity of exploitation of the sum total of labour by the sum total of capital”, then “the individual capitalist, as well as the capitalists as a whole, take direct part in the exploitation of the total working-class by the totality of capital and in the degree of that exploitation, not only out of general class sympathy, but also for direct economic reasons.”25 Thus, all individual capitalists-all the particular spheres of capital-are directly interested in the productivity of social labor activated by collective capital. In fact, it is from this productivity that depend on the one hand, the mass of use-value in which average profit expresses itself and on the other, the sum of value of total anticipated capital that determines the rate of profit. The development of labor’s social productivity not accidentally manifests itself in two ways: in the grown absolute magnitude of the already accumulated productive labor, and in the relative diminution of the part of living labor required for mass production.

The two processes are organically complementary: intensification of accumulation and concentration of capital.’… the mass of profit increases in spite of its slower rate with the growth of the invested capital. However, this requires a simultaneous concentration of capital. .. it also requires its centralization, i.e., the swallowing up of the small capitalist by the big and their deprivation of capital.”26 The concentration is now the specific form in which expropriation is expressed, i.e., the ulterior separation of working conditions from the producers. “The labour of a capitalist stands altogether in inverse proportion to the size of his capital, i.e., to the degree in which he is a capitalist.”27 But this division between the working conditions on the one hand, and the producers on the other is precisely what constitutes the historical notion of capital. At this level, the process of decapitalization does nothing more than confirms the development of capital.

Expropriation is now extended from the direct producers to the individual capitalists themselves. To expropriate the single individuals of their means of production is the point of departure of the mode of capitalist production. But it also becomes its end when the private means of production present themselves, and can only present themselves as means of production in the hands of associated producers. Thus, capitalist expropriation presents itself as appropriation of social property on the part of few individuals. “The capital, which in itself rests on a social mode of production and presupposes a social concentration of means of production and labour-power, is here directly endowed with the form of social capital (capital of directly associated individuals) as distinct from private capital, and its undertakings assume the form of social undertakings as distinct from private undertakings. It is the abolition of capital as private property within the framework of capitalist production itself” 28 The capitalist is transformed into a simple agent and administrator of someone else’s capital. Thus, property appears as separated from its function and hence also labour is entirely divorced from ownership of means of production and surplus-value.”29 Hence, profit appears directly as the appropriation of someone else’s surplus-value. “This result of the ultimate development of capitalist production is necessary transitional phase towards the reconversion of capital into the property of producers, although no longer as the private property of the producers, but rather as the property of associated producers, as outright social property.” 30 This is the form assumed by the annihilation of capitalist private industry in terms of the capitalist system: “This is the abolition of the capitalist mode of production within the capitalist mode of production within the capitalist mode of production itself, and hence a self-dissolving contradiction.. . It is private production without the control of private property.”31 At this point, capital altogether ceases to appear as the property of direct producers, gives up many of its earlier mystified forms, divests itself of some of its more evident ideological clothes-true paleo-capitalist bourgeois left-overs. The very same process of socialization of labor becomes directly embodied, without mediations, in the total production of social capital. And capital appears as a social force of production directly in the form of private property of large capitalists. “Thus grows the power of capital, the alienation of the conditions of social production personified in the capitalists from the real producers. Capital comes more and more to the fore as a social power, whose agent is the capitalist. This social power no longer stands in any possible relation to that which the labour of a single individual can create.”32 Thus, capital raises itself to the level of a “general social power,” while the capitalist is reduced to the level of a simple agent, functionary, or emissary of this power-no longer its own representative, but the direct commissar with limited power. The fetishism of capital has practically won.

Everyone knows that the modern bourgeois political group turns out to be increasingly of direct capitalist extraction and that, on this path, and not through the history of political thought, it is possible to catch the real transformations that have taken place in the structure of the State. The petty-bourgeois fear of the anonymous power of the technicians now reflects only the survival of backward sectors of capitalist development. For its part, big capital seeks only to give a political content to technocratic power. In fact, it is unlikely that the slow and just death of representative democracy marks a simultaneous extinction of the political power of the ruling class: actually it marks only a reform of the state, a modernization of its structures, an adjustment to its new specific functions which will increasingly have to respect the production schemes of whatever industrial machine. Clearly, power will become increasingly unified at the top, and only as such, will it be able to decentralize and be articulated at the base. As in every modern rational enterprise worth its salt, decisions must be assigned to all, but the power to decide must be left only to one. Thus, political power becomes unified and homogeneous at all levels, from the enterprise of the individual capitalist, to the State of the whole people. Only at this point does the class dictatorship of capital become truly democratic: it receives the sanction of popular sovereignty and immediately applies it within its own industrial apparatus. Because of its intrinsic contradictions, it will not be able to reach it, yet the final objective of capitalism always remains capital’s self-government, democracy directed no longer by small proprietors, but by large capitalists, with the sovereign population reduced to the level of labor-power and capital-as-a-fetish erected to a political State within its very society.

In order to be understood, a specifically capitalist society must be itself seen as an historical product of the development of capital. There is a level of the process of socialization of capital which materially explodes the need for a rational organization of society. The growing rationalization of the productive process must now be extended to the entire network of social relations. It is no longer sufficient for capitalist production as such to come to cover the entire territory of bourgeois society. It is its specific characteristics, the historically attained level of capital’s production, its particular internal organization, which must now mark the general organization of society until it repeats on the level of capitalist society and evaluated to the maximum, the initial relation which pitted the individual capitalist on the one hand against the single worker on the other. The same relation must now reappear and obtain on the level of social classes. It is an objective requirement of capitalist production, on the level of social capital, to recuperate a real general terrain of the class-struggle. In fact, only through this recuperation can the class-struggle be consciously regulated and organized within the plan of capital. We have already seen how the labor struggle has always objectively functioned as a dynamic moment of capitalist development. Yet, it can be said that only on this level it can be rationally foreseen and utilized in the total process of production of social capital. Thus, the tension between capital and labor becomes a “legal institution of society,” and all the institutions which guarantee an orderly bourgeois development of particular labor claims can be legally recognized in their full autonomy. The very organizations of workers acquire a decisive importance for the social interests of capital. There is a time in which modern capital cannot do without a modern union, in the factory, in society, and directly in the state. The political integration of the labor party within the absurd antedeluvian forms of bourgeois parliament, becomes itself a secondary moment of mediation, in order to arrive at the true organic integration of labor unions within the programmed development of capitalist society. From here, again, follows the whole restructuring which invests the general form of power, in the search for a different difficult equilibrium between the growing requirement of a centralization of decisions and the need for an effective decentralization of the functions of collaboration and control: a tendential unity of authority and pluralism, of central direction and of local autonomy, with political dictatorship and an economic democracy, an authoritarian state and a democratic society. True, at this point there is no longer capitalist development without a capitalist plan. But there cannot be a plan of capital without social capital. It is the capitalist society which, by itself, programs its own development. And this is precisely democratic planning.

Almost toward the end of the first volume of Capital Marx writes: “And as we pre-supposed the limits set by capitalist production, that is to say, pre-supposed the process of social production in a form developed by purely spontaneous growth, we neglected any more rational combination, directly any systematically practicable with the means of production, and the mass of labour-power at present disposable.”33 Clearly, today we can no longer carry out this same type of abstraction. Marx himself abandoned it when he went on to analyze the total process of capitalist production. Certainly, the limitations of this production must always be considered as given. Today, it is not a matter of rediscovering, after decades of absolute faith in the process of deterioration of capitalism, a similarly absolute faith in the objective rationality of this system. That all is well is certainly not what the modern capitalist believes, even with his science. It is believed, however, by our neo-reformist ideologists, always with their soul in crisis: pure economists, applied sociologists, technicians of the labor movement and Marxist philosophers-all these who are against the system, but who do not know what to do in order to fight it. In fact, in all of their recollections of capitalism, they regularly forget the working class.

“…The entire capitalist mode of production is only a relative one, whose barriers are not absolute. They are absolute only for this mode, i.e., on its basis.”34 “Capitalist production seeks continually to overcome these immanent barriers, but overcomes them only by means which again place these barriers in its way and on a more formidable scale.”35 Everyone knows that historically capitalism appears, from the very beginning, as a system of contradictions: its internal development is the development of its contradictions. And even when the process of social production no longer takes on a natural and spontaneous garb, but rather, takes the opposite, a rational and planned form, even then the articulate system of production, from the single factory to the height of the State, poses itself as the tendentially systematic organization of frightening irrationalities. The anarchy of capitalist production is not cancelled: it is simply socially organized. When the emphasis is posed always and only on the moment of development, and here even on a planned development of capital, it is an attempt to consciously react to that long religious contemplation of the general crisis of capitalism which now has totally reversed itself in a profane imitation of its prodigious technical model of social development. This second attitude is the direct historical result of the first. The opportunistic empiricism that today dominates the international labor movement is the natural offspring of Stalin’s scientific opportunism. The only way to re-undertake a correct discourse concerning capitalist society is to rediscover the actual concrete possibilities of the workers’ revolution. On the other hand, these possibilities can only materially arise from the necessary development of capitalist production. Without doubt, the active side within the economic relation must be again revaluated: the conscious revolutionary activity of the organized proletariat must be re-examined in the same way that Lenin did before 1917. In addition, this organization of the revolution must be located within an historically determined moment of capitalist development as its external consequence and, at the same time, its internal contradiction: as Marx did in Capital. It is not an accident that our sectarianism dogmatically departs only from these texts.

On the level of maximum capitalist stabilization, the plan of capital can also come to socially organize the natural tendency of its production. In other words, it is possible for a social plan of capitalist production to come into being directly from the materially objective existence of a social capital. Yet, it remains unchanged for the whole trajectory of the historical existence of a socio-economic formation of a capitalist kind that “…the cohesion of the aggregate production imposes itself as a blind law upon the agents of production, and not as law which, being understood and hence controlled by their common mind, brings the productive process under their joint control.”36 It is rather a matter of seeing specifically how, on the level of social capital, the internal nexus of total production presents itself, and how and why it always poses itself again as a “blind law” in the eyes of the very collective capitalist who fails thereby to harness it, once and for all, to his direct control. The internal nexus of total production is now directly given by social class-relations which contrapose the capitalist society on the one hand to the working-class on the other’. The national contract now engages the individual worker-or the workers of a particular sphere of production-no longer against the respective individual capitalists, but against a certain type of general development of social capital. The articulated contracting is, in this sense, nothing more than a normal pluralistic structure-a guarantee of that orderly pull toward the efficiency of the individual enterprises and of the entire system, which always comes from the trade-union activity of the workers. Unions are typical democratic institutions of capitalist planning. Yet, these very movements of capital, camouflaged and hidden in labor demands reveal, as a fundamental material fact, the growing process of socialization no longer only of capital on the one hand and labor on the other, but of the very general social relation which immediately contraposes them within the process of production. It is the growing generalization and socialization of the class-struggle which arises from immediate needs of production and reproduction of social capital.

“Reproduction on a progressive scale, i.e accumulation, reproduces the capital-relation on a progressive scale, more capitalists or larger capitalists at this pole, more wage-workers at that…this reproduction of labour-power forms, in fact, an essential of the reproduction of capital itself. Accumulation of capital is, therefore, increase of the proletariat”37 It is true that the division of labor grows at the same time and, on this basis, its social productive power also grows-along with the possibility of engaging various forms of economy of labor. But accumulation, and with it the concentration of capital, also represents a material means to increase productivity. Then, the increased mass of means of production, meant to be transformed into capital, must always have at hand, in order to exploit it, a proportionately increased working population. Only the absolute increase of the mass of surplus-value makes possible the increase of the absolute mass of profits. The simultaneous relative decrease of the variable part of capital with respect to the constant part provokes only, and partly, the fall of the rate of profit. On the one hand we have the growth of the absolute mass of profit and the relative fall of the rate of profit, because, on the other, we have the absolute increase of surplus-value and relative decrease of variable capital. “The law of the progressive falling rate of profit, or the relative decline of appropriated surplus-labour compared to the mass of materialized labour set in motion by living labour, does not rule out in any way that the absolute mass of exploited labour set in motion by the social capital, and consequently the absolute mass of the surplus-labour it appropriates, may grow; nor, that the capitals controlled by individual capitalists may dispose of a growing mass of labour and, hence, of surplus-labour, the latter even though the number of labourers they employ does not increase.”38 Further on Marx will say: this not only can, but must happen within capitalist production. In other words, it must happen that there be a growing mass of labour and surplus-value in the absolute sense, so that the relative decrease of living labor with respect to objectified labor does not affect, in substance, the increase of the mass of profit and therefore the process of accumulation of capital.

In fact, if it is true that the quantity of additional living labor decreases, it is also true that the non-paid part of the social working day increases with respect to the paid part: surplus-value increases with respect to necessary labor along with relative surplus-value and, therefore, the absolute exploitation of labor. The progress of capitalist exploitation always serves as the material base of capital’s development. Then, it is only the process of socialization of exploitation that allows capital to organize itself on the social level. This is why the very broadened reproduction of social capital must reproduce on a broadened scale capitalist social relations. Reproduction and accumulation of social capital must reproduce and accumulate labor-power itself as a social class.

Individual capital, i.e., each fragment of social capital that operates in an autonomous way and as if it had a life of its own, can give to its product whatever natural form. The only condition is that this natural form has a use-value. It is indifferent and altogether accidental that the produced means of production enters anew as such in the process of production and that, therefore, constant capital is immediately reproduced in its natural form. What happens with the product of total social capital is something different. Here the part of constant capital produced reappears in the natural form of new means of production which must again function as constant capital. “All the material elements of reproduction must in their bodily form constitute parts of this product.”39 Now, if it is true that variable capital, considered according to value, is equal to the value of labor-power, it is also true that, considered according to its matter, it becomes identified with labor-power itself-with living labor put in motion. On the level of social capital, the material element of variable capital cannot be represented other than in its immediate natural form, as social labor-power. The individual reproduction of the single worker is no longer sufficient. A social reproduction of the collective workers becomes necessary, i.e., the brute survival of labor-power as such is no longer sufficient: what is needed is a process of accumulation of labor-power for social capital. Now, labor-power must reappear in that real natural form which is its social nature: variable capital must directly re-enter the process of capitalist production as working class. There is a long historical moment in which the production of capital finds itself caught in this necessity. All of the processes of rational decomposition of concrete labor which tend to destroy the abstract possibility of its own social organization, find an objective limit in the material necessity of subsequently regaining labor-power itself as an autonomous social force within capital. The apparent “decomposition” of capital and labor, each in its own field, is only the specific form assumed by the process of real internal unification, each in its own terrain, of the capitalist and of the working class.

Collective capital now needs to have before itself collective labor for the economic calculation of its own planned development. Furthermore, it needs to see it not mystified by its own exclusive class interests and not implicated in its own dominating class ideology: hence the need to know labor through the workers and of calculating total labor through the figure of the collective worker. Social capital is forced to socialize the very knowledge of social labor. The single capital, with its limited perspective, comes to see that its profit now does not come only from the labor expanded by him or by his branch of production, and that average profit is different from immediate surplus-value. But “to what extent this profit is due to the aggregate exploitation of labour on the part of the total social capital, i.e., by all his capitalist colleagues-this interrelation is a complete mystery to the individual capitalist; all the more so, since no bourgeois theorists, the p6litical economists, have so far revealed it.”40

At a certain level of development of capital it is no longer only the worker but the capitalist himself who must fight against the appearance of its relations of production. He must come to tear the veil from the phenomena in order to catch the essence and the intrinsic nature of its own process. This is the source of the need for science within capital: when capital realizes that it is a social force. At this stage the simple scientific substance of economic relations is no longer sufficient: what is needed are the very economic relations scientifically organized. And it is almost useless to warn that even this is a tendentious formula which aims at catching only a side of the problem, in order to identity a basic tendency that guides the process. We have already indicated that the capitalist system will never succeed in reaching a perfect objective rationality of its mechanism of development. Now, here we claim that it aims at this as its maximal program. This is precisely the aim of the science of capital: its actual attempt to demystify the social process of capitalist production by rationalizing the form and by programming the content of capitalist development. Everything confirms this: the pure theoretician of the capitalist economy today is the modern bourgeois political man: the planning theoretician is identical with the practical programmer. Furthermore, there is a politics of planning, but there is no theory of planning. The best approximation to a theory of planning is given by the techniques of programming. Which does not mean, then, that there is no longer a bourgeois thought: on the contrary, it means that bourgeois thought is now wholly integrated within capital, it functions as an internal mechanism of its development, and no longer serves to justify from outside the present forms of capitalist power. This last function is directly discharged by the traditional organizations of the labor movement. When science is about to pass within social capital, the ideology risks of remaining in the hands of the single worker, i.e., in the hands of the disorganized labor movement. True: neo-capitalist ideologies do not immediately derive from the only center of power of big capital. As practical mediation, they need to pass through the research institutes of labor unions. In a capitalist society which develops on the basis of a socially organized capital, neo-capitalist ideologies correspond to a capitalist organization of the labor movement. It is not true that at this point there is no longer a working class: there is a working class organized by capital.

A long series of bothersome questions arise at this level. Up to what point can the fundamental contradiction between the social character of production and the private appropriation of the product be investigated and affected by capitalist development? Does not a specific form of social appropriation of the private product hide in the process of socialization of capital? Hasn’t the very sociality of production become the most important objective mediation of private property? And how can a mediation contradict what it mediates? How can a bourgeois sociality of the productive process precipitate into a crisis the capitalist appropriation of the product? In other words, how can a capitalist society come into contradiction with the process of production of capital? When the relation of production has become generalized to the level of a general social relation, when all of bourgeois society is reduced to the level of a moment of capitalist production, the very social character of production can be regained within the mechanism of reproduction of private capitalist property. At this point, the whole objective mechanism functions within the subjective plan of the collective capitalist. Social production becomes a direct function of private property. Society’s general representative is now truly social capital. In the social relation of production, society’s announcer is no longer the working class, but directly capital. The general social interest remains entirely in the hands of capital. To the workers remains nothing more than their partial class interest. Then, on the one hand we have capital’s social self-government, and on the other the class self-government of organized workers.

Thus, the concept of working class comes into being only in this historically concrete level. It becomes articulated in its specific particularity, and develops in all the wealth of its determinations. Hence, the simplest social abstraction of a capitalist economic formation, which, therefore, obtains for all the successive forms of its development, appears practically true in this abstraction only as a category of the more modern forms of capitalism. The more capitalist production attacks and dissolves its external contradictions, the more it is forced to unveil its internal contradictions. The more capital succeeds in organizing itself, The more it is forced to organize for itself the working class, up to the point that the working class need no longer be the mirror of all social contradictions: it can directly reflect itself as a social contradiction.

And it is useless to pull out of the archives magic words in order to exorcise this vision. Workeritis (operaismo) can also be a real danger when wage-workers are a net minority within the working classes. But is this possible even within a process which tends to reduce everyone who works to a worker? True, in order not to reject the old strategy, new allies of the working class are invented: the place left empty by the exterminated masses of poor peasants are filled by the refined elites of the new middle classes. Thus, the workers simultaneously get rid of any sectarian temptation and any socialist perspective. Capitalists know this well: the real generalization of the workers’ conditions can introduce the appearance of its formal extinction. It is on this basis that the specific concept of labor’s power is immediately absorbed in the generic concept of popular sovereignty: the political mediation here serves to allow the explosive content of labor’s productive force to function peacefully within the beautiful forms of the modern relation of capitalist production. Because of this, at this level, when the working class politically refuses to become people, it does not close, but opens the most direct way to the socialist revolution.

Here it is necessary to re-examine the abstraction of the category of “labor.” It requires a special analysis. For now, the following elementary considerations are sufficient. Labor “in general” marks the attained indifference toward a kind of determinate labor and at the same time presupposes a very developed totality of real kinds of labor. The two processes are closely connected. The more particular labor becomes concrete, the more easily it is to abstract from it labor in general. “The most general abstractions come about only where there is the richest development of the concrete.” It is not by accident that Marx returns to discuss labor in these terms when he deals with the process of levelling of the general rate of profit, through competition. Along with the almost spontaneous mobility of capital here intervenes a mobility guided by labor-power. Labor-power not only can, but must be thrown as fast as possible from one sphere of production to another, from a productive locality to another. There is no capitalist development without a high degree of social mobility of workers’ labor-power. There is no planning of development without programming the mobility, which requires “indifference of the labourer to the nature of his labour; the greatest possible reduction of labour in all spheres of production to simple labour; the elimination of all vocational prejudices among labourers; and last but not least, a subjugation of the labourer to the capitalist mode of production.” 41 Here also, the decisive trait is the subordination of workers to the capitalist mode of production. The indifference of the worker to the nature of his labor-the simple labor of the worker increasingly reduced to simple labor, the professional prejudices repudiated by the workers-are not themselves forms of workers’ subordination: they are forms of capitalist exploitation. It is the difference between exploitation and Unterwerfung. Everyone knows, because it is a pretty obvious fact, that within the capitalist mode of production workers certainly are always exploited, but they are never submitted.

The workers’ insubordination can proceed step by step with capitalist exploitation catching, from time to time, the specific ways in which the two processes go together. For example, it is clear that today it is a matter of recognizing and cultivating all the positive content hidden and mystified within the so-called processes of alienation. If this corrupted word still has a meaning, it is only that of expressing a specifically determined form of direct exploitation of labor on the part of capital: total estrangement of labor with respect to the worker; useful, concrete labor which becomes objectively estranged, external and indifferent to the worker; the end of the trade, of the profession, of this last appearance of individual independence of the worker, the extreme survival of a bourgeois person in the body of the worker. Then, the positive content of alienation is not only the very positive content of capitalist exploitation, taken as the moment in which the answer of labor’s antagonism becomes conscious and organized. The process of a total estrangement of labor coincides with its most complete objectification within the process of production of capital. It is only when labor is totally objectified within capitalist production, that the existence of the working class becomes specifically contradictory within the system of capital. Not only the product of labor, not only the instruments of production, but all the conditions of labor must become objective in the person of capital-and they must, therefore, be torn from the subjectivity of the simple worker, if they are to be subsequently regained as enemies of the collective worker. The simple worker must become indifferent to his own labor so that the working class can come to hate it. Within the class, only the “alienated” worker is truly revolutionary. In fact, there is a moment in which the capitalist is the one who directly comes to the defense of the worker’s “personality.” Only in its generically human figure can labor-power voluntarily submit itself to capital. Only as human needs do workers’ demands become freely accepted by the capitalist. It is the point in which the worker definitely discovers the “cult of man” as a bourgeois sham.

There are no rights outside of capital. The workers no longer have to defend even the “rights of labor” for, at this level, the rights of labor are the same as those of capital. The trade-union arid the union struggle cannot by themselves get outside of the system and are destined to be inevitably part of its development. The interests of capital are no longer corporate: only the interests of labor outside of capital arc. A trade union which, as such, i.e., without party and without the political organization of the class, pretends to be autonomous from the plan of capital, succeeds only in attaining the most perfect form of integration of the working class within capitalism. Modern unionism, i.e., the party as the transmission belt of the trade-union, is the highest form of capitalist reformism. It is the way in which the objective need of capitalist production of regaining the real political terrain of the class struggle is overrun and at the same time utilized within the subjective initiative of capital. There are no doubts about this. If someone pretends to interpret this in economistic and objectivistic terms he has understood nothing of it. “In purely economic terms, i.e., from the bourgeois viewpoint,” says Marx, in order to indicate that within the terrain of economic competition with the capitalist, the workers are systematically defeated: on this ground they have no other choice than to improve the conditions of their own exploitation. When we purposely keep silent about the traditional objective contradictions of the system to the point of making them disappear altogether within its specific mechanism of development, the aim is to consciously regain the true discourse concerning the workers-which is a political discourse concerning political organization and political power. And this, too, must be done in a newly determinate sense. When science itself is objectified within capital, socialism is in turn forced to become again scientific. Insurrection as a work of art only now turns into a science of revolution. Thus, a true workers’ planning of the revolutionary process must and can be an answer to the programming that social capital makes of its own development. True, it is not enough to ideally contrapose the plan of capital: it is necessary to know how to utilize it materially. And this is impossible other than by contraposing to the economic program of capitalist development a political plan of labors’ answers. Nowadays both capital and labor, each in its own field, see very far and plan in terms of a long perspective. It is a matter of strategy against strategy: the tactic should be left to the bureaucrats of the two camps.

As we have already indicated, the working class must consider as a privileged fact the existence of capital, it must evaluate the successive forms of its development and altogether materially anticipate them in an antagonistic form within its own organization. Then, within the very process of socialization of capital, in the course of the development leading social capital to become the representative of the general interest, the working class is forced to begin to organize its own partial interest and directly manage its own particular power. When capital is unveiled as a social force, and upon this basis it gives rise to a capitalist society, it does not leave any alternative to the working class other than opposing itself to this whole sociality of capital. Workers no longer have to contrapose the ideal of a true society to the false society of capital: they no longer have to release and dilute themselves within the general social relation. They can now re-find and re-discover their own class as an anti-social revolutionary force. Today, without possibility of mediation, the whole society of capital stands in front of the working-class. The relation is finally reversed: the only thing that the general interest cannot mediate within itself is the irreducible partiality of the workers’ interest. Hence, we have the bourgeois call to social reason against the sectorial demands of the workers. The same relation that exists, at a certain level, between social capital and the single capitalists is sought between capital and labor: as functionaries put it, an always “dialectical” relationship. In fact, when collective labor agrees to reasonably participate in the general development, it ends up by functioning as just another part of collective social capital. On this road the only thing attainable is the most balanced and rational development of all of capital. It is at this point that the working class must instead consciously organize itself as an irrational element within the specific rationality of capitalist production. The growing rationalization of modern capital must find an insurmountable limit in the workers refusal to political integration within the economic development of the system. Thus, the working class becomes the only anarchy that capitalism fails to socially organise. The task of the labor movement is to scientifically organize and politically manage this labor anarchy within capitalist production. On the model of the society organized by capital, the labor party itself can only be the organization of anarchy no longer within, but outside of capital, i.e., outside of its development.

But we must be more specific it is not a matter of creating chaos within the productive process. It is a matter of “organizing the systematic disorganization of production” and this is what is meant by neo- anarcho-syndicalism. And it is altogether unnecessary to hide behind this absurd left-over, the totally new perspectives which only today are opening up for, the class-struggle. Nor must we on the other hand, contrapose a workers management to a capitalist management of the modern industrial enterprise or of the “productive center.” First of all there is no productive center by itself, and we only have the capitalist industrial enterprise. Secondly, the workers happily leave the management of this enterprise to the owners in the same way that they leave to the collective capitalist the general management of society while holding themselves only the political self-management of their own class power which starts from the factory and seeks to reach the State. The simple request of real political labor power, autonomous and distinct from real bourgeois political power, is now able to precipitate into a crisis the economic mechanism of the system thus preventing it from functioning. There is the point where the whole discourse reverses itself. It is the material base upon which all that is a function of capital acquires the possibility of becoming directly functional to the revolution against capital From labor’s viewpoint, the integral control of the social process becomes all the more possible as capital becomes social capital. Labor’s articulation of the entire capitalist mechanism now unveils itself at the center of the system as the arbiter of its further development or of its definitive crisis. The internal planning of the factory and the programming of capitalist development, i.e., the bourgeois knowledge of the process of production can be utilized in a form antagonistic to the system and instrumentalised for revolutionary goals. Science itself within capital can become the woof of a unitary re-composition of working class thought thus provoking by force a theory of the revolution wholly integrated within the working class. Thus, even the shop and sectorial integration of labour-power becomes an instrument of direct knowledge of the productive apparatus on the part of workers and the recognition of the determinate form that capitalist exploitation assumes at this level. The techniques of economic integration tried by the owner-an objective need of the production of capital become tools of political control over capital, thus means of workers’ self-management.

An insubordinate use of integration becomes possible. Concretely, this is the revolutionary use of capitalist development. Only at this point the organized labor movement can and therefore must continually overthrow the instruments of domination of capital into means of insubordination of labor thus coercing through violence the objective needs of capitalist production to function as subjective instances of revolutionary workers.

The theoretical formulation of a total revolutionary strategy on this level is no longer only possible, but becomes absolutely necessary for the foundation of the very revolutionary process. The objective anarchy of the working class within capitalism must now express itself at the highest level of consciousness. None of its elements can any longer be abandoned to spontaneity: everything points back to a scientific prediction of the revolution and to its consequent rigorous organization. Spontaneism belongs always and only to the “masses” in a general sense: never to the workers of large factories. Working people often love to explode in unforeseen acts of disorderly protest. Not so with the working class: the people have only their own rights to defend while the working-class must demand power. Thus it demands, first of all, that the struggle for power be organized. No one is more inclined than us today to wholly accept the Leninist thesis: “In its struggle for power the working class has only one weapon: organization.” Workers do not move unless they feel themselves to be organized, i.e., if they do not know that they are armed in the struggle. They are serious people: they never seek self-destruction. They are a social class of producers and not a group of miserable oppressed. Today they will not move unless they have a revolutionary plan which is explicitly organized. Party programs are useless: revolutionary strategy must not be confused with certain areas of demands. It is not a matter of contracting today the individual points in order to subsequently challenge tomorrow the whole of power. It is exactly the opposite: the demand for power must precede everything. Only in this fashion is everything organized for the conquest of power. The dominating class must be immediately challenged concerning political domination: subsequently it is also possible to contract with it regarding the ground of the struggle.

The first step always remains the regaining of an irreducible workers’ partiality against the entire social system of capital. Nothing will take place without class hatred: neither the elaboration of the theory, nor the practical organization. Only from a rigorously working-class viewpoint will the total movement of capitalist production be comprehended and utilized as a particular moment of the workers’ revolution. Only one-sidedness, in science and in struggle, opens the way both to the understanding of everything and to its destruction. Any attempt to assume the general interest, every temptation to stop at the level of social science, will only serve to better inscribe the working class within the development of capital. The class-based political action of the workers could also eliminate the problem of sectarianism. It is the working class’ thought which must be sectarian, i.e., it must become part of an organic system of new power organised in new revolutionary forms. No more illusions are possible: at the level of a developed capitalism it is not possible to continue to follow the movement of capital other than in organization of a decisive class struggle against the whole capitalist society. The Marxist analysis of capitalism will not go forward any more unless it finds a working class theory of revolution. And the latter will be useless if it will not be embodied in real material forces. And this will not exist for society other than when they will be politically organized in a class against it Hence, the impasse in which the discourse is caught when it wants to be sectarian but complete: between the will to calmly start looking for the objective reasons guiding a long historical process, and the necessity to immediately find the subjective forces which organize in order to overthrow it. We have on the one hand the patience of research and on the other the urgency of the answer. The theoretical vacuum in the middle is a vacuum of political organization. There is a right to experiment, which is the only one to be practically vindicated up to that point everything will take place in a rapid clash between immediately contradictory concepts. We are forced to jump ahead. We do without mediation because of our hatred for opportunism.

We must go back now to see concretely what is wage labor at the highest level of capital, how is the working-class composed at the maximum level of development of capitalism what is its material internal organization and why and under what conditions it can come to materialize a revolutionary process directly grounded in the working class, and therefore, socialist. The above is nothing more than the general premise of this specific discourse. Everything is yet to be sought. Up to now we only have “the attempt of a dissolution and the hint of a synthesis…”

Telos, No. 17, Fall 1973.


* This is a chapter of Tronti’s Operai e Capitale (Turin, 1971), pp.60-85. For an introduction to Tronti, see Telos, no.14 (Winter, 1972), pp.23-24. 1.Karl Marx, Capital vol.11 (Moscow, 1957), p.351.

2.Ibid., p.392.

3.Ibid., p.97.

4.Ibid.. pp.96-97.

5.Ibid.. p.104.


7.Ibid., p.102.

8.Ibid., p.105.

9.Ibid., pp.105-106.

10.Ibid., p.103.

11.Ibid., p.104.


13.Ibid., p.103.

14.Ibid.. p.394.

15.Ibid., p.433.

16.Karl Marx, Capital, vol.111, edited by F. Engels (Moscow, 1962), p.48.

17.Ibid., p.205.

18.Ibid., p.166.

19.Ibid.. p.165.

20.Ibid., p. 169.

21.Lenin, Collected Works, vol. IX, (Moscow, 1972), p.49.

22.Ibid.. p.50.


24.Marx, CapitaL vol.111, op.cit., p.191.

25.1W.. p.193.

26.Ibid., p.241.


28.Ibid., p.427.

29.Ibid., p.428.


31.Ibid., p.429.

32.Ibid.. p.259.

33.Marx, Capital, vol. I, op.cit.. p.609.

34.Marx, Capital vol.111, op.cit.. p.252.

35.Ibid., p.245.

36.Ibid., pp. 251-252.

37.Marx, Capital, vol. I, op.cit., pp.613-614.

38. Marx, Capital, vol.111, op.cit, p.212.

39.Marx, Capital, vol.11, op.cit.. p.432.

40.Marx, Capital, VOl.111, op.cit.. p.167.


Lenin in England

First Published: in Classe Operaia Issue No.1, January 1964, republished in Operai e Capitale (“Workers and Capital”), Einaudi, Turin, 1966, p.89-95, under the heading “A New Style of Political Experiment.”

Submitted by Harrison on July 1, 2013

A new era in the class struggle is beginning. The workers have imposed it on the capitalists, through the violent reality of their organised strength in the factories. Capital’s power appears to be stable and solid. ... the balance of forces appears to be weighted against the workers... and yet precisely at the points where capital’s power appears most dominant, we see how deeply it is penetrated by this menace, this threat of the working class.

It is easy not to see it. We shall need to study, to look long and hard at the class situation of the working class. Capitalist society has its laws of development: economists have invented them, governments have imposed them, and workers have suffered them. But who will uncover the laws of development of the working class? Capital has its history, and its historians write it — but who is going to write the history of the working class? Capitalist exploitation can impose its political domination through a hundred and one different forms — but how are we going to sort out the form that will be taken by the future dictatorship of the workers organised as the ruling class? This is explosive material; it is intensely social; we must live it, work from within it, and work patiently.

We too have worked with a concept that puts capitalist development first, and workers second. This is a mistake. And now we have to turn the problem on its head, reverse the polarity, and start again from the beginning: and the beginning is the class struggle of the working class. At the level of socially developed capital, capitalist development becomes subordinated to working class struggles; it follows behind them, and they set the pace to which the political mechanisms of capital’s own reproduction must be tuned.

This is not a rhetorical proposition. Nor is it intended just to restore our confidence. Of course, we urgently need to shake off that sense of working class defeat which has for decades dragged down this movement which, in its origins, was the only revolutionary movement of this era. But an urgent practical need is never sufficient basis for a scientific thesis: such a thesis must stand on its own feet, on a solid and complex grounding of material, historical fact. At that point, our case will be proven: in June 1848 (that fateful month, a thousand times cursed by the bourgeoisie), and possibly even earlier, the working class took over the stage, and they have never left it since. In different periods they have voluntarily taken on different roles — as actors, as prompters, as technicians or stage-hands — whilst all the time waiting to wade into the theatre and attack the audience. So how does the working class present itself today, on the contemporary stage?

Our new approach starts from the proposition that, at both national and international level, it is the specific, present, political situation of the working class that both necessitates and directs the given forms of capital’s development. From this beginning we must now move forward to a new understanding of the entire world network of social relations.

For instance take the basic material feature of this network — the fact that the world market has been undergoing reconstruction — a process which we can trace back to the ending of Stalinism’s stranglehold over development. It would be easy to explain this in terms that are economistic, addressing ourselves to “the problem of markets in capitalist production.” But the working class viewpoint seeks to find a political explanation. The meaning of a unified world market today is that it brings an international level of control of social labour power. It is possible -albeit difficult — to organise commodity production within a limited free-trade zone. But not so the movements of the working class. Historically, right at its origins, workers’ labour power was already homogeneous at the international level, and — in the course of a long historical period — it has forced capital to become equally homogeneous. And today it is precisely the unity of movement of the working class at the world level which forces capital rapidly to salvage a unified response.

But when we say that there is a unity in the movements of the international working class — how are we to grasp it? The various institutional levels of the official labour movement only create divisions in everything; the structures of capitalism unify everything — but only in capital’s interests. An act of political struggle can’t be simply tested and measured by empirical means. The only way to prove this unity is to start organising it. Then we shall discover that the new forms of class unity is wholly implicit in the new forms of working class struggle, and that the field of this struggle is social capital at an international level.

At this level, the political situation of the working class has never been so clear: wherever in history we find concentrated the social mass of an industrial labour force, we can see at a glance the same collective attitudes, the same basic practices, and the same unified political growth. Planned non-cooperation, organised passivity, polemical expectations, a political refusal, and a permanent continuity of struggles — these are the specific historical forms in which working class struggle today is generalising and developing itself. They are transitory forms of a transitory situation, in which, in social terms, the workers have already gone beyond the old organisations, but have not yet reached a new organisation a vacuum of political organisation, be it reformist or revolutionary. We have reached a period of in-between in working class history: we must examine it deeply and grasp its implications, for its political consequences will be decisive.

The first consequence is, not surprisingly, a difficulty: how are we to grasp the material movements of the class, in the absence of levels of institutions corresponding to those movements — i.e. the lack of those channels through which class consciousness usually expresses itself? This clearly demands a greater theoretical effort (and one more capable of making abstractions), but it also has a clearer practical function: for we are compelled to analyse the working class independently of the working class movement.

The second consequence is that we find contradictions and seeming uncertainties in the movements of the class. It is clear that if the working class had a revolutionary political organisation, it would aim everywhere, at making use of the highest developed point of capitalist reformism. The process of building a unification of capital at the international level can only become the material base for a political recomposition of the working class (and in this sense a positive strategic moment for the revolution) if it is accompanied by a revolutionary growth not only of the class, but also of class organisation. If this element is absent, the whole process works to the advantage of capital, as a tactical moment of a one-sided stabilisation of the system, seemingly integrating the working class within the system.

The historical workings of Italian capitalism — i.e. the organic political accord between Catholics and Socialists — could perhaps reopen a revolutionary process along classical lines, if it again managed to provide Italian workers with a working class party which would be committed to direct opposition to the capitalist system in the democratic phase of capital’s class dictatorship. Without this, the dominance of capitalist exploitation will, for the time being, become more stable, and the workers will be forced to seek other paths towards their revolution. Whilst it is true that the working class objectively forces capital into clear, precise choices, it is also true that capital then makes these choices work against the working class. Capital, at this moment, is better organised than the working class: the choices that the working class imposes on capital run the risk of giving strength to capital. This gives the working class an immediate interest in opposing these choices.

Today the strategic viewpoint of the working class is so clear that we wonder whether it is only now coming to the full richness of its maturity. It has discovered (or rediscovered) the true secret, which will be the death sentence on its class enemy: the political ability to force capital into reformism, and then to blatantly make use of that reformism for the working class revolution. But the present tactical position of the working class — as a class without class organisation — is, and must necessarily be, less clear and more subtly ambiguous. The working class is still forced to make use of contradictions which create crisis within capitalist reformism; it has to play up the elements which hinder and retard capitalist development, since it knows and senses that to allow a free hand for capital’s reformist operations in the absence of a political organisation of the working class, would amount to freezing for a long period the entire revolutionary process (and, by the same token, if such an organisation did exist, it would open this process immediately). Thus the two reformisms — that of capital and that of the labour movement — should certainly meet, but only through a direct initiative by the working class. When — as at the present moment — all the initiative is in capital’s hands, the workers’ immediate interest is to keep them apart. From a tactical point of view, too, it is correct that this meeting should take place once the working class has experienced not only struggle, but also revolutionary struggle, and within revolutionary struggle has also experienced alternative models of organisation. At that point, the historic encounter of capitalist reformism with the reformism of the labour movement will really mark the beginning of the revolutionary process. But our present situation is different: it precedes and paves the way for that later stage. From this follows both the workers strategic support for capital’s development in general and their tactical opposition to the particular forms of that development. So, in the working class today there is a contradiction between tactics and strategy.

In other words, the political moment of tactics and the theoretical moment of strategy are in contradiction, in a complex and very much mediated relationship between revolutionary organisation and working class science. Today, at the theoretical level, the workers viewpoint must be unrestricted, it must not limit itself, it must leap (forward by transcending and negating all the empirical evidence which the intellectual cowardice of the petty-bourgeois is forever demanding. For working class thought, the moment of discovery has returned. The days of systems building, of repetition, and vulgarity elevated to the status of systematic discourse are definitely over. What is needed now is to start again, with rigorously one-sided class logic — courage and determination for ourselves, and detached irony towards the rest.

This is not to be confused with the creation of a political programme; we must resist the temptation to carry this theoretical out-look immediately into the arena of the political struggle — a struggle which is articulated on the basis of a precise content, which, in some cases, may even contradict (quite correctly) our theoretical statements. As regards the practical resolution of practical problems of direct struggles, of direct organisation3 of direct intervention in a given class situation where workers are involved — all these should be gauged first of all by what the movement needs for its own development. Only secondarily should they be judged from the viewpoint of a general perspective which subjectively imposes these things on the class enemy.

But the separation of theory and politics is only the consequence of the contradiction between tactics and strategy. Both have their material base in the process (still slowly developing) by which the class and the historical organisations of the class — the “working class” and the “labour movement” — first become divided, and then come to counterpose each other. What does this mean concretely, and where will it lead us? The first thing to say is that the goal, the aim of this approach is the solid recomposition of a politically correct relationship between the two moments. No separation between them can be theoretically justified, and no counterposition can be effected at any point, not even provisionally. If a part of the labour movement finds again the path to revolution as signalled by the working class, then the process of unification of these moments will be easier, quicker, more direct and more secure. Otherwise, the revolutionary process, although nonetheless assured, will be less clear, less decisive, longer and more full of drama. It is easy to see the job of mystification that the old organisations are doing on the new working class struggles. But it is harder to grasp the way that workers are continuously, consciously making use of that institution which capital still believes to be the movement of the organised workers.

In particular, the working class has left in the hands of the traditional organisations all the problems of tactics, while maintaining for itself an autonomous strategic perspective free from restriction and compromises. And again we have the temporary outcome, of a revolutionary strategy and reformist tactics. Even if, as often happens, the opposite appears to be the case. It appears that workers are now in accord with the system, and only occasionally come into friction with it: but this is the “bourgeois” appearance of capitalist social relations. The truth is that, politically speaking, even the unions’ skirmishes represent for the workers an academic exercise in their struggle for power: it is as such that they take them on, make use of them, and once they have been made use of, hand them back to the bosses. As a matter of fact, the classical Marxist thesis — that the Union holds the tactical moment, and the Party holds the strategic moment — still holds true for the workers. This is why, if a link still exists between the working class and the unions, it does not exist between the working class and the Party. It is this fact which frees the strategic perspective from the immediate organisational tasks; it splits, temporarily, class struggle and class organisation; it splits the ongoing moment of struggle and temporary forms of organisation — all of which is the consequence of the historical failure of Socialist reformism, as well as being a premise of the political development of the working class revolution.

Theoretical research and practical political work have to be dragged — violently if need be — into focusing on this question: not the development of capitalism, but the development of the revolution. We have no models. The history of past experiences serves only to free us of those experiences. We must entrust ourselves to a new kind of scientific interpretation. We know that the whole process of development is materially embodied in the new level of working class struggles. Our starting point might therefore be in uncovering certain forms of working class struggles which set in motion a certain type of capitalist development which goes in the direction of the revolution. Then we would consider how to articulate these experiences within the working class, choosing subjectively the nerve points at which it is possible to strike at capitalist production. And on this basis, testing and re-testing, we could approach the problem of how to create a relationship, a new and ongoing organisation which could match these struggles. Then perhaps we would discover that “organisational miracles” are always happening, and have always been happening, within those miraculous struggles of the working class that nobody wants to know about but which perhaps, all by themselves, make and have made more revolutionary history than all the revolutions the colonised people have ever made.

But this practical work, articulated on the basis of the factory, and then made to function throughout the terrain of the social relations of production, this work needs to be continually judged and mediated by a political level which can generalise it. This is a new kind of political level, which requires us to look into and organise a new form of working class newspaper. This would not be designed to immediately report and reflect on all particular experiences of struggle; rather, its task would be to concentrate these experiences into a general political approach. In this sense, the newspaper would provide a monitoring of the strategic validity of particular instances of struggle. The formal procedure for carrying out such a verification would have -to be turned on its head. It is the political approach which must verify the correctness of the particular struggles, and not vice-versa. Because, on this basis, the political. Approach would be the total viewpoint of the working class, and therefore the actual real situation. And it is easy to see how such an approach takes us, away from the Leninist conception of the working class newspaper: this was conceived as the collective organiser on the basis of, or in anticipation of, a Bolshevik organisation of the class and of the Party. These are impossible objectives for us at this stage of the class struggle: this is the stage where we must embark on a discovery, not of the political organisation of advanced vanguards, but of the political organisation of the whole, compact social mass which the working class has become, in the period of its high political maturity — a class which, precisely because of these characteristics, is the only revolutionary force, a force which, proud and menacing, controls the present order of things.

We know it. And Lenin knew it before us. And before Lenin, Marx also discovered, in his own experience, how the hardest point is the transition to organisation. The continuity of the struggle is a simple matter: the workers only need themselves, and the bosses facing them. But continuity of organisation is a rare and complex thing: no sooner is organisation institutionalised into a form, than it is immediately used by capitalism (or by the labour movement on behalf of capitalism). This explains the fact that workers will very fast drop forms of organisation that they have only just won. And in place of the bureaucratic void of the general political organisation, they substitute the ongoing struggle at factory level — a struggle which takes ever-new forms which only the intellectual creativity of productive work can discover. Unless a directly working class political organisation can be generalised, the revolutionary process will not begin: workers know it, and this is why you will not find them in the chapels of the official parties singing hymns to the ‘democratic’ revolution. The reality of the working class is tied firmly to the name of Karl Marx, while the need of the working class for political organisation is tied equally firmly to the name of Lenin. With a masterly stroke, the Leninist strategy brought Marx to St Petersburg: only the working class viewpoint could have carried out such a bold revolutionary step. Now let us try to retrace the path, with the same scientific spirit of adventure and political discovery. What we call “Lenin in England” is a project to research a new Marxist practice of the working class party: it is the theme of struggle and of organisation at the highest level of political development of the working class.


Class and Party

Submitted by Nate on June 10, 2010

The search for a new strategy for the class struggle in advanced capitalism is the order of the day. The urgency to arrive at a general perspective on this terrain prevails in the movement with the power of great historic necessities. This immense work will be collective or it will not be; it will either arrive immediately to know how to move near the social mass of workers, or it will remain blocked, it will stagnate and regress. There is no autonomous development of theoretical discoveries that is separate of their organizational practices. It is impossible to foresee the struggle when one is not in it. A command that does not understand the weapons to impose it is not a command. Such are the laws that govern the history of workers’ experiences. Of course there have already been moments where the relation between the class and its political organization brutally hid the character of the problem to resolve before all others; but this problem never imposed itself as abruptly as today under the imminent pressure, complex and clear at once, of a historic node as will be necessary to undo politically in the short period fixed by the situation of the social relations including by the subjective forces that are present. The discourse to be made today on the party will be thrown in a crucible of problems again revealed, melted in the new form that worker’s thought is able to give to the new class realities, modeled, sealed in the mold of their brutal nature, while examining with a critical eye all past models, and with a skilled tactical interest with regard to certain solutions offered by the current situation. Each of these moments must appear explicitly in the analysis if one wants to be able to confront the theme of the class party on the political field. To do this, it is necessary to introduce immediately, in place of the old, a new concept of the workers’ political struggle.

One knows the Leninist distinction between economic struggle (against the individual capitalists or groups of individual capitalists with the intention to improve the situation of workers) and political struggle (against the government to expand the rights of the people, that is to say, in favor of democracy). Lenin’s Marxism united subsequently in an indissoluble whole these two moments of the working class struggle. Without Marxism and without Lenin, these two moments became separated. Once divided, they entered in a double crisis that forms the current crisis of the class struggle in the Leninist sense of the term, that is in the sense of its organization and of its direction. Understood literally, this distinction boils down to a class union and a people’s party. A very “ Italian ” reality that we all have before our eyes, and forms the opportunism that has not even had to cut its bridges with Leninism. From this follow two consequences: an union that finds itself having to manage the concrete forms of the class struggle without even being able even to evoke their political potential, and a party that exhausts itself talking about this political opening without the least reference, or the least link with the concrete forms of the class struggle. For extreme confusion, extreme remedy. To abolish the consequences, it is necessary to destroy the premises. It is necessary to explode the old distinction between economic struggle and political struggle; this will explode in one blow one of the cardinal points of reformism under its most modern form: post-Leninist and Communist.

This should not constitute a difficult task. If we examine well advanced capitalism, we will see that this distinction has already disappeared. At the stage of social capital, when we are witnessing the putting in place of integration processes on the grandest scale between the state and society, between the political stratum of the bourgeois and the social class of the capitalists, between the institutional cogs of power and the cogs of production regarding profit, at this stage, all labour struggle that limits itself voluntarily to the economic terrain ends up coinciding with the most reformist politics. When the historic democracy / capitalism complex finds for the first time its final, definitive authority in the only form that is possible: that is, under authoritarian planning that requires, through the more and more direct exercise of popular sovereignty, an “active” consensus of the productive social forces, from that moment, all labour struggle that limits itself voluntarily to the “political ” field (no longer for democracy, but for democratic planning!) finishes by confusing itself with the most opportunist economism. In order to avoid finding ourselves on the precipice [“en porte-a-faux,” delicate/dangerous situation?] on these two fields artificially proposed by the capitalists to the worker movement in order to confine the class struggle in a cage, it is necessary again to give on every occasion its character of a unique and global clash, probably the only one that is feasible today. In modern capitalism, the political struggle from the workers’ viewpoint is the one that aims consciously to put in crisis capitalist development in its economic mechanisms. The elements of this definition blankets all in equal importance. The research of the strategic point around which to tip in a positive manner the relation that exists between the political movement, on the workers’ side and the economic crisis of capitalism, was already the object of theoretical analyses that we will resume soon in order to deepen them and to engage with them in a longer debate. The interpretation of the situation that Italian capitalism is currently undergoing, already taken up in these columns [1], can serve as an illustration of the possibility to apply tactically this strategic reconstruction; it is rich, in nothing but its exposition, in practical consequences of which it would only be a matter henceforth of putting into practice. On the other hand, what interests us today, is to place in the foreground an element that we have only slightly taken into account so far: that of the subjective conscience, internal and essential part of the very concept of political struggle, and constitutive of all active intervention by the revolutionary subjectivity, in so far as it has as its result organization. And in fact, it is within this definition of the political content of the class struggle that one will discover the irreplaceable function of the party, that the party will be reaffirmed and that it will impose itself again.

If it is accurate to say that the different moments of labour struggle condition by preceding the various moments of the capitalist cycle, it is necessary to add that, to give a revolutionary content to these struggles, it is at the mass social level and in a conscious manner that it is necessary to condition by preceding the movements of capital, brief in an organized manner from the standpoint of political intervention. If this holds true, then it raises the condition of a workers’ domination that exercises itself on the capitalist production process and that should constitute the immediate premise of its overthrow. But, one does not do this without passing through the organization of this domination, without the political expression of organization, without the mediation of the party. It is only by a subjective, conscious intervention, from the summit, thanks to a material force that grants you the functioning mechanism of the system to be destroyed and that makes you the employer, it is only by using socially this power that it will not only be possible to foresee the mutations that intervene in the development cycle of capital, but also to measure, to control, to manage and thus to organize the political growth of the working class by forcing it to pass through a chain of clashes at different levels and on various occasions, until the one where it is necessary to take the decision to break the chain, to reverse the relations between the classes and to break the state apparatus.

It is necessary to establish a new relation in these conditions between spontaneity and organization. Because the old relation no longer functions. It rested on the illusion that it is enough to know capital in order to know the working class. From this, the approximate knowledge that is currently found among some in the higher levels of the party. From this also the current attempts to adapt the organisational instrument of the party to the necessities dictated by the development of capitalist society, rather than to the needs of the revolutionary workers’ revolt. It is necessary to repeat once again that the establishment of a correct relationship between class and party supposes initially on behalf of the party a scientific knowledge of the material, objective, spontaneous movements of the working class; and that it is only this that makes it possible to know scientifically the movements of the capitalist class and its social organization. It is in this sense that the party presents itself as the theoretical organ of the class, as the collective brain which has in itself the material reality of the class, of its movements, its development and its objectives. The leader of the party must necessarily have as a quality a political judgment capable of synthesis which can come only from vast experience [experimentation], carried out with refined instruments, modern, complex and possessed deeply. The leaders of the party [groupe dirigeant] as a whole, must know how to express in itself the synthetic unity of the working class science. [science ouvriere] He cannot ask for it from someone else, he must hold it within himself. The function of the party intellectual is definitively finished: as “a cultivated man” he does not have a place in the working class party. A science of the social relations separated from the practical capacity to overthrow them is no longer really possible if it ever was. And consequently a correct relationship between class and party, supposes in the second place precisely this practical capacity to plan [prevoir], to guide [diriger] the class movements in the historically given situations: not only to know the laws of action, but to be able to act concretely because one possesses intimately what can be called the theory and the practice of the law of tactics. In this sense the party is not only the scientific vehicle of strategy, it is equally the practical organization of its tactical application. The working class spontaneously possesses the strategy of its own movements and its development; the party has but to collect it, express it and organize it. But the true tactical moment, the class does not possess it on any level, neither with at that of spontaneity or at that of organization. All the lost historical occasions, all the offensives against the class enemy that failed, all the employers’ attacks that were not punished by the response of the working class that they deserved are due and are due only to one factor: the ignorance that only the party had and has the ability to isolate in order to seize the given moment where the confrontation of the classes becomes and can be made into social revolution. The great Leninist moment of the party marks, on the workers’ side, the historical conquest of the world of the tactic; it is not by chance that his name is tied for the first time to a historically concrete revolutionary experiment.

But it is not necessary to create illusions: never during these historic occasions will the relationship between class and party, between the working class and workers’ movement, express itself in a perfect form. If this was the case, we should declare finished the history of the class: in fact it has seemed finished every time where it was claimed that the perfect from had been attained. No party will ever succeed to express, in its entirety, the incomparable wealth of the experiences of struggle that are lived at the level of the class as a class in itself. [la classes en tant que telle] The party must continually aim to understand within itself the global reality of the working class while planning and guiding its movements, all the while knowing from the start, that between its own margins of subjective action and the pressure that is exercised on it by its base as a whole, constraining its ability to act, there will always be a gap in the end. This tension towards the working class must be lived in the party as its reason to be. And the party leader, the professional revolutionary must be the living mirror of this revolutionary tension at once towards his own class and against the opposing class. All action of the working class leader [dirigeant ouvriere] finds itself trapped between these two contradictory extremes. It is from this constraint that are born all the true theoretical discoveries, that is all the unforeseen intuitions, the inspired syntheses of social reality, of which alone the workers’ viewpoint is capable. Thus is born simultaneously the tactical capacity to move among the facts, to move then according to one’s will, to destroy them and to rebuild them, with the subjective violence organized by these forces themselves. The revolutionary leader represents this living contradiction that does not have a solution. But when we depart from there to then find ourself opposite the party bureaucrat, we feel all the urgency to dig deeply the mine of historic research that will explain what has happened during these decades in the workers’ movement.

Nevertheless it would be mistaken and morally abstract [faire du moralisme abstrait] to stop here. It would be easy at this point to deviate from the essential points. We want deliberately to undervalue the internal institutional problems to the party, as well as its organisational structures: These are the easiest problems to resolve and they will resolve themselves in time. It is the new course that imposes a new organization and not the opposite. And we have learned to attach little importance to the moments of internal democracy that do not put into question the general course. It is evident that it is in the factory that must be born the political relationship between class and party, that it is from there that it must leave to invest the whole of society, including its State. And it is towards the factory, on this decisive terrain, that the political mechanisms of the revolutionary process must return in order to progress. Such is the correct way, on the only condition that we hold to the scientific concept of the factory, which will prevent us from remaining on the side of the relations of production, confined in a network of empirical relationships with the individual employer, and at the same time that we go immediately beyond to confront the social employer in a general uprising, and to the formal political level. The party’s command in the factory requires, to fulfill its role, that the factory is already inside the party. In order that the party organization can have a material life in every factory, it is necessary first that the relations of production succeed in possessing a political life within the party program [ligne]. And if one looks closer, one will discover that none of these two moments precedes truly the other, that they have an interrelated existence and than it is only as such that they can exist, in an organic whole, in a historic relation of movement to organization, of spontaneity to direction, of strategic course to tactical moves. This is a matter of the decisive problem towards which must converge the solution of all others problems: the problem of joining [point de suture] party and class, brief of the terrain of common struggle of the social class and of the political party, the only one upon which a class party can exist from the workers’ viewpoint.

Of course, the road to be traveled is still long. Beyond all the chatter on the concept of autonomy, one cannot deny that there are some completely current occasions where tying the union to the party as its transmission belt seems again the most feasible method of class struggle. But it is clear that with the exception of these occasions, the belt tends to break and the relationship to reverses itself. This is why it can be foreseen that in the long run there will inevitably come to be an identification on the class terrain between the party and the union. And the reduction of the union to a party, or rather of the class union to a class party, will constitute maybe the first scientific formulation of the workers’ party in advanced capitalism. At this stage, the union will be reduced more and more to a defensive function of the conservation and of the development of the material and economical value of social labour power, while the growth of the party will have to be made more and more in the direction of an offensive weapon of the political interest of the workers against the system of capital, and that serves to attack it. If one has a workers’ party, and let us be clear, only given this condition, the union will be able to resume fully its natural role as defender of the workers’ human rights [des droits du people des travailleurs]. The new definition of the political struggle requires in fact, at the least a class party and a popular union. There will be a moment – and that necessarily – where the union will only shelter the workers’ mediation of the capitalist interest, while the direct interest of the workers will live, in the party and only in the party. To such an extent that the working class will seem to have totally disappeared outside of the party, except to reappear in the phases of acute social tension and when there is a general clash. When the revolutionary organization will have found a first successful application in developed capitalism, it will aim completely at a revolutionary process, foreseen, prepared, practiced, the end [cloture] of which will have been only provisional and it will be constantly reopened. This will be nothing more than the organization of a continuity always stronger, and of a more and more accelerated succession of underground growth phases of the class and of revolutionary attacks by the party. At a certain stage of the struggle, it will be necessary in reality to make capital dance a long time to this music before we are be able to deliver the decisive blow.

Our goal today is to discover and to clear the road that will bring us to this stage. The goal still remains consequently to lay the foundation of a revolutionary process by advancing the objective conditions and by beginning to organize the subjective forces. We will not reach it without joining immediately a grand strategic insight and a strong dose of political realism. Already Marx, due to his maturity, [parvenu a sa maturite] had understood that “it is from within the current society that it is necessary to take all the weapons to fight it.” It is from this maturity that it is necessary for us to set off again today if we want to avoid rediscovering the childhood sensations of the workers movement. It is evident for example that different levels of political development exist, that will always exist, at the heart very of the working class, and that the most advanced sectors will always have to confront the problem of the direction of the most backward sectors, just as the whole of the class will have to confront the problem of a real political unity that cannot be achieved except through the party and its center [en son sein]. It is also as evident that the problem of the workers’ hegemony exists not over the other classes, but over the other parts of what we will call approximately and in a general manner the working [laborieuses] masses. This, on the theoretical level, constitutes the difference between the direct forms of productive work and its indirect forms, a difference that will deepen, express itself, on the directly political level, exactly by the hegemony of the working class over the nation [le peuple]. To ensure that it is inside the working class that the nation plays its role, this is always a current problem for the revolution in Italy. Not of course to win a democratic majority in the bourgeois parliament, but to construct a political bloc of social forces and to use it as a material lever that will derail one by one, then together, the internal connections of the political power of the opponent: a fearsome popular power, maneuvered, controlled and directed by the working class thanks to its tool, the party. It is what had always characterized the goals of the party, that is now precisely excluded: to play the role of mediator in the relations that exist between related classes, that is between the different stratums and all their ideologies, all in an system of alliance. To have reduced the party to be the wax that seals the historic bloc, this was, if not the most, one of the most determinant factors, of the blocking of all revolutionary perspective in Italy. The Gramscian concept of the historic bloc limited itself to identifying a specific state, a national moment of capitalist development. Its immediate generalization, that one finds in the works written in prison, was already a first error. The second error, a lot more grave, was in the Togliattian vulgarisation under the form of the new party that had to aim to identify itself more and more with this historic bloc going as far as to dissolve itself in it until the history of the nation comes to merge completely with the national politics of the people’s party. It is too easy to say today: the design failed. The truth is that it could not have succeed. Capitalism does not allow those that speak in the name of the class enemy to do these kinds of things. This would be in a purely formal manner. This program, capitalism keeps for itself, adapts it to its level and uses it for its own development. Everyone said that Togliatti was realistic. He was maybe the man most removed from the social reality of his country that the Italian workers’ movement ever knew. One wonders if his realism was really calculating opportunism, or very well, a poorly argued utopia.

It is not by chance if it is necessary to resume, at this point, the analysis of the current phase of this social reality. It still remains entirely to sort out the account of Italian capitalism. It is undoubted that Italy finds itself currently in the phase that precedes immediately a stabilization of capitalism at its level of full maturity. The internal situation as well as the international links forge ahead this process with an irresistible force. It is also as evident that the Italian workers’ movement finds itself in the phase that precedes immediately a social democratic compromise at the traditional political level. And there again the internal context just as the international situation pushes in the direction of a strong acceleration of this development. We propose the hypothesis that these two processes do not present the same mechanical and irresistible objectivity. And that on the contrary the class struggle, in its current phase in Italy, must seek to separate these two processes, to put them in contradiction in such a way as to make them progress in opposite directions. The objective being to reach for the first time and therefore during an original revolutionary experience an economic maturity of capital in the presence of a politically strong working class. To do this it is necessary first of all to block in Italy what has constituted the historic path that all the advanced capitalist societies have followed; this is only feasible by preventing a stabilization of the system to another level, that would gain it, at that very moment, all that the political terrain counts as new available margins [compte de nouvelles marges disponible]; this is also the only way to preserve for workers this political threat towards the system which everyone knows well risks disappearing during the following decades if it does not endow itself in its decisive moments and in its crucial points, with functioning forms and with explicit organization. Maturity without stabilization, economic development without political stability: it is on this stiff rope that it is necessary to make capital walk, in order to mobilize again at the same time the working class forces that will cause it to fall. Without the general defeat of the working class there will not be political stabilization: in this moment this is what the capitalist initiative wants to bring about. The workers’ defeats on the general level, are also the ones (maybe the only ones) that mow down the base and decapitate all possibilities to form organizations immediately by removing all the concrete potentials of offensive struggles, by redirecting the mass of workers towards henceforth traditional behaviors of political passivity and of purely economic refusal. When the official workers movement of a capitalist country displays in its entirety openly social democratic positions, it is necessary to possess an alternative organization ready to take over its role: that is to be able to pull behind it right away the political majority of the working class. The experience that we have of international capitalism showed that if this condition is not met revolutionary perspectives are closed off for a long period. Consequently this is the condition that it is necessary to bring about. It is necessary to work starting today to prepare this alternative organization at the moment, by mustering the maximum amount of forces, by maintaining as much control as possible of the situation, and by displaying the largest measure of long term insight, and of practical skillfulness.

Today as during other historic periods, the struggle inside the worker movement represents an essential part and a basic moment of the class struggle in general. To ignore it, we lose the complexity, the knowledge, the control of the class struggle against capital and, thus, the possibility to act. It is not a matter today of using the PCI in a revolutionary direction. It is far too late for this; the goal is again completely negative. It is a matter of preventing the process of the explicit social democratization of the Communist party. For to prevent this, is already to block the political stabilization of capitalism in Italy. This means not allowing the whole of the Italian worker movement to accept here and now the new margins [marges] proposed by capital’s reformism, at a moment where, outside of the official worker movement, on the class level, no truly organized power and consequently no seriously feasible offer of an alternative political organization exists. This returns finally to avoiding a terrible defeat of the workers that would set the struggle back years, that would put an end to the prospect of a rupture of the system in the short run, and that would therefore reintegrate within [rentre dans le rang] western capitalism, the Italian class situation that could not be kept there, that must not return there, where it is necessary to not let it return regardless of personal sacrifices, of theoretical delays and finally of practical compromises. The first political objective regarding organizational practice, is to not abandon the PCI to the reformist transaction of capital even if it came to such a degree of solicitation; on this objective it is only within a struggle that it will be possible to reformulate quickly in terms of revolutionary action the political relationship that exists between class and party. The revolution “in the short run ” in Italy finds itself linked to this prospect. And it is a difficult prospect that will not be available if we do not have the courage to take certain positions, the patience to initiate political initiatives of long duration and the power to wage a violent struggle when the day comes. Everyone sees clearly that the last act of the comedy, that should result in the complete liquidation of the class party, has already practically began. The liquidators of the party will have to be liquidated in their turn and right away. Lenin explained: “The liquidators are not only opportunists. The opportunists push the party in a bourgeois and erroneous direction on the path of worker political liberalism, but they do not renounce the party itself, they do not liquidate it. The liquidators represent the form of opportunism that goes as far as to renounce the party.” It is against this extreme form of opportunism, that renounces all, that we will have to carry out the next battle. Not to stop there, but to go beyond, towards the workers’ party.

But all these facts that will come about in time, what might be their spatial limits? In which historic horizon will they inscribe themselves? Does one not run here again the risks of overestimating a national moment, a specific stage of capitalist development? All this analysis does it not cheapen the huge complexity of the problems of the worker revolution that are present today at the international level? The complexity of this problem is huge, it is true. We could not escape it even if we wanted. All that has been said so far represents only a tenth of what it would be necessary to say now. We do not even know if this is what is most important. But definitely, this is what is most urgent, most harmful, brief the starting premise. A form of opportunism exists today internationally [dans l’internationalisme] that is strange and strangely current; this is the reason it will also be necessary to be right on the idea according to which all will only be able to be resolved on a world-wide and generic scale and in terms of revolution or integration. It is an intellectual bias among so many others to rid themselves of concrete moments of the true class struggle. Nevertheless no powerful idea today [idée-force] seems to us to have the ongoing importance of the Leninist thesis according to which the chain of capitalism will break at a point and that tries to focus and to resolve the various problems of organization and of direction on this essential objective. This thesis saw and sees again its importance grow as a supranational integration of contemporary capitalism is taking place. The channels of communication established by capital according to its interests constitute henceforth an objective fact including for the working class. It is only today that a revolutionary rupture at the national level begins to really have the possibility to become generalized in chain at the international level. Better, this proves to be itself more and more the only possibility. For it appears clearly henceforth that only a true revolutionary experience will be able set in motion the overall mechanism of the international revolution. No theoretical discourse, no political alternative that remains at the stage of a program will be able to have this impact, this value as a model [valuer de modele], this role of brutal practical proposition that currently constitutes the necessary minimum in the most advanced capitalism needed to break the de-facto truce [treve de fait] that exists between the workers’ revolution and the development of capital. Of course it is necessary to correct the Leninist thesis on a point. We will put less emphasis today on the inequalities of capitalist economic development than on the inequalities of the political development of the working class: this in order to accept the neo-Leninist principle according to which the chain will not break where capital is weakest but where the working class is strongest. It is very necessary get this in our minds– and this is not easy to do – that there is no mechanical coincidence between the level of capitalist development and of the development of the working class. Once more the practice of struggle reveals itself richer than all the wealth that the worker thought [pensee ouvriere] has accumulated thus far. We will choose therefore the chain link where we find simultaneously ourselves in the presence of a capitalist economic development sufficiently elevated and of a very high political development of the working class. Is Italy therefore in the process of becoming the epicenter of the revolution in West? It is too early to say. All depends on the limits that we will seek to overcome, on the path to be opened. [Tout depend des delais que nous mettrons a faire passer la ligne, a ouvrir la voie]

(December 1964)

[1] This refers to the columns of the newspaper Classe Operaia, that appeared from 1964 to 1966, and from which the present chapter is taken as well as the three preceding ones. (NDT.)

Translated (rough draft) March 2006 by Alex Diceanu, from the French translation, by Yann Moulier (with the assistance of G. Bezza) published in 1977. The original Italian article was written in 1964. It was included in Workers and Capital (1st ed. 1966) under the title “A new kind of political experiment.” The French translation of Tronti's Operai e capitale is online in its entirety here:


Initial Theses

The initial theses proposed by Mario Tronti in Operai e capitale (Workers and Capital). Incomplete, due to lack of a full english translation the book.

Submitted by Harrison on July 1, 2013

Introduction to Marx, Labor-power, Working Class

This is the English translation of the introduction to Tronti’s essay Marx, Labour-Power, Working Class (1965), which in turn is forms the theses section of Tronti's book Operai e Capitale (Workers and Capital).

Submitted by zmb2102 on July 1, 2013

Please note that this translation is based on the French version, and should be superseded by a complete English translation of the original Italian, which we hope will not be delayed any longer. The second-order translation that follows is intended to provide more resources to the English discussion until Workers and Capital finally becomes available. The French translation, available on Multitudes, is preceded by the following note: "This text is included in the chapter of Workers and Capital titled 'First Theses,' to which it constitutes a kind of introduction. The first edition of Workers and Capital was published in 1966 by Einaudi. The French translation, by Yann Moulier in collaboration with G. Bezza, was published in 1977 by Christian Bourgois."

Let's start with the fundamental discovery which, according to Marx, is at the base of all of Capital, the Doppelcharakter of labor represented in commodities. That the commodity must be something double, at once use-value and exchange-value, this was already evident even at Marx's time. But that labor expressed in value possesses different characteristics from those of labor productive of use-value – this is what had remained unknown to thought in those days. Right at the beginning of Capital, Marx says: "I was the first to point out and to examine critically this twofold nature of the labour contained in commodities" (zwieschlächtige Natur: nature at once double, divided, and antagonistic). In the Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, he in fact attempted an analysis of the commodity "as labor presenting a double form"; analysis of use-value as real labor or productive activity in accordance to an end, and analysis of exchange-value as labor-time or equal social labor; it ended finally with a critical balance sheet of 150 years of classical economy which extended, in England, from William Petty to Ricardo, and in France, from Boisguillebert to Sismondi. Marx's discovery is, on this terrain, "the transition from concrete labour to labour which produces exchange-value, i.e., the basic form of bourgeois labour."1

Since 1859, the Marxian concept of labor productive of value has presented three well-defined characteristics: it is simple labor, social labor, and general abstract labor. Each of these characteristics is in itself a process, which immediately presents itself as intimately linked to the processes of the other two: it is the ensemble of these processes which permits the passage from precapitalist forms of labor to their capitalist forms. And each process is an objective fact governed ineluctably by the laws of development of a nascent capitalism. Simple labor implies the reduction of all types of labor to labor which is simple, undifferentiated, uniform, always qualitatively equal and only different quantitatively; complex labour is nothing other than simple labor to the nth power; labor of greater intensity, of a specific greater gravity, is always reducible, which means that it must always be reduced to "unskilled labour"2 , to unqualified labor, deprived of quality. But labour without quality and "human labor in general" are the same thing: not labor of different subjects, but of different individuals "as mere organs of this labor."  "This abstraction, human labour in general, exists in the form of average labour which, in a given society, the average person can perform, productive expenditure of a certain amount of human muscles, nerves, brain, etc."3 The specific form in which labor acquires its simple character is therefore that of human labor in general. The reduction to simple labor is a reduction to human abstract labor. The same goes for the social character of labor productive of value. The conditions of this labor – those which flow from the analysis of value – are social determinations of labor, or determinations of social labor. In one or the other case, they are not social tout court; they become so through a particular process. And what is the particularity of this social character? Two things: (1) the undifferentiated simplicity of labor which is the equivalent character of the labor of different individuals, which is to say the social character of the equivalence of the labor of each; (2) the general character of individual labor which appears as its social character since it is certainly the labor of the individual, but also the labor of each, not differentiated from the labor of another. In the logical passage between these two things, which is for that matter the historical passage of the social determinations of labor to the determinations of social labor, different exchange-values find a single general equivalent: which is only a social magnitude insofar as it is a general magnitude. But for a product to assume the form of a general equivalent, it is necessary for the labor itself of the individual to assume a general abstract character. The specific form in which labor acquires its social character, is therefore the form of abstract generality. The particular trait of this social labor is to be here also human abstract labor. Simple labor and social labor – as soon as they produce value – reduce themselves to abstract labor, to labor in general. It is therefore false to see in labor the unique source of material wealth; since we can only speak here, again and always, of concrete labor, creative of use-values. It is of abstract labor as the source of exchange value that we must speak instead. Concrete labor realizes itself in the infinite variety of its use-values; abstract labor realizes itself in the equivalence of commodities as general equivalents. Labor creative of use-values is the natural condition of human life, of the organic exchange between man and nature; labor creative of exchange values, on the other hand, refers to a specifically social form of labor. The first is particular labor that is divided into an infinity of types of labor; the second is always general labor, abstract and equivalent. "Labour as a source of material wealth was well known both to Moses, the law-giver, and to Adam Smith, the customs official."4 Labor creative of value is the first radical discovery from the working-class viewpoint applied to capitalist society.

With the appearance of the first volume of Capital, Marx wrote to Engels: "The best points in my book are: 1. (this is fundamental to all understanding of the facts) the two-fold character of labour according to whether it is expressed in use-value or exchange-value, which is brought out in the very First Chapter; 2. the treatment of surplus-value regardless of its particular forms as profit, interest, ground rent, etc"5 . A few months later – in another letter – he criticized Dühring's report on capital for having failed to gather the "fundamentally new elements" of the book, namely: "(1) That in contrast to all former political economy, which from the very outset treats the different fragments of surplus value with their fixed forms of rent, profit, and interest as already given, I first deal with the general form of surplus value, in which all these fragments are still undifferentiated – in solution, as it were. (2) That the economists, without exception, have missed the simple point that if the commodity has a double character – use value and exchange value – then the labour represented by the commodity must also have a two-fold character, while the mere analysis of labour as such, as in Smith, Ricardo, etc, is bound to come up everywhere against inexplicable problems"6 . We will return later to the organic connection that intimately links the content of these two discoveries: the concept of labor-power, and that of surplus value. For the moment, we will hasten in finding the origin of the first, in the works of Marx and in his sources.

"If then we disregard the use-value of commodities, only one property remains, that of being products of labour. But even the product of labour has already been transformed in our hands. If we make abstraction from its use-value, we abstract also from the material constituents and forms which make it a use-value…The useful character of the kinds of labour embodied in them also disappears; this in turn entails the disappearance of the different concrete forms of labour. They can no longer be distinguished, but are altogether reduced to the same kind of labour, human labour in the abstract." What is then, at this stage, the residue of the products of labor? Nothing if not "the same phantom-like objectivity; they are merely congealed quantities of homogeneous human labour." There is only "human labour-power expended without regard to the form of its expenditure." It is only as crystals of this common social substance – human labor-power– that things are "values, commodity-values."7

A common social substance (gemeinschaftliche gesellschaftliche Substanz) of things, common to commodities, which is to say common to the products of labor and not "the common social substance of exchange value" (see the beginning of the "Critical Notes on Adolph Wagner's Treatise on Political Economy")8 , but wertblindende Substanz (valorizing substance): such is the first definition of the concept of labor-power that one finds in Capital. Marx says here Arbeitskraft; in Theories of Surplus Value he used instead the term Arbeitsvermögen; in the Grundrisse that of Arbeitsfähigkeit. The concept is the same. The philological passage from one term to another is not what interests us. In Marx, the distinction between labor and labor-power is found already achieved in all the preparatory works to the Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy9 ; given that all these works cover a decade (from '49 to '59), it is just after 48 that we are able to situate the definitive Marxian discovery of the concept of labor-power, in all its scope. It is evident that one can discover germs of this discovery in all the works before this date. These testify to the internal development of the concept of labor-power, of its internal and progressive specification, which enriches itself more and more with scientific determinations until the decisive encounter, which at the heart of the revolutionary experience of '48, will identify it definitively with the concept of the working class.

In certain notebooks of excerpts from the works of the greatest economists compiled by Marx in Paris in 1844, which served therefore in the formulation of the 1844 Manuscripts, we find already the concept (the word) Erwerbsarbeit, which we think can be translated directly by "industrial labor." In "industrial labor" we have, says Marx: "1) estrangement and fortuitous connection between labour and the subject who labours; 2) estrangement and fortuitous connection between labour and the object of labour; 3) that the worker's role is determined by social needs which, however, are alien to him and a compulsion to which he submits out of egoistic need and necessity, and which have for him only the significance of a means of satisfying his dire need, just as for them he exists only as a slave of their needs; 4) that to the worker the maintenance of his individual existence appears to be the purpose of his activity and what he actually does is regarded by him only as a means; that he carries on his life's activity in order to earn means of subsistence." In such an analysis, the unity of human labor comes only from its division. Once the division of labor is accepted, the product, the material of private property, becomes more and more the signification of the equivalent. It is in money that the equivalent acquires its existence as equivalent. And in money is manifested already the total domination of the object, having become alien, over man: "The separation of work from itself (Trennung der Arbeit von sich selbst)  – separation of the worker from the capitalist – separation of labour and capital." For the economist, there is the division between production and consumption, and as intermediary between the two, exchange or distribution. But "the separation of production and consumption, of action and spirit, in different individuals and in the same individual, is the separation of labour from its object and from itself as something spiritual." It is the separation of "labour from labour" (Trennung der Arbeit von Arbeit)10

In the first of the 1844 Manuscripts, in the chapter on the wage, Marx writes: "It goes without saying that the proletarian (Proletarier), i.e., the man who, being without capital and rent, lives purely by labour, and by a one-sided, abstract labour (rein von der Arbeit und einer einseitigen, abstrakten Arbeit lebt), is considered by political economy only as a worker (Arbeiter)… In political economy labour occurs only in the form of activity as a source of livelihood (unter der Gestalt der Erwerbstätigkeit)." But if we "rise above the level of political economy," that's when two decisive questions arise, and it is not by accident that they appear to Marx at this precise place: "(1) What in the evolution of mankind is the meaning of this reduction of the greater part of mankind to abstract labour (auf die abstrakte Arbeit)? (2) What are the mistakes committed by the piecemeal reformers, who either want to raise wages and in this way to improve the situation of the working class, or regard equality of wages (as Proudhon does) as the goal of social revolution?"11 Only much later will Marx give an otherwise decisive response to this question, in a fully satisfying fashion, in Capital. In their strongly "ideological" form, the Manuscripts contain practically nothing more than the direction, already indubitably present, of future research. "True, it is as a result of the movement of private property that we have obtained the concept of alienated labor (of alienated life) in political economy. But on analysis of this concept it becomes clear that though private property appears to be the reason, the cause of alienated labor, it is rather its consequence, just as the gods are originally not the cause but the effect of man’s intellectual confusion. Later this relationship becomes reciprocal. Only at the culmination of the development of private property does this, its secret, appear again, namely, that on the one hand it is the product of alienated labor, and that on the other it is the means by which labor alienates itself, the realization of this alienation."12

The reversal of the relation between labor and capital is entirely contained here in germ; we can already gather it in all the possibilities that it offers of a revolutionary approach to method, which opens wide all doors to immediately subversive solutions, as much at the level of theoretical research as that of practical struggle. We will demonstrate that the conducting thread of all of Marx's work can be found here. However, it is already possible for us to argue that, in this work, this discovery has not gone further than a brilliant intuition, always submitted to the uncertainties of the objective path of the history of capital, a path more slow, complex, indirect and unsure than the one that Marx's working-class viewpoint could consider. This strategic reversal of the relation between labor and capital, we must today rediscover completely, and repropose totally as a method of analysis and a guide to action. If we have a minimal tactical influence on the present situation, the truth of this principle leaps before the eyes. The state of maximum development of capital reveals, but in the facts, its secret, and emphasizes it.

"The subjective essence of private property –private property as activity for itself, as subject, as person – is labour." Only political economy has recognized labor for its principle: and thus it has revealed itself as a product of private property and modern industry. The fetishism of the mercantilist monetary system knew property as a solely objective essence of wealth. The Physiocratic doctrine represents a moment of decisive passage towards the discovery of a subjective existence of wealth in labor, but it was more about a concrete, particular labor, linked as far as its material to a natural determinate element. Starting with Adam Smith, political economy recognized the general essence of wealth, and was then led to "the raising up of labour in its total absoluteness (i.e., its abstraction) as the principle." "It is argued against physiocracy that agriculture, from the economic point of view – that is to say, from the only valid point of view – does not differ from any other industry; and that the essence of wealth, therefore, is not a specific form of labour bound to a particular element – a particular expression of labour – but labour in general (Arbeit uberhaupt)." In the process of scientific understanding of the subjective essence of private property, labor only appears at the start as agricultural labor, but it is then recognized as general labor. At this stage, "All wealth has become industrial wealth, the wealth of labour, and industry is accomplished labour, just as the factory system is the perfected essence of industry, that is of labour, and just as industrial capital is the accomplished objective form of private property."13

In the Arbeiterslohn manuscript, dated December 1847, we read at the beginning: “die menschliche Tätigkeit = Ware” ("Human activity = commodity")." We read later: "The worker (der Arbeiter: the laborer, not labor) becomes an increasingly one-sided productive force (Productivkfraft) which produces as much as possible in as little time as possible. Skilled labour increasingly transformed into simple labour." We see already appearing the theme of the general human activity of the worker reduced to the commodity. And the theme of the most complex labor reduced to the simplest. We find, additionally, at the end of the manuscript, a paragraph placed in parentheses by Marx, and carrying the indication that he wants to consider the problem "in general form": "since labour has become a commodity and as such subject to free competition, one seeks to produce it as cheaply as possible, i.e., at the lowest possible production cost. All physical labour has thereby become infinitely easy and simple for the future (künftige, says the Werke edition, the MEGA has Kräftige – healthy, vigorous) organisation of society."14 . Here then is already the theme of social labor, even if its particular content causes problems and is not yet well defined.

This manuscript, Wages, carries the trace of the meetings that Marx held in 1847 with the German Workers' Society in Brussels, in the course of which he developed some points which he would not take up any further, even in the famous articles of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung (April 1849) on "Wage Labor and Capital." If we subject these manuscripts of '47 to the same treatment that Engels reserved for the articles of '49 – namely, substitute Arbeitskraft for Arbeit, every time that it is a question of abstract labor, which is to say everywhere – we get the following result: the concept of labor-power (and the word itself) is found in the work of Marx, not only before Capital, but also before the Manifesto, and as a specific discovery, leading back – according to us – to the first critique of political economy, still insufficient, of the 1844 Manuscripts. "What the economists had considered as the cost of production of 'labour' was really the cost of production, not of 'labour,' but of the living labourer himself. And what this labourer sold to the capitalist was not his labour… But… He hires out or sells his labour-power. But this labour-power has grown up with his person and is inseparable from it," says Engels in the 1891 introduction to "Wage Labor and Capital."15 Here resides the whole difference between labor and labor-power. Present in the concept of labor-power is the figure of the worker, while in that of labor this is not the case. And the figure of the worker, who, in selling his own "labor," sells himself as "labor-power," we find entirely contained in the works of Marx, starting with the analyses of his youth on alienated labor. This is indeed the precondition for the whole course: in the conditions imposed by capital, the alienation of labor and the alienation of the worker are one and the same thing. Otherwise it would have been necessary to conclude that this analysis does not concern capitalist society, but society in general; not the worker, but man in general: this is the error of those who try to find in the young Marx nothing but an old philosophy of totality. The limit of the works of Marx, before '48, is found elsewhere. It is the still insufficient definition of labor-power as commodity, or rather the absence of an analysis of the special characteristics of this commodity, and of the consideration of labor-power as a "special" commodity. Before '48, we already find in Marx abstract labor as labor-power, and then as commodity. Only the pivotal moment of the Revolution of 1848 will bring forth in full clarity, in Marx, the theoretical progression which leads to the discovery of the special content of the labor-power commodity, since it is linked no longer only – through the alienation of labor – to the historical figure of the worker, but the birth of capital itself – through the production of surplus value. Almost at the beginning of "Wage Labor and Capital," we find this luminous affirmation: "after our readers have seen the class struggle of the year 1848 develop into colossal political proportions, it is time to examine more closely the economic conditions themselves upon which is founded the existence of the capitalist class and its class rule, as well as the slavery of the workers." For us, it is only in '48 – or rather after June '48 – that we can see produced, for the first time in Marx's thought, the encounter of the concept of labor-power with the movements of the working class. Here begins the true Marxian history of the labor-power commodity, which reappears, with all its "special characteristics," that is with its specifically working-class content, but this time in explicitly defined terms, in the Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy and later in Capital. In this sense, the bourgeoisie was right to lament, even though it had beaten the workers on the ground: "Damned be June!"

Labor as abstract labor, and therefore as labor-power – we find this already in Hegel. Labor-power – and not only labor – as commodity, we find this already in Ricardo. The commodity labor power as working class: this is the discovery of Marx. The double character of labor is only the preliminary. It does not constitute the discovery, but only the means of reaching it. We do not pass from labor to working class, whereas we can do this if we start with labor-power. To speak no longer of labor, but of labor-power, this is to speak of the worker and no longer of labor. Labor-power, living labor, and the living worker, are synonymous terms. The critique of the expression "value of labor," the definition of the "value of labor-power" permits the passage to the concept of surplus-value. Pre-Marxist socialist ideology (like everything that is post-Marxist) has never taken this path. It has therefore never put its finger on the historical existence of the working class. And what is the latter, at this level, if not social labor-power, productive of surplus-value? And from surplus-value to profit, and from profit to capital, such is the path that it follows. The living commodity which is the socially organized worker, reveals itself as being not only the place of theoretical origin, but also the historico-practical prerequisite that we call the fundamental articulation of capitalist society (Glied and Grund at the same time)16

But these are the conclusion of the analysis: it is still necessary for us to demonstrate the premises. This is not from the scholastic necessity of philologically specifying the terms of the problem that arises from the search for the principal sources of the concept of labor in Marx; but rather the practically necessity of isolating his true discoveries, to be able to recognize and develop them, as well as the deliberate choice of separating on the spot everything that painfully comes to life in the field of working-class thought, so as to use, for our own ends, elements of the opposing thought. What Schumpeter called "the impressive synthesis that is Marx's work" presents almost always the following characteristic: it is not each particular discovery that counts, but the overall use made of each discovery by the other, their overall  rearrangement according to a single direction of thought, thanks to the relatively unilateral orientation given by an exclusive point of view. This is where all the sectarianism of working-class science resides. Marx provided a model, which he himself was not always capable of following in his analysis and its conclusions. No Marxist after him did. The only decisive exception: Lenin and his revolution. In this case, the method of unilateral synthesis, the path of access to the comprehensive possession of social reality, starting from a deliberate tendentious choice, led in practice to concrete forms of political organization. This is the most important passage that there has been – since Marx – in the history of working-class thought. From that day, the bourgeois mystification of an immediate identification of the particular interests of a class with the general interest of society proved itself to be no longer possible, at the theoretical level as much as the practical level. The control of society in general is to be attained by struggle, when the domination of a particular class imposes itself. On this field, two viewpoints almost equal in force and power collide. The universal reign of ideology collapses with a crash. There is no longer room for two positions of opposing classes, each looking to impose, by authority and violence, its exclusive domination over society. It was to this that Lenin, in practice, constrained the capitalists of his day, in organizing the revolution prematurely. The Marxian analysis of capitalist society was also "premature" with regard to its epoch. Here is why Capital and the October Revolution had the same historical destiny. It is easy to enumerate the enormous historical and logical contradictions that oppose one another: in the end the conclusion to be drawn is that all this does not make a dent, in the slightest bit, in a crumb of their validity. The truth is that it is a matter of a single method applied at two different levels: the theoretical and practical usage of a network of material conditions (series of concepts or series of circumstances) operating by a rigorous working-class viewpoint, inscribing itself in a process of subversion of capitalist society. The treatment that Marx intended for the categories of political economy, or the concepts of classical philosophy is the same that Lenin reserved for the two middle layers of the old society, or the historical parties of the old State. Marx powerfully discovered a tactical moment of research: the practical capacity to use certain results obtained by the science of the epoch, to reverse them in the opposed dimension of a strategic alternative. Lenin – the only Marxist to have understood Marx on this point – directly translated this theoretical method into laws for action. The Leninist discovery of the tactic is only the extension of a theoretical discovery of Marx in the domain of practice: namely, the universal, conscious, realist, and never ideological character of the working-class viewpoint of capitalist society. We want to get as far as demonstrating that "all value in labor" and "all power to the soviets" are one and the same thing: two watchwords that recover a moment of tactical struggle, and at the same time contradict none of the possible strategic developments: two laws of movement which are not those of capitalist society (this is where Marx's error was, since here we risk losing the tactical moment), but those of the working class internal to capitalist society (and this is the Leninist correction brought to Marx).

At this stage, to clarify the problem, it becomes indispensable to have a word about Marx's sources, regarding the specific and decisive question of the definition of the concept of labor. The Marx/Hegel relation has long been studied. On the other hand, on the Marx/Ricardo relation, almost nothing has been done. The most interesting thing consists in studying the Hegel/Ricardo relation. If we had the time and the political tranquility, we might think of proceeding with a detailed comparative analysis of the Hegelian Phenomenology and Ricardo's Principles: we would find that the material treated is identical, with an identical mode of treatment (method), and different only in the "form" with which it is treated, which has oriented them towards different disciplines, unable to communicate with each other. Here we limit ourselves to raising the Hegel/Ricardo relation, in its objective terms, by means of a separate although parallel analysis. Marx remarks: "If the Englishman transforms men into hats, the German transforms hats into ideas. The Englishman is Ricardo, rich banker and distinguished economist; the German is Hegel, simple professor at the University of Berlin."17



10 years 3 months ago

In reply to by

Submitted by Nate on July 1, 2013

Thanks for this, whoever translated it!

The strategy of refusal - Mario Tronti

This article develops a concept that has been fundamentals to autonomous politics in Italy - the concept of the working class refusal - The refusal of work, the refusal of capitalist development, the refusal to act as bargaining partner within the terms of the capital relation.

Submitted by libcom on July 23, 2005

If we accept his description of the working class as developing within the structures of capitalist production, but outside of, free from, its political initiative, then we have a test-bed for a radical critique of current forms of Marxist orthodoxy regarding organisation.

The argument contained in this piece is developed still further - in the context of a new class composition - in Toni Negri1s concept of working class and proletarian "self-valorisation", contained in the article "Domination and Sabotage".

The Strategy of the Refusal was written in 1965 as part of the "Initial Theses11 in Tronti's Operai e Capitale ("Workers and Capital"), Einaudi, Turin, 1966, pp.234-252.

Note: other Tronti article from Operai e Capitale was published in the CSE pamphlet No.1: The Labour Process and Class Strateries, 1976, ISBN 85035 025 5.

[Original Intro.]


Adam Smith says - and Marx comments on the accuracy of his observation -that the effective development of the productive power of labour begins when labour is transformed into wage labour, that is, when the conditions of labour confront it in the form of capital. One could go further and say that the effective development of the political power of labour really begins from the moment that labourers are transformed into workers, that is, when the whole of the conditions of society confront them as capital. We can see, then, that the political power of workers is intimately connected to the productive power of wage labour. This is in contrast to the power of capital, which is primarily a social power. The power of workers resides in their potential command over production, that is, over a particular aspect of society. Capitalist power, on the other hand, rests on a real domination over society in general. But the nature of capital is such that it requires a society based on production. Consequently production, this particular respect of society, becomes the aim of society in general. Whoever controls and dominates it controls and dominates everything.

Even if factory and society were to become perfectly integrated at the economic level, nevertheless, at a political level, they would forever continue to be in contradiction. One of the highest and most developed points of the class struggle will be precisely the frontal clash between the factory, as working class and society, as capital. When the development of capital's interests in the factory is blocked, then the functioning of society seizes up: the way is then open for overthrowing and destroying the very basis of capital's power. Those, however, who have the contrary perspective, of taking over the running of the "general interests of society", are committing the error of reducing the factory to capital by means of reducing the working class, that is, a part of society, to society as a whole. Now we know that the productive Dower of labour makes a leap forward when it is put to use by the individual capitalist. By the same token, it makes a political leap forward when it is organised by social capital. It is possible that this political leap forward does not express itself in terms of organisation, whereupon an outsider may conclude that it has not happened. Yet it still exists as a material reality, and the fact of its spontaneous existence is sufficient for the workers to refuse to fight for old ideals - though it may not yet be sufficient for them to take upon themselves the task of initiating a new plan of struggle, based on new objectives.

So, can we say that we are still living through the long historical period in which Marx saw the workers as a "class against capital", but not yet as a "class for itself"? Or shouldn't we perhaps say the opposite, even if it means confounding a bit the terms of Hegel's dialectic? Namely, that the workers become, from the first, "a class for itself" - that is, - from the first moments of direct confrontation with the individual employer - and that they are recognised as such by the first capitalists. And only afterwards,after a long-terrible, historical travail which is, perhaps, not yet completed, do the workers arrive at the point of being actively, subjectively, "a class against capital". A prerequisite of this process of transition is political organisation, the party, with its demand for total power. In the intervening period there is the refusal - collective, mass, expressed in passive forms - of the workers to expose themselves as "a class against capital" without that organisation of their own, without that total demand for power. The working class does what it is. But it is, at one and the same time, the articulation of capital, and its dissolution. Capitalist power seeks to use the workers' antagonistic will-to-struggle as a motor of its own development. The workerist party must take this same real mediation by the workers of capital's interests and organise it in an antagonistic form, as the tactical terrain of struggle and as a strategic potential for destruction. Here there is only one reference point - only one orientation - for the opposed world views of the two classes - namely the class of workers. Whether one's aim is to stabilise the development of the system or to destroy it forever, it is the working class that is decisive. Thus the society of capital and the workers' party find themselves existing as two opposite forms with one and the same content. And in the struggle for that content, the one form excludes the 'other. They can only exist together for the brief period of the revolutionary crisis. The working class cannot constitute itself as aparty within capitalist society without preventing capitalist society from functioning. As long as capitalist does continue to function the working class party cannot be said to exist.

Remember: "the existence of a class of capitalists is based on the productive power of labour". Productive labour, then, exists not only in relation to capital, but also in relation to the capitalists as a class. It is in this latter relationship that it exists as the working class. The transition is probably a historical one: it is productive labour which produces capital; it is the fact of industrial workers being organised into a class that provokes the capitalists in general to constitute themselves as a class. Thus we see that - at an average level of development - workers are already a social class of producers: industrial producers of capital. At this same level of development the capitalists, themselves, constitute a social class not of entrepreneurs so much as organisers: the organisers of workers through the medium of industry. A history of industry cannot be conceived as anything other than a history of the capitalist organisation of productive labour, hence as a working class history of capital. The "industrial revolution" necessarily I springs to mind: This must be the starting point of our research if we are to trace the development of The contemporary form of capital's domination over workers, as it increasingly comes to be exercised through the objective mechanisms of industry, and also the development of capital's capacity to prevent these mechanisms being used by workers. This would lead us to see that the development of the relationship between living labour and the constant part of capital is not a neutral process. Rather, it is determined, and often violently so, by the emerging class relationship between the collective worker and the whole of capital, qua social relations of production. We would then see that it is the specific moments of the class struggle which have determined every technological change in the mechanisms of industry. Thus we would achieve two things: one, we would break free of the apparent neutrality of the man-machine relationship; and two, we would locate this relationship in the interaction, through history, of working class struggles and capitalist initiative.

It is wrong to define present day society as "industrial civilisation". The "industry" of that definition is, in fact, merely a means.' The truth of modern society is that it is the civilisation of labour. Furthermore, a capitalist society can never be anything but this. And, in the course of its historical development, it can even take on the form of "socialism". So.... not industrial society (that is, the society of capital) but the society of industrial labour, and thus the society of workers' labour. It is capitalist society seen from this point of view that we must find the courage to fight. What are workers doing when they struggle against their employers? Are they not they, above all else, saying "No" to the transformation of labour power into labour? Are they not, more than anything, refusing to receive work from the capitalist?

Couldn't we say, in fact, that stopping work does not signify a refusal to give capital the use of one's labour power, since it has already been given to capital once the contract for this particular commodity has been signed. Nor is it a refusal to allow capital the product of labour, since this is legally already capital's property, and, in any case, the worker does not know what to do with it. Rather, stopping work - the strike, as the classic form of workers' struggle - implies a refusal of the command of capital as the organiser of production: it is a way of saying "No" at a particular point in the process and a refusal of the concrete labour which is being' offered; it is a momentary.' blockage of the work-process and it appears as a recurring threat which derives its content from the process of value creation. The anarcho-syndicalist "general strike", which was supposed to provoke the collapse of capitalist society, is a romantic naivete from the word go. It already contains within it a demand which it appears to oppose - that is, the Lassallian demand for a "fair share of the fruits of labour" - in other words, a fairer "participation" in the profit of capital. In fact, these two perspectives combine in that incorrect "correction" which was imposed on Marx, and which has subsequently enjoyed such success within the practice of the official working class movement - the idea that it is "working people" who are The true "givers of labour", and that it is the concern of workpeople to defend the dignity of this thing which they provide, against all those who would seek to debase it. Untrue...The truth of the matter is that the person who provides labour is the capitalist. The worker is the provider of capital. In reality, he is the possessor of that unique, particular commodity which is the condition of all the other conditions of production. Because, as we have seen, all These other conditions of production are, from the start, capital in themselves - a dead capital which, in order to come to life and into play in the social relations of production, needs to subsume under itself labour power, as the subject and activity of capital. But, as we have also seen, this transition into social relati9ns of production cannot occur unless the class relation is introduced into it as its content. And the class relationship is imposed from the very 'first moment and by the very fact that the proletariat is constituted as a class in the face of the capitalist.

Thus, the worker provides capital, not only insofar as he sells labour power, but also insofar as he embodies the class relation. This, like the inherent social nature of labour power, is another of those things acquired by the capitalist without payment, or rather, it is paid for, but at the cost (which is never subject to negotiation) of the workers' struggles which periodically shake the process of production. It's no accident that this terrain is the terrain that is chosen tactically by the workers as the ground on which to attack The employers, and is therefore the terrain on which the employer is forced to respond with continual technological "revolutions" in the organisation of work. In this whole process, the only thing which does not come from the workers is, precisely, labour. From the 'outset, the conditions of labour are in the hands of the capitalist. And again, from the outset, the only thing in the hands of the worker are the conditions of capital.

This is the historical paradox which marks the birth of capitalist Society, and the abiding condition which will always be attendant upon the "eternal rebirth" of capitalist development. The worker cannot be labour other than in relation to the capitalist. The capitalist cannot be capital other than in relation to the worker. The question is often asked: "What is a social class?" The answer is: "There are these two classes". The fact that one is dominant does not imply that the other should be subordinate. Rather, it implies struggle, conducted on equal terms, to smash that domination, and to take that domination and turn it, in new forms, against the one that has dominated up till now. As a matter of urgency we must get hold of, and start circulating, a photograph of the worker-proletariat that shows him as he really is - "proud and menacing". It1s tine to set in motion the contestation - the battle, to be fought out in a new period of history -directly between the working class and capital, the confrontation between what Marx referred to in an analogy as "the huge children's shoes of the proletariat and the dwarfish size of the worn-out political shoes of the bourgeoisie".

If the conditions of capital are in the hands of the workers', if there is no active life in capital without the living activity of labour power, if capital is already, at its birth, a Consequence of productive labour, if there is no capitalist society without the workers1 articulation, in other words if there is no social relationship with out a class relationship, and there is no class relationship without the working class., . then one can conclude that the capitalist class, from its birth, is in fact subordinate to the working class. Hence the necessity of exploitation. Working class struggles against the iron laws of capitalist exploitation cannot be reduced to the eternal revolt of the oppressed against their oppressors. Similarly, the concept of exploitation cannot be reduced to the desire of the individual employer to enrich himself by extracting the maximum possible amount of surplus labour from the bodies of his workers. As always, the economistic explanation has no other weapon against capitalism than moral condemnation of the system. But we are not here to invent some alternative way of seeing this problem. The problem is already the other way round, and has been right from the start. Exploitation is born, historically, from the necessity for capital to escape from its de facto subordination to the class of worker-producers. It is in this very specific sense that capitalist exploitation, in turn, provokes workers' insubordination. The increasing organisation of exploitation, its continual reorganisation at the very highest levels of industry and society are, then, again responses by capital to workers' refusal to submit to this process. It is the directly political thrust of the working class that necessitates economic development on the part of capital which, starting from the point of production, reaches out to the whole of social relations. But this political vitality on the part of its adversary which is, on the one hand, indispensable to capital, is, at the same time, the most fearful threat to capital's power. We have already seen the political history of capital as a sequence of attempts by capital to withdraw from the class relationship; at a higher level we can now see it as the history of the successive attempts of the capitalist class to emancipate itself from the working class, through the medium of the various forms of capital's political domination over the working class. This is the reason why capitalist exploitation, a continuous form of the extraction of surplus value within the process of production, has been accompanied, throughout the history of capital, by the development of ever more organic forms of political dictatorship at the level of the State.

In capitalist society the' basis of political power is, in truth, economic necessity: the necessity of using force to make the working class abandon its proper social role as the dominant class. Looked at from this point of view, the present forms of economic planning are nothing more than an attempt to institute this Organic form of political dictatorship within democracy as the modern political form of class dictatorship. The intellectual consensus as to the future State-of-well-being - of which G.Myrdal speaks - that society which J.S.Mill, K.Marx and T.Jefferson alike would probably approve, might even be realisable. We would find ourselves with a synthesis of liberalism, socialism and democracy. Liberalism and democracy would finally be reconciled, finding an ideal mediator in the shape of the social State - a system commonly known as, quote, "socialism". Yet here too we would find the inexorable necessity of working class mediation, even at the level of political theory. As for the workers they would find in this "socialism" the ultimate form of automatic - i.e. objective - control; political control in economic guise; control of their movement of insubordination. The surpassing of State capitalism by a capitalist State is not something that belongs to the future: it has already happened. We no longer have a bourgeois State over a capitalist society, but, rather, the State of capitalist society.

At what point does the political State come to manage at least some part of the economic mechanism? When this economic mechanism can begin to use the political State itself as an instrument of production - the State as we nave come to understand it, that is, as a moment of the political reproduction of the working class. The "end of laissez-faire" means, fundamentally, that working class articulation of capitalist development can no longer function on the basis of spontaneous objective mechanisms: it must be subjectively imposed by political initiatives taken by the capitalists themselves, as a class. Leaving aside all the post- and neo-Keynesian ideologies, only Keynes has provided the capitalist point of view with a formidable subjective leap forward, perhaps comparable in historical importance with the leap whih Lenin made possible from the working class point of view. However, this is not to concede that this was a "revolution" in capital's mode of thinking. If we look closely, we can see that this was already embodied in the preceding development. The capitalists have not yet invented - and in fact will obviously never be able to invent - a non-institutionalised political power. That type of political power is scecifically working class power. The difference between the two classes at the level of political power is precisely this. The capitalist class does not exist independently of the formal political institutions, through which, at different times but in permanent ways, they exercise their political domination: for this very reason, smashing the bourgeois State does mean destroying the power of the capitalists, and by the same token, one could only hope to destroy that power by smashing the State machine. On the other hand, quite the opposite is true of the working class: it exists independently of the institutionalised levels of its organisation This is why destroying the workers: political party does not mean - and has not meant - dissolving, dismembering, or destroying the class organism of the workers.

The very possibility of workers abolishing the State in society is located within the specific nature of this problem. In order to exist, the class of capitalists needs the mediation of a formal political level. Precisely because capital is a social power which, as such, claims for itself domination over everything, it needs to articulate this domination in political "forms" which can bring to life its dead essence as an objective mechanism, and provide it with subjective force. In immediate terms, the nature of capital is merely that of an economic interest, and, at the beginning of its history, it was nothing more than the egotistical interest of the individual capitalist: in order to defend itself from the threat posed by the working class, it is forced to turn itself into a political force, and to subsume under itself The whole of society. It becomes the class of capitalists, or - which amounts to the same thing - it turns itself into a repressive state apparatus. If it is true that the concept of class is a political reality, then no capitalist class exists without a capitalist state. And the so-called bourgeois "revolution" - the conquest of political power by the "bourgeoisie" - amounts to nothing more than the long historical transition through which capital constitutes itself as a class of capitalists in relation to the workers. Once again, the development of The working class displays totally the opposite features: when the working class begins to exist formally at an organised political level, it initiates the revolutionary process directly, and poses nothing but the demand for power: but it has existed as a class from the start, from a long time before, and precisely as such, Threatens bourgeois order. Precisely because the collective worker is that totally particular commodity which counterposes itself to the whole of the conditions of society, including the social conditions of its labour, so it manifests, as already incorporated within itself, that direct political subjectivity, that partiality which constitutes class antagonism. From the very beginning the proletariat is nothing more than an immediate political interest in the abolition of every aspect of the existing order. ) As far as its internal development is concerned, it has no need of "institutions" in order to bring to life what it is, since what it is nothing other than the life-force of that immediate destruction. It doesn't need institutions, but it does need organisation. Why? In order to render the political instance of the antagonism objective in the face of capital; in order to articulate this instance within the present reality of the class relationship, at any given moment; in order to shape it into a rich and aggressive force, in the short term, through the weapon of tactics. This, which is necessary for the seizure of power, is also necessary before the need to seize power has arisen Marx discovered the existence of the working class long before there were forms to express it politically: thus, for Marx, there is a class even in the absence of the party. On the other hand, the Leninist party, by virtue of having taken shape, gave the real illusion that There was already under way a specific process of working class revolution: for Lenin, in fact, when the class constitutes itself as a party, it becomes revolution in action. Here, Then, are two complementary theses, just as the figures of Marx and Lenin are complementary. Basically, what are these two people if not admirable anticipations of the future of the class itself?

If we accept that the class is not identical with the party, nevertheless one can only talk of class on a political level. While it is true that there is class struggle even without & party, nevertheless we also have to point out that every class a political struggle. If, through the party, the class puts into action what it is, if it does so by dissolving in practice everything that it must destroy in theory, by leaping from strategy to tactics, and if only in this way does it seize power from the hands of those who hold it, and organise that power in its own hands, in new forms.... if all this is true, then one must conclude that the relationship Class-Party-Revolution is far tighter, far more determinate and much more historically specific than the way it is currently being presented, even by Marxists. One cannot split the concept of revolution from the class relationship. But a class relationship is posed for the first time by the working class. Thus, the concept of revolution and the reality of the working class are one and the same. Just as there can be no classes before the workers begin to exist as a class, so there can be no revolution before the destructive will that the working class bears within itself, by the very nature of its existence, takes solid form. The working class point of view has no interest in defining the revolts and upheavals of the past as "revolutions"'. Furthermore, to hearken back to a set of "historical precedents" which are supposed to anticipate and prefigure the present movements of the workers - this is always reactionary, always a conservative force acting to block the present movement and control it within the limited horizons of those who control the course of history today, of those who therefore control the development of society. Nothing is more alien to the working class point of view than the opportunistic cult of historical continuity; nothing more repugnant than the concept of "tradition". Workers recognise only one continuity - that of their own, direct political experiences; one sole tradition - that of their struggles.

So why should we concede that the bourgeoisie should ever have been capable of organising a revolution? Why accept passively the intimately contradictory concept of "bourgeois revolution", as if it was a given fact? Has there ever, in fact, been a class that was bourgeois? Because if, following the errors of historical materialism, we choose to confuse the "bourgeolsie'1 with the subsequent class of capitalists, then one has to explain how the organic relation between class and revolution functions; in the light of an historical experience which, so far from seeing the so-called bourgeois class making its revolution, in fact sees the so-called bourgeois revolution laying the foundations from which, after a long process of struggle, only a class of capitalists will emerge.

At this point a mass of concrete research becomes necessary in order to overthrow these false interpretations: for too long the Marxist "tradition" has stifled the debate within schemas that are as theoretically false as they are politically dangerous. We think that this overthrow is possible today even at the simple level of basic historical enquiry. We think that the time has come to start the work of reconstructing the facts, the moments, the transitions, which the inner reality of capitalism only reveals - and can only reveal - to the working class viewpoint. It is now time to set in motion that working class history of capitalist society which alone can provide the movement of practical overthrow with rich, fearful, decisive weapons of theory. Theoretical reconstruction and practical destruction, from this moment, have no choice but to run together, as the two legs of that single body which is the working class.

Proletarian revolutions, said Marx, "criticise themselves constantly, interrupt themselves continually in their own course, come back to the apparently accomplished in order to begin it afresh, deride with unmerciful thoroughness the inadequacies, weaknesses of their first attempts, seem to throw down their adversary only so that he may draw new strength from the earth and rise again, more gigantic, before them, recoil ever and anon from the indefinite prodigiousness of their own aims, until a situation has been created which makes all turning back impossible, and the conditions themselves cry out: Hic Rhodus, hic salta!"(The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte)

We say, though, that this is not the process of proletarian revolutions. This is the process of revolution tout court. This is revolution as process. Only the working class, because it is what it is, because of the point where it has to act, because of the mode in which it is forced to fight -only the working class can be revolutionary process.

Bourgeois revolutions, says Marx, "storm swiftly from success to success; their dramatic effects outdo each other; men and things seem set in sparkling brilliant; ecstasy is the everyday spirit; but they are short-lived; soon they have reached their highest point and a long crapulent depression lays held of society before it learns soberly to assimilate the results or is? storm-and-stress period." (ibid.)

We must go further, however1 and say that these are not revolutions but something else - and something different each time: coups d'etat; government crises; dramatic changes in the form of power; the passage of government from one fraction of a class to another fraction of the same class; sudden restructurings of that class's domination of the other class. The classic model of the bourgeois "revolution" - invented by historical materialism -conceives of a sudden seizing of political power only after the completion of a long, slow, gradual taking-over of economic power. Thus the class, having already dominated society as a whole, then lays claim to the running of the State. Now, if these infantile schemes had only been used to illustrate a history beck or two, well and good: after one might expect that of a "history book". But in the Marxist camp, errors of theory are paid for in very practical terms: this is a law whose consequences the workers have 'had to suffer all too often. When the attempt; was made to apply the model of the bourgeois revolution to the course of working class revolution, it was at that point (and we have got to understand his), it was at that point that we saw the strategic collapse of the movement. The workers were supposed to copy this model, they were supposed to demonstrate, in practice, that they were capable of managing the economy of the society (far more capable, of course, than the capitalists), and on this basis. They were to demand the running of the State. Hence, worker's management of capital as the prime way, the "classic" road to socialism. For historical materialism, social democracy is theoretically the most orthodox workers movement. Basically, all the communist movement has done has been to break and overturn, in some aspects of its practice, the social democratic logic of what has been its own theory.

And yet, at the beginning the dividing line between social democracy and the communist movement was clearly fixed. And if an internal history of the working class is to be reconstructed - alongside that of capital - it will certainly include both of these organisational experiences - although not under the same heading, and not with the same significance accorded to each. There is in fact a difference of quality between different moments of the working class struggle itself. August 9th 1842, when 10,000 workers marched on Manchester, with the Chartist Richard Pilling at their head, to negotiate with the manufacturers at the Manchester Exchange, and also to see how the market was going, is not the same as Sunday May 28th 1871 in Paris, when Gallifet called out of the ranks of prisoners those with grey hair and ordered them to be shot immediately, because as well as being present at March 1871, they had also lived the experience of June 1848. And we should not summarise the first case as an offensive action by the workers and the second as an act of repression by the capitalists, because perhaps it is quite the opposite.

It is true that here we see the working class articulation of capitalist development: at first as an initiative that is positive for the functioning of the system, an initiative that only needs to be organised via institutions; in the second instance, as a "No", a refusal to manage the mechanism of the society as it stands, merely to improve it - a "No" which is repressed by pure violence. This is the difference of content which can exist - even within one and the same set of working class demands - between trade union demands and political refusal. Social democracy, even when it has conquered State political power, has never gone beyond the limited demands of a trade union facing an employer. The communist movement, in individual, short-lived experiences, has blocked the peaceful development of capitalists initiative with the weapon of the Party-of-non-collaboration. Now, if workers simply had to choose between these two options as part of past history, the choice would be fairly simple. This is not , in fact , the probem. The problem is the price to be paid at the level of theory if we take on board the tradition of struggles of the communist movement. However, This problem cannot be answered without taking into account the short-term practical results that will arise from taking this path. At this point we must guard against the subjective illusion that poses the strategic overthrow proposed here, first as the birth of working class science, and then as the first real possible organisation of the class movement. Instead we must cultivate and recover a specific type of internal development of the working class, a political growth of its struggles, and we must use this as a lever in order to make a leap forwards - without objectivism, without harking back to days gone by, and without having to start from scratch. Once again, the crude proletarian origins of the modern worker need to be grasped and made to function within the present needs of struggle and organisation. We must fight fiercely this current image of a "new working class" which is somehow continually being reborn and renewed by the various technological advances of capital, as if in some scientific production laboratory. At the same time, it is not that we are disowning the rebellious past of the working class - the violence, the insurrections, that succession of "desperate follies". We should not make the same mistakes as the cold-blooded history scholars, by crying "people's revolt" every time the masses put up barricades, and then finding the "true" working class struggle only in more recent forms of bargaining with the collective capitalist. Were 1848, 1871 and 1917 working class struggles? Empirically, historically, we could demonstrate that they were not, according to the objectives actually put forward in those events. But try to reconstruct the concept and the political reality of the working class without the June insurgents, without the Communards, and without the Bolsheviks. You will have a lifeless model, an empty form in your hands.

Of course, the working class is not the people. But the working class comes from the people. And this is the elementary reason why anyone - like ourselves - who take up the working class viewpoint, no longer need to "go towards the people". We ourselves, in fact, come from the people. And just as the working class frees itself politically from the people at the moment when it is no longer posed as a subaltern class, so too working class science breaks with the heritage of bourgeois culture at the moment that it no longer takes the viewpoint of society as a whole, but of that part which wishes to overthrow society. Culture in fact, like the concept of Right, of which Marx speaks, is always bourgeois. In other words, it is always a relation between intellectuals and society, between intellectuals and the people, between intellectuals and class; in this way it is always a mediation of conflicts and Their resolution in something else. If culture is the reconstruction of the totality of man, the search for his humanity in the world, a vocation to keep united that which is divided - then it is something which is by nature reactionary and should be treated as such. The concept of working class culture as revolutionary culture is as contradictory as the concept of bourgeois revolution. Furthermore, the idea implies that wretched Counter-revolutionary thesis whereby the working class is supposed to re-live the whole experience of the history of the bourgeoisie. The myth that the bourgeoisie had a "progressive" culture, which the working class movement is then supposed to pick up out of the dust where capital has thrown it (along with all its old banners), has carried Marxist theoretical research into the realm of fantasy. But at the same time it has imposed a daily task - that We act to safeguard and develop this official inheritance as the heritage of the whole of humanity as it advances down the road of progress. The situation here is so bad that - as in other cases - it will take a violent, destructive blow to unblock it. Here the critique of ideology must consciously pose itself within the workerist perspective, as a critique of culture. It must work towards a dissolution of all that already exists - a refusal to continue to build on the old foundations. Man, Reason, History, these monstrous divinities will need to be fought and destroyed as if they were the power of the bosses. It is not true that capital has abandoned these ancient gods. It has simply turned then into the religion of the official workers movement: in this way they actively continue to govern the world of men. Meanwhile, the negation of these gods (which could hold a mortal danger for capital) is in fact managed directly by capital itself. Thus anti-humanism, irrationalism, anti-historicism, instead of being practical weapons in the hands of the working class struggle, become cultural products in the hands of capitalist ideologies. In this way, culture - not because of the particular contents that it takes on in a particular period, but precisely through its ongoing form, as culture becomes a mediation of the social relation of capitalism, a function of its continued conservation. "Opposition" culture does not escape this fate either; it merely presents the body of labour movement ideologies dressed in the common clothing of bourgeois culture.

We are not concerned with whether or not in past historical periods it has been possible for the historical figure of the intellectual-on-the-side-of-the-working-class to exist. Because what is decisively not possible is that such a political figure can exist today. The organic intellectuals of the working class have in reality become the only thing that they could be: organic intellectuals of the labour movement. It is the Communist Party, it is the old form of organisation outside of the working class, that needs them. For decades they have assured the relationship between the Party and society without passing through the medium of the factory. And now that the factory is imposing itself, now that capital itself is calling them back' into the world of production, they arrive as objective mediators between science and industry: and This is the new form that is being taken by the traditional relationship between intellectuals and the party. Today's most "organic" intellectual is the one who studies the working class - the one who puts into practice the most diabolical bourgeois science that has ever existed - industrial sociology, the study of the movements of workers on behalf of the capitalist. Here too the whole problem needs rejecting en bloc. We are not speaking of a culture that is "on the side of the working class", nor of intellectuals under a working class aspect - but no culture and no intellectuals (apart from those serving capital). This is the counterpart of our solution to the other problem: no working class re-enactment of the bourgeois revolution, no working class retracing of the path taken by the bourgeois revolution - rather no revolution, ever, outside of the working class outside of what the class is, and thus outside of what the class is forced to do. A critique of culture means to refuse to be intellectuals. Theory of revolution means direct practice of the class struggle. It is the same relationship as that between ideology and working class science; and as that between these two combined and the moment of subversive praxis.

We said earlier That the working class point of view cannot be separated from capitalist society. We should add that it cannot be separated from the practical necessities of the class struggle within capitalist society.

What, then, are these necessities? And above all, is a new strategy necessary? If it is necessary, then one of the most urgent tasks in the struggle is to discover it, to assemble it and to elaborate it. At the level -of science there is no other task than this to be carried out. Formidable and new powers of the intellect must be organised around this work. Powerful brains must begin to function collectively within this single, exclusive perspective. A new form of antagonism must instill itself in working class science, bending this science towards new ends, and then transcending it in the totally political act of practice. The form we refer to is the form of the struggle of refusal, the form of organisation of the working class "No": the refusal to collaborate actively in capitalist development, the refusal to put forward positively programme of demands. In the working class history of capital, it is possible to discover the germ of these forms of struggle and organisation right from the very start, right from the time that the first proletarians were constituted as a class. But their full development, their real significance, comes much later, and they still exist as a strategy of the future. Their possibilities of functioning materially increase as the working class grows quantitatively, as it becomes more concentrated and unified, as it increasingly develops in quality and becomes internally homogeneous, and as it increasingly succeeds in organising itself around the movements of its own overall power.

These forms, therefore, presuppose a process of accumulation of labour-power, which - unlike The accumulation of capital - has a directly political meaning. It implies the concentration and growth not of an economic category, but of the class relation which underlies it; an accumulation, therefore, of a political power which is immediately a1terr~tive, even before it comes to be organised as such through the "great collective means" that are proper to it. The refusal is thus a form of struggle which grows simultaneously with the working class - the working class which is, at one and the same time, both political refusal of capital and production of capital as an economic power. This explains why the political struggle by workers and the terrain of capitalist production always form a whole. The first demands made by proletarians in their own right, the moment that they cannot be absorbed by the capitalist, function objectively as forms of refusal which put the system in jeopardy. Whenever the positive demands of workers go beyond the margins that the capitalists is able to grant, once again they repeat this function -the objective, negative function of pure and simple political blockage in the mechanism of the economic laws. Every conjunctural transition, every advance in the structure, in the economic mechanism, must therefore be studied in terms of its specific moments: but only in order to arrive at the point where the workers can demand that which capital, at that particular moment in time, cannot give. In such circumstances, the demand as a refusal sets off a chain of crises in capitalist production, each of which requires the tactical capacity to make a leap forward in the level of working class organisation.

As, together, 'both workers and capital grow, there is a gradual process of simplification of the class struggle. The fundamental strategic importance of this must be grapsed. It is not true that the "elementary" nature of the first clashes between proletarians and individual capitalists later became enormously complicated as the working masses found themselves faced with the modern initiative of big capital. In fact, precisely the opposite is true. In The beginning, the content of the class struggle has two faces - that of the working class & that of the capitalists - which are not yet separated by a radical division. The struggle for the working day is instructive in this respect. Moreover, the platforms of demands which workers have for decades, presented to the capitalists have had - and could only have had -one result: the improvement of exploitation. Better conditions of life for the workers were not separable from greater economic development of capitalism. As far as the official working class movement is concerned), both the trade union strand, and later the reformist strand, have functioned within the spiral of this process, in their attempts at economic organisation of the workers. It is no accident that, in our exposition, we have preferred to stress those moments of working class struggle that challenge, even at a less advanced social level, the political power of capital. The fact remains that this historical terrain of the class struggle, which has by no means disappeared from the present-day world, can be reduced to the simplicity of a direct clash between antagonistic forces only through a work of analysing the high points of successive developments and by criticism of the results they achieve. We find this to be a terrain in which the class struggle has always been complicated and mediated in its outward relations by situations, even political situations, which were not in themselves class struggle. In the process of things these situations increasingly lose importance (ie the residues of the pre-capitalist past are burned away) thus causing the downfall of all the future Utopias which have been built on the working class, and this finally offers the subjective possibility of enclosing the class struggle within the chain of the present in order to smash it. In this process we have to grasp from the working-class point of view not only the quantitative growth and massification of the antagonism, not only its ever-increasingly homogeneous internal unification, but also, through this, the way it progressively regains its primitive, direct elementary nature, as a counter-position between two classes, each of which gives life to the other, but only one of which holds in its grasp the possible death of the other. Leaving aside earlier historical periods, and coming forward to the highest point of development, we can see the evident truth of that simplest of revolutionary truths: capital cannot destroy the working class; the working class can destroy capital. The cook who, according to Lenin, should be able to govern the workers State, must be enabled to function - as from now, and on the basis of these elementary categories - as a theoretician of working class science.

Thus the masses of working class demands simplify and unify into one. There must come a point where all will disappear, except one - the demand for power, all power, to the workers, This demand is the highest form of the refusal. It presupposes already a de facto reversal of the balance of domination between the two classes. In other words, it presupposes that from that moment it will be the capitalist class putting positive demands, making their requests, presenting their Bill of Rights (in the name, naturally, of the general interests of society). And it will be the workers who are rejecting the pleas that are put to them. There must also be a point here, where all the requests and demands will come explicitly from the capitalists, and only the "No" will be openly working class. These are not stories of some far-distant future. The tendency is already under way, and we must grasp it from the start in order to control it.

When capital reaches a high level of development it no longer limits itself to guaranteeing collaboration of the workers - i.e. the active extraction of living labour within the dead mechanism of its stabilisation - some-thing which it so badly needs. At significant points it now makes a transition, to the point of expressing its objective needs through the subjective demands of the workers. It is true - and we have seen - that this has already happened, historically. The spectre of capitalist necessities of production being imposed as working class demands, in the struggle, is a recurrent theme in the history of capital, and it can only be explained as a permanent working class articulation of capitalist society. But whereas in the past this happened as an objective functioning of the system (which was thereby virtually self-regulating), today it happens, on the contrary, by conscious initiative of the capitalist class, via the modern instruments of its power apparatus. And in between there has been that decisive experience of working class struggle, which no longer limited itself to asking for power, but actually conquered it. It was with 1917 and the Russian Revolution that the working class articulation of capital was subjectively imposed on the capitalists. What previously had functioned of itself, controlled by nobody, as a blind economic law, from that moment had to be moved from above, politically promoted by those who held the power: it was the only way to control the objective process, the only way to defeat the subversive threat of its possible consequences. This is the origin of that major development in capital's subjective awareness, which led it to conceive and put into practice a plan of social control over all the moments of its cycle, all conceived within a direct capitalist use of working class articulation. Thus, once again, an experience of working class struggle spurs a major advance in the capitalist point of view - an advance which it would never have made of its own accord. The demands of the working class are henceforth recognised by the capitalist~ themselves as objective needs of the production of capital: and as such they are not only taken on board, but are actively solicited; no longer simply rejected, but now collectively negotiated. The mediation of the institutional level of the working class movement, 'particularly at the trade union level, takes on a decisive and irreplaceable' importance. The platform of demands that the trade union puts forward is already controlled by those on whom it is supposed to be imposed: by the bosses who are supposed to "take it or leave it". Through the trade union struggle, working class demands can be nothing more than the reflection of capital's necessities. And yet capital cannot pose this necessity directly, of itself -not even if it wanted to, not even when it reaches its highest point of class awareness. Rather, at this point it acquires quite the reverse awareness: that it must find ways to have its own needs put forward by its enemies, it must articulate its own movement via the organised movements of the workers.

We might ask a question: what happens when the form of working class organisation takes on a content which is wholly alternative; when it refuses to function as an articulation of capitalist society; when it refuses to carry capital's needs via the demands of the working class? The answer is that, at that moment and from that moment, the systems whole mechanism of development is blocked. This is the new concept of the crisis of capitalism that we must start to circulate: no longer the economic crisis, the catastrophic collapse, a Zusammenbruch, however momentary, arising from the impossibility of the system's continued functioning. Rather, a political crisis imposed by the subjective movements of the organised workers, via the provocation of a chain of critical conjunctures, -within the sole strategy of the working class refusal to resolve the contradictions of capitalism. A tactic of organisation within the structures of capitalist production, but outside of, free from, its political initiative. Of course, it remains necessary to block the economic mechanism and, at the decisive moment, render it incapable of functioning. But the only way to achieve this is via the political refusal of the working class to act as active partner in the whole social process, and furthermore, the refusal of even passive collaboration in capitalist development: in other words, the renunciation of precisely that form of mass struggle which today unifies the movements led by the workers in the advanced capitalist countries. We must say clearly that this form of struggle - for such it is - is no longer enough. Non-collaboration, passivity (even on a mass scale), the refusal (insofar as it is not political, not subjectively organised, not inserted into a strategy, not practiced in tactical terms), the advanced font of spontaneity which has been forced on the class struggle for decades - not only is all this no longer enough to provoke the crisis, but it has become, in fact, an element of stabilisation of capitalist development. It is now one of those same objective mechanisms whereby capitalist initiative now controls and makes use of the class relationship that motivates it. We must break this process before it becomes yet another heavy historical tradition for the working class movement to bear.

A transition to another process is necessary - without, however, losing the basic positive elements of this one. Obviously non-collaboration must be one of our starting points, and mass passivity at the level of production is the material fact from which we must begin. But at a certain point all this must be reversed into its opposite. When it comes to the point of saying '1No", the refusal must become political; therefore active; therefore subjective; therefore organised. It must once again become antagonism -this time at a higher level. Without this it is impossible to think of opening up a revolutionary process. This is not a matter of instilling in the mass of workers the awareness that they must fight against capital that they must fight for something which will transcend capital and lead into a new dimension of human society. What is generally known as '1class consciousness is, for us, nothing other than the moment of organisation, the function of the party, the problem of tactics - the channels which must carry the strategic plan through to a point of practical breakthrough. And at the level of pure strategy there is no doubt that this point is provided by the very advanced moment in which this hypothesis of struggle becomes reality: the working class refusal to present demands to capital, the total rejection of the whole trade union terrain, the refusal to limit the class relationship within a formal, legal, contractual form. And this is the same as forcing capital to present the objective needs of capitalist production directly, as such. It cuts out working class mediation of development. It blocks the working class articulation of the mechanism. In the final event, this means depriving capital of its content, of the class relationship which is its basis. For a period the class relationship must be exercised by the working class, through its party - just as up till now it has been exercised by the capitalist class, through its State.

It is here that the balance of domination between the two classes is set into reverse, no longer just in theory, but also in practice. In fact, the revolutionary process sees the working class becoming ever-increasingly what it actually is: a ruling class on its own terrain (a specifically political terrain), a conquering power which, in destroying the present, takes revenge for a whole past (not merely its own) of subordination and exploitation. This is the sense of the hypothesis which poses, at the highest point of this process, on the one hand capital making demands, and on the other hand the working class refusal. And this presupposes the existence of a political force of the working class, organised per se, and able to constitute an autonomous power of decision in relation to the whole of society, a No Man's Land where capitalist order cannot reach, and from which the new barbarians of the proletariat can embark at any moment. Thus the final act of the revolution requires that there should already be the workers? State within capitalist society - the workers having power in their own right and deciding the end of capital. But this would not be a pre-figuration of the future, because the future, from the working class point of view, does not exist; only a block on the present, the impossibility for the present to continue functioning under its present organisation, and thus an instance of its possible reorganisation under an opposite notion of power. An autonomous working class political power is the only weapon that can block the functioning of capital's economic mechanisms. In this sole sense the workers' State of tomorrow is the party of today.

This brings us back to the concept, which we attributed to Marx, of communism as the party, which instead of constructing a model of the future society, supplies a practical means for the destruction of the present society.



11 years 11 months ago

In reply to by

Submitted by Arbeiten on October 28, 2011

Great article!

Just thought I would point out some typos, Dower, Nave, Whih, Scecifically, a1terr~tive

Also, there are lots of 1's dotted around that give the impression of foot notes.

I don't mean to be ungrateful, just thought it would be helpful to point out


11 years 11 months ago

In reply to by

Submitted by Arbeiten on October 28, 2011

I would but I'm no admin bra! I got the red penguin on that link!


11 years 11 months ago

In reply to by

Submitted by Steven. on October 28, 2011

How about now?


9 years 3 months ago

In reply to by

Submitted by Comrade on June 11, 2014

can i translate self valorziation as self "growning"


9 years 3 months ago

In reply to by

Submitted by Steven. on June 11, 2014


can i translate self valorziation as self "growning"

self valorisation in Marxist terms basically refers to the process by which capital expands itself. Money is turned into Capital which is turned into More money (M–C–M' is how it is expressed in Marx's Capital).

It is expanded by workers performing work, with their work adding more value than the cost of their labour power.

Hope this explains it?

Struggle Against Labor

One of the existing English language excerpts from Tronti’s book Operai e Capitale. It should be noted that this translation is incomplete. It starts about a page and a half or so into the section “The Struggle Against Labour”.

Submitted by Nate on June 10, 2010

The contemporary forms of workers' struggles in the heartlands of advanced capitalism unmistakably reveal, in the rich content of their own spontaneity, the slogan of the struggle against wage labor as the only possible means of striking real blows against capital. The party must be the organization of what already exists within the class, but which the class alone cannot succeed in organizing. No worker today is disposed to recognize the existence of labor outside capital. Labor equals exploitation: This is the logical prerequisite and historical result of capitalist civilization. From here there is no point of return. Workers have no time for the dignity of labor. The "pride of the producer" they leave entirely to the boss. Indeed, only the boss now remains to declaim eulogies in praise of labor. True, in the organized working-class movement this traditional chord is, unfortunately, still to be heard - but not in the working class itself; here there is no longer any room for ideology. Today, the working class need only look at itself to understand capital. It need only combat itself in order to destroy capital. It has to recognize itself as political power, deny itself as a productive force. For proof, we need only look at the moment of struggle itself: During the strike, the "producer" is immediately identified with the class enemy. The working class confronts its own labor as capital, as a hostile force, as an enemy - this is the point of departure not only for the antagonism, but for the organization of the antagonism.

If the alienation of the worker has any meaning, it is a highly revolutionary one. The organization of alienation: This is the only possible direction in which the party can lead the spontaneity of the class. The goal remains that of refusal, at a higher level: It becomes active and collective, a political refusal on a mass scale, organized and planned. Hence, the immediate task of working-class organization is to overcome passivity.

This can be achieved on one sole condition: that this passivity is recognized as an elementary, spontaneous form of refusal by the working class. For mass passivity always follows after the political defeat of the class, caused by its official organizations; alternatively, it follows a leap forward in capitalist development, in the appropriation by capital of socially productive forces. We all know that these two objective preconditions of working-class passivity have been combined in the past few decades. Indeed, they have together constituted the absolute despotic power of capital. At the international level, capital was conquering the whole of society and was itself becoming socialized, while the idea of giving the working-class movement the political role of management of the national social interest threatened it with historical suicide. The result was an interruption of the revolutionary process that, in its successive stages, dates from 1848, 1871, to 1917. From 1917 onward, the annals of the revolution carried the mark of defeat.

What intervened at this point to block the further progress of the revolution ? What prevented the process from reaching its goal ? The closer we look, the more passivity emerges as the most potent barrier-the controlling factor governing any future revolutionary possibilities. The truth is that the massive withdrawal by the working class, its refusal to consider itself an active participant in capitalist society, is already an opting out of the game, a flouting of the social interest. Hence, what appears as integration of the working class in the system, by no means represents a renunciation of the struggle against capital: It Indicates a refusal to develop and stabilize capital beyond certain given political limits, beyond a fixed defensive cordon, from which aggressive sallies can then be launched.

Given that the working class had to find a single adequate response at both levels, vis a vis both capitalist production and the official working-class movement, the solution which was adopted could scarcely have been otherwise. The situation demanded a specific form of self-organization, entirely within the class, based on a spontaneous passivity: an organization, in other words, without organization- which meant not subject to bourgeois institutionalization. The result was one of those organizational miracles that are possible only from the workers' viewpoint-like Lenin's "bourgeois state without a bourgeoisie" - an organization no longer seen as an intermediary form leading to the workers' state, but now seen as a preliminary form of the workers' party.

It is true that today we are faced with the awesome task of building the party on the basis of a political void in terms of practical experience and theoretical research. But this does not alter the fact that at the decisive level of direct class struggle the foundations have already been laid, marking out the terrain and the targets of struggle. Passive non-collaboration in the development of capitalism and active political opposition to the power of capital are precisely the starting point and direction of this organizational leap. The opening of the revolutionary process lies entirely beyond this point: On this side lie all the present problems of building up the organization for the revolution. We need the tactics of organization to actualize the strategy of refusal.

Throughout this process, from now on, the enemy must constantly be attacked with the only subversive weapon capable of reducing him to a strategically subordinate position : the threat of denying him the mediation of the working class in the capitalist relations of production. The working class must cease to express the requirements of capital, even in the form of its own demands: It must force the bosses to put forward demands, so that the workers can actively, that is on an organized basis, reply "No!" This today is the only possible means of overcoming working-class passivity-overcoming the spontaneous form which this passivity presently takes - while furthering its political content of negation and revolt. The first organized "No!" of the workers to the first "demands" of the capitalist class will reverberate as a declaration of total class war, a historic call to the decisive phase of the struggle, the modern version of the classic revolutionary slogan; Proletarians of All Lands, Unite !

None of this will be possible without the highest degree of violence - this we know from experience. All the social upheavals of the past left intact the form of productive activity. It has always, exclusively, been a question of the distribution of productive activity, redistributing it to new groups of people. Only the communist revolution, as Marx said (or, as we can today begin to say, the revolution, the only present-day minimum program of the working class), challenges for the first time the whole of productive activity that has hitherto existed. This challenge will suppress labor. And in so doing it will abolish class domination. Suppression of labor by the working class and the violent destruction of capital are one and the same.

What then of labor as "the prime necessity of human existence" (Marx) ? Perhaps it would be better to transfer it from the future prospect of communism to the present history of capitalism - to let the workers drop it and consign it to the bosses. Does this mean that confronted with Marx, the working-class viewpoint would arrive at the point of parricide ? This is a question which we cannot yet answer. The continuation of the research presented here will be decisive for the solution of this and all the other problems it raises. There are no solutions already given. Once again, everything remains to be done. To do it, we have to keep our eye on the most obscure aspect of the whole process: until, that is, we have reached the point at which we can distinguish what has happened within the working class since Marx.


Postscript of Problems

This is Tronti's postscript to his book Operai e Capitale (Workers and Capital), also titled the same. Written in 1970, 5 years after the majority of the book.

Submitted by Harrison on July 1, 2013

The Progressive Era

The working class after Marx can be approached historically in two ways. One is chronological. It reconstructs the great cycles of the labor struggle from the 1870s, followed by a series of facts that constitute its history. It would include the history of labor in industry, of industry in capital, of capital in politics and in political events, along with the great theorization -- what was once called the history of ideas -- the first sociology, the last systematic form attained by economics, and the birth of a new scientific discipline: that theory of technological reality which is the science of labor and the enemy of the worker. Traditional historiography encapsulates it between 1870 and 1914. To be generous and to avoid constantly upsetting the mental habits of the average intellectual, it may even be possible to enclose this epoch's first great block of facts in "their" history and move towards us and the new labor struggles constituting the real political drama of our side of the story -- even if it is only at its beginning

The other approach is to move through great historical events by pausing on macroscopic groups of facts yet untouched by the critical consciousness of labor thought (Pensiero operaio) and therefore excluded from a class understanding that translates them into a political use of their consequences. When relevant, these events isolate a fundamental aspect of capitalist society. They cut a cross-section that goes from a series of struggles to a set of political-institutional, scientific, or organizational answers.

When we can isolate such a typical event under propitious circumstances, we are confronted with an historical model, a privileged period for research, and a promised land of facts, thoughts and actions to be explored. What can be learned is far superior to any passive chronological account of indifferent past events. The alternative is between a narrative embodying an interpretation (i.e., the old pretense of historical objectivism), and its contrary: interpretation embodying a narrative (i.e., the new pat of political research from the labor viewpoint). The choice is between history andpolitics: two legitimate horizons for two different classes.

There is a danger involved, which is at the same time an adventure of ideas: to connect and see together different things that specialists have convinced us to always keep separate. The neo-synthetic conceptual apparatus of labor's viewpoint can hardly avoid this temptation. Thus, it is incredible that the history of labor and the history of labor struggles have been and continue to be dealt with by different experts. It is as incredible as the way economic theory is separated from political thought as if they actually were two doctrines, two departments or two different academic disciplines. It is incredible how industrial sociology -- the only one worth considering -- once separated from the macroscopic problems of the socialization brought about by capitalist industrialization ultimately reduces to shop-microanalysis. It is not difficult to connect Haymarket Square with the Knights of Labor, the cannon of Homestead, Pennsylvania (1892) and the strike of the company town of Pullman (1894) with the birth of the AFL in Lawrence, Massachusetts (1932) and Paterson, New Jersey (1914) with the Wobblies' call "union makes us strong."

Struggle and organization resembled each other so much that even the blind could see them united. Richard Hofstadter, in his The Age of Reform, relates the American progressivism of the 1890-1920 period to the somewhat eccentric pseudo-conservatism of our time. "The relations of capital and labor, the condition of the masses in the slums, the exploitation of the labor of women and children, the necessity of establishing certain minimal standards of social decency -- these problems filled them with concern both because they felt a sincere interest in the welfare of the victims of industrialism and because they feared that to neglect them would invite social disintegration and ultimate catastrophe." 1

The recent history of capitalist initiative begins when, unlike President Hayes' handling of the 1887 railroad strikes or President Cleveland's handling of the Pullman affairs, in 1902 Theodore Roosevelt breaks the great strike of anthracite workers not by sending in federal troops but by means of a well-conceived arbitration, and in the same year he undertakes legal action against J. Pierpont Morgan's Northern Security Company in order to show public opinion that the country was run by Washington and not by Wall Street.

It is no longer just political progressivism aimed at the conservation of society -- something as old as human society itself -- but a new form of political management of social relations and of the private ownership of the means of production. It is a new way of reunification and clash between general interest and individual capitalists' profit, between government, of the res publica and production for capital.

"To realize the importance of the change in the United States itself one need only think of the climate of opinion in which the Pullman strike and the Homestead strike were fought out and compare it with the atmosphere in which labor organization has taken place since the Progressive era. There has of course been violence and bloodshed, but in the twentieth century a massive labor movement has been built with far less cost in these respects than it cost the American working class merely to man the machines of American industry in the period from 1865 to 1900." 2

In its two faces of labor violence and capitalist reformism, the Progressive Era is the first great historical event to be dealt with. Here, the relationship between the labor struggles and organization, and capital's initiative describes a typical path. Later it will reach higher levels through higher experiences, but only after long pauses which will continually throw the problem in the fog of the past. Obviously, to find the revolution in action one need not go to the U.S. Yet, the American class-struggles are more serious than European ones in that they obtain more results with less ideology. More on this later. For now it is well to keep in mind Mr. Dooley's Dissertations of 1906. Mr Dooley (Finley Peter Dunne) has been regarded as one of the sharpest commentators of that epoch who understood very well its character when he said: "Th' noise ye hear is not th' first gun in a revolution. It's on'y th' people in the United States beatin' a carpet." 3

The Age of Marshall

What in the U.S. appears as the relation between labor struggles and capitalist politics reappears during the same period in England as the relation between the movement of the struggles and the capitalist answer on the level of science. Capital's American answer always seeks to institutionally deal with these things within the terrain of political initiative by the head of the state, in the rare and precious occasions when this head subjectively overcomes the most modern intelligence objectified in the system of production.

Contrary to common opinion, England offers a high theoretical synthesis of the class-struggle from the capitalist viewpoint. From the fact that Hegel once lived in Germany it does not follow that we should always locate there the moment of capital's maximum self-consciousness. If economics is the science par excellence of relations of production, exchange, and consumption of commodities as capital (and therefore of labor, and labor-struggles as capitalist development), then no higher elaboration of this science can be found than in English economic thought. When Marshall claimed: "it is all in Smith," he forced those after him to say: "it is all in Marshall." As Schumpeter put it, his great accomplishment "is the classical achievement of the period, that is the work that embodies, more perfectly than any other, the classical situation that emerged around 1900." 4

Now what is classic in that situation is not only the discovery of the theory of partial equilibria. Nor is it the individual moments as separate parts of the investigation which eventually form together a new system of economic thought. The same goes for the notion of the demand's elasticity, the introduction of the "short term" and "long.term" factors in economic analysis, the definition of a situation of perfect competition, the concept of an enterprise's "special market," and many other things such as Jevons' marginal utility, Walras' general equilibrium, von Thuenen's principle of substitution, Cournot's demand curves and Dupuit's consumers' rent, which he borrowed from others but which seemed new because he rearranged them in his own way. In what may be the most beautiful of his Essays in Biography -- the one devoted to Marshall -- Keynes wrote something regarding not just the personality dealt with, but the author as well:

"But it was an essential truth to which he held firmly, that those individuals who are endowed with a special genius for the subject and have a powerful economic intuition will often be more right in their conclusions and implicit presuppositions than in their explanations and explicit statements. That is to say, their intuitions will be in advance of their analysis and terminology." 5

The classic situation of England at the end of the century is in the way in which intuitions before analysis and concepts before words are directly connected with their class basis: the datum, the moment and the' level of the class-struggle. What is classic for us is the model of an historical condition in which the struggle is connected to politics, theory, and organization. England in 1889 is not an isolated and unexpected thunderbolt. It comes about after at least two decades of continuous individual clashes which, although backward, were very conscious, active, and increasingly more unionized. They are waged by miners, railroad, maritime, gas, textile, and steel workers. Except for 1893, after 1880 real wages rise steadily, the price-curve falls, employment is generally stable and there is increasing unionization.

The situation of the English working-class must not be sought in studies such as Charles Booth's then famous Life and Labor of the People of London which denounce the workers' misery, but follow rather than anticipate or provoke the longshoremen's strike. Cole has written:

"The appeals that had roused the workers in the 'thirties and 'forties would have made no impression on their successors in the latter part of the century. Though there were still, even in 1900 many thousands of hopelessly exploited 'bottom dogs'... these were not typical of the organized or organizable working class. In the great industries, the workers had ceased to be a ragged and starving mob, easily roused, either by a Feargus O'Connor or a James Rayner Stephens, or by someone of the many 'Messiahs' who sprang up in the early years of the century." 6

There were no more mass uprisings and sudden revolts produced by desperation and hunger: the strikes were ordered, prepared, expected, directed, and organized. In order to obtain results, socialist propaganda itself had to deal with reason and no longer rouse the instincts. If "O'Connor had been hot as hell, Sidney Webb was always as cool as a cucumber." 7 In 1889 the longshoremen asked for a wage of six pence per hour, overtime, abolition of sub-contracts and piece-work, and a minimum work-period of four hours. They were guided by Ben Tillet -- a London dock-worker- - along with Tom Mann and John Burns- - both mechanics. They were all exponents of the "new unionism which fought against specialized unions, and societies of mutual assistance, while seeking a mass organization of the whole working-class by waging a struggle based on class-solidarity for a series of objectives able to challenge the capitalist system.

The victory of the dock-workers was the victory of the new union. The nineties saw few very advanced struggles: Lancashire cotton-spinners against wage reductions, 400,000 miners against the flexible rate with a guaranteed minimumn wage, railroad workers against the schedule, and mechanics for a 48 hour week. The organization of unskilled workers took place and developed among the skeptical comments of the old leaders. Longshoremen gas workers and miners built unions without regard to skills. A new epoch was coming about in the already historical relation between workers and labor Here it is not the relation between labor and capital that marks a step forward. Rather, on the political level, this relation stagnates while theoretically failing to find a new consciousness to express it after having elaborated it. Similarly, the good Fabians cannot be claimed to be the virtuous interpreters of the epoch. Here, before dealing with a frontal attack on the capitalist system, we must deal with the internal composition of the working-class.

Such will almost always be the case in England There we will find no 'strategies for overthrowing the existing power' models of alternative political organization, or non-utopian developments' of labor thought. Above all, from the capitalist viewpoint, that is not the source of the world-side breath of fresh air of great initiatives.

At the state level, the political moment has no margin of autonomy in imposing its own pattern on social relations. As V.L. Allen would say, the government is never more than a conciliator and an arbitrator. From the Victorian Conciliation Act of 1896, to the Prices and Incomes Act seventy years later (that Wilson's crew had to handle through formal decisions) there is a typically English history of no capitalist policy towards labor. Thus the political level has not been independent of capital's immediate needs -- the only path which has hitherto led to a strategic defeat of the workers. Hence, the dynamic supporting role of the real long-range management of power is taken over by scientific elaboration by the theoretical consciousness of the labor problem translated in terms of bourgeois conceptualization.

The autonomy of politics from capitalist development appears here as the autonomy of science: science not as technology but as theory, not as an analysis of labor, but as capital's economy. We must not seek in the highest points of economic thought a direct treatment of the labor struggles: the higher the level of elaboration, the more abstract is the movement of categories and the more difficult it becomes to recognize the presence of struggles in this thought. This is not because such thought is removed from reality, but because it is close to it in a complex way It does not passively reflect class-relations, but serves it to us well-spiced and elaborated in a diet of tasty concepts.

We must learn to read the scientific language of capital beyond these Concepts, beyond the logic of the discipline: between the lines of "their" treatises systematizing "their" knowledge. We must not grant what they say. The cultural hieroglyphics must be deciphered: the scientific jargon must be translated in our illustrious class dialect. In regard to the great scientific discovery by the capitalist, we must follow its attitude towards reality: we must not reflect what is, but elaborate in order to understand what really is.

In his inaugural address in Cambridge in 1885, Marshall said: "Among the bad results of the narrowness of the work of English economists early in the nineteenth century perhaps the most unfortunate was the opportunity which it gave to socialists to quote and misapply economic dogma." 8

As can be seen from his 1919 "Preface" to Industry and Trade, socialists' works both repulsed and attracted him because they seemed to have no contact with reality. He noticed "admirable developments in the working-class capabilities" and recalled how some ten years earlier he believed that so-called "socialist" proposals were the most important things worth studying. Those were the years between 1885 and 1900, when he used to spend his weekends with working-class leaders such as Thomas Burt, Ben Tillet, Tom Mann and other new unionists: the victorious dock-worker leaders of 1889. It was the year when after twenty years of work, he finished what Keynes has called a "universe of knowledge:" his Principles of Economics. As with every classical product of economic thought, here everything that happens within the working-class appears as happening within capital. From his viewpoint, bourgeois science rightly refuses to grant workers, and therefore the labor struggles, any autonomy at all.

History is always the history of capital. As labor or as wages, as a complex living machinery or as simple natural energy, as a function of the system or as a contradiction of production, the working-class always plays a secondary role. It does not enjoy its own light and reflects the movement of the capitalist cycle. This is exactly opposite the truth from our viewpoint where every discovery of an objective social science can and must be translated in the language of the struggles. The most abstract theoretical problem' will have the most concrete class meaning.

In September 1862, after having sent to the British Association his "Notice of a General Mathematical Theory of Political Economy" with the first outline of the concept of marginal utility, Jevons wrote his brother: "I am very curious, indeed, to know what effect my theory will have both upon my friends and the world in general. I shall watch it like an artilleryman watches the flight of a shell or shot to see whether its effects equal his intentions."9

If the forebodings are those of Jevons' Theory of 1871, the effects are to be found in Marshall's Principles. It is our problem to follow the flight of this shell during this period in the history of class struggle. Unless we are mistaken, this should be that historical event to be unravelled. This is precisely the classical level of the question concerning the relationship between struggles and science: workers' struggles and the science of capital. Such a relationship will subsequently have a long history yet to be concluded. If we have grasped it correctly, in the underground of that epoch there should be a strong current that brings this relationship to a preliminary formalization as a model. We must dig in order to find.

The way in which the problem is posed offers a methodological indication also valuable in other investigations. As Keynes put it, "Jevons saw the kettle boil and cried out with the delighted voice of a child; Marshall too had seen the kettle boil and sat down silently to build an empire." 10
The Historical Social Democracy
In his Demokratie und Kaisertum of 1900 Friedrich Naumann defined the Bismarckian Empire as a labor republic.The social monarchy of the two Wilhelms deserves this paradoxical label. In the same way that the profoundly German tradition of the Machstaat has turned out to be the most fragile among all political institutions of modern capital, the bete noir of the reactionary Junkers turns out to be the road most open to the development of a certain type of democratic labor movements. Without Bismarck there may never have been German social-democracy in its classical form: "without Mohammed Charlemagne would have been inconceivable."

On the other hand from his uncomfortable perspective of agrarian socialism, Rudolf Meyer was correct in arguing that without social democracy German industry would not have been developed. All of these logical passages are full of historical meaning. The theme of the political organisation of the working-class finds in the German speaking middle-Europe its proper domain for a finally successful experiment. It is worth measuring the relation between struggle and organization here -- if for no other reason, to catch the point of departure of a long-spanning arc. Today this arc must not be gradually re-threatened in practice. It must only be caught by the liquidating glance of labor theory which, in its present strategic indications, goes well beyond what there was then and after. Yet we must immediately add that, at least in Germany, nothing is equal in importance to the clashing force of the political model of classical social-democracy, from the Lassallean Offenes Antwortschreihen of 1863 to 1913 -- a year of struggles with 5,672,034 working days lost in strikes. In front of this first historical form of the political party of the working-class, all other organizational experiences have been forced to appear as answers, alternatives, or as a kind of reversed image of what was not wanted: a negative repetition of what was considered a bad passivity.

At least in Europe, 19th century revolutionary syndicalism, the historical Luxemburgian left, the various council experiments of Bavaria and Piedmont ,and the very first minority groups ever(the just-born communist parties) were essentially answers to the question of the party that social-democracy posed to the labor vanguard. The Bolshevik model does not escape this organizational anti-social-democrat determination. It explodes in Lenin's head as soon as he, outside of Russia, comes into contact with the experiences of the European labour movement.

Thus, Germany presents the classical political terrain of the labor struggle which becomes a reference point for every elaboration of the problem of organization. Strangely enough, by adapting the young Marx to capital's old age, the working class party does not up the heir of philosophy, but of classical German social-democracy.

As every other fact, this one too has another historiographic side. The German labor movement, along with the whole class-struggle in Germany seems to have only a political history: a mere development of the organisational level. It always seems to be a matter of leadership: a history of party congresses. From Mehring on, Marxist historiography has been an easy victim of this false optics. In no country outside of Germany is the level of the struggles so difficult to reach. This is not because the struggles are few, but because they are not too visible. Submerged as they are in their immediate organizational consequences, they merely reach the surface. It is not accidental that the union grew in this context with so much difficulty, competing and often struggling with the party. Strangely enough, the union chronologically followed the development of the party.

It is not accidental that the average militant intellectual is familiar with the politically insipid name of both Liebknechts, while he may never have heard of a Karl Legien. For 30 years up to his death in 1921, this "German Samuel Gompers" -- as Perlman used to call him -- controls the union, and therefore its struggles: the labor strikes. Now, before the Junker von Puttkamer began to apply with the sure hand of a policeman the Bismarckian laws against them, the socialists had had enough time to split. Eisenachian ideologists a la Bebel and the followers of von Schweitzer, that Prussian Realpolitiker who was both a worker and a baron, had split, but they had also managed to become reunited by singing in chorus the verses of that Gotha program which who knows what destiny it might have had if it had not fallen under the rapacious claws of the old man in London. This was a time of unusually violent struggles which were close to uprisings, but almost always ended in defeat. The strikes were local, isolated, badly organized, misdirected, and succeeded only in unifying the owners. Yet, the Erwachungstreiks of late 1860s had their effect: between 1871 and 1872 the struggles grew from the steel-workers of Chemnitz to Cramer-Klett mechanics in Nuremburg and the 16,000 miners of the Ruhr who took to the streets with the cry: eight hours of work and a 25% rise in wages. In 1873 a violent crisis hit the German economy, and the workers ferociously defended themselves against unemployment and wage reductions with "increasing lawlessness and lack of discipline" -- as it is phrased in a law introduced in the Reichstag. Theodor York, the president of the wood workers, took the opportunity to launch the anti-local unionist idea of centralizing organization.

But we are in Germany: the centralization sought in unions is to be found at the political level. The Gotha congress claimed that it was the workers' duty to keep away union politics, but it held that it was also their duty to join the Party, because only this could improve the workers' political and economic conditions. Gradilone has rightly concluded that "the date 1875 remains a landmark not only because it marked the birth of the first European party of the working class, but also because it indirectly influenced thedevelopment of similar parties in the continent... all of them more or less having come into being through the direct or indirect influence of the German party."

We must give credit to social-democracy for having objectively derived the political form of the party from the content of the struggles, for having raised the relation between struggle and organization to the level of governmental policy, and, therefore, for having used the struggles to grow as an alternative power: a negative institutional power provisionally opposed to the government while waiting to take state power. Paradoxically enough, it was Lenin who gave social-democracy a theory of the party. Before him there was only a daily political practice. Only within the Bolshevik group, in theIskra office, can we find a principled systematization of the function of the historical party of the working class. Even the most classic forms of social-democracy only indicate the party's strategic program and tactical path, but not the dynamic laws of its apparatus. What was not posed was the altogether Leninist question: "what type of organization do we need?" By contra-posing the two types of organization, Lenin elaborated the theory of both. He needed to do this because his reasoning was entirely political. He did not (nor did he want to) start from struggles. His logic was based on a concept of political rationality absolutely independent of everything. It was even independent of class-interest which, if anything, was common to both. His party was not the anti-state: even before taking power, it was the only true state of the true society.

We must not look for the labor struggle before Lenin as a cause of his theory of the party. This does not diminish, rather it enlarges, the importance of its experience.

Although not triggered by the labor struggle, Lenin completely grasped the laws of its political action. Thus, the classical bourgeois notion of the autonomy of politics is reconstituted from labor's viewpoint. Within this frame of reference, the historical destiny of social-democracy is quite different. Its party form has invented nothing: in its daily practice it has only reflected a very high theoretical level of labor's attack on the system. Instead, behind German social-democracy, English economics, and American capitalist initiative, there is the beginning of a long typology which, in coming closer to our own days, increasingly specifies the character of the clash between labor's wages and capital's profit. Not accidentally, the capitalist labor history begins there. This can be now demonstrated with the ongoing struggles.

Let us open the third volume of Kuczynski's monumental work Geschichte der Lage der Arbeiter in Deutschland von 1789 bis zur Gegenwart (the first part of a work followed by a second part on working conditions in England, the U.S., and France). Divested of its crypto-Marxist conceptualization and terminology, this work is a mine of class news. 1889 is the key year. It is the year of the birth of the Second International: that legitimate daughter of German capital and social-democracy. Both sides of the English Channel were on strike: English dock workers, and German miners. After the struggle of Berlin's 25,000 masons and carpenters on the platform "from ten to nine working hours, from 50 to 60 pfennigs in wages," there was an explosion of that historical vanguard which the miners have always been: 13,000 in the Saar, 10,000 in Saxony, 18,000 in Silesia, 90,000 in Westphalia. When they all stopped the army was sent in against them and there were five workers dead, nine wounded. Engels and Luxemburg wrote about it, the Reichstag was flooded with the problem, and the leaders of the movement, Schroeder, Bunte and Spiegel, even went up to the Kaiser. Quick as a thunderbolt, the consequences came the following year, 1890. February 20th, the social-democrat candidates picked up a million and a half votes, 20% of the total, 660,000 more than they had received in 1887. March 20th, Bismarck was out. The first of October, the exceptional laws against the socialists were abolished. In Mehring's words, it was the beginning of a new period in the history of the German Reich and in the history of German social-democracy.

Today it is necessary to introduce this new form of historical periodization in our theoretical elaboration, and find new dates as the point of departure of the social answer either of large collective institutions or of great individual thought. According to Walter Galenson, between 1890 and 1913 in Germany the intermingling of the history of the party and the history of struggles brings to a classical conclusion the premises posed by earlier experiences. From November 1890 to September 1891, there were some 30 strikes in which 40,000 workers participated: first of all there were the printers -- the "Englishmen" of the German labor movement with their legal successes concerning the time-schedule. Between 1892 and 1894, there were 320 small, diffused and short strikes involving 20,000 workers. In 1895, and most of all in 1896, there was another great wave in Berlin, in the Saar, and in the Ruhr. The percentage of the conflicts with outcomes favorable for the workers went from 58.5% to 74.7%. There was an air of labor victory. The dock workers' strike in Hamburg in 1896 brought back the idea of the anti-strike law. We come to the Zuchthaus Vorlage of 1899, fallen through parliamentary means. The 1903 Crimmitschau strike, however, had a different outcome. For five months, 8,000 textile workers were on strike for higher wages. The result was a strong association of the owners. This was the beginning of that long process which immediately after World War I resulted in the massive anti-worker and therefore counter-revolutionary reality of the Vereinigung der deutschen Arbeitgeberverbande. The years between 1903 and 1907 saw an intensity of the struggle equal to its quantitative extension: the high point was in 1905 when the striking workers reached half million and there were 7,362,802 work days lost. In 1910 there were still 370,000 striking workers and 9,000,000 workdays lost. This was roughly how it remained up to 1913.

This explains what surprises superficial contemporary German historians such as Vermeil: from 1890 to 1912 social-democrat votes rose from 1,427,000 to 4,250,000 and the seats from 35 to 110. According to Zwing, from 1891 to 1913 there was a decrease of federations from 63 to 49, while there was an explosion of their membership from 277,659 to 2,573,718. After the guerrilla-warfare, with the Mannheim agreement, peace and harmony descended between party and union. This is a story full of contradictory lights -- flares that light up and die out --allowing the guiding forces of the process to come into view, along with the unavoidable negative outcome. People have seen within the Second International only what they have wanted to see. It is as if all had been settled in the theoretical debate, everything written in Neue Zeit, everything said in the "Bernstein-Debatte," and there was nothing left to say after the Zusammenbruchstheorie discussions between belligerent intellectuals. Classical German social-democracy has been turned into an historical episode of the theory of the labor movement.

Yet the true theory -- the high science -- was not in the socialist camp but outside and against it. And this altogether theoretical science -- this scientific theory -- had as its content, object, and problem the fact of politics. The new theory of a new politics suddenly arose both in the great bourgeois thought and in the subversive labor praxis. Lenin was closer to Max Weber's "Politik als Beruf' than to the German labor struggles upon which was based -- as a colossus standing on clay -- classical social-democracy.

During the Weimar period, when he still spoke to party cadres of Berlin's Volkshochschule, the social-democrat Theodor Geiger used to write: "We call 'die Masse' that social group with a revolutionary and destructive goal." A year earlier, in unveiling the essence of the "social-democratic tactic" according to which the proletariat must compromise with the bourgeoisie, Lukacs had correctly seen that, since the true revolution still remains far away and its preconditions do not exist yet: "the more the subjective and objective preconditions of social revolution are present, the more 'purely' will the proletariat be able to fulfill its class aims. So the reverse of practical compromise is often great radicalism -absolute 'purity' in principle in relation to the 'ultimate goal'." 11

This is the true, classical and historical social-democracy. It is not true that there is where the revolutionary goal was abandoned. Here we confuse it with some formula of Bernsteinian revisionism. The beauty of that social-democracy was precisely its tactically holding together of the two sides of the coin -- both possible party politics: a daily practice of Menshevik actions and an ideology of pure subversive principles. This is why we claim that, historically, it is an unequalled organizational solution of the labor struggle on the political level. The Bolshevik model and the ensuing communist movement does not go as far or, better, it ends up with something qualitatively different. Let-us explain this in other words. During this period, the classical form of the social-democratic party in Germany passively reflected a level of labor spontaneity that carried within itself i.e., in its struggles, the ambiguity, the contradiction, and the duplicity of the demand for better capitalist working conditions, and the "socialist" refusal.

The situation was not so backward as to prevent cyclic explosions of economic struggles, nor was it so advanced as to rule out alternative proposals for the formal management of power. It remains a fact that, from the very beginning, the contact between the labor struggles and the social-democratic party was so direct and the relation so close as to prevent even a mediation at the union level. Trade-unionism was altogether absent from the German labor tradition. Thus, the whole discussion concerning political perspective reveals an amazing absence of conceptual mediations, surprises and attacks on the adversary's camp. This organizational miracle of German social-democracy had as its other side an average level of intellectual mediocrity, a scientific approximation and theoretical misery, which could only produce the failure that they did: that scholastic correction of Marxist truth which from Lenin on we still have to waste time combating.

In the meantime capital's high science was growing on its own, unchallenged, and without rival. Here is the true illusion of which the tactical social-democracy horizon is always a prisoner: a kind of optimistic vision of the historical process which moves forward through its own gradual unfolding rather than through a violent clash with the opposite side. Thus, it ultimately finds a reassuring and comfortable judgment from a just and good God. As an example of the high science of capital, Max Weber subsequently posed correctly the alternative question:

"(a) whether the intrinsic value of ethical conduct -- the 'pure will' or the 'conscience' as it used to be called -- is sufficient for its justification, following the maxim of the Christian moralists: 'The Christian acts rightly and leaves the consequences of his actions to God;' or (b) whether the responsibility for the predictable consequences of the action is to be taken into consideration."12

This is the way in which the antithesis between Gesinnungethik and Verantwortungsethik was later posed in the essay "The Meaning of 'Ethical Neutrality' in Sociology and Economics: "All radicalrevolutionary political attitudes, particularly revolutionary 'syndicalism,' have their point of departure in the first postulate; all Realpolitik in the latter."

But barely a year later, in his lecture on "Politics as a Vocation," he was to say that the two ethics are not absolutely anti-ethical, but that they complement each other. In fact, "only in unison" do they "constitute a genuine man -- a man who can have the 'calling for politics'." 13

The politician, i.e., the one who holds "in one's hands a nerve fiber of historically important events," must possess three highly decisive qualities: passion "in the sense of matter-of factness, of passionate devotion to a 'cause';" responsibility in relation to this cause as "the guiding star of action;" and far-sightedness as "his ability to let realities work upon him with inner concentration and calmness. Hence his distance to things and men." 14

It is on this basis that, according to Gerhard Maser, Weber's sociology of power becomes a sociology of might. To the extent that the aspiration to power is the indispensable tool for political work, the instinct of power (Machtinstinkt) is actually a normal quality of the politician. In the meetings of the Heidelberg workers' and soldiers' councils in which Weber participated in 1918, he could well have proposed and elaborated the proletarian laws of power politics. "The old problematic dealing with the best possible form of government, he would have dismissed as irrelevant. The struggle among classes and individuals for power or domination seemed to him to be the essence, if one chooses, the constant datum of politics." No, we are not talking about Lenin, but still of Max Weber, "Machiavelli's heir... and Nietzsche's contemporary" -- as Raymond Aron has correctly defined him precisely in the quoted context. But Weber's politician is Lenin. Isn't the burning passion and the cold far-sightedness to be found in that proper mixture of blood and judgment that Lukacs attributes to his Lenin? 15

And doesn't the sense of responsibility coincide with Lenin's constant preparedness? The truth is that the Weberian concept of purely and entirely political activity could have been completely applied only from the labor viewpoint. What this means is never to remain passive victims even of the highest labor spontaneity, as used to be the case in the serious opportunism of classical social-democracy. Rather, it means to actively mediate the concrete situation's complexity in its entirety. In such a situation the labor struggle is never the sole determinant, but is always interconnected with capital's political answer, with the latest results of bourgeois science and with the levels attained by the labor movement's organizations. In this sense the labor struggle is behind social-democracy much more than Leninism. Yet, Leninism is politically ahead of both since it foresees, rather prescribes, that their historical nexus -- the relation between struggles and social-democracy -- is the practical premise for a workers' defeat. It can foresee and prescribe because it knows and applies the scanty laws of political action without the illusions of moral ideals.

Lenin had not read Weber's 1895 Freiburg Address. Yet he acted as if he knew and interpreted those words in his daily praxis: "For the dream of peace and human happiness on top of the door of the unknown future is written: 'leave all hope'." This is Lenin's greatness. Even when he was not in direct contact with the great bourgeois thought, he was able to deal with it since he directly derived it from things: he recognized it in its objective functioning. He had understood very early what today we are forced to relearn among immense difficulties: that maxim in Weber's Address which we should courageously accept as a party program:

"Our descendants will hold us responsible in front of history not for the type of economic organization which we will leave them in inheritance but, rather, for the space for movement which we wil have conquered and passed on."

Class Struggles in the United States

Let us begin with a working hypothesis already loaded with heavy political assumptions: the labor struggle has attained the highest absolute level between 1933 and 1947 in the U.S. There have been advanced, successful, and mass labor struggles -- and simple contractual struggles: consider any revolutionary experience of the old Europe, confront it with this particular cycle of American labor struggles, and we will discover our limitations and our defeats. At best, we will realize our subjective backwardness and, worst, our absurd pretense of being the vanguard without a movement, generals without an army, priests of subversion without any political knowledge. Today we must reverse the claim of those who see the European workers dragging behind more backward situations which, however, are more revolutionary. If, within the class struggle, victory is measured by what and how much has been gained, then the European workers find before them, as the most advanced model of behavior for their present needs, the way of winning, or the way of defeating the adversary, adopted by American workers in the 1930s.

There had been rich struggling premises. A wave had developed during the war years, and, in its own way, had transformed the national war not into a civil war, but into a class struggle. Because of lack of scientific courage, or fear of knowing the real state of affairs, the American workers' behavior during the two wars is a chapter of contemporary history yet to be written. To say that the workers profit by the war is a bitter truth which one would willingly erase from history. The labor struggle within the capitalist war is a great political fact of our epoch; it is not by accident, we catch it free from Europe in the American heart of the international capitalist system. In 1914 and 1915 the number of strikes was 1204 and 1593; in 1916 the number jumps to 3789, and in 1917 to 4450, with 1,600,000 and 1,230,000 striking workers respectively Aside from the fabulous year of 1937, we have to go to 1941 to find once again 4288 strikes in one year, involving 2,360,000 workers, or 8.4% of the employed work-force, exactly as in 1916: a percentage never reached until 1945 -- if we exclude the other fabulous year 1919. In the years 1943, 1944, and 1945 there is an impressive growth: the number of strikes goes from 3752 to 4956 to 4750; the struggling workers from ,980,000 to 2,120,000 to 3,470,000. The intensity of the labor struggle during the war is topped only in one instance: in the immediate post-war period, during the first conversion of war industries into peace and civil welfare industries. It would seem that the workers should abstain from creating difficulty in such a human endeavor. Let us examine this. In 1946 there were 4985 strikes involving 4,600,000 workers out of work, 16.5% of the entire employed work-force. In 1919 there were 3630 strikes, with 4,160,000 strikers, or 20.2% of all the workers employed at the time. 16

From the workers' viewpoint, the war was a great occasion for obtaining much, while peace was a great occasion for asking for more, Thus, the National War Labor Board, new-dealer before the New Deal, could find no better way to squash labor conflicts than to let the workers win. Right to organize, collective bargaining through union representation, union-shop and open-shop contracts, equal pay for women, minimum wages: these are the conquests of the first war-period. Having strengthened the organization by exploiting the class adversary's national needs (in 1918 unions had more than 4 million members), in the post-war period the clash shifted to wages. To the revolutionary militant, 1919 means the civil war in Bolshevik Russia, the Soviet Bavarian Republic, the 3rd International and Bela Kun in the same way that to the Italian militant it means the Turin of Ordine Nuovo, and the Councils before the factories' occupation.

Seattle is a name altogether unknown. Its shipbuilders, guided by James A. Duncan, who dragged 60,000 workers into a general strike for five days, are never mentioned. Yet that was a key year for the class struggle in America which, in terms of the positive destiny of world revolution, was probably more important than all the rest of "Euro-asiatic" events put together. There was the strike of Boston policemen, organized in the unionism of the Boston Social Club which wanted to affiliate with the AFL -- things reminiscent of the French May, although they been a little more serious since they took place half a century earlier and did not include in their programs "foot-ball aux foot-balleurs." But there were also strikes of mechanics and railroad workers, textile workers and longshoremen: from the food industries to the clothing industries. And it came down to a decisive clash on the level of production of material basic to every other type of production: steel and coal. 350,000 steel workers demanded a collective contract with a wage increase and an eight-hour work day. The United States Steel Corporation answered that it had no intention of doing business with them.

The days of the wartime New Deal were over. All authority and local military forces, both state and federal, were on the side of the owners. An anti-worker witch-hunt, the isolation of their organization in the public opinion, about 20 deaths, and they were defeated. Foster R. Dulles has written that if the steel workers had won, the entire history of the labor movement during the following decade would have followed a completely different course. As the steel workers retreated, 425,000 miners entered the field. Here the labor organization was better, and therefore the demands were higher: wage increases of 60%, and a 36-hour work week.

They gained half of what they asked in wages, but no reduction in hours. Wilson, the idealist and neurotic 28th U.S. president obtained a court injunction to halt the strike. John L. Lewis, president of the United Mine Workers soon to be famous for other deeds, repeated the injunction from the level of the labor organization. The miners listened to neither of the two presidents and continued the struggle until they obtained whatever they could under those conditions. One could read in the newspapers of the period: "No organized minority has the right of throwing the country into chaos... A labor autocracy is as dangerous as a capitalist autocracy." These were the methodological rules that capital was beginning to derive from the hard clash with the workers: the social philosophy which was to triumph in the following happy decade. The American 20s are an era of social peace, great prosperity, "the age of wonderful idiocies," welfare capitalism, and high wages, gained not through struggles, nor through capital's political initiative, but given as if by chance by the individual capitalist's economic choice. For the first time in history "golden chains" came into being, the tax of unionization falls frighteningly among the workers, a new form of owner-controlled union comes into being, the open shop wins, while the scientific organization of labor proceeds with giant steps. It is said that the great crash came suddenly to awaken everyone from the "American dream."

One of the reasons why capital did not understand that it was stepping on the edge of the abyss was this amazing silence on the part of the laboring masses which followed the defeat of 400,000 railroad workers in 1922 and lasted even beyond 1929. Labor struggles are an irreplaceable instrument of self-consciousness for capital: without them it does not recognize its own adversary. Consequently, it does not know itself. And when the contradiction explodes among the parts altogether internal to the mechanism of capitalist development, again the workers do not begin to actively struggle, neither to accelerate the crisis, nor to somehow resolve it.

They know that there is nothing to gain as a particular class if the general development has nothing more to grant. Obviously, the workers did not want the crisis. Less obvious, and actually somewhat scandalous, is to claim that the crisis was not the product of labor struggles but of labor passivity: of the massive refusal to go out on strike, with demands, propositions, struggle and organization. We must be careful: we do not mean that the cause of that crisis is to be located in labor's attitude towards capital.

This attitude was the only one which could have revealed the existence of the crisis: the only one which, once expressed in struggles, could have allowed the possibility of foreseeing it. On the other hand, it is easy to understand the flattening out of the strike-curve in the decade of great buys at street corners. But why was there a labor passivity in the heart of the crisis? Why was there no attempt to seek a revolutionary solution in an objectively revolutionary situation which could hardly have been more so? Why was there no 1917 in 1929? Workers make no demands and do not try to obtain them through struggles only in two cases: when they obtain without asking, and when they know that they have nothing to gain. Thus, the absence of great struggles from 1922 to 1933 has two different causes in the periods between 1922 and 1929, and between 1929 and 1933. In the first period the objective margins of capitalist profit spontaneously overflow to the workers. During the second period there are no margins for either of the two parts: participation of labor's wages to capital's profit is unthinkable. The very boundaries between classes disappear: there is only one crisis for all. Why bother to struggle when it is impossible to win concessions? In order to take power? We must never confuse the two. The American working class is not the Russian Bolshevik party. We must stick to the facts even when they arc problematic. When Roosevelt tried to deal with the crisis, the American workers, again lined in battle formation, classically summarized the immediate precedents of their political history: they struggled aggressively during the war and they won, they defended themselves violently after the war and were defeated, they benefited without scruples from the "golden glitter" of the happy decade, and they reacted neither in their own defense, nor against their adversary during the crisis. It seems like an abstract ballet, lacking any meaningful content. But like the self-enclosed form of a mathematical formula, the logic of these movements is impeccable.

Today the American workers are the hidden face of the international working class. To decipher the face of this sphinx which contemporary history places in front of us, we must first undertake a complete examination of labor around the planet. The American night seems dark because we see the day with our eyes closed.

Paragraph 7a of the National Industrial Recovery Act, with the right for workers "to organize and bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing" and with an injunction to owners forbidding them any "interference, restraint, or coercion" 17 with minimum wages and maximum allowed working time, was approved in June 1933 along wth the rest of the law. In the second half of that year the number of strikes was equal to all those of the previous year: the number of striking workers was three and a half times as many as in all of 1932. In 1934 there were 1856 strikes with 1,500,000 workers involved: more than 7% of all those employed. Thus, the number of conflicts was not high, although they involved the big industries: the steel workers, the automobile workers, the West Coast longshoremen, the Northwestern wood workers, and first in line with the loudest voice, almost 500,000 textile workers with demands for a thirty hour work week, a thirteen-dollar minimum wage, the solution of the "strech-out" -- as "speed-up" was called in the textile industry -- and the recognition of the United Textile Workers. When, as had already happened with the Clayton Act of 1914 and the Norris-LaGuardia law of 1923, paragraph 7a fell under the combined reaction of the individual capitalist and the still bourgeois judiciary branch of government, the workers had already used it for all it was worth: to create a space for movement to the new demands raised now to a level of organization. The password "to organize the disorganized," i.e., to enter unions in the big mass-production industries, became possible only when the collective capitalist consciousness opened the factory to a modern labor power which would counter-balance the backward and antiquated owners' power. 1935 saw the birth and the success of both the Wagner Act and the CIO. Again, we have more evidence that between capital's political initiative and the workers' advanced organization there is an inextricable knot which cannot be untied even if we wanted to. A National Labor Relations Board oversees that owners do not employ "unfair labor practices," and that they do not oppose collective bargaining with unfair procedures, issues "cease and desist" orders only to the industrial side, never to labor's side, abolishes the owner's union, removes its restriction to crafts, and for the first time gives it to common workers.

Thus, it is not an organ of political mediation between two equally contraposed parts: Franklin Delano is not Theodore Roosevelt. It is an administrative organ with judiciary functions: a kind of injunction exactly contrary to everything that came before it in the American tradition -- an injunction of capital to the capitalists to leave space for the autonomy of labor organizations. Furthermore, within labor there is a choice in favor of new sectors of production, the identification of the figure of the new mass worker in the steel, automobile, rubber, and radio industries. This explains why, although the CIO was only two years old while the AFL had been around for half a century, by the end of 1937 the former had already more members than the latter, and that the "appropriate bargaining units" established in 1935 were run according to majority rule in favor of the new industrial unionism. If capital's advanced choices favored the most advanced labor organization, these, in turn, supported capital so that the new choices won over old resistances. The law of the Fair Labor Standards -- the logical follow-up to the National Labor Relations Act -- dates back to 1838. It set a minimum wage of 25 cents per hour, to go up to 40 cents after seven years, a maximum work week of 44 hours before the end of 1939, 42 hours before the end of 1941, and 40 hours afterwards. But 1937 was needed between the constitutional recognition of the Wagner Act and its logical follow-up. That year saw the highest number of strikes ever (4740), a movement to extend unionism from areas of large concentration to vital knots of production with new forms of struggle and instruments of pressure of hitherto unknown efficacy. It began by founding the Steel Workers' Organizing Committee, and following the success of this organizational move Big Steel, the impenetrable fortress of U.S. Steel, was forced to surrender to wage increases of 10%, an eight-hour work day, and a forty-hour work week. Then came Little Steel: 75,000 workers were forced to carry out a very hard struggle against the smaller steel-producing companies.

There was the "Memorial Day Massacre" in Chicago, and therefore a temporary labor defeat which only four years later was mended by the intervention of the political ally maneuvering the levers of government. But the high point of the clash took place in the automobile industry between the country's most powerful union (UAW), and capital's strongest corporations (Ford, GM, and Chrysler). The "sit-down strike" came into being and for 44 days production at General Motors was blocked in Flint, Cleveland, and Detroit. There was a court injunction to evacuate the factories, but it was ignored. There was an attempt to storm the factories by the police, but it was pushed back. "Solidarity forever" was the slogan that united workers inside and the population outside. Then came labor's victory: collective bargaining with the UAW as a recognized counterpart. This American form of factory Occupation exploded, and soon Chrysler too had to give in. Only Ford would resist four more years before its first collective contract, but it would have to yield more: the infamous closed shop. The quantitative extension of strikes grew from 1937 to involve rubber, glass, textile, optical and electrical workers. Roosevelt and his egg-heads followed worried and utilized the movement in their battle within capital. The 1938 law concerning "fair working conditions" was an advanced political answer which only those struggles could have obtained. The labor struggle kept increasingly turning the public hand in its favor as soon as it understood that this hand was forced to give in because of its own needs.

We come to the war with a relation of forces violently shifted in favor of labor. What had never happened before became possible: the solution of the crisis gave power to the workers by taking it away from the capitalists. The move that followed was also logical and coherent. It was no longer the old socialist call for struggle against the war, but the most modern and subversive class-vindication conceivable: labor participation in war profits. In 1941, even before Pearl Harbor, the struggle centered once again around wages by automobile workers, shipbuilders, teamsters, construction workers, textile workers, and that vital point of war production which were the "captive mines" tied to the steel industry, and still having Lewis at the head of 250,000 men. In a year the average wage jumped up 20%.

During WW11 the American miners wrote a special chapter in the history of the class struggle which should be carefully studied. The War Labor Board was to no avail, and Roosevelt himself had to put on the hard mask of the workers' enemy in dealing with them. In 1943 they added their massive organized power to the thousands of spontaneous strikes that exploded all over the country against the government and without unions. From here we have a growth of struggles that engulfed the last two years of the war and the immediate post-war period. 1946 is again like 1919. There are almost 5,000 strikes, involving almost 5,000,000 workers: 16.5% of the employed with 120 million work days lost. Practically every industry was involved in the labor conflict. The National Wage Stabilization Board could not curb the movement. A labor demand took precedence over all the others: peace wages equal to war wages

Here we find the slogans which were to reappear a quarter of a century later in the streets of Europe: "no contract, no work5" "52 for 40," and an American form of labor control, "a look at the books." The high points once again were in General Motors among the steel workers, the miners, and, even more, the railroad workers, The increase in the cost of living, typical of war-time, was followed by a mad chase of nominal wage which almost caught up with it. This was the beginning of the modern history of the class-relation between wages and prices, the unfolding of that deadly disease which our capital has learned to live with and which, in the diagnoses of the economist, is called the process of inflation stemming from the cost of labor.

This is the beginning of that dynamic of development as movement of struggles which will decide the destiny of modern capital: who will have to run it, and who will be able to use it. 1947 came in the U.S. under the sign of the "great labor fear" which had shaken the country the year before. It is incredible, but the Taft-Hartley law ultimately proposed to return the capitalists' contractual power on an equal footing with that of the workers. This says it all concerning what had happened in the U.S. from 1933 on. The equation of the contractual ability of the two struggling classes -- that classic demand for equal rights usually put forth by the weaker force against the deciding one-was advanced for the first time by the capitalists to be conquered or reconquered within their state. This is a revealing episode of a history which is still part of today, where it is not true that one class always dominates and another one is always dominated, but where, from time to time, in ever changing power relations, the power of one overcomes the power of the other.

This can take place independently of the institutional forms of power, and independently of the name under which the formal structure of society appears to the outside (whether it be called capitalistic or socialist) according to the ancient language dating back to the origins of our science. This is an historically rich episode of a strong synthesis of fundamental facts of the past: of decisive elements that the class-struggle had hitherto disorderedly accumulated. It is politically charged with a future not yet even scratched by the attacks of a labor movement which has succeeded in reaching that point, but has not been able to go beyond it. These 14 years between 1933 and 1947 in the United States are an historical fact of capital which is at the same time an action of labor politics. All that we had found separated in different periods and in different countries before this epoch we find here once again unified in a unique and complex network of facts and thoughts: the relation between struggles and capital's political initiative, between struggles and science, between struggles and labor organization, i.e., the Progressive Era, Marshall's Age, the epoch of social-democracy. Here they merge and recognize each other as separate parts of one whole precisely during these years in the U.S. where we see the conclusion of a classical phase of the class struggle which goes from after-Marx to before our actual possibilities of movement. To depart from the labor struggles in order to grasp the various levels of social development such as the state, science and organization, is something learned all of a sudden in these events. Afterwards, the labor struggle will always add itself to these levels taken together. This will be our real starting point both for analysis as well as class activity. But let us elaborate in a more extended way these concepts whose obscurity is not just apparent.

We have not yet reached the true institutionalism of the Wisconsin school. But we are already beyond a precise awareness of the political consequences that the scientific organization of work provokes in the class struggle within capital. There is a long line of thought and of practical experimentation that goes from the German Sozialpolitik to the American technique of Industrial Government. It would be worth following the path from Karl Knies' "old" historical school to Gustav Schmoller's "young" historical school, to its American transplant by Richard T. Ely, through Veblen's rich and penetrating work, up to the institutionalists' "Wisconsin theory:" Adams, Commons, Selig Perlman, and maybe even Tannenbaum. The study of work explodes, and has to be exploded at some point, within this line of investigation concerning the working class. Task management and, more generally, Industrial Engineering -- the technology of industrial production as the scientific organization of labor -- is the other side of the realistic articulation of the pragmatic approach to the moment of labor struggle or, as they put it, to the moment of conflict, as the basis of the various forms of class organization. Thus, we can better understand the "look and see" principle, the re-elaboration of the Veblenian concepts of "efficiency" and "scarcity," and their possible construction through the corrective of "collective action."

New Dealers avant la lettre, the institutionalists found themselves ready not only to accept, but also to theorize Roosevelt's program. In his article on "The Principles of Collective Bargaining." published in 1936, Perlman argued that the collective contract was less interesting for the statistical algebra of economic trends than the organizational discipline and the formation of the managers. "Job consciousness," or the "communism of economic occasions," the natural economic pessimism of labor groups, the absolute gap between labor's and the political-ideological mentality, are not just brilliant definitions -- the brilliant fruit of brilliant intellects. They are precious factual observations of what, has been the concrete historical condition of a working class in the country of generalized capital.

We all have in our past the original sin of having considered the working class as "an abstract mass in the grip of abstract forces." The polemical rejection which has destroyed at its very inception the figure of the Marxist intellectual and which has always prevented him from intervening in the real struggles of the American labor movement, is one of the very rare traditions of the past which we will have to appropriate in the immediate future. If it is impossible to present the worker as the "Knight of the ideal" even by falsifying the data, then the labor scientist cannot appear as the teacher of revolutionary morality. Perlman has written that Commons was completely free of the most insidious kind of snobbery: to laud with condescension one's superior brain to the cause of the weak.

Sichtbar machen

Sichtbar machen means to make visible: to say clearly in order to be understood, at the risk of not interpreting very well things intrinsically obscure. Despite the difficult title, this section is the easiest of all. We must avoid the temptation to deal with problems in dogmatic terms. Today, it is better to emphasize the critical terms of the situation and to initially inscribe the open problematic framework within which the investigation is to be undertaken.

It is useless to look for easy paths and shortcuts. Today, in order to understand, we must start from the most difficult points so to explain simple things through more complex ones. As already mentioned, for a contemporary Marxist there is a point of no return in the investigation. It is this modern sphinx, this obscure enigma, this social thing-in-itself which we know exists but which cannot be known: the American working class. Here we must focus our sights in order to see.

There is a form of restricted Eurocentrism which must be condemned: to refer only to the European revolutionary experiences whenever we seek or mention models of correct behavior in the struggle. That the history of the working class has had its epicenter in Europe and in Russia is a legend to be exploded. It is a 19th century vision which has remained to this day in virtue of those last splendid rays of the 19th century labor movement which, in Western Europe, are represented by the years immediately following WW I and the early 1920s. We talk about two major trends of the labor movement: social-democracy and communism. Yet, when compared to the American labor movement, in spite of their apparent irreducible diversity, both of them turn out to be connected. To unite the situation of the English or German working class to that of the Italian or French working class, one need only contrapose all of them to the situation of the U.S. working class. These are the two major trends in the history of labor struggles and the only ulterior particular viewpoint possible within the general labor viewpoint. It is not a matter of establishing a hierarchy of nobility, nor of compiling a list of preferences for one or the other. We must see how they play respectively in our context of class struggle, how they help us understand the facts, and how they advance, suggest, or exclude organizational tools in the factory. We must see them in relation to our possible effect upon state power.

From this viewpoint, the traditional disadvantages of the American class situation become opportunities for us. What is different in the American labor struggles is precisely what remains to be done on the old continent No, we do not want to reiterate the Marxian concept of the most advanced point explaining and outlining the most backward. It would be too easy. We have indicated elsewhere how this explanation hides the danger of political opportunism and turns out to be a manifestation of that passive waiting for events, which disarms the labor side politically while placing it in the historical rear guard. If we want to depart from the American labor struggles we must find other reasons. The Marxist analysis has not left us even a scheme of narratives of the major struggles, nor a model of how to judge major events. Although this seems to be a grave handicap to research, on closer analysis it may turn out to be an advantage. We have not ourselves hidden reality under ideological veils. Such veils would be the most difficult to tear since it is easy to criticize the ideology of the adversary, while it is difficult and occasionally impossible to criticize our own ideologies.

The history of the European working class is literally submerged under the ideas of Marxist intellectuals. But the history of the American working class is still naked, without anyone ever having thought it out. The less critique of ideology needed, the easier it is to further scientific discoveries. The smaller the contribution of leftist culture, the more the class pregnancy of a given social reality comes forward. Today, the labor struggles need a new standard of measurement because the old one is no longer either adequate or useful. A new standard of judgment has to be applied to the labor data [dati operai] of a given situation.

We need a standard rotating around the present in motion. We need a standard contained in that political type of industrial reality which marks the steps, the path, and the development of contemporary society. We must avoid measuring the present with the past, labor struggles with proletarian movements. We must not compare today's reality with the earlier "glory" to which we are sentimentally bound. Also, we must avoid judging the present with the yardstick of the future and refuse modern management's invitation to turn labor struggles into a kind of cybernetic -- a psycho-industrial automatism at the service of collective profit. Today we must shy away from the two easy temptations: the historical tradition and technological futurism.

In his Economics, Samuelson opens the chapter on competitive wages and collective bargaining with a quote from the New Testament: "The labourer is worth of his hire,"43 and concludes with a section on the unresolved problems of labor, strikes, rising costs, and structural unemployment. According to him, the ability to strike succeeds in obtaining wage increases higher than increases in physical productivity. To keep away costly strikes through voluntary or binding arbitration leads to similar wage increases. He proceeds to say that, in the post-war years, in some countries, there has been an attempt to introduce a new element to collective bargaining and to macroeconomic policy, in order to maintain general increases in wages and in other monetary income to a rate compatible with the increase in productivity and with stable prices. But with respect to the control of the various types of wage dynamics, the mixed economy has become stabilized around a level of imperfect planning. If an income policy that would prevent inflation from sales through rising costs could actually be found, the ice block of structural unemployment could be dissolved through a growing collective demand reinforced by programs of retraining and relocation. But the trouble is that every point of the economic cycle "seems to have... a disturbing tendency."

This is nothing new in capitalist development. Every downward turn of the cycle, it is provoked, preceded or followed by a determinate high development of labor struggles Such a downward turn is represented by a particular moment of the class struggle, and it is difficult to figure out why a certain development took place, how it developed and above all, which of the two classes can be said to have ultimately won The economist says that every point of the economic cycle has many tendencies which develop it and one that upsets it. In the best of cases, the entrepreneur turns to the economist in order to know which is the upsetting one. "The age of Knighthood is over..."

What once seemed absolutely right, has become only relatively economic. What is closer to that class truth coinciding with a particular class interest, the workers' universal claim to a just wage or the distribution of income in a given country according to "Lorenz' curve"? This must be preliminarily decided in its high level of development, capital has already substituted the precision work of computers for the rough approximation of professional ideologists. The "Philips curve" for the U.S. is decidedly "bad," because it intersects the axis of price stability only at a high level of unemployment. The cost-push has become an institutional problem because the capitalist control of wages is yet to come. The Nobel laureate Samuelson, with his high science, after having observed the Dutch, British Italian Canadian, and American experience, left the entire question wide open.

Yet, we must not comfortably define as insoluble every problem that capital finds in the path of its development. We must not immediately say: you cannot resolve it, only we can solve it for you. A problem for capital is, first of all, a terrain for labor struggle. Its economic terrain is our political terrain. While capital looks for a solution we are only interested in increasing our Organizational strength. We know that one after the other, all of capital's economic problems can be resolved. We also know that what appears here as an insoluble contradiction, elsewhere may have been already overcome or may have become another contradiction. From the labor viewpoint, the premise for a powerful and efficient class struggle moving in the sense of a positive violence is the specific knowledge of the specific contradiction for capital in a given moment in a given situation. A labor victory forces the backward owner to get even in various ways, on the simple quantity of the new part of income that labor has gained. Sometimes this happens for lack of economic margins and other times for lack of political intelligence. This is not the real point where the labor victory is turned into a defeat. In fact, such a crude answer by the owners only promotes the repetition of a cycle of struggles at the same level of the earlier one, with a higher charge of spontaneity and therefore a lesser need of organization. On this path, the movement of the struggles is easier, mobilization is both great and simple, and the moment of generalization is immediate. But the new contents and the new forms of the labor attack do not grow. Unless this massive obstacle to a frontal lash on a backward terrain is not first subjectively removed from the class forces, there will be no new labor struggles. In other instances however the owners' answer can be advanced, After a partial defeat even following a simple contractual battle, capital is violently pushed to having to come to terms with itself, i.e., to reconsider precisely the quality of its development, to repropose the problem of the relation with the class adversary not in a direct form, but mediated by a type of general initiative which involves the reorganization of the productive process, the restructuring of the market, rationalization at the factory, and the planning of society. Here it seeks help from technology and politics in new ways of using labor, and new forms to exercise authority. Here is the real great danger of a possible labor defeat. The workers have won the bargaining battle, and precisely because of this they can lose the war of the class struggle over an occasionally long historical period.

This is why America can teach Europe. They can lose the war if the level of organization fails to quickly move forward to the new contents of the new struggles, if the consciousness of the movement, i.e., the already organized structure of the class, fails to immediately grasp the meaning of the coming capitalist initiative. Latecomers lose. It is not a matter of hurrying preparations for an answer to the owner's moves. It is first of all a matter of foreseeing these moves and in some cases even of suggesting them. But it is always a matter of anticipating them with the forms of one's own org4ntzation in order to render it not only unproductive for capitalist goals, but productive for the labor goals. For our part, the only needed answer is to the labor demand for a new organization at every new level of the clash. Capital's move, its present initiative, both on the productive level as well as in the sky of formal policy, must itself be the answer. It must be the attempt to always resist the different forms assumed by labor's attack imperceptibly recognized and, therefore, because of its historical nature and political choice, unpredictable from the organizational viewpoint.

Lenin used to say: there are different kinds of spontaneity. Today we say: there are different kinds of organizations. But even before all this, we must say: there are different kinds of struggles. A complete typology of labor struggles, with appropriate marginal comments, is a manual for the perfect unionist which we do not wish to put into circulation. In the ultimate context of the clash of classes in the Western world, the labor struggle has isolated some fundamental types which continually reappear by always raising the meaning of the contents and the dimension of the forces placed in movement. There is the great contemporary fact of the contractual struggle. For us it is a lived reality. It is a new type of temporal event which has already entered in the common usage of the man in the street. Yet, before it had already forcibly introduced itself in the normal existence of the average worker, in the calculations of the economist, in the projects of the politician, and in the mechanism of material functioning of all society. When, after a long and uncertain path, capital stumbles on the idea of collective bargaining with its labor-force guaranteed by state laws, an epoch of the class struggle ends and another one begins.

Collective bargaining discriminates between different historical levels of development and capitalism. It is more relevant in this respect than just the birth of finance capital, the various "stages" of imperialism, the so-called "ages" of monopolies. Here we have an example of that labor history of capital which is its actual history, and in front of which everything else is ideological legend, a dream of visionaries, the unconscious ability to mislead or the unwanted will to error on the part of weak subaltern intellectuals. " A New Way of settling Labor Disputes", according to the title of an old article of Commons is what forces capital to a qualitative leap towards its mature existence. The dynamic of class relations finds in the collective contract a form of periodic stabilization. The price of labor is fixed and remains so for a certain period of time: a new system of industrial jurisprudence and a new mechanism of representation of labor interests begin to operate.

According to Dunlop's trajectory, collective bargaining is followed by an industrial relations system with three actors: managers for the enterprise, unions for the workers, and various means of critical institutional mediation for the government.

But the changing, critical and contradictory reality of the struggle cannot be captured in the scheme of an abstract sub-system of the Parsonian variety. Here is the point. The contract is first of all, struggle for the contract. The collective dimension of bargaining has rediscovered the collective nature of the struggle. As we move from the single factory to the entire industrial sector and the category, the number of participants grows and the struggle of exclusively working masses comes to the fore. This is not a small detail. For too long a time and even today labor struggles and masses' struggles have been considered as mutually exclusive realities. As people in general the working masses could have reincorporated the acting minority of vanguard groups but failed to identify with their actions, dissolved their specific vindications in solutions of formal political demands, and moved the center of the clash from the factory to the streets, not against the state of always, but against the government of the moment. Even if it is not Sorel's myth of the general strike, but, in Luxemburg's sense, a struggle that precedes and makes the organization, the Massenstreik always ends up as an event for the movement not directly connected with the class. It takes on a class character only when the labor struggle assumes mass dimensions and the concrete Concept of laboring masses in struggle is born in real social relations rather than merely in the sacred texts of the ideology. Here the concept of mass is not in the quantitative accumulation of many individual units under the same condition of the so-called exploitation, because, otherwise the term "class" would be sufficient in its usual meaning of social statistics given to it by the Marxist tradition. Here it is a matter of a process of massification of the working class. It is a process of class growth of the workers and of internal homogenization of industrial labor power. If politics for us is labor struggle that leaps to increasingly higher levels of quality, and history is capital updating on this basis its technological and productive structures , its organization of work, its control and, its manipulative social instruments and substitutes upon the objective suggestion of its class adversary obsolete parts of its power mechanism, then politics always precedes history. There is no possible process of class other massification without first having reached a mass level of struggle. In words, there is no true class growth of the workers without mass labor struggle.

Collective bargaining lies precisely between massification of the struggle and massification of the class. We don't start with the class: we come to it. Or better, we reach a new level of class composition. We begin with struggle. At the beginning the struggle will have the same characters that subsequently will result assigned to the class. It is not that before the mass labor struggle there was no working class. There was a different working class, in a lower level of development, with undoubtedly a lower degree of intensity of its internal composition, and with a shallower and less complex network of possible organization. It is an error to formalize a concept of "class" valid for all epochs of human history. It is an error even to define the class once and for all within the development of capitalist society. Workers and capital are not only classes contraposed to each other, but always changing economic realities, social formations, and political organizations. There are methodological problems to keep in mind here in the body of the investigation. Yet, this is not what must be stressed. As we have already indicated, we go from the struggle to the class: from the mass struggle to the massification of the class, but through the new reality, the new discovery, the new capitalist concept of collective contract. The labor struggle had already assumed mass-characters when capital forced it to become contractual struggle.

Collective bargaining is a form of control. It is not an attempt to institutionalize the labor struggle in general, but that specific form which encompasses, binds, and unifies the immediate material interests of a compact nucleus of labor categories within the corresponding sector of capitalist production. When in the content of the vindications, in the form of mobilization and in the models of organization, it assumes mass-characters, the labor struggle runs the risk of losing its working class specificity.

The original proletarian struggles along with certain kinds of 19th century labor struggles of our own century, have not only run this risk, but they have fallen victim to it. When the labor struggle begins to assume mass-characters without ceasing to be based on the working class. i.e., when the mass struggle becomes a labor struggle without ceasing to be massified, it is the beginning of a new political period and therefore of a new history. In other words, that is the not too distant point of origin of a possible labor new politics and therefore of capital's first real new economics.

Labor's new politics is articulated by the American labor struggles in the 1930s. In their more limited quantitative horizon, the Italian struggles of the l960s are the adequate reflex of this red sun that comes from the West. Here we face very important theoretical problems. We are not vet sufficiently mature to be able to prefigure the solution to a long and slow work of critical-historical investigation. For example, is it possible to abandon an "objective" definition of the working class? Is it possible to define as "working class" all those who subjectively struggle in the forms typical of the working class against capital from within the process of social production? Is it possible to finally separate the concept of working class from the concept of productive labor? And, in such a case, would it still remain connected to wages?

The problem is to find new definitions of the "working class," but without abandoning the domain of objective analysis and without falling back in ideological traps. To evaporate the objective materiality of the working class in pure subjective forms of anti-capitalist struggles is a new ideological error of neo-extremism. Not only this, but to broaden the sociological borders of the working class in order to include in it all those struggling against capitalism from within it so to reach the quantitative majority of the social labor-force, or even of the active population, is a grave concession to the democratic tradition. On the other hand, to over-restrict these boundaries to the point of counting as workers "the few that count" can lead to the dangerous theorizing of the "acting minority." We must cautiously keep away from these extremes. In this case, the analysis of the borders must be an observation of the facts. The consequences will come later. Where the working class ends is not the beginning of capital. The book to which this article is a postscript tended to see workers and capital within capital. The discussion added by this postscript tends to see workers and capital within the working class. Thus, the more recent tendency is to consciously complicate the domain of investigation, in the hope that this will open the way to the most simple solution.

Advanced capitalist society as capital today offers us a spectacle and gives us all the instruments to participate in this play of not just formal autonomies between political sphere and economic world, science and the short-term interest of capitalist production, between labor organization and class. The oversimplifications of economism -- structure and superstructure obtain only for the first phase of capitalism which resembles pre-capitalist societies too much to be seriously considered politically. And the voluntarism of pure politics -- revolution at all costs -- is, if possible, even further back. It is still utopian, chiliastic socialism: a modern medieval heresy, admitted by the pope, as the class-church. Mature capitalism is a complex, stratified, and contradictory society. Such a society has more than one center claiming to be the source of power and struggling for supremacy among themselves, although this struggle can never be definitely resolved within its framework. This is what the immediate past tells us. It is worth studying only in order to find out what there is to study afterwards, i.e., now. In fact, we must not confuse the two levels.

Yesterday's American political situation is the historical Western-European present. We must know that we are living events already lived yet without any pre-constituted outcomes, and without any sure conclusions. In Europe we are really at the fork between an elevation to the power of capital over everything and everyone, and boundless possibilities for the working class. This is, let us say, the plan for political action.

It is no accident that we have dealt with these topics. Then there is the other level. Today's U.S. is the theoretical problem for the future of all. We have already hinted at this. It is worth reiterating. Today there is a kind of sensation, an idea felt more than thought, of having reached the final limit of a classic epoch of the class struggle. In spite of all that we have said, the American labor struggles may have had to be first translated in European language for the labor viewpoint to fully become conscious of them. This knowledge [presa di coscienza] is, above all, destructive for a tradition. In order to build, it is necessary to leave behind our very present of classical labor struggles, and enter, with the anticipation of the research, in a new post-classical epoch at the end of which, if the history of capital is of any help, it is not excluded that we might have the spark of a labor "general theory." "They" will necessarily be forced to march towards new forms o( "Industrial Government." "We" must reject the temptation to write Die Froehliche Klassenkampf. We must invent for practice, in a strategically long provisional time, never-yet-seen techniques of political use of the capitalist economic machine by the working class.

Notes * This article originally appeared in Italian as "Poscritto di Problemi," in Mario Tronti, Operai e Capitale, second edition (Turin, 1971), pp.267-311. (This page was copied from the Class against Class website.)

1. Richard Hofstadter, The Age of Reform (New York, 1955), p.238.

2. Ibid.. p.244.

3. Quoted in The Age of Reform, Ibid., p.22.

4. Joseph A. Schumpeter, History of Economic Analysis (New York, 1954), p.384.

Essays in Biography (New York, 1933), p. 232, note.

6. G.D.H. Cole, A Short History of the British Working-Class Movements, 1789-1947 (London, 1948), pp. 269-270.

7. Ibid.. p.270.

8. A.C. Pigou, ed., Memorial of Alfred Marshall (London, 1925), p.156.

9. Letters and Journal of W. Stanley Jevons (London, 1896), p.169.

10. Keynes, op.cit.. p.188.

11. Georg Lukacs, Lenin, trans. by Nicholas Jacobs (London, 1970), p.80.

12. Max Weber, The Methodology of the Social Sciences, trans. by Edward A. Shils and Henry A. Finch (New York, 1949), p.16.

13. Max Weber, "Politics as a Vocation," in H.H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills, eds., From Max Weber (New York, 1958), p.127.

14. Ibid.. p.115.

15. Georg Lukacs, op.cit.. p.95.

16. Cf Robert Ozanne, Wages in Practice and Theory (Madison, Wisc., 1968), "Appendix C," pp.141-143.

17. As quoted in Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., The Coming of the New Deal (New York, 1965), p.137.

18. Ibid., p.22.

19. Ibid., p.588.

20. Ibid., p.576.

21. Ibid., p.404.

22. William E. Leuchtenburg, "The Roosevelt Reconstruction," in Leuchtenburg, ed., Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Personal Profile (New York, 1967), pp.247-248. 23. Rofstadter,op.cit., p.321.

24. Thurman Arnold, The Folklore of Capitalism, as quoted in Hofstadter, op.cft., p.322.

25. Hofstadter, op.cit., p.321.

26. Schlesinger, op.cit., p.223.

27. John Maynard Keynes, Essays in Persuasion (New York, 1932). pp.247-248.

28.. Ibid., p.262.

29.. Ibid., pp.135-136.

30.. As quoted in Ray Ferbes Harrod, The Life of John Maynard Keynes (New York, 1951), p.447.

31. Ibid.

32. Ibid., p.448.

33. Ibid., p.449.

34. Ibid., p.450.

35. Keynes, Essays in Persuasion, op.cit.. p.322.

36. Ibid.

37. Keynes, Essays in Persuasion, op. cit., p.300.

38. Quoted in Schlesinger, op.cit., p.418.

39. Henry Pelling, American Labor (Chicago, 1960). p.178.

40, Schlesinger, op. cit., p.416.

41. John R. Commons, Labor and Administration (New York, 1913), p.74.

42. Ibid. p.75

43. Paul H. Samuelson, Economics (New York, 1970), p.547. Subsequent quotes have been omitted from later editions of Samuelson's work.