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.

Marx Yesterday and Today

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

“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

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.
Mario Tronti

Factory and Society

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

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.
Mario Tronti

Social Capital

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

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.

Notes

* 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.

6.Ibid.

7.Ibid., p.102.

8.Ibid., p.105.

9.Ibid., pp.105-106.

10.Ibid., p.103.

11.Ibid., p.104.

12.Ibid.

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.

23.Ibid.

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

25.1W.. p.193.

26.Ibid., p.241.

27.Ibid.

28.Ibid., p.427.

29.Ibid., p.428.

30.Ibid.

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.

Capital’s “plan” ... [is to make] 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.
Mario Tronti

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.”

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.

An act of political struggle can’t be simply tested and measured by empirical answer. The only way to prove this unity is to start organising it.
Mario Tronti

Class and Party

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:
http://multitudes.samizdat.net/rubrique.php3?id_rubrique=544

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.
Mario Tronti