Initial Theses

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

Submitted by Harrison on July 1, 2013

Introduction to Marx, Labor-power, Working Class

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

Submitted by zmb2102 on July 1, 2013

Please note that this translation is based on the French version, and should be superseded by a complete English translation of the original Italian, which we hope will not be delayed any longer.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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


9 years ago

In reply to by

Thanks for this, whoever translated it!

The strategy of refusal - Mario Tronti

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

Submitted by libcom on July 23, 2005

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

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

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

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

[Original Intro.]


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


10 years 8 months ago

In reply to by

Great article!

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

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

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


10 years 8 months ago

In reply to by

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


10 years 8 months ago

In reply to by

How about now?


8 years ago

In reply to by

can i translate self valorziation as self "growning"


8 years ago

In reply to by


can i translate self valorziation as self "growning"

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

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

Hope this explains it?

Struggle Against Labor

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

Submitted by Nate on June 10, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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