Radical Chains journal

A partial online archive of Radical Chains, a London-based libertarian communist journal with five issues published 1989-1998.

Submitted by Fozzie on January 15, 2019

Radical Chains #1

Partial contents of Radical Chains issue 1.

Submitted by Fozzie on February 2, 2019

The prevention of communism - Radical Chains

The authors identify capitalism's decay as assuming forms of the prevention of communism. These - notably stalinism and social-democracy - are entirely dependent on capital as well as being its guarantors on a world scale. Yet resting neither upon the law of value nor on that of planning, they are inherently unstable and contain no dynamic towards transition. From Radical Chains no.1.

Submitted by sdrg45 on June 26, 2011

radical chains

A SPECTRE HAUNTS THE WORLD: the spectre of the prevention of communism. When in 1848, Marx identified communism as the ghost haunting Europe, he spoke the truth for an age when capital was the ascendant form. His critique of the rising mode of production demonstrated its historical limits. Marx's method generated an analysis that remains the most profound revolutionary guide for our times. Its validity confronts us with an urgency that one hundred and forty years ago was still latent. The self-acting proletariat that had already forced on Marx recognition of its potentiality is now the dominating force in world economy. It is through this potentiality, and as potentiality, that the proletariat dominates the epoch.

Whereas in the mid-nineteenth century this latency could reasonably be portrayed as a spectre to disquiet bourgeois complacency, that complacency has long since been shattered. Whatever success occasional regimes may have, however futile apparent representatives of the working class may be, and however much the media are filled with superficial self-congratulation, today's rulers remain caught on the objective existence of world collective labour. The recent efflorescence of free market and other forms of right wing ideology across the planet is a rearguard political acknowledgement of this self-evident fact.

The proletariat dominates the world, but is itself haunted by a ghost it must yet exorcise. This ghost, the prevention of communism, takes material political form as an intervention in the development of world consciousness. Capital's weakness in this project is revealed in its method: a pragmatic admixture of overt repression and reform. Through these, bourgeois society is limited in order to preserve it. Capital concedes various political forms to preserve bourgeois political economy. Among these are fascism and other forms of authoritarian capitalist state including, in the present period, those associated with reactionary Islamic communalism. Nor must we forget the historical vacancy of Stalinist rule. This crucially facilitates the survival of world capitalism by politically restricting its direct operations. Social democracy performs a similar function in territories where property remains predominantly privately owned.

Whatever forms today's ideologies assume, and whatever their degree of incoherence and irrationality, all now have as their dominating theme the prevention of communism. This is the principal mania of bourgeois society in the period of its decline. When Adam Smith came to discuss the "three great, original, and constituent orders of every civilisation," he could with equanimity dismiss the thought of the separateness of the interests of the labouring order from those of the employers, so that "[the labourer's] voice is little heard... except upon some particular occasions when his clamour is animated, set on, and supported by his employers, not for his, but their own particular purposes." In this and similar statements Smith expressed the self-confidence of a class that still had a future. Such equanimity is not possible for his successors since the combination of labour that capital develops as a productive force is also a social power within and against capital. Where there was Adam Smith there are now political economists of the stamp and calibre of Oliver North, Gelli, P2, Neave, MI5/6 and the CIA. Corrupt and corrupting cliques are pervasive and inevitable underwriters of the capital form in decline. We should contrast the labyrinthine secrecy of these types to the liberalism of economists of the Friedman ilk, but only to note their poisonous symbiosis. They need each other, much as the undertaker and the life insurance agent have their hands in each others pockets. The infinitely dishonest, "liberal" Friedman served time as cheerleader and adviser to the CIA-assisted Chilean junta, to mention just one deal.

There is nothing new about spooks as such. What is significant is the extensive state activity occuring behind the curtain of social democratic government and sometimes through it. The bourgeoisie must permanently police the inherently suspect working class and even its social democratic, Stalinist and other constraining apparatuses: limitations to bourgeois relationships must not get out of hand.

The most general indication that capitalism is a system in decline rather than a merely decadent one is the intensifying gulf between the actual and the potential: between what is and what could be with regard to the development of the productive forces. The most superficial aspect is the self-evident retardation of output (crudely measured by such ideological data series as GDP, GNP, etc.) by the dominant form of property. Reformist workers plans hinge upon this, though within a fantasy scenario of decontextualised use value oases. Next comes the frantic throwing of money into the marketing and advertising pit in order to sell those commodities which are produced. No matter how well made such use values may be, they remain commodities for atomised consumption. They address needs which can only be reproduced through the reproduction of absolute poverty.

Most monstrous of all is the qualitative degradation of the productive forces associated with the formal means of life termination. It cannot be said often enough that in terms of technique and precision, the highest products of collective labour within declining capitalism are those associated with war production. In its degraded condition, the universal class - which is the greatest of the productive forces - has been externally organised to the point where its activities generate the means of universal destruction.

The theoretical point is not that actual use of these devices means collapse of the system and is therefore incompatible even with the irrational requirements of declining capital: rather that their centrality to world capitalism makes it a nonsense to consider the development which obviously continues as anything other than one of decay. The source of ecological depradation is social rather than industrial as such. On the one side is collective labour and the potential for organised abundance, on the other is the squalid actuality. Manifestly the two poles interpenetrate.

Reformists misconceive the disparity between what is and what could be as one between a less and a supposedly more resource maximising capitalism. The product of communist transition can only be human realisation. No external organisation can achieve this task. The strength of global labour must grow with its deepening interdependence, but its actualisation as abundance lies across the increasingly menacing threshold of exchange value and the state, beyond unfree association. The significance of the limits upon the law of value discussed below is that they are arrangements to extend the decay by preventing its resolution. The concept decadence, by contrast, allows only the restoration of previously existing conditions and knows no need to revolutionise life.

The law of value remains the essential regulator of capitalist economy. To be adequate to its concept, that law presupposes an atomised working class. The law of value requires that all commodities, in particular labour power, are subject to a necessary tendency to exchange as value equivalents. Commodities thus exchange on the market in proportion to the labour power socially required to produce them, rather than according to custom, the whims of administrators, or the democratic deliberations of the collective producer. However tedious it may be interminably to hear this from the political right, it is in fact true that markets predate capitalism. European feudal society sustained substantial levels of market transaction, both locally and on an international scale. Production for use rather than "natural economy" - implying as the latter phrase does the absence of monetary transactions and calculations - was the hallmark of feudalism. Production for exchange was subject to severe constraints within this type of society. While the embryonic world market was a dimension of primary capital accumulation, which was of global significance, the market did not and could not of itself impose generalised capitalist criteria upon social production, even within nationally limited territories. Production for use required limited, constrained and commodity-specific markets, but on the basis of their subordination to itself.

The generalisation of bourgeois relations depended substantially upon the stimulus of long distance trade, but cannot be reduced to it. Market relationships - involving luxury goods or otherwise - are necessary but not sufficient for capitalism. Indescribably more fundamental is the irreversible movement towards generalised commodity production arising upon the social foundations of the sale of labour power. It is in relation to this breakthrough within social production that the law of value emerges as the decisive regulator of social economy. To be more precise, the law of value as a global phenomenon evolves along with and through the characteristic productive forms associated with wage labour. The working class appears merely to suffer through the move to abstract labour and subordination of particularity: but an international class with an immanent need to overcome all forms of parochialism is created by large scale capitalist industry and its dynamic -thrust beyond the limiting nation state. For this reason, Marx in his day rightly applauded the Free Trade movement as progressive against all its opponents, whatever their political shadings. Not least, the "socialist" Lassalle posthumously received a memorable thrashing in the Critique of the Gotha Programme for sinking to the level of insisting that working class emancipation must proceed "within the framework of the present-day nation state," from which will somehow arise "the international brotherhood of peoples."

Against such meticulously corrupt ambiguity, Marx endorsed the international essence and movement of capital, and therefore of the working class, from the standpoint of the transience of both. The self-transformation of variable capital into the self-dissolving universal proletarian class hinges upon - is - the conscious liquidation of the capital form as a global process. Precisely because of this, capital and its political representatives, including those of a national socialist flavour, are as a life or death matter compelled to nationalise "their own" territorially specific variable capital. This is done quite consciously by the Keyneses of this world in order to impose limits upon proletarian development. Their more "practical" hangers on bloodily echo the vile refrain. In this context Churchill, Attlee, Hitler, Mao, Stalin, Khruschev and Gorbachev spring immediately to mind. When their tactical differences are placed to one side, it becomes transparently clear that they are all devoted to the suppression of communism and stand against collective labour, especially when they place themselves at its head.

Situations where Free Trade ideas and practices are disseminated throughout society are dangerous for capital because they reinforce the objectively international character of working class activity. In nineteenth century Britain this obliged the ruling class to wage a colossal ideological campaign to obscure the awkward, global truth about wage labour. We find an especially grotesque echo of that project in the same country today. The Thatcher government implements such measures as the abolition of exchange controls. Whilst being a reactionary utopia in the epoch of bourgeois decline, on paper at least all this has a certain illusory grandeur insofar as it evokes memories of the once progressive law of value. Yet, inevitably, these latterday Don Quixotes of political economy simultaneously indulge in tasteless homilies in favour of the pitifully narrow nation state, "the family", "our culture" and other tattered rags of a shabby little social order that long ago surpassed mere foulness. Be it from Thatcher, from Kinnock, from Reagan/Bush or from Gorbachev, the message is: exchange value must flourish internationally; meanwhile, give the working class flags of various patterns to dry its tears upon. Skillfully constructed drivel is disseminated through various channels to remind workers of their place within the bourgeois world. Repressive identities centred upon race, gender and the rest correspond to specific lines of fracture across abstract tabour. Capital, in other words, is obliged to concede various divisive rights to forestall full proletarianisation. Privatised shares, it is hoped, will provide additional consolation during the long cold winter nights. But the most crucial forms of working class containment are developed for and within the workplace itself.

So great and unremitting is the force of combined labour that capital must permanently improvise strategies and tactics for control. It is not accidental that these increasingly mimic the democratic core of revolutionary proletarian needs. "Small groups" (relatively autonomous functional sub-entities within the capitalist division of labour), "participation," and "consultation" figure prominently in post-October management practice. Employers and their ideological representatives recognise "work groups" - even seek to construct them - as potential socialising allies of capital. Yet at a deeper level, psychologism and individuation of labour power remain the bedrock of this "human relations" charade, and necessarily so. For collective labour cannot be realised within bourgeois society. The capital form creates collective labour as potential, yet constitutes a barrier against it. It is therefore as latency that collective labour, chief location and dynamo of the need for communism, dominates the earth. The promise of communism, which is the real vindication of epochs of human suffering, is still, as Marx described it, "...an association of free individuals who work with jointly owned means of production, and wittingly expend their several labour powers as a combined social labour power." The need for communism is no more and no less than the need for such free association through a conscious ("witting") collectively evolving plan. Against this the history of the greater part of the twentieth century has been the history of administrative prevention of planning. The elemental class struggle certainly has not ceased. Moreover, it inevitably and, at times, disruptively makes itself felt even within these zones and apparatuses of external control. In the aftermath of the destruction of October, however, class struggle has failed to generate social formations transitional to communism. Instead of conscious planning we have a variety of national and, increasingly, transnational forms of administrative subordination. These complicate and qualify the operations of the law of value, but precisely in order to preserve it on a world scale. Stalinism and social democracy are, scientifically speaking, partial suspensions of the law of value, both in time and in space.

The transition to communism is in its essence the subordination of the law of value to the law of (conscious) planning, but against this movement stand the modern "organisers of labour," both Stalinist and social democratic. Only people who have lost their senses could propose that these unreformably nationalistic twin stars have developed the productive forces relative to capitalism. It is folly even to consider humanity's prospects in those terms, for both historically and within the present global economy of decay, stalinism and social democracy are the subordinate clauses of the capital form, its dependent variables. Neither can be said to possess a determinate law of motion in isolation from the bourgeois world which they exist to preserve. Enough, then, of two-campism, both in politics and, more fundamentally, within political economy. Capitalism is the only form of production on our planet which reveals an inner dynamic to move in non-contingent directions. Within its global scope, social democracy and stalinism are bourgeois mutations, not communist anticipations. They limit and in the case of stalinism, may even briefly entirely suspend the discipline of the market, but without imposing that of the consciously and democratically associating producers. Indeed, they are decisive and systematic obstacles to the latter, even where they "redistribute." Receiving presents can be nice, even if you have in fact paid for them and much more besides. But the self-emancipation of the greatest productive power on the planet is a distinct and higher process. Irrespective of their personal motivation, all "organisers of labour" who stand apart from labour itself as an objective and constraining expression of its alienated activity are, in the present epoch, organisers of decay. What they touch not merely turns to dust, but has a tendency to explode in their faces, such is the power of even latent
combined labour.

If it is to regulate social production, the law of value must regulate the existence of the working class. Social economy, under these conditions, appears as an aggregation of individualised exchange relations. This is, in fact, the everyday reality of the working class. Through this contract between this worker and this capitalist the compulsion to work is suffered as an individual responsibility rather than as a consequence of the social organisation of scarcity.

Capital is the total separation of both individual and collective producer from the means of production. As capital, that brutal rift is the form of productive human activity. The well-paid worker has no more escaped this subordination than the visibly destitute, who in turn gains nothing by appearing to stand Outside the meniality of the employed. Each is an aspect of absolute poverty, each is necessary to the subordination which they share. The one may see something to desire and resent in the specific plight of the other, but flight from one pole to the other can only be by the wings of Icarus.

Social scarcity is not a question of relative poverty, of a shortage of this or that particular commodity. The essential poverty of the working class does not even reside in an insufficiency of money, but in the unavoidability of the money form in capitalist society. What is at stake is absolute poverty, which is a process, not a quantifiable state. The producers are excluded from a direct relationship to the means of their existence. Absolute poverty is the chronic reproduction of the worker who must sell his or her capacity to labour as a commodity. The essential tendency is for tabour power to exist as something apart from the means of production, as abstract labour, atomised, alienated activity, only awaiting the impersonal call of the capitalist through the money mediation. Capital appears as the collective force, but it is combined labour that is brought into being.

The dazzling concrete diversity of combined labour both masks and facilitates the uniformity of abstract tabour. Abstract labour is manifested through and requires as its conditions, the range of concrete labours. But it is the former not the latter which reveals what is specific to value-creating labour, i.e. labour in capitalist society. Such labour has a twofold social character, but its essential nature is abstraction. Reformism, by contrast, tends to see only one pole, and the subordinate one at that. Its focus upon concrete labour and use value production "realistically" dreams away the hollowing out of life that is abstract labour. More than the phantoms of slumber inform the reformists' project: a socialism of concrete tabour. Theirs is a political project that obsessively strives to stabilise capitalist reproduction through the petrification of concrete labours (those of miners, dockers, etc). Theirs is the utopia of denying abstract labour and ideologically founding socialism on the transient forms of variable capital. Thus Bernstein in 1889 argued that "The highly-skilled fine instrument maker and the collier, the skilled house-decorator and the stoker, lead as a rule, a very different kind of life and have very different kinds of wants". From this he drew the inevitable conclusion that has sustained reformism since; there can be no distinct class politics. Political economy cannot so simply be dreamed or administered away: abstract, homogenous, human labour remains the living substance of the capital-labour relationship, and of the evolving universality of the working-class.

Combined labour, the revolutionary product of capitalist development and subject of history, is nothing less than the creation of a combined humanity. The continued subordination of this social form requires administration. Yet combined labour poses the possibility of, prospect of and need for communism. In developing the productive forces to unprecedented levels, capital socialises labour power, but within the constriction of private property. Combined labour embodies and is the principal site of the evolving need for a human existence. Capital's revolutionary historical role consists of bringing this productive power into existence. Capital must develop the productive forces as a social power in order to privately appropriate the resulting surplus, and the reproduction of labour power requires that even this is done through quasi-social forms of public administration.

Adam Smith's focus on the division of labour was revolutionary in its implications. The labour which capital divides, it must simultaneously reassemble as combined social labour. Moreover, the tendency of that social content is increasingly universal. The tragedy of capital, for capital, is that it cannot abolish the working class. Capital is compelled to seek ways to live with tile social forces of production which it creates. Because of its need for combined labour, capital cannot enduringly atomise the working class. Some labour powers may be relatively fragmented and dispersed, but only as a complication and development of social labour. Combined labour and the objective dependencies on which it rests survive managerial strategies such as reorganisation of production on multiple sites and even across continents. In fact, their effect is to develop further the working class as a world class, and to create conditions in which it becomes more and more necessary for the proletariat to recognise itself as a global force and relationship. As proletariat the working class needs and cannot help but strive towards communism.

The peculiar delusion that there could exist a "national proletariat" becomes more absurd with every stock market tremor. Even social democratic ideologists have begun to recognise this through notions like "meta-economy." Most spellbound in recent history have been political representatives of the working class in Britain. They have played upon and boasted about the temporary coincidence of capitalist development and British society in the nineteenth century. The root of Anglo-labourist delusions is the development of manufacturing in Britain, a fact which charlatans and naive nationalists have falsified in order to privilege that country as the confine in which capitalism first developed. We need to drop this baggage and emphasise that capitalism was always the development of a world system. The need for raw materials, labour power and markets required the subordination of all existing regimes to the needs of capital accumulation. To ensure this development, the British state had to play an international role. Yet the manufacturing base and home of capital accumulation was for a period Britain. The early development of collective labour was concentrated within the national boundaries. Nonetheless capital's real disinterest in the physical location of manufacturing found practical expression in increasing "British" investment in the USA, Argentina, Sweden and elsewhere. The coincidence of a developed collective labour and the national boundaries anticipated, in partial form, the problems of the system's decline. Britain remains a uniquely typical bastion of finance capital.

Britain is significant to world economy not least because of its early encounter with the specific problems of capitalism's decline. This is not to suggest that Britain is further down a path along which other countries can anticipate their own futures. Britain became the central location for the engineering of partial suspensions of the law of value. This would allow, at the world level, not just continued development through the law of value but also the operation of the latter in all its unfettered brutality. For world economy the achievement of the British welfare state has been a loose scab flapping over a repugnant history of slaughter and human degradation. For the world proletariat the welfare state cannot be described as a victory. At best it signals the promise of successful struggle but not the model of what can be achieved. It is precisely the political role of the welfare state, allowing the continued operation of bourgeois political economy on a world scale that makes it impossible as a future for the world proletariat. By their very nature the welfare provisions cannot be generalised but must always be partial. Indeed as the "Britishness" of the working class becomes less expedient for world economy so the more probable it becomes that Mexico City should be seen as the future of London rather than vice-versa. Whatever partial gains for the working-class it remains true that for the proletariat, as world collective labour, revolutionary self consciousness is the only destiny short of the intensification of present-day barbarism.

Suspensions of the law of value have already had significant effects on historical developments. There is little doubt that the politically stabilizing effects were crucial in the period after 1917. Whilst the Russian proletariat could not be militarily crushed they could be defeated by isolation. Already by 1917 the institutions and practices of the prevention of communism were sufficient to divide the working-class internationally. They were ready to be developed into a continuing strategy by the bourgeoisie so that the revolutionary crisis for capital could, without being resolved, be survived. Because of the nature of 1917 the Soviet Union has held a central place in the prevention of communism, especially through its disastrous effects on marxism. Yet in another sense it too remains a barbarous result of prior events in Europe. While successful prior reformist strategy helped prepare the conditions for stalinism it is also clear that stalinism became in turn a vital bolster to social democracy when it appeared to vindicate central administration.

The development of the world market permitted the fullest possible development of manufacturing in Britain. Under these conditions the proletariat could be developed as the social productive force. By 1871 agriculture was no more than one capitalist industry amongst others. Although improvements in productivity could not be ruled out, the agricultural sector no longer existed in Britain as a virgin source out of which a proletariat could be created. Other countries and the family were the reservoirs of any future labour power. What was and is significant within Britain is the social extent of the working class.

From at least the 1880s capital was persistently confronted in its homebase by developed collective labour. Since then, in addition, British manufacturing has been faced by superior and intensifying competition from abroad. Britain's privileged role as the world's workshop passed quickly and definitively. The corollary was a shift from laissez faire and internationalist free trade to the political search for the solution to a national problem. Social Imperialism and the reforming strand that was to become New Liberalism both grounded themselves in the necessity of nationalising the working class to prevent its autonomous development and so preserve stability. New Liberalism was a particularly coherent progamme for working class incorporation.

The partiality of the confrontation of capital and labour, the effective national confinement of a developed collective labour, and the global possibilities for capital, made possible and even ensured an historical fudge that would have been untenable for the totality. With varying degrees of clarity the revolutionary consequences of capital accumulation were recognised. Not only was the `social question' created but also, more significantly, several commentators noticed a disquieting internationalism amongst the working class. They drew the reformist conclusion
that worker aspirations should be directed into safer, national channels. All these reformers, charity workers, priests, journalists, bother-bodies and faffers had percieved, at a pragmatic level, that the historical counterpart to the unimpeded law of value is a revolutionary working class. The law of value compels a permanent turning over of the forms of collective labour. From its inherent necessity constantly to reinvent abstract labour and so to disabuse workers of any settled complacency in particular niches arises the universal class of propertyless outlaws.

In the containment of a class with a need to develop revolutionary theory we find the source of the most vicious aspects of capitalism's decline. From the political need to intercept the revolutionary development of the working class is born Social Imperialism, a museum attendant's plan for the preservation of capital. Social Imperialism required little more than the application of brute force abroad an to ensure a interminable delay of history on behalf of British productivity. This helped preserve and develop a relatively fixed structure of the working class. There were several supporting ideologies: eugenics, modern racism, reconstructed patriarchy, national efficiency, nationalism itself, and other special branches stapled to the tree of knowledge. Capital awakened its nocturnal professors, notably the first honoured expert in eugenics. Equally predictable were further apologetic developments within sociology and economics. To such as these we are endebted for the ideological groundwork for the mass death of world wars one and two. Max Weber deserves special thanks for his most plausible anticipatory rationalisation of the typically bureaucratic death camps.

The problem facing the bourgeoisie was confrontation with an organised working class. There were two aspects to this eventually futile exercise. On the objective side was the social extent of the working class as the decisive productive force. On the subjective side, the working class had already shown itself capable of developing organisational forms necessary for the ultimate autonomy of its needs from those of capital. The Paris events of 1871 forced intimations of transience into the consciousness of the ruling class.

The issue of whether the working class should be organised was superceded, for the bourgeoisie, by the political question of who should do the organising and how. New Liberalism was the most coherent intellectual development that arose from this challenge. It sought direct intervention in the workers' movement, especially in the development of its consciousness. The form which this took is illustrated by the concerns of two Oxford undergraduates of the 1880's: L. T. Hobhouse and Llewellyn Smith. Impressed by the argument of visiting trade union leader, John Barnett, that the strongest barrier to social revolution was the trade union, these two enthusiasts rushed to unionise agricultural workers. Their inspiration was to endure. Hobhouse went on to become a leading theorist of New Liberalism: Llewellyn Smith became a succesful civil servant, the first Commissioner of Labour in the Board of Trade. The workers, these pioneers had become convinced, must be organised: by them.

Schemes involving state intervention gathered momentum from the 1880's. Hobhouse was hired by C. P. Scott as leader writer on the Manchester Guardian with a brief to encourage the move from traditional liberalism to a more expanded version, with "an industrial as well as a political liberty." Along with Hobhouse other intellectuals participated in this project, especially Hobson, Spender, Masterman and Massingham. Together with the Webbs and Beveridge, these were to provide the basis of the political programme of legislation for the 1906 Liberal government. Lloyd George and Winston Churchill were the chief front politicians.

New Liberalism proposed and secured a reformulation of the relationship of the state to labour. This was never primarily a matter of concessions made to a militant working class. The working class made no lasting unambiguous proletarian gains, even when strikes, for example, catalysed particular concessions. There was no gain that was not also a defeat. At the forefront of the state response to working class demands was the deflection of proletarian self-formation. The working class was expected to feel gratitude and, perhaps, some pride. What really changed was the form of the wage. Part of it was to be nationalised, taking the form of a collective provision. The constant theme would be the "practical remedy". Of course the practical denoted something more than its empiricist pretensions. In an article published in 1908 Masterman revealed the deeper political concern: "The answer to what is called the menace of socialism is to establish a party which offers practical remedies for social evils, and can make people realise that it feels and works for them, as well as for the commercial and industrial power of the nation." The extension and differentiation of the nationalised part of the wage was to prove the real basis for a story of progress, of social evolution, a forward march. Success lay less in improved conditions of life than in the deliberate selection and nurturing of a form of "political" representation for the working class, i.e. social democracy. The working class could appear as an historical subject yet remain within the limits of capitalism. The opening of a political channel away from production required a division within the wage. Thus was born the non-theoretical politics of variable capital outside wage labour itself. The wage form was modified but preserved now with trade unions fixed as sufficient economic negotiators, with anti-proletarian consequences for the politics of the workplace.

The national component of the wage was based, formally, on a direct recognition of need. The containment of variable capital was never as straightforward as a merely political analysis could disclose. The point is not that the working class broke through the political forms, although this is inevitable, but rather that, in order to secure political stability, it was necessary to compromise bourgeois political economy. It was essential that there be a recognition of the particularity of labour, this labour, in this place, at this time, etc. against the universalising tendency of the movement toward abstract labour. Political success required material mitigation of the conditions of abstract labour that we call absolute poverty. So contradiction was present from the inception of reform. Its early proponents were keen not only to discredit and prevent "utopian socialism", but also to avoid measures that would dry the wellspring of "economic independence" (i.e. absolute poverty) from which flowed the reproduction of the material (labour power)' of economic growth (accumulation). The dream was to fix a "respectable" working class for an indefinite period of time. At this point new types of entity inevitably came into being. Contradiction between recognition of need (practical remedies, practicable socialism, liberal socialism) and abstract labour forced a general extension of bureaucratic control throughout the society. Administration flourished, for wherever a practical remedy was proposed it was invariably handcuffed by further proposals for control of its application. Continued operation of the law of value in this way required the extending mediation of direct administration.

The contradiction between absolute poverty and need was thus not overcome but was rather carried over into bureaucracy. In attempting to hold both sides together bureaucracy, in its modern form, is the typical organisation of the prevention of communism. Its trumpeted rationality springs from recognition of need and so the possibility of setting deliberate tasks (rather than the invisible hand of money), but is itself embedded within the non-rational constrictive framework of administrative power over people. This self-contradictory form is appropriate where recognition of need remains subordinated to the preservation of existing social relations which are no longer necessary. We are confronted by a highly developed absurdity, the recognition of need alongside continued suppression of planning. The illusory universality of bureaucracy is a pitiful surrogate for the universality of humanity as collective producer. It is not surprising that the former is the object of an extensive literature that oscillates between the horrific and the comic.

For the division of the wage to appear natural, capital must present itself as the form of supercession of working class association. Yet for there to be a real supercession, absolute poverty, the money mediated atomism of the working class, must be abolished. Since the realisation of needs and absolute poverty are incompatible, one must be subordinated to the other. The bourgeois solution requires the regulation, curtailment, and containment of needs within a 'rational' framework of rules and entitlements. We have then the bureaucratic advance to ensure the fair, reasonable and equitable distribution of next to nothing. Everyone now has the right to be poor under the glorious colours of this "socialism" of poverty, scarcity, and plod. The orderly queue of aspiring recipients is one of the finest achievements of capital's decline. The housing waiting list with its filtering system of points, the D.S.S. waiting room, and the bulk of unproductive administrators necessary to ensure fair application are the verses that form together a hymn to the utter irrationality of the formal recognition of needs under absolute poverty.

The point is not that we should refuse to support the gains of the last one hundred plus years but rather that we should recognise that the gains were not simply achieved by the trade unions and social democracy - quite the contrary, it was the gains that achieved social democracy and trade unions as the economic limit on workers' organisation. The working class combines within conditions brought about by capital. Their combination is the first attempt by workers to associate against capital, which as it develops into a struggle of class against class is political. To the extent that capital succeeds in limiting trade unions as fixed economic forms, preoccupied with the working class as variable capital, they are gains for the ruling class. To these forms corresponds the apolitical sphere of politics. Insofar as this is achieved, neither "politics" nor trade unionism has an existence or life of its own, but exist as derivative aspects of capital in decline.

It is true that suspension of the law of value can mitigate the insecurities of abstract labour, and this undoubtedly means real improvements for specific groups of workers. The benefits however are always mediated by one or another contortion - nation, religion, race, gender, age or so-called skill. These partial benefits permit a claim to effectiveness on the part of reformist parties. Necessarily they are chauvinist in every sense. At the same time, in the absence of a revolutionary class, left parties tend to veer between spectacular purity and opportunism. These are twin symptoms of a refusal to confront the twentieth century through the categories of its decay, i.e. from the standpoint of communism.

Debate over poverty was at the centre of the reform programme 'developed by the New Liberals from the 1880s. Bentham's utilitarianism was an adequate philosophical framework for the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834. Its raw conception of pleasure-pain only needed a chaotic mass of atomised individuals seeming to plead for external discipline from the good shepherd. Bentham, at the close of the eighteenth century, captured the necessary inseparability of absolute poverty, the law of value and capitalist production by correctly observing: "If the conditions of persons maintained without property by the labour of others were rendered more eligible, than that of persons maintained by their own labour then... individuals destitute of property would be continually withdrawing themselves from the class of persons maintained by their own labour, to the class of persons maintained by the labour of others."

Inspired by these principles, Bentham's former secretary, Edwin Chadwick, helped give the law of value its programmatic expression. In his 1832 poor law report Chadwick attacked the previous system because workers had been "under the strongest inducement to quit the less eligible class of labourers and enter the more eligible class of paupers." The subsequent legislation required a sharp distinction between poverty and pauperism, not only conceptually, but on the point of pain. The workhouse test asked the appropriate utilitarian questions. Pauperism and dependency had to be separated from poverty so that workers could grow in virtue along the latter path. Chadwick came to the point: "Poverty is the state of everyone who in order to obtain subsistence is forced to have recourse to labour." Engels justly described the legislation of 1834 as "the most open declaration of war by the bourgeoisie upon the proletariat".

The New Poor Law marked a programmatic highpoint of capitalism entering its maturity from the side of youth. It was necessarily against this that reformers like Hobhouse sought enlarged state intervention. Needs were so subordinated to accumulation that the wage was entirely production related. Hobhouse described it as a system that withheld "...all external supports" and so helped teach "the working classes to stand alone", to have "economic independence". Such atomist practice could not take account of the working class as a collective phenomenon. Specifically, it excluded the possibility for improvement through political action. New Liberals pursued a tactical division of the wage to include collective provision. This would permit working class advance that did not supercede the law of value.

The issues in the debate were revealed in the 1880's, especially as they related to unemployment and trade unions. In 1886 the West End Riot had focused the anxiety of polite society. The out of work ransacked shops from Piccadilly up through Mayfair and into Oxford Street. Their extraordinarily ferocious attack on property became the focus of respectable fears. Undoubtedly this boosted the flow of funds to the Mansion House fund for the unemployed. It was, though, in the dilemmas that accompanied the distribution of these funds that the point of growth of the welfare state apparatus becomes apparent. Defenders of the poor law and laissez-faire, the Charity Organisation Society (COS) criticised the hurried and haphazard relief, since it did not investigate whether the recipients were worthy, or might be corrupted to the path of dependency. The COS represented the orthodox view that the out of work were distinct individuals, each of whom should be dealt with on a casework basis: each would continue to be assessed according to character and moral condition. However, the prying moral judgement, appropriate to poor law `independence', was inadequate when the unemployed were perceived as part of the collective threat.

The correctness of tide COS view could not mean a return to their practice but pointed to the requirement for more "scientific" administrative channels. If the collective threat required the inclusion of the working class through collective provision, then for the subordination of the class this provision itself had to be subordinated. The spur to surplus value appropriation is blunted once the visible hand of relief erodes the invisible hand of the market for labour power: only an extension of administration to reproduce working class subordination can then hold the show together. Administration would include checking "availability for work", identity, validity of claim, means and the pursuit of fraud, all to muffle contradiction to the law of value: recognition of need had to be clearly delineated within the overall operation of the law of value.

Parallel policy was mapped out for the employed labour force. New Unionism had shown that organisation could spread to previously unorganised, casual, unskilled workers. Yet despite the threat, some form of unionism was recognised by Progressives as a means of containing working class Organisation. Their concern explains the extent of middle class support for New Unionism in 1889.

The dockers' strike of that year encapsulates many of the themes that were to be developed by the New Liberals, fabians, and labourism generally. As important as the pay rise, the dockers won recognition of the union. This was a significant limitation of the law of value. Previously, subject to short term hiring, dockers had lived the law of value daily. Now the union card was to be the passport to work in the docks. This had two consequences. First, by restricting the potential labour force, workers could assert far greater control over the labour process. Second, if the docker's card was necessary for docker's work, then its absence could leave him workless. The general extension of trade unionism necessarily entailed the emergence of unemployment as a social concept. The bourgeoisie conclude from this that unions cause unemployment: both are actually sides of the same bourgeois administrative apprehension of the working class.

The Liberal government of 1906-12 put into practice what had Previously been tentative, pragmatic, or haphazard. They were now the holders of a more thorough philosophical underpinning. As well as that, there was widespread interest in the example set by Bismark's state provisions. J. A. Spender and Lloyd George had gone over to see for themselves. They saw that the future worked, and returned convinced of the need for a more developed British version to stave off social revolution. With the election of the Liberals they could begin the process of placing this inspiration on the statute book.

Proto-social democrats like Beveridge, moreover, were at pains to enhance the "male breadwinner" assumption within their programme. Nineteenth century trade unionism in this respect provided expedient precedents. Those women who did enter paid employment had to find -means to reconcile it with the patriarchal home. The familial subordination of women was confirmed within the domestic side of the reproduction of labour power, while their direct proletarianisation was staved off. The ground was thus laid for the extension of a reserve army of labour status and therefore a double burden in the twentieth century: disadvantaged as labour power, and specifically oppressed within the family.

Within the early century legislative programme, trade unions and unemployment were the central themes. One of the first initiatives was to change the relation of unions to the law. The Taff Vale decision was reversed by the Trade Disputes Act of 1906 that restored a relatively secure legal status. Inseparable from the advancement of political space to the unions was an acceleration of their being drawn towards the state. The national Insurance Act of 1911 was the first legal recognition of the social concept of unemployment. Previously insurance schemes for the unemployed were union run. Now there were incentives to bring them within a general public administration. Spender explained the overall purpose as being to divert the working class both from the restrictive path of tariffs (threatening global fluidity of capital) and from social revolution. The 1911 measures and others (e.g.pensions) that made up the New Liberal policies constituted the earliest sustained programme for the administrative freezing of the working class.

Within the working class there was a widespread conception of the autonomy of its interests from those of capital. Moreover, the 'state socialism' of the New Liberals was explicitly opposed within the syndicalism of that period. The unrest following 1910 was characterised by struggles in which direct action was a vital component. This content, expressed in the struggle itself, reflected the real collectivity of combined labour and pointed not just past the particular organisational forms but also beyond the class's atomisation and one-sided unification under capital. It was a preliminary appearance of planning. The strength and spread of grassroots activity was much remarked on in this period especially by those who perceived it as a threat. Ruling class alarm was strengthened by the events of October 1917. The trajectory of the postwar working class, its revolutionary inclinations, was a dominating feature of the whole inter-war period, and the bourgeoisie knew it. Thus, even when the immediate political crisis had passed, its reverberations continued to sustain reform. The character of working class organisation had become a vital question. For the bourgeoisie this required a deliberate fixing of forms against their incipient revolutionary content. Churchill later complained that at the height of the working class militancy, in February 1919: "The curse of trade unionism was that there was not enough of it, and it was not highly enough developed to make its branch secretaries [let alone, its rank and file] fall into line with the head office."

Throughout the following period public provision was expanded and trade union leaders were encouraged. From 1913 to 1922 state expenditure on social services as a proportion of national income doubled to 10%. The general trend of expansion continued along bourgeois lines. The 1945 Labour government was not the crowning achievement of a maturing working class movement, but the continuation of a ruling class strategy first codified by the New Liberals, and predicated on marginalisation of the left. New Liberal thinking pervaded the Attlee regime. At centre stage were Beveridge and, of course, Keynes.

Keynes, active since world war one in New Liberalism, was its culmination. His General Theory developed the formulae for an overall economic management that had at its centre "national income." Keynes pursued New Liberalism to the point where it offered domestic policy targets, especially for employment which a national consensus could be formed. He saw it as his aim to provide the Labour Party with an "economically sound" policy. Labour would thus concentrate upon "the practical", a notion more recently promoted by Alec Nove under the, utopian banner of "feasible socialism". Keynes proposed in 1932 that "...in the modern world it has to be one thing or the other. Either the revolutionary motif- must prevail or the practical motif." He recognised, moreover, that "great changes will not be carried out except with the active aid of labour". The instrument would be the Labour Party: it alone could provide the spirit that "loves the ordinary man", while the liberals would provide "technical knowledge". To prove their soundness, policies would have to satisfy "...the criticism and precaution of Liberals". It was a very precise division of labour. Where the law of value has commodity fetishism, its modification required the fetishism of the expert, the rational limitation of consciousness. The right solution, for Keynes, would involve "intellectual and scientific elements", i.e. people of his character, calibre and class.

If such a "forward march of labour" could successfully prevent communism, this did not mean the uneventful continuation of capitalism. Prevention was not cure but an aspect of decline. The dynamic of capital can only rest on the law of value. On this there is no choice. The prevention of communism itself becomes a barrier to accumulation. By its very nature, as political project, it favours the stability of the present, a short-run conception of the working class in its concrete forms, and must do so at the expense of retarding development in relation to other centres. This works so long as working class struggle is contained, profits are not fundamentally threatened and advances abroad are not too overwhelming. It is on these points that the New Right led its recent counter-attack on welfare, trade unions and the economic management of the preceding decades. Existing administered policy targets were identified as contributing to a crisis of the system through chronic political accommodation to national labour, so curbing 'economic evolution', what Schumpeter had called 'the perennial gale of creative destruction' and what Marx discovered as the accumulation of capital. Administration can forestall communism but ultimately only at the expense of accumulation. Capitalism does not rise but decays into the prevention of communism.

Combined labour makes the prevention of communism an unavoidable hallmark of capitalism in decline. Capital, therefore, can only try to administer the inevitable crises alongside and as part of continuing attempts to administer the class. Though they cannot directly understand the law of value, the free marketeers do recognise its essential practice. The policy of the present British government is to reunify the wage within the sphere of production. The ideology of consumer choice is founded on the primacy of production and hence production relations. Choice, in capitalist society, presupposes the reunified wage from which it shall be exercised. The economic independence of the poor law is, today, glorified and generalised as consumer choice. Beneath the rhetoric lies an intensification of the basis of capitalist production: absolute poverty.

The bankruptcy of the forms of the prevention of communism stands behind the right's appeal - absurd when scrutinised - to the sovereignty of the consumer. Given their subordination to the law of value, it is scarcely surprising that these forms should be discredited in a period of profound crisis. This, however, is not simply a popularity contest. Stalinism and social democracy have no motion of their own. They are dependent upon, yet restrict, even while assisting, capital. The most significant concrete example, globally, is the Soviet Union. There, much as in China, the decomposition of stalinism is a daily process. The centre never held, and now things fall apart: even the men of marble are driven to admit as much.

The logic of the Gorbachev reforms is some restoration of market relations, not to gratify consumers, but as an aspect of labour intensification and the disciplining of the working class at work. The leaders have no choice: the myth of Soviet planning and its vaunted successes is discredited by their own confessions, as it was already by science. From the standpoint of the elite, every workplace must become a gulag.

The dependent forms offer no viable future. In the course of their demise, the free market utopia can present itself against them as the only alternative. In the short term this undoubtedly lends credibility to the Thatcher regime and its international clones. Yet events taking place within the Soviet Union and stalinism internationally must be welcomed by the left. Gorbachev and all he stands for is and can only be Stalinism's final service to the bourgeoisie. No longer does stalinism merely endorse the Hayekian antithesis of central planning versus the market: it actually asserts the superiority of the latter. All ideologies founded on the characterisation of the Soviet Union as a worker's state, however "degenerated", are thereby dissolved. By raising the white flag for reasons of social economy, Gorbachev reduces these barriers against proletarian development to splinters. The drive which he must continue is towards the market, even though this means the demise of the elite and therefore of himself.

Yet where the law of value does operate in the epoch of decline, and in the face of combined labour, it still requires a framework of administration: be it in the form of "training" structures, Freeport mini-police states, closely monitored education, or whatever. Absolute poverty is increasingly imposed through the mediation of more rigorously coercive administrative aparatuses. Without such an institutional framework, involving new and more intransigent bureaucracies, the "right to work" is sentimental nonsense. Gorbachev's KGB and their bourgeois counterparts shake hands at this juncture and drink a toast to glasnost.

A movement for communism must break the ideological association between stalinism and social democracy on the one hand, and planning on the other. Planning is the social presence of the freely associating proletariat and, beyond that, the human form of existence.

D.Binns and W.Dixon

Back to Bax - Radical Chains

Belfort Bax belonged to the first generation of British Marxists. He was the philosopher who introduced William Morris to dialectics. From Radical Chains no.1

Submitted by sgel on June 17, 2011

radical chains

As the twentieth century comes to a close welfare socialism appears to be running out along with the sands of time. The great reforming arch of Fabianism recedes into the past and the revolutionary oppositions to that entire project appear as no more than half buried sectarian remains. But it is precisely to this past that we will have to return, examining both the battles fought and the manner of the defeats, if we are to recover the threads of a genuinely revolutionary politics.

A hundred years ago Victorian England, at the very height of its powers, produced the first generation of marxists in this country Among this small circle Ernest Belfort Bax was by for the most original and gifted exponent of the new theory of social revolution. Yet today he lies in obscurity. William Morris and Henry Hyndman are known but the man they both recognised as the "philosopher of the movement" remains an enigma. He was the only one to have lived in Germany and explored first hand the great tradition of German philosophy. At the same time he was the one who most embodied the conventions of Victorian family life. Descended from the gentry he combines their traditions of independence with a loathing for the philistinism and anti- intellectualism of a triumphant bourgeoisie. Unravelling the contradictions of his life offers an insight into the specifically English beginnings of marxism while at the same time highlighting some of its unresolved problems.

Born in 1854, Bax was the youngest of four children, in a rising bourgeois family, that had its roots in the landed gentry of Surrey. His stubborn refusal as a child to take evangelicalism seriously led to his parents keeping him at home, privately tutored, lonely and terrified of the dark recesses of Victorian home life, yet learning in his struggle against parental authority to survive by the sharp use of his intellect. In the mid seventies his father willingly sent him to Germany to pursue his musical studies, casting him off with a yearly stipend. It was then that he absorbed German philosophy and encountered the subversive reasoning of Hegel. He returned to England determined to expose the secrets of Victorian society.

Bax threw himself into his work: articles and translations followed. In 1879 he attended the last annual dinner commemorating the Paris Commune. He met some of the old Communards and one of them, Hermann Jung, introduced him to the writings of Marx and the revolutionary traditions of the workers movement in Europe Later that year he read Das Kapital and henceforth was "practically in the movement". For Bax socialism was simply the logical outcome of his intellectuals labours. In the journal Modern Thought he wrote in quick succession articles on socialism and assessments of Hegel, Wagner and Marx. At last Marx felt that someone in England had really grasped his argument and had a "real enthusiasm for the new ideas themselves" and he wrote to the Russian revolutionary Pyotr Lavrov saying how struck he was by the "sincerely" and "ring of true conviction" in Bax's writing.

During the eighties and nineties Bax combined general publicist work in the pages of Justice, and for a time Commonweal, with a flow of articles on all aspects of socialism. He wrote books on Marat, the French Revolution and the Paris Commune and four volumes on German history all aimed at stimulating an historical imagination, which he felt was lacking within English Culture, and yet was absolutely vital to the revolutionary process. With William Morris, whom he painstakenly educated in Marxist theory, he wrote Socialism: Its Growth and Outcome. But above all it was the great achievements of German philosophy that he sought to publicise. He translated and published Kant's Prolegomena and Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science and a selection of essays by Schopenhauer, Four Fold Root and Will in Nature, but his most influential and successful work was his Handbook to the History of Philosophy. This was the book that so influenced Shaw's intellectual development and helped confirm for Hyndman that Bax was a truly "original thinker". At this time Bax's influence was deep and widespread. .

The individual he had the most decisive influence on was William Morris. The French Marxist Paul Meier in his massive two volume study, William Morris: the Marxist Dreamer (Harvester 1975), points to the decisive influence Bax had in introducing dialectics to Morris. Their close friendship in the eighties brought about a leap in Morris's thinking and was at the basis of the success of Commonweal in those years. Bax introduced his friend to the idea of history as a spiralling not linear process, the unity of opposites and the centrality of class war to contemporary politics. Having come to revolutionary socialism through a study of German philosophy and a reading of Hegel he was unwilling to accept the conclusion that accounts with philosophy had been settled once and for all. By maintaining that Hegel provided the philosophical foundations of scientific socialism he held to what was essentially an idealist position in politics at a time when the whole drift of the workers movement was towards a mechanistic and passive economism as expressed in the writings and leadership of Karl Kautsky. It is interesting that even from this essentially Hegelian position Bax was the first to expose Bernstein's disillusionment with revolutionary socialism and openly accused him of seeking "a mediating principle" between capitalism and socialism and of having thus "lost sight of the ultimate object of the movement." Bax's decisive role in initiating the great "Revisionist Debate" within German Social Democracy in 1896 has recently been acknowledged by the Tudors in their study Marxism and Social Democracy (Cambridge University Press, 1988).

Internationally Bax was known both for his writings and his work in helping to establish the Second International. Some of his essays were translated into German, French and Russian. His books were widely distributed in America. It was Bax who chaired the meeting at Roubaix that initiated the process of establishing the Second International. He was on good terms with Engels, Plekhanov, Guesde and Lafargue and "the men of the German movement": Liebknecht, Bebel, Singer, Bernstein and Kautsky. He was an acknowledged and respected leader of English Social Democracy.

Some things were less hidden in Victorian England. Bax was a bundle of contradictions: intellectually brilliant but politically inept, gentle yet arrogant, caring yet intolerant man of independent mind and means, he enjoyed a class and sex priviledge long characteristic of a stratum of English intellectuals. All this was writ large in his own life in ways that today would be dealt with far more discretely. His own childhood had been nightmarish, and when in 1893 his wife died leaving him with seven young children he boarded them out and the experience convinced him that the division of labour between the sexes would never be changed short of the most developed of future socialist societies. Consequently when the suffragette movement came to the fore, Bax saw it as an assertion of female priviledge at the expense of men: a demand for equality in public life and the professions that left unquestioned the differing dispositions of male and female and the demands of intellectual as opposed to home life. His anti-feminism, although quietly shared by many of his fellow socialists, became for him a matter of principle. For him the job of socialists was to instil the idea of class war, all reforms were diversionary and none more so than that which sought the equality of the sexes in a capitalist society.

It was a position consistent with the Social Democratic Federation's rejection of compromises in the pursuit of the revolution The commitment to the revolutionary idea succeeded in bringing into the party many of the outstanding working class trade unionists and autodidacts of the period: Harry Quelch, John Burns, Ben Tillet, Will Thorne and Tom Mann. However, it resulted in a sectarianism that rendered the party ineffectual when War was declared in 1914.

Lenin's conclusion concerning the original pioneers of marxism is apt. They had, he said, "learned ...and taught others dialectics ... but in the application of these dialectics they ... proved ...to be so undialectical ... ". They "were 'enchanted' by one definite form of growth of the working-class movement and socialism, forgot about the one-sidedness of this form, were afraid of seeing (its) sharp break-up ... and continued to repeat simple truths, learned by rote, and at first glance incontestable...". Their failure was not a purely intellectual one. Here Bax is exemplary. Few of his generation had a better grasp of dialectics. Yet it was an essentially formal understanding so that when it came to the practical application of dialectics he was as one-sided as any. He belonged to a generation that were never dislodged from the protection of their class and sex privileges and when the crisis of war and revolution finally engulfed Europe they were unable to respond as revolutionaries: whether it was Plekhanov in Russia, Kautsky in Germany or Bax in England. They were still too attached to bourgeois society.


Radical Chains #2

Issue 2 of Radical Chains, cleaned up from the scan made by the Spirit of Revolt archive.

Submitted by Fozzie on January 15, 2019

The myth of working class passivity - Radical Chains

There is an unbridgeable gap between the project outlined in Lenin's What is to be Done? and the principle of proletarian self-emancipation. We must return to Marx. More importantly we must return to the developing political economy of the working class. Crucially, we must examine the conditions which are the outcome of working class struggle but against which the working class is forced to struggle again ... From Radical Chains no.2.

Submitted by sgel on June 17, 2011

radical chains

In the enchanted world of capital the emancipation of the working class can only be won by the working class itself. To say this, however, is to make assumptions and raise questions about the relations between consciousness and ideology, theory and practice, class and party, and about the nature of the transition to communism itself. These questions have often been approached through the theory of fetishism and, at its most extreme, this theory has been appropriated in such a way as to be posited as an absolute barrier to consciousness and so, by implication, to self-emancipation. This form of its appropriation is however erroneous. There is, in fact, no inconsistency between the theory of fetishism and the principles of proletarian self-emancipation.

To show this, however, it is first necessary to outline the nature of the assumptions underlying the notion that fetishism is an absolute barrier to consciousness. These assumptions, it will be argued, involve the abstraction of consciousness from the rest of social reality and more fundamentally, the assumption of working class passivity. This is followed by a close reading of Marx which attempts to specify the wider context of which the theory of fetishism is a part. This matrix, it is argued, includes not just the law of value but the embryonic law of planning and the self-formation of the working class through the conscious determination of needs. Finally, it is necessary to look at the events since the death of Marx which appear to contradict this analysis. By locating these phenomena within the political economy of the prevention of communism (Binns & Dixon, Radical Chains 1:1) it is possible to avoid the conclusion of working class passivity in the face of bourgeois ideology.

It should be stressed that what follows is not offered as a definitive answer to these questions. For one thing, it fails to take up the phenomenon of credit and inflation discussed by Lipietz for . example (see his The Enchanted World: Inflation Credit and World Crisis, Verso 1985). For another, although the analysis outlined here has implications for questions of organisation these are not drawn out. Finally, little is said about the evolution of Marx's own thought on the subject. It is hoped that these issues will be taken up at a later date.

The core of the theory of fetishism - to give an initial characterisation - is that under capitalism social labour cannot appear as social labour but only in the form of the exchange of objects as equivalents. This has implications for the nature of bourgeois ideology. Contemporary discussions of fetishism tend to draw out these implications. The focus is on two interrelated features of bourgeois ideological forms. First, in such economies, social relations appear in the form of (or are confused with) things. Second, what is social and historical appears to be (or is taken to be) natural and eternal. It is because social relations appear in the form of things (or are taken to be things), that capitalist social relations appear to be (or are taken to be) natural. Commodity fetishism is then, presented as the basis of ideological mystification in bourgeois society.

It can hardly be said that there has been an extensive debate on the subject. However, in contemporary discussions of fetishism two apparently opposed interpretations can be discerned which might be thought to imply very different political strategies. On the one hand, "objectivists" such as Slaughter stress that fetishism can be removed only in the practical solution of the material conditions which give rise to it. On the other hand, "subjectivists" such as Ollman suggest that fetishism is an intellectual error amenable to correction by intellectual means alone. In fact, these apparently opposed positions converge and their convergence can be traced back to shared assumptions about the nature of the working class. Slaughter and Ollman are cited only as 'representatives' of two apparently opposed understandings of fetishism common on the left.

An example of the "objectivist" account can be found in Slaughter, according to whom: 'By 'commodity fetishism' Marx means the objective appearances of the social characteristics of labour'. In other words, men's own mutual relations appear to them in the form of the set characteristics of material objects, the products of their own labour" (Cliff Slaughter, Marxism and the Class Struggle, New Park, 1975). This conception of fetishism, Slaughter argues, stresses "the actual oppression of the producers by the system of capitalist production, and not just the distortion of their class consciousness" (ibid). Fetishism is for Slaughter, a question of domination as well as of mystification. But the question of mystification is important too, for Slaughter holds that it is the objective appearances of bourgeois society which trap workers within the limitations of "trade union consciousness" (ibid). Class struggle, in this conception becomes reduced to a struggle between bourgeois ideology and marxist theory for hegemony over the consciousness of the working class : "even though the mass of workers experience exploitation, it is necessary for a struggle to take place between their existing consciousness on the one hand, and Marxism on the other" (ibid). "Consciousness", in the form of marxist theory, must, Slaughter argues, therefore be brought to the workers "from outside".

An example of the apparently opposed view -the "subjectivist" account - can be found in Ollman. The theory of commodity fetishism here "refers to people's misconception of the products of labour once they enter exchange, a misconception which accords these forms of value leading roles in what is still a human drama" (Bertell Ollman, Alienation, Cambridge 1971). Workers experience exploitation, but in the course of this experience, "are prone to confuse the means with the people who direct them, and to attribute to inanimate objects the social character of an exploiting agency" (ibid). By conceiving of means of production as means of exploitation, Ollman argues, workers grant them the power to exploit. Workers find their inclinations in conflict with the demands of a particular situation but "they consistently misunderstand and are incapable of responding to it in ways that would promote their interests" (ibid).

Elsewhere Ollman spells out the political implications more fully, although he makes no explicit reference to the theory of fetishism. Conditions have been ripe for communism since 1848: "If it was not conditions which failed Marx, it must have been the working class" (Bertell Ollman, Social and Sexual Revolution, Pluto, 1979). The task for socialists is, therefore education. Workers aged much over forty are effectively lost for revolution and socialists must focus their efforts on "teenage and even younger members of the working class" (ibid). The task is "to help alter the character structure of the next generation of workers" (ibid). Ollman's strategy for social revolution finds its highest expression in his board game Class Struggle.

"Objectivists" and "subjectivists" tend to converge in abstracting consciousness from, and counterposing it to, the rest of social reality. This necessarily creates the need to deliver "consciousness" to the workers. The project must, however, strike a reef. If fetishism is a barrier to workers' consciousness, it must also be a barrier to the consciousness of the revolutionary intelligentsia. The educators must themselves be educated. Two possibilities follow. Either there is no need to bring consciousness to the workers or it is impossible. The "solution" to the problem is a pseudo-solution and this is because the problem, as set up, is insoluble.

In fact the problem is itself a pseudo-problem. Underlying the abstraction of consciousness from the rest of social reality is the assumption- not necessarily consciously held - that the working class is essentially passive. While workers may struggle against this or that aspect of capitalism, it is assumed they never struggle against the whole. Their struggles therefore have no impact upon the social structure and so have no tendency towards communism. This supposed passivity has to be explained and the explanation has been in terms of ideology or commodity fetishism. Fetishism is an objective aspect of the social production of commodities but when the working class is assumed to be passive the question of whether fetishism is "objective" or "subjective" loses its significance. Whether fetishism is understood to be "objective" or "subjective" is secondary to the assumption of working class passivity.

It is necessary to understand the terms of reference within which such a conclusion might be reached. The principle work to be examined in this context is What Is To Be Done? This text, written in 1902, provides a particular "model" of the relations between class and party and between consciousness and ideology to which the assumption of working class passivity is central. Even those who reject or oppose "leninism" have often taken on board the assumption of working class passivity. What Is To Be Done? has become a perennial source of fascination for the left. This is because it appears to address contemporary concerns. Some of its assumptions have become a taken-for-granted frame of reference within which the left moves; they have indeed passed into the "common-sense" of the left.

The central concern of What is to be Done? is the supposed containment of the working class within the "economic struggle", through which, with the help of socialist agitation, workers learn to "sell their commodity on better terms and to fight their employers over a purely commercial deal" (WITBD). This "containment" is attributed to the influence of bourgeois ideology : "The working class spontaneously gravitates towards socialism, but the more widespread (and continually revived in the most diverse forms) bourgeois ideology nevertheless, spontaneously imposes itself still more" (Ibid).

To be freed of the influence of bourgeois ideology workers must acquire knowledge of the totality of bourgeois social relations: "Class political consciousness can be brought to the workers only from without, that is only from outside of the economic struggle, from outside of the sphere of relations between workers and employers. The sphere from which alone it is possible to obtain this knowledge is the sphere of relationships between all the classes and strata and the state and the government, the sphere of the inter-relations between all the classes" (ibid).

Because the influence of bourgeois ideology is so strong, the knowledge necessary for revolutionary change and indeed socialist consciousness itself, can only be "brought to" the working class "from without". 'The history of all countries shows that the working class, exclusively by its own efforts, is able to develop only trade union consciousness, ie the conviction that it is necessary to combine in unions, fight the employers and strive to compel the government to pass necessary labour legislation, etc. The theory of socialism, however, grew out of the philosophic, historical and economic theories that were elaborated by the educated representatives of the propertied classes, the intellectuals" (Ibid).

A number of criticisms can be made. First, the category of the "economic struggle" corresponds to no known social reality. Even the struggle over the length of the working day in the nineteenth century threw capital into crisis, necessitating the transition to another form of capital accumulation . Secondly, if history "shows" anything, it is that workers are quite capable of going beyond "trade union consciousness". 1848 and 1871 are examples - ones of which Lenin should have been aware. Indeed the experience of 1905 led Lenin to distance himself, if ambiguously, from some of his formulations about working class consciousness. Finally, if the strength of bourgeois ideology is such that it "spontaneously" imposes itself on the working class, it must "spontaneously" impose itself on the educators too. Again, the project of bringing consciousness to the workers "from the outside" is either unnecessary or impossible.

The most important point, however, concerns the abstraction of consciousness and ideology from political economy. What is to be Done? might be a response to a real problem. Although it effectively deals with only the surface phenomena, it deals with them in such a way that it has been able to pass into the common sense of the left as a set of taken-for-granted assumptions. These assumptions have become so ingrained that they are often read into Marx's discussion of commodity fetishism. In turn, the theory of fetishism is used to explain the phenomena observed in What Is To Be Done? One commentator has put it; "The classical expression of the Marxist, theory of revolutionary organisation, Lenin's What Is To Be Done?, was not written primarily as a theory of ideology as such, and Lenin does not explicitly account for the dominance of bourgeois ideology in trade-union consciousness in terms of the political economy of capitalist society. Nevertheless, his conception of a 'trained organisation of revolutionaries capable of maintaining the energy, stability and continuity of the revolutionary struggle' derives its rationale from the 'fetishism of commodities' in capitalist society" (David Binns, Beyond the Sociology of Conflict, Macmillan 1977). It is assumed that in the discussion of fetishism in 'Capital' and elsewhere Marx is concerned to understand the supposed passivity of the working class. Commodity fetishism then becomes the explanation for this supposed passivity. In fact, however, Marx is not concerned with working class passivity but with its self-activity.

This concern with the self-activity of the working class is brought out clearly in Marx's analysis of the process of class formation. This is the process by which living labour overcomes the its social atomisation and constitutes itself as a social force capable of organising production in accordance with consciously determined need. It is a process of political economy with an inherent tendency towards communism. It is out of this process that class consciousness develops. The analysis of class formation first appears in the Poverty of Philosophy (1847) and The Communist Manifesto (1848). It re-appears in Marx's "later" writings in a more developed form.

For Marx, the subordination of living labour to capital is not given, but is conditioned by the struggle of the working class. In the course of this struggle, which is at once economic and political as in the Chartist movement, for example the working class develops itself as a social force. The atomisation resulting from the competition over the sale of labour power and from the power of capital forces workers to combine to maintain their wages. In so doing they both eliminate competition among themselves and unite against their employers. In time, and especially with the experience of capitalist repression, the maintenance of combination becomes more important than the maintenance of wages. Combinations then became permanent associations, towards the preservation of which wages might often be sacrificed.

A form of self organisation developed for one purpose takes on new functions. Indeed for Marx the formation of combinations is part of the process of the formation of the class itself - not merely something workers do, but an active expression of the developing social being of the proletariat. In the place of a multitude of atomised individuals, stand networks of conscious association. Hence Marx speaks of "strikes, combinations and other forms in which the proletarians carry out before their own eyes their organisation as a class" (Poverty of Philosophy).

Consciousness grows out of the struggles of the workers themselves. In the course of this struggle the proletariat is joined by intellectuals "who have raised themselves to the level of comprehending theoretically the historical movement as a whole" (Communist Manifesto). The "theoretical conclusions" of these intellectuals "are in no way based on ideas or principles invented, or discovered by, this or that would-be reformer. They merely express, in general terms, actual relations springing from an existing class struggle, from an historical movement going on under their very eyes" (Ibid). Theory is descriptive and explanatory rather than prescriptive. It draws out, generalises or makes explicit what is already implied by the conscious struggle and organisation of workers themselves. The emphasis is on the self-activity of the working class. Indeed, in contrast to What is to be Done?, in which the working class is activated from the outside, Marx argues that revolutionary intellectuals join the working class only "in times when the class struggle nears the decisive hour" (Ibid).

Marx's concern with the self-activity of the working class and the process of class formation is not restricted to the Poverty of Philosophy and The Communist Manifesto; it runs through the discussions of fetishism in Capital and elsewhere. This, however, has been obscured by the influence of the assumptions embodied in What Is To Be Done? The best accounts of fetishism have pointed to the organic connection between fetishism and the law of value. In doing so, they have specified only one part of the matrix within which the theory of fetishism is embedded. The theory of fetishism constitutes part of a totality which includes not only the law of value but also the law of planning. The law of planning is the basis for working class self-formation and it is this process of class formation which undermines the material basis of commodity fetishism: the law of value. In Marx, the theory of fetishism, is developed in connection with an account of class formation. Commodity fetishism is not the explanation of working class "passivity", but is actively undermined in the process of working class self-formation. Capital has been read, re-read, and read politically, and yet this point remains unacknowledged.

The theory of commodity fetishism refers to the inverted appearances of the social forms and relations of bourgeois commodity production and of the forces and relations of its dissolution and supervision. For Marx, fetishism is not static or unchanging but intensifies with the development of the capital form itself. Capital, however, is the social relation between capital and wage labour. It is, therefore, a relation of exploitation and of struggle. It develops through different forms and, as it changes, its fetishised forms of appearance change also. In changing, they are both intensified and suspended. This is both the result of the process of class formation and a ground of its possibility.

This side of Marx's account is easily missed. Often the key points are implied rather than stated explicitly and have therefore to be drawn out. Sometimes they take the form of apparently off-the-cuff remarks and throw-away statements, the real significance of which is unclear. This may seem odd, but this is to forget two things : First, Marx could take class struggle and class formation for granted and could not have foreseen its being deflected by the forms of the prevention of communism. Second, he could not have foreseen the ways in which the theory of fetishism would be re-interpreted in light of the prevention of communism.

Under conditions of commodity production, Marx argues, commodities exchange at their values, ie, in accordance with the labour socially necessary for their production. The production of commodities presupposes an atomised society of independent producers who produce solely for exchange, their activities being regulated neither by custom nor by conscious planning, but by the requirement that no more labour than is socially necessary shall be expended in production. The law of value regulates the social existence of the producers through competition, but this appears to the participants only in the form of the movement of prices. Social relations are not fixed but created anew with every act of exchange. The social existence of individuals is precarious because they cannot know in advance whether their labour is socially necessary.

Through money the social connections between atomised individuals are facilitated. Labour power, abstracted from and indifferent to, any specific end, becomes measurable and its measurability exists in the form of money as universal equivalent. This abstract labour is the substance of value yet value appears as a property of things. Products appear to exchange on the market in accordance with natural laws. The social basis of exchange, abstract labour, does not appear. Because individual labour is mediated by exchange, "the relations connecting the labour of one individual with that of the rest appear, not as direct social relations, between people at work, but as what they really are, material relations between persons and social relations between things" (Capital vol I).

Universal exchange requires the existence of the universal equivalent: money. Because of its physical divisibility, gold is well suited for this function. Its money-form is not an intrinsic property of gold, "but is merely the form under which certain social relations manifest themselves" (Capital vol 1). Gold becomes money because all other commodities have come to express their values in it. But the actual process appears in inverted form : it appears that "all other commodities express their values in gold, because it is money" (ibid). In money, "a social relation, a definite relation between individuals, here appears as a metal, a stone, a purely physical, external thing, which can be found, as such, in nature, and whom is indistinguishable from its natural existence" (Grundrisse,1858, p 234). This is what Marx calls "the magic of money" (Capital vol I).

This tendency intensifies with the emergence of workers' co-operative factories and capitalist joint-stock companies. In both forms the function of supervision is "entirely divorced from the ownership of capital" (Capital vol III). With the development of these forms "profit appeared also in practice as it undeniably appeared in theory, as mere surplus value, a value for which no equivalent was paid, as realised unpaid surplus labour" (ibid). Again the development of the capital form reaches the stage where it can no longer hide behind appearances.

Earlier we noted that exploitation becomes increasingly obscured with the transition to the extraction of relative surplus value. This transition both develops the power of combined labour and obscures it. The powers of living labour appear transferred to capital as an activity of capital. The forms of socially developed labour - cooperation, manufacture, the factory, machinery and science - confront individual workers as powers of capital. Labour appears powerless as an independent force :"In machinery, objectified labour confronts living labour within the labour process as a power which rules it, a power which, as the appropriation of living labour, is the form of capital" (Grundrisse p 693). The totality of the powers of social labour exist, under capitalism, only when organised by capital : Social labour appears not as social labour but as the power of capital over atomised and isolated individual labourers: "this elevation of direct labour into social labour appears as a reduction of independent labour to helplessness in the face of the communality (Gemeinsamkeit) represented by and concentrated in capital." (Grundrisse p700). Thus is obscured capital's real dependence on labour.

What is veiled is "one of the civilising aspects of capital" (Capital vol III) - its propensity to create, through the development of the forces of production, the conditions and forces of its own dissolution. In developing the productive forces, capital brings into being combined labour. This appears initially as an "alien combination" forced upon the workers against their will and "subservient to and led by an alien will and intelligence" (Grundrisse p470). But, in time, it becomes a social force with the capacity for and tending towards planning.

The development of the productive forces under capital proceeds through the reduction of necessary labour time and the conversion of disposable time into surplus labour time: " Capital itself is the moving contradiction, [in] that it presses to reduce labour time to a minimum, while it posits labour time, on the other side, as sole measure and source of wealth" (Grundrisse p706). The contradiction between the creation of disposable time and its conversion into surplus labour time is the basis for the transition to communism: "The more this contradiction developed the more does it become evident that the growth of the forces of production can no longer be bound up with the appropriation of alien labour, but that the mass of the workers must themselves appropriate their own surplus labour" (Grundrisse p708).

The development of combined labour as a social force manifests itself in the "transitional" forms of workers co-operatives and bourgeois joint stock companies. These forms, Marx argues, point beyond bourgeois economy. The co-operative factories of the workers "are proof that the capitalist as a functionary of production has become as superfluous to the workers as the landlord appears to the capitalist with regard bourgeois production" (TSV vol 3). They are, in other words, proof that working class self-formation has reached the point at which the specifically capitalist organisation of the immediate process of production at least has become unnecessary. In the joint stock company, moreover, a product of the same process, capital " is here directly endowed with the form of social capital (capital of directly associated individuals) as distinct from private capital, and its undertakings" (Capital vol 111). The point of the joint stock company is to spread "risk", but as Marx observes, the shareholder is taking risks not with his own property but with social property. In this form, the opposition of class interests becomes more evident as social force confronts social force.

In the course of working class self-formation, the fetishes attached to production itself seem to become progressively undermined. On the other hand, those relating to the sphere of circulation and especially finance capital have been left untouched and have even begun to intensify as finance capital begins to emerge as an (apparently) dominant form. The development of finance capital is itself a response of capital to the formation of the workers into a class - it is a tragic attempt by capital to liberate itself from its dependence upon the working class. (Hillel H. Ticktin, Critique 16, 1983) It is from this understanding of political economy that Marx's politics follows. As we shall see, with his development of the theory of fetishism, his understanding of the relation of class consciousness to class formation did not undergo substantial alteration. He presents co-operatives and trade unions as embryonic organs of class power (in conjunction with an independent party of the proletariat). Marx's assessment of this potential is inseparable from his assessment of their role within the political economy of capitalism as forms of expression of the developing "political economy of the working class".

The political economy of the working class is counterposed to that of the middle class. Marx refers to "the great contest between the blind rule of supply and demand laws which form the political economy of the middle class, and the social production controlled by foresight, which forms the political economy of the working class." (Inaugural Address). In essence, Marx is speaking of the conflict between the law of planning and the law of value. The law of value supposes a tendency for all commodities to exchange at their values; the law of planning by contrast requires the conscious regulation of production in accordance with need. The law of value and the law of planning express the two sides of the moving contradiction that is capital. The development of the law of planning is the basis of working class self formation. The greater the development of the law of planning, the greater the ability of the working class to organise production consciously and collectively to meet needs. The law of planning is inherently subversive of the role of exchange in mediating between capacities and need. In its fullest expression it is the dissolution of capital and the self abolition of the working class : communism.

The workers' co-operative factories are an appearance of the embryonic form of planning within the immediate process of production. In themselves however, the co-operatives do not challenge capital within circulation. In so far as they continue to presuppose the market, they contribute to the illusion that labour can emancipate itself within commodity production. Marx was, however, aware that the existing co-operatives could never undermine capitalism. For that to be possible, "co-operative labour ought to be developed to national dimensions and, consequently, to be fostered by national means" (ibid).

Trade unions too are presented as embryonic class organisations and as late as 1873 Marx speaks of the "combinations that constitute the working class as a class antagonistic to the respectable category of masters. entrepeneurs, and bourgeois" (Political Indifferentism). Although they had their origins in spontaneous efforts by workers to defend themselves from capital, "unconsciously to themselves, the trade unions were forming centres of organisation of the working class .... If trade unions are required for the guerilla fights between capital and labour, they are still more important as organised agencies for superseding the very system of wage labour and capital rule" (Instructions for Delegates to the Geneva Congress). The unions have tended to concentrate on local and immediate struggles with capital and held aloof from general social and political movements. They had now, Marx argued in 1866, to "learn to act deliberately as organising centres of the working class in the broad interest of its complete emancipation" (ibid).

To defeat the "collective power of the propertied classes", Marx argued in 1871, the Working class had to constitute itself as "a political party, distinct from, and opposed to, all old parties formed by the propertied classes" (Speech to the London Conference on Working Class Political Action). This party - the International - is not conceived to be external to the working class and bringing consciousness to it "from without", for the International "was established by the working men themselves and for themselves" (ibid). It works in conjunction with the co-operatives and the trade unions, which are conceived to be embryonic organs of working class power because of their effects on the political economy of capitalism, namely their ability to subvert the law of value. In the Provisional Rules of the International Working Men's Association (1866) Marx claims that "the emancipation of the working classes must be conquered by the working classes themselves."

In Marx, commodity fetishism is not introduced to explain the supposed passivity of the working class because this supposition is not made. The theory of commodity fetishism does not contradict the principle of proletarian self-emancipation.

Events since Marx's death, however, might be taken as grounds for doubt. The 20th century has witnessed the apparent de-politicisation of the workers' movement, the growing incorporation of the trades unions, the repeated accommodation to reformism, the outbreak of two world wars, the rise of fascism, the sustained failure of proletarian revolution and the emergence of monstrous bureaucratic regimes claiming to represent the interests of the world proletariat. These developments weigh like a nightmare on the minds of aspiring revolutionaries. This nightmare appears to justify the assumption of working class passivity which lies at the heart of 20th century socialist ideology.

Actually it is possible to acknowledge the reality of this nightmare without also accepting the purported conclusion. The political economy of the world has changed since Marx and the political effects of these changes - or, at least some, of them - are registered in ' What Is To Be Done?, But because the underlying political economy is not also analysed, the necessity of working class passivity seems to be implied. When, however, these phenomena are located in terms of the political economy of the epoch, it becomes possible to resist this implication.

Proletarian self-emancipation presupposes abundance. It also, and crucially, presupposes that the power of combined labour has developed to the point where its existence is incompatible with the continued rule of capital. This incompatibility does not immediately result in revolution but rather signals the beginning of an epoch - long and tortuous - of transition, punctuated at various points by revolutions. The power of combined labour ensures that the development of the productive forces can no longer proceed on the basis of unimpeded operation of the law of value; development takes place through the decay of the capital form itself. "As soon as it [capital] begins to sense itself and become conscious of itself as a barrier to development it seeks refuge in forms which, by restricting free competition, seem to make the rule of capital more perfect, but are at the same time heralds of its dissolution and of the dissolution of the mode of production resting on it."(Grundrisse p651).

Capital is in potential and in tendency, a global phenomenon. To he able to supersede the capital form, the working class must therefore form itself as a class globally. At the very least absolute poverty and abstract labour must exist globally if workers are to assert themselves as the universal class. To the extent that further proletarianisation is possible, to that extent capital can cheat the grave.

In the late 19th century the growth of combined labour threatened capital accumulation in its heartlands of western Europe but only in its heartlands. Because combined labour could not yet form itself as a class globally, its tendency towards communism could be checked. This prevention of communism involved the conscious intervention of the bourgeoisie into its own political economy. The Paris Commune, the "new unionism" in Britain, and the growth of the SPD in Germany allowed the bourgeoisie a glimpse of the potential power of combined labour. This power was incompatible with the unimpeded functioning of the law of value. The latter was consciously limited through the acceptance of trades unions as representatives of labour within capitalism and through the beginnings of a welfare programme which softened the effects of absolute poverty. The law of value came increasingly to rest upon, while the law of planning was strangled by, bureaucratic administration. With the formal and bureaucratic recognition of needs and the self-limitation of capital, space opened up for the representation of the working class within bourgeois society.

Social democracy at home rested upon imperialism abroad, their unifying principle being finance capital. By transferring capital investment to areas where little or no proletarianisation had yet taken place finance capital was able to temporarily outflank the development of the working class. By conceding locally capital was able to preserve accumulation globally. Ultimately, however, this process results in a global working class from which capital can do little to free itself. The prevention of communism obstructs the process of class formation only to bring about the conditions for its further development.

The prevention of communism intensifies with the development of stalinism . This grew out of the October revolution: the working class seized power under adverse circumstances and lost it, but to avoid globalising the revolution, capital was forced to avoid reasserting its dominance. As a result capital had to accept the absence of the capital-form - and therefore the presence of bureaucratic administration - within a whole national economy. This in turn forced it to accept the further intensification of the prevention of communism outside the USSR: the extension of social democratic nationalisation and the welfare state, the acceptance of "full employment" and central economic organisation. These forms preserve capitalism by checking the tendency towards communism but at the same time restrict the sphere of operation of the law of value and so act as a barrier to capital accumulation.

With the development of the prevention of communism the working class struggles within and against a new social reality. As apparent alternatives to capitalism, the forms of the prevention of communism appear to obviate the need for the workers themselves to take power directly. The formal recognition of needs appears to obviate the need for proletarian self-organisation. By mitigating the effects of absolute poverty, social democracy and stalinism create a barrier to proletarian self-formation in the form of the representation of the working class. The working class can now struggle for concessions within bourgeois society and its struggles lose their political edge - space opens up for the representation of the working class but at the same tune the limits of that space are carefully policed.

On the other hand, especially with the passing of time, it becomes increasingly clear that social democracy and stalinism have failed from the perspective of working class needs. This fact enters workers' consciousness. But social democracy and stalinism are the outcomes of struggles waged by workers themselves and this fact too enters working class consciousness. Workers are aware that they are exploited under capitalism but they are also aware that the historically existing "alternatives" do not solve the problem. In so far as the forms of the prevention of communism appear as alternatives, by appearing to be the only possible alternatives, they seem to indicate that there is in fact no alternative.

The prevention of communism permits the nationalised recognition of needs within the wider context of a world market economy, this nationalised recognition of needs being the basis for the global preservation of capital. The law of value is suspended to different degrees within specific national locations in order for it to be preserved globally through finance capital. International finance capital thus becomes the source of external discipline which is transmitted to the working class within specific national locations, through the forms of the prevention of communism. Through the movements of financial capital, absolute poverty and abstract labour are constantly re-created globally. Workers organise nationally only to find that the problem is international. Finance capital appears to be beyond the reach of working class action.

There is a sense in which social production has become increasingly "de-fetishised". To the extent that the law of value decays into bureaucratic administration social relations become more "transparent". Nationalisation, government subsidisation of industries inefficient from the standpoint of value, the welfare state, "full employment" etc indicate that the distribution of social labour can no longer be achieved through the law of value alone, but increasingly requires direct forms of social control. Thus, for example, the government intervenes in the "economy" to influence "demand", interest rates and inflation, to set up relatively permanent institutions of industrial arbitration, to adjust rents and to maintain of undermine "full" employment. With this intensification of direct forms of social control, however, it becomes clearer that it is people and not things which are the source of the problem. On the other hand, these non-value forms of control themselves are subordinate to value globally and function to preserve it. Social democracy and stalinism thus combine with finance capital to sustain the illusion of the eternality of the value form.

The problem is further complicated by the fact that much of the left has tended to present the forms of the prevention of communism as being transitional to communism. This is true not only of orthodox Stalinist organisations but also of certain strands of trotskyism. For some of the latter: "The Soviet experience, despite its very specific character, was nevertheless a great laboratory for establishing the superiority of planning over the anarchic market economy of capitalism, and for learning from the gross mistakes and miscalculations perpetrated by the Stalinist bureaucracy" (Anonymous "Forward" to the New Park edition of Trotsky's Towards Capitalism or Socialism, 1978,p70). By presenting stalinism as being with whatever critical reservations, an advance on capitalism, such statements only obstruct the movement towards communism. Worse still, when the working class begins to move against the social forms within which it has been partially contained, it finds itself being urged back into line by the self-proclaimed enemies of the existing order: not only by the social democrats and the Stalinists but also by those who claim to have developed the revolutionary critique. Workers rejection of the forms of the prevention of communism is then taken as evidence of continued passivity in the face of bourgeois ideology. The active intervention of these organisations into the communist movement of the working class itself obstructs that movement.

Communism has thus become identified with the prevention of communism. Disillusionment with the prevention of communism takes the form of disillusionment with communism itself. This does not imply a simple ideological victory for value. Consciousness can be understood only in its relation to political economy and the political economy of the working class is conscious determination of needs. Having been forced to recognise needs, even if only formally and bureaucratically, capital cannot institute their derecognition when the need arises. While it has been possible, with the unwitting aid of the left, to discredit communism, it is impossible to discredit needs. The political economy of the working class has not been - and cannot be -dislodged.

Communism is not an ethical ideal to be realised by means of proletarian revolution. As the society of the freely associating producers, communism is a practical need and can emerge only out of the struggles of the workers themselves. Proletarian revolution is not one possible means amongst others by which to bring into being a desired end, but the necessary outcome of a real social process.

This process is the process of self-formation of the working class. Marx observed it at the moments of the (partial) victory of the political economy of the working class over the political economy of the bourgeoisie, and recognised it as a process tending towards communism. Since Marx, however, the intervention of the bourgeoisie into its own political economy has appeared to undermine the possibility of proletarian self-emancipation. The results of this intervention have been understood in terms of consciousness and ideology alone and thus the communist perspective has been lost.

If we are to retrieve this perspective we must re-found our analysis on the movement of the working class itself. The critique of social democracy and stalinism cannot be developed in terms of consciousness alone but must begin form the standpoint of working class needs. Our task is not to apportion blame but to re-found marxism on the basis of an analysis of class composition and class formation within the political economy of the epoch as a whole. Failing to do this, the left has been unable to free itself from the inherited ideology of working class passivity. Losing contact with the political economy of the working class, the left is reduced to making assertion about consciousness, which assertions must degenerate into sectarianism.

It is unfortunate that many of those who have stressed the reality of proletarian self-activity have done so in a rather crude fashion. This is true of certain strands of autonomism. Thus Cleaver, for example, sometimes - but not always - presents the struggle of the working class as a process without end (Harry Cleaver, Reading Capital Politically, Harvester, 1979) If, however, the working class can continue to transform the social forms of capital accumulation indefinitely, the struggle of the working class has no tendency towards communism. Failing to analyse the fate of the law of value under the impact of the self-formation of the proletariat, the critique of "leninism" and "leninism" itself become polar opposites which eternally reproduce each other.

The crucial thing is to recognise the problem. Included in this is the unbridgeable gap between the project outlined in What Is To Be Done? and the principle of proletarian self-emancipation which formed the bedrock of the International Working Men's Association. We must return to Marx. More importantly, however, we must return to the developing political economy of the working class. Crucially, we must examine the conditions which are the outcome of working class struggle but against which the working class is forced to struggle again, if we are to understand the full complexity and difficulty of the situation. To begin to characterise this complexity we can use the words of William Morris, bearing in mind the different context in which they were written and discounting their gender specificity, reflecting on " ... how men right and lose the battle and the thing that they fought for comes about in spite of their defeat, and when it comes about turns out not to be what they meant, and other men have to fight for what they meant under another name" (A Dream of John Ball). But this, it should be stressed, can only be our starting point.



11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

N.B. The debate about Lenin's What is to be done? has been considerably deepened, although not resolved, since the publication of Lars Lih's Lenin Rediscovered. See the 'Symposium on Lars Lih’s Lenin Rediscovered', HISTORICAL MATERIALISM VOLUME 18 NUMBER 3 (2010)
(http://www.brill.nl./hima http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/brill/hm)


11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Who are radical chains? Is it a journal?

Thanks for posting all this interesting looking stuff, BTW.


11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I have Radical Chains no. 1. From what I can tell it was a journal that emerged out of a Grundrisse discussion group in London circa. late 80s / early 90s. I am sure posters who were around at the time can add more.

Anton Pannekoek and the theory of the transition - Radical Chains

Pannekoek's experience of the German revolution led him to observe that the workers' own struggle needed continuously to break down regimes and forms resulting from previous struggles. This gave him a powerful analysis of opportunism and enabled him to perceive the dangers of mere representation of the working class.

Submitted by blebber on November 2, 2011

Pantheon building is poor historical materialism and leads to an impoverished 'history and yet it has been the essence of the bolshevik tradition's historiography. Linked to this is a scholasticim that refers to the writings of the pantheon to resolve all questions and disputes rather in the manner that fundamentalist Christians refer to the Old Testament. It severely reduces the range of marxist analysis of historical events, even of the events around which the pantheon has been built. While Stalin and Trotsky are of course mutually exclusive the pantheon is otherwise common to all wings of the tradition and apart from Luxemburg (whose actual views are ignored) is restricted to the Bolshevik revolution. This freezes understanding of the dynamics of capitalist society to the point of view of men from an economically backward country, who despite extensive exiles played little or no part in the workers movement in advanced capitalism but concentrated on building an effective revolutionary organisation in a country numerically dominated by the peasantry with an antiquated and autocratic regime.

Lenin's blanket condemnation of the Second International and all its works has led to a neglect of its history and its theorists. And yet it is the organisation that grew with modern capitalism and the working class itself and in so many ways moulded the politics of the modern world. It is also the organisation that nurtured the members of the bolshevik pantheon and the one from which they never really escaped. They upended its outlook and methods but in the end remained locked in its categories and world view. The world we live in today is the world created by the practices of the Second International and its interaction with the ruling class and capitalist state.

Anton Pannekoek is one of the most important revolutionaries missing from the bolshevik tradition's pantheon (there were many others). The reason for this should be obvious. Pannekoek was the Karl Homer of Left-wing Communism, an Infantile Disorder and a leading theorist of western European communism and in particular for the Communist Workers Party of Germany (KAPD) whose separate organisation from the German Communist Party and tactics generally were the chief cause of Lenin writing against the "infantile disorder".

There was nothing infantile about European left communism. Pannekoek and his friend and collaborator Herman Gorter were both veterans of the bitter Dutch and German workers struggles that were characteristic of the international cycles of struggle beginning at the turn of the century and culminating with the "breaking of the weakest link" in 1917. Their support for striking workers against their unions and the party hierarchy split Dutch Social-democracy in 1909. Pannekoek was one of the most innovatory theorists of the Second International, overturning many accepted theoretical categories, discounting others, giving new content to still more. He was widely, internationally, published and well known across the western world. He was virtually the only leading theorist to analyse, accept and champion the changing activity of the changing European working class.

The dominating influence on the Second International was its German section, the SPD. It is difficult now to imagine the size and range of this mighty institution. It is the closest we have ever come to the working class organised as the party (even if not quite as Marx had envisaged). On the other hand its structure, activity and theory were as much shaped by Bismarck and his autocratic state socialism as by marxist theory or autonomous working class activity. Bismarck's Exceptional Law had effectively banned revolutionary activity during the state-led growth of German industrial capital while at the same time allowing electoral activity and permitting social-democrats to sit in the structurally gerrymandered parliament, thus "opening up the possibility that it could act as the sole legal opposition" (Bricianer). Robert Michels pointed out in his sociological study of bureaucratisation and the party in the 1910s , that "the struggle carried on by socialists against the parties of the dominant classes is no longer one of principle, but simply one of competition". At the same time the SPD was growing into a state within the state in which it was possible to live from cradle to grave. It (or the unions which were part of it) organised strike- pay, unemployment benefit, sick pay, pensions, death grants, legal aid, nurseries, clinics, sports facilities and clubs, choirs, schools, women's and youth organisations, holiday facilities and much more. It published daily and weekly, national and local newspapers. And despite the growth of both openly revisionist and radical wings nobody thought to leave or split it until near the end of the first world war.

The almost schizophrenic nature of the SPD is best illustrated by its Erfurt Programme (adopted in 1891) which fell clearly and neatly into two parts. The first part was written by Kautsky and covered the final aims and "marxist" principles, the second by Bernstein and outlined immediate tactics and desired reforms. When Engels died Bernstein began a series of articles in the party paper that later became the bible of revisionism (published later in English as Evolutionary Socialism). Nobody payed much attention at first and it was the Englishman Belfort Bax (on whom see the last issue of Radical Chains) who first reacted in print and ignited the well known debate which degenerated into the "breakdown controversy". By 1906 the sociologist Weber was able to say of the SPD congress; "these gentlemen no longer frighten anyone".

The SPD had resolutely refused to recognise its illegality during the period of the Exceptional Law but behaved completely legally in every other respect. It continued in the same vein when the law was repealed. But by the turn of the century the steady growth of the German economy was beginning to be disrupted by international competition. This put the same sort of strains on class relations as had the vicious cyclical swings of early capitalism. Unskilled and unorganised workers were beginning to outflank the staid and defensive skilled craftsmen who formed the bulk of social-democracy, both party and trade unions (and even they were reacting to the new uncertainties). International competition led to technical innovation and the concomitant changes in the labour process and class composition were creating a more militant and innovative working class that neither the state nor social democracy could contain.

Pannekoek had begun studying marxism in 1898 and rapidly became dissatisfied with the positivistic slant of orthodox marxian economics. In 1900 he commenced a study of the philosophical roots and discovered the work of Joseph Dietzgen, the man Marx hailed as "our philosopher". In Dietzgen's work, Pannekoek found "a clear, systematic elaboration of a theory of knowledge and an analysis of the nature of concepts and abstractions ... I was able to completely clarify my conception of the underlying relationship between Marxism and epistemology and develop it into a unified whole". His first thoughts on the party were contained in a letter to an early Dutch marxist, Frank van der Goes. He felt that the growth of class consciousness could be accelerated by an organised socialist movement, education and propaganda, channelling of activity, and waging of intense ideological struggles. Propaganda should be an "amplification and explanation" of what workers already see and perceive rather than something directed at them. The objective should be to develop a "social ideal" or "mental picture" of the subsequent, more highly developed social system, "since everything which man does must first exist as a more or less adequate conscious ideal". Pannekoek ruled out a sharp distinction between evolution and revolution, both being part of change by human action, only the external appearance being different. The critical link between economics and revolution was not crisis but the understanding and activity of the revolutionary class brought about by material conditions (this in reference to the continuing "breakdown controversy" started by Bernstein).

In 1901, in his first major work as a marxist, De Filosofie van Kant en het Marxisme, Pannekoek pointed out that Marx had left open the question of the exact content of consciousness and what its real relation to the material world was, and that this was the main reason for erroneous understandings of marxism. His 'Introduction' to the 1902 reprint of Dietzgen's The Positive Outcome of Philosophy, announced the key note for Pannekoek's entire development. As Gerber paraphrases it, echoing Marx's comment on man as architect not bee; "the material world and the world of consciousness reciprocally condition each other. Without changing the structure of society one could not change the structure of consciousness. But the converse also remains true; a revolutionary upheaval in the economic and social structure is impossible without a revolution of the society's forms of consciousness. Proletarian revolution must develop simultaneously in both the economic and the 'spiritual' spheres ... Men must therefore think change before they can accomplish change" (Gerber 1978). For Pannekoek, Dietzgen answers the question that Marx left open. He "raised philosophy to the ' position of a natural science, the same as Marx did with history". In his 'Introduction' Pannekoek traces the history of philosophy, tying it to material conditions. Finally, Dietzgen created the basis for a dialectical and materialistic understanding and "completes the work of Kant, just as Marx completed the work of Adam Smith". Philosophy remained important for the workers revolution, "as never since the first advent of production of commodities has there ever been such a fundamental revolution ... the new understanding gains ground step by step, waging a relentless battle against the traditional ideas to which the ruling class are clinging, this struggle is the mental companion of the social struggle"' (compare this with Pannekoek's theory fora later stage when the working class had burst the confines of capitalist society and he placed the key theoretical struggle within the working class movement. See below).

Pannekoek was one of the few professional scientists to join the Second International (he was an astronomer/astro-physicist) and in 1904 began to clarify the relationship between science and marxism. 'Thinkers can only work with the pre-existing conceptual materials of their era. The form in which new problems are posed often creates a consciousness of the insufficiency of the traditional views and new 'truths' are then put forward as an improvement of the traditional views" (Klassenwissenschaft and Philosophie). Technology relied on science which was part of the productive apparatus. Science represented its particular epoch; "a new ruling class is able to understand through its particular class situation the new 'truths' that serve its interests. These new 'truths' then become a powerful weapon in the struggle against the rulers of the declining order, who have neither interest in nor understanding of, the new doctrines and perceive them only as a threat ... So it is with the natural sciences that accompanied the rise of the bourgeoisie; so it is too with political economy, which is the science of the proletariat ... a certain form of science can become an object and a weapon of class struggle ... a class has an' interest only in the investigation and diffusion of those truths that directly advance its own living conditions". Historical materialism was the "class science of the proletariat", and Marx and Engels were representatives of that rising class, the "first class scientists of the new class". The proletariat "has every interest in discovering the inner laws of society and the sources of their endless torment. Because the working class is the only class which has nothing to conceal, and, therefore, can look at social phenomena in an unbiased manner, it alone is in a position to discover the truth about society".

Pannekoek interrupted his university career as an astronomer in 1906 when he was invited to teach political economy at the SPD party school in Berlin. He described the purpose of the school as follows; "We must clearly understand the nature of capitalism, not just to incite the workers to fight it but also to discover the best methods of combat. Where this understanding is lacking, tactics are governed by established traditions or superficial empiricism. When one merely takes account of the present, the immediate, appearances inevitably prove deceptive and coherence upon solid foundations is neglected." This sort of thinking upset Kautsky considerably. However, together with Rudolph Hilferding, Pannekoek was prevented from teaching at the school by the Prussian authorities on pain of deportation. Instead, he became a salaried journalist/propagandist and travelling lecturer for the party. Luxemburg took over Pannekoek's post, continuing the unsettling of Kautsky.

It is possible that Pannekoek was prompted to leave academe by the 1905 Russian revolution. The reception of these events in Europe then was different to our perception of them today. Mass strikes had taken place all over Europe, and continued to take place regularly until the outbreak of war, and all discussion of the Russian events took place in the context of a debate on "mass action" and the "mass strike". The revolution as such was not even discussed at the meeting of the International. In Germany the debate signified the hardening of a division in the party no longer between revisionists and the rest but between radicals and the rest. Orthodoxy, verbally anti-revisionist but dedicated to organisation, discipline and "practical" activity, ruled at the centre but locally and particularly in the industrial regions a more radical politics was gaining ground.

From 1907 to 1909 Germany suffered a general economic crisis, and in 1908 a campaign was launched for universal suffrage in Prussia. Political strikes were organised but to begin with at least, social-democratic discipline was maintained. Pannekoek was beginning to have doubts about the utility of traditional working class organisations and parliamentarism. In a factional document in the Dutch Social-democratic Party he questioned the standard strategy of revolutionary parliamentarism for subjective effects on the basis that "Dietzgen teaches us not to doubt the truth but to have doubts about the absolute validity of a truth". "This truth is not absolute" he said of parliamentarism "it has its limitations. The labour movement has adapted itself to the strategy of parliamentarism more than is really necessary and it is impossible to attain our goals through these methods alone. A revolutionary struggle with more powerful mediums is necessary".

The general debate on "Massenaktion" and the "Massenstreik", followed by the highly disciplined but unsuccessful Prussian suffrage campaign seems to have prompted Pannekoek to reconsider the whole social-democratic project during 1909 (this was also the year of the split in the Dutch party). He published Social Democratic Non-commissioned Officers in the Bremen Burgerzeitung. In this article he went beyond the parameters of the mass strike debate to call into question the whole basis of the existing organisation because there was an "irreconcilable opposition between revolution and authority, between subversion and order". In the suffrage campaign, "the social-democratic non- commissioned officers do what the Prussian non-commissioned officers cannot do, they quiet the unruly masses, accustom them to discipline, and divert them from revolution". The "corruption of the movement" was "the main hope of the. bourgeoisie".

In another attack on orthodoxy in 1909, Massenaktion and Revolution, Pannekoek argued that the subjugation of the working class was not entirely due to economics and force but also to the "spiritual superiority of the ruling minority" which controlled schools, churches, press and "presides over all spiritual development, all science". The main cause of the weakness of the proletariat" was the "spiritual dependence of the proletariat on the bourgeoisie". Invoking "organisational spirit" as a way of breaking this dependence, Pannekoek insisted, against Kautsky's earlier accusation of mysticism, that this was "not something abstract, put forward in place of the 'real concrete organisation' of the existing organisational forms, but it is in fact something just as real and concrete as these forms. It binds individuals just as firmly together as any principles and statutes could ever do so that even if the external bond of principles and statutes were removed these individuals would no longer be loose atoms competing against each other."

Pannekoek's most important development of his theory of geist (collective consciousness) also came in 1909 in Tactical Differences Within the Labour Movement (see box for extract). In this long and closely argued work he discusses the material and social origins, mediated through human thought, of revisionism, giving rise to reformism and anarchism (the new and growing anarcho-syndicalism) giving rise to purist revolutionism. Both had their roots in historically superseded middle class attitudes dating from the time of the bourgeois revolution and entered the working class movement by a variety of routes; the parliamentary deputies and trade union bureaucrats anxious for their jobs, the new proletariat forming in small manufacture as capitalism developed in country regions and the lower middle class anxious for its position in a world increasingly dominated by large capital. To adopt one of these positions to the exclusion of the other was an ideological error. But the dominant proletariat of the large factories and heavily, industrialised regions were capable of seeing them both as necessary to development and as stages of that development due to their dialectical and materialist outlook.' Nonetheless one or other would always predominate in the movement depending on the development of capitalism; in times of growth reforms would be worked for, when crisis hit revolutionism would come to the fore. Pannekoek defined reforms as positions of power for the class rather than as factors of power, the strength gained in fighting for and winning reform being more important than the reform itself. There was no linear path through reform to socialism as reforms, such as the limitation of working hours, would be of no practical use in post-capitalist society where workers ran production. Finally he noted that because socialism as an ideology rather than as a science could he adopted by virtually anybody and given content derived from their own experience, it was gaining ground amongst the middle classes of the colonised countries as a response to the bankruptcy of liberal ideology. Lenin described all this as "deductions whose complete correctness cannot be denied" even though the geist theory on which it was based completely contradicted his own theory of consciousness as represented in, for instance, Materialism and Empirio-criticism.

In April 1910 Pannekoek settled in Bremen. He had first visited the town in 1905 to support local radicals in a debate over education. This debate revolved around the suggestion for joint work with the Liberals (a parliamentary alliance had been proposed by the SPD deputies in 1903). The radicals defeated this suggestion, a victory that heralded their coming domination of the area. This prompted Ebert, until then leader in Bremen (later known locally as "the Stalin of Social-democracy") to leave for Berlin, where he effectively took over the leadership of the national party from August Bebel in 1912. During Pannekoek's brief period at the Berlin party school he had remet one of the Bremen radicals, Heinrich Schulz, and from then on his articles were regularly published in the local party newspaper, the Burgerzeitung. By this time the radicals controlled not only the newspaper, but the newly formed local secretariat, party education and recruitment as well. Bremen as a town was a model of what was happening all over industrial Germany. Once a commercial town of the Hanseatic League it had been heavily industrialised in the period from 1890, the working population growing from 8,463 to 33,825 in 1907 becoming a mass workers town. By that time 66% of the workforce worked in factories of more than 200 employees and 57% of the workforce had been born elsewhere.

Factional struggle had broken out in the SPD in the context of street fighting during the renewed suffrage campaign in Prussia. Despite violent brawling and pitched battles the SPD leadership re-exerted its control and discipline. The organisation was by all accounts impressive. On one occasion the venue for a demonstration in Berlin was changed at the last moment to evade the police and enabling 100,000 people to go on a "suffrage stroll". Kautsky published his defence of orthodoxy and the primacy of party discipline The Road to Power in this context, but Luxemburg was at last allowed to criticise the tactics of the party via a critique of Kautsky. Faith in the orthodox tactic of "revolutionary parliamentarism" was beginning to break down as the party apparatus and its deputies became ever more involved with "practical matters". In Die Organisation im Kampfe Pannekoek began to see the question of organisation in a new way due to "new experiences in the class struggle" - mass actions, exemplified by the 1905 revolution. It was no longer a problem of leadership for conscious revolution but rather of direct organisation for revolution by the class itself; "It is not merely a question of the labouring masses simply acquiring consciousness of this task, but of them grasping it firmly and decisively. The movement will never be able to take its proper course as long as they sit around waiting for their leaders to give the word. An acceleration of our struggle is possible only when the masses themselves seize the initiative, leading and pushing their organisations forward". At this stage however, Pannekoek in common with the rest of social democracy had not seen the importance of the 1905 soviets or workers councils.

In the autumn of 1910 Pannekoek's doubts about the efficacy of social-democratic organisation for the self-liberation of the working class seemed vindicated. A lockout in the Hamburg docks prompted a walkout in Bremen despite every effort by the trade union leadership to prevent it. For several years wages and conditions had been deteriorating, the employers response to the increasing international competition, especially in shipbuilding. No real support was forthcoming from the leadership. For three months they attempted to force a return to work and a meeting called to sell this to the membership was broken up by workers. Despite this a return to work was enforced. This left a legacy of discontent among the workers but forged strong links between them and the Bremen radicals who had given their full support. In an attempt to defend their action the union leadership claimed that the masses were "capricious, unreliable and incapable of making important decisions". Pannekoek responded that a split between the leaders and the masses was an "inevitable and necessary" step in revolutionary development.

It was increasingly evident to some that both war and revolution were approaching. The International had adopted a hard line resolution against war preparations from Lenin and Luxemburg in 1907 and after the Agadir incident in 1911 called on the SPD to start practical anti-war agitation. The SPD refused on the grounds that this would distract people from domestic issues in the forthcoming elections(!).

Kautsky continued his defense of the orthodox position in a series of articles in Die 'Neue Zeit, Mass Action and in 1912 Pannekoek took over the continuing polemic with him from Luxemburg. This is the controversy cited by Lenin in State and Revolution. Pannekoek forced from Kautsky explicit statements of his policy of "actionless waiting". Pannekoek now saw revolutionary mass action as a continuous and expanding series of actions ranging from ordinary street demonstrations through to general strike. The rationale was not to be the attainment of the objective aims but the subjective effect, building "organisational spirit" and effecting "the whole transformation of the proletarian mentality". He also stressed the necessity of the "autonomy" of mass action rather than it being turned on and off like a tap by the party functionaries; "when we speak of mass actions and their necessity, we mean by this an extra-parliamentary political intervention of organised workers, the latter acting at the political level instead of leaving this completely to their delegates". Lenin's marginal notes here state "neverno" - not true. But Pannekoek was working from the concrete conditions of the time: "Imperialism and mass action are new phenomena ... ", and a genuinely revolutionary standpoint "the social revolution involves the gradual dissolution of all the power instruments of the ruling class, particularly the state, while simultaneously building up proletarian power to its fullness". This seems to have been his first overt thinking on the transition period, an area totally neglected by theorists of the Second International.

Pannekoek was always aware of the importance of the tactics developed by the working class in struggle and the necessity of incorporating anything new into his theory of development towards revolution. The official party seemed less and less willing or able to support the workers struggle. 1913 saw more militant activity in the docks. Again it spread from Hamburg. This time the union leadership refused to recognise the action at all. Shop stewards committees were formed (a new development) and 9,000 walked out. Without strike pay the workers were eventually forced back to work. The enforced settlement blacklisted several thousands. On this occasion the radicals attempted to mediate in conjunction with the union leadership. A consciously revolutionary group separated themselves and coalesced around Pannekoek. This would be the nucleus of the ISD (see below). In the Bremen party paper, Pannekoek again drew the lessons; "the wildcat strike with its violation of that discipline which has hitherto been the ideal of a developed trade union shows how impossible it is to maintain perfect trade union discipline against the intense oppression exerted by capital. Success of mass movements depends on their capacity for autonomous action ... but it is precisely these qualities, the primary condition of the struggle for freedom, that are repressed and annihilated by trade union discipline". Pannekoek was by now aware that this would lead the masses to "take different paths" and was able to face this with equanimity.

At the outbreak of war in 1914 Pannekoek was expelled from Bremen back to Holland. The SPD Reichstag deputies, having already voted for a massive arms budget in 1913 on the basis that it would be funded from a property tax, voted for war credits. In 1915 the Dutch Tribunists including Pannekoek were instrumental in setting up the Zimmerwald conference. Pannekoek and Henrietta Roland-Hoist were nominated to edit Vorbote, the conference journal.

In a 1916 article in Vorbote, Der Imperialismus and die Aufgaben des Proletariats, Pannekoek gave his explanation of the collapse of German social-democracy. It was not a question of purely crude material (physical) force but rather "a general inability to struggle, a lack of will for class struggle". A "long drawn out process of spiritual renewal" would be necessary to form a new International. Another article in Vorbote points out "the wartime experience gained during state control over industry and commerce has developed, in a large part of the bourgeoisie, the idea of state 'socialism' ... this state socialism can only aggravate the proletarian condition and strengthen oppression. Nationalisation of enterprises is not socialism; socialism is the force of the proletariat".

In December of 1916 the Bremen group, by then calling itself the International Socialists (ISD), broke all connections with the two wings of social-democracy that were later to become the SPD-M and the USPD (see below). Its organ, Arbeiterpolitik was open to outsiders such Radek, Zinoviev and Pannekoek. Describing its political line, it stated; "one must choose the tactics of mass action unfettered by leaders, or one must keep the leadership structure, as the Spartacus League is doing, and thereby renounce a proletarian policy". Similarly in Holland the group around Gorter and Roland Holst split from the Tribunists. In August 1917 Pannekoek noted that in Russia "the revolutionary masses are forming a powerful organisation. As in 1905, the delegates of factories and revolutionary regiments are building in the form of workers' and soldiers councils, a peoples representation which speaks out vigorously against bourgeois government and exploiters". He noted that "some quasi -marxists " maintained that Russia was not ripe for socialism, because of its huge peasantry and limited capitalist development, failing to recognise that "socialism can only result from a long process in which the maturity of a society is measured by the proletariat's ability to struggle for power". In October, unlike Luxemburg, he approved of the dissolution of the Russian Constituent Assembly by the Bolsheviks; "What we have been hoping for has just been realised".

Common knowledge of the German revolution is often limited to the "Spartacist" uprising, the failure of which saw the murder of Luxemburg and Liebknecht. But the revolution neither started nor ended there. Despite the action of the SPD deputies in voting for war credits in 1914 the SPD did not actually split until 1917 when the anti-war opposition was expelled. This was despite the attendance of Luxemburg and Kautsky at the Zimmerwald conference. Lenin had been unable to persuade Luxemburg to split Social-democracy at that stage. When they were excluded Luxemburg's group, the Spartakusbund, met with Kautsky's group, also expelled, and against the wishes of both leaders, formed the United SPD (USPD). With the example of Russia before them the ISD condemned this as a return to the "old leader politics".

As the German economy and war effort began to collapse, strikes broke out in the munitions industry. The USPD reaction was to mediate and they were soon brought to a halt. Luxemburg was of the opinion that the German proletariat was not ready for revolution. As the German regime itself collapsed Ludendorff brought the SPD into the government and sued for peace. As in Russia, the soldiers had already made this decision for themselves. So had the naval ratings, who, sensing that the admirals were planning a last ditch battle against the Entente powers, first seized their ships and barracks and then spread across the country encouraging the workers to set up their own councils.

The SPD was still strong enough in the working class to dominate these councils while remaining in government thus straddling a very peculiar dual power situation. Under the leadership of Noske and Ebert the SPD performance was one of the coolest counter— revolutionary of all time. Within ten days they had arranged the Stinnes-Legien agreement: the trade unions and councils were consolidated in the factories with a provision fora "co-operative commonwealth" of workers and employers (!). The National Congress of Councils consented to early elections to a National Assembly. At this point the ISD, newly renamed the International Communists (IKD), declared these councils not to be revolutionary organs and one region, East Saxony, led by Otto Ruhle, left the councils completely. Meanwhile the SPD government, biding its time, began to build the Freikorps - proto-fascist volunteer militias.

By Christmas of 1918 the USPD has fallen apart into its constituent factions and Karl Radek, newly returned from Moscow, urged unification between the Spartacists and the IKD. At the subsequent founding conference of the German Communist Party (KPD) Luxemburg and the rest of the leadership of the Spartacists found themselves isolated and defeated on the questions of hierarchical organisation, restarting parliamentary activity and only avoided losing on the question of leaving the trade unions by moving the establishment of a special commission.

Within days, in January 1919, under provocation, Berlin KPD called for massive street demonstrations. This escalated rapidly into a general uprising. In Bremen the predominantly ex-IKD KPD and the workers' councils seized power. Similar events took place all over Germany. But in Berlin the ex-Spartacist leadership failed to lead and the workers were defeated. For Luxemburg this was further proof that the German workers were not ready for revolution; her comments were later paraphrased as "the leaders were in conference, in conference, in conference. No, these masses were not ready for the seizure of power, or their initiative would have discovered others to stand at their head, and their first revolutionary act would have been to compel the leaders to stop their interminable conferences in the Polizeipraesidium" (cited by Victor Serge in Year One of the Russian Revolution). The SPD government finally set the Freikorps to work. Revolutionary workers' councils were bloodily suppressed region by region. The Bremen workers republic held out for three weeks. Luxemburg and Liebknecht were killed "while trying to escape". The KPD was banned. The workers were not beaten however. A strike wave starting in the Ruhr mining- region spread rapidly, with workers forming unions opposed to the old SPD-dominated trades unions. These looked to the experience of the American IWW or the older French syndicalist tradition. Anti-parliamentarism and support for the new workers' unions split the KPD. A programme written by Pannekoek along these lines and supported by the Bremen group was discussed throughout the party. In August Levi, who had taken over from Luxemburg as leader, was beaten in a debate on Pannekoek's paper at the KPD national conference. In October, Levi o?ganised a secret and packed conference and contrived to expel all those who would not conform to a new platform of tactical principles. This included a return to parliamentary activity and the trade unions and support for the' institutionalised factory councils. Half the delegates were expelled and eventually 80% of the membership left. The communist left Were particularly taken aback as Gorter had just made the first translation of Lenin's State and Revolution which appeared to give Lenin's imprimatur to their tactics.

The workers' unions had formed into the General Workers' Union of Germany (AAUD) in February with statutes drawn up by the Bremen group. This revolutionary federation attained a membership high of 200,000 and saw itself as the embryo of revolutionary workers' councils. Now the extreme right took a hand. The Versailles treaty required the disbandment of the Freikorps. In response the Berlin Erhardt brigade launched a putsch which scared the SPD ministry from Berlin. The rump KPD stated that it would not lift a finger to protect the bourgeois government but the old trade union confederation immediately launched a general strike. In the Ruhr, by now a left communist stronghold, a red army formed with 80,000 workers under arms. The strike was total and brought the junta to its knees within days. The SPD government on its returns to Berlin set the army on the Ruhr. The KPD declared itself a loyal opposition to the SPD government. After these experiences the left communists, who had so far refused to accept their exclusion from the KPD, reformed as the Communist Workers Party (KAPD) and agreed to send delegates to the second congress of the Third International in Moscow. In preparation Pannekoek wrote World Revolution and Communist Tactics which was published in various communist journals in Europe and Russia. It remains with its 'Afterword' and Gorter's Open Letter to Comrade Lenin the definitive statement of left communist analysis of the period.

The purge of the KPD by Levi had been against the advice of Radek, representing the International, and was the first move in the international movement against the anti-parliamentary current. The KAPD, unaware of any change in Lenin's thinking, expected to receive his support against Levi. The invitation issued by the Bolsheviks to the first congress of the International had specifically excluded social-democrats of the right and centre and specifically included revolutionary elements who had not necessarily belonged to the parliamentary parties of the Second International. Many of these groups had always taken anti-parliamentary positions "on principle" and others, noting the Bolsheviks' dispersal of the Constituent Assembly, had moved to the advocacy of a workers' council system in opposition to bourgeois parliaments as Lenin had done in his April Theses. Invited to the second congress were, amongst others, the centrist the USPD, whose members included both Kautsky and Bernstein.

Lenin did disapprove of the split in German communism, apparently hoping to bring the anti-parliamentarian fraction round to his new position, and the KAPD were not excluded from the congress, the International not having, in any case, any mechanism for exclusion at that time. However, the KAPD's representative Otto Rühle, who had travelled slowly through Russia on his way to the congress, returned immediately to Germany after having been shown Lenin's theses on conditions of membership of the International. In the light of what he had seen in Russia Rühle denounced the regime as "soviet in name only". The KAPD excluded him. Thus the KAPD was unrepresented at the congress and one of the most important documents of European communism was not discussed.

What was presented to the second Congress was Lenin's Left-wing Communism: an Infantile Disorder. It is this assessment of European left communism that sits on every socialists bookshelf while Pannekoek is absent. Thus it is not apparent that Left-wing Communism was a contribution to a debate that was of major importance in the world communist movement, for while Lenin admits that anti-parliamentarism was geographically widespread he does not make clear the size of the forces ranged against what was after all a change of policy nor does he admit the intellectual rigour of their arguments.

Geist and Communist Tactics It should be stressed that WR&CT was not an anti-Lenin or anti-Bolshevik text but rather theoretical support for an appeal to Lenin and the International to intercede against opportunism in the German and international communist movement. It does this by presenting a theory of transition to a 'communist society. Although Pannekoek was later fiercely to attack both Lenin's philosophy and the Bolshevik's running of the "soviet" state, his target here is opportunism in western Europe and especially in Germany and Britain, because of its effects not only on the working class of Europe but also on Russia and the Bolsheviks themselves via the agency of the International.

While WR&CT is more than a council communist manifesto, workers' councils, soviets, were for Pannekoek the major breakthrough of the current phase of development towards communism. In a slightly earlier article in die journal of the International's Vienna Centre, Kommunissmus, he described the workers' councils as: "the organ of the dictatorship of the proletariat in which the bourgeoisie cannot participate. The bourgeoisie will not be excluded in any artificial way from government, for instance, by losing its right to vote; quite simply, it will be barred from this organisation, which is based not on people but on labour ... All these councils remain in close,permanent contact with the masses, their membership constantly renewed and replaced. The formation of a new bureaucracy is thus prevented, and a monopoly in administrative skills is broken." (Bolshevismus and Demokratie 1919, Bricianer 1978 pp150-151) Pannekoek was not much given to quoting chapter and verse from Marx, leaving that to his pedantically orthodox opponents such as Kautsky, although he paraphrased Marx without attribution frequently. He prefaced WR&CT, however, with an epigram from Marx's Introduction to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right (the same source as the cover quotation of Radical Chains); "Theory itself becomes a material force once it takes hold on the masses ... once it becomes radical." Thereafter Pannekoek's first two sentences reveal the foundation of his marxism; "The transformation of capitalism into communism is brought about by two forces, one material and the other mental, the latter having its origins in the former. The material development of the economy generates consciousness, and this activates the will to revolution." "Marxist science" which arises from "the general tendencies of capitalist development" provides the revolutionary movement with intellectual unity. On the one side this theory is gradually penetrating the working masses while on the other side their own experience begins to convince them that capitalism is no longer viable. But, "world war and rapid economic collapse now makes revolution objectively necessary before the masses have grasped communism intellectually; and this contradiction is at the root of the contradictions, hesitations and setbacks which make the revolution a long and painful process". The core of Pannekoek's argument is here; a communist revolution requires not only crude material objective circumstances but also an aware, consciously communist proletariat. Communist society requires communist individuals, united through conscious social organisation. For Pannekoek communist consciousness and organisation were inextricably and dialectically linked.

Pannekoek believed that "as far as western Europe is concerned, the development of revolution is mainly determined by two forces; the collapse of the capitalist economy and the example of Soviet Russia". In Russia, Proletarian organisation (meaning the councils and what Pannekoek took to be the council state). had been relatively easy to attain. And so therefore had the revolution. Capitalism was relatively recent, the ruling classes were divided and the bourgeoisie proper were weak (plus the peasant revolution paralleled the proletarian revolution). In western Europe, on the other hand, capitalism was long-established, the ruling class was united (by and against the working class) and the bourgeoisie very strong. In addition the peasantry, by virtue of its economic position, was both small and anti-working class.

The long history of capitalism in western Europe explained the geist of the masses which in turn explained the course of events of the German revolution. "Because the proletarian masses were still completely governed by a bourgeois mentality, they restored the hegemony of the bourgeoisie with their own hands after it had collapsed". Economic collapse had in fact happened; not the indefinitely future, much theorised collapse of the "breakdown" controversy, but an actual complete social breakdown. It was possible to starve in Germany in 1920. "Economic collapse is the most powerful spur to revolution". But given the geist of the working masses, "the revolution in western Europe will be a slow, arduous process". Unlike Russia "power will not fall into the hands of the unprepared masses as a result of politico-economic collapse; the proletariat will have to fight hard for it, and will thus have attained a higher degree of maturity when it is won".

The example of Soviet Russia was important, the soviet state existed as a model; "the existence of a state in which working people are the rulers, where they have abolished capitalism and are engaged in building communism, could not but make a great impression upon the proletariat of the whole world" but this was not enough on its own, "the human mind is most strongly influenced by the effects of its own environment".

The environment of the German proletariat was one where capital was attempting to re-impose its rule after social collapse and the proletariat was engaged in a struggle against impoverishment. This was seen by Pannekoek as turning into a conscious revolutionary struggle but even that in itself did not automatically imply a conviction of communism.

Pannekoek did not believe that the bourgeoisie were capable of the social reconstruction that was necessary after the war. The bourgeoisie "or rather each individual bourgeois acted in a characteristically bourgeois manner; each of them thought only of making as much profit as possible" meanwhile, and as a consequence, there is "an increase in the frequency of strikes and a strong aversion to work among the proletariat". The bourgeoisie may have, individually, been incapable of reconstruction, but Pannekoek believed that they had learned more from the Russia revolution than the workers had; the bourgeoisie "decked itself out in red ... (and) immediately began to rebuild the organs of its power", giving the only party that had any chance of disciplining the working class, the SPD, the chance to do so in the name of the bourgeois state. In effect, the reformist party had to defeat the revolutionary working class in order to bring about reform for the (supposed) benefit of that class.

But the bourgeoisie was only forced to rely on the SPD because of the strength of the working class. The revolution was not over yet. It evidently was going to be a long process. Under the circumstances the SPD could only rule with the consent of the working class. It was in effect a government of workers' bureaucracy. Pannekoek foresaw a chaotic series of these workers bureaucracies, not necessarily parliamentary, as the class learnt that it itself had to take over the running of the economy. "Each new phase of the revolution brings a new layer of as yet unused leaders to the surface as the representatives of particular forms of Organisation, and the overthrow of each of these in turn represents a higher stage in the proletariat's self-emancipation". It would take time; "it will take decades to overcome the infectious, paralysing influence of the bourgeois culture upon the proletariat in the old capitalist countries" because "revolution requires social reconstruction to be undertaken, difficult decisions to be made, the whole proletariat involved in creative action ... this is difficult and laborious, thus, so long as the working class thinks it sees an easier way out through others acting on its behalf ... the old habits of thought will make it hesitate and remain passive". Thus both the objective circumstances and subjective perceptions affect progress towards communism; "a revolution simultaneously involves a profound upheaval in the masses thinking, it creates the conditions for this, and is itself conditioned by it".

A revolution in the geist of the working class was obviously necessary. Where else did the power of the bourgeoisie lie? It could not reside in their numbers, the proletariat was far more numerous. Their control of the "whole of economic life" was important but fading (under the influence of even the existing councils and working class resistance). Their "control of the state, with all its means of coercion" was important but it had collapsed in 1918 and the workers had been unable to prevent its re-imposition. The workers were imbued with bourgeois ideology, they believed that the bourgeois interest constituted the general interest. This ideology was inculcated by the intelligentsia. The press, schools and the church all played their part; "priests, teachers, literati, journalists, artists, politicians - form a numerous class, the function of which is to foster, develop and propagate bourgeois culture ... the hegemony of capital is rooted in this group's intellectual leadership of the masses". These groups constantly reinforce bourgeois culture which "exists in the proletariat primarily as a traditional cast of thought". Tradition in itself was a problem, even the workers' own, inextricably linked with bourgeois society as it was; "the proletariat has in every period had to build up methods, forms and aids to struggle corresponding to the contemporary stage of capitalist development ... they have subsequently become fetters upon development which had to be broken", "every stage of the development of the class struggle must overcome the tradition of the previous stages".

With temporary victory turned to temporary defeat in the German revolution, Pannekoek could see that it was the workers' movement's own traditions that now embodied "the hegemony of bourgeois conceptions". The problems in part derived from the belief in leaders, and especially parliamentary leaders. During the long development of the working class these beliefs united the class; "social democracy originally sought to realise this class unity" but "the firm solidarity and discipline which developed in the often acute class struggle of half a century did not bury capitalism, for it represented the power of leadership and organisation over the masses". This power took the concrete form of "reverence for abstract slogans like 'democracy' ... old habits of thought and programme points, such as the realisation of socialism through parliamentary leaders and a socialist government ... the lack of proletarian self-confidence ... lack of faith in their own power; but above all in their trust in the party, in the organisation and in the leaders who for decades had incarnated their struggles, their revolutionary goals, their idealism". The leaders and the parties, "these enormous machines painstakingly created by the masses themselves ... now crushed all the revolutionary tendencies once more flaring up in the masses".

Dependency on the party was the problem. Not this party or that, but all parties; "a revolution can no more be made by a big party or a coalition of parties than by a small radical party. It breaks out spontaneously among the masses; action instigated by a party can sometimes trigger it off (a rare occurrence), but the determining forces lie elsewhere, in the psychological forces deep in the unconscious of the masses and in the great events of world politics". "No 'resolute minority' can resolve the problems which can only be resolved by the action of the class as a whole". This was a direct criticism of the KPD and the International's representative in Germany, Radek, at that time looking for a rapprochement with the centrist mass party the USPD.

Precisely because there was a long process to, go through in the west European revolution there was time for this sort of tactical difference to appear. Rapid revolutionary development clarified issues but when a period of relative stagnation set in, "when the masses let anything pass without protest and revolutionary slogans no longer seem to catch the imagination" and especially when the communist party itself remains weak, different perspectives emerge. Pannekoek identifies two main tendencies; "one current seeks to revolutionise and clarify peoples minds by word and deed, and to this end tries to pose the new principles in the sharpest possible contrast to the old, received conceptions. The other current attempts to draw the masses still on the sidelines into practical activity, and therefore emphasises points of agreement rather than points of difference in an attempt to avoid as far as is possible anything that might deter them. The first strives for a clear, sharp separation among the masses, the second for unity; the first current may be termed the radical tendency, the second the opportunist one". Opportunism did not mean mere quietism however; "on the contrary, lack of clear, principled tactics is too often concealed in rabidly strident language; and indeed, in revolutionary situations, it is characteristic of opportunism to suddenly set all its hopes on the great revolutionary deed".

The real problem with opportunism was its concentration on immediate success, defined in an unprincipled way, at the expense of lasting achievement and the final victory. Pannekoek describes opportunist tactics in terms reminiscent of the behaviour of the SPD before the outbreak of the war; it sought alliances with other "progressive" groups, hoping to split the ruling class. But this merely confused the working class and any power gained was illusory as the bourgeoisie was "inwardly united" against the working class.

The reason for opportunism in the period of the Second International was historically explicable. But it was now making an appearance in the Third, Communist, International. With the expulsion of the anti-parliamentarian and anti-trade union left from the KPD, the KPD had approached, at the prompting of Radek and Lenin, the USPD. At the same time, under the stress of the crisis, radical workers still tied to the USPD were pushing it towards the Third International. The gap that had opened up between conscious communist organisations and the rest was closing again. The specifically communist nature of the International movement was being diluted, even abandoned, for the sake of membership numbers. Where many communists "tend to see only the increased strength accruing", Pannekoek saw "an increase in vulnerability". . Firmness of principle was vital, for despite the Russian example, revolution was "an extremely complex and arduous process". New, radical, practice was essential but "opportunism in the Third International relies as far as possible upon the forms of struggle taken over from the Second International". It had to be combatted, "the revolution thus develops through the process of internal struggle. It is within the proletariat itself that the resistances develop which must be overcome; and in overcoming them, the proletariat overcomes its own limitations and matures towards communism."

For Pannekoek the party had a very specific role based on the fact that "the contradiction between the rapid economic collapse of capitalism and the immaturity of spirit represented by the power of bourgeois tradition over the proletariat - a contradiction which has not come about by accident, in that the proletariat cannot achieve the maturity of spirit required for hegemony and freedom within a flourishing capitalism - can only be resolved by the process of revolutionary development, in which spontaneous uprisings and seizures of power alternate with setbacks". Given that "a transition period of social and political chaos becomes inevitable", "it cannot be the task of the Communist Party to act the schoolmaster in this upheaval and make vain attempts to truss it in a strait-jacket of traditional forms; its task is to support the forces of the proletarian movement everywhere, to connect the spontaneous actions together, to give them a broad idea of how they are related to one another, and therefore prepare the unification of the disparate actions and thus put itself at the head of the movement as a whole". Although it was possible that the communist party would be forced to take power prematurely and then lose it again (as in Bremen), "the reconstruction of the economy, inordinately difficult as it will be, is not the main problem for the Communist party. When the proletarian masses develop their intellectual and moral potential to the full, 'they will resolve it themselves. The prime duty of the Communist Party is to arouse and foster this potential". It had also to "conduct a strong and principled fight" against any transitional form, any government of socialist party leaders or workers' bureaucracy. "The function of a revolutionary party lies in propagating clear understanding in advance, so that throughout the masses there will be elements who know what must be done and who are capable of judging the situation for, themselves".

The party comes to lead the struggle because its propaganda, slogans, programme and directives are recognised by the masses as expressing their own aims. Pannekoek recognised that propaganda could be a thankless task during a period of mass inactivity but clarity of principle then would count powerfully in the inevitable periods of struggle. Opportunism watered down principles at such times. It makes- no attempt to revolutionise ideas which is the prerequisite for gaining power. "If the most important element of the revolution consists in the masses taking their own affairs the management of society and production in hand themselves, then any form of organisation which does not permit control And direction by the masses themselves is counter-revolutionary and harmful". There is no place for ideas of taking over existing, traditional, organisations or even of working within them, "it was recently argued in Germany that communists must go into parliament to convince the workers that parliamentary struggle is useless - but you don't take a wrong turning to show other people that it is wrong, you go the right way from the outset!" Exclusion of the Communists The KAPD was formally excluded from the Third International in September 1921 having already suffered its first serious split. By the time Hitler came to power it barely existed. Pannekoek returned to Holland to take up his astronomical career. He was still important enough to head the Nazis' death list when they invaded. He survived the war in hiding, using his time to write his last lengthy work, Workers' Councils.

Paul Levi, having himself split the KPD, opposed the splitting of the Italian Socialist Party by the International in January 1921 and resigned from the KPD Central Committee. The International pushed the KPD into the "March Action" in 1921. It was a shambles, unsupported by the workers and all but destroying the party. Levi was expelled, complaining that the Russians did not understand European conditions. The leadership that had replaced him, Brandler and Thalheimer, was purged after the next debacle, the German "October" of 1923, similarly disorganised by the International (now completely dominated by the Bolsheviks). Fischer and Maslow, who took over, witch-hunted the left from the party but were in their turn purged for the "western European" deviation at the prompting of Zinoviev in late 1925.

The Bolshevik-dominated International conformed completely to Pannekoek's characterisation of opportunism: lack of clear principled tactics, rabidly strident language, setting all its hopes on the "great revolutionary deed". This was not Stalin's Comintern, it was the International of the old Bolsheviks, of Lenin and Trotsky. The charitable might detect a hint of embarrassment in Lenin's attack on his old comrades. Nobody could accuse Trotsky of any such emotion after reading the despicable personal attack, riddled with inaccuracies and deliberate misrepresentation, that he made on Gorter at the Executive Committee of the International in November 1920.

History is difficult stuff. The validity of theory in history is even more difficult to judge. As Pannekoek (after Dietzgen) might have said, the truth of all theory is historically contingent. The temptation is to ask "what if?". What if Lenin had supported the KAPD? Even without the KAPD as a combat organisation the German bourgeoisie never really gained control of German society on their own terms until 1945. What if the 1921 or 1923 KPD uprisings had not been tiny, absurd acts of opportunism but had been properly prepared for, using Pannekoek's insights, KAPD methods? Alas, the only reality is the one that happened. Farce turned to tragedy. The Second International had been unable to prevent the First World War. The Third International was unable to prevent the Second or foment the European revolution. Those who will not learn from history are condemned to repeat it.

By discounting the marxian economics of his time, Pannekoek developed political economy, concentrating on the formation, activity and changes of classes through the' historical process. It has been said that it is not Dietzgen himself who is important but what Pannekoek (and the other Dutch marxists) made of him. His understanding of Dietzgen put geist at the centre of Pannekoek's analysis. It is a concept missing from the Bolshevik tradition but without it the working class remain the object not the subject of theory and history. Equipped as he was with the philosophically and scientifically crude "reflection theory" of consciousness, Lenin believed that it was only necessary to change crude material circumstances, the economy, to have this passively reflected by men and. women, bringing about communism. In this he was at one with Kautsky (insofar as Kautsky ever thought about the matter at all). Lenin's great breakthrough and break with Kautsky remained on a political level. He realised the necessity of the complete overthrow of the state and seized the time when the opportunity presented itself. In that he was a great revolutionary. But he wished to build "socialism" with consciousness as it then existed (as he said in State and Revolution) and retained a simplistic undialectical and linear conception of the transition period, losing sight of communism in the process.

Pannekoek denied any such possibility in western Europe and there are hints in WR&CT where he discusses the bureaucratisation of the new system that he had doubts about the situation even in Russia though the bourgeois influence on the geist of the proletariat there had been slight (but not slight on the party leadership). Certainly in Europe, existing consciousness could not build communism; "the proletariat cannot achieve the maturity of spirit for hegemony and freedom within a flourishing capitalism". From 1917 Pannekoek abandoned "socialism" and identified it as a barrier to be overcome on the road to communism. Between capitalism and communism lies a transition period identified by the dictatorship of the proletariat. In the immediate aftermath of bourgeois domination with the geist formed under that domination, that dictatorship will be embodied in a variety of forms, in a person, clique, a committee, a party, a government. That is not communism (although it may be socialism) although it may be a necessary stage. Pannekoek's theory of consciousness was far more complex than Lenin's, richer-and thus so was his theory of the transition. He understood that men and women learn through experience and experience takes time even when aided by the propagation of communist theory. Each person's and the class's working theory of society, conscious or not will only be revolutionised by being found wanting, by not meeting the needs of objective circumstances. The transition covers the period when the class learns that while it may not make history in conditions of its own choosing it does make history and by consciously making history it can achieve communism. The emancipation of the working class is the task of the working class itself.

Pannekoek made many important theoretical advances. The bureaucratisation of the bolshevised International and of the Bolsheviks themselves and the dominance of their tradition meant that those advances were lost. He realised that imperialism-while not an objective necessity for capital but a result of choices made by human representatives of capital because it was profitable - brought about an objective internationalisation of the working class, just as mass activity, general strike and civil war did, in opposition to the national politics of parliaments. The crisis that resulted from imperialism, a result of a social not an automatic, economic breakdown, brought about the objective necessity for autonomous proletarian activity, so that "the proletariat ceases to be a member of capitalist society and becomes its destroyer". He realised that once the working class had broken free the bourgeoisie could never rule again in the old way, "nor can the proletariat again be brought into a state of dependence". He realised that the transition began at that point and would not be a linear process; "a simple schema of conquering political power, introducing the council system and then abolishing private commerce, even though this represents the broad outline of development", for this "would only be possible if one could undertake reconstruction in some sort of void". He was no utopian (as some council communists became) for while he believed that some general sort of mental picture of the new society was necessary he was also aware that consciousness did not float in the, heads of workers unattached to objective reality, that organisation was necessary and because organisation was based on previous reality and tradition, then the "new form of organisation can itself only be set up in the process of revolution, by workers making a revolutionary intervention".

To repeat the point: in Pannekoek's dialectical theory of the transition no regime between capitalism and communism is, in itself, progressive. Progress is made by the class overthrowing each bureaucratic regime in succession as it fails to reflect the development of the class and this is not going to be a smooth process. Development is by a series of radical ruptures. Near the end of WR&CT Pannekoek again breaks with his usual practice and quotes Marx (from the Eighteenth Brumaire): "Proletarian revolutions constantly criticise themselves, continually interrupt themselves in the course of their own development, come back to the seemingly complete in order to start it all over again, treat the inadequacies of their own first attempts with cruelly radical contempt, seem only to throw their adversaries down to enable them to draw new strength from the earth and rise up again to face them all the more gigantic."


I am immensely indebted, almost to the point of plagiarism at times, to messrs Bricianer, Smart, and Gerber and their works listed below. They are not however responsible for precise points of the analysis.


Sources for Pannekoek and Gorter:
Pannekoek and the Workers' Councils, Serge Bricianer, tr. Malachy Carroll (Telos Press, Saint Louis, 1978) (contains an article by John Gerber on Pannekoek's philosophy and large chunks of Pannekoek's writings with commentary)
The Positive Outcome of Philosophy, Josef Dietzgen (Charles H. Kerr, Chicago 1928) (contains Dietzgen's Nature of Human Brainwork and Pannekoek's Introduction)
Pannekoek and Gorter's Marxism, D. A. Smart (Pluto Press, London 1978) (contains World Revolution and Communist Tactics and an important historical Introduction)
John Gerber Journal of Contemporary History v23 '88
Open Letter to Corrivide Lenin: An Answer to Lenin's Pamphlet_ "Left-wing Communism, An Infantile Disorder, Herman Garter (Wildcat, London 1989)

Other writing by Pannekoek available in English:
'The Theory of the Collapse of Capitalism "(1934), (Capital and Class 1, Spring 1977)
"On Organisation" (1938) ;Capital and Class 9, Autumn 1979)
Lenin as Philosopher
Workers Councils

see also:
"Class Composition and the Theory of the Party at the Origins of the Workers' Council Movement", Sergio Bologna (Telos 13, Fall 1972)
The Bolshevik Revolution 1917-1923 Vol 3, E. H. Carr (Penguin 1966)
The Forming of the Communist International, James W. Hulse (Stanford 1964)
Dialectic of Defeat: Contours of Western Marxism, Russell Jacoby (Cambridge U.P.


(1828-1886) was a tanner and self-taught philosopher from Germany. He participated in the events of 1848 and was forced to flee to the United States. Thereafter he recrossed the Atlantic several times and travelled widely in America, often on foot. He was active in the workers' movement. on both sides of the Atlantic. He also worked in Russia for several years. Toward the end of his life he took over the editorship of several anarchist newspapers in Chicago in the aftermath of the Haymarket demonstration and the mass arrests that followed. He corresponded with Marx, who personally introduced him at a meeting of the International and visited him during a journey to Germany. His first and best book is The Nature of Human Brainwork which presents an inductive theory of knowledge and bypassed Hume's dilemma by simply accepting that all theories are relative and contingent. As thoughts and theories derived from brainwork, a labour process, they were as material as physical objects. Pannekoek described Dietzgen's theory of knowledge as; "primarily materialistic ... it starts from concrete, materialist being. Not that it regards mere physical matter as its basis; it is rather opposed to crude bourgeois materialism, and matter to it means everything that exists and furnishes material for thought, including thoughts and imaginations. Its foundation is the unity of all concrete being". Engels credited Dietzgen with the independent discovery of dialectical materialism but in Dietzgen's dialectics there were no absolute opposites or contradictions but a mental separation of the particular from the general, giving rise to contradictory categories, together with generalisation from the particular. Like Pannekoek, Dietzgen has been considerably better known worldwide than he is now. In Britain Dietzgen's works provided the background to the working class educationalists such as Fred Casey (see Capital and Class 7) and Noah Ablest (see the last issue of Radical Chains) working in the Plebs League and Labour College movement.

The proletariat have their own dialectical idea of necessary social development, whose stages can be grasped only in terms of antagonistic notions - for example, revolution and evolution, theory and practice, final objective and movement. Especially proletarian is the idea that all apparently opposed situations are simply movements in a major process of development. The proletariat does not reason along logical either/or lines - for example, either revolution or evolution - but sees in two such elements simply two aspects of the same development ... The middle class, non-dialectical way of thinking takes account only of the accidental, which for the most part is merely a passing phenomenon, and so it swings from one extreme to the other. It notices contradictions only in the form of "on the one hand ... on the other hand," but without seeing in them the driving force of development; in its view, a development is to be seen as a slow evolution which, while no doubt ends by effecting some change, leaves the essential quality intact.

This first opposition is closely connected with the second. While the proletarian outlook is materialist, the middle class outlook is ideological; dialectic and materialism go hand in hand, as do ideology and non-dialectic. For the proletariat, it is material forces that govern the world, forces outside the scope of the individual; for the middle class, development depend on the creative force of the human mind. The material reality is dialectical; that is, it can be truly grasped only as a unit made up of opposed ideas. By contrast, in the notions and ideas which, according to the middle class way of thinking, constitute the driving force of development, the terms of the contradiction mutually exclude one another as notions; for example, evolution and revolution, liberty and organisation. We are concerned in the middle class context with abstract ideas, with incompatible essences, no account being taken of the underlying material reality; either revolution or evolution, without the possibility of a third term. So, when revolution is regarded as the only true principle, minor reforms are automatically declared anathema; or, vice versa, the minor reforms are alone considered valid. Socialism is the ideology of the modem proletariat. Ideology signifies a system of ideas, conceptions and plans, a spiritual expression of the conditions of material life and of class interests. But these spiritual expressions do not exactly correspond to the reality of their context. The ideas and conceptions are expressed in an abstract manner in which the concrete reality whence the ideology has been derived does not always appear, or appears with a variety of different aspects. So the idea of freedom, as a political watchword, derives from middle class interest in free enterprise and free competition; but each class that uses it gives the idea a meaning of its own...

... Every class can shape its ideas only on the elements of reality it knows directly; it does not understand, and therefore ignores, whatever is foreign to its own experience. So it is that it projects upon the ideas and ideals it has adopted experiences and desires associated with is particular situation...

... The ideas and conceptions of the proletariat have as their basis a science of society that enables them to foresee the consequences of their actions and the reactions of the other classes. Up to the present, ideologies, lacking awareness of concrete reality, were simply an extravagant reflection of the economic situation, whereas socialism constitutes a clear scientific theory; Ideology and science are both abstract, general expressions of concrete reality; but the basic difference between them is that an ideology constitutes an unconscious generalisation, one in which awareness of the corresponding concrete reality is lost, whereas science is a conscious generalisation whose conclusions make it possible to discern precisely the concrete reality from which they have been drawn. Hence, therefore, ideology is above all a matter of sentiment, while science is a matter of intellection.

... The role of theory in the workers' movement is to deflect the will from direct, instinctive, powerful impulses, and to render it responsive to conscious and rational knowledge. Theoretical knowledge enables the worker to escape from the influence of immediate and limited interests, to the great benefit of the general class interest of the proletariat; it enables him to bring his activity into line with the long-term interest of socialism.... It is the implementation of theory, the scientific basis of socialism, that will contribute most effectively to both securing for the movement a tranquil and sure course, and to the transformation of unconscious instinct into conscious human action.

(From Radical Chains no 2)

Jacob Richter

10 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

"It is difficult now to imagine the size and range of this mighty institution. It is the closest we have ever come to the working class organised as the party (even if not quite as Marx had envisaged)."

It's good that this left-com article acknowledges this. As for the part at the end, indeed it isn't quite as Marx had envisaged, because Orthodox Marxism raised then-primordial understandings of political parties to a higher, institutional level.

In fact, the pre-war SPD was a genuine movement as well, compared to contemporary "social movements." Real parties are real movements and vice versa.

Walter Benjamin - Radical Chains

I'm told you raised your hand against yourself / Anticipating the butcher / After eight years in exile, observing the rise of the enemy / Then at last, brought up against an impassable barrier / You passed, they say, a passable one.
From Radical Chains no.2

Submitted by griddle on February 10, 2012

radical chains

On the Suicide of the Refugee W.B. (by Bertolt Brecht)

I'm told you raised your hand against yourself
Anticipating the butcher
After eight years in exile, observing the rise of the enemy
Then at last, brought up against an impassable barrier
You passed, they say, a passable one.

Empires collapse. Gang leaders
Are strutting about like statesmen. The People
Can no longer be seen under all these armaments

So the future lies in darkness and the forces of right
Are weak. All this was plain to you
When you destroyed a torturable body.

It has been frequently noted that 1990 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the fall of continental Europe to Fascism. In the midst of this remembrance the mass displacement of the civilian population and the flight of the refugee has served as little more than a footnote to the formal drama of diplomatic intrigue and military maneouvre. Yet it did not require the declaration of national war to create a German diaspora comprised of jews, communists, liberals and others. Many oppositionists had already departed their native country during the 1930s, seeking, among other places, shelter on French soil. By June 1940, the relative security afforded by this location was violently disturbed by the armistice signed between the Third Reich and the Vichy Government. Thousands hurriedly decamped once again and trecked along an established escape route to North America, via the Iberian Peninsula.

On the 25th September 1940, a small group of refugees approached the Spanish town of Port Bou by an unguarded route, across mountainous terrain. Their journey was thwarted by Spanish guards who had closed the border earlier that day and who intended to return them to France the next morning. That night, one among the refugees, Walter Benjamin, took his own life. The following day, disturbed by what had happened during the night, the guards relented and his companions proceeded to Portugal.

On hearing of his death, Bertolt Brecht, himself having just reached the safety of the United States, was reported to have said of Benjamin that German literature had suffered its first real loss to Hitler.

Benjamin was born in Berlin in 1892, the son of affluent Jewish parents. The family lived in a substantial house in Grunewald, the patrician quarter of the German capital. By his own account he grew up in a materially comfortable and secure environment, surrounded by the objects of his father's trade in antiques and valuable oriental carpets. Here he absorbed the extravagant habits of the compulsive bibliophile and collector of objects of beauty.

Prior to the outbreak of the Great War, he developed precocious talents as a writer within the broad and diverse German Youth Movement. This mass organisation drew its support from all sections of German society and acted as a conduit for the expression of protest against the decaying values of the previous generation. This tended to take an atavistic form evoking nature and tradition rooted in Teutonic myth, purity and heritage. Benjamin never subscribed to this dominant perspective but gravitated towards a milieu guided by the rationalistic humanism of the educational reformer Gustav Wyneken. He subsequently observed that this movement comprised, in large part, the radical borgeoisie, which was both incapable of either superceding its subjectivist or individualist orientation. While actively interested in Jewish theology and counting Gershom Scholem - a leading scholar of Jewish mysticism and authority on the Kabbalah - as one of his earliest and closest friends, he was never drawn towards Zionism. Nevertheless Judaic conceptions of a future transfigurative moment remained important for Benjamin's development, selectively appropriated on his own terms and for his own purpose.

He remained an active member of the Youth Movement only until the declaration of war. The enthusiastic endorsement of the national call to arms by its leading members only served to crystallise his prognosis that it was an essentially reactionary force. Benjamin avoided military conscription by feigning sciatica, and soon departed Germany. Exiled and isolated in a Europe traumatised by total war, he developed a romantic anti-capitalism, a trajectory encouraged through his association with Ernst Bloch. He apprehended the modem world as souless, dispirited and prosaic, a condition that demanded apocalyptic transcendence. In this context it is understandable that Benjamin, like both Lukacs and Bloch, turned towards the realm of art in pursuit of this theme. It was here that the most developed and unambiguous utopian impulse to transcendence was thought to be expressed in the authentic work of art. By 1919 he had completed a doctoral thesis at Berne University, Switzerland on The Concept of Art Criticism in German Romanticism, a distillation of themes developed in the war years.

By then, Benjamin had been married for two years, and despite his attempts to find work, was forced in 1923 to return with his young wife and son to his parental home. Although he failed to secure himself a university post, he had begun to establish his reputation as a "man of letters". By 1925 he had translated and seen published a selection from the work of the 19th century poet, Baudelaire and completed a major study of the German poet, Goethe.

The immediate post world-war period may have been personally disordered for Benjamin, but they were inordinately tumultuous years for German society. In Russia the question of power had been forcefully posed by significant sections of the working class, but in Germany, the bourgeoisie was able to meet that challenge with an effective and ruthless opposition that Swept the workers' movement from the streets. By 1923, Germany was experiencing a general crisis exemplified by rampant inflation. Wages fell, the working day lengthened, unemployment rose. Hitler's disbandment of the Trade Unions in 1933 his first piece of major social legislation - was yet another expression of a process decisively set in motion a decade earlier. It was both through these unfolding conditions and as a consequence of them that Benjamin, like so many of his generation, became progressively radicalised and receptive to revolutionary praxis. His own intellectual development during this period continued to be influenced by his friendship with Bloch and Scholem and his increasing interest in marxism focussed on Lukacs' History and Class Consciousness, and the consequent debates following its publication. A further and perhaps decisive influence was a developing relationship with the young Bolshevik theatre producer, Asja Lacis, an assistant to Brecht and Piscator, which rapidly progressed from assignation to a tempestuous love affair.

During the rest of the 1930s, and until Hitler's rise to power, he managed to secure enough funds through employment and parental generosity to allow him to make extended trips to Paris, the Mediterranean, and afford a lengthy stay in Moscow in the winter of 1926-7.

His trip to the U.S.S.R. had a twofold purpose. To visit the hospitalised Asja Lacis and to reach a decisive conclusion as to whether to join the German Communist Party (K.P.D.), a matter which he had frequently considered. A range of factors were taken into account in this deliberation: Pragmatically the K.P.D. could offer him paid employment - an attractive proposition as his academic career had all but stalled. Secondly, and rather naively, he saw the party as an environment in which he could fruitfully intervene, since it was "organised and guaranteed contact with the people". He never joined, concluding that his main area of competence was "overspecialised". Instead he gravitated towards influential circles orbiting around Adorno, Horkheimer, and most fruitfully for Benjamin, Brecht. At this point, he construed his own project as working in "an illegal incognito among the bourgeois authors", pursuing a destructive project from within.

Driven into exile for the second time in his life, along with so many of the same milieu, his primary source of support from 1934 onwards was a small but regular stipend, paid by the relocated Frankfurt Institute of Social Research. In return for this support he supplied one major essay every year and an irregular series of reviews. This at least provided for his basic needs, supplementing this income by writing for a variety of emigre journals.

These mature years of his life were his most productive. However he never saw the publication of a full length book under his own name. What has been bequeathed in the form of a collection of aphorisms - One Way Street, (1928), reviews of contemporary literary production, monographic presentations of particular movements or individuals, or his better known theoretical work in essay form - for example, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (1935) - nonetheless represents a prolific intellectual activity. Yet despite this productivity, Benjamin never completed the most enduring of his work, the suggestive Arcades project which he was to work on from the late 1920s until his death. Intended to represent a panoramic disclosure of 19th century Paris, the project encompassed architecture, literature, and the character of the life of the city.

A refugee in Paris since 1935, living a financially precarious and isolated existence, he was incarcerated in an internment camp in the autumn of 1939. Through the efforts of influential friends he was soon released and eventually secured a U.S. entry permit.

However, the last few months of his life were desperately tortuous. In his final letter to Adorno, Benjamin vividly expressed the sense of being encircled and overcome by the forces of destructive reaction who could clearly identify him as both a jew and a communist: 'The total uncertainty as to what the next days, the next hours will bring has dominated my existence for many weeks. I am condemned to read every newspaper (they appear here on only one page) as a writ published against me and to hear every radio report the voice of bad tidings." His apartment, containing the expansive library -the tools of his labour - which he had painstakingly assembled was eventually confiscated by the Gestapo. He was unsure of the fate of the manuscripts abandoned to the care of Parisian friends. Besides, he was not drawn by the prospect of settling in the United States, where he assumed he was destined to be carted up and down the country, exhibited as the "last European".

His repute as a polymathic critic of intellectual and cultural production is entirely posthumous. During his own life he was known only in small, albeit influential circles of friends and associates in France and Germany. Benjamin's wider reception can be dated from 1955 when Adorno undertook the task of editing a selection of his essays. It was not until the 1970s that his major writings appeared in English under the title Illuminations (1973).

The disparate reception of this work after his death is indicative of a genuinely original thinker who's legacy requires thoughtful appropriation. He has largely remained a hostage to those of his contemporaries who reduce the scope of his thought to one of its many determinants, alternatively to those archaeologists of the aesthetic who call him to their service in wilfully arcane academic dispute. For example, both Susan Sontag and Hannah Arendt lay claim to aspects of his writings whilst simultaneously detaching him from the marxist tradition.

In post-War Europe Benjamin's influence became widely assimilated in theoretical and academic dispute and, less conspicuously, in a wider arena. John Berger's influential television series Ways of Seeing, originally broadcast in the early 1970s was directly influenced by Benjamin. While the particular content of his work remains vigorously contested his insightfulness is beyond doubt, the originality of which is attested to by the difficulty with which it has been appropriated in the anglo-saxon world.

To approach Benjamin's legacy is to approach a body of work that does not lend itself to casual reading. His sentences are concentrated, his writing style is simultaneously opaque and concise. There is the non-appearance of immediate consistency where motifs, which ordinarily run at cross purposes are brought together but never unified. His thought is perhaps best apprehended as allegorical, he was the master of the extended metaphor, which sought to find both past and future location in order to illuminate the present moment. The anglo-saxon habit of reading in a literal manner fails to make any effective connection with the metaphorical intent of his paradoxically couched word formations.

Within his work there is an attempt to seek and disclose the contiguous relationships of a range of exploratory strands of 19th and 20th century intellectual and artistic production. This process focussed on movements such as Surrealism or Dada, or individual producers, for example, Baudelaire, Fourier, Bergson, or Proust. Receptive to so much and so many he remained outside established orthodoxy and beyond consignment to a single location within the division of intellectual labour.He was never simply a literary critic or sociologist of art, a philosopher or aesthetician.

The pivotal point in Benjamin's development occured around about 1925 in his engagement with the marxism of the period. It followed from the completion of his book manuscript on German Tragic drama, which itself was concerned with the political nature of cultural practice, a manuscript which he later recognised as being dialectical but not materialist in orientation.

Aware of these failings, his attention became focussed on the multiplicity of ways in which that practice was conditioned and mediated by changing forms of technology and social Organisation.

The key category that he developed in this context, was Technik, a word which in German means both "technology" and "technique", an ambiguity which he retained in order to emphasise the realm of practical material intervention as the integration of theory and practice. For Benjamin, Technik expressed the unity of theory and practice, of human relations of production and the means of production, of technique and technology. This implied a decisive rejection of the positivist separation of these realms, or the supercession of one by the other as in Hegel's triumph of the spirit.

Benjamin located intellectual activity within the context of Technik echoing Marx's rejection of assigning it the capacity for an independent and distinct development of its own. He railed against the account given by the bourgeois intelligentsia of its own activity as an attempt to expose and assert a constellation of qualities which were timeless in nature, rather than recognising a continuous process of change and movement which demanded purposive understanding rather than introverted contemplation.

The bourgeoisie was not the only object of attack. He took issue with those on the left who asserted that adherence to the 'correct' political line absolved the work of art from having to measure up to any 'bourgeois' standards of quality. Benjamin saw political tendency and quality unified in what he called 'literary tendency'. In his view, "This literary tendency, which is implicitly or explicitly included in every correct political tendency, this and nothing else constitutes the quality of a work. The correct political tendency of a work includes its literary quality because it includes its literary tendency." (his emphasis). The unification of political tendency and literary quality is ensured by the use of progressive literary tendencies.

For Benjamin, these tendencies included the attempt to break from private speculation and in Brecht's words, "break into other people's heads", awakening "deliberation and action". Consequently the ability of this form of production to effect change could be judged on its ability to organise and reorganise political groupings, formation and party. He was careful to stress that the organisational usefulness of writing ought not to be confined to propagandist use. Commitment alone was not enough since "the best opinion is of no use if it does not make something useful of those who hold it". In order to subvert this possibility, progressive writing had to be simultaneously a model to instruct others in production, and secondly, to place an improved apparatus in their hands: An apparatus that would be the better "the more consumers it brings into contact with the production process- in short the more readers and spectators it turns into collaborators".

An exemplification of the use of a progressive literary technique was where the effect was to intervene in and aid the forging of class organisation out of a responsive and collaborative proletariat. Antithetical to this was a conception of addressing the public as a passive consumer of products originating from an individual creator. The public was a corrupt and alienated condition of the mass as much as was the conception of an individual creative personality. To proceed otherwise was to reproduce the opposition of theory to practice, producer to consumer and the active to the passive - in short the very antinomies of bourgeois society.

It was Benjamin's contention that the writer must be transformed from being a "supplier of the production apparatus, into an engineer who seeks his task in adapting that apparatus to the ends of the proletarian revolution". This conception was predicated upon the "functioning transformation" of various aspects of mass culture, specifically those developed through techniques of mechanical reproduction which already served to dissipate the aura surrounding the previously unique and distanced work of art embedded in tradition and ritual. This auratic quality induced concentration, empathy, absorbtion and identification on the part of the reader or audience. These conditions of aesthetic and political passivity were seen to be undermined by the development of photography, film, radio and mass circulation newspapers which served to destroy the unique and harmonious work of art. The progressive consequence of this was the emergence of an estrangement on the part of the audience, which created the possibility for a critical attitude towards that being experienced. This apprehension consciously intersected with Brecht's theatrical technique of alienating the audience from what was being performed on the stage. This strategy sought to transform the passive consumer into the active creator through the use of episodic play structure, direct addresses to the audience and open-endedness of conclusion.

It was never satisfactorily ascertained where the body of the refugee was laid to rest. Hannah Arendt, who had known Benjamin during his stay in Paris, arrived in Port Bou a few months after his death but sought his grave in vain. As the years passed by others came in search, this time to be greeted by cemetary attendants who directed the curious towards a wooden enclosure upon which his name had been scrawled. This apocryphal location owed its existence to the shrewd perception of the attendants who recognised that the satisfied visitor was more likely to be generous when dispensing a tip.

Even in death it is strikingly apposite that Benjamin remains enigmatic, subject to the curious enquirer in search of what is then willed into existence, ably assisted by an overseer of the relic who is in a position to exploit apparent ambiguity for a self-interested purpose.

For too long the written trace of Benjamin has been subject to an analogous fate. His image splintered by arcane factional dispute, elevated as a creative if obscure individual genius and consigned to one or other area of an increasingly detailed location in the division of intellectual labour.

Benjamin advanced beyond the confines of the dominant debates on artistic, literary and intellectual production in the 1930s. He was one of only a handful of theoreticians who not only rejected the sterility of Stalinist diamat, but who also tried to both broaden and deepen marxist theory. To undertake this in isolation and exile, in the face of fascism's advance was to undertake a herculean task.

Walter Benjamin inaugurated a project that demands recovery; a recovery that is perhaps only now possible. As Stalinism enters a period of terminal decline so the possibilities to successfully appropriate what was denounced as heretical unfold.


Radical Chains #3

Partial contents of issue 3 of Radical Chains.

Submitted by Fozzie on February 2, 2019

The hidden political economy of the left - Radical Chains

It is from Lenin's Imperialism and State and Revolution that the modern left derives much of its understanding. While stressing the strengths of these works, the authors indicate how acceptance of the various weaknesses obstructs the left in its attempt to comprehend the various forms of administrative practice that have been established in the name of the working class. Unable to understand the real basis of working class opposition to such forms, the left slides into various kinds of contempt for the working class. From Radical Chains no.3.

Submitted by sgel on June 17, 2011

radical chains

The present disorder and change in world affairs - perhaps too easily labeled crisis - is in its nature marked by disorientation of the left. The left finds itself caught up in structures which it posited as transitional but which are now being revealed, through their disintegration, as the political conditions for, and dependent variables of, the continued existence of bourgeois society in its epoch of decay. Events in the Eastern Bloc and the impact of 'thatcherism', the end of a consensus social welfarism, have provoked a process of re-thinking for much of the left.

Our concern in this section is to examine from where much of this re-thinking begins and to suggest how this may limit the range of its conclusions. The danger, we feel, is that fundamental issues are ignored when the theoretical apparatus conducting the investigation is the same as that which led to the need for re-thinking. Half-hearted efforts only encourage the dissatisfied to compromise with various market orientated projects. This leaves a rump of dedicated revolutionaries unable to fully inhabit real events, reasserting canonical texts, and surviving through a vampiric dependence on the opportunists, renegades, and reformists that it so despises. In short the real fear is that re-thinking by the communist and marxist left will reinforce its present tendencies. Real events have by contrast made a practical demand for a thorough and merciless re- discovery of the fundamentals of working class struggle and movement within a world that has changed significantly since Marx and Lenin.

While many rightly object to the kind of questioning central to revisionism few seem to recognise that it is the stagnation of communist culture, its infertile splintering, and its defensive reiteration of the arguments of the past that encourages the rejection of Marxism. And we only speak of the best. For the worst the defensive posture becomes a hideously depersonalising organisational practice. The absence of a theoretical expression of real historical experience does not mean, however, that causes are not looked for. The problem is from where those explanations are sought. In one form or another the working class is blamed. Attention is diverted from the left. Miraculously it escapes the attention of its own historical materialist analysis. It is time to be critical of those, ourselves included, who have stuck by marxism or communism.

More positively, we hope to contribute to a deeper level of re-thinking. We are confident that the process can and will re-discover a communist perspective that much of the left had lost long before events in the Eastern Bloc. These events have revealed an already existing rottenness in the left. Even now it has not come to terms with the fact that it had needed to rethink well before it was caught out by changes in the USSR and elsewhere.

The left's various forms of complicity with types of administrative practice had already discredited it whilst allowing the success of dubious individuals and social groupings within this left who properly should have had no part in the movement. The continuing discredit of communism has unfortunately appeared to confirm the left in its view of the problem of working class consciousness. Once again the left's own theory manages to protect it from its own responsibilities by enabling it to attach blame elsewhere. Yet it is the left, social democratic and revolutionary, that has persistently championed regimes repugnant not only to commonsense but eventually even to the left itself. At this point it smugly congratulates itself - demands congratulation - for a discovery everyone else made long ago. We have witnessed a real gluttony for the 'gods that failed'. It is surely impossible to believe that the left has somehow avoided reproducing within itself aspects of the prevention of communism. Indeed the relative stability of this process would necessarily require involvement of much of the left. This makes all the more important the retrieval of the theoretical perspective of communism, as the real movement. Otherwise rethinking will amount only to a genetic replication of administrative solutions.

The crisis of the left has been particularly acute within those individuals and tendencies associated in one way or another with the bolshevik tradition. Some have come to reject bolshevism as being responsible for or even identical to stalinism; others have reasserted, with the grim determination of the damned, the abstract non-identity of the two. What is required, however, is serious analysis of the theoretical and historical bases of the tradition. We are less interested in those who have abandoned bolshevism for the market than with those who, critical of both the market and its apparent alternatives, have attempted to maintain the old critical perspectives. The former group, who once sang hymns of praise to Castro, Mao and Guevara, now appear as the ideological heralds of the new age of free enterprise. Our real interest is in those who have remained critical of the existing order. Their personal integrity and sincerity is not in question. The real question is whether the theoretical resources of bolshevism are adequate to the critique that is necessary. The fear is that theoretical ambiguities and confusions might lead to a dissipation of energy, to an abstract revolutionism of little relevance from the standpoint of the working class.

What is required, then, is a critique of this abstract revolutionism. The question is not whether stalinism is a consequence of bolshevism, but whether bolshevik theory forms a sufficiently strong basis for the critique of the prevention of communism. Our concern is that lack of theoretical clarity might obstruct practical opposition to the prevention of communism, leading to reluctant or unwitting support for what is despised ...

For the bolshevik tradition as a whole, there has been a tendency to follow Lenin in explaining opportunism by reference to the imperialist nature of the present epoch. In this article, W.Dixon and D.Gorman develop the basis of a critique of the underlying political economy, the hidden political economy of the left. It is from Lenin's Imperialism and State and Revolution, the authors argue, that the modern left derives much of its understanding of consciousness, transition and planning. While stressing the strengths of these works, Dixon and Gorman also draw attention to their limitations and ambiguities. In particular, they indicate how acceptance of the various weaknesses obstructs the left in its attempt to comprehend the various forms of administrative practice that have been established in different parts of the world in the name of the working class. Unable to understand the real basis of working class opposition to such forms, the left, the authors argue, seeks explanations in terms of a subjectivity abstracted from political economy and slides into various kinds of contempt for the working class ...

The left cannot, of course, be reduced to an intellectual history. Arguments and positions can be comprehended only within an analysis of the real process of the prevention of communism. (This analysis has been initiated within previous issues of this journal. See esp. Binns and Dixon in RC1). The prevention of communism issued form the real need on the part of bourgeois society purposely to intervene into the process of class formation. This itself was rarely more than half understood by its protagonists; requiring conspiratorial elements, it was never a conspiracy in the real sense. It was, rather, the practical outcome of recognition that the old class arrangements could no longer maintain the social order. The left, including the communist left, could not avoid being shaped by the circumstances of the prevention of communist. It is therefore important that we examine the intellectual apparatus by which the left was able, or failed, to confront the phenomena of the prevention of communism.

One thing that emerges clearly is that in so far as it failed to base itself on a concrete analysis of the fate of the law of value, the left was unable to properly comprehend the phenomena that confronted it. In this, the revolutionary left that had split form social democracy in the period from 1915 onwards displays greater continuity with those it castigated as "reneged" than is often acknowledged. Yet it is not even a matter of social democracy having had the "wrong" theory, for social democracy itself was formed in large part by the process of the prevention of communism and was thus deformed. In the present period, as the existing forms of the prevention of communism crumble, we are faced with making a decisive break with Second International orthodoxy in all its aspects. Our analysis of Lenin and of bolshevism is offered as a contribution to that project.

The hidden political economy of the left derives largely from the work of Lenin. To reveal this political economy, and to highlight its repercussions for the understanding of transition, the critique of opportunism and the ability of the left to differentiate itself from administrative structures, we have selected two of Lenin's principal works: Imperialism and The State and Revolution. We aim to demonstrate that the assumption of an essentially inert working class is carried through Lenin's understanding of transition and his conception of planning or communism. Once we have completed these tasks we illustrate, briefly, how the continuation of an unchallenged political economy has formed not just those who stand by Lenin but those who have apparently broken with him. In conclusion we allow ourselves to suggest how we understand what underlies the present period in world economy, in terms of the real historical tendency which we believe to be missing from Lenin's work. In addition we indicate that the limitations in Lenin's approach are the product of an earlier period in the formation of the working class.

The conclusion is where we would have liked to have begun but such are the problems of social consciousness that they are inextricable from the fate of the revolutionary left. There cannot be any immediate access to a pure objective reality. Necessarily, ideological forms are a part of that social reality. In the present epoch these have been dominated by the fate of marxism. The existence of marxist ideology is, moreover, an expression of the objective development of subjectivity within global political economy. To develop a critique of social reality we must also work through a critique of the existing forms of marxism. The revolution, from which these forms derive, was produced by the history in which it sought to intervene: it is not enough to say that it was betrayed, that it failed or that it was impractical. We have still to grasp what it is that is coming into being.

Lenin's Imperialism, despite having been written in 1916, is today a highly influential work shaping the political economic vision of much of the left. It forms the basis of the Transitional Programme, for example, but even those who are not specifically 'Leninist' are nevertheless influenced. One reason is that Lenin's Imperialism has not been followed by an alternative that has matched its explanatory power. Abstract rejection of certain aspects of his work actually assists the dissemination of its deeper assumptions. They remain unobserved, all the more powerful for being part of a smuggled conventional understanding. In particular, there are in Lenin's work conceptions of transition, planning, the imminence of revolution and the role of the working class that have formed the basis for how much of the left has perceived its role, or judged what should be considered to be a 'socialist experiment' or progress. In the present period when so many sections of the left have been forced to reorientate we believe it necessary to question the deeper assumptions.

This is not a period in which the left can gain from complacently taking its assumptions for granted. This is further emphasised by the effect of the Gulf war that seemed to confirm Lenin's relevance, despite the absence of an adequate analysis of existing conditions. Quotes from Lenin and Trotsky and reference to 'what Britain did in 1921' appear sufficient to make the effort of further understanding unnecessary. This extends beyond issues of imperialism. For many on the left nothing much of significance has been added since Trotsky's death and indeed did not need to be. For positions on bureaucracy Trotsky is resorted to, despite his opposition to bureaucracy never having lead to a critique; for guidance on political practice we can turn to Lenin who died in 1924.

It is true the influence of much of their work does rest on its real qualities. This is especially true of Lenin's Imperialism. People can turn to it to provide answers to the kind of questions denied in the liberal press. Whether a 'popular outline' or not it takes up observable developments and experiences within a unified and strong explanation. It demonstrates that war arises from the capitalist system itself. It follows, therefore, that it is impossible to oppose war without also taking up the struggle against the capitalist system itself. So Lenin provides the political economic basis for the demand for a revolutionary overthrow of the system. Capitalism has become moribund. Further development can only aggravate the tendency to war. Lenin's main political target is Kautsky, who he represents as holding a reformist vision of imperialism that is unable effectively to oppose the war. It should not be surprising that many still turn to Lenin. This is especially true when re-thinking has so often ended closer to reformist political conclusions than to revolutionary ones.

We will present Lenin's argument in order to show its strengths, before we identify the limitations of his political economy. The argument is clear; out of competition arises the gradual concentration of capitals. This concentration advances until eventually it can be said that monopolisation has occurred. Very large, dominating capitals, have emerged, and so the system enters the period of monopoly capital. This process is accelerated by two interrelated factors: firstly, depression incites further merging of capitals and secondly, finance capital itself becomes concentrated and through its overseeing role, as controller of credit, accelerates monopolisation. Out of free competition emerges monopoly that pushes out free competition but not competition itself. Competition is between large monopoly capitals, with each striving to gain necessary control of markets and secure supply of raw materials. This gives colonisation in the late nineteenth century a different content from that of previous periods, one specifically imparted by monopolisation. It requires the full division of the world as the whole world becomes either a potential supply or market for competitors. Given the inherent unevenness of capital's development the arrival of new economic powers and change in the balance of old ones must lead to struggle over the redivision of the world. The drive of capitalist development is to war - expression of the continuing private appropriation as need for the division of the world.

From the war comes universal ruin. This is central to Lenin's case because ruin forces recognition of the need to overthrow the system. Hence we have a catastrophist view of what, in Lenin's words, is the 'eve of social revolution.' The necessity for overthrowing the system is not identical with social revolution and nor does Lenin leave it there. The same process and development that is the dynamic to war is also one out of which comes the imminent possibility of socialism. Concentration out of free competition leads to monopolisation. Accelerated by the organising hand of finance capital there is an increasing interlocking of capitals. Individual is replaced by interlocking capital. The capitalist is dragged, against his will, into a new social form as the productive forces are increasingly socialised. This movement stands opposite the continuing private appropriation that takes on increasingly parasitic forms, 'coupon clipping'. The contrast of social productive forces and private appropriation becomes ever greater. The ability to control, to judge markets and supplies, and hence plan, emerges within the forms of private property. These developments would provide the worker's movement of that time with an important basis to the claim of a scientific socialism founded on the observation of real movements.

The movement towards socialism is not, however, its realisation. The question remains as to how the productive forces shall break out of their integument. Action of the working class is required. This is obstructed. Again we turn to the process of monopolisation for explanation. It allows the super-profits from which the bribery of sections of the working class is made possible. The working class is corrupted. Opportunism prevails. It is, then, the movement to universal ruin that forces recognition of the necessary task, the overthrow of capital.

Lenin provides a remarkably efficient analysis of the conditions of his period. He gives a simplifying explanation of war that ties it directly into the system. Yet from the same process comes the possibility of superseding that system. We should not be surprised that, in the absence of any similarly coherent and unifying explanation, Lenin's work still holds the power to convince for much of the left. How many others have been able to match his analysis? It could be said that other, better analyses, have been suppressed within and by the bolshevik tradition. True or not, this isn't relevant to our case since Lenin's work has been the available text for the left and can claim its place in the broad tradition.

As Marx came to the end of his life he could observe the first crisis to start outside of Britain. It marked the emergence of the modern period, of world economy with many national components. Marx recognised the importance of the new phenomena but died before he could finish his work on them. Lenin was able, it might be argued, to update Marx's work and to combine an explanation of opportunism with the condition of world economy. This gave it continuing relevance as a framework for political activity. Lenin's conclusion can be summarized in his own words '...the fight against imperialism is a sham and humbug unless it is inseparably bound up with the fight against opportunism.' This marks a real theoretical achievement that recognises the intertwining of capitalist development with that of the labour movement and derives its political practice from it.

It is true that not all his follower's have taken Lenin as far as he might have wished. He has been used to support a number of political positions that we may guess he would not himself have supported. This does not however mean that, necessarily, he must have been misinterpreted. There are in Lenin's Imperialism lines of analysis which point to other conclusions than the ones drawn by Lenin. The point we want to draw attention to is that aspects of his work take on a new significance when they are asked to provide explanation of the present period. The pamphlet holds a contradictory message that becomes more important in light of the subsequent development. On one side we have the possibility, imminence, or eve, of social revolution, yet on the other there is an essentially passive, effectively defeated working class. Central to this is that Lenin holds a conception of a working class that not only is bribed but which, more importantly, can be bribed.

The problem for today is that in the continuing absence of revolution the burden of explanation shifts onto the fate of the working class. Yet this is the least developed aspect of Lenin's pamphlet. The dynamic to war and the possibility of planning are both results of a movement derived entirely from a relation between capitals. The nature of the working class and its relation to capital is not established, but the implication is that significant development only arises from capital. It is not clear how the bribery is achieved. As far as the pamphlet goes one may assume that it is through higher wages. At its most extreme this interpretation was developed to present the working class as effectively exploiting the third world, benefiting from surplus value generated there. Since Lenin referred to a stratum of workers as workers-cum- bourgeois this interpretation was not so outlandish. What it did, though, was reveal a serious weakness in Lenin's work, the absence of any discussion of the law of value, and the movements of surplus value. It is this absence of any theoretical discussion of the law of value that is replicated unchallenged in the tradition that followed Lenin. What happens to the operation of the law of value if there is growing socialisation? How would this affect the condition of struggle of the working class? And perhaps most important, what relation to planning, to needs, does a working class have when it can be bought off? Does it have an impact on the operation of the law of value? Does it remain mediated by The value form? Hence what is the poverty composition of the class? Discussion of imperialism as a category has tended to take the form of competing interpretations of Lenin's text; real discussion of the category must recognise crucial omissions from that text and then grasp the consequence of these for a left tending more to need explanations for the lack of revolution in 'moribund capitalism'.

The real weakness of Lenin's work is the failure to develop any conception of the working class that can match his analysis of the relation between capitals. This acquires a special significance once explanation is sought for conditions since world war two; whether on the nature of the transition, planning, or the composition of the working class. The absence of any analysis of the social relation tends, by default, to allow the working class to appear as essentially passive, needing overhead objective conditions to mature or to be exposed before taking decisive action. The chronic expectation that distinct objective conditions will be exposed accompanies the militant and inadvertently exposes his undeveloped view of the nature of working class consciousness. As is argued elsewhere (see Gorman, Radical Chains 2) too much of left thinking is characterised by treating consciousness as separate from political economy and so as an ahistorical, asocial problem. It is then treated as a merely political phenomenon.

Lenin himself recognised the limitations of his purely 'economic analysis'. He later introduced the work by explaining that censorship in tsarist Russia had forced him to speak in a 'slavish tongue' on the socio-political roots of imperialism. There are two sections where he does deal with imperialism in the context of the class relation. Referring to imperialism's socio-political roots he goes on to quote Rhodes: 'My cherished idea is a solution for the social problem ... if you want to avoid civil war, you must become imperialists.' A few pages later Lenin again refers to the need to supplement economic with social causes of the 'modern colonial policy'. He then quotes Wahl: '...the energy which is being hurled out of the definite class channel must be given employment abroad in order to avert an explosion at home.' Apart from these references, the possible relation of a dynamic within the working class to the development of imperialism, is not taken up. Yet these quotes suggest the trajectory of the working class as posing a threat to the social order and that the need to counter this threat was itself a root of imperialism. This is not made clear, nor even developed, by Lenin. We do not have an adequate political economy of opportunism when all we are offered is an unspecified re-distribution of surplus value as response to an unclarified threat to the social order. We could argue that Lenin did not need one, when war and breakdown were imminent, but this should not lead us back to Lenin for the clarification we need today. The limitations of the text are historically different as we move from a period of imminent revolution into one when it has clearly receded.

As far as Lenin goes we are offered on one side a passive, essentially defeated working class, and on the other a movement of objective conditions, the relation between capitals, that will produce the revolutionary situation. On one side, a bourgeoisified proletariat; on the other the eve of social revolution. The co-existence of these two poles determine the limitations of the bolshevik tradition's search for understanding. No room is left for any real historical development. There is, instead, an endless procession of immediate situations. An essentially frozen political economy can only allow a range of judgements within a narrow political focus. We are bequeathed here the permanent possibility and impossibility of revolution. One moment encouraged by the former, the next we are braced for the latter. Either way, we lose in the thrall of political necessities the real perspective of communism. The left continues in radical opposition but has lost any distinctive vision of social supersession.

Even with Lenin's own disclaimer concerning his 'purely economic analysis', the left has failed to take a critical distance. Lenin's limits have been absorbed as the left's hidden assumptions. A contributing factor in this is the consistency between the view of the class implied by Lenin's economic analysis with that presented in his What is to be Done?. In that work the ahistorical view is put forward that the spontaneous struggles of the working class do not advance beyond trade union consciousness. This might provide a missing theoretical basis for understanding the bribery of the working class. It is also congruent with the enlightenment project developed later in The State and Revolution, in which the material conditions of existence of the working class have first to be transformed in order to permit the emergence of a genuine communist consciousness. Lenin's Imperialism fits neatly into a package of his work that accounts for the absence of the revolution in today's conditions. From it there is derived the particular role of the vanguard party. A genuine appraisal of the current epoch's political economy has been considered unnecessary. Instead there is the tendency to look to the 'crisis of leadership'. From there the path is short, down to a graveyard of cultural explanations dealing with consciousness without political economy. We have too often to endure a sort of contempt for the working class. Signs of improved living standards are taken as confirmation of its corruptness. The slide is accompanied by the meticulous fine tuning of sectarians, errors are discovered, evicted, and so on, and the essential quote marches to the rescue as the effort is made to protect the pure message from the surrounding corruption. The effort may be valiant but appears to have exhausted the capacity for original thought, not whimsy but the attempt to apply Marx's method to the difficult conditions since 1917. Lenin's focus on the relation between capitals and neglect of the social relation has implications for later views of transition and of planning. To explore these we will return to the central dynamic identified by Lenin. As already stated, the process of concentration, monopolisation and interlocking of capitals is also, for Lenin, the socialisation of the productive forces. Finance capital plays a vital role as organiser of the interlocking. The system tends towards centralisation. On this basis visible control becomes possible. Estimations of the size of markets and raw materials becomes possible and so, in principle, rational control of the productive forces.

What Lenin sees as the rational element in finance capital is bounded by the continuation of private appropriation and hence, competitive forces. Yet the tendency within the productive forces to rational planning is clear. In Lenin's account this is further emphasised by his conception of finance capital as the merging of finance and industrial capital. Lenin, it is true, also recognises the separatism and parasitism of finance capital, but this recognition, contradictory to the central drive of his argument, remains undeveloped in his work. This merging process is consistent with socialisation since it is so to speak the merging of mind and body. Still within the limit of private appropriation, however, it is therefore never fully realisable without shedding the old social form.

One problem with Lenin's interpretation has already been identified by Ticktin (Critique 16-17). Lenin's account, he argues, bases itself on Hilferding's work and so on Germany as the model of finance capital. In this case it was quite proper to perceive finance capital as the merging of finance and industrial capital. However as Ticktin points out this isn't simply wrong; it is rather the right conclusions drawn from the wrong example. Ticktin argues that for the essential development we should look to Britain as the earlier developer of capital. In those conditions we observe, not the merging of finance and industrial capital but their separation. It is this separation that Ticktin stresses in his account.

The first point that can be brought out from these different theoretical conceptions of finance capital is that Lenin's account tends to emphasise the role of finance capital as the organiser of the productive forces, the rational kernel leading to socialism. In Ticktin's work it is rather the role of finance capital as the overseer of the capital relation that is emphasised. The separation of finance capital is both a flight from the working class and an outflanking operation. Ticktin's theory evolves from a conception of the law of value and its fate. Finance capital is a further form of the universal equivalent, abstract capital. In particular phases of its circulation it is apparently free from the mundane task of surplus extraction, able to remove itself from any one site. Yet, as a whole, it still has to pass through the form of concrete labour if it is to accumulate further value. Capital can secure its control through flight but ultimately cannot escape the working class as a whole.

In contrast, Lenin's account allows an interpretation of the process of socialisation that is one-sided. The tendency and movement to communism is not located in the working class. Conceptually the dynamic appears to proceed over and above the working class. Its struggle is not linked to the possibility of planning. The struggle is not specified despite the threat to the social order it represented. In Lenin there is no reference to or even sense of the concrete struggles of the working class which were, in his own time, tending towards communism. He seems unaware of the evolving forms of working class struggle, the factory committees, shop stewards committees, and rent strikes, through which the workers were carrying out before his eyes their organisation as a class. As he does not specify the composition of the class, he is unable to comprehend in its struggles the movement towards communism and the material basis for planning.

We are instead trapped by this framework in a single political moment: the perpetual emergency of the immediate situation. What is absent is the specification of the relation of struggle to needs, its antagonism to a fundamental of bourgeois political economy -absolute poverty - and so the emergence of the potential for planning, positing abundance as its condition. The content of struggle that must change with the development of productivity is not considered. The corresponding, evolving, forms of prevention cannot be specified. We are left within the two dimensional world of the political focus sifting through a jumble of victories and defeats.

Along with the depiction of an essentially inert working class is an equally inert relation to planning. Its basis is seen formally in the objective socialisation of the productive forces. Within this focus it is scarcely surprising that the merging of finance with industrial capital tends to be emphasised over Lenin's own undeveloped views on its separation and parasitism. The theoretical emphasis is anyway, as we have tried to show here, already in Lenin's own work and is consistent with lack of development of concepts from the evolving struggle of the class.

The lack of any real comprehension of the working class in transition is all the more important when it appears to be carried over into a conception of planning. Lenin represents planning as emanating in the 'big enterprise', as the combination of production leads to an end to the anarchy of production. He quotes approvingly a German imperialist quoting Saint-Simon: 'A central committee of management, being able to survey the large field of social economy from a more elevated point of view, will regulate it for the benefit of the whole of society, will put the means of production into suitable hands, and will take care that there be constant harmony between production and consumption.' Lenin's theoretical ical work in this pamphlet offers no basis for an alternative to this rationalist conception of planning. The general will still appears to need a 'central committee' that will 'regulate' 'social economy' '...for the benefit of the whole society'. How needs are registered in this scheme of things is not at all clear. To explore these themes further we must now turn to The State and Revolution.


When Lenin's The State and Revolution first began to appear in Western Europe from 1919 onwards, it attracted the enthusiastic support of much of the revolutionary left, including many individuals and tendencies who were shortly to be denounced in 'Left-Wing' Communism - An Infantile Disorder (1920). In France the centrist socialist parties - the 'orthodox marxists' - denounced it as 'a mixture of anarchism and blanquism' while the revolutionary syndicalists and anarchists welcomed it (Alfred Rosmer, Lenin's Moscow, 1953; Bookmarks, 1987, p 54). hi Britain the anti-parliamentarist communist, Guy Aldred reviewed it, claiming that Lenin, 'in showing the revolutionary oneness of all that is essential in Marx with all that counts in Bakunin, has accomplished a wonderful work' (Worker, 13/12/19). Writing in The Spur in 1920 he was to add: 'no man can really and truly be an Anarchist without also becoming a Bolshevist... no man can be really and truly a Bolshevist without also standing on the Anarchist platform'. The State and Revolution was translated into Dutch by Herman Gorter while Karl Korsch,in 1922, described The State and Revolution as 'that classical work on the theory and practice of the Marxist conception of the state' (Marxism and Philosophy, NLB).

This enthusiasm is not surprising. In The State and Revolution Lenin identifies the state as an organ of class rule and insists that it must be smashed by violent revolution if the liberation of the oppressed classes is to be possible. In this process, Lenin argues, the proletariat must establish a new proletarian state with which to crush the resistance of the bourgeoisie. This state will itself begin to 'wither away' from the moment of its foundation. Lenin's commitment to proletarian democracy and self-organization is confirmed moreover by his endorsement of Engels' description of the Paris Commune as 'the dictatorship of the proletariat.' Lenin, indeed, demands control by a 'state of armed workers' and speaks of the probable suppression of the bourgeoisie by the self-organisation of the armed people without the need for an extensive state machine. For revolutionaries who had witnessed - and fought against- the evolution of the Second International, the contrast with Bernstein and Kautsky would have been both obvious and inspiring. The State and Revolution would have appealed to all the democratic and anti-bureaucratic sentiments of the European left. It should not be forgotten that in this work Lenin sided retrospectively with Pannekoek in his fight against Kautsky.

The State and Revolution still exercises an influence today. Marcel Liebman, for example, speaks of Lenin's 'democratic inspiration' when referring to this text (Leninism under Lenin, Merlin, 1971). Others have discerned in it, moreover, a profound contrast with the conception of a passive working class found in earlier works such as What is to be done? The State and Revolution appears then as a profoundly democratic polemic against bureaucracy and the alienation of power. Yet there are many ambiguities in Lenin's vision which require explanation. Questions must be raised about Lenin's conceptions of transition and planning and of the relation between the state and the working class. We shall argue that contrary to initial impressions The State and Revolution contains conceptions that echo the assumptions Lenin is supposed to have discarded when he distanced himself from What is to be done? Our point is not that Lenin's thought displays a striking unity throughout his work, but that, for lack of developing a real critique of political economy, his re-thinking tended to reproduce large elements of previous positions by default. We will show that the conception of planning, consistent with What is to be done?, that is implicit in Imperialism appears in The State and Revolution in more developed form.

The 'highest' stage of capitalism, Lenin argues, is in close proximity to the 'lowest' stage of communism. The existing postal service is, for instance, an example of a 'socialist economic system'. The postal service and the trusts in general are at present organised as state capitalist monopolies, but 'the mechanism of social management is here at hand'. The trusts constitute 'a splendidly equipped mechanism' that only needs to be 'freed from the hands of the "parasite"' - ie., finance capital. The construction - of communism is seen primarily as the generalisation to society as a whole of the rational organisation of production within the enterprise. Indeed: To organise the whole economy on the lines of the postal service so that technicians, engineers, foremen and accountants, as well as all officials, will receive a salary no higher than 'a workman's wage', all under the control and leadership of the advanced workers - this is our immediate aim. This is the state and this is the economic foundation we need'. The immediate task is therefore to transform 'the whole of society' into 'a single office and a single factory, with equality of pay'. The social factory is not 'our ideal, or our ultimate goal' but rather a 'necessary step', the basis for further progress.

State monopoly capitalism cannot, however, be identified with 'state socialism': The trusts, of course, never provided, do not now provide, and cannot provide complete planning. But however much they do plan, however much the capitalist magnates calculate in advance the volume of production on a national and even on an international scale, and however much they systematically regulate it, we still remain under capitalism - at a new stage, it is true, but still capitalism, without a doubt'. Despite the close proximity of state capitalism to state socialism, they remain separate worlds for the planning provided by the trusts cannot be complete. Yet to say this is only to say that the trusts can (and do) provide a limited or partial form of planning. Planning, in The State and Revolution as in Imperialism, becomes identified with a process of calculating in advance of production the volume of production and systematically regulating it on a national and international scale. A fully planned economy would be no more than an extension to the whole of society of what the trusts do already within the limits set by private appropriation.

Planning is presented as a technical problem and not a social relation. It appears merely as the rationalisation of tendencies inherent in the movement of capital from competition to concentration. Finance capital is not conceived of as having a role in the class struggle. It is the organiser of production and yet also a parasite and -as such fails to be fully or properly rational. The solution to this problem is stated in the April Theses (1917): The immediate amalgamation of all banks in the country into a single national bank, and the institution of control over it by the Soviet of Workers Deputies'. The nationalisation of the banks is in Lenin's view 'absolutely indispensable in order to combat impending total economic disintegration and famine' (The Tasks of the Proletariat in our Revolution, 1917). The relation between planning and workers control remains unclear. Lenin wants, for example, to replace the bureaucracy with a state of armed workers 'in the control over production and distribution, in the work of keeping account of labour and products'. Workers control appears only as the supervision and implementation of technical decisions made outside the immediate process of production. It is reduced to 'supervising and recording' and 'issuing receipts'.

Antonio Carlo has suggested that in The State and Revolution the party is given 'no privileged political position' (Telos, 17, Fall 1973). It is true, the party is hardly mentioned in that text, but the omission is itself significant. Transition might be seen as the generalisation to society as a whole of the rationality of the individual capitalist enterprise. But this process must come up against a barrier in the form of bourgeois social relations. Finance capital, by its very nature, hastens the process of centralisation but thereby also prevents its realisation because it remains a form of private appropriation and so a divided and competitive form. Socialism might, moreover, be inherent in the process of socialisation but they are not identical. The transition from the one to the other will necessarily provoke the resistance of the bourgeoisie; it will come into conflict with the guardian of bourgeois society: the state. This must be smashed. But how?

As already pointed out, Lenin's Imperialism locates the dynamic of transition in relations between capitals but fails to develop any conception of the working class in transition. The concrete struggles of the working class, as we have already noted are not even mentioned. This understanding is carried over into The State and Revolution. The objective movement towards communism lacks any subjective awareness of itself. The rationality inherent in the capitalist production process remains to be grasped in consciousness but Lenin offers no explanation of how it is to be grasped. This omission opens up space for an enlightenment project of adjusting consciousness to the rationality inherent in objective reality. As there is no subjective movement towards communism on the part of the working class, communist values must be inculcated into it. This requires the intervention of a force external to the working class. In What is to be Done?, it was the party that served to bring consciousness to a passive working class; the conception of a passive working class lies also at the heart of both Imperialism and The State and Revolution. A working class such as the one Lenin envisages requires externally imposed discipline.

The subordination of labour to capital rests not only on the separation of labour from the means of life but also on the separation of individual workers from each other. The law of value presupposes atomisation. To obtain a subsistence, labour power must exchange with capital and the relation to capital is mediated individually by the wage. Workers create the means of life but are separated from them by money. From this alienation however, arises the struggle for the direct satisfaction of needs through which workers combine against capital. In doing so they undermine the real need for exchange mediation and abolish their subordination to capital. In this process, individual labour comes to recognise itself as social, the fetish appearance of the law of value is dissolved and collectivity is formed around the direct satisfaction of needs.

Communism presupposes a working class which is capable of taking social production into its own hands. Lenin, by contrast, wants 'the socialist revolution with people as they are now, with people who cannot dispense with subordination, control and foremen and accountants"! This necessarily follows from a conception of transition in which the working class merely suffers - a conception which repeats the assumption of passivity found in What is to be Done? A working class which has passively accepted an opportunist leadership needs to be administered. From this follows Lenin's scepticism about the immediate abolition of bureaucracy: 'Abolishing bureaucracy at once, everywhere, and completely, is out of the question'. The old bureaucracy will be smashed and a new one, geared to serving proletarian needs, will be erected in its place. Like the state of armed workers, the proletarian bureaucracy will begin to wither away from the start. Lenin does not "'dream" of dispensing at once with all administration, with all subordination'. This was written in 1917, before the 'bureaucratic turn' of 1919.

Yet to build socialism with people who cannot dispense with subordination creates problems. Lenin, as has been shown, believes that communism presupposes 'not the present productivity of labour' but a vast expansion of the productive forces. In addition, communism, in Lenin's view, presupposes 'not the present ordinary run of people, who, like the seminary students in Pomyalovsky's Stories, are capable of damaging the stocks of public wealth 'just for fun' and of demanding the impossible' There is no conception here that the working class might revolutionise itself. Indeed, it is impossible to avoid noting the strong parallels between Lenin's vision of the ordinary run of people and that of the character in the saloon bar who warns of the dire consequences to follow the abolition of work, money, and the police. And we cannot avoid asking whether the state Lenin believes necessary to safeguard 'the common ownership of the means of production', will have to defend socialist property, not only from the bourgeoisie but also from the proletariat. The dictatorship of the proletariat separates itself from the proletariat as the dictatorship over the proletariat.

Even under communism, Lenin argues, inequality remains at first because 'we must not think that having overthrown capitalism people will at once learn to work for society without any rules of law'. There is of course no magical transition from capitalism to a pure communism. Lenin has touched a real problem. However, given his assumptions about the level of development of the working class, even on the eve of social revolution, we should be forewarned about his particular understanding of the problem and its resolution. In fact, what we have discerned so far in Lenin concerning the passivity of the working class is carried over into communism itself.

Even should we accept Lenin's understanding of the problem the question remains how the antagonism between individual and society be resolved. For Lenin, it is only in the higher phase of communism that the need 'for the subordination of one man to another, of one section of the population to another, will vanish altogether since people will become accustomed to observing the elementary rules of social life without violence and without subordination'. Indeed, Lenin speculates that it is possible that only future generations, brought up under the dictatorship of the proletariat will be able to observe these rules 'without force, without coercion, without subordination, without the special apparatus for coercion called the state'. For Lenin, even at the highest stage of communism the working class cannot generate its own needs or formulate its own desires. Instead even though it has overthrown capitalism, it becomes accustomed to observing externally imposed rules ... Lenin conceives of planning in terms of a well-oiled machine that matches production to consumption or supply to demand.

The 'elementary rules of social life', Lenin contends, 'have been known for centuries and repeated for thousands of years in all copybook maxims'. Only when people become accustomed to observing these eternal rules will they work for 'society' as a matter of course. What Lenin offers as a higher stage of communism is a harmony of self-policing and self-absorption. Here there is no self-emancipation but rather the adjustment of workers' consciousness to the rational laws of nature. Lenin's highest phase is a utopian realisation of the moralising of austerity and of love as self-sacrifice for others - maxims, disgraceful banalities rather, which are repeated today to encourage co-operation with the existing order. Here, 'society' is set up as an abstraction over against the individual. The individual is, as in bourgeois society, subordinated to collectivity. This necessarily follows from a project which seeks to induce people to work for society.

Much has been made of Lenin's study of Hegel's Science of Logic in the winter of 1914-15. This is supposed to have instilled in him a deeper understanding of dialectics. Imperialism and The State and Revolution are supposedly its products. In On the Question of Dialectics, written in 1915, Lenin notes: 'the individual exits only in the connection that leads to the universal. The universal exists only in the individual and through the individual'. Yet by 1917 Lenin had come to outline a project which involved subordinating the individual to the universal, violating the insight he had achieved in 1915.

But this subordination of the individual to the universal has its roots earlier, in the one-sided political economy of Imperialism (1916) in which transition results from the unfolding of objective laws independent of any human subjectivity. Imperialism is the product of Lenin's more profound appreciation of dialectics and yet it repeats the mechanical formulations of the earlier Karl Marx (1913) and Materialism and Empirio-Criticism. (1909). Lenin, it would seem, taught himself dialectics but in the application of those dialectics proved to be so undialectical.

The State and Revolution embodies an enigma. A working class which overthrows bourgeois society cannot be expected voluntarily to submit to another regime of accumulation set up over and against it. Yet this is exactly what Lenin requires. The State and Revolution is the highest product of the French Enlightenment. In it Lenin outlines the conditions for the fullest realisation of the passivity attributed to the working class in Imperialism. The dictatorship of the proletariat represents the general interest of the working class as opposed to the particular interests of individual workers. From the self-interested workers who demand the impossible, the workers' state demands altruism, self- sacrifice. Until the 'higher' phase of communism is achieved, 'the strictest control by society and by the state over the measure of labour and the measure of consumption' will be necessary. This control 'must start with the expropriation of the capitalists, and with the establishment of workers' control over the capitalists, and must be exercised, not by a state of bureaucrats but by a state of armed workers'. If, however, there is to be subordination, how is this to be achieved if the workers are armed? Or is the state of armed workers actually separate from the rest of the working class? Finally, how clear can we be about the distinction between Lenin's lowest stage of communism and the prevention of communism? A notion of transition which puts the emphasis on the relation between capitals must be susceptible to a conception of progress blind to bourgeois society's determination to 'dress in red' when the situation requires it (See Shepherd, Radical Chains 2). This blindness is all the more serious when one social relation, that of administration is not distinguished from the qualitatively different social relation of planning.

Lenin's legacy has sustained much of the left over the last seventy years; it has enabled a combatitive attitude to opportunism. Unfortunately this legacy has also had other consequences. Its lack of an historically developed political economy has meant that it has had to seek explanation for the absence of revolution at the merely political or subjective levels. The left has splintered into a mosaic of revolutionary errors, deviations and betrayals. Different groups may then claim the title of Party but in reality the party of the working class has taken the form of these exclusive groupings. This fragmentation is an expression of the separation of the party from the class, itself a condition of the prevention of communism.

The range of subjective errors and betrayals are not a matter of bad faith but have an objective quality. They might, more humanely, be understood as inevitable consequences of intervention by bourgeois society in the formation of the class. This required modification of the class relation if struggle was to be diverted from its potential. Administrative categories grew from confrontation to the 'free market' of an antagonistic social power. Defence of the 'market' required the extension of bureaucratic structures. Needs were formally accepted, while preserving their atomisation in administrative practices, so as to pre-empt and divert their socialisation.

Success in the project to reform the formation of the class necessarily left the party of the working class fragmented. Essentially the struggle of the party has been a chronic oscillation between opportunism and sectarian purity. What has been referred to as the 'crisis of leadership' goes far deeper than 'leadership'. The political economy of capital has decayed into forms of the prevention of communism. To understand this phenomenon we need analysis at the level of the law of value to understand alterations in the terrain of struggle and in the spontaneous struggles of the working class. Capitalism may indeed remain an exploitative, crisis ridden system, but this should not be taken as meaning that objective conditions have remained unchanged.

To make such a claim is to naturalise bourgeois society and from that follows the tendency to seek political or subjective explanations, the pathway to sectarianism. While bourgeois society itself is recognised to be an historical phenomenon, the laws of capital are taken to be given and unalterable for the duration of the existence of capitalism as a social system. Since it is assumed that the class struggle does not impinge on these laws until the final act, they can only be understood to operate in exactly the same way until overthrown. To say that the class struggle impinges on the laws of capital does not imply the possibility of a gradual overturning of the existing property relations. The operation of the laws are altered but this is not a smooth, linear process leading to communism. Rather, new elements are introduced which contradict the system while preserving it. They do not form the basis for communism but are aspects of its prevention.

If, as the leninist tradition does, we begin with a static political economy of the class relation we are banished from any historical conception of class spontaneity. It is relegated to being, like the laws of capital, a 'natural' phenomenon, a given in the construction of explanation. In a previous article (Gorman, Radical Chains 2) it was shown how the typical understanding of commodity fetishism rests on an assumption of working class passivity at the level of the system. It entails reading Capital Vol.I., as if Marx's section on commodity fetishism were the explanation for events since the turn of the century. It is in this sense that the laws of capital become naturalised. Marx's Capital gets reduced to the level of excellent textbook for the paradigm.

The problem is not so much naturalisation but the fact that this process has gone on unobserved. Nobody has even had to defend it. Necessarily, theoretical corruption must follow. Theory becomes a mere reassertion of taken for granted categories, deployed without re-engagement with the existing social reality. This is not a matter of 'error' for the tendency of the epoch remains in place i.e., rejection of marxism, as inappropriate to current conditions, leading to opportunism, revisionism, rather than invigoration. This has its equal and opposite reaction, the reassertion of a sectarian purity, and hence the reinforcing of the tendency to naturalise the laws of capital. This tendency was inevitably strengthened by the disastrous effects of stalinism.

The current situation, especially the disintegration of stalinism and the success of what has been labelled 'thatcherism' has led to a period of disorientation and re-orientation on the left. It is common enough to find the need for re-thinking stated in previously more certain quarters. The destination of this re-thinking has been different for different sections of the left. For many, of course, perestroika has upset their previous confidence in the command system's ability to plan and this in turn has'pushed them, for reasons we will explain below, towards types of market socialism. For others, perestroika has helped undermine confidence in a critical orientation towards the claims of the command system and has induced, perhaps, a sense of nostalgia for what was rejected.

The first example we want to discuss is that of Robin Blackburn, who, in a lengthy article in New Left Review attempts to analyse the implications for socialists of the demise of stalinism. Blackburn was not alone in that journal in reaching the conclusions that he did. The limitation of this re-thinking is not where it ends up but in where it begins.

Arguing that'the anti-capitalist Left will have no credibility unless it can account for the dire experience of Communism since 1917' (NLR, 185), Blackburn, previously an uncritical admirer of Castro, now tries to distance himself from bolshevism as a whole. Neither Lenin nor Trotsky, he argues, 'can escape the charge of having themselves in some degree prepared the ground for Stalin by their often ruthless practice of party dictatorship'. He argues that 'central planning' cannot organize production efficiently or rationally and is inimical to the principle of consumer choice. He invokes the authority of Kautsky, Hayek, and von Mises and departs for the market. Market mechanisms, Blackburn argues, are necessary to balance production and consumption. Although this mechanism must be regulated by a form of 'planning' and 'socialization it must be one ' that builds upon and gives new direction to, the forms of economic co-ordination achieved by for example, the multinationals, the banks, the credit card agencies, and bodies like the EC.' (NLR, 185, Jan/Feb 1991). This conception is not only reminiscent of Lenin's texts we have dwelt on here but appears almost to fall out of the April Theses.

Blackburn appears thoroughly saturated with the tradition he seems to be re-thinking. It is at the fundamental level that nothing has changed. The hidden political economy, actually inimical to any communist potential, carries on its work. He cannot challenge the assumption found in Imperialism and The State and Revolution that planning must be done by people and institutions set apart from the direct producers. He rejects centralised command from above but he does so from a standpoint that assumes it really was planning. Its failure is seen from the perspective of the organisers of labour who need information about consumer demand. It is not located as a social relation but a technical problem of the centre and so he manages to conflate the problems of a hierarchical elite with problems that will confront the working class. In fact the elite, needing to secure its position, has set out to achieve the disconnection within the class that has guaranteed precisely the problems of co-ordination and information identified by Blackburn. In this case the real problem is that the elite's survival is directly antagonistic to the potential of planning.

Blackburn is prepared to endorse the manipulation of the 'consumer' through the intervention of the state into the market mechanism to promote preferred consumption patterns. This would be achieved through price fixing that would maintain the illusion of free choice. The working class, for Blackburn as for Lenin, has no historical existence and appears incapable of communicating its real needs. In Blackburn's account socialism appears more as a systematic denial of needs. He has ditched one type of the prevention of communism in favour of another but the shared assumptions of each obscure the fact that it is the actions of the working class that have forced him into this change.

A more serious, if less academic, attempt to confront the real crisis of the left has been made recently in Living Marxism (December 1990) by Frank Richards. Admitting that Traditional left-wing ideas and attitudes make little sense today', he accepts the 'need to set about developing a coherent critique of capitalism in its most contemporary forms'.

Richards argues that for the first time this century there is no real sense of a working class movement with a political identity anywhere in the world. Marxism and the collective solution have been discredited. Richards rejects explanation in terms of the objective reality of capitalism. The key difference between today and the past has little to do with the objective reality of capitalism; that is still a crisis ridden exploitative system. The difference has a lot to do with subjective political factors; primarily, the defeat of the working class'. Recent events have seen the destruction of organisations that gave the working class coherence and identity.

Richards' conclusions are somewhat curious when one admits his political history. He has opposed both stalinism and social democracy, yet, faced by their breakdown, he sees a breakdown of working class identity and coherence that he equates with the defeat of the working class. What kind of critique of stalinism assumes that it gave the working class coherence and identity? The problem is that he attempts understanding at the political level. It is because he starts from an assumption that outside this level the working class is unchanged that Richards has-to put so much stress on the political representation. It is only here that he can really seek out his explanation. He does not apprehend such forms as arising from modification of the operation of the law of value. He doesn't have a critique of stalinism, so much as a moral revulsion. Although, certainly, it is political, stalinism can not be reduced to politics if we want to understand it. In the Soviet Union as elsewhere stalinism has existed as the disorganisation of working class coherence. It has been the organisational disenfranchisement of the working class.

According to an analysis that has been attempted by some within Radical Chains, we should see present events as part of the crisis of forms of the prevention of communism, of which stalinism has been the typical form in the latter half of the twentieth century. The crisis of such forms should not be regarded as defeat of the working class but as the failure of forms of labour control. The events we are witnessing take place in social economy itself. Lack of distinct political representation does not translate as defeat in social economy. Attempts to change forms of labour control must have consequences for the nature of working class struggle. These will not magically translate into political representation. Nor does the irrelevance of old forms mean that the working class is defeated. To believe this is to assume that little can take place at the level of social economy and hence that the only form of the class that has any significance must be political. From this it would follow that defeat of a form of political representation is defeat of the working class. We would be closer to the mark if we recognised the pernicious effect of stalinism politically but that this form was defeated at a deeper level.

This is especially true in the Soviet Union where the elite has had to prevent collectivity i.e. prevent the class coming into being. (This analysis has been put forward excellently by H Ticktin in the journal Critique). Through administration the elite has ensured a direct atomisation of the class which entailed a sabotage of the product. This was not a 'choice' or, the part of the elite but one already by a previous level of struggle The result of the forms of prevention existing in the Soviet Union was a form of labour probably unique in history. Partaking of aspects of both abstract and concrete labour it was never adequately either. Instead there was a highly atomised yet very particular labour from which use values were never a reliable result. Workers exercised a very particular control over their own individual work process. The turn to the market is an attempt to retrieve an adequate control over labour, hence the surplus, and the elite have as little choice in this as they had in determining the previous system.

We are not inviting a fragmentary analysis of a national situation. A proper understanding of the Soviet Union must start theoretically at the level of the global system. From there we can then trace the fate of capitalism in the twentieth century. The survival of the system as a whole depended on the limitation of its direct operation. In many areas the universal equivalent ceased to apply. Regimes founded on administrative practices have often directly assisted the requirements of capital either by policing or by killing off radical working class movements. This has usually been done under a banner of progress.

Our purpose here is to give sufficient theoretical understanding fora contrast with Richards. His argument rests on a separation of objective and subjective conditions. We want to argue that it is not possible to identify merely 'objective' conditions. The operation of the law of value has been modified as a result of the subjective which in turn was objectively developed. We should be extremely careful to avoid assuming capital to be historical and yet treat its internal laws as effectively natural and given for the system. What is needed is analysis at the level of political economy and this can only proceed, we believe, from recognition that development of the productive forces, the power of combined labour, has forced bourgeois society to modify its political economy. It is time that marxists became accustomed to analysis that flows from the law of value and this cannot be done if we leave unexamined the left's hidden political economy. Otherwise the law of value seems to appear outside the social relation and then scarcely worth a sustained effort at understanding.

The USSR is a prime example. It illustrates clearly that there is not a controlled conspiracy on the part of any bourgeois section. The modified political economy is a resultant, intended or not. In the west there has been somewhat more deliberation but this doesn't change the principle that in the present period the consequent political economy is formed by the interpenetration of objective and subjective factors. It is a crucial aspect of decline that subjective factors take on increasing importance. This is as true for the bourgeoisie and yet this is in conflict with its narcissistic dream of itself as the end of history. The subjective has changing objective consequences as the system attempts to sustain its eternality in the face of a developing social alternative. The forms of labour can be significantly altered as we have argued for the case of the USSR. This in turn will act back on the spontaneity of the working class. This argument applies similarly for the West, although clearly the forms differ and crucially the repression in the East could he presented as the actually existing alternative, a prospect that has bolstered the West. We should not as Richards does paint the picture of a lack of alternative to capitalism whilst abstracting from the important role of so-called alternatives in keeping capital looking sweet. Again, Richards operating in a narrow political focus, ultimately only understands stalinism as the wrong leadership. If only it had been as simple as that.

The problem in both Richards's articles on 'Midnight in the Century' is that they do not and cannot offer any grounds for analysis of the period. He skips from political to political economic levels without noticing, or distinguishing the two. This lack of discrimination allows him to make contentious, yet analytically vague statements regarding the defeat of the working class. It is interesting that in his second article he does not mention the defeat of the working class again. Here the message is more upbeat. Indeed if one were to develop his argument one might conclude that the present period marks a victory for the working class. And indeed why not? Victory in this movement may have bloody or unpleasant consequences. The previous forms of labour control in the factory and broadly in the general reproduction of the class were made incompatible with accumulation. The previous forms did not and could not give the working class coherence but rather set out to de-activate it as bureaucratic object, as national, gender, race specific labour, and so on. An inability to distinguish the political from the political economic leads us to see today only a lack of political representation. This draws us into a dangerous flirtation with a nostalgia for previous 'coherence and identity'.

Is it not victory when so many intellectuals give up on marxism if that marxism insisted in different ways that the Soviet Union was progressive? Is it not better that they ply their trade elsewhere? Perhaps marxism can now breathe the fresh air of intellectual non-respectability; no longer having to defend aspects of officialdom, it can retrieve an understanding of the essential disrespect of the working class for bourgeois society.

Rather than lament, we should celebrate, the crisis of stalinist and social democratic paradigms of working class coherence and identity. These paradigms were never more than an expression of the fact that the working class had not yet broken decisively with the society of the bourgeoisie. The emergence of the proletariat, defining for itself its own needs and desires in opposition to capital, was accepted partially within limited political localities, and then channelled through extending administrative practices. The political economy of bourgeois society was able to bend with the wind of the new social power. There was a cost in terms of the operation of the system, in the mediation of needs outside the enterprise wage relation. Success in such a project for the bourgeoisie could only be gang according to the degree to which it contained the possibility of social consciousness. This necessarily implied new forms of representation arising from administrative containments. Since the project was essentially one of limiting consciousness the representations needed a relative autonomy; they had to represent the unity of the working class as existing outside of itself by marking real limits on political economy. The paradigms were necessary for capital in so far as it was not expedient to re-impose a respectable bourgeois paradigm of working class needs. The crisis of a socialist definition of the working class does not mean that the proletariat has been 'defeated'. On the contrary, it indicates the increasing impossibility of imposing such limiting definitions on the working class.

Socialism is dead or dying. At its best, however, it was never more than a secular asceticism: charity and poverty, celibacy and mortification of the flesh, self-denial and hard labour. Its historical project was the reconciliation of the proletariat with bourgeois society through the transformation of its material conditions of existence. In the interests of its own self-preservation, capital consented to being partially abolished through the extension of administrative control. Socialism was always an attempt to render superfluous the autonomous self-formation of the working class. Initiative would be intercepted by the intervention of social engineers armed with definite paradigms of the good life. Whether reformist or revolutionary in tendency depended on the concrete conditions that were required to be contained. The left's hidden political economy constructed around the assumption of the inert working class made it peculiarly incapable of an adequate critical confrontation to the new forms; it could never rid itself of the conceit that the working class needed external discipline. It has sustained an ambiguous relation to the prevention of communism.

Socialism in its contemporary forms is the outcome of developments in Europe and Russia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In that period, when productivity was less advanced than it is now, the bulk of the surplus had to be ploughed back into the expansion of the productive forces. From this crude material premise there arose in the misty realms of socialist ideology the demand for the rational organisation of necessary labour time. In this context, the socialisation of the productive forces, then proceeding under the domination of capital, came to serve as a paradigm for the alternative society. Socialism was thus conceived of in terms of 'planned' production (See G Kay, Critique 23, 1991). For social democracy, including both its reformist and revolutionary wings, planning was identified with the extension of the rationality of the capitalist labour process to the whole of society. The sign of socialism's origins in scarcity can be found in this tendency to identify the social project with the rationalisation of work rather than its abolition.

The old socialist paradigms have been undermined by the development of the productive forces for which they were the political condition. The rise of mass consumption, increased productivity, and, in particular, automation, have formed the basis for struggles around the refusal of work. If in the late 19th century, the alternative society could only have been conceived of in terms of the rational organisation of necessary labour time, this vision has been superseded today by the possibility of reducing necessary labour time to the point of the abolition of work. The possibility of communism as the conscious and democratic organisation of the conditions of free activity, of intellectually and emotionally engaged activity, is anticipated in the struggles of the working class against the imposition of work. In this struggle there is the real unity of intellect and passion that can only transform its conditions of existence. Socialism, in its various forms, stands opposed to this movement, asserting the dignity of labour and the right to work, so asserting as idea what capital itself cannot help but undermine as the basis of wealth.

The present crisis of the socialist project, in both its social democratic and stalinist forms, is in itself an indication that socialism is not adequate to the working class. What becomes clearer is the practical necessity for communism as activity that leaves behind external mediation within the self-formation of the universal class. Yet there can be no immediate transition. To repeat a point made elsewhere, proletarian consciousness is inevitably burdened with the fear that the socialist alternative is the only alternative and that therefore there is no alternative. The crisis of socialism must also be a crisis of proletarian consciousness. This cannot be resolved overnight. The fact that the working class is not organised around a coherent programme of social transformation, does not represent a victory for capital.

In the present period, then, we discern an unprecedented crisis of human social consciousness. The working class, disenchanted with the socialist project, has yet to embrace communism. At the same time, the left remains shackled to the old socialist paradigms in one form or another. It is able only to counterpose the museum of the glorious socialist past to the present consciousness of the proletariat which it contemptuously brands: 'false'. But if the working class has not yet grasped in consciousness the possibility of smashing the barriers of bourgeois society, neither has the left. For the most part the left counterposes to the present degraded mode of existence, the present degraded mode of existence under another name.

If the working class has not yet become communist this should not be cause for despair or talk of defeat. If there is for the working class one remaining gain of the great socialist experiment, it is a healthy distrust of all who offer to lead the way to the promised land. In light of the historical destinations arrived at in the earlier part of this century, this distrust is itself an indication of a more developed proletarian consciousness. Indeed, in the circumstances, if workers were displaying much enthusiasm for communism, this would give us real cause for concern. It would indicate that workers were indeed unable to learn anything from history. Administrative solutions can never again appear without invoking the horrors they have inspired in the past.

In the 19th century, Marx could counterpose the free activity of communist individuals to the present enslaving subordination to the division of labour. In the present epoch this is not so easy. In the intervening period there have come into being grotesque forms of social organisation, products of the socialist project, which associate themselves in some way with the name 'communism'. The very idea of communism has thus become compromised by the experience of socialism. Separating us from Capital and the Communist Manifesto, the First International and the Paris Commune, area history of forced labour, famine, police terror, chaos, and the historical presence of left parties that have systematically sided with reaction and silenced opposition, often brutally.

The problem is made all the more intractable by the historical failure of the communist opposition to develop a theoretical critique of these crimes. Founding their opposition on personal integrity and moral revulsion, they failed to rid themselves of many of the theoretical assumptions of their enemies. In particular, socialist conceptions of the working class, of consciousness, transition and planning, have been incorporated into the practice of the (fragmented) communist opposition. Such conceptions, largely derived in some form from the works of Lenin we have discussed here, still form an important centre to the ideological baggage of the left. This baggage must be discarded if communists are to leave the museum of the socialist past and participate in the movement of the working class towards communism. Failing to do this, the left will continue to find itself bewildered by events and, in its bewilderment, obstruct the process of self-emancipation.

Conditions are not yet ripe for the growth of a mass communist party. In the present circumstances, to invoke the communist project in opposition to socialism is essentially to protest against reality in the name of an abstract principle. The historically existing communist opposition remain trapped within the theoretical framework of socialism. This should not be surprising: there is as yet no conscious, organised movement of the working class. In the absence of such a movement it remains unclear exactly what we would be counterposing to present existence. Just as the working class remains sceptical of the existing left, ourselves included, we must remain constantly sceptical of our relevance to the working class.

The crisis of socialism does, however, assert the practical necessity for communism and, as such, constitutes a crisis for bourgeois society. Despite the real disorganisation in the historical consciousness of alternatives, there is no solution for capital. Only recently it appeared that the market had been reasserted as the historic destiny of humanity. This has not lasted long. The apparently' obvious solution of the market has broken down on the difficulties of imposing it, its social contradictions asserting themselves in advance. Also in the USA the market has to be supported by extensive state intervention in terms of bail-outs for banks, savings and loans, and more covertly through the defence industrial policy. The principal representative of capital accumulation has retreated from the free market. Indeed its huge budget deficits over the last decade have undoubtedly helped world economy through the recession of the early eighties. Furthermore difficulties in reviving its vigour at the spring of poverty have meant flight of capital from the organised and militant labour of the old 'rust belt' industries of the north eastern states, and its relocation within the 'sunrise' industries of the southern and western states and, in particular, Mexico, where labour is less organised, less militant. At the same time development was shifted towards the Pacific Tigers', such as Taiwan, and South Korea where a proletariat could still be formed out of agricultural conditions.

This flight leaves in its wake poverty and degradation. Opposite this also stands the growth of financial forms that have meant an explosion of personal, corporate, and sovereign debt from the seventies onwards. Accompanying this is the huge expansion of foreign exchange markets quite independent of the needs of trade. Money has a tendency to stand opposite exchange as antagonist. The crisis of social consciousness around the issue of social regulation has one concrete form in this mass of 'capital' in search of valorization.

Yet capital is unable to recompose poverty as a condition of accumulation. In the period from the 1860's through to the 1930's, especially in the U.S.A., capital was able to draw on a continuous flow of mass immigration. This constituted a vast reserve army of labour which could be used to smash the unions, disorganise the class, and assert the conditions of absolute poverty. The position is somewhat different today. We are living on the threshold of abundance. The development of mass consumption since the 1920's has made it more difficult to present poverty and work as natural necessities. This, in turn, has necessitated extension of welfare administration. When, however, capital attacks welfare in an attempt to recompose absolute poverty, it produces struggles against welfare cuts, as well as developing disenchantment with the usual political channels. This may only be apparent initially in reckless 'non-political activities'. The process of class formation knows no blueprint.

At the same time, the end of mass immigration abolishes the reserve army which was an essential condition of accumulation in the earlier period. Poverty is no longer a universal and productive discipline on the working class. The tendency is for absolute poverty, the necessity to labour for subsistence, to be supplanted by an abundance of useless poverty. It appears no longer as a natural necessity but rather as a socio-political imposition, an artificial rather than natural threat. It appears less as a condition of the advance of the productive forces, but rather as an expression of the decay of the law of value. However the case might appear today, socialism still remains a necessity for capital as an essential support of the system in decay: the problem is how it can be re-engineered as an ideology of progress without concessions, at the level of needs and the law of value, that will obstruct accumulation. It is necessary, in other words, for capital to offer the working class paradigms of hope; otherwise the proletariat will confront its conditions of existence with all the clarity of despair. Even if capital were to extend concessions, however, it is questionable whether these could ever mark the limit of working class struggle rather than the platform from which it begins.

The free market has been recognised as impractical even amongst its friends, without an alternative coherent programme being put forward. The hiatus in working class formation that underlies present conditions of consciousness will allow temporary space for policies of fudge and mudge. The space is not unlimited. The social power of the working class does not go away. This potential has been the presupposition both of the breakdown of social democracy as of the attempt to reverse it, as well as of the breakdown of stalinism. Resolution of the general crisis of social consciousness can only come through the self-consciousness of human creative forces. The infantile political problems related to the preservation of the minute horizons of the ruling groups will be superseded by the practical problems set by the deliberate, self-definition of needs. Ideologies founded on the rationalisation of poverty need to be revealed as limiting forces by the real science that starts from recognition of the abundance within the international productive forces: the uncontainability of the proletariat.

W.Dixon and D.Gorman

After Zimmerwald - Radical Chains


The modern left, bolshevism included, are all children of Zimmerwald. It was at the Zimmerwald conference in 1915 that the revolutionary left thrashed out the issues of its relation to the centrist and reformist wings of the movement and its orientation towards national self-determination... Lenin may have been well in advance of anyone in his call for revolutionary defeatism, but... Lenin's defence of the right of nations to self-determination was no more than a reiteration of orthodoxy and... in their assessment of the real consequences of support for nationalism the European left proved to be more perspicacious than Lenin.

Submitted by blebber on November 2, 2011

While bolshevik historiography tends to present bolshevism, and within bolshevism, Lenin, as the vanguard of the assault on opportunism, B.Shepherd shows that the reality was more complex. Lenin may have been well in advance of anyone in his call for revolutionary defeatism, but he failed to break with Second International theoretical orthodoxy and remained isolated on most questions, even within his own organisation. Lenin's defence of the right of nations to self-determination was no more than a reiteration of orthodoxy and one that the European left was able to identify as a dangerous survival from a previous epoch. In their assessment of the real consequences of support for nationalism the European left proved to be more perspicacious than Lenin. In examining this moment in the formation of bolshevism, Shepherd helps to further undermine the myth of bolshevism as the only or most advanced opposition to opportunism and, crucially, calls into question some of the theoretical props of that opposition.

radical chains
On September 5, 1915 thirty-eight anti-war social democrats assembled in Zimmerwald, Switzerland. They came to draw up a program to inspire the working class to stop the war. Some also came to revive the Second International, some to bury it. Some of them managed to do both.

As we have said before, dating the history of proletarian revolution from 1917 has seriously misled the Bolshevik tradition, and cut it off from much of the material that it requires for the self-analysis that it is at last engaging in. Even a small step back in time from 1917 can be very revealing and open up serious questions for the tradition.

Recent events call for a re-evaluation of the left's attitude to war and what is called with ever more vagueness, imperialism. If history can teach us anything then it is to Zimmerwald, two years before 1917, that we should turn, from where much of current left ideology derives. The modern left are all the children of Zimmerwald. Lenin did not organise it, nor did he dominate it. He worked hard to coordinate the Zimmerwald left and then gratuitously threw away that coordination for the sake of orthodoxy.

All the major themes of modern leftism were debated in the Zimmerwald movement. The debate on schism from orthodox, and in the end, opportunist social democracy, the policy of 'defeatism', as it was labelled by its opponents, and support (or not) for the right of national self-determination that has now degraded into support for virtually anything that calls itself a national liberation movement. The first was a matter of debate on the left. The second united them. The third well nigh destroyed them.

It should always be remembered when considering these events that they took place in the midst of the greatest carnage the world had ever seen. Millions lay dead in the mud of the western front. Millions more on the eastern front. Chillingly the bourgeoisie were not only happy to slaughter the working classes of all nations (as they had already proved in the aftermath of the Paris Commune) but also the sons of the aristocracy and of the bourgeoisie themselves.

The Second International had always opposed war in abstract principle. As war became more likely the International gave more consideration to it in the concrete. The major debate at the 1907 Stuttgart Congress of the International was on 'Militarism and National Conflict'. The left managed to add its own paragraphs to the final text leaving the resolution 'committing all socialists to take action to prevent outbreak of war'. What this action might be remained unspecified. Lenin tried but failed to convene his own caucus of the left at this congress.

The next year Lenin wrote 'Bellicose Militarism and the Anti-Militarist Tactics of Social Democracy' (CW15), in the context of increased war fever and persecution of anti-militarists all over Europe. In this document Lenin relied on the Stüttgart congress resolution, quoting it heavily and relying on its formulations, especially for the origins of militarism in capitalism and the definition of imperialism. He analysed the various social democratic strategies proposed, spending equal space criticising the nationalist right and the voluntarist left - from the 'opportunist tendencies' to 'anarchist phrase-mongering'. This latter was represented by Hervé's demand for a 'military' strike on the outbreak of war. This would, according to Lenin lead to the bourgeoisie setting the agenda and 'the proletariat would . . . use up its fighting preparedness . . . in the struggle against the effect (war) and allow the cause (capitalism) to remain'. Lenin's position was essentially pragmatic, desiring the proletariat to attack when its consciousness was high, its organisation strong and the occasion appropriate. He also drew attention to local conditions at home and abroad that may influence proletarian activity.

The 1910 congress of the International met in Copenhagen. Kier Hardy and Valliant again raised the question of an anti-war general strike. This was defeated by strong opposition from the SPD. Ledebour argued that a general strike in these circumstances would damage the largest and best organised labour movements and hence on the international socialist movement as a whole. The congress agreed on the usual pious preventative measures; elimination of standing armies, international arbitration, abolition of secret diplomacy, general disarmament.

Fear of the spread of the Balkan war caused the International to call an extraordinary congress at' Basel on November 24th and 25th, 1912. Bebel proposed a motion outlining steps to be taken. An amendment by Luxemburg, Lenin and Martov committed parliamentary deputies and the International Socialist Bureau (ISB), 'to do all in their power to utilise the economic and political crisis caused by the war to rouse the peoples and thereby to hasten the abolition of capitalist class rule'. Lenin was, in the very near future, to refer to this resolution frequently to legitimise his revolutionary anti-war stance and present himself as the true heir of the International in the face of the betrayal by the leaders.

The first declaration of war by Austro-Hungary on Serbia, began the paralysis of the ISB, whereas by July 28 Lenin had already moved to the revolutionary anti-war policy he was to pursue for the rest of the war. Probably unaware that a general mobilisation had been ordered in Russia, his draft for a declaration 'War and Revolution' (CW41) contained in section iv the following notes; 'Militarism, imperialism - Guns go off themselves -Struggle against war - resolution of Juares vs. Guesde - experience of workers in Russia -Best war against war: revolution'. At the same time the Dutch leftist SDP (as opposed to the orthodox and official SDAP) issued a leaflet calling for 'war on war' and united with pacifists and anarcho-syndicalists in the 'United Labour Organisation'. On August 2 three Polish parties called for a general strike against conscription. Other acts of resistance were taking place in the difficult circumstances of the temporary hysterical jingoism that greeted the declarations of war. Germany invaded Belgium on August 4 and on the same day the German SDP parliamentary caucus block voted in favour of war credits in the Reichstag. That evening a small group met in Luxemburg's flat to oppose what became known as 'the policy of August the Fourth', the Burgfrieden (civil truce). They were able to send out 300 telegrams to supporters. Not in touch with Lenin, on August 8 the Bolshevik and Menshevik fractions refused to vote for war credits in the Duma and walked out in protest, never to return.

Caught by the outbreak of war on holiday in Poland, Lenin with some difficulties returned to Bern in neutral Switzerland. Zinoviev soon joined him there, to be followed by various Bolsheviks and others as the war spread and political activity became untenable for them. On September 6 Lenin presented his 'Theses on War' (Tasks of Revolutionary Social-Democracy in the European War, CW21) to a conference of Bolsheviks in Switzerland. The 'Theses' talked of betrayal by 'most leaders of the Second International' for 'ignoring the fundamental truth of socialism . .. that the workingmen have no country' and not 'recognising the need for a revolutionary war'. While flaying defencist postures in general it was only in Russia that '[F]rom the viewpoint of the working class and the toiling masses of all the peoples of Russia, the defeat of the tsarist monarchy and its army ... would be the lesser evil by far.' The 'Theses on War' obviously gained enough support at the Bern conference to circulate them, together with an article developed from them, around the rest of the Bolshevik movement, even into Russia. Support was not so easy to obtain without Lenin's presence however and grave reservations were expressed about the 'defeatist' slogan. Opposition came from major figures including Kamenev, Bukharin, Shliapnikov and Kollantai, not only because of the expression of the desire for the defeat of tsarism in Russia but because Lenin had extended the call for revolutionary civil war to western Europe. This call was well integrated into the text, and the full import is best expressed in an amendment not included; 'The only correct proletarian slogan is to transform the present imperialist war into a civil war. This transformation flows from all the objective conditions of the current military disaster, and only by systematically propagandising and agitating in that direction can the workers' parties fulfil the obligations they undertook at Basel. That is the only kind of tactics that will be truly revolutionary working-class tactics, corresponding to the conditions of the new historical epoch (CW41). Enough support was eventually won for 'The War and Russian Social-Democracy' to appear with the imprimatur of the Central Committee in Sotsial-Demokrat 33 on November 1, 1914. The Bolsheviks went to considerable lengths to circulate this document as a pamphlet, with copies sent to the ISB and the various fractional conferences that were beginning to take place, the Copenhagen conference of northern neutrals, the Conference of Socialists of the Allied countries in London (where Litvinov was denied the right to speak and ejected) and presumably the Conference of Socialists of the Central Powers. In Russia itself it was published in the first issue of Proletarskii Golos in Petersburg. Criticism now appeared in print from non-Bolshevik Russians, the Mensheviks Plekhanov and Martov, the Social Revolutionary Chernov. Even Radek, the European left radical, was critical. All opposed the 'defeatism' line, counterposing 'peace' demands. Lenin was no doubt grateful for the publicity if enraged at its content. Over the winter of 1914-15 he carried the Bolshevik organisation and went on a speaking tour. The final seal of approval was applied at a conference of Bolshevik Sections Abroad in Bern on February 27- March 5, 1915.

Not without considerable debate (all three critical resolutions counterposed 'peace' to 'defeatism') the essential element, turning the imperialist war into civil war was carried and adopted by all sections. Other aspects did not gain such acceptance. The slogan for a United States of Europe was dropped. Bukharin objected strongly to Lenin's use of the formulation 'democratic-republican' with respect to the policy for Russia when proletarian revolutionary socialism was on the agenda in Europe. This was to cover the, as Lenin thought, necessary 'smychka', the alliance between the workers and the peasantry, and the bourgeois phase of Russian development. The 'smychka' was to be a main plank of Bukharin's policy in years to come but at that time Bukharin was very much a European radical in a way that Lenin never was. Smoothed over at this conference, this debate was to erupt again before the end of the war and nearly wreck the European Bolshevik organisation. Lenin was evidently in a flexible frame of mind at this time for in fact the 'defeatist' formulation was hardly used in Bolshevik propaganda, Lenin apparently being satisfied with the 'civil war' formulation. Nonetheless his opposition to 'peace' slogans continued. It is easy to see why. A 'peace' line precluded civil war and revolution. The historical models he was relying on were the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-71 which led to the Paris Commune and the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-5 which led to the Petrograd soviet.

If it was not stressed in propaganda, Lenin continued to defend 'defeatism' against 'peace' demands. Trotsky earned his ire with an article in Nashe Slovo 105. In a reply; 'Defeat of One's Government in the Imperialist War' (Sotsial Demokrat 43 July 26, 1915, CW 21), Lenin mocks Trotsky's 'phrase-bandying', It seems to him that to desire Russia's defeat means desiring the victory of Germany ... the Bern resolution made it clear that in all imperialist countries the proletariat must now desire the defeat of its own government'. If anything important came out of Lenin's much vaunted philosophical readings which he began in September 1914 it was this. The decoupling of defeat from victory, of events at home from those abroad, within a nonetheless international perspective which involved turning your back on international events to concentrate on revolution at home. Here was the victory of dialectical logic at the service of a thinker whose project was revolution. The elegance of the writing of The War and Russian Social-Democracy, which totally lacks Lenin's usual expressions of personal rancour and his ugly constructions, illustrates that he,was completely comfortable with his formulations, utterly convinced that he was correct, and feeling that despite the horrors of the war history was going his way, towards proletarian revolution.

The Bolsheviks were not by any means the only people to oppose the war from a revolutionary perspective. The Serbian party voted against war credits. An anti-war faction of the Rumanian party was led by Christian Rakovski. The Bulgarian 'narrows' issued a strong anti-war manifesto on August 29th, demanding a new International and revolutionary mass action. In Greece the Socialist Workers Federation of Saloniki led the anti-war opposition and dominated a Panhellenic socialist conference in Athens in April 1915. The whole of the Balkan opposition convened an Inter-Balkan Socialist Conference in July 1915 and called for a revived International. A Balkan socialist federation was set up with a permanent executive in Bucharest. In the USA the left of the Socialist Party of America led by Debs took an active anti-war position as did the fWW and Daniel DeLeon's Socialist Labour Party of North America. In the other neutral countries opposition tended to be centred on the party youth leagues except in Italy, where the whole party resisted entry into the war apart from a 'revolutionary intervention' fraction around Mussolini (who had, in 1910, taken an opposition position on Italy's annexation of Libya, actually tearing up railway tracks and announcing, 'the proletariat has no fatherland, nor in truth has the bourgeoisie; in case of war we Socialists will not go to the front - we will raise insurrection within our own borders'). In western Europe the French party had capitulated with opposition only from Merrheim and his Federation of Metal Workers and a few isolated small groups. Likewise in Austria, a small group around Friedrich Adler in Vienna resisted and Bohemian, Slovakian and Italian sections railed against the defencism of the centre. In Germany resistance was not limited to the Internationale group round Luxemburg and Liebknecht, although the latter was to become 'the most popular man in the trenches' as Kautsky grudgingly recognised. Julian Borchardt's International Socialists of Germany published Lichtstrahlen from Berlin. In Stuttgart the party split in the autumn of 1914, in Hamburg Laufenburg and Wolffheim led an autonomous group and Bremen also went autonomous under the influence of Pannekoek and Radek. All these, and many other small groups, took a revolutionary position. Liebknecht's slogans were typical: 'war on war'; 'the main enemy is at home'; 'civil war not civil truce'.

Despite the obvious abandonment of Second International principles by the official sections, everybody tried to maintain a facade of internationalism. But not even the parties of the neutral states could cooperate. On September 27 delegations from the Italian PSI and the Swiss SPS met in Lugano, Switzerland. The northern neutrals, the Dutch and Scandinavians, convened on October 11 in Stockholm. A further conference, in Copenhagen on January 18, 1915 attempted to revive the pre-war strategy of the International; international arbitration, disarmament, abolition of secret diplomacy. Future activity was hampered by the decision that action outside ISB was inappropriate. The Swiss and Italians refused to attend due to a refusal to extend invitations to all neutrals. In February there was a Conference of Socialists of Allied Powers in London and in April a Conference of Socialists of Central Powers. Both defended their defencist stands. Between these two bleak comedies some real international progress was being achieved, if haltingly. The ISB continually played a deliberately obstructive role, bureacratically denying its ability to call an International conference without the approval of all parties which it would only have been possible to obtain at such a conference. Various individuals, mainly of the neutral nations and the peace faction, like the Italian Morgan and the Swiss Grimm engaged in desperate shuttle diplomacy. In the midst of the most unbelievable carnage the world had ever seen conferences were rejected on the grounds that they would be manipulated by the ultra-left, 'irresponsible elements' and 'intransigent extremists'. But progress was being made. An International Women's Conference took place in Bern on March 26-29. Thirty delegates attended. In April a Conference of the Socialist Youth International took place, also in Bern. On April 22 the SPS announced their intention of convening a conference of neutrals for 30 May in Zurich. On May 15-16 a special session of the PSI directorate approved sponsorship of a general conference urging participation of all 'socialist parties or party groups' opposed to the 'Burgfrieden'.

On May 22 Grimm put the PSI initiative to the SPS executive. They rejected it. But Grimm, using a procedural loophole, issued a schedule for an unofficial preliminary meeting in Bern on July 5. Matters were getting urgent for the neutrals. Italy entered the war on Entente side on May 24. On June 18 the SPS directorate declared its intention 'to continue work with those parties, or fragments of parties, which have remained faithful to the ideals of socialism, to relaunch international activity as soon as possible, and to initiate an extraordinary international conference, an energetic movement to secure peace in Europe.' Thus, despite previous 'respectable' fears, the left was presented with an opening. Only 7 delegates attended Grimm's preliminary meeting and of these only the Italians came from abroad, the rest being Swiss or exiles, mainly Russians and Poles. Zinoviev attended for the Bolsheviks and demanded commitment to revolutionary action. Having laid down this marker, he acted in a relatively flexible manner despite losing 5:1 with one abstention a vote on inviting the left groups that Lenin had been painstakingly coordinating. The meeting appears to have closed amicably with the expressed intention 'to begin a practical proletarian movement for peace and against the Burgfrieden'. Immediately after, Zinoviev circulated an open letter asking 'where were the truly lefts of the International?' Grimm worked hard to recruit delegates for the full meeting from the French SFIO and CGT, the British ILP and BSP Internationalists (delegates from both failed to get visas), as many German and Austrian groups as possible (Kautsky's group decided in the end not to attend and Adler's group arrived from Austria too late). Lenin and Zinoviev worked just as hard to produce a common programme for the left. They updated the party platform and Lenin produced 'Socialism and the War' which was circulated together with a draft manifesto for the meeting. Lenin insisted on the importance of a 'common ideological declaration' from the 'left Marxists. Bukharin published a list of those considered to be the basis for a new International: the ISD, the Internationale group, those around Merrheim, Monatte and Nicod in France, the British ILP and BSP Internationalists, the Swedish Youth League, the Bulgarian Narrows, the Dutch SDP and left fractions of the PSI and SPS. It did not all go smoothly. The Dutch Tribunists refused to attend any conference organised by the 'centrist' Grimm despite hard lobbying by Pannekoek. Lenin's attachment to the ISD group around Borchardt's journal Lichtstralen alienated the rest of the German opposition. This led to a falling out between Lenin and Radek who believed that this was becoming a barrier to building a mass base 'the opposition in Germany is a product of unrest amongst the masses, while Bolshevism is the orientation of a small group of revolutionaries'. Lenin fell back on a What is to be Done?-like formulation 'For the development of "unrest amongst the masses" a left declaration is necessary'. Behind all these upsets lay an unsettled difference on the left, schism. Was there to be a new International or an attempt to revamp the old? Therefore, logically, should groups split from their parent parties or remain inside? And, finally, how should the upcoming meeting be handled? Lenin's strategy was to work within and against the old order in one final effort to increase support for his positions before schism, but he had the comfort of a unified party behind him. Others were not so lucky. The Dutch, having had their revolutionary split long before were all for purity and non-contact, but in Germany, Luxemburg and the Internationale group resolutely refused schism (Luxemburg had, on the occasion of the split in Dutch social-democracy, told Henrietta Roland Holst that any workers party, no matter how bad, was better than no party), and wanted no new International. Radek, as his comment above shows, was willing to compromise for the sake of a mass party and remained sympathetic to Grimm. He produced his own draft resolution, more flexible than Lenin's despite the latter reducing his definition of the left to those who; unconditionally condemned opportunism and social chauvinism, had a revolutionary action programme regardless of whether it spoke of mass action or civil war (an earlier bone of contention), and stood against 'defence of the fatherland'.

On Sept 2 or 3 there was a caucus of Russian (Bolshevik) and Polish delegates in Bern, followed on the 4th by an open meeting at Zinoviev's residence. This was attended by Trotsky, most of the Germans, Merrheim, Bourderon, Berzin, Borchardt, Platten, Radek, Hogland, Neiman. Lenin's draft was abandoned in favour of an amended version of Radek's. On September 5, 1915 38 delegates assembled in Bern and took 4 hired coaches to the Beau Sejour rest home in Zimmerwald for a meeting of an 'ornithological society'.

The first two days of the conference were taken up with procedural wrangling enlivened by a letter from Karl Liebknecht, then in prison, again calling for 'civil war not civil peace'. The wrangling was important to the left, made up as it largely was by delegates from unofficial fractions of parties. Both as a means of limiting the influence of the left and to avoid a break with the ISB and hence the International itself the rest wished to limit voting rights to official parties. An executive was appointed. It reduced Borchardt to observer status and allocated 5 votes to each national section contrary to the left's desire for separate votes for separate sections of their parties. These decisions gave Grimm a dominant moderate bloc.

The first 'political' item on the agenda was taken on the 7th., 'Peace Action by the Proletariat'. This allowed Radek to make an immediate attack on the centre, 'a more dangerous enemy than the bourgeois apostles of imperialism'. Grimm was defensive, described the sentiment as 'unsuitable' and asked, 'do we want a manifesto for party comrades or for the broad masses of the workers?'. Lebedour introduced his resolution with the words 'we have come together here to fulfil the duty that the ISB has failed to fulfil, and not in order to found a third International'. No common agreement could be reached and Trotsky and Roland-Hoist were deputed to produce a compromise. Their version endorsed revolutionary goals but stressed the desire for peace.

On the 7th the majority fought back. So far as Lebedour was concerned the sole purpose of the conference was to 'restore the International and to work for peace'. Lassari pointed out that they were all minorities within minority parties, Radek's tone was described as 'pretentious'. Radek would not compromise; the peace slogan was an 'illusion'. After three sessions and late in the night the resolution on tactics was abandoned. A drafting commission was set up to produce instead a general manifesto. Composed of Lenin, Lebedour, Trotsky, Grimm, Merrheim, Modigliani and Rakowski this merely localised the general differences. The differences were wide. Lebedour would not even agree to a demand for voting against war credits (at a peace conference!) and threatened withdrawal of the German delegation. With no agreement in prospect Trotsky was mandated to produce a final text.

On the 8th the war credits issue re-surfaced with the same results. Trotsky's manifesto was adopted eventually. It was nowhere near Lenin's desired statement of principles being a brilliantly written but basically emotional appeal aimed at the masses and their desire for peace.

Lenin had at last inserted himself into the European left and convinced most of them of the importance of concerted action. Many divisions remained. The most obvious was the question of schism but time and events would take care of that (it rumbled on until the founding of the Third International). But something much more theoretically fundamental separated Lenin from the left. This was the question of the right of national self-determination. Lenin considered this so important that he was prepared to isolate himself again from the Europeans.

Lenin's position on national self-determination was impeccable Second International orthodoxy. National self-determination was endorsed as 'a right' by the 1896 London congress when it passed, although not without dissension, a resolution from George Lansbury which combined this support for autonomy with a call for all 'class-conscious workers of the world to organise for the overthrow of international capitalism'. This position was never challenged at any later congress. Two years later the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP) included national self-determination in its founding manifesto. In 1903 the RSDLP adopted the full Lansbury line, the 'right of self-determination for all nations entering into the composition of the state', this procedure to be approved by a popular referendum. This 'right' applied to Russia and was not deemed to be necessarily desirable in any particular case. As Lenin said at the time, 'It is not the business of the proletariat to preach federalism and national autonomy; it is not the business of the proletariat to advance such demands, which inevitably amount to a demand for the establishment of an autonomous class state' (CW6). Lenin wrote several articles on the subject around this time using as a source Kautsky's Finis Poloniae. This was a response to an article of Luxemburg's that Kautsky had published in Die Neue Zeit. In this article Luxemburg used a class analysis of Poland to demonstrate the reactionary nature of demands for national self-determination. It was this line of argument that the European left developed. Lenin followed Kautsky's 'progressive' support for self-determination.

Colonialism was debated more frequently at the International congresses. Anti-colonialism was not self-evident to social-democracy. There was considerable belief in the 'civilising' mission of western domination of the colonies across the spectrum of the International. There was also considerable opposition. But the anti-colonialists, which included most of those considered to be on the left, were generally content to wait until the inhabitants of the colonies themselves began to agitate against their status.

Matters came to a head in 1907. In Germany the government called an election based on all the questions on which social-democracy challenged the existing order. The government's right to rule without interference from the parties, ie the parliament, was the first question, followed by the governments expressed desire to become an international power rather than a merely national one in Europe, ie was the government to be mandated to pursue an active colonialist and imperialist policy? Also involved was, of course, the role and status of the army. The issues had been well chosen and the SPD took a beating at the polls and they lost half their seats in the Reichstag. That year's congress of the International at Stuttgart debated all the major issues. The colonial commission report presented by van Kol and Vandervelde came out in favour of a pro-colonial policy but the congress accepted a minority report against, presented by Kautsky. Kautsky went on to write two important articles that year, Socialism and Colonial Policy, a polemic against future social-democratic administration of colonies, and Patriotism and Social Democracy where he introduced his theory of 'ultra-imperialism' (that the imperialist nations, although bound for at least one war and possibly two, would in the end devise a peaceful means of dividing the world between them). In that year also, Luxemburg updated her anti-self-determination analysis in The National Question and Autonomy. It was to the criticism of this article that Lenin turned when he was temporarily living in Austrian Poland in 1912 and commissioned Stalin to answer it in The National Question and Social-Democracy. Lenin's last writings on the matter before the outbreak of the war The Rights of Nations to Self-Determination (CW20) represented his final version of orthodoxy on the subject; 'the formation of independent, national states is a tendency of all bourgeois-democratic revolutions' which the proletariat should support and the denial by ruling nations of the right of self-determination was a flouting of the principle of equality among nations to which the proletariat must not be an accomplice. He also reiterated the get-out clause, that recognition of the right to agitate for self-determination was different to actual support for it in any specific situation. This was the position that Lenin took to Zimmerwald.

The Zimmerwald manifesto prepared by Trotsky included the standard Second International formulation of recognition of the right of self-determination. It is unclear how much, if any, discussion there was of this at Zimmerwald. Radek, an originator with Luxemburg of the SDKPiI position which had become the accepted European left analysis, reacted with speed and on an impressively broad front. On the 28th and 29th of October, the Berner Tagwacht (Grimm's newspaper) carried his two part article Annexione and Sozialdemokratie, a condensation of the SDKPiL theses presented at Zimmerwald against the right of national self- determination, under the pseudonym Parabellum. The article insisted on the importance of economic over ethnic considerations in fixing national boundaries, noting that redrawing them on'national' lines would lead to economic dislocation: 'It cannot be to the interest of the proletariat to turn back the wheel of history and thus to limit the economy which has outgrown these national borders. It is to the interest of the proletariat that the productive power shall develop as fully as possible, that the whole world become one economic organisation. But if this is to be accomplished ... it must be made clear that the proletariat cannot set as its goal the resurrection of the fatherland intact (in its former boundaries) ... as this can only be done at the expense of someone else's fatherland.' Lenin wrote a response ('The Revolutionary Proletariat and the Right of Nations to Self-Determination CW21) but never published it. In it Lenin accused Parabellum of ignoring national struggles in Asia and Africa. This was not the subject of Radek's article which he had taken pains to make clear concerned Europe. On December 5th Radek published a further article in Borchardt's Lichtstrahlen. This must have infuriated Lenin as it was he who had championed Borchardt's group against Radek's strong recommendation to widen his net in Germany. This article quoted Luxemburg's repudiation of national self-determination, a 'petty-bourgeois formula that has nothing in common with Marxism'. It continued; 'We do not reject the slogan of self-determination merely because it is historically false. From a practical viewpoint, it can also mislead the proletariat. It encourages the proletariat to believe that it possesses the right of self-determination ... and that it is the duty of Social Democrats to support every struggle for independence'.

Worse yet, the new Bolshevik journal Kommunist edited by the Stockholm section of Bukharin, Piatnikov and Bosh appeared in September carrying not only Lenin's call for schism and a new International The Collapse of the Second International but also yet another article by Radek. Lenin objected, refused to participate further and demanded that Kommunist be abolished. In November the Stockholm group communicated with the central committee in Switzerland their position on self-determination and attacking Lenin. So far as they were concerned the slogan of self-determination was 'first of all utopian (it cannot be realised within the limits of capitalism) and harmful as a slogan which disseminates illusions'. Far from fostering nationalist illusions the correct tactic was to 'revolutionise the consciousness of the proletariat' by 'continually tossing the proletariat into the arena of world struggle, by placing constantly before it questions of world policy'. The influence of the European left is evident. Under Lenin's influence the central committee deprived the Stockholm group of the right to communicate directly with Russia. They responded by dissolving themselves as a bolshevik section. The political stakes were evidently high. The controversy continued into 1916 with the young European bolsheviks saying they were 'outraged' at Lenin's attitudes and pointing out 'all extreme Lefts who have a well-thought-out theory' were against the self-determination slogan, 'are they all "traitors" they asked. Lenin's response was to claim their views had 'nothing in common with Marxism or revolutionary social democracy', which drew from Bukharin the accusation that 'in regard to the slogan of self-determination, you stand on the viewpoint of the "past century"'.

In October 1915 Radek had appealed to Henrietta Roland-Holst for support in publishing a journal of the international left. He told her that Lenin, Borchardt and Pannekoek would support it, although possibly not Lenin if Trotsky was to be involved. Pannekoek, meanwhile, contacted the Tribunist, van Ravenstijn in an attempt to bring at least some of the Dutch SDP over to a Zinimerwaldist position. While sympathetic to the Zimmerwald Left, the SDP leader David Wijnkoop, having refused to attend, described the meeting as a 'historical farce' and its results as 'compromised' due to the leading role of Grimm 'the centrist'. According to Pannekoek the new journal was to have himself and Roland-Holst as editors-in-chief with Lenin, Radek, Trotsky and van Ravenstijn himself as co-editors with potential contributors in Mehring, Borchardt, Merrheim, Grimm, Zetkin, Fraina (USA), 'an Englishman and a Swede'. By October 26th van Ravenstijn was convinced and broke with Wijnkoop. This all took place in the context of a major realignment in Dutch social-democracy as the left of the SDAP, organised as the Revolutionary Socialist League (RSV), joined up with the majority of the left radical SDP including the Tribunists'. The resulting organisation was to affiliate with the Zimmerwald Left. Roland-Holst was one of those who moved left so that although Lenin does not appear to have balked at the inclusion of Trotsky, Trotsky withdrew in January 1916 after the editorial board described the new journal as 'representing the view of the Zimmerwald Left'. He had already described the Zimmerwald Left around Lenin as 'extremist and sectarian' and rejected schism in an article in the November issue of Nashe Slovo.

The strife over the right of national self-determination question opened a wide rift between Radek and Lenin just as the new journal, to be called Vorbote, was becoming a reality. The Zimmerwald Left coordinating bureau met in Bern on January 15th, 1916. Lenin tried to insist that the journal must be under tight editorial control as a party journal. Radek wanted a looser structure to represent the whole of the international left. Lenin's demand could not but have upset the Dutch and given that the Europeans rejected his self-determination position it is not surprising that Pannekoek informed Lenin within a few days that the editorial board was dissolved with only Pannekoek himself and Roland-Hoist remaining as editors-in-chief. The coordinating bureau met again on January 25th. Vorbote issue one was to contain an article by Radek attacking Lenin over the national question. Lenin protested the dissolution of the editorial board and demanded again that Vorbote be an organ of the Zimmerwald Left. With this attitude it is surprising, and a tribute to the openness of the Dutch that issue 2 of Vorbote contained not only Radek's Theses on Imperialism and National Self-Determination as presented at Zimmerwald but also Lenin's response Socialist Revolution and the Right of Nations to Self-Determination (CW22).

Only two issues of Vorbote were published. The reorganisation of the Dutch left led to increased activity at home which led up to a mass anti-war demonstration in Amsterdam on June 21st. The argument over editorial control led the Bolsheviks to publish a new Russian-language party journal to replace the closed Kommunist and as propaganda for the Zimmerwald Left. It was hardly a replacement for the truly international German language Vorbote. Lenin wrote to Radek that 'our common struggle in Russian and Polish affairs is finished.

In July 1916 Lenin refused to publish Bukharin's article Towards a Theory of The Imperialist State (it was not finally published until 1925 and then without its conclusion), because it was 'decidedly incorrect'. Only in 1917 did Lenin discover, to his evident surprise, while researching The State and Revolution that he had 'reached conclusions much sharper against Kautsky than against Bukharin ... Bukharin is much better than Kautsky'. What Bukharin had done was to start by 'rescuing' Marx and Engels' original understanding of the state: 'The state is nothing but the most general organisation of the ruling classes, the basic function of which is the maintenance and extension of the exploitation of the suppressed classes'. 'Rescuing' it, that is, from the Second International and especially the SPD's understanding which Lenin apparently clung to. Despite Lenin's stated position that opportunism had a material class basis, he appeared still to believe that the International's and especially Kautsky's betrayal was some kind of personal failing and deviation from previously held sound theoretical positions rather than a
consequence of those positions.

Lenin made no re-evaluation of the right of self-determination. The European left, independently, although it must have been beginning to look like a conspiracy to Lenin, continued to publicise its beliefs. On the first of January 1916 the Internationale Group reformed themselves as the Spartacus League and adopted a preliminary program written by Luxemburg. It included the analysis that in the age of imperialism 'national wars can no longer exist' and ergo the right of self-determination was a dead issue. The publication of the Junius pamphlet soon followed. Lenin responded late, writing in July 1916 an article not published until October. His ignorance of the identity of Junius lent a patronising air to what was meant, for once, to be a comradely argument.

The Polish theses set out in Vorbote 2 are carefully set in the concrete conditions of the time. Imperialism 'represents the tendency of finance capital to outgrow the limits of nation states'. It leads to the seizure of 'transoceanic' sources of raw materials and food supplies together with spheres for investment and markets. In Europe the tendency is to 'combine' adjacent territories which are economically complementary regardless of the nationality of the inhabitants. Military reasons also contribute to this as the need for defence and offence increase.

The consequent national oppression is against the interest of the working class (all judgements in the theses are based on the needs of the class and proletarian revolution). The imperialist bureaucracy uses all the means it has learned against the oppressed peoples against its own proletariat. In the oppressed nations, not only does the working class have its struggle checked by having its freedom to organise removed but it develops feelings of solidarity with its national bourgeoisie. It is in danger of becoming 'a helpless object of exploitation' and 'a dangerous rival', as a wage-cutter and strikebreaker, of the proletariat of the oppressing nation. Seizure of territory leads to further war as the loser will always try to restore the status quo. The grievance covers the loser's own imperialist policy.

Social-democracy must therefore energetically fight annexations and national oppression. It denies the claim that colonies are necessary for further development of capitalism. The oppressing nations of Europe and the United States are already ripe for transformation to socialism. The transformation would not adversely affect the development of countries currently colonised as all aid and assistance would be forthcoming from a socialist regime. Annexation divides the working class which should be united against the working class to fulfil its historic task of overcoming capital.

The starting point for policy is the renunciation of any 'defence of the fatherland' which is only a defence of the Tight of one's own bourgeoisie to oppress and plunder foreign peoples. This involves denouncing national oppression and demanding all democratic rights for the oppressed. While this would give the freedom to agitate for separation 'Social Democracy does not advocate either an erection of new boundary posts in Europe or the re-erection of those which have been torn down by imperialism'. Social democracy has to educate the masses of both the oppressed and the oppressor nations for a united struggle to lead mankind 'beyond imperialism toward socialism'. That is the only way to abolish national oppression and economic exploitation.

The defeat of imperialism involves not a return to old forms but clearing the road for socialism, for which conditions are ripe. Socialism would take up the cry 'away with boundaries' and 'away with colonies'. In the colonised nations national bourgeoisie are developing so, to hasten socialism, Social democracy 'will support the proletarian struggles in the colonial countries against European and native capital'. This also involves workers of the oppressed nations showing solidarity with those of the oppressor nation.

National oppression is inherent in imperialism and the struggle should be against the cause not the effect. This is achieved by social revolutionary methods, the abolition of capitalist private property, the root cause. This is not a postponement of the lifting of national oppression, for the social revolution 'in which the proletariat will break all chains' is imminent.

The 'formula' of the right of national self-determination is an inheritance from the Second International. It had a dual content; firstly, the legitimate one of opposing national oppression and subjugation and secondly, the 'defence of the fatherland'. The formulation avoided analysing each situation concretely. The war has shown its counter-revolutionary nature. While its revolutionary aims are supportable the slogan cannot be accepted as correct. First of all self-determination is impracticable in capitalist society which is ruled by the bourgeoisie who determine 'national' policy. This is regardless of any democratic forms, for the bourgeoisie control all the institutions that condition the thinking of people such as the churches, schools and the press. The only reason that they use force in oppressed nations is because not sufficient time has passed for these institutions to have their full effect. If self-determination is to be decided by plebiscite (orthodox social-democratic policy), the bourgeoisie would determine the outcome. Even if that were not so, a decision would be made by a minority that would be binding on the majority, a possibility that might lead to war at worst.

If self-determination is an impracticable demand under capitalism, under socialism it is inapplicable. Socialism abolishes all national oppression by abolishing the class conditions that give rise to it. There is no reason to believe that a nation in socialist society would take on the nature of an economic-political unit. The latter would be the basis of the requirement for all citizens to participate in any decisions on sub-division. To apply the 'right of self-determination' to socialist society is to completely misunderstand the character of a socialist community.

The consequence of trying to apply the formula is that, being utopian, it will mislead the proletariat into believing that, a) it is possible and b) would solve their problems without abolishing capitalism itself. Like war, national oppression is inherent to capitalism. The tendency would be to encourage national reformist views as opposed to social revolutionary ones. The consequent nationalism contradicts the necessary internationalism of the proletariat. Ina period of transition, when the conditions are ripe but social revolutionary struggles have not yet begun it is tactically necessary to
propagandise for socialism and revolution.

The theses end with the resolution of the Polish social democrats on Poland itself. Before that they draw attention to Marx. His precise political positions are not of the 'slightest value' now. They were concrete analyses of his own time. 'Marx's position shows exactly that it is not the task of Marxism to formulate an attitude toward concrete questions in terms of abstract rights'.

Lenin had the advantage of writing his theses after and in full knowledge of the Polish offering. He had also been working on the materials that were to go into his 'Imperialism - the Highest Stage of Capitalism'. Lenin's definition of imperialism is significantly different from that in the Polish theses. Rather than finance capital he concentrates on fractions of capital and monopoly replacing competition. He agrees that the proletarian revolution is on the agenda in western Europe and the United States, the reasons being that the conditions of the masses have been worsened economically by the 'trusts' and an increased cost of living and politically by militarism, war and general reaction with the 'intensification and expansion of national oppression and colonial plunder'.

Socialism would 'necessarily' establish full democracy which means also the full equality of nations and the right to self-determination. It is a mistake to see a struggle for democracy as a diversion from socialist revolution and as an aspect of democracy it would equally be a mistake to remove national self-determination from the 'democratic programme' on the grounds of it being 'impracticable' or 'illusory' under imperialism.

Theoretically self-determination is not 'impracticable' in the sense that, for instance, labour money is impracticable. Lenin uses the example of Norway's secession from Sweden in 1905.

He draws a sharp distinction between the 'political' and the 'economic'. Admitting that 'finance capital' can bribe or buy any democratic government and in itself cannot be abolished politically he nonetheless holds that 'political democracy' is a 'freer, wider and clearer form of class oppression and class struggle'. Not only self-determination but 'all the fundamental demands of political democracy' are only partially practicable under the current system.

The demand for the liberation of the colonies must be put in a revolutionary, not a reformist way, ie not within the limits of bourgeois legality but by all means of mass struggle for there is no prescribed or preordained immediate cause for the start of socialist revolution, it might not only be through 'some big strike, street demonstration or hunger riot or a military insurrection or colonial revolt,' but may also be a result of 'a political crisis such as the Dreyfus case ... or in connection with a referendum on the secession of an oppressed nation, etc.'. Social democracy should use the conflicts that arise from increasing national oppression under imperialism as grounds for mass action and revolutionary attacks on the bourgeoisie.

As in the past Lenin attempts to make a clear distinction between independence in the political sense, which is the right to 'agitate for' secession and a referendum and the 'demand for separation, fragmentation and the formation of small states'. It is unlikely, he thinks, that the latter would happen as big states offer 'indisputable advantages' and as the freedom to agitate is attained separation becomes less tempting (for the bourgeoisie?).

Just as there would be a transition period of the dictatorship of the oppressed class, there would also be a transition period of complete emancipation of all the oppressed nations expressed in their freedom to secede.

It is true that the petty-bourgeoisie put forward all points of the democratic minimum programme in a 'utopian' manner, utopian because they ignore class struggle. Nevertheless the programme of the social democrats 'must postulate the division of nations into oppressor and oppressed as basic, significant and inevitable under imperialism'. Thus the proletariat must struggle for the 'freedom of political separation for the colonies and nations oppressed by "their own" nation'. On the other side, socialists of the oppressed nations must 'defend and implement' unity, including organisational unity, between the workers of the oppressed and oppressing nations.

Lenin notes that 'the bourgeoisie of the oppressed nations persistently utilise the slogans of national liberation to deceive the workers' and also that rival great powers may use self-determination struggles for their own ends.

In a footnote he says it is ridiculous to reject the right of self-determination on the grounds of rejection of 'defence of the fatherland'. It must be a matter of concrete analysis not a 'general principle'. There is also a confused note about the difference between national and imperialist wars.

'Marx' says Lenin, 'regarded every democratic demand without exception not as an absolute, but as a historic expression of the struggle of the masses of the people, led by the bourgeoisie, against feudalism' and they had all been used to deceive the workers. The right of self-determination is no different. On the other hand Marx's support for economic and political concentration as progressive did not still hold in the imperialist era.

Lenin divided the world into three types of countries. Firstly the advanced capitalist countries of western Europe and the United States where progressive bourgeois national movements came to an end long ago. They all oppress other nations both in the colonies and within their own borders. To forget the latter is a form of independent 'small nation narrow-mindedness' he accuses in a footnote attack on Gorter for 'incorrectly' rejecting 'self-determination' while 'correctly' applying it in a demand for the immediate 'political and national independence' of the Dutch East Indies. Secondly, eastern Europe, Austria, the Balkans and especially Russia. Here the twentieth century has seen the rise of bourgeois-democratic movements and the intensification of national struggles. The task of the proletariat in these countries is to complete the bourgeois-democratic reforms and render assistance to socialist revolutions in other countries. Thirdly, semi-colonial (eg China, Persia and Turkey) and colonial countries. Bourgeois-democratic movements have hardly begun here. Socialists should demand the liberation of the colonies and 'render determined support to the more revolutionary elements in the bourgeois democratic movements for national liberation ... and assist their uprising - or revolutionary war, in the event of one - against the imperial powers that oppress them.

'The socialist revolution may begin in the very near future. In this case the proletariat will be faced with the immediate task of winning power, expropriating the banks and effecting other dictatorial measures'. The bourgeoisie and intellectuals of the Fabian and Kautskyite tendency will attempt to limit revolution by foisting limited, democratic aims on it. If the revolution does not come for some time (Lenin talks of five, ten or more years), then there will be time for social democratic education of the masses especially for the right of self-determination. Those who do not support it act 'as chauvinists and lackeys of bloodstained and filthy imperialist monarchies and the imperialist bourgeoisie.'

Given Lenin's determination to break with the 2nd International and his moves towards the European left, we have to ask why he clung to the orthodox position on self-determination to the extent of destroying the coordination for which he had worked so hard. His thesis gives some clues. The stage theory is most obvious, allied with the separation of the political from the economic. Thus he requires the proletariat to pass through a bourgeois-democratic stage defined by political democracy. This is a strange and idealist construct. Whether the working class becomes strong enough to exert its needs through dictatorship is after all not a question of political forms of the rule of the ruling class. It is a question of political economy, of the growth and formation of the class itself within and against capital.

Lenin's position would be easy fora political emigre Russian of the time to adopt, initially impressed, no doubt, with the German SPD parliamentary activity, and coming to accept it as normal while in Russia a mad, unwashed, peasant, prophet-monk determined national policy by hypnotising the tsarina (imagine the effect on Lenin's blood pressure of reading that kind of news). Political democracy must have looked tempting. On the other hand it had not prevented, indeed it had led to, the betrayal of August 4. Nevertheless Lenin sticks to the necessity of the proletariats' long march through the ideal stages. His internationalism must be viewed in this light. The Polish theses, speaking for the European left, support decolonisation no less than Lenin but offer their support to the colonised proletariat against capital, native or European, and desire to split it from the national bourgeoisie. Lenin on the other hand, adamant that there must be a bourgeois-democratic stage, neglects any possibility of an autonomous working class with its own, autonomous struggle. But this is not enough to explain his obsession with national self-determination. For that we have to look to Russia.

Russo-centrism was Lenin's besetting sin. When Gorter returned from Moscow after pleading the case of the European left at the third International in 1920 he is reported to have said that when he went he expected to find in Lenin a man who thought himself the commissar of the world revolution; instead he had found a Russian. Lenin had been in western Europe since 1900. For most of that time he had acted as a correspondent for Bolshevik newspapers distributed in Russia. An examination of the Collected Works covering that period shows Lenin's contributions to have been almost entirely polemics against political positions held by others (mainly the Mensheviks) or commentary on events in Russia. Reading Lenin you would have no idea that by 1914 many people in western Europe were expecting a revolution. Not because of the power of the parties of the 2nd International but because, increasingly, neither those parties nor the trades unions could hold the working class in check. Bourgeois society, not without considerable internal dispute, had begun to come to terms with the demands of social democracy and to recuperate its position within those demands. But the prevention of communism was missing its target. From about 1902 strikes had been getting larger and more frequent in every country in Europe. This explains the relatively muted reaction to Russia's 1905; it was seen as merely an extreme version of a general trend. Lenin, unlike the European left, took no part in this and wrote very little. Long after the European left he notices the integration of the SPD into the state and appears to assume that the working class had been similarly integrated. Instead the working class had been breaking free of officialdom. Strikes in Germany went from 1468 involving 321,000 workers in 1900, to 3228 involving 681,000 in 1910, to 2834 involving 1,031,000 in 1912. Many of these strikes were against the express wishes of both unions and the party. Similar stories can be told for all the countries of western Europe. It was even happening in Britain. George Askwith, the Board of Trade's senior arbitrator was confidently expecting an all-out general strike at best and a revolution at worst (from his point of view) by mid-1914 after four years of less and less controllable industrial unrest. None of this did Lenin relay to Russia.

Lenin knew that war led to revolution in the current epoch; the French communes in 1871, Russia in 1905. Oppression and privation would see to that. So his revolutionary response converged with that of the European left. But Russia was the 'prison house of the nations'. Where the European empires, Germany and Austro-Hungary, were relatively homogeneously developed with class unity possible across 'national' boundaries, Russia was in comparison seriously underdeveloped and, worse, extremely unevenly developed. If post-revolutionary Russia was to be held together its disparities had to be recognised. Lenin's answer was national self-determination. With a political viewpoint he then elided the Russian with the European empires and the liberation of the colonies - the right of self-determination for all. But also unintentionally holding back everything to the pace of development of events in Russia. The Polish theses see further division, or even support for it, as a backward step. The empires were capitalist phenomena and their internationalisation was a progressive aspect of capital. The spread of industry, the economic development of the continent was no longer confined within national boundaries. Re-imposition of those boundaries would be a serious threat to working-class control and management of production. The class had no nation. Lenin on the other hand seemed to wish to teach the class that it had.

Lenin cannot be held fully responsible for the use to which his words have since been put, but his relatively sophisticated differentiation between the right of self-determination and the actual event (or is it mere sophistry?), and his demand that socialists should support elements of 'revolutionary' bourgeois nationalist movements have been cheapened and coarsened. The left has all too frequently assumed that it is leftist to support national struggles per se, no matter what brutality they might mete out to the working class, no matter what check they are on the formation of that class, and no matter what ludicrously economically inadequate piece of territory they claim. There is no real historical excuse; even before the First World War, Anton Pannekoek pointed out that bourgeois nationalists in the colonies were injecting their own interests into socialist ideology due to the bankruptcy of bourgeois ideology. This process has continued until now it is accepted wisdom that support for national bourgeois regimes is inherent in socialism. And so it may be to socialism, the outdated ideology of the Second International. But it has little or nothing to do with proletarian revolution.

B.Shepherd From Radical Chains no.3


Horace B Davies Nationalism and Socialism, Marxist and Labor Theories of Nationalism to 1917, Monthly Review Press 1967.
O.H.Gankin and H.H.Fisher, The Bolsheviks and The World War, The Origins of the Third International, Stanford 1940.
R.Craig Nation,War on War Lenin, the Zimmerwald Left, and the Origin of Communist Internationalism, Duke University Press 1989.
Lenin's Struggle for a Revolutionary International, Pathfinder Press.

Franz Jakubowski: consciousness and the critique of political economy - Radical Chains

This article examines the attempt by Franz Jakubowski, a trotskyist leader of the 1930s, to confront those conceptions of consciousness that were dominant within the Second and Third Internationals... Unable to comprehend the impact of the prevention of communism on working class consciousness, Jakubowski is able only to reassert an abstract dichotomy of "false" and "correct" consciousness. This critique of Jakubowski has ramifications that go beyond the bolshevik tradition itself. From Radical Chains no.3

Submitted by sdrg45 on June 26, 2011

radical chains

The question of consciousness has been the Achilles heel of marxism throughout the present epoch. Failure in the revolutionary project has been explained away by invoking the supposed "false" consciousness of the working class. This is true of the left as a whole and is more obvious within bolshevism perhaps only because of heavy reliance on crude formulations from Lenin's What is to be Done? Other currents, often more academic in orientation, have tended to disguise crudity of conception behind a veil of language sophisticated to the point of impenetrability.

Bolshevism is not, however, monolithic. In this article D.Gorman examines the attempt by Franz Jakubowski, a trotskyist leader of the 1930s, to confront those conceptions of consciousness that were dominant within the Second and Third Internationals. Arguing that Jakubowski ultimately fails to go beyond the positions of those, like Lenin, who he criticises, Gorman traces this failure to Jakubowski's attempt to develop a critique of consciousness in abstraction from any consideration of the concrete, historically developing, political economy of his time. Unable to comprehend the impact of the prevention of communism on working class consciousness, Jakubowski is able only to reassert an abstract dichotomy of "false" and "correct" consciousness. This critique of Jakubowski has ramifications that go beyond the bolshevik tradition itself.

In the present epoch the left has been crippled by its compromise with various forms of administrative control. Appearing as the basis of transition to the alternative society, such forms have in fact blocked the process, thus preserving the existing order. In so far as the left has been unable to properly apprehend this tendency, it has found itself trapped in an apparent dichotomy between the maturity of the objective conditions for communism and the immaturity of the necessary subjective awareness. The left has thus had to explain away as 'false' consciousness the refusal of the working class to endorse the socialist future as it appeared in the USSR and similar social formations. The disintegration of stalinism, under the pressure of the working class, tends to undermine this appearance and opens up space for critical thought about consciousness. Such thought can best develop by confronting the ideological legacy of the past.

The destruction of the October revolution virtually destroyed the left, scattering and isolating opposition. Little space was left for criticism within existing left milieux and in particular those compromised in some way by the defence of the USSR. Criticism did, however, take place and one of the most interesting examples from within the bolshevik tradition is Franz Jakubowski's recently reprinted Ideology and Superstructure in Historical Materialism (second English edition, Pluto Press, 1990; introduction by Frank Furedi). First published in Danzig in 1936 this book attempts to confront the conceptions of the relations between consciousness and being that were dominant in the Second and Third internationals at the time.

Jakubowski was born in Poznan in Poland in 1912 and brought up in Danzig. Although he had become attracted to marxism in 1930, he spent the period up to 1933 studying law at various universities across Europe. However, when Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933, Jakubowski, then studying at Wroclaw, joined the trotskyist Socialist Workers Party. He went on to study politics at Basle, where he met Fritz Belleville - a leader of the trotskyist movement in Germany, friend and disciple of Karl Korsch and member of the Frankfurt school. At Basle, Jakubowski and Belleville were active in a group of revolutionary socialist students but in 1936 Jakubowski returned to the 'free city' of Danzig, where a Nazi administration had just come to power. There he became a leader of the Spartacus League, a trotskyist organisation whose activities included working with dockers to obstruct the shipment of arms to Franco in Spain. Arrested by the Nazis along with sixty members of this organisation in December 1936 he and nine others were sentenced to three years imprisonment. His trial, which Jakubowski himself compared to the Moscow show trials, won him the support of Trotsky who defended him in the pages of Lutte Ouvriere. His release was secured by his parents on the technical grounds that he was a German citizen and not a citizen of Danzig. On his release he became, like many others in that period a political refugee. He travelled via Denmark and Cuba to America where he changed his name to Frank Fisher.

Little is known about Jakubowski's life beyond this point, beyond the fact that he became a founder of the Alexander Herzen Foundation. His choice of America rather than Russia as a place of refuge was natural given the show trials and the Comintern's denunciation of all communist oppositionists as Gestapo agents. This choice not only saved his life but spared him suspicion of implication in stalinism associated with those who, like Lukacs and Brecht, went east. Yet American exile, for Jakubowski as for many others - for example, Horkheimer, Reich, and Rosdolsky -must have spelled isolation, both linguistic and cultural. Such isolation would have been reinforced by the general political confusion within emigre circles and by the Cold War and Jakubowski seems to have lost contact with the workers movement. He died in 1970.

The main interest in Jakubowski lies 'in the fact that his book constitutes an attempt by a leader of the trotskyist movement to develop a critique of Lenin's understanding of consciousness and the party as the 'bearer' of consciousness. This is significant, first, because it goes against the evolution of Trotsky himself, who in his later years was to repudiate his earlier criticisms of What is to be Done? But, in addition, in so far as Jakubowski undertakes this critique, he begins to converge on positions adopted by the left communists - indeed, Jakubowski's critique owes much to the influence of Korsch. That he did not take this critique further is partly a function of his acceptance of Trotsky's analysis of the USSR.

Ideology and Superstructure is interesting also because it tends ultimately to reproduce, if in a more sophisticated form, the position it sets out to criticise. It contains a compelling critique of Lenin, enshrined within a theoretical framework which shares many of the deeper assumptions of What is to be Done? The failure to actually go beyond Lenin is a common feature of anti-leninism and important to the survival of leninism. The phenomenon is not limited to Jakubowski. In so far, however, as it appears in a particularly clear form in Ideology and Superstructure, it thus permits the kind of detailed examination of the problem not often afforded by other works. Jakubowski can thus be taken as a prime example of the failure of anti-leninism from Paul Mattick through to Herbert Marcuse. It is possible to discern in it the mechanisms through which the process of 're-thinking' goes astray.

Ideology and Superstructure - the product of Jakubowski's doctoral dissertation - stands out as a critical, scholarly work, and is in many ways a model that it worthy of emulation. It is clearly and economically written, its argument unfolding organically, each part leading up to and supporting the next - a virtue which makes it relatively easy to trace the sources of its problems. In the course of his argument, Jakubowski polemicises against such thinkers as Lenin, Kautsky, Plekhanov, Hilferding, Weber, Mannheim and Kelsen. No comment will be made about his appropriation of their work -except that of Lenin - beyond noting the non-sectarian nature of that appropriation. Jakubowski examines the logic of opponents' arguments rather than indulging in invective or neutralisation through the attachment of labels - practices which in some quarters are still identified with historical materialist analysis.

One problem for the contemporary reader is Jakubowski's language. Ideology and Superstructure is replete with phrases such as 'base and superstructure', 'theory and practice', and 'metaphysical materialism' -even the title itself will be enough to put some people off. Today such language is unfortunately redolent of the official language of the Soviet elite. Categories which had once been a means of critical analysis have become, through their petrification, a means of pre-empting criticism; language which was in an earlier period the means of subversive communication has become recuperated by bureaucracy as the prevention of communication. This is a real problem, and a common obstacle to the critical appropriation of marxist texts from the '20s and '30s. To engage with it, moreover, is to risk being drawn into its reproduction. Nonetheless, whatever the connotations of such terminology now, for Jakubowski it had a different - real - meaning. The attempt will be made to re-state the real core of Jakubowski's argument in language that is more accessible to the modern reader.


The following discussion focuses on Jakubowski's critique of Lenin. The aim is not, however, to develop a narrow, textual analysis of Jakubowski, but rather to use Jakubowski in order to raise general questions about consciousness and being, the nature of ideology in bourgeois society, and the place of philosophy within communist theory. It begins by outlining Jakubowski's conception of conscious being and pays particular attention to his criticisms of Lenin's account. This is followed by an analysis of Jakubowski's alternative which draws upon previous work (see Gorman, Radical Chains 2). It is argued that Jakubowski's alternative tends ultimately to reproduce the standpoint to which it is opposed. This has its roots in Jakubowski's marginalisation of the significance of political economy within marxism and his tendency to regard the critique of political economy as being finished. This in turn results in an incomplete and even ambiguous understanding of commodity fetishism and a dichotomised conception of consciousness. It leads also to an inadequate understanding of the nature of class, and a lack of sensitivity to the complex determination of consciousness in the 20th century. This results in an abstract problem of consciousness, separated from the question of needs. It is this false problematic of consciousness that has dominated the marxism of the last one hundred years or so.

The central theme of Ideology and Superstructure is 'the relation between consciousness and being in historical materialism' (pl3). This relation, Jakubowski argues, is one of 'dialectical unity'. Being, for Jakubowski, must be understood in terms of the historically developing social relations of humanity and consciousness as an expression of social being. Consciousness, in this conception, does not merely 'reflect' being, but is an integral part of social reality. Although he accepts the 'base-superstructure' distinction, Jakubowski takes care to stress that this distinction is not equivalent to that between consciousness and being. The 'base' is defined in terms of 'the economic structure of society' (p33) and the 'superstructure' in terms of political and legal relations as well as ideology. The political and legal superstructures are, in Jakubowski's view, just as much aspects of social being as is the 'economy'. The ideological superstructure, moreover, contains not only economic ideas but political and legal ones too, as well as the general 'intellectual structure' of society (p53).

From this conception of the unity of consciousness and being, Jakubowski argues, it follows that it is not enough to change ideas alone. On the contrary, if bourgeois ideas are to be removed, it is necessary to abolish in practice the material conditions of those ideas, bourgeois society itself. On the other hand, such practical abolition must itself be conscious. That is to say, the struggle against the reified ideas of bourgeois society requires a conscious struggle against the material condition of reification. The unity of the subject and object of knowledge and the unity of consciousness and being achieve expression in the unity of theory and practice and the association of marxism with the workers' movement' (p60).


From this basis Jakubowski develops a persuasive critique of the conceptions of consciousness and being of the dominant strands of Second and Third International marxism. Whatever the differences between the representatives of the different tendencies, he argues, all tended to 'abandon Marx's dialectic and consequently fail to understand the humanist character of his theory' (p68). Failing to comprehend marxism as a doctrine of human liberation, all tended to separate consciousness from its object and theory from practice. Jakubowski develops these points through critiques of Kautsky, Lenin and Adler, but the focus here will be on his discussion of the most important of the three: Lenin.

Jakubowski's critique centres on Materialism and Empirio-Criticism (1909) and What is to be Done? (1902) and it is worth briefly outlining the central propositions of those documents before examining Jakubowski's critique. Materialism and Empirio-Criticism was written in 1909 as a response to the attempts by Bogdanov and others to incorporate the work of Avenarius and Mach into marxism. What is of interest here is not so much Lenin's negative criticisms of Mach and Avenarius as his positive statement of his own understanding of materialism, which can be illustrated by means of quotes other than those supplied by Jakubowski.

In Materialism and Empirio-Criticism Lenin is concerned to defend 'dialectical materialism' against its 'idealist' critics. For Lenin, 'the fundamental distinction between the materialist and the adherent of idealist philosophy, consists in the fact that the materialist regards sensation, perception, idea, and the mind of man generally as an image of objective reality' (MAEC, p320). Lenin wants to defend 'dialectical materialism' rather than its 'metaphysical' variants, yet, despite his repeated assertion of a distinction between the two kinds of materialism, it never emerges what, for Lenin, the distinction actually is. For the most part, Lenin restricts himself to a defence of the materialism of the natural sciences. Thus, for example, Lenin upholds the notions of absolute time and space and of the real existence of atoms as the fundamental stuff of the universe. The influence of the natural sciences carries over into Lenin's discussion of social being.

The result is that Lenin separates consciousness from being. Thus, for example, Lenin speaks of the objective logic or laws of historical change, defining 'objective ... in the sense that social being is independent of the social consciousness of men'(MAEC, p393). From this abstract conception of social being necessarily follows the residual character of consciousness. And from the residual character of consciousness derives the centrality of consciousness to Lenin's political project, in abstraction from social being. Thus: The highest task of humanity is to comprehend the objective logic of economic evolution (the evolution of social life) in its general and fundamental features, so that it may be possible to adapt to it one's social consciousness and the consciousness of the advanced classes in all the capitalist countries in as definite, clear and critical a fashion as possible' (MAEC, p393-4). There are clear parallels between this philosophical conception of consciousness and the political project of What is to be Done? according to which consciousness must be brought to the workers. Although What is to be Done? is the earlier work, it clearly presupposes the kind of philosophical position stated later in Materialism and Empirio-Criticism.

The central focus of What is to be Done? concerns the question of consciousness and ideology and the relation of the party to the working class. Lenin was, in this work, responding to the 'economist' doctrine, associated with Bernstein and others, according to which the working class will spontaneously develop a 'social democratic' consciousness through the struggle for higher wages and better conditions of work. In so far as this doctrine ignores the questions of the social totality and the ideological forms of bourgeois society, Lenin was certainly right to oppose it. Yet in doing so he accepts the validity of the economist notion of a spontaneous 'economic' or 'trade union' struggle separate from the 'political' struggle against the totality of bourgeois society. This economic struggle, to which the working class is confined, has, for Lenin, no impact on the laws of capital or its ideological forms. It follows, then, that bourgeois ideology can be dissolved only by forces external to the proletariat and from this derives the need for the party as the bearer of consciousness.

Jakubowski's critique of Lenin clearly owes much to the influence of Korsch's The Present State of the Problem of 'Marxism and Philosophy' (1930) and broaches themes developed in greater detail by Pannekoek in Lenin as Philosopher (1938). Jakubowski's main point is that Lenin defines being in terms of an 'abstract', 'metaphysical' conception of matter, as a result of which 'consciousness loses its reality and becomes an attribute of matter which alone is real: consciousness becomes the mere duplicated reflection of matter (p71). This 'metaphysical materialism' entails an absolute separation of consciousness from being' (p71). In so far as Lenin distinguishes, moreover, between 'consciousness' and 'social consciousness', in Jakubowski's view he introduces a distinction between human consciousness' and a kind of hegelian 'suprahuman consciousness'. Although he does not spell it out-and it is not clear why he does not do so - there is in Jakubowski a clearly implied link between Lenin's philosophy and his politics. Lenin's project in What is to be Done? of bringing consciousness to the workers 'rupture[s] the marxist unity of theory and practice' (p119).

Jakubowski's critique of Lenin is generally quite compelling although not without problems. As acknowledged earlier, Jakubowski's language can be quite alienating to the contemporary reader and the terminology used in his critique of Lenin is a prime example. Essentially, Jakubowski is criticising atomistic or reductive forms of materialism which tend to take reality as static or given, existing independently of conscious human practice. Such conceptions could be regarded as a mere inversion of idealism and could be contrasted with the 'dialectical' conception which analyses the development of consciousness and being as integrally related aspects of the same dynamic totality. Understood in these terms it is could be argued that Materialism and Empirio-Criticism does embody a 'metaphysical' conception of materialism.

The result is, as Jakubowski argues, that Lenin separates consciousness from being. But to make this point it is not necessary to argue, as Jakubowski does, that Lenin uses the concept 'social consciousness' in contrast to Marx's 'social being' (p72). It is quite clear that Lenin uses the concept of social being, and, indeed, Jakubowski even quotes Lenin's use of it, for example Lenin's claim that 'social consciousness reflects social being'(MAEC, p391; quoted in Jakubowski, p71-2). This said, it remains that Lenin's use of the term social being is abstract, presupposing the separation of being and consciousness to which Jakubowski refers.

There is much that is of value in Jakubowski's critique of Lenin and it is unfortunate that Frank Furedi, in his introduction to Jakubowski, should have avoided responding to the substance of Jakubowski's arguments. Furedi prefaces his discussion of Jakubowski's critique with the warning: 'Jakubowski's critical attitude to Lenin should be understood in the context of the isolation and defeat of the Russian Revolution in the 1920s'. Furedi briefly notes these criticisms and proceeds to restate, unproblematically, the main theses of What is to be Done?. For Furedi, it is not so much that there is no need for any further thought on the subject; the need is rather that there should be no such further thought: The existing state of society imposes sharp limits on how far it is possible to clarify the problem of class consciousness without mystifying it further'. Furedi makes no effort to refute Jakubowski; to do so, given the many shared assumptions, would involve him also in refuting Lenin.

However, it is possible to accept this critique yet argue that it misses its target. A common claim is that Lenin later rejected those formulations in What is to be Done? that had been criticised by his opponents and that through his reading of Hegel he developed a more dialectical approach to philosophical questions (Leibman, Leninism Under Lenin, Merlin, 1971; Lowy, Critique 6, 1976). Thus in the opinion of Furedi, for example, Jakubowski's interpretation of Lenin 'was perhaps understandable if his 1909 polemical pamphlet Materialism and Empirio-Criticism was taken as Lenin's major statement on the method of dialectical materialism'. However, Furedi adds, Lenin's later philosophical writings 'reveal a remarkably clear appreciation of the dialectical unity of theory and practice', one which 'was in fact quite consistent with Jakubowski's approach'. To ignore this, it might be argued, is to distort Lenin and miss what is of real value in his work., Against this argument, two lines of defence are possible.

First, it is necessary to place Jakubowski's work in its historical context. Jakubowski, it might be conceded, was not responding to the real, historical Lenin, but to the Lenin' constructed by the Comintern. His understanding of Lenin would have been derived from those works canonised by the Comintern and prominent amongst these were What is to be Done? and Materialism and Empirio-Criticism. A greatly impoverished Lenin this might have been but it was the only one on offer and Jakubowski had to criticise it. Furedi himself notes that the Philosophical Notebooks in which Lenin is supposed to have developed a more dialectical understanding of consciousness and being, was 'a work that was probably not available to Jakubowski'. To understand Jakubowski's critique of Lenin it is necessary to apply to it the standards of historical materialist analysis.

But, secondly, it is possible to question the extent to which Lenin did reject the formulations which Jakubowski criticises. Many commentators have found in Lenin's post-What is to be Done? writings a more sophisticated account of the relation between class and party and between consciousness and spontaneity. Indeed, by 1907 Lenin had begun to distance himself from What is to be done? Referring to 'particular expressions which I had not quite adroitly or precisely formulated', Lenin warns his critics not to elevate certain formulations contained in this text 'to "programmatic" level, constituting special principles' ('Preface to the Collection Twelve Years', Collected Works, Vol 13, p107). Yet his own later formulations remain at best ambiguous. Even his most libertarian' work, The State and Revolution, presupposes a conception of the party similar to that contained in What is to be Done? (See Dixon and Gorman, Radical Chains, this issue).Much the same can be said of Lenin's philosophical break with mechanistic materialism. Although there is some evidence of such a break in the Philosophical Notebooks, especially around the years 1914-1915, it did not last. In his preface to the second edition of Materialism and Empirio-Criticism (1920), Lenin expresses his belief that the book 'will prove useful as an aid to an acquaintance with the philosophy of Marxism, dialectical materialism' (MAEC, p8).


While Jakubowski's negative critique of Lenin points in the right direction, his own account of consciousness and ideology, for all its philosophical sophistication, nevertheless fails to challenge the deeper assumptions of Lenin's thought, and thus tends to reproduce them.

Jakubowski's account of consciousness is derived from the lukacsian problematic of reification. In bourgeois society, Jakubowski argues, conditions of alienated labour give rise to the fetishism of commodities. Social relations, in Jakubowski's words, 'appear to be relations between things' (p89). The fetishism of commodities is the basis of the reified ideology of bourgeois society which prevents individuals developing a 'correct' consciousness of their conditions of existence. This 'false' consciousness must be changed if revolution is to be possible. But ideology 'is not a mere subjective fantasy but a 'conscious' expression of the objective appearance assumed by capitalist reality. As conscious being it is therefore an essential and necessary part of this reality' (pl03-4). Its removal is possible only from the standpoint of a class - the proletariat - whose conditions of existence force it to overthrow capitalist society.

The worker, however, 'can only become conscious of his social being by becoming conscious of himself as a commodity' (p114). Under capitalism workers are forced to sell their labour power for a wage; in doing so they thus sell themselves as commodities. At the same time, however, workers are human. From this tension between commodity object and human subject arises the possibility of a 'correct' consciousness. Because the worker experiences the labour relation 'both as subject and object, he is in a position to see through the fetish appearance of the commodity labour power' (p115).

Potentiality is not actuality: To state that the proletariat's position in society allows it a correct, non-ideological consciousness, a non-reified knowledge of reality in its concrete totality, does not mean that the proletariat actually has such a consciousness (pll6).' Indeed, this potentiality might amount to little more than logical possibility: This developed proletarian class consciousness is therefore not an actual consciousness but an imputed (zugerechnet) one, one that the proletariat would have if it were fully capable of comprehending its situation' (pll6). Finally it transpires that: The humanist, dialectical materialist theory represents non-reified knowledge. It anticipates what the proletariat as a whole can only know after its liberation' (p117). If however, class consciousness can be acquired by the proletariat as a whole only after it has been liberated is questionable to what extent it is possible to speak of self-emancipation. Indeed, this is a term that Jakubowski never uses.

Jakubowski is aware that this argument might seem to imply acceptance of the assumption - implicit in both Kautsky and Lenin -that 'the working class movement and marxist theory develop independently of each other and only connect externally' (p118). To avoid this conclusion Jakubowski uses two related arguments. First, he attacks Lenin's understanding of working class spontaneity. In limiting working class spontaneity to a reformist or trades union consciousness, Lenin, Jakubowski argues, 'overlooks the other ideology which is spontaneously produced by the proletariat: the ideology which aims at the revolutionary liberation of the working class at times when revolutionary action cannot be brought into line with objective conditions' (p119). This 'utopian, subjective consciousness', Jakubowski calls anarchism. The two spontaneous ideologies, he argues, are produced by the contradictory social existence of the proletariat. For Jakubowski, 'trade union consciousness' expresses the fact that the working class is 'a constituent part of capitalism', while anarchism is an expression of the fact that the proletariat is also its negation. Marxism, he claims, 'is the synthesis of both conceptions' (p120). It is because of this contradictory social being and consciousness of the proletariat that 'part' of the working class is able to adopt marxist theory on the basis of experience alone before 'the actual removal of reification'. As 'the revolutionary party' this section of the class is able to orient the rest of the class towards its goal (p120-121).

Against this argument, flawed as it may be, it is not enough merely to restate Lenin as Furedi does: 'Lenin argued that trade union consciousness was the spontaneous reaction of wage labourers in struggle, just as anarchism was the instinctive outlook of the angry petit-bourgeois'. All this can show is that Lenin and Jakubowski had different understandings of the nature of working class spontaneity and of the class nature of anarchism; it can give no reason to prefer Lenin's account to that of Jakubowski (unless it has already been decided that Lenin must be right). The real problem about Jakubowski's argument does not lie in its difference from Lenin's, ie., its more complex understanding of working class spontaneity, but in what it shares with it. What it shares with Lenin is a static account of spontaneity. In Jakubowski's account, spontaneity is complex but it is always the same complexity. As with Lenin, it leaves no room for the historically changing nature of spontaneity - workers' councils, for example, are the product of a very different kind of proletarian spontaneity than that which produced food riots. To appeal to this contradictory nature of spontaneity, moreover, does not explain what it is supposed to explain: why some workers (but not others) are able to adopt marxist theory on the basis of experience before the 'removal of reification'. Finally, to reduce marxism to a 'synthesis' of trade unionist and anarchist ideology, although it may (or may not) have been politically expedient, is to empty that theory of its specificity: the theoretical analysis of forms of surplus extraction and labour process control from the standpoint of communism.

Jakubowski's second argument contends that 'theory is not introduced into the workers' movement arbitrary' (p120). There are, according to Jakubowski, 'revolutionary' and 'reformist' phases or periods in the class struggle. The initial development of marxism, he argues, coincided with a period 'when a revolutionary situation was already posing the task of the seizure of power to the young working class movement' (pl21). Only in revolutionary periods can the working class adopt marxist theory. In non-revolutionary periods, as from, eg., 1850 to the turn of the century, the workers' movement either fails to adopt marxism at all or adopts only a garbled version of it which corresponds to its non-revolutionary orientation. It is not necessary to accept Jakubowski's periodisation - contradicted by the example of 1871 - to see his point. The real isolation of marxism from a revolutionary workers movement leads to its degeneration ; it collapses into, one the one hand, eclectic abandonment of central categories and, on the other, rigidly held lines which define the self-identity of the group but which have no critical purchase on reality.

Again, there are valuable insights in this argument but they are not consolidated. Jakubowski describes Lenin as 'a practical revolutionary' who 'tried to raise the practice of the workers' movement to the same level as that the theory had achieved with its founders' (p124-5). Such a strategy, Jakubowski argues, 'cannot succeed at any point in time, regardless of the objective situation. Until 1917 the separation of theory and practice continued to exist; this much was evident from Lenin's theory itself in that period as we have already seen' (p125). This, however, seems arbitrary. Jakubowski asserts that observed alternations between reform and revolution are the necessary outcome of changes in the objective situation, but he does not argue his case. Lacking any such argument, Jakubowski is open to the criticism that such alternations are subjective in origin and therefore amenable to alteration by the presence of the appropriate organisational forms. To preserve Jakubowski's insight, and prevent its recuperation into the notion of a crisis of leadership, it is necessary to go beyond the parameters of his theory.


When Ideology and Superstructure first appeared in English in 1976, Jakubowski was described as 'a Marxist who, during the dark night of the Third International and the rise of Fascism, remained in contact with authentic Marxist theory and practice' and his book as 'a record of the existence of that authentic Marxism, and as such is an important landmark in the development of contemporary Western Marxism' (David- Hillel Ruben, Critique 8, Summer 1977). Such an assessment is over-eulogistic for Jakubowski fails to advance beyond the standpoint he rejects. But it would be wrong to dismiss it as a book that is primarily concerned with 'the 'correct' exposition of the texts of Marx and Engels' and therefore one whose interest 'must surely be mainly historical - an' even in that respect limited' in so far as it fails to 'deal with the specific historical events of its time (Kate Soper, Wait for the Workers', Radical Philosophy, 17, Summer 1977).

Ideology and Superstructure is an important book and much can be learned from its failings. It is both the product of its period and of a struggle against the barriers apparent in that epoch. Its failure is not an individual failing but the product of the historical destruction of the workers' movement in the 1920s and '30s through which the transition to communism was blocked. In many ways it embodies the ideological legacy of that defeat, one which has not yet been overcome. By examining Jakubowski's work carefully it is possible to obtain a deeper understanding of that legacy. Ideology and Superstructure, for all its limitations, or, perhaps, because of them, deserves more than the uncritical eulogy it received from David-Hillel Ruben or the uncomprehending dismissal it received at the hands of Kate Soper when it first appeared in English.

The roots of the problem lie in Jakubowski's marginalisation of the contribution of the critique of political economy to the development of the historical materialist method. Arguing that any new theory can only develop through a critical confrontation with the intellectual milieu within which it arose, Jakubowski outlines the relation, as he sees it, of marxism to the idealist and materialist theories which preceded it. According to Jakubowski: 'Marx's problematic springs from this dispute with Hegel and Feuerbach, who he sees as the typical representatives of the idealist and materialist philosophies' (pl4). It is not necessary to agree with the account expressed in Lenin's The Three Sources and Three Component Parts of Marxism (1913), for example - which describes marxism as the successor of 'German philosophy, English political economy, and French socialism' - to recognise that Jakubowski has specified only part of the total intellectual milieu which Marx confronted.

Marx's method developed not only from the critique of preceding philosophical doctrines, but also, and crucially, through the critique of political economy. The critique of political economy is not merely the 'application' to . a particular sphere of knowledge of a completed 'dialectical materialist method'. If it were, it would be possible to obtain an adequate understanding of bourgeois consciousness without developing a concrete political economy of bourgeois society. Consciousness could be regarded as a 'philosophical' problem to be studied independently of any knowledge of the marxist theory of 'economics', which deals with the objective development of bourgeois society independently of consciousness. By contrast, Marx's understanding of consciousness developed as much through the critique of political economy as through the critiques of Hegel and Feuerbach. The theory of commodity fetishism, the necessary starting point for an adequate understanding of bourgeois ideology, is premised on an understanding of the value form and so could not have arisen from the critique of bourgeois philosophy alone.

To say that Jakubowski marginalises the importance of the critique of political economy within marxism is not to deny that the categories of this critique do appear in his work. However, to the extent that they do appear, they do so only as inert supports fora philosophical discourse on 'false' and 'correct' consciousness. Categories such as abstract labour, fetishism, value, and surplus value, for example, do no more than provide a context for this discourse. The categories of the critique of political economy serve merely as a means to another end, apparently unconnected to that critique. They act as place markers within a theoretical grid but in themselves they do no work.

For Jakubowski, the point about the fetish character of commodity production is that 'it makes what are social relations between persons appear to be relations between things'(p89). This is vague and ambiguous but carries the implication of a gap between illusion and reality or a discrepancy between consciousness and its (hidden) object - the classic puzzle of western philosophy. Thus Jakubowski characterises ideology as 'first of all, a false consciousness which is not in accord with reality, which neither discovers nor expresses reality in an adequate manner' (p98). Having defined ideology as 'false' consciousness, it becomes necessary to 'examine each individual position in society to see how far it permits a correct, total view, and how far it leads to ideology' (p104-105). The task is to foster in the revolutionary subject a 'correct' consciousness of an unchanging, external, object.

For Jakubowski the objective conditions for communism exist - all that is lacking is the necessary consciousness: The lack of a developed proletarian class consciousness is thus vital to the existence of the capitalist state. If the state apparatus is to maintain the class rule of the bourgeoisie in a period when the objective economic conditions for its defeat are already a reality, then to have monopoly over the ownership of weapons is not enough. The maintenance of bourgeois rule requires also that the proletariat and the other oppressed classes have no clear socialist consciousness. If the proletariat had this consciousness it would not only be able to see the class struggle, it would also be able to recognise capitalism as a merely historical stage of development, situated at a particular level of productive forces' (p52).

From this it follows that the critique of political economy is finished. If the objective conditions necessary for communism exist, and the problem is merely a lack of a 'correct' consciousness of those conditions, there is no need to develop the critique of political economy further. There is, in other words, no need to develop new categories of political economy through the concrete analysis of existing social reality. To gain a comprehensive understanding of the social determinants of consciousness it is enough to study Capital; indeed Capital becomes an a priori model of bourgeois society. All that can be known about the political economy of bourgeois society is, in this analysis, already known. For practical purposes it can even be ignored.

Although Jakubowski tries to develop a dynamic understanding of conscious being, his conception of social being remains static, exhausted for the most part by the first three chapters of Capital, supplemented by the writings of Pashukanis and Trotsky. Social being is restricted to the economic structure of commodity production, the legal form of contract, and a diversity of bourgeois state forms (bonapartist, fascist, and so on).

One consequence of the assumption of a finished political economy is the tendency to detach consciousness form the rest of social reality. Jakubowski defines bourgeois ideology as the 'false' consciousness characterised by the reification inherent in the fetish character of commodity production. As such, bourgeois ideology is, in Jakubowski's account, the ever present obstacle to the appearance of a 'correct' consciousness. Bourgeois society is treated as being eternally the same until such time as it is overthrown. Politics and philosophy, for example, are abstracted from political economy as if they constituted separate, hermetically sealed spheres. Class struggle is discussed as if it took place at a distinct political level and had no ramifications in terms of the law of value. The problem of consciousness can thus be isolated from any concrete analysis of bourgeois society; such an analysis could shed no further light on the problem and cannot impinge upon it. It becomes a problem of logic amenable to illumination by the light of reason alone.

This, however, renders Jakubowski unable to theorise real changes that had been developing within social being since the late 19th century and in particular in the period following the October revolution. It leaves him unable to comprehend the complex determination of proletarian consciousness in the 20th century. In particular, lacking a political economy of his epoch, Jakubowski is unable to develop a critique of the administrative forms through which the working class has been contained. This is indicated primarily in Jakubowski's acceptance of the characterisation of the USSR as a workers' state: 'In the USSR, which in spite of the extent of bureaucratisation, can still be referred to as an example of a proletarian state, the economy is above all a state economy, and the state an economic state' (p45). It is also suggested by his contention that the real unity of marxist theory with the workers' movement in the period 1917-1923 'appears at its clearest in Lenin's The State and Revolution'(pl25). Jakubowski emphasises Lenin's renewal of Marx's 'theory of the conquest and exercise of power by the proletariat' but The State and Revolution is also characterised by a conception of planning which effectively marginalises the possibilities of workers control. (see Dixon and Gorman in this issue of Radical Chains).

This lack of clarity about the nature of the USSR, for example, necessarily colours his understanding of proletarian consciousness. When Jakubowski argues that if the workers had a developed class consciousness they would be able to 'see' the class struggle, it is difficult to avoid concluding that what he means is that they would support or identify with the USSR and so defend it. This is implied by his claim that such consciousness 'does not currently prevail among the proletariat or even a major part of it in any country, apart from the Soviet Union' (p116). For Jakubowski, the question of the development of class consciousness is ultimately a question of adapting the consciousness of the proletariat to the defence of the USSR. The tragedy is that this intervention into the consciousness of the proletariat necessarily becomes an aspect of the containment of the proletariat within the existing order.


This again is a general problem and not one specific to Jakubowski. The left as a whole has failed to come to terms with the historical refusal of the working class to endorse stalinism. For many on the left, it is a sign of purity for the left to criticize stalinism, but the practical criticism of stalinism by the working class must be ascribed to 'false' consciousness. This is a serious problem. It is, moreover, insurmountable so long as the left holds the kind of understanding of ideology and consciousness that is particularly evident in Jakubowski. Such a conception supposes fetishism to be, within bourgeois society, a permanent, unchanging, and impenetrable obstacle to proletarian consciousness. As such, this conception precludes the very possibility of their being other, historically specific determinants of consciousness. In particular, it rules out serious examination of the real and traumatic impact of stalinism on the proletariat.

Such an approach to consciousness and ideology, it has been argued, is the necessary result of the marginalisation of the critique of political economy. If the limitations of such an approach are to be avoided, it is necessary to analyse consciousness in its real relation to the concrete and changing political economy of bourgeois society. In particular, the impact of the self-formation of the process of the working class and the real changes that have occurred in the operation of the law of value in the present epoch must be analyzed. It is possible to sketch out only the outlines of such a political economy here. This sketch, however, which draws heavily on previous work (See Radical Chains 2), is necessary in order to take the critique of Jakubowski further.

Jakubowski emphasises atomization and its mediation by exchange, rather than the conditions of that mediation. He is therefore unable to integrate into his account the self formation of the working class through the struggle for the direct satisfaction of needs. Indeed, the category of needs is entirely absent from Ideology and Superstructure. Needs do not appear even as a negative determination, as 'false' needs, as they do in Marcuse's One Dimensional Man. The problem of consciousness, liberated from the question of needs, becomes a problem of consciousness alone. It can have no dynamic and necessarily collapses into an attempt to judge - condemn - the consciousness of the proletariat according to some abstract yardstick visible only to those suspended outside history and society.

Bourgeois society, as has been argued elsewhere, presupposes and reproduces abstract labour and absolute poverty. Separated by force from the means of production labour confronts capital as an alien force. Characterised by its total exclusion from objective wealth, labour power can obtain its subsistence only through exchange with capital. Its subordination to capital is, however, mediated individually by the wage. Separation of the direct producers from the means of production requires - entails - their separation from each other. The full operation of the law of value requires therefore the existence of a class of direct producers which is not a class. Its members must, in other words, be forced to be on hostile terms to each other as competitors. This requirement creates the real need for external mediation.

The social basis of exchange, abstract labour, does not appear directly, despite its being an essential presupposition of exchange. The universal takes the form of the particular - abstract labour, the basis of collectivity appears as concrete, particular, individual labour. This form of appearance of abstract labour is a real appearance and not a mere illusion hiding a deeper reality. In so far as value appears in the use value of the equivalent form, and so ultimately in money as the universal equivalent, it thus expresses its own inadequacy and its consequent need for mediation. The form is not a mere appearance but the expressed reality of the socially imposed need for external mediation and for external discipline.

Access to objects of need is mediated by money as universal equivalent. Money separates workers from the objects of need that they themselves create and from this alienation derives the struggle for the direct satisfaction of needs. This struggle is the basis of the process of the self-formation of labour power into a class, through which the conditions of existence of fetishism are abolished. The direct producers overcome their separation from the means of life by overcoming their separation from each other. By combining against the mediation of needs by the value form, workers undermine the operation of the law of value. In proportion as the satisfaction of needs becomes direct, so too do relations between individuals - direct relations between individuals itself becomes a need. In this process, material relations between persons on the one hand and social relations between things on the other give way to direct relations between individuals founded on the direct satisfaction of needs. This transition is simultaneously a move from scarcity to abundance.

This is not a question of workers attaining a 'correct' consciousness of their alienation as atomised commodities. Rather, they develop an awareness of their power as combined labour to engage in the conscious determination of needs. Jakubowski's account presupposes that class struggle takes place at a distinct political level and does not impinge on the political economy of capitalism. This is assumed to remain forever the same until bourgeois society is overthrown. Class struggle, however, must be understood as an aspect of class formation, and as such is inseparable from the developing political economy of bourgeois society. The process of class formation is organically connected to the fate of the law of value, tending to suspend the latter and so to dissolve its corresponding ideological forms.

The real need for exchange mediation derives from the transformation of material necessity into social necessity, although this transformation, in turn, ultimately creates the conditions for its own supersession. Through the developing division of labour and the emergence of combined labour, scarcity gives way to abundance. This tendency is itself mediated by the long process whereby labour power comes to constitute itself as a collectivity, thus abolishing itself as labour power separated from the conditions of life. The move from atomization to collectivity - from scarcity to abundance - hinges on the struggle for the direct satisfaction of needs through which the real need for exchange mediation is eliminated.

This process is not a smooth or immediate transformation of a class in itself into a class for itself. As argued elsewhere, the process is necessarily interrupted and rupturous, a consideration which permits an understanding of the rational core of Jakubowski's distinction between 'revolutionary' and 'reformist' phases in the class struggle. Although Jakubowski says such alternations have an objective basis he does not actually identify this basis and so opens the door to the kind of political project he rejects. The periods that Jakubowski identifies politically as 'non-revolutionary' are, in fact, ones in which the threat of proletarian self-formation has been contained and the movement to collectivity undermined by real changes in the operation of the law of value. New barriers to proletarian self-formation emerge which have to be broken down (See Shepherd in Radical Chains 2).. This is not a problem of 'false' consciousness but rather of the composition of the working class at a particular stage in its self-formation.

Such a perspective can also help elucidate the real changes in the social determination of consciousness that have occurred in the present period. These changes, as argued elsewhere (see previous issues of Radical Chains), involve primarily, partial suspensions of the law of value. Class formation tends to suspend the law of value but this is acknowledged by capital and is institutionalised in the growing administration of needs. This process, which became evident in the late 19th century, became even more pronounced in the period after 1917. The present epoch is characterized primarily by the decline of the law of value through the emergence of forms which preserve it only by limiting it. The extension of the administrative prevention of communism is thus an expression of and an intensification of the decline of the law of value. On the one hand, expansion of value itself is subordinated to the process of circulation through the move to finance capital. On the other, expansion takes place through non- value forms such as the welfare state. This process entails the emergence of forms -nationalisation, full employment, central economic administration - which are neither value forms nor forms of planning. The product is therefore both value and non-value (Ticktin, Critique 21-22, 1988).

Jakubowski identifies reification as the dominant characteristic of bourgeois ideology. Reification, however, has its roots in the production of commodities and so in the law of value. To the extent that the law of value declines into bureaucratic administration, however, social relations become more transparent and less reified. For Jakubowski, who identifies ideology as 'false' consciousness, the problem is to develop a 'correct' consciousness of an unchanging - external - object. The 'object' itself has, however, become changed. Recognition of this fact opens the way to a more complex understanding of the relation between - or unity of - consciousness and being.

It is not merely that, in addition to commodity fetishism, there are now the parallel ideological forms of stalinism and social democracy. What is involved are real changes within social being. The working class is faced today with real obstacles which are the outcomes of previous struggles and in which the left still manages to implicate itself. The clearest example is the USSR, the mere existence of which is an obstacle to class formation. The early destruction of the October Revolution led ultimately to the emergence of a form of society which stands as a warning to the proletariat not to take the revolutionary road again. Regulated neither by the law of value nor consciously by the collectivity of the direct producers, the soviet economy is characterised chiefly by the phenomenon of waste. The labour process is controlled neither by the elite nor by the workers and the result is the production of use values whose major quality is their uselessness. The workforce is atomised primarily through state terror and the general interference of the state in all aspects of society. Terror exists, not to make workers work, but to stop them uniting. To improve the quality of the product would require the elite establishing control over the labour process by moving in the direction of abstract labour and exchange mediation, as Gorbachev is currently trying to do, but this in turn creates the real danger, for the elite, of the formation of collectivity (see Ticktin in Critique; and Bob Arnot - Controlling Soviet Labour: Experimental Change From Brezhnev to Gorbachev, MacMillan, 1988).

If the USSR is an example of what happens when the law of value is overthrown, it is not surprising that workers have tended to fight against capital within bourgeois society. This cannot be put down to 'false' consciousness as many have argued. On the contrary, workers have seen that if the USSR is communism then communism is not in their interest. The question of needs is of central importance: the working class, unlike the bourgeoisie, does not need the USSR. The bourgeoisie, which has been forced to recognise the existence of the working class as a collective subject, colludes with the left in offering to the workers as the only alternative to the rule of capital,the USSR and similar entities. It is not that the bourgeoisie cannot become conscious as Jakubowski argues but that in becoming conscious it changes its objective conditions of existence. In face of such complexity, the dichotomy of 'false' and 'correct' consciousness collapses.


It might be objected that the foregoing criticisms amount to an ahistorical and therefore sectarian attack on Jakubowski. Thus, for example, it could be argued that to criticise Jakubowski for failing to develop a concrete political economy of his times misses the point. For one thing, the tendencies which might be clear now would not have been so clear in Jakubowski's day and the criticisms outlined above unreasonably assume the knowledge of hindsight. In addition, it might be argued, it should be remembered that Ideology and Superstructure was the outcome of Jakubowski's doctoral dissertation, published when he was 24, and probably completed earlier. Perhaps the above criticisms betray unreasonably high
expectations on the part of the critic.

The point, however, has not been to attack Jakubowski but to indicate real limitations in his work which must be acknowledged if his critical appropriation is to be possible now. The central problem is his dichotomised conception of consciousness which implies the existence of some abstract yardstick by which to judge the consciousness of the proletariat. Such a conception is not so much useless as dangerous. The only position from which it is possible to judge the consciousness of the proletariat as 'false', is from the standpoint of some pure marxism, itself miraculously immune to the ravages of history. To explain the continued existence of bourgeois society by reference to the 'false' consciousness of the proletariat is to perpetuate the myth that there is nothing much wrong with the existing left and to deny history. Yet the left as a whole has much re-thinking to do and the concept of 'false' consciousness, by preserving the illusion of a pristine correctness, is an obstacle to the necessary theoretical regeneration.

That such regeneration is necessary cannot be seriously denied. This point will be obvious to anyone who has observed the destruction of thought that has taken place within the small groups which, despite their chronic isolation from the working class, have persisted in regarding themselves as the revolutionary vanguard. But degeneration has also occurred among those who, aware of the irrelevance of revolutionary theory to a non-revolutionary working class, have retreated into academia and worse, and a self-justifying discourse on the irrelevance of the working class to revolutionary theory, thereby making their peace with the existing order.

Marxist theory has become fragmented. In place of Marx's attempt to comprehend the totality of bourgeois society through the critique of political economy, stands a plethora of tenuously related discourses: the 'marxist' theory of art, of politics, ideology, history, and religion; 'marxist' economics, 'marxist' philosophy, etc. This fragmentation is, in part, testimony to the success of the attack on marxism through the creation of the social sciences. The problem is not particular to Jakubowski but has affected marxism as a whole from the Second International onwards. Indeed, it is one of Jakubowski's strengths that he recognises the problem even if he does not solve it.

It is another of Jakubowski's strengths that he does not regard such fragmentation as a purely intellectual problem but to a large extent as an historical one. Thus he links the degeneration of marxism to the isolation of marxism from the working class in periods in which the working class has no need for revolutionary theory. He was, moreover, aware of the increasing isolation of marxism in his own day: The tendency towards the unity of the theory of marxism with the workers' movement, and with it the restoration of the real sense of marxist theory, only became a reality in the 1917-23 period in spite of the isolated individual attempts which had been taking place since the beginning of the century. The ebbing of the revolutionary movement since then has deepened the rift between theory and practice once again, and this has had distorting effects on the theory. (p126). Indeed, it had distorting effects on Jakubowski's own development of marxist theory as will be apparent. More importantly, it seems to have fostered a formal acknowledgement of the unity of consciousness and being within an overall theoretical structure which actually confirms their separation.

If an adequate understanding of the social determinants of consciousness in the present epoch is to be developed, it is necessary to try to re-integrate the critique of consciousness into the critique of political economy; a purely political or philosophical approach is not enough. Such a project contributes to the theoretical regeneration that is needed. Theoretical regeneration is, however, not an abstract intellectual process, but part of a wider social process and therefore subject to real material constraints. The obstacles to proletarian self-emancipation - in particular Stalinism and social democracy - are crumbling, but this cannot translate into immediate communist victory. The overthrow of bourgeois society will come only as the result of the historical process through which labour power re-constitutes itself as a class. Theoretical regeneration can develop only as part of that process.

This is not to advocate immediate immersion in frenetic activism or the formation of the Party. The point is that theory can only be derived from the actual social processes going on in the world and not from a priori schema. This means attempting to comprehend the class relation at the present stage in the self-formation of the working class. Revolutionary theory, separated from the working class, does not represent the 'correct' consciousness of the working class. In so far as it persuades itself of this fallacy it sets itself up in opposition to the working class.


Joseph Dietzgen - Radical Chains

The historic split between anarchism and socialism has had a debilitating effect on the workers movement, and Joseph Dietzgen was one of those individuals who sought to lessen the opposition of these tendencies. What he promoted was not an abstract reconciliation which failed to recognise real differences, although he held that these were in any case exaggerated, but a real reconciliation based on the transcending of opposition through the transformation and supersession of existing standpoints. From Radical Chains no.3

Submitted by sgel on June 17, 2011

radical chains

Joseph Dietzgen died in mid-sentence. It was a pleasant Sunday afternoon, June 15, 1888, and after sharing a bottle of wine and a good dinner, Dietzgen was vivaciously expounding his views on the labour movement and the imminent collapse of capitalism to an acquaintance of his son. To the end, Dietzgen remained a class-conscious communist, an opponent of all conventional understandings, whose appeal for currents and tendencies of the workers movement that rebelled against orthodoxy will be readily understood.

It was Dietzgen and not Plekhanov who coined the term 'dialectical materialism', first using it in his articles for the socialist press in the 1870s, several years before Plekhanov had identified publicly as a marxist. This is the man who Marx introduced to the 1872 conference of the IWMA at the Hague as 'our philosopher' and who Engels accredited with having discovered dialectics 'in a remarkable manner and utterly independent of us and even of Hegel'. Yet, in the 1920s and 1930s he was systematically written out of the history of the working class movement.

Dietzgen was born in Blankenberg, near Cologne on December 9, 1828, the eldest son of a well-to-do master tanner. Having taught himself to speak and read fluent French at an early age, he became attracted to socialism by a study of the French economists. On reading the Communist Manifesto in 1851, however, his socialism acquired a class basis. During the 1848 revolutions he had already played the role of agitator, addressing peasants from a chair standing in the main street of his village, but in 1849 political reaction drove him to emigrate to America. He stayed there for two years working as a journeyman tanner, a painter, a teacher, and just tramping across America, acquiring the English language as he went.

By 1851, however, he had returned to work in his father's shop in Uckerath and in 1853 he married a devout Roman Catholic. Over the next three decades he lived and worked in Germany, America and Russia and despite his success in business devoted only half of each day to material gain, spending the rest in diligent study. From 1869 to 1881 Dietzgen was active in the socialist movement in Germany, contributing a large number of articles to the social democratic press in that country and elsewhere. His son, Eugen, emigrated to America in 1880 and Joseph followed in June 1884, settling there permanently.

This move might have been at least partially influenced by the same considerations that had led Marx to move the headquarters of the International to New York in 1872 as is indicated by a passage from a letter Joseph wrote to his son in 1881: The United States will in my opinion remain the land of the future, within bourgeois society. By means of the competition of the New World, the oppressive atmosphere of Europe will be cleared'. Shortly after his arrival in America, Dietzgen accepted editorship of Der Sozialist, the organ of the Socialist Labour Party in New York, but in 1886 moved to Chicago. From Chicago Dietzgen was to write reports on the local situation for Der Sozialist in New York.

1886 marked the high point of the struggle for the eight hour day in America and the struggle was particularly intense in Chicago. May 1 1886 was set as the date on which the eight hour day would be imposed and on that and following days there took place large workers' demonstrations which, in Chicago, were particularly impressive. On May 4 a bomb was thrown at police officers in Haymarket Square, Chicago, and this was used as a pretext for mass arrests. Amongst others the editors of the Chicagoer Arbeiterzeitung, were arrested, charged with instigating riot and throwing the bomb, condemned to death and hanged.

Responding to these events, the National Committee of the American Socialist Labour Party repudiated all connection with anarchism and anarchists. Joseph Dietzgen, however, immediately offered his services to the anarchists and even began to identify publicly as an anarchist, although, not without important qualification. The Administration Board of the Socialist Publishing Society accepted his offer and he was unanimously elected chief editor of its three papers - the Arbeiterzeitung, Fackel, and Vorbote. When his report on the Haymarket events was rejected by Der Sozialist because it contradicted the official line of the National Committee of the SLP, Dietzgen attacked both in a number of articles in the Chicagoer Arbeiterzeitung. His position as chief editor, was only temporary but he continued to contribute to the Arbeiterzeitung until his death in 1888. Fittingly, he was buried in the same grave as the Haymarket martyrs.

The historic split between anarchism and socialism has had a debilitating effect on the workers movement, and Joseph Dietzgen was one of those individuals who sought to lessen the opposition of these tendencies. What he promoted was not an abstract reconciliation which failed to recognise real differences, although he held that these were in any case exaggerated, but a real reconciliation based on the transcending of opposition through the transformation and supersession of existing standpoints. This is hinted at in a letter he wrote to a friend on April 20, 1886: 'For my part, I lay very little weight on the distinction, whether a man is an anarchist or a socialist, because it seems to me that too much is made of this difference. If the anarchists have mad and brainless individuals in their ranks, the socialists are blessed with cowards. For this reason I care as much for the one as for the other. The majority in both camps are still in great need of education, which will of itself bring about a reconciliation'.

This approach flowed from Dietzgen's understanding of transition as a discontinuous process and was rooted in his particular conception of dialectics. According to Dietzgen: 'we shall not arrive at the new society without serious struggles. I even think that we shall not get along without disorderly uproar, without "anarchy". I believe in "anarchy" as a stage in transition. Dyed in the wool anarchists pretend that anarchism is the final stage of society. To that extent they are madcaps, who think they are the most radical people. But we are the real radicals who work for the communist order. The final aim is socialist order, not anarchist disorder' (Letter, June 9, 1886).

Dietzgen's politics flowed from his conception of dialectics. Here we will look only at some of those aspects of his thought that exerted an influence over the development of proletarian theory. Our principle concern here is Dietzgen's insistence on the real and material nature of ideas and his recognition of the need for the proletariat to formulate its own autonomous understandings.

To properly understand Dietzgen's philosophy it is necessary to consider the social and ideological context to which it was a response. This was significantly different from the one from which communist theory originally emerged. In the 1840s Marx had, in the context of the revolutionary movement of the young European proletariat, confronted a particular ideological milieu, of which post-hegelian idealism and classical political economy were the dominant intellectual expressions. To the extent that Marx dealt overtly with philosophy, therefore, he tended to concentrate his fire on idealism and said little of his differences with 18th century materialism. In the period after 1850 the revolutionary initiative of the proletariat had subsided. The proletariat appeared to be passive, subjugated by its material conditions of existence. At the same time, the enormous development of the natural sciences, and especially of evolutionary theory, had led to a resurgence of reductive materialism as the basis of bourgeois ideology. Conditions were ripe for the penetration of bourgeois materialism into communist theory.

Marx's critique of idealism was appropriated in a one-sided fashion, and his stress on the material basis of thought appropriated in such a way as to relegate ideas and consciousness to the status of mere epiphenomena. The apparent domination of the proletariat by its conditions of existence explained the absence of revolution. It also formed the basis for the domination of intellectuals within the movement and the reproduction of the division of mental and manual labour.

Against this background, the importance of Dietzgen's philosophy to certain sections of the labour movement can be readily understood. For Dietzgen, ideas and thoughts were every bit as real and material as physical matter. As he put it in The Nature of Human Brainwork (1969): 'We make the distinction between thinking and being. We distinguish between the object of sense perception and its mental image. Nevertheless the intangible object is also material and real'. As Anton Pannekoek noted in his 'Introduction' to the 1902 edition of The Positive Outcome of Philosophy, Dietzgen had extended the concept of matter to include 'everything that exists and furnishes material for thought, including thoughts and imaginations'.

What Pannekoek and others derived from Dietzgen was an appreciation of the material nature of ideology and the importance of theoretical struggle, not conceived abstractly, but as an integral part of the transition process (B.Shepherd, Radical Chains 2). Pannekoek's appropriation of Dietzgen thus supported a conception of transition as an interrupted process in which conscious struggle overthrows ideological encumbrances as part of a developing totality of class confrontation and class formation. The appropriation of Dietzgen by Pannekoek and others exerted a strong influence over the development of communist theory in Holland. What the Dutch marxists found in Dietzgen was an essential corrective to the mechanical materialism that dominated the socialist movement of the time and a way to recover the original spirit of the historical materialist method. It not only permitted a critical orientation towards Kautsky in the period before 1914, but underwrote the opposition of sections of the communist left, in particular the German KAPD, to the Comintern in the '20s and '30s.

Partly as a result of a popularisation campaign in which Pannekoek played an important role, Dietzgens philosophy came to be appropriated by working class activists in 'several countries in the period before the First World War. This process of dissemination was furthered by the publication in English of a large portion of Dietzgen's work in two volumes - The Positive Outcome of Philosophy and Philosophical Essays - by Charles Kerr & Co of Chicago in 1906.

In America, the appropriation of Dietzgen was associated specifically with the IWW, while in Britain it became part of the long tradition of independent proletarian self-education. Sometimes dogmatic in character, and in some respects also elitist, this current, with its clear recognition of the organic connection of knowledge and power, was a militant response to the bourgeois appropriation of thought. Indeed, in Dietzgen, the working class militant found an injunction 'not to acquiesce in this appropriation any longer, not to submit any more to the harangues of public opinion, but to resume thinking for ourselves. (TNOHB). Workers who aspired to class knowledge and class power could only be inspired by Dietzgen's assault on the division of intellectual and manual labour.

It should be no surprise that Dietzgen's works constituted the principal texts for courses in philosophy at the autonomous labour colleges that emerged from the split of the Plebs League from Ruskin College and the WEA in 1909 (See Binns and Officer in Radical Chains 1). Dietzgen's works had a wide readership. Maurice Dobb, reminiscing on his experiences as a labour college lecturer, was later to observe in his patronising way: 'if one stayed overnight ... in a South Wales miner's household, there were his works ... in a prominent place and treated with reverence as a sacred text' (MacIntyre, A Proletarian Science, Cambridge University Press, 1981).

In his important study of British marxism in the period after the October Revolution, Stuart MacIntyre has tried to explain the popularity of Dietzgen's work in terms of what he calls 'the absence of any more authoritative alternative based on the writings of Marx and Engels'. Dietzgen was not, however, superseded in any natural and inevitable way by the appearance of the early philosophical writings of Marx or even those of Engels. Rather, dietzgenism was purposely destroyed by the intervention of bright young university men into the labour college movement under the new conditions of consciousness imposed by the October Revolution and by the stalinisation of the CPGB in the aftermath of its failure. We see here not a natural progression to a higher truth but the conscious suppression of proletarian self-education.

The entry of bourgeois intellectuals like Dobb, Postgate and Phillips Price into the Plebs League brought with it an assault on dialectics in general and Dietzgen in particular. Like Pannekoek, but from a different class perspective, Dobb and others recognised in Dietzgen a firm basis for resistance to the penetration of middle class materialism into proletarian theory. Hence their opposition. Thus in 1923 Dobb was to -urge students to 'get away from mid-19th century philosophy and academic dissertations about the absolute, and get just a few clear and essential notions about the scientific method and modem science'. In this he was supported by Postgate who suggested that 'we abandon Dietzgen teaching altogether and respectfully, but firmly, put old Joseph on the shelf (MacIntyre).

Within the CPGB, the publication in English of Lenin's Materialism and Empirio-Criticism in 1927 also fuelled an attack upon dietzgenism. In this text Lenin had taken issue with some of Dietzgen's arguments which he believed had led Dietzgen to find favour with such 'reactionary philosophers' as Mach and Avenarius. Although not entirely hostile to the totality of Dietzgen's thought, Lenin thought that Dietzgen's insistence on the real and material existence of ideas was 'a muddle' and, worse, an idealistic deviation. To the extent that Lenin's views on materialism became CPGB orthodoxy, so dietzgenism became regarded as heresy. Partly due to Lenin's own ambivalence towards Dietzgen, the attack did not lead to the wholesale vilification of Dietzgen himself, but despite some audacious fence-sitting in relation to Dietzgen's views, his followers were hounded. These included Fred Casey, a lecturer at the Manchester Labour College, and author of Beginning with the Beginner, (Plebs, 1920; reprinted in Capital and Class 7) and Thinking (1922). In his Dialectics (1936), for example, T A Jackson attacked the 'idealistic bemuddlement' of Fred Casey whom he termed the 'High Priest of neo-Dietzgenism'. Some of Casey's ideas may have been eccentric, but no more so than those of his detractors. If his intellectual and personal eccentricities increased over the years, this is in large part due to his isolation and the refusal of dialogue imposed by the CPGB, and in this respect Casey's life parallels that of another self-educated worker radical of the period, Guy Aldred..

What prompted the resistance of the dietzgenites to the imposition of 'soviet marxism' was not what Stuart MacIntyre describes as a reluctance of 'disciples' to 'accept their master's relegation to a relatively minor role in the Marxist pantheon'. It flowed, rather, from a healthy aversion to the reimposition of the division of intellectual and manual labour through subordination to orthodoxy, a process whose consequences for the workers movement have been unambiguously disastrous.


Radical Chains #4

Issue 4 of Radical Chains, cleaned up from the scan made by the Spirit of Revolt archive.

Submitted by Fozzie on January 15, 2019


Baruch Hirson on Chris Hani
Harry Cleaver debates Hillel Ticktin
The Leopard In The 20th Century: Value, struggle and administration
Sendero Luminoso
Review of Hillel Ticktin's Origins of the Crisis in the USSR
Book Reviews

Europe: nationalism or class struggle - William Dixon

Submitted by Fozzie on July 18, 2019

The virtual breakdown of the ERM, the European monetary system, appeared to be a purely technical phenomenon. It could be claimed that currencies such as the pound were overvalued or that there did not exist adequate controls over the movements of capital, so speculative money could destroy the system. Such considerations would appear to exclude action by the working class as in any way responsible. This view is supported by the absence of any significant class struggle in Britain that could be identified as having lead to the departure of the pound from the ERM. Yet, despite this absence it is still the working class that lurks behind the various terms and categories used in the debate. The difficulty is in uncovering the often tortuous mediations through which class struggle appears.

One important category used in the debate has been that of unemployment. It is a category into which the class struggle has been compacted. The reason for capital to be concerned about unemployment is not profit but the threat to political stability. This is not immediate and nor does it even necessarily mean the unemployed themselves, although this is not ruled out. As the absence of work it is the absence of the preferred means of social organisation and reward. Long term unemployment threatens the political order; it opens to question all political institutions and promises a polarisation of political positions. It opens the possibility of a real crisis, not just some spectacular adjustment on the stock exchange but a more serious political crisis within the ruling class as they argue about the best course of action.

The actual category unemployment poses the social question of capital as one concerning the continued provision of work. In this way it tends to mediate the struggle posing the interests of the class as synonymous with accumulation. The problem for capital is that this mediation does require a delivery of its promise that accumulation does not, perhaps now, cannot deliver.

We have already seen something of the impact of the class through this compacted category unemployment in the debate over Europe. The problem for capital is to devise the appropriate arrangements so that the class struggle is subsumed within them. The keynesian arrangements did for a period successfully achieve this. Capital temporarily gained a real objectivity; struggle was channelled via productivity into accumulation. Of course this objectivity did not last. The post war arrangement became incapable of containing the struggle. This opened up a period i which capital must re-assert its objectivity through crisis. In many ways this has been successful. The free market policies and new technologies, by reimposing absolute poverty, have made unemployment work for capital. However for this to be consolidated the old national restrictions on labour needed to be dissolved.

The dream of a unified Europe is of a single market in both capital and labour. The crucial element in this is of course the competition of labour for jobs from a capital with no loyalties to anything but profit. All the convergence requirements of the Maastricht Treaty have been designed to erase the vestiges of the old arterio-sclerotic Europe, the Europe of national working classes achieving national welfare deals of different kinds, but that lead to a form of leapfrogging and the export of inflation. The problem with convergence would be its success, eradication of the national peculiarities that each bourgeoisie share as their common totems of control. These peculiarities are either backward nostalgias for non-existent pasts, or are distinctions of dress, style of shoe and trouser, of crease and rumple, distinctions in sporting or culinary preference that are so inane that they may exercise the mind but not the intelligence. It is no accident that these several peculiarities that various nations have in common all tend to favour the continuation in power of the same tired gang (tradition). The peculiarities have assisted the bourgeoisie. Here nationalism has undoubtedly been the most reactionary and in fact murderous force in the history of capitalism. In its name social crisis is reduced to the construction of enemies.

Now the problem is that, with the attempt to create the unified Europe, tried and tested formulas of nationalism are at threat. We should not be surprised if the unbelievably crude Thatcher and all her cronies should be so against Europe. Was it not nationalism that saved her miserable reputation with the Falklands? She certainly did not miss the Labour Party grovelling during that episode as any loyal opposition should. These Tory anti-Europeans have a nostalgia for nostalgia. They perceive that in troubled times nationalism still has a card to play, a few more bodies may be piled up in tribute to it. They perceive a danger in Europe as a market without appropriate political institutions. This is a real danger for order. Convergence forced political tensions on Europe as different areas were faced by punitive interest rates, or tax rises, reductions in social spending and all with increasing unemployment. The Bundesbank though in the position to act as a European Bank did not. Indeed there seems nothing substantial in Europe to make up for what is lost as the distinctiveness of the nations is dissolved. In this situation the right talks of national unemployment and national policy.

One way offered to preserve the dream of a Europe for capital is a consolidated attack on the working class. In this case the aim will be reductions in what are called social costs. This prospect is being talked about in relation to the social chapter of the Maastricht treaty. There will be an attempt to organise the working classes into outdoing each other in giving up social benefits. We have already seen this spectre at the micro level in the moving of Hoover production from France to Cambuslang in Scotland. Where a similar deal was offered at Dundee-Timex and was faced by stout resistance, despite the union, the company simply closed down. Profit is capital's national home.

The lines between the so called third world and the west have little meaning when employment can be moved so easily. The USA working class, as well as the European, have been learning this hard lesson of international solidarity. The conditions of work, of contracts, of social benefits of workers several thousand miles away become a matter of practical concern when factories move across the world. Repression abroad arrives here as a natural necessity to work harder, as a plausible requirement to reduce social costs, as the need to do this, do that for work.

Both sides in the dispute over Europe have this much in ommon; they know the working class must work harder for less. Even Mr Major with all the verve and fascination of two short planks is well aware that attacking the working class is where the heart is. The real difference is in the perceptions of the adequate political framework for organising the shambles. If the working classes are to compete across the world for jobs should not there be an even greater reliance on the nation as a means of preserving division across Europe, of competition of French and British etc. etc., rather than workforces without any country. Or perhaps the nation should be more intimate with increased regionalisation of our treasured peculiarities? Thatcher and that lot do not appear to want to go that far. In fact the situation is difficult enough that it offers us the prospect of a real crisis in the Tory party. How that will spread it is impossible to say in advance. We can expect a more vicious polarisation on the right as a result. On the other hand if the national working class, rather than particular workforces, is to compete conditions of work downwards then maybe the Labour Party still has a role to play as a Party of Government. Unemployment will be the catchphrase, the national emergency will be its arena, sacrifices will be the game.

Adequate understanding of such events will require an analysis of capital as combining objective and subjective factors. Several articles in Radical Chains have attempted this but only as a beginning. An important theme arising from these attempts has been that the left itself has constituted a barrier to the movement to communism. The roots of the present revolutionary left are still firmly in the post 1945 period. A theoretical legacy of this is the tendency to deal with the objective and subjective as separate spheres. This separation in theory is a real result of the prevention of communism in the twentieth century.

The tendency of the revolutionary left is to fail to grasp real developments and instead rely on sectarianism. We can identify two broad strands, both tending to subjectivism. One side, usually leninist, stresses objective factors that will lead to a situation in which the class will become revolutionary. The problem is that objective conditions keep maturing without there being a revolution. In effect the objective is frozen within the analysis. The leap is then to excessively subjective explanations, often but not always implicit rather than explicit. We find here that the working class has failed whilst the party has to work even harder to overcome the obstacles to consciousness. The party itself becomes the frantic island of sanity.

The alternative view, we can call it anarcho-marxist, starts from the class itself by rejecting the notion that the struggle of the class has been ineffective. It rejects for example the usual notion of economism and instead stresses the oppositional nature of the struggle. This again tends to excessive subjectivism as the revolutionaries frantically attempt to convey the truth to the world. Explanations for the absence of communism must identify betrayals, lies, etc. So both sides tend to sectarianism. Particular pre-mapped paths become the truth.

The crucial thing for the revolutionary left is to come to terms with the extent to which it has lost the perspective of communism. No single strand is privileged with the necessary view of the whole movement. We cannot simply discover the right ideas bolstered by our favourite book of quotes. Nor can re-thinking be achieved through rehashing. One problem is the immediate situation of much of the left, its organisational and social structures. The needs of their members tends to obstruct the threat to the organisation from re-thinking. There are no innocents ordained with truth and position, those who act so merely recreate the crimes of the past. There are only participants for whom tension is necessary.

Harry Cleaver debates Hillel Ticktin: on capitalism's present crisis... danger and opportunity

A debate organised by Radical Chains and London Notes in London in the 1990s.

Submitted by Fozzie on January 15, 2019

It's not often that you can bring together people from very different revolutionary traditions for a public debate that attracts one hundred and thirty five people who represent most strands of the revolutionary left as it exists in this country today.

Harry Cleaver, a former editor of the journal Zerowork and author of Reading Capital Politically (Harvester/Humanities, 1979), was one participant in this debate.

The other was Hillel Ticktin, editor of the journal Critique and author of a series of important articles on the political economy of the USSR.

Cleaver is an American who has drawn on and developed the important work of Italian autonomists such as Toni Negri and Mario Tronti, helping to challenge various 'orthodox' versions of marxism and placing class struggle firmly at the centre of his analysis.

Ticktin, of South African origin, is closer to the Trotskyist tradition (although he carefully distances himself from the orthodox Trotskyism of the Fourth International) but no less innovative than the autonomists in his approach which has helped stress the importance of the law of value.

The debate was organised by Radical Chains in conjunction with the autonomist magazine London Notes. The organisers believed that there is not enough interchange between the different fragments of the Marxist tradition and when they heard that Cleaver would be visiting Britain in July they decided to ask him if he would debate with Ticktin. While there has always been a degree of criticism within autonomism or within Trotskyism or within situationism, critical engagement between different traditions has been rare. It is this engagement of the adherents of one tradition with the ideas of another which is necessary if the fragmentation and dispersal of the revolutionary left is to be overcome.


When looking at the present capitalist crisis it appears to me that there are four aspects to it. Since it's not possible for me to go into any detail in twenty minutes I am just going to have to assume that people have some understanding of certain of the concepts. So in the first instance it seems to me we are talking about the long wave and a long term downturn that began roughly in 1973. My view of the long wave is not the same as Ernest Mandel who most people would identify with it. I'd see it much rather in a kind of classical way which underlies what I am going to say and might differentiate me, I'm not at all certain, from the other speaker. That is to say, if one looks at the movement of history in Marxist terms, there are always two aspects to it: the movement in the categories themselves and the class struggle. And it seems to me the art or duty of the Marxist is to be able to put the two together correctly to see how, in fact, the form of the class struggle is merging with movement of the categories. If one simply analyses the movement of the class struggle you will not understand the history. All you do is end up with an amount of empirical detail, which is useful but which will not really give you a proper understanding of the nature of the economic system or movement. So one has to understand the categories. In other words, in this instance, one has to understand what is happening to value, to accumulation.

Now the difference I think that I have with Mandel here is that Mandel looks at it in a much more technical way and would place much more accent effectively on accumulation and technological change. I don't. For me the long waves are much more to do with changes which are related to accumulation which in turn is related to the class struggle itself.

Accumulation has proceeded to a certain point, the class struggle has become so intense, that the capitalist class sees the only solution in pulling the plug, if one can put it that way. And I think that is precisely what happened in 1973. In 1973 they realised - I think it was completely conscious - that unless they went for a long-term downturn and raised the level of unemployment, they would be faced with increasing demands for control over production. The result was the permanent mass unemployment that we have seen over the last twenty to thirty years.

But what they also did, and that's the second aspect of this crisis, was to go for finance capital. That is to say, they switched from the overall decision that had been made by the capitalist class of 1940, and made more permanent in 1945 when they decided to go for industrial capital. If you look at it historically, when referring to the world capitalist economic structure, the various documents of the Comintern constantly refer to finance capital. If you look at Trotsky and Lenin, they refer to finance capital and never to anything else.

Now quite clearly what happened after 1940-45 was again a deliberate decision by the capitalist class to go for growth, which had enormous effects. It changed the whole mode of accumulation, leading to the possibility of a welfare state which otherwise would not have been possible. But in 1973, by pulling that plug, everything was of course called into question. And then effectively they turned towards finance capital. In effect they took one step back and saw to it that they received their surplus value indirectly - through interest, rent, insurance companies, pension funds, and so on, rather than immediately through production. This appeared to be at some distance from the working class, and it appeared much easier for the capitalist class to actually extract its surplus value through this form.

Now what has happened is that this twenty year period has come to an end. It's fairly obvious that one cannot go on extracting surplus value in this way without killing the host. The parasite finance capital can't go on taking surplus value from industry without industry itself being harmed. Now it's quite obvious in the case of Britain, but it is not only true of Britain of course. Inevitably there would have to be an end to this. There would have to be a downturn. At some point industry could not supply the surplus value and the attempt to make money out of money would come to an end, and of course it did come to an end in 1989. Which effectively means that the strategy to which they turned after 1973 has come to an end. That is to say finance capital has exhausted itself. But this crisis has now shown itself in another form which, in a certain sense they didn't anticipate. And this raises two questions.

One is the question of long term decline; the other is the question of Stalinism. You will not find Stalinism as a political-economic concept of Western capitalism in many Marxist textbooks or Marxist theories but it seems to me it's absolutely fundamental in understanding modern capitalism. It is precisely the explosion or implosion or death of Stalinism which is now creating a crisis of a kind that has not existed in capitalism for now sixty to seventy years. One has to understand what is lying behind it. It seems to me, to come to another point, that at least since 1917, or some other date in the early part of this century, we are talking about a decline in capitalism and if one is talking about a decline in capitalism, then there are not many solutions available to capitalism itself.

In effect declining capitalism can only do one thing - it can delay. It can't succeed in avoiding its own overthrow. But it can delay it. Some people might want to argue it can delay it 300 years, 500, a thousand years, I wouldn't argue that. I don't think it can delay it all that long. But it has had a whole series of forms of delay and I have actually mentioned one, that's finance capital, and one can go into the other forms as well. Now the obvious immediate forms which come to mind are social democracy and Stalinism. I see them not just as subjective forms but as objective forms. If social democracy did not actually come to power, it did come to a position where it was governing at some sort of level, and we did have a welfare state and that again affected accumulation itself. Stalinism was embodied in Eastern Europe and China and so on. These were objective facts in history, they were objectified. And it appears to me that it was precisely these that acted as the subjective forms of delay, of maintaining capitalism, in other words.

The problem is that both are dying or dead, and the capitalist class does not appear to have a means of replacing them. What else is going to replace Stalinism? I think it's worthwhile saying a few more words about what Stalinism actually has done and what the removal of Stalinism now leads to. In the first place, it's fairly obvious that because of Stalinism we had the Cold War, and the Cold War provided again a means of accumulation.

Now, I don't mean the Cold War was just on the side of the US; it was just as much on the side of USSR. But the US knew perfectly well that the USSR was much weaker but preferred to maintain it, to make a whole period in which it could have a particular form of accumulation. Now that of course has come to an end. It is no longer possible to invest in the arms industry in the old way. The arms industry is very important because its prime function lies in the way it can discipline the working class.

As long as you have an arms industry it is much easier to control the working class both inside and outside the arms industry. It is possible to argue that there is an enemy which has to be fought, people have to work harder, there are spies all over the place, and in the US of course anti-communism played a particular role. As it happens I think the anti-communism in the US had a partial truth. That is to say, it is perfectly true that the USSR was a horrible society and nobody would want to live under it. But what it was serving as was a very important means of control. That's gone. What is going to replace it? What is the disciplinary form of control that is going to replace the Cold War? I don't think there is a form that they can actually use.

Stalinism didn't serve in the Cold War only in a particular economic way. It also served politically and was most important in the post-Cold War period in supporting social democracy. It is no accident that the two are dying together. One can't understand social democracy without understanding the tremendous importance of Stalinism for it. I'm not saying that the social democrats before 1917, before there were Stalinists, were supported by Stalinists or that in the period before the Second World War Stalinism was that important. I'm saying in the post war period Stalinism was crucial in maintaining the welfare state and social democracy and the forms of concessions that were being introduced by the capitalist class. And in so far as you don't have Stalinism in the working class, you don't have the same kind of mass support that could come into existence in order to support the ruling class in this country or in any other country.

So one then has to ask exactly how are they going to deal with the situation. I don't know. If one looks at it politically again the elimination of the Communist Parties is a fantastic gain. It may not look like that in so far as bookshops like Collets are going under and one can't buy Marxist books any more, and there are fewer Marxist firms that will take Marxist publications. But in reality what it means that the kind of suppression of the left that existed for so many years is going or has gone. It's no accident that in this country and in other countries the far left is beginning to show itself in a similar form, in a similar way or in similar places where the Communist Parties did before. What does this lead to? The point is that Stalinism is no longer there as a means of control, therefore the ruling class no longer has the same form of delay that it did.

Or, if you invert it, I don't think there could have been any real change in the world until Stalinism had been removed. I don't think there could have been a victory in Spain, or later, by the far left, precisely because Stalin or Stalinists did not want it and they had this enormous measure of control. But it's gone. So the capitalist class is now faced with the fact that it's in industrial decline, finance capital as a means of control and as a form of retreat is in trouble, the various forms of delay it had through Stalinism are no longer there. What strategy can it actually use today? And that is its real crisis: that it has no strategy. It is a unique crisis, there hasn't been a crisis like this since 1923.

One can put it another way. In terms of the long-term downturn, or in terms of the long wave, what we are in is a position where the working class has to be defeated in order for accumulation to proceed. If one actually looks at Trotsky's description of the long wave you can see that he is arguing that it is precisely through the defeat of the working class that the capitalist class has the possibility of extracting extra surplus value. Now to the degree that it does not have that it won't accumulate.

In a certain sense, this becomes a subjective phenomenon above the capitalist class: if the capitalist class does not think it will make sufficient profit, it will not invest, and that is where we are. It has to actually defeat the working class under conditions that are no longer as favourable as they were before. It may not appear like that, and most people I encounter seem to be pessimistic, but in my view it is just the opposite. We are in an extremely optimistic position. It may not be that there are enormous numbers; there aren't. There may be very few but that is neither here or there. Let me remind you that the Social Democratic Party of Germany, SPD, only had one per cent of the vote in 1878 but by 1890 it was already a major party. So, change can happen very quickly, and I think that is what we must expect.

So the crisis we are in is a unique crisis, it's a crisis in every aspect of capitalist civilisation. It's a crisis of ideology, it's a crisis of politics, it's a crisis of the ruling class, and we've witnessed the way the ruling class cannot hold itself together whether in Japan or this country. The ruling class is now divided; it no longer has a means of keeping itself together. The former means that it used, the Cold War and Stalinism, are not there. It hasn't the collectivity it had before, precisely because of the collapse of Stalinism. In a certain sense when Stalinism came to an end the capitalist class managed to shoot themselves in the foot. I'm not saying that the position today is wonderful; it certainly could be better. But the position is far better objectively than it has been for sixty or seventy years. The crisis is enormous. It's not a terminal crisis: tomorrow we won't have a socialist society. But it is a crisis from which the capitalist class cannot recover as it were. It has no solution.


Now you get a different view, at least partially. As there is a certain amount of overlap in the positions that we take, at the same time as there are radical differences, I will try to emphasise the latter more than the former so that we can in fact have something like a debate. I think that Hillel was intuitively correct when he said that there were some fundamental theoretical differences between us. In particular, I would say that his opening comments about there being a difference between the movement of the categories and the movement of the class struggle is a difference.

Categories of what? Categories of capital that is, in some sense, different from the class struggle? Not from my point of view. The categories of Marxist analysis are the categories of class relations; capital is a class relation - a class relation of struggle. All of the categories of Marxist analysis in the three volumes of Capital and elsewhere are those of that social relation -which is the class struggle.

The only movement of the categories is a movement that occurs as part of the class struggle. There is no other subject as far as I am concerned. The crisis of capital is a crisis of the class relation. That means that it is a crisis from the point of view of both classes. With respect to capital, Hillel has said some relevant things. But, we also have to recognise that the crisis for capital is simultaneously, in certain ways, a crisis for the working class.

The crisis of capital, the manifestations of which began to appear from the early seventies, can be traced to an international cycle of class struggle which ruptured an epoch, a particular organisation of capitalist organisation, of its command. It was epoch making in the sense that we are still in the same crisis. We've gone through business cycles, we've gone through a variety of kinds of changes, but fundamentally the problems that were created in that period of time, the late sixties and early seventies, have not been resolved - nor is there any evidence that they are likely to be resolved in the near future.

So, the crisis of capitalism is, first and foremost, once we cut through the fetishism of its categories like money and finance, a failure of old methods of control. The crisis is profound because it is a crisis of capital's most fundamental mechanism of control: the endless imposition of work. At the heart of the crisis lies the rupture not only of the capitalist productivity deal (higher wages for more work), but also, more generally, the capitalist ability to continue to shape and to subordinate life to work -throughout what some of us call the social factory.
Now the crisis for the working class comes precisely when the old mechanisms of command are abandoned, because workers always struggle about, against and beyond problems that they face, the limitations that work sets on them. When capital counter- attacks, it shifts the ground of the class relationship, and that means a problem of adapting, of figuring out what the hell is going on, of dealing with the new strategies that are mobilised against them. This is what workers have been struggling with for the last twenty years.

The counter-attacks have occurred at all levels. They began with the devaluation of the dollar in 1971 and continued through the food and energy crises, changes in the monetary system, increases in the price of oil, restructuring in industry and so on. In too many ways capital has had a considerable amount of success. Especially in beating down wages and reducing standards of living but also, to some degree, in imposing more work especially in the Third World, but in the First World as well. In the US, workers today are working a twelfth more on the average than they were twenty years ago - an extra month of work per year. That's a substantial defeat any way you look at it. So, at the level of austerity there has been some success and we have had some defeat.

Yet, at the level of the reorganisation of class relationships, which is what is necessary in order to found a new, long wave of accumulation, capital has made much less progress. Some reorganisation of industry and reorganisation of the relationship between the state and the market has been undertaken for some time, but it is not at all clear that it has been successful or that it has laid the foundations for future capitalist development. The reorganisation of the relation between the state and the market has been a prominent feature of this attempt to create a new (decomposed) set of class relationships. Britain, like the US, has suffered through Thatcherism, Reaganism, the substitution of market mechanisms for certain kinds of government regulations. But this is merely a recomposition. Despite the ideology of vaunting the market against the state, what has been involved has been a recomposition of the relationship between them.

Ultimately the market is merely a planning mechanism. It is used when it works (i.e., gives the desired results). It is abandoned when it doesn't work. It is one planning mechanism among others. Market and plan cannot be juxtaposed in the way that they have traditionally been.

Understanding the crisis involves seeing through such ideological constructs and reinterpreting them in class terms. Besides talking about the nature of the crisis, we were also asked to talk about the associated dangers and the opportunities. The dangers are self-evident in the successes that capital has had in making life worse for us, in making our situation more unlivable. The process of decomposition has been undertaken on a world scale, and one of the biggest dangers is not to recognise that it is global and not to deal with it at that level. It isn't enough to talk about it in national terms.

The major state institution today is the International Monetary Fund, which has overseen the imposition of the new organisation of capitalist rules at a global level; the deindustrialization of the North is closely connected to the reindustrialization of the South; jobs are not disappearing from industry, they are just being displaced - at least in many industries. In the US, the old industrial belt of the North has become a rust belt and the numbers of Ford auto workers is increasing by the tens of thousands across the border in Mexico. The electronics industry has also moved many of its operations south. Industry hasn't disappeared, it has just been recomposed geographically at the same time as it has been recomposed technologically. At the same time work is being imposed massively, partly in industry, partly outside of industry, throughout the world.
The history of the debt crisis of the eighties was exactly the history of that imposition. The IMF assumed a central role as it has gone around the world telling governments and private capital how they have not been doing a proper job in imposing the rules of the game and that they must do so. The state has imposed such changes with austerity and with privatisation, which is to say countries have been opened up to foreign and multinational investment in order to achieve this process of capitalist recomposition (through the decomposition of working class power). This process has been going on at both the microlevel and the macro level and we have to respond to both.

In his talk Hillel noted the end of the Cold War, the death of the Soviet bogey-man as a means to a permanent arms economy and the social control of the working class, and raised the question of what might replace the Cold War in capitalist strategy. Roughly speaking, I agree with this bit of his analysis. In class terms, the role of the Russian bomb was basically to help the Americans and the West Europeans to keep control and the American bomb helped the Russians do the same thing. Now those threats are no longer there - and in a certain sense they haven't been since the movie, Dr. Strangelove, came out, which was after all subtitled, How to stop worrying and learn to love the bomb. In the end many realized that the bomb was not really a threat - at least not the generalised threat of annihilation that everybody had been convinced that it was. We had been lied to. We eventually realised that the Americans weren't going to drop thermo-nuclear bombs on the Russians and the Russians weren't going to drop them on us. Having understood this, we stopped worrying about it, and realized we could fight against racism, the war in Vietnam, and authoritarian schooling because they were not going to drop a nuke on the San Francisco Bay area - it just wasn't going to happen. That whole strategy of fear collapsed as the New Left joined Southeast Asian peasants and took the offensive against capital in the sixties.

Of course, there was an attempt to bring the fear back in the mid-seventies with the discussion of limited nuclear war. Pentagon scenarios were leaked. Ex-NATO General Hackett wrote his novel of World War Three in which Birmingham (England) was nuked by the Soviets while the US took out Minsk. And then the Ukrainians overthrew the Politburo, dismembered the USSR and the war was over. But of course instead of provoking fear and trembling and reintroducing the bomb as an effective weapon of political control, these efforts to launch a second Cold War produced the biggest peace movement in history and deepened the ongoing problems of capitalism. Well, as Hillel suggests, we certainly should ask with what might such a mechanism be replaced?

The theoretical answer is that it can only be replaced by the same kinds of mechanism: those that divide us in order to conquer us. Capital rules through divide and conquer. The replacement of one such mechanism by another happens historically and must be appropriate to the level of the crisis of command. One of the characteristics of the struggles that created the current crisis was that it was an international cycle of struggles. It wasn't just the Americans over here and the French over there, and the Italians over there, and the Vietnamese over there, and Che Guevara down in South America. These things were all interlinked. There was an overcoming of international divisions at that period in time as struggles circulated internationally - even the struggles that overthrew the communist regimes in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union had such an international character.

Therefore, not surprisingly, we find that one of the fundamental and more obvious aspects of capital's attempt to regain control has been the reintroduction -with a vengeance - of nationalism and racism. The situation in Central Europe is just the most blatant and disturbing example. Nationalism and racism are being wielded to divide and conquer throughout Western Europe, North America and the South as well. Everywhere we find not only extremists preaching hate and carrying out acts of violence, but also moderate politicians adopting an only slightly more subtle form of racism to kindle fear of the enemy within (e.g., the immigrant, the Jew, the minority, the religious other), now that the enemy without (the global communist conspiracy) is gone.

At the heart of the international cycle of struggles which ruptured the old capitalist (and, if you like the term, Stalinist) mode of accumulation were those of women, people on the streets, people in their homes, people at school, i.e., those of unwaged workers whose battles circulated into the factories and back again.

Fundamental to all of these were the struggles of women. Thus along with nationalism and racism, sexism and the attack on women has also been central to the new capitalist efforts to divide and conquer. The other side of the Reagan attack on the welfare and government regulation was the so-called social agenda.

That agenda - most of which could not be implemented at the level of government and was pursued instead through private groups such as the religious Right - was aimed squarely at the womb. It was aimed squarely at making women barefoot and pregnant and pushing them back into the house. It is extremely basic to the situation in the States and I warrant elsewhere. If you go to Italy today you see the consequences for women's struggle to gain divorce rights and then abortion rights: plummeting birth rates, reproducing in just a few years the whole earlier pattern of the post war period in Western Europe. The capitalist response has involved importing prostitutes from Africa and increased violence against women.

Such are part of the dangers we face due to new forms of divide and conquer. The opportunities which are present in the current crisis can only be perceived through understanding our own processes of political recomposition that caused the crisis. If we can understand how the mechanisms of accumulation were ruptured, what were the class forces that ruptured them and how they have been modified by the struggles over the last twenty years then we are in a position to talk about where we go from here. In other words, the only basis for the elaboration of effective working class politics against capital is a proper assessment of our own strengths.

One of the problems in Hillel's discussion of the crisis (one he shares with many other Marxists) is a tendency to spend most of his time talking about capital as if it were something separate from our relationship to it. We need to talk about us, about how we (the working class both collectively and specifically) created this situation, the degree to which we have suffered setbacks, the degree to which we have avoided defeat and the strength we have to push forward our own demands. Hillel is quite right that this is an epoch-making period of crisis. It really does threaten the continuation of capital, even more so than the situation in the nineteen thirties, for example, which did force a fundamental reorganisation at all levels. But what constitutes the threat? The content of the struggle that has brought on and maintained this crisis goes to the very heart of the capitalist organisation of life around work, the subordination of society to work.

The nature of the struggles that precipitated the crisis, once we understand them, give us an indication of what the alternatives to capital are; and their analysis means that we can abandon a lot of old illusions. On the basis of analysing the processes of self-valorisation that people are trying to develop, we can reject the old ideas of transition and the old conception of socialism as a homogeneous social project. The struggles that ruptured the system, did not simply break the mechanisms of domination, they also have had a positive content: they were proposing new ways of being and developing projects of new ways of being.

I'm thinking here not merely of what workers in cities have done, but what women have done, what the environmentalist movement has done. We need to look at the positive content of these so-called new social movements, to see how they have been trying to create new social relations in the present (the future in the present as Marx said). Those new relations are not out there, and there is no transition to them. They are already being constructed and while the problem for capital is, and always has been, to recuperate, reintegrate and to instrumentalise them, our problem is not only to recognize the emergence of real substantive alternatives to the present order but to facilitate and foster their development.

We not only need to be aware of projects like those of women to achieve androgyny, the recomposition of gender relations in society, but we need either to participate in them, or to elaborate other projects and work out the politics of the circulation of struggle across the diversity of such efforts. Now there you have a political project that damn few Marxists have been involved in as far as I can see.

The fact that capital counter attacks in new ways, means that we have new opportunities. I don't like the language that Hillel uses about objective conditions, but the fact of the matter is that because European capital is moving toward EEC unity, it is both responding to and forcing a level of international working class collaboration of struggle that we have never seen before. Because the US is pushing the North American Free Trade Agreement to link Canada, the US and Mexico, we are seeing an internationalisation of struggle that has never existed. Today in the US there is a coalition of almost 300 groups fighting against NAFTA - labour groups, women's groups, student groups, environmental groups, all kinds of groups. In Canada there is a similar coalition; in Mexico there is another series of coalitions, and those of all three countries are linked and working closely together. They are connected with computer networks; they are circulating information, at a rate which only capital has been able to do over the last forty years.

Workers are by-passing the old institutions of control, creating a new international fabric of alliances and cooperation. As Marxists we need to draw the implications for politics. What we are seeing is a reconstitution of politics, an abandonment of the old institutions (trade unions and political parties) with which we are so familiar and have often tried to work through, and the problem is to figure how to elaborate new kinds of politics within and among struggles which are diverse and will not be homogenised. The usefulness of the old 'Unite and Fight' slogan is finished. It's useless. To talk about socialism as a homogeneous project is useless.

The end of capital is not going to involve, as far as things look at this point, a replacement of one homogeneous system by another homogeneous system. It is going to be more like what Marx evoked in the Grundrisse: an explosion, or, as people like Deleuze and Guattari like to say, the emergence of various lines of flight of alternative kinds of social relations and experience. The problem then is that of creating a politics of difference minimising antagonism. It is not a problem which will be solved automatically. Politics, especially new politics, always has to be constructed.


FIRST SPEAKER: How far do the causes of crises as put forward by Marx in Capital contribute to, or account for, the present economic crisis that we're in and why did neither speaker mention any of them?

HARRY CLEAVER: I think nobody mentioned them because of lack of time. Marx's theory must be resituated within a historical context; there is considerable complexity in his analysis of various aspects of crisis. Unfortunately, much of the discussion of those theories has been mired in an endlessly useless circle, because for the last fifty years, for the most part, the categories have been taken as fetishised categories. Money has been understood as money; the tendency of the rate of profit to fall has been understood in terms of the monetary rate of profit, etc. Whereas, if you reinterpret these categories as categories of the class relationship then you can see all kinds of things in a new light. For example, take the tendency of the rate of profit to fall - which derives from the tendency of the organic composition of capital to rise. That in turn has to do with the displacement of labour from production. Therefore, the tendency can be re-read in terms of the increasing difficulty of imposing work - which being the most fundamental means of capital's command, makes it, as Marx said, the most fundamental problem for capital in the long run.

HILLEL TICKTIN: I agree with what Harry said to a large degree, but it seems to me that Marx is not saying that there's a simple decline or a sudden collapse or that there is one factor that immediately leads to this. What he is saying is that in a period which leads to a crisis the contradictions in a society reach a point where they can no longer be held. That is the point at which one actually has a crisis. So then one has to look at the different forms of that contradiction: there's the question of the declining rate of profit, there's the question of disproportionality and the third one is one of markets.

The trouble with talking about the declining rate of profit is that it's not that simple. It is not at all clear that one has to argue that there is a simple declining rate of profit and a crash. The same force leading to the rising organic composition of capital leads to a rise in productivity. The result is that it is not at all clear that you get an automatic decline in the rate of profit. So then one is involved in a fairly complex question as to exactly what is going on. It seems to me that what is then involved are the different aspects of the rate of profit.

That is to say one then has to talk about the rate of surplus value. One has to talk about the cost of the different elements which go into it. Now the interpretation of the declining rate of profit is different but I don't see it as an automatic feature. Perhaps we agree - I don't know - but it seems to me you will only get a declining rate of profit if the capitalist class is not able to offset the decline which is occurring for other reasons (largely because the rise in the organic composition of capital, but that again is complicated) by a rise in the rate of surplus value. In other words, if it is not able to cause a decline in the relative wage. In general it is often able to do that through a series of complex forms: taxation; directly attacking the wage; extending the amount of time that people work.

So when discussing the declining rate one is discussing not one category but effectively all categories in the end and that is why it is so complex. But it is a crucial category and those are the three aspects. But having said that, what is interesting is not to go over what Marx had to say, but to discuss the present in a more general context. One has to ask why, when one doesn't get that kind of crisis in exactly that form, why isn't it taking place in that form? The answer of course has been that the ruling class has been in a position to have a degree of control which it didn't had before and we haven't had the same sort of sudden slumps as you had before 1944 and for very good reasons. But we are now back in it.

SECOND SPEAKER: Both speakers have emphasised the positive aspects of the current period so I just want to throw in a couple of questions. To start with, I disagreed with the last bit of Harry's speech. Socialism is nothing if it cannot become a homogeneous movement. A lot of the movements he talked about are atomised and sectionalised. They are not the new within the old; they are spanners in the works of capitalism. Hillel argued that the splits in ruling classes of various countries are occurring now because they are losing their collectivity. But isn't it also because, with the collapse of the old accommodationist forms of working class representation like social democracy and Stalinism, the ruling class senses that the working class has no collectivity? They feel safer to carry out recomposition in a situation in which the working class actually has no homogeneous collectivity. Harry talked about emergence of regional blocks and the positive side of that in actually internationalising class struggle but neither of the speakers actually mentioned the prospect of a third inter-imperialist war.

HILLEL TICKTIN: There is not the same degree of fear of the working class. But I'm not at all certain that the ruling class really regarded the Communist Party as a threat. I think they knew perfectly well they didn't want to take power. I think they knew perfectly well that in Britain, America, France, Italy or Japan there was no possibility of the working class reaching any degree of threat. So it's true that the limited degree in which the working class did constitute a threat is no longer there, and I'm sure it plays some role. But I think the fundamental aspect which has led to their internecine conflict, is the fact the Cold War having gone, they can no longer find a mechanism for their collectivity. Let's remember that before the Cold War there wasn't the same degree of collectivity as during the Cold War; before 1917, there was the same degree. I think it is no accident that that is so.

You also asked if there would be an inter-imperialist war. I am not a prophet so I don't know. However, I think it is extremely unlikely. I never thought that one side would drop bombs on the other side, I thought that was highly unlikely and I think today that it is equally unlikely that god knows who will drop bombs on anybody else. I don't see who is going to fight who. It's perfectly true that one can imagine minor wars occurring: the Ukraine could fight Russia and I could imagine a few more globally unimportant wars, as it were, but a war between the US and another imperialist power e.g.., Japan or Germany, seems extremely unlikely. For one reason, if one actually looks at the present day, you still have US control over those two countries. There are still troops in Germany. Japan is still forced to invest in bonds in the US which is losing money. Why on earth is it doing that if it is an independent country? So I find it difficult to imagine an inter-imperialist war at least in the next twenty years.

HARRY CLEAVER: I'll respond to two things. First the business of homogeneity. You said socialism is nothing if not homogeneous. I would say socialism has always dreamed of homogeneity but has never gotten it, never will get it; it's not in the nature of the species.

So socialism is nothing in a sense, and particularly today. Second, the other issue: the prospect of inter-imperialist war. If by that you mean what Lenin meant by imperialist war (war between competing blocks of capitalists: e.g., WWI, WWII), then I agree with Hillel that it's not likely. However, if you understand inter-imperialist war not in terms of competition for raw materials and capitalist markets or commodity markets but in terms of a political mechanism used for the control of the working class, then the fact of the matter is that we already have war. We have war all over the damn place.

Our world is rotten with war and a couple of years ago we just went through a war that is being discussed as paradigmatic of the future of war under capitalism - the damn Gulf War. The fundamental role of the Gulf War was regulating labour relations in the Gulf and at home. The strategy of the US government was to try to use the so-called need to send US troops into the Persian Gulf to break through a whole series of blockages which workers have placed to capitalist development within the US, not least of which is in the field of energy which is not surprising. The Gulf after all, from the US point of view, is nothing but an oil pit, one big gas station which has to be available.

So what do they try to do? Workers and people in the US defeated the nuclear energy industry back in the seventies. Capitalist planning was for nuclear power plants to be supplying 60-70% of electricity in the US by the year two thousand, but after 1974 there were no more nukes being built, there were no more nukes being commissioned and most of the ones that were being built were being abandoned. That industry was killed.

One of the things that Bush tried to do with the Gulf War was to use it as an excuse to revitalise the nuclear power industry and to open up the north shore of Alaska to oil exploration. Both of which had been blocked by social struggles in the US up until that point -mostly struggles by the peace and environmental movement.
As for other wars, we can talk about Yugoslavia, South East Asia, Timor, and elsewhere, Southern Africa and so on. War has always been an integral part of capitalist class relations; it’s not about to disappear; it will continue.

THIRD SPEAKER: Nobody said anything about communism. Communism is a society without wage labour, without commodity production, a world human community. How do we get to communism? The working class has to overthrow capitalism. It has to become autonomous - from all the forces of capital. I don't think it's a debate any more between communists whether Stalinism, social democracy and Trotskyism are part of the working class or not, some form of working class representation. They are part of capital. The system in the so-called Soviet Union was a capitalist system, the Communist Parties were capitalist parties, and the Trotskyist organisations were capitalist organisations.

We don't need Trotskyism or a new version of Trotskyism. There are some basic definitions we need before we can have a debate. Imperialist war wasn't mentioned. The question of imperialist war separates people very clearly. During the Iran-Iraq war, there were some people who called themselves Marxists who said we should support one side in that war. But if this is declining capitalism, which I think it is, one of the ways that it survives is through imperialist wars. What happened in 1945 was a period of reconstruction after imperialist war. That period came to an end and we're now in a profound crisis. The war in Yugoslavia is an imperialist war, not just a war between Serbs and Croats. There is already the beginnings of new imperialist alignments. Are you on one side or the other or are you for the working class against all the imperialist powers? That's the real question for revolutionary Marxists.

HILLEL TICKTIN: I agree with you that the working class has to be separated from Stalinists and social democrats. I'd go further and say that it's true that most groups today have a long way to go, whoever they are, including your group. Unfortunately the formation of small grouplets over the whole Stalinist period has Stalinised all of them. It doesn't matter what they where. It doesn't matter whether they opposed the Russian Revolution in 1917 and regarded it as state capitalist, they all became small Stalinised-type grouplets. It's impossible to hold out under these conditions and not be deformed. But we are now in a new period where, hopefully, we will not spend all our time fighting one another and leaving everything to the capitalist class.

Under present conditions the previous differences, arising out of Stalinism, are no longer so important. As long as people are opposed to capitalism as a whole and are not reformists, it's important that differences should not become once again important reasons for the development of sectarian groups, and gurus. But it seems to me that the last speaker didn't give us any way forward in that regard. I do agree with the speaker who said that there is only one socialism. And I also agree with the last speaker that we are talking about the working class. I don't think it has been abolished. I think the vast majority of the population do belong to the working class. It is the universal class - I don't think that has changed at all.

But the issue, which the last speaker was not facing, was why nothing happened effectively for the last eighty years, sixty years or whatever it is. It's no good just calling Russia state capitalist and saying we got nowhere. Why didn't we succeed? Why are we in small groups? And why are we marginalised? That question has to be asked. And answered. And it seems to me you don't answer it by saying that that awful society that existed, over there in Russia is just the same as what exists over here. In certain respects it was far, far worse. But whatever it was it was not the same, and it played a crucial role in maintaining capitalism itself, precisely because it was not capitalist.

HARRY CLEAVER: I just want to respond to part of what was said. Yes, of course, the working class must be autonomous from capital, and it has been, and that is why capital is in so much trouble. The question is: what does it mean to be autonomous from capital and what is the content of autonomy? Autonomy is not homogeneous. Capital formed the working class, right, and that's the story of primitive accumulation, the formation of the working class. Capital formed a group which from its own point of view was homogeneous and malleable, could be divided and conquered, and moved around and used.

Now the struggle against that making, from the beginning and on through all the years of accumulation, involved a rejection of that homogeneity, sometimes a utilisation of it, but ultimately a struggle against being, as Marx put it, mere worker. The traditional Marxist vision of socialism - which Hillel seems to share - is a world of workers. Socialism, or communism for that matter, is not understood as a classless society but as a one class society. But that class is what we want out of. We never wanted into it in the first place, and we want out of it now. But out of it to do what? Out of it to do all kinds of things, not to do one other thing.

That's what we mean by domination, the imposition of a single universal order. At least that's what I mean by domination. I can imagine several different kinds of such an order, but the point is that in any form of domination you have the imposition of homogeneity. So, when we talk about autonomy from capital we mean autonomy from homogeneity. It also means we have to recognise the autonomy of different sectors of the class and the struggles of people to get out of their class status. The struggles of women are not the same as the struggles of men; the struggles of blacks are not the same as the struggles of whites.

Our problem is the construction of a politics that gives up the illusion that everyone can be talked into agreeing how the world ought to be and, on that basis, unite and fight. That is what the left has been trying to do for the last one hundred years and it has gotten absolutely nowhere. Now you can, as some do, say that the so-called new social movements have nothing to do with the working class. But what do you think the working class is? If you think the working class is just traditional factory proletarians, I'm afraid that that is only a small part of the whole at this point.

The working class is not just made up of workers throughout the world who are busy producing commodities. It includes all of those people who are busy producing what is the most fundamental commodity of all: labour power. Such producers include women in the home and students in schools and a vast number of other people. That's the reason why the working class continues to make up the vast majority of the population. All of those people are struggling from different positions in the class structure and they are struggling for different things. Now if you don't develop a politics that recognises and appreciates that autonomy among the people opposing capital then you'll just go on in this room talking to each other for ever.

FOURTH SPEAKER: I want to follow on from what Harry has just said. I think the problem we're faced with is that the left is stuck in a nineteenth century paradigm and this is partly due to the experience of Stalinism. The whole approach to the centrality of the workplace and trade unions, and an approach to, and a model of, revolution that hasn't progressed anywhere beyond 1917, shows how far out of step the left is with the way in which capital has developed in the past seventy years and how that development has remade the working class.

Working class experience is far broader than just the experience of the factory or the office or the workplace. In moving beyond a concern solely with workplace struggle, and beginning to take on other areas of struggle, I think we actually begin to develop the whole process of struggle and an attitude to class struggle that is actually far closer to the totality of working class experience. That has to be important if we want to move towards a communist society.

But I think there is a problem in the way Harry has been putting it forward. While it is important to move into a whole multiplicity of arenas that the left has never considered as part of the struggle for communism, I think that if you start denying any possibility of leading or totalising those struggles, you leave those struggle in the hands of the petty bourgeois careerist politicians. If you look at who's dominated the women's movement, anti-racist work, the gay movement, it hasn't been working class activists, it has been middle class activists imposing their values on people in struggle. The question I really want to pose is: what, if any, role is there for the revolutionary party in the struggle for communism?

HARRY CLEAVER: I am not opposed by any means to linking struggles. A fundamental concept in the work I do is the notion of the circulation of struggle. Instead of talking about uniting and fighting through ideological methods, it means building concrete linkages between struggles.

In the sixties, the students in the US and the Vietnamese peasants in the rice fields were not linked in a party, but struggle circulated across the Pacific and caused enormous problems for capital and ultimately, its breakdown. The struggles of women are not often united with the struggles of men in a party or in any unified institution, yet it is quite clear that their struggles have circulated and profoundly affected the activities of men and the politics of men.

The problem of politics is the problem of the circulation of struggle and the organisation of the circulation of struggle. When I reject the party, and I do in the traditional sense, it is not a rejection of organisation, it is simply the rejection of a particular form of organisation which was maybe appropriate to the skilled workers at the turn of the century but is certainly inappropriate to workers today. Our problem is to discover the way these connections are being established today. It's not done through a party; it’s not done through a centralised organisation; yet the circulation of struggle is extremely rapid, the speed of optical fibre.

HILLEL TICKTIN: It's impossible to discuss the party in one minute. In my view we certainly can't do without a party. I think we're going to have to have a much firmer party. If we look the way that things are developing I think one has to consider not just the importance of democracy in a party, which is very important, and different centres of influence in a party, which I think is extremely important, but the fact that a party is a fighting party. The ruling class is not just going to go away. They may be fighting one another but when the working class does become a danger the ruling class will stick together. How do you then deal with it?

You can't go around saying I'm opposed to it, or linking up all over the place. When it is fighting you and putting you in gaol, you are in gaol. You have to find a way around it. You have to then go underground if necessary. Now the exact form of the party, the exact form the working class will take in the course of struggle, I don't know. It will come into being. Just as the soviet was the particular form that took place in Russia, so here in the West or wherever there will be another form. I don't know the form, but it will come into being and there will have to be a party or perhaps a number of parties, but there is no other way around it. I don't know any other way of overthrowing a ruling class.

FIFTH SPEAKER: It's a bit dangerous to say capitalism doesn't have any strategy after Stalinism. The threat of proletarian revolution occurs because of inter-imperialist conflict. Therefore, when capitalism is devising a strategy to oppose proletarian revolution, it cannot allow inter-imperialist antagonism to lead to inter-imperialist war. Therefore the strategy that is being developed by the capitalist powers to prevent the proletarian revolution is that of ultra-imperialism. Marxists have been blinkered about looking at the question of ultra- imperialism because at one time it was associated with Karl Kautsky. But the major imperialist nations are getting together to off-load the crisis of capitalism in terms of war, a joint offensive against the international working class.

In trying to divide the working class, the capitalist powers are developing this strategy of ultra-imperialism and therefore the question of internationalism is linked to anti-imperialism. That is how they are trying to redevelop their ideological cohesion after the fall of Stalinism. If one strategy, for various reasons, becomes defunct, then obviously new political strategies have to be developed. I think the real problem in what Hillel Ticktin argued is that of objectivism, fatalism, saying: after Stalinism, it's our turn. That minimises question of the seventy years of the culture of defeat the working class has had that has created fatalism and defeatism within the working class itself.

HILLEL TICKTIN: In terms of what you said, that is not much of a strategy. It's a strategy for chaos. To fight Saddam Hussein a hundred times over doesn't get anywhere. I don't think it's dividing anybody and it's not establishing any form of control. All it is, is a tragic comedy or a comic tragedy, but it is not a means of control. It doesn't compare to the Cold War or the previous forms. None of these small wars are achieving this object. One can see this by the results of ten days ago when Clinton bombed Iraq. What was the result? Did he achieve very much? Did he achieve anything except more criticism of himself? He achieved very little, so I can't see that that is much of a strategy.

So, if you are going to ask: is the strategy a nationalist strategy, dividing people on a nationalist basis, and is it a form of imperialist division, now this is true. Quite obviously there are national differences which are being played on; that is absolutely correct. However, one has to ask how long people are going to go along with that. I don't think Yugoslavia is any example. It is the result of the decay of Stalinist forms. It may be that capitalist powers got involved, but even if they didn't it would still have occurred and it's got to do with Stalinism and not with capitalism as itself, so that is not an example of nationalism.

But for capitalism, nationalism in general is of course crucial and Harry has mentioned it. The problem is that it has obviously failed. Has it worked in Africa where the standard of living is below that which it was under the colonial overlords? Clearly it hasn't worked. How long do people need to be told that it doesn't work? I don't think that it's that long. That isn't a strategy, and if you are talking about imperialism, that is what is actually involved, let's say binding together the whole population on a nationalist basis. My answer, therefore, is that it cannot work, they don't have a strategy. It may work for one or two years. But that's all.

HARRY CLEAVER: I just have a couple of things to say. Just because a strategy fails does not mean there is no strategy; to say that there are limits to what has been achieved so far through the use of the Gulf War is not to say that nothing was intended and nothing was accomplished. The fact of the matter is that there has been a militarisation of the oil fields of the Gulf and around the rest of the world. The message went to Nigeria and to a lot of other places. The uprising in Caracas and Venezuela mirrored that of the Gulf. That militarisation has made the struggles of people in those areas extremely difficult. The Palestinians are suffering the consequences, but they are not alone. The Iraqi working class is suffering the consequences. The fact of the matter is that in the Gulf War Bush was responsible for the killing of Saddam Hussein's opposition. You will remember the Revolutionary Guards were pulled back from the front in Kuwait and they were not wiped out.

In a very real material sense the Gulf War left Saddam Hussein in better control internally than he was before, that was the result, and I would argue that there was a strategy to use the war to regain control over the working class. In the US the war was being used to rationalise all sorts of attacks on the working class. The fact that they haven't always succeeded doesn't mean it wasn't a strategy.

The second thing concerns nationalism and racism. To say nationalism and racism have failed in Africa is a statement I just don't understand. The racism in South Africa, the rupture of that racism, or apartheid, through the struggles of the black working class in South Africa has been an integral part of the crisis of capital. That racism functioned for a very long time in the context of the global accumulation of capital to make possible the existence of a monetary system of a certain sort (based in part on gold) and the extraction of vast quantities of surplus value.

You don't measure the efficacy of a capitalist strategy by whether or not the workers are well off in a particular area of the world, for God's sake, or whether constant capital is accumulated in a particular place. Imperialism is the differential accumulation of constant and human capital and an intentional hierarchy of income. When you get right down to it that is what Marxist analysis is about: accumulation is always uneven. The IMF imposition of austerity in Africa facilitates the extraction of surplus value everywhere. The surplus value produced in Africa is being transferred through international pricing, transferred through the manipulation of money and commodity prices out of Africa, like it always has been.

SIXTH SPEAKER: What is socialism?

HARRY CLEAVER: What do I mean by the time for socialism is gone and how else are you going to relieve the problems of war and poverty for humanity? I don't mean that we abandon the struggle against capitalism and that we abandon the struggle to create a new world by any means. I mean that the concept of socialism has been ambiguous in a lot of ways. Ultimately the problem with it was that it posed the idea of replacing one kind of homogeneous society by another homogeneous society. That's the project which it seems to me is gone, or it should be gone.

I also know it's not gone for a lot of people; they are hell bent on doing it. But they are not going to succeed because it's irrelevant at this point in history. The class struggle has moved way beyond that. It may be that it was a sustainable illusion for a certain period of time, but I do not think that it is sustainable in this period of time. That's what I mean by the time for socialism is gone - not that we don't have to replace capitalism, not that we're not to design social alternatives - but that the old models that are still being clung to are obstacles to the social processes which most likely to contribute to the actual transcendence of capitalism.

HILLEL TICKTIN: I was asked to define socialism. I define it as a society where creative labour becomes mankind's prime want - the way it is defined by Marx. Everything else follows from that and it gets away from the question of income and a few other things. Obviously in a socialist society you do not have a law of value. It is planned, and planning involves the conscious regulation by the economy and society by the direct producers. There is total democracy if you want to call it that. You also made the point, that I completely fail to understand, about the present epoch in terms of Iraq or South Africa or god knows where. There are wars all over the place. Of course there are wars all over the place. But that is not the same as before. The question is: are these wars all over the place, these different forms, meant to work in the same way as before, with the same degree of efficiency as before? Are they going to control the working class in the same way? That is the question. When capitalist powers are going into Iraq, does it mean that the crisis in capitalism is reduced, ameliorated, or removed?

(from Radical Chains no.4)

Correspondence (from the same issue of Radical Chains)

From George Gordon

I recently attended the public debate between Harry Cleaver and Hillel Ticktin on 5 July in London, organised by Radical Chains. I wasn't too interested in what Ticktin had to say (he's an unreconstructed Trotskyist) but I listened intently to what was said by Mr.Cleaver to get an idea of the real political approach behind his (often brilliant) writings about economics and ruling class strategy.

My worst suspicions were confirmed. I have no hesitation in saying that Cleaver's approach is essentially just the old leftist racket of finding half plausible Marxist justifications for supporting liberal, 'progressive' politics. At one stage he claimed that 'unlike those who have abandoned Marxism', he did not like or use the term 'new social movements' because he thought that things often described as 'black struggles' or 'women's struggles' are actually expressions of the class struggle. He then went on to spend the rest of the evening talking as if he did believe in 'new social movements', referring completely un-self-consciously to 'the black community', 'women's struggles', 'what blacks/women want... without any reference to class whatsoever.

The most obscene example of this came right at the end when he referred to proposals made by the gang leaders in LA. as an example of' "what black people want". You may recall that these proposals included the policing of labour discipline by the gangs - so much for the refusal of work!

It's interesting how common it is for vehement anti-Leninists (which Cleaver is) to think in a very similar way to Leninists (although their methods of organisation are very different). It became more and more obvious that behind Cleaver's comments about what ordinary people want lay the assumption that there are basically two types of people involved in struggle - on the one hand 'ordinary decent' types who don't have much politics but do have hearts of gold and on the other (implicitly; middle class, academic) people who do have politics but are not directly involved in struggle and need to find ways of 'relating' to those who are. It's a problem of getting the message across - you can't be too critical of ordinary people because that might put them off.

When he was talking about 'what people want' he mentioned with approval Marx's Workers' Enquiry which was a list of questions to ask workers. He then said something along the lines of: 'This is what we should be doing today. Go to the factories, go to the black community, go to the students, go to the women's movement . . find out what people want'. O.K., it's not quite the same as what Bob Avakian {leader of the Maoist RCP in the USA... ed.} would say. But...

To a certain extent he was just recognising his unusual position as a Marxist academic What was offensive is that he was assuming that the audience must be composed of people of a similar social role.

I would describe Cleaver's overall position as 'council communism without the workers’ council'. As with other 'councilists' there is a lot of truth in what he says. He stresses the need for workers to form direct links with each other rather than 'unite and fight' through adopting a common ideology or joining the same party. He rightly stresses the enormous diversity of the class struggle and how it is reactionary to try to impose a uniform way of doing things. It is true that a proletarian community of struggle is, and needs to be, diverse. But it still needs to be a community not (as I think Cleaver wants) a liberal multi-cultural swamp where everybody respects everybody else's views.

He is aware that the trade unions are against the workers (I know this because I had a conversation with him the day before in which he argued with someone who was trying to argue that workers used unions to organise struggles despite the reactionary leadership). However, when it comes to popular fronts
containing 'Labor Organisations' this criticism is forgotten. In this particular case he was talking about the network of groups which was set up to oppose North American Free Trade Agreement, something which he sees as very positive.

What Cleaver’s approach appears to offer is the possibility of being involved in struggle without having to bother about strategic questions (at least not in practice). No doubt if you tried (for example) to attack nationalism in general (black nationalism in US cities, National Liberation movements, the implicit US nationalism of people defending 'constitutional rights'... and so on) you would be accused of trying to impose uniformity on diverse movements. In other words his brand of autonomism offers the possibility of 'keeping politics out of politics'. In practice this always means 'leave politics to the politicians'.

3 out of 10, professor, must try harder!


3 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Interesting but don't miss George Gordon's letter of comment on Cleaver in the same issue.


3 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org


Interesting but don't miss George Gordon's letter of comment on Cleaver in the same issue.

Good spot, I have added that at the end.

Revolutionary movements, theory and practice: The Peruvian experience of the 1980s - Bill Langan

Why has the Maoist guerilla movement, Sendero Luminoso (the Shining Path), thrived when the rest of Stalinism is in such crisis? By Bill Langan

Submitted by Fozzie on July 18, 2019

"Father of mine, your face like the great sky, hear me: the heart of the seuores is now more terrifying, more filthy, inspires more hate. They have corrupted our very own brothers, twisted their hearts and together killing us armed with weapons that the king of devils himself couldn't invent or produce. And yet there is a great light in our lives! We are shining! We have descended upon the city of the seuores. It is from there that I speak to you. We have descended like the endless columns of ants in the great jungle. Here we are, with you beloved leader, unforgettable, eternal Amaru."

(Jose Marie Arguedas, leading Peruvian indigenist author, from his extended poem 'To Our Creator-Father Tupac Amaru' in his work Katakay)

In 1968 the military took power in Peru and, presenting themselves as a 'national revolutionary government', managed to re-channel much of the revolutionary ferment affecting all social sectors under their 'democratic' predecessors, with extensive land reform, nationalization and development programmes. In the harsher international climate of the mid-70s its reformism ran out of steam, giving way firstly to monetarism and then a return to democracy under popular pressure at the end of the decade.

During the 1980 elections which marked this transition, the Communist Party of Peru (Sendero Luminoso) declared the start of its 'popular war' after nearly a decade of 'reconstitution'. The conservative Belaunde government (1980-85) was succeeded by the left-nationalist APRA government (1985-90) , which in turn was defeated by the current president, Alberto Fujimori. He has played for popularity by portraying himself as a technocrat separate from and above the 'corrupt' political class. Indeed, he closed down the Congress in May 1992, reopening it with elections in November of the same year, which were boycotted by the traditional opposition parties. He is a new breed of populist, who has made greater use than any previous leader of direct appeal to the populace via television and radio, particularly in the 'war on subversion'. Sendero has overcome some harsh setbacks over the years , but all depends now on their ability to overcome the capture of leader Abimael Guzman in September 1992.

Contrary to popular belief, Peru is not a country of peasants, but one where two-thirds of the population are now 'urban'. However, a large part of this 'urban' population is concentrated in and around provincial towns and they maintain close family and trade links with the rural population. Although the growth of the informal sector in urban areas has been widely commented on, what is more striking statistically is the pauperization of this sector over the decade in terms of income levels compared to that of the more traditional working class.

Peru is a country rich in characters who have striven to compose radical theory which can then be put into practice. At the turn of the century, for example, the Peruvian anarchist movement was inspired by the ideas and contributions of one Gonzalez Prada, the first writer to address the so-called indian problem from a revolutionary position. He was followed in the twenties by the marxist analysis of Jose Carlos Mariategui, Peru's foremost historical figure on the left, who also founded the original PCP (Communist Party of Peru), and whose writings and influence deserve an article of their own. Later we have the Trotskyist Hugo Blanco, a key figure in the 1960s peasant uprisings and guerrilla insurgency, and we also find that the 'Liberation Theology' of radical Catholicism originated as a concept with the Peruvian Gustavo Guttierez.

The leader of the PCP-SL Abimael Guzman styles himself as the successor to Mao, and I think that within that authoritarian marxist tradition of Lenin- Stalin - Mao, he probably has every right to, given his record of applying theory to practice. His so-called Gonzalo Thinking is basically an adaption of Maoism to the Peruvian situation, dominated by the idea of Power and how to conquer it, the Struggle of Two Lines, the militarized political party, and his historical analysis (all described ad nauseum in a widely available interview from 1987).


What I would like to do is to hold up the experience of Sendero (as a revolutionary movement acting in modern conditions) to some of the theories about social movements that began to become popular just as in fact they began their 'popular war'. I have only looked at the Peruvian upholders of these theories, but I think you'll agree that they form part of an international trend. So I'll start by commenting on the main points of these new theories and then the aspects of Sendero which are relevant to this comparison.

The new studies of social and political movements which emerged at the beginning of the eighties sought to overcome what was seen as the dogmas of the old theories which had concentrated on the complimentary roles of class, state and power: the key phrases were instead now grassroots social movements, citizenship and democracy. There was a strong urban bias, in keeping with the urbanization trend and which corresponded to the idea of trying to use social reality as a base for theory, rather than the old habit of making the reality fit the theory. We see this in the new trend towards social history rather than the history of impersonal structures as a means of recording the past.

This theoretical trend coincided with an important political development: the relatively peaceful end of military rule in Peru at the end of the 1970s. As in Spain at approximately the same time, and other countries that experienced such a transition, a democratic euphoria accompanied the end of dictatorship. This euphoria was shared by virtually all the left apart from Sendero. The traditional peasant and workers movements lost their importance as academic interest refocussed itself on movements whose demands corresponded not just to the productive sphere. As for how to effect political change Gramsci appeared to offer the answer for these 'new times' with his idea that these new social movements could form part of national popular blocs: social alliances replacing the old class-based formations.

The new theorists identified a series of new characteristics of social struggle in the 'new democratic environment'. These were:

1) Change in Social Structure: that new sectors such as the 'informal sector' would assume greater importance than traditional categories of urban and rural workers.

2) New Organizations: that in keeping with the above structural change, new small scale 'micro-level' organizations would assume more importance than the old mass organizations (unions and peasant federations).

3) New Struggles: the idea that the 1980s movements would be concerned with demands other than the old 'class-based' demands.

4) New Methods of Struggle: that the age of direct action had ended. While this meant a lot of positive eye-opening, these new ideas often led to the throwing out of class as a means of looking at society, and revolution as a feasible solution. Because of that I'll argue that on the one hand, the experience of the eighties, with the joint rise and fall of the new social movements and the democratic left in Peru, suggests that something was wrong with the conclusions drawn from the ideas that went accompanying both. And, on the other hand, that the new theorists were incapable of understanding the rise of a revolutionary movement such as Sendero.


One of the first questions raised about Sendero is what is their social base, and what is their appeal? What I want to emphasize is the impossibility of pigeonholing (as so many have tried to) the answers to both questions.

Firstly, the social origin of the party members who were joining from the late sixties onwards and were thus 'in' on the start of the war in 1980 can be generalized as students and teachers who would often have a peasant background but had moved to provincial towns for educational reasons (as the beneficiaries of a national trend towards popular education in the state sector). Now, given that virtually every urban dweller in Peru has close relations in the country, you're talking about quite a wide and typical section of people making up the original militancy, not a purely'peasant army' but neither exactly a 'urban middle class elite', a label favoured by Sendero's detractors on the left who contrast it to the 'true' armies of the oppressed such as the Sandinistas and Castro's followers. To criticise Sendero it is not necessary to falsify their nature and mythologize the latter guerrilla - cum - regimes.

The party has continued ever since to recruit heavily amongst young people with close links to both urban and rural life. A son of a landowner once simply said to me, 'peasant plus university = terrorist'.

Secondly, the peasantry is seen as 'principal force' in the overall war strategy and the rural areas have always been a main focus of Sendero activity as they have recruited among young peasants for both static support and to make up mobile columns. Peasantry is maybe now something of a misnomer as the rural population (who now make up little over a third of the total) are largely incorporated in the market economy, and so Sendero correctly identify them as 'rural proletariat'.

Thirdly and finally, in the urban sector Sendero is active in traditional industrial sectors, but does not favour them above other areas of struggle. Rather it has kept abreast of the fact that many of the working class are employed in small-scale labour operations in the so-called informal sector. Everyone from the very poor (working class) and the relatively prosperous (lower middle class) sectors are the object of Sendero's work2 (an example of Sendero's involvement in this sector is that in the town where I lived a teacher was shot dead on the local university campus, because in his position as a town council member he was involved in a major dispute with the town's street traders).

To understand the nature of this work I think we have to locate its activities in the perspective of an overall strategy that deals with all areas of urban life such as neighbourhood organizations, housing, education, producers/traders associations, morality, justice, movement on the streets, cultural life....There are many examples of their work in each one of these areas, which is carried out by a complex web of front organizations, as well as lower level intervention in already existing organizations.

In both town and country the Party tries to eventually convert itself into the guardian of every aspect of social activity. The idea (and the practice) is to create a shadow state which begins by operating clandestinely, and when the time is right, emerges more openly. And as with all states, the bottom line of social control is the threat of violence.


We can't take the movement's slogans at face value. The rhetoric varies according to the audience addressed. For a movement to effect social change it has been suggested that it must work at three levels: the daily or micro-level, the sectoral level and the national level, and synthesize the three. Sendero has to some extent done this: At the daily or neighbourhood level the slogans are reformist: Electricity and Water for the Barrios!, Down with the Rent Rise! Particular groups are organized around their specific demands (e.g. squatters or small businessmen in the towns or coca-growers in the country). This can be done through infiltrating already existing local associations or unions.

On the sectoral level, the front organizations operating in different local struggles draw likely recruits into the wider scheme of things. The front organization is seen as an operation which represents the party in different localities on a sectoral level, such as the Young Peoples Popular Movement in schools/colleges, Classist Neighbourhood Movement in residents associations, etc. In this way the recruit enters into contact with the party, and starts to learn the revolutionary rhetoric via intensive, parrot-fashion ideological training.

But when Abimael Guzman's own philosophy teacher and great personal influence was asked in an interview, what do you think of all these simple Maoist slogans that your ex-pupil's followers churn out, he just laughed and dismissed it as verbal fodder. So on a national level there is serious ideological work being done which represents the combining of theory and practice on a very high level. This is why I talk about the war in Peru as being one in which ideology is given a uniquely privileged role, which of course relates to the strong tradition of revolutionary theory in the country, mentioned earlier.

Although I have emphasized the complex nature of the Party's structures, it's obviously wrong to go overboard and see it as some kind of completely well-oiled machine, above and beyond the actual human beings who run it! This is the image the party itself often convincingly portrays, but obviously there are overlaps between different sub-groups in the Party and breakdowns of structure.

The key point then is that Sendero works across all type of social sector and class. Furthermore, despite the apparent rigidity of its doctrine it is very responsive to social trends that affect these divisions, such as migrations or the informal sector. This grasp of modern and changing conditions has been the key to its success. Instead of asking why has Sendero achieved what it has, maybe we should ask, why has it not got further?


So what are the consequences of the 'Sendero experience' for the various social movements theories? Well it clearly challenges the conclusion that a class-based revolutionary movement cannot get to grips with the new conditions. To go back to the formulation of the SM theorists:

In terms of the new composition of the working class, the party has shown itself broad-based enough in its strategy to accomodate all different sectors of the working class and some sectors of the middle class. This new composition has, it should be added, been highly exaggerated, because there has always been a large and at various times politicized informal sector.

In terms of new 'micro-level' organizations it has either tried to dominate these or else destroy and replace them, with the use of front organizations.

In terms of new struggles SL has simply tried to head any type of popular demand going, including those of 'citizens rights' as opposed to 'workers rights'.

Finally, as far as new forms of struggle go, the party has been the first to try (not always with success) to develop these in order to replace the old forms of struggle which the state learnt to handle. A main example is the Armed Strike which at its most effective has managed to paralyze Lima.

The new theories were largely correct in their observations, most of all in their attempt to look at all areas of social life in place of a vulgar economic focus. This is important because it is the all-encompassing nature of SL's strategy, applying itself to all aspects of social life, which I believe is the key to their success. Groups such as the Stalinist PCP-Unidad which concentrated all their efforts on building trade union power bases, have found themselves at the end of the 1980s in the position of Emperors with No Clothes On. The irony, then, is that Sendero took the key observations of the 'new times' analysts in their stride, and incorporated those observations within their own strategy.

The new social movement theorists and their many fellow travellers,both academic and political, got many of their observations right. But their conclusion: that the advent of democracy made class-based revolutionary movements redundant, and their anticipation: that small scale cross-class popular bloc movements would provide the basis for popular politics in the 'new times', have both been shown (in the Peruvian case) to be wrong.

How then has Sendero adapted itself to the new conditions which the theorists identified? What I think we learn is that a revolutionary movement in these modern conditions must have a continually extending social base and geographical base to overcome repression (this is something Sendero learnt through practice: when the military launched a major flushing out campaign in their original base province of Ayacucho in 83/84, the party was partly forced to relocate its activities to new areas.) By looking at society such as the Peruvian one in its totality, we can see that there are many different 'points of power' that a revolutionary strategy needs to deal with, by capturing or neutralizing each one. In this way we can look at Sendero's strategy and the state's counter-strategy with regard to the peasant self-defence groups, the MRTA (Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement - Peru's other main guerrilla force), the unions, universities etc., etc..

The failure of the new social movements to provide the embryo for national change can, apart from anything else, be linked to the shortcomings of 'democracy' in Latin America generally. The popularity of the theory went hand in hand with the democratic euphoria which accompanied it in Peru and elsewhere upon the end of military rule in the late 1970s, therefore the fate of the theory is linked to the fate of these 'democracies'. Neither have really fulfilled their promises in practice. The shortcomings of the social democratic model make necessary a revolutionary critique of Peru's political realities which is relevant to both theory and practice. Such a critique needs to take seriously the evidence of Sendero's experience, whatever our many misgivings about their politics, rather than seeing it as a freak aberration or guerrilla leftover from the sixties.


I would like now to go over why so far such a critique is barely available. Having looked at the theoretically based defenders of Peru's social democracy, we now need to 'analyze the analysts' of Sendero itself: the self-styled experts on Peru's high level of social conflict. This means identifying the political associations and ideological assumptions which underline their work (and hence a large part of our information).

Virtually all analysts whose books or articles you might find come somewhere along the scale between those on the reforming left and those who are basically military advisors in an academic guise, the so-called 'counter-insurgency experts'. I describe them as being on a scale rather than as two distinct groups, because there is a grey area, and the difference between the two is becoming even more blurred in line with the global post-Cold War trend towards a naked convergence of interests between the 'left' and the 'right' under capitalism. Both 'ends on the scale' express their main aim to be protecting Peruvian 'democracy'. Which translates as: how do we defeat Sendero and protect the State?

This grey area regularly manifests itself. At a recent meeting in London for instance John Crabtree, a sympathetic author-critic on the Peruvian left shared a table with Rosemary Thorp, an Oxford economist who tutored Fujimori's until-recently Economy Minister and called for greater liberalization in the 1980s. The blurred lines are also there when the leftist analysts complain that the right wing Fujimori government does not listen to their proposals, or indeed when the government does listen, without admitting it of course, and embark on symbolic social help programs such as the army going into shantytowns to distribute free food and haircuts.

It is not necessarily the counter-insurgency people who are less accurate, as they are not weighed down like the leftists are by an alternative programme for administrating capitalism which they have to put in every piece of writing. They are much better about simply seeking out and presenting information on Sendero so that the government, military or business know just what the score is: one of the most realistic assessments of the continuing conflict in Peru after Guzman's arrest came from Gordon McCormick, an advisor to the American Rand Corporation, in an interview with the liberal Peruvian news weekly Caretas (Nov 92).

The leftist analysts are compromised by association just as much as their right-wing counterparts are. They share a common ground with the solidarity campaigns, the charities and non-governmental organizations (ONGs), and the left-wing politicos. I'm not trying to make them out to be some organized mafiosi, simply pointing out the connections. For instance, I found Peruvians well aware that many ONGs were jobs-for-the-boys outfits for the left wing parties. Anyway, the analysts and those outfits share the basic beliefs in the rule of parliament, constitution and all the other trappings of the modern democratic state, and as organizations (not necessarily individuals) oppose revolution, violent overthrow etc.

These analysts are informed by certain key themes which, while all containing certain essential truths, are harnessed in favour of an anti-revolutionary perspective, which puts the onus on an elected government to make the necessary changes.

One such theme is of course Human Rights. It is not my intention here to go into the flaws of human rights as a concept, suffice to say that both the military and the PCP (SL) have been guilty of gross abuses of ordinary people. But this is in their nature as authoritarian institutions belonging to a state and a shadow state respectively. On practical grounds this theme is directly relevant to leftist analysts, as the reformist left are often victim of both state and Sendero attacks.

Another is the idea of the people caught between two fires - that the war is being fought between two merciless outside factions, with the 'ordinary people' caught haplessly in the middle. It is certainly true that anyone trying to work outside the Fujimori state and Sendero's shadow state is a potential victim of both. However this refrain is also used to make the populace appear a passive community, and particularly lends itself to such a stereotyping of the peasantry, who would presumably be happier half-starving and growing crops for Western export than hoisting the flag of revolt. The reasons for revolt remain valid and real, and the government is worried about the prospect of the (originally rural but now going urban) citizens self-defence militias which it originally armed turning their sights on their masters.

Finally there is the idea that greater social spending and democratization are necessary to defeat Sendero: which brings us back to the basic dilemma of the reformist left: that such a programme would still have to go hand in hand with a military operation. In other words: continued war.

So we see that the analysts of Sendero are not in a hot air balloon overlooking events, but play a direct role as advisors through association, on the one hand, with the reformist left and associated institutions, on the other hand, with both the Peruvian and foreign state, military and business institutions, and ever more obviously with both.

In developing a revolutionary critique of the situation, I think we also need to decide on what forces to associate with, both in terms of their theory and their political practice. For anyone who finds themselves there, this a very real question.

Firstly there is of course Sendero itself. In terms of numbers, capability and territory it is obviously still the key revolutionary force. But of course unless you're in the inner circle, there's no room for non-party line thinking except say in an internal crisis which reaches up to the highest level (which must be what happened after the arrest of Guzman). Probably every Peruvian who flirts with radical politics has to decide personally how to relate to the Party. In normal times ideological debate is seen as super-dangerous to the party's discipline and cohesiveness, the party is only there to instruct. As one person (involved in a supportive role to the Party) said to me with some awe, 'the comrades have an answer to everything'. In the Cusco region a new guerrilla column started up around 1987 which wanted to support the armed struggle while remaining outside the Party. By all accounts they were virtually eliminated by Sendero, after wielding some influence in the region.

The other main guerrilla group is the MRTA who have a classic Latin American guerrilla ideology, trying to be what they would call the armed wing of the popular movement along FMLN/Sandinista lines. What others would call the armed wing of the bourgeois left. The MRTA would appear to be a more broad-based movement but has in fact been fraught by internal power struggles resulting in public splits, desertions, and murders of rival leaders. It is difficult to know how much of a future they have, as their only opportunity for growth appears to be if the official left or factions of it, is pushed further out of the political spectrum - which is actually a possibility now that it has virtually no parliamentary representation. Certainly the Robin Hood nature of many of the MRTA's actions are designed to make people morally sympathetic, and a lot of hopes for a humane but revolutionary 'third alternative' have been pinned on them over the years.

As for the official left itself, it is really now on a life support machine more than ever since its re-entrance into national politics in the late seventies. As in so many other countries in the world now, it's popularly identified as part of the whole corrupt party political circus. Its Congress representation was almost decimated in the December 1992 elections, it now retains power only on a limited local level. Its credibility was also indirectly damaged by the complete failure of the supposedly left of centre APRA government of the mid eighties, which really showed the limits of trying to apply populist left policies in a capitalist environment.

In the 1980s there was certainly a revolutionary flavour at the grassroots of the Peruvian left, tied in with the hopes that the new social movements would provide a new 'revolutionary subject'. But now it remains a set of leaders without followers, whose incorporation into the system was never made clearer than in January of this year, when the 'Democratic Left' grouping in Congress (a new proto-party arisen from the ashes of the once strong United Left) proposed a special Congress medal for military officers who excelled in the 'battle against subversion'!

Finally we come to the fringe groups who might or might not become relevant in the future. If they do become relevant it will probably be in terms of the legacy of their ideas rather than their small existing organizations. In Peru the trotskyists and anarchists are the only groups I know of with a revolutionary vision that challenges the Sendero/MRTA orthodoxies, (although the former are limited by their own authoritarian tendencies), and both groups have long and interesting histories of their own in the country. There is I believe potential for a popular renewal of the anarchist or libertarian socialist/communist vision.

The reason I believe there is such an audience owes itself to the tradition of grassroots rebellion in Peru itself. Although this tradition has been harnessed by Sendero and MRTA in the 1980s, it has in fact manifested itself under a variety of different flags over the decades and centuries, and indeed often under no flag at all. There is a history of communal acts against authority, from land seizures to supermarket looting.

On the other side of the coin there exists a strong tradition of communalismo and mutual self-help on the part of both rural and urban dwellers, which, although at various times taken up by political groups, has a life of its own beyond the timespan of such groups. Taking away the political conclusions of the analysts, many of what they identified as new social movements in the 1980s represented the urban continuation of this rural tradition of combatting poverty and bettering communal life through mutual aid.

A proper examination of this twin tradition of anti-authoritarian struggle and mutual cooperation is outside the realms of this article, but provides an always strong potential alternative to both the social democracy of 'left' and 'right' and the stalinist authoritarianism of the PCP (SL).

(A campaign is being built up around the imprisonment of two anarchists in Peru, falsely accused of working for Sendero Luminoso. Donations are badly needed for legal fees and food {which is not supplied for prisoners}. Contact: The Peruvian Solidarity Project of the Love & Rage Network, PO Box 3, Prince Street Station, New York, New York 10012, USA.)


1 The following four points are taken from Movimientos sociales: Elementos para una relectura (Social Movements: starting points for a reassessment) (Desco, Lima 1990)

2 Although individuals higher up the social scale than this may be attracted, and the press will always make great play of this, I have not yet seen evidence of an attempt to attract the more comfortable middle classes and upwards as a sector or class, although the support of sections of the 'national bourgeoisie' is envisaged in the anti-imperialist/popular front stage of Sendero's plans.

3 Three levels identified in the excellent book by Diego Palma, Lo popular, la informalidad y cambio social (The popular classes, the informal sector and social change) (Desco Lima 1990).

4 Author this year of Peru under APRA: The Lost Opportunity(Oxford University Press), whose title says it all about his slant on the left nationalist government of Alan Garcia which ruled 1985-90.

The leopard in the 20th century: value, struggle and administration - William Dixon

An examination of the changes within capitalism as a response to the development of the antagonistic class.

Submitted by messenger2 on February 15, 2010

Se vogliamo che tutto rimanga come e bisogna che tutto cambi. (If we want everything to stay as it is, everything has to change). The Leopard, Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa.

Capitalism is a combination of both subjective and objective factors. In terms of the objective, capitalism is a system that operates through certain real categories, for example the opposition of use value and exchange value. From an analysis of such categories we may draw some conclusions regarding the tendency of the system. These in turn may appear then as expressing the laws of the system. As a specific and distinctive historical system capitalism does have objective characteristics; it is not feudalism, it is not primitive communism, it has its own forms. The surplus is appropriated as surplus value. We could now leave the analysis there and so reproduce all the worst aspects of 'scientific' marxism. Capitalism would then be seen as moving through objective laws. It would appear in this light as a naturalised system. Too much of marxism has appeared to endorse this approach. For example we are led to believe in a set of objective conditions that mature when, hey presto! - crisis! And the working class is woken up. Other than this the working class has no role to play. The subjective appears to have no historical presence until the final moment. The development of capital is seen as proceeding according to its own laws and through the interrelation of capitals.

The alternative view to this is to stress the struggle of the working class. This has been particularly characteristic of the anarchists but they have had no monopoly. This view has been necessary because of the previous orthodoxy of marxism. It fails though to consider adequately not just the categories through which struggle must move but also how the struggle leads to development of the categories and hence new conditions of struggle.

We need to develop an understanding of capital as embodying both objective and subjective aspects. As capitalism develops so the subjective aspect becomes more important, indeed decisive. This is an objective aspect of a system that cannot help but develop through the development of the division of labour and hence the creation of social labour as a global, truly social phenomenon.

The conception of 'partial suspensions of the law of value' is central to a thesis that attempts to understand the political economy of the twentieth century as the interaction of the subjective and objective. The formation of the working class and its political development are taken into account as well as modifications in bourgeois society by which the threat was contained. In this sense partial suspensions of the law of value are located at the heart of a twentieth century political economy that has been characterised by both the appearance of the revolutionary proletariat and also by regimes that have successfully disorganised that threat. Capital has no natural laws but it is a system that is constrained to change only in specific ways, through the categories and their modifications, of the law of value.

The view that explains twentieth century political economy on the basis of partial suspensions of the law of value contests what have been the orthodox right and left views that the USSR was a communist experiment and the welfare states represented an advance of the working class. In this view the significance of the Eastern European events of 1989 is that they mark an important milestone in the disintegration of anti-working class regimes. Similarly, the success of right wing free market projects in the West are indicative of a profound crisis in left wing political groups that have failed to represent the actual movement of the working class. In short the significant failure of the late twentieth century has been of regimes concocted on the basis of the prevention of communism, especially bureaucratic, often murderous, administrative regimes. The virtually wholesale implication of the left in these regimes has aided the disorganisation of working class responses to the fantastic opportunities of this period.

It is politically necessary to retrieve the communist perspective, to draw a sharp line through the left on this basis. If this is to avoid any sectarian assertion of purity, the insecure reliance on dogma, it is necessary to reclaim theory as the specific prerogative of the working class and communism as the heart of the movement. It is necessary to lay claim to a perspective that is confident that humanity's development, while proceeding through the productive forces, cannot establish its creative reason short of communism. Only then can the real creative individuality of our species be realised. Only then will individual development be freed from the external limits of money and administration. Only then can individual development be truly social.

The point now is to establish the communist perspective without apology and without compromise. The reclaiming of theory as the description of the real movement, the chronic tendency to communism, is necessary in order not just to orient practice, but also to disrupt and affront a left that has been complicit in the prevention of communism. This task can only be achieved if the retrieval of the communist perspective is insistent that it speaks of the development of humanity, the self-creation of the historic subject, only then will the arrogant banality of so much of the left be shown up.

It is necessary in the retrieval of the communist perspective to grasp the political economy of bourgeois society as it has developed in the twentieth century. So much of this period has been claimed uncritically as representing working class progress. This progress must be reassessed from the perspective of communism. The possibility of such an appraisal is not intellectual; it is real development that makes theory possible and necessary. The rude fact smarting on the face of the old ideologists is that the previous regimes broke down not only without working class support but actually under the impact of working class opposition or resistance. After the breakdown of all this progress, all those limiting forms, reality leaves us no choice but communism.

In this article I will outline the phenomena from which the conception of partial suspensions of the law of value arose. After this I will explain briefly the view of the law of value from which it is then possible to explain partial suspensions. When this is done I will explain why this is a fruitful analysis by outlining the various facts, experiences, problems it can take account of within a theoretical framework that has an essentially simple core.

In this article I refer to 'we'. This includes several different people. They had in common that they were ex-members of different political segments aware of the limitation of their own background, not desperate to leap into another segment, not looking for position, but needing to evolve etc. Although the first article on the prevention of communism was by Binns and Dixon (Radical Chains 1) there were several other voices hidden in that text.

We had in common the need to reach an understanding of the present situation. While each would hold to the contribution they could make from their respective backgrounds there was no desire for a merely eclectic adding on of bits from different traditions. We all recognised that the common theory we sought would have to have its own basic simplicity from which eventually we could critique the different traditions from which we arose. We shared the recognition that there was a need for a theory and not for an agglomeration of ideas.

An immediate motivation was to make sense of the sorry state of the left in relation to the current development of bourgeois society. We shared the conviction, based on experience, that the left had lost contact with any communist perspective, irrespective of its marxist variant. This was reflected in its splintering into mutual antagonisms, Trotskyist, Left Communist, Autonomist, Leninist, etc. Each knew what was wrong with the other but remained studiously attached to its own limitations. The problem to be addressed was certainly not the success of the right (which still needed to be studied) but rather the horrendous failure of the left. In this light there was little to be gained through adopting one strand with militant fury and then blaming the rest of the left from that position. Sectarianism is this multiple correctness.

Our initial focus was on the twentieth century success of social democracy in the West while in the East and 'Third World' there was the political power of what we and others before us identified as Stalinism. These phenomena we regarded as something more than merely political entities. While clearly, indeed murderously, on the side of capitalist survival, they could not easily be dismissed as capitalist in essence, anymore than they could be claimed as wonderful victories for the working class, or as forms transitional to anything but hell.

It appeared on both sides, East and West, that communism had been blocked and that the social forms that had evolved depended for their existence on this blockage. Furthermore the left was centrally involved in the blockage. In fact several forms of socialist organisation had developed, at best, ambiguous relations to the working class. It was clear that the left was actually a central element of the prevention of communism.

Our initial critical perspective towards the left allowed us to make sense of a split between class struggle and many of the forms of the labour movement i.e. CPs, Social Democratic Parties, trade unions etc. There were clearly struggles that hadof necessity developed autonomy from the usual representative forms. At the same time these were struggles that showed up the limiting function of the welfare state. In fact a critical perspective to these forms would have been meaningless if there had not been social movement outside and against them. The critique of these forms already had a social expression.

There are never straightforward facts. It was our specific concerns as political activists able to share different experiences and perspectives that lead to the particular grasp of the problem to be confronted. The facts themselves were politicised. We needed to understand the blockage of the movement to communism and the development of highly dubious, indeed repressive, social forms supported by many parts of the left. The experience of these facts was not only common enough amongst many activists but they were perceivable because of the repeated opposition of apparent working class forms to actual working class struggles.

Our initial attempt to grasp these facts was the thought that the relation between the socialistic forms and the blockage of communism could not be accidental but was rather a necessary connection. We came to regard these forms as not transitional to communism but as necessary forms of the prevention of communism. Although the epoch as a whole may be transitional we regarded the prevention of communism as an inevitable institutional form within this transition. Clearly this required a questioning of the concept of transition. We were inclined to sympathy with a discontinuous conception, closer to that theorised by Pannekoek rather than what we considered the misleading continuity in transition of Trotsky. This latter conception tended to ascribe some virtues to forms inimical to the working class. In fact with the appearance of the proletariat as historical subject at the end of the nineteenth century, beginning of the twentieth century, working class 'advances' had become the condition for the survival of bourgeois society. Transition was marked by the requirement that bourgeois strategy should speak a language of subordination to the working class but essentially should still act as a discipline over it.

We took it as self evident that planning could only be the rational activity undertaken by a subject with its needs and capacities joined in a social process. In other words for humanity the only possibility of planning would be the formation of the working class as universal class, as the social power with no limitation by external mediation. It was obvious that no such process took place in the Soviet Union. The pretensions of the socialist elites did not disturb us, for the claim to planning by such elites and bureaucrats could never be sufficient evidence that planning was taking place.

Our conception of communism allowed us to view the socialist forms as quite distinct from planning, as administrative processes that had supplanted the functions of the money system but in which the social discipline of the collective was not established. It was clear that the socialisms defeated in West or East had never been victories of the working class anymore than they were victories of the bourgeoisie. Talk of victory and defeat may be suitable to those who still viewed class struggle as if it were a team sport but for the evaluation of a social process it could tell us nothing. We can see that the bourgeois survive so in this limited political sense the bourgeoisie have won, but then they will always 'win' until the social system is overturned. Rather than victories or defeats moving us backwards and forwards, to and fro, in a linear nightmare we aimed to identify real transformations in political economy. The conditions of accumulation and control over the surplus had changed in anticipation and prevention of communism.

It was inevitable that the development of proletarian potential would provoke measures to forestall it. Where the working class had developed these measures could not be crudely repressive but would have to be couched in terms of a formal recognition of the needs of the working class. The survival of the bourgeoisie required the opening of a political channel to the working-class but of course never for any other reason than intervention into the process of class formation.

Since at least the 1880s bourgeois survival has had to be couched in terms of a working class project, or rather, a project on behalf of the working class. They were all socialists then, magnanimously admitting to their socialist sympathies whilst coming up with their 'practicable' schemes for respectable working class improvement.

For communists this social progress has to be reconciled within a theoretical framework that grasped it also as the prevention of communism. The question then was not an quantitative one concerning how much better peoples' lives were, but a theoretical one of uncovering in what essential ways the system had changed. According to this criteria the crucial change to understand lay in the orientation of the system to needs and the limits of this change.

The theoretical explanation for the problems outlined here, what I may term politicised facts, came out of an understanding of the operation of the law of value. Indeed it had to. We followed Marx in identifying the law of value as the central mechanism and social form of capitalism. The surplus was, peculiarly to capital, extracted in the form of value. The social dominance of exchange value marked the social dominance of capital itself. All previous social forms had forms of power, dominance etc. The problem that had to be addressed was the fate of the capitalist form; this meant the fate of the law of value.

It is possible to identify the dominant tendency of the system at different times. In the period of capital's ascendancy the tendency was to assert the rule of the law of value, that is to clear away all obstacles and modifications. In essence this rule was the subordination of need to exchange. We can see it extolled and recommended in the works of Smith and Ricardo. These formed the theoretical basis for the movement of reform that allowed and expressed the social rule of money, become capital. It is in this period, from late eighteenth century to mid-nineteenth century, that we see the height of the movement to supplant the aristocratic and mercantile control through state structures. The prospective achievement of the law of value, that is to say, the domination of need by exchange, was not considered in any way a threat to the system but as its completion and triumph. Although never achieved with a textbook purity, the law of value was the essential element of the maturing system.

It was on the basis of this system, in this period, that Marx developed his critique of political economy. This included his identification, in the first chapters of Das Kapital, of the nature of exchange value and use value, abstract and concrete labour. He certainly did not waste his time by presenting acres of exceptions and departures from some ideal development; such a presentation would have negated the scientific purpose of his work. He showed the system of domination of needs by exchange to be inseparable from the social organisation of production for value and hence the inseparability of exchange from value production. This is especially true when our viewpoint starts from the necessity of transcendence of value by production for need.

The argument is that partial suspensions of this law of value have been characteristic of the twentieth century. We need to be sure that we are dealing with real change. The crux of the change can be seen, empirically, in the growth of administration but the essential element of this is the changing orientation of the system to needs. This change can be identified as a change in the operation of the law of value. To grasp this we must be clear about the essential operation of the law of value. We can then go on to specify what it means in terms of the social orientation to needs.
The law of value is the mediation, distribution, of social labour through exchange value. Through the tendency for products to exchange as equivalents, different concrete labours are equated. In this exchange their common characteristic of being abstract human labour is asserted. They are then, in this act of exchange, socially validated as containing some quantity of socially necessary labour. It is characteristic of capital that the social validation requires this act of exchange and that it occurs after the fact of production. Only in the act of exchange is abstract labour socially constituted as such because only in this act are different concrete labours brought into a relation of equality to each other. Without this act the sharing of some common characteristic, abstract labour, has no social or logical meaning. The possibility of equating different concrete labours is not merely an idea nor can it be established by decree. It can only, and must, be established in the exchange of the products themselves. The equality is made real by the exchange and only then can it be discovered by the investigator.

The law of value may appear as a functional process, a system of distribution of social labours. Indeed it is necessary that it does achieve a regulatory function. From this we may go on to conclude that the act of exchange is the social relation itself. Of course it is not. Although exchange is necessary for the existence of abstract labour it is not in itself sufficient. Exchange has existed for thousands of years without human labours being systematically reduced to abstract labour. The existence of exchange is not the same as its social dominance. Where it acts only in the interstices of society abstract labour cannot be said to have come into being. In such a society the majority of products are made for use even if under coercion. For the law of value to be the social form labour must be subject to its disciplines, that is to say to the requirements of successful exchange. The existence of exchange only indicates this potential; this is not the same as realisation.

Where the law of value pervades society then necessarily exchange value, hence money, must be dominant. If exchange is universal then there must be the universal equivalent. For this to have occurred specific social conditions must have come into being. The essential condition is the sale of labour power. This requires the separation of the labourer from the means of production. It is in this separation that we can see the social relation necessary to the law of value. It is only with this separation that labour is thrown by necessity into the world of exchange, that labour capacity itself becomes an exchange value. So it can only be on this basis, the commodification of labour power, that the law of value can become the social regulator of labour. In this circumstance the law of value is the form of relation of labour to itself. It is the social existence of the working class as labour power.

In the absence of the separation of labour from the means of production, the absence of labour power as a commodity, the law of value cannot develop adequately as a social form. There can still exist production for use, whether in coercive or co-operative form; in either case concrete labours are not equated through exchange and hence abstract labour is not established. We find then that abstract labour has another condition as necessary as exchange itself, that is absolute poverty. This condition is not accidental but is the other side to the formation of abstract labour. In the separation of labour from the means of production labour is abstracted; it is torn apart from all its specific concrete abilities. In this moment it exists as abstract labour but not yet in the process of social validation, though needing this validation as a matter of life or death. It exists to the extent that it is impelled to enter exchange. As the condition of value production, absolute poverty is the separation of labour from all means of production including itself; it is the required atomisation over which value is the necessary mediation.

What has been described here is the social relation f money representing the social wealth confronting labour as poverty. We are in the topsy-turvy world of capital. It should be obvious to anyone that in this world as described here the existence of abstract labour, the operation of the law of value as regulator, is inseparable from the necessity for the state. It is the organised form by which the separation of labour and means of production is ensured. It is the guarantor of the absolute poverty of the working class. The only fair play it knows is the abstraction of labour. The essential use value for capital and the use value without which there is no capital relation is labour capacity itself. This is the immediate source of value. This capacity is peculiar in that its production as use value is not a simple result of concrete labour. Its existence as use value must be established through the state. The most important commodity is produced by this 'invisible' hand of production.

In its cohesion and unitary power over society the state guards the atomised existence of the working class. It guarantees the everyday normalcy of the mediation of the law of value. It ensures, with all its compassion, that the need for the social existence of the law of value is a genuine need. Through its laws and regulations and police this social existence is established as ordinary and as contractual between equivalent citizens.

For its essential operation then the law of value requires the absolute poverty of the worker. This is necessary if exchange is to be able to equate different concrete labours in terms of abstract labour. In brief then, for the worker, to live means to work for the wage. At the centre of this social form is the complete subordination of needs to money mediation. It is because of this that we can identify the law of value as not merely a distributive mechanism but as the social existence of the working class. The law of value does not stand apart from the working class as a separate mechanism; it would be more purposeful to say that the law of value is the existence of the working class standing apart from itself. Needs and capacities are torn apart. Capital itself is the seizure of the collective power as production of value. As such it is a regime over needs, the mediated absence of subjectivity.

The atomisation of the working class is crucial to the operation of the law of value just as the law of value is necessary for the atomised working class. In this form of the working class we can see the full operation of commodity fetishism in which social relations take the form of relations between things. This is described of course in the first chapters of Marx's Das Kapital. I shall return to this later.

From the point of view of capitalist reform appropriate state structures must be achieved for the full operation of the law of value. I have already mentioned the defence of private property; this is obvious enough. The other side of this is the regulation of the poverty of the working class. In concrete terms this would take the form, in the first half of the nineteenth century, of a debate over the poor laws and the poverty composition of the working class. This in turn would become a real political struggle between bourgeois and landlord interests. At the pivot of this struggle was the relation to the working class.

This was the period of bourgeois reform as it pushed towards the democratic state against aristocratic influence. Along with the move to free trade, the abolition of the corn laws and constitutional reform there was also the tendency towards the abolition of the old poor laws. In the works of Ricardo and his many correspondents there is a shared belief in the necessity for the abolition of the Poor Law. This abolition was part of the completion of bourgeois political economy. It would be the expression and realisation of the full sway of capital over all social forms. It meant the end of the paternalist influence of the old poor laws, the local rates, and the creation of the fully unified wage, the independent labourer. Under the old Poor Law, workers subsistence still required payments from the parish rates, payments that helped foster the dependence of workers on the local administrators, the gentry. For those representing the new political economy the ideal, set against this feudal influence, was the subsumption of the worker to the free realm of contracts; the independence of the worker mediated socially through money.

The centrality of the unified wage as a distinguishing characteristic of the political economy is derived from its significance in the creation of a regime over human needs. The unified wage is a particular form of domination over needs; there are other forms but this is the specifically capitalist form in which needs are fully subordinated to exchange value, to money. As capital pushes towards the unified wage so it pushes towards the full naturalisation of its own political economy and the achievement of commodity fetishism.

In this early period there was an extraordinary effort to ensure the education of the working classes to the political economy. Benevolent institutions such as the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge sponsored ideas that put the independent labourer at the centre of life for the working class. In this figure the working class were expected to identify the dignity of their own atomism. As one scholar has usefully described these educative efforts they were a 'campaign of containment' (R.Gilmour, Victorian Studies, Vol II, Dec 1967). This is true, but not complete, the essence of the message was that working class needs could not be met through collective action but rather through the dignified, self-reliant, independent channel of work. All needs were to be subordinated to money. This same point was put with delightful simplicity by the authors of the Poor Law Report of 1834. In clearly defining the limits to relief they stated that, "It has never been deemed expedient that the provision should extend to the relief of poverty; that is, the state of one who, in order to obtain a mere subsistence, is forced to have recourse to labour." (Poor Law Report of 1834, Penguin 1974). Freedom has never been so efficiently described.

In the matter of the poor laws Ricardo and his supporters had prepared the way for their abolition through the setting up of trustee savings banks that would enable workers to save from their wage and then in subsequent periods of need receive back funds for survival. In this way the principle of the unified wage would be asserted whilst practical measures to deal with periods of stagnation of trade were put in place. Despite this initial tendency the actual reform of the poor law did not go as far as some of these political economists had hoped.

The new Act of 1834 still allowed for the provision of relief; but there was nevertheless little doubting the real tendency and aim of the legislation, to put an end to dependence and to form independent labourers. In this respect it marked a break from aristocratic, feudal paternalism. Senior, the principal author of the new Act defended it when he said that previously, "...a large portion of the labourers of England were treated not as freemen but as slaves or domestic animals, and received not strictly speaking wages, regulated by the value of their labour, but rations apportioned to their supposed wants..." (Senior, The Report Of the Handloom Weavers). The unified wage could in these circumstances be regarded as a gain for the working class; it was also though a declaration of the absolute poverty of the working class, the full subordination of needs to the progress of accumulation. It announced the end of particular and personal dependence and a new world of universalised and democratic dependence. The legislation sought the perfection of universal poverty as the condition of the necessity to work, against the pauperizing dependence of the previous operation of the poor law. Workers would be fully committed to the accumulation from which there arose the demandfor their labour. The actual act instituted a punitive system of administration over relief that would deter the able bodied from pauperization. It deliberately preserved pauperism as an exclusion from society, as the administrative simulcra of starvation. The unified wage remained the central paradigm of this period. It was the centre of the educative measures of political economy; it outlined a self-reliant path for improvement by the working class.

In the first half of the nineteenth century the movement of reform is towards the unification of the wage, the abolition of that part of the wage received as parish relief. In legislation the Poor Law Amendment Act went much of the way to achieving this paradigm and some way towards the creation of the independent labourer. This period may be identified as the high point of the law of value. However, as the aspiration of bourgeois political economy, the unified wage of absolute poverty would begin to be modified under the impact of the developing formation of the working class.

As is clear to anyone reading the first chapters of Das Kapital, commodity fetishism is understood as resting on specific social conditions. "As the foregoing analysis has already demonstrated, this fetishism of the world of commodities arises from the peculiar social character of the labour which produces them. Objects of utility become commodities only because they are the products of the labour of all these private individuals who work independently of each other ... Since the producers do not come into social contact until they exchange the products of their labour, the specific social characteristics of their private labours appear only within this exchange." (Marx, Capital, vol I p.165, Penguin). The condition of the mediation by exchange is the independence of the producers, their atomisation. This is no psychological, philosophical, or subjective phenomenon. This is a real social condition but it is precisely because of this that it is subject to real social movements. This atomism is the atomism of social labour. This is its separation from itself in absolute poverty. Commodity fetishism is not then a phenomenon that crumbles under the weight of superior persuasion but does so under the action of the working class itself. The formation of the class cannot help but undermine the social condition of commodity fetishism. It brings forward the practical possibility of social labour. This in turn opens the catch-up space for intellectuals to understand the social phenomena.

There is no exterior force but a real development within capital that changes its own conditions of consciousness. The necessary struggle over wages etc. creates the conditions in which workers see through the operation of the law of value. This is no philosophical discovery but is a practical result of and in turn condition for the process of class formation. Indeed to describe it as 'seeing through' is in itself misleading. It would be more accurate to say that from the struggle itself conditions develop for grasping new potentials. This involves an element of 'seeing through'. In this sense class solidarity, necessarily antagonistic, has also to be theory.

True, there continues on the surface of society the exchange of equivalents but in the struggle itself it is revealed that this exchange is far from being the basis of production. Here in the core of society there is discovered a basis beneath the "semblance of exchange". "This exchange of equivalents proceeds; it is only the surface layer of a production which rests on the appropriation of alien labour without exchange, but with the semblance of exchange ... there is no longer any ground for astonishment that the system of exchange values- exchange of equivalents measured through labour - turns into, or rather reveals as its hidden background, the appropriation of alien labour without exchange, complete separation of labour and property." (Marx, Grundrisse, p.509)

The revelation of the hidden background is generated within the system itself as part of its own development. The crucial point is the recognition by workers of the wage as a proportion of theproduct. The political economists would present the wage as received in exchange for a specific use value, as an exchange of equivalents but: "As correct as this is in one regard, it also introduces the apparent form of barter, of exchange, so that when competition permits the worker to bargain and to argue with the capitalists, he measures his demands against the capitalists' profit and demands a certain share of the surplus value created by him; so that the proportion itself becomes a real moment of economic life itself. Further, in the struggle between the classes - which necessarily arises with the development of the working class - the measurement of the distance between them, which, precisely, is expressed by wages itself as a proportion, becomes decisively important. The semblance of exchange vanishes in the course of the mode of production founded on capital." (Grundrisse, p.597). The crucial element in the process outlined here by Marx is the development of working class organisation. The necessity for it denies exchange as the real basis of the relation in production and forms the basis for grasping new principles of social organisation. Marx understood commodity fetishism as being undermined within the course of capitalist development.

The division of labour mediated by exchange, production for exchange i.e. production of value, generates the social condition for the creation of labour as a self-formed subject and so production for use. The social conditions necessary to, indeed intrinsically part of, the law of value mean that struggle is not just a struggle over proportion, an endless war over advantage, but is a more fundamentally antagonistic struggle. All struggles by the working class over its conditions of life, whether wages, hours, welfare or whatever assert a principle antagonistic to capital: that of production for use, human need joined to human capacity. In moving through the categories of the system the struggle cannot help but show the intrinsic limit of the system. Of course this is not magically transformed into communism. The point for now though is this, the struggle under the capitalist system is explosive and creative because within it there is the promise of a new social system. The contradiction of capital between value and use ensures that class struggle in continually confronting the limit of the system must develop theory. The antagonism over proportion cannot help but escalate to this more intransigent level. This not only enters the consciousness of the workers but also of the bourgeoisie.

When confident of itself as the end of the tyranny of feudalism and as the completion of history, capital's tendency is towards the unified wage and, under production for exchange, the full subordination of needs to money. With Ricardo we find a ready confidence that workers are growing in independence and coming to a knowledge of political economy. Capital appears here in all the glory of an inviolable objectivity. This objectivity stands as the absence of a collectively constituted subjectivity. Workers' subjectivity is to amount to no more than individual knowledge of this ruling objectivity.

As the division of labour progresses, and with it the formation of the working class, so the assertion of the full subordination of needs to money appears as ever more dangerous to the survival of the bourgeois system. Real development forces on the political economists the recognition of a subjectivity in the working class that has torn away from this moment of capital's objectivity. The movement shifts gradually from the confident assertion of capital to its survival through the prevention of communism. In this movement the pivotal change is found in the orientation of the system to needs.

The process of class formation forces on capital the necessity to intervene in this formation. At the core of this intervention there must be a change in the orientation to needs otherwise there could be no intervention in subjectivity. The political conditions of the unified wage allowed no scope for a political development of the working class within capital. Needs could not be recognised within bourgeois political channels but are supposedly channelled through accumulation. At a certain point this becomes a dangerous political rigidity for capital. At this point simple repression of the social force of the working class is inadequate. Towards the end of the nineteenth century it is not just that the working class is recognised as an antagonistic force but also that it has acquired a social cohesion within which it could with impunity discuss the future of bourgeois society. This was some way from Ricardo's confident vision of the independent labourer whose subjectivity consisted of coming to knowledge of the system.

In relation to this subordination of subjectivity it could be said that the system, even if temporarily, had a type of objectivity to which Ricardo could apply his 'science' and explain 'natural' price. Such objectivity could only crumble when there arose within it a socially based subjectivity that was positing an alternative. This disrupted the 'science'. There was not only a growth of working class organisations but also of theory as coherent principle derived from a practice and experience that was antagonistic to political economy. Under the conditions of the unified wage these new movements would tend to monopolise a debate on the assertion of human needs. Political economy was recognised by the working class as an enemy; political economy itself had to change if political economy was to remain the same. The Leopard would change its spots.

From at least the 1870s but gathering an accelerating momentum from the mid-1880s there developed movements within respectable society that shared as their basis a recognition of the need to allow political channels in which working class movement could be constrained and defused. The intellectual and social development of this movement can be traced through the principal reformers of the later nineteenth century. In different thinkers and campaigners different elements are emphasised but in all there is the persistent need expressed for a new relation to the working class. The working class were not to evolve their own autonomous relation. Arnold Toynbee appeared as an early inspiration along with his friend (later Lord) Milner, also Samuel and Henrietta Barnett whose statistical work on working class living standards helped Charles Booth to take up his project to make a social survey of London. There was also W.T. Stead, editor of the Pall Mall Gazette, collaborator with William Booth, Benjamin Kidd, the Webbs, Alfred Marshall, L.T.Hobhouse, and so it goes on. This cannot be an exhaustive list, only indicative. For now what I am concerned with is the theoretical development; the social and intellectual history can follow in a subsequent article.

The crucial point is that a need for working class development within capital was recognised and that the unified wage was an obstacle to that development. In as much as the system is founded on the subordination of needs to money so each successive stage of struggle threatens to be more explosive in its effects on bourgeois society. Intervention, necessary to the survival of bourgeois society required intervention in the regime of needs. Class formation could not be repressed without the antagonism between use and exchange value being socialised. This potential, deadly to bourgeois society, imposed on it the necessity for some controlled recognition of need if that class formation were to be intervened in. Bourgeois society developed its own socialism on the basis of a divided wage.

At the core of the new political economy, interventionist in relation to class formation, was the modification of absolute poverty. Needs would be recognised outside the unified wage. There was institute a divided wage, on one side the enterprise wage still subject to the disciplines of profit and on the other the social wage subject to the disciplines of administration. It is at this point that we can speak of the emergence of partial suspensions of the law of value. The regime of needs lived by the working class was changed; it is still a regime, of course, but through the divided wage there was a modification in the orientation to needs. There could exist need recognition outside the immediate discipline of exchange, of money. This would in turn affect the relation between abstract and concrete labour. As we have seen a vital condition of abstract labour is absolute poverty; if this is modified, if economic security displaces the cold rule of money then the substance of accumulation itself may be blocked. Capital may tend to find itself confronting an all too concrete labour in the sense that sets of needs have entered an arena in which political negotiation appears to replace the immediate discipline of enterprise calculation.

Partial suspensions should not of course be confused with complete abolishment. Where something is partially suspended it should be clear that it still operates, if in a modified form. The real question is how it operates. This is what needs to be explained and this will require a development of points already made. I have already emphasised above that the law of value is not simply a mechanism of distribution and nor is it adequate that abstract labour is established through exchange. The law of value as the mediation of social labour is also the form of existence of that labour, its social atomisation, and requires for its inseparable condition the necessity on the part of labour to sell its labour power. This point is worth emphasising with another quote from Marx, "For the domination of exchange value itself, and of exchange-value-producing production, presupposes alien labour capacity itself as an exchange value - i.e. the separation of living labour capacity from its objective conditions; a relation to them - or to its own objectivity - as alien property; a relation to them, in a word, as capital." (Marx, Grundrisse, pp509 -10, see also pp514-5). It is clear that production for value, the alienation of living labour, is inseparable from exchange value. The domination of the latter must entail the former.

Partial suspensions of the law of value are suspensions of the form of existence subordinated to money. The division of the wage institutes a new regime of needs. It seems at first just to be an additional channel yet it cannot help but alter the operation of the system. The actual history need not concern us for now. What is crucial is that a set of needs were recognised outside the immediate discipline of accumulation. The areas covered by the divided wage included unemployment benefit, income support, pensions, sickness benefit, administered pricing of food and housing, and health. In each area there is a formal recognition of need. What this means is the recognition of need in such a way as to promise economic security apart from the individual wage bargain. Where the immediate discipline of accumulation is absent then various administrative structures have to be set up. Bureaucratic procedures and data systems were set up to ensure need recognition did not get out of hand. The claim made here is not that the formal recognition of need is synonymous with the granting of a right to subsistence but rather that a significant shift in the regime of needs occurred.

There are several levels to this recognition of need. We call it formal in order to capture something of its ambiguity. It never constitutes an explicit right yet in effect this is its ever present promise, indeed it is de facto treated as such by the working class. Against this is set the bureaucratic policing of the recognition of need. This leads to a particular aspect of the formality of the recognition. Although, for example a need for housing is recognised, so rents are controlled, tenancies are secured and houses are allocated outside the market etc., this recognition is never certain. There remain not only shortages but also poor quality in terms of such things as damp, infestation, size, location, as well as administered divisions such as on the basis of race. The recognition is there, can be accessed, but falls short of what would be planned. This highlights an important element in the meaning of formal recognition; it remains mediated and separated from capacity. Although the discipline is not immediate, the ultimate purpose of the changes is to preserve accumulation. As such need recognition must be formal, fixing poverty rather than relieving it, and the endemic scarcity of the system no longer takes on a natural air but is identified with administration itself.

The division of the wage opened a channel that confounded the impact of the radical critique. An ersatz politics could develop, crucially within capital. It was ersatz because it presupposed containment in class rule, continued production for value, even if it did have to be founded on real changes. This project, now identified as left-wing or socialist, had its roots earlier but its appearance as a distinct state strategy may be located in the People's Budget of 1909. From here there began a new regime for working class needs and an effective intervention into the development of working class organisation.

Starting from the law of value as the core we can through its partial suspensions explain the development of administrative forms. The formal recognition of need that lies at the base of the divided wage and hence the welfare state conflicts with the subordination of needs that characterises the full operation of the law of value. It allows space in the modification of the conditions of absolute poverty for an evasion of life as labour capacity. Given that the purpose of the divided wage is to preserve the rule of capital, the formal recognition of need has to be controlled within the continuing discipline of the requirements of the law of value. From this impossible situation we can trace the growth of the state administrative forms in the twentieth century.

Administration is excreted by a system that is forced to recognise and cannot recognise need, a system whose substance is abstract labour, indifference to particular labours, producing for value, but that must allow a political channel recognising concrete labour. Rather than ensuring that needs are met i.e. rather than the social relation of planning, administration must ensure their containment, restriction and limitation. Entitlement is subdivided into administrative categories that in turn subdivide the class. There had to be a recognition of need in formal channels but there could not be social abundance. Here then the independent labourer of classical political economy is to be preserved as worker by a promotion to citizen with entitlements policed in the welfare administrative forms. This is not planning. It is rather a tendency to anti-planning, the prevention and interception of class formation.

As has been observed in a theoretical work on the state (Kay and Mott, Political Order and The Law of Labour, Macmillan 1982), we can detect in administration the archaeological remains of class struggle. They point out that the origin of the word administration is appropriately in the management of the estates of deceased people. The matter of left or right wing is scarcely of interest. The struggle is absorbed but as its opposite; a dead administrative form. The struggle becomes the citizen. It is no accident that this process is analogous to the absorption of living labour by dead. The absorption of struggle appears as the formal recognition of need that removes the occasion for solidarity and hence the conditions of class formation. To put it simply there is no concession that is not also preservation of atomisation. The formal recognition of need bears with it the requirement that it be administered. Offices, rules, classifications, queues, al these preserve need as a limited entitlement and on the condition of atomisation. In this way intervention in class formation can be made compatible with accumulation.

Commodity fetishism is modified by direct administration. Social relations are mediated within direct administrative structures. These are essentially anti-planning; the condition and indeed purpose of their existence is the social absence of the class. They preserve the formality of need recognition within the law of value. Commodity fetishism is preserved by an administrative channel that allows the development of a political form, social democracy, which includes the Labour Party and a particular form of trade unionism. They appear in dialogue rather than antagonism. It is a curious situation in which social democracy does not confront commodity fetishism yet it speaks a language of need. Its compatibility with the law of value arises from the separation of political and economic spheres that it not only accepts but also by its existence confirms. This separation expresses and preserves the continued separation of need and capacity. Since social democracy allows a discussion of need within its narrow political confines it appears to normalise the separation.

Under these conditions communism not only appears as unnecessary but more importantly as utopian since the basis of the struggle that could achieve it can always be undermined. It is because of this that the division of the wage is a central development within political economy. It is the precise form of capital's ambiguity.

The problem for capital is that the conditions it sets up for the prevention of communism become, in turn, the basis of a new struggle. It appears then to capital that the division of the wage has become the source of struggle rather than its containment. The formal recognition of need provides a focus and indeed base of struggle that evades the limits of the organisational representatives, the trade unions and Labour Party, within which the formal recognition was intended to channel class formation. This breakdown was expressed outside the factory as well as in workplace relations, unofficial strikes, control over pace of work, resistance to productivity deals etc. Eventually and inevitably, the conditions of the divided wage were identified as part of an interlocking social package that had obstructed adequate control over the workplace.

The real problem for capital in all this is that any partial suspension threatens the reproduction of labour capacity as an exchange value. Yet at the same time some modification of the absolute poverty of the working class becomes necessary if capital is to survive. The pivotal change that capital must endeavour to contain and live with is the recognition of need. Simply, such social recognition contradicts absolute poverty and so threatens the formation of labour capacity. The substance of capital is abstract labour; the unified wage is the form by which money confronts this labour. The divided wage mitigates this confrontation.

To accumulate, capital cannot simply put into motion abstract labour; it must pass through particular labours, concrete labour. The indifference, nevertheless, of capital to the concrete labours is its indifference to use values as such, in other words the subordination of needs to accumulation. This is no formal requirement. The actual control in the workplace is dependent on this overall social condition. Indifference of capital to concrete labours is for the worker substitutability. This is the threat of ruin. To illustrate the significance of this we must turn to a third aspect of abstract labour.

We have identified abstract labour as established in exchange. We have seen further that this required absolute poverty for it to be generalised. In this sense abstract labour is also the condition of the labourer shorn of al specific abilities, shorn of all use-making capacity and hence requiring the sale of labour power to the capitalist. The problem for capital comes in trying to ensure a fair deal, a fair day's work in return for the wage. Of course supervisors, management systems, co-operation etc. are all of use but what, ultimately do they depend on? The worker's substitutability is crucial and this depends on abstraction. Yet at the same time capital cannot float in mid-air. It must produce and sell actual things that require concrete labour. Capital's circuit must pass through concrete labour. This presents a problem of control. Concrete labour can involve specific tasks that are not necessarily substitutable. Worse, over time, as workers gain confidence based on principles of solidarity known to themselves and other workers, skills can and are imposed on capital as forms of counter control by workers. Or, the fear of substitutability is overcome through the generalised level of struggle across many different sectors.

In these conditions there is a tendency for workplace discipline to flounder. To reassert control capital must reassert the abstraction of labour. Recession is one means of this but the crucial means that is associated with recession or crisis is through machinery. The particular labours on which workers had been able to develop their refractory hand are absorbed into machinery. Skills tend to be abolished as there is a tendency for the system to achieve its indifference to particular labours as an actual form of labour. Concrete labour itself, being in fact developed through the circuits of capital tends to the peculiarly capitalist form of labour, to abstract labour, to mere work without redeeming feature. This tendency is imposed by the requirements of exchange, the realisation of profit in exchange. Capital accumulation, whose substance is abstract labour and depends on abstract labour, also develops concrete labour to actualise abstract labour. Of course, as this development advances it tends to automation and hence to conditions of abundance where labour as the basis of the system, as value, is abolished. With greater struggle so capital must seek escape from concrete labours but in doing so tends to abolish its own presuppositions. The struggle itself, the subjective, moving through the objective categories of the system, forces the system to achieve the conditions of communism.

We have examined this relation between abstract labour and the workplace without linking it to the development of forms of welfare. We have seen that labour process control is especially dependent on general social conditions. With formal recognition of need these social conditions are partially modified. Administrative procedures must ensure the continuation of workplace control. At the same time there was a tendency for there to be negotiated deals, productivity deals, and incomes policies for which the presence of the welfare state is itself part of the deal. In this situation the labour movement develops a rigid and centralised bureaucracy that must police the deals on which its position depends. Counter to this the working class experience a greater economic security because of the formal recognition of need. This obstructs control in the workplace and instead enhances the particularity of labour. This may be overcome by central negotiation but this in time is undermined by a working class that resists and opposes the bureaucratisation of the movement.

This resistance is enabled by the welfare state itself since certain requirements for which the working class had depended on its own movement were displaced by the welfare state. The success of welfare in disorganising the movement was also the condition by which the working class could achieve some independence from its bureaucratisation.

Confronted by these conditions it is understandable that the call for the right to manage and the attack on the welfare state have gone hand in hand. While many on the right may now criticise and find fault with the achievements of Thatcherism there remains still a tenacious hold on the belief that Thatcherism allowed a 'revolution' in management control. Indeed this is a real legacy of the changes since 1974. This change though has been achieved through the re-emphasis of the power of money over needs and the dissolution of forms of negotiation. The system cannot avoid its basis in abstract labour as the substance of value. The creation or enhancement of a new managerial stratum has been achieved on the back of growing economic anxiety, the dismantling of the welfare state. Insecurity from cradle to grave has become the watchword for today's state reform. It is also the condition for the evolution of new working class forms and cultures of resistance. This in turn acts as a break on the proposed dismantling of the welfare state in as much as her majesty still requires a loyal opposition that has a modicum of credibility.

The fight against inflation with its cost in unemployment has been the visible thrust of the right's campaign. At its heart has been the steady erosion of the divided wage, under the heading of supply-side economics, as the so called consumer is put at the centre of economic life. The only consumer that matters in this regard is the consumer of labour power. As for the rest of us 'choice' is the dignified way in which we are expected to give up all hope of change, 'choice' is to be our immersion in economic atomism, the retrieval of a disciplining edge to absolute poverty. 'Choice' is how we give up more and more and learn to love it. Insecurity is reasserted as the foundation of work discipline. What we must observe now is the gradual change in the politics of the labour movement as it finds it increasingly difficult to express needs that arise from this economic insecurity and which must tend to focus on the money system as its enemy. This process has already started but is one that takes years and not days or months.

The analysis presented here is certainly not complete. I have for example deliberately avoided the development of finance capital. This would have been crucial if we required now a full understanding of why it is suspension and not abolition of the law of value that is described here. Although this is important it is beyond the scope of this article's limited purpose. Nevertheless, some provisional conclusions can be offered.

Suffice to say for now that partial suspensions of the law of value have tended to mediate the tendency to abstract labour through nationalist frames that from the viewpoint of value quite arbitrarily link together large groups of concrete labour. This nationalisation of course had its political purpose in serving to undermine the international tendency of the workers' movement. This national element would however eventually become an obstacle, a basis of struggle, that was identified as the arterio-scelerosis of Europe. As capital escaped its national forms so it required the free purchase of labour power, the competition of a wider labour market.

The advantages of this basis of analysis can be summarised briefly:

1. The analysis puts the law of value at the centre. Agreement or disagreement requires a grasp of the law of value. This means that irrespective of the particular fate of this analysis it supports a tendency to escape the narrow confines of the left's political analysis, e.g. at its worst waffle about consciousness, culture etc., and to develop a theory at the level of political economy (and its critique). The question is whether any section of the left is capable of escaping the emergencies of the immediate situation to develop the new theories they all seem to promise but never deliver.

2. The analysis presents the law of value as inseparable from the state. This enhances the point above. The theory provides a simple theoretical explanation for administration that does not separate the phenomenon from 'economics' or whatever. Disagreement is forced to an understanding of the state that takes account of the vaunted simplicity of the present approach and must, in doing so, take account of the law of value.

3. The establishment of labour power is seen to be at the heart of the inseparability of state and law of value. Hence from the beginning needs and the forms of mediation are placed at the heart of the theory.

4. From the above it follows that there is presented here the basis for a clear theory of change that places the change in the control over surplus extraction and so the regime of needs as central.

5. This places the working class as a force, or power within the system, a power whose development provokes modification of the system's orientation to needs because its very nature as working class condemns it to be the object for money but the subject of the struggle for needs. From division of labour mediated by exchange value to the struggle for production for use the movement to communism is seen as immanent to capital.

6. This theory explains the political phenomena of the twentieth century without recourse to external agencies, deus ex machina or some supposed inadequacy on the part of humanity. For example social democracy is located as having developed as the form dependent on the division of the wage, i.e. as an aspect of the modification of bourgeois political economy. We can explain real phenomena in the political sphere as arising from changes in the political economy and these in turn result from the development of the historic subject as a consequence of the development of the division of labour. The system has its own motion; the subjective is internal to it, we might say as an objective aspect.

7. The analysis confronts the same material that led people to the belief in The Forward March of Labour Halted but reaches quite different conclusions since the crucial element in this march was not the development of class subjectivity but rather alteration of bourgeois political economy to penetrate and forestall the basis for that subjectivity. It is not a forward march that is halted but the prevention of communism that is shown to be an inadequate social form.

8. From the present analysis it follows that the crisis of the organisational forms of the prevention of communism is a crisis of a relation to the working class. Underneath this lies the far more serious issue, in fact the dominant issue, what will be the outcome of the present changes in the labour movement? Will the current organisational forms of the working class, the incumbent labour movement, develop? What has been revealed is that these forms were inadequate for subsuming the working class. The relation to needs that is implicit in working class struggle implies also a social content that must supersede the inadequacies of administration. This in turn implies a far more serious crisis in a labour movement that has been too often tied into administration. However there is no magical transformation of working class organisation; the forms of resistance to the imposed peace of the welfare state cannot adjust immediately to the erosion of the welfare state.

The ambiguity of capital continues. If the prevention of communism was inadequate it might appear that the free market is the only social logic since the formal recognition of need 'failed'. Yet as the welfare state is questioned, as unemployment grows and economic anxiety becomes the central principle of the market of choices, the end of guaranteeism, so it would appear that the working class is pushed into defending the welfare state. Yet despite resistance at local level and over particular issues this has not happened in any significant manner, notwithstanding important skirmishes such as the poll tax. The Labour Party and TUC have so far survived the social upheavals although changes re obviously in train.

If, as many have predicted, unemployment is here to stay, if even recoveries will not get rid of the problem and if as also seems likely, especially in Britain, that the recoveries themselves are short-lived and if we are therefore to see more Dundee Timexes in conjunction with more drastic reductions and modifications of the welfare state then inevitably the present forms of working class organisation will prove inadequate. In a small but still significant way we have already seen this in the poll tax campaign. The problem for capital is to find forms that are adequate to control the working class. For us the problem is whether crises in the labour movement will sound the death-knell of bourgeois society.

The analysis presented here is a reaffirmation of communism as the tendency of the struggle. The placing of needs at the centre, simultaneously places the working class at the centre not simply as an agent of struggle but as the bearer of a new organisational principle that, in its inescapable antagonism to value, must make capital a socially explosive and eventually doomed system.

Towards a political economy of Stalinism - Paul B Smith

Paul B.Smith reviews Hillel Ticktin's book: Origins of the Crisis in the USSR: Essays on the Political Economy of a Disintegrating System (from Radical Chains no.4).

Submitted by messenger2 on February 15, 2010