2. Growth of Productive Forces

The Wandering of Humanity -
Repressive Consciousness -

2. Growth of Productive Forces;
Domestication of Human Beings

The capitalist mode of production becomes decadent only with the
outbreak of effective revolution against capital. As of now,
human beings have been decaying for a century, they have been
domesticated by capital. This domestication is the source of the
proletariat's inability to liberate humanity. Productive forces
continue to grow, but these are forces of capital.

"Capitalist production develops technique and the
combination of the social production process only by
simultaneously using up the two sources from which all
wealth springs : the land and the laborer." [9]

It makes no sense to proclaim that humanity's productive forces
have stopped growing, that the capitalist mode of production has
begun to decay. Such views reveal the inability of many
theoreticians to recognize the run-away of capital and thus to
understand communism and the communist revolution. Paradoxically,
Marx analyzed the decomposition of bourgeois society and the
conditions for the development of the capitalist mode of
production : a society where productive forces could develop
freely. What he presented as the project of communism was
realized by capital.

Man elaborated a dialectic of the development of productive
forces. [10] He held that human emancipation depended on their
fullest expansion. Communist revolution -- therefore the end of
the capitalist mode of production -- was to take place when this
mode of production was no longer "large enough" to contain the
productive forces. But Marx is trapped in an ambiguity. He thinks
that the human being is a barrier to capital, and that capital
destroys the human being as a fetter to its development as
productive power. Marx also suggests that capital can escape from
the human barrier. He is led to postulate a self-negation of
capital. This self-negation takes the form of crises which he
perceived either as moments when capital is restructured (a
regeneration carried out by the destruction of products
inhibiting the process : another reason why capitalism must
disappear), or as the actual moment when capital is destroyed.

In other words, while providing the elements necessary for
understanding the real domination of capital over society, Marx
did not develop the concept; he did not recognize the run-away of
capital. For Marx, gold remained a barrier to capital, the
contradiction between valorization and devalorization remained in
force, and the plunder and estrangement of proletarians remained
an obstacle to the evolution of capital.

"In the development of productive forces there comes a
stage when productive forces and means of intercourse
are brought into being, which, under the existing
relationships, only cause mischief, and are no longer
productive but destructive forces (machinery and
money). . ."

(Before continuing the citation, we should mention the
retardation of those who proclaim that capital now develops only
destructive forces. It turns out that for Marx, in 1847, capital
is destruction; he continued to hold this view.)

". . . and connected with this a class is called forth,
which has to bear all the burdens of society without
enjoying its advantages, which, ousted from society, is
forced into the most decided antagonism to all other
classes; a class which forms the majority of all
members of society, and from which emanates the
consciousness of the necessity of a fundamental
revolution, the communist consciousness, which may, of
course, arise among the other classes too through the
contemplation of the situation of this class." [11]

The proletariat is the great hope of Marx and of the
revolutionaries of his epoch. This is the class whose struggle
for emancipation will liberate all humanity. Marx's work is at
once an analysis of the capitalist mode of production and of the
proletariat's role within it. This is why the theory of value and
the theory of the proletariat are connected, though not
directly :

"The above application of the Ricardian theory, that
the entire social product belongs to the workers as
their product, because they are the sole real
producers, leads directly to communism. But, as Marx
indicates too in the above-quoted passage, formally it
is economically incorrect, for it is simply an
application of morality to economics. According to the
laws of bourgeois economics, the greatest part of the
product does not belong to the workers who have
produced it. If we now say : that is unjust, that ought
not to be so, then that has nothing immediately to do
with economics. We are merely saying that this economic
fact is in contradiction to our sense of morality.
Marx, therefore, never based his communist demands upon
this, but upon the inevitable collapse of the
capitalist mode of production which is daily taking
place before our eyes to an ever greater degree. .
." [12]

Marx did not develop a philosophy of exploitation, as Bordiga
often recalled. How will the capitalist mode of production be
destroyed, and what does the "ruin" consist of ? (Engels, in
1884, provided arguments for those who today speak of the
decadence of capitalism.) This is not specified. After Marx the
proletariat was retained as the class necessary for the final
destruction, the definitive abolition of capitalism, and it was
taken for granted that the proletariat would be forced to do

Bernstein grasped this aspect of Marx's theory, and applied
himself to demonstrating that there were no contradictions
pushing toward dissolution. [13] But this led Bernstein to become
an apologist for the old bourgeois society which capital was
about to destroy, especially after 1913; consequently his work
does not in any way clarify the present situation.

Marx left us material with which to overcome the theory of value,
and also material necessary for overcoming the theory of the
proletariat. The two theories are related, and justify each
other. In the Grundrisse, Marx praises the capitalist mode of
production, which he considers revolutionary. What is not stated
explicitly is that the proletariat has this attribute to the
extent that it carries out the internal laws of capitalism. The
proletariat is present in the analysis. Marx postulates that the
proletariat's misery will necessarily push it to revolt, to
destroy the capitalist mode of production and thus to liberate
whatever is progressive in this mode of production, namely the
tendency to expand productive forces.

In Capital the proletariat is no longer treated as the class that
represents the dissolution of society, as negation at work. The
class in question here is the working class, a class which is
more or less integrated in society, which is engaged in
revolutionary reformism : struggle for wage increases, struggle
against heavy work imposed on women and children, struggle for
the shortening of the working day.

At the end of the first volume, Marx explains the dynamic which
leads to the expropriation of the expropriators, to the increase
of misery [14] which will force the proletariat to rise against
capital. [15]

In the third volume, and also in the Critique of the Gotha
Programme, Marx does not describe a real discontinuity between
capitalism and communism. Productive forces continue to grow. The
discontinuity lies in the fact that the goal of production is
inverted (after the revolution; i.e., the discontinuity is
temporal). The goal ceases to be wealth, but human beings.
However, if there is no real discontinuity between capitalism and
communism, human beings must be wilfully transformed; how else
could the goal be inverted ? This is Marx's revolutionary
reformism in its greatest amplitude. The dictatorship of the
proletariat, the transitional phase (in the Grundrisse it is the
capitalist mode of production that constitutes this transitional
phase : this is obviously extremely relevant to the way we define
communism today) is a period of reforms, the most important
being the shortening of the working day and use of the labor
voucher. What we should note here, though we cannot insist on it,
is the connection between reformism and dictatorship.

The proletariat seems to be needed to guide the development of
productive forces away from the pole of value toward the pole of
humanity. It may happen that the proletariat is integrated by
capital, but -- and this is abused by various Marxists -- crises
destroy the proletariat's reserves and reinstate it into its
revolutionary role. Then the insurrection against capital is
possible again.

Thus Marx's work seems largely to be the authentic consciousness
of the capitalist mode of production. The bourgeoisie, and the
capitalists who followed, were able to express only a false
consciousness with the help of their various theories.
Furthermore, the capitalist mode of production has realized
Marx's proletarian project. By remaining on a narrowly Marxist
terrain, the proletariat and its theoreticians were outflanked by
the followers of capital. Capital, having achieved real
domination, ratifies the validity of Marx's work in its reduced
form (as historical materialism). While German proletarians at
the beginning of this century thought their actions were
destroying the capitalist mode of production, they failed to see
they were only trying to manage it themselves. False
consciousness took hold of the proletariat.

Historical materialism is a glorification of the wandering in
which humanity has been engaged for more than a century : growth
of productive forces as the condition sine-qua-non for
liberation. But by definition all quantitative growth takes place
in the sphere of the indefinite, the false infinite. Who will
measure the "size" of the productive forces to determine whether
or not the great day has come ? For Marx there was a double and
contradictory movement : growth of productive forces and
immiseration of proletarians; this was to lead to a revolutionary
collision. Put differently, there was a contradiction between
socialization of production and private appropriation.

The moment when the productive forces were to reach the level
required for the transformation of the mode of production was to
be the moment when the crisis of capitalism began. This crisis
was to expose the narrowness of this mode of production and its
inability to hold new productive forces, and thus make visible
the antagonism between the productive forces and the capitalist
forms of production. But capital has run away; it has absorbed
crises and it has successfully provided a social reserve for the
proletarians. Many have nothing left to do but to run on ahead :
some say the productive forces are not developed enough, others
say they have stopped growing. Both reduce the whole problem
either to organizing the vanguard, the party, or resort to
activities designed to raise consciousness.

Development in the context of wandering is development in the
context of mystification. Marx considered mystification the
result of a reversed relation : capital, the product of the
worker's activity, appears to be the creator. The mystification
is rooted in real events; it is reality in process that
mystifies. Something is mystified even through a struggle of the
proletariat against capital; the generalized mystification is the
triumph of capital. But if, as a consequence of its
anthropomorphization, this reality produced by mystification is
now the sole reality, then the question has to be put
differently. 1) Since the mystification is stable and real,
there is no point in waiting for a demystification which would
only expose the truth of the previous situation. 2) Because of
capital's run-away, the mystification appears as reality, and
thus the mystification is engulfed and rendered inoperative. We
have the despotism of capital.

The assertion that the mystification is still operative would
mean that human beings are able to engage in real relations and
are continually mystified. In fact the mystification was
operative once and became reality. It refers to a historical
stage completed in the past. This does not eliminate the
importance of understanding and studying it so as to understand
the movement which leads to the present stage of the capitalist
mode of production and to be aware of the real actors through the

Both the mystifying-mystified reality as well as the previously
mystified reality have to be destroyed. The mystification is only
"visible" if one breaks (without illusions about the limitations
of this break) with the representations of capital. Marx's work
is very important for this break. But it contains a major flaw :
it fails to explain the whole magnitude of the mystification
because it does not recognize the run-away of capital.

Earlier, revolution was possible as soon as the mystification was
exposed; the revolutionary process was its destruction. Today the
human being has been engulfed, not only in the determination of
class where he was trapped for centuries, but as a biological
being. It is a totality that has to be destroyed. Demystification
is no longer enough. The revolt of human beings threatened in the
immediacy of their daily lives goes beyond demystification. The
problem is to create other lives. This problem lies
simultaneously outside the ancient discourse of the workers'
movement and its old practice, and outside the critique which
considers this movement a simple ideology (and considers the
human being an ideological precipitate).


[9] Marx, Capital, Vol. I [ Le Capital, I. 1, t. 2, p. 182. ]

[10] This requires a detailed study which would include the
analysis of labor. In the article which follows we begin this
study : it presents the first conclusions we've reached. In
particular we want to analyze the stage of this decadence of
humanity, how it is expressed, etc. In addition we want to show
the intimate connection between the movement of value and the
dialectic of the productive forces. The end of the movement of
value and of capital is the end of a mode of representation and
destroys its autonomy. The Marxian dialectic will be completely

[11] Engels, Marx, The German Ideology, [ Moscow, 1964, p. 85. ]

[12] Engels, "Preface" to The Poverty of Philosophy by Marx, New
York : 1963, p. 11.

[13] See particularly "The Movement of Income in Modern Society"
and "Crises and Possibilities of Adaptation" in Presuppositions
of Socialism and the tasks of Social Democracy, Rowohlt Verlag,
pp. 75ff.

[14] Here we should be careful, as Bordiga justly observed, not
to reduce this to an economic concept.

[15] Marx, Capital, Vol. 1, New York : Random House, pp. 831-837.