4. Beyond Work

Submitted by Craftwork on August 26, 2016

Capitalism has continuously revolutionized the means of production but it has been incapable of really liberating and transforming productive activity. Industrial labour signifies the most extreme form of alienation. The proletarian in blue overalls or white shirt is chained to his machine or to his work routine. He has lost the freedom to give his labour a personal touch or to carry it out in his own way that was the prerogative of the artisan or even the slave and the serf. The impersonal character of this contemporary form of domination makes it unendurable.

Work has been separated from the rest of life. Life is dominated by the fatigue and the brutalization that it engenders and by the wage that it provides.

With the control exercised by modern capital over social life in its entirety, our whole existence has ended up monopolized by the principles of work. The logic of efficiency and productivity dominate our “free” time. Everything must be rational and profitable, including pleasure and “affairs”! Everyone is cordially invited to take over from the system by transforming it.

Communism is first and foremost a radical transformation of human activity. In this respect one can speak of the abolition of work.

• Work and Torture

If there is a word that is safely neutral it certainly is not the word for work.

In French and Spanish one of the words for “work” or “labour” (in Spanish, “trabajo”, in French, “travail”, and with a slightly modified meaning, the English “travail”) originated from the Latin word, “trepalium”, which denotes an instrument of torture similar to the “rack”. Before assuming its modern meaning, this word designated mine labour and then certain kinds of especially hard work. Today its meaning has been considerably extended but its boundaries are still unclear. There is a constant tendency to provide it with a natural justification, however.

In English the word originated in a particular form of activity of the peasant. What characterizes the word for work or labour is precisely its abstract quality. It no longer designates this or that special activity but activity and effort as such. One no longer plants cabbages, or weaves, or herds cattle; one works. All work is basically the same. What counts is the time spent working and the wage earned. As Marx said: “Time is everything, and man is nothing; at most he is the carcass of time.”

It is not the word for work that has such an impact as the hateful reality that it represents. It does not even matter if the word disappears. If the word survives it will have to undergo a profound change of meaning. Maybe it will end up as a synonym for the greatest of pleasures!

In communist society productive activity will lose its strictly productive character. The obsession regarding efficiency and punctuality will disappear. Labour will be based on a life transformed in its entirety.

Such a change implies the end of hierarchy, of the division between order-givers and order-takers, of the separation of decision and execution, of the opposition between mental and manual labour. Man will no longer be ruled by the products of his activity and by his tools. The subjugation of nature to the productive process and its monopolization by groups or individuals will come to an end.

This revolution will be accompanied by a technological transformation. The very nature of industrial development will be called into question.

The parasitic nature of capitalism is expressed in the fact that it is possible to provide a secure foundation for social life even when most businesses are closed. A test regarding the resources contained by a highly developed country was provided by the strike of May 1968 in France. All industry can be shut down for a whole month without any significant consequences for social life.

Maybe there will be a shortage of bread in a revolutionary period. But this shortage cannot be attributed to a lack of productive capacity. It would be due to special causes. This will not prevent us from closing parasitic industries. To the contrary, it would be all the more necessary in order to be able to redirect existing resources towards vital sectors.

One cannot say in advance and in detail what will be eliminated and what will be retained. We are convinced of the despicable role played by war industries. They will have no reason to exist once communist society has been fully established. In the meantime one cannot rule out its further development in communism’s early stages!

Such decisions, in all cases, will not be taken by a committee of technocrats but directly by the workers affected by the decisions. The threat of a loss of wages will no longer play a role in their deliberations!

If some workers, due to corporativism or for less respectable reasons, cling to useless or even harmful enterprises, they will have to answer to the entire communist proletariat. The right to property or self-determination will be no excuse for police or financial workers to seek to perpetuate the routine of their usual work!

Everything that serves finance and the state machine will be eliminated or at least profoundly transformed, as these sectors require onerous labours to satisfy secondary needs. Products or “services” like the telephone, and the electricity that is currently being used for the most part by businesses, will be largely redirected to individual consumption. Buildings and machines can be put to different uses. Numerous needs will be satisfied with a minimum expenditure of social labour. Transportation, for example, will be based upon a more rational use of individual or collective vehicles. The “demand” for punctuality will be greatly relaxed. The need to travel will arise much less frequently.

Many activities will not simply be completely abandoned but will instead be profoundly transformed. Education will escape to the greatest degree possible all capitalist influence. The press will cease to be the tool of the big newspapers in order to be made available to a multitude of publishers of small newsletters.

The essence of the new society will no longer consist in producing and competing in order to preserve market share, but in reducing arduous and boring industrial labour as much as possible.

The closure of useless sectors will allow for the variation and amelioration of those productive tasks that will still be necessary. The social forces thus liberated will be able to engage in new activities.

Children, students, the elderly and housewives will be able to participate according to their abilities in social activities; this participation will no longer take the form of competition on the “labour market”.

These transformations are not luxurious baits the revolution will use to attract doubters. They are immediately necessary for combat and to concentrate forces against that portion of capital that poses the threat of temporary resurgence.

• Science and Automation

All of these measures only give us a vague idea of what is to come. Communism will use the material basis bequeathed from the old world. It will above all develop the technological and scientific achievements of the latter. And it will do so more rapidly and better.

It is fashionable to express surprise at the technological progress achieved after the last world war. In fact, one would be more justified to express surprise at the slowness with which scientific discoveries have penetrated industry. The latter is characterized, in principle, by its inertia. It advances when historical “accidents” force it to change its suppliers and markets, and when it modifies its technical basis when interest rates fall, in order to try to escape from economic stagnation.

Contemporary industry functions by finding new uses for inventions and discoveries made decades ago. For example, vehicles based on the combustion engine and petroleum-based fuels, such as our state of the art automobiles, are veritable fossils compared with the scientific possibilities. Industry has not really been able to make much progress with regard to either the automobile or new sources of energy. Nor can it do so unless such an effort is profitable from its narrow point of view.

Communism will allow for the construction of machines or industrial facilities that would be unprofitable from the point of view of the single enterprise or even of a capitalist state. Communism will judge that the achievement of progress is worth the effort even if it does not confer any immediate advantages. It will often perceive such advantages where capitalism was blind to them: increasing the quality of products, spurring interest in research, and improving working conditions, for instance.

From the capitalist point of view it would not be profitable to manufacture a silent jackhammer since the price of such an invention would not be less than or equal to that of a noisy jackhammer. It is of little importance to the capitalist that an economy of this kind has to be paid for with such obvious inconveniences. The fact that some day the production of a silent jackhammer could be perfected in such a manner as to become less expensive than the noisy jackhammer. This does not enter into the projections made when the product is offered for sale. Why should a business risk bankruptcy or any kind of sacrifice in the name of technical progress or the betterment of humanity? Communism will not be content to just take over from capitalism and carry on with business as usual. It will transform science and technology. From conscious or unconscious servants of the industrial hell, it will transform them (science and technology) into instruments of human liberation.

Science will never again be a sector separate from production.

Capital has a vital need for innovation. It cannot cause it to arise directly from the productive sector. The latter must proceed smoothly and the imagination must by no means be given free reign. Science is carried on elsewhere.

For many years science was marginal; it was the work of dedicated amateurs. Capital had a great need for their services and took them under its wing. Under the tutelage of the State and industry, science became an investment. It became bureaucratized, and came under the control of mandarins and managers. The freedom of creation was corralled.

In the eyes of scientific opinion, this can be good or bad. The man of knowledge is the sorcerer transformed into a wage worker. What is actually the result of the spirit of critical inquiry appears to popular opinion as magic.

The ideology of production recuperates what it had to concede to the experimental impulse. Science appears as the sector where a special commodity is produced: Knowledge. Knowledge ceases to be the delicate result of specialized research in order to be transformed into a sacralised product offered up for the contemplation of a mass of mental defectives.

For us it is a question of liberating the impulse of initiative and experimentation so that these qualities will come within the reach of all. Science will no longer be the exclusive possession of a caste of specialists and will instead once again be the taste for risk and play, the pleasure of discovery.

The “conquest” of space has illustrated the possibilities of automation and electronics. All that is necessary is to apply all this technology to everyday life, to the transformation of our daily life. Automation will allow humans to be disencumbered of boring jobs, which will be mechanized.

The first steps of automated systems—systems that, once set in motion, can function and operate without human intervention—were taken during the times of the Pharaohs. They were used to regulate the floodwaters of the Nile. With the passage of time such systems began to flourish. The first automated “factories” appeared. There was, for example, the mill invented and displayed near Philadelphia which in 1784 received wheat and turned it into flour without human intervention. Along with automated machines for production, calculating machines were also developed. In 1881 the telephone was invented.

Automation in this sense has existed for a long time. It is nothing but an extreme form of machine production. Electronics will allow such automation to become more widespread and even an ordinary form of machine production.

The electronics associated with the control of important sources of energy will allow action to be conducted at a distance and the centralization of a great number of operations.

Automation not only represents the promise of transferring painful or distasteful tasks to machines. It also, and perhaps most importantly, represents the possibility of doing things that would have otherwise remained impossible. It makes possible operations that require very fast reactions and very complicated calculations that surpass human abilities. Machines can operate in conditions that are hostile to life. Without automation the development of nuclear energy or space travel would have been impossible.

Those who want revolution but reject the accursed science and technology are in a dead-end. The massive destruction of our natural environment is certainly not unconnected with technological possibilities but one cannot blame them for it either.

Nuclear energy or computer science can present very dangerous characteristics. This is the reflection of their power. But these aspects are prejudicial to society only insofar as they are used carelessly or are employed for the purpose of reinforcing social control.

Up until now capitalism has only applied automation to this or that detail of the system. This does not imply that it can stop here. Its logic, the need to bolster or to find an appropriate rate of profit, commits it to continual advance. By this we do not mean to suggest that the generalization of automation is compatible with the preservation of the current system. Automation’s very principles are contrary to the survival of class society: it renders the proletariat useless.

“Automated machinery … represents the exact economic equivalent of slave labour” (Norbert Wiener). The logical result of the development of automated production would make the human machines superfluous.

The solution is therefore either the communist revolution or the annihilation of the proletariat, who would be reduced to a layer of refugees or else totally eliminated. The prophets of doom have predicted the latter outcome. Our optimism is not based on the humanity of our masters: history has shown us that those who carry out genocide have absolutely no hesitation to do so. We believe that they are simply incapable of exercising control over the situation and implementing a consistent policy. For good or for ill we are not governed by supermen but simply by veritable cretins, skilled at manipulation but incapable of viewing events from a historical perspective. They are themselves in part separated from the productive process. The really decisive point with regard to this question is that the proletariat must not prove to be too weak.

The proletarians dispose of an immense force. Their degree of consciousness of this force is extremely slight. The working class always possesses its force in the place it occupies in the productive apparatus. The first stirrings of automation have only strengthened this force. Small teams of workers and technicians hold enormous power in their hands. Economic upheavals can instil them with the inclination to use it.

The bourgeoisie and the bureaucracy cannot negate the proletariat without also negating themselves. They are chained to value, which is to say that they are chained to the human labour power that forms the basis of value. They do not seek progress for the sake of progress but only for the sake of money. If they develop machine production this is only because they want to free themselves of workers who are too unruly. The proletariat is not just a simple tool of the ruling class but also the latter’s reason for existence. Capital (or labour) relegates man to the level of the machine but cannot cease to be a social relation between classes.

• Class Society and Robotics

All class society tends to turn man into a robot, to reduce him to an object whose body and mind are used. When part of society does not work for itself but toils to feed another part of society, this implies that it must perform supplementary labour but also, and even more importantly, that the nature of its activity has changed. What is of interest to the master is not the pleasure or the pain, the happiness or the punishment of the slave, but his productive output. Class society is based on the human possibility of creating goods that can be separated from their producers in order to be used by others. The human being is no longer a human being but a tool. The innately human capacity to make tools and decide in advance what is to be produced is turned against man in order to transform him into a tool.

The exploiter can be kind or cruel to the exploited. The former does not have to be totally without any feelings. Rather, feelings are necessary to grease the wheels of the system. But they are limited and secondary products of the system. The exploiter can be “good” but he cannot cease to exploit. He can be a sadist but he cannot destroy his human material. Where capitalism does reach such a condition, however, it is under great economic pressure.

The ruling classes of the past preyed upon the agrarian communities. These communities were destroyed in order to bring a mutilated and atomized human material under their rule. One commodity among others, the proletariat came face to face in the market of “factors of production” with its mechanical competitors. In this war the machine won one battle after another and conquered space in the productive process from the proletariat.

Communism will transform the nature of this development. Man will not compete with the machine because he will no longer be a “factor of production”.

The communist use of machine technology signifies the possibility of applying automation to a great number of activities. This is not to say that generalized automation will be the key to the “social question”, however.

The abolition of wage labour does not mean the replacement of man by machine but the transformation of human activity in a human sense by means of machines. It is not merely a question of the gradual or sudden reduction of the working week from forty hours to zero. A world in which an entirely automated industry working on an inexhaustible raw material supplies him with everything desirable and imaginable would lead man to a vegetative condition. It would be a frozen world and without a sense of adventure since all that happens would be programmed in advance.

Regardless of the faith put in science, this myth is deeply capitalist. It considers as natural a complete separation between work time and leisure time. It wants to reserve the hell of production machinery and the paradise of consumption for humans. Depending on how strictly the limits to such a process were set, it would lead to either a permanent Club Med or the generalization of the condition of a foetus.

Communism is the end of the separation between labour time and free time, between production and consumption, between life and experience.

• Remuneration

The disappearance of the wages system is sufficient to shake the foundations of the old society. The compulsion to work in order to survive will disappear. Labour will no longer be a means of earning a livelihood. It will no longer be an intermediate term between man and his needs. It will be the direct satisfaction of a need. In this sense it will no longer be labour. What impels a person to action will cease to appear as a necessity that is external to the individual in order to become instead an internal necessity: the desire to do something, the will to be useful. This dissociation of activity and remuneration, if by remuneration one does not mean the pleasure that such activity can concretely provide, must proceed hand in hand with a profound transformation of man: it asks individuals to take responsibility for what they do, it requires that they develop intelligence and initiative and that egoism and mean-spiritedness should disappear.

It is customary to explain all the evils of humanity by the incorrigibility of human nature. Everyone knows that man is a wolf to man. This explains nothing but demonstrates the kind of contempt that human beings have for themselves. It is the reflection of the fatalism that capitalism engenders by reducing the human being to the role of a spectator to his own development.

The idea that we should preserve some kind of remuneration for a transitional period, as Marx proposed, in the form of a distribution of coupons reflecting hours worked, is not desirable. If it is the development of the productive forces that makes the communist revolution possible, and today it certainly does, then the revolution cannot delay the full application of its principles. A system of coupons for remuneration and therefore to compel men to work would be a contradiction of the spontaneous revolt of the oppressed, of all those who participated in the insurrection without any expectation of power, or money, or compensation of any kind. A system of coupons would only have the sympathy of bureaucrats, leaders, and of all those who would like to exercise control and power over others. Such a system would only have the effect of dampening the ardour of the active elements and would not attract the opponents of action. If it becomes necessary in a particular case to make someone do something we would prefer the method of the kick in the ass. It is more straightforward and more effective.

We are not totally opposed in principle to the use of coupons. It would be absurd to allow diamonds to be subject to free distribution! In such cases the relevant authorized committees will allocate the coupons. When the goods in question are production goods, a factory council will allocate the coupons. When the coupons are for rare or dangerous medicines the hospitals or doctors will allocate them … these coupons will not serve the purpose of remuneration. They will fulfil the role that is currently fulfilled by a medical prescription. More generally, the coupons’ use will be determined by the nature or by the scarcity of the goods for which they will be “exchanged”.

Most of the goods subject to distribution, especially food, must be distributed at no cost and with no restrictions under the auspices of the revolutionary committees and councils in the revolutionary zones or by means of expropriations in the non-liberated zones. This is the simplest, the least costly and the most pleasant method of distribution. It is the most suitable method for popularizing communism. It is advisable to apply this as a general rule, with the exception of rigorous action against abuses resulting from petty enforcement of complicated rules and from dissatisfaction with distribution norms.

• Laziness

Won’t such a program be an invitation to mass laziness? If it were possible to abolish the principle of remuneration for labour while simultaneously preserving the world as it is today, this would most assuredly be true. Communism, however, transforms the conditions of life and work in their entirety.

The revolutionary spirit is not a spirit of sacrifice: each individual forgetting himself in order to serve the collectivity. This is not communism—it is Maoism! Communism presupposes a certain degree of altruism but it also presupposes a certain degree of egoism. Above all, it does not oppose love for one’s neighbour to love for one’s self, asking each individual to serve his neighbour. We don’t love either the priests or the scroungers. It is capitalism that causes the interest of the individual and that of the collectivity to be constantly opposed to each other: to give is to renounce.

Communist man will be neither the man of self-abnegation nor the man who submits to fate. The spiritual transformation that accompanies communism will not be a mere substitute for education. There will be no ideal image to which one must conform. There will be no separation between the transformation of social structures, on the one hand, and the transformation of individuals, on the other. It is capitalism that separates things like that. The proletariat will dis-alienate itself and can only do so by changing the world and its conditions of existence. A few weeks of revolution will shatter decades of conditioning. Cowardice, greed and weakness of character are the results of a certain kind of social condition. Deception, the truncheon, or education will only be capable of making people reject such base characteristics if the situation that engendered them and made them seem useful does not disappear. With communism these kinds of approaches will disappear because their corresponding objects have disappeared.

If there are egoists, incurable slackers and irremediable incompetents they will not necessarily pose a serious threat. The greatest enemy of such people is not repression but boredom. The least avid of them will surrender. Men are social animals. They lack the courage to be useless in a collectivity where they live. Even today the parasite and the egoist have to dissimulate. Once the system of wage labour is abolished it will be hard to nourish illusions about one’s activity. Each person will be judged not by the time spent on some task but by what they really accomplish.

Communism does not exclude disagreements between individuals and groups. Slackers risk being asked to account for themselves. If they are supported and allowed to fatten themselves at the expense of the community that is because the community wants it that way.

Communists have nothing against a healthy laziness. The revolutionary society was not created so that we can work ourselves to the bone. We have no problem with the lazy person who does not demand from others what he rejects for himself. We don’t mind if some high-spirited individuals play their practical jokes, as long as they don’t try to impose their personal tastes on everybody!

By replacing compulsory labour with passionate activity the majority of the causes of systematic laziness will disappear. Gone too will be the irritation that the workaholic feels when he sees someone goofing off, which is often nothing but disguised envy.

Those who are lazy today are not necessarily those who will be lazy in the world of tomorrow. Among the latter will be those who now exert themselves to exhaustion in the pursuit of profits; they will need to be watched carefully.

In an established communist society, machinery will grant man great power. Each person will be able to choose his work rhythm. One person will devote great efforts to costly adventures and will spend more in terms of resources than he produces for society. Another will not do much and society will be in debt to him. Such debts shall not be subject to accounting.

Once the financial incentive has disappeared will the spirit of free inquiry and invention disappear as well? No one will be satisfied doing his job in a routine manner! It is a mistake to think that the desire for profit and the spirit of free inquiry go hand in hand. The merchant negotiates using the lie and illusion. The scientist must always reject both. Science makes its contribution and the invention makes money but there is often a discrepancy between those who discover and those who profit. Even in the capitalist world the motor of scientific passion is not money. Creativity and imagination are recuperated for the purpose of making money.

• Allocation of Tasks

By allowing laziness doesn’t our society run the risk of collapsing into chaos? Even if good will generally prevails, will it be enough to regulate the coordination of all necessary activities? Won’t everybody rush to try to get an easy job and abandon the hard jobs before machinery is developed to perform the latter? In short, each person, by doing what he wants, will lead the whole world to catastrophe!

The view that modern society is very complicated and that this complexity is inevitable is very common. This is not just an illusion. The individual feels lost in the capitalist jungle. He does not identify with it, much less understand how it functions as a whole. It is a mistake, however, to think that this impression would apply to any modern society. This idea is not necessarily due to the multitude of operations and relations that constitute society as a whole. It originated in the separation of the function of decision and coordination, on the one hand, and execution, on the other.

This impression of complexity and permanent disorientation that capitalist society produces has influenced some depictions of the socialist world of the future. It is widely believed that the main problem that has to be solved in the society of the future is that of planning and coordination. A “Plan Factory” has been imagined, an enterprise that is responsible for evaluating the state of the economy and determining the technical coefficients that express the relative inputs of one product in the production of another product: the quantity of coal needed to produce one ton of steel, for example. This “Factory” will propose attainable goals and assume responsibility for the necessary revisions as the plan is implemented. The problems of the future society are thus understood primarily as problems of management. (Chaulieu (Castoriadis), Socialisme ou Barbarie No. 22)

The communist society will also have complex problems to solve. The resolution of these questions will not be the purview of any particular committee or group. There is nothing to be gained from an attempt to predict the forms that human activity will take, but only in the determination of its content. It will no longer be necessary to unite or to manage something that will no longer be separate and scattered. The free producer will address himself to both his own activity and his connections with the totality of general needs and possibilities.

In the revolutionary society relations between men will be clear and transparent. The fear of competition that renders the trade secret compulsory will disappear. What is essential is not that every person should attain competence in universal science and that every brain should be a “Plan Factory” in miniature. What good does it do me to know where the minerals came from that were used to manufacture my fork! What matters is that the necessary information should circulate freely and should be available.

In a fluid society where the spirit of individualism and enterprise patriotism will have disappeared, where each person will have many useful skills, individuals and groups will be oriented towards the fulfilment of the needs of society.

Social needs will not be imposed from the outside by means of a centralized office: whether a democratic assembly or a dictatorial committee. The individual or the group will no longer have to submit to their consciousness of the situation if we imagine this consciousness as a simple reflection of external imperatives. We shall act safely in recognition of our consciousness of social needs and possibilities but not independently of our own tastes and inclinations. Often, no compromises will be necessary. We shall perceive in social needs our own aspirations. We shall be more inclined to apply a remedy where we perceive a deficiency. If I lack wine it will not be necessary for me to acquire information regarding the details of production on a computer in order to deduce that perhaps the vines need to be tended!

The communist man of the future will not separate the fulfilment of his tastes from its social impact. He will not throw himself into tasks that someone else has already attended to. In any event it would be stupid to think that the whole world should be standardized and that those who work the same jobs should follow the same fashion trends.

There will be a more acute awareness of what society needs than is now the case. The whole world will be able to be informed about and will be capable of understanding what works and what does not work, even if it does not have a direct effect on everybody. Computers will be essential tools for the circulation and interpretation of information.

Society’s general organization has absolutely no need for either one or several central planning offices. Perhaps there will be certain individuals who will be responsible for gathering data, and drawing up projections for the future, but they will not have to elaborate a “plan” in the compulsory sense of the word. Such planning would amount to a desire to chain the future to the present!

Coordination will not be the permanent job of a particular caste. It will be carried out continuously at all levels of society. Because men will not be separated by a thousand barriers, they will spontaneously associate.

This is not to say that everything will go smoothly. Conflicts will be inevitable. But the task of the revolution is not to liberate society from all kinds of conflict and thus to bring about a society where everything is harmonized “a priori”. Certain kinds of conflicts will be utterly eliminated, those which sundered social classes and nationalities, for example…. In the world we want there is a place for both agreement and opposition. Harmony and equilibrium will be brought about by way of discussion and debate.

The basic difference with regard to the current situation is that in the future society each individual can only rely on his own personal forces in a conflict. There will be no appeal to abstract rights derived from the world of conflicts and concrete relations of force. The opportunity to resort to a specialized social force like the army or the police in order to impose the “recognition” of the truth of a cause will not be possible.

Communism will transform conflict into something normal and necessary, subject to the obvious condition that the possible gains from conflict outweigh the damage it incurs. Capitalism is profoundly conflict-ridden. It is based upon the opposition between classes, nations and individuals. It is a battle of all against all. Love and “fraternity” were preached in order to exorcise this reality. Aggression rules all, but the image of “peace” must reign. If someone must be killed it is not done in the name particular interests but for the advancement of civilization, for universal values, etc.…

Doesn’t a communist society run the risk of wasting a great deal of time in talk and debate? This is a risk we can take, considering the scale of the problems of coordination and adjustment. The idea that time is something that can be lost or gained is itself somewhat odd. From the communist point of view the problem cannot be narrowly focused on discovering which method achieves the best economy of time. What matters is the way this time is used.

Will people get pleasure and become interested in debates and attempts to bring about harmony, or would they prefer to be satisfied with implementing without debate the decisions of an executive committee that will have arranged that there will be no opposition? Men will learn how to debate and polemicize in a way they find pleasant. The more tedious debates will be limited by the boredom of the participants but also by the simple fact that many things do not have to be debated, for we can rely on past experience.

• Undesirable Jobs

There are some jobs that are frankly nasty and unpleasant. We hope to reduce their number with the use of machinery, but until then they will still have to be done; nor can we eliminate all of them.

It would be unacceptable, and would not in any case be accepted by those involved, for these bad jobs to always be done by the same persons. It will be necessary to allocate them among the greatest number of persons who will take turns doing them. The resulting loss of efficiency will be a matter of secondary importance.

In the factories and other productive facilities we will be able to peacefully divest ourselves of unpleasant jobs.

At the level of society as a whole these bad jobs will also be subject to the principle of rotation of personnel. Everyone will have at least one assignment each year as a garbage collector.

The impact of the bad jobs will seem much less when compared to the time spent on pleasant activities. Today jobs are extremely specialized, as the requirements of the “rational” use of labour power demand that each worker should do one particular routine and leave the rest for other workers. In communist society the researcher will be able to participate in cleaning the lab he uses, the driver will be able to help pave the roads, and who is better-placed than the dead man to dig his own grave?

Disagreeable activities will be much less disagreeable if those who do them only devote a small part of their time to them, and do not labour under the impression—as is now the case—that they will be chained to them their whole life. Above all, such activities can be carried out in an environment quite different from the one they take place in today: without harassing foremen, without the obsession for profit. Garbage collection could, for example, take on a carnival-like aspect.

Many undesirable jobs are considered as such not so much by virtue of their actual nature as due to the fact that, in the name of the rationalization of labour, they are executed in mass production and always by the same persons.

These transformations in the rhythm, the distribution and the very nature of jobs will not be programmed in advance and planned from “above”. They will be carried out in the workplace in the context of the desires of the people involved. If someone involved in a particular productive process is passionately attached to driving a forklift or some other task that is not generally held in high esteem, it would obviously be absurd to deprive him of his pleasure.

We are not fanatics of equality. It would be stupid if, with surgeons in short supply, we forced them to work as nurses. Such inequalities cannot be attenuated except by means of the retraining and transfer of people to truly useful sectors.

• The End of Separations

Communism means the end of the separations that compartmentalize our lives.

Work life and emotional life will no longer be opposed. There will no longer be separate times for production and for consumption. Schools, production facilities, sites for entertainment … will no longer be distinct and separate universes with nothing in common. They will gradually disappear with the disappearance of their specialized functions. Within the productive process, hierarchical divisions and the fragmentation of human activities will be confronted. This will mark the end of the situation where the worker is the executor of the designer, the designer the executor of the engineer, the engineer the executor of the financial department or management.

Bringing these changes to fruition will take some time. We cannot immediately erase our current way of life, or our type of technological development, or certain human customs and defects. We shall nonetheless immediately implement measures to initiate this process and to make its effects felt by abolishing commodity production and the wages system.

The separation of one’s work life on the one side and one’s emotional and family life on the other is linked to the development of wage labour. The peasant was uprooted from his land and his family to be integrated into the industrial universe. Previously, the family constituted the unity of life and of production. The man and his wife, but also the children and the elderly, participated in farm labour and gathered wood. Each person found something useful to do that was within his capacities.

Reactionaries like to defend the endangered “family”. These cretins just cannot understand that it is precisely the order they defend that transformed the family into what it is today. Kinship ties were elements of mutual aid in the agricultural world. They extended beyond the immediate family and its direct descendants. Today the family is only the place where babies are produced—and sometimes not even babies: its economic role is that of a unit of consumption! The basic institution, the elemental cell of highly developed capitalist society, is not the family, but the business enterprise.

It is not our intention to restore the old patriarchal family so it can take over production from the capitalist enterprise. Blood ties were capable of playing a great role in the past. They no longer play such a role in the modern world.

In communist society, in order to carry out productive or non-productive activity, people will not be brought together by the power of capital. We shall associate freely in accordance with our shared tastes and affinities. Relations between persons will be as important or even more important than production itself.

We are not claiming that occupational and amorous connections will exactly coincide. This will be a matter of choice and of chance. It will be much more likely than it is now.

Some people wish to depict communism as a system that makes women and children common property. This is stupidity.

Amorous relations have no other guarantee than love. Children will not be tied to their parents by the need to eat. The feeling of ownership over persons will disappear along with the feeling of ownership over things. This is very disturbing to those who need the guarantee of the priest or the judge. Marriage will disappear as a state-sanctioned sacrament. The question of whether two or three… or ten people want to live together or even enter into an agreement to do so is nobody’s business but their own. We shall not determine or limit in advance the forms of sexual relations that are possible, healthy or desirable. Even chastity will not be totally rejected. It is a perversion that is just as worthy as any other! What is important, besides the pleasure and the satisfaction of the couple, is that the children live in an environment that responds to their need for material security and affection. This is not something that can be left to morality.

Hypocrisy rules over the remains of the family putrefied by the commodity. Love is said to exist where there is actually nothing but economic or emotional security or sexual gratification. Relations between parents and children have reached the pit of degradation. Under the veil of affection the will to exploit answers the desire for possession. The birth of a child burdens the parents with worries about the child’s future. The child must play with his toys, get good grades in school, and show that he is intelligent and well behaved, alert and full of initiative. In exchange he receives a little affection or pocket money.

The family, in need of security and love in a cold, hard world, is not immune to the commercialized reality in the workplace, where the expenditure of too much emotion is avoided. The superficial amiability and constant handshaking conceal contempt, rivalry and exploitation. Everyone is good, everyone is friendly, everyone communicates, but above all everyone is terribly annoyed by each other’s presence.

• Production and Consumption

The separation of production from consumption appears to be a natural division between two very distinct spheres of social life. Nothing could be more false. This can be viewed from two angles.

First, the frontier between what is called production time and consumption time is quite mobile when considered historically, and quite confused when considered in its ideological dimension. In which category should we put cooking, or sports? It depends on whether those involved are professionals or amateurs. The cardinal point is not the nature itself of the activity: cooking is more productive than the postal service in the sense that it presupposes a material transformation, whether or not those engaged in it are paid wages.

Many activities that pertain to consumption have fallen under the sign of production. The astronaut or the invalid who breathes from an oxygen tank and the housewife, who buys ground coffee or jars of jam, participate in the shifting of the frontiers between these two spheres.

The split between production and consumption conceals the continuing importance of unpaid housework in the modern world. It confers a fixed and natural appearance on a separation that is actually flexible and socially determined.

Secondly, all productive activity is also necessarily consumption. It does nothing but transform matter in a certain way and in a certain sense. At the same time that it destroys, or, if you prefer, consumes certain things, we obtain, or, if you prefer, we produce others. Consumption is productive; production is also consumption. Production and consumption are the two inseparable sides of the same coin.

The concepts of production and consumption are not neutral. It cannot be said that they are bourgeois. But bourgeois society uses them. A fruit tree is not bourgeois because it produces fruit. The notion of production assumes an ideological character because behind the idea of creation and growth lies the idea of consciousness and planning. The confusion of the two concepts is preserved. Everything ends up being interpreted in the terms of production. A chicken becomes a factory to manufacture eggs.

The continuity of the cycle through which primitive or civilized, capitalist or communist man modifies the world in which he lives in a simple or an intelligent way, individually or collectively, irreversibly or temporarily, on a large scale or in minor details, and transforms himself as well, is thus disguised. The totalitarian use of the idea of production conceals the radical insertion in and dependence of the human being on his environment and natural laws. Everything is interpreted in terms of domination and instrumentality. Man the producer, self-conscious and self-controlled, starts with the conquest of nature. The vast power that humanity conferred upon the image of divinity can be directly attributed to humanity’s own self-image. Communism is not the victory of consciousness over unconsciousness. It is not the stage in which, after having been devoted to the production of things, man will at last be able to produce himself, and take over in a way from the divine creator. To say that man will be his own master just as he is the master of the object that he produces is to seek to reunite what has been separated and thus separation itself under the sign of production. The producer will thus not cease to be an object; he will simply be his own object.

The split between production and consumption is confronted in order to abolish the separation—a separation that is concrete enough but arbitrary from the point of view of nature and psychology—between the time employed on making money and the time employed on spending it.

For the communist man consumption will not be opposed to production since there will no longer be a conflict between acting for oneself and acting for others. This is because by producing for others, he creates use values that can serve him as well. He will not produce shoes in order to later be obliged to buy them on the market. Above all, production will be transformed and it will become creation, poetry and potlatch. Groups or individuals will express themselves through their activity. In this respect the revolution is the generalization of art and its supersession as a separate commercial sector.

Extending our reflections within the context of the opposition between consumption and production, it can be said that by having found satisfaction and pleasure (or the opposites, dissatisfaction and displeasure) through his productive activity, man will be a consumer. The computer or the shovel he will use will not have a fundamentally different value from the automobile or the food that he will use at another time.

Communism is by no means production finally put at the service of the consumer, nor can it be, as is the case with capitalism, the dictatorship of production. By engaging in an activity, one will acquire a certain power. Up to a point one will be able to do what one wants with the fruit of one’s labours, and give up or keep what one has produced. Above all, by providing this or that good or service and giving it a particular form, one will have an impact on the possibilities of society. The activity of the end-users will be determined by that of the producers. There is no incentive for the latter to abuse a power that by no means can assume the form of political or separate power but is the simple expression of the usefulness of their jobs.

The “consumer” will not be able to reproach the producer for the imperfection of what he does in the name of the money that he did not give in exchange, but will be able to simply criticize him not from the outside but from the inside. The object of his criticism will be their common labour if he participates in the same production process. If an individual is not satisfied with what the producer is doing or not doing he will not be able to appeal to his abstract rights as a consumer. He will have no other recourse than to oppose his own ability to do it better or at least to attempt to make his own suggestions or contributions prevail. Criticism will be impassioned and positive. It will not take the form of complaining and then not doing anything about it.

• Production and Education

The separation between productive life and education is not the fruit of necessity. It cannot be explained by the increasing importance of knowledge and training. Instead we must understand why it is necessary for knowledge to no longer be the direct fruit of experience.

The basis of this split lies in the fact that the proletariat must not be able to attend to his own self-improvement, his pleasure or his education, when he is engaged in production. This separation that is so essential for the survival of the world of the economy comes at a very high price. It implies the immobilization of a major part of the population in schools, vocational training centres and universities who could be much more useful and have much more fun outside these institutions. This does not allow for the effective adaptation of human abilities to the requirements of the activities they must later undertake. This kind of in vitro training is complemented by an apprenticeship in the workplace that is often carried out secretly.

The education system is presented as a “public service” that is above the distinctions of social classes. We are supposed to take its usefulness for granted. Who would dare to be an apostle of ignorance? Enlightened minds attack the curriculum. They accuse it of being archaic, of being separated from real life, that it is contributing to subversion. According to their recommendations students should be taught to read the Bible, The Communist Manifesto or the Kamasutra!

The most extreme critics put the blame on the education system itself. They do not do so in the name of combating its deadly “efficiency”, but rather its inefficiency! They take on the school in order to thereby defend pedagogy all the more effectively.

It is necessary to learn and to learn forever. To swallow this insipid paste called culture. The world is so complicated! You do not understand it? Then you need a “refresher course”.

People have never before learned so much and never have they been so ignorant with respect to what concerns their own lives. They have been crushed, beaten to a pulp by the mass of information that oozes from the university, the newspapers, and the television. The truth will never come from the accumulation of commodity-knowledge. It is a dead knowledge that is incapable of understanding life because its nature is precisely to be separated from experience and real life.

The school is where one learns to read, to write and to add and subtract. But the school is above all else an apprenticeship in renunciation. That is where we learn to do what we do not want to do, to respect authority, to compete with our friends, to dissimulate, and to lie. That is where the present is sacrificed for the sake of the future.

Communism is the decolonization of childhood. There will never again be the need for a particular institution for education. Are you worried about how children will learn how to read? You should be more concerned about how they will learn how to speak.

The school dissociates and inculcates the dissociation of the effort or process of learning and its necessity. What matters is that the child learns to read because it is necessary to learn to read rather than to satisfy his curiosity or his love for books. The paradoxical result is that literacy is on the decline at the same time that the taste for reading and the real ability to read has been eliminated in most people. In communist society the child will learn to read and write because he will feel the need to learn and to express himself. The world of childhood, because it will not be separated from the rest of the world and from social life in general, will engender in the child an imperative need to learn. He will learn to read and to write as naturally as he will learn to walk and talk. He will not do this entirely on his own. He will find that his older friends or his parents will help him. The difficulties he encounters will prove useful. By overcoming them he will learn how to learn. By not receiving knowledge in the form of a pre-digested baby food from the hands of a teacher, he will become accustomed to observing and listening, he will be capable of elaborating his understanding and making deductions on the basis of his experience. This will be the reward of real life as opposed to the educational or vocational programming of human beings.

Men will share their experience and will communicate their discoveries. The times and places for this sharing and communication will be chosen on the basis of their convenience. The form this relation will assume will not be determined in advance. It will depend on the content of the knowledge mutually exchanged by those interested in the topic. At the risk of displeasing the fanatics of intensive pedagogy, if 10 or 10,000 people want to know what one individual knows, the simplest solution would be to reinvent the lecture hall.

The modern interest in pedagogy reflects the fact that teaching methods are not imposed on the basis of a particular content. When there is no longer anything to say, the content of the lesson becomes interchangeable, and then the form of the lesson is debated. It is when the soup is bad that one becomes interested in how clean the bowl is.

What will happen in the world of capitalist production if the workers were to frequently really avail themselves of the right to experiment and were not judged by their immediate profitability? They would quickly forget why they were hired. They would get experience from their experiments, and their experiments would lead to further experience. By not producing they will quickly abandon efficiency in favour of pleasurable research, since no one is interested in what is being produced. The joy of discovery and the elation of freedom, total chaos and a festive atmosphere, will replace the repetitive routine. The contacts that will be developed among the workers under the pretext of improving production by means of the exchange of experience will be able to take new forms. Why not surrender to the intoxicating happiness of collective sabotage, why not organize games, why not reorganize and transform production in a way that would make it directly useful to the workers?

The principle of the system of wage labour militates against the possibility of trusting the workers, and instead subjects them to the requirements of a system of production that does not interest them. The most alienated, the most beaten down, and the most menial wage workers will not be retained by this slippery system. One cannot leave a worker to his own devices during the production process. If he is left on his own he will amuse himself by taking action against the capital that denies his humanity. He must be treated like a tool.

The capitalist division between production and training has its limits.

It is impossible to completely dissociate production, education and research. In production, even the least difficult job demands a certain degree of adaptability in the worker and the ability to deal with unforeseen circumstances. Similarly, the most abstract learning must find practical realization in some “product”, even if it is a “crib” used to pass an examination. The necessity of external control has an impact on production.

The student is not a sheet of paper on which knowledge is inscribed. He will not be able to learn anything as long as he is completely passive. The period of apprenticeship cannot be totally separated from experience and the production process, even if it is separated from the strictly economic sphere. The school serves to provide a boundary and content to this limited activity and to disconnect it completely from real life. Teaching functions and continues to exist thanks to the principles it rejects. This is just as true of reading as it is of writing. Thus, the latter is the negation of all communication. The student must learn to express himself in writing, regardless of what he has to say and regardless as well of whom he is addressing(!)…. It is a completely vacuous exercise. If the student writes, because he is forced to write, he will not be able to do so except by engaging in some type of communication. In this respect the student is like the worker who, compelled to work, can only carry out his assigned labour in collaboration up to a certain point. He cannot be a simple executor or machine.

The production system would collapse if the workers did not engage in experiments, if they did not assist one another, if they did not carry on discussions among themselves. The hierarchical organization of labour can only survive if its rules are constantly ignored. The hierarchical organization of labour imposes certain limits on these illicit and disrespectful activities as well as on the spontaneous activity of the workers in order to prevent them from spreading and becoming really subversive and a threat to the system.

End of Pamphlet One1

  • 1Translated from the Spanish edition that was originally published in 1977 under the title, Un mundo sin dinero: el comunismo, in two separate pamphlets.