8. Revolution and the Future

Submitted by libcom on July 28, 2005

Against Domestication 8.

Revolution and the Future

During a period of total counter-revolution, Bordiga was able to withstand the disintegrating effect brought about by it because he retained a vision of the coming revolution, but more particularly because he shifted his focus of thinking concerning struggle. He did not look only to the past, which is just a dead weight in such a period, nor did he incline towards the present, dominated as it was by the established order, but towards the future. [22]

Being thus attuned to the future enabled him to perceive the revolutionary movement as it actually was, and not according to its own characterizations. Since that time, the "future industry" [23] has come into its own and assumed an enormous scope. Capital enters this new field and begins to exploit it, which leads to a further expropriation of people, and a reinforcement of their domestication. This hold over the future is what distinguishes capital from all other modes of production. From its earliest origins capital's relationship to the past or present has always been of less importance to it than its relationship to the future. Capital's only lifeblood is in the exchange it conducts with labour power. Thus when surplus value is created, it is, in the immediate sense, only potential capital; it can become effective capital solely through an exchange against future labour. In other words, when surplus value is created in the present, it acquires reality only if labour power can appear to be ready and available in a future (a future which can only be hypothetical, and not necessarily very near). If therefore this future isn't there, then the present (or henceforth the past) is abolished : this is devalorization through total loss of substance. Clearly then capital's first undertaking must be to dominate the future in order to be assured of accomplishing its production process. (This conquest is managed by the credit system). Thus capital has effectively appropriated time, which it moulds in its own image as quantitative time. However, present surplus value was realized and valorized through exchange against future labour, but now, with the development of the "future industry", present surplus value has itself become open to capitalization. This capitalization demands that time be programmed, and this need expresses itself in a scientific fashion in futurology. Henceforth, capital produces time. [24] From now on where may people situate their utopias and uchronias ?

The established societies that existed in previous times dominated the present and to a lesser extent the past, while the revolutionary movement had for itself the future. Bourgeois revolutions and proletarian revolutions have had to guarantee progress, but this progress depended on the existence of a future valorized in relation to a present and a past which is to be abolished. In each case, and to a degree which is more or less pronounced depending on which type of revolution is being considered, the past is presented as shrouded in darkness, while the future is all shining light. Capital has conquered the future. Capital has no fear of utopias, since it even tends to produce them. The future is a field for the production of profit. In order to generate the future, to bring it into being, people must now be conditioned as a function of a strictly preconceived process of production : this is programming brought to its highest point. Man, once characterized by Marx as "the carcass of time" is now excluded from time. This, together with the domination of the past, the present and the future, gives rise to a structural representation, where everything is reduced to a combinative of social relations, productive forces, or mythèmes etc., arranged in such a way as to cohere as a totality. Structure, perfecting itself, eliminates history. But history is what people have made.

This leads to the understanding that revolution must not only engender another conception of time, but must also assimilate it to a new synthesis of space. Both will be created simultaneously as they emerge out of the new relationship between human beings and nature : reconciliation. We said before that all which is fragmented is grist to the mill of the counter-revolution. But revolution means more than reclaiming just the totality; it is the reintegration of all that was separate, a coming together of future being, individuality and Gemeinwesen. This future being already exists as a total and passionately felt need; it expresses better than anything else the true revolutionary character of the May '68 movement and that of the lycée students in Spring 1973.

Revolutionary struggle is struggle against domination as it appears in all times and places, and in all the different aspects of life. For five years this contestation has invaded every department of the life of capital. Revolution is now able to pose its true terrain of struggle, whose centre is everywhere, but whose place is nowhere. [25] Its task in this sense is infinite : to destroy domestication and engender the infinite manifestation of the human being of the future. We have a feeling, which is founded on more than just optimism, that the next five years will see the beginning of revolution, and the destruction of the capitalist mode of production. [26]

Jacques Camatte 1 May 1973


[22] Bordiga once maintained that "we are the only ones to ground our action in the future". In 1952 he wrote : "Our strength lies more in the science of the future than in that of the past or present." ("Explorateurs de l'avenir", Battaglia Communista no. 6)

[23] "L'industrie du futur" e.g. futurology, the technological revolution, marketing, resources planning, space exploration etc. translators note]

[24] Capital is characterized not so much by the way it emphasizes quantity while denying quality, but rather by the fact that there exists a fundamental contradiction between the two, with the quantitative tending to overwhelm all aspects of quality. It is not a question of realizing the desire for quality by denying quantity (in the same way, one does not arrive at use value by suppressing exchange value). It will require a total mutation before all the logic of this domination can be swept away. For quality and quantity both exist in close affinity with measurement, and all are in turn linked to value. Measurement operates to an equal degree at the level of use value, as well as exchange value. In the former case, it is closely bound up with one type of domination : use values measure a particular person's social position, and are also a measure of the weight of oppression they bear. Use values impose their own despotism which envelops the other despotism (exchange value), and now also that of capital. Marx, in his notes to J.S.Mill's work, denounced utilitarianism as a philosophy in which man is valued only in terms of his use, while exchange tends to autonomize itself.

[25] This is Blanqui's definition of infinity which is itself a slight modification of Pascal's famous phrase. (The French is : "le centre est partout, la surface nulle part" -- translators note)

[26] "From our present point of view, this prediction seems to be wrong. But we should bear in mind that predictions can never be made with absolute accuracy; the overall process will generally tend to lag behind what we forecast will happen, and there is also the factor that every such prediction is an expression of a particular individual's, own profound desire. And desire is always in a hurry, it doesn't know how to wait.

We should discuss the future realistically : i.e. in terms of the movement and process towards revolution, and from the standpoint that we must abandon this world. But it cannot be stated as simply as that; it starts to look like equivocation. We ought to be able now to examine the forecast we made and what emerges from it. What is true about it is the fact that in 1978, the refusal we have often spoken about is now more manifest, more definitely present than it has been in the years preceding. This refusal moreover, is heavy with consequences for capital's destruction.

"What we have said so far has been concerned with the permanent element of the perspective, but it doesn't clarify particularly the situation at the present, where we find that the concern is no longer with a struggle against capital as such. In 1973, one could already see that the destruction aimed at capital was indirect : it did not come from men and women forming a frontal opposition against it. If the system suffers from instability -- the 'crisis' as the economists now call it -- this doesn't of itself call capital into question, and the catastrophe is only just beginning to develop its premises (though the pace of events can accelerate quickly).

"One fundamental thing to emerge since 1978 is the fact that we are fast approaching the end of the cycle of capital. It is more intensive now, but also more extensive, and from either point of view this makes it easier for us to abandon capital. Taking up a position about something that is already achieved and finished is easy; it is much harder with something that is still in the process of formation and development." (from "la separation necessaire et l'immense refus", 1979)

This is as clear as I was able to get it in January 1979 when that piece was written. In a more recent article ("l'Echo du Temps", Feb. 1980) I try to describe more accurately how this "destruction" of the community of capital can come about. It is an attempt to take up the question of what I call capital's potential death, which is due to its movement of anthropomorphization and the capitalization of human beings.

As capital openly installs its community it realizes a project of the human species and at the same time exhausts its possibilities. Being real contemporaries of our period requires a clear realization of the potential death of capital, in order that we may subsequently embark on a new dynamic of life. (Author's note, March 1980)