Summer nights are heavy. One sleeps badly in tiny rooms. It is the Eve of the Guillotine.
The exploited also find time to play. But their play is not joy. It is a macabre ritual. An awaiting death. A suspension of work in order to lighten the pressure of the violence accumulated during the activity of production. In the illusory world of commodities, play is also an illusion. We imagine we are playing, while all we are really doing is monotonously repeating the roles assigned to us by capital.
When we become conscious of the process of exploitation the first thing we feel is a sense of revenge, the last is joy. Liberation is seen as setting right a balance that has been upset by the wickedness of capitalism, not as the coming of a world of play to take the place of the world of work.
This is the first phase of the attack on the bosses. The phase of immediate awareness. What strikes us are the chains, the whip, the prison walls, sexual and racial barriers. Everything must come down. So we arm ourselves and strike the adversary to make them pay for their responsibility.
During the night of the guillotine the foundations for a new spectacle are laid. Capital regains strength: first the bosses’ heads fall, then those of the revolutionaries.
It is impossible to make the revolution with the guillotine alone. Revenge is the antechamber of power. Anyone who wants to avenge themselves requires a leader. A leader to take them to victory and restore wounded justice. And whoever cries for vengeance wants to come into possession of what has been taken away from them. Right to the supreme abstraction, the appropriation of surplus value.
The world of the future must be one where everyone works. Fine! So we will have imposed slavery on everyone with the exception of those who make it function and who, precisely for that reason, become the new bosses.
No matter what, the bosses must ‘pay’ for their wrongs. Very well! We will carry the Christian ethic of sin, judgement and reparation into the revolution. As well as the concepts of ‘debt’ and ‘payment’, clearly of mercantile origins.
That is all part of the spectacle. Even when it is not managed by power directly it can easily be taken over. Role reversal is one of the techniques of drama.
It might be necessary to attack using the arms of revenge and punishment at a certain moment in the class struggle. The movement might not possess any others. So it will be the moment for the guillotine. But revolutionaries must be aware of the limitations of such arms. They should not deceive themselves or others.
Within the paranoid framework of a rationalising machine such as capitalism the concept of the revolution of revenge can even become part of the spectacle as it continually adapts itself. The movement of production seems to come about thanks to the blessing of economic science, but in reality it is based on the illusory anthropology of the separation of tasks.
There is no joy in work, even if it is selfmanaged. The revolution cannot be reduced to a simple reorganisation of work. Not that alone. There is no joy in sacrifice, death and revenge. Just as there is no joy in counting oneself. Arithmetic is the negation of joy.
Anyone who desires to live does not produce death. A transitory acceptance of the guillotine leads to its institutionalisation. But at the same time, anyone who loves life does not embrace their exploiter. To do so would signify that they are against life in favour of sacrifice, self-punishment, work and death.
In the graveyard of work centuries of exploitation have accumulated a huge mountain of revenge. The leaders of the revolution sit upon this mountain, impassively. They study the best way to draw profit from it. So the spur of revenge must be addressed against the interests of the new caste in power. Symbols and flags. Slogans and complicated analyses. The ideological apparatus does everything that is necessary.
It is the work ethic that makes this possible. Anyone who delights in work and wants to take over the means of production does not want things to go ahead blindly. They know by experience that the bosses have had a strong organisation on their side in order to make exploitation work. They think that just as strong and perfect an organisation will make liberation possible. Do everything in your power, productivity must be saved at all costs.
What a swindle! The work ethic is the Christian ethic of sacrifice, the bosses’ ethic thanks to which the massacres of history have succeeded each other with worrying regularity.
These people cannot comprehend that it would be possible not to produce any surplus value, and that one could also refuse to do so. That it is possible to assert one’s will not to produce, thus struggle against both the bosses’ economic structures and the ideological ones that permeate the whole of Western thought.
It is essential to understand that the work ethic is the foundation of the quantitative revolutionary project. Arguments against work would be senseless if they were made by revolutionary organisations with their logic of quantitative growth.
The substitution of the work ethic with the aesthetic of joy would not mean an end to life as so many worried comrades would have it. To the question: ‘What will we eat?’ one could quite simply reply: ‘What we produce.’ Only production would no longer be the dimension in which man determines himself, as that would come about in the sphere of play and joy. One could produce as something separate from nature, then join with it as something that is nature itself. So it would be possible to stop producing at any moment, when there is enough. Only joy will be uncontrollable. A force unknown to the civilised larvae that populate our era. A force that will multiply the creative impulse of the revolution a thousand-fold.
The social wealth of the communist world is not measured in an accumulation of surplus value, even if it turns out to be managed by a minority that calls itself the party of the proletariat. This situation reproduces power and denies the very essence of anarchy. Communist social wealth comes from the potential for life that comes after the revolution.
Qualitative, not quantitative, accumulation must substitute capitalist accumulation. The revolution of life takes the place of the merely economic revolution, productive potential takes the place of crystallised production, joy takes the place of the spectacle.
The refusal of the spectacular market of capitalist illusions will create another kind of exchange. From fictitious quantitative change to a real qualitative one. Circulation of goods will not base itself on objects and their illusionist reification, but on the meaning that the objects have for life. And this must be a life meaning, not a death one. So these objects will be limited to the precise moment in which they are exchanged, and their significance will vary according to the situations in which this takes place.
The same object could have profoundly different ‘values’. It will be personified. Nothing to do with production as we know it now in the dimension of capital. Exchange itself will have a different meaning when seen through the refusal of unlimited production.
There is no such thing as freed labour. There is no such thing as integrated labour (manual-intellectual). What does exist is the division of labour and the sale of the workforce, i.e. the capitalist world of production. The revolution is the negation of labour and the affirmation of joy. Any attempt to impose the idea of work, ‘fair work’, work without exploitation, ‘self-managed’ work where the exploited are to re-appropriate themselves of the whole of the productive process without exploitation, is a mystification.
The concept of the selfmanagement of production is valid only as a form of struggle against capitalism, in fact it cannot be separated from the idea of the selfmanagement of the struggle. If the struggle is extinguished, selfmanagement becomes nothing other than selfmanagement of one’s exploitation. If the struggle is victorious the selfmanagement of production becomes superfluous, because after the revolution the organisation of production is superfluous and counter-revolutionary.