The communization of society will not be gradual or peaceful, but abrupt and insurrectionary. Nor will it take the form of a steady advance that will progressively unite the necessary forces.
Insurrection and communization are intimately linked. There will not be, first the insurrection, and then—made possible by the insurrection—the transformation of social reality. The insurrectionary process draws its power from communization itself.
There will not be a mixed or an intermediate mode of production between capitalism and communism. The period of transition and, before that, the period of rupture, are characterized by the contradiction between absolutely communist methods on the one side and, on the other, a reality that is still completely imbued with mercantile ways. It is in this phase that a society of abundance and freedom must confront the problems of poverty and power. It will have to liquidate the human and material consequences of an era of slavery and neutralize the forces that remain bound to that era.
The use of violence to attain their goals: this is what distinguishes revolutionaries from reformists.
The opposition between revolutionaries and reformists is not so much a matter of strategy and methods as it is a matter of the nature of the transformation that is to be brought about. This is what evidently causes a difference in their methods.
History distinguishes two types of reformists: the soft and the hard.
The soft reformists, social democrats and parliamentarists, think that their schemes can be realized in a gentle way. They were often right, as long as their illusions were proportional to the scale of the reforms that could possibly be obtained. Constantly, and from every corner of the world, they prove that the ruling interests will not engage in the repression of those who do not threaten them. These soft reformists sometimes turn hard, but then their hardness is for the most part directed against the proletariat.
Along with the soft reformists who turn hard, there are the real hard reformists, that is, the Stalinists and their ilk. These reformists consider themselves to be revolutionaries and their goal is to seize state power and control the economy by replacing its current managers. They have no interest in underestimating the striking power of their enemies. This is a matter of success and of saving their own skins at the same time.
And the revolutionaries?
A communist revolution is an enormous social upheaval. It entails confrontations and violence. However, while the revolution is an act of force, its essential problem is not the question of violence, nor is the precondition for its success essentially a question of military force.
This is because the revolution is not a question of power. We shall not fight over the state or the economy with the powerful on the playing field of power. Thanks to the positions that it occupies in the economy, communism will be able to undermine the foundations of and disarm the military counterrevolution. It will avoid, as far as possible, direct confrontation.
The communist revolution does not make violence the main problem, because it seeks to help that which already exists to burst forth, rather than to force reality to conform to a plan.
We are opposed to the fanatics and fetishists of violence as well as to the pacifists. Just as non-violent methods can and must be adopted, even with relation to enemy military forces, we must also reject the ideology of non-violence.
This ideology transmits and is based on pedagogical illusions. It assumes that everyone can be educated for non-violence and can be mobilized from scratch. It wants mass actions but does not see that the problems of information and coordination that this type of action poses, and the possibility of counterattack, cannot be resolved without possibly giving rise to violence. Systematic non-violence assumes that there is a consensus observed by enemies to respect certain rules and, above all, that there is a minimal freedom of information.
Non-violence is above all effective as a defensive method. Its limitations become apparent when it is a question of taking the initiative and of neutralizing the enemy.
The more consolidated the revolution is in terms of force and lucidity, the more capable it will be of rallying the vacillating elements to its side and neutralizing its opponents. By understanding the limited yet essential role of violence it can avoid mistakes that would entail bloody consequences.
The proletariat cannot renounce obtaining, manufacturing and using weapons. While weapons are not always scattered throughout a society, the materials from which they are manufactured are often available in large quantities. It is essential to find out where they are and to prepare ourselves for their eventual use, to arm ourselves and to prepare ambushes that will make our enemies pay a high price for their attacks. It would be ridiculous and shameful to incite people to form self-defence groups armed with revolvers and knives to defend their factories or their neighbourhoods against armoured vehicles and aircraft.
Future insurrections cannot be predicted or stage-managed in advance but it is possible to advocate a strategy prior to or during the course of the movement. This strategy is based on knowledge of the nature of the communist revolution and of the forces at the disposal of each side.
The bourgeoisie and the bureaucrats have an army. The power of the proletariat resides in its economic position.
The army is vulnerable not so much from a military point of view as by virtue of its dependence on the economy. It is becoming increasingly more reliant on the economy with regard to its need for weapons, munitions, food and transport. It contains workers and technicians within its ranks. In order for it to wage war—and modern war is very expensive—it requires an uninterrupted supply chain, and the population of the country must continue to work.
The military counterrevolution must be attacked in its economic rear-guard. It is of crucial importance to prevent the national army from intervening in other countries for repressive purposes by compelling it to remain in its own country to maintain social peace.
The military commanders understand the risks involved if they attempt to compensate for the “shortcomings” of the workers in the domain of production. The army cannot organize the economy against the workers; it prefers to have a well-defined adversary of the same nature as itself, instead of performing tasks that are alien to it, and losing its way and being dispersed.
• The Army
The revolution is commonly imagined as a clash between two armies: one following the orders of the privileged and the exploiters; the other at the service of the proletarians. According to this view, the revolution is reduced to a war. Strategy is reduced to the seizure of power and the control of territory. This is a dangerously false view that is based on the memory of the battles of the Russian and Spanish civil wars as well as the wars for national liberation.
Although it may happen that at one time or another, in this or that circumstance, revolutionary action may take a military form: commando attacks, aerial raids … this will not change anything of the profound nature or the global character of the conflict.
To conceive of the revolution as a confrontation between red and white armies is not communist, but stupid, in view of the disproportionality of the military forces involved. To engage in such a war with capital would be to play the enemy’s game.
The army and the police are the last defences of capital. Their actions can be directly expressed in the form of the destruction of men and things but also by the creation and defence of a situation of misery that is conducive to the spread of egoism, fear and other primitive reflex reactions. This turns the impoverished populations against the revolutionaries (who are viewed as the cause of these problems) and tends to instil new life into the mechanisms of the mercantile society.
The army can be used to operate and control certain strategic sectors of the economy.
Due to its hierarchical nature, which rules out debate and dissent, which are replaced by obedience and discipline, and due to its patriotic purpose and ideology, the army tends to be a conservative institution.
The military counterrevolution does have its weaknesses, however.
The sense of self-confidence and the feeling that they have the law on their side, which are engendered among the military forces in their own particular ghetto and as a result of their esprit de corps, can neither be justified nor reinforced in a confrontation with an enemy army on a well-defined battlefield. The army must be prevented from functioning as an army; it must be opposed by the dissolving fluidity of communism. This entails paralyzing, contaminating, dividing, and disarticulating the military forces.
Our military attacks must be intimately linked with our activity of social destruction and reconstruction. The use of violence must not be transformed into an independent, self-justifying activity. Its purpose is to put a stop to or clear the way for situations directly in the interest of communization, which provides its justification as well as its power.
Before or during an insurrectionary phase, we can never be too mistrustful of separate violence and of terrorism. In terrorism, the revolutionaries are caught in the gears of attack and of counterattack, and communism is absent. When violence is transformed into violence for communism, rather than violence that accompanies communism, when it is vacated of its immediate content, all provocations are permitted. It is easy to commit murders and bombings and then blame the revolutionaries.
By way of the immediate and radical transformation of social organization we have to pull the rug out from under the feet of the military and deprive them of anything to defend. The army is an instrument of violence; it cannot do everything on its own because it is simply an organization for violence. We can do anything with a bayonet except sit on it.
It is a favourite preconception of the left to favour the intellectuals and to look down upon the military. Whenever a revolution takes place leftists think, quite naturally, that the former will be in favour of the revolution and the latter will be against it. On the one side intelligence, on the other brute force.
History shows just how erroneous such preconceptions are. Since the Paris Commune, when Colonel Rossel joined the insurrection and was shot for having done so, and when the progressive authors George Sand and Emile Zola violently condemned the insurrection, it has been common for one part of the armed forces to join the side of the revolution and for a no less significant part of the intellectuals to turn against it.
Such is the revolution: sometimes it horrifies those who support it, and fills those who dread it with enthusiasm.
The army forms its own separate institution whose values are, in part, alien to bourgeois or commercial values. Unlike the class of feudal lords, the bourgeois class is no longer capable of fighting in its own defence: it entrusts this task to the army and the police. Although one part of the army’s leaders completely identifies its interests with those of the ruling class, there must be a latent contradiction between the interests and the customs of the military personnel and those of the bourgeoisie.
We must not allow ourselves to believe that the army, or any part of the army, will easily or spontaneously come over to the side of the revolution. This can only happen as the result of the development of the revolution itself and of its penetration of the army. The army will become revolutionary to the extent that, under the pressure of the soldiers and the policemen, the all-powerful hierarchy will be questioned and blind obedience condemned.
The revolutionaries must not make any concessions to militarism. The revolutionaries must make the soldiers understand that the latter are not fighting for their own interests, and much less for those of the Nation. They have to show them that their ideals are subverted by capital. They must also show them that the military personnel, as human beings, and their qualities and abilities, have a place in the communist movement.
Our goal is the destruction of the army. It is necessary that this be achieved with as little confrontation with the military as possible. The recently formed or reconstituted armed groups will gradually lose their military character through their participation in productive tasks and in the workers’ councils.
The revolution must not ignore its dimension of force nor must it miss any chances of integrating into its forces, by transforming them, the institutions of repression of the old society. A policeman might be ready to serve a power that no longer seems to be subversive to him but instead looks like a new authority. Or it could be that some of them might not want to continue to be lackeys.
In any event, the revolutionaries and the proletarians must not allow others to possess a monopoly on force. This question of the arming of the proletariat will be a test that will allow us to judge the effectiveness of the connection of the military with the revolution.
The revolutionaries do not have a taste for blood, nor a spirit of vengeance. The revolts of the past show that blood was indeed spilled, but only a very small share of that bloodletting was due to the actions of the insurrectionaries. Hope extinguishes hate.
It was the counterrevolution that massacred, imprisoned and deported. Blood flowed during battles but often also, after the fighting was over, when military victory was assured. Murderous fury was born from the terror of the owning classes. The reaction had to crush the enemy forces. To them, the revolution seemed to reside in the revolutionaries. Therefore, the latter had to be destroyed.
The spirit of vengeance might play a role in workers’ revolts. But that is all it was, compared to the repression carried out by the forces of Versailles, by the Kuomintang in 1927, by Franco’s forces….
The workers’ uprisings have been much less characterized by vengeance than were the anti-feudal peasant rebellions. This is because the revolution is not an act of desperation. Acts of destruction of goods and reprisals against persons are often the work of those who do not see any way out of their misery and who are satisfied with annihilating those who embody their oppression.
Vengeance is not just petty, but stupid. It condemns our enemies in advance on the basis of their past and reinforces their resolve to oppose us, out of fear and determination to survive. And it makes enemies among those who, rightly or wrongly, feel that they, too, have done something incriminating. And it encourages a situation in which personal grudges can be settled.
We must offer our enemies the opportunity to change sides. Communist principles do not in and of themselves dictate a uniform mode of conduct. To the contrary, they imply that it is possible to express a diversity of characters, situations and past histories of those who participate in the revolution. More precisely, they imply that, just as our enemies do not view us as anything but “red vermin”, we must for our part continuously strive to recognize even the worst of our enemies as human beings. Without any illusions about human nature.
It would be stupid to attack doctors, engineers, peasants, since many of these people would soon join us without our having to make any concessions to the myth of the specialist, to a hierarchy of labor, or to property. This means that the councils should sometimes protect the possessions of certain people. This will contradict the principle of equality but it will make it possible for some people to come over to the side of the councils by offering to allow them to keep something they value. The doctor could be guaranteed the use of his residence and of his professional equipment on the condition that he does not emigrate and that he treats those who need medical assistance. Certain second homes, located in the countryside, could be returned to their legal owners, or handed over to their parents or their friends, without thereby allowing anyone to possess two homes when others are living in broken down shacks.
On the other hand, those who seek to preserve their privileges or take advantage of the situation to feather their own nests must know that they will not be able to benefit from the mercy of their victims.
The more securely consolidated the revolutionary councils are, the more capable they are of decreeing clear rules and rapidly transforming reality, the less necessary the use of violence.
Communization does not mean expelling the bosses from the factories so that we can take their places, but rather begins with closing down many of the currently existing enterprises.
The line between the counterrevolution and the revolution will be drawn between those who, in the name of the fatherland, of democracy, of self-management, of the workers’ councils, of Christ the King or chocolate pudding, incite the worker-consumers to cling to their activities as beasts of burden and to their drugs, and those others who incite them to massively reduce and to radically reconvert production. It is a matter of reducing pollution and of breaking as much as possible with the brutalization of labour and with the pseudo-abundance of commodities.
To remain in the factory, even for the purpose of self-managing it, is to freeze the situation to the benefit of the counterrevolution. And this would be the outcome whether this view is professed by fanatics of labour, by naïve trade unionists or by clever capitalists who are trying to gain time.
The revolutionaries will probably be accused by all these holy apostles of seeking to disorganize production and to reduce the standard of living of the people.
This scaling back of production must not be perceived as any kind of fascination with austerity. Such a policy would require far fewer sacrifices than any other solution; false solutions that would merely prevent a decisive break with the past and which would immobilize forces that are necessary for the struggle; false solutions that would allow all those who fear that the foundations of their power are disappearing to regroup: recalcitrant trade unionists, petty or big bosses, politicians, managers, employers….
Merely by ceasing the production of a myriad of useless, barely useful or harmful products, and tearing down the walls between enterprises, we could concentrate the forces required to produce indispensable or necessary products in abundance. It will be necessary to undertake new research and begin a new kind of production. Communization does not mean, therefore, only the demonetization, but also the rapid transformation of production. These two things are intimately linked.
Blue-collar workers, office employees and teachers will be invited to take up jobs where they will be really useful. These changes will be based, first of all, on the spontaneous aversion of the masses for work and on the revealing of their own abilities. This will not take place under the aegis of a directive centre but will arise from many different initiatives. This does not mean that disorder will be given free rein. Every revolution implies some oscillations, and a certain amount of pandemonium and confusion. But such disturbances must be reduced to a minimum. And this is the task of the most radical elements. We are neither against order, nor against discipline, nor against organization, nor even against authority. Those who conflate revolution with confusion must be combated just as resolutely as the statists. Indeed, the former play into the hands of the latter.
Reconversion must above all allow for the satisfaction of the most basic needs. Then it must favour, above the production of certain products, the production of the tools and machines that are needed for their production. These materials will be distributed among the population and will permit each person to engage in manufacture on his own or else find others with whom he can manufacture things.
These are only some ideas concerning the possible modifications in the operation of major economic sectors. None of these transformations has any meaning in isolation. The peril of making concrete proposals resides in the fact that they could be turned against communism. But we cannot forget that revolutionaries cannot be content with articulating general principles but must, in accordance with the particular situation, offer concrete solutions.
Energy: there will be a significant reduction in the production of energy. This reduction will, most naturally, result from the shutting down of a part of industry that consumes the greater part of this energy. Perhaps these closures will be compulsory due to difficulties in assuring the supplies of oil, gas and coal.
The distribution of energy will be transformed. Part of the share of energy that was once utilized directly by industry can be transferred to domestic consumption: for heating, illumination and to provide power for small machines.
New sources of energy will gradually be introduced. They must be developed in order to reduce pollution and to conserve limited resources such as fossil fuels. Perhaps a decentralized and intermittent form of production will be favoured for local use. This does not mean, however, that communism is fundamentally opposed to nuclear energy. It is simply a matter of establishing serious guarantees for the conditions of production and the needs for the use of energy. In the short term – water, wind or sun would be preferable.
Transport: means of transportation waste energy, constitute sources of pollution, crystallize social inequalities … in this sector, too, there will have to be a significant degree of scaling back and rationalization that will enable a new use of space. People will have to organize themselves in order to avoid having to go on long journeys. There will be fewer occasions for people to travel against their will. The expansion of free time will make it possible for them not to have to spend so much of their time in their vehicles.
The production of automobiles can be halted. The number of vehicles presently in circulation, if they were to be used more rationally, would give us the time we need to develop and manufacture better machines. Some of these vehicles could be used as taxis, with or without assigned drivers, or they could be used for public purposes.
The great majority of vehicles will probably continue to be used privately. This will allow for the adaptation of traditional habits and give those who still have cars an incentive to keep them in good working order. The continued use of automobiles may be limited by certain conditions placed on their use in order to restrict or eliminate traffic in some locations and allow the most effective and advantageous possible use of those areas.
The trains and other modes of mass transport should be favoured and developed. These methods are safer, more energy efficient, and would involve less traffic congestion than individual means of travel. Our powerful and comfortable cars could be complemented with slower vehicles that would be more flexible and more suitable for individual use and would be equipped with non-polluting motors.
In the meantime, we can continue to produce trucks, bicycles, roller skates and good shoes.
To reduce the need for travel, mainly with regard to high-speed, long-distance contacts, we will have to develop a good telephonic or videophonic network. This will allow, at a very low cost, many more people to be in contact with each other than is possible today [this has since taken place—Note of the Portuguese Translator]. The airplane is a noisy mode of transportation, which produces a lot of pollution, for businessmen and tourists on tight schedules. Its use is not easily made generally available to everyone. We must therefore either eliminate it or limit its use to particular cases.
For long-distance travellers, because they cannot return to their fashionable vacation spots, should we bring back the great sailing ships? Their construction would lead to a healthy kind of competition. In any event, there are other ways to get from one continent to another: you do not need supersonic jet aircraft.
Publishing: this is a sector whose revolutionary importance is very easy to understand. Who will control the press?
In insurrectionary periods it is often the case that the workers’ control the content of the newspapers that they print. This will once again take place, no matter how much it may displease the apostles of the freedom of the press who often are nothing but defenders of the freedom of money. This is not enough, however. The press must undergo transformations and must cease to be the contemplative reflection of reality.
The revolution will allow a freedom of expression that is impossible for us today. A large number of small printing machines, which belong to businesses and administrators, will be placed at the disposal of all.
Tomorrow, the whim of an editor will not determine whether a book or a text will be published. Its production, and then its printing, will be directly the affair of those who are interested in it. Its success will therefore depend on the determination of its author and the practical support for his project that he encounters.
Today, a considerable part of the cost of a book is accounted for by the expenses involved in its advertising and promotion. Here, the advantage of communism is obvious. We can even allow, in order to economize on wood pulp, that newspapers or other texts should be passed on from one person to another or else posted in public places.
Communism, in order to favour everyone’s written, oral or audio-visual self-expression, must make provisions for reducing the social costs of paper and ink.
What will become of literature? It cannot be doubted that it will be transformed and that the production of romance and fantasy novels will gradually become unnecessary. We will therefore no longer have to continue to devote ourselves to fiction, to a world of books opposed to the real world. Perhaps some day, after the passage of a certain amount of time, written communication will lose its importance and will tend to disappear.
Construction: the construction industry will be transformed. This does not mean that the masons will be put out of work. Construction is one of the rare activities that does not regress.
Nonetheless, measures will have to be taken to limit, or more radically, to prohibit, construction in overpopulated cities and suburban areas. The people who move out of the urban centres, however, must be housed. Houses and buildings of every type will have to be built. It will also be necessary to demolish existing buildings and organize the recycling of their materials.
In this field, as in other activities, but perhaps even more rapidly, professional exclusiveness will be undermined. Anyone who wants to have a new house will have to roll up his sleeves and get to work. He will have the help of those who, due to their training or the experience, know how to do the work.
The homeless and ill-housed will immediately be moved into apartments and houses that for one reason or another are unoccupied. The suspension of rent payments and the cancellation of debts will naturally be one of the first acts of the revolution.
Clothing: We cannot transform everything all at once. We will have to continue to produce what we can given the existing materials and machinery. There will, of course, be many changes with respect to the quality and durability of products.
A certain number of types of clothing and shoes can be produced in large quantities. In addition, the production of fabrics and small machines will be encouraged so that people can manufacture the clothing that they need, or that will allow the mass produced products to be adapted to the taste of the people and will also make possible the distribution of clothing in accordance with the effort expended on its production.
Food: the industrialization of food products has generally led to a decline in their quality. Communism must increase, as rapidly as possible, the quantity of food produced, change its mode of distribution in such a way as to benefit the undernourished populations of the third world, and undertake measures to improve the quality of the food that is produced.
Changes will be made with regard to the ingredients of the food products. Everything that is harmful or even useless and which only serves the purpose of deceiving the consumer must be excluded. Packaging will be simplified.
With regard to agriculture, the use of chemical products must be limited and progressively reduced. This is not a matter of taking a principled position against everything chemical or artificial but of opposing the deterioration and falsification of agricultural products.
Monoculture must give way to poly-culture and to the combination of agriculture and animal husbandry, which will permit recycling and the use of manure and wastes. This will allow for the reduction of the volume of external inputs (chemical fertilizers, etc.), which is of vital importance especially for the underdeveloped countries.
It is preferable for the forces of society to be directly invested in working the land, instead of being devoted to factories producing chemical fertilizers and other chemical products. If labour is diverted from agriculture, it would be most effectively used to manufacture agricultural tools and machinery. This material must, for the most part, be introduced into the agricultural operations of the third world.
The research that is today devoted to improving the quality of food and the effectiveness of agricultural methods, research that is currently severely underdeveloped, must be intensified. The best varieties of plants, the best methods of tilling the soil, and the best mix of types of agriculture in accordance with the population’s need for food, must be selected. There are plenty of things that need to be done in agriculture: should we favour the production of animal protein or plant protein? Should we emphasize productivity or small scale, traditional production methods?
Health: Health problems are largely caused by living and working conditions. Communism, by revolutionizing these conditions, will do a great deal of good for the health of the population.
Priority must be granted to hygiene and prevention. The production of drugs will be reduced. Certain products that are useless or that currently seem to be useful will be abolished. Just like brands of detergents, there are many different brands of the same pharmaceutical product. The cost of packaging and of advertising is added to the cost of the actual product. Obviously, all of this will disappear.
Medicine will be deprived of its professional exclusiveness as rapidly as possible, which means that a lost medical and health knowledge will be reintroduced among the population. This will make possible the utilization of medicinal plants, which would entail the training of a fraction of the population so that its members may engage in clinical practice within a very short time.
Education: The period of insurrection and reconversion will entail the need for education and training. At that time a large part of the population will be obliged to change its activity and everyone will have to multiply the tasks that they must learn.
This training will be carried out largely on the job. Each person will have to transmit his knowledge to his comrades.
Television and radio will make it possible to transmit, at low cost, the training that these people need. It is easy to broadcast courses in mechanics, agriculture and masonry in order to complement practical on the job training.
And what about the teachers? There will be no question of prohibiting them from teaching, but anyone who is not a teacher will not be discouraged from teaching, either, by any means. In any event, a large part of culture will not be the object of teaching in the strict sense of the word. With respect to children, there will be no question of withdrawing them from the care of those educators who are really devoted to their profession. However, from the moment when activities that are open to children begin to multiply and when these activities no longer require adults to be chained to professional or domestic labor the rest of their lives, it will be impossible to keep the children in school.
The members of the teaching profession, in order to assure their own well-being, will have every reason to devote themselves, like everyone else, to practical tasks. If they do not, they are the ones who will have to pay the price. There can be no doubt that most teachers, who are being increasingly transformed into teaching machines, will appreciate a new way of life that does places no obstacles in the way of their benefiting others with their knowledge.
Religion: Some of those “of little faith” claim that the communist revolution will make religion disappear. Even the Lord’s ability to look after his own affairs is begrudged to him. As for us, we will let Him look after His own affairs.
There will be no transitional stage between capitalism and communism, but rather a stage of rupture in which revolutionaries must seek to implement irreversible measures.
There are those who complain about the commodification and industrialization of all of social life. They want things to change but seek to be reasonable. They issue appeals for change to the authorities or to the official opposition. Above all, they want things to be changed in an orderly fashion. For them, the eruption of the masses on the stage of history merely implies an even more inextricable level of disorder.
They want to carry out a gradual de-commodification of the economy, developing public services and free distribution of goods. Wage labour will be reduced and, along with it, less dehumanizing productive activities will be furthered.
The more daring and bold among them plan, in the short term, the disappearance of the market and wages.
It is always the same hope to be able to use and control capital. The same illusion is propagated by those who want to preserve the wage system and at the same time eliminate wage differentials by transforming the wage into a fair remuneration based on the arduousness of each particular job.
Capital is fundamentally expansionist and imperialist. It therefore tends to seize all of social life. A non-mercantile sector that functions alongside the mercantile system will rapidly be re-mercantilized. It will continue to be a luxury and a game that is as completely dependent on capital as today’s do-it-yourself trend, or else it will expand and, by virtue of its own productive contribution to circulation, it will then reinvent capitalism on its own. It will then undergo internal decomposition as well as external attack. The “free” producers, the weekend artisans who continue to be prisoners of a bourgeois way of life, will quite naturally seek an income from their parallel production in order to improve their bottom line at the end of the month.
Do we have to rely on political power to support such a “revolution”? This would be to forget the dependence of political power on the economy. It would amount to opposing mercantile totalitarianism with state totalitarianism.
Can we count on a spiritual transformation? This would be to believe that commodity society is, above all, a spiritual deviation. People’s minds are what the situation allows them to be.
We cannot have one foot in the new world whilst keeping hold of our wallet.
These reformist conceptions do not understand anything about the need for a global rupture or about the nature of revolutionary proletarian action. They do not see that it is the situation and the activity of the class of the dispossessed that is the real enemy of the commodity system. They think that one can take measures against capital because they view it as a thing whose power has to be restricted, rather than a social relation.
Capital can amuse itself by opening up avenues of freedom to human activity and making it seem that it has been de-commodified. It sells us a new life at its vacation resorts, and you pay later for not having to pay now. The new systems of payment tend to avoid any direct and oppressive contact with money. All of these developments show the need and the possibility of communism, but also the recuperative, vampire-like and deceitful nature of capital.
The commodity system is a totality. It will be overthrown as a totality. It cannot be communized one sector at a time; all its sectors are intimately connected. In any case, can we really believe that anyone could limit the areas of intervention of an insurrection?
It is precisely the “anti-mercantile” measures that aim to temporarily restrict or to render the activities of capital less visible, that merely have the goal of dissuading or hindering an insurrection. Whether this is a result of the good intentions or even the lack of understanding of those who advocate such policies, they can only serve the counterrevolution.
In an insurrectionary period the revolutionaries must devote themselves to denouncing pseudo-radical measures and precipitating the course of events. Their actions will frequently be denounced, not for their revolutionary nature, but rather as excesses engaged in by those who disguise themselves as revolutionaries in order to all the more effectively combat the revolution.
The solution for the important problems posed by the sudden break with the commodity economy will be based above all on the councilist organization of production and distribution of goods. Who gets scarce products will no longer be determined by who has money, but, even in the intermediate stage, by the councils and committees of “consumers” who will seek to allocate goods in accordance with their best possible use. The danger lies in believing that we can establish a mixed system in order to avoid difficulties.
The councils will have to solve difficult problems but they will constitute the only force capable of solving them.
To make possible and to support councilist organization it will be necessary for the active wing of the revolution to concentrate its forces at certain strategic points. It will either destroy or permit the survival or the recovery of the old system.
The banking and financial system must be destroyed at their material foundations. We have to attack these institutions and burn their account books, their records and their archives. Everything that even looks like a means of payment will have to be destroyed.
The state machinery will have to be paralyzed. This is not to say that there will have to be a frontal assault on the heart of the system, but rather that its multiple tentacles must be destroyed. The state has its fingers in every nook and cranny and this is both its strength as well as its weakness
We have to attack everything that allows for the control of people and, first of all, identification documents of every kind. We will have to hunt down state and private archives. Apart from some documents of revolutionary or historical interest, all administrative archives and papers of every kind will have to be destroyed.
The seizure of the prisons and the freeing of the prisoners, including the political prisoners, will be the order of the day. This is sure to strike fear into the hearts of all but the most courageous; all the scum of the night will run through the streets. Are the prisons not crowded with terrible thieves and horrible murderers?
In fact, most prisoners are proletarians who sought, by attacking commodities and property, to escape from their condition. They are not, for the most part, either minor saints or big-hearted revolutionaries. Because of the nature of their crimes, however, they will disappear with the disappearance of the current system. They will know, in their overwhelming majority, how to place their talents at the service of the revolution.
And the underworld? Generally the real pariahs are not behind bars. Sometimes they even work with the complicity of the police. And what about the murderers? They often have the law on their side and are frequently found at the head of governments.
The liberation of the prisoners will not apply to the real scumbags and notorious counterrevolutionaries. With the end of commodity society, the organization of armed militias will allow for the reduction of the number of malefactors.
These different measures cannot be applied in just any context, nor in just any relation of forces. They will, however, be an imperious necessity for the revolutionaries and the anti-statists.
The committees responsible for the distribution of goods will be able to concentrate the small merchants and managers and use their shops. If these social categories demonstrate their willingness to participate in the reconversion, so much the better. If they resist and seek to continue to be owners of their stock and of their stores we have to do without them. In the case of privately stockpiled merchandise that is important and necessary, we will have to seize it from its owners. In any event, their power is limited because all we have to do is cut off their supplies.
We will be able to reconvert advertising into anti-advertising. This will consist of the dissemination of information about the characteristics and the manufacture of products, the state of reserves, and encouraging moderation.
The revolution will be global.
It is not a moral imperative: all men are equal and brothers and they have a right to this.
The revolution will be worldwide because capital itself is a worldwide reality. It destroys human communities, separates individuals, transforms every person into a competitor with everyone else. But it unites and unifies the human species through its action, through its own movement. Today, for the first time in history since Adam and Eve, there is a convergence between the genetic unity and the social unity of the species.
The birth of the national idea and of nation states is the direct result of capitalist development, of the destruction of traditional groups, of the standardization of exchange, of constantly growing inequality. But if capital protects itself behind its borders it cannot allow itself to be imprisoned within them. Its anonymous and imperialist development always has a tendency to conquer and unify markets. Different countries and regions successively assumed the privileged position in the accumulation of capital before entering into decline and giving way to others.
The contemporary epoch is witnessing the acceleration of this process. There is an ongoing process of globalization of commodity relations and an exacerbation of inequality. Colonization, world wars, the development of new poles of accumulation, the constitution of new nation states that are more or less pawns, are the stages of this process. The multiplication of nations and states will not impede their unification, not even at the political level. The small states will be subjugated by the stronger states. They will be regrouped in military alliances and economic zones. Global institutions and military strike forces will be formed.
Even more extraordinary is the internationalization of exchange and the formation of multinational corporations, which are overtaking political unification and depriving the states of a large part of their economic power. These gigantic enterprises are wealthier than many nations. They have a planetary view of things and seek to produce and to sell wherever it is most profitable without any concern for borders.
Trade is standardizing life all over the world and we find the same kind of cereals, the same kind of buildings, and the same kind of education all over the world. Local colour, protected or subsidized, is an aspect of advertising for the consumption of tourists and traditionalists. Nothing is more indicative of this idolatry of the national idea than the typical clothing styles spread throughout the world by similar aircraft. Here are some Frenchmen, over there, some Japanese Geishas … and sprinkled a little all over, there are airborne Palestinian hijackers.
Faced with all of this, revolutionaries obviously cannot appeal to the defence or restoration of the fatherland, as is being done by a whole array of idiots and demagogues. Nor can we defend regionalist or neo-nationalist movements that advocate the formation of new, more legitimate fatherlands. Invoking the right to be different and autonomous, they oppose nationalism with nationalism, one state with another state. These movements are at first quite often healthy reactions against statism, standardization and the unequal development of the contemporary world. The only possible solution is to put an end to capital and to all of its states.
Communism is not the enemy of nations, if by love of country we understand man’s bond with his region, his countryside, his customs, and his local way of life. We do not want to resuscitate the spirit of parochialism but we are against the levelling of countries and their inhabitants.
The defenders of the fatherland are often not at the same time defenders of the state. Their nostalgia wants to ignore that the latter seeks to destroy the values that they defend.
Paradoxically, nationalism thrives to the extent that the knowledge and the connection of man with his environment deteriorates. Nationalism values not a real community but the image of a community embodied in the fetishism of the flag or of the national hero. Our epoch is rendering all this bric-a-brac more and more unfashionable. The feelings that it embodies are increasingly more hypocritical or disconnected from reality.
Most of the leaders who exalt the national idea really do not give a damn about it. The ruling classes and the privileged have often demonstrated the scant importance that they grant to patriotism. The national interest is only valid when it corresponds with the interest of capital. As soon as a serious proletarian threat arises, the ruling classes of the different countries make haste to settle their differences.
The revolution will be worldwide because the problems that have to be resolved will be global problems. The interpenetration of the different economies prevents any of them from going it alone. In any event, if the revolution breaks out in one country it will have to confront the attacks of foreign counterrevolution. This interdependence, however, the highly developed means of communication, and the simultaneity of economic and political upheavals, will make the revolution more contagious than ever. Every state that sends police to our country must fear an uprising at home. The more rapidly the insurrection is generalized, the harder it will be to repress.
Hunger and pollution do not have local causes, it is just that their effects are localized. The revolution will have to establish universal rules for the protection of nature. Agriculture will have to be organized to respond to the needs of all the people of the world.
This does not mean that the rich, industrialized countries suck all the blood from the poor countries or that the poor countries will be dependent on the privileged zones.
Each region must, depending on its problems and its resources, and the importance of its proletariat, find organizational forms and its own paths of development. Each region should also solve as many of its problems as possible on the basis of its own resources.
In the meantime it will be necessary, especially at first, to organize transfers of materials and technicians to help the most disadvantaged regions to overcome their tragic poverty as quickly as possible. If necessary, the consumption of food in certain regions will have to be reduced or modified in order to assist other regions. The communists will always be in the vanguard of the struggle against local egoism.
The underdeveloped countries can be communized, despite their low levels of development. The possibility of communism is established on a world scale. What matters is not so much the quantitative development of the productive forces as their qualitative development. A certain technical and scientific level will engender quantitative abundance in the short term. The current dominance of the developed countries will help usher in the dawn of communism, in supporting local proletarian forces to liquidate capital everywhere.
How can communist transformations be promoted in countries that are predominantly agrarian? We cannot resort to primitive accumulation. Unlike capitalism, communism will not be established by overthrowing traditional social structures. It will, to the contrary, be capable of establishing its foundations on the basis of certain structures by liberating them from their most negative aspects, rediscovering under the parasitism and feudalism of these structures the underlying peasant communities.
This will not prevent the parallel development of modern activities. At the heart of these communities, technology can be introduced: small-scale agricultural machinery, energy systems, birth control, preventive medical care…. There will not be any absolute incompatibility between traditional communitarian equilibrium and the use of simple technologies. Even now, there are cases where primitive populations understand how to use modern technologies. The real disadvantage is, rather, the disintegration of these communities by the action of capital.
It is virtually certain that the populations in question and their social structures will continue to develop. But this development will not mean the destruction of men and the negation of communitarian values.
Can we expect to base our hopes on the foundation of worldwide solidarity with its base in the working class? Is it not the case that the workers are often racists?
Often workers act like racists. Racists against foreigners and above all racists against migrant workers or racial minorities. We see “working class” governments prove that they are more racist, especially when it comes to immigration, than bourgeois governments. It is often the business class that is in favour of immigration or of abolishing racially discriminatory laws.
Working class racism corresponds, first of all, to an attitude of an oppressed person who, not being capable of escaping his condition, is content to feel superior to his dog, to a cop, or to an immigrant. It is the expression of a real class interest, of the working class as a commodity. The intellectual can talk as much as he wants about human brotherhood. The worker, especially the unskilled worker, knows well enough that the foreigner is first of all his competitor in the labour market. Open or latent racism is born from the inability to recognize that it is capital that sets the wage workers against each other. This lack of understanding is not merely the expression of a simple intellectual deficiency. It corresponds to impotence. Understanding and the ability to change reality go hand in hand. To the extent that the proletariat advances and becomes unified racism falls by the wayside. It is not necessary to wait for the revolution: in partial struggles, the workers of different origins reject prejudices and mutual mistrust.