The alternative title for this chapter is 'The Plan of Capital'.
At the beginning of the third section of Book II of Capital, Marx distinguishes between the direct process of the production of capital and the total process of its reproduction. The former includes both the work process as well as the value-creating process. As we shall see, the latter includes both the process of consumption mediated by circulation, as well as the process of reproduction of capital itself. In the different forms assumed by capital within its cycle, and even more in the different forms assumed by this cycle, the movement of individual capital turns out to be a part of the total movement of social capital. “Every individual capital forms, however, but an individualized fraction, a fraction endowed with individual life, as it were, of the aggregate social capital, just as every individual capitalist is but an individual element of the capitalist class.” 1 Marx says that, if we consider the annual function of social capital according to its result, i.e., if we consider the annual commodity product furnished by society, we see that it includes both the social reproduction of capita I as well as its productive and individual consumption. “It comprises also the reproduction (i.e., maintenance) of the capitalist class and the working class, and thus the reproduction of the capitalist character of the entire process of production:”2 i.e., simple reproduction on an invariant scale which immediately appears a part of a more complex reproduction on a broader scale. Thus, it becomes a particular moment and a real factor of the accumulation of capital-accumulation no longer of individual capital, but of social capital; broadened reproduction within it of the capitalist class on the one hand, and of the working class on the other. Capital’s process of socialization is the specific materials base upon which is founded, on a certain level, the process of development of capitalism. The determinate formation of a capitalist society presupposes the production of social capital as an already accomplished historical act, which is already acknowledged as a natural fact. The figure of the collective capitalist, as a functionary of total social capital, is itself the product of a determinate level of capitalist production. Against it, both as a presupposition and as a result, the total social labor as the class of organized workers-social labor-power as a class-acquires objective material existence. Capital’s “plan” comes primarily about from the necessity of making the working class function as such within social capital. The growing socialization of the capitalist relation of production does not bring with it the socialist society, but only growing power for the workers within the capitalist system.
Of the three forms expressing the cyclic process of capital the third form, the cycle of commodity-capital (C’….C’), is the only one in which value-capital appears already as a point of departure of its value-creation. In the cycle of monetary capital and in that of productive capital, the point of departure is always the original value-capital, yet to be transformed into value (valorizzare). The whole movement is only the movement of the anticipated value-capital. C’ on the other hand, as a relation of capital, immediately implies both the cycle of value-capital as well as that of surplus-value-and of a surplus-value already in part spent as rent, and in part accumulated as capital. To depart from C’ means to depart from the total commodity-product as commodity-capital. In it individual consumption and productive consumption enter as conditions of the cycle; and if the productive consumption comes about through every individual capitalist, individual consumption immediately presents itself only as a social act. The transformation that obtains within this cycle concerns the magnitude of the value of capital. Thus, it is not the result of a formal shift mg of monetary capital in the circulation process, but of a material change of productive capital in the process of production. The cycle C’. . . C’ presupposes, within its trajectory, other industrial capital. But we have seen that its point of departure is no longer only the originally anticipated value-capital, but the value-capital already transformed into value. Its movement, “From its inception thus reveals itself as the total movement of the industrial capital.”3 But not only as “a form of movement common to all individual industrial capitals, but simultaneously also as a form of movement of the sum of the individual capitals, consequently of the aggregate capital of the capitalist class.”4
Now, industrial capital finds itself simultaneously in all the different stages of its cycle and goes successively through the different functional forms of all three cycles. In fact, the total process is the unity of the three cycles. The total cycle is the real unity of the three forms. Precisely because of this, the total cycle, for every single functional form of capital, presents itself as its specific cycle. “It is a necessary prerequisite of the aggregate process of production, especially for the social capital, that it is at the same time a process of reproduction and hence a circuit of each one of its elements.”5 A part of capital, as commodity-capital, always is transformed into money. Another as monetary-capital is transformed in productive capital and still another, as productive capital, is once again transformed in commodity-capital. “The continuous existence of all three forms is brought about by the circuit the aggregate capital describes… its forms are hence fluid and their simultaneous hero are brought about by their succession.”6 As value that transforms itself into value, capital can only be a continuous movement, a cyclic process that goes through different stages and assumes different forms of development. “The circuit-describing process of capital means constant interruption, the learning of one stage and the entering into the next, the discarding of one form and the assuming of another.” Yet, the continuity is “the characteristic mark of capitalist production.”7 It is in individual capitals that “the continuity of the reproduction is at times more or less interrupted.”8 When social capital as value undergoes a revolution of value, individual capital is always in danger of going under if it does not adjust to the conditions of this change of value. “The more acute and frequent such revolutions in value become, the more does the automatic movement of the new independent value operate with the elemental force of a natural process, against the foresight and calculation of the individual capitalist.”9 In this case, the mechanism of the cycle comes to a stop, production is reduced, and the entire process of development is forced to a halt: “Every stagnation in succession carries disorder into co-existence.” 10 Hence the necessity to find a nexus among the cycles of individual capitals, understood as partial movement of the process of reproduction of the total social capital. In fact “the continuity… of the aggregate process is achieved only in the unity of the three circuits.”11 Only “aggregate social capital always has this continuity.”’2 Social capital undergoes precisely what is undergone in “a ramified factory system”, where the process flows with the maximum regularity and uniformity, where the product is constantly in the various stages of its process of formation and constantly passes from one phase of production to anothere”’3
Furthermore, if we take capital as individual capital, the natural form that is assumed by the commodity-product turns out to be altogether irrelevant to the analysis. We are now directly dealing with the process of production of value and with the value of its products. This mode of exposition, however, appears purely formal as soon as we come to consider the total social capital and its value-product. The movement whereby a part of the value of the products is again transformed into capital while another part goes into individual consumption both of the capitalist and of the working class “form a movement within the value of the product itself’ as soon as the result of total capital comes to be expressed in this value: “this movement is not only a replacement of value but also a replacement in material and is therefore as much bound up with the relative proportions of the value-components of the total social product or with their use-value, their material shape.” 14 The value reproduced in the means of production must be at least equal to the constant part of the value of social capital. Thus, e.g., the part of the social work-day that produces means of production produces nothing more than new constant capital, i.e., it produces only a product meant to enter in productive consumption. While the part of the social work-day which produces means of consumption produces only new variable capital and new surplus-value. Better yet, it produces products in whose natural forms arc realized the value of variable capital and surplus-value. Each of these two parts of the social work-day produces and reproduces (and therefore accumulates) constant capital, variable capital and surplus-value of both main sections together, that of the means of production and that of the means of consumption. The work-day, which in the production of individual capital appeared immediately cut into necessary labor and surplus-value, and only mystified in its realization in the form of wage, now appears, in the production of social capital, actually divided between a constant part and a variable part of capital: between production-reproduction of the one and production-reproduction of the other, in each of which is included both production and consumption, means of production and means of consumption, productive consumption and individual consumption. Now the social work-day functions directly within the process of production of social capital. Within this process of production it produces, reproduces, and accumulates new capital; it produces-reproduces and accumulates new labor-power. At this level the division between necessary labor and surplus-labor does not disappear at all: it is simply generalized, i.e., socialized in the total process of capitalist production.
There is a social surplus-labor which is taken from the working class and which ends up by socializing the very existence of surplus-value. But social surplus-value is nothing more than the profit of social capital: it has nothing to do with the super-profits that the thefts of monopolies extract from all the pores of society. It is all a process which has, as its material base and at the same time as its final objective, a maximum degree of socialization of capitalist production, socialization of labor-power and, therefore, socialization of capital. “Speaking of the point of view of society, and therefore considering the aggregate product of society, which comprises both the reproduction of social capital and individual consumption, we must not lapse into the manner copied by Proudhon from bourgeois economy and look upon this matter as though a society with a capitalist mode of production, if reviewed en bloc, as a totality, would lose this its specific historical and economic character. No, on the contrary. We have, in that case, to deal with the aggregate capitalist. The aggregate capital appears as the capital stock of all individual capitalists combined.”15
According to Marx, profit is nothing more than the surplus-value calculated in social capital. Actually, surplus-value and profit are the same thing – quantitatively identical from the masses’ viewpoint. Profit is the mystified form in which surplus-value appears, in the same way that wage is the mystified form in which the value of labor-power appears. It is only in surplus-value that the relation between capital and surplus-value is made clear, “capital appears as relation to itself”‘ 16 What disappears here is the very organic difference between the constant and the variable part of capital: surplus-value confronts only aggregate and indistinct capital. And this process is already accomplished when the process of production and circulation of capital is accomplished, along with the production and realization of surplus-value: when broadened reproduction flows and, therefore, accumulation advances. Yet, there is a point within this process which allows the entire development to make a leap. And it is when the whole of capitalist production comes to produce a general rate of profit and, consequently, an average profit. The fundamental idea of the average profit is based on the principle that “the capital in each sphere of production must share pro rata to its magnitude in the total surplus-value squeezed out of the labourers by the total social capital; or, that every individual capital should be regarded merely as a part of the total social capital, and every capitalist as a shareholder in the total social enterprise.”’7 At this point, the profit that the individual capitalist takes in, is different from the surplus-value that he extracts. At this point profit and surplus-value are actually different magnitudes. Only exceptionally or accidentally does the surplus-value actually produced within a particular sphere of production coincides with the profit contained in the sales price of the commodity.
Already in the simple transformation of surplus-value in profit, “the portion of the value of a commodity forming the profit” is distinguished “from the portion forming its cost-price”. Thus “it is natural that the conception of value should elude the capitalist at this juncture…so that his profit appears to him as something outside the imminent value of the commodity.”18 This appearance receives confirmation, solidity and structure within the historical base which corresponds to the profit of average social capital when all capitals tend to realize, in the prices of the commodities that they produce, not the directly produced particular surplus-value, but the average social profit, i.e., they seek to realize the price of production. Price of production here means cost plus cost multiplied by the average rate of profit (k + kp’ ). In fact, the price of production contains the average profit. Only accidentally or exceptionally, the average profit is determined by the labor not paid and absorbed in an individual sphere of production. Ordinarily, i.e., according to the law, it is determined by the total exploitation of labor, as carried out by total capital. “At a given degree of exploitation, the mark of surplus-value produced in a particular sphere of production is then more important for the aggregate average profit of social capital and then for thus for the capitalist class in general, than for the individual capitalist in any specific branch of production. It is of importance to the latter only in so far as the quantity of surplus-value produced in this branch helps to regulate the average profit.”19 But capitalists and therefore the economists as well, says Marx, certainly do not generally realize the structure of this process. in the same way that they do not specifically realize that “in such crude and meaningful form ”we can glimpse that the value of commodities is determined by the labor contained in them.”20
To a given rate of exploitation of labor there corresponds a given level of capitalist development. Not vice-versa. It is not the intensity of capital that measures the exploitation of workers. On the contrary: it is the determinate historical form of surplus-value that uncovers the ultimate social determination of surplus-value. On the basis of social capital, average profit is no longer simply the phenomenal and mystified form of social surplus-value, it is no longer only the ideological expression whose function is to hide the exploitation of the working class behind the “labor of capital.” The average profit of social capital is an historically well-determined category which follows immediately an advanced process of socialization of capitalist production and immediately precedes a further process of development and of relative stabilisation. It is from the very beginning naturally implicit in the system of capital, yet it intervenes historically not as a specific gradual passage point from one phase of capitalist development to the next but as truly abrupt leap full of dangerous contradictions for the capitalist class and of miraculous possibilities for the labor movement. The history of the successive determinations of capital, i.e., the development of the historical contradictions of capitalism, can offer, in many points and at different levels, the possibility to break the cyclic process of production and reproduction of capitalist social relations. Ana it is not necessarily the case that those possibilities are directly connected to the periods of catastrophic crisis in the system: they can be directly connected to a growing phase of development which creates a positive movement in the whole social texture of production without presupposing that the latter is owned and organized by the capitalist class-without being organically articulated within capitalist development. We must not believe in an absolute self-consciousness, in all the phases of capitalism and of its functionaries. Capital’s self-consciousness is a late acquisition during its maturity.
Lenin wrote that “…the idea of seeking salvation for the working class in anything save the further development of capitalism is reactionary.” 21 The working class suffers more for the shortcomings of capitalist development than capitalism itself. In fact, the bourgeois revolution offers the greatest advantages to the proletariat: in a way, it is “in the highest degree advantageous to the proletariat.” 22 The bourgeois revolution continually reproduces itself within capitalist development. It is the permanent form expressing the growth of productive forces, the solidification of the technological levels, the class-tensions within the relations of production, the system’s growing expansion over all of society, and the ensuing political struggle between capital’s general interest and the capitalists’ particular interests. The bourgeoisie’s politically moderate soul is engaged, throughout the whole course of its history, to give a gradual peaceful form to the continual revolutionary upsets of its own economic mechanism.” It is to the advantage of the bourgeoisie for the bourgeois revolution not to sweep away all the remnants of the past too resolutely, but keep some of them, i.e., for this revolution not to be fully consistent, not complete, and not to be determined and relentless. Social-Democrats often express this idea somewhat differently by stating that the bourgeoisie betrays its own self, that the bourgeoisie betrays the cause of liberty, that the bourgeoisie is incapable of being consistently democratic.” 23 At different levels, the proletariat is called to collaborate in the development. At different levels it must choose the specific form of its political refusal.
There is a point in which it is still the development of capitalist production in itself which can precipitate the capitalist system into a crisis. Labor’s answer can come so immediate as to provoke a high degree of class-struggle, and the coming into being of a revolutionary process that goes behind the system. Thus, the take-off of capitalist society can offer the historical occasion for a revolution with socialist content: if the labor movement finds itself politically better organized than the bourgeoisie. But it would be an error to generalize this movement. We are using it here only to reiterate that a revolutionary rupture of the capitalist system can occur at different levels of capitalist development. We cannot expect that the history of capitalism be concluded, in order to begin to organize the process of its dissolution.
The growing process of capitalist socialisation brings itself to a point in which the production of capital must pose the task of constructing a specific type of social organization. When capitalist production has been generalized to cover all of society-all social production has become capitalist production-only then, on this basis, a truly capitalist society arises as a determinate historical tact. The social character of production has been extended to such a point that the entire society now functions as a moment of production. The sociality of capitalist production can now lead to a particular form of socialization of capital – the social organization of capitalist production. This is the arrival point of a long historical process. In the same way that capitalist production presupposes the generalization of simple mercantile production that only capital-as a specific fact-is able to historically realize, so the formation of a capitalist society presupposes the generalization of specifically capitalist production that only social capital – and the Gesamtprozess of its production-is historically able to realize. In other words, as Marx put it, it is the totality of the capitalists against the individual capitalist. i.e., the totality of the capitalists of any particular sphere of production. Here social capital is not just the total capital of society: it is not the simple sum of individual capitals. It is the whole process of socialization of capitalist production: it is capital itself that becomes uncovered, at a certain level of its development, as social power.
Even in terms of individual capital, capital is a social relation, and the individual capitalist is the personification of this relation: he is a function of his own capital. and the direct expression of his private property. But in terms of social capital, capital comes to represent all capitalists, and the individual capitalist is reduced to an individual personification of this totality: the direct functionary, no longer of his own capital, but of the capitalist class. At this point, the management of the individual enterprise can still remain in the hands of manager, its property is the property of capital and it appears as an objective part of social wealth.
Actually, this social wealth now finds its private proprietor in the figure, itself historically determinate, of the collective capitalist which, on the one hand is the supreme mediation and composition of all particular bourgeois interests, while on the other it is the direct representative of the general social interest for capital. The collective capitalist is the form assumed by power in the hands of social capital-the power of capitalist society upon itself, capital’s self-government, and therefore government of the capitalist class, capitalism’s maximum result and probably the final form of its existence. We must not take seriously the bourgeois arguments concerning State intervention in the economy: at a certain level of development this apparent external intervention is nothing more than a very advanced form of self-regulation of the economic mechanism or, in certain cases, it serves to put back in motion that type of mechanism at a higher level. Capitalist planning itself can be a particular moment within the development of capital. The specific general trait remains the objective historical existence of social capital.
“Under capitalist production it is not merely a matter of obtaining an equal mass of value in another form-be it that of money or some other commodity-for a mass of values thrown into circulation in the form of a commodity, but it is rather a matter of realizing as much surplus-value, or profit, on capital advanced for production, as any other capital of the same magnitude, or pro rata to its magnitude in whichever line it is applied. It is, therefore, a matter, at least as a minimum of selling the commodities at prices which yield the average profit, i.e., of prices of production. In this form capital becomes conscious of itself as a social power in which every capitalist participates proportionally to his share in the total social capital.”24 The particular interest of the individual capitalist, or of capital in a determinate sphere of production reduces, in these conditions, to the possibility of obtaining, in the direct exploitation of its own workers, a particular gain, a profit higher than the average. It practically reduces to the different figures of super-profit, to the various possible forms for extracting a supplementary surplus-value, to the different external movements inherent to the new “mechanism” of oligopolistic competition. Individual enterprises, or entire “privileged” productive activities, along with the propulsive function of the whole system, constantly tend to break from within the total social capital in order to subsequently re-compose it at a higher level. The struggle among capitalists continues, but now it functions directly within the development of capital. Given that 44the average rate of profit depends on the intensity of exploitation of the sum total of labour by the sum total of capital”, then “the individual capitalist, as well as the capitalists as a whole, take direct part in the exploitation of the total working-class by the totality of capital and in the degree of that exploitation, not only out of general class sympathy, but also for direct economic reasons.”25 Thus, all individual capitalists-all the particular spheres of capital-are directly interested in the productivity of social labor activated by collective capital. In fact, it is from this productivity that depend on the one hand, the mass of use-value in which average profit expresses itself and on the other, the sum of value of total anticipated capital that determines the rate of profit. The development of labor’s social productivity not accidentally manifests itself in two ways: in the grown absolute magnitude of the already accumulated productive labor, and in the relative diminution of the part of living labor required for mass production.
The two processes are organically complementary: intensification of accumulation and concentration of capital.’… the mass of profit increases in spite of its slower rate with the growth of the invested capital. However, this requires a simultaneous concentration of capital. .. it also requires its centralization, i.e., the swallowing up of the small capitalist by the big and their deprivation of capital.”26 The concentration is now the specific form in which expropriation is expressed, i.e., the ulterior separation of working conditions from the producers. “The labour of a capitalist stands altogether in inverse proportion to the size of his capital, i.e., to the degree in which he is a capitalist.”27 But this division between the working conditions on the one hand, and the producers on the other is precisely what constitutes the historical notion of capital. At this level, the process of decapitalization does nothing more than confirms the development of capital.
Expropriation is now extended from the direct producers to the individual capitalists themselves. To expropriate the single individuals of their means of production is the point of departure of the mode of capitalist production. But it also becomes its end when the private means of production present themselves, and can only present themselves as means of production in the hands of associated producers. Thus, capitalist expropriation presents itself as appropriation of social property on the part of few individuals. “The capital, which in itself rests on a social mode of production and presupposes a social concentration of means of production and labour-power, is here directly endowed with the form of social capital (capital of directly associated individuals) as distinct from private capital, and its undertakings assume the form of social undertakings as distinct from private undertakings. It is the abolition of capital as private property within the framework of capitalist production itself” 28 The capitalist is transformed into a simple agent and administrator of someone else’s capital. Thus, property appears as separated from its function and hence also labour is entirely divorced from ownership of means of production and surplus-value.”29 Hence, profit appears directly as the appropriation of someone else’s surplus-value. “This result of the ultimate development of capitalist production is necessary transitional phase towards the reconversion of capital into the property of producers, although no longer as the private property of the producers, but rather as the property of associated producers, as outright social property.” 30 This is the form assumed by the annihilation of capitalist private industry in terms of the capitalist system: “This is the abolition of the capitalist mode of production within the capitalist mode of production within the capitalist mode of production itself, and hence a self-dissolving contradiction.. . It is private production without the control of private property.”31 At this point, capital altogether ceases to appear as the property of direct producers, gives up many of its earlier mystified forms, divests itself of some of its more evident ideological clothes-true paleo-capitalist bourgeois left-overs. The very same process of socialization of labor becomes directly embodied, without mediations, in the total production of social capital. And capital appears as a social force of production directly in the form of private property of large capitalists. “Thus grows the power of capital, the alienation of the conditions of social production personified in the capitalists from the real producers. Capital comes more and more to the fore as a social power, whose agent is the capitalist. This social power no longer stands in any possible relation to that which the labour of a single individual can create.”32 Thus, capital raises itself to the level of a “general social power,” while the capitalist is reduced to the level of a simple agent, functionary, or emissary of this power-no longer its own representative, but the direct commissar with limited power. The fetishism of capital has practically won.
Everyone knows that the modern bourgeois political group turns out to be increasingly of direct capitalist extraction and that, on this path, and not through the history of political thought, it is possible to catch the real transformations that have taken place in the structure of the State. The petty-bourgeois fear of the anonymous power of the technicians now reflects only the survival of backward sectors of capitalist development. For its part, big capital seeks only to give a political content to technocratic power. In fact, it is unlikely that the slow and just death of representative democracy marks a simultaneous extinction of the political power of the ruling class: actually it marks only a reform of the state, a modernization of its structures, an adjustment to its new specific functions which will increasingly have to respect the production schemes of whatever industrial machine. Clearly, power will become increasingly unified at the top, and only as such, will it be able to decentralize and be articulated at the base. As in every modern rational enterprise worth its salt, decisions must be assigned to all, but the power to decide must be left only to one. Thus, political power becomes unified and homogeneous at all levels, from the enterprise of the individual capitalist, to the State of the whole people. Only at this point does the class dictatorship of capital become truly democratic: it receives the sanction of popular sovereignty and immediately applies it within its own industrial apparatus. Because of its intrinsic contradictions, it will not be able to reach it, yet the final objective of capitalism always remains capital’s self-government, democracy directed no longer by small proprietors, but by large capitalists, with the sovereign population reduced to the level of labor-power and capital-as-a-fetish erected to a political State within its very society.
In order to be understood, a specifically capitalist society must be itself seen as an historical product of the development of capital. There is a level of the process of socialization of capital which materially explodes the need for a rational organization of society. The growing rationalization of the productive process must now be extended to the entire network of social relations. It is no longer sufficient for capitalist production as such to come to cover the entire territory of bourgeois society. It is its specific characteristics, the historically attained level of capital’s production, its particular internal organization, which must now mark the general organization of society until it repeats on the level of capitalist society and evaluated to the maximum, the initial relation which pitted the individual capitalist on the one hand against the single worker on the other. The same relation must now reappear and obtain on the level of social classes. It is an objective requirement of capitalist production, on the level of social capital, to recuperate a real general terrain of the class-struggle. In fact, only through this recuperation can the class-struggle be consciously regulated and organized within the plan of capital. We have already seen how the labor struggle has always objectively functioned as a dynamic moment of capitalist development. Yet, it can be said that only on this level it can be rationally foreseen and utilized in the total process of production of social capital. Thus, the tension between capital and labor becomes a “legal institution of society,” and all the institutions which guarantee an orderly bourgeois development of particular labor claims can be legally recognized in their full autonomy. The very organizations of workers acquire a decisive importance for the social interests of capital. There is a time in which modern capital cannot do without a modern union, in the factory, in society, and directly in the state. The political integration of the labor party within the absurd antedeluvian forms of bourgeois parliament, becomes itself a secondary moment of mediation, in order to arrive at the true organic integration of labor unions within the programmed development of capitalist society. From here, again, follows the whole restructuring which invests the general form of power, in the search for a different difficult equilibrium between the growing requirement of a centralization of decisions and the need for an effective decentralization of the functions of collaboration and control: a tendential unity of authority and pluralism, of central direction and of local autonomy, with political dictatorship and an economic democracy, an authoritarian state and a democratic society. True, at this point there is no longer capitalist development without a capitalist plan. But there cannot be a plan of capital without social capital. It is the capitalist society which, by itself, programs its own development. And this is precisely democratic planning.
Almost toward the end of the first volume of Capital Marx writes: “And as we pre-supposed the limits set by capitalist production, that is to say, pre-supposed the process of social production in a form developed by purely spontaneous growth, we neglected any more rational combination, directly any systematically practicable with the means of production, and the mass of labour-power at present disposable.”33 Clearly, today we can no longer carry out this same type of abstraction. Marx himself abandoned it when he went on to analyze the total process of capitalist production. Certainly, the limitations of this production must always be considered as given. Today, it is not a matter of rediscovering, after decades of absolute faith in the process of deterioration of capitalism, a similarly absolute faith in the objective rationality of this system. That all is well is certainly not what the modern capitalist believes, even with his science. It is believed, however, by our neo-reformist ideologists, always with their soul in crisis: pure economists, applied sociologists, technicians of the labor movement and Marxist philosophers-all these who are against the system, but who do not know what to do in order to fight it. In fact, in all of their recollections of capitalism, they regularly forget the working class.
“…The entire capitalist mode of production is only a relative one, whose barriers are not absolute. They are absolute only for this mode, i.e., on its basis.”34 “Capitalist production seeks continually to overcome these immanent barriers, but overcomes them only by means which again place these barriers in its way and on a more formidable scale.”35 Everyone knows that historically capitalism appears, from the very beginning, as a system of contradictions: its internal development is the development of its contradictions. And even when the process of social production no longer takes on a natural and spontaneous garb, but rather, takes the opposite, a rational and planned form, even then the articulate system of production, from the single factory to the height of the State, poses itself as the tendentially systematic organization of frightening irrationalities. The anarchy of capitalist production is not cancelled: it is simply socially organized. When the emphasis is posed always and only on the moment of development, and here even on a planned development of capital, it is an attempt to consciously react to that long religious contemplation of the general crisis of capitalism which now has totally reversed itself in a profane imitation of its prodigious technical model of social development. This second attitude is the direct historical result of the first. The opportunistic empiricism that today dominates the international labor movement is the natural offspring of Stalin’s scientific opportunism. The only way to re-undertake a correct discourse concerning capitalist society is to rediscover the actual concrete possibilities of the workers’ revolution. On the other hand, these possibilities can only materially arise from the necessary development of capitalist production. Without doubt, the active side within the economic relation must be again revaluated: the conscious revolutionary activity of the organized proletariat must be re-examined in the same way that Lenin did before 1917. In addition, this organization of the revolution must be located within an historically determined moment of capitalist development as its external consequence and, at the same time, its internal contradiction: as Marx did in Capital. It is not an accident that our sectarianism dogmatically departs only from these texts.
On the level of maximum capitalist stabilization, the plan of capital can also come to socially organize the natural tendency of its production. In other words, it is possible for a social plan of capitalist production to come into being directly from the materially objective existence of a social capital. Yet, it remains unchanged for the whole trajectory of the historical existence of a socio-economic formation of a capitalist kind that “…the cohesion of the aggregate production imposes itself as a blind law upon the agents of production, and not as law which, being understood and hence controlled by their common mind, brings the productive process under their joint control.”36 It is rather a matter of seeing specifically how, on the level of social capital, the internal nexus of total production presents itself, and how and why it always poses itself again as a “blind law” in the eyes of the very collective capitalist who fails thereby to harness it, once and for all, to his direct control. The internal nexus of total production is now directly given by social class-relations which contrapose the capitalist society on the one hand to the working-class on the other’. The national contract now engages the individual worker-or the workers of a particular sphere of production-no longer against the respective individual capitalists, but against a certain type of general development of social capital. The articulated contracting is, in this sense, nothing more than a normal pluralistic structure-a guarantee of that orderly pull toward the efficiency of the individual enterprises and of the entire system, which always comes from the trade-union activity of the workers. Unions are typical democratic institutions of capitalist planning. Yet, these very movements of capital, camouflaged and hidden in labor demands reveal, as a fundamental material fact, the growing process of socialization no longer only of capital on the one hand and labor on the other, but of the very general social relation which immediately contraposes them within the process of production. It is the growing generalization and socialization of the class-struggle which arises from immediate needs of production and reproduction of social capital.
“Reproduction on a progressive scale, i.e accumulation, reproduces the capital-relation on a progressive scale, more capitalists or larger capitalists at this pole, more wage-workers at that…this reproduction of labour-power forms, in fact, an essential of the reproduction of capital itself. Accumulation of capital is, therefore, increase of the proletariat”37 It is true that the division of labor grows at the same time and, on this basis, its social productive power also grows-along with the possibility of engaging various forms of economy of labor. But accumulation, and with it the concentration of capital, also represents a material means to increase productivity. Then, the increased mass of means of production, meant to be transformed into capital, must always have at hand, in order to exploit it, a proportionately increased working population. Only the absolute increase of the mass of surplus-value makes possible the increase of the absolute mass of profits. The simultaneous relative decrease of the variable part of capital with respect to the constant part provokes only, and partly, the fall of the rate of profit. On the one hand we have the growth of the absolute mass of profit and the relative fall of the rate of profit, because, on the other, we have the absolute increase of surplus-value and relative decrease of variable capital. “The law of the progressive falling rate of profit, or the relative decline of appropriated surplus-labour compared to the mass of materialized labour set in motion by living labour, does not rule out in any way that the absolute mass of exploited labour set in motion by the social capital, and consequently the absolute mass of the surplus-labour it appropriates, may grow; nor, that the capitals controlled by individual capitalists may dispose of a growing mass of labour and, hence, of surplus-labour, the latter even though the number of labourers they employ does not increase.”38 Further on Marx will say: this not only can, but must happen within capitalist production. In other words, it must happen that there be a growing mass of labour and surplus-value in the absolute sense, so that the relative decrease of living labor with respect to objectified labor does not affect, in substance, the increase of the mass of profit and therefore the process of accumulation of capital.
In fact, if it is true that the quantity of additional living labor decreases, it is also true that the non-paid part of the social working day increases with respect to the paid part: surplus-value increases with respect to necessary labor along with relative surplus-value and, therefore, the absolute exploitation of labor. The progress of capitalist exploitation always serves as the material base of capital’s development. Then, it is only the process of socialization of exploitation that allows capital to organize itself on the social level. This is why the very broadened reproduction of social capital must reproduce on a broadened scale capitalist social relations. Reproduction and accumulation of social capital must reproduce and accumulate labor-power itself as a social class.
Individual capital, i.e., each fragment of social capital that operates in an autonomous way and as if it had a life of its own, can give to its product whatever natural form. The only condition is that this natural form has a use-value. It is indifferent and altogether accidental that the produced means of production enters anew as such in the process of production and that, therefore, constant capital is immediately reproduced in its natural form. What happens with the product of total social capital is something different. Here the part of constant capital produced reappears in the natural form of new means of production which must again function as constant capital. “All the material elements of reproduction must in their bodily form constitute parts of this product.”39 Now, if it is true that variable capital, considered according to value, is equal to the value of labor-power, it is also true that, considered according to its matter, it becomes identified with labor-power itself-with living labor put in motion. On the level of social capital, the material element of variable capital cannot be represented other than in its immediate natural form, as social labor-power. The individual reproduction of the single worker is no longer sufficient. A social reproduction of the collective workers becomes necessary, i.e., the brute survival of labor-power as such is no longer sufficient: what is needed is a process of accumulation of labor-power for social capital. Now, labor-power must reappear in that real natural form which is its social nature: variable capital must directly re-enter the process of capitalist production as working class. There is a long historical moment in which the production of capital finds itself caught in this necessity. All of the processes of rational decomposition of concrete labor which tend to destroy the abstract possibility of its own social organization, find an objective limit in the material necessity of subsequently regaining labor-power itself as an autonomous social force within capital. The apparent “decomposition” of capital and labor, each in its own field, is only the specific form assumed by the process of real internal unification, each in its own terrain, of the capitalist and of the working class.
Collective capital now needs to have before itself collective labor for the economic calculation of its own planned development. Furthermore, it needs to see it not mystified by its own exclusive class interests and not implicated in its own dominating class ideology: hence the need to know labor through the workers and of calculating total labor through the figure of the collective worker. Social capital is forced to socialize the very knowledge of social labor. The single capital, with its limited perspective, comes to see that its profit now does not come only from the labor expanded by him or by his branch of production, and that average profit is different from immediate surplus-value. But “to what extent this profit is due to the aggregate exploitation of labour on the part of the total social capital, i.e., by all his capitalist colleagues-this interrelation is a complete mystery to the individual capitalist; all the more so, since no bourgeois theorists, the p6litical economists, have so far revealed it.”40
At a certain level of development of capital it is no longer only the worker but the capitalist himself who must fight against the appearance of its relations of production. He must come to tear the veil from the phenomena in order to catch the essence and the intrinsic nature of its own process. This is the source of the need for science within capital: when capital realizes that it is a social force. At this stage the simple scientific substance of economic relations is no longer sufficient: what is needed are the very economic relations scientifically organized. And it is almost useless to warn that even this is a tendentious formula which aims at catching only a side of the problem, in order to identity a basic tendency that guides the process. We have already indicated that the capitalist system will never succeed in reaching a perfect objective rationality of its mechanism of development. Now, here we claim that it aims at this as its maximal program. This is precisely the aim of the science of capital: its actual attempt to demystify the social process of capitalist production by rationalizing the form and by programming the content of capitalist development. Everything confirms this: the pure theoretician of the capitalist economy today is the modern bourgeois political man: the planning theoretician is identical with the practical programmer. Furthermore, there is a politics of planning, but there is no theory of planning. The best approximation to a theory of planning is given by the techniques of programming. Which does not mean, then, that there is no longer a bourgeois thought: on the contrary, it means that bourgeois thought is now wholly integrated within capital, it functions as an internal mechanism of its development, and no longer serves to justify from outside the present forms of capitalist power. This last function is directly discharged by the traditional organizations of the labor movement. When science is about to pass within social capital, the ideology risks of remaining in the hands of the single worker, i.e., in the hands of the disorganized labor movement. True: neo-capitalist ideologies do not immediately derive from the only center of power of big capital. As practical mediation, they need to pass through the research institutes of labor unions. In a capitalist society which develops on the basis of a socially organized capital, neo-capitalist ideologies correspond to a capitalist organization of the labor movement. It is not true that at this point there is no longer a working class: there is a working class organized by capital.
A long series of bothersome questions arise at this level. Up to what point can the fundamental contradiction between the social character of production and the private appropriation of the product be investigated and affected by capitalist development? Does not a specific form of social appropriation of the private product hide in the process of socialization of capital? Hasn’t the very sociality of production become the most important objective mediation of private property? And how can a mediation contradict what it mediates? How can a bourgeois sociality of the productive process precipitate into a crisis the capitalist appropriation of the product? In other words, how can a capitalist society come into contradiction with the process of production of capital? When the relation of production has become generalized to the level of a general social relation, when all of bourgeois society is reduced to the level of a moment of capitalist production, the very social character of production can be regained within the mechanism of reproduction of private capitalist property. At this point, the whole objective mechanism functions within the subjective plan of the collective capitalist. Social production becomes a direct function of private property. Society’s general representative is now truly social capital. In the social relation of production, society’s announcer is no longer the working class, but directly capital. The general social interest remains entirely in the hands of capital. To the workers remains nothing more than their partial class interest. Then, on the one hand we have capital’s social self-government, and on the other the class self-government of organized workers.
Thus, the concept of working class comes into being only in this historically concrete level. It becomes articulated in its specific particularity, and develops in all the wealth of its determinations. Hence, the simplest social abstraction of a capitalist economic formation, which, therefore, obtains for all the successive forms of its development, appears practically true in this abstraction only as a category of the more modern forms of capitalism. The more capitalist production attacks and dissolves its external contradictions, the more it is forced to unveil its internal contradictions. The more capital succeeds in organizing itself, The more it is forced to organize for itself the working class, up to the point that the working class need no longer be the mirror of all social contradictions: it can directly reflect itself as a social contradiction.
And it is useless to pull out of the archives magic words in order to exorcise this vision. Workeritis (operaismo) can also be a real danger when wage-workers are a net minority within the working classes. But is this possible even within a process which tends to reduce everyone who works to a worker? True, in order not to reject the old strategy, new allies of the working class are invented: the place left empty by the exterminated masses of poor peasants are filled by the refined elites of the new middle classes. Thus, the workers simultaneously get rid of any sectarian temptation and any socialist perspective. Capitalists know this well: the real generalization of the workers’ conditions can introduce the appearance of its formal extinction. It is on this basis that the specific concept of labor’s power is immediately absorbed in the generic concept of popular sovereignty: the political mediation here serves to allow the explosive content of labor’s productive force to function peacefully within the beautiful forms of the modern relation of capitalist production. Because of this, at this level, when the working class politically refuses to become people, it does not close, but opens the most direct way to the socialist revolution.
Here it is necessary to re-examine the abstraction of the category of “labor.” It requires a special analysis. For now, the following elementary considerations are sufficient. Labor “in general” marks the attained indifference toward a kind of determinate labor and at the same time presupposes a very developed totality of real kinds of labor. The two processes are closely connected. The more particular labor becomes concrete, the more easily it is to abstract from it labor in general. “The most general abstractions come about only where there is the richest development of the concrete.” It is not by accident that Marx returns to discuss labor in these terms when he deals with the process of levelling of the general rate of profit, through competition. Along with the almost spontaneous mobility of capital here intervenes a mobility guided by labor-power. Labor-power not only can, but must be thrown as fast as possible from one sphere of production to another, from a productive locality to another. There is no capitalist development without a high degree of social mobility of workers’ labor-power. There is no planning of development without programming the mobility, which requires “indifference of the labourer to the nature of his labour; the greatest possible reduction of labour in all spheres of production to simple labour; the elimination of all vocational prejudices among labourers; and last but not least, a subjugation of the labourer to the capitalist mode of production.” 41 Here also, the decisive trait is the subordination of workers to the capitalist mode of production. The indifference of the worker to the nature of his labor-the simple labor of the worker increasingly reduced to simple labor, the professional prejudices repudiated by the workers-are not themselves forms of workers’ subordination: they are forms of capitalist exploitation. It is the difference between exploitation and Unterwerfung. Everyone knows, because it is a pretty obvious fact, that within the capitalist mode of production workers certainly are always exploited, but they are never submitted.
The workers’ insubordination can proceed step by step with capitalist exploitation catching, from time to time, the specific ways in which the two processes go together. For example, it is clear that today it is a matter of recognizing and cultivating all the positive content hidden and mystified within the so-called processes of alienation. If this corrupted word still has a meaning, it is only that of expressing a specifically determined form of direct exploitation of labor on the part of capital: total estrangement of labor with respect to the worker; useful, concrete labor which becomes objectively estranged, external and indifferent to the worker; the end of the trade, of the profession, of this last appearance of individual independence of the worker, the extreme survival of a bourgeois person in the body of the worker. Then, the positive content of alienation is not only the very positive content of capitalist exploitation, taken as the moment in which the answer of labor’s antagonism becomes conscious and organized. The process of a total estrangement of labor coincides with its most complete objectification within the process of production of capital. It is only when labor is totally objectified within capitalist production, that the existence of the working class becomes specifically contradictory within the system of capital. Not only the product of labor, not only the instruments of production, but all the conditions of labor must become objective in the person of capital-and they must, therefore, be torn from the subjectivity of the simple worker, if they are to be subsequently regained as enemies of the collective worker. The simple worker must become indifferent to his own labor so that the working class can come to hate it. Within the class, only the “alienated” worker is truly revolutionary. In fact, there is a moment in which the capitalist is the one who directly comes to the defense of the worker’s “personality.” Only in its generically human figure can labor-power voluntarily submit itself to capital. Only as human needs do workers’ demands become freely accepted by the capitalist. It is the point in which the worker definitely discovers the “cult of man” as a bourgeois sham.
There are no rights outside of capital. The workers no longer have to defend even the “rights of labor” for, at this level, the rights of labor are the same as those of capital. The trade-union arid the union struggle cannot by themselves get outside of the system and are destined to be inevitably part of its development. The interests of capital are no longer corporate: only the interests of labor outside of capital arc. A trade union which, as such, i.e., without party and without the political organization of the class, pretends to be autonomous from the plan of capital, succeeds only in attaining the most perfect form of integration of the working class within capitalism. Modern unionism, i.e., the party as the transmission belt of the trade-union, is the highest form of capitalist reformism. It is the way in which the objective need of capitalist production of regaining the real political terrain of the class struggle is overrun and at the same time utilized within the subjective initiative of capital. There are no doubts about this. If someone pretends to interpret this in economistic and objectivistic terms he has understood nothing of it. “In purely economic terms, i.e., from the bourgeois viewpoint,” says Marx, in order to indicate that within the terrain of economic competition with the capitalist, the workers are systematically defeated: on this ground they have no other choice than to improve the conditions of their own exploitation. When we purposely keep silent about the traditional objective contradictions of the system to the point of making them disappear altogether within its specific mechanism of development, the aim is to consciously regain the true discourse concerning the workers-which is a political discourse concerning political organization and political power. And this, too, must be done in a newly determinate sense. When science itself is objectified within capital, socialism is in turn forced to become again scientific. Insurrection as a work of art only now turns into a science of revolution. Thus, a true workers’ planning of the revolutionary process must and can be an answer to the programming that social capital makes of its own development. True, it is not enough to ideally contrapose the plan of capital: it is necessary to know how to utilize it materially. And this is impossible other than by contraposing to the economic program of capitalist development a political plan of labors’ answers. Nowadays both capital and labor, each in its own field, see very far and plan in terms of a long perspective. It is a matter of strategy against strategy: the tactic should be left to the bureaucrats of the two camps.
As we have already indicated, the working class must consider as a privileged fact the existence of capital, it must evaluate the successive forms of its development and altogether materially anticipate them in an antagonistic form within its own organization. Then, within the very process of socialization of capital, in the course of the development leading social capital to become the representative of the general interest, the working class is forced to begin to organize its own partial interest and directly manage its own particular power. When capital is unveiled as a social force, and upon this basis it gives rise to a capitalist society, it does not leave any alternative to the working class other than opposing itself to this whole sociality of capital. Workers no longer have to contrapose the ideal of a true society to the false society of capital: they no longer have to release and dilute themselves within the general social relation. They can now re-find and re-discover their own class as an anti-social revolutionary force. Today, without possibility of mediation, the whole society of capital stands in front of the working-class. The relation is finally reversed: the only thing that the general interest cannot mediate within itself is the irreducible partiality of the workers’ interest. Hence, we have the bourgeois call to social reason against the sectorial demands of the workers. The same relation that exists, at a certain level, between social capital and the single capitalists is sought between capital and labor: as functionaries put it, an always “dialectical” relationship. In fact, when collective labor agrees to reasonably participate in the general development, it ends up by functioning as just another part of collective social capital. On this road the only thing attainable is the most balanced and rational development of all of capital. It is at this point that the working class must instead consciously organize itself as an irrational element within the specific rationality of capitalist production. The growing rationalization of modern capital must find an insurmountable limit in the workers refusal to political integration within the economic development of the system. Thus, the working class becomes the only anarchy that capitalism fails to socially organise. The task of the labor movement is to scientifically organize and politically manage this labor anarchy within capitalist production. On the model of the society organized by capital, the labor party itself can only be the organization of anarchy no longer within, but outside of capital, i.e., outside of its development.
But we must be more specific it is not a matter of creating chaos within the productive process. It is a matter of “organizing the systematic disorganization of production” and this is what is meant by neo- anarcho-syndicalism. And it is altogether unnecessary to hide behind this absurd left-over, the totally new perspectives which only today are opening up for, the class-struggle. Nor must we on the other hand, contrapose a workers management to a capitalist management of the modern industrial enterprise or of the “productive center.” First of all there is no productive center by itself, and we only have the capitalist industrial enterprise. Secondly, the workers happily leave the management of this enterprise to the owners in the same way that they leave to the collective capitalist the general management of society while holding themselves only the political self-management of their own class power which starts from the factory and seeks to reach the State. The simple request of real political labor power, autonomous and distinct from real bourgeois political power, is now able to precipitate into a crisis the economic mechanism of the system thus preventing it from functioning. There is the point where the whole discourse reverses itself. It is the material base upon which all that is a function of capital acquires the possibility of becoming directly functional to the revolution against capital From labor’s viewpoint, the integral control of the social process becomes all the more possible as capital becomes social capital. Labor’s articulation of the entire capitalist mechanism now unveils itself at the center of the system as the arbiter of its further development or of its definitive crisis. The internal planning of the factory and the programming of capitalist development, i.e., the bourgeois knowledge of the process of production can be utilized in a form antagonistic to the system and instrumentalised for revolutionary goals. Science itself within capital can become the woof of a unitary re-composition of working class thought thus provoking by force a theory of the revolution wholly integrated within the working class. Thus, even the shop and sectorial integration of labour-power becomes an instrument of direct knowledge of the productive apparatus on the part of workers and the recognition of the determinate form that capitalist exploitation assumes at this level. The techniques of economic integration tried by the owner-an objective need of the production of capital become tools of political control over capital, thus means of workers’ self-management.
An insubordinate use of integration becomes possible. Concretely, this is the revolutionary use of capitalist development. Only at this point the organized labor movement can and therefore must continually overthrow the instruments of domination of capital into means of insubordination of labor thus coercing through violence the objective needs of capitalist production to function as subjective instances of revolutionary workers.
The theoretical formulation of a total revolutionary strategy on this level is no longer only possible, but becomes absolutely necessary for the foundation of the very revolutionary process. The objective anarchy of the working class within capitalism must now express itself at the highest level of consciousness. None of its elements can any longer be abandoned to spontaneity: everything points back to a scientific prediction of the revolution and to its consequent rigorous organization. Spontaneism belongs always and only to the “masses” in a general sense: never to the workers of large factories. Working people often love to explode in unforeseen acts of disorderly protest. Not so with the working class: the people have only their own rights to defend while the working-class must demand power. Thus it demands, first of all, that the struggle for power be organized. No one is more inclined than us today to wholly accept the Leninist thesis: “In its struggle for power the working class has only one weapon: organization.” Workers do not move unless they feel themselves to be organized, i.e., if they do not know that they are armed in the struggle. They are serious people: they never seek self-destruction. They are a social class of producers and not a group of miserable oppressed. Today they will not move unless they have a revolutionary plan which is explicitly organized. Party programs are useless: revolutionary strategy must not be confused with certain areas of demands. It is not a matter of contracting today the individual points in order to subsequently challenge tomorrow the whole of power. It is exactly the opposite: the demand for power must precede everything. Only in this fashion is everything organized for the conquest of power. The dominating class must be immediately challenged concerning political domination: subsequently it is also possible to contract with it regarding the ground of the struggle.
The first step always remains the regaining of an irreducible workers’ partiality against the entire social system of capital. Nothing will take place without class hatred: neither the elaboration of the theory, nor the practical organization. Only from a rigorously working-class viewpoint will the total movement of capitalist production be comprehended and utilized as a particular moment of the workers’ revolution. Only one-sidedness, in science and in struggle, opens the way both to the understanding of everything and to its destruction. Any attempt to assume the general interest, every temptation to stop at the level of social science, will only serve to better inscribe the working class within the development of capital. The class-based political action of the workers could also eliminate the problem of sectarianism. It is the working class’ thought which must be sectarian, i.e., it must become part of an organic system of new power organised in new revolutionary forms. No more illusions are possible: at the level of a developed capitalism it is not possible to continue to follow the movement of capital other than in organization of a decisive class struggle against the whole capitalist society. The Marxist analysis of capitalism will not go forward any more unless it finds a working class theory of revolution. And the latter will be useless if it will not be embodied in real material forces. And this will not exist for society other than when they will be politically organized in a class against it Hence, the impasse in which the discourse is caught when it wants to be sectarian but complete: between the will to calmly start looking for the objective reasons guiding a long historical process, and the necessity to immediately find the subjective forces which organize in order to overthrow it. We have on the one hand the patience of research and on the other the urgency of the answer. The theoretical vacuum in the middle is a vacuum of political organization. There is a right to experiment, which is the only one to be practically vindicated up to that point everything will take place in a rapid clash between immediately contradictory concepts. We are forced to jump ahead. We do without mediation because of our hatred for opportunism.
We must go back now to see concretely what is wage labor at the highest level of capital, how is the working-class composed at the maximum level of development of capitalism what is its material internal organization and why and under what conditions it can come to materialize a revolutionary process directly grounded in the working class, and therefore, socialist. The above is nothing more than the general premise of this specific discourse. Everything is yet to be sought. Up to now we only have “the attempt of a dissolution and the hint of a synthesis…”
Telos, No. 17, Fall 1973.
* This is a chapter of Tronti’s Operai e Capitale (Turin, 1971), pp.60-85. For an introduction to Tronti, see Telos, no.14 (Winter, 1972), pp.23-24. 1.Karl Marx, Capital vol.11 (Moscow, 1957), p.351.
16.Karl Marx, Capital, vol.111, edited by F. Engels (Moscow, 1962), p.48.
20.Ibid., p. 169.
21.Lenin, Collected Works, vol. IX, (Moscow, 1972), p.49.
24.Marx, CapitaL vol.111, op.cit., p.191.
33.Marx, Capital, vol. I, op.cit.. p.609.
34.Marx, Capital vol.111, op.cit.. p.252.
36.Ibid., pp. 251-252.
37.Marx, Capital, vol. I, op.cit., pp.613-614.
38. Marx, Capital, vol.111, op.cit, p.212.
39.Marx, Capital, vol.11, op.cit.. p.432.
40.Marx, Capital, VOl.111, op.cit.. p.167.