This text, an introduction to TC, was written for a group of 'young Lyonnais' carrying out a 'theoretical reflection on the German and Italian Lefts' and was published in TC 14.
The fundamental problem to which all theoretical production must return, that must be confronted and to which it must find a resolution, is the following: how can the proletariat – acting strictly as a class of the capitalist mode of production, in its contradiction with capital within this mode of production – abolish capital, therefore all classes and therefore itself; that is to say, produce communism?
The genealogy of this question leads us back to the heritage of the 'Lefts' and principally the German-Dutch Left. We could of course go back to Marx, or to Bakunin in his controversy with the latter, and to certain anarchist theoreticians. We will see further on why the so-called Italian Left did not consider the necessity of this question.
The essential problem which TC confronted since its beginning in 1975 (before then we published the review Intervention Communiste – of which 2 numbers and several bulletins appeared, and some of us participated in Les Cahiers du Communisme de Conseils, edited in Marseille from '68 to '73) is that which, remaining within the perspective of the class, poses the production of communism as the abolition of capital and thus of classes, and the transcendence of all existing categories in which the one and the other define themselves: exchange, value, the State, the existence of classes as particularisation of the community , division of work, property, wage-labour, accumulation, productive forces, existence and therefore management of the economy. Communism is not the workers management of this mode of production, the conscious taking hold of its contradictions, taking up the development the productive forces where capitalism itself is unable to continue. With no presupposition to be reproduced, communism is not a mode of production; it is not even a society in the sense of a totality encompassing the relations that individuals define among themselves in their singularity . Communism is that which the proletariat finds in itself the capacity to produce, abolishing capital and itself in the process.
If we situate ourselves within the 'heritage' of the German-Dutch Left, it is necessary however to explain the dynamic of this inheritance. To align oneself with this 'heritage' does not mean repeating this or that invariant position of the KAPD or AAUD, or of theoreticians such as Gorter, Pannekoek or Rühle. Nor does it mean just taking the best from the ensemble of positions; the importance is the theoretical system, the problematic.
The German revolution found its most successful theoretical expression in the production and organisational practice of the Lefts, across the expanding multitude of schisms and regroupments. The Lefts express on one hand the achievement of a long cycle of past struggles (since 1871, and even 1848), and on the other the breakdown of this cycle. Nevertheless, from the content of the class struggle and even in its defeat, from the fashion in which the Lefts explained this content and theorised this defeat, they practically and theoretically opened a new period, a new structuring of the class struggle.
The cycle of struggles that produced the German revolution of 1918-1923 is that of revolution and communism as affirmation of the class. The proletariat sets itself up as the dominant class, inaugurates a period of transition and takes in hand the development of the productive forces and the historical achievements of capitalism in its all its contradictions. This is the 'society of associated producers' described by Marx in Capital, the measures of the Communist Manifesto of 1848 or of the Critique of the Gotha Program. The strengthening of the party (of which the notion and even the existence are linked to this structuring of class struggle), union agitation, constitutional and social reforms, parliamentarism, all point to this 'apotheosis' of the proletariat as the new ruling class; and the premises of the revolution, and the revolution itself, are read in the light of this empowerment of the class within the capitalist mode of production. In fact, reformism, within the perspective of revolution as affirmation of the class, is intrinsic to the process of class struggle itself. It is not a matter of error, of deviance from any orthodoxy. That the proletariat poses the revolution as its own affirmation, its road to the ruling class, and the generalisation of its condition to society as a whole; that its empowerment at the interior of the existing mode of production were the royal road of this affirmation; that this may even be confused with the reinforcement of capital itself: this all depends on the way in which the class contradiction structures itself in this historical phase of the capitalist mode of production that we qualify, taking up the periodisation of Marx, as the formal subsumption of labour under capital.
Put simply, in this phase capital is an external constraint from which the proletariat must liberate itself. This is the liberation of work, which could still appear as really different from wage labour, that is to say as the self-representation of wage labour to the degree that it poses itself as able to be liberated. But by the same token, it is the revolution and communism which are impossible, not because for all eternity the revolution is something else but because the affirmation of the class, and the process that it necessitates at the interior of capitalism, when posed practically in the class struggle find in the reproduction of capital their necessity and their existence, and their intrinsic limit in the development of capital itself – the form necessarily taken by the empowerment of the class and its organisation.
In effect, from the moment when the passage to real subsumption has been largely carried through (end of the 19th century), the autonomous affirmation of the class enters into contradiction with its empowerment within capitalism, in that this is more and more the self-movement of the reproduction of capital itself. At the same time this affirmation can only find there its foundation, the definition of its objectives and its raison d'être. The general crisis of social democracy – not just German – is the social, political and theoretical manifestation of this dynamic. Revolution as affirmation functions on a mutually determining duality of terms historically developing as an opposition between the autonomous affirmation of the class and its empowerment in the capitalist mode of production. The basic terms of the opposition had until 1871 been able to coexist in the workers movement more or less amicably, but this was no longer the case. The German revolution and therefore the German Left found itself ambushed by this situation: the autonomous affirmation of the proletariat confronted what is was in capital, what it had become; it confronted its own class power as class of the capitalist mode of production. The revolution as affirmation of the class confronts its own negation (the counter revolution is intrinsically linked to it) in that which is its essential determination. One speaks of the 'tragedy' of the German revolution and the expression would almost be just if it didn't imply an internal contradiction of the class (the dual constraint of the tragic hero). The power of the class as class of this capitalist mode of production is in fact that of capital under which this power is always subsumed, for by definition capital really makes it its own, as its movement. In the period of real subsumption of labour under capital, the empowerment of the class, in which labour poses itself as the essence of capital, is confounded with capital's own development. It can then, from the First World War onwards, propose itself for the position of management of capital; it can become in such a way the acute form of the counter-revolution. In recognizing exchange, value, the management (the class always exists somewhere in particular for capital), accumulation according to sections, planification, as contents of its affirmation, the affirmation of the class poses as its presupposition the reproduction of capital and, according to its definite historical nature, the real impossibility of the revolution. The Russian revolution was the model of this impossibility, of this process, even if it necessitated certain particular circumstances for the process of affirmation to itself end up as counter-revolution and capitalist development (the definition of the composition of the capitalist class has only a relative interest).
After the First World War (to situate the rupture chronologically) the passage of capital to real subsumption, out of the long depression at the end of the 19th century, is more or less engaged. Real subsumption of labour under capital signifies that the reproduction of labour is conflictually integrated in the cycle of capital (relative surplus-value); it signifies that capital's absorption of living labour is the principal work of the immediate labour process, which becomes, through the development of fixed capital, adequate to the concept of capital; it signifies that exchange at production costs annihilates the specificity of labour as the producer of value at the level of the reproduction of the totality ; it signifies that surplus-value producing labour, in its relative form, is entirely specified as wage-labour. The history of the capitalist mode of production is always essentially the history of the contradiction between the proletariat and capital. The passage to real subsumption took its historical determination from the wave of revolutions after the First World War, and it would continue to bear their 'stigmata' in the form of the particularisation of the working class and confirmation of a working class identity at the interior of its own reproduction (cf. 'Problématiques de la Restructuration', TC 12).
On the one hand the German revolution and its theoretical expression in the German-Dutch Left express the struggle against this integration of the reproduction of the working class in capital's own cycle; it is the critique in acts of all the mediations of the empowerment of the class at the interior of the capitalist mode of production as the very process of the revolution: syndicalism, mass party, united front, parliamentarism. Certain fractions of the Left even came to criticize all struggles over the wage as distracting from the revolution in so far as they constitute a 'self-recognition of the class' in the system. On the other hand the Left made of communism the revelation of the being of the proletariat as the productive class, the working class, of co-operative work in general. There would no longer be anything to separate the class from that which it immediately contains in itself – communism. The council form is thus the natural form of its activity. But in this case communism is no more than the management of production by the proletariat within the already given categories: property (collective, social, state …), division of labour, exchange, development of productive forces, existence of an economy as the field of the objectification of social relationships. Manifesting to the hilt its integration, and its definition by capital, the proletariat in its struggle can thus only conflictually reinforce its adversary (capital is precisely the process of this conflict), and recognise its necessity.
The Left only saw the integration taking place in the passage to real subsumption in the mediations of the empowerment of the class, and separated these mediations from the definition of the proletariat as class of the capitalist mode of production. Communism was the revelation, the liberation of an essential being of the class, as it exists in the capitalist mode of production, and as this defines it. The Italian Left never reached a point or rupture as productive of interrogations and supersessions. They remained in a critique of mediations not in themselves, in as much as mediations, but from a formal perspective. They knew the forms of these mediations only as forms and criticized them as such (mass party, united front, anti-fascism). They wanted the mediations (party, union, period of transition, workers state) of the empowerment of the class in the capitalist mode of production and its affirmation, without the expression of the existence of the class as class of this mode of production (cf. the debates of Bilan on syndicalism and even on the existence of the proletariat).
The deepening of real subsumption could only be fatal to the Lefts. It became more and more evident, not as intellectual discovery, but as practice of the class in the mode of production, that syndicalism, parliamentarism, adhesion to democracy (to the necessary fetish of this society, class alliance), defence of working conditions, party organisation, were not mediations exterior to the being of the class, to that which it is, by definition, in its reciprocal implication with capital. To affirm, in critiquing all these mediations, that the being of the class immediately carries communism within it, could not leave 'intact' this being in as much as revolutionary nature to be liberated. It became evident in criticizing these mediations and the practices attributed to the 'old workers movement' that one was only 'revealing' and coming up against the adhesion of the proletariat to the capitalist mode of production and its definition within it, all the while persisting in conceiving communism as the revelation and liberation of its being. In remaining with the affirmation of this being, one couldn't go beyond a vision of the revolution as the liberation of the class, while at the same time, through a critique of mediations, all possible expression of this affirmation is forbidden. One conserved, moreover, a perspective in which communism represents the workers management of capital.
Nevertheless, the history of the German-Dutch Left did not simply finish at this impasse, it had, almost despite itself (as revealed by the proper history of its schisms in the 20's and 30's), produced the conditions and the theoretical arms for its overcoming. Its reflection on the 'old workers movement', its analyses of the Russian revolution, and its critiques of workers politics, lead the German-Dutch Left to think that the proletarian makes the revolution, carries communism, in a state of contradiction, in destroying all that which produces his immediate existence in this society and everything that it expresses. The revolution as affirmation of the being of the class was conserved by critiquing all the existing forms of this being. Always in a perspective of the affirmation of the class, the Left found itself in an impasse, but its critique of the existence of the class was the stepping stone out of it. It sufficed to no longer consider this existence in contradiction with its essence.
What the 'ultra-left' (a term which appeared at the end of the 20's, formalising, after the triumph of the counter-revolution, all the advances of the Lefts in the revolutionary wave) were never able to articulate was that the class was revolutionary in finding in its definition as class of the capitalist mode of production the capacity and the necessity to negate itself as a class in its contradiction with capital. Once this conception was finally reached in the crisis at the end of the sixties it turned out to be its swan song. Those who approached closest to this vision during the first phase of real subsumption and in the face of a strong working class identity, could only abandon the theory of communism as the theory of the proletariat (the group L'Ouvrier Communiste; certain involved with Bilan, The Essen tendency of the KAPD, rediscovering the theories of the 'Jungen' on the individual worker and all those who would give up 'belief in the proletariat'). We had to wait for the sixties for the question to be posed in a new form. This was the principal contribution of the SI, despite its mystifying terms. The definitions of proletariat and spectacle suppose the problem resolved, because in staying at the level of the individual and the commodity one still had alienation but not the reciprocal implication between proletariat and capital. Finally Invariance resolved the problem in throwing the baby out with the bathwater:
The point of arrival has already been indicated: to situate the limits of the theory of the proletariat on the historical plan, that is to say to submit the evidence of how in the process of revolutionary struggles of this century the proletariat has not proposed another society, another mode of life; how in the last analyses it has only called for a different management of capital. (…) To pose thus the necessity of delimiting what they [the struggles of the 20's] had really been able to produce is also to understand why the movement of our day has not been able to go beyond the practice of its antecedents. It appears that we cannot get out of the impasse without abandoning the theory of the proletariat.
As real subsumption advanced (and this was the real counter-revolution in relation to the period at the beginning of the 20's) it appeared that the mediations of the existence of the class in the capitalist mode of production, far from being exterior to the 'being' of the class which must affirm itself against them, were nothing but this being in movement, in its necessary implication with the other pole of society, capital. The ultra-left arrived simultaneously, on one side at the critique of any relation between the existence of the class in the capitalist mode of production and communism, and from the other side at the affirmation of the equation of communism and the being of the class. The contradiction was provisionally overcome by the delimitation of the integration as the product all the mediations posed between the being of the class and communism. For the Ultra-left it was necessary to combat and suppress all these mediations. The proletariat must negate itself as class of capital (acquire its autonomy) to realise its true nature which would overtake capital: the class of work and its social organisation, of the development of the productive forces. But reality stubbornly showed that its true nature was precisely what permitted these mediations to exist, was in a necessary relationship to these mediations. The Ultra-left suggested to us: 'revolution and communism are not the affirmation of the class as it is in the capitalist mode of production,' but it did not itself manage to extend the consequences of this to that which it considered to be the revolutionary nature of the proletariat, that which it always posed as separate from its 'existence' (The ultra-left functioned on that duality which would take the form: proletariat/working class).
The ultra-left, with all its limits, lead us to the fundamental theoretical point of communism as the negation of the proletariat (which must still be defined). Only after the revolutionary renewal at the end of the 60s and beginning of the 70s were we obliged to take the theoretical lessons of the entire cycle of struggle, begun in the 1920's, and go beyond them. The experience of these years could no longer leave any illusion about the managementist perspective as revolutionary. The Italian left had already made this critique its own, but without at all relating it to the self-negation of the class, unless in a 'clandestine' manner in contrast to its official discourse (cf. Bordiga's doubts brought out by Camatte in Bordiga et la Passion du Communisme). The completed cycle of struggle left us two certitudes: the revolution and communism are the abolition of capitalism and to that degree the abolition of all classes including the proletariat (here is communist theory as theory of the revolution); the contradiction between the proletariat and capital is the very process by which the capitalist mode of production reproduces itself, the very process of accumulation as qualitative movement, and that of its restructuring (here is communist theory as theory of counter-revolution). This was to eliminate the possibility of looking for the capacity of the proletariat to produce communism elsewhere than in the strictly capitalist conditions of the contradiction. We found ourselves therefore mercilessly confronted by the question posed at the beginning of this text: 'How can a class, acting strictly as a class, abolish capitalism?'
In the conditions of the early seventies two types of responses to this question were formulated. The first consisted of taking up the contribution of the Lefts without the managementist aspect (Le Mouvement Communiste journal and book ), or in abandoning it altogether, to be left with nothing but a catalogue of 'revolutionary positions' ('Bail a Céder' ) of which the 'revolutionaries' were the sole guarantors (LMC.4 ). This route was pursued later by the journals La Banquise and La Guerre Sociale , but with more and more support for a humanist conception of the proletariat, notably present in La Brise-Glace and Mordicus : the liberation of human activity from work or from class, capital as oppression, the proletariat as the poor. Finally, no longer able to envisage the contradiction between the proletariat and capital as productive of communism, the vision on the whole was that of an opposition between communist and capitalist tendencies. This finished by understanding the movement of society as an opposition between the true human community and the false – democracy (hence the revisionist deviation, cf. TC 13).
The second response consisted of speaking of the self-negation of the proletariat (Négation, Intervention Communiste, Theorie Communiste nº1, Crise Communiste ). We were still paradoxically in the preceding problematic: we still gave the proletariat a revolutionary nature. This revolutionary nature was an internal contradiction between its complicity in this society and the negation of this society which existed in the proletariat as 'tendency' in rupture with this complicity. The self-negation was the resuscitation of the human essence; we were still in teleology and scholasticism: essence, existence, being, tendencies, senses, qualities… We were thus in this problematic always on the brink of abandoning a classist theory to fall into a theory of humanity and/or the individual (Crise et Communisme, L'unique et son Ombre ).
It was for this reason that we took upon ourselves the task of a theoretical redefinition of the contradiction between the proletariat and capital. We needed first of all to redefine the contradiction such that it simultaneously carried communism as its resolution and described the reproductive dynamic of capital. It was necessary to pose the proletariat's identity as both class of the capitalist mode or production and revolutionary class, which implied no longer seeing this 'revolutionary' quality as something modifying, disappearing, and being reborn with the flow of circumstances and conditions.
This Contradiction is exploitation
1) It defines the existing classes in a strict relation of reciprocal implication.
2) As accumulation it immediately poses the contradiction between classes as history.
3) It defines its terms not as separate poles with determined natures being modified through history, acting in relation to an exterior movement of accumulation posed as the condition of their action, but makes the relation between the terms and its movement the 'essence' of its terms.
4) It is, as the contradiction between the proletariat and capital, the process of the historical signification of the capitalist mode of production; it qualitatively defines the process of accumulation of capital as de-essentialisation of work, as 'contradiction in process'; it defines the accumulation of capital as its obituary (cf. Marx, Grundrisse MEW 42.601 ).
5) It means that the proletariat is never confirmed in its relationship with capital: exploitation is subsumption. The contradiction between proletariat and capital is the very method by which work exists socially – valorisation. Defined by exploitation, the proletariat is in contradiction with the socially necessary existence of its work as capital, that is to say value become autonomous and only remaining so in valorising itself: the fall of the rate of profit is a contradiction between classes. Exploitation as contradiction de-objectifies the movement of capital.
6) The proletariat is constantly in contradiction with its own definition as class:
*The necessity of its own reproduction is something it finds in opposition to itself, represented by capital.
*It never finds its confirmation in the reproduction of the social relation of which it is nevertheless a necessary pole.
*It is in contradiction not with an automatic movement of reproduction of the capitalist mode of production but with another class, capital is necessarily the capitalist class. For the proletariat its own existence as class passes by a mediation: the antagonistic class.
7) Not permitting the definition of classes outside their reciprocal implication and the historical flow of their contradiction (The contradiction is precisely this historical flow), exploitation nonetheless specifies place of each of the classes in this implication. It is always the proletariat that is subsumed under capital, and at the end of each cycle capital must reproduce the confrontation with labour; exploitation is effectively realised with the transformation, never accomplished, of surplus value into additional capital (capital as process of its self-presupposition).
With exploitation as contradiction between the classes we understand their particularisation as particularisation of the community , and therefore as being simultaneously their reciprocal implication. This then signifies: the impossibility of the affirmation of the proletariat, the contradiction between the proletariat and capital as history, the critique of all theories of the revolutionary nature of the proletariat as a definitive essence buried or masked by the reproduction of the totality (the self-presupposition of capital). We have historicized the contradiction, and therefore revolution and communism and not just their circumstances. Revolution and communism are produced historically through the cycles of struggle that mark time in the march of the unfolding contradiction.
The last point is essential; the defeat of the cycle of struggle was an historical defeat. We had to not throw out the baby with the bathwater neither try to remake the German revolution in a more radical way (less managementist). Under formal subsumption the revolution and communism were posed as the affirmation of the class; then with the ultra-left after the 20's, the decomposition of this affirmation; not withstanding that the class struggle of the period was simultaneously dominated by the perspective of pushing the integration of the class to the point of seeking to abolish the contradiction in removing its grounds of existence (social-democracy, the CPs). It was not because it was managementist that the movement of which the Lefts were an expression failed; it was because it could be nothing else, in so far as the cycle of struggle was that of the affirmation of work. It was not a defeat of the Revolution, but of revolution as it existed historically. It wasn't a question of choosing between diverse positions; it was the entire problematic of revolution as affirmation of the class which had to be overcome. That the theoretical elements could be taken up and used in other problematics didn't affect this imperative.
We had passed from a perspective where the proletariat found in itself faced with Capital its capacity to create communism, to a perspective where that capacity is only acquired as an internal movement of that which it abolishes. This capacity is in this way an historical process; it defines the overcoming of a relation and not the triumph of one of its terms in the form of its generalisation. With exploitation as contradiction we got the identity of the proletariat as class of the capitalist mode of production and as revolutionary class.
Nevertheless, in regard to the second term this could still appear problematic. Certainly exploitation never confirms the proletariat and the process of capital as contradiction between classes had been de-objectified to the degree that the historical process of capital was understood as class struggle and this had a sense of 'contradiction in process' (to the degree that the law of the falling rate of profit was analysed as contradiction between proletariat and capital). Certainly exploitation poses a relation in which the proletariat is defined as negation of all existing conditions (exchange, value, class, division of work, property) on the basis and as the development of these existing conditions (see below). But it was necessary to avoid fossilizing the formula: this contradictory relation is history; it is not the movement of a revolutionary nature encountering different conditions. What then was the structure of the contradiction at work back at the end of the seventies? The relation between proletariat and capital was in the process of restructuring itself.
The entire previous cycle of struggles (from the post WW1 restructuring to the crisis at the end of the 60's) rested on the one hand on the integration of the conflictual reproduction of the proletariat in the reproductive cycle of capital, in this it was really the process of the decomposition of the revolution as affirmation of the class; and on the other hand on the particularisation of the proletariat inside the self-presupposition of capital, in this it always functioned on the basis of a working class identity directly opposed to capital. Hence the prevalence of working class identity in the decomposition of programmatism . ('Problématiques de la Restructuration' TC 12)
The anterior situation of class struggle, of the workers movement, was based, in this first phase of real subsumption which ended in the 70's, on the contradiction between on the one side the creation and development of an increasingly social and collective work force, and on the other the apparently limited forms of the appropriation by capital of this work force in the immediate process of production, and reproduction. Here is the antagonistic situation which developed as working class identity, which found its immediately recognisable marks and modalities (its confirmation) in the large factory, in the dichotomy of employment and unemployment, work and training, in the submission of the work process to the collection of workers, in the relation between wages, growth and productivity within a specific national arena, in the institutional representations that all this implies, as much in the factory as at the level of the state. The self-presupposition of capital continued, as the concept of capital would imply, but the contradiction between the proletariat and capital was not able to situate itself at this level, in so far as within this auto-presupposition itself there was production and confirmation of a working class identity by which the class struggle, as the workers movement, was structured. This was the case with all the cycles of struggle which finished in the 70's and it developed at three levels:
a. an affirmation of this identity (communist parties, unions, certain fractions of social-democracy), which contrary to the situation in formal subsumption couldn't develop a revolutionary perspective other than that of an organised capitalism or a leftist keynesianism – hence the perpetual dissatisfaction of leftism corresponding to this level.
b. self-organisation, that is to say rupture with the integration of the reproduction and defence of the proletarian condition within the reproduction of capital. It equally applies to the capacity of the proletariat to relate to itself in its contradictory implication with capital. As ideological militant discourse it implies that an essence of the proletariat as the revolutionary and exploited class (construed by way of the affirmation of its existence in work, socialised production etc.) separated from its existence in its reciprocal implication with capital (which is, however, the real movement of contradiction as exploitation). This existence as a class of the capitalist mode of production thus reduces itself to political and union mediations (this is the approach of the ultra-left).
c. self-negation: result of preceding practice and theorisations, which then confronts them posing itself as their resolution.
It's noteworthy that these three levels ceaselessly reply to and determine each other: the self-negation of the refusal of work against self-organisation, self-organisation against unionism.
The restructuring at work since the middle of the seventies renders the process of the total reproduction of society adequate to the production of relative surplus-value, in so far as it no longer comports any fixed point in the double moulinet of the reproduction of the whole which ceaselessly reproduces and resituates the proletariat and capital face to face:
Capitalist production, therefore, of itself reproduces the separation between labour-power and the means of labour. It thereby reproduces and perpetuates the condition for exploiting the labourer. It incessantly forces him to sell his labour-power in order to live, and enables the capitalist to purchase labour-power in order that he may enrich himself. It is no longer a mere accident, that capitalist and labourer confront each other in the market as buyer and seller. It is the [Zwickmühle of the] process itself that incessantly hurls back the labourer on to the market as a vendor of his labour-power, and that incessantly converts his own product into a means by which another man can purchase him. In reality, the labourer belongs to capital before he has sold himself to capital. His economic bondage is both brought about and concealed by the periodic sale of himself, by his change of masters, and by the oscillations in the market-price of labour-power. Capitalist production, therefore, under its aspect of a continuous connected process, of a process of reproduction, produces not only commodities, not only surplus-value; it produces and eternalises the social relationship between capital and wage-labourer.
All the characteristics of the immediate production process (cooperation, production line work, production-maintenance, collective worker, continuity of the production process, outsourcing, segmentation of the work force), all those of reproduction (work, unemployment, formation, welfare), all those which made of the class a determination of the reproduction of capital itself (the wrapping of accumulation in a national sphere, sliding inflation, "sharing of productivity gains", public service), everything that posed the proletariat as national interlocutor socially and politically, that is founded a working class identity which contested control over the whole society as management and hegemony, all these characteristics are suppressed or overrun. It amounts to all that can pose an obstacle to the double moulinet of the auto-presupposition of capital, to its fluidity. We find on one hand all the separations, defences, specifications that are erected in opposition to the decline in value of the work force, those that prevent the whole working class, globally, in the continuity of its existence, of its reproduction and expansion, from having to face as such the whole capital: this is the first moulinet, that of the reproduction of labour power.
We find on the other hand all the constraints of circulation, rotation, accumulation, which impede the second moulinet, that of the transformation of the surplus product into surplus and additional capital. Any surplus product must be able to find its market anywhere, any surplus value must be able to find anywhere the possibility of operating as additional capital, that is of being transformed into means of production and labour power, without a formalization of the international cycle (Eastern Bloc, periphery) predetermining this transformation.. The flow of each of the moulinets is affected only in and by that of the other.
Overall, the capitalist restructuring defines itself as the dissolution of all the points of crystallisation of the double moulinet of the auto-presupposition of capital, from all that which constitutes working class identity, to the separation between centre and periphery, the separation of the global cycle into two zones of accumulation and finally the monetary system itself. With the current restructuring, it is both arms of the double moulinet that become adequate to the production of relative surplus value at the same time as the immediate production process, their intersection, confers to each its energy and the necessity of its metamorphosis. It is in this sense that the production of surplus value and the reproduction of the conditions of this production coincide. So much and so well that the contradiction between the classes is situated henceforth at the level of their reproduction as classes. This level of the contradiction implies: the disappearance of all working class identity; that the existence of the proletariat as class is identical to its contradiction with capital; that the proletariat carries no project of social reorganization based on its nature. These are the characteristics of the new cycle of struggles.
For the proletariat, that means that to be in contradiction with capital is to be in contradiction with its own existence as class; there is no internal contradiction, only confrontation with the other quite real and autonomous term of the relation: capital. During the course of this cycle of struggles, the practice of the class against capital, in the phase to come of the crisis of the reproduction of the totality, contains the capacity to question its own existence as class. It is the same structure of the contradiction that is at work in the course of struggles over the wage and which then finds in the reproduction of capital its specific limit at the same time as its radicalism. In the revolution, in the crisis of reciprocal implication, for the proletariat to produce its class-membership in capital as an outside constraint and a contingency is to go beyond the daily partial struggles on the basis of these struggles themselves and on their own. It is the perspective offered by this cycle of struggles, not as a progressive over-growing but as a produced overcoming (cf. 'Des Luttes Actuelles à la Révolution' T.C.13).
To understand the production of communism we must concentrate on the content of this questioning by the proletariat of its own existence as class. The class finds then, in its being against capital, the capacity to communise society, while simultaneously it treats its class nature as exteriorised in capital. The contradiction between the classes has become the 'condition' of its own resolution as the social immediacy of the individual.
The proletariat, defined in exploitation, is the dissolution of the existing conditions in that it is non-capital. It finds there the content of its revolutionary action as communist measures: abolition of property, division of labour, exchange, value.
It's because the proletariat in its contradictory relation to capital is the dissolution of the existing conditions that the contradiction – exploitation – can take this form of class membership as an exterior constraint in capital. This ultimate structure of the contradiction between the proletariat and capital is only these contents of the contradiction (the proletariat as the dissolution of the existing conditions on the basis of the existing conditions) in movement, these contents as form. This structuring of the contradiction is not the framework in which an unchanging content – a revolutionary nature of the class, a pre-existing definition… – would then manifest itself. It is due to that which is in the heart of this situation of dissolution of the existing conditions in the contradictory relation with capital, that is to say, due to the non-confirmation of the proletariat in the contradiction, due to the fact that none of the elements of its definition are confirmed in this relation, that the contradiction between proletariat and capital – exploitation – can structure itself as estrangement of class membership. This structure of the class struggle is then in itself a content, that is to say a practice. The proletariat reveals itself as the dissolution of the existing conditions as class in the estrangement of class membership, as something to overcome. At the same time it stands out as the presupposition of this overcoming, and furnishes the axis of this overcoming as practice – as communist measures in the revolution.
The proletariat is the dissolution of property on the basis of property. As property, the proletariat finds its own activity confronting it. On the basis of property, the proletariat is the dissolution of the autonomous form of wealth. As the negation of property in its internal relation to property, the proletariat is the necessary presupposition of the overcoming of appropriation as possession, dissolution of objectivity in opposition to activity as subjectivity, overcoming of the contradictory determination of wealth as objectivity and subjectivity.
The proletariat is the dissolution of the division of the labour on the basis of the division of labour. The alienation that this division represents is not just the fact everyone is restricted to a one-sided development, but the fact that this restriction exists only in correlation with the alienation of the social character of human activity. In the capitalist mode of production the division of labour reaches a stage where a class can be its internal dissolution, and as revolutionary activity, the presupposition of its overcoming.
As living labour the proletariat confronts the interdependent chain of social labour objectified in the social capital. Producer of surplus value, the proletariat relates to every capital as an aliquot part of the total capital. The capacity of the proletariat to treat this chain in its entirety is due not only to the fact that as value-producer its work is not itself attached to any particular production, but that the production of value implies the complete development of the division of manufacturing. The extreme division of labour in manufacturing relates to concrete labour, but it exists only because this concrete labour must prove itself as abstract labour, only because of labour's double character. Thus the proletariat's existence as dissolution of the division of labour on the basis of the division of labour, in as much as it is living labour producing value and surplus, allows it to produce communism because it is in a position to address the totality of human activity. In addition the relationship, within the proletariat, between the social and industrial division of labour allows it to address the totality of human activity from the stand point of every particular activity included in this totality. It is thus no longer a question of conceiving human activity as a totality that, through a reorganization of production, globalization or economic planning, would only once more define each part as an accident of the whole (c.f. the division of labour in the Asiatic mode of production or the traditional community). The capacity to produce this immediacy of the general chain of social labour in each concrete activity – and not as a globalisation, or a result of these activities – lies just in this double aspect of divided labour (each aspect determining the other in the capitalist production of value). In fact this means that human activity has no other end than itself and its object, on which it applies itself, and no longer an external finality (capital, value, reproduction of a higher unity etc…).
The proletariat is the dissolution of exchange and value on the basis of exchange and value. In the system of value the negation of value necessarily passes by its form in movement: exchange.
The first aspect by which the proletariat is the negation of exchange on the basis of exchange rested on the exchange of living labour against objectified labour, exchange in which ultimately the capitalist only gave to the worker a part of his previously objectified work. From there, against capital, the proletariat finds in itself the capacity, in abolishing capital, to produce and treat human activity as its own process of renewal apart from any other presupposition.
The second aspect by which the proletariat is the negation of exchange on the basis of exchange rests on the fact that capital is a contradiction in process, in that to validate itself, it must put to work labour promoted to the rank of social labour but only in so far as it confronts its social character as an external object, it is only in this relation that one can qualify it as directly social labour. The characteristics of the accumulation of capital, the universalisation and socialization of labour as antagonism to labour itself, provide the foundation for the proletariat's capacity, in abolishing capital, to produce the situation in which all activity finds its end in itself, in that it is presupposed by the activity of the whole society and concentrates it.
The proletariat is thus the negation of exchange on the basis of exchange, in that exchange is the affirmation of the alienated social character of all activity as external to itself. The process of capitalist production and exploitation can only put to work a socialized labour with a view to the creation of value, this is a contradiction in process which in the capitalist mode of production, takes the concrete existence of incapacity for living labour to valorise the increasing mass of fixed capital where its social character is externally objectified.
The proletariat is, as class, the dissolution of class. To be the dissolution of class is not anything other than the dissolution of the existing conditions, but they are not on the same level. Being the dissolution of class is to be the dissolution of the existing conditions as practice, as class struggle, it is the dissolution of the existing conditions in that as a particular class this dissolution is a subject, a revolutionary practice. The proletariat is never confirmed in its class situation by the reproduction of the social relation of which it is one of the poles. It thus cannot triumph by becoming the absolute pole of society (c.f. the russian revolution above).
Against capital, in the most immediate aspect of its practice, of its life, the proletariat does not want to remain what it is. This isn't an internal contradiction. It really acts as a class: to change itself is to change its conditions. We can see at this level the dissolution of the existing conditions as the action of a subject, as a practice condensing the dissolution of the existing conditions in a class, a class that is the dissolution of class simply because it struggles as such. In its contradiction with capital the proletariat as a class is never in itself positively determined/resolved, it is thus only against capital and not in itself that it is the dissolution of class.
To belong to a class is not in itself an alienation in relation to an isolated individual, a person, as if class membership could pose itself as a choice. To belong to a class, to be a particular individual, is an alienation insofar as it is to necessarily pose the antagonistic class, the separation from the community, as the definition of communal being.
To analyze the proletariat as the dissolution of class through a particular class is only a way to understand how by abolishing capital, the proletariat finds in itself, in this contradiction, the capacity to produce communism as the development of humanity considering nothing of that which has been produced as a limit: self-production of humanity posing no social relation as presupposition to be reproduced, self-production as constant lack, passion, destruction and creation, unceasingly posing the future as premise. In the same way that one had in the proletariat, as particular class that is the dissolution of class, the synthesis of all other dissolutions which the proletariat represents (property, exchange, value, division of the labour), in its abolition as class, produced in the revolution, one finds the positive content of the overcoming of all alienations, which constitutes in all its diversity the contents of the communist measures taken by the proletariat during the revolution.
The social immediacy of the individual basically means the abolition of the division of society into classes, the scission by which the community becomes foreign to the individual. We can then positively approach what we consider to be the nature of immediately social individuals, or rather the nature of the relations of immediately social individuals in their singularity (at this point the term "social" itself is ambiguous, perhaps it's no longer necessary). Their self-production in their reciprocal relations never implies a reproduction in a state which would be a particularization of the community, something inherently implied by the division of labour, property, and classes. The immediately social individuals consciously treat every object as human activity and dissolve objectivity in a flow of activities (overcoming of the proletariat as dissolution of property on the basis of property); they treat their own activity as concrete particularization of human activity (ditto for the division of the labour); they consider practically their production and their product, in their coincidence, as being their own end in itself and including their determinations, their possibilities of execution and their finalities (ditto for exchange and value); and finally they pose society as something to be constantly produced in the relationship between individuals, and each relation as premise of its transformation (ditto for class).
The overcoming of the existing conditions is the overcoming of the objectification of production. Thus communism is the overcoming of all past history; it isn't a new mode of production and cannot pose the question of the management of this one. It's a total rupture with the concepts of economy, of productive forces and objectified measurement of production. Man is an objective being (supplemented by external objects which he makes his own); throughout his history the non-coincidence between individual activity and social activity (which is the dominant theme of this history, unnecessary to prove or abstractly demonstrate) took the form in this objective being of a separation (objectification) from the productive act and production, which becomes the social character of his individual activity. Separation, alienation, objectification, over the history of the separation of activity from its conditions, constituted these conditions as economy, as relations of production, as mode of production. Being the dissolution of the existing conditions of the capitalist mode of production as class, the proletariat, without making out that all history had only this situation as its end, is in its contradiction with capital the presupposition of the overcoming of all history.
How can a class acting strictly as a class abolish all classes? The history of the capitalist mode of production as contradiction between the proletariat and capital gives us the resolution of this enigma. But let's not be hasty, just because the way has been marked does not mean the goal has been reached; it is in the struggles themselves within the current cycle of class struggle that the enigma must be solved.