What is at stake in the text on the systematic dialectic of capital and value form theory? - Nick

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Submitted by Craftwork on June 16, 2017

In our theory group (which will soon publish the first issue of the journal Endnotes) we consider that there is an element of the theory of Théorie Communiste which is in fact under-theorised: namely the whole question of the ontology of value in the capitalist mode of production. What is this ‘thing’ called value, and why, as capital, does it have to valorise itself? At issue here, then, is a very important presupposition of the theory of TC, a pole of the capital–labour relation or the relation between capital and proletariat, in fact the pole which subsumes the other, its other, in this relation which is at the same time one of asymmetry and reciprocal implication. So what is it that drives capital to valorise itself, and to subsume labour under itself?

We consider that value form theory and the theory of the systematic dialectic of capital can throw light on this problematic, and thus facilitate a better understanding of capital, and we also believe that these theories are perfectly compatible with the theses of TC. It is a fact that TC places much weight on the theory of the tendency of the profit-rate to fall and the tendency towards the de-essentialisation of labour with the growing organic composition of capital, which represents the sharpening of the internal contradictions in capitalist social relations – i.e. in the relation of exploitation: as Roland says, “necessary labour is always too much for capital”. It is in this sense that we can grasp these ’objective, economic’ tendencies as being (and not merely provoking) class struggle. However we should note that these Marxian theories presuppose a dialectical conception of what capital is as value-in-process; and, as we have already said, we consider that value form theory and theory of the systematic dialectic of capital are indispensable in this regard. We would even say, furthermore, that the aim of the text is to try to draw out the link between the logic of self-valorisation of capital as self-reproducing system and the history of the subsumption of labour under capital, which is to say the contradictory and conflictual historical development of the relation between capital and proletariat.

Having said this, the aim of the text is not merely didactic, but critical – as in the desire to facilitate a better theoretical understanding of the class struggle and the perspectives of communisation as supersession produced by the internal contradictions of the relation of exploitation; in this way it also has a critical or political import, which is that of calling into question any political conception based on the affirmation of the proletariat as producer of value. So here, once again, value form theory can form the adequate complement to the theses of TC, this time in relation to programmatism as historically obsolete, and as a historical period in which the communist revolution, necessarily, was not the abolition of value. We consider that value form theory and the theory of the systematic dialectic of capital, as they are being developed in this cycle of struggles, can complement and even ground the theses of TC on the historical necessity (through the supersession produced by the contradictory relation of exploitation) of the abolition of value as immediate process of communisation of relations between individuals.

Three caveats:

- the exponents of value form theory and the systematic dialectic of capital do not necessarily share this comprehension of what is at stake in their theory.

- The theorisation of these presuppositions is not entirely absent in TC (as Roland indicated to me in Marseille, see pp. 605–620 of Fondements critiques d’une théorie de la révolution)

- The above should not be taken as the definitive statement of our group’s positions, it is merely my take on them.