Subsumption

When everything goes black, that’s when you turn pale. Re: Dissident 3, the introduction

Title

We have seen that the methods that have been explored by generations of revolutionaries … have had as a common feature to be impasses, or worse: ways to increase domination. … [T]he world is more capitalist than ever. All the spheres in society are now more or less integrated within the logic of value. (Dissident no. 3, p. 6)

How has the world become more capitalist?

Here Dissident is right concerning one thing: that class struggle has all along been at the centre of this development. This insight goes beyond the vulgar objectivist Marxism which conceives of capital as something separate from class struggle, as an external force that, like a gang of bandits on the rampage, tries to lay its grubby hands upon the products of the workers. As this happens, the workers need to hold their own and to defend themselves by means of a class struggle that mitigates the ravages of the capitalists and restrains their desperate strive for profits. According to this view the relation between capital and labour is a tug-of-war where one of the sides can be strengthened at expense of the other’s and where the possible outcome becomes a question of relative strengths. On this point, Dissident has drawn the same conclusion as riff-raff, that the pole of labour can never be anything without its opposite pole capital, i.e. that both of them form a unity, from which follows the understanding that an affirmation of labour does not mean the suppression of capital.

This was something we saw an example of in Russia, after the proletariat's seizure of power in 1917. Even though the structure of property was shaken at its very foundations, the proletarian dictatorship never led to the destruction of capital because as soon as the private capitalists were gone, it fell upon the party of the workers, i.e. the Bolsheviks, to resume production, which became reorganised under state control. Henceforth, the main task of the party was to make sure that an increased surplus product was exacted from the workers and that the peasants became proletarianisied into this working class. We could also take Swedish social democracy as an example: gradually, the great organisational gains and their growing importance to the whole of society made it into a force which came to influence social progress. Over time, the social democratic leadership became aware of the fact that labour can’t be strengthened at the expense of capital; with great power there must come great responsibility and thus the workers’ movement should make sure that business prospered, the profits of which would indirectly also benefit the workers. In this spirit great social projects such as the construction of a public system of child care, which facilitated the entrance of women into wage labour, were to be worked out in the interests of the workers as well as the industry. In this way, sphere after sphere became “integrated within the logic of value”, with the help from the workers’ movement.

Those of us who wish to see a radical break with capitalism, are of course not happy with this. But why get annoyed at “wrong methods” or class struggle as such? In my view it is perfectly natural that class struggle in all its forms to this day has contributed to labour's increased subsumption under capital. Still, to give an explanation why, it seems necessary to paraphrase some central parts of the first book of Capital.

Some opening points:

  • We are living in a society subjected to the capitalist mode of production.
  • The driving principle of the capitalist mode of production is continuous valorisation, money that begets more money.
  • Valorisation is possible only through the extraction of surplus-value by the squeezing out of surplus labour from the workers.
  • This surplus-value production does not “lead to” but is in itself exploitation and class contradiction.

Thus we arrived at exploitation as the central concept.

The capitalist wouldn’t be a capitalist if he didn’t have to continually turn his sum of money into a larger sum of money, as this is the very concept of capital. The worker, in his turn, would no longer be a worker if he and his offspring could not be reproduced and continually return to be exploited. Marx calls this process, in which capital and labour are incessantly thrown to face one another, simple reproduction. When the produced surplus-value grows, that is, turned into additional capital, it is extended reproduction.

We also know from Capital that there is a limited number of ways of extracting surplus-value. You can make a labourer work more by working longer days or to toil harder by working more intensively under otherwise unaltered conditions of work. This is called absolute surplus-value production. The other way, which is a bit more mystical, is the relative surplus-value production. In this case the capitalist increases the productivity of labour and does with the same amount of hired labour produce more commodities. In this way an equally large sum of produced value is embodied in a greater amount of use-values. But to produce surplus-value is not about manufacturing more products; the secret lies elsewhere: The only way in which the capitalist can appropriate surplus-labour from the proletariat through an increased productivity of labour is by cheapening the reproduction of the workers. Thus, when the increased productivity of labour leads to cheaper consumer goods, living, electricity, etc., it becomes possible for the capitalist to pay a wage that matches this lower cost.

The living standard of the worker may remain at the same level, but since the length of the working day is exactly the same, the worker is now producing for the capitalist (i.e. without compensation) during a greater part of the working day than previously and is in a shorter period of time producing a value that corresponds to the sum of money he needs to buy the necessary means of existence, which he receives in the form of a wage. This is also exploitation, if exploitation is being defined as equal to surplus-value production, since the capitalist is appropriating a larger amount of surplus-labour, something which the single worker doesn’t necessarily have to experience as being exploited harder.1) Finally, a capitalist can accumulate surplus-value faster if he manages to shorten the necessary interruption which is the process of circulation: the realisation of the produced surplus-value through the sale of the produced values as well as the purchase of new means of production and new labour power. Marx calls this process of renewal the turnover of capital. However, in the sphere of circulation no new value is produced; a shorter turnover-time only makes it possible to more quickly restart a new process of exploitation.

Surplus-value production, that is exploitation, always means the increase of the surplus-labour (that is surplus-value creating time) in relation to necessary labour, either the working day is being increased in an absolute sense or that the necessary labour gets diminished, to give room for surplus-labour during this for capital freed-up time. The table below contains examples of three working days: first a working day that we take as a starting point and then two variants of how exploitation can be conceived to be increased. The numbers represent labour time in hours.

Working day I IIa IIb
Total working day 8 10 8
Necessary labour time 4 4 2
Surplus labour time 4 6 6

In example IIa as well as in IIb the capitalist has won two hours of surplus-labour generating labour time by two different means. In the first case by absolute surplus-value production and in the other case by relative surplus-value production. (In example IIb it is implied that the workers’ means of existence have grown cheaper.)

Without the continuous use of either of these methods, capital would not be reproduced in an extended scale, that is to say, no surplus-value would be transformed into additional capital and under such conditions the mode of production would not survive. The capitalist would cease to be a capitalist and the demand for labour power would disappear. However, it should be kept in mind that the mode of production never breaks down automatically at the first crisis of valorisation. In the ever-recurring financial crises accumulated wealth becomes devalorised, destroyed completely at a massive scale and a strong suspicion spreads everywhere among the capitalists as to the possibilities of to continue making money from capitalist production. But while some capitals go under, others manage to survive and are able to expand further. Thus, in every crisis the centralisation of capital increases, something which can lay the basis for a new cycle of accumulation. But a recovery from the slump and a new upswing is entirely dependent upon that capital's ability to feel the smell of new profits, i.e. to discover new methods to increase the exploitation of labour-power. These failing to appear, the destruction of capital continues and the mode of production enters into a chronic state of crisis. Thus, the mode of production insists that exploitation must deepen, either one way or the other, otherwise it means the end of capitalism.

Also the proletariat, which capital constantly faces, has to be reproduced within capitalist society, but this is nothing that happens automatically. True, the capitalist “gives” the worker a wage, i.e. he pays for a fraction of the value which the latter actually produces, but it is far from certain that this wage – everywhere and every time – is sufficient for the purchase of the means of existence. Likewise, it is not infrequently the case that the work becomes so taxing, both for the body and the mind, that the workers begin to break down too rapidly, ultimately becoming unsuitable for exploitation. The proletarian struggle to establish a minimum means of existence as well as securing “decent” working conditions consequently safeguards the reproduction of the capitalist relation in that the workers are trying to keep their heads above the surface.

Through this exploitation and class struggle the capitalist mode of production advances day after day, year after year, century after century. Could class struggle have taken us somewhere else? Yes, maybe! But only if it has actually put an end to capital altogether. Since the capital relation has, after all, survived the continuously present, everyday class struggle as well as a number of important proletarian insurrections and revolutionary attempts, in short since it is apparently present here today, then it has to be said that subsumption (more on this below) is by necessity more deepened today and this can’t be blamed on wrong “methods” in the class struggle, not even social democracy. Why then is this so by necessity? Well, this can be derived directly from what was just said about the methods of producing surplus-value.

Let us imagine the capitalist relation as a car having a front and a back-wheel drive, that is, with a driving pair of wheels in the front and one in back. The car drives along an uphill slope that is the whole time getting steeper. Both pairs of wheels don’t need to propel the vehicle all the time, but if the propelling force of one of them would be discontinued then the other pair of wheels immediately has to compensate for this, in order for the car not to stop. (Capital accumulation can't afford to stop very long.)

In the tenth chapter of Capital I Marx portrays how the working day in 19th century Britain got increasingly longer and how horrible the conditions became for the workers working in mines, bleach-works, bakeries and so on. Men and women, youth and small children of an age as little as seven or eight worked day and night under horrible conditions for 12, 13, 14, 15 hours. This development ran into its natural limits. The average length of life plunged sharply and whole regions became depopulated. What took place was a ruthless exploitation of workers and the capitalist state would have never survived unless this hadn’t been restricted, which in the end happened through a gradual tightening up of the factory laws governing the labour time and limiting child labour. At every enlargement of rules and regulations the factory owners protested forcefully and maintained that this would mean the end of their profits, but apparently this didn’t happen; the working day became limited but there was another way of making profits: relative surplus-value.

As said above, relative surplus-value production is dependent on the reproduction of labour power being made cheaper. This takes place through the process of real subsumption, which means that capital, with science in its service, revolutionises the labour process and adapts it so as to make it more adequate to the process of valorisation, to the concept of capital. Furthermore, this generates a series of revolutions in capitalist society as a whole.

Every measure which puts a drag on any one of capitalism’s wheels pushes capital into revolutionising the mode of production, in order to produce surplus-value in another way irrespective of who is the one doing it. It may be factory inspectors, a well-organised trade-union’s movement, or struggling local workers’ collectives. The mode of production has an objective law of motion: the production of absolute and relative surplus-value through the appropriation of surplus-labour. That is why subsumption is something which has to be deepened in course of time, as long as capitalism subsists. If we want to be engaged in theory we ought to bear this in mind.

Of course, the situation of the workers in Europe at the end of the 1960s differed sharply compared to what was just said of the 19th century, though it is still possible to draw a parallel between the two. Post war Europe experienced a tremendous capitalist accumulation, and even in spite of, or rather thanks to, an ever-stronger workers’ movement. Regardless of whether this movement arrived to power through elections and massive unionisation from below, as was the case in Sweden, or if it took the form of smaller but more significant trade-unions, such as the CGT in France, class struggle took place according to a very predictable pattern: the workers’ organisations obtained annual wage-increases but accepted, in general, capital’s despotism in the workplaces. As labour power was expensive, the firms were spurred on to make large, new investments in modern means of production in order to make the best use of their workers. The high wages also benefited national capital as purchasing power and the workers could now buy their “own” products such as household appliances, cars and so on. The years of prosperity rested primarily on two things:

  1. The consumption of mass-produced commodities by the workers, which greatly lowered their cost of reproduction, i.e. a decrease in necessary labour. This decrease occurred because less effective proto-capitalist production could be replaced, even in spite of the fact that more products came to be consumed by the workers.
  2. The resolution of all industrial disputes in the form of wage increases. In this way, the field was left open for the capitalists to carry through transformations which reduced workers’ control of the labour process, increased the pace of work, and among other things, also opened up overtime and night-work. It was of great importance that these capitalists could count on the loyalty of the trade-unions, using them to help persuade the workers into submitting to such drastic transformations.

This order or regime of regulation functioned well for a few decades but towards the end of the sixties a wave of struggles suddenly broke out and this whole relation would be turned over. Everywhere workers revolted against the monotonous and heavy pace of work in the workplaces. This time it was a revolt directed just as much against the trades unions and the workers’ parties that defended the development which had led to this. Here in Sweden this revolt expressed itself in the form of a wave of wildcat strikes which started in harbour of Gothenburg and then in the state owned mines in the north in late 1969.2) At the same time in Northern Italy, militant workers started to, one could say deliberately, demand wage increases that far exceeded the productivity gains in the firms, and so they came to wage a struggle directed right against the firms’ profits.3) The revolt broke out, not because the proletarians had finally managed to see through the “betrayals” of the unions and of the workers’ parties (the fact that they had accepted an increased productivity in exchange for reasonable compensation, the “plan” as the operaist theorists called it), it was because of the material fact that the conditions at the assembly lines had become intolerable. That is why, this time, the obedience of the workers couldn’t be bought in exchange for a bit more money in the pay envelope. In this situation, capital did what it had to do: It chased out the vermin and replaced the workers with industrial robots. The unemployment that followed increased competition between workers over the jobs that were left. Everywhere, not just in Italy, capital cracked the red strongholds, broke the workers’ collectives and started its search for cheap obedient labour power on other continents. The old relationship had become antiquated; it was founded principally on a national accumulation and a capital co-existing with a workers’ identity, a framework which had become a prison, for the workers as well as for accumulation.

Wrong methods?

Did the proletarians use “wrong methods” in 19681973 as they rebelled against the capitalism of their time, against their own concrete living conditions, when the result meant the end of twenty golden years of prosperity and a global restructuring of the mode of production as well as a deepened subsumption. Can it be suggested that Mario Tronti, Antonio Negri and others were reactionary as they rejoiced over the fact that their struggle had bore fruit?

It is completely true that we to this day have not witnessed the dissolution of the capital relation due to its internal contradiction. What we have seen, however, and several times even, is the real destruction of a whole series of distinct forms of capitalist production/exploitation. Every time the capital relation has been seriously challenged the alternative has been between destruction or restructuring, and every time the latter has become reality, the internal contradictions could never be suppressed, which therefore every time leads it towards a new future crisis for the mode of production.

There are those who have grown tired of the repeated promises by class struggle and now they don't want to give it any more chances. They choose, instead, to bet their money on something new and untried, but they avoid the question as to why no previous movement has thus far ever discovered this method and put it to use.

With the right method in use, the “projectial”, the one where all representatives have been pushed aside, they should hopefully choose the latter alternative, instead of not abiding to any class struggle where one would have to fight as a worker and thus might risk to – God forbid! – deepen the subsumption.

For my own part there is no contradiction between saying that the proletariat, at a certain point in time, is driven to apply communist measures in its struggle against capital and that this may be a class struggle which puts an end to class struggle. On the contrary, we believe this to be the only materialist comprehension of communisation, that it isn’t despite the proletariat and capital – determined by the capitalist mode of production – but exactly because of the situation within capitalism that, during the current period, communisation may become real. That it tries to fulfil its needs within capitalist society is no “voluntary submission” (p. 9) and every communist perspective is based upon the assumption that society at one point can’t manage to reproduce itself, that is, that it cannot fulfil the needs of the suppressed and at the same time uphold the economic system. Contrary to what Dissident says with the struggles for bread and butter as a starting point, the proletariat (and indeed no one else, not the “people” or the “revolutionaries”), in defending its own reproduction as persons with physical and mental needs, can be led to challenge its own miserable conditions of living. The weapon which is then directed at the class enemy, capital, which is defining its situation, becomes the abolition of oneself as a class. This event is no act of leaving, withdrawal or suicide but nothing other than a frontal assault on the capitalist relations of production and their State; it is communism as a movement which along a path of ashes abolishes the existing conditions.

The idea that communism would “arrive from the future”, beyond the contradiction between classes, instead of being produced by class struggles bursting forth from within the present, is a thought that sits ill with the perspective of communisation, which, of course, is about the production of communism. Such an idea was perhaps tempting to have in a time which didn’t show any signs of immediate communisation4) but only of class affirmation, a time in which – in sharp contrast with ours – socialism was visible on the horizon.5) This idea could also work as ideology in the hands of the counter-revolution: the glorious goal for which the workers, during the period of transition, had to sacrifice themselves, a Garden of Eden looming in a distant future. One day, it would open up its gates, but only after heavy industry would stand finished and a new man had been born, a pure and innocent being that would know of no class struggles and hence would be worthy of entering passively into this paradise… Communisation, on the other hand, won’t be enslaved by the future. As a perspective of communism where the present is the point of departure, we are instead speaking of an active conflictual process with concrete characteristics.

One step forward, but just as far from the goal. Regarding the text by Xavier Girrard

Necessity and communism

In his text on Troploin’s and Théorie communiste’s respective conceptions of history, Xavier Girrard (XG) makes a convincing argument for “the inadequacies of both positions”.6) Opening with a quote by Gilles Dauvé he assumes the task of going beyond the dilemma between a “self-conscious ahistoricism” (attributed Troploin) and an “unself-conscious historicism” (attributed TC), and it is not the logic that falters when this is to be proved. XG presupposes that there lies something true in both Dauvé’s and TC’s criticisms of each other’s perspective and in his text he develops a new synthesis intended to exceed them both in a “self-conscious historicism”. One has to agree in that our theory needs to be exactly as XG describes here below:

[B]ecause it is only in the material struggle to produce communism that one can comprehend whether the communism of the present is indeed the definitive overcoming of the dialectic, a self-consciously historicist communist theory can simultaneously assert the necessity of the present movement’s authoritativeness while recognizing the possibility of its failure.7)

However, there is one big problem and that is the very point of departure, for if it is impossible to balance two symmetrically opposed errors, as Dauvé himself notes, it will certainly be less possible to successfully overcome a problematic which doesn’t even exist. This is the mistake to which XG has fallen victim.

Regarding the critique aimed at Troploin and their ahistoricism, one has to agree fully and we have nothing more to add to it. Concerning TC, the critique would probably have been right had it only been an accurate depiction of their positions. However, and despite his sympathetic attitude, XG reconstructs an inaccurate account of TC’s positions, and it is then this distorted picture of TC which he tries to go beyond. Two examples:

TC abstracts the theory of their moment as the absolute theory. TC produces a total history where the necessary production of communism, as determined by the current cycle of struggle, is neatly situated as its end.8)
TC only reconstructs history to prove that communism will be necessarily produced in the present historical moment.9)

But where does TC say that the present moment, the existing contradiction between proletariat and capital by necessity has to result in a victorious communist revolution? Nowhere. Still, XG is not the first to have interpreted TC’s theory in this way. A member of TC, in our interview published in the previous issue of riff-raff, has already responded to this critique with these words:

[T]here is also a big misunderstanding about the way we present the possibility of communisation: when we say “now the revolution presents itself in this way” we are certainly not saying “finally it presents itself in the way it always should have”, nor are we saying that capital has resolved the problems of the proletarians in their place, because in order to imagine that it would be necessary for those problems to have pre-existed the restructuring and determined the previous period. But e.g. the problem of the impossibility of programmatism posed by the last restructuring was not a problem during the period of programmatism itself, where it was the very course of the revolution, and if capital has resolved the problem of programmatism it should not be forgotten that this happened in a restructuring, that is to say in a counter-revolution, the resolution was produced against the proletarians, and not as a gift from capital. And today the problematic of revolution as communisation raises problems just as redoubtable as those of programmatism, because when it is action as a class which becomes the very limit of class struggle, and you can only make the revolution in and through that action, you have some god-awful problems.10)

The profound scepticism that many people have for TC is founded on a reading which sees a messianic preaching that the moment of true communism has finally arrived, when they see that TC writes that the revolution as communisation (which is not to be mistaken for the communist revolution in general) is something new which has only become a question as from the current cycle of struggles. For those comrades who are still stuck in the problematic of the ultra-left one of the largest obstacles to the revolution is constantly the integration of the working class with capital through the unions which, according to them, are preventing the class from achieving its autonomy. These still often see social democracy and Leninism as dangerous impasses which the proletariat must make sure to avoid, and so when TC and others are saying that the affirmation of labour is no longer a problem this sounds too good to be true. What they forget then is only that at the same time as the counter-revolutionary force inherent to the self-affirmation of the proletariat has fortunately been swept away by the restructuring, also the revolutionary power basing itself on the class identity of the worker has also gone up in smoke, that which had made possible the revolutionary workers’ autonomy.11) So we won’t have to see any future workers’ states that imprisons workers but at the same time we are deprived of the broad workers’ solidarity and organisation, the proletarian class unity which previously constituted a solid base for the struggle against capital. Revolution and counter-revolution in our time will simply appear different and neither of them is going to have the worker’s identity as its life-bringing source. In other words we have witnessed a shift in cycles of struggles and so today we are situated in a completely new arena where the rules of the game have been rewritten. Now if this new situation is going to be more successful, from a communist perspective, than was the 150 years of programmatism, that is something which remains to be seen. At least the future is open, as opposed to what has already been added to the historical archives. The class contradiction of today has no magical configuration which automatically leads to the abolishing of capital. Had that been the case then the whole matter should have already been out of the way.

True, TC maintains that the proletarians now tend to confront their class belonging directly in the majority of today’s struggles. This is indeed a very interesting phenomenon in which we can see how every-day struggles portend the dissolution of the classes. It wasn’t like this before, but when did anybody say that this must imply a certain victory in the class war? Never is anything certain but it is only in the contradiction between capital and the proletariat, the way this contradiction stands today, that we can put our hopes.

Progress for the capital relation? Progress for class struggle?

For XG, the “capitalist mode of production is presently far more advanced than previously”12). Undoubtedly, this is an uncontroversial statement, but a statement which can certainly be called into question, for according to which yardstick is this progress to be measured? If examine the amount of commodities produced as well as the total amount of value, then there has in both cases been a tremendous expansion throughout the history of capitalism. That subsumption has deepened and that “more phenomena have become exchangeable” is undoubtedly true, and looking at the amount of value [värdestorleken] must mean looking at capital according to its own yardstick: the more and larger values the greater the capitalist advance, right? If we consider the following quote by Marx we seem to find such a thought:

Capital is dead labour, that, vampire-like, only lives by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more labour it sucks.13)

If we on the other hand watch capital more closely and see it as the impersonal process it actually is, then we arrive at the basic formula M–C–M´. We recollect that capital and the capital relation can only continue to exist if this process is pursued continuously, i.e. money finding its way to becoming more money. In reality, it is this simple principle which is the essence of capital. To this end it is subjugating the world and models it in its own image. And that the world is changing rapidly and is adopted to facilitate capital reproduction, this is for the undead labour just as much a side-effect as it for the businessman is all the same what sort of things his industry is actually producing.

A specific pole of capital takes a step forward once it has managed to go through its cycle and bring forth M´, but with this it is inexorably brought back to the beginning of the formula, to M. If one million dollars had been invested and after a turn through the production process returned as the same one million, then no progress will have been made; no additional value was produced and the money sum has thus ceased to be capital, for the law of valorisation insists that value grows bigger. However, if one million were to become two and you have a doubling of the wealth, this wouldn’t for capital be less of a progress than if tree, five or even one hundred millions could be realised. For the capitalist it would certainly be a delight being able to collect a hundred millions; he would be able to live a comfortable life in luxury. But capital itself can never rest. A twice as full warehouse is twice as difficult to get rid of. Social total capital stands constantly with the knife against the throat and it doesn’t survive one moment without deepening the exploitation of its opposite the proletariat, irrespective of the amount of surplus-value it had managed to produce the day before.

Regarding present day capitalism XG writes that “surplus-value is extracted far more fluidly, and localized poles of antagonistic accumulation have given way to a more globalized capital.”14) It is true that capital, by way of its globalisation, managed to secure profits for a few decades more after it had broken free from the regulated national zones of accumulation, but it is doubtful if today’s restructured capital relation, with its incessant financial crises and chronic unemployment, would be more vigorous in comparison with that dominating the West during the golden years after the Second World War. When neo-liberalism shouted out from the housetops the urgent need to make the labour market more flexible and loosening the chains that held back the free flows of financial capital, then this was something true, but it was only at this moment when all the regulations or rigidities had become a problem for the system itself. Of course, according to certain fanatical bourgeois ideologues these had always been the problem, in fact the only problem, and this dogma is more than two hundred years old. Market fundamentalism replaced Keynesianism, not because it represented a more advanced expression of the power of the capitalists but because it corresponded better to a new historical situation.

So according to XG, capital has become more advanced than previously, but he also says that this has been accompanied by a more advanced and pugnacious proletariat: “forms of struggle are far more advanced than previously…”15) Here too we need to ask ourselves: according to what yardstick?

If we look just at the general life and working conditions the struggle of the workers doesn’t seem to have led to any improvements worth mentioning ever since globalisation was initiated, at least not in the advanced capitalist countries where we’ve rather seen the opposite trend. From this perspective programmatism actually seemed more advanced: the workers’ movement marched forward and attained an ever greater degree of organisation. More and more votes were won in the parliamentary elections. No-one could turn a blind eye on its growing strength. And with the improvements that it managed to force through the vision of an eventual liberation from the yoke of capital could also be maintained. Today this vision is dead and buried. Nobody can see any such trend in the current development of society. The productivity gains are now accompanied by stagnating wages, increased pressure and rising unemployment.16)

But XG seems to be looking for some sort of qualitative aspect in the struggle because he adds the following:

[W]orkers struggle against the union and the party as aspects of capital, wildcat strikes abound, the council has lost its role as a panacea, and workers’ identity is increasingly ignored or directly assaulted by workers themselves.17)

This cannot be interpreted as if XG would say that the trade-union, the party, the workers’ council etc. at all times is something “bad”. We know from his text that he objects to such a normative view. On the contrary, XG accepts for example the workers’ council as an adequate form of the revolution during a specific cycle of struggles. Despite this we see a certain ultra-left jargon shining through: the old mediations (but he is actually not using this word) are “directly assaulted by workers themselves”, something which is seen as something positive or more “advanced”.

It is true that shell of the trade-union movement which grew up during the previous period along with the workers’ parties today often need to be attacked by the workers. These organisations have, in a country like Sweden, as its major goal to guarantee future investments and thus jobs in the country. No longer are they advancing the positions of the workers as it used to be called. Workers’ politics has been replaced by the need to administer the crisis (i.e. the latent crisis since the beginning of the restructuring) and to spread out its negative effects according to a principle of “solidarity,” by offering a less terrible solution than what is usually recommended by the liberal-conservative parties. This means an inverted reformism with a slow but steady dismantling of labour legislation and welfare institutions built up during the previous period.

But the restructured capitalism and the attacks by the capitalist class over the last thirty years are in no way better for the mode of production than what the Fordist regime once was. It simply became necessary that the latter was to be dismatled as soon as it had become incompatible with the reproduction of the system. Likewise, the counter-attacks by the workers are not more advanced today. If, at present, in order to defend your conditions of living, it often becomes necessary to go out on an unofficial strike or, as we have seen in France, that very radical measures are being taken, such as taking the boss prisoner and threats of massive sabotage of the means of production, then these methods are only necessary in the light of an increased international competition and they are being taken in pure desperation. But the bitter truth is that the number of strikes has gone down steadily according to statistics, including the unofficial ones.

A confrontation with the unions today have however nothing to do with the ultra-left’s critique of the mediations, or that one against the reformism within the workers’ movement has to put forward the self-organisation of the working class. That world has ceased to exist; today’s situation looks radically different. There is no longer any workers’ movement since there is no more workers’ identity and thus no more reformism or revolutionary workers’ autonomy. A struggle coming from the grass roots can emerge spontaneously outside or against the wishes of the local union, but it may also occur that it is the union which takes the initiative. As long as the struggle is over wages and conditions these formalities do not matter very much, for it is not the trade union which needs to be overcome but the trade-unionist content of the struggle, something which necessitates a qualitative leap.

To conclude, although certain “progressive” ideas have here been questioned, there is no point in trying to deny that the capitalist mode of production is in fact developing in time, which would be absurd. The mode of production does indeed have a history where the successive cycles of struggle are not simply breaking with the previous configuration – sometimes with a whole set of institutions – but where the new configuration also bears the marks of what it is replacing. In the process where a new cycle of struggles is on the way to replace the one immediately preceding, sweeping transformations break down the previous supporting structure, but simultaneously a new playing field is opened up with its own particular structure. Thus, history moves forward, the relation of contradiction develops, i.e. the conditions for the exploitation of labour power and the struggle against exploitation. Of what we’ve seen so far the mode of production has pulled through and avoided blowing up from the inside. But this fact proves neither that it is going to survive also in the future nor that it is now, finally, facing being abolished. If the latter is after all to become reality there will be needed that the classes proletariat and capital, at a certain moment, are to confront one-another in a such a way that the outcome will be another than the continued reproduction of the mode of production and the classes: communism.

April 2010
1) The fact that increased productivity in practice is often also accompanied by demands for a greater job performance is a different matter which doesn't change the what has been written above.
2) Cf. Ragnar Järhult, Nu eller aldrig. En bok om “den nya strejkrörelsen”, Stockholm 1982.
3) Cf. Steve Wright, Storming Heaven, London 2002.
4) Because of the way in which the contradiction was put.
5) See Théorie communiste, “Much ado about nothing”, Endnotes No. 1, 2008.
6) Xavier Girrard, “Communization and history. Some thoughts on the debate”.
7) , 12) , 15) , 17) Op. cit.
8) , 9) Op. cit., XX.
10) riff-raff / Roland Simon, “Interview with Roland Simon” <http://www.riff-raff.se/en/8/interview_roland.php>
11) Cf. Théorie communiste, Self-organisation is the first act of the revolution; it then becomes an obstacle which the revolution has to overcome, Supplement to Théorie communiste no 20, 2006.
13) Karl Marx, Capital, Volume 1, p. !!XX!!.
14) Xavier Girrard, op. cit.
16) Capital’s apologetes are seeking to prove that the free flows of capital are making the world a better place in showing numbers of an increased average length of life and reduced child mortality. Excellent! Let’s forget about our robbed youth and instead look forward to a prolonged old age with postponed retirement.