The Reconstitution of Classes under State Capitalism

Capitalism has obviously under gone profound changes in the course of the twentieth century. Its passage from a progressive historic phase to the phase of decadence, and the profound metamorphosis of capitalism that accompanied this change, transformed the whole economic, political and social order and thus, the conditions under which class struggle developed. These transformations were so great that the mass organizations of the proletariat – parties and unions – could not resist the tide and capitulated to the capitalist state at the first overt manifestation of the epochal change: the first World War. Even though the Third International was founded on this change in the system, it was not able to draw all the necessary conclusions and foundered in its turn. Even the small communist groups and fractions that managed to survive the demise of the internationals or that have appeared since that time have always had trouble understanding the meaning and consequences of these transformations. In our publications, we have often pointed to the weakness of the present revolutionary milieu in relation to the understanding of state capitalism. (1) In this text, we want to deal more precisely with a question that is crucial to the proletariat: the transformation of the classes, and particularly the working class itself, under state capitalism.

Recognizing the existence of state capitalism automatically means recognizing a transformation of the capitalist class because state capitalism reveals itself through a transfer of basic economic and political power from the bourgeoisie to the state apparatus. In this process of the recomposition of the capitalist class, the "classic" private bourgeoisie, characterized by individual private property, gives way – either gradually by a progressive fusion, or violently by expropriation – to a new form of this class: the state bureaucracy, characterized by state property. But even this reconstitution, which is especially obvious in the so-called "socialist countries", is not fully grasped by the revolutionary milieu, (2) let alone the issue of the reconstitution of the working class itself. Although certain groups (like the ICC) implicitly base their analyses and their intervention in the class struggle today on a vision of a contemporary working class composed differently today than in the time of Marx a century ago, there is no explicit recognition of these changes and no coherent explanation of them and their implications for class struggle. What is even worse is that a large part of the present milieu, especially tendencies coming from the Italian Left, refuse to admit that the working class has changed in any way and continue to identify it today with the industrial proletariat of Marx’s time. Such a position is taken by the group Communisme ou Civilisation (3), which, in an interesting study on the two phases of capitalist development (formal and real domination of capital), never gets beyond an "orthodox" marxism, never makes marxism into a living method as it was in the time of Marx and completely fails to see the reality of state capitalism today as the outgrowth of the real domination of capital. Communisme ou Civilisation throws all unproductive wage laborers (who are the majority of the workers employed by the state) into the "middle strata" and considers them "a major barrier against the communist revolution". As we hope to show, it is in fact, groups like Communisme ou Civilisation that have made themselves into barriers between different categories of the working class, against the unification of the class and against the communist revolution.

The reason why the present revolutionary milieu has been so unable to deal with the changes in social classes is simple. This milieu had to reconstitute itself after the reawakening of class struggle twenty years ago against all the ideological nonsense about the "disappearance" or integration" of the working class, typical of the previous period of counter-revolution.

One of the principled mainstays of the milieu was and is the recognition of the ruling class as a class and its reactionary role all over the planet, on the one hand, and the identity of the revolutionary class, the proletariat, on the other hand. In the East and the West, the North and the South, the proletariat had to, first of all, be identified as the revolutionary force against the reactionary power of the bourgeoisie. Revolutionaries were constantly up against two types of reactions: either a capitulation to bourgeois ideology which took the form of modernism, or a defensive reaction to this pressure affirming not only the correct revolutionary nature of the proletariat but a so-called "invariance of marxism". These two poles of modernism and invariance are merely two sides of the same coin because they both ignore the dialectical movement of reality which preserves itself through change. The first considers only appearances, concrete change, and the second considers only essence, conservation. The fact that these two poles are once again battling it out among the weak revolutionary forces today is a sure sign of the crisis in the present milieu. If we do not recognize the revolutionary nature of the proletariat over and above all the concrete changes in its conditions of existence, then no revolutionary activity is possible. But, on the other hand, if we do not recognize the existence of these concrete changes, any affirmation of the revolutionary nature of the working class becomes a mere abstraction, producing interventions divorced from the reality of class struggle. In this spirit, we greeted G.S.’s letter as an expression of a much-needed questioning of what is going on in social reality today. But, in our opinion, this letter is based on an anachronistic way of looking at the working class as "industrial workers carrying out manual or mechanical tasks" and does not take into consideration the recent changes in the composition of the working class. To understand these changes, they must be seen in the context of the general changes in the working class during the period of state capitalism.

The revolutionary nature of the proletariat

In Marxism, a class is first of all, defined in economic terms according to its place in the relations of production. What defines the proletariat, and at the same time gives it a revolutionary nature in capitalism is the fact that it produces surplus value. This definition, in itself, implies the existence of capital and wage labor and the exploitation of the latter by the former and their class antagonism. The production of surplus value implies the extraction of surplus labor from the producers and, therefore, the existence of relations of exploitation and antagonism between the ruling class and the producing class. The specific form this surplus labor takes as surplus value implies that labor is used to produce value (exchange value), that this process of production is a process of valorization and growth of capital, which is precisely what defines capitalism as a system. This presupposes that labor power has a value and that it is exchanged for a wage.

The proletariat has a revolutionary nature not simply because of its antagonism towards the bourgeoisie due to the extraction of surplus labor. This characteristic is shared by all the exploited classes of the past. It is the specific form that this antagonism takes in the relation between capital and labor:

"In the relation of capital to labor, exchange value and use value are linked: on the one hand, capital faces labor as exchange value, and on the other hand, labor faces capital as use value." (4) "Labor is use value facing capital which is its exchange value. Capital is exchanged; in this form, the exchange can only take place in relation to non-capital, to the negation of capital, which is the only way it can assert itself as capital. The only veritable non- capital is labor." (5)

This antagonism between labor as use value and capital as exchange value is reflected in the objective motivation of the two classes. Workers exchange value is reflected in the objective motivation of the two classes. Workers exchange their labor power to obtain an exchange value in the form of a wage, but this in turn is only a way of getting the use values necessary to satisfy human needs. The capitalist, on the other hand, purchases labor power against its use value, but this in turn consists only of producing exchange values. In other words, workers live for use value, for the satisfaction of human needs, while the capitalists live for exchange values, for the satisfaction of the needs of capital. That is why, behind the conflict between capital and labor, lies the conflict between capitalism, the last mode of production based on exchange values and communism, the mode of production that will follow it based on use values and the satisfaction of human needs. This is also why Lenin could write that "behind each strike lurks the spectre of the revolution", because behind the apparently petty wage demands on the terrain of the exchange value of labor power, objectively but implicitly lurks a whole other social project based on human needs. The role of marxism is to make this perspective explicit, to make those who carry this perspective forward in their activity conscious of it.

Productive and unproductive labour under state capitalism Recognizing the proletariat as the producers of surplus value is, therefore, essential not only for its immediate struggle but for its historic future. In other words, the productive nature of the proletariat is essential. Under capitalism:

"A productive worker is one who does productive work; productive work is that which directly creates surplus value; work that valorizes capital. " (6)

From this definition, we could quite wrongly deduce that for Marx, only those workers who were individually productive were part of the proletariat. This is not at all the case. In his theoretical analyses, Marx generally spoke of an abstract, general worker and not of particular concrete individuals. Immediately after defining productive labor, Marx quickly adds:

" When the real submission of labor to capital grows, that is, a submission to the capitalist mode of production, it is not the individual worker but a socially coordinated labor force that becomes the real agent of the labor process as a whole. The different labor powers that cooperate and constitute the total productive machine participate in different ways in the immediate production of commodities (or products): the task of some is mainly physical, for others, intellectual; some are engineers, managers, technicians, etc.; some are supervisors; some are manual workers or simple laborers. At that point, the functions of labor power are taken up in the immediate concept of productive labor and its agents, under the concept of productive workers directly exploited by capital and totally subordinate to the capitalist process of production and valorization. If we consider the collective worker, the shop, its coordinated activity is directly materialized in a collective product which is, at the same time, a mass of commodities. It is of little importance whether the function of the individual worker, a cog in the machinery of collective labor, be close to simple manual labor or not." (7)

It is clear, then, that for Marx the definition of the proletariat and of the productive character of labor is a collective definition and not an individual one, and that the collective, social character of labor constantly increases in the course of the development of capital. Marx and marxists have never wasted their time trying to separate, in one enterprise, the worker individually attached to productive activity from a worker individually attached to unproductive labor such as cleaning or packaging; any more than Marxists have separated the worker at the moment he is employed from that same worker when he is thrown on the scrap heap as a result of the crisis. The productive character of the proletariat is determined, not in a particularistic, immediate, individual way, but on a global, historic and collective basis.

In his time, Marx was confronted with a capitalism still in full expansion and at the beginning of the real submission of labor to capital. In addition, his critical analysis of the society and the capitalist mode of production remained incomplete, especially in relation to the most universal, general aspects on the State and the world market. It is, therefore, impossible to try to find in his work the answer to all the problems facing us today. His analysis of the productive or unproductive character of labor is, for example, limited to the immediate process of production, although this understanding is vital, it is not enough in the present phase of state capitalism.

State capitalism developed on the basis of the real submission of labor to capital as the ultimate stage in the concentration of capital and the collectivization of the process of the valorization of capital. What Marx showed in the immediate process of production with the appearance of the real submission of labor to capital – the creation of a collective worker – is expressed today on the scale of the whole nation and the overall process of valorization. State capitalism destroys the barriers between the different spheres of production, circulation and consumption, and unifies them into one huge process of reproduction, valorization and accumulation of national capital. This unity carried out by state capitalism remains contradictory, because the contradictions between the different spheres continue to exist, which presupposes the existence of crises, but the important change lies in the fact that the agent of capital – the state apparatus – is now one overall whole with the entire process of the valorization of national capital in its hands.

This unification leads to profound modifications not only in the operation of the law of value but in the composition of the classes. The field of application of the law of value grows considerably under state capitalism to encompass the whole of the national economy. Despite the repeated intervention of the State in the immediate application of the law of value, this law still governs every moment of the process of valorization, including in the "socialist" countries where state capitalism is formally the most extreme:

"Even when a system of prices is used, it is a simple accounting technique which the planning board can dispense with at any time. This is simply an extension of a well-established tendency under monopoly capitalism. In trusts and vertical concentrations, products are neither bought nor sold but allocate to different sectors regardless of their value or individual production cost. For example, Bethlehem Steel, which produces its own iron for use in its steel mills, does not have to make a profit on this iron. It’s only with the final product, the steel in this case, that a profit must be made. What was merely a tendency under monopoly capitalism expands considerably under state capitalism. Here, the calculations of the state in search of the highest growth rate possible, are based on the profits of all national production taken as a whole.

Even though it is the national capital as a whole that is concerned and not each individual product, the law of value regulated the whole economy. Although the ‘price’ by which each component of the State economy is exchanged of does not represent its value of the cost of producing these products, any sale of a product under its value at one end of the cycle must be compensated for by the buying of a similar product over its value, or else the profits of the national economy will be in danger. Thus, although the law of value does not seem to operate in the economy, behind these phenomenological forms (price as an accounting technique etc.) the categories and the processes of value determine each stage of production. " (8)

The unification of the national economy under the aegis of the State affects the criteria of the productivity of capital. From the point of view of the immediate process of production, (which is also the point of view of the individual capitalist), any work creating surplus value is productive, whatever the use of the products of this labor. If these products return to the productive process as means of production or as means of consumption for the working class or, on the contrary, if they are wasted as luxury products or weapons, their content is irrelevant to the determination of productive labor:

"It is perfectly true, and very revealing, that economists can assert that workers in the luxury trades are productive workers while those who consume these luxuries are considered unproductive parasites…These workers are no more interested in the garbage they produce than their employer is interested in the garbage he sells." (9)

On the other hand, from the point of view of the valorization of capital as a whole (the point of view of the State) the immediate productive character of labor is not enough. The product of this labor has to be consumed in a productive way, has to return to the productive process. The viewpoint of the national capital is the viewpoint of the unity of the production and consumption process. That’s why for national capital, a sector is productive only if both the work included and the consumption of the product is productive. From this point of view, sectors like the production of luxury goods and weapons are not productive because their products do not return to the productive process and represent a drain on the accumulation of capital.

Under these conditions, the immediately productive or unproductive character of labor is no longer an essential point. In fact, the immediately productive or unproductive nature of certain types of labor is irrelevant to state capitalism, as long as this labor is part of the overall valorization of the national capital as a whole. This is the case for public services and in general, for everything that participates in the functioning of the economy and the social reproduction of labor power: education, health, transportation, housing, leisure, etc. These sectors can be organized as productive labor or public services or even be free of charge without fundamentally changing anything in the overall process of the valorization and accumulation of national capital. In fact, different policies towards this issue are in effect in different countries and the recent wave of "privatizations" in some of these sectors has shown, if this was still needed, that they can function just as well as services or as productive sectors. In either case, what counts is their ability to assure the conditions necessary for the functioning of basic productive sectors, the sectors producing the surplus value necessary to the accumulation of capital. This, of course, does not mean that capital is indifferent to the immediate productive character of labor in general or that it can increase unproductive sectors at will with no negative ramifications. The hypertrophy of unproductive sectors typical of the present period, especially in the State bureaucracy and the armaments sectors, is essentially an expression of the decadence of the capitalist system, weighed down by its economic, social and military contradictions historically getting worse and worse. In an overall sense, these productive sectors are growing at the expense of the productive sectors and hold back the accumulation process instead of stimulating it. Again, the unity realized by state capitalism does not absorb the contradictions of capital but carries them onto a higher level.

Thus, state capitalism generalizes to the whole of the national economy what used to happen in the work places at the beginning of the phase of the real submission of labor to capital: the real agent of the total labor process is no longer the individual worker or even the collective labor power of one enterprise or one sector, but the total social labor power of the entire nation which constitutes the total productive machinery of the national capital.

The Proletariat and the Middle Strata

Under state capitalism, the proletariat is the social labor power that valorizes capital. Therefore, any reference to the productive or unproductive character of the specific labor done by an individual worker ought to be banished from any definition of the proletariat today. One worker, employed today, will be unemployed tomorrow. Another whose labor is today consumed as a form of service will see the same labor consumed tomorrow as productive labor after some privatization or other. Another worker, productive today, will cease to be so tomorrow when the factory he works in is no longer profitable, but still necessary to the national capital and so subsidized by the State

At the same time as it unites the different phases of the overall process of valorization, state capitalism unifies the different kinds of labor, in particular mental and manual labor. One of the characteristics of the real submission of labor to capital is the application of science to the productive process. Science constantly changes the conditions of production, increases the productivity of labor and increases the profits for the capital that uses a scientific discovery first. Although science is not immediately productive, it indirectly becomes a more and more powerful factor in the productivity of capital, a tendency that continues to develop under state capitalism. There is the growth of a whole series of branches, linked to science and using intellectual labor, which goes from the production of science (scientific research), to its application to the material process of production (engineers, technicians), and including its transmission (education). These sectors become an increasingly closer part of the overall process of the valorization of capital.

The metamorphosis that took place with state capitalism makes the figure of the worker with callused hands as obsolete as the figure of the capitalist in top hat chomping on a big cigar. Today, we are seeing a recomposition of the classes which makes their boundaries somewhat less clear-cut. Class is no longer determined on an individual basis but on a collective basis. The capitalist class is no longer a class consisting of individual owners of the means of production but a social entity collectively directing the process of the valorization of national capital, and which includes individual owners of the means of production but also bureaucrats who are only indirectly the owners of the means of production in their capacity as representatives of the State. In the same way, the working class can no longer be defined as individuals who supply productive labor but as a social entity whose collective labor valorizes capital. Next to these two fundamental classes there is a whole series of intermediary strata whose social position attaches them neither to the bourgeoisie nor the proletariat (certain middle management of companies and diverse State institutions, professionals, independents, etc.) and especially in underdeveloped countries, a mass of petty producers who are not under the formal submission to capital, in addition to the masses who have no work and are thus excluded from any link to the productive process.

The tendency to generalize wage labor to all classes and strata in state capitalism makes the formal limits between the classes more difficult to discern. Unlike the members of other classes and strata, the worker keeps his fundamental attributes: he faces capital owning only his labor power, separate from the means of production and the products of his labor.

In its movement, capital constantly creates middle strata, but also, constantly rejects them into the proletariat. The vast majority of services provided by middle strata in the past are today provided by proletarians. Take the example of education which is particularly significant because it concerns intellectual work and also because it regularly leads to all kinds of confused debates in the revolutionary milieu. At the outset, professors and other teachers possessed an individual body of knowledge and a privileged social status (in relation to the proletariat). Today, in the advanced countries, they represent merely an impersonal body of knowledge regulated by the State and their social position has fallen to the point where their wages are less than many factory workers. They are forced to sell their labor power in the same way as any proletarian. Marx noted more than a century ago that teachers could even be productive workers like any other:

"In order to hold back the development of the productive forces which would rapidly come into conflict with capitalist relations of production, the need is felt for a class that does not have accumulation as its goal, that can epitomize the passion for consumerism, the passion for spending, so as to limit accumulation, limit the valorization/devalorization contradiction, and give capitalist accumulation a sphere which produces no supplementary accumulation but whose products can be consumed unproductively. This class is the intermediary strata. By creating this class, the bourgeoisie strengthen, its power and security." (11)

This justification is wrong on at least three counts. First of all, capital never seeks to limit its own expansion. By its very nature, capital is forced to valorize itself as much as possible. Even if an individual capitalist or a particular State had the aberrant idea of holding back their own accumulation, the competition coming from other capitalists or States would quickly remind them of the fundamental laws of capitalism. The assertions of "Communisme ou Civilisation" are even more absurd because capitalism has, for a long time, already been in a historic phase where the productive forces have come into conflict with the relations of production. Most national capitals try desperately to realize the accumulation that would assure their competitive position on the world market. Second of all, if the bourgeoisie merely wanted to waste the surplus value produced, it wouldn’t need to extract it in the first place. Raising the wages of workers would be just as effective in holding back accumulation and strengthening the power and security of the bourgeoisie. Finally, for the unproductive proletarians that are the majority of what Communisme ou Civilisation calls middle strata, this "passion for consumerism" is a myth taken from the bourgeois legend of the "consumer society". In reality, capitalism simply does not give them the means to satisfy the "passion for spending". That’s why they fight against capital instead of assuring its security

The Difficulties and the Promise of the Proletariat’s Coming to Class Consciousness

The recomposition of the proletariat that is taking place under state capitalism is a constant thing. In the course of its historic evolution, state capitalism has amplified its basic tendencies, especially the relative growth of unproductive sectors over productive sectors. This growth of unproductive sectors is partly the result of the increasing complexity of the economy and the need to centralize a whole series of economic activities into the hands of the State in the form of public services. But, it is also largely linked to capitalism’s need to deal with the internal contradictions sapping its strength in the period of decadence – economic, imperialist and class contradictions. In today’s open crisis of capitalism, these tendencies only strengthen each other, especially because the productive sector itself is directly hit by the crisis. In the last ten years, the accentuation of the contradictions of capitalism, has produced a double movement. Whole branches of heavy industry have been dismantled (the mines, steel, naval shipyards) producing a real de-industrialization in certain regions. At the same time, unproductive sectors have mushroomed (armaments, insurance, advertising, accounting, information management, etc.), increasingly manned by temporary or part-time workers.

Any change in the composition of the working class is potentially a factor of division within the class, because the State and its organs, especially the unions, will use these changes to build an ideological wedge in the class making class consciousness and the development of class perspectives all that much more difficult. Under state capitalism, the proletarianization of "white-collar" workers, such as teachers, nurses, various kinds of pencil pushers, and so on, whose work is partly intellectual, does not mean that these workers are automatically conscious o belonging to the proletariat. Have we not recently seen these same teachers and nurses, in struggles in Italy and in France assert that they were not part of the working class and that their interests were specific to themselves? This difficulty in recognition is not specific to these workers: bourgeois propaganda constantly hammers "blue-collar" workers on the head about how they are the only "true workers" because they do manual labor and have nothing in common with the "white collar" workers. The worst of it is that even revolutionaries believe and perpetuate this sort of fatal division in the class.

In the same way, unemployment and temporary or part-time work have grown considerably creating a basis for divisions between workers who are "lucky" enough to have "normal" work and those who do part-time or underpaid work or who have no work at all. The crisis always begins by aggravating the competition among workers.

The fact that the number of productive, industrial workers in the proletariat and in the population as a whole has steadily fallen as decadent capitalism has continued to exist, does not weaken the historic potential of the proletariat. The examples of united struggles of "white-collar" and "blue-collar" workers are legion in the twenty years since the reawakening of class struggle in the 60’s. Only those who are nostalgic for the "pure and simple" stereotyped worker of the past are still lamenting the changes in capitalism. Certainly factory closings in the former industrial heartlands, in the mines and the steel mills, have dislocated militant and experienced sectors of the proletariat who used to be in the forefront of the class struggle. But, in the long run, the mass of unemployed that has been created is also apt to crystallize the workers’ revolt against the existing social order in a particularly explosive way, because of the inhuman treatment the unemployed are getting and the fact that they are relatively freer of union control. To a lesser extent, perhaps, the same thing can be said for temporary and underpaid workers.

Although the recomposition of the two fundamental classes under state capitalism has made class struggle more difficult, it has, in fact, forced it onto a higher level. In the phase of the formal submission of labor to capital, workers found themselves in a personalized relationship with the capitalists who exploited them. Class conflict pitted workers directly against the boss of a particular company in a direct way. Class antagonisms were clearly identifiable and the class consciousness necessary to wage these struggles was relatively elementary. With the passage to the real submission of labor to capital, capital became more impersonal, the struggle widened out to encompass a larger social arena. The extraction of relative surplus value from labor power implies a direct interdependence between different sectors of production in the determination of wages and the rate of exploitation. These tendencies are carried to an extreme under state capitalism. The unification of the different spheres and sectors of the national economy and the impersonal and collective nature of class relations means that the proletariat must develop a consciousness of the social relations of capital as a totality if it is to succeed even in its immediate struggles. What was merely an abstract historical exigence in the phase of the formal submission of labor to capital becomes and immediate necessity under state capitalism uniting the immediate and the historic programs of the proletariat into one.

There is no doubt that this makes immediate struggles more difficult; partial struggles, for example, are doomed to failure. But, it forces the proletariat to develop a more profound consciousness of capitalist social relations and the nature of communism. At the beginning of the century, in an under-industrialized Russia, Lenin could still believe that socialism equaled electricity plus the soviets. Today, such a belief is unthinkable. The social-democratic concept of class struggle that leninism inherited and which still permeates certain sectors of the revolutionary milieu today, is, in fact, based on the conditions of the formal submission of labor to capital. For socialism to be realized, it used to seem enough to eliminate the formal relation of the submission of labor to capital. In this sense, the historic potential of the class consciousness of the proletariat is greater today than in the past.

The Fundamental Nature of Social Classes Remains

Despite constant changes in their composition and in the conditions of their existence, social classes have changed neither their fundamental nature nor their fundamental relations. As we have seen, state capitalism does not eliminate capital or its complement, wage labor, or the antagonism between them. It brings them onto a higher, more impersonal, more collective level.

In this sense, it seems useless, even dangerous, for us to want to change Marxist terminology to go along with the constant changes in the composition of the classes. This would imply that these changes in the sociological composition of the classes were more important than their historic nature. In the bourgeoisie, the evolution from the individual bourgeois property owner with his ownership of the means of production at the beginning of capitalism, to the state bureaucrat, simple cog in the apparatus of the social domination of capital, was a more or less gradual historical evolution, even though a qualitative leap was taken at the beginning of the twentieth century when capitalism entered its declining phase. The often violent struggles that took place between factions of the private bourgeoisie and representatives of the state bureaucracy in certain countries were only one expression among others of the competition and conflict of interest typical of this class, but it does not make these factions into different and opposing classes. The individual bourgeoisie as well as the state bureaucrat have never been anything other than agents of capital reflecting different phases in the development and centralization o capital. In this sense, the distinction made by MacIntosh in his article I.P. #7 between "the bourgeoisie" and "the capitalist class" is, in our opinion, to be rejected. Although it allows taking into account the changes in the makeup of the capitalist class, it can leave itself open to the possibility of a misunderstanding about the historical continuity of the fundamental nature of the ruling class. State capitalism is only a form of capitalism; state property is only a form of private property. It is, therefore, perfectly consistent to present the state bureaucracy as a form of the bourgeoisie.

In the proletariat, there has been a similar evolution towards the accentuation of its social and collective character. But for the same reasons, the distinction between "proletariat" and "working class" that the letter from G.S. seems to suggesting, and which used to be the hobby horse of modernism, should also be rejected because it brings confusions about the unity of the proletariat and historical continuity of its nature and fundamental tasks.

So many things have changed during this century. Capital has changed, the bourgeoisie has changed, and the proletariat has changed. The conditions of class struggle have changed as well as the enormous stakes involved in its out come. But changes in terminology will scarcely help the proletariat gain the class consciousness necessary for its historic tasks. Today, in both theory and practice, the proletariat has to understand both capital and communism as a totality, as a social relation. The depth of class consciousness needed to accomplish this task, and the enormity of the task itself, explains the slow pace and extreme difficulty of the maturation of class consciousness and class struggle today. The great potential of class struggle today demands that revolutionaries raise their sights both theoretically and practically to face this challenge.

M. Lazare


(1) See "State Capitalism", in Internationalist Perspective #7.
(2) See "Privatization and State Capitalism", in Internationalist Perspective #10.
(3) Communisme ou Civilisation, #5, 7 and 9.
(4) Marx, Grundrisse 2, "Chapitre du Capital", 10/18, p.41.
(5) Marx, ibid., p.49.
(6) Marx, "Materieux pour l’Economie", La Pleiade, vol.2, p.387.
(7) Marx, ibid., p.389.
(8) "State Capitalism and the Law of Value", Internationalism #2 (1971), translated in Revolution Internationale #4. In comparing this text to the prose appearing today [1989] in ICC publications, one can see the full measure of the degeneration of this organization; the gangrene has spread to its understanding of fundamental economic categories. In the International Review # 54, the ICC criticizes the thesis put forward in IP #7 that the field of application of the law of value has expanded under state capitalism. The ICC seems to think we justify this assertion by pointing to "the development of free trade after the Second World War" (sic). And they proceed to cite numerous examples of protectionism, cartels and monopolies to "illustrate the process of the relative restriction of the application of the law of value" (p.13-14). If the ICC believes that the the application of the law of value requires "free trade", it should logically conclude that the law of value no longer applies in the so-called "socialist" countries and throw out the communist program altogether. The ICC today seems to believe that the law of value means the exchange of commodities at their value. But even if trade is free, the law of value assures that no individual commodity (with some exceptions) will be sold at its value. Throughout the history of capitalism, the law of value has always been applied on a larger and larger scale, distorting more and more the relation between the individual value of the commodity and its price on the market. State capitalism only amplifies this process.
(9) Marx, Grundrisse 2, "Chapitre du Capital", p. 48.
(10) Marx, "Materieux pour l’Economie", p. 398.
(11) Communisme ou Civilisation, #9, p.36

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