Intervention and the communising current - Bernard Lyon

Bernard Lyon on the role played by communisation theorists in the process of communisation, posted on the 'Meeting' website on Monday 21st July 2008.

Despite its title, this discussion note does not deal with the question of intervention as such, but rather with the social becoming of the key-concept of our theory: communisation. That is to say with the formation of a situation in which we must envisage that a form of intervention is possible, with all the reservations that the use of this term calls for, when it means an action coming from outside into a framework that welcomes it or rejects it. It does not mean that we should dismiss all the work that has to be done around the affirmation of a revolutionary theory, its diffusion, the formation on this basis of more or less stable nucleuses and the activity of these nucleuses. However, to this term “intervention”, we must prefer the description of the activity of the advocates of communisation who are engaged in class struggles and the conflicts and gaps that run through them.

This activity takes place in the everyday course of class struggle that produces concretely and in reality its own overcoming as communist revolution. These activities must be understood as produced in this course, as constituting one of its practical determinations, one of its elements, and this in its theoretical characteristics themselves (in the narrow sense of the term “theoretical”). This theory production does not exist in itself as a constituted body, facing this immediate course and being prior to it, and that is the reason why theory must be understood as a real element of class struggle. The situation that arises from the restructuring is such that there is no longer any basis for the affirmation of the proletariat in order to liberate productive labour. Immediate labour (the only one that produces surplus-value) is no longer the essential element of the process of labour, even if it remains, and will always remain, essential to the production process as the production of surplus-value. There no longer is a distinct workers’ identity that faces capital and is confirmed by it. Now, the social existence of the proletariat faces, and keeps facing it as being capital itself. The contradiction between the proletariat and capital is then immediately contradiction with its own nature as a class of capital , the relation to capital that defines the proletariat as a class appears as a constraint exerted by capital.

The overcoming of capital is unitarily the abolition of classes, and therefore of the proletariat, in the abolition of capital, in the communisation of society which is thus abolished as a community separated from its members. Society is the community separated from its members, it is always a class society embodied in the ruling class. The abolition of the ruling class, of the class of capital, is the abolition of the state and of the society it represents as the State of Capital. Proletarians abolish capital by producing against it a community that is immediate to its members. They turn into immediately social individuals, with immediate inter-individual and trans-individual relations. In these relations between singular individuals and affinity groups each is no longer the embodiment of a social category, even the so-called natural categories, in reality given by society, such as the social genders of man and woman. The abolition of classes, the abolition of society is also immediately the abolition of its sexual division: male domination is assigned to some as men, who mediate the capitalist exploitation of the reproductive capacity of half the population, that is, the production of labour power ; and assigned to others as women. The abolition of classes is the abolition of men and women as assigned social functions.

This revolutionary process is the communisation, the production of communism without any other transition than the revolution itself. There are no stages between the revolution and communism: neither socialism nor any form of workers’ power or stable workers’ management. The current situation of the relation between classes is the product of the totality of the historical process of capital: as exploitation, as mode of production, as economy, as capitalist society, as State, that is to say as a permanent contradiction (exploitation), irreducible and always deepening, between the capitalist class and the proletariat. In previous cycles of struggle, the proletariat, in its reciprocal implication with capital, would produce the communist overcoming in a manner that was adequate to the content of its contradiction with capital. This revolution, even if it was impossible in its own terms, was the real overcoming, and its impossibility is only obvious from the standpoint of the overcoming that is now produced by the contradiction between classes. With the appearance of the current situation, the proletariat no longer opposes to capital the positivity that capital confirmed: to be the class of productive labour. The proletariat used to project its affirmation by having as a programme a historical stage of the free development of productivity and thus of the caducity of value. This transitory stage to communism was the necessary integration, by the proletariat and under its control, of the becoming of the historical arch of capital. This period could well be conceived of as a Workers State (for the Marxists) or as a management by the commune or the union (for the anarchists), this does not change anything of the essential. The impossibility of integrating the arch of capital was the impossibility of self-exploitation, as exploitation is always a relation between distinct classes.

Very quickly, in Russia, after a few attempts at self-management, a new exploiting class came to being from the revolutionary structures, because the bourgeoisie had been expelled but productive labour still had to be developed. It was a counter-revolution adequate to a programmatic revolution, not less bloody or barbaric than a more obvious bourgeois counter-revolution. It is because of the nature of this counter-revolution that the Ultra-left was unable to see that what it called State Capitalism was in fact really socialism. Indeed, this specific counter-revolution did not restore private property, it solved the problem of the impossibility of workers’ self-exploitation by inventing an exploitation carried out by a workers’ state and its class, the Party, slightly open to workers’ promotion. It is this completely specific type of capitalist development that explained why a large part of the working class of western bourgeois capitalist countries was attached to it. This “programmatic” form (it could have been said “labourist” in English if there was not a pre-emption of the Labour Party) of class struggle is now globally overcome (together with its counter-revolution) and the horizon is now totally and simply capitalist. “Real socialism” (which was really socialism, that is to say a capitalist economy, run by the state, with a workers’ ideology and a non-free labour market) collapsed with the restructuring of the real domination in which it no longer had its place. It appeared that real domination was directly antagonistic to its a-priori <realignment/equalization> [péréquation] and its absence of a labour market. As Socialism was all the same articulated to worldwide free-market capitalism, the global restructuring got rid of it, and its disappearance was so sudden that it gave the astonishing impression that it had evaporated under the suns of Chernobyl and Afghanistan to get lost in the darkness of Reagan’s “Star Wars”.

This disappearance, and the concomitant disappearance of the workers movement, have immortalized capital in the field of economy and society, the only temporal field that can exist until their abolition. In this immortalization, Radical Democratism has at the same time buried and replaced programmatism by placing class struggles in front of their own limit (en renvoyant aux luttes de classe leur propre limite): for the proletariat, its own existence as a class is the limit that its struggle as a class must overcome. Radical Democratism is then the construction, for themselves, of the real limits of struggles as a set of demands and of “solutions” to the problems of capital: demanding capital to be adequate to its ideology that advocates democracy and social equality, total democracy, fair-trade and sustainable development. Even if Radical Democratism has probably reached the peak of its existence between 1995 and 2003, it still constitutes an obstacle that struggles will have to shatter. The current characteristic of the contradiction between classes, which is to not allow the existence of a (socialist) “beyond” to capital within the present of capital, posits at the same time its immortalisation and the determination of its abolition.

The fact that class struggles have demands can not be overcome on its own basis. In the crisis of the relation of exploitation, the seizing of capital units is an immediate survival necessity, and it implies developing the self-management of other elements that are themselves essential to the survival of what was first seized. This movement makes it a necessity to continue to struggle, it becomes its own aim as a continuation of the struggle.

The expansion, through conflicts, within and against capital, of the seizing of all sorts of elements of the capitalist society, this development of self-management contradicts itself, as self-management, because of the development within itself of an overcoming of exchange, by making free and uniting the seized elements. A community of proletarians who do not want to remain so constitutes itself, and, through the struggle, they become immediately social singular individuals. Self-management, self-organisation, overcome themselves and become communisation: they go beyond themselves when they refuse any stabilisation that would consist in creating a state-run economy or a crisis economy that would potentially be counter-revolutionary. This overcoming is an internal struggle at the same time as been a struggle against the capitalist society.

The communisation is a revolution within the revolution.

It is the proletarians’ struggle for their unity in the struggle, struggle in which they cease to be proletarians! Communisation is not the re-appropriation of individual capitals by proletarians, they do not re-appropriate anything, capitals are radically de-capitalized, they are not property any more, they are de-objectified as capital, as reification of social relations, they return to their eventual use as means of living and/or of the extension of the decapitalisation.

The real communisation is not the practical application of an abstract theoretical anticipation. The concept of communisation is not an intellectual invention corresponding to a practical social situation that would be dumb and unbearable, it is the product of the self-critical understanding that struggles have on themselves, struggles that, since the 60s, show the end of the programme, as proletarians no longer express any desire to affirm themselves through the state. Struggles also show through changing activities, riots, strikes that have no demands in the 70s, activities of gaps and riots again in the 90s and the 2000s, the active refusal – against capital – of the proletarian condition, including within self-management.

The elaboration of the theory of communisation took place at the beginning of the crisis faced by the capitalist mode of production at the end of the 60s and at the start of the counter-revolutionary process that was the restructuring of capital from the early 70s. It is the overcoming of the contradiction in which the Ultra-left was stuck, criticizing the forms of the affirmation and rise to power of the proletariat (mass party, union, use of the parliament) while retaining the revolution as an affirmation of the class. It is also the overcoming of the dead-end of workers’ autonomy in the 60s/70s, fortunately less bloody. The partial and formal critique of the Ultra-left that still advocates direct affirmation through workers’ councils radicalises itself into a theory of the self-negation of a theoretical proletariat that is still considered revolutionary in its nature, a theoretical, revolutionary proletariat that is clearly distinct from the alienated working class, that could only be seen defending wage labour. As the restructuring proceeded and working class identity was disappearing, this conception of a proletariat/working class contradiction lead to a giving up of the idea of a revolutionary nature of the proletariat, even hidden behind the working class. The proletariat/ working class contradiction was a transitory way to escape the impossibility of the affirmation of the class, and this pure struggle of concepts implied that the nature of the proletariat could only manifest itself by destroying all the forms of existence of the class in the capitalist society, a class that could even be called “variable capital”.

Any affirmation of a revolutionary nature, even under the form of the affirmation of a pure negativity, is overcome when the revolution, that is the production of communism, is the very means of the destruction of capitalism and of the abolition of the classes. In this production, no nature of the proletariat expresses itself, only the contradiction between classes is at work; communism is produced against capital, simply because it is consciously necessary for the struggle against exploitation and the crisis of exploitation itself. A coherent critique of capital that includes its historical process is now inseparable from the affirmation of a communising perspective. This critique that systematises the content of the gaps in the limit of struggles argues with left-wing anarchists and immediatist advocates of communism. The theory of the communisation that is to come, that is, an overcoming of proletarians’ self-defence against capital as it endangers their immediate reproduction, does not arise as a solution, as a strategic choice that proletarians should make.

The communising perspective exists as a means for the self-understanding of the movement that overcomes defensive struggles that are simply socialising. Now this perspective is simply a reinforcing of the activities that posit this overcoming by criticizing workers’ self-organisation and self-management of the economy. The communising perspective is an articulation between the theorising nature of struggles and “theory” production in a narrow sense. It is in this situation that a possibility for an epidemic expansion of the concept of communisation exists.

Carrying on the elaboration of a communising perspective implies recognising that it should become inescapable for all sorts of advocates of a revolution, and even, as radical democrats modestly call it, of a social transformation. The revolutionary workers’ programme does not exist any more; Radical Democratism was its disappearance and what remained as a political (or pseudo-political) form from the limit of struggles. In this cycle, the articulation with immediate struggles must therefore be understood from the following theoretical elements:

  • Theory as a real element of struggles
  • The theoretician nature of struggles
  • The formation of gaps in the class characteristic of struggles, that is to say in their limit, identical to their very nature of class being
  • The appearance of a communising theoretical current
  • The production of an overcoming during the totality of the cycle that started in the 70s
  • The overcoming as not being an overgrowth (transcroissance) from struggles, necessitating a rupture
  • To understand the economical crisis as a crisis of the relation of exploitation, as a crisis of class reproduction

The synthesis element could be the existence of the communising current.

We can probably link the action of the advocates of communisation with the appearance of gaps, without considering them as triggers but rather as gaps “hunters”. The situation implies the formation of gaps in struggles: communisators have, by nature, affinities with these potentialities.

It is impossible to think that communisation could take place without being given a name. The hegemonic becoming of the concept is by no means a condition for communisation, as it is determined by the revolutionary crisis of the relation of exploitation. However, the process of a communising overcoming will see the concept spread, in a conflicting way, within struggles and within self-organisation. Already now, there is a conflict between what the communisation current holds and the fossilized remains of the councilist-bordiguist ultra-left. True, these remains are insignificant but there is also, if not an argument, at least a polemic with an immediatist- alternativist current that is far less negligible. The hegemony of the concept now requires a self-critical analysis of current struggles rather than the already overcome critique of the programme.

This argument and this polemic are not intended to popularise the concept, which concerns the meaning of struggles, the meaning of the development of capital, the outcome of struggles in the coming crisis. However, they spread the concept and it can become integrated in numerous a-priori revolutionary schemes. It can be synonymous with collectivisation, with self-management (believe me, I have seen it!) It can be synonymous with the constitution of proletarians’ unity in struggle. Proletarians in struggle create between themselves new relations whose mediation is the struggle against the mediation, that is, capital. To call this unity in struggles communisation means, for those you do it, that they understand the direct link between current struggles and the revolution, and that is essential. But this link has here an immediatist characteristic, it autonomises the dynamic of the period, and constructs its ideology, which inevitably leads to an alternative lifestyle. And it is not this lifestyle that we should criticize, but rather the interventionist posture that results from it. The more or less immediatist tendencies will be wrong until they are right, but then everybody will know it! The term communisation has also been considered as clearer than anarcho-syndicalism, without seeing how they are in opposition with each other. The term can function as a political label, and it will be assigned to all those who speak about communisation, they will be communisators as one can be trotskist or ultra-leftist, that is how it is and we must “live with it”.

The development of the concept, that the communising current undertakes permanently, is also the development of a network of small groups and individualities which is not homogeneous and which includes differences of opinion. Even more different will be, as we have seen, the re-appropriations of the concept beyond this network. The differences of opinion, or even the contradictions, in the understanding of the concept, which refers to the positive abolition of capital by the proletarians who turn into immediately sociable individuals, are inevitable but they do not bring with them any possibilities that the real communisation would “take the wrong track”, because the concept does not create the movement: it is a necessary self-understanding of the movement. The communising current develops in relation with struggles (whatever the form this relation takes), its concepts are used in order to integrate these struggles to a perspective, this use leads to differences of opinion and to interpretations that can be immediatist, alternativist, ideological or incredibly productive!

The theory of the communisation, in its relation with class struggle, produces the water in which it swims, it is the banal becoming of this theory that is already a real element of struggles and that will allow it to become, more and more, the critical theory of struggles that are more and more theoretician. The spreading of the communisation concept will be the unification of two forms of theory and will allow it to have a common language. This spreading will give rise to polemics and to the emergence of a possible expression of an overcoming perspective that will no longer be, as it is the case now, an implicit that must be deciphered.

Let us be prepared to be surprised and disturbed by the success of the communisation.

Taken from the Meeting website.