N.I. Bukharin and E. Preobrazhensky: The ABC of Communism


Chapter 1: The Capitalistic Social Order

§ 6 Commodity economy

If we study how economic life is carried on under the capitalist régime, we see that its primary characteristic is the production of commodities . 'Well, what is there remarkable about that?' the reader may ask. The remarkable point is that a commodity is not simply a product, but something produced for the market.

A product made for the producer himself, made for his own use, is not a commodity. When a peasant sows rye, gathers in the harvest, threshes it, mills the grain, and bakes bread for himself, this bread is certainly not a commodity; it is simply bread. It only becomes a commodity when it is bought and sold; when, that is to say, it is produced for a buyer, for the market. Whoever buys it, owns it.

Under the capitalist system, all products are produced for the market, they all become commodities. Every factory or workshop produces in ordinary circumstances one particular product only, and it is easy to understand that the producer is not producing for his own use. When an undertaker, in his workshop, has coffins made, it is perfectly clear that he does not produce these coffins for himself and his family, but for the market. Again, in the case of a castor oil manufacturer, it is equally clear that even if the man continually suffers from digestive disorder it will be impossible for him to use for his own purposes more than an infinitesimal proportion of all the castor oil which his factory turns out. The same considerations apply, under capitalism, to any products you like to consider.

In a button factory, buttons are made; but these millions of buttons are not produced in order that they may be sewn on to the manufacturer's waistcoat; they are for sale. Everything produced under the capitalist system is produced for the market. To this market come gloves and sausages; books and blacking; machines and whisky; bread, boots, and small-arms - in a word, everything that is made.

A commodity economy necessarily implies private ownership. The independent artisan who produces commodities owns his workshop and his tools; the factory owner or workshop owner owns the factory or the workshop, with all the buildings, machinery, etc. Now, wherever private ownership and commodity production exist, there is a struggle for buyers, or competition among sellers. Even in the days before there were factory owners, workshop owners, and great capitalists, when there were only independent artisans, these artisans struggled one with another for buyers. The strongest and most acquisitive among them, the one who had the best tools and was the cleverest, especially the one who put by money, was always the one who came to the top, attracted custom, and ruined his rivals. Thus the system of petty ownership and the commodity economy that was based upon it, contained the germs of large-scale ownership and implied the ruin of many.


§ 7 Monopolization of the means of production by the capitalist class

The mere existence of a commodity economy does not alone suffice to constitute capitalism. A commodity economy can exist although there are no capitalists; for instance, the economy in which the only producers are independent artisans. They produce for the market, they sell their products; thus these products are undoubtedly commodities, and the whole production is commodity production. Nevertheless, this is not capitalist production; it is nothing more than simple commodity production. In order that a simple commodity economy can be transformed into capitalist production, it is necessary, on the one hand, that the means of production (tools, machinery, buildings, land, etc.) should become the private property of a comparatively limited class of wealthy capitalists; and, on the other, that there should ensue the ruin of most of the independent artisans and peasants and their conversion into wage workers.

We have already seen that a simple commodity economy contains within itself the germs that will lead to the impoverishment of some and the enrichment of others. This is what has actually occurred. In all countries alike, most of the independent artisans and small masters have been ruined. The poorest were forced in the end to sell their tools; from 'masters' they became 'men' whose sole possession was a pair of hands. Those on the other hand who were richer, grew more wealthy still; they rebuilt their workshops on a more extensive scale, installed new machinery, began to employ more workpeople, became factory owners.

Little by little there passed into the hands of these wealthy persons all that was necessary for production: factory buildings, machinery, raw materials, warehouses and shops, dwelling houses, workshops, mines, railways, steamships, the land - in a word, all the means of production. All these means of production became the exclusive property of the capitalist class; they became, as the phrase runs, a 'monopoly' of the capitalist class.


§ 8 Wage Labour

The vast numbers who were left without any property were transformed into the wage labourers of capital. What indeed was left for the impoverished peasant or artisan to do? Either take service as agricultural labourer under the capitalist landowner, or else go to the town and there seek employment in factory or workshop. There was no other way out. Such was the origin of wage labour, the third characteristic of the capitalist system.

What is wage labour? In earlier days, when there were serfs or slaves, every serf or slave could be bought and sold. Persons with skin, hair, arms, and legs were the private property of their lord. The lord would flog one of his serfs to death in the stable as lightly as, in a drunken fit, he would break a stool or a chair. The serf or slave was merely a chattel. Among the ancient Romans, a master's property, all that was necessary for production, was classified as 'dumb tools' (things), 'half-speaking tools' (beasts of burden, sheep, cows, oxen, etc. - in a word, inarticulate animals), and 'speaking tools' (slaves, human beings). A spade, an ox, a slave, were for the master all alike tools or utensils, which he could buy, sell, misuse, or destroy, at pleasure.

The wage labourer can be neither bought nor sold. What can be bought and sold is his labour power; not the man or woman, but the capacity for labour. The wage labourer is personally free; the factory owner cannot flog him in the stable, or sell him to a neighbour, or exchange him for a wolf-hound puppy, though all these things could be done when serfdom prevailed. The wage worker can merely be hired. To all appearance the capitalist and the wage worker are equals. 'Don't work if you don't want to; there is no compulsion,' says the factory owner. The employer actually declares that he feeds the worker, gives work to the employee.

As a matter of fact, however, the conditions are far from being the same for wage earner and capitalist. The workers are enchained by hunger. Hunger compels them to hire themselves out, that is, to sell their labour power. There is no other solution for the worker; he has no choice. With his hands alone he cannot produce 'his' product. Just try without tools and machinery to found steel, to weave, to build railway carriages. Under capitalism, the very land is all in private hands; there remains no spot unowned where an enterprise can be carried on. The freedom of the worker to sell his labour power, the freedom of the capitalist to buy it, the 'equality' of the capitalist and the wage earner - all these are but hunger's chain which compels the labourer to work for the capitalist.

In this manner, the essence of wage labour consists in the sale of labour power, or in the transformation of labour power into a commodity. In the simple commodity economy which was described in §6, there were to be found in the market: milk, bread, cloth, boots, etc.; but not labour power. Labour power was not for sale. Its possessor, the independent artisan, had in addition his own little dwelling and his tools. He worked for himself, conducted his own enterprise, applied his own labour power to the carrying of it on.

Very different is it under capitalism. The worker no longer owns the means of production; he cannot make use of his labour power for the conduct of his own enterprise; if he would save himself from starvation, he must sell his labour power to the capitalist. Side by side with the markets where cotton, cheese, and machines are sold, there also comes into existence the labour market where proletarians, that is to say wage workers, sell their labour power.


§ 9 Contradictions of production under capitalism

There are, therefore, three characteristics of the capitalist system, namely: production for the market (commodity production); the monopolization of the means of production by the capitalist class; wage labour, that is, labour founded upon the sale of labour power.

All these characteristics are associated with the question, What are the mutual relationships between the individuals engaged in production and distribution? When we say 'commodity production' or 'production for the market', what does the phrase mean? It means that individuals work for one another, but that each produces for the market in his own enterprise, not knowing beforehand who will buy his wares. Let us suppose that there are an artisan named John and a peasant named George. John the artisan, a bootmaker, takes boots to the market and sells them to George, and with the money which George pays for them he buys bread from George. When John went to the market he did not know that he would meet George there, nor did George know that he would meet John; both men simply went to the market. When John bought the bread and George bought the boots, the result was that George had been working for John and John had been working for George, although the fact was not immediately obvious. The turmoil of the market place conceals from people that in actual fact they work for one another and cannot live without one another. In a commodity economy, people work for one another, but they do so in an unorganized manner and independently of each other, not knowing how necessary they are to one another. Consequently, in commodity production, individuals stand in definite relationships one to another, and what we are here concerned with is these mutual relationships.

In like manner, when we speak of 'the monopolization of the means of production' or of 'wage labour', we are really talking about the relationships between individuals. What, in fact, does 'monopolization' signify? It signifies that persons work under such conditions that those who labour do so with means of production belonging to others; it signifies that the workers are subordinated to the owners of these means of production, namely to the capitalists. In a word, here also we are concerned with the question, What are the mutual relationships between individuals when they produce goods? The mutual relationships between individuals during the process of production are termed the relationships of production.

It is easy to see that the relationships of production have not always been the same. Very long ago, when people lived in small communities, they worked together in comradely fashion (hunting, fishing, gathering fruit and roots), and they divided everything among themselves. Here we have one kind of relationships of production. In the days of slavery, the relationships of production were of another kind. Under capitalism there is a third kind of relationship. There are, therefore, various kinds of relationships of production. We speak of these kinds of relationships of production as the economic systems (types) of society or as the methods of production.


§ 10 The exploitation of labour power

The question now arises, for what reason does the capitalist class hire workers? Everyone knows that the reason is by no means because the factory owners wish to feed the hungry workers, but because they wish to extract profit from them. For the sake of profit, the factory owner builds his factory; for the sake of profit, he engages workers; for the sake of profit, he is always nosing out where higher prices are paid. Profit is the motive of all his calculations. Herein, moreover, we discern a very interesting characteristic of capitalist society. For society does not itself produce the things which are necessary and useful to it; instead of this, the capitalist class compels the workers to produce those things for which more will be paid, those things from which the capitalists derive the largest profit. Whisky, for example, is a very harmful substance, and alcoholic liquors in general ought to be produced ;only for technical purposes and for their use in medicine. But throughout the world the capitalists produce alcohol with all their might. Why? Because to ply the people with drink is extremely profitable.

We must now make it perfectly clear, how profit is made. For this purpose we must examine the question in detail. The capitalist receives profit in the form of money when he sells commodities that have been produced in his factory. How much money does he get for his wares? That depends upon the price. The next question is, How is the price determined, or why does one commodity fetch a high price and another a low price? It is easy to understand that if, in any branch of production, new machinery is introduced and labour is advantageously applied (or, as the phrase goes, is very productive), then the price of the commodity falls. If, on the other hand, production is difficult, if the quantity of goods produced is small, if labour is unsuccessfully applied or is comparatively unproductive, then the price of the commodity rises.1)

If society must expend on the average much labour in order to produce any article, the price of that article is high; if on the average little labour is required, the price of the article is low. Assuming average efficiency of manufacture (that is to say, when the machinery and tools employed are neither the very best nor the very worst), the amount of social labour requisite for the production of a commodity is termed the value of that commodity. We see that price depends upon value. In actual fact, price is sometimes higher than value and sometimes lower, but for simplicity we may here assume that they are one and the same.

We must now recall what we said concerning the hiring of wage workers. The hiring of a worker is the sale of a peculiar commodity, the name of which is 'labour power'. As soon as labour power has become a commodity, what applies to other commodities applies to labour power. When the capitalist hires the worker, the former pays the latter the price of his labour power (or, to speak simply, the value of his labour power). By what is this value determined? We have seen that the value of all commodities is determined by the quantity of labour expended in producing them. The same thing applies to labour power.

What, however, do we mean by the production of labour power? Labour power is not indeed produced in a factory, like cloth, blacking, or machinery. How then are we to explain it? We have merely to look at contemporary life under capitalism in order to understand with what we are concerned. Let us suppose that the workers have just finished their day's work. They are tired out, all their vital energy has been used up, they cannot work any more. Their labour power is practically exhausted. What is needed to restore it? Food, rest, sleep, recuperation, and therewith strength will be restored. Then will reappear the capacity for work; then, once more, they will have labour power. This means that food, clothing, and shelter - in a word, the necessaries that the worker consumes - affect the production of his labour power. Additional elements have to be considered, such as expenditure upon training when skilled workers are needed, and so on.

Everything that the working class consumes in order to restore its labour power, has value. For this reason, the value of articles of consumption and also of expenditure upon training constitute the value of labour power. Different commodities possess different values. In like manner, each kind of labour power has its peculiarvalue. The labour power of the compositor has one value, the labour power of the unskilled labourer has another.

Let us now return to the factory. The capitalist buys raw materials, fuel, machinery, lubricants, and other necessaries; then he buys labour power, 'engages hands'. He pays cash for everything. The work of production begins. The workers work, the wheels turn, the fuel is burned, the lubricant is used, the factory buildings suffer wear and tear, the labour power is expended. As a result, there issues from the factory a new commodity. The commodity, like all commodities, has value. What is this value? First of all, the commodity has absorbed into itself the value of the means of production that have been used up; that which has passed into it - raw materials, fuel consumed, the worn parts of the machinery, and so on. All this has now been transformed into the value of the commodity. In the second place, there has passed into the commodity the labour of the workers. If the workers were 30 in number, and if in the production of the commodity each worked for 30 hours, then there will have been expended in all goo working hours. The full value of the product will therefore consist of the value of the utilized materials (let us assume that the value of these is equivalent to Goo hours), together with the new value which the workers have added by their labour, namely goo hours. The total is therefore 600+900=1500 working hours.

But how much did the commodity cost the capitalist? For the raw materials he paid in full; that is to say, he paid a sum of money corresponding to the value of boo working hours. But what did he pay for labour power? Did he pay for the whole goo hours? Here lies the key to the riddle. By our hypothesis, he has paid the full value of the labour power for the working days. If 30 workers have worked 30 hours, three days for 10 hours a day, the factory owner will have paid them whatever sum was necessary for the recuperation of their labour power during these days. How much will this sum have been? The answer is plain; it will have been considerably less than goo. Why? Because the quantity of labour which is necessary to recuperate my labour power is one thing, whereas the quantity of labour which I am able to expend is another thing. I can work 10 hours a day. To provide a sufficiency of food, clothing, etc., my daily needs are a quantity of articles the total value of which is equal to 5 hours. That is to say, I can do more work than the work which is requisite to recuperate my labour power. In our example, the workers consume, let us say, in the form of food, clothing, etc., during the three days, articles to the value of 4.50 working hours; but they supply goo hours of labour. There remain for the capitalist 450 hours; these form the source of his profit. In fact, the commodity has cost the capitalist, as we have seen, 600+450=1050 hours; but he sells it for the value of 600+900=1500 hours; 450 hours are surplus value created by labour power. It results that for half their working time (namely for 5 hours in a ten-hour working day) the workers are working to redintegrate what they have used up for themselves; but during the other half of the day they are working entirely for the capitalist.

Let us now consider society as a whole. What the individual factory owner or the individual worker does is of very little interest to us. What interests us is the structure of the huge machine which goes by the name of capitalist society. The capitalist class hires the working class, the latter being numerically of enormous size. In millions of factories, in mines and quarries, in forest and field, hundreds of millions of workers labour like ants. Capital pays them their wages, the value of their labour power, with which they unceasingly renew this labour power for the service of capital. By its labour, the working class does not merely pay its own wages, but it creates in addition the income of the upper classes, creates surplus value. Through a thousand runnels, this surplus value flows into the pockets of the master class. Part goes to the capitalist himself, in the form of entrepreneur's profit; part goes to the landowner; in the form of taxes, part enters the coffers of the capitalist State; other portions accrue to merchants, traders, and shopkeepers, are spent upon churches and in brothels, support actors, artists, bourgeois scribblers, and so on. Upon surplus value live all the parasites who are bred by the capitalist system.

Part of the surplus value is, however, used over again by the capitalists. They add it to their capital, and the capital grows. They extend their enterprises. They engage more workers. They instal better machinery. The increased number of workers produces for them a still greater quality of surplus value. The capitalist enterprises grow ever larger. Thus at each revolution of time, capital moves forward, heaping up surplus value. Squeezing surplus value out of the working class, exploiting the workers, capital continually increases in size.

§ 11 Capital

We now see clearly what capital is. Before all else, it is a definite value: it may be in the form of money; it may be in the form of machinery, raw materials, or factory buildings; it may be in the form of finished commodities. But it is value of such a kind as serves for the production of new value, for the production of surplus value. WHICH PRODUCES SURPLUS VALUE. CAPITALIST PRODUCTION IS THE PRODUCTION OF SURPLUS VALUE.

In capitalist society, machinery and factory buildings take the form of capital. But do machinery and buildings always take the form of capital? Certainly not. If the whole of society were a cooperative commonwealth producing everything for itself, then neither machinery nor raw materials would be capital, seeing that they would not be means for the creation of profit for a small group of rich persons. That is to say, machinery, for example, only becomes capital when it is the private property of the capitalist class, when it serves the purpose .of exploiting wage labour, when it serves to produce surplus value. The form of the value is here unimportant. The value may be in the form of gold coins or paper money, with which the capitalist buys the means of production and labour power. It may be in the form of the machines with which the workers work; or of the raw materials out of which they make commodities; or of the finished articles which will subsequently be sold. If, however, this value serves for the production of surplus value, it is capital.

As a rule capital is continually assuming new aspects. Let us study how these transformations take place.

I. The capitalist has not yet bought labour power or the means of production. He is, however, eager to engage workers, to procure machinery, to obtain raw materials of the best quality, to get a sufficient supply of coal, and so on. As yet, he has nothing except money. Here we have capital in its monetary form.

II. With this supply of money the capitalist makes his way to the market - not of course in his own person, since he has the telephone, the telegraph, and a hundred servants. Here takes place the purchase of the means of production and of labour power. The capitalist returns to the factory without money, but with workers, machinery, raw materials, and fuel. These things are now no longer commodities. They have ceased to be commodities; they are not for sale. The money has been transformed into means of production and into labour power. The monetary wrapping has been cast aside; the capital has assumed the form of industrial capital.

Now the work begins. The machinery is set in motion, the wheels turn, the levers move to and fro, the workers drip with sweat, the machinery undergoes wear and tear, the raw materials are used up, the labour power is tired out.

III. Thereupon, all the raw material, the wear and tear of the machines, the labour power, undergo a gradual transformation into masses of commodities. Thus the capital assumes a new guise; its factory embodiment vanishes, and it takes the form of quantities of commodities. We have capital in its commodity form. But now, when production is completed, the capital has not merely changed its wrapping. It has increased in value, for in the course of production there has been added to it surplus value.

IV. In production, the aim of the capitalist is not to provide goods for his own use, but to produce commodities for the market, for sale. That which was stored up in his warehouse, must be sold. At first the capitalist went to market as a buyer. Now he has to go there as a seller. At first he had money in his hands, and he wanted to buy commodities (the means of production). Now he has commodities in his hands, and he wants to get money. When these commodities are sold, capital jumps back from its commodity form into its monetary form. But the quantity of money which the capitalist receives differs from the quantity which he originally paid out, inasmuch as it is greater by the whole amount of the surplus value.

This, however, does not end the movement of capital. The enlarged capital is set in motion once again, and acquires a still larger quantity of surplus value. This surplus value is in part added to capital, and begins a new cycle. Capital rolls on like a snowball, and at each revolution there adheres to it a larger quantity of surplus value. The result of this is that capitalist production continually expands.

Thus capital sucks surplus value out of the working class and everywhere extends its dominion. Its peculiarities account for its rapid growth. The exploitation of one class by another took place in earlier days. Let us consider, for example, a landowner when serfdom prevailed, or a slave-owner in classical antiquity. They lived on the backs of their serfs and slaves. But all which the workers produced, the landowners and slaveowners ate, drank, and wore - either themselves, or else their servants and their numerous hangers-on. At that time there was very little commodity production. There was no market. If the landowner or slaveowner had compelled his serfs or slaves to produce vast quantities of bread, meat, fish, etc., all this would simply have rotted. Production was restricted to the gratification of the animal needs of the landowner and his household. It is very different under capitalism. Here production takes place, not for the gratification of immediate needs, but for profit. Under capitalism, the commodity is produced for sale, for the sake of gain, in order that profits may be heaped up. The larger the profit, the better. Hence the mad hunt for profit on the part of the capitalist class. This greed knows no limits. It is the pivot, the prime motive, of capitalist production.

§ 12 The capitalist state

As we have seen, capitalist society is based upon the exploitation of labour. A small minority owns everything; the working masses own nothing. The capitalists command. The workers obey. The capitalists exploit. The workers are exploited. The very essence of capitalist society is found in this merciless and ever-increasing exploitation.

Capitalist production is a practical instrument for the extraction of surplus value.

Why has this instrument been able to continue in operation so long? For what reason do the workers tolerate such a state of affairs?

This question is by no means easy to answer at first sight. Speaking generally there are two reasons for it: in the first place, because the capitalist class is well organized and powerful; secondly, because the bourgeoisie frequently controls the brains of the working class.

The most trustworthy means at the disposal of the bourgeoisie for this purpose is its organization as the State. In all capitalist countries the State is merely a union of the master class. Let us consider any country you like: Britain, the United States, France, or Japan. Everywhere we find that the ministers, high officials, members of parliament, are either capitalists, landowners, factory owners, and financial magnates, or else the faithful and well-paid servants of these-lawyers, bank managers, professors, army officers, archbishops, and bishops, who serve the capitalists, not from fear but from conviction.

The union of all these individuals belonging to the bourgeoisie, a union which embraces the entire country and holds everything in its grasp, is known as the State. This organization of the bourgeoisie has two leading aims. The first and most important of these is to suppress disorders and insurrections on the part of the workers, to ensure the undisturbed extraction of surplus value from the working class, to increase the strength of the capitalist means of production. The second aim is to strive against other organizations of the same kind (that is to say, against other bourgeois States), to compete with them for a larger share in surplus value. Thus the capitalist State is a union of the master class, formed to safeguard exploitation. The interests of capital and nothing but the interests of capital - here we have the guiding star towards which are directed all the activities of this robber band.

Against such a view of the bourgeois State, the following considerations might be adduced.

You say that the State is exclusively run in the interests of capital. Consider this point, however. In all capitalist countries there is factory legislation forbidding or restricting child labour, limiting the working day, and so on. In Germany, for example, in the days of William II, there prevailed a fairly good system of State insurance for the workers. In England, the typically bourgeois minister Lloyd George introduced the Insurance Act and the Old-Age Pensions Act. In all bourgeois lands, there are hospitals, dispensaries, and sanatoriums for the workers; railways are constructed, and by these all can travel, rich and poor alike; waterworks are instituted for the supply of the towns, and so on. Such things are for the public service. This implies, many will say, that even in those countries where capital rules, the State is not run solely in the interests of capital, but is concerned likewise with the interests of the workers. The State actually punishes factory owners who infringe factory legislation.

These arguments are fallacious, for the following reasons. It is perfectly true that the bourgeois authority occasionally passes laws and regulations useful to the working class. They are, however, passed in the interest of the bourgeoisie. Let us take as an example the railways. The workers travel by them, and for this reason they are useful to the workers. But they are not built for the sake of the workers. Merchants and factory owners need railways for the carriage of their wares, for the transport of troops, for the conveyance of workers, etc. Capital needs railways, and builds them in its own interest. They are useful to the workers too, but that is not why the capitalist State constructs them. Again, let us take the cleaning of the towns, or urban sanitation as it is called, and let us consider the hospitals. In these cases the bourgeoisie is concerned about the working-class districts as well as about the others. It is true that, in comparison with the bourgeois quarters in the centre of the town, we find, in the working-class suburbs, dirt, the abomination of desolation, disease, etc. Nevertheless, the bourgeoisie does do something. Why? Because illness and epidemics sometimes spread all through the town, and if such a thing should happen the bourgeoisie, too, would suffer. In this matter, therefore, the bourgeois State and its urban instruments are simply pursuing bourgeois interests.

Here is another example. During the nineteenth century, the French workers learned from the bourgeoisie the practice of birth control. By artificial means they arranged either to have no children at all or no more than two children. The povertyof theworkers was so great that to rear a larger family was difficult or almost impossible. As a result of this practice, the population of France remained nearly stationary. The French bourgeoisie began to be short of soldiers. A clamour was raised: 'The nation is perishing! The Germans are increasing more rapidly than we are! They will have more soldiers!' It may be remarked in passing that year by year those who were called up for military service proved less and less fit; they were shorter, had a smaller chest measurement, were more weakly. And now, behold, the bourgeoisie grew 'freehanded'; it began to insist upon improved conditions for the working class, in order that the workers might rear more children. Undoubtedly, if you kill the hen, you will not get any more eggs.

In all these cases, the bourgeoisie has certainly taken steps useful to the workers; but it has done so solely in its own interests. In many instances, however, measures useful to the workers have been inaugurated by the bourgeois State owing to the pressure of the working class. Nearly all the factory laws were secured in such a manner, in consequence of threats on the part of the workers. In England, the first legal limitation of the working day (to 10 hours) was brought about by working-class pressure. In Russia, the tsarist government passed the first factory laws owing to its alarm on account of disorders and strikes among the workers. In these matters the State, which consists of the enemies of the working class, the State, which is an economic organization, reckons up its own interests, saying: 'It is better to yield a certain amount today than to yield twice as much tomorrow; and it is better to yield than to risk one's skin.' The factory owner who yields to the demands of his workers on strike and concedes them an extra halfpenny, does not cease to be a factory owner; nor does the bourgeois State in any way lose its bourgeois characteristics when it makes some small concession owing to working-class pressure.

The capitalist State is not only the largest and most powerful among bourgeois organizations; it is at the same time the most complex of these organizations, for it has a very large number of subdivisions, and tentacles issue from these in every direction. The primary aim of all this is to protect, to consolidate, and to expand the exploitation of the working class. Against the working class, the State can employ measures of two different kinds, brute force and spiritual subjugation. These constitute the most important instruments of the capitalist State.

Among the organs of brute force, must first be enumerated the army and the police, the prisons and the law-courts. Next must be mentioned accessory organs, such as spies, provocative agents, organized strikebreakers, hired assassins, etc.

The army of the capitalist State is organized in a peculiar fashion. At the head is the officers' corps, the group of 'epaulet wearers'. They are drawn from the ranks of the landed gentry, from those of the wealthier bourgeoisie, and in part from those of the intelligentsia (professional classes). These are the bitterest enemies of the proletariat. From childhood they have been brought up in special schools (in Russia in cadet corps and in junker schools) where they have been taught how to knock the men about, and how ' to maintain the honour of the uniform', this meaning to keep the rankers in absolute subjection and to make mere pawns of them. The most distinguished members of the nobility and the wealthier bourgeoisie, if they enter the military or naval profession, become generals or admirals, persons of high rank, wearing orders and ribbons.

Nor are the officers ever drawn from among the poor. They have the mass of common soldiers entirely in their hands. These latter are so completely under the influence of their environment that they never ask what they are fighting for, but simply keep their ears cocked for orders. Such an army is primarily intended to hold the workers in check.

In Russia, the tsarist army was repeatedly used to keep down the workers and peasants. During the reign of Alexander II, before the liberation of the serfs, there were numerous risings of the peasantry, and these were all suppressed by the army. In the year 1905, the army shot down the workers during the Moscow rising; it carried out punitive expeditions in the Baltic provinces, in the Caucasus, and in Siberia; in the years 1906-8, it suppressed peasant risings and protected the property of the landowners. During the war, the army shot down the workers at Ivanovo-Voznesensk, at Kostroma, and elsewhere. The officers were especially ruthless. Foreign armies behave in just the same way. In Germany, the army of the capitalist State has likewise been used to keep the workers down. The first naval rising was suppressed by the army. Risings of the workers in Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, all over Germany, were crushed by the army. In France, the army has frequently shot down strikers; quite recently it has shot the workers, and also a number of Russian revolutionary soldiers. In the British Empire, in quite recent days, the army has frequently crushed risings of the Irish workers, risings of the Egyptian fellahin, risings in India; in England itself, the soldiers have attacked great meetings of the workers. In Switzerland, during every strike, the machine-gun corps is mobilized and the socalled militia (the Swiss army) is summoned to the colours; so far, however, the militia has not fired on the proletarians. In the United States, the army has frequently burned working-class settlements and has razed houses to the ground (for instance, during the strike in Colorado). The armies of the capitalist States are today combining to strangle the workers' revolutions in Russia, Hungary, the Balkans, and Germany; they are crushing revolts all over the world.

The police and the gendarmerie. In addition to the regular army, the capitalist State has an army of picked ruffians, and of specially trained troops, peculiarly adapted for the struggle with the workers. These institutions (the police, for instance) have, indeed, the function of combating theft and of 'protecting the persons and property of citizens'; but at the same time the police are maintained for the arrest, prosecution, and punishment, of discontented workers. In Russia, the police have been the most trustworthy protectors of the landlords and the tsar. Especially brutal, in all capitalist countries, have been the members of the secret police and of the corps of gendarmes - in Russia the secret police force or 'political police' was known as the ohrana (protection). Large numbers of detectives, provocative agents, spies, strikebreakers, etc., work in cooperation with the official police.

Interesting, in this connexion, are the methods of the American secret police. They are in league with a vast number of private and semi-official 'detective bureaux'. The notorious adventures of Nat Pinkerton were really a campaign against the workers. The detectives palmed off bombs on the workers' leaders, incited them to kill the capitalists, and so forth. Such 'detectives' likewise recruit vast numbers of strikebreakers (known in the United States as 'scabs'), and troops of armed ruffians who murder strikers when opportunity arises. There is no villainy too black for these assassins, who are employed by the 'democratic' State of the American capitalists!

The administration of justice in the bourgeois State is a means of self-defence for the bourgeois class. Above all, it is employed to settle with those who infringe the rights of capitalist property or interfere with the capitalist system. Bourgeois justice sent Liebknecht to prison, but acquitted Liebknecht's murderer. The State prison service settles accounts quite as effectively as does the executioner of the bourgeois State. Its shafts are directed, not against the rich, but against the poor.

Such are the institutions of the capitalist State, institutions which effect the direct and brutal oppression of the working class.

Among the means of spiritual subjugation at the disposal of the capitalist State, three deserve especial mention: the State school; the State church; and the State, or State-supported, press.

The bourgeoisie is well aware that it cannot control the working masses by the use of force alone. It is necessary that the workers' brains should be completely enmeshed as if in a spider's web. The bourgeois State looks upon the workers as working cattle; these beasts must labour, but they must not bite. Consequently, they must not merely be whipped or shot when they attempt to bite, but they must be trained and tamed, just as wild beasts in a menagerie are trained by beast-tamers. Similarly, the capitalist State maintains specialists to stupefy and subdue the proletariat; it maintains bourgeois teachers and professors, the clergy, bourgeois authors and journalists. In the State schools these specialists teach children from their earliest years to obey capital and to despise and hate 'rebels'. The children's heads are stuffed with fables about the revolution and the revolutionary movement. Emperors, kings, and industrial magnates are glorified. In the churches, the priests, who are salaried by the State, preach that all authority comes from God. Day after day, the bourgeois newspapers trumpet these lies, whilst workingclass papers are in most cases suppressed by the capitalist State. Under such conditions, is 'it easy for the workers to extract themselves from the quagmire? A German imperialist bandit wrote: ' We do not only need the soldiers' legs, but also their brains and their hearts.' The bourgeois State, in like manner, aims at educating the workers so that they may resemble domestic animals who will work like horses, and eat humble pie.

In this manner the capitalist system ensures its own development. The machine of exploitation does its work. Surplus value is continually extracted from the working class. The capitalist State stands on guard, and takes good care that there shall be no uprising of the wage slaves.

§ 13 Fundamental contraictions of the capitalist system

We must now examine whether capitalist or bourgeois society is well or ill constructed. Anything is sound and good when the mutual adaptation of its parts is entirely satisfactory. Let us consider the mechanism of a clock. It works accurately and freely if all the cog-wheels are properly adjusted one to another.

Let us now look at capitalist society. We can perceive without difficulty that capitalist society is far less soundly constructed than it appears to be at the first glance. On the contrary, it exhibits grave contradictions and disastrous flaws. In the first place, under capitalism the production and distribution of goods is quite unorganized; 'anarchy of production' prevails. What does this mean? It means that all the capitalist entrepreneurs (or capitalist companies) produce commodities independently of one another. Instead of society undertaking to reckon up what it needs and how much of each article, the factory owners simply produce upon the calculation of what will bring them most profit and will best enable them to defeat their rivals in the market. The consequence often is that commodities are produced in excessive quantities - we are talking, of course, of pre-war days. There is then no sale for them. The workers cannot buy them, for they have not enough money. Thereupon a crisis ensues. The factories are shut down, and the workers are turned out into the street. Furthermore, the anarchy of production entails a struggle for the market; each producer wants to entice away the others' customers, to corner the market. This struggle assumes various forms: it begins with the competition between two factory owners; it ends in the world war, wherein the capitalist States wrestle with one another for the world market. This signifies, not merely that the parts of capitalist society interfere with one another's working, but that there is a direct conflict between the constituent parts.


THE SECOND REASON FOR THE DISHARMONY OF CAPITALIST SOCIETY IS TO BE FOUND IN THE CLASS STRUCTURE OF THAT SOCIETY. Considered in its essence, capitalist society is not one society but two societies; it consists of capitalists, on the one hand, and of workers and poor peasants, on the other. Between these two classes there is continuous and irreconcilable enmity; this is what we speak of as the class war. Here, also, we see that the various parts of capitalist society are not merely ill-adapted to one another, but are actually in unceasing conflict.

Is capitalism going to collapse, or is it not? The answer to the question depends upon the following considerations. If we study the evolution of capitalism, if we examine the changes it has undergone in the course of time, and if we perceive that its disharmonies are diminishing, then we can confidently wish it a long life. If, on the other hand, we discover that in the course of time the various parts of the capitalist machine have come to clash with one another more and more violently, if we discern that the flaws in the structure are becoming positive chasms, then it is time to say, 'Rest in peace'.

We have now, therefore, to study the evolution of capitalism.


1) We are now speaking of a change of price without reference to money, without reference to the question whether there be much money or little, or whether the currency be gold or paper: Changes in price due to changes in the standard of value may be very large, but such changes affect all commodities simultaneously, and this does not explain the differences in price as between one commodity and another. For example, the great extension of paper currency has enormously inflated prices in all countries. But this universal dearness does not explain why one commodity should be dearer than another.


Bogdanov, A Short Course of Economic Science, Kautsky, The Economic Doctrines of Karl Marx. Kautsky, The Erfurt Programme. Lenin, The State and Revolution. Engels, The Origin of the Family, of Private Property, and of the State.Engels, Development of Socialism from Utopia to Science.