Capital and community:
the results of the immediate process of production and the economic work of Marx
by: Jacques Camatte
Translation: David Brown
Published: In French as Capital et Gemeinwesen (Paris: Spartacus, 1976). This translation published by Unpopular books, London 1988.
Transcription, markup & minor editing: Rob Lucas, 2006
Public domain: This work is completely free.
Chapter 8: Conclusions

(a) Questions of method
(b) Importance of the Results
(c) Revolutionary programme and anti-democracy, importance of Capital Volume I

A. Questions of method

1) Abstraction and. Reality

To conclude this study of the economic work of Marx, which remains fragmentary by force of circumstances, if only because not all of Marx's works have been published, it is best to make some observations on method.

The analysis of Capital has made some state that Marx proceeded from the abstract to the concrete; from the abstract phenomenon deduced from reality one would proceed through successive integrations, ending with the concrete reality of society in motion. On the other hand, Lenin said that one had to study Hegel in order to understand Capital particularly to understand the transformation of money into capital. Nevertheless, in the light of other works (e.g. the Grundrisse) it seems that it may not necessarily be so[1]. We shall not deal with the problem in depth here, but limit ourselves to indicating some vital points. Otherwise it would be necessary to take up in detail the entire 'Introduction', causing a great lengthening of this work.

Regarding abstraction, it has often been remarked that Marx reasoned with a model of society composed of three classes in mind:




But it is well known that this model has never been realized in reality, since, apart from those indicated, there are also other, impure, classes[2]. Also, Marx insisted on the difference between appearance and reality, the first reflected directly in thought, the second having to be discovered by science (cf. Capital I, p. 682)[3].

Moreover, an historical fact underpins the work. We have named it "the three moments":

-1) birth of capitalism

-2) fully developed capitalist society

-3) description of communism[4]

They were not given in a linear exposition, but in relation to some well determined questions and without any transition, any warning, one passes from one moment to another.

The historical method appears more clearly when, for example, Marx explains first surplus-value and then the forms derived from it. Here the abstraction fits in with the historical analysis. It was also over value and surplus-value that Marx reproached Ricardo and Smith for wanting the science before the science, pretending to explain secondary forms before having clarified the original form.

Nevertheless, this is still insufficient to characterize the method. Initially, in fact, Marx does not start with an abstraction, but rather with a phenomenon as it appeared; revealing the contradiction that it hides. Only then does he pass from phenomenon to reality (substrate), and simultaneously explained the mystification that has been able to take place[5]. This we noted in the Results in the analysis of the origin of capital.

Thus Marx lays bare reality and indicates the link between apparent movement and real movement. But the apparent phenomenon autonomizes itself and no longer seems to be linked with what previously had been shown as its reality (mystification), hence the need to study this movement as such, otherwise one would end up without understanding one jot of all the modern phenomena of capital. However, autonomization has not suppressed the real phenomon which one has to study in its evolution, i.e. the deepening of its character of selfvalorizing value, value in process.

However, Marx analyses capital as a whole and deals successively with particular aspects of the life of this imprisoned, being. If one considers his work, not only regarding the nature and. evolution of capital, but also regarding the forms of production as a whole, one can state how the method remains the same. Thus, regarding value, its genesis, different forms etc., the phenomenon is not simply abstract, but is given in relation to other phenomena: dissolution of the community, appearance of private property, the individual etc..

2) Dialectic of capital and economic movement

Marx observes in the Urtext:

"One can see at this determinate point how the dialectical form of representation is correct if it knows its own limits." (p. 945)

The exposition of the movement of value presupposes the knowledge of primitive' communism and scientific communism.

(a) Marx insisted at length that the first exchanges took place between communities. The individual presupposed a long historical development, with the corollary of the destruction of the community. It was due to a false individual presupposition that the classical economists and the first socialists entered a blind alley. They began with an element that has already been produced and wished that the social process would return to it. This is why the most they could imagine for human future was the egalitarian society Marx criticized very violently in the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts and in the Urtext. The real presupposition is the community and the real solution is communism. Only the theory of the proletariat is founded on this historical and social presupposition, hence its originality[6].

(b) On the other hand, Marx derives his understanding of the most fundamental tendencies of capitalist society from the precise and material vision of future society:

"Human anatomy contains a key to the anatomy of the ape. The intimations of higher development among the subordinate animal species, however, can be understood only after the higher development is already known." (Grundrisse p.105)

Knowing the limits means having determined the basis and the final result of the movement. Otherwise, the dialectic would remain an immaterial movement, implying that the real material data were not grasped in their movement. Here one leaves the human community which is restricted and limited, dominated by nature, to reach the universal human community that dominates nature. Its subject is real man, the producing - consuming species.

3) Social relations and dialectic

In the Grundrisse Marx indicates how, with capital, social relations have lost their rigidity and have become processes. This is one of the basic aspects of the explanation of capital. Ricardo's limitation was not to "grasp the relation between objectified and living labour in its living movement." (Grundrisse p. 553)

"As the subject predominant over the different phases of this movement, as value sustaining and multiplying itself in it, as the subject of these metamorphoses proceeding in a circular course - as a spiral, as an expanding circle - capital is circulating capital. (ibid. p. 620)

One could say that society has seen two privileged moments in which the social relations were also set in motion. First, during the destruction of primitive communism and the formation of class society. Hence the dialectic of the earliest Greek philosophers. They saw the movement in its becoming. They clearly sensed it to be linked to the social world, but they did not succeed in understanding it. Also they interpreted it with facts from the past (the old naturalistic conceptions), while trying to explain its becoming. Thus they sought conciliation or reconciliation with natural forces and with nature. The second moment occured during the destruction of feudalism which, to some extent, had restored the old . community (the movement of value was blocked), but with personal relations of dependence. This period was theorized by Hegel:

"The outstanding achievement of Hegel' s Phenomenology and of its final outcome, the dialectic of negativity as the moving and generating principle, is thus first that Hegel conceives the self-creation of man as a process, conceives objectification as loss of the object, as alienation and as transcendence of this alienation; that he thus grasps the essence of labour and comprehends objective man - true, because real man - as the outcome of man's own labour. (Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts, MECW 3 pp. 332-3)

It is clear in this conception that man is no longer based on a natural, material mediation, the land, nor on a personal mediation, but on labour itself. This implies that man has been cutoff from the community:

"The Phenomenology is, therefore, a hidden, mystifying and still uncertain criticism; but inasmuch as it depicts man's estrangement even though man appears only as mind, there lie concealed in it all the elements of criticism already prepared and elaborated in a manner often rising far above the Hegelian standpoint." (ibid. p. 332)

Hegel individualized the movement very clearly without, however, perceiving its content; he only grasped the appearence. His philosophy therefore remained a description, in abstract form, of the passage from feudal to bourgeois society:

"Logic - mind's coin of the realm the speculative or mental value of man and nature . . ." (ibid. p.330)

For Hegel, the becoming was manifest, and in any case he only saw the being in alienated abstract labour; he did not discover the real being. The social relations had been set in motion and tended to consolidate themselves in a new structure, but of what kind? And what would be the being in this structure? The base of capitalist development was too weak, as was the proletariat, so Hegel sought the end to alienation in thought: "The whole process therefore ends with absolute knowledge." (ibid. p. 331)[7]. But the destruction of alienation definitively revealed itself to be a conciliation. In fact, at the higher level of the development of the idea, the state, there was an accomodation - as Marx says between the movement perceived by Hegel and the old society. With Hegel there was the basic theory of opportunism which resolved no problems but which tried to do so by taking recourse in expedients, in the cunning of reason. For Hegel, the being of the dialectic remained abstract man, and the mediation between abstract men remained the state, with all its institutions.

The real being was still to be discovered. The clash between capital and proletarians was needed to show the direction of this movement and for the dialectic to ach ieve reality. For Marx, the real movement tends to communism; capitalism itself is merely a transitory phase between the destruction of the feudal community and the formation of the human community.

The class struggles of the early nineteenth century demonstrated the subject of the transformation of class society into classless society: the proletariat (1843). The real being, the enigma resolved, is found: communism. No more conciliation, interpretation, accomodation, then. The proletariat is the end of philosophy.

With Hegel, the dialectic was a phrase without content:

"... my method of presentation is not Hegelian, since I am a materialist and Hegel is an idealist. Hegel's dialectics is the basic form of all dialectics, but only after it has been stripped of its mystical form, and it is precisely this which distinguishes my method." (Marx to Kugelman, 6.3.1868, in MESC p. 187)

The dialectic found this content in Marxism. But here the presuppositions themselves were overthrown. This also explains why Marx starts a detailed critique of Hegel' s system at the end of the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts - the first draft of Capital.

Thus there appeared a link between theory (which would otherwise have remained outside reality) and practice. One made the other fruitful. In fact, the proletariat as living opposition was brought to pose the social question in the name of humanity. Marx underlines this from the very start of his activity (Contribution to the Critique of Hegel 's Philosophy of Law). Marx explains how the proletariat manifests a universal being and unveils a full vision of the social becoming (cf. the polemic with Ruge over the Silesian workers' revolt).

In previous epochs, the movement seemed external to man, oppressing and breaking him down with the inexorability of an external fatality. Hence the dialectic of the first Greek philosophers who, although they had a materialist presupposition, remained idealist because their dialectic did not have a social basis. Man lies at the centre of the movement with capital[8], while, as we have seen, it was only at the moment when the movement of value, form without content, and that of the expropriation of men, substance without form, fuse that we have the autonomization of value (so too of capital).

Capital subjugates a social relation which enters its process. Hegel did not see the social aspect of this material content (the growth of wealth as was said at the dawn of capitalism); he described a movement without content, giving rise to his dialectic of alienated labour, which is merely alienated intellectual labour. However, the dialectic does not remain empty in Marxism, its presupposition is not a material, but a social, fact. It is no longer a form which can have whatever content, but that this content, being, provides it with the form. The being is the proletariat, whose emancipation is that of humanity.


B. The Importance of the Results

The Results either deals with themes not considered in other works, or concludes research begun in them; it is sometimes an alternative development of a discovery shown in detail in another text. It has a quite uni ue unity, although it presupposes the illumination of the origins of value in particular. It is a synthesis, but, as this is often the case in Marx, it spills beyond its bounds and poses elements or even conclusions which have to be clarified by a later series of developments. Such a synthesis sometimes gives the science before the science. Perhaps this is why it remained unpublished. It anticipated too much. The method used in it, however, presents an enormous advantage; it provides the historical thread as a salient into history. The essential events are thrown into relief, inessential events left in the "background", but still luminous. Marx, the tireless theoretical mole, restarts his analysis after this short-cut.

The rigour of the expression, which grasps the movement in its becoming, shows that the method. of exposition in the Grundrisse and in the Contribution - particularly in the Urtext with its marbled antitheses, its "philosophical" insights, was no an hegelian sequel, but a correct way of transmitting reality in its multiplicity of aspects. The link between the two aspects of the method - research and exposition - appears most clearly in the Results and in the Grundrisse. The former is the key to the entire economic work of Marx.


C. Revolutionary Programme and Anti-Democratism, Importance of Capital Volume I

Marx completed his basic research in the 1860s (the Grundrisse) but all thesame only a small part of his work was published during his lifetime - Capital Volume I. Only a difficulty over exposition prevented him from publishing it in its entirety. Marx noted the complete non-receptiveness of the world of his time regarding his great discoveries. The Contribution met with no success. Then he sought to be more didactic. Yet the Results with its ardent dialectic, seems clearer than Volume I. Instead of presenting capital as a whole, Marx split it into production process and circulation process. It was useless to explain that together they formed the total real production process of capital, and this split only created errors, particularly the undervaluing of the latter process, where research entered a blind alley[9], the opinion that there is a latent contradiction between surplus-value and profit in Marx, the theory of production price merely being an expedient to resolve it. Marx analysed from the beginning the two elements in the Grundrisse, thus destroying any speculation as to his accomodation.

We do not intend to exhaust the problem, but to pose it in its real terms. It is not a question of knowing why in fact Marx only published Volume I, but rather of understanding how this was sufficient for the proletarian struggle of that time. As we said in the 'Introduction', it is the revolutionary programme of the class. There Marx gives an exposition of the genesis of this class, its struggle against capital, indicating the arms of the two enemies: the economy, war machine against the proletariat, while the latter has its organization (political party), the assault of the proletariat on capital, its destruction, and the description of communist society.

"The monopoly of capital becomes a fetter upon the mode of production which has flourished alongside and under it. The centralization of the means of production and the socialization of labour reach a point at which they become incompatible with their capitalist integument. This integument is burst asunder. The knell of capitalist private property sounds. The expropriators are expropriated." (Capital I, p. 929)

Capital appeared in 1867, the International Workingmen's Association dates from 1864. The Manifesto of the Communist Party indicated the main outlines of the evolution of society, as well as the solution to the bourgeois - proletarians conflict, but the theoretical and practical facts are insufficient for the struggle against the class enemy and for the social transformation. With Capital the proletariat has a programme.

There is an explanation of democracy in Capital Volumes II and III[10]. What matters here is not what produces surplus-value, but how it is divided, who dominates the division? The two volumes explain the autonomization of capital and the triumph of the democratic mystification, linked with the defeat of the 1848 revolution. Then socialism could have taken off on the basis of the already amply developed capitalist relations. Socialism was again defeated in 1871. But the revolutionaries did not think that the counter-revolution would last so long, so the study of the phenomenal forms of capital did not seem urgent or necessary. Unfortunately this was not the case. Also, the social-democrats and the various elements calling themselves marxist fell victim to the apparent phenomenon that they interpreted, instead of drawing from Marx's work the explanation of the flourishing of capital and the associated secondary phenomena. There was revisionism. Bernstein is the first theoretician of capital that has reached a stage where it seems to resolve its contradictions, because it momentarily overcomes them by organizing itself into a being with an auto-regulatory tendency, as the middle classes, whose development would be the total invalidation of Marxism!

Besides, a little later, imperialism was mentioned as an explanation of the phase of high levels of capital concentration with the development of monopolies. This is staying on the surface, while Marx had already offered a penetrating explanation of the phenomenon[11].

Lenin himself did. not, or could not (he was otherwise occupied), get to the root of the problem. He has the great merit of stating that it was only the manifestation of a stage (the last) of capitalism, and not something qualitatively different.

The material community has developed and tends to preserve its existence, to fix the social relations, which become increasingly reified[12], so that the contradictions seem to be overcome, because they are enclosed in an opaque sphere. But the Party, holder of the resolution of the enigma, sees through the fixed appearance of things to the real movement. The slowed-down class-struggle will restart with passion when the crisis breaks down the sphere in which the proletariat is held prisoner. Then it will again be the subject of the historical movement, which the democratic mystification has been able to stop, but it can never abolish the impact:



1. Marx spoke of research method and method of exposition in the 'Preface' to Capital Volume I. The research method is an implacable analysis leaving no aspect of the phenomenon unexplored, but it is also an analysis that does not fix the phenomenon. The method of exposition is the dialectic. But this requires precise details, since it might seem that there could be some split between the two methods.

(Let us add that we reject expressions such as historical materialism and dialectical materialism, because they are inapt or describing Marx's theory and thus communism as theory. The terms suffer from an immediate delimitation from bourgeois mechanistic materialism thIring its historical rise. Like others before us, we state that historical materialism is really an engelsian theory (arising after 1870). We may add that it corresponds to the transformation of the theory into ideology. It is the ideology of the proletariat in the period of capital's formal domination; of the proletariat that contests the power of capital so as to direct the development of the productive forces which would create the conditions for communist society. It is only a justification-representation of a particular moment of the proletariat's life. - Note, May 1972)

2. Cf. Bordiga's study of the agrarian question in il programma comunista nos. 21-3, 1953 and 1-12, 1954 (now in Mai la merce sfamera l'uomo, Iskra ed., Milan, 1979); the Asti meeting of 1954 Vulcano della produzione o palude del mercato? in il programma comunista nos. 13-19, 1954 (now in Economia marxista ed economia controrivoluzionaric Iskra ed., Milan, 1976); Elementi dell'economia marxista in Prometeo 1947-50 (republished by ed. il programma comunista, Milan, 1972).

Cf. Marx too: ".,.Ricardo commits all these blunders, because he attempts to carry through his identification of the rate of surplus-value with the rate of profit by means of forced abstractions. The vulgar mob has therefore concluded that theoretical truths are abstractions which are at variance with reality, instead of seeing, on the contrary, that Ricardo does not carry true abstract thinking far enough and is therefore driven into false abstraction." (TSV II p. 4

3. "That in their appearance things are often presented in an inverted way is something fairly familiar in every science, apart from political economy." (Capital I p. 677)

4. Cf. on this Bordiga's text La scienza economica marxista come pro gramma rivoluzionarlo (Invariance Serie I no. 7, pp. 113-130), and the book Testi sul comunismo (Ed. Crimi - La Vecchia Talpa, Firenze - Napoli, 1972)

5. "Finally we come to the matter of the forms of appearance which serve as the point of departure of vulgar political economy rent springs from land, profit (interest) from capital, wages from labour. But the thing appears differently from our point of view. The apparent movement explains itself. (...) The overall movement in this apparent form. Finally, given the 3 elements (wages, rent, profit (interest) as the sources of revenue of the three classes of landowners, capitalists and wage labourers - the solution class struggle in which the movement is resolved and the solution to all this shit." (Marx to Engels 30.4.1868, in MEW B 32 pp. 74-5)

6. "The more deeply we go back into history, the more does the individual, and hence also the producing individual, appear as dependent, as belonging to a greater whole." (Grundrisse p. 84)

7. "In this way Hegel fell into the illusion of conceiving the real as the product of thought concentrating itself, probing its own depths, and unfolding itself out of itself, whereas the method of rising from the abstract to the concrete is only the way in which thought appropriates the concrete, reproduces it as the concrete in the mind." (Grundrisse p. 101)

8. "In this totally estranged form of profit and in the same measure as the form of profit hides its inner core, capital more and more acquires a reified. form, is transformed more and more from a relationship into a thing, but a thing which embodies ' which has absorbed the social relationship, a thing which has acquired a fictitious life and independent existence in relation to itself, a material-transcendental being; in this form of capital and profit it appears superficially as a ready-made precondition. It is the form of its actuality, or rather its actual form of existence. And it is the form in which it exists 5_n the consciousness and is reflected in the imagination of its representatives: the capitalists.

"This fixed and ossified (metamorphosed) form of profit (and thereby of capital as its producer, for capital is the cause and profit is the result; capital is the reason, profit is the effect; capital is the substance, profit is the adjunct; capital is capital only insofar as it yields profit, only insofar a' it is a value which produces profit, an additional value)..." (TSV III p. 483)

As Molitor' s translation of the Theories of Surplus Value which provided the basis of our reasoning, totally deforms Marx's thought, leaving us below the level of Marx's perspective, we have given a fuller citation here. Marx shows that capital realizes the hegelian project (substance becomes subject) and even supersedes it; it is the realization and supersession of the philosophy of Hegel. The immediate form in which capital appears (M - M'), is therefore the absolute form it achieves, just as absolute knowledge is already in the immediate future and aim of capital (beginning of the Phenomenology of Spirit). So there is the substitution of knowledge by form. However, this is no longer the simple form that we began with, it is reified (sachliche indicates the result, while Versachlichung expresses the movement of reification) while the form is capital, which to begin with was the substance subject, and this is concomitant with another inversion capital was not a thing but a social relation; it has become a thing, which implies that capital has embodied its relation with wage-labour, just as it embodies commodity fetishism, because, like the commodity, it is materialtranscendental.

Marx then shows how capital realizes and shatters philosophy, since it can pose as immanence and substance, as form and transcendence etc.. This recalls various philosphies, such as those of the Renaissance, Spinoza, and clearly Hegel too. Capital has become absolute representation: everything men do is reflected in it; it can be the spectacle of the world in that it reflects, returns to all beings their various movements integrated into its life process. There can no longer be a given activity, with its representation, which, on the terrain of the society of capital, can be antagonistic to it, can threaten it. The movement of the negation must take place outside it, the refusal has to be the refusal of capital and of work. (Note of 1972)

9. This happened with Rosa Luxemburg.

10. One should bear in mind that, at this level, it is a democracy founded by capital, whose old, purely political determinations have been superseded. (Note of May 1972)

11. For example, regarding interest bearing capital (financial capital), the absolute form of capital: "On the one hand, this expresses the absolute form of. capital M - M', self-valorizing value. On the other hand, the intermediate link C, which still exists in genuine merchant capital whose formula is M - C - M', has disappeared. Only the relation of M to itself and measured by itself remains. It is capital expressly removed, separated from the process, as an antecedent it stands outside the process whose result it is and through which alone it is capital." (TSV III p. '486)

12. "... this personification of things and reification of the relations of production, this religion of everyday life..." (Capital III, p. 969)