The Wandering of Humanity
by: Jacques Camatte
Translation: Fredy Perlman
Published: In French inInvariance Année 6, Série II No. 3, 1973. Published in English by Black & Red (Detroit) in 1975.
Transcription & markup: Transcription from the John Gray website. Markup by Rob Lucas, 2006.
Public domain: This work is completely free.


Repressive Consciousness - Communism

4. Communism

Revolutionary reformism - the project of creating socialism on the foundation of capitalism and in continuity with the capitalist mode of production - disintegrated between 1913 and 1945. It is the end of what turned out to be an illusion: the illusion of being able to direct the development of the productive forces in a direction which differed from the one they had taken in reality. We can actually agree with Marx's view that after 1848 communism was possible precisely because the irruption of the capitalist mode of production had broken all social and natural barriers and made free development possible. But the mentality, the representations of people were such that they could neither concieve nor perceive such a future. They were too dependent on the millenarian movement of value, or they were too debilitated by the limitations of the perverted remains of their ancient communities, to be able to set out on a new path to reach another community. Even Marx and Engels ultimately considered capitalism a necessary moment, and thought that all human beings everywhere would inevitably come to experience it. Only the revolts of the Russian populists, and their desire to avoid the capitalist road, made Marx understand his error. But this recognition was insufficient. From the middle of the 19th century, with the justification provided by Marxist theory (the theory of the proletariat), all humanity set out to wander: to develop productive forces.

If we can no longer accept Marx's theoretical analysis of the role of the productive forces, we can nevertheless agree with him after a detour. Capital enslaves humanity in the very name of humanity because it is anthropomorphized. This is nothing other than the reign of death. Human beings are dominated by their past being, while they contemplate it. It is a process which continually starts over again. Capital penetrates thought, consciousness, and thus destroys human beings such as they have been produced by centuries of class society. Their loss of substance is the loss of their former being, which capital has pumped out of them. Since this process is almost over, capital is now turning from its attack against the past dimension of humanity to an attack against its future dimension: it must now conquer imagination. The human being is thus despoiled and tends to be reduced to the biological dimension. The phenomenon reaches the roots. In other words, the development of productive forces appears to have been necessary for the destruction of old schemas, modes of thought, archaic representations which limited human beings (this destruction is now being analyzed by philosophers like Foucault). Threatened in their purely biological existence, human beings are beginning to rise against capital. It is at this point that everything can be re-conquered by generalized creation. But this becoming is not simple, unilinear. Capital can still profit from the creativity of human beings, regenerating and resubstantializing itself by plundering their imaginations. The importance and profundity of the struggle can be grasped in the face of the alternative: communism or destruction of the human species. And it should not be forgotten that during the wandering various revolutionary movements looked for an exit and various possibilities were blocked; they can now manifest themselves. [20]

We have to stop wandering and destroy the repressive consciousness which inhibits the emergence of communism. To do this we have to stop perceiving communism as a prolongation of the capitalist mode of production, and stop thinking it is enough to suppress exchange value and make use value triumphant. This dichotomy no longer signifies anything. Use value is tied to value even if it revolves around the principle of utility instead of productivity; related to the direct domination of human beings, it is inseparable from private property.

Communism is not a new mode of production [21] ; it is the affirmation of a new community. It is a question of being, of life, if only because there is a fundamental displacement: from generated activity to the living being who produced it. Until now men and women have been alienated by this production. They will not gain mastery over production, but will create new relations among themselves which will determine an entirely different activity.

Nor is communism a new society. [22] Society grows out of the subjugation of some ethnic groups by others, or out of the formation of classes. Society is the network of social relations which quickly become despotic intermediaries. Man in society is man enslaved by society.

Communism puts an end to castes, classes and the division of labor (onto which was grafted the movement of value which in turn animates and exalts this division). Communism is first of all union. It is not domination of nature but reconciliation, and thus regeneration of nature: human beings no longer treat nature simply as an object for their development, as a useful thing, but as a subject (not in the philosophic sense) not separate from them if only because nature is in them. The naturalization of man and the humanization of nature (Marx) are realized; the dialectic of subject and object ends.

What follows is the destruction of urbanization and the formation of a multitude of communities distributed over the earth. This implies the suppression of monoculture, another form of division of labor, and a complete transformation of the transportation system: transportation will diminish considerably. Only a communal (communitarian) mode of life can allow the human being to rule his reproduction, to limit the (at present mad) growth of population without resorting to despicable practices (such as destroying men and women).

The domination of one group over another, the society of classes, originates in the sedentarization of the human being. We still live with the myths generated at the time of this fixation somewhere in our mother-earth: myths of the homeland, the foreigner; myths which limit the vision of the world, which mutilate. It is obvious that the reaction cannot be a return to a nomadism of a type practiced by our distant ancestors who were gatherers. Men and women will acquire a new mode of being beyond nomadism and sedentarism. Sedentary lives compounded by corporeal inactivity are the root cause of almost all the somatic and psychological illnesses of present-day human beings. An active and unfixed life will cure all these problems without medicine or psychiatry.

The passage to communism implies a transformation of technique. Technology is not a neutral thing; it is determined by the mode of production. In the West, more than elsewhere, the various modes of production increasingly separated human beings from technology, which was originally no more than a modality of human being. The call for a convenient technology is a call for a technology which is again a prolongation of the human being and not an autonomous thing at the service of an oppressive being. [23]

Human beings in communism cannot be defined as simple users; this would be communism conceived as a terestrial paradise where people dispose of what there is with such immediacy that human beings are indistinguishable from nature (man, as Hegel said in this context, would be an animal). Human beings are creators, producers, users. The entire process is reconstituted at a higher level, and for every individual. In relations between individuals, the other is no longer considered in terms of utility; behavior in terms of utility ends. The sexes are reconciled while retaining their differences; they lose the differences and rigid oppositions produced by millenia of antagonism.

These few characteristics should adequately clarify how the movement of ascent to the human community can be conceived.

We are all slaves of capital. Liberation begins with the refusal to perceive oneself in terms of the categories of capital, namely as proletarian, as member of the new middle class, as capitalist, etc. Thus we also stop perceiving the other - in his movement toward liberation - in terms of those same categories. At this point the movement of recognition of human beings can begin. This is obviously only the beginning of the liberation movement, and is continually threatened with failure. Refusing to take this into account denies the power of capital. What has to be perceived is a dynamic. We are slaves; our goal is not to become masters, even without slaves, but to abolish the entire dialectic of master and slave. This goal cannot be realized by the establishment of communities which, always isolated, are never an obstacle to capital, can easily be surrounded by capital, and are no more than deviations in relation to its norm (deviations which make that norm visible for what it is). Nor can the goal be reached by the cultivation of one's individual being, in which one would finally find the real human being. In reality these approaches should be connected. Perceiving oneself as a human being unshackled by any attributes already removes the dog collar imposed by class society. The desire for community is absolutely necessary. The reaffirmation of individuality (especially in its temporal aspect) is a rejection of domestication. But this is inadequate even as a first element of rebellion; the human being is an individuality and a Gemeinwesen. The reduction of the human being to his present inexpressive state could take place only because of the removal of Gemeinwesen, of the possibility for each individual to absorb the universal, to embrace the entirety of human relations within the entirety of time. The varied religions, philosophies and theories are mere substitutes for this essential component of human being. Since communism is the death of sameness, of repetition, human beings will emerge in all their diversity; Gemeinwesen will be affirmed by each. This implies that as of now we reject the despotism of a religion, a philosophy, a theory.

The refusal to be trapped by a theory is not a rejection of all theoretical reflection. It is just the opposite. But this refusal does postulate that the theoretical act is insufficient. Theory can call for the reconciliation of senses and brain but it remains within the boundaries of this separation. What must be affirmed is the whole of life, the entirety of its manifestations, the whole unified being. It may still be necessary to proceed with the help of Marx's insights, for example, but it becomes increasingly imbecile to proclaim oneself a Marxist. Furthermore, like repressive consciousness, theory can become a simple alibi for inaction. At the start, the refusal to act might be perfectly justifiable. Nevertheless, separation from reality often leads to failure to perceive new phenomena which shape it. At that point theory, instead of helping establish contact with reality, becomes an agent of separation, of removal, and in the end is transformed into a protrusion, an ejection from the world. Waiting is particularly difficult for those who do not want to recognize that others can arrive at theory without us, our group, or our party as intermediaries. Theory, like consciousness, demands objectification to such an extent that even an individual who rejects political rackets can elevate theory to the status of a racket. In a subject posing as revolutionary, theory is a despotism: everyone should recognize this.

After the domination of the body by the mind for more than two millenia, it is obvious that theory is still a manifestation of this domination.

It is the whole of life that becomes determining. All the varied productions of the past - art, philosophy, science - are fragments. They are elements of the vast despoliation of human beings as well as attempts to remedy it. But the point is no longer to realize art or philosophy; capital has already done this in its way; the point is to conquer and create another world: a world where all the biological potentialities of the species can finally develop. In this vast movement, it is futile to want to present oneself as the repository of truth. First of all truth, like value, needs a measure, a standard, a general equivalent, a norm, hence a State. Secondly, truth is never more than one truth. The historical inflation of this concept parallels the ever more thorough destruction of human beings. Nothing less can be proposed than another life where the gestures, the words, the imaginations and all the feelings of human beings will no longer be chained, where senses and brain will unite - only this union can eliminate all the fixations of madness. It is obvious that all this can only be conquered by the destruction of the capitalist mode of production. It is all of humanity perceived through time that is hostile to capital. Human beings will have to undergo a profound revolutionization to be able to oppose capital; the actions of this movement are accompanied by the production of revolutionaries.

The emergence of revolution in all the domains of our lives leads some people to overemphasize the places where they felt this emergence.

Revolution does not emerge from one or another part of our being - from body, space or time. Our revolution as a project to reestablish community was necessary from the moment when ancient communities were destroyed. The reduction of communist revolution to an uprising which was to resolve the contradictions posed by the capitalist mode of production was pernicious. Revolution has to resolve all the old contradictions created by the class societies absorbed by capital, all the contradictions between relatively primitive communities and the movement of exchange value currently being absorbed by the movement of capital (in Asia and especially in Africa). Beyond this, the revolutionary movement is the revolution of nature, accession to thought, and mastery of being with the possibility of using the prefrontal centers of the brain which are thought to relate to the imagination. Revolution has a biological and therefore cosmic dimension, considering our universe limited (to the solar system); cosmic also in the meaning of the ancient philosophers and mystics. This means that revolution is not only the object of the passion of our epoch, but also that of millions of human beings, starting with our ancient ancestors who rebelled against the movement of exchange value which they saw as a fatality, passing through Marx and Bordiga who, in their dimension as prophets, witnessed this inextinguishable passion to found a new community, a human community. Wanting to situate the revolution is like wanting to fix its height. Saint-Just said that revolution could not stop until happiness was realized, thus showing the falsity of wanting to judge men in terms of the purely historical-material facts of a given epoch. The human being is never a pure being-there. He can only be by superseding and he cannot be only that which has to be superseded (Nietzsche). Structurally and biologically man is a supersession because he is an overpowerful being. In other words, human beings are explorers of the possible and are not content with the immediately realizable, especially if it is imposed on them. They lose this passion, this thirst for creation - for what is the search for the possible if not invention? - when they are debased, estranged, cut off from their Gemeinwesen and therefore mutilated, reduced to simple individuals. It is only with the real domination of the capitalist mode of production that the human being is completely evacuated.

All the revolutions of the species are revolutions which try to go beyond the present moment, beyond what is permitted by the development of productive forces (Bordiga). This reach beyond the possible is what constitutes the continuity among the human generations, just as the perspective of communism conceived as the destruction of classes, exchange, and value constitutes the continuity among the varied revolutionaries; this is what, following Marx, we call the historical party. [24]

The struggle against reduction of the amplitude of the revolution is already a revolutionary struggle. The reader should not be astonished if to support this amplitude we refer to authors classically tagged religious, mystical, etc. What matters is the reappropriation of Gemeinwesen (and past beings are part of it), which can only be done after the unification of the species, and this unification can only be conceived by grasping the aspiration, desire, passion and will for community expressed through the ages. The human being can simultaneously be a Gemeinwesen only if humanity lives in community. As soon as fragmentation appears, the need to recompose a unity emerges. In the West this unity had a mediate and coercive form: the individual was defined by the State; knowledge was a means for hierarchization and for justification of the established order; the vicious circle of practice-theory emerged.

Communist revolution is complete revolution. Biological, sexual, social, economic revolutions are no more than partial attributes; the predominance of one is a mutilation of revolution, which can only be by being all.

Communist revolution can be conceived only if it is grasped through the history and paleontology of human beings as well as all other living beings. By grasping this we become aware that, if this revolution has long been necessary, it can now be realized. Earlier it was possible but not unavoidable. There were still other "human" paths in that they still allowed a human development; specifically, they allowed the externalization of human powers. Now almost everything has been externalized and plundered by capital, which describes the only path other than communist revolution: the total negation of human beings. Therefore we must understand our world; we must understand the despotism of capital and the movement of rebellion breaking out against it. This act of understanding which is taking place not only intellectually but also sensually (the rebellion is to a large extent bodily rebellion) can only be reached by rejecting the wandering and the repressive consciousness.


[20] Absolute irreversibility is not a fact of history. Possibilities which appeared thousands or hundreds of years ago were not abolished for all time. History is not a Moloch which swallows possibilities, condemning the human future to an inevitable and irremediable despoliation. In that case history would be no more than a justification for what happened. Many would like to reduce history to this, making it the worst of despots.

Hegel's philosophy with its dialectic of supersession (Aufhebung), of movement which abolishes and preserves at one and the same time, was an attempt to salvage what human beings had produced in earlier epochs. Hegel was troubled by the problems of loss of reality, of the multiplicity of manifestations and possibles, etc. Thus he attached enormous importance to memory (see particularly the chapter "Absolute Knowledge," in the Phenomenology of Mind.)

By contrast, the movement of capital abolishes the memory of its previous stages (by mystification and magic) as well as the stages of humanity, and presents itself, as it is, at its highest level of development - the "reified" (or ossified) form" (See Marx, Theories of Surplus Value,[Moscow: 1971] , Vol. III, chapter on "Revenue and its Sources. Vulgar Political Economy."

[21] The concept of mode of production is in reality valid only for the capitalist mode of production, just as the concept of class is in reality operative only in bourgeois society. The concept of production in Marx's work is quite rich in attributes. It becomes impoverished when we move from the 1844 Manuscripts and The German Ideology to Capital. It is closely related to the concept of nature and also to a certain conception of the human being. In other words, we have a much more complex "given" when we can examine it only in relation to the existence of initial communist communities and their dissolution. The separation of the human being from the community (Gemeinwesen) is a despoliation. The human being as worker has lost a mound of attributes which formed a whole when he was related to his community.

The process of expropriation of human beings is real. Those who do not understand this do not understand what capital is. Man has been reduced to an inexpressive being; he has lost his senses, and his activity has been reduced to quantified labor. Man turned into abstract being longs for music which still preserves the ancestral sensuality (thus the vogue of jazz and South American music). The reduced human being now has only one element relating him to the external world: sexuality which fills the void of the senses. It is precisely this which explains the pansexuality, or more exactly the pansexualization of being which Freud interpreted as an invariant characteristic of human beings, whereas it is the result of their mutilation. What is the subconscious if not the affective-sensual life of the human being repressed by capital? The human being has to be domesticated, shaped to a rationality which he must internalize - the rationality of the process of production of capital. Once this domestication is achieved, the human being is dispossessed of this repressed sensual life which becomes an object of knowledge, of science; it becomes capitalizable. The unconscious, becoming an object of commerce, is thinly sliced and retailed in the market of knowledge. The unconscious did not always exist, and it exists now only as a component in the discourse of capital; this is also true of human perversions.

Reduced to perfect inexpressivity, the human being increasingly becomes comparable point by point to the elementary particle studied by nuclear physics, where one can find the principles of the psychology of the capitalized human being who is moved by the field of capital.

[22] It is also unsound to speak of primitive society. We will substantiate this by making a new analysis of primitive communities. If it is true that Marx's work does not deal adequately with the existence, development and dissolution of primitive communities, it is not true that Marx is absolutely wrong because of Europocentrism or the spirit of enlightenment, namely that his work suffers from the same shortcomings as bourgeois theory. The majority of those who hold this view have not understood the question of community in Marx's work and have reduced his work to a simple historical materialism.

What Marx's work lacks is a detailed analysis of the way "the economy" appears in primitive communities and provokes their disintegration.

We should add that it is becoming increasingly misleading to speak of capitalist society. We will return to this.

[23] In primitive communities human beings rule technology. Technology starts to become autonomous in ancient Western society, and this was feared by the ancients. Technology forces man to copy nature, even if later he can find a procedure not found in nature; thus he is subjected to a compulsory procedure, a how-to-do, a sort of natural order. He seems to lose the capacity to create freely. (On this subject, see the comments of J.P. Vernant in Mythe et pensée chez les grecs, Ed. Maspéro.) When human beings no longer fear technology, they simultaneously become reconciled with art, which had been disparaged at the end of slave society. This took place at the time of the Renaissance, when philosophers defined man as a being who makes himself (See Cassirer, Individual and Cosmos in Renaissance Philosophy). But the development of technology did not lead man toward nature; on the contrary, it led to the expropriation of man and the destruction of nature. The human being increasingly loses the faculty of creativity. In this sense, the fear of the ancients was justified.

From the philosophers of the Renaissance, through Descartes and Hegel, to Marx, the human being is defined in relation to technology (man is a tool-maker: Franklin) and to production. To go beyond Marx, it is necessary to reexamine the "human phenomenon" from the disintegration of primitive communities until today and to rethink the works of philosophers and economists from Aristotle to Marx in order to understand more clearly how human beings perceived themselves in a period when value and then capital dominated, and in order to understand how, now that we have come to the end of the phenomenon value, we can conceive humanity, and thus communism.

[24] "Origine et fonction de la forme parti" (1961), published in Invariance, No. 1, Serie 1.