Ernest Mandel

Late Capitalism

18. The Crisis of Capitalist Relations of Production

Late capitalism is the epoch in history of the development of the capitalist mode of production in which the contradiction between the growth of the forces of production and the survival of the capitalist relations of production assumes an explosive form. This contradiction leads to a spreading crisis of these relations of production.

We must first define the essence of capitalist relations of production more closely. For Marx, the relations of production include all the fundamental relations between ‘men and women in the production of their material life. [1] It is thus incorrect to reduce these relations merely to a single aspect of the relations of capital, such as, for example, the subordination of living to dead labour, or the relations of the producers to their means of production within a unit of production. The specific nature of capitalist relations of production lies in generalized commodity production. The latter determines the particular form of the separation of the producers from the means of production, which is distinct from that of the period of slave labour; the particular form of appropriation of the surplus product, which is distinct from that under feudalism; the particular form of the reconstitution of social labour, the inter connection between units of production, and so on. Generalized commodity production implies that labour-power and the means of labour have themselves become commodities. Capitalist relations, therefore, cannot simply be derived from the subordination of the producers to ‘administrators’ or ‘accumulators’, who have existed in every class society. They entail the sale of the commodity of labour power to the owners of the means of production; the splitting of these owners into different capitals in competition with one another [2], who must exchange for money the quantities of value they have appropriated in order to realize the surplus-value contained in them and to continue production on an extended scale; and the accumulation of this additional capital in separate units in a process determined by the constraint of competition.

Material production would be just as unthinkable without a regular supply of raw materials, machines and other instruments of labour, auxiliary materials and sources of energy, as it would without a particular relationship between the workers and the means of labour. Thus when Marx defines capital as a specific relationship between men – i.e., as a specific type of relations of production – he simultaneously defines commodity production in the same way as a specific relationship between men. [3]

The fact that enterprises buy means of production, raw materials or energy from each other as exchange values therefore similarly constitutes a specific feature of the relations of production characteristic of the capitalist mode of production. If the relation between capital and labour were completely abolished within the enterprise (say through their transformation into productive cooperatives), but generalized commodity exchange was still allowed to prevail between these cooperatives (i.e., reciprocal purchase or sale of the means of production as commodities), then it would only be a matter of time before the separation of the producers from their means of production would itself be reproduced by the persistence of this element of capitalist relations of production. [4]

Men produce commodities because the social labour at their disposal has previously been divided into ‘private tasks carried out independently of each other’. [5] This characteristic form taken by labour in turn depends on a particular dialectic determined by the development of the social division of labour and the social instruments of labour. So long as social labour is undertaken in. small units of production which are more or less self-sufficient (tribal, kinship or village communities), the directly social nature of labour is ensured without great difficulties by a simple a priori rule based on custom, ritual and elementary organization. The development of the division of labour, exchange, private property and simple commodity production gradually fragments this social labour-capacity into private tasks, whose social nature is acknowledged completely, only partially or not at all, a posteriori via the detour of commodity relations on the market, and only after passing the critical test of the realization of the value of the commodity (in capitalism: of the average profit).

While, on the other hand, this long historical process of the atomization of social labour into private tasks carried out independently of each other reaches its high point in the stage preceding the capitalist mode of production, on the other hand a contrary tendency sets in with the development of this mode of production and the technology which corresponds to it. Capital assembles a constantly increasing number of workers together in a consciously organized labour process. It combines larger and larger sections of mankind in processes of production which are objectively socialized and connected to each other by thousands of threads of reciprocal dependence. The fundamental contradiction of the capitalist mode of production – the contradiction between the increasing objective socialisation of labour and the further continuance of private appropriation [6] – thus corresponds to the contradiction between the increasing disappearance of private labour (not only in the context of individual factories, but also of large or world-wide companies) on the one hand, and the survival of the commodity form of exchange value or profit as the goal of production on the other, which is based on private labour.

The capitalist mode of production only becomes possible at a particular stage of the development of the forces of production – once the material preconditions exist, first for the formal, and then for the actual, subsumption of labour under capital. These material premises are naturally preceded and overlaid by the social pre conditions already described. The capitalist mode of production thus presupposes a particular level of development of the socialization of labour, which is both real and contradictory. When the elementary division of labour is arrested at the stage of complete private labour, where use values for small units of consumers are produced with virtually unchanged instruments of labour, and the mutual dependence of the producers is reduced to only partial dependence on the labour of others for the satisfaction of a few needs, it is certainly possible for simple commodity production to develop, but not capitalist commodity production. The level of the socialization of labour, the productivity of labour, and the development of the social surplus product, are all still too low at this stage to permit generalized capitalist commodity production. [7]

For this to emerge, the socialization of labour must begin to supersede the individual character of labour. Division of labour in manufactures and large enterprises must be added to the division of labour between various occupations. The majority of producers must cease to produce for their own needs altogether and satisfy these needs primarily by way of the market. This demands developed machinery, i.e., a much larger social surplus product, without which additional, vastly extended machinery cannot be produced at all. The production of machinery, the development of the material productivity of labour, the constant acceleration of the process of the objective socialization of labour – these constitute the historically progressive achievements of the capitalist mode of production. [8]

The antagonistic character of this socialization of labour by capital consists in the fact that the worker now confronts both his product and his means of labour as something alien, hostile and separated from him, in a mysterious way inherent in capital. Marx has stressed that this form of the objective socialization of labour in capitalism, which is so oppressive to the worker, can be attributed among other things to the fact that the worker must engage himself individually, and the mass of workers must engage themselves in an atomized fashion, in a process of production in which their own common productive force becomes a thing separated from them:

’In actual fact the communal unity in cooperation, combination in the division of labour, in the application of natural forces and sciences, of the products of labour as machinery – all this confronts the individual worker independently, without and often against his intervention, as something alien, material, pre-given, as’ the bare form of existence of the means of labour which are independent of him and govern him in so far as they are material; and insight and will of the whole workshop incarnate in the capitalist and his understrappers, insofar as this is formed by their own combination – as functions of capital which live in the capitalist. The social forms of their own labour – subjective and objective – or the form of their own social labour are relations. formed completely independently of the individual worker; the workers, as subsumed under capital, become elements in these social formations, but these social formations do not belong to them. They therefore confront them as forms of capital itself, as belonging to capital as distinct from their own isolated labour capacity, as combinations stemming from capital and incorporated in it. This assumes forms that are all the more real the more, on the one hand that their labour capacity itself is so modified by these forms that it becomes powerless as an independent force, hence outside the capitalist context, so that its independent ability to produce is broken, and the more, on the other hand, that with the development of machinery the conditions of labour appear to govern labour technologically as well, and at the same time replace, suppress and make it redundant in its independent forms. In this process, in which the social character of their labour in a certain sense confronts them in a capitalized form – as, for example, when in machinery the visible products of labour appear to govern labour – the same thing naturally happens to natural forces and science, the product of general historical development in its abstract quintessence – they confront the worker as powers of capital. They in fact become separated from the skill and knowledge of the individual worker and – even if, considered at their source, they are again the product of labour – they appear to be incorporated in capital wherever they appear in the process of labour.’ [9] Marx added: ‘The social natural force of labour does not develop in the process of capital expansion as such; but in the actual process of labour. It therefore presents itself as properties which adhere to capital as a thing, as its use-value. Productive labour – as producing value – confronts capital as the labour of isolated workers, whatever social combinations these workers may enter into in the process of production. While to the workers, therefore, capital re presents the social productive force of labour, to capital productive labour always merely represents the labour of isolated workers.’ [10]

This is why Marx always describes socialist society as a society of associated producers; for once this isolation in the process of production and labour is completely abolished once and for all, and if the producers henceforth organize, plan [11], discuss and realize their process of labour in common, in voluntary association, then naturally the mystery of the social force of production disappears, and the latter no longer seems to adhere to things, as a collective force ‘external’ to the producers, but is seen to be the result of the common, commonly planned and commonly organized labour capacity of all workers.

The objective socialization of labour is a process which the development of technology, science and the forces of production has made irreversible. But the concrete form of its combination with the social structure differs fundamentally in a capitalist and a non-capitalist economic order. Within the limits of the capitalist mode of production, the socialization of labour only prevails in directly. It is still the law of value which determines the distribution of economic resources among various branches of the economy, corresponding to the fluctuations of the average rate of profit and the deviations from it (capital flows primarily into sectors where surplus-profits can be realized). If, by contrast, the capitalist mode of production – i.e., generalized commodity production – has been abolished, then the associated producers can apprehend a priori the objective socialization of their labour. Economic resources will be distributed among the various branches of the economy in a planned manner according to socially determined priorities. It is then that the character of labour becomes immediately social, and the category of ‘socially necessary labour-time’ (the socially necessary quantity of labour) ceases to have any more meaning than that of the valorization of capital. [12]

At this point there commonly arises a second misunderstanding of Marx’s concept of the relations of production: the attempt to divide these into ‘technical’ and ‘social’ relations. [13] There are, of course, technical preconditions for particular relations of production. It is just as impossible to achieve the real subsumption of labour under capital without the existence of modern machinery as it is effectively to socialize small enterprises based on artisanal methods of labour without a transformation of their technology. [14] But to conclude from this that so long as ‘technical relations of production’ do not permit a ‘complete socialization’ of labour or a ‘complete appropriation of products’ by society, there must be a continuation of commodity production [15], is to reduce Marx’s conception, which defines relations of production as relations between men, to relations between men and things – in other words, to introduce a new fetishism of technology.

The character of labour is not determined directly by technology, nor the stage of development reached by the forces of production. It is certainly in no way so determined within each isolated production unit. [16] Nor is it even so determined in society as a whole. Two fundamentally different social structures can correspond to one particular level of technology. This will always be the case in epochs of social revolution [17] In such epochs, the development of new technology, whose tendency is to overshoot existing relations of production, will become increasingly incomplete, contradictory and destructive within the traditional social order, while at the same time the introduction elsewhere of new, revolutionary relations of production – which, like all such structures, cannot be introduced ‘step by step’ – will tend to race ahead of the existing state of technology (thus precisely creating the necessary space for a dynamic development of new forces of production). The parallel but distinct problems of late capitalism and contemporary transitional societies between capitalism and socialism can be traced back to this particular dialectic of the forces and relations of production. [18]

In a period of increasing contradiction between productive forces and social relations of production, it is therefore not to be expected that all the innovations made possible by science and technology will be completed before the social relations of production can be transformed. This contradiction, after all, is expressed precisely in the fact that a potential technical and scientific revolution can only find partial realization within the framework of existing social relations of production. General automation in large industry is impossible in late capitalism. To await such generalized automation before overthrowing capitalist relations of production is thus just as incorrect as to hope for the abolition of capitalist relations of production through the mere advance of automation. [19]

The crisis of capitalist relations of production must be seen as an overall social crisis – that is, the historical decline of an entire social system and mode of production, operative throughout the whole epoch of late capitalism. This is neither identical with classical crises of over-production, nor does it exclude them. The highest peaks of this social crisis are pre-revolutionary and revolutionary situations of class struggle, when it culminates in an outright political crisis of bourgeois State power, in which the proletariat objectively poses the threat of overthrowing capitalism and inaugurating the transition towards socialism. Such peaks are power fully prepared by all those episodes of the crisis of capitalist relations of production which impel workers to establish provisional organs of dual power at factory, industry, local, regional and national level. Whether this occurs under conditions in which there is no economic recession, as in France in May 1968 and Italy in 1969, or in which there is such a recession, as in Spain in 1974–75, depends on conjunctural factors that are extrinsic to the nature of the epoch. The essential and intrinsic consequence of the end of the long wave of post-war expansion, and the intensified struggle over the rate of surplus-value unleashed from the second half of the 60s onwards, is a world-wide tendency towards qualitatively sharpened class conflicts, which will bring the endemic crisis of capitalist relations of production to explosion point.

The crisis of capitalist relations of production hence appears as the crisis of a system of relations between men, within and between units of production (enterprises), which corresponds less and less to the technical basis of labour in either present or potential form. We can define this crisis as a crisis not only of capitalist conditions of appropriation, valorization and accumulation, but also of commodity production, the capitalist division of labour, the capitalist structure of the enterprise, the bourgeois national state, and the subsumption of labour under capital as a whole. All these multiple crises are only different facets of a single reality, of one socio-economic totality: the capitalist mode of production. [20]

The crisis of capitalist relations of production appears as a crisis of capitalist conditions of appropriation, valorization and accumulation. We have already emphasised in our discussion of permanent inflation that the system is now unable to utilize a substantial part of its productive capacity under ‘normal’ conditions of stable gold values – in other words, without permanent inflation, of credit and money. The fundamental difficulties of realization have never been so obvious, for a theoretical analysis penetrating beneath the surface of economic phenomena, as in the phase of the ‘long wave with an undertone of expansion’, following the Second World War.

The permanent competitive pressure to reduce cost prices, increase the productivity of labour, socialize labour, improve machinery and raise the organic composition of capital inevitably finds expression in a disproportionate growth in the mound of use-values. The ‘many capitals’ are thus compelled towards a permanent artificial expansion of the market, and extension of the needs of the masses. [21] While every individual capitalist would like to restrict the consumption of his ‘own’ workers, the capitalist class as a whole must widen the market for consumer goods, and at the same time ensure the valorization of capital. It Call partially bridge this contradiction in number of ways. Firstly, it can render the production of consumer goods increasingly ‘indirect’, so that a growing portion of the total product consists of means of production rather than consumer goods. [22] Secondly, it can sell a substantial part of the consumer goods produced to social classes other than the proletariat (peasants and artisans at home and abroad), or shift purchasing power to the disadvantage of simple commodity producers or other capitalists (including ‘foreign’ capitalists, by a re division of the world market). Thirdly, it can sell an increasing portion of consumer goods on credit rather than in exchange for income (increase in private indebtedness). Finally, it can ensure that the growth of mass consumption (including that of its ‘own’ workers) is proportionately less than that of total commodity values, so that the production of relative surplus-value increases.

None of these remedies, however, can suppress the fact that the difficulty of simultaneously realizing surplus-value, and raising the rate of surplus-value, is anchored in the capitalist mode of production as such, for the process of the reproduction of capital represents a unity of the process of labour and valorization of capital on the one hand, and the process of circulation and realization on the other, suchthatcapital canonly assure the first by means which in the long run increase the uncertain ty of the second, and vice versa.

Trade and credit (including the specifically late capitalist form of the permanent inflation of credit money) are the two fundamental means of temporarily averting the difficulties of realizing surplus value. The growing autonomy of commercial and bank capital and the develop men t of an independent sphere of commodity and money circulation are the price paid by industrial capital for a provisional and partial relaxation of the permanent difficulties of realization. The resultant acceleration of the turnover of circulating capital enables the mass of surplus-value annually produced to be increased, so that this autonomy does not necessarily diminish the profit appropriated by industrial capital. But alongside the general pressure to raise the organic composition of capital, there thus develops a further pressure to diminish the share of circulating capital in total productive capital, and to convert all capital into fixed capital, which increases the organic composition of capital still further and in the long-run must depress the rate of profit.

The burgeoning of the spheres of circulation and services in the capitalist mode of production fulfils yet another function, however. It is an indispensable instrument for the steady expansion of the money and commodity economy, and the constant extension of money-commodity relations to domains hitherto immune from them: ‘The more production as a whole develops into the production of commodities, the more each man must and wants to become a dealer in commodities, making money either from his own product or from his services, if his product only exists in the natural form of a service; and this money-making then appears as the ultimate goal of all activity (see Aristotle). In capitalist production, the production of products as commodities on the one hand, and the form of labour as wage-labour on the other, now become absolute. A multitude of functions and activities which had an aura of sanctity about them, counted as an end in themselves, were performed free of charge or were paid for in a roundabout way (like the role of all professionals, doctors, barristers and so on, in England, where the barrister and physician could not and cannot sue for payment), are on the one hand transformed directly into wage-labour, however different their content and payment. On the other hand, they become subject – in terms of their value, of the price of these different activities, from that of a whore to that of a king – to the laws that regulate the price of wage labour.’ [23]

Independent handicrafts, cottage industry, small agricultural enterprise (subsistence farming), small trade, research, private services and the production of ‘cultural’ goods’ succumb one after another to ‘money-making as an organized business’. This process reaches its apogee in the age of late capitalism, as we have seen, with the generalized commercialization of art, teaching, scientific research and individual ‘free vocations’. On the one hand permanent inflation alone permits the realization and appropriation of the surplus-value contained in the total output of commodities, while on the other hand there develops increasing over-capitalization, or a growing mass of non-valorizable capital which can only achieve temporary valorization by direct intervention of the late bourgeois State in the economy. More and more branches of industry depend solely on State contracts for their survival.

In our discussion of the permanent arms economy, we have emphasised the significance of military contracts for the US economy after the Second World War (there is no need to stress the role played internationally by the arms economy in eventually overcoming the Great Depression of the 30s). More and more research projects are financed directly by society. Spokesmen of the British employers’ federations have even demanded the complete socialization of virtually all research costs. [24] More and more investments are rendered possible only by direct or indirect State subventions, not because the bourgeois class is short of capital in an absolute sense, but because the conditions of valorization of capital have deteriorated to such an extent that the entrepreneurial risk will not be taken without guarantee of profitability from the bourgeois State. The rapid development of the forces of production in the age of late capitalism in the course of the third technological revolution has historically begun to shatter even the primary foundation of the capitalist mode of production, namely generalized commodity production. It does so from two sides at once. [25] On the one hand, the progress of technology in the industrialized countries produces increasing phenomena of saturation, which take the market economy to the absurd. The most striking example here is that of agriculture. In the USA and Canada an artificial system for throttling production has existed for decades, which since the establishment of the European Economic Community has increasingly spread to Western Europe, and is now also beginning to develop in Japan. Since the products of agrarian labour, now massi vely cheapened, cannot shed this commodity form within the framework of the capitalist mode of production, the growing excess of these products cannot simply be distributed among the large number of those in need who still exist in the ‘rich’ countries – nor, above all, among the famished populations of the underdeveloped countries. Instead, an irrational system of subsidies has had to be created, which involves the curtailment of food production and the destruction of stocks, artificially restricts possible consumption and yet still fails to assure the agricultural producers their expected return per hour of performed work. It is a logical consequence of this absurd and inhuman order that the systematic reduction of output and contraction of cultivated area in the agriculturally richest countries in the world 1968–70 finally led to the menace of terrible famine in Asia and Africa in 1973–74.

On the other hand, the objective opposition between partial rationality and overall irrationality, which is rooted in the contradiction between the growing socialization of labour and private appropriation and is a hallmark of the capitalist mode of production [26], acquires such explosive potential that the overall irrationality of late capitalism threatens in the medium term not only the existing form of society, but human civilization altogether. The fact that it would be not only irrational and senseless, but suicidally dangerous to permit the ‘free sale and purchase’ of atom bombs or poisonous gases can be understood by any child. A growing volume of research has, demonstrated that the ‘free production’ and ‘free sale’ of poisoned foods, pharmaceuticals and drugs injurious to health, unsafe cars and chemicals destructive of the environment – all of which are entrusted to private initiative driven by the profit motive – may eventually threaten human life. [27] The experts who have exposed these processes, have, however, generally refused to draw the necessary social conclusions from their analysis. [28] The root of these evils lies in the survival of commodity production – in other words, the re construction of the total social labour-power fragmented into private labours via the detour of the laws of the market, with its reification of all human relations and its conversion of all economic activities, from-means to the end of satisfying rational human needs and extending the possibilities of human life, into ends in themselves. [29] Only the direct socialization of production and its conscious subordination to the democratically determined needs of the masses, can lead to a new development of technology and science promoting the self-development, and not the self-destruction, of individuals and of mankind. [30]

In purely economic terms, the objective overall irrationality of the capitalist mode of production can be reduced to the opposition between the calculation of ‘privately paid’ production costs at the level of the factory (or company) and the overall social, direct and indirect costs of production – in other words, the opposition between the profitability of individual firms and the social balance-sheet of costs and benefits. [31] Bourgeois economics merely mystifies this opposition with the terminology of ‘returns’ yielded in part by ‘free goods’. [32] The growing threat to environment from contemporary technology is thus attributed to an increasing shortage of such ‘free goods’, or is reckoned as ‘negative commodities’ or ‘negative returns’. [33] By this detour, the future of commodity production and eternal scarcity-is assured. There is no need to expatiate on the brutal logic of market fanaticism here. Because companies pollute the atmosphere to maximize their profits, the simple right to fresh air is abolished: ‘access’ to this ‘scarce commodity’ must be purchased by a ‘tax’. [34] The real task, of course, is precisely to emancipate production from calculations of profitability related to either factory or company, from private ownership and commodity production, and to satisfy needs rationally, without gigantic wastage. [35] Once these conditions are achieved, conscious and democratic planning will naturally ensure that neither ‘population explosion’ nor the ‘commodity avalanche’ threaten air, water, earth or man. For it is not science and contemporary technology ‘in themselves’ but their capitalist organization and application which endanger the survival of humanity. The pursuit of technological rents creates conditions which collide directly with the protection of human health. For example, it obliges the chemical industry to throw new synthetic products onto the market every four or five years, before it has had time for any responsible study of the biological and ecological risks potentially involved in them. Marx foresaw this development over a century ago, when he wrote that capital could only develop itself (and the forces of production) by simultaneously pillaging both the sources of human wealth, earth and labour.

In the age of late capitalism, this pillage has reached immeasurable proportions. The opposition between exchange-value and use value, which in the heyday of capitalism surfaced only exceptionally and suddenly in times of economic crises, is permanently visible in late capitalism. This opposition has found its most dramatic expression in the mass production of means of destruction (not only of military weapons, but also of all the other instruments for the physical, psychological and moral destruction of man): it may be seen, too, in those sectors of the economy no longer determined by calculations of company-profitability but by ‘public’ priorities [36] The forces of production, the interests of humanity, the ‘immanent’ evolution of science, tend more and more in this direction. Within the framework of the capitalist mode of production, however, such projects must always remain marginal. The setting of public priorities by small cliques of the ruling class threatens merely to create additional wastage of material resources and damage to human existence (military exploitation of space travel, biological experiments by state apparatuses and private interests). [37] Likewise, the project of an individual ‘card index’ for every citizen, summarily coding all the ‘incidents’ of his private and public life, with obvious uses for potential political surveillance, is yet another example of the inhuman application of contemporary technology for the conservation of the social system. [38] The combination of private appropriation and state economic intervention has a further economic effect, which must be investigated more closely. Capitalist private property, competition between the (many capitals’, leads to precise calculation within enterprises and to partial rationality in the reduction of production costs. The governing principle here is the strictest economy of resources. [39] Yet the State sector, by contrast, in which there is no objective social mechanism for the constant reduction of costs, is governed by the principle of an allocation economy, which involves a permanent wastage of resources to the extent that the individuals active in it have a material interest in increasing these allocations [40], since they remain dominated by the private urge for self-enrichment which is generalized in a commodity-producing economy. [41]

This contradiction is further intensified by the fact that increased allocations from the state sector can constitute a source of increased private profit for companies and capitalists or enhance their capacity to compete against other capitals. [42] The interlocking of nationalized sectors of the economy and the private appropriation of surplus-value thus heightens the irrationality of the overall system – generating, among other things, a greater wastage of economic resources. This irrationality cannot be overcome even by the simulation of profitability in the public sector. [43]

The decline of the capitalist mode of production which under lies this interlocking of the private economy and State intervention emerges even more clearly in a historical perspective. At one time, capital- spurred by the compulsion to compete and accumulate, to achieve valorization on an extended scale – sped well ahead of technical progress, initiated it, guided it into productive channels and kept it firmly within its power. The centralization of capital (say in the banks) was far superior to that of the actual labour process. Therein lay the basis of the ‘economic autonomy’ of capital in the 19th century. Today, the development of technology has sped past the centralization of ‘many capitals’, once and for all. The objective socialization of labour, the most up-to-date production methods, repeatedly overshoot the most advanced forms of the concentration and centralization of capital. Capitalist private property, the private appropriation of surplus-value and private accumulation increasingly becomes an obstacle to the further development of the forces of production. State (and supra-national) centralization of part of the social surplus product has once again – as in numerous pre-capitalist societies – increasingly become a material precondition for the further development of the forces of production. But although growing State centralization of the social surplus-value in late capitalism is more adapted than private capitalist competition to the objective socialization of labour, it too increasingly lags behind the most advanced technology. This lag finds its clearest expression in the phenomenon of the multi-national corporations and all the tendencies inherent in them.

The strengthening of the State in late capitalism is thus an expression of capital’s attempt to overcome its increasingly explosive inner contradictions, and at the same time an expression of the necessary failure of this attempt. Today only a world-wide association of producers is congruent with the contemporary state of the forces of production and the objective socialization of labour. Any ‘intermediate solution’ that abolishes competition (i.e., anarchy) on one level, only reproduces it with all the more destructive force on a higher level. This is true of the late bourgeois State just as much as it is of the late capitalist multinational monopolies.

The further growth of productive forces not only clashes ever more frontally with the commodity form of production, its private appropriation and determination by the individual profitability of the large companies; it likewise collides directly against the commodity form of labour-power. The freezing of the division of labour and the qualification of labour, which corresponds to this commodity form, is taken to the absurd by the acceleration of technological innovation – just as the commodity form of butter or apples is taken to the absurd by permanent ‘over-production’ in Western Europe. The necessity of periodic ‘retraining’, due to the increasingly rapid change of basic labour skills, now spreads to the domain of intellectual labour; it even creates within the framework of capitalist reforms of the university, marginal tendencies towards permanent part-time study, thereby fulfilling one of Marx’s prophecies. But within the limits of the capitalist mode of production, this potential tendency naturally cannot prevail. It is accompanied and stifled by a neutralizing and repressive counter-tendency to make the university and the teaching system as a whole directly ‘profitable’. The objective constraint towards prolongation of learning activity over the greater part of life, however, necessarily undermines the ‘private’ character of labour qualifications. The latter made sense so long as individual qualifications were principally a function of individual effort – and were also paid for by individual families (or the individual himself). Today, however, the production costs of individual qualification have for the most part been socialized. The overwhelming majority of inventors, researchers, scientists and doctors could never perform their functions if hundreds of thousands, indeed millions of workers had not produced the laboratories, buildings, machines, apparatuses, instruments and materials with which they operate; if the social surplus product, produced by the total mass of the producers, had not ensured them the necessary working-time free from the constraint of reproducing their immediate existence, without which they could not pursue their scientific work; if past and present generations of other inventors, researchers, scientists and doctors had not performed the necessary antecedent and concomitant labour, with out which individual scientific activity would in most cases be impossible. Every contemporary can thus only realize his private talents as part of social labour capacity. It is precisely in the sphere of intellectual production that the belated socialization of the labour process is now most manifest, eliminating any justification for the existence of a social-hierarchical division of labour between ‘producers’ and ‘administrators’, or between lower-paid ‘material’ and higher-paid ‘intellectual’ creators. [44]

But the objective challenge gathering within late bourgeois society to the capitalist division of labour and its specific phenomenal form, the commodity character of labour-power, also assumes another, unexpected form. Here again, Marx’s analyses have, how ever, been confirmed. [45] The productive force of the individual becomes more and more emancipated from physical and nervous effort (alienation of energy) and increasingly becomes a function of technical or scientific equipment, and scientific or technical qualification. The consequence is that the frontiers between working time and free-time start to become fluid. The objective result of labour in the technically most developed enterprises and branches of industry becomes a function of the attention and interest accorded by the employee to his activity. These have an inverse relationship to the length of his working-time and the degree of alienation of his labour, and are a direct function of the possibility of self-confirmation and self-determination by the immediate labour collective. [46] Indeed, the situation is nearing where the productivity of labour depends more and more on the growth of free-time both in the sense of free-time as learning-time, and in the sense of free-time as the development of individual talents, wishes, desires which alone can stimulate interest and potentially creative labour. The reduction of mechanically repetitive labour by thorough automation will in turn doom strictly quantitative measurement of labour-time – the historical means of extorting the maximum amount of surplus value from each producer – to disappear.

The characteristic taylorist organization of work based on conveyor belts- and parcellization of labour inside the factory, corresponded neither to any absolute technical or scientific necessity, nor to an attempt at any maximum economy of living labour. It was consonant only with the capitalist goal of combining a sharp decrease in costs of production with a maximum increase in surplus-value or profit accruing to the firms using these techniques. This implied the need for total control and regulation of the labour-process of every single producer, and its reduction to a near-mechanical and easily quantifiable part of a global machine system. [47] But in semi automatic or automatic factories, the capital-conserving function of living labour becomes more important than its surplus-value producing function, since these factories (firms) essentially appropriate fractions of social surplus-value actually generated in other firms. The immensely complex and expensive machinery which has to be maintained and repaired by living labour in these plants necessitates great attention and skill, which cannot be so mechanically and rapidly acquired. Therefore, high turnover of labour and pervasive indifference towards work and machinery become a threat to capital in such plants – as also in precision factories which demand the utmost attention for the quality of their output. In these circumstances, it is not only with the aim of ‘decreasing social tensions’ and thereby lowering the explosion-points of the overall crisis of capitalist relations of production, but also with the much more direct objective of profit maximization, that employers have started to experiment with techniques of ‘job enrichment’, greater mobility of labour inside the factory, suppression of conveyor-belts, and so on. [48] But, of course, the extortion of surplus-value and surplus labour can never wither away under capitalist relations of reproduction, no matter how camouflaged under late capitalism.

The social division of labour characteristic of the capitalist mode of production – the division between producers of surplus-value and all those who extend or ensure the process of capital-expansion – determines a hierarchical structure within each enterprise based on the strict enforcement of partial rationality and the principle of achievement. The objective tendencies towards the socialization and higher qualification of labour inherent in the third technological revolution inevitably clash especially sharply with this hierarchy.

Furthermore, social labour capacity today is not the activity of freely associated producers, self-administered and consciously directed, i.e., democratically and centrally planned; it falls, on the contrary, more than ever before under the central power of a vertical chain of command. This contradiction, however, is an Achilles Heel of late capitalism, even in times of the ‘most favourable upswing’, ‘fastest’ growth, and ‘broadest’ mass consumption. For the more that labour becomes objectively socialized and dependent on conscious cooperation, the more that immediate shortages dis appear, and the higher are the educational level and average qualification of the typical producer – all the more intolerable will the direct organizational and technical subsumption of labour under capital become to the mass of wage-earners, and with it their social and economic subordination.

The crisis of capitalist relations of production thus finds logical expression in a crisis of the authority of the entrepreneur and of the structure of the enterprise. Although capital constantly attempts to halt or limit this crisis [49], a new trend in daily class struggles emerges, capable of turning the conflicts over it into the starting point of mass anti-capitalist movements. The emphasis of class struggle increasingly shifts from the issue of the division of the values newly created by labour between wages and surplus-value, to the issue of the right of control over machines and labour-power. The number of immediate labour disputes detonated by revolts against the structure of the enterprise is constantly growing: workers today are increasingly rejecting the right of employers to reduce the number of employees, to shift machines and orders, to set the rhythm of the assembly belt, to alter the organization of labour, to revise the system of wage-payment, to widen the span between the highest and lowest (or average) earnings in the factory, or to close factories. [50]

But the capitalist mode of production does not consist of production units which are loosely and only occasionally combined with one another. The degree of the objective socialization of labour which it has created, makes it economically and socially impossible for the working class to win back the means of production which it has set in motion in the enterprise alone. [51] The action of the late capitalist State as the representative of the collective interests of capital in repeatedly intervening to control the labour situation and income levels of the working-class (taxes and inflation, employment and credit policy, foreign trade or agricultural decisions, and so on) is a permanent source of political education for the proletariat. State intervention, in effect, trains the working-class for the highest forms of class struggle: for the conquest of political power and control over the means of production, for the abolition of the capitalist mode of production and gradual dissolution of the commodity and money economy and the social division of labour. The growing contradiction between objectively socialized labour and private appropriation

is determined not only by the third technological revolution, the increasing necessity of highly qualified labour and the widening cultural and political horizon of the working-class, but also by the gulf between potential abundance on the one hand, and actual alienation and reification on the other. Whereas in the age of classical capitalism the main impulse for workers’ struggles came from the tension between the present and the past, today it lies in the tension between the actual and the possible.

Set against potential abundance and possible development of the creative powers of the individual, the growing fatigue with senseless production of inferior goods [52], the widespread sentiments of anxiety among workers and capitalists alike, resulting from the suppression of spontaneous self-activity and the spread of generalized insecurity, with the compulsion to ‘conform’ and to ‘succeed’ characteristic of bourgeois society, the increasing solitude of social life and frustration with advertising and product differentiation, the deteriorating state of mass transport, the decay of housing conditions and the strangulation of large cities are becoming increasingly unbearable. At the very moment when the self-development of the social individual would be incomparably easier to achieve than ever before, its realization seems to be receding ever further away.

For Marx, alienation is an objective, not merely a subjective category. Even an individual alienated from consciousness of his alienation remains alienated. This objective condition is in the long run a more powerful reality than all the attempts at manipulation or integration of the industrial working-class; in late capitalism it drives wage-earners towards collective awareness of the unremitting alienation to which they are subjected, and so creates the conditions for socialist self-liberation. Even under conditions of maximum ‘prosperity’ these fundamental contradictions of capitalism have proved insoluble and irreducible in our age. In the long-run, the worker will never be satisfied with hours of work which seem a loss of life, with a labour process which appears forced labour, and with an enterprise whose structure accords him no more than subject status.

A profound crisis of capitalist relations of production is evident when workers challenge the authority of employers in enterprises with direct factory struggle. Today, however, the mass of wage earners are increasingly contesting the fundamental values and priorities of the capitalist mode of production on a social level too. This global ‘process of contestation’, directed against capitalist relations of production as a whole, has hitherto taken three main forms, as we enter a new epoch of social revolution:

  1. Critical attack on the contradiction between the growing abundance of consumer goods and the massive underdevelopment of social consumption (collective services). The acute contrast between the two, now admitted even by liberals [53], contributes to the increasing insecurity of bourgeois and petty bourgeois ideologies based on the glorification of the ‘free market economy’ and the ‘social welfare state’. The rising level of needs determined by the development of the forces of production and the long wage of expansion since the Second World War, have conferred increasing importance on certain services – health, housing, education, local transport, holidays – not only in the ‘objective’ structure of consumption, but also in the subjective consciousness of workers. By their very nature these needs can only marginally be satisfied by capitalist commodity production: it is, of course, for this reason they are systematically ‘underdeveloped’ by the private capitalist economy. But this underdevelopment in turn intensifies mass pressure for their common-economic satisfaction and potentially raises the demand for the complete socialization of the costs of satisfying these needs. A struggle thus tends to arise for a new form of distribution profoundly antagonistic to the capitalist mode of production, based on optimum satisfaction of needs and complete elimination of the market (free health service, local transport, housing, and so on). The declarations of the British politician Powell that needs for medical care are ‘unlimited’ and that therefore their price should be determined by a ‘free market economy’ [54] are already felt to be barbaric by a majority of the population of many, if not most of the industrialized countries.
  2. Frontal challenging of the mechanisms which determine investments. In the capitalist mode of production, capital theoretically flows out of sectors realizing less than the average rate of profit into such sectors which realize more than the average. Since technological advantage (and positions of technological monopoly) facilitate surplus-profits, official doctrine claims that the pattern of sectoral investments generally promotes the efficiency and rationality of the total economy. In practice, as we have seen, the strategically decisive investments of large companies have increasingly deviated from such norms of allocation. Monopolistic and oligopolistic market situations have long since ended the relative approximation between market success and labour productivity. State subvention, State guarantee of monopoly profits and permanent inflation exercise a direct influence on the investment decisions of large firms, very often in a sense directly counter to economic rationality. The logic of ‘monopolistic competition’ and the ‘competitive game’ has very little to do with the systematic lowering of production costs today. Under these conditions it has become more and more unacceptable to great masses of wage earners that investment decisions taken by a tiny handful of directors on the boards of large companies, should determine the employment, income and even the domicile of hundreds of thousands of families. The socialization of investment decisions – and the public presentation of the social priorities under lying such decisions – will soon become another proletarian demand tending to explode capitalist relations of production.
  3. Popular denunciation of the contradiction between the repeated dependence of large companies on State subventions, contracts and aid during recessions, and the jealous preservation of business and banking secrecy by these companies. [55] The demand for the abolition of banking secrecy, the publication of accounts, workers’ control over production in the workshop, the plant and society as a whole, is today gathering strength. It too directly menaces capitalist relations of production, putting in radical question private property, competition and the control of capital over labour-power and the means of production. At the same time, the late capitalist tendency towards the integration of the trade-unions with the State apparatus, and the restriction or abolition of the freedom of wage bargaining, determined by corporate cost and investment planning and economic programming for total capital, is encountering growing resistance.

The contemporary crisis of the bourgeois nation state, finally, is indivisible from the crisis of capitalist relations of production. The increasing internationalization of forces of production, the vast and unsatisfied needs of the semi-colonial masses, and the global spread of the threat to the environment render conscious planning of basic economic resources on a world-wide scale imperative. But the survival of the national state is inseparable from imperialist competition and capitalist commodity production. It can no more be superseded within the framework of the capitalist mode of production than can the manufacture of useless or harmful commodities, the laying idle of gigantic economic resources, the recurrence of unemployment or the systematic under-utilization of machines and other means of production.

All these searing problems will remain insoluble so long as control over the forces of production is not wrested from the hands of the capital. The appropriation of the means of production by the associated producers, their planned application to priorities deter mined democratically by the mass of the workers, the radical reduction of working time as a precondition of active self-administration in economy and society, and the demise of commodity production and money relations are the indispensable steps to their solution. The final abolition of capitalist relations of production will be the central objective of the mass revolutionary movement of the inter national working-class that is now approaching.


1. Marx: ‘In the social production of their existence, men inevitably enter into different relations, which are independent of their will, namely relations of production appropriate to a given stage of their material forces of production. The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society.’ Critique of Political Economy, p. 20. (Our italics)

2. Since value forms the foundation of capital, and since it therefore necessarily exists only through exchange for counter-value, it thus necessarily repels itself from itself. A universal capital, one without alien capitals confronting it, with which it exchanges – and from the present standpoint, nothing confronts it but wage labourers or itself – is therefore a non-thing. The reciprocal repulsion between capitals is already contained in capital as realized exchange value.’ Marx, Grundrisse, p. 421. See also the statement already quoted: ‘Capital exists and can only exist as many capitals, and its self-determination therefore appears as their reciprocal inter action with one another.’ Grundrisse, p. 414.

3. Marx: ‘In capital-profit, or better still capital-interest, land-rent, labour-wages, in this economic trinity represented as the connection between the component parts of value and wealth in general and its sources, we have the complete mystification of the capitalist mode of production, the conversion of social relations into things, the direct coalescence of the material production relations with their historical and social determination. It is an enchanted, perverted, topsy-turvy world, in which Monsieur le Capital and Madame la Terre do their ghost-walking as social characters and at the same time directly as mere things.’ Capital, Vol. 3, p. 808.

4. Marx: ‘But it was left to M. Proudhon and his school to declare seriously that the degradation of money and the exaltation of commodities was the essence of socialism and thereby to reduce socialism to an elementary misunderstanding of the inevitable correlation existing between commodities and money.’ Critique of Political Economy, London 1971, p. 86.

5. Marx: ‘As a general rule, articles of utility become commodities, only because they are products of the labour of private individuals or groups of individuals who carry on their work independently of each other. The sum total of the labour of all these private individuals forms the aggregate labour of society. Since the producers do not come into social contact with each other until they exchange their products, the specific social character of each producer’s labour does not show itself except in the act of exchange. In other words, the labour of the individual asserts itself as a part of the labour of society, only by means of the relations which the act of exchange establishes directly between the products, and indirectly, through them, between the producers.’ Capital, Vol. 1, pp. 72–73.

6. Engels: ‘The means of production, and production itself, had become in essence socialized. But they were subjected to a form of appropriation which presupposes the private production of individuals, under which, therefore, everyone owns his own product and brings it to market. The mode of production is subjected to this form of appropriation, although it abolishes the conditions upon which the latter rests. This contradiction, which gives to the new mode of production its capitalist character, contains the germ of the whole of the social antagonism of today.’ Socialism, Utopian and Scientific, in Marx and Engels, Selected Works, p. 420. See also the pages following this passage.

7. Marx, Grundrisse, pp. 397–8.

8. Ibid., pp. 309, 699–700.

9. Marx, Resultate ..., pp. 158, 160.

10. Ibid., p. 1–2.

11. Marx: ‘Let us now picture to ourselves by way of a change, a community of free individuals, carrying on their work with the means of production in common, in which the labour power of all the individuals is consciously applied as the combined labour power of the community ... Labour time would ... play a double part. Its apportionment in accordance with a definite social plan maintains the proper proportion between the different kinds of work to be done and the various wants of the community.’ Capital, Vol. 1, pp. 78–9.

12. Naturally this does not mean that economic calculation and comparison of labour costs – with the aim of saving labour – likewise disappear. On the contrary: they become even more important than previously. For they can now be assessed more exactly, on the overall social level, taking into account all the costs which are not calculated in commodity production, but are ‘socialized’ behind the back of society. Moreover, they can be gauged by exact book-keeping of all quantities of labour actually expended (irrespective of whether these are now expressed in hours of work or in money of account). For since society itself henceforward distributes its economic resources over the different branches of its production, it cannot abdicate responsibility for the directly social character of any part of the labour collectively organized.

13. See among others Poulantzas, op. cit., pp. 64–7.

14. Such socialization can nevertheless accelerate the development of productive forces if it enables labour to be saved by simple co-operation on a broad basis, as appears to be the case in the Chinese communes.

15. This thesis is advanced at length by Charles Bettelheim in his book La Transition vers l’Economie socialiste, Paris 1968.

16. See the claim by Bettelheim in his book just cited.

17. ‘At a certain stage of development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production or – this merely expresses the same thing in legal terms – with the property relations within the framework of which they have operated hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an era of social revolution.’ Marx, Preface to Critique of Political Economy, p. 21.

18. To do full justice to this dialectic one would have to add: 1. that the maturity of existing forces of production for new socialized relations of production obtains at the level of the imperialist world economy; 2. that the social crisis provoked by this maturity, determined by the law of uneven and combined development, does not develop simultaneously but discontinuously in time and space, creating the possibility and necessity of socialist revolutions which are initially victorious only within national limits. 3. that a further contradiction then arises between the international development of forces of production and national attempts to revolutionize relations of production.

19. It is this kind of hope which underlies the views of Roger Garaudy’s The Turning Point of Socialism, London 1970, and partly also the Richta Report, Politische Oekonomie des 20. Jahrhunderts, Frankfurt 1970.

20. Marx: ‘Capitalist production is distinguished from the outset by two characteristic’ features. First. It produces its products as commodities. The fact that it produces commodities does not differentiate it from other modes of production; but rather the fact that being a commodity is the dominant and determining characteristic of its products ... The second distinctive feature of the capitalist mode of production is the production of surplus-value as the direct aim and determining motive of production. Capital produces essentially capital, and does so only to the extent that it produces surplus-value. We have seen in our discussion of relative surplus-value, and further in considering the transformation of surplus-value into profit, how a mode of production peculiar to the capitalist period is founded hereon – a special form of development of the social productive powers of labour, by confronting the labourer as powers of capital rendered independent, and standing in direct opposition therefore to the labourers’ own development.’ Capital, Vol. 3, pp. 857–8.

21. ‘If valuable machinery were employed to supply a small quantity of products, then it would not act as a force of production, but-rather make the product infinitely more expensive than if the work had been done without machinery. It creates value not in so far as it has value – for the latter is simply replaced – but rather only in so far as it increases relative surplus time, or decreases necessary labour time. In the same proportion, then, as that in which its scope grows, the mass of products must increase, and the living labour employed relatively decrease. The less the value of the fixed capital in relation to its effectiveness, the more does it correspond to its purpose.’ Grundrisse, p. 739.

22. According to official figures, the production of consumer goods as a share of the total industrial output of the USA fell from 39% in 1939 to 28% in 1969. Federal Reserve Bulletin, July 1971.

23. Marx, Resultate ... , p. 132.

24. The Times, 26 July 1968.

25. Another example of the crisis of the market economy; the Professional Association of the West German Nitrogen Industry is considering ‘whether one could not save on freight costs by supplying the consumer only from the nearest factory, irrespective of which proprietor owns this factory.’ Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, July 1971.

26. See Chapter 16 of the present work.

27. Apart from Commoner’s book cited earlier, see among others Max Nicholson, The Environmental Revolution, London 1969, John Esposito, Vanishing Air, Washington 1965, and H. Nicol, The Limits of Man, London 1967. The literature on this subject is growing at an exponential rate – like the problem itself. So far the best Marxist work to deal with the overall problem of the capitalist threat to the environment and the possible measures to counter it has been written by our friend Harry Rothman, Murderous Providence – a Study of Pollution in Industrial Societies, London 1972.

28. Examples are works by E.J. Mishan (The Costs of Economic Growth, London 1969) and the recent Nobel Prize Winner Dennis Gabor, which deal with many of the problems briefly summarized here, but do so only in partial fields, either not raising the question ‘Why?’ at all or answering it with banalities such as ‘human aggression’ or ‘ignorance’. Such writers refuse to expose the nexus between commodity production, positivist partial rationality and overall social irrationality. They therefore themselves remain prisoners of the complex of specialized partial rationality and overall irrationality. A good critique of both books appeared in the magazine Contemporary Issues, Vol. 14, No. 55, April 1971: Andrew Maxwell, On the Notion of ‘Wealth’.

29. Herbert Gintis, in his intelligent treatment of commodity fetishism (a hitherto unpublished manuscript), rightly emphasizes the misleading nature of the basic axiom of bourgeois political economy, namely that any consumption which is realized through monetarily effective demand is ipso facto rational. If they were consistent, the protagonists of this doctrine would have to declare the distribution of hard drugs to be rational as well, since after all these also find buyers. Marx always emphasized that consumption is to a large extent determined by production, and that its tendencies of development consequently depend on the relations of production. After Galbraith and Mishan, no-one today any longer believes in the fairy-tale of ‘consumer sovereignty’.

30. An extension of the contemporary American structure of production to the entire world would destroy all sources of raw materials before the end of the century, indeed endanger the world’s hydrogen belt, write Donella H. Meadows, Dennis L. Meadows, Jorgen Randers, William Randers and William W. Behrens III in The Limits of Growth, New York 1972. They are possibly right, although they undoubtedly make exaggerated use of extrapolations from current tendencies of development. It is clear that a radical alteration of the social system and hence of the distribution of material resources and social priorities could achieve a qualitative improvement in techniques for fighting pollution and protecting the environment, and a qualitative increase in substitutes for scarce raw materials. It goes without saying that the world-wide extension of American capitalism would be a nightmare for mankind. It naturally does not follow that economic growth should be halted, imprisoning among others the masses of the underdeveloped countries in their misery. The only logical conclusion to be drawn is that anarchic and destructive growth must be replaced by growth that is consciously planned and takes all ‘indirect social costs’ into account.

31. Although the technique so-called of Cost Benefit Analysis (see among others E.J. Mishan, Cost-Benefit Analysis, London 1971) permits the inclusion of ‘indirect social costs’ in the choice of different investment projects, it is forced to express damage to health and even human life in ‘money values’, which can only be done on the basis of capitalising ... the proceeds. The implicit inhumanity of this way of treating the problem, and the reactionary results to which it leads, are obvious (see a good critique in Rothman, op. cit., pp. 312–16). Cost-benefit analysis merely reveals the limits of partial economic rationality, even when generalised to take account of ‘indirect costs’.

32. See for example Robert Dorfman, Prices, New Jersey 1964, pp. 119–210.

33. Tibor Scitovsky, Welfare and Competition, London 1952, p. 187. This argument stems originally from A.C. Pigou, The Economics of Welfare, here cited from the Fourth Edition, London 1960, pp. 134–5, 183–7.

34. See Weiss’s comment: ‘The fundamentally impermissible premise (of efforts to turn human life and health into money values) is a re-interpetation of primary physical needs for the rest, clean air, unpolluted water, and bodily health, as needs for monetary income. It so happens that precisely these needs should not be articulated and satisfied through the mechanism of the market.’ Dieter Weiss, Infrastrukturplanung, in Ziele, Kriterien und Bewertung von Alternativen, Berlin 1971, p. 46.

35. See for example the frightening refuse production which characterizes late capitalism: 1.25 kg. per capita per day in the USA in 1920; 2.5 kg. in 1970 (in Belgium it was still only 250g. per capita per day in 1960, i.e. more than 180 millions of tons of refuse per annum.

36. An example was the US moon programme. At the same time, however, the intermeshing of arbitrarily chosen ‘social priorities’ (ultimately determined by the arms race and ‘political competition’ with the USSR) and private capitalist relations of production was of such a kind that the enterprise became a gigantic source of monopoly surplus profits and squandered resources. See the study by the Sunday Times reporters Hugo Young, Bryan Silcock and Peter Dunn.

37. For the dangers connected with the ‘biological time bomb’ see among others G. Rattray Taylor, The Biological Time Bomb, London 1969, and David Fishlock, Man Modified, London 1971.

38. See Gerald Messadie, La Fin de la Vie Privée, Paris 1974.

39. This is naturally much less true of monopoly capitalism than of the capitalism of the age of free competition.

40. In an allocation economy saving on expenditure leads to a reduction in allocations. Those concerned, whose interest lies in an increase in allocations – and not a capitalist maximization of profits – are thus constantly and automatically impelled to increase their expenditure. This principle governs all public administration in a commodity-producing society.

41. Insofar as the state and economic bureaucracy in the transitional societies of the East has subtracted itself from any political control by the mass of producers, whose basic interest lies in economizing on their labour time, and exhibits a drive for personal enrichment in a money economy, the same principle applies to this social stratum too.

42. For example, the combination of a free government health service and a private pharmaceutical industry becomes a vast mechanism for the constant expansion of the profits of this branch of industry, significantly increasing its ability to compete with other sectors of the chemical industry.

43. The attempt at this kind of simulation was introduced on a major scale into the Pentagon by Ford-technocrat MacNamara.

44. Bourgeois sociologists still cling to the myth of the ‘ignorance’ of workers, or their ‘feeling of ignorance’, to justify or eternalize the social hierarchy, whose class character they usually deny. See for example, Irving Louis Horowitz, La conduite de la classe ouvrière aux Etats-Unis, in Sociologie du Travail, no. 3, 1971.

45. See the well-known passage in the Grundrisse, which we have already cited: ‘The saving of labour time (is) equal to an increase of free time, i.e., time for the full development of the individual, which in turn reacts back upon the productive power of labour as itself the greatest productive power’: p. 711.

46. Attempts to introduce the four-day week in the USA, and ‘sliding day work’ in the USA and Switzerland, have raised the productivity of labour. Such schemes, however, are always determined by the pressure to increase profitability (otherwise they would not be introduced) or by particular monopoly conditions: see for example Lou Comolak, Quattro Giorni di Lavoro e tre di Festa, in Espansione, April 1971.

47. Andre Gorz is correct to emphasise this, in his essay, Technique, Techniciens et Lutte de Classe, in Critique de la Division du Travail, Paris 1973.

48. See the interesting analysis of the organization of the labour process in the Italian IBM factory in Per La Critica della Organizzazione del Lavoro, February 1973; for the experiences at Norsk Hydro and Volvo respectively, see Le Monde, 5 April 1972 and Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 16 June 1974.

49. Hence the spreading attempts of big capital to neutralise the revolutionary potential of this new development of ‘spontaneous’ class struggle, by schemes for ‘participation’ or ‘co-determination’ designed to convert it into a positive instrument of late capitalist economic programming. Revolutionary Marxists, of course, struggle for workers’ control as a power of veto without any responsibility for profit (‘Not company profitability, but class solidarity’).

50. This trend is manifest in the strike statistics of recent years in Great Britain, France, Italy and Belgium. It is interesting to note that the same tendency is slowly but surely emerging in the USA. See for example Emma Rothschild’s penetrating analysis of the revolt of the automobile workers in the ultra-modern General Motors plant in Lordstown (Ohio), New York Review of Books, 23 March 1972.

51. See our introduction to the anthology, Controle Ouvrier, Conseils Ouvriers, Autogestion, Paris 1970.

52. Each year, 20 million Americans are injured badly enough in production-related accidents to need medical treatment. Some 110,000 are permanently disabled, and 30,000 die from them. The cost to the economy is more than 5.5 billion dollars annually.

53. Galbraith’s Affluent Society, as well as the efforts of the Nader circle in the USA, have had a major influence in this respect.

54. This argument merely exposes the absurdity of ‘orthodox’ bourgeois economic ideology. Are we really to believe that people take ‘more and more’ medicines and remain in hospital longer and longer’ simply because these goods and services are distributed cash-free on the basis of need? Would such over-consumption not be damaging to health? Could not its irrational character be impressed on the population by mass-scale education? Is it not precisely the logic of profit maximization and the market economy whose advertisements and media systems (not to speak of unconscious escapism) create the very notion of such over-consumption in capitalism?

55. See for example the popular indignation in France after the devaluation of the franc in 1969: a proposal from bourgeois circles that speculators who had despatched their capital abroad before the devaluation should be prosecuted, was rejected by a small parliamentary majority.

Last updated on 4 June 2014