Only one other world is possible: communism
Between 12th and 15th November, the "European Social Forum" was held in Paris, a kind of European subsidiary of the World Social Forum which has taken place several years running in Porto Alegre, Brazil (in 2002 the ESF was held in Florence, Italy, while the 2004 event is planned in London). The ESF has attained considerable proportions: according to the organisers, there were some 40,000 participants from countries ranging from Portugal to Eastern Europe, a programme of 600 seminars and workshops in the most varied venues (theatres, town halls, prestigious state buildings) distributed across four sites around Paris, and to conclude a big demonstration of between 60 and 100,000 people in the streets of Paris, with the unrepentant Italian Stalinists of Rifondazione Comunista at the front, and the anarchists of the CNT at the rear. Though they received less media attention, two other "European forums" took place at the same time as the ESF, one for members of the European parliament, the other for trades unionists. And as if three "forums" were not enough, the anarchists organised a "Libertarian Social Forum" in the Paris suburbs, at the same time as the ESF and deliberately presented as an "alternative" to it.
"Another world is possible!". This was one of the great slogans of the ESF. And there is no doubt that for many of the demonstrators on 15th November, perhaps above all for the young people just entering political activity, there is a real and pressing need to struggle against capitalism and for "another world" to the one where we live today, with its endless poverty and its interminable and hideous warfare. Doubtless some of them drew an inspiration from this great united gathering. The problem though, is not just to know that "another world is possible" - and necessary - but also and above all to what kind of world it could be and how to build it.
It is hard to see how the ESF could offer an answer to this question. Given the number and variety of participating organisations (ranging from organisations of "young managers" and "young entrepreneurs", to Christian unions, Trotskyists like the LCR or the SWP, the Stalinists of the PCF and Rifondazione, and even anarchists like Alternative Libertaire), it is hard to see how a coherent answer, or even any kind of answer at all, could emerge from the ESF. Everybody had their own ideas to put forward, whence an enormous variety of themes expressed in leaflets, debates, and slogans. By contrast, when we look more closely at the ideas that came out of the ESF, we find first, that there is nothing new in them, and second, that there is absolutely nothing "anti-capitalist" about them either.
The extensive mobilisation around the ESF, plus the publicity given to a multitude of themes from the "anti-globalisation" tendency by so many groups of the left or far left, decided the ICC to intervene in the event with all the determination that our strength allowed. Since we suspected that the ESF's "debates" were sown up in advance (a suspicion which several participants in these debates confirmed to us), our militants from all over Europe concentrated on selling our press (in several European languages) and on taking part in informal discussions around the ESF and during the final demonstration. Similarly, we were present at the LSF in order to intervene in the debates and to put forward the perspective of communism against anarchism.
A world free from trade and trafficking?
"The world is not for sale" is a fashionable slogan, with various different versions when a "realistic" slogan is called for: "culture is not for sale" for the artists and theatre workers, "health is not for sale" for nurses and health workers, or again "education is not for sale" for the teachers.
Who would not be touched by such slogans? Who would want to sell his health, or his children's education?
However, when we look at the reality behind these slogans, we begin to smell a swindle. In fact, what is proposed is not to put an end to "selling the world", but just to limit it: "Free social services from the logic of the market". What does this mean, concretely? We all know that, as long as capitalism exists, everything has to be paid for, even services like health and education. All those aspects of social life that the "anti-globalists" claim to want to "free from the logic of the market" are in fact a part of the workers' overall wages, a part which is usually managed by the state. Far from being "freed from the logic of the market", the level of workers' wages, the proportion of production which returns to the working class, lies at the very heart of the problem of the market and capitalist exploitation. Capital always pays its labour power as little as possible: in other words, the minimum necessary to reproduce the next generation of workers. Today, as the world plunges into an ever deeper crisis, each national capital needs fewer hands, and must pay those hands it needs less if it is not to be eliminated by its competitors on the world market. In this situation, the working class can only resist reductions in its wages - however "social" these may be - through its own struggle, and not by calling on the capitalist state to "free" its wages from the laws of the market, something the state would be perfectly incapable of doing even if it wanted to.
In capitalist society, the proletariat can, at best, impose a more favorable division of the social product through the power of its own struggle: it can reduce the level of surplus-value extorted by the capitalist class in favour of variable capital - ie its wages. But to do this in today's context firstly demands a high level of struggle (as we saw after the defeat of the struggles in France in May 2003, which was followed by a storm of attacks on the social wage), and secondly can only be temporary (as we saw after the movement of 1968 in France).
No, this idea that "the world" is not for sale is nothing but a wretched fraud. The very nature of capitalism is precisely that everything is for sale, and the workers' movement has known this since 1848: capitalism "has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom ? Free Trade (...)The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honored and looked up to with reverent awe. It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science, into its paid wage labourers". This is how Marx and Engels put it in the Communist Manifesto: it just goes to show how valid their principles remain today!
Fair trade, not free trade?
"Fair trade, not free trade!" was another major theme at the ESF, given a great boost by the presence of French smallholders with their "biological" cheese and other products. Who indeed could not be touched by the hope of seeing the peasants and small craftsmen of the Third World live decently from the fruit of their labour? Who would not want to stop the steamroller of agribusiness from throwing the peasants off their land and heaping them up by millions in the slums of Mexico and Calcutta?
But here again, just as for the question of the market, fine sentiments are a poor guide.
First of all, there is absolutely nothing new about the "free trade" movement. The charity business (with companies like Oxfam, present of course at the ESF) has been practising "free trade" for handicrafts sold in its shops for more than forty years, without this in the least preventing millions of human beings from being plunged into poverty in Africa, Asia, or Latin America...
Moreover, in the mouths of the "anti-capitalists", this slogan is doubly hypocritical. Someone like José Bové, president of the French Confédération Paysanne, can play the anti-capitalist super-star all he likes with his denunciation of the food industry and the evil McDonalds: this does not prevent the militants of the same Confédération Paysanne from demonstrating to demand the maintenance of subsidies they get from the European CAP. By artificially lowering the price of French products, the CAP is precisely one of the main instruments for maintaining unfair trade to the advantage of some and, inevitably, to the disadvantage of others. Similarly, "fair trade" for the American steel industry unionists who demonstrated at Seattle and who have been lionised for it ever since, means imposing tariffs on the import of "foreign" steel produced more cheaply by workers in other countries. In the end, "fair trade" is just another name for trade wars.
In capitalism, the notion of "fairness" is anyway an illusion. As Engels put it already in 1881, in an article where he criticised the notion of the "fair wage": "The fairness of political economy, such as it truly lays down the laws which rule actual society, that fairness is always on one side... that of capital".
The most outrageous swindle in all this business of "fair trade" is the idea that the presence of "anti-globalist" demonstrators at Seattle or Cancun "encouraged" the negociators from the Third World countries to stand up to the demands of the "rich countries". We will not here go into detail as to the fact that the Cancun summit ended as a bitter defeat for the weaker countries, since the Europeans will not dismantle the CAP and the Americans will continue with their massive farm subsidies against the penetration of their market by cheaper countries from the poor countries. No, what is really disgusting is to credit the idea that the members of government and besuited bureaucrats of the Third World countries were present at these negotiations to defend the peasants and the poor. Quite the contrary! To take just one example, when Brazil's Lula denounces the tariffs imposed on imported orange juice to protect the American orange industry, he is thinking not of the poor peasants but of Brazil's enormous capitalist orange plantations, where the workers slave just as they do in the orange plantations of Florida.
No support for the bourgeois state!
The common thread that runs through all these themes is the following: against the "neo-liberals" and the "transnational" companies (those same evil "multi-nationals" that the anti-globalists' predecessors denounced back in the 1970s), we are supposed to place our confidence in the state, or better still to strengthen the state. The "anti-globalists" claim that business has "confiscated" power from the "democratic" state in order to impose its own "commercial" laws, and that therefore a "citizen's resistance" is necessary in order to recover the power of the state and revive "public services".
What a scam! For one thing, the state has never been more present in the economy than it is today, including in the United States. It is the state that regulates world trade by fixing interest rates, customs tariffs, etc. The state is itself the major actor in the national economy, with public spending running at between 30% and 50% of GDP depending on the country, and with ever-increasing budget deficits. More important than this, whenever the workers get it into their heads to defend their living conditions against the attacks of the capitalists, who do they find in their path right from the outset if not the police forces of the state? Demanding - as the "anti-globalists" do - that the state be strengthened to defend us from the capitalists, is really a gigantic fraud: the bourgeois state is there to protect the bourgeoisie from the workers, not the other way around.
It is not for nothing that the ESF produced this call to support the state, and especially to support its left fractions presented as the best defenders of "civil society", against "neo-liberalism". As the saying goes: "He who pays the piper calls the tune", and it is wholly instructive to look at who financed the ESF's 3.7 million euro costs:
First of all, the local authorities of Seine-St-Denis, Val de Marne, and Essonne contributed more than 600,000 euros, while the town of St Denis alone forked out 570,000 euros. In fact, this is the French "Communist" Party - that bunch of old Stalinist scoundrels - which is trying to buy its political virginity after years of complicity in the crimes committed by the Stalinist state in Russia, and decades of sabotaging the workers' struggles.
The French Socialist Party has been much discredited by the attacks it made against the workers during its time in government, and it is true that the audience at the ESF did not miss the chance to make fun of Laurent Fabius (a well-known Socialist leader) when he dared to turn up in the debates. One might have thought that the PS might not be too keen on the ESF, but in fact, quite the reverse! The city of Paris (controlled by the PS) contributed 1 million euros to the costs of the ESF.
And what about the French government? A right-wing, thoroughly neo-liberal French government, denounced in articles, leaflets, and posters by the whole left from the anarchists to the Stalinists - surely it would be uneasy, at the very least, to see the Forum attracting so many people? But no, not at all! It was by personal order of the president, Jacques Chirac, that the Foreign Ministry contributed 500,000 euros to the ESF.
He who pays certainly intends to profit! The ESF was liberally financed and housed by the whole French bourgeoisie, from right to left. And the whole French bourgeoisie, from left to right, intends to benefit from the undoubted success of the ESF, on two levels in particular:
First of all, the ESF is a means for the left wing of the state apparatus to renew itself (after being discredited by years spent in government dealing blow after blow to the workers' living conditions and assuming the responsibility for the imperialist policy of French capitalism). Since political parties are no longer in fashion, they are disguised as "associations" in order to give themselves a more "citizen", "democratic", "network" look: the PCF appeared in the form of its "Espace Karl Marx", the PS with its "Fondation Léo Lagrange" and "Jean Jaurès". We should insist here that it is not just the left which has an interest in making us forget its past misdeeds - something which is clear enough to anybody. The whole ruling class has an interest in covering the social front, in making sure that the workers' struggles - and even more generally the disgust and questioning provoked by capitalist society - should be derailed towards the old reformist recipes, and prevented from finding the consciousness necessary to overthrow the capitalist order and put an end to all its ills.
Secondly, the whole French bourgeoisie has an interest in the extension and strengthening of the ESF's clearly anti-American atmosphere. The enormous destruction and terrible loss of life in the two world wars, then above all the renewal of the class struggle and the end of the counter-revolution in 1968, have all contributed to discrediting the nationalism which the bourgeoisie used to send the populations to the slaughter in 1914, and then again in 1939. Consequently, even though there is no such thing as a "European bloc", much less a "European nation", the bourgeoisies of the different European countries, especially in France and Germany, all have an interest in encouraging the rise of anti-American and more vaguely "pro-European" feeling with the aim of presenting of presenting the defence of their own imperialist interests against US imperialism as the defence of a "different", or even an "anti-capitalist" world view. For example, the "anti-globalist" support for a ban on the import of American GMO's into France, in the name of "ecology" and the "defence of public health", is in reality nothing but an episode in an economic war, designed to give French research time to catch up with its American rivals in this respect.
Modern marketing techniques no longer sell products directly, they use a system which is both more subtle and more effective: they sell a "world view", a "style" to which they attach the products supposed to express that style. The ESF's organisers use exactly the same method: they offer us an unreal "world view", where capitalism is no longer capitalist, nations are no longer imperialist, and "another world" is possible without going through a communist revolution. Then in the name of this "vision", they propose to dump on us old products, long past their sell-by date: the so-called "communist" and "socialist" parties, disguised for the occasion as "citizen networks".
Since the French bourgeoisie coughed up the funds on this occasion, it is normal enough that its political parties should be the first to profit from the ESF. However, we should not imagine that the business was established by the French ruling class alone, far from it. The campaign to renew the credibility of the left wing of the bourgeoisie, undertaken in the various European and world "social forums" benefits the whole capitalist class world wide.
Another libertarian world?
The "Libertarian Social Forum" was deliberately announced as an alternative to the more "official" forum organised by the big bourgeois parties. One might ask just how much of an alternative it really was: one of the LSF's main organisers (Alternative Libertaire) also took an active part in the ESF, while the LSF's demonstration joined the big ESF one after a brief "independent" stroll.
We do not intend here to report exhaustively on what was said at the LSF. We will simply mention some of the main themes.
Let us start with the "debate" on "self-managed spaces" (ie squats, communes, service exchange networks, "alternative cafés", etc.). If we put the word "debate" in quotes, it is because the chair did everything possible to limit any discussion to descriptions of the participants' respective "spaces", and to avoid any kind of critical evaluation even from within the anarchist camp. It very quickly appeared that "self-management" is something very relative: a participant from Britain explained that they had bought their "space" for the tidy sum of £350,000 (500,000 euros); another recounted the creation of a "space"... on the Internet, the creation, as everybody knows, of the US DARPA.
Still more revealing was the action proposed by these various "spaces": free and "alternative" pharmacy (ie amateur herbal remedies), legal advice services, cafés, exchange of services, etc. In other words, a mixture of the small shopkeeper and social services abandoned by state cutbacks. In other words, the ultimate in anarchist radicalism is to underwrite the state by doing its work for free.
Another debate on "free public services" fully revealed the vacuity of "official" right-thinking anarchism. It was claimed here that "public services" could somehow involve an opposition to the market economy by satisfying the needs of the population for free - and "self-managed" of course, with consumers' committees, producers' committees, and community committees. All this as as alike as peas in a pod to the "local committees" being set up today by the French state for the inhabitants of the Paris suburbs. The question is posed as if it were possible to introduce an institutional opposition to capitalism from inside capitalist society itself, for example by establishing free public transport.
Another characteristic of anarchism which made a strong appearance at the LSF, is its profoundly elitist and educationist nature. Anarchism has no idea that "another world" could emerge from the very heart of the present world's own contradictions. As a result, it can only imagine the passage from the present to the future world by means of the "example" given by its "self-managed spaces", through an educative action on the ills of today's prevalent "productivism". But, as Marx already put it more than a century ago, if a new society is to appear thanks to the education of the people, who is to educate the educators? For those who plan to be the educators are themselves formed by the society within which we live, and their ideas of "another world" remain in reality solidly anchored in the world of today.
In effect, the two "social forums" served up, under the disguise of new and revolutionary ideas, nothing other than a bunch of old ideas which have long since revealed themselves inadequate if not downright counter-revolutionary.
The "self-managed spaces" recall the co-operative companies of the 19th century, not to mention all the "workers' collectives" of our own time (from Lip in France to Triumph in Britain) which either went bankrupt or remained ordinary capitalist companies, precisely because they were forced to produce and sell within the capitalist market economy; they also recall those "community" enterprises of the 1970s (squats, community committees, "free schools" etc.) which ended up integrated into the bourgeois state as social services.
All the ideas about carrying out a radical transformation thanks to free public services recall the gradualist reformism which was already an illusion in the workers' movement of 1900 and which fell into definitive bankruptcy in 1914 when it took the side of "its own" state to defend its "gains" against the "aggressor" imperialism. These ideas recall the creation of the "Welfare State" by the ruling class at the end of World War II, in order to rationalise the management and the mystification of the workforce (in particular by "proving" that the millions of casualties had not died in vain).
Our world bears a new world in its flanks
In capitalism as in any class society, it is absolutely inevitable that the dominant ideas should be the ideas of the dominant class. It is only possible to understand the necessity, and the material possibility, of a communist revolution because there exists within capitalist society a social class that embodies this revolutionary future: the working class. By contrast, if we simply try to "imagine" what a "better" society would be like, on the basis of our desires and imaginations as they are formed today by capitalist society (and following the model of our anarchist "educators"), we can do nothing other than "reinvent" the present capitalist world, by falling into either the reactionary dream of the small producer who can see no further than the end of his "self-managed space", or the megalo-monstrous delirium of a benevolent world state, à la George Monbiot.
Marxism, on the contrary, aims to discover within the capitalist world today the premises of the new world which the communist revolution must bring into being if humanity is to escape its doom. As the Communist Manifesto put it in 1848, "The theoretical conclusions of the Communists are in no way based on ideas or principles that have been invented, or discovered, by this or that would-be universal reformer. They merely express, in general terms, actual relations springing from an existing class struggle, from a historical movement going on under our very eyes".
We can distinguish three distinct, but closely interwoven major elements in this " movement going on under our very eyes".
The first, is the transformation that capitalism has already carried out in the productive process of the entire human species. The least object in daily use is today the work, not of a self-sufficient artisan or local fabrication, but of the common labour of thousands, if not tens of thousands, of men and women participating in a network that covers the entire planet. Freed by the world communist revolution of the constraints imposed on it by the capitalist market relations of production and the private appropriation of its fruits, this destruction of all local, regional, and national particularities will be the basis for the constitution of a single human community on a planetary scale. The progress of social transformation, and the affirmation of every aspect of social life in this world wide community, will lead to the disappearance of all distinctions (which the bourgeoisie encourages today in order to divide the working class) between ethnic groups, peoples, and nations. We can envisage that populations and languages will be mixed until the day when there no longer exist Europeans, Africans, or Asians (and still less Catalans, Bretons, and Basques!), but one united human species whose intellectual and artistic production will find expression in a single language understood by all, and infinitely richer, more precise, and more harmonious than those in which the limited and decomposing culture of today finds expression.
The second major element, intimately linked to the first, is the existence within capitalist society of a class which embodies, and which expresses at its highest point, this reality of an international and unified productive process. This class is the international proletariat. Whether they be American steelworker, British unemployed, French office worker, German mechanic, Indian programmer, or Chinese construction worker, all are workers with this in common: that they are more and more unbearably exploited by the world capitalist class, and that they can only throw off their exploitation by overthrowing the capitalist order itself.
We should emphasise particularly here two aspects of the working class' very nature:
First of all, unlike the peasants or small artisans, the proletariat is the creation of capitalism, which cannot live without it. Capitalism grinds down the peasants and the artisans, reducing them to the status of proletarian - or rather to unemployment in the present decadent economy. But capitalism cannot exist without the proletariat. As long as capitalism exists, the proletariat will exist. And as long as the proletariat exists, it will bear within it the revolutionary communist project for the overthrow of the capitalist order and the construction of another world.
Another fundamental characteristic of the working class lies in the movement and mixing of populations to answer the needs of capitalist production. "The workers have no country" as the Manifesto said, not only because they possess no property but because they are always at the mercy of capital and its demands for labour power. The working class is, by nature, a class of immigrants. To see this, we only look at the population in any major industrialised town: the streets are full of men and women from every corner of the globe. But the same is true even in the under-developed countries: in the Ivory Coast, many of the agricultural workers are Burkinabé, South African miners come from all over the country but also from Zimbabwe and Botswana, workers in the Persian Gulf come from India, Palestine, or the Philippines, in Indonesia there are millions of foreign workers in the factories. This reality of working class existence - which prefigures the mixing of populations that we spoke of earlier - demonstrates the futility of the ideal dear to anarchists and democrats of the defence of a local or regional "community". To take just one example: what can Scottish nationalism possibly have to offer to the working class in Scotland, composed in part of Asian immigrants? Nothing, obviously. The only real community that the workers who have been ripped from their roots can find, is the planetary community that they will build after the revolution.
The third major element that we intend to emphasise here can be summarised in a single statistic: in all the class societies that preceded capitalism, 95% of the population (more or less) worked the land, and the surplus that they produced was just enough to support the other 5% (landlords and the church, but also merchants, artisans, etc). Today, this ratio has been reversed, while in the most developed countries even the production of material commodities occupies less and less of the working population. In other words, at the level of the physical capacity of the productive apparatus, humanity has achieved a level of abundance which is to all intents and purposes unlimited.
Already under capitalism, the human species' productive capacity has created a qualitatively new situation relative to the whole of previous history: whereas beforehand, scarcity, or at times outright famine, was the lot of the vast mass of the population above all because of the natural limits of production (low productivity of the land, poor harvests, etc.), under capitalism the one and only cause of scarcity is capitalist production relations themselves. The crisis that throws workers onto the street is not caused by an inadequate level of production: on the contrary, it is the direct result of the impossibility of selling everything that has been produced. Moreover, in the so-called "advanced" countries, an ever-increasing part of economic activity has absolutely no utility outside the capitalist system itself: financial and stock-market speculation of all kinds, astronomical military budgets, fashion items, "planned obsolescence" designed to force the renewal of a product, advertising, etc. If we look further, it is obvious that the use of the earth's resources is also dominated by the increasingly irrational - except from the standpoint of capitalist profitability - functioning of the economy: hours spent by millions of human beings in the daily migration to and from work, or the transport of freight by road rather than by rail to respond to the unforeseen demands of an anarchic production process, for example. In short, the ratio between the quantity of time spent in producing to satisfy minimum needs (food, clothing, shelter), and that spent in producing "beyond the minimum" (if we can put it like that), has been completely overturned.
The birth of a planetary community
When we sell our press, in demonstrations or at the factory gates, we are often confronted with the same question: "well, what is communism then, if you say it has never existed?". In such situations, we try to give an answer that is both global and brief, and we often answer: "communism is a world without classes, without nations, and without money". While this definition is very basic (even negative, since it defines communism as being "without"), it nonetheless contains the fundamental characteristics of communist society:
It will be without classes, because the proletariat cannot free itself by becoming a new exploiting class: the reappearance of an exploiting class after the revolution would in reality mean the defeat of the revolution and the survival of exploitation. The disappearance of classes flows naturally from the interest of a victorious working class in its own emancipation. One of the class' first objectives will be to reduce the working day by integrating into the productive process the unemployed and the masses without work in the Third World, but also the petty bourgeoisie, the peasants, and even the members of the overthrown bourgeoisie.
It will be without nations, because the productive process has already gone well beyond the framework of the nation, and in doing so has rendered the nation obsolete as an organisational framework for human society. By creating the first planetary human society, capitalism has already gone beyond the national framework within which it was itself born. Just as the bourgeois revolution destroyed all the old feudal particularities and frontiers (taxes on the movement of goods within national frontiers, laws, or weights and measures, specific to this or that town or region), so the proletarian revolution will put an end to the last division of humanity into nations.
It will be without money, because the notion of exchange will no longer have any meaning in communism, whose abundance will allow the satisfaction of the needs of every member of society. Capitalism has created the first society where commodity exchange has been extended to the whole of production (contrary to previous societies, where commodity exchange was limited essentially to luxury goods, or certain articles which could not be produced locally such as salt). Today, capitalism is being strangled by its inability to sell on the market everything that it is capable of producing. The very fact of buying and selling has become a barrier to production. Exchange will therefore disappear. With it will disappear the very idea of the commodity, including the first commodity of all: wage labour.
These three principles are directly opposed to the commonplaces of bourgeois ideology, according to which there exists a greedy and violent "human nature" which will determine for ever the divisions between exploiters and exploited, of between nations. Obviously, this idea of "human nature" suits the ruling class down to the ground, justifying its class domination and preventing the working class from identifying clearly what is really responsible for the misery and the massacres that overwhelm humanity today. But it has nothing whatever to do with reality: whereas the "nature" (ie the behaviour) of other animal species is determined by their natural environment, the more humanity's domination over nature advances, the more "human nature" is determined by our social, not by our natural environment.
The transformed relations between man and nature
The three points we have outlined above are no more than the briefest of sketches. Nonetheless, they have profound implications for the communist society of the future.
It is true that marxists have always avoided drawing up "blueprints", first because communism will be built by the real movement of the great masses of humanity, and second because we can imagine what communism will be like even less than a peasant of the 11th century could imagine modern capitalism. This does not, however, prevent us from indicating some of the most general characteristics that follow from what we have just said (very briefly, of course, for lack of space).
Probably the most radical change will spring from the disappearance of the contradiction between the human being and his labour. Capitalist society has raised to its highest point the contradiction - which has always existed in class society - between labour, in other words the activity we only undertake because we are forced to do so, and leisure, in other words the time when we are free (in a very limited sense) to choose our activity. The constraint that forces us to work is due on the one hand to the scarcity imposed by the limits of labour productivity, and on the other by the fact that a part of the fruit of labour is seized by the exploiting class. In communism, these constraints no longer exist: for the first time in history, the human species will produce freely, and production will be directed entirely towards the satisfaction of human need. We can even suppose that the words "labour" and "leisure" will disappear from the language, since no activity will be undertaken constrained by necessity. The decision to produce or not to produce, will depend not only on the utility of the thing produced, but also on the pleasure or interest of the productive process itself.
The very idea of the "satisfaction of needs" will change its nature. Basic needs (food, clothing, shelter), will occupy a proportionally less and less important place, while the needs determined by the social evolution of the species will come more and more to the fore. There will no longer be any distinction between "artistic" work and that which is not. Capitalism is a society which has exacerbated to the extreme the contradiction between "art" and "non-art". Whereas the great majority of artists in history never signed their work, it is only with the rise of capitalism that the artist begins to sign his work and that art becomes to be a specific activity separated from day-to-day production. Today, this tendency has reached its paroxysm, with an almost total separation between the "fine arts" on the one hand (incomprehensible for the great majority of the population and reserved for a tiny intellectual minority), and the industrialised artistic production of advertising and "pop culture", both of them being reserved for "leisure activity". All this is nothing but the fruit of the contradiction between the human being and his labour. With the disappearance of this contradiction, the contradiction between "useful" and "artistic" production will also disappear. Beauty, the satisfaction of the senses and the mind, will also be fundamental human needs that the productive process will have to satisfy.
Education will also change its whole nature. In any society, the purpose of educating children is to allow them to take their place in adult society. Under capitalism "taking their place in adult society", means taking their place in a system of brutal exploitation, where those who are not profitable do not, in fact, have any place. The purpose of education (which the "alternative worlders" tell us should not be "for sale") is therefore above all to equip the new generation with abilities which can be sold on the market, and in this age of state capitalism to ensure that the new generation has the abilities necessary to strengthen the national capital against its competitors on the world market. It is also obvious that capitalism has absolutely no interest in encouraging a critical attitude towards its own social organisation. In short, the purpose of education is nothing other than to subdue young minds and to mould them to capitalist society and the demands of its productive process; small wonder then, that schools are more and more like factories, and teachers like workers on the line.
Under communism, on the contrary, the integration of the young into the adult world will demand the greatest possible awakening of all their physical and intellectual senses. In a system of production that has been completely freed from the demands of profit, the adult world will open to the child gradually, as his capacities develop, and the young adult will no longer be exposed to the harrowing experience of leaving school to be thrown into the ferocious competition of the labour market. Just as their will no longer be any contradiction between "labour" and "leisure" or between "production" and "art", so there will no longer be any contradiction between school and the "world of work". The very words "school", "factory", "office", "art gallery", "museum" will disappear or change completely their meaning, since the whole of human activity will combine in one harmonious effort to develop and satisfy the physical, intellectual, and sensual needs of the species.
The proletariat's responsibility
Communists are not utopians. We have tried here to give the briefest, and inevitably most limited of sketches of what must be the nature of the new human society that will be born from present-day capitalism. In this sense, the "alternative worlders'" slogan, that "another world is possible" (or even "other worlds are possible") is a pure mystification. Only one other world is possible: communism.
But there is nothing inevitable about this new world's birth. In this respect, there is no difference between capitalism and the other class societies which preceded it, where "Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes". In other words, no matter how necessary the communist revolution is not inevitable. The passage from capitalism to the new world will not be possible without the violence of the proletarian revolution as its inevitable midwife. But the alternative, in the conditions of advanced decomposition of today's society, is the destruction not just of the two "contending classes", but of the whole human species. Whence the gigantic responsibility that weighs on the shoulders of the world revolutionary class.
Seen from the situation today, the development of the proletariat's revolutionary capacity might seem such an impossibly far-off dream that there is a great temptation to "do something" now, even if it means rubbing shoulders with those old villains of the Stalinist and Socialist parties, in other words with the left wing of the bourgeoisie's state apparatus. But for the revolutionary minorities, reformism is not a stop-gap that we do "for want of anything better", on the contrary it is a lethal compromise with the class enemy. The road towards the revolution which alone can create "another world" will be long and difficult, but it is the only road that exists.
1 The teachers' strikes in France in 2003 were closely followed by strikes by theatre workers (both players and technicians).
2 Common Agricultural Policy, an enormous and expensive system for artificially maintaining the prices paid to European agricultural producers, to the fury of their competitors in other exporting countries.
4 It is particularly amusing to read in the pages of Alternative Libertaire (a French anarchist group) that "we want the demonstration to be as big as possible in order to make them hear once again that we don't want the capitalist and police Europe" (Alternative Libertaire n°123, November 2003), when in fact the ESF is entirely financed by the state and based on the mystification of strengthening the state in Europe in order supposedly to protect the "citizen" from big industry. There really is no incompatibility in practice between anarchism and the defence of the state!
5 Several of these towns or local authorities are controlled by the French "Communist" Party.
6 It is interesting to see that the British "Socialist Workers' Party" - an unreconstructed Trotskyist party of the old type - appears in France disguised as a sort of "network" under the very modern name of "Socialisme par en bas" ("Socialism from below").
7 As Bismarck said: "I have always found the word Europe in the mouth of those politicians who were demanding from other powers something that they did not dare demand in their own name" (cited in the Economist, 3/1/04).
8 Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency
9 Well-known anti-globalist personality, author of a Manifesto for a new world, and one of the leaders of the British "Globalise Resistance".
10 It is impossible to overstate the extraordinary power and prescience of the Communist Manifesto, which laid the foundations for a scientific understanding of the movement towards communism. The Manifesto itself is a part of the effort undertaken by the workers' movement since its beginnings, and which it has continued since, to understand more profoundly the nature of the revolution towards which its strength tends. We have chronicled these efforts in our series "Communism is not just a nice idea but a material necessity", published in the pages of this Review.
11 "In place of the old local and national seclusion and self-sufficiency, we have intercourse in every direction, universal inter-dependence of nations. And as in material, so also in intellectual production. The intellectual creations of individual nations become common property. National one-sidedness and narrow-mindedness become more and more impossible, and from the numerous national and local literatures, there arises a world literature" (Communist Manifesto).
12 "In these crises, there breaks out an epidemic that, in all earlier epochs, would have seemed an absurdity -- the epidemic of over-production. Society suddenly finds itself put back into a state of momentary barbarism; it appears as if a famine, a universal war of devastation, had cut off the supply of every means of subsistence; industry and commerce seem to be destroyed. And why? Because there is too much civilisation, too much means of subsistence, too much industry, too much commerce. The productive forces at the disposal of society no longer tend to further the development of the conditions of bourgeois property; on the contrary, they have become too powerful for these conditions, by which they are fettered, and so soon as they overcome these fetters, they bring disorder into the whole of bourgeois society, endanger the existence of bourgeois property. The conditions of bourgeois society are too narrow to comprise the wealth created by them" (Communist Manifesto).
13 We cannot go into detail on this point here, but we should simply point out that this is an idea to be wielded with precaution, since even "basic" needs are socially determined: Cro-Magnon man did not have the same needs as modern man for food, clothing and shelter, nor did he satisfy those needs in the same way or with the same tools.
14 In fact, this is precisely what happened after the defeat of the October 1917 Russian Revolution: the fact that many of the new leaders (Brezhnev for example) started life as workers or as workers' children gave credence to the idea that a communist revolution that brings the working class to power would in reality do nothing other than put into power a new, "proletarian", ruling class. This idea that the USSR was communist and its leaders something other than a fraction of the world bourgeoisie, was of course knowingly encouraged by all sections of the ruling class, from right to left. In reality, the Stalinist counter-revolution put the bourgeoisie back in power: the fact that many members of this new bourgeoisie were of worker or peasant origin is of no more significance than when an individual of working-class origins becomes a company director.
It is significant that the origin of the French word for labour
("travail") should have originated from the Latin
"tripalium", meaning an instrument of torture, and should
then have passed into English with the meaning of "trouble"
16 An anarchist at the FSL tried, very learnedly, to explain to us that marxists only consider "homo faber" ("the man who makes"), while the anarchists consider "homo ludens" ("the man who plays"). This idea is not any the less stupid for being expressed in Latin.
17 Not to mention "prison", "gaol", and "concentration camp".
18 Communist Manifesto
19 For a much more developed view, see our series on communism mentioned previously, and in particular the article published in International Review n°70.