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In opposition to the draft resolution on the state in the period of transition, which asserts that there is no mode of production in the transition period, the Toronto comrades state that: "When the workers dominate politically, they dominate the economy since they already have the levers of production, literally, in their own hands". And: "Socialised production is the mode of production, that is, production of use values, the communist mode of production in embryo".

But the domination of the economy mentioned by these comrades is nothing of the kind. The development of technology, of a planned abundance of the productive forces throughout the world, that is the material base of the communist mode of production. “Political domination” on the other hand, is the precondition for this future material abundance which will be the hallmark of a communist society. But this political domination and its concomitant economic policy does not mechanically produce such development of the productive forces, and neither is there a constant and immediate ratio created between the political control of the class and its ability to increase labour productivity.

Actually, the Toronto comrades are talking about a sort “workers’ control” of the economy in the transitional period. And they even label this control with the term “mode of production”. This conception, however reveals a certain lack of comprehension as to the nature of the proletariat and the complexities of the transition period.

As long as classes exist, as long as there's a socialised sector, the proletariat cannot have a real sustained, “economic” power in society. Just because labour power is no longer a commodity, just because the bourgeoisie and its state have been overthrown, doesn't mean that the proletariat has “economic power”. Its task is to develop the productive forces along socialist lines, and it has to confront all the remnants of previous class societies before it can really accomplish this task. Before this goal is achieved, it is ludicrous to present the obvious economic instability of production in the socialised sector as a “mode of production”, as “communism in embryo”.

Even the fast tempo of the development of the productive forces in the transition period doesn't allow us to talk about a “growing economic power” of the proletariat. This tempo itself will be determined not so much by the will of the proletarian dictator-ship, but by the concrete limitations imposed by a transitional society, by a social context still plagued and deformed by scarcity, dislocations and ravages of the civil war, etc. The tempo, the rhythm, is thus subordinated to external factors. How can we speak of “economic domination”, therefore, when this “domination” will itself be dominated at a given moment, or at least conditioned, by the hybridity of a transition period?

Of course, it will be easy to throw around triumphalist illusions about the “self-managed sector”, even about “socialism”, “embryonic communism” and other confusions. But revolutionaries must combat these illusions mercilessly, because they can only cloud the real nature of the period and the dictatorship. By talking irresponsibly about an alleged “economic domination”, in fact, what we would be saying is that the proletariat has economic power in a society which is still in many respects capitalist (simple commodity production, for example, enormous fragmentation of social life, etc). In reality, the proletariat in the socialised sector would only have what amounts to a materially hybrid power, continuously deformed by outside pressures beyond its purely economic control. The potentiality of this power would still have to flower, mainly through a rational economic policy subordinated to the proletariat's political needs. It won't help if we call this state of affairs “embryonic communism” when reality could still tragically bring about an “embryonic capitalism” and the counter-revolution.

Whether the proletariat will develop the productive forces sufficiently as to abolish itself and all the other classes will depend on its political hegemony over the whole of the transitional society. That consciousness will arise out of its historical and actual condition as an economic and revolutionary class, not directly out of the unstable socialised sector, or from empty edicts about “economic domination” or communism in embryo. Laws are never superior to the economic reality which gives rise to them.

Thus the capacity of the proletariat to increase the volume and quality of use values for its own consumption, a process which is related to the integration of the rest of humanity into productive labour, depends essentially on the proletariat's class consciousness, ie its political self-awareness. This self-activity is expressed in turn by the proletariat's ability to maintain the life of its organs of class rule, in a state of permanent vigilance, ready and able to debate and clarify the final goals of the proletarian revolution. And this also depends on the ability of the class to convince, cajole and persuade other labouring elements of society that their future also lies in their identification with, and integration into, the proletariat.

The material, cultural resources of the proletariat will grow and unfold to unprecedented heights if its economic policies develop without great difficulty. But at any given moment in the transition, the material, “economic” scope of the socialised sector is by definition insufficient for the completion of these tasks. To speak of the “economic domination” of the proletariat under such conditions would amount to considering that the proletariat either:

  1. has already accomplished its tasks of creating communism, or,
  2. that the class has its own mode of production merely because it has access to its socialised sector, and that therefore 'communism in embryo' can co-exist within a sea of simple commodity production and social fragmentation.

Either of these conclusions will tell the proletariat to acquiesce, to give in to the status quo, to accept the permanence of the transition period and thus weaken the dictatorship in relation to the state and other strata. In the period of transition, the substance of communism is not, however, manifested through the 'control' by the producers of the means of production. These new relations of production are still based on an insufficient material base as long as the rest of humanity is not part of a collectivised social organism. The realm of freedom that the proletariat will construct will be for all, not for itself as a still alienated social category. The development of free time, the elimination of the division of labour, of the differences between mental and manual labour, between town and country, all these tasks require the future uninterrupted participation of the whole of society.

J. McIver World Revolution/Great Britain (May 1977 )