Who can change the world? (Part 1): The proletariat is the Revolutionary Class

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'Communism is dead! Capitalism has won because it is the only system that works! It is useless and even dangerous to dream of another society!' The bourgeoisie has unleashed an unprecedented campaign with the collapse of the eastern bloc and the so-called Communist regimes. At the same time, to drive in the nail, bourgeois propaganda is trying to demoralize the working class by persuading it that it's no longer a force in society, that it no longer counts, even that it no longer exists. The bourgeoisie has completely exaggerated the significance of the fall in class combativity that has resulted from the upheavals of the last few years. The recovery of class struggle, which has already begun, will expose these lies, but even during big workers' struggles the bourgeoisie will continue to hammer home the idea that these struggles cannot in any way lead to the overthrow of capitalism and the foundation of a society devoid of the scourges that this system imposes on humanity. Thus, against all the bourgeois lies, but also against the skepticism of certain would-be revolutionaries, the affirmation of the revolutionary character of the proletariat remains a responsibility of communists. This is the objective of the following article.

In the campaigns that we have suffered these past years, one of the major themes is the 'refutation' of marxism. The latter, according to the ideologues appointed by the bourgeoisie, is bankrupt. Its practical results and its collapse in the countries of the east illustrate this bankruptcy. In our Review we have shown that Stalinism has nothing to do with the communism that Marx and the whole of the workers' movement envisaged[1]. Concerning the revolutionary capacity of the working class, the task of communists is to reaffirm the marxist position on this question. In the first place this means recalling what marxisrn understands by a revolutionary class.

What is a revolutionary class for marxism?

"The history of all previous societies is the history of class struggles"[2]. This is the opening line of one of the most important texts of marxism and of the workers' movement: the Communist Manifesto. This thesis is not unique to marxism[3], but one of the fundamental bases of communist theory is that the class struggle in capitalist society has the ultimate perspective of the overthrow of the bourgeoisie by the proletariat and the installation of the power of the latter over the whole of society. This thesis has always been rejected, obviously, by the defenders of the capitalist system. However, while the bourgeoisie in the ascendant period of its system could discover (in an incomplete and mystified way of course) a certain number of social laws[4], it cannot do so today: the bourgeoisie of capitalist decadence has become totally incapable of giving rise to such thinkers. For the ideologues of the dominant class, the fundamental priority of all their theoretical efforts is to show that marxisrn is wrong (even if some defend this or that contribution of Marx). And the foundation stone of their 'theories' is that the working class has no historical role. That's when these experts are not denying the very existence of the class struggle, or worse, the existence of social classes themselves.

It's not only the avowed defenders of bourgeois society who make such assertions. Certain 'radical thinkers', who have made a career of contesting the established order, have echoed them for several decades. The guru of the group Socialisme ou Barbarie (and inspirer of the group Solidarity in Great Britain), Cornelius Castoriadis, at the same time that he envisaged the replacement of capitalism by a 'third system', the 'bureaucratic society', has been claiming for nearly 40 years that the antagonism between bourgeoisie and proletariat, between exploiters and exploited, was destined to give way to a struggle between 'order-givers and order-takers'[5]. More recently, other 'thinkers' who have known their hour of glory, such as Professor Marcuse, affirmed that the working class had been 'integrated' into capitalist society and that the only challenge to the system would come from marginalized social categories such as blacks in the USA, students or even the peasants of the under-developed countries. Thus the theories about the 'end of the working class', which are flowering again today, do not even have novelty value: one of the characteristics of the 'thought' of the decadent bourgeoisie, and one which well expresses the senility of this class, is the incapacity to produce any new idea. The only thing that it can do is to ferret out old clichés from the rubbish bins of history and dress them up as the discovery of the century.

One of the favorite means used today by the bourgeoisie to evade the reality of class antagonisms, and even the reality of social classes, are sociological studies. With great supplies of statistics, it is demonstrated that real social cleavages have nothing to do with class differences but with criteria such as education, housing, age-group, ethnic origin, or religious persuasion[6]. According to this type of thinking the vote of a 'citizen' in favor of the right or of the left depends less on his economic situation than on other criteria. In the USA, in New England, the blacks and the Jews traditionally vote Democrat, in France, practicing Catholics, the people of Alsace or Lyon traditionally vote right. This forgets however that the majority of American workers never vote and that in strikes French workers who go to church are not necessarily less combative. In a more general way, sociological 'science' always forgets to give an historic dimension to its claims. Thus, there is a refusal to remember that the same Russian workers who launched the first proletarian revolution of the 20th Century, that of 1905, began it the 9th January (Red Sunday) with a demonstration led by a priest, and appealed to the kindness of the Czar to ease their poverty[7].

When the sociological 'experts' refer to history, it's only to say that things are radically different to the last century. At this time, according to them, marxism and the theory of the class struggle could mean something because the working and living conditions of the wage laborers of industry really were appalling. But since then the workers have been 'embourgeoisified' and integrated into the 'consumer society' to the extent of losing their identity. Moreover the bourgeois with a top hat and gold chain has given way to salaried 'managers'. All these considerations try to hide the fact that the fundamental structures of society have not basically changed. In reality the conditions which gave the working class its revolutionary nature in the last century are still present. The fact that the standard of living of the workers today may be better than that of their class brothers of past generations does not change in any way their place in the relations of production which dominate capitalist society. The social classes continue to exist and the struggles between them still constitute the fundamental motor of historical development.

It is a real irony of history that the official ideologies of the bourgeoisie pretend, on the one hand, that classes don't play any specific role (and thus don't exist), but recognize on the other hand that the world economic situation is the essential question which this same bourgeoisie is faced with.

In reality, the fundamental importance of classes in society is a necessary result of the preponderant place that the economic activity of men has within it. One of the basic affirmations of historical materialism is that, in the last analysis, the economy determines the other spheres of society: juridical relations, forms of government, ways of thinking. This materialist vision of history obviously demolishes the philosophies which see in historical events either pure chance, the expression of divine will, or the simple result of the passions or thoughts of men. But as Marx already said in his time "the crisis forces the dialectic into the heads of the bourgeoisie". The now obvious preponderance of the economy in the life of society is at the root of the importance of social classes, because the latter are precisely defined, contrary to other sociological categories, by the place they occupy vis-a-vis economic relationships. That has always been true since class society existed, but in capitalism this reality expresses itself more clearly.

In feudal society, for example, social differentiation was enshrined in laws. A fundamental juridical difference existed between the exploiters and the exploited: nobles were, by law, granted an official status of privileges (freedom from taxes, beneficiary of tributes from their serfs, for example) while the exploited peasants were attached to their land and obliged to give part of their revenue to the lord (or work for nothing on the land of the latter). In such a society, exploitation, if it was easily measurable (for example in the form of a tribute paid by the serf) seemed to derive from law. By contrast, in capitalist society, the abolition of privileges, the introduction of universal suffrage, the equality and liberty proclaimed by its constitutions, no longer allowed exploitation and class differentiation to hide behind differences in legal regulations. It is the possession or non-possession of the means of production[8], as well as their method of employment, which essentially determines the place in society occupied by its members and their access to its wealth; that is, their membership of a social class and the existence of common interests with the other members of the same class. In large measure, the fact of possessing the means of production and of putting them to work individually determines the membership of the petit-bourgeoisie (artisans, fanners, liberal professions, etc)[9]. The fact of being deprived of the means of production and of being constrained, in order to live, to sell its labor power to those who own them and who profit from this exchange to extract surplus value, determines the membership of the working class. Finally, the bourgeoisie are those who possess (in the strictly juridical sense or in global sense of their individual or collective control) the means of production which puts wage labor to work and who live from the exploitation of the latter through the appropriation of the surplus value that the workers produce. In essence, this differentiation into classes is as valid as it was last century. Moreover the interests of each of these different classes, and the conflicts between their interests, remains. That's why the antagonisms between the principal components of society, determined by the skeleton of the latter, the economy, continues to be at the center of social life.

That said, even if the antagonism between exploiters and exploited is one of the principal motors of the history of societies, it is not expressed identically in each society. In feudal society, the struggles, often ferocious and wide ranging, between serfs and lords, never led to a radical overthrow of the latter. The class antagonism which led to the overthrow of the ancien regime, the abolition of the privileges of the nobility, was not the one between the aristocracy and the class that it exploited, the serfs, but the conflict between this same nobility and another exploiting class, the bourgeoisie (English Revolution of the middle of the 17th century, French Revolution from the end of the 18th). Moreover, the slave society of Roman antiquity had not been abolished by the class of slaves (despite the sometimes formidable combats led by the latter, like the Spartacus revolt in 73 BC) but by the nobility
which was to dominate the Christian west for more than a millennium.

In reality, in the societies of the past, revolutionary classes have never been exploited classes, but were new exploiting classes. This was no accident. Marxism distinguishes revolutionary classes (also referred to as 'historic' classes) from other classes of society by reason of their capacity, contrary to the latter, to take on the leadership of society. In so far as the development of the productive forces was insufficient to assure an abundance of goods to the whole of society, it was inevitable that economic inequalities and thus relations of exploitation would remain. In these conditions, only an exploiting class was able to impose itself at the head of the social body. Its historic role was to facilitate the emergence and development of the new relations of production which it carried within itself; to supplant the old, obsolete relations of production, resolving contradictions made insurmountable as long as the old relations prevailed.

Thus, the decadence of Roman slave society came about because, on the one hand, the 'supplies' of slaves from the conquest of new territories came up against Rome's difficulty in controlling the increasingly far-flung frontiers of its empire, and on the other hand because of the system's inability to get the slaves to take the care required for the application of new agricultural techniques. In such a situation, feudal relations, in which the exploited no longer had a status equal to that of cattle[10], and in which they were closely interested in developing the productivity of the soil they worked on because they lived from it as well, were the most suitable for taking society out of the mess it was in. This is why the new relations were developed in particular by the increasing emancipation of the slaves (this was accelerated in certain places by the arrival of the 'barbarians', some of whom already lived in a form of feudal society).

Similarly, marxism (beginning with the Communist Manifesto) insists on the eminently revolutionary role played by the bourgeoisie at a certain stage of its history. This class, which appeared and developed within feudal society, saw its power grow vis-a-vis a nobility and a monarchy which was becoming more and more dependent on it, both for the supply of all kinds of goods (materials, furniture, spices, weapons) and for financing their expenses. As the possibilities of clearing and extending cultivated lands diminished, so one of the main sources of the dynamic of feudal relations dried up; and as great kingdoms were established, the role of protector of the populations, which had originally been the main vocation of the nobility, lost its raison d'etre. As a result the nobility's control over society became a barrier to social development. And this was amplified by the fact that this development, the real progress at the level of the productive forces, was more and more connected to the growth of trade, of the banks and of craftsmanship in the towns.

Thus, by putting itself at the head of the social body, at first in the economic sphere, then in the political sphere, the bourgeoisie freed society from the fetters that had plunged it into crisis; it created the conditions for the most formidable growth of wealth that human history had ever known. In doing so, it replaced one form of exploitation, serfdom, with another form of exploitation, wage labor. In order to achieve this, it was led, in the period that Marx called primitive accumulation, to take measures on a par with the way the slaves were treated, in order to compel the peasants to come and sell their labor power in the towns (on this subject, see the admirable pages in Book One of Capital). And this barbarism was only a foretaste of the way that capital would exploit the proletariat (child labor, night work for women and children, 18 hour days, the 'workhouse', etc) before the latter's struggles compelled the capitalists to attenuate the brutality of their methods.

As soon as it appeared, the working class waged revolts against exploitation. And these revolts were from the start accompanied by projects aimed at overturning society, abolishing inequalities, and holding social wealth in common. Here it was not fundamentally different from previous exploited classes, notably the serfs, who also, in certain of their revolts, rallied to the idea of a great social transformation. This was notably the case with the Peasants' War of the 16th century, in Germany, where the mouthpiece of the exploited was the monk Thomas Munzer, who advocated a form of communism[11]. However, contrary to the projects for social transformation put forward by other exploited classes, the one advanced by the proletariat is not an unrealisable utopia. The dream of an egalitarian society, without masters and exploitation, which was raised by the slaves and the serfs, could only be a mirage because the level of economic development reached by their societies did not permit the abolition of exploitation. By contrast, the communist project of the proletariat is perfectly realistic, not only because capitalism has created the premises of such a society, but also because it's the only project that can take humanity out of the swamp that it's now in.

Why the proletariat is the, revolutionary class of our time

As soon as the proletariat began to put its own project forward, the bourgeoisie could only express its disdain for what it saw as the ramblings of prophets crying in the wilderness. When it bothered to go beyond mere disdain, the only thing that it could imagine was that the workers could do no more than what the exploited of previous epochs had done: dream about impossible utopias. At first sight, history seems to have proved the bourgeoisie right. Its philosophy could be summed up in these terms: "there have always been rich and poor, and there always will be. The poor gain nothing by rebelling; the only thing that can work is that the rich don't abuse their wealth and concern themselves with relieving the suffering of the worst-off". Priests and charitable ladies have been the mouthpieces and practitioners of this 'philosophy'. What the bourgeoisie refuses to see is that its economic and social system, any more than the ones that preceded it, is not eternal; and that, like slavery and feudalism, it is destined to give way to another kind of society. And just as the characteristics of capitalism made it possible to resolve the contradictions that brought down feudal society (and as the latter had already done vis-a-vis slave society), the characteristics of the society that will resolve the mortal contradictions of capitalism flow from the same kind of necessity. Thus, by beginning with these contradictions, we can define the characteristics of the future society.

Obviously we can't go into these contradictions in any great depth in the context of this article. For more than a century, marxism has been doing this in a systematic manner, and our own organization has devoted a number of texts to the question[12]. However, we can give a resume of the general outlines of these contradictions. They reside in the essential characteristics of the capitalist system. This is a mode of production that has generalized commodity exchange to all the goods it produces, whereas, in the past, only a part of these goods, often a very small one at that, was transformed into commodities. This colonization of the economy by the commodity has even taken over the labor power that men set in motion in their productive activity. Divorced from the means of production, the producer, if he is to survive, has no choice but to sell his labor power to those who control the means of production - the capitalist class. This is in contrast to feudal society for example, where, while a commodity economy already existed to some degree, what the artisan or peasant sold was the fruit of his labor. It's this generalization of commodity relations which is at the basis of the contradictions of capitalism: the crisis of overproduction has its origins in the fact that the aim of this system is not to produce use values, but exchange values which have to find buyers. And it's the incapacity of society to buy all the commodities produced (even though actual needs are far from being satisfied) which gives rise to this apparently absurd calamity: capitalism collapses not because it produces too little, but because it produces too much[13].

The first characteristic of communism will therefore be the abolition of commodity production, the development of the production of use values, not exchange values.

Furthermore, marxism, and Rosa Luxemburg in particular, has shown that at the origin of this overproduction is the necessity for capital, considered as a totality; to realize, by selling outside its own sphere, that part of the surplus value extracted from the workers which is earmarked for accumulation. As this extra-capitalist sphere gets smaller, the convulsions of the economy can only get more and more catastrophic.

Thus, the only way to overcome the contradictions of capitalism is to abolish all form of commodity exchange, in particular the commodity character of labor power, in other words, wage labor.

The abolition of commodity exchange presupposes the abolition of what lies beneath it: private property. It's only when the wealth of society is appropriated in a collective manner that the buying and selling of this wealth can disappear (this already existed, in an embryonic form, in the primitive community). Society's collective appropriation of the wealth that it produces, and in the first place, of the means of production themselves, means that it's no longer possible for a part of society, a social class (including in the form of a state bureaucracy) to dispose of the means of production in order to exploit another part. Thus, the abolition of wage labor cannot be accomplished by introducing another form of exploitation, but only by abolishing exploitation in all its forms. And, in contrast to the past, not only must the transformation that alone can save society not lead to new relations of exploitation - capitalism really has created the material premises for an abundance that will make it possible to go beyond exploitation. These conditions of abundance can also be glimpsed in the very existence of the crises of overproduction (as the Communist Manifesto pointed out).

The question posed is therefore: what force in society is capable of carrying out this transformation, of abolishing private property and all forms of exploitation?

The first characteristic of this class is that it has to be exploited, because only such a class can have an interest in the abolition of exploitation. While in the revolutions of the past, the revolutionary class could not be an exploited class, given that the new relations of production were necessarily relations of exploitation, exactly the opposite is true today. In their day, the utopian socialists (such as Fourier, Saint-Simon, Owen)[14] harbored the illusion that the revolution could be taken in charge by elements of the bourgeoisie itself. They hoped that it would be possible to find, within the ranks of the ruling class, enlightened philanthropists who would understand the superiority of communism over capitalism, and would finance the building of ideal communities whose example would then catch on like wildfire. Since history is not made by individuals but by classes, these hopes were dashed within a few decades. Even if a few rare members of the bourgeoisie did adhere to the generous ideas of the utopians[15], the ruling class as such obviously turned its back on such efforts, or fought them openly, since they were aimed at making it disappear as a class.

Having said this, the fact of being an exploited class, as we have seen, is not enough to make that class revolutionary. For example, in the world today, and particularly in the underdeveloped countries, there exists a multitude of poor peasants suffering from exploitation through the appropriation of their fruit of their labor, enriching part of the ruling class either directly, or through taxes, or through the interest they pay to the banks and moneylenders to whom they are indebted, All the third-worldist, Maoist, Guevarist and similar mystifications are based on the fact that these strata are subjected to an often unbearable misery. When these peasants are led to take up arms it's only as the foot soldiers of this or that bourgeois clique, who, once in power, only strengthen exploitation all the more, often in particularly atrocious forms (as in the case of the Khmer Rouges in Cambodia in the second half of the 70s). The wearing out of these mystifications, which were put about both by the Stalinists and the Trotskyists, as well as certain 'radical thinkers' like Marcuse, simply demonstrates the patent failure of the 'revolutionary perspective' that supposedly lay with the poor peasants. In reality, the peasants, although they are exploited in all sorts of ways, and can sometimes wage very violent struggles to limit their exploitation, can never direct these struggles towards the abolition of private property because they themselves are small owners, or, living alongside the latter, aspire to become like them[16].

And, even when the peasants do set up collective structures to increase their income through an improvement in productivity or the sale of their products, it usually takes the form of cooperatives, which don't call into question private property or commodity exchange[17]. To sum up, the classes and strata which appear as vestiges of the past (peasants, artisans, liberal professions, etc)[18], and who only survive because capitalism, even if it totally dominates the world economy, is incapable of transforming all the producers into wage laborers - these classes cannot be the bearers of a revolutionary project. On the contrary, the only perspective they can dream about is the return to a mythical 'golden age' of the past: the dynamic of their specific struggles can only be reactionary.

The truth is that, since the abolition of exploitation is essentially bound up with the abolition of wage labor, only the class which is subjected to this specific form of exploitation, ie the proletariat, is capable of carrying out a revolutionary project. Only the class exploited within the bounds of capitalist relations of production, which is the product of these relations, is able to develop the perspective of going beyond them.

A product of the development of big industry, of a socialization of the productive process unprecedented in history, the modem proletariat cannot dream of a return to the past[19]. For example, while the demand for the redistribution or dividing up of the land might be a 'realistic' demand for the poor peasants, it would be absurd for the workers, who produce in an associated manner goods which incorporate parts, raw materials and technology which comes from all over the world, to start dividing up their enterprises into small pieces. Even illusions about self-management, ie the common ownership of an enterprise by those who work in it (which is a modem version ofthe workers ' cooperative) have really had their day. After numerous experiences, like the LIP factory in France at the beginning of the 70s, which often ended in conflicts between the workers as a whole and those they picked to be the managers, the majority of the workers are quite aware that, faced with the need to maintain the competitive position of the enterprise on the capitalist market, self-management means self-exploitation. When the proletariat develops its historic struggle, it can only look forwards: not towards the splitting up of capitalist property and production, but towards completing the process of socialization which capitalism has advanced considerably, but which it is incapable by its very nature of taking to its conclusion, even when the whole of the productive apparatus is concentrated in the hands of a nation state (as was the case in the Stalinist regimes).

In order to accomplish this task, the potential strength of the proletariat is enormous.

To begin with, in developed capitalist society, the essential wealth of society is produced by the labor of the working class even if it is still a minority of the world population. In the industrialized countries, the part of the national product that can be attributed to independent laborers (peasants, artisans, etc) is negligible. This is even the case in the backward countries, where the majority of the population lives (or just survives) from working the land.

Secondly, by necessity, capital has concentrated the working class in gigantic units of production, much bigger than anything that existed in Marx's day. Furthermore, these units of production are in general concentrated in the heart of, or close to, towns that are increasingly heavily populated. This regroupment of the working class, both where it lives and where it works, is an unrivalled source of strength when it knows how to make use of it, in particular through the development of solidarity and collective struggle.

Finally, one of the essential strengths of the proletariat is its capacity to develop its consciousness. All classes, and especially revolutionary classes, develop a form of consciousness. But hitherto, these forms could only be mystified, either because the project put forward could not be realized (as in the case of the Peasants' War in Germany, for example), or because the revolutionary class was obliged to lie" to hide reality from those it wanted to draw into its actions but which it was to continue to exploit (the case of the bourgeois revolution with its slogans 'Liberty, Equality, Fraternity'). But since it is an exploited class whose revolutionary project is to abolish all exploitation, the proletariat does not have to mask, either from other classes, or from itself, the ultimate goals of its action. This is why, in the course of its historic struggle, the proletariat can develop a consciousness free from all mystifications. Because of this, its consciousness can go well beyond anything attained by its class enemy, the bourgeoisie. And it's precisely this capacity to become conscious which, along with its organization as a class, constitutes the decisive strength of the proletariat.


In the second part of this article, we will see how the proletariat today retains, despite all the campaigns which talk about its 'integration' or its 'disappearance', all the characteristics which make it the revolutionary class of our time. FM


[1] See in particular the article 'The Russian experience: private property and collective property' in International Review 61, as well as our series of articles' Communism isn't a nice idea, but a material necessity'.

[2] Marx and Engels later made the precision that this assertion only applied to the historical epochs that followed the dissolution of the primitive community, whose existence was confirmed by the ethnological works of the second half of the 19th century, such as those of Morgan on the American Indians.

[3] Certain bourgeois thinkers (such as the 19th century French politician Guizot, who was the head of government under the reign of Louis-Philippe) also reached this conclusion.

[4] This was also the case with the 'classical' economists such as Smith and Ricardo, whose work was particularly useful for the development of marxist theory.

[5] It's time to render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to Cornelius what belongs to him: all the latter's predictions have been invalidated by the facts. Did he not 'predict' that capitalism had overcome its economic crises (see in particular his articles on 'The dynamic of capitalism' in Socialisme ou Barbarie at the beginning of the 60s)? Did he not announce to the world in 1981 (see his book Devant la guerre, the second part of which, due to come out in the autumn of 81, we're still waiting for) that the USSR had definitively won the cold war ("a massive disequilibrium in favor of Russia"; "a situation practically impossible for the Americans to redress"? Such formulations were really welcome at a time when Reagan and the CIA were telling us all about the Evil Empire). This hasn't prevented the media from asking his 'expert' advice on all the big events of our time: despite all the gaffes he's made, the bourgeoisie will always be grateful to him for his tireless work against marxism - a work which is actually the root cause of all his chronic failures.

[6] It's true that, in many countries, these characteristics partially coincide with class membership. Thus, in many third world countries, the ruling class recruits most of its members from this or that ethnic group. This doesn't mean, however, that all members of that ethnic group are exploiters - far from it. Similarly, in the USA, the WASPS (White Anglo-Saxon Protestants) are proportionally the highest represented in the bourgeoisie. This doesn't mean that there's no black bourgeoisie (Colin Powell, the armed forces chief, is black), or that there isn't a huge mass of 'poor whites'.

[7] "Sovereign ... we have come to you to ask for justice and protection ... Ensure that our needs are satisfied, and you will inscribe your name in our hearts, in the hearts of our children and grandchildren, forever." Such were the terms used by the workers' petition addressed to the Czar of all the Russians. But we should also point out that the petition added: "The limits of patience have been reached; for us, the terrible moment has arrived when death would be better than the prolongation of unbearable torments ... If you refuse to listen to our supplication, we will die here, on this square, in front of your palace."

[8] This possession does not necessarily take the form, as we have seen with the development of state capitalism, notably its Stalinist version, of an individual, personal ownership (one that can for example be passed on through inheritance). More and more it's in a collective manner that the capitalist class 'possesses' (in the sense of disposing of, controlling, benefitting from) the means of production, including when the latter have been statified.

[9] The petty bourgeoisie is not a homogeneous class. There are numerous variants of it which don't possess material means of production. Thus, cinema actors, writers, lawyers, for example, belong to this social category without disposing of specific tools. Their 'means of production' consist of a knowledge or a 'talent' which they put to use in their work.  

[10] The serf was not a mere 'thing' belonging to the lord. Tied to the land, he was sold along with it (which was a trait he shared with the slave). However, there was initially a 'contract' between the serf and the lord: the latter, who possessed arms, offered him protection in return for the serf working on the lord's land (the corvee) or for a part of the serf's harvest.

[11] See 'Communism isn't a nice idea ...' I, 'From primitive communism to utopian socialism', IR 68.

[12] See in particular our pamphlet The Decadence of Capitalism, soon to be reissued in English.

[13] On this point, see 'Communism isn't a nice idea ...', V, IR 72, for the way that the crisis of overproduction expresses the bankruptcy of capitalism

[14] See on this point 'Communism isn't a nice idea', I. IR 68.

[15] Owen was himself initially a big textile factory owner who made several attempts, both in Britain and America, to create ideal communities that ended up being broken on the laws of capital. Nevertheless he contributed to the development of the Trade Unions. The French utopians had less success in their enterprises. For years, Fourier waited in vain in his office for the benefactor who would finance his ideal city; and the attempts of his disciples to build 'phalansteries' (notably in the USA) ended in economic disaster. As for the doctrines of Saint-Simon, if they had some success, it was as the credo of a whole series of bourgeois, such as the Pereire brothers, founders of a bank, or Ferdinand de Lesseps, builder of the Suez Canal.  

[16] There is an agricultural proletariat whose only means of existence is to sell its labor power to the owners of the land. This part of the peasantry belongs to the working class, and during the revolution constitutes its bridgehead into the countryside. However, since it undergoes its exploitation as the result of its 'bad luck' in being deprived of inheriting any land, or because it has been left too small a portion of land, the agricultural worker, who often works on a seasonal basis or is involved in a family farm, very often dreams of acquiring his own property and of a fairer division of the land. Only the advanced struggle of the urban proletariat will be able to turn him away from such chimaeras by offering the perspective of the socialization of the land along with the rest of the means of production.

[17] This doesn't mean that, during the period of transition from capitalism to communism, the regroupment of small landholders in cooperatives might not constitute a step towards the socialization of the land, in particular because it' would allow them to overcome the individualism that derives from the context of their labor.

[18] What is true for the peasants is even more true for the artisans whose place in society has been even more radically reduced than that of the former. As for the liberal professions (private doctors, lawyers, etc), their social status and their income (which is often the envy of the bourgeoisie) doesn't incite them to question the existing order in any way. As for the students, whose very definition indicates that they have no place in the economy, their destiny is to split up into the different classes they are heading towards on account of their qualifications or their family origins.

[19] At the dawn of the development of the working class, certain sectors, thrown into unemployment because of the introduction of new machinery, directed their revolt against the machines themselves, and went about destroying them. This attempt to return to the past was only an embryonic form of the workers' struggle and it was quickly superseded with the economic and political development of the proletariat.

Recent and ongoing: