Communism: the real beginning of human society

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In the previous article in this series, we saw how, in order to define the ultimate goals of the communist social transformation, Marx in his early work examined the problem of alienated labor. In particular, we concluded that, for Marx, capitalist wage labor was both the highest expression of man's estrangement from his real powers and capacities, and the premise for the supersession of this alienation, for the emergence of a truly human society. In this chapter we intend to look at the actual contours of a fully developed communist society as traced by Marx in his early writings, a picture given more depth, but never renounced in the work of the mature Marx.

Having examined the various facets of man's alienation, the next task Marx took up in the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts was to criticize the crude and inadequate conceptions of communism which predominated in the proletarian movement of his time. As we showed in the first article in this series, Marx rejected the conceptions inherited from Babeuf and still propagated by the followers of Blanqui because they tended to present communism as a general leveling-down, as a negation of culture in which "the category of worker is not abolished but extended to all men" (EPM, 'Private property and communism'). In this conception, all were to become wage laborers under the domination of a collective capital, of "the community as universal capitalist" (ibid). Marx's rejection of such conceptions was already an anticipation of the arguments used by latter-day revolutionaries to demonstrate the capitalist nature of the so-called 'Communist' regimes of the ex -eastern bloc (even if the latter were the monstrous offspring of a bourgeois counter-revolution rather than expressions of an immature working class movement).

Marx also criticized more "democratic", more sophisticated versions of communism, such as those put forward by Considerant and others, because they were "still of a political nature", ie, they did not propose a radical alteration in social relations, and were thus "still held captive and contaminated by private property" (ibid).

Against these restrictive or deformed definitions, Marx was anxious to show that communism was not the general reduction of all men to an uncultured philistinism, but the elevation of humanity to its highest creative capacities. This communism, as Marx announced in a passage often quoted but seldom analyzed, set itself the most exalted goals:

"Communism is the positive supersession of private property as human self-estrangement, and hence the true appropriation of the human essence through and for man; it is the complete restoration of man to himself as a social, ie human, being, a restoration which has become conscious and which takes place within the entire wealth of previous periods of development. This communism, as fully developed naturalism, equals humanism, and as fully developed humanism equals naturalism; it is the genuine resolution of the conflict between man and nature, and between man and man, the true resolution of the conflict between existence and being, between objectification and self-affirmation, between freedom and necessity, between individual and species. It is the solution to the riddle of history and knows itself to be the solution" (EPM, ibid).

Crude communism had grasped, correctly enough, that the cultural realizations of previous societies had been posited on the exploitation of man by man. But in doing so, it wrongly rejected these achievements. Marx's communism, on the contrary, sought to appropriate, to bring to their real fruition, all the previous cultural and, if we may use the term, spiritual strivings of humanity, freeing them of the distortions with which they had inevitably been encrusted in class society. By turning these achievements into the common property of all mankind, it would fuse them into a higher and more universal synthesis. It was a profoundly dialectical vision, which, even before Marx had developed a clear understanding of the communal forms of society which had preceded the formation of class divisions, recognized that historical evolution, particularly in its final, capitalist phase, had robbed and deprived man of his original, 'natural' social connections. But what Marx aimed at was not a simple return to a lost primitive simplicity, but the conscious attainment of man's social being, an accession to a higher level which integrated all the advances contained in the movement of history.

By the same token, this communism, rather than merely generalizing the alienation imposed on the proletariat by capitalist social relations, saw itself as the "positive supersession" of the multiple contradictions and alienations that have hitherto plagued mankind.

Communist production as the realization of man's social nature

As we saw in the previous chapter, Marx's critique of alienated labor had various aspects:

  • it separated the producer from his own product: the creation of men's own hands became hostile forces overwhelming their creators;
  • it separated the producer from the act of production; alienated labor was a form of torture[1], an activity utterly external to the worker. And since the most fundamental human characteristic, man's "species being" as Marx put it, was conscious, creative production, to turn this into a source of torment was to alienate man from his very species-being;
  • it separated man from man: there was a profound estrangement not only between exploiter and exploited, but also between the exploited themselves, who were atomized into competing egos by the laws of capitalist competition.

Marx's first definitions of communism approached these aspects of alienation from different angles, but always with the concern to show that communism provided a concrete and positive solution to these ills. In the concluding passage of his 'Excerpts from James Mill's Elements of Political Economy', a commentary written in the same period as the EPM, Marx explains why the replacement of capitalist wage labor, which produces for profit alone, by associated labor producing for human need, provides the basis for going beyond the alienations enumerated above:

"In the framework of private property labor is the alienation of life since I work in order to live, in order to procure for myself the means of life. My labor is not life ... In the framework of private property my individuality has been alienated to the point where I loathe this activity, it is torture for me. It is in fact no more than the appearance of activity and for that reason it is only a forced labor imposed on me not through an inner necessity but through an external arbitrary need." Against this, Marx asks us to "suppose that we had produced as human beings. In that event each of us would have doubly affirmed himself and his neighbor in his production. (1) In my production I would have objectified the specific character of my individuality and for that reason I would both have enjoyed the expression of my own individual life during my activity and also, in contemplating the object, I would experience an individual pleasure, I would experience my personality as an objectively sensuously perceptible power beyond all shadow of doubt. (2) In your use or enjoyment of my product I would have the immediate satisfaction and knowledge that in my labor I had gratified a human need, ie, that I had objectified human nature and hence had procured an object corresponding to the needs of another human being. (3) I would have acted for you as the mediator between you and the species, thus I would be acknowledged by you as the complement of your own being, as an essential part of yourself. I would thus know myself to be confirmed both in your thoughts and your love. (4) In the individual expression of my own life, I would have brought about the immediate expression of your life, and so in my individual activity I would have directly confirmed and realized my authentic nature, my human, communal nature.

Our productions would be as many mirrors from which our natures would shine forth.

My labor would be the free expression and hence the enjoyment of life ... ".

Thus, for Marx, human beings would only be producing in a human way when each individual was able to find genuine fulfillment in his work: the fulfillment that comes from the active enjoyment of the productive act; from producing objects which not only have a real use for other human beings but which are also worthy of contemplation in themselves, because they have been produced, to use a phrase from the EPM "according to the laws of beauty"; from working in common, and to a common end, with one's fellow human beings.

Here it becomes clear that for Marx, production for need, which is one of the defining characteristics of communism, is far more than the simple negation of capitalist commodity production, production for profit. From its beginning, the accumulation of wealth as capital has meant the accumulation of poverty for the exploited; in the epoch of moribund capitalism, this is doubly so, and today it is more obvious than ever that the abolition of commodity production is a precondition for the very survival of humanity. But for Marx, production for need was never a mere minimum, a purely quantitative satisfaction of the elementary needs for food, shelter etc. Production for need was also the reflection of man's need to produce - for the act of production as delightful and sensual activity, as the celebration of mankind's essential communality. This is a position that Marx never altered. As the 'mature' Marx put it in the Critique of the Gotha Program (1874) for example, when he talks about "a higher phase of communist society, after the enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labor, and with it also the antithesis between mental and physical labor, has vanished; after labor has become not only a means of life but itself life's prime want; after the productive forces, have also increased with the all-round development of the individual, and all the springs of cooperative wealth flow more abundantly .... "

" ... after labor has become not only a means of life but itself life's prime want ... ". Such affirmations are crucial in replying to a typical argument of bourgeois ideology - that if the incentive of monetary gain is removed, there is simply no motive for the individual, or society as a whole, to produce anything. Again, a fundamental element of the reply is to point to the fact that without the abolition of wage labor, the simple survival of the proletariat, of humanity itself, will be untenable. But this remains a purely negative argument unless communists insist that in the future society the main motive for work is that it will have become "life's main want", "the enjoyment of life" - the central core of human activity and the fulfillment of man's most essential desires.

Overcoming the division of labor

Notice how Marx, in the latter citation, begins his description of the higher phase of communist society by envisaging the abolition of the "enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labor, and with it also the antithesis between mental and physical labor". This is a constant theme in Marx's denunciation of capitalist wage labor. In the first volume of Capital, for example, he spends page after page fulminating against the way that work in the factories of the bourgeoisie reduced the worker to a mere fragment of himself; the way that it turned men into bodies without heads and others into heads without bodies; the way that specialization had degraded labor to the repetition of the most mechanical and mind-numbing actions. But this polemic against the division of labor is there in the early work also, and it is clear from this point on that, with Marx, there could be no talk of overcoming the alienation implicit in the wage system unless there was a profound reversal of the existing division of labor. A famous passage from The German Ideology deals with this point:

" ... the division of labor offers us the first example of how, as long as man remains in natural society, that is, as long as a cleavage exists between the particular and the common interest, as long, therefore, as activity is not voluntarily, but naturally divided, man's own deed becomes an alien power opposed to him, which enslaves him instead of being controlled by him. For as soon as the distribution of labor comes into being, each man has a particular, exclusive sphere of activity, which is forced upon him and from which he cannot escape. He is a hunter, a fisherman, a herdsman, or a critical critic, and must remain so if he does not want to lose his means of livelihood; while in communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes, society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic" (from Part One, Feuerbach: section headed 'Private property and communism').

This wonderful picture of daily life in a highly evolved communist society does of course employ a certain poetic license, but it conveys the essential point: given the development of the productive forces that capitalism itself has brought about, there is absolutely no need for any human being to spend the best part of their lives in the confines of a single kind of activity - above all in the kind of activity that only gives expression to a tiny fraction of that individual's real capacities. By the same token, we are talking about the abolition of the ancient division between the tiny minority of individuals privileged to live by really creative and rewarding work, and a vast majority condemned to experience labor as the alienation of life:

"The exclusive concentration of artistic talent in particular individuals, and its suppression in the broad mass which is bound up with this, is a consequence of the division of labor with a communist organization of society, there disappears the subordination of the artist to local and national narrowness, which arises entirely from the division of labor, and also the subordination of the artist to some definite art, thanks to which he is exclusively a painter, sculptor, etc, the very name of his activity adequately expressing the narrowness of his professional development and his dependence on the division of labor. In a communist society there are no painters but at most people who engage in painting among other activities" (German Ideology, part three, section headed' Artistic talent').

The heroic image of bourgeois society in its youthful dawn is that of the Renaissance Man - individuals like Da Vinci who combined the talents of artist, scientist and philosopher. But such men could only be exceptional examples, extraordinary geniuses, in a society whose art and science was sustained by the backbreaking toil of the vast majority. Marx's vision of communism is that of an entire society of 'Renaissance Men'[2]

The emancipation of the senses

For that breed of 'socialist' whose function is to reduce socialism to a mild cosmetic change within the existing system of exploitation, such visions can never be a real anticipation of humanity's future. To the supporter of 'realistic' socialism (ie state capitalism a la social democracy, Stalinism or Trotskyism), they are indeed nothing but visions, unrealizable utopian dreams. But for those who are convinced that communism is both a necessity and a possibility, the sheer audacity of Marx's conception of communism, its adamant refusal to put up with the mediocre and the second rate, can only be an inspiration and a stimulus to carry on the unrelenting struggle against capitalist society. And the fact is that Marx's descriptions of the ultimate goals of communism are daring in the extreme, far more so than the 'realists' usually suspect, for they not only look forward to the profound objective changes involved in the communist transformation (production for use, abolition of the division of labour, etc); they also delve into the subjective changes that communism will bring about, positing a dramatic alteration in man's very perception and sense experience.

Here again Marx's method is to begin with the real, concrete problem posed by capitalism and point to the resolution contained in the existing contradictions of society. In this case, he describes the way that the reign of private property restricts man's capacity for real sensuous enjoyment. In the first place, this restriction is a consequence of simple material poverty, which dulls the senses, reduces all the basic functions of life to their animal level, and prevents human beings from realizing their real creative powers:

"Sense which is a prisoner of crude practical need has only a restricted sense. For a man who is starving the human form of food does not exist, only its abstract form exists; it could just as well be present in its crudest form, and it would be hard to say how this way of eating differs from that of animals. The man who is burdened with worries and needs has no sense for the finest of plays .... " (EPM, 'Private property and communism').

By contrast, "the senses of social man are different from those of non-social man. Only through the objectively unfolded wealth of human nature can the wealth of subjective human sensitivity - a musical ear, an eye for the beauty of form, in short senses capable of human gratification - be either cultivated or created ... the society that is fully developed produces man in all the richness of his being, the rich man who is profoundly and abundantly endowed with all the senses, as its constant reality" (ibid).

But it is not only quantifiable material deprivation that restricts the free play of the senses. It is something more deeply entrenched by the society of private property, the society of alienation. It is the "stupidity" induced by this society, which convinces us that nothing is 'really real' until we own it:

"Private property has made us so stupid and one-sided that an object is only ours when we have it, when it exists for us as capital or when we directly possess, eat, drink, wear, inhabit it etc, in short when we use it. Although private property conceives all these immediate realizations of possession only as means of life, and the life they serve is the life of private property, labor and capitalization. Therefore all the physical and intellectual senses have been replaced by the simple estrangement of all these senses - the sense of having" (ibid).

And, once again, in contrast to this: " ... the positive supersession of private property, ie the sensuous appropriation of the human essence and human life, of objective man and of human works by and for man, should not be understood only in the sense of direct, one-sided consumption, of possession, of having. Man appropriates his integral essence in an integral way, as a total man. All his human relations to the world - seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling, thinking, contemplating, sensing, wanting, acting, loving - in short all the organs of his individuality, like the organs which are directly communal in form, are in their objective approach or in their approach to the object the appropriation of that object ... The supersession of private property is therefore the complete emancipation of all human senses and attributes; but it is this emancipation precisely because these senses and attributes helve become human, subjectively as well as objectively. The eye has become a human eye, just as its object has become a social, human object, made by man for man. The senses have therefore become theoreticians in their immediate praxis. They relate to the thing for its own sake, but the thing itself is an objective human relation to itself and to man and vice versa. Need or enjoyment 'helve therefore lost their egoistic nature, and nature has lost its mere utility in the sense that its use has become human use" (ibid).

Interpreting these passages in all their depth and complexity would take a book in itself. But what is clear straight away is that, for Marx, the replacement of alienated labor by a really human form of production would lead to a fundamental modification in man's state of consciousness. The liberation of the species from the crippling costs of the struggle against scarcity, the transcendence of the anxiety and craving bound up with the rule of private property, release man's senses from their prison and enable him to see, hear, and feel in a new way. It is difficult to discuss such forms of consciousness, because they are not 'merely' rational: i.e., they have not regressed to a point prior to the development of reason - they have gone beyond rational thought as it has hitherto been conceived as a separate and isolated activity, attaining a condition in which "Man is affirmed in the objective world not only in thought but with all the senses" (ibid).

One way of understanding such inner transformations is to refer to the state of inspiration that lies at the heart of any great work of art[3]. In his inspired state, the painter or poet, dancer or singer, is granted. a glimpse of a world transfigured, a world of resplendent color and sound, a world of heightened significance which makes our 'normal' state of perception seem partial, blinkered and even unreal - rightly so, when we recall that 'normality' is precisely the normality of alienation. Of all the poets, perhaps William Blake has succeeded best in conveying the distinction between the 'normal' state, in which "man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro' narrow chinks of his cavern", and the inspired state which, in Blake's messianic but in many ways very materialist perspective, "will come to pass by an improvement of sensual enjoyment" and by cleansing the "doors of perception". If humanity could only accomplish this, "everything would appear to man as it is, infinite" (from 'The marriage of heaven and hell').

The analogy with the artist is by no means fortuitous. When he was writing the EPM, Marx's most valued friend was the poet Heine, or that all his life Marx was a passionate devotee of the works of Homer, Shakespeare, Balzac and other great writers. For him, such figures, with their unbounded creativity, served as enduring models of humanity's true potential. As we have seen, Marx's goal was a society where such levels of creativity would be a 'normal' human attribute; it follows therefore that the heightened state of sense perception described in the EPM would increasingly become social humanity's 'normal' state of consciousness.

Later on in Marx's work, the analogy for creative activity is less with the artist than with the scientist, but the essential remains: liberation from drudgery, the overcoming of the separation between work and free time, produces a new human subject:

"It goes without saying ... that labor time cannot remain in the abstract antithesis to free time in which it appears from the perspective of bourgeois economy ... Free time - which is both idle time and time for higher activity - has naturally transformed its possessor into a different subject, and he then enters into the direct production process as this different subject. This process is then both discipline, as regards the human being in the process of becoming; and at the same time, practice, experimental science, materially creative and objectifying science, as regards the human being who has become, in whose head exists the accumulated knowledge of society. For both, in so far as labor requires practical use of the hands and free bodily movement, as in agriculture, at the same time exercise" (Grundrisse, The chapter on Capital; section headed 'Real saving - economy = saving of labor time = development of productive force. Suspension of the contradiction between free time and labor time').

Beyond the atomized ego

The awakening of the senses by free human activity also entails the overturning of the individual's relationship with the social and natural world around him. This is the problem Marx is referring to when he argues that communism will resolve the contradictions "between man and nature ... between objectification and self-affirmation ... between individual and species". As we saw in the chapter on alienation, Hegel, in his examination of the relationship between subject and object in human consciousness, recognized that man's unique capacity to see himself as a separate subject was experienced as an alienation: the 'other', the objective world, both human and natural, appeared to him as hostile and alien. But Hegel's error was to see this as an absolute rather than a historical product; as a result he could see no way round it except in the rarified spheres of philosophical speculation. For Marx, on the other hand, man's labor had created the subject-object distinction, the separation between man and nature, individual and species. But labor hitherto had been "man's coming to being within alienation" (EPM, 'Critique of the Hegelian philosophy'). And that is why, up until now, the distinction between subject and object had also been experienced as an alienation. This process, as we have seen, had reached its most advanced point with the lonely, atomized ego of capitalist society; but capitalism had also established the basis for the practical resolution of this estrangement. In the free, creative activity of communism, Marx saw the basis for a state of being in which man sees nature as human and himself as natural; a state in which the subject has achieved a conscious unity with the object:              .

" ... it is only when objective reality universally becomes for man in society the reality of man's essential powers, becomes human reality, and thus the reality of his own essential powers, that all objects become for him the objectification of himself, objects that confirm and realize his individuality, his objects, ie he himself becomes the object" (EPM, 'Private property and communism').

In his comments on the EPM, Bordiga was particularly insistent on this point: the resolution of the enigmas of history was only possible "once we have left behind the millennia-old deception of the lone individual facing the natural world, stupidly called 'external' by the philosophers. External to what? External to the 'I', this supreme deficiency,' but we can no longer say external to the human species, because the species man is internal to nature, part of the physical world." And he goes on to say that "in this powerful text, object and subject becomes, like man and nature, one and the same thing. We can even say that everything becomes object: man as a subject 'against nature' disappears, along with the illusion of a separate ego." ('Tables immuables de la theorie communiste de parti', in Bordiga et Ie passion du communisme. edited by J Camatte, 1972).

Hitherto, the intentional cultivation of states (or rather stages, since we are not talking about anything final here) of consciousness which go beyond the perception of the isolated ego has been largely restricted to the mystical traditions. For example, in Zen Buddhism, accounts of the experience of Satori, which expresses an attempt to go beyond the split between subject and object into a vaster unity, bear a certain resemblance to the mode of being that Bordiga, following Marx, is attempting to describe. But while communist humanity will perhaps find elements that can be reappropriated from these traditions, it is not correct to deduce from these passages in Marx and Bordiga that communism should be described as the "mystical society" or to posit a "communist mysticism", as in certain texts on the question of nature that have been published recently by the Bordigist group II Partito Comunista[4]. Inevitably, the teachings of all the mystical traditions were more or less - bound up with various religious and ideological misconceptions resulting from - immature historical conditions, whereas communism will be able to take the 'rational kernel' from these traditions and incorporate them into a real science of man. With equal inevitability, the insights and techniques of the mystical traditions were almost by definition limited to an elite of privileged individuals, whereas in communism there will be no secrets to be hidden from the vulgar masses. And as a result, the expansion of awareness that will be achieved by the collective humanity of the future will be incomparably greater than the individual flashes of illumination attained within the horizons of class society.

Branches of an earthly tree

These are the furthest reaches of Marx's vision of the future of humanity; a vision that stretched even beyond communism, since at one point Marx says that communism is "the necessary form and dynamic principle of the immediate future," but is "not as such the goal of human development" (EPM, 'private property and communism'). Communism, even its fully developed form, is really only the beginning of human society.

But having ascended to these Olympian heights, it is necessary to come back to the solid ground; or rather, to recall that these soaring branches are firmly rooted in the soil of Earth.

We have already provided several arguments against the charge that Marx's various 'pictures' of communist society are purely speculative and utopian schemas: first by showing that even his earliest writings as a communist are based on a very thorough and scientific diagnosis of man's estrangement, and most particularly of the form taken by this estrangement under the reign of capital. The cure, therefore, flows logically from this diagnosis: communism must provide the positive supersession of all the various manifestations of man's alienation.

Secondly, we saw how these initial descriptions of a humanity that had been restored to health were always based on real glimpses of a world transformed, authentic moments of inspiration and illumination that can and do occur to flesh and blood human beings even within the boundaries of alienation.

But what was still little developed in the EPM was the conception of historical materialism: the examination of the successive economic and social transformations which were laying the material foundations of the future communist society. In his more mature work, therefore, Marx was to expend a considerable part of his energies studying the underlying operations of the capitalist system and contrasting them with the modes of production that had preceded the bourgeois epoch. In particular, having uncovered the contradictions inherent in the extraction and realization of surplus value, Marx was able to explain that whereas all previous class societies had perished because they could not produce enough, capitalism was the first to be threatened with destruction because it 'overproduced'. But it was precisely this inherent tendency towards overproduction that signified that capitalism was laying the bases for a society of material abundance, a society which was capable of freeing the immense productive forces developed by capital of the fetters imposed by the latter once it had reached its period of historical decline; a society capable of developing the productive forces for the concrete needs of man rather than the abstract and inhuman needs of capital,

In the Grundrisse, Marx examined this problem with specific reference to the question of surplus labor time, observing that capitalism is, "despite itself, instrumental in creating the means of social disposable time, in order to reduce labor time for the whole society to a diminishing minimum, and thus to free everyone's time for their own development. But its tendency always, on the one side, to create disposable time, on the other to convert it into surplus labor. If it succeeds too well at the first, then it suffers from surplus production, and then necessary labor is interrupted, because no surplus labor can be realized by capital. The more this contradiction develops, the more does it become evident that the growth of the forces of production can no longer be bound up with the appropriation of alien labor, but that the mass of workers must themselves appropriate their own surplus labor. Once they have done so - and disposable time thereby ceases to have an antithetical existence - the, on one side, necessary labor time will be measured by the needs of the social individual, and on the other, the development of the power of social production will grow so rapidly that even though production is now calculated for the wealth of all, disposable time will grow for all. For real wealth is the developed productive power of all individuals. The measure of wealth is then not any longer, in any way, labor time, but rather disposable time".

We will return to this question in subsequent articles, particularly when we come to examine the economics of the period of transition. The point we want to make here is this: no matter how radical and far-reaching were Marx's portraits of humanity's future, they were based on a sober assessment of the real possibilities contained in the existing system of production. More than this: the emergence of a world which measured wealth in terms of "disposable time" rather than labor time was not just a possibility; it was a burning necessity if mankind was to find a path out of the devastating contradictions of capitalism. These later theoretical developments thus show themselves to be in perfect continuity with the first audacious descriptions of the communist society: they demonstrated quite plainly that the "positive supersession" of alienation described in such depth and with such passion in Marx's early works was not one choice among many for humanity's future, but the only future.

In the next article in this series, we will follow the steps taken by Marx and Engels after the early texts outlining the
ultimate goals of the communist movement: the assumption of the political struggle which was the inevitable precondition for the social and economic transformations they envisaged. We will therefore look at how communism became an explicitly political program before, during and after the great social upheavals of 1848. CDW

[1] The French word for labor, 'travail', derives from the Latin 'trepalium' , an instrument of torture ...

[2] The terminology used here is inevitably sexually biased, because the history of the division of labor is also the history of the oppression of women and of their effective exclusion from so many spheres of social and political activity. From his earliest works, Marx insisted that "it is possible to judge from this relationship (ie, the relationship between man and woman) the entire level of development of mankind. It follows from the character of this relationship how far man as a species being, as man, has become himself and grasped himself... " (EPM, 'Private property and communism'). It was thus evident for Marx that the communist abolition of the division of labor was also the abolition of all the restrictive rules imposed on men and women. Marxism has therefore never required the advice of the so-called 'women's liberation movement', whose claim to fame was that it alone saw that 'traditional' (ie, Stalinist and leftist) visions of revolution were too limited to narrow political and economic ends and so 'missed out' the need for a radical transformation in relations between the sexes. For Marx, it was evident from the very beginning that the communist revolution 'meant precisely a profound alteration in all aspects of human relationships.

[3] In his autobiography, recalling the heady days of the October insurrection, Trotsky points out that the revolutionary process is itself equivalent to a massive outburst of collective inspiration:

"Marxism considers itself the conscious expression of the unconscious historical process. But the 'unconscious' process. But the ‘unconscious' process in the historico-philosophical sense of the term - not the psychological - coincides with its conscious expression only at its highest point, when the masses, by sheer elemental pressure, break through the social routine and give victorious expression to the deeper needs of historical development. And at such moments the highest theoretical consciousness of the epoch merges with the immediate action of those oppressed masses who are furthest away from theory. The creative union of the conscious with the unconscious is what one usually calls 'inspiration'. Revolution is the inspired frenzy of history. Every real writer knows creative moments, when something stronger than himself is guiding his hand; every real orator experiences moments when someone stronger than the self of his everyday existence speaks through him. This is 'inspiration '. It derives from the highest creative effort of all one's forces. The unconscious rises from its deep wells and bends the conscious mind to its will, merging with it in some greater synthesis.

The utmost spiritual rigor likewise infuses at all times personal activity connected with the movement of the masses. This was true for the leaders in the October days. The hidden strength of the organism, its most deeply rooted instincts, its power of scent Inherited from animal forebears - all these rose and broke through the psychic routine to join forces with the higher historico-philosophical abstractions in the service of the revolution. Both these processes, affecting the individual and the masses, were based on the union of the conscious with the unconscious the union of instinct - the mainspring of the will- with the higher theories of thought.

Outwardly it did not look very imposing men went about tired, hungry and unwashed, with inflamed eyes and unshaven beards. And afterwards none of them could recall much about those most critical days and hours" (Trotsky, My Life, an attempt at an autobiography, chapter 29, 'In power').

This passage is also noteworthy because, in continuity with Marx's writings about the emancipation of the senses, it raises the question of the relationship between marxism and psychoanalysis. In the view of the present writer both Marx's conception of alienation and his notion of sensual human need were confirmed, from a different starting point, by the discoveries of Freud. Just as Marx saw man's alienation as an accumulative process reaching its final culmination in capitalism, so Freud describes the process of repression reaching its point of paroxysm in present-day civilization for sensual enjoyment - the erotic connection to the world which we savor in early childhood but which is ‘progressively' repressed both in the history of the species and of the individual. Freud also understood that the ultimate source of this repression lay in the struggle against material scarcity. But whereas Freud, as an honest bourgeois thinker, one of the last to make a real contribution to the science of man, was unable to envisaged a society which had overcome scarcity and thus the necessity for repression, Marx's vision of the emancipation of the senses points to the restoration of the ‘infantile' erotic mode of being at a higher level. As Marx himself put it, "A man cannot become a child again, or he becomes childish. But does he not find joy in the child's naiveté, and must he himself not strive to reproduce its truth at a higher stage?" (Grundrisse, last paragraph of the introduction)

[4] See in particular the report of the meeting of February 3-4 in Florence, Communist Left no. 3, and the article 'Nature and communist revolution' in Communist Left no. 5. We should not be surprised that the Bordigists cross the line into mysticism here: their whole notion of the invariant communist program is already strongly charged with it. We should also be aware that in some his formulations about the overcoming of the atomized ego, Bordiga strays towards the negation of the individual pure and simple, that Bordiga's view of communism, and also of the party which he saw as in some sense a prefiguration of it, often slid toward a totalitarian one. Marx however talked about communism resolving the contradiction between individual and species - not the abolition of the individual, but his realization within the collective, and the realization of the collective within each individual.


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