From the Writings of Raya Dunayevskaya
The revolt of the workers and the plan of the intellectuals
We publish here, for the first time anywhere, a historic
document in American Marxism--Raya Dunayevskaya’s June 5, 1951 “The Revolt
of the Workers and the Plan of the Intellectuals.” It was a defense of STATE
CAPITALISM AND WORLD REVOLUTION (SC&WR) a major statement of the
Johnson-Forest Tendency, and marked its complete break with the Trotskyist
Socialist Workers Party (SWP). SC&WR was jointly written by C. L. R. James
(a.k.a. J. R. Johnson), Dunayevskaya (a.k.a. Freddie Forest), and Grace Lee
Boggs. “The Revolt” was a response to a critique of SC&WR published in
April 1951 by George Novack (a.k.a. William F. Warde) and John G. Wright, both
representing the SWP majority. The original document can be found in THE RAYA
DUNAYEVSKAYA COLLECTION, 1424.
We here publish the first section of Part II. Additional
excerpts will appear in our October issue. “MCK” refers to the Kerr edition
of Marx’s CAPITAL; “MCF” to the more recent translation by Ben Fowkes.
Notes by the author are signed “RD”; others are by the editors. We wish to
thank Jesse and Jason for their help in editing the piece.
The Marxian Economic Categories, and the Class
Comrades Novack and Wright accuse “Johnson-Forest”
of the heinous crime of identifying the capitalist economy with the “Soviet
economy.” They mean the economy of Stalinist Russia, which since 1943-44, the
Stalinist theoreticians themselves have admitted operates according to the law
of value. The admission was forced upon them by the Russian reality.
Long before the admission was made, “Johnson-Forest”
had demonstrated that the existence in Russia of the economic categories
analyzed in Marx’s CAPITAL was not a matter of coincidence. Rather it was due
to a fundamental kinship between the Russian economy and capitalism.(1) In
summarizing the facts and conclusions of the extensive study, “Johnson-Forest”
used the concise original formula Marx created for analyzing specifically
capitalistic production relations: C/V, THAT IS TO SAY, THE DOMINATION OF
CONSTANT CAPITAL (OR DEAD LABOR) OVER VARIABLE CAPITAL (OR LIVING LABOR).
For this, “Johnson-Forest” is taken to task. “In
dealing with the C/V relation,” write Comrades Novack and Wright, “one
remains in the general sphere of productivity, equally applicable in this
abstract form to any and all economic systems.”
I beg to differ. Far from being “an abstract form”
equally applicable “to any and all economic systems,” C/V ARE TWO OF THE
ONLY THREE ORIGINAL CATEGORIES MARX CONTRIBUTED TO THE FIELD OF ECONOMICS TO
DEFINE THE SPECIFICALLY CAPITALISTIC LAW OF MOVEMENT OF CONTEMPORARY SOCIETY.(2)
Reflect on this a moment. Marx transformed the entire
science of political economy. From a study of THINGS, it became an analysis of
PRODUCTION RELATIONS. He wrote some 4,000 pages, or 2,000,000 words, in his
analysis of the economic system of capitalism. And for all that, except in three
instances, he could use the categories of classical political economy. For those
three, however, he had to create NEW CATEGORIES ALTOGETHER.
Now Comrades Novack and Wright take two of these three
new categories and assert that they are applicable “to any and all societies.”
How is it possible for Marxists to go so completely off
the class rails THEORETICALLY? The error is no accident. It never fails to
appear among Marxist theoreticians who have failed to grasp the essence of
Marxism for their SPECIFIC epoch in STRICT RELATIONSHIP to the revolutionary
activity of the masses. Each stage of capitalist production has posed only two
alternatives: EITHER THE SELF-ACTIVITY OF THE WORKERS OR THE PLAN OVER THE
WORKERS. A terrible trap awaits those who do not hold tight to this.
Marx’s CAPITAL and ‘the Planners’
The theoretical axis of Marx’s CAPITAL is the question
of plan--the plan of the capitalist against the plan of free, associated
workers. Chapter XIII(3) in particular is unmistakable in its dialectical
opposition between the despotic plan inherent in capital and the plan of the
proletariat in the cooperative labor process. The cooperative form of the labor
process unleashed a new productive POWER. The attempt to control this power
within capitalistic confines is the basis of the despotic plan of capital. Marx
affirms that there can no longer be any doubt about this: The workers’
RESISTANCE has disclosed that what appeared ideally as plan was in practice the
undisputed authority of the capitalist.
We say that today ONLY the actual revolution of the
proletariat in the process of production itself can save society. We have
written and repeat: future generations will stand in amazement at the equivocal
but relentless resistance that the Fourth International carries on against this.
Yet it is one of the unique contributions to the
analysis of human society that this very REVOLT, this and no other, saved
society in the middle of the last century. Capital, in its inherent tendency to
appropriate the 24 hours of the laborer’s day for itself, had broken all
bounds of morals and nature, age and sex, day and night. Marx tells us that
society itself was threatened. The revolt of the workers established the
shortening of the working day. This revolt and its consequences led to the
intensive development of machinery.
Bourgeois scientists, as usual, claimed the legally
limited working day as a result of their science, their intellect, their plan.
The bourgeoisie claimed the invention of machinery as their contribution to
human welfare and progress.
Marx poured scorn on these Pharisees. The determination
of what is a working day “presents itself as the result of a struggle, a
struggle between collective capital, i.e., the class of capitalists, and
collective labor, i.e., the working class” [MCIK, p. 259, MCIF, p. 344]. It
was “the product of a protracted civil war, more or less dissembled, between
the capitalist class and the working class” [MCIK p. 327; MCIF, p. 412]. The
influence of the workers’ revolt on the development of machinery should be
studied in Volume I [MCIK, pp. 447-457; MCIF pp. 533-543]. But even that revolt,
because it did not overthrow capitalism, meant increased despotism.
Marx categorically asserts that since ALL labor under
capitalism is FORCED LABOR, plan can be nothing but the organization of
production under the domination of the machine. To try to bring order,
therefore, into the anarchy of the market of a society based on the factory
plan, could only mean subjecting society to “one single master.”
On the other hand, the cooperative form of the labor
process discloses the socialism imbedded in capitalism. The discipline, unity,
cooperative action of the proletariat proves once and for all 1) that its
existence as a class presupposed that the fundamental types of ALL the
productive forces of the future have been developed. What is now required is a
new method of uniting them. And 2) that the SELF-DEVELOPMENT of the proletariat
is the new method of uniting them. WITHOUT THIS NO HIGHER FORM OF PRODUCTION IS
POSSIBLE. Do Comrades Novack and Wright agree with this or not? In THE INVADING
SOCIALIST SOCIETY we asked Ernest Mandel(4) that question. He did not answer.
Marx’s point is that under capitalist production, on
the other hand, the only way a rise in productivity can be achieved is the
ever-greater domination of machines over living labor. “Johnson-Forest” did
not discover this. That is what CAPITAL is about.
The consequence of the complete inversion in the
relationship of machines to men, with its misery for labor and anarchy of the
market, could not help but impress the intellectuals. They were ready with plans
for everything except the reorganization of the productive process by labor
Consistently Marx posed the cooperative form of the
labor process in opposition to these intellectual planners who could not
comprehend THIS NEW POWER. Marx warned: not to see the plan inherent in the
activity of the revolutionary proletariat MUST force one to pose an EXTERNAL
factor to do the planning.
He dismissed with utter contempt Proudhon’s plan to do
away with exchange. For the practical and violent actions of the proletariat,
Marx wrote, Proudhon substitutes the “evacuating motion of his head” [Letter
to Annenkov of Dec. 28, 1846].
Proudhon was neither the first nor the last of the
planners. Planning is not limited to idealists. The ABSTRACT materialist who
views technological development OUTSIDE of the class relationship also slips
back into considering the CAPITALISTIC factors of production as mere factors of
any social form of production. That is why Marx created new categories--constant
and variable capital--to describe the manner in which machines and labor united
under a capitalist economy. In opposition to all the planners--abstract
materialist as well as idealist--Marx elaborated his analysis of capitalist
In Volume I of CAPITAL, the socialistic nature of the
cooperative form of the labor process is held out in sharp contrast to the
hierarchic structure of capitalist control. In Volume II Marx isolates the
capitalist nation and analyzes it as unit:
...we must not follow the manner copied by Proudhon from
bourgeois economics, which looks upon this matter as though a society with a
capitalist mode of production would lose its specific historical and economic
characteristics by being taken as a unit. Not at all. We have in that case to
deal with the aggregate capitalist. [MCIIK, p. 503, MCIIF, p. 509].
It is not “Johnson-Forest” who preach that piece of
Proudhonism. It is the Fourth International.
The whole of Volume II is built not on individual,
private capital, but on aggregate, national capital.(5)
In Volume III, Marx returns to the creative plan of the
workers as the plan most adequate to their human nature and most worthy of it.
So that the creative plan of the workers in opposition to the authoritarian plan
of the capitalist runs like a red thread through all three volumes of CAPITAL.
Now Lenin in 1915 realized that there were aspects to
CAPITAL that no Marxist, including himself, had understood for 50 years. We, in
1951, can see still further, for the problem posed THEORETICALLY by Marx in
CAPITAL is the very one posed so forcefully in a CONCRETE manner by our epoch.
The Marxist theoretician who has failed to grasp this has invariably fallen into
the same trap as the abstract materialist, and singled out some basic element of
CAPITALIST production as a mere TECHNICAL problem. The inescapable next step is
to spirit away the class content of the economic categories Marx created. This
happened to the great revolutionary martyr, Rosa Luxemburg.
Where Proudhon poured forth all his wrath against the
machine but had nothing to say about the modern workshop, that is, the factory,
Comrade Luxemburg poured forth her wrath against the modern workshop but let the
machine stand as if that could be divorced from its factory environment.
Having divided what Marx had united, she followed the
pattern as if she had been stage directed. She said that there is nothing
specifically capitalistic in the categories C/V. These, she contended, were
merely expressions of machine production in “any and all” societies. That is
how she BEGAN. She ended by revising the Marxist theory of accumulation.(6)
The same, in different circumstances, was true of
Bukharin, and precisely, I might add, on the questions of state capitalism and
of the economy of the transition period. Both errors were inevitable. The crisis
at each new stage of capitalist production needs some solution. There is always
a radical bourgeois solution which, of course, only intensifies the crisis.
Let the Marxist theoretician beware. He must find in the
specific circumstances the basis for the specific revolutionary action of the
masses. If he does not, he is drawn fatally toward the solution posed by the
By her theory of accumulation, Rosa Luxemburg
anticipated the underconsumptionist theory of Keynes. By his theory of state
capitalism and the economics of the transition period, Bukharin anticipated
1. Fundamental kinship does not mean identical twins. As
STATE CAPITALISM AND WORLD REVOLUTION puts it: “We have never said that the
economy of the United States is the same as the economy of Russia. What we say
is that, however great the differences, the fundamental laws of capitalism
2. Labor power--and with it the split of the category of
labor into abstract labor and concrete labor--is the third original Marxian
category. (We’ll deal with this later.) Commodity, value--and with it surplus
value--Marx refined, but the categories themselves he took over from classical
political economy. Characteristic of Marx was this insistence of his upon
crediting classical political economy with a theory of surplus value it had
never elaborated just because it was implicit in their labor theory of
3. A reference to the chapter on Cooperation in CAPITAL,
4. Ernest Mandel was a leading Trotskyist economic
theorist, here referred to under the pseudonym “Germain.” THE INVADING
SOCIALIST SOCIETY was a 1947 pamphlet written by James, Dunayevskaya, and Lee.
5. Anyone aware of the voluminous debates around Vol. II
will count 1,000 and 1 before he abandons himself to the assertion that the
society Marx dealt with was only an “abstraction.”--RD
6. See “Luxemburg’s Theory of Accumulation,” by F. Forest [Dunayevskaya], NEW INTERNATIONAL, April and May 1946.--RD
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