From the Writings of Raya Dunayevskaya
The revolt of the workers and the plan of the intellectuals
We publish here the concluding installment of an excerpt
from Raya Dunayevskaya's June 5, 1951 "The Revolt of the Workers and the
Plan of the Intellectuals." (For the first installment, see our
August-September 2002 issue.) "The Revolt" 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 had been jointly written by C. L. R.
James (whose party name was J. R. Johnson), Dunayevskaya (Freddie Forest), and
Grace Lee Boggs. "The Revolt" was a response to a critique of SC&WR
published in April 1951 by George Novack (William F. Warde) and John G. Wright,
both representing the SWP majority. "MCK" refers to the Kerr edition
of Marx's CAPITAL and "MCF" to the more recent translation by Ben
Fowkes. Footnotes are the editor's except where noted. The original document can
be found in THE RAYA DUNAYEVSKAYA COLLECTION, 1424.
...Comrades Novack and Wright accuse
"Johnson-Forest" of shifting the whole axis from the class struggle to
the question of productivity. But what is the class struggle if it is not the
never-ending struggle in the factory against what Marx called "the strictly
regulating authority of the social mechanism of the labor process graduated into
a complete hierarchy" [MCIIIK, p. 1027; MCIIIF, p. 1021].
How far removed is that from the academic play of words,
"agents and principals!" The agent MARX has in mind is the agent of
capital, that third force that stands in the way of labor united with means of
production in a natural way, and not by the intervention of an outside force,
the hierarchy capital creates, a relation of CLASS. The hierarchy built up in
the factory has little to do with the "ownership" of a
"principal." It is something a great deal more basic, with a more
solid foundation and deeper roots.
The "agent" that Marx is analyzing is that
tough bureaucracy which he compares always to a military hierarchy which has a
stranglehold on the workers as they work cooperatively. This hierarchy is no
simple "agent of a principal." It is the division of labor which makes
of the workers mere automatons who must not move from their niche in the
assembly line, while everyone from the "principal" to the
"agent," that whole gang of foremen, disciplines the worker.
This discipline forces from him ever-greater amounts of
surplus value through more machines and through the greater intensity with which
they are operated. Marx's point was that so long as there is a group of
"special agents" in opposition to the direct producer, that is how
long that "social mechanism," C/V [dominance of constant over variable
capital], will continue to dominate. That is why Marx, from the very first draft
of Capital, never tired of reiterating that "The mastery of the capitalist
over the worker is in reality the mastery of dead over living labor" [MCIF,
Marx says the same thing in a thousand different ways
throughout the three volumes of Capital and Theories of Surplus Value, because
it is this which sums up the whole essence of capitalism.
It is for this reason that Marx had not divided, as
Comrades Novack and Wright had divided, the class struggle from the question of
productivity. Far from being anything abstract, productivity is the most
concrete, the most oppressive way of making workers sweat the more. That is
precisely what Marx was saying with his formula C/V. Comrades Novack and Wright,
however, who THEORETICALLY had stripped these categories of their class content,
and PRACTICALLY spoke of some abstract "Soviet economy" instead of the
specific class relations in the factory, saw, and can see, "nothing in
common" between the Russian economy and capitalism.
FETISHISMS AND FREELY ASSOCIATED MEN
Comrades Novack and Wright stand everything on its head.
Where Marx says the property relationship is nothing but a legal expression for
the production relationship, they make the productive relationship nothing but
an expression of the property form or relationship.
Where Marx says that outside the production
relationship, property is nothing but a juristic illusion, Comrades Novack and
Wright say: "Productive relations of the economy transitional to socialism
is contained in collectivized property" [p. 6].
Where Marx says that IF you understand bourgeois private
property to be but a legal expression for CLASS ANTAGONISMS, then "IN THIS
SENSE” (my emphasis--RD) “the theory of Communists may be summed up in the
single sentence: Abolition of private property," there Comrades Novack and
Wright leave out the phrase, "In this sense," altogether, and, with a
century of capitalist development behind them, equate the abolition of class
antagonisms with the abolition of private property.
Marx, on the other hand, found, with less than two
decades of development separating the writing of the COMMUNIST MANIFESTO from
the writing of the RULES of the First International, that he had more reason to
emphasize the word, "monopolizer" then the word, "private."
Thus the RULES proclaimed "the economical
subjection of the man of labor to the monopolizer of the means of labor, that
is, the source of life, lies at the bottom of servitude in all its forms, of all
social misery, mental degradation, and political dependence" [MECW 23, p.
3]. And when a few years later the Paris Commune came out of the revolutionary
activity of the proletariat, Marx, far from shouting, private property, private
property, private property, WARNED against even "cooperative
production" becoming a mere "sham and snare” [MECW 22, p. 335].
The only way to prevent that, wrote Marx, in THE CIVIL
WAR IN FRANCE, is to see that all control remains in the hands of "free and
associated labor” [MECW 22, p. 335]. All the emphasis now shifts to "free
and associated labor" for the state is being smashed up and in its stead is
to be a Commune. And, on the eve of October, Lenin puts his stress on the fact
that the [Paris] Commune was "not a state at all." Is Stalinist Russia
with its ubiquitous army, with its ever-expanding prisons, forced labor camps
"not a state at all"? Or in transition to that? Does its property form
really contain "the productive relations of the economy transitional to
Even where Comrades Novack and Wright state a simple
Marxist truth, it somehow gets transformed into its opposite. They state, for
instance, that the real contradiction is between productive forces and
production relations. Absolutely true. But where Marx includes the revolutionary
proletariat as the greatest productive force, the productive forces with them
are only the simple material means of production.
No wonder that the "quest for universality" [MECW
6, p. 190] is to them "an ideological, not a material force.” No wonder
that, though they quote from Marx's POVERTY OF PHILOSOPHY so often, they failed
to grasp its essence: "But from the moment that all special development
ceases, the need for universality, the tendency towards an integral development
of the individual begins to make itself felt" [MECW 6, p. 190].
This was not "just" the young Marx of the
early PHILOSOPHIC ESSAYS, nor "only" the Marx of POVERTY OF
PHILOSOPHY. Nor is it absent from the COMMUNIST MANIFESTO which Comrades Novack
and Wright see as a manifesto for the abolition of private property IN ORDER to
institute state property. The aim is better stated by Marx who writes that the
abolition of class antagonisms means to have "an association in which the
free development of each is the condition for the free development of all"
[MECW6 p. 506].
I put it bluntly. "Johnson-Forest" say that
this free association is the new material force, the greatest of all productive
forces. "Johnson-Forest" have asked the question often enough, and I
ask it again: Do Comrades Novack and Wright accept this or is it for them
It is the mature Marx of CAPITAL who says that even for
the simple task of getting rid of the fetishism of commodities, it is not enough
to see labor as the source of value and "know" that class relations
are involved. Thus we see that Marx from the first chapter of CAPITAL poses the
question of the plan of FREELY associated laborers. This time it is posed in
opposition to the fetishism of the COMMODITY-FORM.
What is needed is clear: it is to see labor not as
SUBSTANCE, that is to say, thing, but as SUBJECT (2) that is to say, an active,
developing human being. Hence, where the political economists began their
analysis of capitalism with labor as the source of value, Marx began CAPITAL
with the concept of labor-power, the worker as creative subject. With this new
concept of the worker as a human being, he could see what the political
economists could not see--that under capitalism human relations assumed the form
of material relations, social relations assumed the form of relations between
things. Marx says that such relations between men MUST assume "the
fantastic form of a relation between things” because that is, in truth, what
they ARE. Under the perverse relationship of dead to living labor characteristic
of capitalism, social relations, writes Marx, “really are material relations
between persons and social relations between things” [MCIK, pp. 83–84; MCIF,
pp. 165–166]. Indeed, the product of labor under capitalism CAN HAVE NO OTHER
FORM BUT THAT OF THE COMMODITY. Tens of millions of workers in Russia, in their
own way, know this. That is why the Stalinists are so anxious to have Chapter I
of Volume I omitted from the study of CAPITAL.
The fetishism of commodities expresses on the market
level what the C/V relationship expresses at the level of production--that the
human being does not control the thing, but the thing controls the human being.
It was only by beginning with this new universal concept of the worker as
creative subject that Marx could pose the fundamental negations inherent in
capitalist production: (a) the negation of the fetishism of commodities, and (b)
the negation of the workers as part of the mechanism of capital. That is why, as
has been shown above, Marx called the worker VARIABLE capital. For Marx the
negation of both of these could take place only by the workers becoming freely
associated. To substitute for this, nationalized property and "planned
economy," is to turn Marx into nothing more than the vulgar materialist the
bourgeoisie say he is.
It was because Marx had this general concept of the
worker that he could have the more concrete concept of the socialized
workers--freely associated men.
Marx's whole point is that the commodity-form only
became GENERAL when it extended to the particular commodity, labor itself or
rather the capacity to labor. To this end Marx created his third original
economic category: LABOR POWER. In Volume II he reiterates once again:
"The peculiar characteristic is not that the
commodity, labor power, is saleable, but that labor power appears in the shape
of a commodity" [MCIIK, p. 37, MCIIF, p. 114].
Now read this:
"An economic system is first of all determined by
its class structure…And capitalist society--by the sale of labor power to the
capitalist class which owns the means of production."
It is by Comrade Weiss(3) in his report to the National
Where Marx made the COMMODITY-FORM appearance of living
labor the quintessence of capitalism, Comrade Weiss made the SALEABILITY that
quintessence. Marx's point is that the FORM of appearance of living labor as
mere labor power reveals the class structure of society and thus belies the
equality of exchange. Comrade Weiss's point seems to be that the ownership
determines the class structure. Comrade Weiss thus leaves the fetishism inherent
in commodities where classical political economy had left it. Marx was most
categoric on the matter. The only way that the fetishism can be stripped off is
through the workers' revolt against the conditions which have produced it and
thenceforward as freely-associated men planning their own lives. Should an
intellectual ever lose sight of this TYPE of plan in strict relationship to this
revolt and this self-activity of the workers, Marx concluded, it would be
impossible to advance from the position of the classical economists who, despite
their discovery of labor as the source of value, "remained more or less
prisoners of the world of illusion which they had dissolved critically…"
[MCIIIK, p. 967; MCIIIF, p. 969].
THEORETICALLY there is no other road. That is why
Comrade Weiss could not help but fall into the trap that always lies waiting for
the Marxist theoretician who leaves out this central point of CAPITAL.
1. This is from “Results of the Immediate Process of
Production,” the so-called “Sixth Chapter” of CAPITAL, an 1860s text that
was not incorporated into published versions of CAPITAL. Then unavailable in
English, Dunayevskaya translated it from the Russian text that had been
published in ARCHIVES OF MARX-ENGELS, Vol. II (VII).
2. Probably an allusion to Hegel’s “Preface” to
the PHENOMENOLOGY OF MIND, where he wrote, “everything turns on grasping the
True, not only as Substance, but equally as Subject” (PhgB, p. 80; PhGM, p.
3. Murray Weiss, a member of the SWP majority.
4. "Discussion Bulletin No. 6," January 1951, p. 13. --RD
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