From Communism to Communism
Today, we see that the leap to labor-less production and the consequent shrinking of the division of labor is creating a growing inability to distribute the needs of life with money, the equalizer of all labor. Whether we like it or not, society is moving into crisis – a world-sweeping crisis – based on the reality that the division of labor is disappearing, because robots are taking over all categories of work. The social division we are seeing today is this mass that consumes and doesn’t produce on the one hand, and the owners of the equipment that produces, but doesn’t consume. It is impossible to continue this.
The process we are dealing with is the motion from primitive communism (based on scarcity), to communism (based on abundance.) Like any other motion, progress comes in stages. If this is not understood, then all of the strategy and tactics of the movement will fail. This process from communism to communism is, of course, dialectical. Each stage has its subjective and objective characteristics. The manual labor connected to agriculture was negated by industry (i.e. manual labor assisted by machinery). The mode of sublation was from slavery or serfdom to wage labor, which maintained unpaid labor time. Today we are seeing the negation of industry by automation. This time there will be no sublation, since robotics puts an end to unpaid labor time. On the other hand, if we see the negation of communism by communism, then we see all the stages in between as stages of development: as sublation.
Second Objective Communist Movement
The world is seeing the beginnings of the second objective communist movement. We are going to have to look again at what we mean by “communist movement.” How does it arise, and what is the difference between an objective communist movement and a subjective communist movement? The first communist movement was brought about by a lack of a division of labor. In other words, if everybody is doing the same thing you can’t exchange. If everybody is doing parts or aspects of the same thing, you simply exchange. If there is a broad division of labor then there has to be a medium of exchange, i.e., money. Money comes about only to compensate for the divisions of labor. Money is the medium to equate the labor of the bricklayer to the labor of the shoemaker. Money comes into existence, and with money comes the possibility of accumulation.
Of course when there was a hunting and gathering society, there wasn’t enough of a division of labor that demanded a medium of exchange. If you don’t have any medium of exchange, it is carried on according to need. The other point is that the first objective communist movement was brought about by a lack of a broad division of labor. It was scarcity that prevented that division of labor and there was no way for people to live except in a communist manner. We see this in all of the hunting and gathering societies.
The second objective communist movement is developing today, because of a shrinking of the division of labor, which makes the distribution of abundance impossible. First you have communism, because scarcity compelled it and now we are seeing it from the standpoint of abundance, but for the same reason. We are seeing the old division of labor being done away with. Let’s say that Jack was a drill press operator. Jack is no longer a drill press operator. They do not make drill presses anymore. Today, robots do that work. Joe, down the street was a tool and die maker. It is not a craft any more. Robots do that work. There is no way for Joe and Jack to exchange. We don’t have a division of labor. Categories of labor are disappearing at the same time that abundance is developing. How are you going to exchange, if there isn’t a division of labor? Consequently, money – the medium of exchange – becomes worthless.
Most of the money being made today, is being made by speculation (money creating money), which means to say it is not money any more because money is dead labor. What the capitalists are creating is not dead labor. What they are creating is simply a casino. It is obvious that money is becoming more and more worthless. How do you make money worthless? Here’s one way they are going about it: The more money that comes into circulation, the higher the price. The more worthless the money becomes, the more labor is replaced by robotics, the more the division of labor decreases. Therefore, the abundance heaps up on one side and more starvation heaps up on the other. The capitalists have to have more robotics in order to compensate for it. They have to make things cheaper and faster in the effort to capture the declining market. Once this gets started, it goes faster and faster, and broader and broader. What we are seeing is that the very thing that brought about primitive communism (the nonexistence of a division of labor) is happening again, only now with the decline of division of labor, within the process of production.
The other important point is that the first movement for communism developed spontaneously along with the elementary means of production and was a subjective expression of an objective process. The tribal grouping or structure (the human relations) was a subjective expression of this objective process of communist exchange. There was a certain unity within these groups that modern society simply doesn’t have and cannot have. The objective aspects and the subjective aspects were united.
Communism on a New Foundation
Over the millennia, a very complex division of labor developed. In Western Europe, the period from about 1000 to the 1700s saw a tremendous increase in the division of labor. The development of iron and steel in agriculture and every aspect of manufacturing exploded. That meant that the objective development of the means of production, and consequently, the objective social movement of the masses disunited from the subjective movement for re-establishing communism.
People have always talked about communism, but there was no objective impulse towards communism that was united with the subjective will. As the division of labor became more intense, society tended to move away from exchange according to need and toward exchange according to money, which reflected this division of labor.
Next came a long process of development of a subjective movement for communism. This included not just Karl Marx, but any number of thinkers — decent people who were trying to find some way to establish a just society. This subjective longing for equality in the economy, grew alongside of a growing division of labor which made that equality more and more impossible. While the subjective movement developed, private property was developing quite independently of that, and in contradiction to it.
Today, we see that the leap to labor-less production and the consequent shrinking of the division of labor is creating a growing inability to distribute the needs of life with money, the equalizer all labor. Whether we like it or not, society is moving into crisis – a world-sweeping crisis – based on the reality that the division of labor is disappearing, because robots are taking over all categories of work.
We have so much of everything in this world that it is almost impossible to define it. The Iraqi war cost was about 1 trillion dollars. Where did that money come from? Not long ago, there were about a thousand millionaires in America. There are now almost 10 million millionaires in America. There are over 500 billionaires. Something is happening with money as an expression of domination over society. It will likely be resolved in the very near future. People are going to begin taking what they need. They are not just going to stand back and allow themselves to starve. Anybody raising children may not say it, but they certainly think, “I don’t mind starving to death, but I won’t let you starve my kid.” We are seeing a motion toward real crisis.
Close the Gap Between Illusion and Reality
The new means of production creates a division of labor that demands communism based on abundance. Communism was first based on scarcity, and now it is based on abundance, or even on superabundance. The problem is that the human cognition (that is to say the understanding of the world) lags far behind the real changes in the real world. Because of this, the subjective struggle for communism has remained disconnected from the real world.
In the 1800s, when tremendous industrialization was taking place, people really thought that they would be able to get a communist society, if enough people believed in communism. They didn’t see that the reason the communism of the hunting-gathering era had disappeared was the development of objective forces in the productive process.
Today, we see a mass, objectively in motion towards communism, based on the new social division of labor. That is to say, the capitalists have all of it and can’t use it; the working class has none of it and needs all of it. The new division of labor objectively calls for the distribution of the necessaries of life without money. However, the lag between illusion and reality compels these objective communists to be the most bitter, subjective anti-communists.They are still thinking in terms of 1800. It is obvious this contradiction between illusion and reality makes clear what the tasks of real revolutionaries are. We are seeing that the communists today have to organize themselves to overcome this gap between illusion and reality amongst the masses of people. In some way or another, this has to be done, because all the economic struggle in the world is not going to change the social relationship. Only a political act will change the social relationship. That political act can only come about, if there is a real understanding of today’s economic and social reality that is called the world.
March/April 2016 Vol26.Ed2
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The age-old vision of a world without scarcity, without exploitation, class domination, organized violence, and stultifying labor has been the dream of millenia. The new completely socialized labor-eliminating means of production ... sets the basis for its realization. Now human history can begin, the light of the individual shining in the full brightness of liberated life, that can only be realized within true equality and cooperation: communism, a cooperative society.'Without Vision, the People Perish'
Rally, Comrades ! May/June 2011