The following essay is based on a presentation to the LRNA Standing Committee Presentation, December 2012
From time to time it is important that we pause for a discussion on orientation, just to be sure that we have not been pulled into side issues, and that we are on track to accomplish the mission of our organization. That mission is to create an organization that can participate in the transfer of state power from the capitalist class to the working class. To accomplish this mission we have to extract all the lessons of history and understand the process we are going through.
Setting up a problem requires a dialectical approach; an understanding that all history is a process of negation and sublation. 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 — that is, 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. 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 in between as stages of development, as sublation.
The world is seeing the beginnings of the second objective communist movement. We are going to have to look again at what do we mean by “communist movement.” How does it arise, and what is the difference between an objective communist movement and a subjective communist movement. Obviously, 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 wide 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; to find some way to equate the labor of the bricklayer to the labor of the shoemaker. Money comes into existence, and with money comes the possibility of accumulating, because money is just dead labor. That is all money is. The accumulation of dead labor that then slowly but surely dominates living labor. You begin to see the end of a communist period of time with the extension and deepening of divisions of labor. Of course when there was hunting and gathering society, there wasn’t enough of a division of labor in order to have any medium of exchange. If you don’t have any medium of exchange, the only way that you can exchange is by need. The point is that you can only begin talking in terms of doing away with the communist system when you begin to develop a division of labor and the process where dead labor dominates living labor. The other point is that the first objective communist movement was brought about by a lack of a broad division of labor. And of course it was scarcity that prevented that division of labor and there was no way for them to live except in a communist manner. We see this in all of the hunting and gathering (primitive) societies.
The second objective communist movement is developing because of a shrinking of the division of social labor, which make the distribution of abundance impossible. First you have communism because scarcity compelled it. Now we are seeing it from the standpoint of abundance, but for the same reason. We are seeing the division of labor being done away with. Let’s say that I was a drill press operator. I’m no longer a drill press operator. They don’t make drill presses anymore. They have robots do that work. Joe, down the street was a tool and die maker. It’s not a craft any more. Robots do that work. Joe and I – I’m the drill press operator and he’s the tool and die maker. There is no way for us 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 that is being made today is being made by speculation (money creating money); which means to say it is not money anymore because money is dead labor. What they are creating is not dead labor. What they are creating is simply a casino. It is obvious that money is becoming more, and more, and more worthless. How do you make money worthless? They go about it several different ways, but one way they are going about it is that the more money that comes into circulation, the higher the price, the more worthless is the money, the more labor is replaced by robotics, the more the division of labor decreases, the more the abundance heaps up on one side and the more starvation heaps up on the other. They have to have more robotics in order to compensate for it, to make things cheaper and faster in the effort to capture the declining market. This thing, once it gets started, goes faster and faster and faster; and broader and broader and broader. What we are seeing then is the very thing that brought about primitive communism (the nonexistence of a division of labor); is happening again with the decline of division of labor within the process of production.
The third thing that we want to talk about 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 that there might have been; their human relations were 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 can’t have. The objective aspects and the subjective aspects were united.
Over the millenniums, with the development of a very, very complex division of labor — in Western Europe, that period from about 1000 to 1718, was just a tremendous increase in the division of labor. The development of iron and steel; not just in agriculture, but in all the sense of manufacturing. 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. You have always had people talking about communism. But there was an objective process towards communism united with the subjective will. As the division of labor became more intense, it tended to more and more move away from exchange according to need, and became exchange according to, money, which reflected this division of labor. Consequently then, we saw a disconnect develop between what people wanted and what people were actually doing on this question of how they relate one to another. The one thing was objective, and the other was subjective and becoming more apart from one another.