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Marx’s ‘Social Revolution’ and the Division of Labour

Marx’s “Social Revolution”
and the Division of Labour
Istvan Meszaros

Marx was well aware of the burden of class
de terminations which tend to subsume the individuals
under their own logic; from his early writings to the
Grundrisse and Capital he never stopped defining the task
of emancipation as belonging to the social individual.

Equally, he insisted on the necessity of the formation of a
socialist mass consciousness as the inescapable
requirement for activating the vast majority of individuals
in their collective enterprise of self-emancipation. Since
he always maintained the primacy of social practice as the
“Ubergreifendes Moment” in the dialectic of theory and
practice, he could have no use whatsoever for abstract
philosophical principles like the Hegelian Identity of
Subject and Object to accomplish the work of actual
history in an a priori fashion. Instead, he put the emphasis
firmly on the maturation of certain objective conditions
without which the “solo song of the proletarian
revolution”, no matter how conscious, could only become
“a swan song in all peasant societies” [1] – that is to say,
in by far the greater part of the world.

Thus, the two vital considerations of a genuine socialist
transformation just mentioned – which focus sed on the
necessary emancipation of social individuals from the
constraints of their own class as a prerequisite to the
construction of the “new historic form” on a truly mass
basis – were clearly identified by Marx from the outset.

Nor did he imagine that, no matter how radical, political
measures alone could solve the immense problems
confronting “the social revolution of the nineteenth
century” [2]. On the contrary, he ins,isted on the necessity
of a fundamental structural transformation of society in
i ts entirety.

Equally, he defined the conditions of the social
revolution in inherently international terms in The
German Ideology [3], and the revolutions of 1848-49,
together with their painful aftermath, could only
strengthen his belief that “Europe has taken on a form that
makes every fresh proletarian upheaval in France directly
coincide with a world war. The new French revolution
would have to leave its national soil forthwith and
conquer the European terrain, on which alone the social
revolution of the nineteenth century can be accomplished”
[4]. According to this perspective, there could be no
“socialism in one country”, let alone in an isolated and
encircled peasant society in which the proletarian
revolution had to face Marx’s dilemma about its “solo
song” being turned by socio-historical constraints into a
“swan song”.

Marx formulated his basic principles with regard to the
conditions of a socialist transformation well before the
burden of historical experience had deeply affected the
political movement of the proletariat: first through the
accommodations of German Social Democracy, and then
through the formation of the Leninist vanguard party after
Marx’s death. Understandably, therefore, the far-reaching

implications of such developments had to remain beyond
Marx’s horizon, although the radical scepticism of his
“dixi ~ salvavi animam ~eam” at the end of his Critique of
the Gotha Programme bears witness to the feeling of
unease with which he greeted the newly emerging trends
of working class involvement in the political arena.

In another respect, towards the end of his life – in a
carefully drafted correspondence with Vera Zasulich Marx addressed himself to the specific problems of
peasant societies, concerning their potentialities for
socialist development. However, he did not spell out in
great detail his conclusions, nor did he modify his earlier
strategic views as to the historical mandate of the
proletarian revolution and its transitional stateformation: the dictatorship of the proletariat.

The possibilities of a much longer drawn-out
development appeared on the margin of Marx’s thought,
formulated as a major dilemma – implying a great many
unknown factors, with all their necessary theore”tical
consequences – in a letter to Engels:

The historic task of bourgeois society is the
establishment of the world market, at least in its
basic outlines, and a mode of production that rests on
its basis. Since the world is round, it seems that this
has been accompliShed with the colonization of
California and Australia and with the annexation of
China and Japan. For us the difficult question is
this: the revolution on the Continent is imminent and
its character will be at once socialist; will it not be
necessarily crushed in this little corner of the
world, since on a much larger terrain the
development of bourgeois society is still in its
ascendancy [5].

In the same letter Marx also made it clear that the
collapse of bourgeois society in the foreseeable future
was only a hope, and by no means a certainty: “One cannot
deny, bourgeois society lives its second 16th Century
which, 1. hope, will take it into the grave, just as the first
one brought it into life.” The world situation had to be
characterized like this precisely because of what Marx
underlined as the undeniable ascendancy of capital on
that “much larger terrain” which necessarily put the
European “little corner of the world” into perspective.

As we can see, then, some key elements of a very
different assessment of the coming socialist revolution
appeared in Marx’s thought after the 1848-49 uprisings,
and they continued to surface in various contexts up to the
end of his life. Such elements did not question the
necessity of the socialist revolution, but they had farreaching implications for its time scale and potential
modality of unfolding. For it made a big difference where
and under what kind of class relations the socialist
revolution broke out and had to attempt the radical
restructuring of the given social metabolism, under the
more or less heavily constraining degree of development

(or underdevelopment) of the inherited production forces.

The feasible socio-political forms of transition would
necessarily affect the possibility of a truly selfdetermined integration of individuals within the framework
of conscious collective action, and thus their
emancipation from blindly superimposed class
determinations, as foreshadowed by the Marxian
perspective of the emerging communist mass consciousness.

In this sense, the failure of the socialist revolution to
br·~ak through in the European “little corner of the world”
– while its success was meant to block the development of
the bourgeois order on the incomparably larger terrain of
the rest of the world – carried some weighty implications
for the maturation of capital’s inner contradictions. Since
the establishment of the anticipated new social order was
said to be possible only as the “act of the dominant
peoples ‘all at once’ and simultaneously”, on the basis of
the “universal development of the productive forces and
the world intercourse bound up with them”, the possibility
of developing capital’s productive outlets everywhere
where bourgeois society was still in its ascendancy was
synonymous with the possibility of displacing capital’s
inner contradictions, for the duration of the selfsame
historical ascendancy. Until, that is, “world intercourse”
as a whole would become saturated by the dynamics of
capital’s inexorable self-expansion so as to bring the
whole process to a halt through an ever-deepening
structural crisis of the “universally developed productive
forces”, on a truly global scale.

Naturally, Marx could not be primarily concerned with
elaborating the manifold implications of this long-term
perspective when he hoped – and explicitly said so – that
“the second 16th Century of bourgeois society” would take
the capitalist order into its grave, as a result of the
successful socialist revolutions of the proletariat in the
advanced European countries. Thus, the briefly identified
elements of such a perspective had to be confined to the
margin of his conception, appearing there from time to
time as somewhat isolated insights, but never fully
integrated into his theory as a Whole. Nevertheless, the
very fact that such vital constituents of the alternative
perspective appeared on the margin of Marx’s thought at
the initial phase of the growing European imperial drive
which gave a new lease of life to capital, indicates that
subsequent developments did not represent a radical
departure from – or, as his adversaries argue, a refutation
of – the Marxian theory, but the realization of some
objective potentialities of development inherent in the
complex socio-historical factors of the age and already
visible, at least to some extent, in Marx’s life-time.

The gaps in Marx
As we all know today, bourgeois society was not taken to
its grave by its second 16th century and by the social
revolutions of the 20th, let alone by those of the 19th.

The successful exploitation by capital of the gigantic
potential outlets of its global ascendancy in the peasant
and underdeveloped societies presented the forces aspiring
to socialist revolution with a new challenge. For while
the “dominant peoples” – the main beneficiaries of
capital’s renewed expansion and imperialist domination were held back by their vested interests from pursuing the
road towards a socialist transformation, new types of
contradiction appeared on the “periphery” and at the
“weakest links” of the increasingly interdependent and
saturated global system. At the same time, the eruption
of revolutions on the underdeveloped periphery, and the
successful consolidation of their (no matter how limited
and problematical [6]) results, put the question of the
transition to socialism on the historical agenda in a
hostile global context: under conditions, that is, when
even the most tentative first steps in the direction of the
originally envisaged perspective of the state’s “withering
away” could not be seriously contemplated for a moment,

in view of the prevailing relation of forces heavily
dominated by the capitalist “dominant peoples” [7].

Thus, taking “hindsight” into account, the gaps in Marx’s
own approach to our problem may be described as follows:

(1) The problems of the transition to socialism were
never discussed by Marx in any detail, apart from some
brief general references to the major contrast between the
“lower” and “higher” phases of the future society in the
Critique of the Gotha Programme, dictated by the latter’S
polemical context.

Admittedly the issue itself, with all its bewildering
practical dimensions, was by no means an acute historical
challenge in Marx’s life-time, given capital’s newly won
vitality on the ground of its imperialist expansion.

Nevertheless, inasmuch as Marx contemplated the
possibility that the “dominant peoples” might not move
“all at once and simultaneously” in the direction of a
socialist transformation, such consideration carried with it
some weighty implications for future developments,
especially with regard to the likely changes in the legal
and political superstructure and their necessary impact on
the material processes of society in general. For the
fundamental requirements of the social metabolism assert
themselves in very different ways under substantially
different political circumstances, notwithstanding the
primacy of the material base – “in the last analysis” – in
the overall structure of determinations and interchanges.

This is why assessing the true significance and material
inertia of the international division of labour vis-a-vis the
societies of transition is inseparable from confronting the
problems of the state in its global setting. (Clearly, the
book Marx originally planned, but never even began, on
the state reciprocally integrated with the international
relations of production and exchange, pinpoints a crucial
missing dimension of Marx’s undertaking.)
This factor is all the more important once the internal
and international political parameters of the social
metabolism (which are vital even under the most
favourable circumstances) appear historically articulated
as a set of antagonistic inter-state relations, in the
aftermath of a socialist revolution at the “weakest link”
of the imperialist chain. Given such conditions, the
inertial force of politics – defined as acting in response to
the moves of a hostile outside world, under the banner of
a besieged, hence greatly strengthened state – becomes

(2) The historical unfolding of the contradiction
between social production and private appropriation was
amenable to an alternative reading: one very different
from that offered by Marx. As Paul Mattick rightly
stressed: “For Marx, capitalism was private-property
capitalism, and where it seemed to lose its strictly
private-enterprise nature as in state-industries, and even
in the joint stock companies, he saw it as a partial
abolition of the capitalist mode of production within the
capitalist mode of production; a sign of the decay of the
capitalist system” [8]. In reality, however, a great variety
of “hybrid” combinations – all possible permutations of the
mystifying “mixed economy” – are thoroughly compatible
with the continued survival (even temporary
revitalisation) of private capitalism, not to mention the
ultimate limits of capital as such. Indeed, the fairly
large-scale “nationalization” of bankrupt industries which
we have experienced in capitalist countries – frequently
followed by the profitable practice of de-nationalization
in due course: after the imposition, that is, of the
necessary political/economic changes (with regard to
trade union power, for instance) – represents a way of
extending the manipulative rationality of the capitalist

In all such developments, conscious collective selfactivi ty of individuals does not advance one single step
nearer to realization, since the control of the


fundamental social/economic processes remains radically
divorced from and opposed to the – far from associated producers. The industry-wide – even trans-national
(misnamed as “multi-national”) – integration of the
production process does not make the producers any more
“associated producers” than they were in capitalist
industrial enterprises of a more limited scale. For what
really decides the issue is the successful transfer – from
capi tal to the producers – of the effective control of the
various units of production, whatever their size. And that
is equivalent to a genuine socialization of the process of
production in all its essential characteristics, well
beyond the immediate problem of ownership, as opposed to
its remote hierarchical management through
“statalization” and “nationalisation”, – or, for that matter,
through its growing transnational integration. In other
words, the issue at stake is primarily political/social,
requiring in the first place a qualitative political change
for its realization; and the latter is by no means
necessarily helped (but may, on the contrary, be actually
hindered) by the unfolding of capital’s centralization and
concentration as an economic necessity – so hopefully
evaluated by Marx. For in the face of the massive power
of capital’s increasing concentration and centralisation,
the countervailing political force of labour must be on an
equally large scale if it is to have any chance of success
against its adversary.

(3) Marx’s optimistic evaluation of the Paris Commune
as “a Revolution not against this or that ••. form of State
Power [but] a Revolution against the State itself” [9] was
coupled with an equally optimistic characterization of the
Bonapartist Second Empire as ‘the last expression of that
state power”, the “last possible form of [bourgeois] class
rule” and the “last triumph” of a State separate from and
independent of society [10].

This view was in marked contrast to his own way of
linking in the same work political superstructures” to
determinate “social bodies” which sustain them, talking
about the “withering away” of certain social bodies which
make the continued existence of their political
superstructures a historical anachronism [11]. Also, in
another passage he stressed that the social soil that
corresponds to the “superstructure of a centralized
statepower” is the “systematic and hierarchic division of
labour”, thereby indicating the strongest possible
reciprocal determination and mutual support between the
two [12].

The problem is, though, that the obvious and highly
disturbing implications of such remarks undermine Marx’s
hopeful expectations about the “last possible form” of
state power separate from and independent of society.

For, so long as the social soil of the systematic and
hierarchic division of labour exists – and indeed
successfully renews and strengthens itself in conjunction
with the ongoing transformation of the relevant social
bodies of “civil society” on an ever-extending scale, in the
direction of an ultimate global integration – a
corresponding restructuring of state-forms in the interest
of continued class rule (both internally and at the level


of inter-state relations) cannot be denied to the
established system. Accordingly, even today we are still
very far from the “last form” of the capitalist state and
its class rule, let alone at the time when Marx wrote the
lines just quoted from his defence of the Commune.

(4) The other side of the question of the state’s
continued domination of society and refusal to “wither
away” concerns the proletariat. For a working-class
revolution – as Marx saw the Commune [13] – is only on a
long-term historical scale ipso facto also a revolution
“against the State itself” (i.e. against the state as such); it
is not so in terms of the really feasible impact of its
inescapable immediate objectives. Such a limitation is not
simply the consequence of an isolated revolution and its
ensuing “encirclement”; although, of course, the latter
has a great deal to do with it in the sense that the
“harmonious national and international coordination” [14]
of social intercourse anticipated by Marx cannot be even
dreamed about under such circumstances. Nevertheless,
the historical delay in attacking the foundations of the
state as such arises primarily from the very nature of the
task itself: to create the political form in which to worK
out the economic emancipation of labour,” [15] so that
“free and associated labour” should assume the form of
“united co-operative socretTes” in order “to regulate
national production upon a common plan” [16].

Thus, in Marx’s conception, the objective and SUbjective
requirements of a socialist transformation – the full
emancipation of labour from the prevailing social division
of labour – stipulate a political form (the proletarian
state) under which the advocated transition from the old
to the new society should be accomplished, while this
transitional state itself is called upon to act
simultaneously as both master and servant of the longdrawn-out process of emancipation [17]. Such a state is
said to have no interest of its own to defend, despite its
unquestionably strategic function – as the specific
political form of the necessary “national coordination” of
social life – in the division of labour whose” continuation is
unavoidable (even if progressively diminishing) for the
whole period of radical restructuring. There seems to be
no contradiction in asking the new political form to work
out the economic emancipation of labour, since the
working class is said to be in complete control of the
political process in a social framework in which the
interest of those who directly control the transitional
state machinery and that of society as a whole fully

To be sure, Marx is well aware of the fact that the
changes required for superseding the inherited division of
labour can only result from a highly complex historical
process of transformation. Indeed, he insists that the
working class “will have to pass through long struggles,
through a series of historic processes, transforming
circumstances and men” [18]. Yet he has to resort to
equivocation inOrderto reconcile the contradiction
between the fact that the task of “transforming
circumstances and men” is far from accomplished, and the
assumption that the communist consciousness of the
working class is already given.

Communist consciousness was defined in The German
Ideology as “the consciousness of the necessi tYQf-a-fundamental revolution” [19]. At the same time it was
also stated that “Both for the production on a mass scale
of this communist consciousness, and for the success of the
cause itself, the alteration of men on ~ mass scale is
necessary” [2or.The same ideas appear in the evaluation of the
Commune, but this time ascribing to the working class in
the present “the full consciousness of their historic
mission” [21]. Furthermore, it is also claimed that the
working class possess a practical determination to act in
accordance with that consciousness – as well as the
ability to do so without state-interference, “in selfworking and self-governing .communes” [22]. Thus,

beginning each sentence with: “the working class know”, or
“they know” [23], Marx is able to turn some vital
historical imperatives (whose realization depends on the
full articulation of “communist consciousness on a mass
scale”) into the “affirmatives” of already developed and
effectively self-asserting social forces.

Similarly, in The German Ideology Marx stated that
“Communism is for us not ••• an ideal to which reality will
have to adjust itself” [24]. Now the same idea is put
forward in a significantly modified form, saying that:

“They [the working class] have no ideals to realize, but to
set free the elements of the new society with which old
collapsing bourgeois society itself is pregnant” [25]. The
problem is not whether or not one should call the
enterprise of “setting free the elements of the new
society” an “ideal to realize”. What matters in the
present context is the shift from “for us” – or from “for the
Communists” in some other writingS126T- to the working
class as ~ whole, postulating, even if in an ambiguous
form, the accomplished actualization of that communist
mass consciousness whose production was presented in The
German Ideology as a challenging historical task for the

This treatment of working class consciousness is
inextricably linked to Marx’s reflections on proletarian
political power. Indeed, we find a similar equivocation in
refusing to call the proletarian state a state, describing
it, instead, as “the political form of social emancipation”
[27] and as “the Communal form of political organization”
[28]. In praising the fact that under the Commune “the
state-functions [were] reduced to a few functions for
general national purposes” [29], there is no hint that an
extreme state of emergency (as the Paris Commune of
necessity had to be) cannot be the model of the future
development of the proletarian state and of its complex
internal and international functions under normal
circumstances. If the working class has the historic
mission to work out through the “new political form” the
full emancipation of labour, and thus the emancipation of
society as a whole from the social tyranny of the inherited
division of labour, how could a task of such magnitude,
intricacy, and long time-scale be carried out on the basis
of the reduction of the state-functions to a simplified
absolute minimum when, at the same time, one has to
achieve also that “harmonious national and international
coordination” of production and distribution – obviously
representing a problem of the highest complexity – of
which Marx spoke?

To be sure, the ultimate “withering away” of the state
is inconceivable without a progressive reduction and
simplification of its tasks and their transfer to the “selfworking and self-governing” social body. To suggest,
however, that this process of reduction and simplification
at the political level can be accomplished by
immediately substituting for the state as such an
unproblematical “new political form”, whereafter
difficulties remain only with regard to economically
emancipating society from the division of labour, is to
make ideal shortcuts to the future. In fact, the social soil
of the “systematic and hierarchic division of labour” is
inseparable from the “superstructure of a centralized
statepower”, even if not of the capitalist type. In reality
the state can only be laboriously “dismantled” (in the
process of the political “de-alienation” and
“communalization” of society) to the extent to which the
inherited social division of labour itself is
correspondingly changed, and thus the social metabolism
as a whole is effectively restructured.

The perspective of such shortcuts – understandable in
the context of the defence of the Paris Commune – brings
with it also the stipulative characterization of working
class consciousness which we have just seen. Since the
required social change is acknowledged to extend over a
long historical process of confrontations and struggles,
the power of “communist consciousness on a mass scale”
acquires particular importance in the Marxian conception.

For, in virtue of its determination as mass consciousness, it
protects the socialist forces involved in the struggle from
internal divisions and from the establishment of new
hierarchies, in contrast to Bakunin’s elitist vision of the
rule of society after the conquest of power by the selfappointed few who claim to know better. Accordingly, if
there is an identity of purpose among the vast majority of
the popUlation – all identity which, under the prevailing
circumstances, only the working class’s “full
consciousness of its historic mission and heroic resolve to
act up to it” [30] can produce – in that case the state
immediately becomes a fully controlled transitional
“political form” and a mere means to emancipatory action,
since the difference between the rulers and the governed
disappears by definition. This is why Marx can retort to
Bakunin’s question – “The Germans number nearly 40
million. Will, for example, all 40 million be members of
the government?” – with an emphatic “Certainly, for the
thing begins with the self-government of the commune”

Another important aspect of communist mass
consciousness in this perspective is that it can bridge the
!@E. that separates the present conditions of hardship from
the “new historic form” aimed at. For through its orienting
force it can guarantee the general direction of
development that must be sustained, and minimize the
danger of relapses and reversals under the pressure of the
difficulties encountered. Indeed, under the historically
premature conditions of the advocated “social revolution”
– when capitalism is acknowledged by Marx to be in its
ascendancy on by far the greater part of the planet – only
the stipulated communist mass consciousness can bridge
this great historical gap and provide the desired guarantee,
for maintaining the impetus of the necessary struggle.

(5) The final and most complex issue to consider here
concerns Marx’s evaluation of the working class’s position
in the existing division of labour. It is closely connected
with his views on the post-revolutionary “political form”,
with major implications for the development of class
consciousness and for the articulation of socialist
political strategies. To anticipate the main point: in the
Marxian perspective the fragmentation of the working
class is greatly underestimated and the necessary
political consequences of such fragmentation <and
stratification) remain largely unexplored. The accent is
on the proletariat constituting the "universal class": a

characterization eminently suitable to underline the
qualitative change from the old to the “new historic
form”, but full of ambiguities and question marks as
regards the practical constraints of the immediate future.

This is all the more remarkable since Marx insisted in
The German Ideology that “The division of labour implies
from the outside the division of the conditions of labour,
of tools and materials, and thus the fragmentation of
accumulated capital among different owners, and thus,
also, the fragmentation between capital and labour, and
the different forms of property itself. The more the
division of labour develops and accumulation grows, the
fu~ther fragmentation develops.

Labour itself can only
eXIst on the premise of this fragmentation” [32].

However, Marx never spells out what might be the
consequences of labour existing “on the premise of the
fragmentation” engendered by the capitalistic division of
labour. On the contrary, a natural progression is
stipulated from occasional and partial to permanent and
comprehensive trade unionism, in accordance with the
development of production on a world scale:

Combination has not ceased for an instant to go
forward and grow with the development and growth
of modern industry. It has now reached such a stage,
~hat the degree to which combination has developed
..!.!l ~ country clearly marks the rank i!. occupies in
the hierarchy of the world market. England, whose
industry has attained the highest degree of
development, has the biggest and best organised
combinations [33].

A t the same time it is also suggested that there is an
irresistible movement from the defence of limited
economic group-interests to the politically conscious
assertion of the interests of universal emancipation [34],
accomplished by the united proletarian “class for itself”
through the abolition of all classes and through its own
self-aboti tion [35].

Significantly, Marx’s early idea that the proletariat is
“victorious only by abolishing itself and its opposite” [36]
is restated, again and again, throughout his life. For
example, this is how Marx answers Bakunin’s question,
“What is meant by the proletariat transformed into the
ruling class?” in 1874:

It means that the proletariat, instead of fighting
individually against the economically privileged
classes, has gained sufficient strength and is
sufficiently well organised to employ general means
of compulsion in its struggle against these classes.

It can, however, use only economic means designed to
abolish its own distinctive trait as a wage-earner,
and hence to abolish itself as ~ class. Its complete
victory is consequently also the end of its
domination, since its class character haSdisappeared

There is no hint in Marx that in addition to the
fragmentation “between capital and labour”, etc., one
must also face the fragmentation within labour itself as a
major problem for the proletariat both before and after
the conquest of political power. The process of
emancipation in the aftermath of the revolution is
conceived as an essentially economic problem (as we have
seen on several occasions, including the last quoted
passage). The proletariat’s ability to act as a united force
is predicated as a matter of course, in sharp contrast to
the peasantry:

The small-holding peasants form a vast mass, the
members of which live in similar condi tions but
without entering into manifold relations with one
another. Their mode of production isolates them
from one another, instead of bringing them into
mutual intercourse. .•• In so far as millions of
families live under economic conditions of existence
that separate their mode of life, their interests and
their culture from tho:;e of the other classes, and put
them in hostile opposition to the latter, they form a
class. In so far as there is merely a local


interconnection among these small-holding peasants,
and the identity of their interests begets no
community, no national bond and no political
organization among them, they do not form a class.

They are consequently incapable of enforcing their
class interests in their ow.!!. name, whether through a
par liament or through a convention. They cannot
represent themselves, they must be represented~
Their representative must at the same time appear
as an authority over them, as an unlimited
governmental power that protects them against the
other classes…. The political influence of the
small-holding peasants, therefore, finds its final
expression in the executive power subordinating
society to itself” [38].

The problem is, however, that a great deal of what Marx
says here about the peasantry is equally valid for the
working class itself. Indeed, the united action and rule of
the latter cannot be taken for granted without first
confronting the difficult “premise of fragmentation” within
the prevailing division of labour. For while the
proletariat has the potentiality to overcome its own
fragmentation and subordinate position in the existing
division of labour, the actualization of this potentiality
depends on the maturation of a number of objective
condi tions, including some major developments in the
poli tical organization and conscious collective selfdetermination of the individuals who constitute the class
of “freely associated producers”. Thus, to suggest that the
“degree of combination” of any particular country directly
corresponds to “the rank which it occupies in the hierarchy
of the world market” [39], is to turn a historical
requirement into a necessary attainment. Equally, to
anticipate the global trade unionization and political
articulation of the united working class, while the
capitalistic division of labour – and the fragmentation of
labour necessarily entailed by such division of labour remains intact, is merely to restate the long-term
potential of the “universal class” for emancipating society
from class rule, without indicating, however, th.e
SUbjective and objective, as well as the internal and
international obstacles, that must be overcome in the
course of transition towards the end advocated.

There can be no disagreement with the proposition that
the proletariat is “victorious only by abolishing itself”.

Also, considering the posi tion of labour in maintaining the
normal functioning of the social metabolism, it is
impossible to disagree with ~arx that the proletariat, on
the one hand, “cannot emancipate itself without abolishing
the conditions of its life”, and that, on the other hand, “it
cannot abolish the conditions of its own life without
abolishing all the inhuman condi tions of life of society
today which are summed up in its own situation” [40].

However, saying this we only define the necessary
conditions of a successful “social revolution”, but not the
specific way in which this apparently vicious circle
(making the victory of the particular enterprise depend on
the successful solution of the problems of the whole, and
vice versa) can and will be broken.

The vicious circle in question is not a conceptual one.

Rather, it is the suffocating practical circularity of the
prevailing social division of labour. For the latter
assigns to labour itself the key role in sustaining the
social metabolism, structurally constraining labour
thereby with regard to its feasible margin of emancipatory
and self-emancipatory action. This is why the Marxian
conclusion is inescapable: the proletariat is “victorious
only by abolishing itself and its opposite”, and labour’S
self-emancipa tion can only be accomplished to the extent
to which society as a whole is emancipated. Thus the issue
at stake concerns simultaneously both the division of
labour as such, and the position of the proletariat (or
labour) within it. In other words, the question is how to
break the stranglehold of the social division of labour
over labour, without jeopardizing at the same time the
v i tal functions of the social metabolism itself.

Inevitably, in a question of such magnitude and
complexity the subjective and objective, as well as the
political and socio-economic aspects, are inextricably
intertwined. Subjectively, only labour itself can
accomplish the task in question “for itself”, which
stipulates the necessary development of working class
consciousness. On the other hand, without demonstrating
the objective deter mina tions which actually propel the
development of totalizing – as opposed to partial and
narrowly self-interested – class consciousness, the
necessi ty of the latter is only postulated, instead of being
established as a social force adequate to its “historic
task”. Furthermore, while the political confrontation of
labour with the capitalist state formation is the necessary
point of departure (for which the appropriate institutional
form must be found), it can be no more than a point of
departure. For the fundamental issue is the transcendence
of the inherited social division of labour, which is
conceivable only on the basis of the radical restructuring

contradictory, partial interests, on the basis of the
continued social division of labour. This is why the
proletariat can – and under such conditions must – “turn its
dictatorship against itself”, rather than because it fails to
live up to the ideal dictates of some categorical moral
imperative. (Lukacs suggests this in “The Role of
Morality in Communist Production”.)
Marx’s theoretical difficulties are only in part due to
his original linkage of the “universal class” to “the
categorical imperative to overthrow ~ relations in
which man is a debased, enslaved, forsaken, despicable
being” [41]. He is, in fact, anxious to establish the worldhistoric role and task which the “socialist writers ascribe
to the … fully-formed proletariat” [42] on the basis of an
objective socio-historical necessity. This is why he insists
that what decides the issue “is not a question of what this
or that proletarian, or even the whole proletariat, at the
moment regards as its aim. It is a question of what the
proletariat ~ and what, in accordance with this being, it
will his tor ically be compelled to do” [43]. However, in
postulating the unfolding of a fully adequate proletarian
class consciousness, in the face of the premature
character of the social revolution under the conditions of
capital’s global ascendancy, he is forced to claim that “a
large part of the English and French proletariat is
already conscious of its historic task and is constantly
working to develop that consciousness into complete
clarity” [44]. Thus, he tends to anticipate a much less
problematical course of events – just as he did in
projecting a global trade unionization and corresponding
political militancy – than the available historical
evidence would actually support.

The future of labour
of the whole socio-economic framework. Paradoxically,
however, the latter implies that full political control of
society remains for the duration of the entire process of
restructuring. The various constituents of the social
whole – including labour – must accommodate themselves
to the available margin of action, under the guidance of
the new “political form”. Only the latter is in a position
to supervise the overal1 process, although it was supposed
to constitute merely the point of departure of the ongoing
socialist transformation.

This is where we can clearly see perhaps the most
acute of Marx’s theoretical difficulties. He cannot really
acknowledge labour’S fragmentation and stratification,
because that would greatly complicate, indeed ultimately
undermine, his conception of the transitional “political
form”. For if the objective partial interests of the various
groups of workers – inevitably arising on the basis of
labour’S structural fragmentation – are asserted in the
form of conflicting claims, in that case the “common
interest” defended and imposed by the new “political
form” is not as self-evident as it would appear on the
assumption of united labour. Such an assumption
unjustifiably casts aside the earlier recognised “premise of
labour’s fragmentation”.

Thus, to give full weight to the necessary
fragmenta tion of labour the condi tions of the
inherited division of labour means, at the same time, to
acknowledge the space left wide open for the exercise of
traditional state functions for a whole historical epoch;
that is to say, for as long as the fragmentation of labour is
not effecftively superseded – in material as well as in
ideological and political terms – through the actual
“abolition” (Aufhebung/transcendence/radical
restructuring) of the social division of labour. Naturally,
this means that whatever might be the proletarian state’s
function in its external relations, internally it cannot be
simply the defence of the proletariat against the former
ruling class. Rather, the primary internal function of the
proletarian state – after a relatively short period of time
– is arbitration over a multiplicity of complicated, even

The consequence of all this is that, on the one hand, a
number of paradoxical and rather ambiguous propositions
fill the gap between the prevailing state of affairs and
the long-term historical anticipations, and that, on the
other hand,· some important characteristics of working
class existence cannot be given their full weight in the
Marxian perspective. In the first category it is enough to
think of statements like “the proletariat is victorious only
by abolishing itself and its opposite”, which is both
incontestable in terms of its ultimate implications but
full of riddles with regard to the necessary steps that
must be taken towards its realization by the potentially
“universal and self-transcending” proletariat. As to the
second category, historical development provides
examples too abundant to need much discussion, from the
“social chauvinism” of working class parties during the
First World War, to the “integration” of the American
working class, and to the exploitative relationship of the
Western working classes in general to the “Third World”.

It is, therefore, very problematical to assert that “With
labour emancipated, every man becomes a working man,
and productive labour ceases to be a class attribute” [45].

For such assertion merely stipulates that emancipation
implies the universal sharing of work by all members of
society, without defining at the same time the meaning of
“productive work” and, more important perhaps, ignoring an
issue of utmost gravity with regard to the fragmentation
and internal division of labour: the necessarily and
precipi tously growing scarcity of labour-opportunities
within the framework of capitalistic technological

The only context in which Marx addresses himself to
this problem concerns the inherent inadequacy of
capitalist accountancy to find outlets for the irresistibly
growing productive potentiality of labour. He describes a
process of development on the basis of “large-scale
industry” – treating it, in fact, rather ambiguously since it
could never come about before a radical break with
capital’s constraining framework is effectively
accomplished – as a result of which:


Labour no longer appears so much to be included
within the production process; rather, the human
being comes to relate more as watchman and
regulator to the production process itself…. [The
worker] steps to the side of the production process
instead of being its chief actor. In this
transformation, it is neither the direct human labour
he himself performs, nor the time during which he
works, but rather the appropriation of his own
general productive power, his understanding of
nature and his mastery over it by virtue of his
presence as a social body – it is, in a word, the
development of the social individual which appears
as the great foundation-stone of production and of
wealth [46].

At this point, Marx emphasizes again the irreconcilable
contradictions involved in the developments he is
concerned with, and concludes his line of reasoning
with a number of powerful imperatives:

The theft of alien labour time, on which the present
wealth is based, appears a miserable foundation in
face of this new one, created ~ large-scale industry
itself. As soon as labour in the direct form has
ceased to be the great well-spring of wealth, labour
time ceases and must cease to be its measure, and
hence exchange value must cease to be the measure
of use value. The surplus labour of the mass has
ceased to be the condition for the development of
general wealth, just as the non-labour of the few,
for the development of the general powers of the
human head. With that, production based on
exchange value breaks down, and the direct,
material production process is stripped of the form of
penury and antithesis…. Forces of production and
social relations – two different sides of the
development of the social individual – appear to
capital as mere means, and are merely means for it
to produce on its limited foundation. In fact,
however they are the material conditions to blow
this foundation ~ high” [47].

The difficulty is that, so long as the capitalistic
determinations remain in control of society, labour – even
if ideally it must – simply cannot cease to be the wellspring of wealth, nor labour time its measure. Equally,
under such conditions, exchange value cannot cease to be
the measure of use value, nor can we simply postulate
that in virtue of the ideal implications of these relations which turn the capitalist system into a historical, but by
no means immediately visible and materially felt,
anachronism – the mode of production based on exchange
value actually breaks down. Thus, as long as capital can
find new outlets for expansion over the vast terrain of its
global ascendancy, the non-realizability .of. the soci~l
individual remains only a latent contradlCt1On of this
society, instead of blowing its narrow foundations “sky

If, therefore, we consider the historically identifiable
unfolding of capital’s inherent tendency for the drastic
reduction of necessary labour time, without postulating,
ipso facto, the breakdown of the capitalist system (even if
such breakdown is conceptually implied by the long-term
and full articulation of this tendency), in that case it
becomes clear that we have to face here a major negative
force that sustains capital for a long time, rather than
offering any comfort to labour in the foreseeable future.

For the tendency in question in its immediate impact can
only further divide and fragment labour, turning its
various sections against one another, instead of positively
contributing to the global “unification” and
homogenization of labour anticipated in the Marxian

The division of labour
The fragmentation and hierarchical division of labour


appears under the following main aspects, corresponding
to significantly different objective divisions of interest:

(1) within any particular group or section of labour;
(2) among different groups of workers belonging to the
same national community;
(3) between nationally different bodies of labour
opposed to one another in the context of international
capitalist competition, from the smallest to the most
comprehensive scale, including the potential collision of
interests in the form of wars;
(4) the labour force of the advanced capitalist
countries – the relative beneficiaries of the global
capitalist division of labour – as opposed to the
differentially far more exploited labour force of the
“Third Wor Id”;
(5) labour in employment, as separated from and
opposed to the objectively different – and
politically / organisationally in general unarticulated interests of the “unwaged” and unemployed, including the
ever-multiplying victims of the “second industrial

The reason why such fragmentation and division of
interests within labour itself matters so much is because it
carries with it – both before and after the revolution – an
inescapable reliance on the state, although in theory the
latter is supposed to be the most obvious immediate target
of the socialist revolution. Indeed, the bourgeois state
finds its support among various groups of labour primarily
on the ground of the “protection” it provides in legally
sustaining and safeguarding the objectively established
framework of division of labour. It is enough to recall the
great variety of measures adopted by the state in this
respect, from minimum wage and social security
legislation to erecting protective tariffs and other
national barriers, and from internally balancing the
relation of forces against “excesses”, to embarking on
international enterprises which secure the greatest
advantage to the national ruling class, delivering at the
same time some relative advantage also to the national
labour force.

Naturally, the bourgeois state can perform its
“protective” function on behalf of the fragmented and
divided groups of labour only to the extent to which the
exercise of that function objectively corresonds to the
interests of the ruling class as a whole. This condition
happens to be, of course, also the basis upon which the
state can overrule various fractional interests on its own
side of the more or less latent social confrontation.

Also, it cannot be stressed enough, we are not talking
here about some negligible degree of shared interests,
especially in the advanced capitalist countries. For

precisely in view of the social division of labour that
originates, reproduces and constantly reinforces labour’s
own fragmentation and internal division, labour itself has
a major vested interest in continued social stability (hence the pursuit of the “line of least resistance) – as the
vital condition of its own self-reproduction.

Thus, under normal circumstances, internally divided
and fragmented labour is at the mercy not only of the
ruling class and its state, but also of the objective
requirements of the prevailing social division of labour.

Hence we see paradoxical and problematical
manifestations of the interests which labour happens to
share with its adversary within the compass of the
materially and institutionally enforced (and to a large
extent self-enforcing) social metabolism. Only at times
of quite elemental crises – when the continued functioning
of the fundamental social metabolism itself is called into
question, in the midst of a massive economic collapse, or
as a result of the bourgeois state’s dramatic disintegration
in the aftermath of a lost war, etc. – can labour
temporarily extricate itself from these paralyzing

It is under the circumstances of such elemental
structural crises that labour can successfully assert its
claims to being the only feasible hegemonic alternative
to the established order in all its dimensions, from the
basic material conditions of life to the most intricate
political and ideological aspects of social interchange.

The all-important question of submitting the state itself
to labour’S effective control, too, can only arise under
the selfsame circumstances of a heg~monic crisis (i.e., the
crisis of bourgeois hegemony). Hvwever, while labour can
successfully overthrow the bourgeois state and take over
the control of the crucial political regulators of the
social metabolism, thereby initiating the necessary
process of radical restructuring, the “workers’ state”
cannot conceivably abolish the inherited social division of
labour, except insofar as it directly concerns the
ownership of the means of production. Nor can the “new
political form” simply abolish the fragmentation and
internal division of labour linked to, and embedded in, the
inherited productive instruments and practices of society.

For the required changes in question involve the whole
process of restructuring itself, with all its objective and
subjective constraints which escape the power of direct
political intervention to a significant degree.

of which – in virtue of its strategic role – the
postrevolutionary state itself happens to constitute the
most privileged dimension. (Here, again, we can see that
the much disputed issue of “bureaucratic privileges” is not
simply a matter of the personnel involved but, above all,
that of the retention of objectively “privileged” – i.e.,
strategically vital – functions by the state in the overall
social metabolism. The continued exercise of these,
strategically privileged, functions by a separate body is
bound to find in its turn its subjective equivalent on the
plane of the “bureaucratised state personnel” too, in the
absence of some alternative form of social control: one
based on ever-increasing and truly active massinvolvement.)
The subordination of postrevolutionary civil society to
the “new political form” of a powerful executive in the
early phases of transition is, thus, first and foremost the
consequence of labour’S own fragmentation and internal
division as “signed and sealed” by the inherited division of
labour. This may be aggravated, of course, by some
specific characteristics of structural underdevelopment including so-called “Asiatic backwardness” – on account
of a particularly unfavourable relative position of a
country’s aggregate labour force in the international
division of labour. However, the point to stress is that, in
view of the objective structural conditions of the given
social metabolism and the difficult material and
institutional constraints of its restructuring, the
politically “top-heavy” conditions of development apply
everywhere, even in the economically most advanced
countries, with the longest historical tradition of liberal
democracy. For the circumstances of more favourable
economic developments and liberal democratic traditions,
no matter how advantageous in some respects, do not
eliminate the overwhelming negative determinant of
labour’s fragmentation and internal division.

Consequently, on their own they do not support the
anticipations of some theoreticians of the New Left, as
well as of some leading politicians of the Labour Left,
who see in them some sort of a priori historical-guarantee
with regard to the prospects of a democratic socialist
transformation in advanced capitalist countries.

Furthermore, in accordance with the inherent
necessities of transformations which cannot avoid
attacking the foundations of the capitalist market

The post-revolutionary state
This is where we can see the disconcerting “new
circularity” between the postrevolutionary “civil society”
and its di vision of labour on the one hand, and the
proletarian state on the other. For the various sections of
fragmented and internally divided labour need the
protection of the state, for a long time after the
revolution, not only against the former ruling classes but
also against one another as situated within the framework
of the still prevailing social division of labour. Thus,
paradoxically, they call into being and maintain in
existence for the duration of the whole process of radical
restructuring a strong executive over against themselves.

This situation is not entirely unlike that of the French
peasantry in its SUbjection to its own state-form under
Napoleon le Petit as a result of its fragmentation, since
the latter enabled the Bonapartist executive power to
subordinate society to itself, in Marx’s analysis.

At the same time, to complete the new vicious circle
between the postrevolutionary civil society and its state,
the latter is not merely the manifestation of the
continuing division of labour but also the hierarchical
apex of its system of decision making. Accordingly, it has
a strong interest of its own to retain, indefinitely, the
firmest possible grip over the ongoing process of
transformation as a whole, thereby reinforcing, rather
than undermining, the established social division of labour

economy, the liberal democratic measures that
paradoxically arise out of the absolute material tyranny
of the market, with no Court of Appeal, must be replaced
by new types of political/administrative regulators,
extending also over formerly “unregulated” areas of
social interaction. And in this respect it is of little
comfort that the liberal democratic framework of
relatively “unregulated” regulation is feasible and
affordable only because of the immense material
discriminatory power of the capitalist market which
minimizes the need for direct (political) interference with
the everyday life of individuals under normal
circumstances. For the fact remains that the socially
necessary removal of the – no matter how blind and
anarchistic – self-regulatory levers of liberal “market21

democracy” creates an institutional vacuum at the
political level. Consequently, also in this respect, the
less the postrevolutionary civil society succeeds in
institutionally articulating and safeguarding the objective
interests of its various groups on a truly co-operative
basis, the greater the power of the state executive and its
scope for the imposition of a – Stalinist type – “political

Understandably, therefore (but by no means without
some heavy “irony of history”) in the aftermath of the
Stalinist abuse of power, theories of “market socialism”
appear, illusorily suggesting that it is possible to secure
socialist democracy by reinstating the self-regulatory
mechanisms of a modified capitalist market under “state
supervision”. Even if we disregard the incompatibiJities
necessarily involved in this course of action – tendencies
towards the inadmissible wholesale restoration of
capitalism on the one hand, and the reassertion of
authoritarian political counter-measures to prevent the
successful consummation of those tendencies, on the other,
the trouble with these theories is that nothing is really
solved by the creation of such “partially controlled
markets”. Strategies of this kind can, at best, only
postpone the all-important issue of radical restructuring
which is far from being only, or even primarily, an
“economic” problem that could be tackled within the
narrowly “efficiency-orientated” parameters of the
idealised market. Curiously, the advocates of “market
socialism” seem to forget that the necessity of the
socialist transformation itself arises in the first place out
of the inescapable crisis of the socio-economic order that
brings to perfection and universal domination a structure
of “living contradictions”: the self-regulatory market
which they now want to rescue and use as the secure
foundation of democratic socialist developments.

Socialist consciousness
Thus perhaps the greatest difficulty for socialist theory is
this: how to envisage the transcendence of labour’s
fragmentation and internal division without reducing the
problems at stake to some direct appeal to an idealised
class consciousness, advocating “unity” as the desirable
solution while neglecting the objective material basis of
the existing fr~~mentation, inherent in the continued
division of labour.

As we have seen, Marx did not indulge in a direct
appeal to an· idealised proletarian dassconsciousness,
except in the polemical context imposed on him by the
need to defend the Paris Commune against a hostile press.

(1] Marx, “The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte”, Marx and Engels,
Selected !~ Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 19.58, Vol.

I, p. 340.

(2] The term used by Marx to characterize the tasks of the socialist
revolution from 1843 onwards, sharply contrasting the “social revolution”
with the “‘lrrowly political horizons of the revolutions of the past.

(3] “Empirically, communism is only possible as the act of dominant
peoples’ all at once’ and simultaneously, which presupposes the universal
development of productive forces and the world intercourse bound up with
themj” MECW, Vol • .5, p. 49.

(4] Marx, “The Class Struggles in France 1848-18.50”, Selected ~~
Vol. 1, p. 163. Marx’s italics.

(5] Marx, Letter .!2 Engels, 8 October 18.58, MEW, Vol. 29, p. 360.

(6] We should recall Lenin’s repeated complaints about the paralysing
impact of “Asiatic backwardness” on postrevolutionary developments.

(7] This is how Lenin tried to reinsert the revolution of “backward Russia”
– contrasted with the potentialities of the “advanced countries 2!. ~estern
Europe” – into the original perspectives:

It would be erroneous to lose sight of the fact that, soon after the
victory of the proletarian revolution in at least one of the advanced
countries, a sharp change will probably come about: Russia will
~ .!2 ~ the model and will once again become ~ backward
country (in the “Soviet” and socialist sense).

(Lenin, Collected ~~ Lawrence and Wishart, London, 1960ff, Vol.

31, p. 21).

To be sure, the relation of forces has significantly changed since Lenin
wrote these lines. Nevertheless, the still unrealized proletarian


Nevertheless, he firmly expected the emergence of what
he called “communist mass consciousness” – coupled with
a fully adequate institutional articulation in the form of
a global trade-unionism and corresponding political
militancy – through the historical development of the
capi talist social order, under the impact of the inexorable
unfolding of the productive potentials as well as
contradictions of that social order. Yet, it is not only
thanks to the benefit of hindsight that we can see, today,
that such expectations were rather problematical. In
fact, some of the ambiguities of Marx’s own analyses
already pointed in the same direction, as we have seen

To conclude then: given the helping hand in displacing
its contradictions which capital receives from the
fragmenting and divisive impact of “uneven development”
and of the international division of labour, in their
inseparability from the differential rate of exploitation of
labour, some of the conditions for the socialization of
production and the ensuing unification of labour
anticipated by Marx are most unlikely to materialise
within the confines and structural constraints of the
capitalist social order itself.

Naturally, this does not decrease the importance of a
socialist mass consciousness. On the contrary, it puts the
vital socio-historical function of such consciousness even
more into relief. For the full realization of the socialist
project is inconceivable without a successfully integra”ted
and “totalizing” (though, of course, not unmediated)
conscious management of their problems by the associated
producers, in a globally inter linked setting which is
“unconsciously” [48] brought into being in the first place
by the development of capitalism itself.

But, precisely for the latter reason, one can
realistically appeal to the increasing importance of a
totalizing social consciousness only by calling at the
same time for the necessary material conditions – aimed at
transcending the given fragmentation of labour – through
which the development of this consciousness first becomes
possible. And since labour’s fragmentation cannot be
eliminated by the capitalistic “socialization of
production”, neither can it readily be transcended – in
view of the deeply embedded material structures of the
inherited global division of labour. For a long time after
the socialist political revolution, the necessary material
mediations in question, characterized by a vital capacity
for bringing about a progressive reduction in the
constraining role of the inherited material determinations,
must remain the regulative framework of social life for
the entire historical epoch of transition.

revolution “in at least one of the advanced countries” continues to
maintain the “historical dislocation” with regard to the radical
transformation and ultimate “withering away” of the state as well to the
potentialities of “conscious collective totalization” – i.e., the selfdetermined comprehensive integration and conscious collective action of
the social individuals – implicit in the developments anticipated by Marx.

(8] Paul Mattick, Critique 2!. ~~ One-Dimensional ~.!!!!.l!l Class
Society, Merlin Press, London, 1972, p. 61. While one cannot value highly
enough the genuinely Marxian perspective of Mattick’s work – maintained
over a period of many years, with single-minded determination and
consistency, under the conditions of an almost complete isolation in the
United States – the point at which one has to part company with him is
where he summarily characterizes the various postcapitalist societies as
“state capitalist” formations.

ffiMarx, The Civil ~.!!:..l!l France, Peking, 1966, p. 166.

(10] ~ p. 167.

(I 1] ~ p. 237.

(I 2] ~ p. 227.

(13] The Commune “was essentially a working-class government”. ~ p.


(14] ~ p.

[15]~ p.

[16]~ p.



[17] ” •.• to serve as a lever for uprooting the economic foundations upon
which rests the CX’3tence of classes” illlli6 p. 72), and “to make individual
~ a truth by transforming the means of production, land and capital,
now chiefly the means of enslaving and exploiting labour, into mere
instruments of free and associated labour” illlli6 p. 73).

(18] Ibid.

(19] MECW, Vol. 5, p. 52.

[20] ~ p. 52-53.

[2 I] The Civil !!!.1n. France, p. 73.

[22]~· p. 171.

[23] “The working class know that they have to pass through different
phases of class-struggle. ~ know that the superseding of the economic
conditions of the slavery of labour by the conditions of free and associated
labour can only be the progressive work of time, ••• that they require not
only a change of distribution, but a new organisation of production, or
rather the delivery (setting free) of the social forms of production in
present organised labour (engendered by present industry) of the trammels
of slavery, of their present class character, and their harmonious national
and international coordination. ~ know that this work of regeneration
will be again and again relented and impeded by the resistance of vested
interests and class egotism. ~ know that the present “spontaneous
action of the natural laws of capital and landed property” – can only be
superseded by “the spontaneous action of the laws of the social economy of
free and associated labour” by a long process of development of new
conditions…. But ~ know at the same time that great strides may be
made at once through the Communal forms of political organisation and
that the time has come to begin that movement for themselves and
mankind.” ~ p. 172-73.

[24] MECW, Vol. 5, p. 49.

[25] The Civil War in France, p. 73.

[26] iilihe Com-munlSt Manifesto, for instance.

[27] The Civrr-War in France, p. 171.

[28] ~ p:-ii3:– – [29] ~ p. 171.

[30]~ p. 73.

[31] Marx, “Conspectus of Bakunin’s Book: State and Anarchy”, in Marx,
Engels, Lenin, Anarchism .!!!2 Anarcho-SyndicaJism, Progress Publishers,
Moscow, 1972, p. 151.

[32] MECW, Vol. 5, p. 86.

[33] ~ p. 210.

[34] See Man, The Poverty ~ Philosophy, MECW, Vol. 6, pp. 206-212.

[35] ~ p. 211-12.

[36] MECW, Vol. 4, p. 36.

[37] Marx, “Conspectus of Bakunin’s Book: ~ and Anarchy”, ~ fib

[38] Marx, “The Eight’!cnth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte”, ~ fib p. 334.

[39] For us, in hindsight, it is enough to think of the United States to see
how problematical Marx’s stipulative generalization is. The
“development and growth of modern industry” and the advancement of the
international division of labour which, according to the Marxian formula,
should have brought with it the highest degree of “combination” and a
correspondingly high level of organised and fully conscious political
militancy, failed to achieve the anticipated results. To explain the
actual trend of US developments – often described as the “integration of
the working class” – together with the possibility of its reversal, it is
obviously necessary to introduce a number of important qualifying
conditions which do not appear at all in Marx’s original framework of

[40] MECW, Vol. 4, p. 37.

[41] MECW, Vol. 3, p. 182 (Marx’s italics). This is how Marx defines the
role of the proletariat in the context of the “categorical imperative” here
referred to: “In France partial emancipation is the basis of universal
emancipation; in Germany universal emancipation is the conditio sine ~
non of, any partial emancipation. In France it is the reality of gradual
liberation, in Germany the impossibility of gradual liberation, that must
give birth to complete freedom.”
Starting from such premise, Marx proceeds to ask the question, “Where,
then, is the positive possibility of a German emancipation?” and answers it
as follows: “In the formation of a class with radical chains, a class of
civil society which is not a class of civil society, an estate which is the
dissolution of all estates, a sphere which has a universal character by its
universal suffering and claims to .!!2 particular right because no particular
wrong but wrong generally is perpetuated against it; which can no longer
invoke a historical but only a human title; which does not stand in any
one-sided antithesis to the consequences but in an all-round antithesis to
the premises of the German state; a sphere, finally, which cannot
emancipate itself without emancipating itself from all other spheres of
society and thereby emancipating .!!l other spheres ~ society, which, in a
word, is the complete loss of man and hence can win itself only through
the complete rewinning of man. This dissolution of sotiety as a particular
estate is the prolctariat.”
Thus, the proletariat fits in perfectly well with the “categorical
imperative to overthrow all established relations”. While the imperatival
connotations of this train of thought are later largely removed, several of
its vital aspects – from explaining the development of the “universal
class” from the “drastic dissolution of society, mainly or the middle
estate”, to thc definition of the relationship between partiality and
universality in relation to the conditions of emancipation – remain .central
to Marx’s thought throughout his life. (Quotations from MECW, Vol. 3, pp.


[42] MECW, Vol. 4, p. 36.

[43] ~ p. 37 (Marx’s italics). Here we can see Lukacs’s model of class
consciousness in the Marxian contrast between “what the proletariat at the
moment regards as its aim”, and what is “ascribed to the fully-formed
proletariat” by the socialist writers (i.e., the “psychological” as opposed
to the “imputed” class consciousness in lukacs’s terms). However, the
fundamental difference is that while Marx expects the realization of his
version of “ascril1ed consciousness” in the class .!! ~ whole, in accordance
with the transformation of Its being under the compUlsion of history,
lukacs assigns to the Party the function of being the actual “carrier” and
“embodiment” of the proletariat’s “imputed” class consciousness.

[44] ibid.

[45] Marx, The Civil !!!.1n. France, p. 72.

[46] Marx, Grundrisse, Pelican Marx library, 1973, p. 705.

[47] ~ p. 705-06.

[48] Unconsciously in the sense of operating by way of atomistic
totalizations – i.e., in the form of partial anticipations and expectations
more or less ruthlessly overruled by a reifying ~ from the
unwanted consequences of the ~ festum aggregative individual
interactions – as implemented through the market and similar vehicles and
institutional intermediaries.




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