the wandering of humanity

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Text by Jacques Camatte

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  • , THE WANDERING

    OF HUMANITYf

    Jacques Camatte y}\,

    B lack & Red Detro it

    1975

  • The essays included in the present work first appeared in the journal In variance (Annee VI, Serle II, No. 3, 1973) with the titles, "Errance de I'humanite; Conscience repressive; Communisme," and "Declin du mode de production ou declin de I'humanite?" The author of these Jacques worked with Amadeo and the group of theoreticians were known as the Italian communist left. After the events which took place in France in May of 1968, Carnatte, together with his comrades on In variance, began a critical analysis of the activities of the Italian communist left, the work of Bordiga as well as the work of Marx. The title of the journal originally referred to "the invariance of the theory of the proletariat," the theory of the League of Communists and the First International. By 1973 critics said of this journal that "nothing varies more than In variance. " By 1973 Camatte and his comrades, pursuing the critical analysis they had begun, were led to conclude that "what is invariant is the aspiration to rediscover the lost human community, and this cannot take place through a reestablishment of the past, but only through new creation." Their theoretical quest led them to a complete rejection of the theory of revolutionary parties and organizations, the theory of revolutionary consciousness, the theory of the progressive development of productive forces. "The French May movement showed that what is needed is a new mode of living, a new life." (The above quotations are from the last article in Invariance No. 3, 1973.)

    Works by Bordiga and Camatte are available (in Italian) from Ed. International, Casella Postale 177, 17100 Savona, Italy. Issues of In variance are available (in French) from J. Camatte, B.P. 133, 83 170 Brignoles, France. The essays in the present work were translated from French by Fredy Perlman with assistance from Camatte; the illustrations were selected and prepared by Allan Foster; Lorraine Perlman and Judy Campbell participated in the photography, printing and binding. The cover is a detail from a painting by Dali; the two pictures facing the first page of each essay are by Kley; the remaining illustrations are composed from advertisements, "the discourse of capital." The present work is available from Black & Red, P.O. Box 9546, Detroit, Michigan, 48202.

  • CONTENTS

    I. The Wandering of Humanity 5

    1. Despotism of Cap ita l 5

    2 . . G rowth of Produ ct ive Forces; Domesticat ion of H u ma n Bei ngs 16

    I

    3. Repressive Con sciousness 25

    4. Com m u n ism 32

    II. Decl i ne of the Capitalist Mode of Production or D ecl i ne of Hu manity? 47

  • 4

  • The Wandering of Humanity Repressive Consciousness

    Communism

    1. Despotism of Capital

    When capita l achieves rea l domination over society, it becomes a materia l com m u nity, overcoming va l ue and the law of va l ue, which survive o n l y as something "overcom e." Capita l accom plishes this i n two ways: I) the quantity of l a bor i nc l u ded in the produ ct-capital d i m i nishes enormo u s l y ( d eva lor ization); 2) t h e excha n ge re lation tends i ncreasi n g l y t o d i sappear, first from the wage re lation , the n from a l l econo m ic transaction!!. Capita l , wh ich or igi na l l y depended o n the wage re lation, becomes a despot. When the re i s va l ue i t is ass igned by cap ita l .

    Capita l i s capita l i n p rocess. I t acquired t h i s attribu te with the r ise of fictive capita l , whe n the opposition va lorization/deva l o rization sti l l had mea n i ng, whe n capita l had not yet rea l ly overcome the law of va l ue.

    Capita l in p rocess is cap ita l i n constant m ovement; it cap i ta l izes everythin g, assimilates everything and makes it its own substance. Havi ng become autonomous, it is " reified for m " in movement. It becomes intang ib le. It revita l izes its bei ng-that vast metabolism which absorbs ancient exchanges or reduces them to exchanges of a bio logica l type-by despoi l i ng a l l h u ma n beings i n the i r var ied activities, however

    5

  • fragmented these may be (this is why capital pushes human beings to engage in the most diverse activities)' It is humanity that is exploited. More than ever the ex pression " ex ploitation of man by man" b ecomes repulsive.

    I n its perfected state, capital is representation. Its rise to this state is d u e to its anthropomorphization, namely to its capitalization of human beings, 1 and to its su persession of the old genera l equivalent, gold. Capital needs an ideal representation, s i nce a representat ion with su bstance i n h i bits its p rocess. Go l d, i f i t i s n ot tota l ly dem onet ized, can n o longer play t h e ro l e o f sta n dard. Capita l ized h u man activ i ty becom es the sta n dard of cap ita l , u n t i l even th is dependence on val u e and its law beg i n to d i sappear com p l ete ly. T h i s presu pposes t h e i ntegrat ion o f h u man be i n gs i n t h e process of cap ita l and the i nteg rati o n of capita l in the m i nds of h u ma n bei ngs.

    Cap ita l becomes rep resen tat ion t h rough the fo l lowing h i storica l m ovement: exchange va l u e becom es a u tonomous, h u ma n bei ngs are expropriated, h u man activity i s red uced to labor, and labor is redu ced to a bstract labor. T h i s ta kes p lace when cap ita l r i ses on the fou ndat ion of the law of va l u e. Capita l becom es autonomous by dom esticati ng the h u man b eing. After ana lyz i n g-d issecti ng-frag m ent i ng the h u ma n being, cap i ta l reconstructs the h u man being a s a fu nct ion of its p rocess. The ru ptu re of the body from the m i n d made possibl e the t ransformat ion of the m i nd i nto a com puter which can be p rog ram med by the laws of cap i ta l. Prec ise l y because o f the i r m e nta l capac it ies, h u ma n bei ngs a r e n ot o n l y enslaved, but tu rned i nto w i l l i ng s laves o f capita l. W hat seem s l i ke the greatest paradox i s that cap ita l i tse lf rei ntroduces

    lThis does not exclude an opposite movement: capital forces human beings to be human.

    6

  • subjectivity, which had been eliminated at the time of the rise of exchange valu e. All human activity is exploited by capital. We can rephrase Marx's statement, " Labor, by adding a new valu e to the old one, at the same time maintains and eternizes [capital], ,2 to say: all human activity "eternizes" capital.

    Capital as representation overcomes the old contradiction between monopoly and competition. Every quant u m of capita l tends to becom e a tota l ity; competition operates between the variou s capita l s, each of which tends to becom e t h e tota lity. Product ion and c ircu lation a r e u n i f i ed; the a ncient opposition between u se va l u e and exchange va l u e l oses i ts raison d'etre. Besides, consu mption is t h e u t i lization of n ot on l y materia l products but m ost l y representatio ns t hat i ncreasi ng l y structure h u man bei ngs as bei ngs of cap ita l a nd revita lize cap ita l as the genera l representat ion . Pr ices no l onger have the fu nction they had i n the per iod of formal dom i nat ion of capita l , when they were representations of valu e; they become m ere i n d ices or signs of representations of cap ita l . Free goods are not im possi b le. Capita l cou l d ass ig n a spec ific quantity o f i t s products t o each program m ed i n d iv idua l; this quantity m ight depend on the requ ired activity im posed on this i n div i d ua l . Such a despotis m wou l d b e m o re powerfu l t h a n the p resent one. Human beings wou l d wish they had t h e m oney w h i c h h a d "g iven" t h e m free access to the diversity of p rodu cts.

    D uri ng its deve lopment cap i ta l a l ways tended to negate c lasses. Th is has fina l l y been acco m p lished through the u n iversa l ization of wage labor and the format ion-as a tran sit iona l stage-of what is ca l l ed the u n iversal c lass, a m ere co l lect ion of pro letarianized m en and wom en, a co l lection of

    2 Karl Marx, Grundrisse, London : Pelican, 1973, p . 365 .

    7

  • slaves of capital. Capital achieved complete domination by mystifying the demands of the classical proletariat, by dominating the proletarian as produ ctive laborer. But by achieving domination throu gh the mediation of labor, capital brought about the disappearance of classes, since the capitalist as a person was simultaneously eliminated. 3 The State becomes society when the wage relation is transformed into a relatio n of constra i n t, i nto a statist re lat ion . At the same t ime the State becomes a n enterpr ise o r racket wh ich m ed iates between the d i fferent gangs of cap ita l .

    Bou rgeois society has been destroyed and we have the despotism of cap ita l . C lass confl icts are rep laced by strugg l es between the gangs-orga n izat ions wh ich are the var ied m odes of bei ng of cap ita l . As a resu l t of the dom i nation of rep resentati on, a l l orga n i zations which want to oppose cap ita l a r e engu l fed b y it; they are consu med b y p hagocytes.

    It i s the rea l end of dem ocracy. One can no l o nger h o l d that there is a c lass wh ich represents futu re hu man ity, a n d a fortiori there is no party, n o grou p ; there can be n o de legat ion of power.

    Advert is i ng crass ly ref l ects the fact that cap ita l i s rep resentation, that it su rvives becau se i t i s representat ion i n the m i nd o f each human bei ng ( i nterna l i z i ng what was xterna l ized