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Tag: gilles dauve

Get rid of work (Dauvé)

What follows is a long essay by the French communization theorist, Gilles Dauvé translated by Ediciones Inéditos. It is a long read, a read which varies in content and tone but a text which masterfully summarizes the communist critique of work. The original can be found here at Troploin. He also dutifully notes that without the abolition of work there can be no communist revolution or communism. We hope you enjoy reading this as much as we enjoyed translating it. ¡A la chingada con el trabajo!

Here you will find a lightly modified chapter 3 from the bookFrom Crisis to Communizationpublished in 2017 by Editions Entremonde.

False construction sites


In 1997, in the French department of Sarthe, some 20 workers were constructing a section of highway under the direction of an engineer employed by a large company, BTP. After two months the engineer was arrested: no one had ordered the work that was partially done, which with an initial financing, the false construction site manager had successfully hoodwinked both banks and public organizations. Between 1983 and 1996, Philippe Berre had been convicted 14 times for ordering false construction sites. In 2009, “The Beginning,” a film inspired by this whole adventure was released, displaying a population struck by unemployment which briefly found work and hope. Phillippe Berre was not motivated by personal gain, but rather by the need to do, to be of use, to reanimate a group of workers. In 2010, once again, he took on this role while helping those affected by Cyclone Xynthia.

We all know “rogue bosses.” Philippe Berre is a fictitious boss, an anti-hero for our times; at once a “manipulator of symbols,” an agile manager of human resources, at a crossroads between the automobile and the BTP (presented as the two principal employers within modern countries), wandering as a nomad on the highways, as mobile as the activities which he preyed upon, living on the ephemeral dreams that his dynamism created around him, an illustration of a fluidity without markers or attachments, where money flows but is not wasted, where success has no future, where one builds worthless things, where all appears as communication and virtuality. But is not a sense of reality which Philippe Berre is lacking, rather he lacks respect.

When a crook brings work, revenue, and thus some “meaning” to a community in perdition, even if it is a provisional and false meaning, this raises the question – what does production and work mean? The unemployed at Sarthe trusted Philippe Berre because he brought them some socializing, a role, a status, a sense of being recognized. What is useful? Useless? Fictitious? Real? What is profitable or not? Was this piece of highway more or less absurd than any “real” highway? What work is worthy of being qualified as “a waste”? Beyond the hard reality of work (it creates objects, creates profit and is generally onerous), what is the truth?

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A contribution to the critique of political autonomy (Dauvé, 2008)


by Gilles Dauvé (pdf)

It’s very difficult to force into obedience whoever has no wish to command.


No critique beyond this point

Any critique of democracy arouses suspicion, and even more so if this critique is made by those who wish a world without capital and wage-labour, without classes, without a State.

Public opinion dislikes but understands those who despise democracy from a reactionary or elitist point of view. Someone who denies the common man’s or woman’s ability to organize and run himself or herself, logically will oppose democracy. But someone who firmly believes in this ability, and yet regards democracy as unfit for human emancipation, is doomed to the dustbins of theory. At the best, he is looked down upon as an idiot; at the worst, he gets the reputation of a warped mind who’ll end up in the poor company of the arch-enemies of democracy: the fascists.

Indeed, if “the emancipation of the working classes must be conquered by the working classes themselves”, it seems obvious that in order to emancipate themselves, the exploited must not only do away with the power structures that enslave them, but also create their own organs of debating and decision-making. Exercising one’s collective freedom, isn’t that what democracy is all about? That assumption has the merit of simplicity: to change the world and live the best possible human life, what better way than to base this life on institutions that will provide the largest number of people with the largest freedom on speech and decision-taking? Besides, whenever they fight, the dominated masses generally declare their will to establish the authentic democracy that’s been so far lacking.

For all these reasons, the critique of democracy is a lost or forgotten battle.

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A to Z of communisation (Gilles Dauvé)

(This “A to Z” is the third part of Everything Must Go! Abolish Value, published by Little Black Cart Books, Berkeley, California, in 2015.  The first two parts were written by Bruno Astarian: Crisis Activity & Communisation, and Value & its Abolition)


“Some people will find our propositions insane or naïve. We do not expect to convince everyone. If such a thing were possible, it would be very disturbing. We would rather have readers who have to rub their eyes before granting credence to our positions.”

A World Without Money: Communism, 1975

 AUTONOMY                       BLUE COLLAR                    CLASS                       DAILY LIFE

ECOLOGY                      FAMILY                             GIOTTO                              HABITAT     

INSURRECTION                   JAILBREAK                       KARL  (MARX)                   LABOUR    

MONEY               NON-ECONOMY          OBFUSCATION                POLITICS               QUERY  

REVOLUTION               SEX             TIME  (IS OF THE ESSENCE)                       UNLABELLED

VALUE                        WORK          XENOPHILIA                      YESTERDAY                      ZOMIAS


In 2012, radical Oakland occupiers made it clear that “no permission would be asked, no demands would be made, no negotiation with the police and city administration” : nobody or no body had the power to grant them anything relevant, so there was no point in bargaining with wannabe representatives.

Participatory decision-making implies a communal capacity often called “self-empowerment”. Autonomy is inclusive. As participants share an equal stake in the creation of a different world, the most important thing in their lives becomes their relation to others, and this interdependence extends far beyond the circle of relatives and friends.

In a different time and place, some people have stressed the spontaneity of many recent Chinese strikes, demonstrations, protests, street blockades and riots. Other observers have emphasized the careful planning that takes place beforehand. Yet organization and spontaneity are two sides of the same coin. A self-initiated work-stoppage needs previous secret talks and meetings, and its continuity needs durable independent information channels (such as a mutual help hotline) and decision-making structures.

However, the ideology of autonomy is one of the up-to-date nostrums. Autonomy is acting by oneself:  it says nothing about what this individual or collective self actually does. In the ebbs and flows of social battles, most occupations and strikes meet the limit of one company, one neighbourhood, one town, one city. Workplace, neighbourhood, kinship, etc., create a potential community of struggle which by its own strength alone can certainly self-manage an occupation, a strike, even community life for a while… but it is not enough to break the log jam.

How does a community of struggle create more than its struggle ? Can it go beyond rituals of social partnership ? How does solidarity not become an end in itself ? When can collective will wield its transformative power?

Unlike a book divided into chapters which gradually make their point from beginning to end, this A to Z is more like a dictionary in which each entry is to be read in relation to all the others. It is by accident that autonomy begins with the first letter of the alphabet. But it is no accident that self-activity should be a starting point. Autonomy is a necessary condition of the whole A to Z of communisation. It does not encapsulate the whole process.

Occupational Hazards. The Rise & Limitation of Occupy Oakland, CAL Press, 2012

New Strikes in China,

Eli Friedman, Insurgency Trap. Labor Politics in Post-socialist China, Cornell U.P., 2014

A Contribution to the Critique of Political Autonomy, troploin site, 2008


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Federici vs. Marx (Gilles Dauvé)

“rough magic I here abjure”

Shakespeare,The Tempest, 1610

Caliban & the Witch is of undeniable interest for our understanding of social movements at the critical juncture between medieval and modern times, of the advent of capitalism, its sexual dimension, the treatment of women and the conversion of female and male bodies into a work-machine, among other things. But the book also sets forth a vision of past and present which is as questionable as the political perspective that this vision entails. (1)

How capitalism came about according to Silvia Federici

Federeci claims to be writing “against Marxist orthodoxy” (p.6), and Caliban & the Witch is commonly read as a complement (or for some readers, as an alternative) to Marx’s Capital, especially Part VIII. Federici writes:

“ (..) my description of primitive accumulation includes a set of historical phenomena that are absent in Marx, and yet have been extremely important for capitalist accumulation. They include : 1) the development of a new sexual division of labour subjugating women’s labour and women’s reproductive function to the reproduction of the work-force; 2) the construction of a new patriarchal order, based upon the exclusion of women from waged-work and their subordination to men; 3) the mechanization of the proletarian body and its transformation, in the case of women, into a machine for the production of new workers.” (p. 11)

So we expect to read what was missing in the accepted master narrative, especially as history suffers from a long tradition of writing women off. The question is, where does a counter-hegemonic history lead us? In Federici’s case, the author is not merely filling in gaps: her analysis of primitive accumulation amounts to nothing less than a conception of capitalism not just different from Marx’s but indeed opposed to it.

In order to understand the birth of capitalism, she emphasises the specific oppression that social groups, women in particular, were subjected to. That is what she is targeting, and her approach prioritises certain factors and downplays others.

The question is, what tipped the historical scales ?

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Crisis of Civilization


by Gilles Dauvé

All historical crises are crises of social reproduction. We will try and investigate how the present crisis, like and unlike others in the past, forces society to face the contradictions which formerly stimulated its dynamics but now drive it into a critical juncture. (1)

Every major crisis forces social groups to come to grips with the deep contradictions of society. In capitalism, class confrontation is the prime mover that drives society forward : it forces the bourgeoisie to adapt to labour pressure, to “modernize”. Crisis is when these formerly positive pressures strain the social fabric and threaten to tear it apart.

Contradiction does not mean impossibility. Up to now, all big crises have ended in the system managing to pull through and eventually becoming more adaptable and protean. No “ultimate” crisis is automatically contained in even the most acute contradictions.

1 : Why “Civilization” ?

Capitalism is driven on by a social and productive dynamism, and by an un-heard-of regenerative ability, but it has this weakness: by its very strength, by the human energy and the technical power it sets into motion, it wears out what it exploits, and its productive intensity is only paralleled by its destructive potential, as proved by the first civilization crisis it went through in the 20th century.

No value judgement is implied here. We do not oppose civilized people to savages (even good or noble ones) or barbarians. We do not celebrate “great civilizations” which would have been witness to the progress of mankind. On the other hand, we do not use the word in the derogatory sense it has with writers like Charles Fourier, who called “civilization” a modern society plagued by poverty, trade, competition and the factory system. Neither do we refer to those huge geo-historical socio-cultural constructs known as Western, Judeo-Christian, Chinese or Islamic civilizations.

The civilization we speak of does not replace the notion of mode of production. It merely emphasizes the scope and depth of a world system that tends to be universal, and is also capable of disrupting and then reshaping all kinds of societies and ways of life. The hold of wage-labour and commodity over our life gives them a reality and dynamics that were unknown in the past. Capitalism today is the only all-encompassing network of social relationships able to expand geographically and, with the respective differences being considered, to impact on Djakarta as well as Vilnius. The spread of a world capitalist way of life is visible in similar consumer habits (McDonald’s) and architecture (skyscrapers), but has its deep cause in the dominance of value production, of productivity, of the capital-wage labour couple.

The concept of a mode of production is contemporary to capitalism. Whether or not Marx  invented the phrase, it has become common since the 19th century because capitalism imposes on us the image of factors of production combined to beget a product or a service bought or sold on a market, and of a society ruled by supply/demand and productivity.

Then the concept was retrospectively applied (often inadequately) to other systems, past and present: the Asiatic or the domesticmode of production. (2) Whatever relevance these derivations have, they pay tribute to the overwhelming presence of the capitalist mode of production.

Capitalist civilization differs from empire, which has a heart, a core, and when the core withers and dies, the whole system around it goes too. On the contrary, capitalism is a polycentric world system with several rival hegemons, which carries on as a global network if one of the hegemons expires. There is no longer an inside and an outside as with Mesopotamian, Roman, Persian, Hapsburg or Chinese empires.

A crisis of civilization occurs when the tensions that formerly helped society to develop now threaten its foundations: they still hold but they are shaken up and their legitimacy is weakened.

As is well known, tension and conflict are a sign of health in a system that thrives on its own contradictions, but the situation changes when its main constituents overgrow like cancerous cells.

A century ago, capitalism experienced such a long crisis, of which the “1929 crisis” was but the climax, and capitalism only got out of it after 1945. Going back over that period will help understand ours.

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by Gilles Dauvé

“There are times in which we can do nothing except not lose our head.”
Louis Mercier-Vega, from La Chevauchée anonyme [1]

When workers are forced to take in hand their own affairs in order to survive, they open the possibility of social change.

Some Kurds have been forced to act in the conditions that they find and  attempt to create, in the midst of an internationalized war unfavourable to emancipation.

We are not here to “judge” them.

Nor to lose our heads.

Self (defence)

In various parts of the world, proletarians are led to self-defence through self-organization:

A vast cloud of “movements” — armed and unarmed, and oscillating between social banditry and organized guerrilla activity — act in the most wretched zones of the global capitalist junkyard, presenting traits similar to those of the current PKK. In one way or another, they attempt to resist the destruction of already marginal subsistence economies, the plundering of natural resources or local mining, or the imposition of capitalist landed property that limits or prevents access and/or use. […] [W]e can randomly cite cases of piracy in the seas of Somalia, MEND in Nigeria, the Naxalites in India, the Mapuche in Chile. […] It is essential to grasp the content they have in common: self-defense. [O]ne always self-organizes on the basis of what one is within the capitalist mode of production (workers of this or that company, inhabitant of this or that district etc.), while the abandonment of the defensive terrain (“demands”) coincides with the fact that all these subjects interpenetrate each other, and that as the capital/wage-labour relation that structures them starts to disintegrate, the distinctions cease to exist. [2]

In Rojava, has self-organization led (or could it lead) from the necessity of survival to an upheaval of social relations?

It is unnecessary to repeat here the history of the powerful Kurdish independence movement in Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran. The Kurds have been torn apart for decades through the rivalry between these countries and the repression that they suffer there. After the explosion of Iraq into three entities (Sunni, Shiite and Kurd), the Syrian civil war has liberated a territory in Syria where Kurdish autonomy has taken a new form. A popular union (that is to say cross-class) was established to manage this territory and defend it against a military threat. The Islamic State (IS) has served as the agent of this break. The resistance mixes old community ties and new movements, in particular women, through a de facto alliance between proletarians and the middle classes, with “the Nation” [acting] as cement. “The transformation taking place in Rojava rests to some extent on a radical Kurdish identity and on [a] substantial middle class […] contingent who, despite radical rhetoric, always have some interest in the continuity of capital and the state.” [3]

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Einleitung zu den drei Bänden zur Kommunisierung

image image image



Die Kommunisierung beschreibt eine kommunistische Revolution ohne Übergangsphase, eine Revolution nicht „für den Kommunismus, sondern durch den Kommunismus“ [1]. Durch die Ergreifung kommunistischer Massnahmen wird gleichzeitig der kapitalistische Feind geschwächt und die post-revolutionäre Welt skizziert. Aufgekommen ist der Begriff in den intensiven theoretischen Debatten in den linkskommunistischen Milieus Frankreichs nach dem Mai 1968. Der Begriff wird in der Regel Gilles Dauvé zugeschrieben, der ihn als erster in der Zeitschrift Le Mouvement Communiste gebraucht haben soll [2].

In Zusammenarbeit mit anderen Linkskommunisten wie François Martin und Karl Nesic versuchte Dauvé, verschiedene linkskommunistische Strömungen zusammenzubringen, zu kritisieren und weiterzuentwickeln, z.B. die italienische Bewegung, die mit Amadeo Bordiga in Verbindung gebracht wurde, die Zeitschrift Invariance von Jacques Camatte, den deutsch-holländischen Rätekommunismus und französische Strömungen wie Socialisme ou Barbarie und die Situationistische Internationale.

Diese theoretischen Entwicklungen hängen stark mit der erstmaligen Übersetzung zentraler Marxscher Texte zusammen. Die Grundrisse der politischen Ökonomie erschienen zum ersten Mal 1967-1968 auf Französisch und hatten einen beträchtlichen Einfluss auf die Debatten im linkskommunistischen Milieu Frankreichs. Auch der Entwurf des Kapitels 6 des Kapitals, Resultate des unmittelbaren Produktionsprozesses, erschien 1968 zum ersten Mal auf Französisch in der Gesamtausgabe der Pléiade, herausgegeben von Maximilien Rubel und Louis Janover. Neben dem Milieu um Gilles Dauvé ist die Zeitschrift Théorie communiste eine weitere theoretische Quelle der Kommunisierung. Die Gruppe konstituierte sich 1975 und die erste Nummer von Théorie communiste erschien 1977. Einige Mitglieder gaben 1972 und 1973 die Zeitschrift Intervention communiste heraus und waren zuvor an der Zeitschrift Cahiers du Communisme de Conseil beteiligt. Diese war verbunden mit der Information Correspondance Ouvrières, aus welcher nach 1973 Échanges et mouvement entstand.

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On Recuperation (Gilles Dauvé)


There are worker councils: “Councils were easy to form and had enormous potential. They were flexible and democratic. They presupposed cooperation and coordination, and they extended notions of popular governance and grassroots participation. For council members, neither pre-existing organizations nor a background in socialist theory were prerequisites. Councils made the unions and political parties redundant. They could embrace as much of the population as prevailing political understandings and cultural prejudices made possible. Because of the councils, society was both thrown into chaos and was susceptible to a thorough and radical reorganization. If councils are still relevant today, it’s not because they imply a particular solution to humanity’s problems, but because the need for something new in both form and content grows ever more pressing.” (1)

And there is councilism, the ideology of self-management, in the past usually equated with the running of factories by the workers themselves, now extended to self-managing  our whole life.

Needless to say, the “victory” we speak of here is not the sort of achievement that past and present councilists were and are aiming at: only a sad unavoidable ideological victory,

Ideology is not necessarily made of false data, nor does it put forward only wrong ideas. It is a deformed consciousness of reality (and therefore usually incorporates hard facts), which provides people with a way of (mis)understanding history and themselves in it.

Councilism is a mental mapping born as much out of proletarian endeavours as out of their limits. While worker self-organization was (and remains) necessary, it was (and is) not enough to overthrow capitalism. Instead of perceiving this limit for what it is – a limit –ideology sets it as the objective of the movement. Ideologization is the process by which the whole of proletarian history is re-interpreted as if this limitation was its essence. Councilism is worker councils turned into the be-all-and-end-all of revolution.

Like any other partial truth, it has fallen prey to “recuperation”. The ability of modern society to integrate and digest radical critique is nothing new, or to be afraid of. Nowadays, because capitalism carries the day, as long as the essentials (private property, wage-labour, the authority of the State) are respected, the allowed margin of freedom is larger than before, and we are granted lots of “discursive space”. I once saw a graffiti on a white wall in Vienna :

←           freedom from here to here         

     Not only is “law and order” compatible with innocuous critique and inoffensive social experiment, it also needs our active involvement in the day-to-day running of society. In democratic countries, providing you pay the rent and obey the cop, you’re free to extol Buddha or Bakunin. “Changing things so everything stays the same”, as novelist Lampedusa wrote in The Leopard. Traditional “bourgeois” culture has gone multicultural and nonconformity is marketed. More harmless personal freedom, more leeway, more community watch, more peer-control too. The most modern aspects of contemporary discourse have renounced a strict hierarchy, and see no contradiction in promoting at the same time individualism (self-empowerment) and collective values (the team spirit).

“Self-empowerment in its simplest form means taking charge of your own life, in your work place, with your colleagues, with your subordinates, with your superiors, with your body, with your illness and for you caring for yourself.” (Self-Empowerment & Development Centre, 2013)

As a result, a consensus has emerged on the virtues of autonomy: peer assessment in the classroom, power-sharing and self-governance for local associations and public bodies, management by agreed-upon objectives in the office, horizontalism in the Occupy and the Squares movements, autonomous space for alternativists in many cities, etc. Parliamentarianism is aging, let’s revive it with strong doses of participatory or monitory democracy. Communal goal-setting, self-development and networking make the news. Leninist party builders are a joke. Partyism is down, grassroots-ism prevails.

Secondly, “information first” has become part of dominant ideology: maximum and fastest information ! The assumption is, the more we know, the more we understand, but above all we need facts, and correct understanding will comes from lots of data : “Knowing is Doing”. Mainstream society is obsessed with education and empowerment: community civic classes (learning to be a community-minded citizen) now extends to global civics (learning to be ecologically-concerned).

This universal trend is unfortunately reflected in the radical milieu. Informations & Correspondance Ouvrières (1961-73), andnow Echanges & Mouvement claimed to have no theory except the theory that only the proletarians could determine their own methods and aims. Likewise, thousands of infokiosks and indymedia collectives profess to have no specific doctrine (Marxist, anarchist, ecologist, feminist, whatever), and say their sole purpose is to serve as a meeting place and communication centre meant to promote social struggles, with the difference that the “historical subject” is no longer the working class, but the people (the famous 99%). They act as if ICO’s  “choice of non-existence” (IS, # 11) had been inverted into the choice of 24/7 on-line presence, yet information firstremains the priority, too often with similar features as “bourgeois” media : constant data flow, information overload and obsolescence, sensationalism… Radicalism is reduced to a description and exaltation of manifold struggles.

The autonomy principle and the information fascination can best be seen at work in the world wide web: the Internet is the universal dispenser, accelerator and multiplier of data and ideas. The “chattering classes” have expanded far beyond the readership of the Guardian or the New York Times: everyone is an opinion giver and receiver now. For those who believe that social change will come out of ever more global knowledge and discussion, cyber-activism is ideal. A planetary critical sub-society is waging a permanent war of the words.

This is all happening in the realm of ideology. In reality, we do not live in a bottom-up society. Far from it. 19th century factory despotism has not gone. Today’s boss tells you what to do and punishes you if you misbehave, and not just in dictatorial China. In Amazon’s European warehouses, the company lords over the life of its labour force to the point of telling employees how to park their cars: trespassing over the white line separating the parking spaces gets you a “warning”. And democratic America offers a wide range of societal and cultural arch-conservatives who manage to put back the cultural societal clock.

So, as far as ideas matter, a mere ideological victory, miles away from Anton Pannekoek’s writings or ultra-leftist summer camps. At the end of the 19th century, Marxism watered-down Marx to an apologist of worker productivism. Later, hundreds of millions were oppressed in his name, and North Koreans still are. More recently, Debord has been transmogrified into an anti-art artist: he no longer has a “bad reputation”. Amadeo Bordiga would prove too much to chew for acamedia pundits, but who knows ? The old Neapolitan’s insights on ecology, his cutting sharp-worded style and scathing wit could add a much-wanted provocative flavour to current discourse. There is no doctrine that infotainment is unable to feed on. No-one is innocent. Everybody is liable to prosecution or recuperation.

The German-Dutch Left indeed had a strong point in 1920 and later, when it rejected the mass parties of the 2nd and 3rdInternationals in the name of radical worker self-activity. The conundrum was that the call for worker power conflicted with the communist perspective of the abolition of work, when only the abolition of work could get rid of capitalism. In 1920, the proletarians stood at the crossroads, stayed there, did not meet the challenge that their own uprising had created, and were defeated. As the perspective of going beyond work and the commodity had hardly emerged in the 1920s or 30s, and only began to assert itself in the 60s, the contradiction was inevitable at the time and lingered on in the way the radical minority could understand itself. Recuperation always feeds on such inner contradictions, by prioritizing some aspects of theory and deflecting others. (2)

Self-organizing is indispensable. Self-managing factories, neighbourhoods or schools is another thing. Though self-organization and self-management are not necessarily synonyms, ideology blurs the difference. It is an inevitable illusion for workers at one time or other to believe that they would be free if they took work into their own hands, that is, without doing away with work as such. And for people in general to believe that we could change society merely by running society ourselves. Revolution will not clear up these illusions in a day.

“Recuperation” is the normal process by which society recovers parts of what tried to negate it, so there is nothing here to reproach councilists with. What is objectionable, though, is a persistent failure to realise how and why such a specific ideologizing diversion could take place. Some basic councilist tenets have been incorporated within dominant ideas, because they were based on historical limits, and it is these limits that we must comprehend. Ideology only trivializes and sterilizes theoretical aspects by separating theory from the practice where it originated.

“The emancipation of the working classes must be conquered by the working classes themselves.” These were the Rules of the International Workingmen Association, approved by its Geneva congress in 1866. Autonomy is indispensable, not just to initiate revolution, also to accomplish it: who else but the self-organizing proletarians could do away with the proletariat ? But it’s not enough. It is not the principle on which everything can or must be based. Autonomy means giving oneself one’s own law (nomos). It’s based on the self (auto). As far as the proletarians are concerned, what self are we talking about ? Praising worker autonomy is mistaking the part for the whole, fragment of a frozen totality. (3)


(1) Insurgent Notes 2013 review of two recent history books – by M. Comack and G. Kuhn – on worker councils : see

(2 )The same obviously applies to the most recuperated of all, Karl Marx : we cannot be content with repeating that the dictatorship of the proletariat he wrote about had absolutely nothing in common with Trotsky’s militarization of labour or Stalin’s Five Year Plan. As we hope our Value, Time & Communism: Re-Reading Marx shows, there is no point for us reading Marx unless we care to see how much he owed to his time.

(3) For more on autonomy and democracy, see our Contribution to the Critique of Political Autonomy (on this site).


Gilles Dauvé

The Bitter Victory of Councilism (2014) – This is a chapter from Eclipse & Re-Emergence of the Communist Movement (PM Press, to be published in Autumn 2014). § 5 of the preceding chapter (“Value, Time & Communism: Re-Reading Marx”), deals with Council Communism & Labour Time, and is a critique of the famous councilist  1930 text titled Fundamental Principles of Communist Production and Distribution.



Communism means the end of a series of mediations which were previously necessary (in spite of the misery they entailed) to accumulate enough past labour to enable humans to do without these mediations. Value is such a mediation: it is now useless to have an element external to social activities to connect and stimulate them. The accumulated productive infrastructure only needs to be transformed and developed. Communism compares use values to decide to develop a given production rather than another one. It does not reduce the components of social life to a common denominator (the average labour time contained in them). Communism organizes its material life on the basis of the confrontation and interplay of needs – which does not exclude conflicts and even some form of violence. People will not turn into angels: why should they?

Communism is not a set of measures to be put into practice after the seizure of power. It is a movement which already exists, not as a mode of production (there can be no communist island within capitalist society), but as a tendency which originates in real needs. Communism does not even know what value is. The point is not that one fine day a large number of people start to destroy value and profit. All past revolutionary movements were able to bring society to a standstill, and waited for something to come out of this universal stoppage. Communization, on the contrary, will circulate goods without money, open the gate isolating a factory from its neighbourhood, close down another factory where the work process is too alienating to be technically improved, do away with school as a specialized place which cuts off learning from doing for 15 odd years, pull down walls that force people to imprison themselves in 3-room family units – in short, it will tend to break all separations.

The mechanism of the communist revolution is a product of struggles. Their development leads to a time when society forces all individuals whom it leaves with no other perspective to establish new social relations. If a number of social struggles now seem to come to nothing, it is because their only possible continuation would be communism, whatever those who take part in them may now think. Even when workers are just making demands they often come to a point when there is no other solution but a violent clash with the State and its assistants, the unions. In that case, armed struggle and insurrection imply the application of a social programme, and the use of the economy as a weapon. The military aspect, as important as it may be, depends on the social content of the struggle. To be able to defeat its enemies on a military level, the proletariat – whatever its consciousness – transforms society in a communist way.