Why must the organization of the proletarians be global?

by Jehu

Here is a question directed to me from ask.fm. Due to space limitations, a portion of my answer was cut off, so I am publishing in full here:

“can you expand on your idea that class is a totality (assuming global) and not national?”

This is determined by the proletariat itself, its material conditions of existence, and in first place, by the material requirements of directly social production. Uniquely for the proletariat, the productive forces employed by it only exist as a totality within the world market. For this class, as opposed, for instance, to the peasant, the means of production cover the entire globe and can only be set in motion by the combined effort of the entire class together.

The producer here is not the individual workers each employing her own means of production, but the collective body of workers, who are compelled to cooperate to employ what is essentially a single gigantic machine which operation must be coordinated as if under a single will although it is spread out over both time and space. In this highly developed mode of social labor, no single act of labor is complete in and of itself, but only appears as a link, or stage, in a chain of much larger and more sophisticated act of production. The workers are bound together in an act of social production in which their own actions are inseparable from the acts of billions of others

workers-unite-tag1This imposes unique constraints on the proletariat that are unprecedented in all of human history. The action of a worker in Shanghai, must be coordinated with the actions of workers in New Delhi, Durban, Oslo, Bogota and Chicago. And these separate acts of production are separated not only in space over the face of the globe, but perhaps by months or years in time.

The global character of the means of production created by capitalism necessarily must be reflected in an association of producers that is itself global in nature. The association of the social producers must, by definition, extend beyond every border where the mode of production has already extended modern trade. This is because the labor of the social producers is a single act of production although composed as it is of billions of separate acts. A single machine requires a single will to set it in motion, i.e., a mass of individuals who cooperate according to a predetermined plan. It requires, in other words, that the totality of production be brought under the conscious control of the individuals concerned.

How can this be achieved? How is it possible to subordinate the productive activities of billions of individuals to a single will? It just doesn’t seems possible without some sort of despotic power over these individuals, right? This implies not social emancipation, but converting all of society into a miserable work house.

This is usually as far as most “socialists” get before they throw up their hands or let their imaginations take flight with fantasies of “market socialism”. The contradiction between the material needs of production (which are not and cannot be subject to debate and democracy) and the self-activity of individuals appears irresolvable. This contradiction is indeed real and can only be resolved on the basis of a very high level of development of the productive forces. It requires, in first place, that the material needs of production can be satisfied in very little time.

So long as the needs of production consume the greater portion of the time of individuals, society is condemned to poverty and the despotism. This poverty is not simply (or even primarily) the lack of means to satisfy wants, but the lack of opportunity for self-activity and self-development. Only when directly social production appears on the stage, does it become possible for the material needs of production to be so reduced that self-activity and self-development become ends in themselves. The measure of this state of society is the free disposable time enjoyed by all members of society.

A global association of the producers, therefore, sets as its immediate aim the constant expansion of free disposable time away from labor. But the constant expansion of free disposable time is nothing but the abolition of labor, the working class itself and classes generally.