Theorie Communiste on Socialization versus Communization: What happened to wage labor?
If you follow me on Mastodon (@Jehu@anarchism.space) then you know I have been spending a lot of time reading and re-reading this declaration by Theorie Comuniste: “The suspended step of communisation: communisation vs socialisation”.
Having spent a lot of time over the last two weeks reading it, I have come to the conclusion that the document fails to make the case for communization. The essay attempts (and fails) to draw the line between simple socialization of the social means of production and communization. Both ‘-ations’ pretty much seem to consist of the same thing.
Which is a big problem for me.
As TC puts it:
“[The] same act of seizure [of the means of production and consumption] could be, as we have seen, either communisation or socialisation. Any action of this type can take one or the other form; it all depends on the dynamic and on the context, constantly in transformation.”
In fact, according to TC, at least initially, there is no significant difference between what TC calls socialization and communization. It’s what happens next the makes all the difference:
“[Everything] depends on the struggle against capital, which either deepens and extends itself or loses pace and perishes very quickly. Everything also depends on the struggle within the struggle against capital. The constitution of communism is embroiled with the constitution of one last alternative socio-economic capitalist form. Until communisation is completed there will be a permanent tendency for some entity to be constituted which strives to make the seizure of material means into a political and economic socialisation. “
This passage should have raised red flags all over the place in my opinion. According to TC, communization differs from socialization because the former deepens and extends the struggle against capital? Do I have this right? Frankly, this all seems pretty vague and ill-defined to me. It sounds almost like the writers at TC had no real idea what they were talking about.
How, exactly, does any ‘entity’ turn the seizure of the material means of production and consumption into a political and economic socialization? And what is a political and economic socialization anyways? They never told us what socialization was and how socialization differs from communization, yet now we are told that anything less than communization leads to political and economic socialization.
According to TC, communization is a lot like socialization of the means of production and consumption, except it goes beyond mere socialization of the means of production and consumption. Once communization completes the socialization of the means of production and consumption, some entity™ will no longer be able to make socialization of the means of production and consumption into a new form of socialization.
Is that clear?
Let me say, I am a fan of communization; I want it to succeed. But this nonsense is just not working for me.
The first problem is that TC never explains that socialization of the means of production and consumption is what capitalism does. As Marx explains in Capital, v1, c32, capitalist accumulation involves the “socialisation of labour and further transformation of the land and other means of production into socially exploited and, therefore, common means of production”.
There is nothing about socialization itself that takes us beyond the bourgeois mode of production. On the other hand, this purely capitalistic socialization of labor, land and other means of production creates the material foundation for communism.
It would seem to follow from this (although I can be quite dense at times and overlook something obvious) that, strictly speaking, communization has nothing whatsoever to do with socialization. Communization is not the socialisation of labour and further transformation of the land and other means of production into socially exploited, common means of production, for the simple reason that this is exactly what capital (i.e., wage slavery) does.
So, the real question raised by TC’s essay on communization is why do they conflate communization with the historical mission capital? Not that I intend to single out TC on this account. Ask almost any communist today tell you what communism or socialism is, and you will likely get an answer that is not very different from TC’s. The only reason TC’s answer stands out like a sore thumb is that they actually attempted to explain how socialization and communization differ. Because they tried to explain how the first differs from the second, they opened up a can of worms on this subject.
If communization is just a form of socialization which deepens and extends itself, why even speak of communization? Why not just say we need a socialization which deepens and extends itself?
Socialization of the forces of production is not the historical mission of the proletariat; it is the historical mission of capital. The historical mission of the proletariat is to put a end to capital, i.e., to wage slavery. Another way to state this is that even when the proletariat was forced by circumstances to complete the socialization the forces of production it is supposed to accomplish this socialization by directly putting an end to wage slavery.
Now this forces us to distinguish between socialization and communization in way the is a little less vague and ill-defined: Socialization of the forces of production is the historical mission of capital, i.e., the historical result of wage slavery. Communization cannot possibly have anything in common with socialization, because communism, communization’s result, is the abolition of wage slavery.
Communization doesn’t “deepen and extend” socialization; it abolishes wage slavery. The premises of communization are altogether distinct from the premises of socialization.
What TC refers to as socialization doesn’t necessarily put an end to wage labor. In its most developed form, it puts an end to private property. The owners of capital are rendered superfluous to the operation of the national capital or altogether expropriated. The national capital is converted, at least effectively, into public property. The proletarians remain proletarians, creating surplus value for a single national capital.
Socialization of the forces of production takes place even in the absence of a proletarian revolution; even if the working class does not successfully establish itself as the ruling class. It results from the immanent laws of the capitalist mode of production, where the laborers are progressively turned into proletarians, deprived of their means of production and those means are converted into a single capital standing over against them.
From the moment I first encountered communism, I was told that the conversion of private property to public property, the expropriation of the owners of capital, and subjecting production to a common plan were the immediate aim of the proletarian revolution. I’m sure that I am not the only communist who was taught this idea.
This is all TC proposes in their essay.
Insofar as these tasks were not previously accomplished by the immanent laws of the capitalist mode of production, this makes sense. But formulated this way communization is economically insufficient to realize communism. The tasks as outlined above fall entirely within the limits of the normal operation of the capitalist mode of production; which is to say, the normal operation of the capitalist mode of production leads inevitably to concentration and centralization of capital in the hands of the state, the conversion of private property into public property and production according to a plan.
Engels makes this point in Socialism, Utopian and Scientific:
“In the trusts, freedom of competition changes into its very opposite — into monopoly; and the production without any definite plan of capitalistic society capitulates to the production upon a definite plan of the invading socialistic society. Certainly, this is so far still to the benefit and advantage of the capitalists.”
What communists have always assumed to be the immediate task of the proletarian revolution was actually completely confined to the capitalist epoch.
If socialization appears intertwined with communization in the 20th century, this is only to the extent that the socialization of the productive forces has not been completed previously by the immanent laws of the capitalist mode of production.
No Marxist today can demonstrate this historical mission of the bourgeois epoch remains incomplete — at least with regards to the most advanced capitalist nations.
But let’s assume socialization of the forces of production has not been completed for the sake of argument. What then?
If capital itself has not already centralized the national capital in the hands of the state; if it has not put an end to private property; and, if it has not itself already brought all of production under a definite plan, this task would indeed remain to be accomplished by the proletarians. But, as profoundly revolutionary as these material changes appear, the task of the proletarian revolution is not these tasks. They are the mere residual of the unfinished capitalist epoch.
The proletarian revolution has to complete the bourgeois revolution: the expropriation of the private producers, centralization of the national capital in the hands of the state, and the reorganization of production according to a single plan. Admittedly, all of these tasks fall within the limits of the bourgeois epoch. But here the resemblance ends. Whatever remains of the unfinished bourgeois revolution is supposed to be accomplished through the same process as the proletarians employ to emancipate themselves from compulsory labor.
Which is to say, even in the case where the tasks of the bourgeois revolution remain unfinished, the proletarian revolution begins with the immediate abolition of wage labor.
Of course, during the transitional period, access to the socially produced means of consumption would still rest on contribution to social labor required for its production. Over time, as the productive power of social labor increased, the labor time required for access to the socially produced means of consumption would progressively diminish.
The progressive reduction of hours of labor thus accomplishes both the tasks of bourgeois socialization and the tasks of proletarian communization. Rather than the reduction of necessary labor making possible the expansion of unpaid labor, (the production of surplus value, of profit), the reduction of necessary labor progressively increases the free disposable time for the social producers.
While the socialization of the forces of production eventually culminates in the abolition of wage labor, the communization of those same forces begin with the abolition of wage labor.