Intersections

M. Hough

Separated by a century (1873 to 1972), 4 intersections representative of the proletariat’s lived experience, arising from incomparably different contexts, in 4 different literary forms, articulated the real movement of the proletariat.

Cervetto’s book (1966), Turner’s article (1896), Hillmann’s pamphlet (1873), Dangeville’s introductions (1972); Leninist, trade unionist, Lassallean, post-Bordigist; for a moment within their texts, they found it.

This moment applied that unique historic achievement of Marx and his co-workers within the Communist League in their articulation of the real movement of the proletariat (communism) as a method.

The structure and form of how and why and when they inadvertently articulated this method is as important as to how they then lost it.

A real-existing capitalism, a real-existing capitalist society, a real-existing class struggle and a real-existing proletariat is articulated but co-exists with a rejection of what is for what should be– an ideology.

Intersections are those textual points at which the real movement of the proletariat and ideology meet; when the theorization of the real movement of the proletariat becomes ideologized.

Within the moment of articulating the real movement is its contradiction. In each of the 4 texts is an affirmation of the method of the real movement of the proletariat and a moment of aporia when the construction of ideology consumes this affirmation.

In the case of Cervetto’s book and Turner’s article, there appears to be intentional ideologizing. What they write is at war with the shorthand of their existing ideological conclusions, which appear to be reintroduced after the fact. They both begin from an ideological conclusion, move beyond that conclusion and end by circling back to assert it anew in spite of where their elaborations led. By way of comparison, Hillmann’s pamphlet is virtually flawless; he merely uses the existing-contemporary frameworks of German socialism to express his elaborations which simply can’t be contained by them in an act of incidental ideologization. Dangeville’s introductions contain both the best and the worst examples present in the other 3.

…/

Cervetto’s Aporia

Arrigo Cervetto’s Class Struggles and the Revolutionary Party was published in book-form in 1966. It was written in the context of an Italian communist milieu animated by an intense ultra-Leninism, by a man who had circulated throughout the revolutionary movement in Italy who would be the founder and leading member of a new organization: Lotta Comunista. This book was both a foundation for and announcement of this new organization.

It formally contains three parts: the first, a chronology of Lenin’s theoretical application of the Marxist method to the development of capitalism (the objective); the second, a chronology of Lenin’s theoretical application of the Marxist method to the development of the class struggle (the subjective); and the third, a very short and out of place series of notes on Trotskyism (the irrelevant).

It’s within the first part that we can see Cervetto’s talent for condensing subjects into extremely few lines of text. Rather than just presenting such subjects generally, his talent lies in distilling the theoretical kernel of a given question.

“The relations of production-relations of distribution coincidence shows us the lifecycle of the capitalist social formation in its class struggles, in the political and ideological aspects that these struggles take on as a reflection of the historically determined production relations and the distribution relations inherent in them. It shows us all these relations in a single, complex process of movement that combined ‘economy’ and ‘politics’ in a contradictory reality. Scientific knowledge of this reality is the objective premise for the Marxist-Leninist concept of the party

. . .

“The Leninist party’s development is the demonstration that an antagonist part of the social process becomes conscious of what it objectively and subjectively represents

. . .

“Lenin follows Capital’s entire logical pathway to reach the Party; that is, he reaches the conclusion that seems voluntaristic to many but which, instead, is the most determinate element in all of Marxist science

. . .

“Within its struggle and that of all the classes, the working-class attains knowledge of the objective laws, of the production relations and the inherent distribution relations, that regulate all struggles, including its own

. . .

The working-class’ conscious struggle, however, obviously does not change the laws’ objectiveness. Rather, it constitutes a factor for intervention in the historical process in which these laws act”

These selected portions of the first part of the book reveal a relatively sophisticated and condensed restatement of Lenin’s reading of Marx. It’s in the second part of the book that Cervetto articulates both the affirmation of the real movement of the proletariat and its contradiction; an intersection.

Compare these sections taken from the second part:

“[Lenin] considers the soviets and the trade unions. In the former he sees both the factors that can be developed into the pillars of the dictatorship of the proletariat as well as the factors that can be used by petit-bourgeois democracy’s counter-revolution. In the latter he sees both the class momentum that can make trade unions a ‘school of war’ for the social war that has begun, as well as the traits that make them a social organization for labor aristocracy and opportunist bureaucracy”

and

“If Marxism and Lenin, in What Is To Be Done?, say that the proletariat’s spontaneity is trade unionist, this is because the proletariat is subjected to the political influence of the other classes (bourgeois and petit-bourgeois) and not because the proletariat is in and of itself trade unionist”

In the first passage, Cervetto inadvertently locates the contradiction inherent to wage labor: reproduction / negation of capital. These competing potentials to be capital / not-capital expresses itself in labor’s class struggles, which are always the movement to reappropriate what was and is (and will be) expropriated by capital, through demands or resistance to further encroachments.

The content of this expression is trade unionism, where this contradiction inherent to wage labor manifests. The implication of Engels’ formulation from The Condition of the Working-Class In England, that the trade unions are a school of war under the normal conditions of capitalism, is that the trade unions play a crucial role in the cultivation and organization of the proletarian revolution. The implication of Lenin’s formulation, built upon that developed by Engels and not included here by Cervetto, is that the trade unions become schools of communism under the conditions of proletarian dictatorship.

In the second passage, Cervetto imports a vulgarization of Lenin’s “trade union consciousness” / “social democratic consciousness” schema, which invalidates the method of the first passage. If the proletariat is not, “in and of itself trade unionist,” and labor’s class struggles are trade unionist solely due to, “the political influence of the other classes (bourgeois and petit-bourgeois),” then it is impossible for the trade unions to ever be schools of war (Engels), schools of communism (Lenin) or pillars of the dictatorship of the proletariat (Lozovsky); it is impossible then for trade unionism– the wage demand– to express the organizing principle of the proletarian revolution.

This theorization explicitly provides the trade unions and trade unionism with a class origin arising from capital rather than labor; a contradiction of the method evident in the first passage. Because this contradiction substitutes what is for what should be– in this case, substituting a ready-made formulation with a contradictory conclusion in place of following what he has already written to its legitimate conclusion– it is the moment that the method of the real movement of the proletariat is ideologized.

Class Struggles and the Revolutionary Party appears to have been written backwards because it begins to elaborate using the method of the real movement of the proletariat but does not take these elaborations to their conclusion. Instead, Leninist catechisms gag and choke off the possibilities for theoretical development created by Cervetto; in particular, articulating that there are laws governing the manifestations of labor’s class struggles.

Turner’s Aporia

John Turner was an English trade unionist who had formed the Society of Shop Assistants, a retail clerks’ union in Britain. He was born at the time that the International Workingmen’s Association (IWMA) was formed and entered the workforce just when the English labor movement, mirroring developments elsewhere, struggled to find its footing after the dissolution of the IWMA. He circulated in the revolutionary organizations of the day, which were permeated with an eclectic regression from the theory and practice of the IWMA. In 1896, he left England and toured the United States.

To promote Turner’s speaking tour of the United States, the American Federation of Labor published an article written by Turner in their journal, The American Federationist, under the title, A Peculiar Policy. Turner’s anarchist political trajectory is evident in the article; but still, he couldn’t entirely abandon the ‘old International’– or Marx.

“The only movement that has succeeded almost entirely in shutting the door to the political adventurer, as such, and in keeping out of its councils any of the exploiting class, has been the trade union organization. It is, without exception, the only real class organization of the workers”

Turner’s point of departure is the point of the immediate exploitation of the proletariat, where the proletariat is produced and reproduced– in the workshops, the mills, the mines, the factories.

Marx and his coworkers engaged in theoretical combat against the Lassalleans, Blanquists, Mazzinists, Proudhonists, Owenites and co. in the IWMA, which finally resulted in the triumph of communism as the real movement of the proletariat as the Marxist method, in the international labor movement. One of many fronts in this combat involved an intransigent opposition to workers and capitalists cohabiting the same workplace organizations, which was a regular occurrence up to that point (ex. Engels’ Report on the Miners’ Guilds in the Coalfields of Saxony).

Another front in this combat put the international labor movement on an explicit class struggle basis. They did this by proving that workers’ wage demands and concerted actions to enforce them reduced their employers’ profits rather than directly raising the prices of goods and services. This provided a basis to understand those struggles which had occurred in the past and to those continually generated and regenerated organically-spontaneously.

It is this inheritance, barely a generation old, that Turner has appropriated while discarding the method of the real movement of the proletariat from which it came.

This is the basis of both Turner’s articulation of the real movement of the proletariat and moment of aporia; he understands his class instinctively but refuses to accept it as it really is:

“As trade unionists we are always willing to examine new ideas, especially economic ones, but when men come forward, and not workingmen at that, pretending to be anxious for our welfare, at the same time trying to control our action and direct out policy into a political struggle against, and in spite of, the expressed wishes of our members, we have good ground for suspicion, both of the motive and the policy. Experience has proved again and again that the methods of trade unionism are the only ones that can win for the workers a somewhat better standard of comfort under existing capitalistic domination of industry. But it does not stop there! Finality in trade unionism is as impossible as everything else. Slowly, but surely, the organized workers are learning that very domination is the cause of the labor struggle, and while they refuse to “swap horses in the middle of the stream,” change their policy while engaged in the struggle, we know as well and see as clearly as anyone that, sooner or later, the control of industry must pass into the hands of the organized workers”

Control of the means of production and distribution, the fruits of labor, private property, is the precondition for the seizure of political power; it is in the organization of labor that the organization of power by the proletariat is made a social and physical fact. This can only be realized through class independence. Organization is a result of labor’s class struggles and creates the conditions for the growing-over and generalization of its struggles. Turner correctly observes that the lived experience of the class struggle brands the reality of exploitation on the minds and bodies of the proletariat, which is compelled, driven, herded, toward the question of workers’ Control; but stops short of recognizing its complement and companion in workers’ Power.

“But, before that can happen, the workers must understand the necessity of united action for attack, and there is no agency in existence that unites them upon an economic, industrial basis so well as trade unionism. Politics create parties and lead to rivalries between the workers. Personalities come to the front and obscure the common aim. In the desire of each party for political supremacy, all are reduced to impotence in the labor struggle. It is the apple of discord in an otherwise united movement”

By reducing the question of the proletariat’s emancipation to the economic terrain, Turner forsakes the real-existing class struggle, in which no struggle and no labor organization is strictly economic, political or social. There is an intuitive, organic, innate, instinctive tidal pull of labor’s class struggles onto all terrains. The International Workingmen’s Association was formed to prevent strikebreaking and fight for higher wages; it became the tangible specter of communism, organ of the revolutionary proletariat.

Turner’s nascent anarchist prejudices allow him to ignore even his earlier firsthand experience of this tidal pull, in the union of his trade, that he founded, when its members encouraged him to enter Parliament and take the methods of trade unionism onto the political terrain (he declined).

The Manifesto of the Communist Party had already given Marx’s retort nearly 50 years before this article was published– “But every class struggle is a political struggle”. This is because every episode and manifestation of labor’s class struggles is an arena of combat between the proletariat and capital which confronts the very basis of private property and property rights.

He writes of Marx’s method, “And, yet, Marx himself, while favoring the formation of a political working-class movement, based his philosophy upon the teaching that . . .,”

and

“Even this, too, seems to have been understood by Marx, for speaking of political power, he said. . .,” ;

vital caveats which form alibis to shoplift parts of the method of Marx, the method of the real movement of the proletariat, while abandoning their practical expressions as made concrete in the ‘old International’, that looming figure at the center of Turner’s lamentation– the real existence of the IWMA thus denies him his political credibility, if not his instincts.

Turner’s is a self-conscious rejection of what is for what should be, a willing and knowing ideologization of the method of the real movement of the proletariat.

Hillmann’s Aporia

Carl Hillmann was a typesetter who was a contemporary of Marx and Engels. An active participant in the International Workingmen’s Association, the General German Workers Association and Social Democratic Workers Party of Germany, he was also a revolutionary journalist who had been jailed for press crimes and helped organize several national trade union organizations in Germany.

Substantial sections of Hillmann’s pamphlet, Practical Suggestions for Emancipation, are included to demonstrate first its expression of the method of the real movement of the proletariat.

“The International Workingmen’s Association became the instrument through which was conveyed to the English workingmen’s associations the historical thesis that they were the natural, historically based organizations by means of which it would be possible to achieve political and social demands, and at the same time it brought this thesis to a conscious realization. In fact, the most advanced English workingmen’s associations have become fully aware that even in the pursuit of their immediate goals, they must not forget the political and social emancipation of the working-class as a whole

. . .

“The causes for the misunderstanding of the trade union movement among many people are, on the one hand, Lassalle’s provocative phrase ‘purely political agitation’, and on the other, the workers’ suspicion of political parties. The former are rushing like a storm 10 years ahead of the movement which is supposed to include and unite all elements of the working-class; the latter do not understand that workingmen’s organizations with purely social programs have a tremendous impact on legislation, and thus on politics. These are two paths to the same goal. And now that we have discovered this, now that we have first of all learned that the trade union organization is the natural and historical instrument that will enable the workers to eliminate class rule, why then still argue about the proper form, name and appearance? We must hold fast to the heart, the soul, the essence of the thing. That is why it is exceedingly difficult to argue with people who cannot see the forest for the trees. While they smilingly and condescendingly look down upon a strike or a lockout, and they are pleased with any conflict that annihilates the phrases of the opposition and the rhetoricians, they refuse to admit that the trade union organization is destined to eliminate all party quarrels among the workers and is preparing them for social and political emancipation

. . .

“There are still a large number who prefer to think of the union movement as the tail of the political movement, but under the weight of overwhelming and unalterable facts they too will have to strike their sails.

It is obvious that anyone who wants to attain practical results must deal with all actual conditions and circumstances that impede the implementation of practical attempts to organize the working-class

. . .

“It has been commented upon before that by far the greatest majority of workers has no political sense, that is, they are not interested in the Reichstag or in legislation, in matters of tariffs, taxes, commerce, provinces, or princes, in republic or monarchy. It is difficult to rouse them to action. They are most easily reached through pay increases, shorter working hours, and travel and health benefits. This purely practical sense of the working-class must be used by those who have experienced and realized that the trade union organization is the natural and historically determined means for gradually bringing labor to power. It is a fact that certain trade unions such as the printers, hatmakers, and goldsmiths are making such rapid strides because they do not belong to any political movement and as a matter of principle refrain from all political disputes while not denying any member the right to join a purely political party outside the trade union. Matured through bitter experience in social struggles, these workers are confirmed pioneers in independent political organizations and representation, and these elements not only protect us from revolts and putsches, they encourage more serious work, a sense of duty, and an acceleration of the solid organization of the working-class

. . .

“The inner drive of the working class toward emancipation is no longer a dream; it is neither an idea, or an invention, nor anything forced: It is a fact which cannot be debated away. Whether this aspiration expresses itself only in purely political agitation, or in the desire for the elimination of oppressive factory regulations, for the shortening of the working day, for increasing demands, for regulating the labor market, etc., its goal is once and for all the achievement of independence. Herein lies the crux, the focal point, and the total essence of the social question

. . .

“Three essential points of the trade union movement have been brought out: first, the natural and historical necessity of trade unions; then, the demonstration of their independence from and equality with political agitation; finally, the identification of the political program of the Social Democratic Workingmen’s party with the trade union movement”

Hillmann’s moment of aporia is incidental. He was politically active many years before the looming presence of Lassalle had been exorcised from the German socialist movement. The combat to supplant Lassallean formulations with the method of the real movement of the proletariat, the legitimacy of the wage demand, the defense of trade unionism and the dictatorship of the proletariat, had just begun in earnest.

“the establishment of the free people’s state, that is, the economic, social, political, and spiritual liberation of the working class and the establishment of the freedom of the worker, requires preparatory development and training

. . .

“In the case of the workingmen’s associations it is not a matter of deceitful phrases, but rather of a strong bastion and bulwark of defense against even further deterioration and degradation of the working class. They must fulfill not only this initial obligation but can also push wages at least to a level where it becomes possible to expand and increase demands; and since wages, according to the iron law of wages, adjust themselves according to the demands of a people, nothing can be more obvious than the necessity of increasing demands. Through an increase in demands one not only combats the plague of hunger, but also the worker learns to value shorter working hours. He not only gives the power of labor a higher value, he protects himself from overproduction and trade crises, thereby expanding his social, political and economic education without estranging himself from family life, but rather coming closer to it

. . .

“The program of the Social Democratic Workingmen’s party can be summarized in one sentence: Equal rights and equal duties!

. . .

“Now any trade union member knows that the unions maintain, even in the smallest detail, the principle “Equal rights, equal duties,” which means the same dues, no special privileges for individuals, as equal an administration as possible, the same enjoyment of rights! If we imagine this system developed, matured, and extended to the state and community in almost the same way in which inequality between master, journeyman, and apprentice established the pattern for the privileges of the master and the triumph of the grande bourgeoisie, we have before us the ideal of social democracy: The state of equal rights and equal duties, a free people’s state”

Yet his use of Lassallean language masks its content, in which he subverts the common understanding of this language embodied in the formulations, “equal rights and equal duties,” “free people’s state,” and “iron law of wages”. In none of these usages of any of these three formulations is the accepted definition of any of them. Hillmann animates these formulations with a new meaning–a new content– in his attempt to articulate what he is experiencing in the class struggle. If anything, this pamphlet was itself a front in the movement to supplant Lassalleanism with scientific socialism in Germany, part of the international front to supplant the eclecticism of the international labor movement with the method of the real movement of the proletariat.

Hillmann’s pamphlet was published years before the Gotha Program was written and decades before Marx’s Critique of the Gotha Program was made public.

It’s for these reasons that the inclusion of Lassallean ideological formulations as the conclusion of his theorizations is only a superficial intersection.

Dangeville’s Aporia

Roger Dangeville was won to the Italian communist left in 1956. He joined the International Communist Party, and over the course of a decade, worked closely with Bordiga and Camatte, before breaking with both in 1966. From the 1950’s to the 1970’s, he worked to translate little-known works of Marx and Engels into French. This work included the first French translations of the Grundrisse and Results of the Immediate Process of Production, the influence of which is unmistakable in his original writings. Of the many works that he translated from the original German into French, he provided many with introductions– or rather, essays with original theoretical and political content masquerading as introductions to the works of others.

In 1972, two collections of translated works by Marx and Engels on trade unionism and the trade union question were published in Paris under the title Le Syndicalisme (Vol. I and Vol. II), containing several of Dangeville’s essays on the subject.

Like the treatment of Hillmann earlier, significant sections of Dangeville’s texts will be provided as evidence of his application of the method of the real movement of the proletariat.

“Trade unionism relates to a determined phase in the evolution of the productive forces of mankind. Trade union demands were born of capitalist exploitation, and trade unionism was not conceived before the existence of capital. The first condition, then, has been the separation of the producer from his means of production, which is the very precondition of capitalist production. Trade unionism extends itself with the increasingly complete and general expropriation of producers, when the latter has only its labor power, and sells it to the capitalist for a wage. It then has only one means left for defending and asserting itself: to associate with other employees of the same condition for actions of resistance with a view to the ultimate goal: to reappropriate, on a collective scale, the means of production

. . .

“At the end of the cycle, after the revolutionary conquest of political power by labor, the trade union became more generalized as workers reappropriated production, and eventually founded itself in the community organization of production and the society, rid of the mercantile relations, the division of class labor and the state

. . .

“As long as capital is not overturned, each conquest, instead of reducing social contradictions or diminishing the causes of the class struggle, only multiplies the fronts of battle, providing a permanent motive for a struggle more afterwards and more decisive. As wage-earning workers form the overwhelming majority of the population, their demands far surpass the economic plan of immediate working conditions within the enterprise and the fixing of the level of surplus value and wages

. . .

“However, if the class party is to exert a political and revolutionary influence on the economic movement of the proletariat, the economic movement of the proletariat must constitute the vital base of the political party of class

. . .

“One of the conditions for the revolutionary unfolding of the class struggle until victory is the existence of a working-class International which plunges solid roots into the production and material conditions of the proletariat, thanks to what Marx calls, ‘the organization of the working class through the trade unions’

. . .

“Indeed, the revolution is provoked by the contradictions of bourgeois society, especially the productive apparatus. The unification of the working class, that is to say, of all individual workers, will be realized only after more than a decade of socialism: the trade union question therefore continues to arise after the conquest of power. Formerly, political unification through the party through trade unions obviously brings together only the decisive elements in the struggle against capitalism and presupposes a mass that is certainly combative, but which cannot have the level of consciousness of the militant. It is therefore possible that some of the trade unions remain in the hands of the reformists on the day of the revolution; on the other hand, what is impossible is that the decisive elements and, through them, the working masses are under their control, for that would mean that the revolution has already failed. The essential condition is not ‘will the revolution break out?’, but ‘will it conquer?’

. . .

“It is by perfectly posing the problem of the conquest of the great mass of the workers as the objective of the International that Marx and Engels opened up to the improvement of the living conditions of the workers at the same time as to their revolutionary organization and preparation. It is by paying the greatest attention to the economic struggles and to the general interests of the working class that they have posed the trade union question in its entirety, at the heart of revolutionary action. This position contrasts with that of the reformist parties, which are always influenced by electoral successes, which in order to gain influence over other layers of society-while the large working masses remain firmly under the influence of more or less bourgeois-established reform programs benefiting non-wage-earners: the doses of compromise then replace the methods of struggle which, alone, really transform social conditions

. . .

“Marxist theory is made up of laws freed from the economic and historical progression of society, which implies that the economic and social movement itself obeys specific laws, those which form the Marxist theory. Consequently, the development foreseen by Marxism goes in the same direction as the real movement. Marx could therefore say without lapsing into utopianism: ‘The principles of the Commune are universal and cannot be destroyed. They will always resurface until the working class is emancipated.’

Extracted from the most substantial and profound material conditions of social life and experience, the Marxist program then proposes its solutions, which make it possible to avoid errors which surfaced in the past.

The two phases of the theory — that which is elaborated on the basis of material conditions, and the one on which it reacts — are found in our two volumes on trade unionism. In the first, Marx and Engels started from historical facts to arrive at the theoretical principles which should guide the proletariat in its demands. In the second, the texts start again from concrete events, but this time the facts no longer give the theory; they are already somehow filtered by a theory now established, which immediately seizes the course of events at the same time as it indicates its solutions to the workers in struggle”

Dangeville’s moment of aporia hinges on his loathsome support for the theory of the ‘aristocracy of labor’, which originated in Bakunin’s ideological attacks on the proletariat in his article On The International Workingmen’s Association and Karl Marx (1872). More than any other figure of the revolutionary movement, Dangeville went to extreme lengths to prove that there is an objective basis for the development and perpetuation of this ‘labor aristocracy’, borrowing from the mysticism of his Bordigist past to do so.

“The increase in wages, which has the effect of increasing the production of the necessary means of subsistence for the mass of workers, to the detriment of the production of luxury goods, the demand by the workers for a better standard of living — by the means and force of strikes and trade union actions — has a useful meaning for humanity which, more than ever under capitalism, by the spontaneous play of this system, suffers from pauperism, unemployment and hunger

. . .

“It is because it denies the conservative trade unions the possibility of really improving the lot of the working class that Marx asks the workers to form revolutionary trade unions fighting for the emancipation of the workers from the capitalist yoke. He also shows that the trade unions, if they fight only for an improvement in the capitalist framework, without attacking it, even miss their goal, because of the historical laws of capitalist production

. . .

“This disastrous result is due, for the most part, to trade unions that do not really oppose capital, since they have renounced the revolutionary goal, the abolition of wage labor, in spite of an incredible development of the productive forces and an immediate struggle of a proletariat — especially the poorest — which does not let go in its daily conflict with capital. Although it is true that the non-revolutionary trade unions can no longer pull out any general reforms or improvements for the working class, they manage nevertheless to maintain a thin layer of labor aristocrats, relying, on the one hand, on these privileges and, on the other hand, on the capitalist system and capitalist state”

Here is a moment of aporia internal to Dangeville’s text. What began in the essays of Vol. I and briefly carried over into those of Vol. II was an unconditional elaboration on the real-existing class struggle. The essays of Vol. II surreptitiously inject conditions onto these once-unconditional elaborations. Now we see the introduction of new categories– ‘revolutionary’ and ‘non-revolutionary’ trade unions– and a new stratification of the proletariat– an identification of immiseration with the proletariat and ‘labor aristocrats’ with the bourgeoisie– which re-writes and re-defines the content of the earlier essays.

The source of this moment of aporia is within Dangeville’s surgical transplant of the dead tissue of the pre-existing ideological formulation of the ‘aristocracy of labor’ into the host body of his elaborations which were, until that moment in the texts, a healthy vessel for the method of the real movement of the proletariat.

This incipient intersection is important, as it frames and forms the transition to Dangeville’s ideologization of the method of the real movement of the proletariat.

“Let us now consider the effect of a general increase in wages according to the aristocracy of labor which does not seek to influence distribution and production in a direction favorable to the whole working class, but merely to improve its own fate. We will return to the previous schema to determine what will be the effect of a general increase in wages. But this time, instead of reducing the wage differences between workers of the same category and even of all categories, it will accentuate the differences, by virtue of the famous principle of the hierarchy of wages, so that, for example a wage increase of 10% would give a surplus of 100 francs to the one who receives 1000 francs, and 300 francs to the one who already has 3000 francs!

What will be the general effect? As before, the increase in wages will firstly increase the demand for subsistence goods. The capitalists who make these more demanded goods will increase their prices and, in this way, will largely compensate, this time, the average increase in wages. For capitalists who do not manufacture the objects of first necessity, the rate of profit first drops as much as for the other capitalists, but will it fall further because of the slump of the products returning to capital in the sector of the basic subsistence goods? While the capitalists, because of the decline in their profits, will have less money to buy their subsistence and luxury goods, it should be noted that: 1. the capitalists producing the means of subsistence for the workers have saved, for the most part, their incomes as they have increased their prices; 2.Women’s aristocracy, whose wages have increased sharply in absolute value, relative to average wages, will take over from the lower demand for subsistence and luxury goods by capitalists, preventing a fall in prices in these sectors, which would sanction, as in the first case, the reduction of the employers’ profits due to the general increase of wages.

Compared to the first case, the increase of wages always has a positive effect on the purchasing power of the workers, but a small one for the great mass, and considerable for the small group of labor aristocrats. As far as profits are concerned, the repercussion is always negative, but less so than in the first case; as far as production is concerned, it remains practically unchanged, or if it is affected, it is in the normal sense of capitalist development: a diminution of the share which belongs to the articles normally produced for the capitalist class and to which the labor aristocracy also buys.

This evolution underlines that the corruption of the aristocrats and their spirit of class collaboration is a material basis”

Dangeville chooses to ignore a fundamental element of trade unionism that has existed from the origin of capitalism: combined self-interest.

He ignores the crucial role of the workers’ party, that he himself has eloquently described and whose activity and program he has concisely stated, in the political sophistication of the proletariat and its organizations.

He ignores how whole segments of workers were moving from ‘the poorest’, the most immiserated, to ‘labor aristocrats’ in less than a generation at the time Dangeville wrote those words; this movement demonstrates that immiseration as a metric by which to define the (revolutionary) proletariat is nothing more than a moral category, the imposition of a good/evil schema into the proletariat—a rejection of what is for what should be.

Instead, he upholds a formulation that is definitively scissionist, that introduces and congeals further fractures in a social class already infested with the prejudices, habits and ideologies of capitalist society and its dominant class.

And, rather than just uphold this formulation, he tries to give it a material basis in the language of the critique of political economy. The essays of Vol. II of Le Syndicalisme are preoccupied with and devoted to this.

Much like what is present in Cervetto’s book, but taken to its extreme, Dangeville’s intersection is strikingly at war with the method of the rest of the text. Whereas Cervetto could not accept the escape that he himself created from the confines of formal Leninism, Dangeville was able to escape the objectivist mysticism of Bordiga only to enthusiastically return to it– rather than take his elaboration to its organic conclusion. Like Turner, Dangeville casually ignores the implications of what writes; but unlike Turner, he certainly and demonstrably knew better. Simply using the formulation ‘aristocracy of labor’ could have been incidental, as in the case of Hillmann’s Lassallean shorthand, but it became the point at which Dangeville’s essays devour their own content; a textual autocannibalism.

…/

Method/Ideology

In each autopsied section of the preceding 4 texts, an elaboration based on the facts of the class struggle, from which the Marxist method is produced and reproduced, is in evidence.

Moments of aporia are found in those intersections where the method of the real movement of the proletariat meets ideology, or becomes ideology. It can be incongruent (Cervetto), explicit (Turner), incidental (Hillmann) or a combination of all three (Dangeville).

The relative usefulness of these texts is not necessarily linked to the appearance of such intersections.

Cervetto’s entire political trajectory was an abortion. Part Togliattist, part anarchist, part left communist, part Trotskyist, wholly consumed with domestic Italian peculiarities and heavily idiosyncratic in its approach to politics, Lotta Comunista certainly had the chance to be a much different organization had some of what Cervetto included in his book been digested and applied.

Turner’s article was in fact a weapon at the time it was published, deployed by one combatant against the other in the war within the American labor movement. Turner’s lamentations for the old International and the method of Marx was a sortie launched by the AF of L against the DeLeonist ‘Socialist Trade and Labor Alliance’ outfit– that collection of union-wreckers, scabs, stool pigeons and shirkers. Even an imperfect method can be functionally useful.

Hillmann’s pamphlet was, if anything, a positive case of ideology: in trying to define his theory in the language of existing political formulations, he at once exploded these formulations; they could not contain the content of his text. The political frameworks of the German socialist movement at that time, riddled with Lassalleanism, were unable to be the vessel of what Hillmann wrote.

Dangeville’s essays derive their merit from the weight of what he was able to rediscover. He stepped over Bordiga’s corpse to reaffirm the theoretical basis for the political practice of Marx and Engels, even if his prior political conditioning could still haunt him.

…/

For the method of the real movement of the proletariat; for

the liquidation of intersections.

 

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