Marxism and Democracy by Lucien Laurat 1940

Chapter IV: The Birth of a New World

Up to the present we have been trying to retrace the evolution of Marxist ideas. We have seen that the followers of Marx and Engels contributed important clarifications and additions as they were made possible by the development of capitalism and the growth of working-class organisations. These clarifications and additions were naturally worked out in discussion which sometimes became violent, and this caused a number of critics to talk of ‘the crisis of Marxism’. Every one of these discussions was, in fact, a crisis, but it was a crisis of growth. A living movement which proposes to transform the world, and which bases itself upon a doctrine according to which the world itself is in perpetual evolution, must ceaselessly struggle to gain new knowledge, and to adapt its action to changing circumstances. This ceaseless ideological struggle, which we may well regard as a succession of crises, seems to us to be the best proof of its vitality. We approve entirely of what Karl Renner wrote in 1933:

The task of Marxism in our day is not to explain the writings of Marx by a subtle commentary, or to simplify them by drawing up an inappropriate catechism, but to analyse the new situation of the proletariat by means of the Marxist method. Just as the proletariat has progressed and changed from decade to decade, so capitalism itself takes on new forms suited to every stage of its development. Therefore Marxism, as a science, is in a certain sense timeless. As long as the economic system develops it will demand an analysis of its changes by the methods of Marx: Marxism will be dead only when it ceases to renew itself every day. [1]

However, in certain cases these crises of growth may take on more serious forms and even end temporarily in a considerable weakening of the Socialist movement and its organisations. When the Socialist idea takes root in countries which are only at an early stage of their industrial development and where the working class is still backward, or when, in more highly-developed capitalist countries, it wins over large masses previously lacking in all Socialist enlightenment, then we observe a recrudescence of the whole gamut of pre-Marxist conceptions. It was no accident that at the end of the nineteenth century Russia witnessed a recrudescence of Sismondism amongst the Narodniki, of Blanquism amongst the Bolshevists before 1917, and of Saint-Simonism amongst the Bolshevists, who developed into bureau-technocrats in the period of Bolshevism’s degeneration. However, such is the hold of Marxism — of the word, not of the doctrine — on the mind of man, that when reborn the greater part of these primitive Socialist ideologies take a Marxist label, and with the sectarian élan which characterises this primitive form of Socialism, they claim the title of ‘the only authentic Marxism’, not knowing that in reality they represent only a relapse into doctrines long since superseded by Marxism.

The advocates of this primitive Socialism in the newly-industrialised countries, like the new recruits to Socialism in the more highly-developed countries, would like to have their old-fashioned notions accepted as ‘new knowledge’, and to foist them on to working-class organisations which left them behind long before. [2] After Kautsky it was Rosa Luxemburg who showed on two occasions (in her polemics against Bernstein and Lenin) how these outworn ideas come to life again amongst masses of the people unenlightened by Socialism. [3]

From this angle we see that it is not a question of a crisis of Marxism, but a crisis of differing and distorted interpretations of Marxist doctrine.

We believe that in the foregoing we have demonstrated that what has failed was not Marxism at all, but the ideas and practices of pseudo-Marxists. Obviously, it might be objected that the failure of Marxism lies precisely in the fact that it did not succeed in winning over these masses of new recruits and saving them from their pre-Marxist illusions. However, as we have already pointed out, the winning over of these masses is a long and arduous task, and it is one which is constantly hindered by the entry of still further proletarian masses into the Socialist struggle. Those who proclaim the definite failure of Marxism have let themselves be hypnotised by what has happened in Germany. They forget that everywhere else, where the situation was less tragic, and where Socialist parties did not find themselves threatened with avalanches of new elements suddenly declassed and difficult to assimilate from one day to the next, the appearance of new recruits on the political scene did not at all lead to a weakening of Socialism, but rather to the contrary.

The fact that the doctrine of Marxism has emerged unscathed from the ordeal of fire to which it has been subjected during the past 25 years entitles us to use the Marxist method without hesitation to examine in this last chapter the economic and social structure as it presents itself to us after the shock of war, the upheavals of the postwar period, and the ravages of the last economic crisis. Changes of vast importance have taken place. Where do we stand? Where does the working class stand? What is, what must be the action of Socialism and of the trade-union movement in the face of this accelerated development?

We shall do our best to reply to these questions presently, without, of course, making any claim to distil absolute truths, but with the sole aim of contributing to a clarification of ideas.

I. The End of Capitalism?

Even in circles far removed from the working-class movement and its traditional ideology, people are beginning to speak more and more often of the ‘end of capitalism’, or at least of the ‘crisis of the capitalist system’. Others oppose such talk and declare that ‘capital’ is not a special category, but something as old as the human race, something which will only disappear with it.

Most of the discussions around this question suffer from one initial disadvantage, an inadequate definition of the subject under discussion, and this is common both to the adversaries and defenders of capitalism. The result is that many of these discussions only add to the already existing confusion because each of the disputants has a different interpretation of the terms he uses.

The difficulties encountered by those who try to define what capitalism is proceed from various causes, and the most important of these are:

(a) Capitalism has never existed alone. Throughout history it has existed only in conjunction with other economic formations essentially different from itself, and in this way the student has been led to confuse its own proper characteristics with those of coexisting formations.

(b) There are several types of capitalism. The capitalism of classic antiquity, essentially mercantile and usurious, hardly entered into the sphere of production, and like the similar capitalism of the end of the Middle Ages, and again in the seventeenth century, had very little in common with the form of capitalism which we call modern, and whose growth and development have changed the face of the world during the past 150 years.

(c) Capitalism, as a socio-economic category, transcends all definitions of a technical and psychological order. Those who ask whether this or that thing (machinery, buildings, money) is or is not capital by virtue of its technical properties lose sight of those social relations, and in particular of those property relations, which permit us to distinguish precisely between one economic formation and the other. Those who look for psychological characteristics and insist, for example, on the motive of personal interest, forget that this is as old as humanity, that it existed, and still exists, in all economic and social formations, and that these formations can be distinguished by the form in which this motive manifests itself. According to circumstances, it comes to its own in an organisation at times more collectivist, at times more individualist, and in varying degrees.

However, what interests us in this book is obviously modern capitalism. What distinguishes modern from antique and mediaeval capitalism is that it has gone beyond the sphere of circulation (commerce and usury) and taken undisputed hold of production. Money, destined to produce more money, can thenceforth function in production also, not occasionally, but permanently, as the general rule. Modern capitalism ended by completely routing natural self-sufficing economy; all the goods essential to mankind became commodities. In all countries in which modern capitalism has triumphed, no one can consume without buying, and to buy he must sell. The market, an accessory factor only for preceding economic formations, has become the vital centre of society, the absolute sovereign of its life process.

By its inexorable expansion [4] the new mode of production established what we now call ‘capitalist property’ (modern), which rests on the fact that the workers, having no property of their own, are compelled to sell their labour-power in order to exist. In preceding social formations, the wage-earning class represented a minor factor, an exception; it is the essential general characteristic of modern capitalism.

We have already indicated the difference between modern capitalism and the purely commercial and usurious capitalism of past time. It is also important to distinguish modern capitalism from two other social forms often referred to: slavery and serfdom.

Under slavery the worker is the property of his master just as much as cattle. [5] Under serfdom the worker had to serve the seigneur in time and kind. In both these cases it is the law which makes the worker in the one case a slave and in the other a tributary. In neither case is he free. In both cases his maintenance is assured; whether ill or well, a quantitative question, does not interest us in this qualitative analysis.

Under modern capitalism the worker is free. No legal pressure compels him to sell his labour power. He can take a job where he likes and when he likes, or remain idle if it pleases him. Only the commodity market, to which he must go to live, compels him to subject himself to the changing conditions of the labour market. However, the disappearance of all legal protection corresponds to this legal liberty. If, for causes usually independent of their will, the owners of the means of production cannot employ the available workers, these workers are doomed to starvation. [6]

On the other hand, the owners of the means of production enjoy the same liberty. They, too, have the right to produce what they like, and when they like, to sell their products at any price that seems agreeable to them, to any customers they like, and at any time that seems expedient. However, their sovereign, the market, punishes their errors. The stability of their existence is no more guaranteed than that of the wage-workers.

We could define modern capitalism as follows. [7]

It is a system of free economy characterised by the fact that the means of production, too big to be used individually, are the property of a minority, who, for wages, employ the majority, excluded from that property, and appropriate to themselves a part of the value created by that majority (surplus value). Both the minority and the majority are legally free. The impersonal authority of the market decides everything above their heads. It is only since the appearance of this system that political economy (the search for the laws which govern economic workings above the heads of the minority and majority at the instance of natural laws) has become a science. Adam Smith, David Ricardo and Karl Marx formulated the laws which govern this system.

The influence of this system is so great that the ideas which have grown up with it, and which are actually specific to it, have been transferred to the pre-capitalist forms which surround it and which exist within its framework, so that even the artisan and the peasant speak of their ‘capital’, whereas a tool of production or a sum of money is not in itself capital, but may become so through its function. A machine is capital not because it is a machine, but because it is owned by a particular person who uses it to let others work, whilst these workers, not owning it, are obliged to accept the conditions which he imposes upon them.

The beginnings of capitalism are characterised by a universal process of dissociation and dissolution, accompanied by a contrary process of association and integration equally universal: the dissolution of the final remnants of natural self-sufficing economy, the dissociation of simple mercantile economy and its replacement by the second degree of mercantile economy: capitalist economy, the destruction of all bonds between the producer and the soil, between the producer and property, the atomisation of the economic process in the hands of innumerable individuals (employers) absolutely independent of each other.

Amidst this atomisation there develops spontaneous association, the automatic coordination of these atoms: the creation of national and world markets, and the drawing in of backward regions and hitherto neglected economic units into the economic system as a whole. Thus there is an atomisation into millions of independent economic units, but at the same time the transformation of all these units into integral parts of the mechanism of capitalism.

All these economic units are governed by the same law, the law of value, and set in motion by the same motive force, average profit. All are equal before this law, and competition governs the whole.

In this chaos new relations are finally created. In our book Économie dirigée et socialisation we analysed the transition from liberal capitalism to organised capitalism. As we are unable to give a detailed study of this development here, we are compelled to refer our readers to this book, and to limit ourselves to a summary sketch of the essential traits of these new relations which have so greatly changed the aspect of traditional capitalism. [8]

The process of monopolisation (cartels, trusts and agreements) gives rise to organised islands in a sea of anarchical chaos. In addition, it creates multiple relations, of which the following are the most frequent forms.

(a) Within industry: in the chain which stretches from the raw material to the finished product, consisting of a multitude of links (enterprises) independent of each other, one link acquires a particular importance; the raw-material industry may subjugate the manufacturing industry, dictate its conditions of sale, and reduce it to dependence (the heavy industries reduce the engineering industries in this fashion); the manufacturing industries, on the other hand, may dictate the conditions of purchase to the raw material industries (the sugar refiners reduce in this way the producers of raw sugar and the beet-farmers).

(b) Between industry and commerce: one branch of industry may subordinate the commercial branch which sells its products (coal, the practice of uniformly fixed prices); one branch of commerce may subordinate the industry which has need of it (importers and exporters of commodities can place industry at their mercy).

(c) In commerce: wholesale commerce may reduce retail commerce to the position of a dependent; retail commerce (department stores, chain stores) dictates its conditions to wholesale commerce.

(d) Between the banks, industry and commerce: the banks hold industry and whole branches of commerce under their thumb; industries (and more rarely branches of commerce) found banks of their own, or subordinate certain existing banks.

All these relations gradually turn an amorphous economic system into a vertebrated economic system. The process goes into reverse: atomisation is replaced by organisation; the integration of scattered units, formerly spontaneous and automatic, becomes voluntary. Freedom at the one pole corresponds with the acceptance of restraint at the other.

This process of integration, coordination and subordination considerably modifies the circulation of value and the distribution of profit.

Under liberal capitalism, the total revenue of the capitalist class, surplus-value (s-v), is composed of p + i + r; p represents the profit of the active capitalists, i represents the interest accruing to the loan capitalists, and r represents rent going to the landed proprietors.

P contains a fraction of value which is not surplus-value but wages. A part of the revenues of the active capitalists is, in fact, remuneration for highly-qualified work ('wages of superintendence’).

Let us now examine the modifications brought about in this distribution by the changes in the structure of the modern economic system.

The monopolies (trusts, etc) sell their commodities at enhanced prices, at monopoly prices. In this way they seize a fraction of the surplus-value which should, according to the rules of automatic capitalism, go into the pockets of other capitalists, and thereby they cause a fall in the rate of profit in those branches of industry not under monopolist control. This fall tends to make profit in these branches of industry approximate to simple wages of superintendence.

This is what happens in the economic system as a whole; a transfer of value from a non-monopolist sector to a monopolist sector takes place on a smaller scale, but in a more thorough fashion in the processes which stretch from the production of the raw material to the distribution of the finished product.

Originally, under liberal capitalism, such a chain looked as follows:

I → II → III → IV → V
Raw-Material Production Production of Machinery Manufacture Wholesale Commerce Retail Commerce
p1 + vs1 p2 + vs2 p3 + vs3 p4 + vs4 p5 + vs5

To each one of these links falls a share of the profit in proportion to the amount of capital invested in it. But over and above the profit properly so called (which is a part of the total surplus-value), which we have indicated as p, there is ‘the wages of superintendence’ (a part of variable capital) paid by the capitalists to themselves, which we have indicated as vs (an abbreviation for ‘variable superintendence’).

However, when one of these links — for example the second — subordinates the four others by dictating to the producer of raw material its own conditions of purchase, and to the manufacturing and commercial links its conditions of sale, the table changes. The remuneration of link II increases at the expense of links I, III, IV and V. Should the second link obtain absolute dominance over the others, the chain will finally appear as follows:

I → II → III → IV → V
Raw-Material Production Production of Machinery Manufacture Wholesale Commerce Retail Commerce
vs1 p2 + vs2 + p1 + p + p4 + p5 vs3 vs4 vs5

Link II attracts all the profit, properly so called, which belongs to the whole chain, and reduces the other links to simple wages of superintendence. The active capitalists I, III, IV and V have become simple executive agents, mere employees of link II. Instead of an automatic and proportional distribution of profit, we find the stronger apportioning the revenue of the weaker.

According to circumstances, this new order of precedence may interest the chain as a whole, or only one part of it. It happens sometimes that the dominant link subordinates only its immediate neighbours.

Thus we observe that the functions of active capital are slowly being divested of their capitalist character. In a large section of the economic system, the return on capital is tending to become simple wages of superintendence, whilst profit, properly so called, is being seized more and more by the monopolists.

The development of the credit system has given rise to changes no less important.

Credit is at the basis of the joint-stock company system. In the joint-stock companies we can observe a double modification of the distribution of surplus-value.

On the one hand, the active capitalist conducting his own business is disappearing. Every shareholder is a joint owner of the business. However, the dividends he receives tend to become interest pure and simple. Profit, the most important part of surplus-value, is seized by an administrative oligarchy instead of being distributed amongst the shareholders as a whole. These administrators are not the owners of the business, and they seldom take any part in its technical and commercial direction. They control the business as usufructuaries, and draw a disproportionate amount of the revenue thanks to their installation at a commanding position in the circulation of surplus-value, thanks to a practical monopoly and not to their real function in the economic system, or even to a sufficient property title. This evolution is similar in more than one respect to that which made the feudal seigneur at first the simple leader and protector of his peasants, and later their exploiter.

With the disappearance of the active capitalist, his real functions in economic life are being taken over by highly-qualified paid workers. This separation between capitalist property and the directive function of the capitalist corresponds to the clear separation between the two parts of which the capitalist’s return was formerly composed: vs and p. Vs (variable superintendence) is paid to technical and commercial directors in the form of salaries, and thus appears quite clearly as variable capital, whilst p (profit), divested of its last semblance of a return for labour, appears openly as the fruit of the exploitation of man by man. And this profit does not go into the hands of the shareholders, who are the real owners of the business (who have to content themselves with a dividend which is usually reduced to mere i), but to a new oligarchy.

Karl Marx points out all this in his Capital, and in his Theories of Surplus Value. Our whole demonstration is based on his analysis. The only difference between his epoch and ours is that the rudimentary elements of his day have grown and developed in ours. The exception of his day has become the rule of ours. Whilst formerly organised capitalism developed within the framework of free competition, today free competition plays only the limited role assigned to it by organised capitalism. Quantity has now been transformed into quality.

The reducing of all those who perform a real function as the directors of economic activity to the level of mere paid superintendents is carried out simultaneously by monopolisation and by the development of the credit system. As it is generally joint-stock companies which control the monopolies, and which represent the strongest links in a given chain, the profits seized by their administrative oligarchy comprise, apart from the profit of the particular joint-stock company itself, also the profit of the subordinated links. The monopolist and finance oligarchy thus tends to reduce the revenues of all those active agents in the economic process, both within the joint-stock company itself and in all those undertakings which it has succeeded in subordinating by commercial relations, to the level of mere wages. All active functions in economic life are tending to become subordinate activity carried out in the interests of a new oligarchy and rewarded solely by wages. The reducing of all active elements to a wage- or salary-earning class will cause a change in the function of this class itself, when society as a whole takes the place of the administrative oligarchy.

This line of reasoning brings us to the conclusion that capitalism as defined by the classic economists and by Karl Marx is now approaching its end. The structure of the present-day economic system is so different from that of liberal capitalism of the nineteenth century that we find far more points of difference than resemblance. Organised capitalism from the beginning of our century up to the outbreak of the World War marked the transition between the two formations. Today we might say that the differences between the two lie in the things, whilst the resemblances are in the terms. The old terminology is now being used to describe a state of affairs entirely different from that which gave it birth. The ‘profit’ of the active capitalists in the non-monopolist sector of the economic system contains less and less surplus-value, and is being more and more reduced to mere wages of superintendence. The ‘interest’ drawn by the great mass of the smaller investors, whilst still remaining a part of surplus-value, has quite ceased to be the return of capitalists without function (loan-capitalists). It can no longer ensure them a leisured existence, and is changed more or less into insurance. The major portion of the employer’s profit does not go into the hands of the active capitalists, but into the hands of a very limited number of monopolists and financiers, who usually do not own the property or even an important part of the joint property of those enterprises from which they draw their excessive remuneration. And it is these ‘functionless’ elements who take the lion’s share when surplus-value is distributed.

Such changes are unquestionably of a qualitative nature. The capitalism examined by Marx is disappearing. But to those who are inclined to declare that this very fact shows that Marxism has lost its basis and its reason for existence, we must reply that Marx was the first to perceive these changes, and thus to assist us very considerably in recognising these new forms now that they have come to maturity.

We might, of course, engage in long argument concerning the term suitable for defining this new economic formation, but we must confess that we feel very little desire to do so. Whether this new formation is called ‘neo-capitalism or ‘monopolist and finance capitalism’, or even ‘state capitalism’, [9] we propose merely to point out that all these appellations preserve the term ‘capitalism’, and are therefore in our opinion calculated to cause a great deal of confusion.

The world which is being born before our eyes is a new formation, an economic system sui generis, meriting special analysis, and occupying a place of its own in the history of economic formations. The preservation of the term ‘capitalism’ seems to us all the more dangerous because it tends to hide something essential to the workers’ struggle for emancipation, namely the new conformation of social classes, which must to a great extent determine the tactics, the immediate objectives and the alliances of Socialism.

These fundamental structural changes, proclaiming the approaching end of capitalism, have their counterpart in the chronic stagnation from which the capitalist world has suffered since the end of the World War. The laws and the tendencies of development formulated by Marx are now more active than ever they were. The various modifying tendencies of development, also formulated by Marx, are showing themselves to be less and less effective. There is unquestionably a close connection between the disappearance of the capitalist structure and the paralysis of the functioning of capitalist economy. [10] This connection is characterised by reciprocal action: the change of structure paralyses the once-famous automatism (as Rudolf Hilferding demonstrated in 1910 in his Finanzkapital), and the progressive paralysis of the automatic functioning gives rise in its turn to the development and consolidation of ‘control levers’ — in other words, to an increasingly fundamental structural transformation.

This development, during the course of which capitalism divests itself more and more of all those characteristics which permit it to be called capitalism at all, liquidates itself, so to speak. [11] It has achieved its highest degree of development in the totalitarian countries, whose economic structure shows the clearest characteristics of a period of transition.

II: The ‘Intermediary Forms’

Contemporary Socialism is a prey to two contradictory sentiments with regard to the totalitarian states. It abhors and denounces their political regime, which deprives the masses of the people of their elementary rights, freedom of thought, freedom of expression, and liberty of association. At the same time it is compelled to recognise the efforts of these states to control and direct their economic systems. We are well aware, of course, that their efforts in this respect are inspired by damnable ends: the consolidation of a pitiless dictatorship over the working people, and, at any rate in Germany and Italy, preparations for a war of aggression.

However, from the economic point of view these totalitarian states have brought new facts into being. More than anyone else they have developed what we have termed ‘control levers’. Thus they are laying the foundations for a controlled economic system delivered from the anarchy of the capitalist market. These control levers are being developed in order to bring about the establishment of a controlled economy, because without such levers a controlled economy would be impossible.

The aversion which democratic Socialism feels towards the totalitarian states, where human beings are harassed and persecuted for their opinions, must not, however, deflect us from an objective examination of the economic structure of these states, and of the control levers which are being developed before our eyes. These observations apply equally, it must be pointed out, to both Germany and Italy, and to Russia.

No doubt we shall be asked whether it is possible for democratic Socialists to discipline themselves to the necessary objectivity.

We shall reply with a distinct affirmative — providing the Marxist method is scrupulously followed. Ninety years ago Marx was faced with a youthful and hardly developed capitalism. Today we are faced with a new economic system developing in the totalitarian states. Whilst overwhelming adolescent capitalism with those vehement criticisms which we all know, Marx never ceased to stress the progressive side of that same capitalism in comparison with the feudal system of which it was the heir. Whilst ceaselessly stigmatising the sufferings which the new economic system inflicted upon the working class, Marx justly insisted on the immense progress represented by capitalism as compared with the defunct feudal system.

It is in this way that we should examine both the Fascist and Soviet economic systems. We are well aware of, and we have denounced the dictatorial regimes established in these countries, which are reactionary as compared with the aspirations of the workers, deprived of all liberty, and, above all, of the right of free association. However, their economic systems are none the less progressive as compared with liberal capitalism. Compared with liberal capitalism they represent a superior stage of social evolution, inasmuch as they do strive to control and discipline the blind laws of the capitalist market, and towards this end they develop appropriate control levers.

Let us recall the striking formula used by Marx in drawing a distinction between the machine itself and the use to which it was put by capitalism. Towards those workers who wanted to destroy machinery, Marx stressed that the machine as such was the instrument par excellence of their emancipation, and that only its capitalist utilisation with a view to the production of surplus-value was to be condemned.

In the dictatorial countries we can see new instruments developing and forming themselves. However, they are not instruments of iron and steel, but social machinery, which we have termed ‘control levers’. These control levers, these legal institutions permit the influencing of the market, and the directing of economic activity, and they must be judged as Marx judged the machinery of iron and steel. We must draw a clear distinction between these control levers as such and their use in the hands of a dictatorial oligarchy.

We welcome the arrival and the development of these control levers, and we are prepared to admit frankly that their consolidation is as acceptable a fact as the development of machinery in Marx’s day. But, like Marx, we denounce their utilisation in the hands of an oligarchy of plutocrats and technocrats, which prevents the community having access to them. Unless they want to lapse into the primitive ideology of the machine-breakers, democratic Socialists must not aim at destroying what good has been created by the totalitarian dictatorships in this field. Just as Marx gave the workers the task of removing the machine from the absolute power of capital, we today must put forward as our task the removal of the control levers from the pitiless hands of a plutocracy, a bureaucracy and a technocracy in order that the community as a whole may become master of them.

Let us therefore objectively examine the economic structure of the totalitarian states. In order to simplify matters we propose to use the term ‘Fascist’ here for both Germany and Italy. The difference between the two economic systems is, in fact, one of degree and not of kind.

Under organised capitalism the growing influence of private monopolies and state institutions permits economic agents provided with a certain power to use the laws of the market instead of submitting to them. The automatic distribution of commodities changes into a controlled distribution, and the automatic distribution of revenues changes into a dictatorially allotted distribution. The freedom of the immense majority of economic agents to dispose of their property just as they like is limited no longer by the market alone, as formerly, but by the will of other agents more powerful than themselves. However, in spite of that some freedom still prevails; the market is still the dominant factor. First of all, capital has still a certain margin of freedom to invest itself as it wishes, and secondly, the wage-workers have still the freedom to choose what employment suits them.

Under Fascist economy, on the other hand, these two essential characteristics of capitalism disappear.

The wage-working class is enslaved, its organisations destroyed, and its conditions of work and life greatly deteriorated. But the employing class itself is also no longer free. The Fascist dictatorship is, in fact, not the dictatorship of capitalism. In origin it is the dictatorship of a very restricted fraction of the capitalist class (the monopolist and finance plutocracy) over all other classes, but even this restricted fraction of the capitalist class does not enjoy absolute power. It is compelled to share economic power to an increasing extent with the state apparatus, with the Fascist bureaucracy. In view of the innumerable economic functions exercised by the state in our day, that bureaucracy is not to be confounded with the bureaucracy which existed under liberal capitalism. Being an economic factor of first-rate importance, the state today becomes the forcing house of a new class of exploiters. There are disputes and competition between the plutocracy and the machinery of state, but we can also observe a progressive fusion between the two. [12]

The state, in the hands of the plutocracy and the bureaucracy, enemies, but allies, disposes of the means of production, controls the investment of capital, and reduces the wage-workers to the level of slaves. Under Fascist dictatorship organisation dominates the market, whereas under organised capitalism the market still dominates organisation. We can say, of course, that the elements of the Fascist social structure already exist under organised capitalism. What is called the ‘Fascist revolution’ has certainly not created any new social structure; it has merely torn away the veil which, under organised capitalism, still covers already clearly developed relations. It releases something already existing within the framework of the preceding order in just the same way as the bourgeois revolution released liberal capitalism, which was already constituted within the framework of the old society.

In as far as Fascism adopts ‘nationalisation’, it is aiming merely to tighten the control of the ruling clique, and still further to dispossess the smaller capitalists. Fascism establishes an absolute economic dictatorship of that clique over all other social classes. In addition to introducing forced labour for the wage-workers, it carries out the expropriation of the smaller capitalists, the final act of capitalist evolution predicted by Marx. And even where this expropriation is not carried out by the brutal methods of adolescent capitalism, it takes place by the reduction of the smaller capitalists to the level of paid superintendents. What nominally remains ‘their’ capital still bears its fruit, but it falls into the hands of others, the dominant clique.

The essential difference between the Soviet economic system [13] and that of the Fascist countries lies in the fact that the new ruling class in Russia was not born of a fusion with the old oligarchy, because large-scale monopolist and finance capital in Russia was represented principally by the foreign capitalist element. In Germany and in Italy the ruling class is pluto-technocratic, whereas in Russia it is bureau-technocratic. With regard to property relations we can observe a difference of degree, but not of kind. The ruling clique in Russia does not possess the means of production which it dictatorially controls any more than the ruling clique in the Fascist countries does. In Russia these means of production are the property of the state, and in Germany and Italy they are the property of capitalist shareholders, but whilst the pluto-technocracy in Germany and Italy does own quite an important part of the means of production, the Russian bureau-technocracy owns no part whatever. In both cases, however, the control of the whole economic apparatus is not bound up with property rights. Under different forms and by different methods both pluto-technocracy and bureau-technocracy have sounded the knell of the capitalist class.

In the Fascist countries we can still observe the existence of capitalist characteristics, whereas in Russia these characteristics have been radically destroyed as a result of the absolute seizure by the state of all the means of production and distribution. Although the Russian economic system has often been called ‘state capitalism’, and although the term ‘state slavery’ employed by Karl Kautsky seems to us a more appropriate designation, in our opinion the present Russian regime is not slavery, or serfdom, or capitalism, but something of all three. It is related to slavery and serfdom by the absolute and total suppression of all freedom for the workers, who are tied by domestic passports to their places of residence, and often to their places of employment, like the feudal serf to the glebe. It is related to capitalism by the preservation of a great number of economic categories and legal forms. However, it is fundamentally different from any of these systems.

With more reason, and, of course, with all those reservations proper to such historical comparisons, we may rather compare the present Russian regime with the social and economic regime of the Incas, who dictatorially governed Peru before the discovery of America: an authoritatively controlled economic system strongly marked by numerous Communist traits, but with a division of society into classes. No one can say how and towards what this curious social system might have developed had not a brutal and rapacious conqueror brought it to a sudden and premature end. It is quite certain, however, that on an infinitely larger scale, with an incomparably higher mass culture, and provided with all the achievements of twentieth-century science, our modern Incaism over what is called ‘one-sixth of the globe’ reproduces from the social and political point of view the most characteristic traits of Peruvian Incaism of 400 years ago.

Just as the Russian state disposes absolutely over the material elements of the economic process, so it disposes dictatorially over the human element also. The workers are no longer free to sell their labour-power where they like and how they please. They no longer enjoy freedom of movement on the territory of the USSR (domestic passports). The right to strike has been suppressed, and if the workers expressed even the slightest desire to oppose the methods of Stakhanovism it would expose them to the severest punishments.

The Russian unions, strictly under the orders of the governing party, are merely organs charged with the execution in their own province of the political instructions of the government. The instruments destined to defend the working class against the directive organism of the economic system have become instruments in the service of these organisms. [14] The working class thus finds itself subjected to the discretionary power of a bureau-technocracy identical with the state apparatus.

Let us now try from the standpoint of the qualitative distribution of income to compare the Fascist and Soviet intermediary systems with liberal capitalism:

Liberal Capitalism

v — Labour

p (including vs) — Active capital

i — Functionless capital

r — Landed proprietors

Fascist Economy (Supreme form and negation of organised capitalism)

v — Labour

vs — Directive superintendence of the bureau-technocracy and of active capital

p — Plutocracy of the administrators (without function) and the peaks of the state apparatus

i — Investors

r — Landed proprietors

Soviet Economy

v — Labour

vs (including p) — Directive superintendence of the bureau-technocracy (state apparatus)

i — Insurance funds

r — State apparatus

With regard to the remuneration of executive labour, we have preserved the designation v, though it must not be forgotten that in the Fascist and Soviet systems wages no longer obey the automatism of the laws ruling capitalist economy.

The most important and striking difference lies in the changing position of the ‘functionless’ category. Under liberal capitalism, interest is the revenue par excellence of the functionless capitalists. Small investment not yet having spread amongst any important masses of the people, the small investors received only a very small fraction of the total interest, whilst the lion’s share went into the hands of the loan-capitalists. Under organised capitalism, of which Fascist economy represents at one and the same time the highest expression and the negation (seeing that the essential characteristics disappear), interest becomes the revenue par excellence of the investor, [15] whilst the functionless capitalist seizes the lion’s share of surplus-value, that is to say, profit.

In Russia the category i represents essentially an insurance fund, leaving aside, of course, those credit operations conducted as between one enterprise and another. Interest here no longer remunerates the functionless capitalist; an evolution already foreshadowed in organised capitalism and in Fascist economy, where interest properly so called (dividends also tend more and more to be reduced to the category of interest pure and simple) becomes the specific form of investment revenue.

With regard to the category vs, we observe that in capitalist economy it is joined with p, that in Fascist economy (an evolution already foreshadowed in organised capitalism) it is separated, and that in Soviet economy it joins up again with p. However, whilst vs is an integral part of p in capitalist economy, p is an integral part of vs in soviet economy. In the former case the reward for directive labour appears as a part of profit, the revenue of exploitation, whilst in the latter case, profit (or labour appropriated without return) appears on the contrary as a part of the return for directive labour. In the Fascist economic system p is appropriated by the plutocracy of administrators and by the peaks of the state apparatus. In the USSR the plutocracy has been suppressed, and its revenues are appropriated by the state apparatus.

The characteristics of the Soviet economic system are certainly more collectivist than those of the other economic systems we have examined. All revenue appears as a return for labour, even the revenue of the bureau-technocratical oligarchy, the insurance funds being considered as remunerating labour past or future. It is the first step towards the reunion of property and labour, but by no means of labour as a whole, but of directive labour only.

The revenue of the capitalist class arises out of its ownership of the means of production. The revenue of the monopolist and finance plutocracy arises out of its domination over the property of others. The revenue of the bureau-technocratic oligarchy in the USSR arises out of its administration as a usufructuary of what, on paper, is already the collective property of the community.

In the Soviet economic system there is no social class which is independent of the economic process. [16] In so far as we can speak of parasitism in the Soviet economic system, it is a question of an excessive number of bureaucrats, and not of a special category of parasites. Each individual bureaucrat is, if you like, parasitic to the extent of 25 per cent, or even 50 per cent, but the bureaucratic oligarchy as a whole fulfils a useful social function, although, of course, its remuneration is excessive.

In the Fascist economic system we find parasitism raised to the highest power, embodied by p, which has here become the symbol of the revenue of the ‘functionless’. P, the most important part of s-v, falls into the pockets of a social class which is completely independent of the economic process. However, during the course of recent years we have seen in this respect, as in many others, that the Fascist economic structure is developing farther and farther away from the traditional capitalist structure, and approximating steadily to the Soviet economic structure. In the expression ‘pluto-technocratic’, the accent is gradually shifting from the first term to the second. For the rest, we can predict an identical development in Russia (it is foreshadowed here as there): to the extent to which the cadres necessary for a rational administration of the enormous economic apparatus develop, the purely bureaucratic element will give way to the more technocratic element.

This technocratic element is gradually acquiring a special technique, such as is also developing, but much more slowly, in those countries which have as yet no experience of controlled economy, and in which liberal economic principles still prevail over directional principles. This technocratic element acquires in practice the technique of directing the economic system as a whole, whilst the experience of the economic technicians of Great Britain, France and Belgium confines itself to a fragmentary and partial control. The economic technicians of the United States may be considered as being midway between the two. The technocratic element enjoys an advantage which can hardly be overestimated, but it is one which has proved expensive. Those who one day calculate the enormous wealth which this hurried apprenticeship served under the terribly unfavourable conditions of totalitarianism, has spoiled, wasted and destroyed will experience a shock sufficient to make their hair stand on end. The Five-Year Plans in the USSR, the Ersatz regime in Germany, the active war economy in Italy, and the economic nationalism of all these countries, represents a crushing price to be paid for a measure of economic progress, which is being brought about once again on a basis of contradictions, according to the well-known law of Marxist dialectics. If they did not intensify the danger of war, the detached observer of these upheavals would have no cause to deplore them, because it has rarely been the lot of the sociologist to be able to study so many simultaneous experiments. As it is, we cannot but feel sympathy with the poor guinea-pigs who are being compelled to submit to this economic and social process of vivisection.

The economic laws of liberal capitalism have already changed under organised capitalism, and they are functioning less and less under the Fascist economic system, and not at all under the Soviet economic system. [17] These economic systems are controlled according to plan. The Soviet economic system no longer experiences capitalist crises. The Fascist economic system has been able to protect itself against the effect of such crises more easily than organised capitalist systems still having liberal capitalist characteristics. [18] This is explained by the fact that all the surplus product, or, if you like, all the surplus-value, is concentrated in the hands of a pluto-technocratic or bureau-technocratic oligarchy. This bureaucracy disposes absolutely of this surplus product, and also absolutely controls its division into funds of consumption [19] and funds of accumulation. It sees to it that a balance is maintained between the two. There can, of course, be no over-production there. Crises can arise only as the result of accidents due to insufficient forethought or to a defective execution of plans, and not to any automatism similar to that prevailing in the capitalist economic system.

These economic systems no longer obey spontaneous laws. They are not subject to the laws which govern the capitalist system. They are subject to one law only, a law which in any case governs all economic formations no matter what they may be: the law of rentability. If this law is broken, then the economic system will suffer grave disturbances. The tragedy of the Five-Year Plan in the USSR, and the economic convulsions in Germany and Italy are the best illustrations of this.

From a purely economic angle these must be regarded as transitional systems closely related to each other, as also, in a structural sense, they are closely related to the organised capitalism of the American, British and French democracies. [20] These economic systems display much clearer Socialist characteristics than those in which the liberal element has not been completely overcome. It would, however, be a very grave error either to take the totalitarian state for a realisation of the Socialist ideal (an error into which many Socialists have fallen with regard to Russia) or to believe that the decadence and transformation of capitalist economy must necessarily give rise to political forms similar to those prevailing in the three totalitarian states. As we shall see later, everything depends on the capacity for action and the intellectual maturity of the working class.

A fruitful study of these ‘intermediary economic forms’ can be undertaken only with the assistance of the dialectical method of Marx.

The bourgeois revolution sealed the triumph of an economic system which represented an immense step forward in comparison with previous modes of production. Marx stressed its progressive character on more than one occasion, but, armed with the dialectical method, he saw the class representing future progress at the base of that capitalist pyramid which embodied present progress.

As a declared enemy of all fatalism, he by no means counselled the proletariat to leave the field to its new masters, and resign itself passively to the famous ‘automatism of history’ so dear to the mechanical Marxist, and so sacrifice future to present progress. Whilst recognising the progressive character of capitalism, Marx regarded the working-class struggle against capital — and that at the beginning, and not at some hypothetical point of time when capitalism should perhaps have already become reactionary — as the surest instrument of historical progress and the best possible stimulant for all the progressive qualities of capital.

We must take up exactly the same attitude towards the Fascist and Soviet regimes. Whilst recognising their progressive elements from the technical and economic angle, we should betray the ideas and methods of Marx if we relied on pluto-technocrats and bureau-technocrats for the establishment of Socialism, that is to say, if we regarded them as the representatives of future progress. To each his part: the oligarchies are preparing the way for Socialism in their fashion, just as capitalism is preparing it by accumulation, by centralisation, by the development of the technical and administrative conditions for controlled economy (a matter of supreme importance), and by the intensification of its internal contradictions. To each his part: the workers have also theirs to play, but it is not the one assigned to them by their oppressors. And, above all, it is the workers who represent the future.

In other forms than those of capitalism, and on a higher scale, these intermediary systems are continuing the mission of capitalism: they are paving the way for the advent of Socialist society. The centralisation of the means of production, planned economy, the development of control levers, the increase of directive machinery, and the introduction of a more and more developed system of social book-keeping are also indispensable conditions for a Socialist society. From the standpoint of economic organisation and control, these systems certainly represent a more advanced stage of the transitional period than the organised capitalist systems of all other countries. Driven as they are by capitalism, however, they fulfil this mission on a basis of contradictions. To the extent to which their technical and administrative structure is gradually being ‘socialised’, social antagonisms are accentuated, thus preparing the way for a new upheaval which will place the working class in power and in possession of the economic control levers.

The great thing is to know whether this new upheaval will take place under illegal forms. In those countries where the masses of the people are deprived of all democratic rights we cannot see how they can reconquer them within the framework of existing dictatorial legality and by a peaceful transformation of that legality.

Up to now we have discussed these intermediary systems only from a purely economic angle. Must the new economic system which we can see arising everywhere out of the chaos of decadent capitalism necessarily result in the establishment of a totalitarian political superstructure? Those who reply to this question in the affirmative belong mainly to the camp of those mechanical Marxists who think they can find an exactly corresponding economic cause for each political happening.

If we are to be faithful to the method of Marx we must distinguish carefully between essential and accessory factors, and never forget that the process of evolution in which we are involved is brought about by the clash of antagonistic forces. The development of our contemporary economic system towards a technocratic structure is a fact difficult to deny, but the productive population as a whole, and not merely the wage-working class, whilst being involved in that evolution, is not called upon to submit to it passively. It also has a word to say, and its own aspirations to express. However, before going on to deal with this, we must first clear up a particularly salient point in present-day economic development.

III: The Technocratic Menace and Democracy

We have already pointed to the striking analogies to be observed in the economic structures of all the principal industrial countries. Whether it is the United States, Great Britain, Germany, France, Italy or Russia, their economic systems develop in the same general direction, and their points in common may be summed up as follows.

1: The increasing organic fusion between the state and the economic system; the development, at first spontaneous and then more and more deliberate, of ‘control levers'; the rapidly increasing centralisation of all economic activity; the development of decentralised control lacking coordination in the direction of centralised and coordinated control.

2: The development of property towards more and more collectivist forms (increase in the numbers of the shareholding public, the decline of the private sector of the economic system before the advance of the public sector); the broadening of social legislation; the development of increasingly collectivist legal forms. [21]

3: However, this process of centralisation and collectivisation is taking place on a basis of contradictions: the control levers and such property as has already been collectivised are not in the hands of society as a whole; a small minority controls these levers and administers this collectivised property exclusively in its own interests. In the totalitarian countries the people are prevented by violence from expressing their will, and in the democratic countries they still passively tolerate this situation.

4: This small minority occupying all the commanding positions is recruited from all social classes. Originally they appeared in the guise of a monopolist and finance plutocracy, the master of organised capitalism and the immediate beneficiary of the Fascist movement. However, in the Fascist countries it has to give ground under the pressure of the bureau-technocracy it has raised to power, and it risks having to abdicate before it altogether. In the democratic countries this plutocracy seeks to utilise the technicians, but there as elsewhere these technicians are beginning to turn against them. In Russia, where the November Revolution overthrew all the old forms, the plutocracy was destroyed and replaced by a bureaucracy, which is now beginning to develop more and more into a technocracy. The development towards a more and more controlled economy creates, together with the necessary control organs, the technicians capable of using them.

The economic and social characteristics we have just sketched are common to all the countries mentioned. The varying political regimes and the nature of the upheavals which gave rise to some of them have obviously given special characteristics to the economic framework of each country, but these are only of superficial interest when compared with their fundamental resemblances. We see no cause to be surprised at the existence of such differences. The development of capitalism also took on many and varied forms; in one country the development was uninterrupted, in another it proceeded by revolutionary fits and starts; in one country it adapted itself to a relatively democratic regime, and in another it passed through periods of terrorist dictatorship. However, despite all this the fact remains that these widely varying surface differences, which have been interpreted in so many different ways, were all expressions of one and the same process of development. In every case the final result was the triumph of nineteenth-century capitalism, whose fundamental traits are characteristic of all the advanced countries of our day.

We are faced with the same situation again. The new economic structure which is arising out of the convulsions of decadent capitalism [22] is taking shape under varying conditions, and is developing in various countries within the framework of capitalism, more vigorous or more mature in some countries, less vigorous or less mature in others. [23] The political convulsions may provoke a premature delivery (in Germany and Italy), or lead to a caesarian operation (in Russia). We must decide once and for all not to let ourselves be hypnotised by this or that particular feature of this or that regime or political event, but to keep our minds fixed on those factors which are generally valid and common to the fundamental economic evolution of them all. If, instead of studying the general economic characteristics of adolescent capitalism, Marx had confined himself to enumerating the differences between the political regimes of Great Britain, France and Germany, he would never have been able to provide us with the indispensable key for the understanding of modern social development.

To a certain extent the totalitarian countries show us what is likely to be the future of Western Europe and the United States, though not necessarily the future of their political institutions. We categorically reject the absurd idea that all countries must in any case and under all circumstances pass through a Fascist or Bolshevist dictatorship. However, from the standpoint of the economic structure it appears quite certain to us that the ‘intermediary forms’ to which British, French and American capitalism will ultimately give birth will be a more and more controlled economic system with increasingly collectivist forms. Seeing that not everyone is qualified to control economy, those who do so will inevitably be the specialists, or, if you like, the technicians, and it is here that the technocratic menace looms up, because we must make a clear distinction between the technician pure and simple and the technocrat.

For a long time the great majority of the technicians were absolutely hostile to the idea of Socialism and to trade-union organisation and action. They thought themselves better able to defend their own interests by making common cause with the capitalists against the working class. This mental attitude corresponded to the social relations existing throughout the past century. In a period when the shareholding public was still comparatively restricted in numbers, and when the employers owned and directed their businesses themselves, the technicians collaborated closely with their employers, and they enjoyed an income which allowed them a reasonable hope of one day rising into the ranks of the possessing classes.

Today the situation is different. The great spread of polytechnical institutions has led to the overcrowding of all the technical professions, to widespread unemployment amongst technicians (even before the great economic crisis), and to the great deterioration of their conditions. Industrial concentration and the gradual elimination of smaller undertakings now deprive the great majority of the technicians of all hope of one day rising into the ranks of a higher social class. The fact that joint-stock companies have become the dominant form in modern economic life has created new relations between the technicians and their employers. Instead of an employer directing his own business, there is now a plutocratic oligarchy which commands without working, and rules without in reality directing the business. Formerly the close collaborators of their employers, today the technicians have become the mere servants of the plutocratic administrators. Today the technicians are becoming more and more conscious of their situation, and they are beginning to rebel against the humiliating way in which they are being treated by people who they are gradually recognising as mere parasites.

The technocratic doctrine, which arose a few years ago in the United States, was to a great extent the expression of that revolt. In proclaiming that the economic system was in reality directed by technicians, the technocrats expressed their opposition to the dictatorship of the monopolist and finance plutocracy, but at the same time they opposed the aspirations of the working class, which they regarded as nothing but a passive instrument for the execution of their orders.

We must not seek to hide the fact that such a mentality is extremely dangerous.

In face of the universal crisis, an expression of the decadence of capitalism, the working-class movement and the technocracy are in agreement in their belief that a radical transformation, both political and economic, is urgently necessary, and that the anarchical economy of our day must be disciplined and controlled. However, whilst the technocrats aspire to substitute their own rule (hence the word ‘technocracy’) for that of the monopolist and finance plutocracy, Socialism and trade unionism seek to place the general interests of the community as a whole above all particular interests, including that of the technicians. In short, they believe that it is not a question of replacing one set of privileges by another, but of abolishing privileges altogether. It was not by accident that the doctrine of technocracy arose in the United States, a new and young country, where the revolt against privilege takes on utopian forms just as it did a century ago in this old Europe of ours. A few years back we described technocracy as ‘the utopian Socialism of the twentieth century’. [24] It might also be described as Saint-Simonism on a Yankee scale — which would amount to much the same thing.

We know very well that a growing section of the technicians, particularly in France, is abandoning this technocratic mentality, and that it is giving disinterested devotion to the organisations of the working class, to which in any case the technicians belong both socially and economically. However, we also know that the technicians perform a directing function in the economic process, and that under certain circumstances they might develop into a new privileged caste, as we can see more and more clearly in Russia today. This danger will even grow as the state penetrates further and further into the economic system, and we have already seen that a state which increasingly assumes economic functions may easily develop into a forcing house for a new class of exploiters.

The technicians are members of the wage-earning class, but those amongst them who occupy directive positions come under that particular category of variable capital which Marx has called ‘wages of superintendence’, and which we have designated with vs. During the course of capitalist development and parallel with the impersonalisation of capital, vs has separated itself from p, and now approximates to v. However, this development towards a generalised wage-earning class has not effaced the difference between v and vs. This new relation between v and vs is still concealed both under organised capitalism and in the Fascist economic system. It is cloaked by the fact that by far the greater part of p is seized by the plutocracy, and that the domination of v and vs by p is much greater than the domination of v by vs. This cloak falls altogether in the Soviet economic system in which the revenue of the bureaucratic oligarchy presents itself in the form of vs and includes also p.

Thus we must ask ourselves seriously whether the transitional economic system which is developing is not characterised, at least to a certain extent, by the preponderance, not to say the predominance, of the technicians, the term technicians embracing not only engineers, but all those who occupy directive positions. In view of the increasing penetration of the state into the economic system — a penetration which is particularly deep in the totalitarian countries — a growing number of administrative functions are becoming economic functions. The bureaucrats themselves are beginning to appear as the technicians of administration. In this way the question arises of whether the relation between v and vs conceals a new class antagonism destined to develop during the period of transition, whether this presents itself in the form of an economic autocracy (Germany, Italy and Russia) or in the form of a ‘mixed economy’ as provided for in the Labour Plan of the French CGT.

Class antagonism is another way of saying the exploitation of man by man. This exploitation of man by man has taken on many different forms throughout the ages, its three principal forms being slavery, serfdom and wage-slavery. The first two were based on oppression legally sanctioned. The last category is based on the liberty of the worker, the exploitation of the wage-worker being accomplished solely by economic laws, and not by any written law whatever. However, one condition is necessary to bring about this state of affairs: the masses of the people must be prevented from obtaining possession of the instruments of production. The mechanism of capitalism undertakes to do this on its own, and only where it proves too weak to do so does written law intervene to make good the deficiency. [25] Compared with slavery and serfdom, modern capitalism represents a great step forward. Under capitalism exploitation is no longer founded on a legal basis, but exists purely as the result of economic factors.

The totalitarian economic systems seem to be a relapse into forced labour, into pre-capitalist forms of exploitation. However, on examining the relation between v and vs we observe that this constraint is merely superimposed on an already existing inequality not caused by it. The fact that the technocracy appropriates a disproportionate share of the national revenue, that the magnitude of vs is disproportionate as compared with v (a fact particularly obvious in Russia, where there is no plutocracy) is due to economic causes. In short, this constraint does nothing but reinforce an already existing inequality.

Nevertheless, we must not lose sight of the fact that this new antagonism, between v and vs, reflects a difference of degree and not of kind. The labour of superintendence and direction is better paid because it is more highly qualified labour, and it will remain so even without constraint and without dictatorship as long as the requisite qualifications are rare. All attempts at excessive levelling in this respect would endanger the smooth working of the economic system so long as there is not a sufficient number of competent technicians available, that is to say, as long as the requisite qualifications have not been obtained by a growing number of people, thereby losing their rarity.

Only the higher education of the masses can remedy a state of affairs in which vs is greater than the remuneration of unqualified labour. The quantitative discrepancy between v and vs will disappear only when a levelling is brought about by raising the general cultural standards of the people. Here we have the famous ‘apprenticeship fees’ of which Lenin spoke, and which the workers are obliged to pay to their specialists as long as the latter succeed in maintaining their cultural monopoly.

It is a different matter altogether with category p, which belongs by right to society as a whole once the plutocracy has been expelled from its positions. After the liquidation of the plutocracy, the receivers of vs, now established at the commanding points of circulation abandoned by the plutocracy, will quite naturally tend to seize p, or as much of it as they can. This is the danger which we regard as one of the fundamental characteristics of our epoch and of the intermediate economic forms.

The best antidote to this danger appears to us to be democracy. Under the leaden cloak of dictatorship, the bureau-technocracy is free to dispose of p just as it likes. Only the existence of democracy can prevent this. Democracy certainly cannot do away with the necessity of paying ‘apprenticeship fees’, but it can confine these fees to vs, and prevent their becoming larger at the expense of any considerable part of what was s-v.

Democracy — in other words, public control — is the condition sine qua non for any collectivist economic system. Without democracy, and unless the community as a whole enjoys an absolute right of control and decision, collective property is an empty phrase. It is not sufficient that a dictatorial clique should proclaim that property is collective. Property cannot be collective until the community as a whole is free to dispose of it as it wishes.

The untrammelled exercise of these public liberties is an indispensable condition for the smooth functioning of an economic system, of which an important, and even vital, sector is withdrawn from the influence of the automatic laws of the liberal economic system. The rentability of this sector, in which competition no longer operates, cannot be assured except by democratic control exercised by the community as a whole. In an economic system more and more penetrated by the state, democracy becomes an economic factor of the greatest importance, whereas in the epoch of economic liberalism the democratic or dictatorial character of a political regime was of secondary importance for economic life. On the other hand, a democratic organisation of economic life becomes a more and more indispensable condition for political democracy today. Political democracy is threatened and weakened by economic oligarchies whether they originate in the category p or the category vs. Political democracy and economic democracy are becoming more and more interdependent. One cannot exist without the other.

In any case, democracy is nothing but a mould, a written law. The existence of this mould, as necessary as it is, is far from being sufficient in itself. This democratic mould offers immense possibilities, but these possibilities can become realities only if the following conditions are fulfilled.

1: The democratic will of the majority of the people; without this democratic will the first dictator who comes along can overthrow the democratic regime without striking a blow.

2: The competence of the masses of the people; it is useless to have wonderful democratic machinery if the masses of the people do not know how to use it. [26]

In other words, if democracy is to have any real vitality it must be based on the competence and maturity of the masses of the people. The degree of emancipation of labour possible of attainment in a given historical epoch is directly dependent on the degree of maturity and competence of the workers, and on their ability to control the collectivist forms which are developing more or less automatically before their eyes.

Alas, democracy appears greatly discredited in our day! If it were only a question of the thunderous speeches of dictators periodically proclaiming ‘the bankruptcy of democracy’, we could easily console ourselves, but even in the ranks of Socialists there are anti-democratic tendencies whose spokesmen assure us that democracy has had its day. We humbly proclaim ourselves old-fashioned enough to reject this point of view completely.

The enemies of democracy make the undoubted weaknesses of parliamentarism a pretext for recommending systems either frankly dictatorial or camouflaged with the name ‘direct democracy’. We agree entirely that the referendum is an excellent democratic instrument, and we should like to see it introduced in France to settle important questions. However, when, under the pretext of ‘correcting’ and ‘improving’ democracy, people try to take us back to antediluvian democratic forms [27] we are compelled to protest vigorously.

Where we find that democracy is imperfect, the cause is generally a lack of sufficient parliamentarism rather than the contrary. Like all human institutions, parliamentarism is obviously not perfect, but like other human institutions, it is also open to amendment and improvement. However, in order to improve it we must first obtain as clear an idea as possible of its real shortcomings. Above all, we must take care not to blame it for faults for which it is not responsible.

Providing it is accompanied by all those liberties which are the essence of democracy, parliament may be called the mirror of public opinion. If a man looks at himself in a mirror and finds the reflected image rather depressing, that may be the fault of the mirror; on the other hand it may be that the features of the beholder are far from perfect. What we are now calling ‘the crisis of parliamentarism’ is due to a little of both. Parliament reflects the image of society as it is, with all its divisions and hostilities. The fact that today many parliaments exhaust themselves in sterile palaver, and find their capacity for action greatly reduced, is often because the opposing political forces are more or less equal in strength, and mutually paralyse each other in the representative assemblies. In this case it is not the mirror we must blame but the ugliness of capitalist society in its decadence, and there is no point whatever in breaking the mirror.

The parliamentary system certainly has its defects. In other words, the mirror is not at all that it should be. [28] In this connection the essential defect of parliamentarism today arises from the fact that the state is taking over an increasing number of economic tasks. Parliament, which is the backbone of the modern democratic state, is being called upon more and more frequently to deal with economic questions of vital importance. Unfortunately members of parliament are almost always elected on pure and simple political programmes (only Socialist parties represent an exception to this rule, and have done for the past 50 years) and they are plainly incompetent to discuss such matters fruitfully.

The tendency to organic fusion of the state and the economic system has given rise in certain quarters to the idea of reforming parliamentarism on the basis of two assemblies, the one political and the other economic. This idea, in itself quite an excellent one, will nevertheless prove impossible of useful realisation, unless such an economic assembly is the expression of economic democracy. If, on the other hand, its realisation were left in the hands of a privileged clique, democracy would have nothing whatever to gain from it.

However, in our opinion the time has come to consider seriously a reform of parliamentarism. This reform should be carried out by extending public liberties, developing economic democracy, and adapting the parliamentary regime to those new and ever more pressing economic necessities which are arising in our day. [29] At the same time we should like to point out to the Socialist detractors of parliamentarism:

1: Up to the present no democratic form has been found which provides the masses of the people with a better expression of their will.

2: The best way to repair the defects of the parliamentary system, and to save it from the paralysis which results from a general equilibrium of opposing forces, would be to send more Socialists to parliament.

As far as democracy itself is concerned, together with Marx and Engels we consider it the condition sine qua non of all fruitful Socialist activity, because without it collective property would be inconceivable. We believe, with Karl Kautsky, that ‘to doubt democracy is in reality to doubt the proletariat itself’, and that, in general, the existence of a dictatorial and authoritarian government at a given moment proves, for this moment at least, ‘the inability of the proletariat to emancipate itself, because no proletariat capable of doing so would tolerate for one moment any government determining what it should read, what it should hear, and what it should do’. [30]

IV: The First Stage of the Socialist Revolution

The economic and social development which has taken place during the past 20 or 30 years permits us to see things more clearly today. The situation has sufficiently crystallised to permit us to develop quite considerably the ideas of Marx on the proletarian revolution, its forms and its order. We must excuse ourselves for using a banal image, but, at least, it has the great advantage of illustrating exactly what we mean: the end of capitalist development, which appeared to Marx and Engels like a far-away point on the horizon, seems to us, their followers, to be a vast landscape in which we live and move and have our being. The transformation of the economic system and of society as a whole towards Socialism has begun.

Many observers, both Socialists and anti-Socialists, refuse to accept the evidence before their eyes, because, first of all, they have never understood the Marxist theory of capitalist development, secondly, because the transformation has taken on hideous forms in Russia, Italy and Germany and inspires them with horror, and, finally, because they are prisoners of the utopian and primitive ideas of social revolution held by the adolescent working-class movement a century ago, and still expect that the social revolution will come about in the form of a violent explosion and in a very short space of time.

However, viewed historically, such an explosion may extend over several generations. Since the World War we have experienced only the first convulsions of this transformation. The great problem which faces the organisations of the working class in our epoch is precisely to act in such a way that the necessary and inevitable evolution may come about with a minimum of destruction, and to open the safety valves in good time so as to reduce social tension to such a degree that ‘revolutionary evolution’ (the term is Emile Vandervelde’s) can take the place of a succession of violent explosions. Will Socialism and trade unionism succeed in performing this task? We are convinced that it is possible, and we shall presently show why.

In looking at the world in which we live we are staggered at the almost mathematical precision with which the essential predictions of Karl Marx are being realised. Traditional capitalism is dying. Its dying agonies are setting greater and greater masses of the people in movement, and our epoch is marked by anti-capitalist movements and uprisings. Even most of the Fascist movements call themselves Socialist, and this is not merely because hypocrisy is the homage paid by vice to virtue, but because, and above all, the utopian Socialism which characterises many Fascist programmes is the natural expression of unenlightened masses in revolt. We shall not stress any further here that the economic development of our day is tending towards more and more collectivist forms, because we have already dealt with this point sufficiently in the earlier parts of this chapter. As Marx and Engels foresaw, the privileged classes are stopping at nothing to stave off the day of their defeat. They recoil from no violence however brutal, and recently we have seen in the affair of the Cagoulards, that even poison appears to them as an acceptable weapon in their struggle.

In spite of the hatred they profess for Marxism, [31] the governments which have been carried to power by the movement of unenlightened masses establish forms and institutions which might be called Socialist if the masses of the people enjoyed liberty, an indispensable condition of Socialism as we conceive it. In democratic countries, where there has been no violent revolution, we can observe the same development towards a more and more collectivist economic structure: Socialism in power, whether alone or in collaboration with other parties, strives to control the rhythm of that development and prevent its plunging the world into chaos. [32]

We are now right in the middle of the most tremendous revolution the world has ever known, and only those who understand the word ‘revolution’ in the way the police do [33] need wonder that the upheaval which haunts their dreams has taken such a long time in coming.

The Socialism of our day must divest its conception of the social revolution of the last vestiges of utopian Socialist ideas, because utopian Socialism, although coloured with certain pseudo-Marxist notions, imagines that the capitalist world is advancing towards a day X and an hour Y on which the proletariat will arise in its might, deal its enemies one crushing blow, establish its dictatorship and build up an ideal Socialist society in a very short space of time. Scientific Socialism, on the other hand, has steadfastly refused to give any detailed description a priori of Socialist society. This apocalyptic scheme proceeds from a distorted generalisation of the experiences of the 1798 and 1848 revolutions. And into the bargain, these events have been transferred, once again in a distorted fashion, from the political to the economic field.

Economically this utopian idea of the proletarian revolution corresponds to a stage of capitalism not yet ripe for socialisation, and one at which Socialists necessarily harboured fantastic ideas about the form in which socialisation would come about. We may apply what Marx and Engels said in the Manifesto of the Communist Party about utopian Socialism in general to this primitive conception of socialisation, expressed today in the well-known formula ‘the expropriation of the expropriators’:

Such fantastic pictures of future society, painted at a time when the proletariat is still in a very undeveloped state and has but a fantastic conception of its own position, correspond with the first instinctive yearnings of that class for a general reconstruction of society. [34]

It was because of this insufficient maturity that about half a century ago militant Socialists felt a little uneasy when explaining to their new recruits the rudiments of the materialist conception of history:

No social order ever disappears before all the productive forces for which there is room in it, have been developed: and new higher relations of production never appear before the material conditions of their existence have been matured in the womb of the old society. [35]

However, if the political and legal superstructure of society is, in the last analysis, the expression of its economic basis, that is to say, of its productive relations, any revolution can consist only in the adaptation of the political and legal system to economic changes which have already taken place. This was, of course, the case in all bourgeois revolutions, which did no more than fashion the political state in the image of capitalist economy, slowly come to maturity within the framework of the old society.

The conditions for the Socialist revolution, on the other hand, seemed in those far-off days to be totally different. Whilst the bourgeoisie had been able to develop its own property and productive relations within the framework of the old regime until, when they became mature, they burst the old shell asunder, there seemed no way in which the proletariat could develop collective property to any extent within the framework of capitalist society. Directly contrary to the bourgeois revolution, it seemed that the Socialist revolution would have to begin its task by changing the superstructure first rather than the base, and that it would apparently be able to tackle the base only afterwards. Historical materialism, which insisted that a change in the base must precede and bring in its train the change in the superstructure, seemed inadequate, and hence the secret uneasiness of the militant Socialists of that time.

In our own day there is no cause for any such uneasiness. Collectivist economic forms are already in existence and, as we have seen, they are rapidly increasing in number. In the course of its development capitalism has taken the general lines foreseen by Marx. Within its own framework it has produced ‘the material conditions’ for the existence of these new productive relations. According to Sombart, [36] in 1919 joint-stock companies in the United States represented 31.6 per cent of all undertakings. This 31.6 per cent employed 86.6 per cent of the total number of wage earners, and their share in the total value of production as a whole amounted to 87.7 per cent. The working capitalist, owning and directing his own enterprise, has disappeared from all the vital branches of the modern economic system. He has been driven back into the more barren fields of production, where the struggle for life is becoming increasingly bitter.

Is this really the capitalist Marx had in mind in his celebrated chapter on the historical tendency of capitalist accumulation when he speaks of ‘the expropriation of the expropriators'? [37] We may be permitted to doubt it if we refer to Volume 3, Chapter 27, from which we have already quoted considerable extracts.

The joint-stock company, considered by Marx as ‘a necessary transitional point’, is no longer an isolated and sporadic phenomenon today, and, in fact, it is the predominant element in a large sector of the modern economic system. The ‘material conditions’ for the existence of new productive relations already exist. Contrary to what militant Socialists thought rather uneasily about 50 years ago, historical materialism is seen to emerge unscathed from the ordeal of the intervening period. The Socialist revolution will not have to create a Socialist economic system out of nothing. Like the example of the bourgeois revolution, the rise of the proletariat to power will be the culmination of a state of things already existing in economic life, the adaptation of the political superstructure to an economic basis already socialised [38] within the framework of capitalism.

Even today many Socialists imagine that the only socialisation worthy of the name and the only one to which the working class can set its hands without dirtying them is expropriation without compensation. We have already seen at the opening of this book that neither Marx nor Engels ever expressed such an opinion, and the development of capitalism since their death has done nothing to lend any weight to it. On the contrary, it has rendered it completely absurd. To realise this clearly we have but to glance at things as they really are. Let us suppose that Socialism is in power alone and strong enough to undertake fundamental measures. The most important and centralised branches of the economic system (the credit apparatus and the key industries), precisely those which lend themselves most readily to socialisation, are almost completely controlled by joint-stock companies, and the scattering of smaller enterprises still individually controlled hardly count. Who is to be expropriated without compensation? The masses of shareholders? But the great majority of these shareholders are not capitalists. The money they have invested in shares represents no more than an insurance premium for them, and they are threatened with expropriation not by Socialism, but by the finance plutocracy. We are here face to face with property already socialised, although, as Marx said, ‘in a negative fashion’. In a negative fashion, that is to say, a handful of administrators has ‘the possibility of disposing of social capital not its own’, in short, to dispose just as it likes of other people’s property.

There is no point whatever in expropriating collective proprietors — the shareholders. The point is to dispossess the plutocracy of its power to dispose of already collectivised property. As far as the joint-stock companies are concerned, it is impossible to socialise their property for the simple reason that it already is socialised. All that remains to be done there is to socialise power, or, to use another word, authority. The expulsion of the monopolist and finance plutocracy from its dominant positions will be no more than the social recognition of an already existing state of affairs, that is, the existence of property already collectivised.

As Marx and Engels predicted, the Socialist transformation, like the bourgeois revolution, will come about as the adaptation of a superstructure to an already changed base.

We cannot stress too vigorously that the last vestiges of utopian Socialist ideas still current in certain Socialist circles must be categorically rejected. In those branches of the economic system in which socialisation is already possible there are no capitalist employers to expropriate, and those branches in which they still exist are still far from being ripe for socialisation. The economic task of Socialism and trade unionism in this first stage of the proletarian revolution is to adapt the law to already collectivised economic forms, and to remove them from the power of the spoliatory and parasitic oligarchy which still controls them. The task is not to expropriate the shareholders but to put them in a position to dispose freely and consciously of their collective property. [39] As far as the important branches of economic life are concerned (the credit system and the key industries), the task is to replace the omnipotent control of the plutocratic oligarchy by organs of public control.

And finally, our task is to establish the principle of economic control over the principle of competition, which is now becoming more and more chaotic, and even paralysing, as the result of the gradual extinction of the automatic regulating mechanism of former times. We do not overlook the fact that the success of this task depends on an extension of collectivisation, by the extension of the public sector of the economic system. [40] However, just as it is impossible to socialise everything from one day to the next, it is also impossible to pass with one step from the chaotic economic system of today to an integral economic system perfectly controlled: these two things complement each other; they are nothing but two aspects of one and the same development. The various Labour Plans drawn up in France, Belgium, Switzerland, Holland and Czechoslovakia have laid down precisely how much was both possible and necessary in the given period.

We could, of course, make reservations with regard to the terminology employed, and in particular with regard to the term ‘structural reform’. However, that is not the question. Whatever may be the terms employed, the fact is that working-class organisations are in agreement concerning the essential objects they believe attainable in the course of the period now opening up. The French CGT speaks constantly of the necessity for ‘structural reforms’, whilst in the French Socialist Party the term is seldom heard. However, the principal points of the CGT plan and the aims formulated by the Socialist Party congresses of Toulouse (1934), and Mulhouse (1935), and confirmed by the Marseilles Socialist congress in 1937 are more or less identical. In our opinion things are more important than words.

We are quite prepared to admit that we feel very little desire to engage in arguments about the difference between that socialisation possible ‘within the framework of capitalism’, and that which goes beyond it. Here we are once again faced with survivals of utopian Socialism, whose fantastic schemes were destined to be brought about at one blow, and implied the idea of a clear and precise dividing line between the capitalist system and Socialism. A dividing line certainly does exist, but it cannot be represented by a day X and an hour Y. On the contrary, it may extend over several generations. [41] Throughout the whole world today ‘the framework of capitalism’ is crumbling, new forms are arising and developing within it, undermining it, weakening it and emptying it of its substance. It would be a bold man, however, who, watch in hand, would undertake to proclaim the precise moment at which the past gives place to the future. What separates the past from the future is not a second or an hour, but that whole period we call the present.

Certainly, whilst capitalism was still powerful, unshaken and unshakable, it had to be admitted that any measures of socialisation carried out within its still intact framework were of very relative value only. Today, however, with the framework of capitalism cracking at every joint, the criterion is elsewhere: it lies in democracy. The forms of socialisation which have been carried out in Russia and Italy, and the collective forms which are developing in a hot-house atmosphere in Germany, would certainly be of value from the Socialist standpoint if the community as a whole were permitted to decide freely on the use to which these instruments of economic control should be put.

All economic history presents itself to the careful observer as a succession of mixed economic forms, that is to say, of different systems overlapping and interpenetrating. To take only the evolution of the past two or three centuries, we see that during the long period which preceded the bourgeois revolution, industrial capitalism, at first embryonic only, developed within the framework of the old regime before overcoming it. Under modern capitalism, which has become the dominant economic form, we can still observe numerous pre-capitalist and even feudal economic survivals, and for a long while during the nineteenth century capitalism, already triumphant, accommodated even slavery within its orbit. Side by side with these survivals we can observe the development, still within the framework of capitalism, of more and more numerous and more and more important embryonic Socialist forms. Thus we observe the interpenetration and coexistence of different economic forms, although, as a general rule, one specific form is the dominant system and stamps its seal on all the others coexisting with it, whether vestiges of the past or embryos of the future.

We therefore find it difficult to understand the attacks launched against Charles Spinasse by Socialists believing themselves to have a monopoly of the revolutionary spirit. On 12 March 1937, Spinasse, then Minister of National Economy, declared in the French Chamber of Deputies:

Do you imagine, gentlemen, that I am going to smash up the capitalist system before I am in a position to replace it? Nothing of the sort! I know that the capitalist system is quite capable of lasting a long time yet.

We agree entirely with Spinasse that it would be senseless to smash the capitalist system without being in a position to replace it. We know also that the task of replacing it will be a long and arduous one. And as far as concerns his other statement about the length of time capitalism is still capable of lasting, only those need be perturbed who believe in the possibility of establishing Socialism, as ‘integral’ as indefinite, from one day to the next. However, if we believe that the advance towards Socialism implies socialisation by stages, then the idea of leaving capitalist property intact in those sectors of the economic system not yet ripe for socialisation, is a logical development. In those sectors capitalism certainly still has a long time to go. The great thing in these conditions is to know whether it can still be defined as capitalism in the traditional sense of the term, and to what extent the economic system in which we are living today still merits the term ‘capitalist’.

In a speech delivered at St Leonards in May 1937 Leon Blum quoted some interesting passages written by Pressemane just after the World War:

The capitalist system has very deep roots, and we shall not be able to pull them up with one tug, and I say this is a good thing. I fear a too rapid collapse of the bourgeoisie, as I have often said to my comrades. Yes, of course, I can see that everything is in a state of decomposition... But when I, who have so often proclaimed that it is the task of the working class to take over the succession from the bourgeoisie, look around, I can’t help being afraid that the succession may come too soon, before the working class is ready to accept it...

Léon Blum commented as follows (the italics are ours):

In fact, my dear comrades, the revolution you have in mind has already begun, though it will not be accomplished within the space of a few weeks, and if you ask my opinion, it will take years and years. You surely don’t imagine that the new social order will take the place of the old as if by magic, or that a new regime will suddenly rise in place of the old? The truth is that parallel with the decomposition of bourgeois and capitalist society we can see all around us, the strength of the working class is gradually taking shape. Capitalism will not suddenly disappear, and certainly not in the countries of Western Europe. When you realise that he [Pressemane] spoke like that 17 years ago, you will imagine how glad he would be if he could share our present experience.

We have no hesitation in endorsing these sentiments of Léon Blum.

Yes, the revolution has already begun. Nothing is more ridiculous or more anti-Marxist than to think it could be ‘made’. Revolutions make themselves; they have no need of any schoolmaster to assist them. All that is necessary is that the organisations of the working class should adopt tactics calculated to promote this gigantic economic and social transformation, and to prevent the heritage they must take up from foundering and being destroyed in the chaos of civil and national wars.

V: The Conditions of Revolutionary Evolution

The working-class movement of our day must thoroughly grasp the idea that the Socialist revolution is fundamentally different from the bourgeois revolution, and that the apocalyptic upheaval of 1789 is no longer valid for the political forms of the transformation taking place in our own day. Was it in fact always and everywhere valid even for the bourgeois revolution? Let us consider the infinite variety of forms under which the bourgeoisie rose to political power in the various countries. In the preface to his Histoire de la Révolution française Mignet writes:

Once a reform has become necessary, and once the moment for its accomplishment has arrived, nothing can prevent it and everything assists it. How happy human beings would be if they could only get on with each other, if those who had too much would give their superfluity away, and if the others were contented with what little they have! Revolutions could then take place amiably and in an atmosphere of concord, and the historian would have neither excesses nor unhappiness to record, but only that humanity had become wiser, freer and more fortunate. Up to the present, however, human annals offer no example of such wisdom in sacrifice; those who ought to make the sacrifice refuse to do so, and the others who demand the sacrifice impose it by force, so that good has the effect of evil, through the means and with the violence of usurpation. Up to the present the reign of force has been practically unbroken.

Today, as in former days, we can observe the determination of the privileged classes to have recourse to violence. However, since Mignet made his bitter observations, we have also seen that in a good half of Europe the rise of the bourgeoisie to power took place as a result of a succession of compromises on the basis of the relations of force existing at each given moment, and was concluded without latent force degenerating into active violence. What was possible for a bourgeois revolution should be still more possible for a Socialist revolution. Although we are well aware that this statement will bring us in a variety of offensive remarks from certain quarters, we are even prepared to stress it. Happily we find ourselves in the company of two men, whose title to the description Marxist is indisputable. The one is Marx and the other is Engels.

We have already quoted from the well-known speech delivered by Marx in Amsterdam in 1872. In case there are any Socialists who imagine that the ideas expressed in this speech were ‘a temporary deviation’ let us draw their attention to the following observations made by Marx to Hyndman in 1881. In a letter to Hyndman written on 8 December 1880 Marx declares:

If you say that you do not share the views of my party for England I can only reply that that party considers an English revolution not necessary, but — according to historic precedents — possible. If the unavoidable evolution turns into a revolution, it would not only be the fault of the ruling classes, but also of the working class. Every pacific concession of the former has been wrung from them by ‘pressure from without’. Their action kept pace with that pressure and if the latter has more and more weakened, it is only because the English working class know not how to wield their power and use their liberties, both of which they possess legally.

In Germany the working class were fully aware from the beginning of their movement that you cannot get rid of a military despotism but by a revolution. [42]

And in a conversation recorded by Hyndman in his book Marx declared: ‘"England is the one country in which a peaceful revolution is possible; but,” he added after a pause, “history does not tell us so."’ [43]

In his preface to the first English translation of Capital in 1886, referring to Marx’s ideas concerning the entirely legal and pacific means with which it would be possible to accomplish the Socialist revolution, Engels wrote:

He certainly never forgot to add that he hardly expected the English ruling classes to submit without a ‘pro-slavery rebellion’ to this peaceful and legal revolution.

And in 1891 Engels developed this idea:

... for the moment it is not we who are being killed by legality. Legality is working so well in our favour that we should be mad to abandon it as long as it lasts. It remains to be seen whether it will not be the bourgeoisie and its governments which will abandon it first in order to crush us with violence. That is just what we expect. Take the first shot, gentlemen of the bourgeoisie! Never doubt it, they will be the first to fire. One fine day the German bourgeois and their government will grow tired of waiting with folded arms and watching the rapidly increasing strength of Socialism, and will have recourse to illegality and violence.

The happenings of the past two decades have amply demonstrated how right Marx and Engels were in expecting that the privileged classes would shoot first. It would be madness on the part of the Socialist and trade-union movement of our day to neglect this danger, but we may rest assured their whole attitude proves that they are perfectly well aware of the danger. In democratic countries the situation today is such that we need no longer say with Engels: ‘Gentlemen of the bourgeoisie, take the first shot!’

If the Socialist and trade-union movements were strong enough either to participate in the government or to exercise a real influence upon it, they could disarm the shock troops of the reaction without giving them time to fire a shot.

In our opinion that is the ideal solution. It is this solution which should, and which in fact does, guide the actions of working-class organisations. However, the primary condition for such a line of conduct is a constant growth in strength of these organisations. We can do no better than repeat a phrase of Emile Vandervelde which magnificently sums up the problem and its solution: ‘Socialist democracy has no chance of winning peacefully until it is so strong that its enemies are afraid to risk declaring war on it.’ [44]

At the present time the strength of Socialist democracy, of which Emile Vandervelde speaks, does not reside alone in the compact masses of the working class properly so called; all classes of existing society, with the exception of a very small minority which consciously wills civil war, and even national wars, desire that social progress should take place in an atmosphere of social peace. The humanisation of social struggles is the order of the day in democratic countries. The essential task of the Socialist movement is to arrive at the necessary compromises in accordance with the estimated strength of the opposing social forces, instead of resigning itself to their acceptance after a ruinous struggle, in which the advantage of even a complete victory would be swallowed up by its excessive cost. [45]

The conclusion of the necessary compromises must obviously be brought about by the force of all the democratic elements in the country. The monopolist and finance plutocracy will not retire, we are quite sure, except under restraint, and it will not do so unless it is deprived of all possibility of making use of its Cagoulards. However, it will also be necessary for the working-class organisations, both trade union and political, to ‘put the brake on’ (the expression comes from Engels) the excessive ardour of their new recruits, [46] and to make them understand what, at a given moment, are the limits of the objectives which it is possible to obtain. [47] This seems to us to be all the more necessary because it is the price of that alliance which is today more indispensable than ever between the working class and the middle classes.

During the past 50 years what are called ‘the middle classes’ have changed their social substance. The ‘old’ middle classes (artisans, small farmers, small employers and small businessmen) have lost their independence and have become subject to the monopolist and finance oligarchy to such an extent that their income approximates more and more to simple wages of superintendence. [48] The ‘new’ middle classes (clerical employees, administrative workers, technicians, intellectuals, etc) are made up for the most part of wage workers, and very many of them are already beginning to realise what is their objective position in society.

The problem of the Socialist attitude towards the middle classes is quite different today to what it was in the time of Bernstein. In Bernstein’s day it was not possible for the proletariat to consider a lasting alliance with the middle classes without abandoning its Socialist aim. In our day, these middle classes, seized in the inexorable toils of the present development towards the creation of a generalised wage-working class, are beginning to understand and to approve the immediate objectives of the working class against the power of the masters of the key industries and the credit system. Under such conditions the formula of the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’, to which, in any case, Marx attached only a secondary importance, loses its reason for existence entirely. [49]

Some Socialists are obviously uneasily asking themselves whether Socialism in showing so much ‘solicitude’ for the middle classes is not committing the crime of ‘lèse-orthodoxy’. They are asking themselves whether the measures designed to protect the middle classes against ruin are not contrary to the Socialist programme. Socialism, they feel, ought, on the contrary, to do everything possible to hasten the disappearance of the middle classes from the economic and social scene. This sort of argument shows clearly that those who use it have not as yet grasped Socialist doctrine, and that all they know about it has been gathered from the columns of the capitalist press. It is in fact this press which for 50 years now has accused Socialism of ‘wanting’ the ruin of the middle classes, and the proletarianisation of everybody in order to accelerate the advent of Socialist society.

The reality, however, is quite different.

Socialism has always insisted that it is capitalism which ruined the small enterprises. The artisans and small masters are unable to stand up to the competition of the bigger enterprises, mechanised and provided with modern equipment, powerful and rationalised. Socialist doctrine has always taught that capitalist development leads to the break-up and the proletarianisation of the middle classes, and all the facts confirm its teachings. But all this does not at all mean that once in power the Socialist party would become the instrument of this purely capitalist disaster, place itself at the service of this process, and do its best to ruin the middle classes.

In former days Socialism was still very weak and very far away from political power. In those days it had to confine itself to pointing out the inexorable tendency of capitalism to accomplish the ruin of the smaller enterprises, and hurl their proprietors into the ranks of the proletariat. Having no influence on the economic policy of the ruling classes Socialism was able to do practically nothing against the crushing action of the capitalist steam-roller. Today; on the other hand, Socialism has become a power with a word to say in the social and economic life of the nation. It has become so strong that it need no longer confine itself to registering certain tendencies of capitalist development; it can influence capitalist laws, and, if need be, counteract them.

But it may still be objected that in taking up the defence of the middle classes against the threat of large-scale capitalism Socialism is acting in a reactionary fashion. It may still be objected that in its efforts to ameliorate the very difficult situation of the smaller enterprises Socialism risks artificially preserving backward economic forms, thus barring the way to economic progress. Does progress demand that everything which is unable to hold its ground in the terrible struggle for existence should be destroyed? If efforts are made to prevent the destruction of the smaller enterprises, will there not be a risk of slowing down the process of development leading to the centralisation of capital, which, at the same time, renders the economic system ripe for socialisation?

All these apprehensions would be justified if the ruin of the smaller enterprises and the proletarianisation of their proprietors were the only way to achieve Socialism. Happily this is not the case. It is quite certain that the various branches of the economic system become ripe for socialisation only to the extent to which the bigger enterprises eliminate the smaller ones, and the branch as a whole becomes concentrated in the hands of a steadily declining number of more and more powerful enterprises. However, as soon as the Socialist working class possesses sufficient political influence it can intervene in this process of elimination in order to humanise it. It is necessary in the interests of progress that the smaller enterprises shall give place to the larger, but it is by no means indispensable that this process should be accomplished in the shape of a natural catastrophe, or that the proprietors of these enterprises should be declassed, proletarianised, pauperised and ground out of existence by the pitiless mechanism of capital. Today the proletarianisation of these elements is less desirable than ever because the wage-earning class has for a long while suffered from widespread and chronic unemployment. An accelerated proletarianisation of the middle classes would still further increase the pressure exercised by the unemployed on the conditions of labour and existence of the employed workers.

Thus the working class itself has an interest in preventing any widespread proletarianisation of the middle classes. Certainly, the smaller enterprises cannot exist for ever against the competition of the larger ones, but appropriate social legislation and the development of the insurance system could save the middle classes from that catastrophic fall with which they are menaced by the workings of capital, ameliorate the time of waiting, and render the transition less painful. And in addition it must not be forgotten that this accelerated proletarianisation of the middle classes drives them to despair and thereby favours the growth of Fascism. This has been demonstrated already in so many countries that we surely need not stress it here. No one can fail to recognise today that the newly-proletarianised elements do not flock immediately to the cause of Socialism. The experience of history has shown us clearly that Socialism has never been able to assimilate such newly proletarianised elements except after a considerable period of maturing. And perhaps the German catastrophe of 1933 would not have happened if the proletarianisation of the middle classes had been less rapid, and if Social-Democracy had had time to win them over to the Socialist cause.

Today the interests of the proletariat and of the middle classes coincide in very large measure. The points on which their interests are opposed are gradually dwindling in face of those many points on which their solidarity of interests is incontestable. This once again confirms the fact that we are living in a revolutionary period in which our task is to transform society and not to tinker with it.

Writing in his book Sozialisten und Krieg Karl Kautsky declares:

The greater the tasks to be accomplished, the less likely are they to be accomplished in the existing state of class and party forces by the tactic of ‘all or nothing’, by the rejection of all cooperation with other classes and parties. It may be possible to obtain partial reforms of a modest nature by the exclusive action of the proletariat, but certainly not any fundamental transformation of the state. Thus it is precisely this purely class policy which in practice has been reformist. All real revolutions are carried out with the cooperation of several classes against a common enemy at the head of the state. [50]

In the given circumstances our task is to work for a social revolution, and not for this or that secondary reform. It is curious to observe that it is just the adepts at fiery speeches and the uncompromising upholders of a ‘pure class policy’ who fail to realise the necessities of the moment, and go on pursuing the most reformist policy it is possible to conceive of.

And at this point the most crucial problem of our epoch arises, that of the attitude to be adopted by the working class. In the last resort it will be the maturity of the working class which will decide the forms, peaceful or violent, democratic or totalitarian, which the revolution at present shaking the world will take. In order to avoid all misunderstanding we must emphasise now that what we are about to say applies as much to those countries already bearing the yoke of a dictatorship as to those countries still enjoying a democratic system — with this one proviso that where democracy does not exist it cannot be created except by the breach of existing ‘legality’. But once legal democracy has been reconquered, the establishment of a new dictatorship of a contrary order could lead only to utter disaster. [51]

It is the maturity of the proletariat, as we have already pointed out, which will decide the issue of this struggle. From a purely economic standpoint, the development which we can see going on around us today is so clear that no one can be deceived about it: the economic structure of Socialism is rising more or less automatically before our eyes. The point at issue is: who is to be the master of this more and more Socialist machinery, society as a whole or a plutocratic or a bureau-technocratic oligarchy? The preservation and extension of democratic freedom will turn the balance in favour of the former, whilst a dictatorship will tip the scales in favour of the latter. And that is why, amongst other reasons, we repudiate the false dilemma ‘Fascism or Bolshevism’, in which many people want to cramp contemporary development. Both of these dictatorships lead to the same result: to the control of the economic system by a clique in the interests of a clique. Only democracy can guarantee society against this danger.

However, the cause of democracy will be lost if the working class turns to methods of violence. In nine cases out of ten, the adoption of such methods will drive the middle classes into the camp of Fascism, and hand over the working class bound hand and foot to the tender mercies of a Fascist dictatorship. There is only one chance in a thousand that an armed uprising of a fraction of the proletariat will lead to the establishment of a more or less ‘proletarian’ dictatorship. In both cases it would represent the uncontrolled triumph of an oligarchy, of a plutocratic oligarchy in the first case and of a bureau-technocratic oligarchy in the second, and in any case to the triumph of technocracy. It would be a gross illusion to believe in the possibility of keeping democracy safe during a civil war or of restoring it immediately afterwards. Without democracy even the most collectivist economic forms can be no more than a hideous and repulsive caricature of that Socialist society towards which we aspire.

If any very considerable part of the working class were to lose its head and let itself be provoked into ill-considered actions leading to civil war (which in the present state of European affairs would undoubtedly develop into foreign war), the result in the last resort would be the triumph of technocracy and the rule of a new dominant and exploiting caste. If, on the other hand, the working class as a whole resists all temptation to adopt methods of violence and totalitarianism it will have its say in the administration of those collectivist forms of our present-day economic system, and its role will increase in importance as its ability to sustain it develops. In this case the technicians charged with the superintendence of the economic system would remain under the control of the community as a whole, and have no opportunity of developing into a technocratic caste or class.

We have already pointed out [52] that there is not one mass, but two masses. The one is composed of workers who have been organised for a long time and are quite well aware not only of what is necessary, but also of what is impossible, and the other is composed of the new recruits to the Socialist camp and the newly declassed elements from the middle classes, who are an easy prey to all the illusions of pre-Marxist Socialism, and willing material for Blanquist practices. This latter mass can easily swing to the extreme Right or to the extreme Left according to circumstances. Just after the end of the World War it provided Bolshevism with strong contingents. From 1922 onwards we saw it swing over to Fascism, first in Italy and then in Central Europe. Incapable of clear thought because lacking indispensable Socialist education, it reacts violently to superficial stimulus, and turns fiercely against those whom an unscrupulous demagogy represents to its short-sighted vision as responsible for its misery. Hence its swing to the extreme Left just after the World War and its subsequent swing to the extreme Right, when it found the policy of Socialism disappointing. But whether it turns to the extreme Right or to the extreme Left, this unenlightened mass is almost always fundamentally anti-democratic; it has no confidence in itself and looks for salvation only from the energetic action of a ‘leader ‘ — incidentally another characteristic of pre-Marxist Socialism.

The fate of democracy, and therefore of Socialism and of the trade-union movement, will depend throughout the period now beginning upon the relations between these two masses, on the capacity of the former to assimilate the latter.

In this first stage of the Socialist revolution the Marxist postulate of ‘history conscious of itself’ is as yet only partially realised. One section of the proletariat has already the necessary consciousness of its own strength (hence its repudiation of the ‘leader’ cult, and its deep attachment to democracy), and of its limits (hence its aversion to utopian schemes and impossible demands). Another section still lacks this consciousness. This is not at all surprising because the proletariat as a whole cannot be riper for Socialism than the economic system in which it has its being, but, compared with the revolutions of 1789 and 1848, the conscious and enlightened fraction of the people is much more powerful. In those former revolutions this enlightened fraction was almost non-existent. Today it represents a strong force whose influence on the unenlightened and excitable mass is undoubted. For the first time in history we can see powerful organisations whose actions are inspired by an objective analysis of economic reality, and who are able to X-ray the decadent economic system around them, and distinguish the contours of the new system to which it is about to give birth. Far from putting forward utopian schemes and formulating impossible demands, they base their demands on the results of this analysis. For this great advantage they must thank Karl Marx, his materialist conception of history and his analysis of the capitalist economic system. However, this does not prevent certain people amiably inviting us to abandon this ‘outworn’, ‘false’ and ‘finally refuted’ doctrine.

The existing order which is now sliding to its final dissolution will give way to a controlled economic system either dictatorial or democratic, according to whether the inevitable transformation takes place in violent convulsions or as the result of methodical revolutionary evolution. In other words, it depends on whether the chaotic methods of the unenlightened mass prevail or the rational and ordered methods of the mass inspired by democratic Socialism and trade unionism, whether the recollections of the bourgeois revolution prevail or the scientific knowledge offered by modern Socialism.

Will that part of the proletariat which now represents ‘history conscious of itself’ be able to establish the necessary ascendancy over the other part which is still attached to the apocalyptic methods of the bourgeois revolution, and restrain it from those blind and ill-considered plunges which are so fraught with peril for the future of the movement? This is the crucial question of our epoch, and we are prepared to place ourselves on record as being absolutely optimistic. Our optimism is based upon the immense progress made by the working class during the last hundred years.

Fifty years ago the workers, reduced to the level of the basest servitude and the cruellest distress, uneducated and unorganised, took the factories by assault and destroyed the machines. In May and June 1936 the workers of France, just becoming conscious and organising themselves as a class, carried out their great occupation of the factories. They watched carefully to see that no damage was done, and they looked after the machines as though they had been their own children. And nevertheless, four-fifths of those who took part in that action had never belonged to a trade union and had never had any trade-union education whatever. [53] What seems to us still more admirable is that this mass of several millions of workers, without trade-union education, taking part for the first time in a movement of such magnitude, and knowing practically nothing of trade-union discipline, nevertheless did not lend a willing ear either to certain Trotskyist agitators or to the Fascist provocateurs, who would have been very happy to stir up trouble.

Our optimism is based on facts and not on abstract speculation. A class which started practically at nothing and raised itself to such a level of consciousness and enlightenment within the space of a century merits our complete confidence. But it is precisely because we have confidence in it, and because we are more than ever convinced that its final emancipation must be the fruit of its own efforts, that we feel ourselves entitled to say frankly that it still has a long way to travel before its emancipation can be complete. Its moral level must be raised higher and higher by the improvement of its intellectual standards and the increase of its general political ability. It must reject the ‘leader’ cult more and more categorically. Unfortunately far too many workers are still addicted to this cult, though it reeks of both Fascism and Bolshevism, and has nothing whatever to do with Marxism. They must acquire that knowledge necessary for a real control of economic life. This will be a long and arduous task, but the emancipation of the working class demands it, and history knows nothing of any rebates or remissions.

In the preface to the first edition of his Capital Marx writes:

And even when a society has got upon the right track for the discovery of the natural laws of its movement — and it is the ultimate aim of this work, to lay bare the economic law of motion of modern society — it can neither clear by bold leaps, nor remove by legal enactments, the obstacles offered by the successive phases of its normal development. But it can shorten and lessen the birth pangs.

At the time of the bourgeois revolution, the economic law of development of modern society had hardly been discovered. Today it is well known to us. We are thus now in a position, not to ‘clear by bold leaps’, but to ‘shorten and lessen the birth pangs’. However, this possibility will become a reality only to the extent that the mass of the working class raises itself by study to a knowledge of that law of evolution which has been laid bare for us today, thus becoming the embodiment of what we have termed ‘history conscious of itself’.


1. Karl Renner, ‘Marxismus und Antimarxismus’, published in Kampf, March-April 1933. The italics are Renner’s.

2. It is surprising to find that in his book Au delà du marxisme (Édition de l'Églantine, Brussels, 1934), Henri de Man considers just the advocates of these pre-Marxist ideas as the ‘real usufructuaries of the Marxist inheritance’, and that he goes so far as to declare that they have ‘caused all the latent seeds planted by Marx in the minds of the masses to bear fruit’. It seems to us, on the contrary, that these people do nothing but cloak with a phraseology borrowed from Marx ideas which he vigorously rejected.

3. However, as we have seen, this did not prevent her deceiving herself into the belief that the chaotic actions of these new recruits to Socialism represented the specific form of the proletarian revolution.

4. In his Capital, Marx analysed only the English form of this expansion. In his Grundgesetz der sozialen Entwicklung (Erebe, Vienna, 1932), the Vienna sociologist Julius Dickmann provides us with a very interesting complementary study of this problem.

5. In his De Agricultura the Roman writer Varro (116–127 BC) writes: ‘The instruments of culture are divided into three classes: the speaking class, which comprises the slaves, the inarticulate class, which comprises the beasts, and the dumb class, which comprises the vehicles.’

6. Let us note that unemployment insurance is of very recent date.

7. Our definition is based exclusively on what Marx wrote in his Capital. Even those who reject it will have to admit that it permits us to form a very fair idea of what Marx called capitalism, though Labriola is of the opinion that Marx did not, in fact, draw the historic contours of capitalism very clearly, and that he always confined himself to ‘circumlocutions’ and ‘generalities’. See Arturo Labriola, Au delà du capitalisme et du socialisme (Librairie Valois, Paris, 1932), p 122.

8. Karl Renner has described and analysed this new structure with a lucidity which places him amongst the foremost followers of Karl Marx. See his book Die Wirtschaft als Gesamtprozess und die Sozialisierung (Dietz, Berlin, 1924), Chapter 11.

9. In his book L'alternative (Édition de l'Églantine, Paris, 1933), which has the very significant sub-title State Capitalism or Democratic Socialism?, Emile Vandervelde has the great merit of describing very clearly the direction of economic evolution. We see ‘the alternative’ in the same light as he does, and it is merely with regard to his term ‘state capitalism’ that we must express reserve.

10. The framework of this book does not permit us to carry our analysis of the economic theory of Marxism any further, and we must refer those of our readers who require more details to our two books published in 1932, Économie planée contre économie enchaînée (Librairie Valois, Paris, 1932) and La liquidation Socialiste de la crise (Librairie populaire, Paris, 1934), and to our course of lectures published in 1935 by the Institut superieure ouvrier, under the title of La crise mondiale (Gutenberg, Versailles, 1935). See also Chapters 19 and 20 of our Histoire des doctrines économiques (Centre conféderal d'education ouvrière, Paris, 1937).

11. In Capital, Volume 3, pp 519-21, Marx writes: ‘This is the abolition of the capitalist mode of production within capitalist production itself, a self-destructive contradiction, which represents on its face a mere phase of transition in a new form of production... It is private production without the control of private property... It is the suppression of private property within the limits of the capitalist mode of production... The capitalist stock companies as well as the cooperative factories may be considered as forms of transition from the capitalist mode of production to the associated one, with this distinction, that the antagonism is met negatively in the one, positively in the other.’ The development foreseen by Marx has arrived at such a degree of maturity today that even the least-informed observer is struck by it. The ‘intermediary forms’ of which Marx speaks, and which in his day were simple and rudimentary phenomena, have become the dominant forms of modern economy. We are actually in full ‘transition to a new form of production’.

12. The palace revolution which took place in February 1938 in Germany was only a phase in this process. The same process is taking place in Italy, but more smoothly, because there heavy industry is weak and the plutocratic oligarchy less vigorous.

13. For want of a better term we shall continue to use this one, although the soviets have been officially suppressed in Russia.

14. In order to grasp this evolution let us compare two texts: Lenin (in a speech against Trotsky before the Communist delegates to the Seventh Soviet Congress on 30 December 1920): ‘When people ask us, why and against whom do you defend the working class seeing that there is no longer a bourgeoisie and that the state is a working-class state, they are committing an obvious error. The state is not quite a working-class state, and that is everything. We have a working-class state subject to bureaucratic deformation.’ Weinberg, one of the secretaries of the Russian Federation of Labour Unions (in a speech delivered in June 1933 and published in Trud on 8 July 1933): ‘Some comrades in the factories still think that the unions should intervene in the fixing of wages on an equal footing with the administration. This is absolutely wrong. We must say that this is a left-wing opportunist deviation, a blow against the principle of undivided power. This sort of thing must be put an end to.’

15. The dividends of the small shareholders must be regarded as interest.

16. Journalists, writers, artists, etc, who are rewarded for singing the praises of the dictatorship in terms both dithyrambic and servile, do not represent a social class.

17. In our book L'Économie sovietique, written in 1930, we sought to formulate a law of accumulation for the Soviet economic system (Lucien Laurat, L'Économie soviétique: sa dynamique, son mécanisme (Société française d'imprimerie et de librairie, Poitiers, 1931). We followed the methods of Marx, who based his essential deductions upon the law of capitalist accumulation. Today we are compelled to recognise that in controlled economic systems of this kind there is no law of accumulation in the automatic sense, such as characterises capitalism. Economic life is no longer governed by the action of what liberal economists called ‘natural economic laws’, and the only economic law which still prevails is that of rentability. For the rest, we maintain absolutely what we then wrote. Unfortunately our most pessimistic predictions have already been largely surpassed by reality.

18. Here, of course, we are dealing strictly with the economic position. With regard to the social side of the question, the whole world knows today that the absence of cyclical crises can nevertheless be synonymous with misery and famine.

19. This ‘consumption’ imposed by the dictators unfortunately refers more to guns and to other instruments of destruction than to butter, and to what are generally regarded as consumption goods in democratic countries.

20. That lucid observer M Pierre Dominique pointed out these resemblances in a number of articles which appeared in 1937 in La République. In the same paper he writes as follows on 14 February 1938: ‘On many occasions already I have stressed the great resemblance between the Bonapartism of Stalin and that of Hitler and Mussolini. For a certain time the system of War Communism established by Lenin hid the truth from us, but now we know that in both Germany and Italy capitalism and trade unionism are being incorporated into and placed in the service of the state, in short, employers’ and workers’ organisations have become a part of the state machinery. On the other hand, the Stalinist system creates a new élite corresponding to capitalism and to the middle classes of the Western countries, and places it in the service of the state. This new élite, which enjoys special privileges, has quickly adopted all the old bourgeois prejudices, and constitutes the backbone of the state. And, of course, as time goes on and the two systems develop, they will resemble each other more and more closely.’ M Dominique also points out that ‘the democratic states tend to resemble more and more the totalitarian states, but always keeping that golden mean which their counterparts have proved unable to keep’. Apart from the terminology, this is also our opinion. The term Bonapartism can be applied only to a political regime and not to an economic structure, and the terms capitalism and trade unionism have just as much lost their meaning in Germany and Italy as in Russia. However, our disagreement refers solely to words and not to things.

21. This latter aspect, too often neglected by many Socialists and trade unionists, has been presented very clearly by André Fourgeaud in his book Du code individualiste au droit syndical. Essai de synthèse économique du droit nouveau (Valois, Paris, 1929).

22. In order to avoid all misunderstanding we must refer our readers again to the definition of capitalism given in Part I of this chapter, ‘The End of Capitalism?’

23. The fact of capitalist decadence in general does not mean that this or that national capitalism must necessarily already have arrived at a stage of maturity, because capitalist decadence is an international phenomenon having its origin in the world market, and one which arose at a moment when a large section of the capitalist world was still only at an adolescent stage.

24. In our book, Cinq années de crise mondiale (Éditions Nouveau Prométhée, Paris, 1934).

25. See Karl Marx, Capital, Volume 1, Part VIII, Chapter 33, ‘The Modern Theory of Colonisation’.

26. One can only laugh at the grandiloquent phrases of certain frothy individuals who shriek of ‘total democracy’ at the tops of their voices, but wisely refrain from telling us exactly what they mean by it. In those countries which enjoy wide public liberties and which possess representative institutions based on universal suffrage, the greater or lesser degree of perfection of democracy depends on the maturity and the ability of the masses of the people. ‘Total’ democracy cannot be conceived of except on the basis of a maturity equally ‘total’ of the masses of the people, and unfortunately we have not yet arrived at that stage.

27. In his book Die Proletarische Revolution und ihr Program (Dietz, Berlin, 1922), Karl Kautsky excellently demonstrates the reactionary character of that form of democracy as advocated by those people — whether they call themselves Stalinists or Trotskyists — who shout for ‘soviets everywhere’.

28. In their study La réforme du réformisme? (Édition de L'Églantine, Bruxelles, 1926), which appeared in 1926 and is still of great interest today, Arthur Wauters and Antony Vienne write very correctly: ‘In their passionate defence of democracy, the reformists were driven against their will to defend institutions which were really in great need of improvement. As a result confusion arose in their minds between democratic functions and democratic institutions. The latter might well be changed and improved without endangering democracy; in fact it is very desirable that they should be improved from time to time.’

29. See our book Économie dirigée et socialisation (Édition de L'Églantine, Paris, 1934), Part IV, Chapter 5, where we deal more thoroughly with this question.

30. Karl Kautsky, Die materialistische Geschichtsauffassung, Volume 2 (Dietz, Berlin, 1927), pp 469-70.

31. This hatred is clearly proclaimed by Fascism and admitted by implication in Russia, where Stalin and his clique persecute Marxist thought in all its forms, and brutally liquidate its advocates.

32. Let us seize the opportunity of dealing once and for all with certain sophisms dear to the heart of Dimitrov. According to him it was Socialist participation in the government in Germany and Austria which paved the way for Fascism. Those who use this argument ought at least to know that Austrian Social-Democracy took no part in the government after 1920. We might reply, appealing in particular to the example of Austria, and to the more recent example of Spain, that it is rather non-participation which paves the way for Fascism. Although we must admit frankly that Social-Democratic methods suffered a defeat in Germany and Austria (although, of course, the tactics adopted were different in the two countries), it remains nevertheless true that in all other countries (Scandinavia, Czechoslovakia, Belgium and France) democratic Socialism can boast of having powerfully served the cause of Socialist emancipation. These methods have proved themselves satisfactory throughout the world with the one exception of Germany, and it is a crass piece of intellectual dishonesty to draw general conclusions from the one German tragedy in defiance of all that has happened in the rest of the world.

33. See the passage dealing with the polemic of Kautsky against Bernstein quoted in Chapter 2 of this book.

34. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party (translated by Samuel Moore, Martin Lawrence, London, 1934).

35. Karl Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (translated by IN Stone, Kegan Paul, London, 1904), p 12.

36. Werner Sombart, L'Apogée du Capitalisme (Payot, Paris, 1932).

37. Karl Marx, Capital, Volume 1, Chapter 32.

38. ‘Socialised’ in the sense in which Marx understood this term when he spoke of the process of centralisation and concentration operating in capitalism and under capitalist impulse.

39. All this will obviously not be possible without a considerable extension of economic democracy, whose essential condition is the development of economic competence on the part of the masses of the people.

40. We have no reason whatever today to give up the point of view we expressed in our booklet Économie planée contre économie enchaînée (Valois, Paris, 1932), published in 1932. Events since then have confirmed it.

41. In a lecture delivered at l'École superieure socialiste on 16 November 1937, summing up the experiences of 1936, Léon Blum pointed out that the limits of ‘the framework of capitalism’, far from being as rigid as was thought at one time, were in reality elastic. Blum thus agrees with us that there are no clearly defined limits between the two systems, but a wide zone of transition. Writing in his recent book Sozialisten und Krieg (Orbis, Prague, 1937), p 300, Kautsky declares: ‘Socialism is not a ready-made social structure, but a specific tendency of social development, influenced by the proletariat, its needs, its power, its means. In given relations of social forces those institutions which lend themselves more readily to the influence of this development may be socialised more speedily than others.’

42. HM Hyndman, The Record of an Adventurous Life (Macmillan, London, 1911), p 283.

43. HM Hyndman, The Record of an Adventurous Life (Macmillan, London, 1911), p 273.

44. Emile Vandervelde, L'Alternative: capitalisme d'état ou socialisme démocratique (Édition de l'Églantine, Paris, 1933).

45. Paul Faure is absolutely right when he says: ‘There is no need to be a Marxist in order to observe the great conflict of interests which exists today between those who own the means of production, and those who are permitted to approach them only as wage workers. Strikes and lock-outs, riches and ruin in the camp of the employers, overwork and unemployment in the camp of the workers, are not of recent date, and are not confined to our France of the Front Populaire. They are the rule of the capitalist regime. The question which arises today is whether the law can usefully intervene to obviate these conflicts as far as possible, or, if need be, to settle them by conciliation and arbitration. There are elements and factors which strongly favour the success of such intervention: the persistence of the economic crisis, the gravity of the financial and monetary situation, and the dramatic position of Europe menaced by a war in which everything would go under, both the riches of the employers and the hopes of the workers.’ (Le Populaire, 17 February 1938)

46. ‘If the unavoidable evolution turns into a revolution, it would not only be the fault of the ruling classes, but also of the working class.’ (The italics are ours — LL.)

47. Leon Blum: ‘Real experience is that which the working class experiences itself.’

48. See our detailed analysis in Parts II and III of this chapter.

49. See the excellent and well-documented study by Angelo Tasca in the review Problemi della Rivoluzzione italiana (no 1, 1938). Tasca sums up his conclusions as follows: ‘The struggle to seize power from the bourgeoisie, and the struggle to “build up” Socialism, call for an assembly of varied and imposing forces, an extraordinary release of moral energy, and the forward march of a whole people. And, whether we like it or not, the “dictatorship of the proletariat” represents, in relation to these demands of the revolution and of Socialism, a formula and a practice which limits, divides and impoverishes, and constitutes a burden compromising both the present and the future.’

50. The italics are Kautsky’s — LL.

51. We are very well aware of the bitter resentment and thirst for vengeance of the victims of these dictatorships, but the important thing is not to avenge the past, but to build up the future. And the future must take precedence of the past just as, in general, in the social revolution reason must take precedence over resentment.

52. In Chapter 3, Part III of this book.

53. We do not believe that the occupation of factories is a normal or ideal form of working-class struggle. It is a sign of weakness rather than strength. A strongly-organised working class enjoying a recognised standing in the factories and guaranteed against the unjustified dismissal of its factory representatives has no need to resort to such methods. The fact that the French working class was brought to use these methods in 1936 only shows how weak it was in every respect. To those who indignantly denounce the ‘illegality’ of the occupations, we must point out that they were only a reply, sooner or later inevitable, to a long series of illegal acts and provocations on the part of the employers, beginning with the refusal to employ organised workers, and going, at the culminating point of the deflation, so far as to exercise the meanest pressure on the workers to make them join Fascist organisations. Whoever sows the wind must expect to reap the whirlwind. After such humiliations endured for so many years, the calmness and sang-froid of these unorganised masses without trade-union traditions, appear highly meritorious and worthy of all praise.