Time and conditioning, history, has had an effect on workers’ consciousness. This basic consciousness is not simply put there by any individual or propaganda but is gained by experience of surroundings, particular in the place of work.
Causes of consciousness and feelings for change are to be sought, not in men’s brains, not in men’s better insights into eternal truth and justice, but in changes in the modes of production and exchange.
They are sought, not in philosophy, but in economics.
There is a growing perception that existing social institutions are unreasonable and unjust, the modes of production and exchange is no longer in keeping.
The means of getting rid of the out of place things that have been brought to light must also be present, in a more or less developed condition, within the changed modes of production themselves. These means are not to be invented by deduction from fundamental principles, but are to be discovered in the stubborn facts of the existing system of production.
The mode of production is the capitalist mode of production.
The capitalist order of society is free competition, individualism and private ownership.
The conflict between the productive forces and modes of production is not a conflict engendered in the mind of man. It exists, in fact, objectively, outside of us, independently of the will and actions even of the men that have brought it on. Modern Socialism is nothing but the reflex, in thought, of this conflict in fact; its ideal reflection in the minds, first, of the class directly suffering under it, the working class.
Now, in what does this conflict consist?
The powerful levers of production of the present day —three phases of simple co-operation, manufacture, and modern industry.
The Social means of production is only workable by a collectivity of workers, the co-operation of millions of working men and women.
Their social being and their actions in work give rise to basic consciousness
Production is not a series of individual acts but a series of social acts, and the production from individual to social products. The articles that come out of the factory are the joint product of many workers, through whose hands they had successively to pass before they were ready. No one person could say of them: “I made that; this is my product.”
Division of labour upon a definite plan, as organised in the factory is social production.
The concentration of the means of production and of the producers in large workshops and manufactories has led to transformation into actual socialised means of production and socialised producers.
The owners of the instruments of labour have always appropriated selfishly the product, although it was no longer their product but exclusively the product of the labour of others.
The products produced socially are not appropriated by those who have actually set in motion the means of production and actually produced the commodities, but by the capitalists.
The means of production, and production itself, had become in essence socialised.
This contradiction, which gives to this mode of production its capitalistic character, contains the germ of the whole of the social antagonisms of today.
The more clearly was brought out the incompatibility of socialised production with capitalistic appropriation.
The separation is made complete between the means of production concentrated in the hands of the capitalists, on the one side, and the producers, possessing nothing but their labour-power, on the other. The contradiction between socialised production and capitalistic appropriation shows itself as the antagonism between workers and capitalists.
No one knows how much of his particular article is coming on the market, nor how much of it will be wanted. No one knows whether his individual product will meet an actual demand, whether he will be able to make good his costs of production or even to sell his commodity at all. Anarchy reigns in socialised production.
The production of society at large was ruled by absence of plan, by accident, by anarchy; and this anarchy grew to greater and greater height.
But the chief means by aid of which the capitalist mode of production intensified this anarchy of socialised production was the exact opposite of anarchy. It was the increasing organisation of production, upon a social basis, in every individual productive establishment, every factory.
The contradiction between socialised production and capitalistic appropriation now presents itself as an antagonism between the organisation of production in the individual workshop and the anarchy of production in society generally.
The capitalistic mode of production moves in these two forms of the antagonism and the trade cycles continually affect the stability and sustainability of employment. In terms of consciousness this obviously has its effect. Capitalism is never able to get out of that “vicious circle”.
Anarchy in social production causes the limitless perfectibility of machinery; every capitalist must perfect machinery and improve technology more and more, under penalty of ruin but the perfecting of machinery, robotics, and computers make human labour superfluous.
It means, in the last instance, the production of a number of available wage workers in excess of the average needs of capital, the formation of a complete industrial reserve army available at the times when industry is working at high pressure, to be cast out upon the street when the inevitable crash comes, a constant dead weight upon the limbs of the working-class in its struggle for existence with capital, a regulator for keeping of wages down to the low level that suits the interests of capital.
Machinery becomes the most powerful weapon in the war of capital against the working-class; that the instruments of labour constantly tear the means of subsistence out of the hands of the labourer; that the very product of the worker is turned into an instrument for his subjugation.
When the general crisis breaks out, the whole industrial and commercial world, production and exchange among all civilised peoples are thrown out of joint. Commerce is at a stand-still, the markets are glutted, products accumulate, as multitudinous as they are unsaleable, hard cash disappears, credit vanishes, factories are closed, the mass of the workers are in want of the means of subsistence, because they have produced too much, bankruptcy follows upon bankruptcy.
The stagnation lasts for years; productive forces and products are wasted and destroyed wholesale.
In these crises, the contradiction between socialized production and capitalist appropriation ends in a violent explosion. The circulation of commodities is, for the time being, stopped.
The economic collision has reached its climax. The mode of production is in rebellion against the mode of exchange.
The fact that the socialized organization of production within the factory has developed so far that it has become incompatible with the anarchy of production in society, which exists side by side with and dominates it, is brought home to the capitalist themselves by the violent concentration of capital that occurs during crises…
These productive forces themselves, with increasing energy, press forward to the removal of the existing contradiction, to the abolition of their quality as capital, to the practical recognition of their character as social production forces.
Freedom of competition changes into its very opposite — into monopoly; and the production without any definite plan of capitalistic society capitulates to the production upon a definite plan of the invading socialistic society.
No nation will put up with production conducted by trusts, with so barefaced an exploitation of the community by a small band of dividend-mongers.
In any case, with trusts or without, the official representative of capitalist society — the state — will ultimately have to undertake the direction of production. This necessity for conversion into State property is felt first in the post office, the telegraphs, the railways.
If the crises demonstrate the incapacity of the bourgeoisie for managing any longer modern productive forces, the transformation of the great establishments for production and distribution into joint-stock companies, trusts, and State property, show how unnecessary the bourgeoisie are for that purpose.
All the social functions of the capitalist has no further social function than that of pocketing dividends, tearing off coupons, and gambling on the Stock Exchange, but, the transformation into State-ownership — does not do away with the capitalistic nature of the productive forces. It is only the organisation that bourgeois society takes on in order to support the external conditions of the capitalist mode of production against the encroachments as well of the workers as of individual capitalists. The modern state, no matter what its form, is essentially a capitalist machine — the state of the capitalists, the ideal personification of the total national capital.
This solution can only consist in the practical recognition of the social nature of the modern forces of production, and therefore in the harmonising with the socialised character of the means of production.
And this can only come about by society openly and directly taking possession of the productive forces which have outgrown all control, except that of society as a whole, with the taking over by society of the productive forces.
The proletariat seizes political power and turns the means of production into State property.