The Growth of Communism and the Growth of Potatoes – David Adam

[Paper delivered at “Forty Years of Communization Theory: Dauvé’s Eclipse and Reemergence,” The Public School Los Angeles, May 3, 2015]

The Growth of Communism and the Growth of Potatoes – David Adam

Communisation theory sees any Marxist “period of transition” as “inherently counterrevolutionary.[1]” A “period of transition,” for the communisers, could be either a political transition period (such as Marx’s “dictatorship of the proletariat”), or any worker-managed arrangement whereby workers are compensated for hours worked (such as Marx’s “first phase of communist society”). The communisers see these transitional periods as institutionalizing worker’s power. By institutionalizing worker’s power, a transitional period perpetuates the role of worker, thereby foreclosing the self-abolition of the working class. Their negative attitude toward the revolutionary potential of any “affirmation of the proletariat,” distinguishes the communisers most sharply from Marx as well as from their Left Communist forebears[2]. Gilles Dauvé’s Eclipse and Re-Emergence of the Communist Movement is very much concerned with these questions of transition and the critique of the traditional Marxist perspective on these matters.

In this talk, I will focus on some key aspects of Dauvé’s perspective on communisation in the new edition of Eclipse and Re-Emergence of the Communist Movement, but I will also make reference to similar perspectives in other works coming out of this milieu. I will address in turn the topics of proletarian dictatorship, labor, use-value and value, and communism.

I. Proletarian Dictatorship

It is worth taking a look at the views of Marx that the communisers find so distasteful. His Civil War in France contains a passage that is particularly relevant: “Its [the Commune’s] true secret was this. It was essentially a working-class government, the produce of the struggle of the producing against the appropriating class, the political form at last discovered under which to work out the economic emancipation of labour. Except on this last condition, the Communal Constitution would have been an impossibility and a delusion. The political rule of the producer cannot coexist with the perpetuation of his social slavery. The Commune was therefore to serve as a lever for uprooting the economical foundations upon which rests the existence of classes, and therefore of class-rule. With labour emancipated, every man becomes a working man, and productive labour ceases to be a class attribute.[3]” In this passage, Marx describes both (1) proletarian dictatorship as well as (2) everyone becoming a worker, two things that the communisers explicitly reject.

Dauvé, like communization theory in general, sees advocacy of proletarian dictatorship as absurd[4]. Eclipse and Re-emergence: “The question is not the seizure of power by the workers. It is absurd to advocate the rule of the working class as it is now: a partner in the valorization mechanism, and a subjected partner.[5]” Firstly, the whole point of working class rule is that the working class is in the process of freeing itself from the status of a subjected partner in the valorization mechanism. The working class is in the process of reorganizing production on a non-capitalist basis, but this process won’t be evenly distributed or immediate. It is in fact absurd to reject proletarian dictatorship for the reason that the working class is not yet liberated. To counter Marx’s view that the working class must organize itself as a ruling class, using coercive, governmental means, to overturn the vested power of the bourgeoisie on a world scale, one cannot simply claim that the workers are currently dependent on capital. One needs to address the question: by what means will the power of the bourgeoisie be overturned? Rather than posing a credible alternative, communisers take refuge in fine phrases about how the revolution will “establish, not a transitional economy or state, but rather, a world of individuals, defined in their singularity, who relate to one another in a multitude of ways.[6]” This, we are told in Endnotes, is a “proposition” that “communisation theory” puts forward regarding the “minimal conditions of abolishing capitalism.”

II. Labor

Eclipse and Re-emergence criticizes Marx as follows: “Getting rid of capitalism is not perceived of as abolishing the capital/labour reunion, but as liberating work from capital, from its alienated prison.[7]” But Marx did understand the abolition of capitalism as the abolition of the capital/labour relationship, at least as he understood that relationship. Dauvé must have something else in mind, but what? Dauvé makes clear that he finds Marx’s claim that useful labor is a “nature-imposed necessity” somehow objectionable, but it is not quite clear why this is the case. What Dauvé objects to here is not just Marx’s “first phase of communism,” but his “higher phase” as well, insofar as it is conceptualized as a society of laborers. The phrase “liberating work from capital” is the sort of thing that might mean something quite nice (labor becomes more enjoyable), but could also mean something quite unpalatable (the liberation of human beings takes a back seat to the development of the labor process). Dauvé does not tell us what “liberating work from capital” means, nor where Marx advocated such a thing. In criticizing Marx’s ideas, Dauvé needs to do more than string together some evocative phrases. He needs to be specific about what he objects to and why.

Perhaps in saying that Marx did not perceive the abolition of capitalism as the abolition of the capital/labour reunion, Dauvé simply means that Marx wants to abolish capital but not labor. Of course Marx does not want to abolish labor, since without labor we cannot obtain the things that we need in order to survive. Dauvé is critical of labor, understood as something more specific than what Marx called labor and less specific than what Marx called wage-labor. More on this below.

Dauvé objects to the view that labor would be “positive and necessary” in a communist society, claiming that Marx “turns work into an eternal natural fact.[8]” He even quotes part of the following passage from Capital: “Men made clothes for thousands of years, under the compulsion of the need for clothing, without a single man ever becoming a tailor. But the existence of coats, of linen, of every element of material wealth not provided in advance by nature, had always to be mediated through a specific productive activity appropriate to its purpose, a productive activity that assimilated particular natural materials to particular human requirements. Labour, then, as the creator of use-values, as useful labour, is a condition of human existence which is independent of all forms of society; it is an eternal natural necessity which mediates the metabolism between man and nature, and therefore human life itself.[9]” Given that this is what Marx had to say about labor, it is clear why Marx believed that labor would be necessary in a communist society: presumably, we would still wear clothes, for example, and we would have to make them. What is entirely unclear is why Dauvé finds this view objectionable. If this is not the view that he is objecting to, he should not pretend to be objecting to Marx’s view on useful labor.

There is reason to believe that Dauvé, in objecting to what Marx says about labor quoted above, is in a confused way trying to articulate his objection to things that he (and not Marx in Capital) identifies with the term “labor” or “work”—things that Marx did believe would be necessary in a communist society. For example, Dauvé writes the following about Marx’s conception of communism: “…communism as Marx sees it is a money-less world based on communal work: the trouble is, work is a lot more than people getting together in a workshop to manufacture objects. Work includes time-counting and time-saving [my emphasis], which in turn implies quantifying average labour time necessary to produce this or that item: in other words, what Marx rightly calls value. Marx treats use value like a natural result of human activity, and would like to have use values without exchange value. But use value is an analytic category both opposed to and encompassed by exchange value: it is impossible to do away with one without doing away with the other.[10]” There is a lot to address in this passage. I will address the comments on use-value below. If Dauvé wants to define work in such a way that it entails time-counting and time-saving, this is his prerogative. His doing so, however, has no bearing on the coherence or wisdom of Marx’s ideas. Marx did believe that a communist society would require time-counting and time-saving, regardless of whether people are remunerated in accordance with their labor-time. But this is because he saw this as important for rationally planning production, not because he defined “labor” in this way or that.

III. Use-value and Value

There is also reason to believe that a communist society concerned with the rational use of time would want to “quantify average labour time” rather than just make use of a sample of how long it took to make something in one instance. But the claim that average labor time is what Marx called value is misleading mainly because for Marx it is a necessary condition for some quantum of labor-time to be a magnitude of value that the article in question is produced as a commodity. Within Marx’s Capital, value names a historically specific form of wealth. Dauvé wishes to make use of the negative connotation of the term value for anticapitalists, but he forgets that the laws of motion of capitalism, described by Marx’s theory of value in Capital, cannot be attributed to time-counting and time-saving as such. In the above comments on “work” and “value” Dauvé has not said anything practical about why the social practices that he rejects should be rejected by other communists. Is the reader simply supposed to get a bad taste in their mouth when he uses these terms?

Dauvé’s ideas about use-value are especially confused, and no less confused for the fact that they are quite widespread. A use-value, for Marx, is first and foremost a useful thing. Since Marx wishes for humanity to produce useful articles but not commodities in a communist society, he wishes for there to be use-values but not exchange-values. There is a difference between a term and the class of things to which it refers. If the term “use-value” did not exist until the development of capitalism, this does not mean that “use-values” are only produced in a capitalist society. Furthermore, as Marx used the term “use-value,” it is clearly not encompassed by exchange-value. One only needs to look at the textual evidence, which is overwhelming. On the first page of Marx’s Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, he makes clear that a use-value is a useful thing, not the use that people may make of a useful thing: “One and the same use-value can be used in various ways.[11]” On the second page of Capital, Marx explicitly names a “useful thing” a use-value, and writes that use-values “constitute the material content of wealth, whatever its social form may be.[12]” In the first German edition of Capital, Marx used the term commodity-body to describe use-value: “By way of abbreviation let us term the useful thing itself (or commodity-body, as iron, wheat, diamond, etc.) use-value, good, article.[13]” Contra Dauvé, it is quite clear that what Marx would like to have without exchange-values (what he called use-values) are things that society could have without exchange-values. Dauvé has given no reasons why we should think that whatever he calls “use-value” entails whatever he calls “exchange-value.” In order to explain in what way Marx goes wrong and give substance to his objection, Dauvé would have to say something about the commodities and social relations described by the terms he uses, rather than simply assert a relation between “analytic categories.” 

Marx’s usage of “use-value” clearly diverges from the classical definition of “value-in-use” as the “utility of some particular object.[14]” Though he makes use of terms handed down from earlier political economists, we cannot read Marx as breaking down some more general concept of “value” into two types—“use-value” and “exchange-value”—in the manner of Smith. Both terms do contain the word “value,” but the reasons for this are historical or etymological rather than internal to Marx’s theory. Marx describes “exchange-value” as the “form of appearance” of “value,” and by “value” he clearly does not mean something of which “use-value” is a type[15]. Marx does at times fall back on the classical usage, referring to an object’s utility as its “use-value.” But this is not how he introduces the term in Capital, or how he describes his use of it in his Notes on Wagner, for example[16]. Nonetheless, suppose that “use-value” is merely an object’s utility. It is still absurd to claim that objects would not have utility in a communist society. Some people think that things only have some sort of abstract utility foisted upon them in a capitalist society. This is the sort of thing that Baudrillard does in his For a Critique of the Political Economy of the Sign. He writes, “Considered as useful values, all goods are already comparable among themselves, because they are assigned to the same rational-functional common denominator, the same abstract determination. Only objects or categories of goods cathected in the singular and personal act of symbolic exchange (the gift, the present) are strictly incomparable. The personal relation (non-economic exchange) renders them absolutely unique.[17]” Baudrillard seems to say that things only become “use-values” when they are compared in a certain way. But he ignores what Marx is doing with the term “use-value,” preferring to make up his own theory and pretend that this immediately reveals some failing in Marx. It is interesting, however, how only personal gift-giving for him qualifies as a non-economic, non-use-value-producing mode of exchange. Baudrillard’s critique of standardization is echoed by people like Bruno Astarian, as we will soon see.

Baudrillard draws some conclusions from his remarks: “If the system of use value is produced by the system of exchange value as its own ideology—if use value has no autonomy, if it is only the satellite and alibi of exchange value, though systematically combining with it in the framework of political economy—then it is no longer possible to posit use value as an alternative to exchange value. Nor, therefore, is it possible to posit the ‘restitution’ of use value, at the end of political economy, under the sign of the ‘liberation of needs’ and the ‘administration of things’ as a revolutionary perspective.[18]” The verbal similarity to the claims of the communizers is striking. Such passages do not address actual use-values at all, but only the term “use-value.” The term, once it is re-defined in a suitably post-Marxist manner, becomes associated with all sorts of supposedly bad things: equivalence, standardization, abstraction. Others in the communization milieu, aside from Dauvé, have made similar radical-sounding critiques of “use-value.” In “Crisis Activity and Communisation,” Bruno Astarian, a writer in the communization milieu whose work Dauvé recommends, advocates abolishing “value in both its forms[19].” Endnotes, in “The Logic of Gender,” claim that “The transhistoricisation of sex is homologous to a foreshortened critique of capital, which contends that use-value is transhistorical rather than historically specific to capitalism.” Much in the way that Dauvé criticizes Marx’s supposed desire to liberate work, Endnotes charge their opponents with seeking to free “use-value from the integument of exchange-value.[20]

The communiser’s critique of use-value may be a misguided attempt to give their critique of capitalist technology a high-flown theoretical form. Dauvé, for example, in criticizing the dream of fully automated production, writes that “the human species collectively creates and transforms the means of its existence. If we received them from machines, we would be reduced to the status of a young child who is given toys without knowing where they come from: their manufactured origin does not even exist for him.[21]” This seems to set up a very limiting standard: that we should be aware of the manufactured origin of all of the goods that we use. Bruno Astarian directly links a critique of use-value to a critique of mass production and standardization: “Production without productivity is a particular activity by particular individuals to satisfy personally expressed needs. The use of objects produced bears the mark of this particularity. It is anti-standardization. The necessarily local character of communization, at least at its beginning, contributes to this.[22]” In a similar vein, Dauvé claims, “A world where all electricity comes to us from mammoth (coal, fuel-oil, or nuclear) power stations, will always remain out of our reach.[23]

For these writers, capitalist infrastructure seems to be intrinsically tied to value. But this poses grave problems for the supposed immediacy of communization. “The process of living without value, work, and wage-labour will start in the early insurrectionary days, and then extend in depth and scope,” according to Dauvé[24]. In these early days, people will no doubt have to make use of capitalist infrastructure, but if this infrastructure simply cannot be used for non-capitalist purposes, people cannot immediately begin to live without “value, work, and wage-labor.” Furthermore, while Dauvé writes that communization “can only take place on a worldwide scale,” it is hard to see how production could ever be coordinated on a worldwide scale without the sort of “time-counting and time-saving” that he finds so objectionable[25].

I have previously criticized Dauvé for misapplying Marx’s theory of value by using it to describe the social relations of a communist society that uses labor-time accounting. Now, Dauvé writes, “Former editions had sections on labour and value inspired by Marx’s views, which we are now convinced need re-appraisal.[26]” But the reappraisal should come to a specific admission: Marx’s “law of value” cannot be said to operate in what Marx called a communist society. Just because the communizers do not like labor-time accounting, they cannot twist Marx’s theory of value into a critique of labor-time accounting. To put it plainly, Marx’s theory of value describes specific social relations that do not obtain in Marx’s vision of communism.

Dauvé’s previous use of the Grundrisse and the now fashionable “fragment on machines” in former editions of Eclipse and Re-emergence in particular needs re-appraisal, but Dauvé has not yet made a thorough re-appraisal. Dauvé, characterizing Marx’s position in the Grundrisse, writes that “when it becomes impossible to trace the personal contribution of an individual worker to wealth creation” the law of value becomes an “absurdity.[27]” Even though Marx never says anything about actually tracing personal contributions to wealth creation, Dauvé seems to think that the operation of the law of value somehow requires this. Dauvé consistently characterizes the dynamic of value production as some sort of conscious measuring of labor-time or productivity, rather than the unconscious regulation of commodity prices by the labor-time needed to produce them. Such a fundamental misreading of Marx is appealing for those who want a sophisticated-sounding Marxian justification for their antipathy toward transitional phases or labor-time accounting, and has for this reason been praised by groups like Endnotes for supposedly revealing the inadequacy of council communism[28].

It is mainly due to the fact that labor-time accounting does not entail the law of value for Marx that Dauvé considers Marx’s analysis of value as “open to dispute” and inadequate[29]. But Dauvé forgets that Marx’s analysis of value is not a catalogue of things that he does not support about capitalism, so that we might say that he inadequately left off labor-time accounting. Rather, Marx is explicitly concerned in Capital with revealing the “economic law of motion of modern society.[30]” It does not seem like Dauvé is interested, as Marx was, in political economy as a “positive science,” and the basic terms that Marx employs in this project, such as use-value and value, do not have the same meaning for Dauvé[31]. He gives the impression that he is simply using Marx’s own categories to criticize Marx’s political or economic conclusions. Instead, he is re-defining Marx’s categories in such a way that they will encompass all of the things that Dauvé objects to. In doing so he is not demonstrating that there is anything inadequate in Marx’s analysis of value.

IV. Communism

To his credit, Dauvé does say more in the new edition of Eclipse and Re-emergence about his preferred alternative to Marx’s conception of communism, and we will now turn to this. Dauvé uses the example of potato-growing, and writes, “The natural urge to grow food, potatoes for instance, will be met through the birth of social links which will also result in vegetable gardening. The question is not how to grow potatoes because we have to eat. Rather, it is to imagine and invent a way to meet, to get and be together, that will include vegetable gardening and be productive of potatoes. Maybe potato growing will require more time than under capitalism, but that possibility will not be evaluated in terms of labour-time cost and saving[32].” Presumably, this is a rough sketch of what it means to produce things without laboring. It is important for Dauvé that we not be especially concerned with the efficiency of our potato-growing. But is ignorance of labor-time really bliss? If we can make potato-production more efficient in terms of labor-time costs, wouldn’t this be a worthwhile goal? It is not enough to say that this is a capitalist goal. Certainly capitalism encourages great advances in productivity, but capitalists are only concerned with lowering labor-time costs if this coincides with lower monetary costs and more profits. This is the specific dynamic of capitalism that Dauvé effaces by focuses on measuring labor in a more general sense.

For Marx, ignorance of labor-time is not bliss, and efficiency in terms of use-values is a worthwhile goal. He writes: “Labour-time, even if exchange-value is eliminated, always remains the creative substance of wealth and the measure of the cost of its production. But free time, disposable time, is wealth itself, partly for the enjoyment of the product, partly for free activity which—unlike labour—is not dominated by the pressure of an extraneous purpose which must be fulfilled, and the fulfillment of which is regarded as a natural necessity or a social duty, according to one’s inclination.[33]” In a communist society, wealth is no longer founded on poverty, the free time of the few no longer founded on the surplus labor-time of the many. This shift is accompanied by a shift in social priorities, whereby wealth is no longer identified with the abstract accumulation of values, but rather with the scientific and productive powers of humanity and the free time made possible through these powers. Hours of work can be reduced in a communist society, since the working class as a whole will no longer be performing unpaid surplus labor. It is true that Marx sees labor as still necessary in a communist society. Furthermore, Marx understands labor as goal-directed activity, where the question might very well be “how to grow potatoes because we have to eat.” Marx did not think that society would break down into a collection of unique giftgiving individuals.

Bruno Astarian goes into even more detail when discussing production in a communist society. He advocates something called “production without productivity,” which he describes as “a form of socialization of people which entails production, but without measuring time or anything else (inputs, number of people, output).” An interesting example he gives involves the building of houses: “In the communist revolution, the productive act will never be only productive. One sign of this among others will be the fact that the product considered will be particular: it will correspond to needs expressed personally (by the direct producers at the time or by others) and that the satisfaction of the need won’t be separated from the productive act itself. Let’s think, for example, about how the construction of housing will change as soon as standardization disappears. Production without productivity will mean that any individual engaged in the project will be in a position to give his opinion concerning the product and the methods. Things will go much slower than in today’s industrialized building industry. The participants in the project may even wish to live there after the bulding is finished. Will it be a total mess? Let’s just say that time will not count and that cases in which the project isn’t completed, in which everything is abandoned in midstream – maybe because production of the inputs is without productivity too – won’t be a problem. Again, this is because the activity will have found its justification in itself, independently of its productive result.[34]” In this vision, rational planning is thrown out the window. People building houses for unspecified persons may just decide that they would like to live in them! If more people enjoy living in houses than enjoy building them, however, it seems like some form of planning becomes necessary.

For Theorie Communiste, communist society will not produce “products” because objects will not be gathered together at any kind of central depot for distribution: “In communism, appropriation no longer has any currency, because it is the very notion of the ‘product’ which is abolished. Of course, there are objects which are used to produce, others which are directly consumed, and others still which are used for both. But to speak of ‘products’ and to pose the question of their circulation, their distribution or their ‘transfer’, i.e. to conceive a moment of appropriation, is to presuppose points of rupture, of ‘coagulation’ of human activity: the market in market societies, the depot where goods are freely available in certain visions of communism. The ‘product’ is not a simple thing. To speak of the ‘product’ is to suppose that a result of human activity appears as finite vis-à-vis another such result or the sphere of other such results. It is not from the ‘product’ that we must proceed, but from activity.[35]” This may seem like an extreme example (and it is), but Theorie Communiste is in no way marginal to communization theory.

Rather than make use of the centralization of production and planning capabilities developed under capitalism, many communizers seem to envision an insurrectionary break with mass society. For Marx, it is precisely because the working class produces all of the goods of our society, but is, through private property, excluded from this wealth, that it can instead produce in its own interest, and dominate the productive apparatus instead of being dominated by it. Only by taking control of this productive apparatus, inherited from capitalism, will workers be able to transform it. They cannot circumvent it entirely. Communist revolution, if it comes at all, will be made by people with needs developed in capitalist society. Certainly, communism will create new needs and displace old ones, but only a minority will be willing to fight for a society devoid of organized and goal-oriented productive activity. And I do not think we should say that people will through force of circumstances naturally create communism. As with potato-growing, revolution will take more than a little social organization and planning.

[1] “As we shall see, the understanding of communisation differed between different groups, but it essentially meant the application of communist measures within the revolution — as the condition of its survival and its principle weapon against capital. Any ‘period of transition’ was seen as inherently counter-revolutionary, not just in so far as it entailed an alternative power structure which would resist ‘withering away’ (c.f. anarchist critiques of ‘the dictatorship of the proletariat’), nor simply because it always seemed to leave unchallenged fundamental aspects of the relations of production, but because the very basis of workers’ power on which such a transition was to be erected was now seen to be fundamentally alien to the struggles themselves.” Endnotes, “Bring out Your Dead,” in Endnotes 1, p. 14.

[2] “Generally speaking we could say that programmatism is defined as a theory and practice of class struggle in which the proletariat finds, in its drive toward liberation, the fundamental elements of a future social organisation which become the programme to be realised. This revolution is thus the affirmation of the proletariat, whether as a dictatorship of the proletariat, workers’ councils, the liberation of work, a period of transition, the withering of the state, generalised self-management, or a ‘society of associated producers’. Programmatism is not simply a theory — it is above all the practice of the proletariat, in which the rising strength of the class (in unions and parliaments, organisationally, in terms of the relations of social forces or of a certain level of consciousness regarding ‘the lessons of history’) is positively conceived of as a stepping-stone toward revolution and communism. Programmatism is intrinsically linked to the contradiction between the proletariat and capital as it is constituted by the formal subsumption of labour under capital.” Theorie Communiste, “Much Ado about Nothing,” in Endnotes 1, p. 155-156.

[3] Marx, The Civil War in France, in Draper, p. 76.

[4] See also Endnotes: “Communization is typically opposed to a traditional notion of the transitional period which was always to take place after the revolution, when the proletariat would be able to realise communism, having already taken hold of production and/or the state. Setting out on the basis of the continued existence of the working class, the transitional period places the real revolution on a receding horizon, meanwhile perpetuating that which it is supposed to overcome. For us this is not a strategic question, since these matters have been settled by historical developments – the end of the programmatic workers’ movement, the disappearance of positive working class identity, the absence of any kind of workers’ power on the horizon: it is no longer possible to imagine a transition to communism on the basis of a prior victory of the working class as working class. To hold to councilist or Leninist conceptions of revolution now is utopian, measuring reality against mental constructs which bear no historical actuality. The class struggle has outlived programmatism, and different shapes now inhabit its horizon. With the growing superfluity of the working class to production – its tendential reduction to a mere surplus population – and the resultantly tenuous character of the wage form as the essential meeting point of the twin circuits of reproduction, it can only be delusional to conceive revolution in terms of workers’ power. Yet it is still the working class which must abolish itself.” Endnotes, “What are we to do?” in Communization and its Discontents, p. 26-27.

[5] Eclipse and Re-emergence, p. 57.

[6] Endnotes, “Spontaneity, Mediation, Rupture,” in Endnotes 3, p. 246.

[7] Eclipse and Re-emergence, p. 113.

[8] Ibid., p. 113.

[9] Karl Marx, Capital: Volume 1, p. 133.

[10] Eclipse and Re-emergence, p. 111-112.

[11] Marx, Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, p. 27.

[12] Karl Marx, Capital: Volume 1, p. 126.

[13] Karl Marx, “The Commodity,” in Value: Studies by Marx, p. 7.

[14] Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations: Books I-III, p. 131.

[15] Karl Marx, Capital: Volume 1, p. 127. See also note 16 on the relation of these terms.

[16] “In the first place I do not start out from ‘concepts’, hence I do not start out from ‘the concept of value’, and do not have ‘to divide’ these in any way. What I start out from is the simplest social form in which the labour-product is presented in contemporary society, and this is the ‘commodity’. I analyse it, and right from the beginning, in the form in which it appears. Here I find that it is, on the one hand, in its natural form, a useful thing, alias a use-value; on the other hand, it is a bearer of exchange-value, and from this viewpoint, it is itself ‘exchange-value’. Further analysis of the latter shows me that exchange-value is only a ‘form of appearance’, the autonomous mode of presentation of the value contained in the commodity, and then I move on to the analysis of the latter. ‘When at the beginning of the chapter [in Capital] it was said in the customary way: the commodity is use-value and exchange-value, then this was, strictly speaking, false. The commodity is use-value or a useful object, and ‘value’. It is presented as double what it is, as soon as its value possesses a form of appearance proper, that of Exchange-value, different from its natural form’, etc. Hence I do not divide value into use-value and exchange-value as antitheses into which the abstraction ‘value’ splits, rather [I divide] the concrete social form of the labour-product; ‘commodity’ is, on the one hand, use-value, and on the other hand, ‘value’, not exchange-value, since the mere form of appearance is not its proper content.” Karl Marx, “’Notes’ on Adolph Wagner,” in Later Political Writings, p. 241-242.

[17] Baudrillard, For a Critique of the Political Economy of the Sign, p. 131-132.

[18] Ibid., p. 139.

[19] Bruno Astarian, “Crisis Activity and Communisation.” See my earlier reference to Marx’s Notes on Wagner for Marx’s denial that use-value and exchange-value are two forms of “value.”

[20] Endnotes, “The Logic of Gender,” Endnotes 3, p. 80. 

[21] Eclipse and Re-emergence, p. 53-54.

[22] Bruno Astarian, “Crisis Activity and Communisation.”

[23] Eclipse and Re-emergence, p. 58.

[24] Ibid., p. 55.

[25] Ibid., p. 57.

[26] Ibid., p. 100.

[27] Ibid., p. 123-124.

[28] “Communisation and Value-Form Theory,” Endnotes 2, pp. 78-9.

[29] Eclipse and Re-emergence, p. 136.

[30] Karl Marx, Capital: Volume 1, p. 92.

[31] Marx to Engels, Oct. 10, 1868: “In order to transform political economy into a positive science, conflicting dogmas must be replaced by conflicting facts and the real antagonism which constitute the unseen background of these dogmas.” Maximilien Rubel, “A History of Marx’s ‘Economics,’” in Rubel on Marx, p. 174.

[32] Eclipse and Re-emergence, p. 52.

[33] Marx, Theories of Surplus Value, Book III, p. 257.

[34] Bruno Astarian, “Crisis Activity and Communisation.”

[35] Théorie Communiste, “Communization in the Present Tense,” in Communization and its Discontents, p. 54-55.