Critique Of The Economic Policy

Asger Jorn1

Forward

The badly understood form is precisely the most general, and, at a certain level of social development, it lends itself to a general usage.– Marx, Letter to Lassalle

I dedicate this study to Christian Christensen, who had been at the forefront of the workers struggles in my country. He suffered a long imprisonment for the cause, and then had to pass the rest of his life marginalised in a movement which had been partitioned by Stalinist and reformist bureaucrats. In my youth I learned the libertarian content Of social revolution from him. He shall not be forgotten.

Orientation
The 'Marxism' which is questioned here, is of that dogmatic and restrictive kind – such as pure economism – associated with social democratic and soviet bureaucrats. Global revolutionary thought – particularly that of Marx – has always been freer and richer. It is the task of the workers themselves, as creators, to transform the world.

In 1958, Aksel Larsen, the Secretary-General... of the Danish Communist Party (D.K.P.) left the party, and simultaneously publishing a tract titled Den Levende Vej (The Living Path) in which he accused Moscow of having betrayed socialism. My present study could be considered as a reply to Aksel Larsen. A reply by someone who had been a member of the D.K.P. since 1933. However, its content, which is a critique of a particular theory and practice of Marxism, comes from a viewpoint completely opposed to that of Larsen, and may be briefly summed up thus: 'As you exit stage right, I exit stage left'.

This publication was the second in the series of Reports Presented to the Situationist International. It has been reproduced by the Unitary International on the occasion of Asger Jom's exhibition 'The Luxury of Aesthesia'. Abandoning the search for radicality, he has given himself up to spectacular integration and the commodity.

Dis-Orientation
The 'Marxism' which is put in question here is of that dogmatic and restrictive kind – such as pure art – associated with fashionable idiots and recuperators. Global revolutionary thought particularly that of Marx has always been freer and richer. And it is the task of the workers themselves, as creators, to transform the world.

From December to February 1970, the former Situationist, Asger Jorn, held an exhibition of a series of paintings titled 'The Luxury of Aesthesia' in which he repudiated the situationist claim that art was dead. This present d6tournement can be considered as a reply to Asger Jom. A reply by someone who for a certain time has followed his own destiny. However, its content, which is a critique of a particular theory and practice of Marxism, comes from a viewpoint completely opposed to that of Larsen, and may be briefly summed up thus: 'As you exit stage right, glance stage left; anaesthesia is watching you'.

Value-in-itself and the Forms of Value
Both socialists and communists have always recognised that the true basis for the verification of socialist and anti-capitalist politics is the analysis and critique of the capitalist form of value, the commodity, the elementary form of wealth in the societies governed by the capitalist mode of production.

This analysis was made by Marx in his critique of political economy, Capital. Marx stated that the capitalist form of wealth is the commodity – a statement that implies that wealth and value are identical. Since wealth exists as the contradiction of poverty, socialism sets out to eliminate the contradiction between rich and poor. But a contradiction can only be resolved with the elimination or neutralisation of its two opposed components. Either wealth is eliminated with poverty or, should wealth continue to exist, there can be no socialism. The idea of socialist wealth isn't even utopian, it's absurd.

To a great extent the veritable crisis of socialism arises from the fact that the Marxist conflation of commodity, wealth and value implies the elimination of value as the aim of socialism. Thus the very concept of value becomes absurd, and socialist politics becomes a politics of permanent devalorisation, heading towards the elimination of all value. There is nothing in Marxist theory which seriously contradicts this goal. Indeed, it appears inevitable if the definition of value imposed by Marx is established as the basis of socialism, justifying all the conclusions for action taken from his analysis.

It is, however, possible to accept Marx's analysis and critique of the commodity, the capitalist form of value, without accepting the identification between this form and value-in-itself. In other words, it is possible to accept the scientific side of Capital without automatically accepting the political conclusions which have been drawn from it. Ibis would imply that Marx's critique is considered as a critique of a form of value rather than of value-in-itself. To reach this new critique, first we must have a new concept of value, one which is better, more universal, more objective than Marx's definition. Then we must have a purer concept of form, and so undertake a critique of 'objective quality', the somewhat magical notion found in the theory of dialectical materialism. These are the aims of this study.

In order to avoid a serious argument on this question, Marx evaded the entire problem by maintaining that value is not a concept but a real fact – the commodity, exchange value. He must have forgotten that he had himself defined value as a supernatural fact, purely social or conventional, and hence nothing but a concept.

But this refusal even to speak of the concept does not avoid the increasing devalorisation which socialism entails. On the contrary, as the goal of socialism is the practical elimination of exchange value, socialism is not simply a movement towards the absence of new theories of value, but towards conditions bereft of the real object of such new theories, a condition without real values.

Marx was the first to see and confirm this development by claiming that Marxism was the last philosophical theory, thus replacing his own economic philosophy with an extreme economy of philosophical effort. His aim was to render all philosophy useless, even Marxism. Thus the progressive devalorisation of everything, even of Marxism, was not an unforeseen development. It is as much the conscious as the unconscious goal of socialism.

Marx's confusion around these terms was greatest when, as it were, he drew back in relation to time. A star observed forty light years away is as old as the distance. Observation based upon time, and that based upon space, are not necessarily complimentary. Marx speaks of "two factors of the commodity: use value (the substance of value) and exchange value or value properly speaking (the magnitude of value)". Marx, therefore, seems to identify value with its magnitude. But he then divides use value into two new factors by saying: "Each useful thing can be considered from a double point of view, that of quality and that of quantity". It is even more astonishing that Marx cannot explain the commodity by these same classical aspects of dialectical materialism. The matter is quite clear: considerations of value cannot be encompassed either within quantitative or qualitative considerations even by the greatest dialectical materialist.

Substance as Process
To understand Marx's concept of substance, we must link it to what Marx called form. When we speak of matter as good materialists, we can broadly agree that matter, considered as substance, is normally seen in its aspect as primary matter or basic matter. However, the form of matter is its aspect as differentiated or determined matter, as object, a body where particulars are united. Thus we can speak of different forms of energy, etc.

But Marx never speaks in this way of the concept of form in relation to the concept of substance. He prefers to use another expression, the concept of content. Thus he speaks of the form content of value. The content is that which is locked up within the form. Marx frequently said that the content of value was work and added that the true form is the form of the content. He said: "We now know the substance of value, it is labour". Thus, according to Marx, substance and content are identical. But he also said that use value is the substance of (exchange) value and, nevertheless, explained that "Labour is therefore not the only source of material wealth, i.e. of the use values it produces. [As William Petty says] labour is the father of material wealth, the earth is its mother". For use value to become exchange value it is, therefore, necessary to eliminate a magnitude, its terrestrial character, or, if you like, to repudiate the mother, the true source of its birth. Thus the passage from use value to exchange value can only be achieved by the devalorisation of an aspect of use value, its material reality.

This is explained even more clearly by looking at the Marxist concepts of form. Whilst announcing that use value is the natural form of commodities, Marx added that it possessed a particular value form which contrasted in a striking way with its various natural forms: i.e. the money form. As much as use value is simultaneously the real form of the commodity and its substance, so use-value is never a natural form in itself. In the case of a table, its natural form is that of a tree. It is clear that, here, Marx does not see it as either a use-value nor an object of use. It is this lack of understanding of the particular character of the contrivance and wealth located in the use object which reduces the range of Marx's study to an historically determined subject.

We can accept that the use object represents the substance or primary matter of commodities, but the use object is more than the substance of the commodity, it is in itself a form of value, devalorised in its conditions as a commodity but whose value is restored when the exchange process is over. Once a use object has been bought by a customer, it becomes a use object once again. This is necessary for every commodity except money.

The producer of use objects makes them for the boss. By making too many for her or his own use, she or he creates surplus-value in terms of useless use objects. It is this use object – if someone else can make use of it and if it is not offered to them as a gift – devalorised for its producer, which becomes a commodity. Thus the producer sells this commodity to get some money, and when they buy another commodity with this money, because of need or desire, the value returns as another commodity, which in turn becomes a use object.

Yet this whole process, even the creation of use objects, is artificial, invented by man. The substance of the use object is found in nature. But nature is no longer substance in itself It is only substance for the man-made use object. Nature is not simply a means. It is the first condition of production. Nature shows itself as natural forms or qualities. Natural objects must be consumed, destroying their natural form, to produce use objects, and once consumed and exhausted by mankind they return to nature, becoming new natural values, albeit at an inferior level. There is a consumption of nature prior to all production, and a loss of energy at each passage from one form to another. This a primary and universal devalorisation.

Forms only become substance in the process which transforms them into other forms. In reality, the substance of a form is another form, which, in its very character, is located outside the process, and is different from that which in its turn it serves as a substance. The concept of substance thus points to nothing but a process, or the passage between forms. Substance is the process. Substance is the material reality of the transformation, of change.

Marx declared that the exchange of commodities implied the following change of forms:

Commodity – Money – Commodity

C – M – C

But this very exchange necessarily implies other changes of form:

Use Object – Commodity – Use Object

U – C – U

And the use of use objects implies these changes of form:

Natural Form – Use Object – Natural Form

N – U – N

The whole process necessary for the creation of capital is thus a cycle of changes of form which can be written like this:

N – U – C – M – C – U – N

Only through studying this cycle in all its phases can we get a scientific view of production and consumption.

By avoiding delving into a study of the entire process of production and consumption, and limiting his considerations of value strictly to a matter of exchange value, Marx produces an extremely primitive theory. However such considerations are valid where the commodity reigns, in capitalist society.

This effectively shows that use value does not exist, that what is called use value is simply a use object and nothing more. To apply the term 'value' to a use object is thus meaningless. It is prescientific, much like the alchemical use of the term salt which was applied to sugar, as well as salts, because of the external resemblance between sugar and salt.

What we have here is not a scientific argument, but a legalistic outburst. If Marx really believed in what he posited here, he would have changed the expression each time he used 'use value' in his book. But he was wary of doing so, and every subsequent Marxist has continued to swallow his argument. Such discussion is carefully avoided. When Marx says that "use values can only be realised in use or consumption", it wouldn't be very sensible to imagine that he is talking of use objects. A loaf isn't realised by being eaten.

The use value of bread is realised in digestion, its decomposition in the digestive process, that's all. Use value is thus exactly contrary to the use object. It is its negation, that is the dissolution of its reality as an object or form.

Marx insisted: "As use value, commodities are above all different qualities, as exchange value they can only be different quantities". Here we are taken back to the concepts of quantity and quality. We are going to see that it is not use value which is the use object, and if a use object is consumed it cannot be sold. The object must remain intact, and it is thus this intact object which Marx calls quality.

In this way, despite the views of certain pseudo-Marxists, use value is not a quality of an object. Quality is simply the object in itself, its body, its extension and its durability. Basically this is the same thing: its state.

If I buy a pair of shoes, their use or consumption cannot be their quality. The proper quality is their permanence, their constancy as objects, their resistance to destruction. It is clear that these shoes would better preserve their quality if they are never used, if they were shut away in a vault. The merchants treat them in this way, if they want to sell them. The slightest use lowers their price in a way that no Marxist law can explain. However, if I do not use my shoes, they are of no use to me. Value is created in usage but not in wear and consumption. I look for good quality when I shop to avoid wear, which I could not avoid if the shoes must serve me. Thus usage and consumption – or wear – are not identical. Even for the consumption of bread the problem is more complex. I do not eat bread in order to destroy it, but to produce energy in myself. Only that part of the bread which serves this productive purpose has value for me.

The commodity is quality as a use object and quantity as an exchange value. This formula, which is considered as a renewal of scientific concepts by dialectical materialism, would be purely static and useless if it did not deal with the passage of quality into quantity and vice versa. However, this perpetual process does not have a scientific formula, and is only treated by Marxism in a very superficial and non-scientific way.

What Marx claims for exchange value is no more value than use-value is an object this is what eludes the Marxists. The Marxian pseudo-exchange-value is only the neutralisation of two values by equivalence, and this equivalence is expressed in that quality which is called money. Money is no more a value than a pair of shoes. It is a use object. It is a form.

The market value of use objects does not reside in their quality but in their qualitative difference, that is to say their variability. Thus the exchange value of two commodities is not their equivalence but their difference in price, a difference uniquely quantitative. If everything had the same price, pricing would not exist. The exchange value is the change of price, or its variability. The day all prices are fixed, the market no longer has value and commodities no longer exist.

It is thus logical to suggest that value and process are the same thing, that what Marx called the substance of value is value in itself and not the magnitude of value, as is assured by the fact that magnitude is nothing but the quantity of a quality. However, value is a quantity of changing qualities in process.

Variability and Stability
What are the consequences of this new definition of latent value? All objects are things, if man is capable of making them so. Thus value does not exist as objects. Values cannot be possessed, but objects with a latent value can be possessed. All objects can have value as long as man is capable of extracting it. In another way, everything is value as everything is process. All matter is perpetually flowing in and out of being. Value is thus an objective quality of matter, its dynamism. The value of a form, or a quality, depends thus on the ease with which it can be dissolved and its latent energies liberated. The ease of changing from one quality to another is its value. The socialist attack on private property arises from the desire to break a system which blocks values and renders them private, in other words deprives society of their use.

There is no such thing as fixed value. If value were fixed that would be effectively to say it was no longer a value but a quality. From this easily proved scientific fact, Marx showed how capital transformed variable capital into constant capital, from value into quality, to establish the inescapable necessity of transforming capitalist society into socialist society. Value, as a process can only be progressive or regressive. Hence value cannot exist without surplus value or the liberation of value, or even devalorisation or loss of value. The fixation of value in an object as identical reproduction is its neutralisation, is transformation as quality – or its reification.

For example, Marx remarked that constant capital was the productive apparatus. This apparatus is in itself incapable of any process, of creating wealth or surplus value. It can only repeat the same production at the same rhythm. The more industrial production develops its technical abilities, the less it injects value into the commodity.

We might say that Marx proved that machines did not create value (above all surplus-value). Surplus-value is created by variable capital, by human intervention.

It is this fact which led Marx to believe that the workers created surplus-value. Whence comes this surplus-value which Marx showed to be exploited in the worker? Where is the variable which allows this increase in profit?

It cannot reside in the exploitation of the professional ability and the individual gifts of the worker. This takes no account of industrial production. Workers are not exploited through the quality of their work, but simply through the quantity.

Labour is measured in labour-hours. It is in the exploitation of man that profit and wealth are created. The content of value is work and its measure is an hour of human labour according to both capitalist and socialist theories.

In Marx's day it was possible to imagine that profit increased because the workers worked more and more. But after the workers reduced their hours of work, there was still no decline in profits. What is the Marxist explanation of this point? It is simple.

A person has a right to that which they produce. But the worker produces more than they need to maintain their life, and with technical development less and less time is used to produce what is sufficient for their own needs. As their work time is no way shortened, they are more and more exploited.

Thus it is the development of machinery which provokes this increasing exploitation of the workers labour, accelerating production. But where does this variability come form? Not from the workers with the constancy of habit. Nor from the machines, which work with the constancy of a clock. Nor from the capitalist who always lets the production process proceeded at the greatest possible speed. These changes are caused by the inventors of quicker, new machines. It is their idea which is exploited and which creates surplus-value: a new invention has lost its value, or its capacity to create surplus-value from the moment when it has become the industry standard.

What can be proved is that it is not labour which creates profit, or surplus-value, but variability. This is a little known truth. The alteration, the change of price creates profit, not its magnitude.

Labour and Value
In capitalist as much as socialist industry, work is a process without any human quality. It is a quantitative and mechanical process which is performed less and less by human beings as they are replaced by machines. In this way the mechanical concept of work is perfectly applicable to industrial labour.

The mechanical concept of labour is that labour is the product of tension and quantity. To treat labour as Quantity, the intensity must be constant. For the measure of labour to be an hour of labour, all the workers must work at the same tension, use the same energy. But an hour of human work as the basis of value leads to the elimination of intensity as a variable in human labour. This elimination is made by means of machinery which control the general rhythm of production, and constitutes the constant which eliminates surplus-value. Thus machinery represent inertia and resistance to change in production. But as the transfer of energy can only be achieved by a fall of tension, by a change of tension, and as this transfer which gives energy its value, industrial labour cannot create value: it is without value, thanks to the constancy of its tension. If one hour of human labour is identical to another hour of human labour, human labour is without value. This is the weakness of the Marxist labour theory of value, because as industrial work is without value, the worker who does it does not represent a human value superior to other classes on account of their work. If the worker possesses such value, it is for other reasons.

If there is any truth in the Marxist labour theory of value, it is not in labour, but in labour time or, in other words, time. Value must be time not work. For the human being, time is nothing but a succession of phenomena from a spatially determined place, since space is the order of coexistence of phenomena in time or process.

Time, which is change that is only conceivable under the form of progression within space, as much as space is stability which can only be conceived with the participation of movement. Neither space nor time possess a reality or value outside change, or process, that is to say outside the active combination of space-time. The action of space-time is process and this process is itself the change of space into time and of time into space.

We thus see the increase of quality, or resistance to change, is thanks to the increase in quantity. They work in unison. This is the development which is the aim of socialist progress: the increase of quality through the increase in quantity. And this double increase must be identical to the diminution of value, of space-time. This is reification.

But value is the world, reality, the space-time relationship, the instant. This disappearance of reality is what has been called reification since the days of Hegel. This reification is the black sheep of socialism because people are made to believe that socialism is capable of gobbling up value at the same time as preserving it – which is unfortunately the equivalent of trying to achieve what is called the impossible. This viewpoint only leads to another way of saying what we have already pointed out, that the change of time into space is the change of quality into quantity, and the change of space into time is the change of quantity into quality.

Rigidity, inertia, constancy or material quality arise from the speed of movement, which within an object is tension, but which, once freed, is transformed into speed. Speed is itself an inertia, a quality, and value is only found in the change of speed, in acceleration. Yet as the acceleration diminishes the possibility of change, the liberation of value is at the same time a devalorisation. This cannot be repeated, the process is irreversible, it's progress.

The magnitude which determines value is space-time, the instant or the event. The space-time which is reserved for the existence of the human species on the earth manifests its value as events. No events, no history. The space-time of a human life is their private property. This was Marx's great discovery from the viewpoint of human liberation, but at the same time the kick off point of the errors of the Marxists, because a property only becomes value by being realised, being freed, being used and what gives the space-time of a human life its reality is its variability. And what gives the individual a social value is their variability of behaviour in relation to other people. If this variability becomes individualised, excluded from social valorisation, as is the case in authoritarian socialism, the space-time of the individual becomes unrealisable. Hence the individualised character of human qualities ('hobbies') has become an even greater devalorisation of human life than the private ownership of the means of production, as, under the socialist scheme, waste doesn't exist. Instead of abolishing the private nature of property, socialism has done nothing but increase it to the extreme, making mankind itself useless and socially non-existent.

The aim of artistic development is the liberation of human values, through the transformation of human qualities into real values. And it is here that the artistic revolution opens up against socialist development, the artistic revolution which is linked to the communist project.

Prodigality and Economy
Marxism is the first philosophy which shows economic problems as essential, conditioning human behaviour. There's a good reason for this. Since industrialisation the economy plays an ever greater role in human affairs. But what is the cause of this increasingly important new phenomena?

The origins of economic reflection may be seen in the management of household expenses. It is only later that the meaning of the term is changed and indicates savings obtained from these expenses. The economic problem of income was not studied. It was called wealth, and once the relationship between income, savings and expenses was established a science called political economy came into being, dealing with the production, distribution and consumption of wealth.

But it's not wealth, the phenomenon with which we have started our analysis, which turns out to be a necessity, but abundance, surplus, surplus-value or variety.

If this wealth was spent in a natural way: squandered, blown, wasted, in a profuse way, there would never be economic problems. These only arise when wealth is stockpiled, amassed or saved up, taking the form of a reserve – of an accumulation of wealth, for which economies are made. This is simply a question of consumption or non-consumption (saving). This is the economic question which takes first place in people's preoccupations.

By suggesting that the accumulation of savings has been the source of all human misery since antiquity, and that a balance between production and consumption would be the formula for happiness, Marx focused economic interest around income and productive resources.

In this way he created a perfectly balanced economy, and a new economic science which no longer revolved around wealth, but only the harmony of different parts of the whole, of unity or quality. Human and social economy were identified with ecology, biological economy. The biological or socialist economy of harmonious equilibrium thus replaced political economy which ignored the sources of wealth.

To understand this development, politics must be traced objectively from its origins in the Greek cities. Here politics was the name given to the actions of a community founded in complete ignorance of economic thought. It was a prodigal community whose actions were those of a social unit, anti-economic and variable in the behaviour of that unit. Politics was, therefore, the general way to introduce new and unforeseen elements into the behaviour of the entire group.

Capital, The Critique of Political Economy2, did not really criticise the economy, but the fact that economics had been transformed into politics. Marx proposed how to remedy the consequences of politics (uncertainty, instability, social and productive insecurity) with a socialist politics or a truly economic politics, or more precisely an economic system which would necessarily finally eliminate all possibility of making politics.

Seeing that the State is used as an instrument to make politics, the movement of socialist thought pushes for dissolving the state by eliminating the class which dominates politics.

The political goal of Marxism is to replace the state with an automatic and inoffensive administration of all matters pertaining to the common interest. And this administration, in the socialist language, will be managed by an apparatus through which everyone makes decisions. Robot-statisticians, guided by public opinion surveys, will calculate according to the desire or non-desire of the greatest number, and so ensure a perfect and effective dictatorship of the majority in future society, without any possibility of trickery, that is to say politicking, the domination of man by man.

But the fact that this technical administration, which is being formed across the whole world, eliminates all possibility of political maneuvres, does not eliminate the state. On the contrary it becomes the state. It's just that the state is not a political instrument. On the contrary, it is an instrument to avoid or lessen the damage of politics. The state is made to establish stability for the ruling class, and this stability is precisely economic stability. The statesperson does not take the form of an emperor, a king, a noble or a capitalist. They bear the lineaments of a 'majordomo' of the economy, the bureaucrat, the ideal model of the robot-statistician.

The pure state is what we have already described as quality, unity or the perfect form, form without value, an unchanging constant. This socialist goal is in striking contradiction to the progressive politics of the working class.

Interest is Value
We must now consider the economy as the neutralisation of the variable, which oscillates between poverty and wealth. The economy is the constant (or quality) which connects consumption and production.

To the extent that the social economy finds its equilibrium and its autonomy, it replaces politics which looses importance. Politics is concerned with the importance of social relations, economics with necessary relations.

Something which Marxists willingly ignore is that everything which becomes necessary loses importance and is no longer interesting as it is no longer a problem. It is no longer important, it's indispensable. It no longer has to be considered. The absence of importance or interest attached to a thing is evidence that it is necessary. Yet it is the useless which catches our attention, nothing else.

'Interest' is that which exists between two things (having in itself the character of quality and quantity), it is the process of value. Marxism's point of departure, as we have said, is how it treats value or interest. And Marxism's weakness is in not having conceived of interest from a scientific point of view. Marxists have however conceived of scientific development as a reflection of interest. But this is due to their failure to distinguish between science and technology.

Our definition lets us clear up the matter of interest which has been deliberately obscured by all politicians. Bourgeois idealism survived in Marxism with the conviction that what is not conceived of by man does not exist. Only its appearance as an object of consciousness confirms the existence of a phenomenon. But only those phenomena which interest people as sensory phenomena can provoke their attention and penetrate their consciousness. In this way it is imagined that ignorance of events is equivalent to their disappearance.

What actually happens is reification. The reification of events is their extension of human attention, the decrease of their interest in relation to mankind. But the process in itself remains unaltered.

Scientific Idealism
Rational determinism is the principle according to which everything is known or knowable. This automatically implies that all production is only reproduction, that what exists is also the future and vice-versa. In our terms this signifies that quality and value are identical.

The identity between what exists and the future is the identity between immobility and progress, between the reversible and the irreversible, which is objectively justified by the fact that inertia is identical to regular movement.

But since it cannot be denied that consciousness can only react to unknown stimuli, and, hence, that consciousness is conditioned by the variability of these conscious reactions, which depend on the diversity of unknown stimuli to which consciousness responds, intelligence as a process is in contradiction with the rational form.

Rationalisation kills awareness, which is the very method of reasoning. Rationalism, as a goal or quality, kills the rational method. Thus rationalism is set up as an ideal absolute, with the obligation to go through the concepts of scientific idealism, by eliminating the creation of ideas (artistic and fantastic action).

The economisation of consciousness is achieved by the systematic control of educational methods. Here, unknown factors are carefully measured out to occupy the whole attention of the subject who is being educated. The educator who controls the dosage, knows these phenomena in advance, and uses them to obtain the desired normal results. This process of manipulating consciousness becomes a social duty, establishing very complex types of comprehension and norms of behaviour which correspond to each individual's capacities for absorption: a weight of inert ideas which excludes any variation in consciousness beyond the established system. The only way to protect one's lucidity in relation to this transformation of an individual into an instrument, is to play the imbecile and avoid being detected. This is getting more and more difficult.

Surplus-Value as Part of the Biological System
We could reach the conclusion that no interest is any more scientifically or objectively justifiable than any other. A process is only valuable in relation to the interests which provoke it. To give importance to one process by suppressing another is only justifiable in relation to an interest for which the process creates a value, creates progress.

The creation of value is always made through the devalorisation of another. It is possible to use a value without, however, creating another from it. It is possible to combine waste with valorisation: this is the experimental system.

The devalorisation of a value can be complete (destruction of the source); or the devalorisation can be economic: its reduction to a unit of necessary expense for a precise and unique effect. The reduction of a process to its economic condition is reification. It is the reduction of value to a functional instrumentation. The valorific development as negated in a stable quality.

Economisation can be justified on the basis of laziness, following the law of minimum effort. Or it could be justified by the need to be able to expend liberated energy in order to intervene in new areas. In the latter case, there is surplus-value. Surplus-value is thus indispensable to all progress.

Surplus-value is not, as the Marxists would have it, a purely capitalist phenomenon. It exists under various forms at all biological and social levels. The elimination of capitalism is not the elimination of surplus-value except in a very specific area.

The economy, although encompassing all the problems of the relationship between income and expense, is not a system which is specifically concerned with capitalism, but with society in general. It is a particular process present throughout biology. Human economy, both socialist and capitalist, cannot be distinguished in its general spirit from the economic principles of all the other biological systems.

The Work of Art as a Source of Counter-Value
There are inorganic sources of energy which form the basis of industry. They are definitively exhausted through their use. Their form is the form of content, or substance, and they are destroyed with that substance.

There are other natural resources which are renewable because they are part of a perpetual return. Such a cycle can be that of nature itself (the sun, rain, wind etc.) and could also be the return of value in human labour, such as agriculture. Here the form seems to anticipate the substance, and also to survive it. And only the invention of forms which are distinguished from that of substance, which are opposed to them have been found usable in such forms. Industry is the exploitation of inorganic matter, but agriculture is the exploitation of nature or biological life.

But if there is a form which yields its content without ever emptying it (by refilling itself on its own), it is art, spiritual creation, which preserves its qualities at the same time it spreads its values. The secret of this property, that some people attribute to supernatural or metaphysical factors, and of which others deny the existence, lies not in some force liberated in the work of art, but in a force which exists within the person who perceives it, if they are capable of so perceiving. Value does not emerge from the work of art, but is liberated from within the spectator. This is the simple and material explanation of the value of artistic works; and all other so-called spiritual values.

The value of art is thus a counter-value in relation to practical values and is measured in an inverse way to them. Art is the invitation to spend energy without any precise goal outside that which the spectators themselves bring to it. It is prodigality. All those who are averse to or incapable of such an effort, detest art. In this way artistic value is at the same time an unreasonable value and the very manifestation of the liberty of the individual. This isn't to say that each spectator can make of the work of art what they will, but that they control how the new energies liberated within themselves are disposed. No-one else controls them. And if someone has no energies to liberate in this field, then they see nothing. This is why art is socially disruptive and politically so important as an object in itself. Although the work of art is nothing but a confirmation, it is still the source of politics and inspiration.

It has been imagined that the value of art lies in its duration, its quality. And it has been believed that gold and precious stones constituted artistic values, that artistic value was an inherent quality in mankind as an essential source of value.

Progress and Gravity
Actually there are many discussions for and against progressive ideas in the cultural domain. Before taking sides as regards its truth or justice, let us peep at the modem content of this concept of progress. The idea of progress is linked to that of ascending a flight of stairs, of moving from a lower level to a higher one.

It is impossible to join in the idealist enthusiasm of certain 'progressives' by identifying this movement as a stable movement, which would be identical to inertia. To speak of progress we must unfortunately speak of non-uniform movements, and more precisely movements which are accelerating. Firstly let's agree with Einstein when he says progress is neither absolute, necessary nor ideal. And let's add that the effect of accelerating movements in outer space, beyond the gravitational field, would give exactly the same effects as gravitation does upon the surface of the earth. It certainly makes you think.

Without acceleration no conscious behaviour is possible, and progress through acceleration harmonises our universal relation without primary conditions. The consequences of this discovery are too broad to be properly examined here. but this shows that even if the ethical-idealist notion of progress is condemned to be put aside, there is still an important question around progress. And it's certain that the discussions upon this subject will in the future take their point of departure in new considerations of movement and gravity, and the problem of the creation of fields of gravity.

This said, we shall pass on to a related problem, that of complementarity. The discovery of quanta or Planck's constant – which we consider to be a terminologically precise quality of extreme importance – has led Niels Bohr to his theory of complementarity. This appeared to be impossible to reconcile with dialectical materialism, an impossibility that has uncovered a realm of erroneous by-products within dialectical materialism, and was of no consequence to Niels Bohr's central argument.

It seems possible to explain the paradox of complimentary situations as follows. You have a case which you want to put upon a beam. You can never reach the beam without standing on the case. In this way you can never deal with the case and the beam together. But such acts do not merely constitute mutually exclusive situations – they are complimentary. Let's take another example: if I observe a star whether I consider my vision in terms of time and space depends on which factor I choose as instrument and which as object. Bohr did not discover that the instrument is neither subject nor object, but that it was the neutralisation between one and the other.

There is an asymmetry between time and space, and only a new scientific study which deduces the exact relations between symmetry and asymmetry will be capable of giving us a satisfactory view of the relations between quality, quantity and value. But, however that turns out, the concept of dialectic contradiction will envelop and dominate the concept of complementarity.

The Commodity as the Object of Socialised Use
It would be appropriate to remark in this study, that socialism has never attacked wealth as the debauched consumption of the capitalist class. In this, it shows nothing of the indignation of the bourgeois revolution against the nobility.

This shows why socialist revolution has been preceded by the so-called bourgeois revolution, i.e. the installation of capitalism. There are political reasons for keeping quiet about the question of wealth: the revolution is not made in order to become poor. But the principle reason for this quietness is that the capitalist revolution has essentially been the socialisation of consumption. Capitalist industrialisation takes humanity to a level of socialisation more profound than that proposed by the socialists – that of the means of production. Socialist revolution is the accomplishment of the capitalist revolution. The unique element which arises in the capitalist system is savings, because the wealth of consumption has already been eliminated by the capitalists themselves. It is very rare to find a capitalist today whose consumption goes beyond the meanest necessities. The difference in life-style between a grand seigneur of the seventeenth century and a great capitalist in the age of Rockefeller is grotesque, and is always increasing.

Wealth in the variability of consumption has been economised by capitalism, because the commodity is nothing more than a socialised use object. This is why socialists avoid dealing with the use object.

The socialisation of the use object which allows it to be considered as a commodity, has three principle aspects:

a) Only a use object which is desired by enough people maintains a common interest and can serve as a commodity. The ideal commodity is the object desired by everyone. So-called 'formalism', as the idea of individual and artisanal production must be destroyed if the capitalist is to push industrial production towards such socialisation.

b) In order to speak of a commodity, it is necessary to have a quantity of objects which are exactly alike. Industry concentrates on producing a series of objects, in greater and greater quantities.

c) Capitalist production is characterised by propaganda for popular consumption which attains incredible volume and power. Propaganda for socialist production is only the logical consequence of advertising for a socialised economy.

Money is the completely socialised commodity, indicating the extent of common value to everyone. In this way money is only able to measure social values. Value under its individual aspect cannot be measured by money: and the value of money – since we've come off the gold standard – purely resides in social convention, and has become this convention itself This is the use of money in a socialised society.

But what is this social convention which money measures? It's not work, and it's no longer the usefulness of objects. Everything points to money as the measure of time in social space.

The Anglo-Saxons say that time is money. But only time which has been inscribed within a social ambiance can be measured by money. Outside such time, money has absolutely no value. Money is the means of imposing the same speed on a given space, i.e. that of society. From the moment when society has spread right across the planet, there is no longer any possibility of distinguishing between time and space, and history is no longer possible.

The invention of money is the basis for 'scientific' socialism, and the supersession of money will be the basis of the supersession of socialism. Money is the work of art transformed into a cypher. The realisation of communism will be the transformation of the work of art into the totality of daily life.

The Principle of the Receptacle
We have seen that socialism extracts the system of consumption and production from capitalism by eliminating waste. This is more a propagandist pose than something achieved in reality, because socialisation is really a system based on absolute waste.

Let us now turn to the use object. We have suggested that at the moment the use object becomes a commodity, it immediately becomes useless, as the causal link between consumption and production is broken. A use object can only become a commodity when it is hoarded and put in a warehouse, and even then only when it joins a quantity of use objects in the warehouse. This system of warehousing is not eliminated by socialism, on the contrary: the socialist system is founded on organising all production through warehouses before being distributed, thus ensuring perfect control of its distribution.

Hitherto accumulation – the warehouse or hoard – has not been studied in its proper form which is that of the receptacle. The warehouse works as a function of the relation between the receptacle and its contents. We have already pointed out that substance, often given the name of content, is nothing but process. Under the form of content it signifies a latent force, the matter in the warehouse. But we have always considered it separately from its own stable form. The form of the receptacle is a form contrary to the form of its content: its function is to hinder the content entering into the process, except under controlled and limited conditions. The receptacle-form is therefore something quite different from the form matter in itself, where there is nothing but the form of content: here one of the terms is found placed in absolute contradiction to the other. It is only in the biological domain that the receptacle becomes an elementary function. The entire biological life has evolved by opposing the receptacle forms to the forms of matter. And technical development proceeds in a similar way; and all the systems of measurement and scientific control are interrelationships between objective forms with their receptacle forms.

The receptacle forms have been established as contradiction of the measured forms. The receptacle form normally conceals the form of the content, and hence possesses a third form: that of appearance. These three forms are never clearly distinguished in discussions of form. All three are real forms producing an integrating part of our perception of matter and establishing a level of contradiction which allows us to distinguish between the world of inorganic matter, that of biological nature, and finally the world of our sensations. But to these forms, which are described as real, are added the imaginary forms established by thought – the symbolic forms.

Scientific and philosophical systems are distinct from those which follow the fashion of confounding forms which have nothing to do with each other as forms, if this word is understood in a clear way without internal contradiction.

Just as the form can be said to be unity, and the quantity equalised, and that there is a complete contradiction between these two aspects of matter, the receptacle is equally the apparatus which allows – at least in appearance – the elimination of the contradictions between unity and equality by the unity of the form (of the receptacle) and by the equalisation of the content, and the neutralisation of the forms of contents through their number; these contradictions are neutralised through the increase according to the laws of probability. This is the principle of the warehouse, of the container, that of hoarding just as that of insurance or even that of jars of jam. To approach more and more equalised unities, it is sufficient to develop a unified receptacle, increasing the receptacle so that the form of the receptacle can change independently of the content, because the form of a receptacle has nothing to do with its content. This is the principle of both capitalist and socialist development, and all their theories on the relation between form and content are only a matter of putting things in boxes.

The New Spirit
In order to seize power, the socialists have elaborated their political programmes. They have thus been led to accept the political concept of the state, which is absolutely in opposition to Marx's viewpoint, which was founded on the rapid withering away of the state. By using the state they do the opposite of what they claim to be doing.

We must once again study the First International to discover the possible richness of a future workers movement, alongside the study of certain utopian currents such as Fourrierism and re-examining the attempts of Ruskin and Kristen Kold from this perspective. In the International Workers' Association, the differences around the state and authority quickly developed into absolute oppositions. The division of the workers movement has continued without a break since then, neither with the Second International, which was truly socialist, in the way in which we have been using the term, nor with the Third International which tried to be 'communist' without being able to separate itself from socialist goals. Plenty of contradictions have been put off to a vague future, by blandly saying that the socialist society will be transformed into a communist society. But this passage was foreseen without taking account of the fact that it is a qualitative leap, which when it takes place will reveal that communism is antithesis of socialism, according to the laws of the dialectic.

The big names of Russian history never pretended that such a change would appear as something linear, evolutionary and idyllic, as is done by their promoters. Now that the forms of socialisation which have developed in the east as well as the west have disabused the revolutionaries, it is time to take up the communist project full on, negating this socialisation, with a single supersession of these alienations.

The realisation of counter-revolutionary socialisation appears across rival sectors of the world through bureacratism, whether it takes the form of capitalism, reformism or in the so-called communist powers. The bureaucracy is the receptacle-form of society: it blocks process, the revolution. In the name of controlling the economy, the bureaucracy economises without control (for its own ends, in order to conserve existing conditions). It sequesters all power except the power to change things. And every change starts off by opposing itself to this bureaucracy. At the present moment the construction of sputniks is in itself contrary to the avenue that leads to the production of nuclear bombs. But their social justification remains the same.

Real communism will be a leap into the domain of liberty, of values, of communication. Artistic value, contrary to utilitarian value (ordinarily called material value) is the progressive value because it is the valorisation of mankind itself, through a process of provocation.

Since Marx's day, political economy has shown its weaknesses and its set backs. A hyper-politics must tend towards the direct realisation of human nature. The goal of economy would then be the realisation of art. It is a matter of recognising these goals passionately enough for the masses, in deciding to strive for these goals, in taking matters sufficiently in hand. It is necessary to search for new artistic goals, giving life itself a new interest; opening humanity to the joy of even better situations. The need and absence of such perspectives has constituted the back drop of the general mediocrity which has plagued our times. Hitherto there have never been any ideas which have commanded the revolutionary power of Marxism; nor which have lost their spirit so quickly.

The Final Struggle
The dogmatic theoreticians of Marxism are clearly capable of rejecting this whole argument, and to classify it as a formal abstraction. They maintain that a theory only has a real meaning from the moment that the interest it reflects has been found; and so far they have been able to convince themselves with more and more stupid arguments, where logic is replaced by violence of expression, where everything which does not reflect the interests of the proletariat shores up capitalism. Now it is a matter of knowing if they will be able to encompass our reflections in the same category, and if they still believe that they represent the interest of the proletariat.

To understand the original excuse for this Marxist attitude, it is first of all necessary to remember that scientific socialism was not born as a scientific theory but as a defense speech during a trial, as a legal argument where the scientific facts were presented as proofs of the crimes of the capitalist class, in favour of the class without possessions. The lawyer was Karl Marx; and he pleaded the complete innocence of his client, and accused its adversary of theft and rape. The subject of debate was the right to the industrial means of production, which the two adversaries had agreed to consider as a single means of socially justifiable production.

The act of accusation documented against the capitalist class is presented by Marx in Capital. It is overwhelming. The signs and testimonies are irrefutable, and have remained so for more than a hundred years. The defenders of capitalism have found nothing to counter attack it with, apart from sordid excuses. The tool that Marx used has itself been highlighted by the capitalists: scientific exactitude – justesse).

Marx won the trial with arguments analogous to those which, in Shakespeare's play, triumphed over Shylock: the relationship between exactitude – justesse – and justice, the identity between truth and quantity. But the acquittal of the debtor was not an act of justice, it was that of theatre, born from the skill of the lawyer which permitted the judge to allow an injustice through charity without breaking the law.

So it is this engagement in the ethical and human struggle which gives Marx's work a literary and dramatic quality which places it amongst the master-pieces of human literature, which has given it the quality of a work of art. The consciousness of justice is never re-established without Marx proving that the dominant class is the real criminal; that the official organs of justice, of honour and altruism only exist to justify and protect this criminal; and the innocent, the prince of the future, the human being of tomorrow is the poor tramp, brutalised and dressed in rags, without subsistence, without any possessions: the proletariat. The trial is won, even if all its consequences have not been carried out.

The problem with the Marxist conception which has led to this victory, is this tendency to only see those truths which play a role in the social process as being of importance. However, even a truth without any immediate importance in the social process might later become important, and even a matter which attracts scant public interest may subsequently become of the greatest public interest. This is the case with everything which is completely new. Socialism palms this away on the pretext that there is nothing radically new, that all production is reproduction. Here socialism reveals not only its injustice but also its powerlessness, being as incapable of understanding the new as it is of liberating the masses in the effort for this new authenticity.

The economic theory of Marxism is based on the right of the individual to their own production, and socialist theory is based on the community of consumer needs. That is to say that the elements of everybody's consumer requirements can be produced by everybody in less time thanks to the use of machinery, and then distributed to everyone according to their needs. This implies that everyone is obliged to participate in this necessary production, whose time, already diminished by industrialisation is further reduced by automation.

Thus each individual has at their disposal a continually increasing amount of free time and energy. But socialism has never asked how the individual will be able to freely dispose of this individual energy (it has pushed this problem away into a communist stage conceived as a vague static paradise at the end of history). But on the contrary, in the immediate reality, socialism imposes false necessities and a host of necessities in the productive sector, as much as in that of consumption. This is the point of departure for the new revolt for the liberation of humankind. This superior programme will criticise all ideas about conventional requirements and social pretense, to benefit an open engagement with social games in the creative realm. In the future we shall probably see such games finding their worst enemies in the professional organisations. Up to the point when the specialised professions have clearly entered their process of dissolution, they will prohibit participation on the grounds of the requirements of production and consumption which go irrefutably beyond material and biological necessities; they will gladly ban creative techniques which use industrial means to achieve playful ends.

The working class was, in its purely proletarian epoch, the extreme expression of this aspiration towards human liberation. Today it has become ever more settled in the opposite attitude. The dialectic of this change is very simple, and ignorance of this is socialism's elementary error. The industrial proletariat has held a unique role as the source of inspiration during the last century. It was the dominant force, not thanks to its quantity or through its unity, but thanks to its unique availability to represent the most pure human value, because it was without reserves, without possessions nor responsibilities – save amongst itself.

This availability has given the working class a human surplus-value, in striking contrast with the bourgeoisie preoccupied with their little businesses. It was a class free to reject everything and undertake anything.

What will it undertake? Here the socialist theory promotes the right of the proletariat to the possession of the means of production. With the establishment of the socialist ideology within a fixed geographical system, this value is transformed into a quality, and that quality in turn into a spatial quantity. The vision of the world proletariat passes over into its opposite, that of absolute property with the absolute disappearance of all availability, of all the proletarian values. Behind the screen of this new alienation, the exploitation of the workers continues, the nonsense of social life continues.

In actual fact, the socialist movement embroils mankind in increasingly stupid and futile work, consumerism and social obligations3. Is this development avoidable? Must we proclaim: Intellectuals of all countries, kill yourselves! This is the final struggle! Follow the glorious examples of Mayakovsky and Jack London. You have nothing to lose but your chains and nothing to gain. Suicide is no longer one option amongst others, is it the only way to manifest human liberty? Must we go along with Mayakovsky when he responded to Essenine's suicide with the words "But to construct a life is very difficult"? It really is difficult, but we expect nothing less.

When today a human life no longer wants to maintain itself as a human life, only by risking our lives can we assure their value; and the value of life is the only real value for mankind. It is its liberty, which shows itself as risks and in the goals of this very risk. Youth begins to understand that risk is the most precious of all the goals social life has to offer; and society is ready to enroll individuals in a thousand goals without risk – at the same time as making nuclear bombs! In the East as in the West, the increase of the level of life and of time reveals their appalling emptiness; this emptiness is the place where total liberty, which is now possible, will henceforth excel above all contingencies.

The social provocations of youth are the beginning of a revolt which will, from the start, have every chance of being lost, that is to say being criminalised. Which is better than nothing. And we will follow suit, if once again the human will is not capable of overcoming predetermined conditions.


NOTES

1 Originally appeared in a series called 'Rapports presentes a l'Internationale Situationniste'. Translated by Fabian Tompsett and taken from Transgressions No.4. 1998. Published in a Danish translation as report No.2 from the Scandinavian Institute of Comparative Vandalism in 1962.

2. Extracts from Capital

(All references to the Penguin edition 1976)

Whatever the social form of the production process, it has to be continuous, it must periodically repeat the same phases. A society can no more cease to produce than it can cease to consume. When viewed, therefore, as a connected whole, and in the constant flux of incessant renewal, every social process of production is at the same time a process of reproduction. The conditions of production are at the same time the conditions of reproduction.
Vol. I, Chapter 23, p711

When at the beginning of this chapter, we said in the customary manner that a commodity is both a use-value and an exchange-value, this was, strictly s~ng, wrong. A commodity is a use-value object of utility, and a 'value'. It appears as the twofold thing it really is as soon as its value possesses its own particular form of manifestation, which is distinct from its natural form.
Vol. I, Chapter 1, p152

When examining use-values, we always assume we are dealing with definite quantities, such as a dozen watches, yards of linen or tons of iron.
Vol. I, Chapter 1, p126

In the expression of the weight of the sugar loaf, the iron represents a natural property common to both bodies, their weight; but the expression of value of the linen coat represents a super-natural property: their value which is something purely social.
Vol. I, Chapter 1, p149

That part of capital, therefore, which is turned into means of production, i.e. the raw material, the auxiliary material and the instruments of labour, does not undergo any quantitative alteration of value in the process of production. For this reason 1 call it the constant part of capital, or more briefly, constant capital.
Vol. I, Chapter 8, p317

3. Extracts from French Letters, cultural weekly of the French Communist Party (directed by Aragon).

The following can be read in issue 813 under the title 'Enough of the Damned ('Assez de maudits')

Femand Lθger used to enjoy saying 'If all the idiots flowered, that would make a beautiful bouquet'... But we have seen enough of Utrillo beside his empties, Rodin courting his floozies in the park, Rousseau's naivete to the point of stupidity, Gaughin getting to grips with the cops, Cθzanne injured by the press. Shall we discuss their work a bit?

A word about this adjective 'damned'. Where is the denunciation of Cθzanne for his 25,000 franc dowry, or Utrillo (or is it all drunkards who are now crazy!), or Rodin (or would it also cover all the old men who have let themselves be rolled by alluring women). How was Rousseau more damned than in all his retreats from the administration? How much would the denunciation of Gaughin effect all those who have been placed in such far away spots that they cannot make their work known? If Rodin is a damned sculptor, I would like to be shown an artist who isn't.

The bouquet has been made and the idiocy distilled, when the words of Femand Lθger are cited, as this man was socially damned all his fife, for his defense of the good conscience of society towards artists, a good conscience which was justified by the most capitalist argument and the meanest petty-bourgeois spirit. He had money, but if the others didn't, this, apparently, was their own fault thanks to certain individual flaws: drunkenness, erotic excess, a hatred of police and contempt for fashionable locations where waves could be made. Could the socialist spirit fall so low? Lower than Aragon?

"Shall we discuss their work a bit?" Rodin, Gauguin and Lθger were artists who had a social and universal conscience. Their works could only be fragments of social edifices which were never built. Rodin never had the chance to realise the work for which his sculptures were merely elements. Why? Because society hated him, his work was effectively damned. He had to put his exhibit outside the Exhibition of 1900, just as Le Corbusier was authorised to have a tent in the annex at the Exhibition of 1937. Uger never had a chance to realise an artistic work together with his friend Le Corbusier. However, they did gain recompense and social recognition in their old age. If Gauguin had lived a bit longer, even he might have got a chance to decorate a church.

So this is what is considered as the realisation of all their dreams. At least those of Aragon. But the working class, which is to say the people who make virtually everything – who would have been able to prevent them from collaborating with these artists, at their leisure and for their own satisfaction, to erect unheard of buildings according to their own requirements? Yes, but what held them back from this? Union action? Big business? Their own lack of broadmindedness? Stupidity? Which? Or the treachery of Aragon and all his friends?

 


HOME