Communistic persistences in the course of human history
Bourgeois society is the most advanced and complex historical organisation of production. The categories which express its relations, and an understanding of its structure, therefore, provide an insight into the structure and the relations of production of all formerly existing social formations the ruins and component elements of which were used in the creation of bourgeois society. Some of these unassimilated remains are still carried on within bourgeois society, others, however, which previously existed. only in rudimentary form, have been further developed and have attained their full significance, etc. (Marx, Introduction to a Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, 1957)
What allows a tribe of paleolithic farmer-shepherds, Campanella's City of Sun, a jewish sect at the time of Tiberius, a commune of californian hippies, an urban structure of 6000 years ago, a buddhist community of the IVth century BC, a benedictine coenobium of the VIth century AD, a cistercence abbey of the XIIth century, a big factory of the XXIth and the future society to form a coherent set ? Is it possible, beyond huge differences of history, culture, geographic zones and of our knowledge of them, to draw a schema joining them together with at least one common element which furnishes us with an explanation of social transitions?
We can answer that they share much more than one element. All of them, for instance, do without money, property, family, value-accountability, exploitation of others' labour, class division, careerism, cult of the ego etc.
Saint Benedict's rule reads: "No one shall dare either give or receive, or else have anything of one's own whatsoever. Because by now monks are not any longer the masters of their own bodies and wills. 'Everything shall be common to all', as it is written. And no one shall say and deem a thing as of one own. And if some will be found inclined to this very wicked vice, they shall be subjected to punishment. As it is written 'it was distributed to each of them according to their needs'".
And in Campanella's City of Sun: "All property arises from making private home and sons and wife one's own. Hence egoism arises, which aims at raising one's own son into wealth and dignity, or bequeathing them to him. Everyone becomes publicly rapacious if one fears nothing, when being powerful or greedy; insidious or hypocrital, when being powerless. Once egoism is given up, there remain common things alone".
Or in an article of the Washington Post of 1998: "Twin Oaks is one of thousands of communes which sprouted up throughout a restless America emblems of hope and pride. Most of them vanished unnoticed. But Twin Oaks was different, it managed to flourish, growing from eight people to almost one hundred, becoming not only self-sufficient, but managing to cultivate 450 acres of land efficiently, manufacture hammocks and casual furniture and form what is certainly one of the last rampart of pure communism in modern world. From each person according to his capacity, to each person according to his needs. No one is hungry or bears hardships. All have a job. Children are joyful. Competition, hedonism and waste are rare. Violence is avoided; ambition is tamed; remarkable results have been accomplished".
Or in Capital: "What characterizes the manufacturing division of labour? The fact that a partial worker doesn't produce any commodities; that only the partial workers' common product becomes commodities". Marx asks and then answers the question himself, after pointing out what differs between a single producer of goods and a worker placed in a complex cycle. In a society where all workers are "partial workers" of a global organism and, at the same time, full individuals helping the general and common cycle of production, there won't be any commodities, any money, any value, or capitalism. So it would be senseless to speak of family, property and the state.
We could go on with such instances for many pages. Obviously, we're not going to praise sterile monastic communities; nor classical utopian anachronisms; nor modern existential escapes of small human groups, which were successful only as the exception; nor the capitalist factory, which, altough having one of the keys for freeing the future society, is a jail for today's workers. We only wish to stress this fact: Humanity – since we can call it thus by its difference from other animal species – lived in a communist manner for a couple of million years, and certainly will live likewise in a society developing from modern communism for ensuing millions of years. The few thousands of years in-between, during which humanity leaped from its primitive stage to modern industry, is but its passage from being submitted to an untamed nature to the "reign of freedom", its harmony with nature being accomplished through being able to project and plan its future by a full reversal of praxis.
In all class societies until capitalism, this reversal has been very partial, just inside production, but absolutely kept in check by private appropriation of the values produced, which has obscured its visibility. Marx, while studying the law of natural evolution, noted that Darwin had revealed the mechanisms of evolution of the organic world and, at the same time, those "natural" and equally wild, that regulated english society, the capitalist society par excellence of his time, that is, the foremost limit that the reversal of praxis had so far reached. Labour is, therefore, already reversal of praxis, but in class societies human nature is submitted to the law of jungle, and can't fully express itself. Just as in capitalism there is already all the socialization of production required in the future society, except that it is submerged in a mercantile sea enforcing the law of value. This socialization of production for the future society to use, characterizing irreversibly and more and more decisively modern society, strongly drives humanity to fully accomplish its project for life, even if individuals don't realize it. On the other hand, in all its millenary path, humanity has never forgotten its communistic origins, apparently having it stamped in its genetic code; in the course of history humanity has always felt the need to realize some communistic variant of society, and has never been able to do without it.
We opened this article by having recourse to a quotation from the Introduction to a Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, 1857, with a point where Marx exposes more clearly than elsewhere the principle of invariance, when applied to the becoming of social facts. A postumous publication, Kautsky welcomed it as a fundamental text, when the manuscript was found, but few people today have truly grasped it. A couple of instances: Maurice Dobb, in his preface to the edition by Editori Riuniti (where the Introduction is meaningfully relegated to the appendix as secondary, instead of in the front matter as fundamental), just hints to its presence, without any comment. Bruno Acciarino, who write an entire book to analyze it, leads his readers about in a philosophical maze, fashioned with cryptic and exoteric statements having nothing to do with Marx's text.
The Communist Left, which we follow, instead considers it as a basic text for an understanding of Marx's method, in that the structure of Capital is determined from logico-dialectical statements drawn from history, it's true, but not by any single category that can be found throughout history, but rather by following the genetic process of the categories we find in the superior form historically reached (The method of Capital and its structure).
Brushing up on the principle of invariance
In 1857 the principle of invariance hadn't yet received its mathematical formulation, which was achieved late in the century. Afterwards our current recognised the strict relation between Marx's descriptive analysis and the mathematical formalizations of invariance. That's why we've given our review this title (n+1), which can be briefly explained as follows: if the present society is the number n, the future communist society will be the successor of n, that is n+1. On the whole, in a given moment of history, social forms are N (the sum of all past n societies). Communism too, therefore, will represent an N summation of all human history, capitalism included.
The more developed society, in conclusion, contains the characteristics and memory of those less developed in at least 3 forms: 1) more or less altered remnants of old societies (like remnants of feudalism and slavery in capitalism); 2) fully transformed invariants (money, for instance, which has been existing since it was introduced 2500 years ago, but which has turned from the general equivalent metal into impersonal capital, which is quite another thing); 3) "symmetrical" or denied invariants, when there is transition towards the more developed society (for instance, the non-value, non-state, non-democracy, which the future society will surely achieve, but which can be described only as denial of the symmetrical categories at present.
Using words perhaps alittle more difficult to digest, but suitable to a scientific description of social becoming, the last society N is but the integral of all the previous differential invariants (Bordiga). Since marxism is an experimental science in the full sense which this term was given by Galileo, perhaps we can't fully describe the future society today, unless we indulge in utopianism, that is in a political reverie, whereas we presently have the tools to see, touch and analyze the transformed (anticipated) invariants of communism already in the present society. We made the instance of agriculture (in number 5 of our review), by now outside the capitalistic cycle as a firm producing surplus-value, to which it belongs only as a service for nourishment, which is paid for with surplus-value produced elsewhere. But many other sectors by now operate without any immediate exchange of value.
Naturally, it didn't pass unnoticed by Marx to what degree social transformations were complicated and difficult to be fitted in formal schemas, so, in the same Introduction of 1857 he added accurately: If, therefore, it is true that the categories of bourgeois economy possess a truth for all other forms of societies, this is to be taken cum grano salis. For they may contain these forms as developed, atrophized, disguised, but always as substantially different.
The importance of an understanding of social transitions
Therefore, besides invariants, transformations too must be taken into consideration: the
peasant revolt in Germany was a revolution against the feudal system, while today a peasant revolt in the same geo-historical area wouldn't represent anything other than what's left of the unrest of a parasitic class outside history, trying to grab as much surplus-value as it can from the proletariat by means of its lobbies, or mafias, in the government. Another instance: in Italy, the wars for unifying the country against the foreign States sharing its territory, or else, in Africa, the wars against various imperialisms, were in both cases national revolutionary wars; today's "anti-imperialistic" wars are substantially partisan wars used by capitalist countries against one another (Americans, very expert in the matter, call them "proxy wars").
Herein we're dealing particularly with transition from primitive communism to the first urban societies, but the method we're going to use applies to every period of transition, whether ancient or modern or still to come. That is to say that in a given society we' ll see always old forms in action, so disguised as to be not often recognized, or anticipatory forms, still harder to discern. We'll also see the gnawings of ideology acting in the heads of representatives of the dominant form of production, operating so deeply as to blur their understanding of both (transformed) past invariants and (transforming) forms in becoming. The latter are visible only to those already siding with the destruction of existing relations. We have a magnificent instance of this in the implicit and explicit hymn that the revolutionary bourgeois raised to industry in the Enciclopédie, although it was written within French feudal society, whose power rested in servile agriculture and handcraftsmanship.
Resuming our proposition: the ripe categories expressed in (from) the relations of modern bourgeois society also inform us about ancient societies. But at the same time these categories are today substantially different from what they were yesterday. However paradoxical it may seem, it is exactly the property of invariance that allows us to have a deep insight into the same category, even after it has passed through a lot of transformations. Let's take labour: as an invariant, it is human energy supplied for an end. But, from a social viewpoint, it can be either the means of achieving social metabolism by a community not knowing value, or human activity provided exclusively for a slave master, or servile work for a feudal master, or labour-time of a free possessor of labour-power supplied to a most recent capitalist. That's why we can understand "labour" only from its different determinations throughout many modes of production. We can't exactly describe the system of feudal labour if we stay inside the categories belonging to its historical age. The feudal Quesnay, although he preceeded Marx in making a dynamic model of economy (his famous Tableau), deemed industrial labour as unproductive, and we know he was wrong from the vantage point of capitalism, but he was approaching the right position from the superior vantage point of communism: in fact, in the organic conception of the relation man-nature, industrial transformation is but the part owing to man of the general transformation of sun energy in the biosphere (see Never will goods satisfy man's hunger, chap. 1).
This is the way to proceed "scientifically" towards a better knowledge of the world, and Marx was concerned about this in particular: the property of invariance, in fact, makes up the basis of science, because it allows us to go beyond superficial changes. Beneath what seems to be a creation out of nothing, there is concealed a deep continuity both regarding what preceedes and what follows. Marx himself reminds us that "every science would be superfluous, if the phenomenical form of things and their essence coincided" (Capital, book III, chap. XLVIII. 3).
Excange without the intermediation of value
In the last number of our review we published an article regarding Caral, an ancient proto-urban social form discovered in Peru, rebuking the bourgeois fixation on seeing mercantile exchange, classes and State in every ancient society which reached a certain degree of complexity. Caral, as it is demonstrated by the archeological excavations and discoveries more than by what archaeologists are saying, was built by men who hadn't yet left their communistic stage, even if they were exchanging their products, having a rude division of labour and, thereby, a relative centralization of authority. We might commit the opposite error to that of the bourgeois and declare communism something no longer so, as some actually did regarding the civilization of Indus. One might happen to make this error because, in a transition society from primitive communist, the same categories look so much different than they do in capitalism and even in the first class societies, that they seem not to have any common item. That's why you need to go in depth into the questions, without answering yes/no like a manichean, but like Marx in the Introduction: "ça depend".
Let's start with mercantile exchange. It represents a classical case: categories now dominant in a social form, in previous social forms are quite marginal. Bourgeois society is founded on mercantilism, as Capital's incipit reminds us: "The wealth of those societies in which the capitalist mode of production prevails, presents itself as 'an immense accumulation of goods', and a single commodity presents itself as its elementary form". In Caral instead commodities don't appear, whatever the bourgeois say, those who even viewed dry fish as currency, the money the habitants of the ancient peruvian city supposedly used. Yet our statement can't be comprehensive taken alone, it has to be backed up by other considerations: commodities don't appear inside the caralian society, where production wasn't for the sake of exchange, but exchange could exist, whether of manufactured objects or surplus agricultural production, with other communities having their surplus as well. The same happened in many other cases, as in the Incas, Maya, Atzec peoples, just to remain on the same continent. But exchange took place on the basis of use value only, at least initially, precisely because exchange was marginal in archaic societies.
At the beginning the quantitative relation of exchange between the products of two different societies was quite random, as a result of the fact that each society exchanged only objects they had in surplus because of the low time required on average to produce them (due to plenty of raw materials, special know-how, etc). On the other hand, the other society, with opposite conditions, needed much more time to produce the same objects, so were inclined to "buy them" above their value. In the antropological studies it's not rare to meet with descriptions of primitive "trade systems" where a tribe exchanged with another objects of unmatched "values", as the "buyer" is unaware of their nature and the time required to produce them. Pottery bowls, for instance, are considered in the same light as rare shells by those in a stage preceeding pottery, so they can be exchanged without any equivalence (see Economy in the age of stone, chap 6).
Only when the relations of two societies are becoming tighter and closer, is the measure of exchange going to coincide with exchange value. "Meantime the need for foreign objects of utility gradually establishes itself. The constant repetition of exchange makes it a normal social act. In the course of time, therefore, some portion at least of the products of labour must be produced with a special view to exchange. From that moment the distinction becomes firmly established between the utility of an object for the purposes of consumption, and its utility for the purposes of exchange. Its use-value becomes distinguished from its exchange-value. On the other hand, the quantitative proportion in which the articles are exchangeable, becomes dependent on their production itself. Custom stamps them as values with definite magnitudes" (Capital, book I chap II). Here is a classical instance of the dialectic transformation of quantity into quality.
Fundamentally the products of a community, nearly all coming out of the land and of labour applied to it, couldn't have value inside the same community, because the land had not come yet within the category of property but was a collective possession. ("men refer to the land as property of the community", Marx writes in the Grundrisse). At a certain point of social development, an entire community presents itself as "owner" of the land and its products, but only in relation to other communities. In fact, it's only on the basis of the difference among communities and their production that the first exchages can take place causing the first "market" to arise. Neither exchange nor the first forms of money arise "spontaneously" inside communities as a natural fact, as the"original constitutive element. On the contrary, they appear at first rather in the relations of the different communities among themselves than in the relations among members of a same community" (Introduction of 1857). The process is very long. Money developed as the general equivalent appeared only much later, when communities get larger and more complex and exchange is carried on internally, as well as when they come in contact with faraway communities, separated by a no man's land devoid of production and exchange. This is where the real trade with caravans etc. starts.
Invariance and Symmetry
Ancient trade has been, therefore, exchange for thousands of years, but its social meaning was immensely distant from the modern one. According to Marx, some peoples devoted themselves to exchange, and mostly they were those more urbanized, independent and developed than (their) surrounding peoples, so that they could act as intermediaries among the producer peoples still immersed in savagery (Capital, book III, chap. XX). Although new finds have made the social scenery much more complex in the different geo-historical areas, the general features of the first societies engaging in exchange and developing along with it hasn't undergone variations.
We've seen that, if we want to give up any utopianism whatever, we have to accept a continuous conception of historical process, where there is no creation out of nothing but transformation of invariant categories. Obviously, this has nothing to do with a gradualistic, counter-revolutionary conception of historical passages between societies: "periodization", that is division into ages, modes of productions, class-dominations is a political fact, marked by a class' seizure of power, which has to be inscribed in a phase-scheme, each phase being separated by deep historical break-offs. On the contrary, the general becoming of new forms is simply a metamorphosis, the word Marx uses, well illustrated in nature by the continuous biologic process producing the discontinuous effect of a larval state passing to the developed ("the development of the antagonisms of an historical form of production is the one historical way that is possible to its dissolution and metamorphosis", The Capital, book I, chap. XIII.9).
The market cult, that today is dominant, hasn't arisen out of nothing, it has its own material basis. The developed world market is in reality the direct continuation of that relation of exchange which at birth was quite marginal, but showed itself very early, even since man gave up being a mere gatherer of natural food and started providing it for himself with the first tools, and, inevitably, since together with language, there appeared the first form of social organization.
Marx stresses that in analyzing human history from this point of development onward, one has to be very careful when using terms referring to invariant but transformed categories or, all the more so, when putting them in a determinate scale of values. Obviously the bourgeoisie ranks first money as capital, then in succession market, production, labour, family etc., and projects this order in completely different societies, whose analysis requires reversing the order or even deleting some elements as denied, as we saw previously.
If this applies to past societies, it all the more so applies when trying to understand the forms in succession and therefore the new future form. A new order has to be characterized and the method must come out of the historical connection of forms based on their determinism: "Their succession is exactly the opposite of what it appears", that is to say: if money in the capitalist society is fundamental, it probably was, and will be, either marginal or denied ; if family is superfluous, it must has been, and will be, either fundamental or denied; if classes are the pivot everything is levered on, they must have been, and will be, either embryonic or non-existent (see Introduction of 1857).
This reversed relation, a reflective, specular one, brings us to interesting considerations about the factors of preservation-revolution, which are powerful both for stabilizing revolutionized societies and blowing them up when they must again be revolutionized. Evidently, if ancient society was able to contain communistic relationships within itself it also had to be able to defend its common interests and protect itself from outer enemies. It must therefore has been conservative towards its original relations, not allowing mercantile exchange earlier, and money later, to dissolve it. Here we recognize another invariant we often deal with in regard to revolutionary processes: counter-revolution works for revolution, that is counter-revolution exists only if an actual revolution exists to defend itself from (law of symmetry). If applied to our case, this invariance of symmetry tell us, as we'll soon see, that it's primitive communism itself, while dying out, that brought into existence the tools which would be peculiar to future class-societies, first of all the State. Organic centralization under the guidance of wisdom and knowledge, which was necessarily personified by the best members of community (wise men, shamans, warriors), became another thing under the stimulus of the ripening social form, of the new mode of production.
In Antiduhring Engels holds that, with the birth of classes, "The State, at which natural groups of communities of one stock had arrived at a first time only aiming at guarding their common interest (in the Orient, for instance, irrigation) and defending themselves from the outside, henceforward take on, at the same measure, the goal of keeping by force the conditions of life and domination of the dominant class against the dominated class". Therefore the most ancient origins of State have to be searched in the nature of the institutions peculiar to primitive communism. If one understands that the present State as a tool of domination of a class upon other classes arose from an ancient tool of self-preservation of communistic societies, projected into a new mode of production, one should also better understand that the present State, projected into the new society, will become one of the tools destroying the old one. And above all it will be extinguished, replaced by a new organism summing up in itself all the needs of the whole of the species.
The millenary arc within which everything is contained
The categories of bourgeois society, and above all their theoretical denial , therefore are useful for analysing ancient forms of transition, of which one of the most important is that of the first urban societies preserving communistic features. These, in turn, are useful to us for understanding the invariant categories which bring us to understand the future society in a non-utopian manner. What matters most, continually linking the past, present and future together allows us to spot the typical items of transition, which is the main aim of our work now. Otherwise, it's impossible to even imagine any revolutionary activity having some practical effects.
In every ripe society we can find the material conditions which the new society will spring from to be hidden, together with new relations that already relate to the needs of the new society. It's inside bourgeois society itself that such material relations are begotten as to be useful to the revolutionary class for overthrowing the existing relations. Were it not so, adds Marx, every practical attempt would be quixotic, like "tilting at windmills". (see Grundrisse, chapter on money). Actually, in capitalistic society at its culmination, the most dynamic, advancing mode of production isn't represented by the most modern countries, but by communism which is already expressing itself in them. On the other hand, the Dynamics of the numeric sequence, where each n is necessarily followed by an n+1, tells us that communism can't be yet dominant. This is the way the statement "communism is necessary" has to be interpreted, not in a philosophical, utopian or worse than either, a moralistic fashion.
At this point we can state that we not only know the categories of bourgeois economy, but also those of communist economy, and therefore we can use the latter for comprehending the whole multi-millenial cycle encompassing the primitive social forms up to developed communism through the first, still communistic, urban societies, the traces of communism in every kind of society and the anticipations of future communism expressed by the present one. Thus we will find that the social becoming is but a sequence of social and political ruptures along a continuous transition of material production and reproduction.
We will no longer see material historical process as a discrete succession of absolute and abstract forms, but as a continuous succession of relative and concrete ones. Language itself can confirm our propositions: "absolute" comes from "absolvere", that is "loosening from" any ties with the context, with what comes before and what comes after, while "abstract" comes from "abstrahere", that is "taking out", "detaching" from the context. Conversely, "concrete" comes from "concrescere", that is "growing with" the context, "as a function of". Material historical progress is therefore an invariant continuum (in the mathematic sense of the word), where every form can be read "as a function of". A discrete conception of history is bound to fall into a metaphysical interpretation of reality; a continuous conception instead gives us the chance of initiating a dialectics of knowledge.
This said, we in no way wish to undervalue the cognitive power of abstraction, whose use our current often stressed as belonging to the marxist method. In Capital there is represented an abstract pattern of capitalism, but one of actual reality, not one of an idea of reality. In Marx's abstract pattern there is the real dynamics of a society in becoming, made up with factories and a net of communications, workers and capitalists, in a complex of reactions all leading necessarily to non-capitalism, non-value, etc. Capitalism neither is photographed as a static image nor is it interpreted, but instead shown as moving from its early rise until its dissolution into the future communist society. For Marx, whom we follow, abstracting doesn't mean "to detach from the context" and then to absolutize, like the bourgeois do (which is a way of eternalizing, after all), yet it means to strip off what's accidental and unnecessary. For an idealist nothing is less necessary than the becoming, for a marxist here is the riddle which it is necessary to solve in every social form.
We've seen earlier how the proto-urban forms may be read by the bourgeois through the ideological filter of modern capitalist society, that have transposed into communist societies like Caral the dominant categories of bourgeois society, and whose features are fully applied to phenomena which at the time were quite marginal, such as exchange, hierarchy, division of labour etc. Here it is evident their inability to use our – so to say – realistic abstraction: it is not mistaken to compare social categories belonging to different ages; we too do so, when, for instance, we analyze marginal phenomena within primitive communist society as anticipations of the following economic-social form. The blunder is made when matching simple analogies, after "snapping" them separately, as if they were motionless through history, whereas social reality is dynamic, and is to be analyzed as a flowing whole.
Now, another operation has to be made, to try to see how the categories of our future society, that of developed communism, rank in the first urban forms. It could seem daring, maybe superfluous and this objection could be raised: "What? It was said that mercantile exchange represents an invariant belonging also to the societies where primitive communism was prevailing, and now do you want to prove that even non-mercantile exchange, typical of superior communism, is an invariant you can find in archaic societies?". Just so. In every social form modes of production opposing each other are superimposed. We've already made this work of interpretation on the nature of societies throughout thousands of years, when, for instance, we dealt with urbanism and architecture in the numbers 8 and 9 of our review. We've drawn the future forms from those primitive and, conversely, we've better understood the past societies because we've reached the limits of possibilities of the present one, which is constrained to anticipate forms or to resume those of the past. In the above-mentioned articles, the first urban forms were examined not independently at all, without relations with today's city, and, above all, tomorrow's city, but as a part that can't be detached from the whole of historical continuity. In this way the term communism, which eighty years of counter-revolution have reduced to something of an insult by now, can recover the breath proper to it: Infact the invariant categories which will prevail in tomorrow's social life are the same as dominated in early mankind, even if they will undergo a metamorphosis and will act on a universal scale, rather than in a tribal circle.
A demostration of what we're saying is the recent exhibition on the discoveries, excavations and restorations of the magnificent Pompeian frescos of Moregine. We've read everything: it was a "five star hotel" (on the top of the "hit parade"), a "residence", a "wealthy men's club". Probably being unsatisfied with a simple definition an imaginative journalist compared that so-called hotel with an ancestor of the most modern Club Med. We don't rule out at once that this is, although unawere, the least stupid definition of the trivialities we've quoted above. It is certainly possible to describe an ancient building in comparison with something modern, not unlike money, labour and so on, but one would be laughed at, if one compared an ancient cubiculum hospitale, that is the part of the house destined to the hospitality which was sacred for the ancient peoples, with a hotel just because they have the same etymology, or else because they are somehow "places for guests". It would be like comparing an ancient cult place with a modern church just because they're both temples.
However law does not prohibit daring links between buildings that maybe can have a common invariant you can't see at the first blush. The resort-villages of Club Med on the one hand are trivial containers of the futile holidays of this decaying capitalism, but on the other hand they resemble, even if under metamorphosis, the pattern of some ancient structures for a communitarian life. For instance, their common spaces for meals, rituals, study and games extended quite further than their private ones, so making them unsuitable for a modern nuclear family. The same can be said about certain bogus time share country villages with centralized services and so on. If effectively they rise as a result of the capitalist rent law pervading every pore of the present society, they can still be viewed as a metamorphosis of communistic structures of an ancient abbey, where monks were going and coming, but where the centralized organization and collective way of life was stricly held together by the social body linked to the "regula".
Communitarian life in the stateless societies
The main common feature between the early urban forms and tomorrow's city is their functional structure for a communitarian life. Contrary to the anacronistic individualism dominating modern bourgeois society – although it is the society which has reached the highest level of socialization in regard to the productive process – tomorrow's life will be fully organic. As we saw in regard to the non-mercantile primitive societies, mercantile exchange played a role, however extremely marginal, so right now, if we're not going to fall into a utopianism of yesteryear, the items of tomorrow's social life can't but exist in today"s. It's an aspect we found even on the question of the tools – that have to be suitable – of revolution that mostly is too easily dismissed as a simple "seizure of power".
Already in this bourgeois society we can see flows, operations, even exchanges of a non-mercantile kind, like for instance in the production process inside a factory. That's why, as late as in Marx's time (and Lenin's and of the Communist Left) the apologists of the future society which they understood to be a result of a progressive improvement of the capitalist one or even of its rebuilding through men's good will, have attributed to our historical current the theory of the society-factory. Today their latter-day co-thinkers, after a biased reading of our article on housing, couldn't keep back the urge of attributing to us a theory of the society-hotel, of the society-refectory, or, as said Rosa Luxemburg, as great as she was, to Lenin, of a society-barracks. If the eagle Luxemburg sometimes indulged in fluttering as low as chickens do, today's criticians of a neither utopian nor reformist communism do not even touch the "heights" of our domestic sham of a bird. They're quite uneasy at digesting the concept of invariance, though it belongs to man's heritage of knowledge (Hegel: "the true stays in the whole"), and continually confuse invariant categories and transformations by taking them separately, and so end up miserably failing to grasp what differentiates Saint Peter's cathedral from Karnak's great temple, G. W. Bush from Cheope, Mount Palomar from Stonehenge.
Non-mercantile exchange will show itself, in the future society, not like it does today inside a factory, where there is always the rigid despotism of production under bourgeois control, and where every productive cycle is as an island in a mercantile sea, but rather like a spreading of what now is only embryonic: in the whole society there won't be any exchange on a value-base, but a flow of things and activities, counted on the base of their quantity and enjoyed on the base of their quality. Just like in the first still communistic urban communities, of which we have archeologic testimony and often even written documentation (on papyri, tables, etc) of their movements of things and persons without markets based on exchange-value.
To the defamers of communism (to whom even some self-proclaimed communists belong) tomorrow's society as it is described since Marx's time is viewed as a society of levelling, while it will be quite the opposite: a society of the positive differences, just like in the first communistic societies. They cast the society-factory in the future by extending what little superficial they can see in the present factory, so failing to seize the deep meaning of the total revolutionary and irreversible rupture industry brought into the productive processes. Likewise, to the archeaologists and historians the ancient societies brought back into the light by excavations can't but be societies-temple, societies-palace or later societies-State. Factory, hotel, refectory, temple and palace represent certainly some invariants, but the transformations they undergo over time detect something much deeper than superficial analogies.
A place can be dedicated to religious practices, and this is a common feature to many societies, but it differs a lot, for instance, between the neolitic dwellings of 7000 years ago found in Catal Hüyük in Turkey, and the huge Egyptian compounds of the IInd millennium B.C. The former is a built up area fully mirroring primitive communism, where in all the buildings religious rites were had, walls painted, altars raised, the dead buried under the floor; the latter are enormous architectural works, where much the same happened, but in an ambience of extended and enlarged social practices, with more established liturgies due to the commencing division into classes, in a society already shaped by a mass production that was centralized and submitted to a rather developed united plan, even providing for a public stockpile for distribution.
Let's dwell on an historical case particularly suited to our study inasmuch as it is typical of the phases of revolutionary transition. This is the social structure the architects refer to the so-called "city-palace", that is, the civilization of Crete at the time of the Minoan communities since the IIIth millennium B.C. (but even in the Middle East there are such places). The "palacial" compounds of Minos have peculiar features when compared with the buildings that in a class-divided society the dominant classes use for living and "reigning" with its court. They are very different from the later Micenian buildings on the mainland, with their cyclopic walls (those, to be clear, described by Homer). Here is expressed an architecture of a class-divided society by then, able to express a form of central power, as rough as it was, and to obtain an early formation of the classic Greece's city-State.
The Minoan palaces haven't walls, are open; they extend with their ramifications, avenues, porticos into the surroundings, to the point of integration with the environment. They are also linked to smaller units, sometimes habitations for one family, as if the territory were as one with the "house" under every respect. Rather complex buildings, raised with a clear unitary plan, even if throughout thousands of years several rebuildings have followed one another. The use of some rooms (stores, bathrooms, laboratories) is easy to guess, other rooms are a hard riddle to solve, like those supposed to be dedicated to cult, play, theatre, meetings and to the manifestations of its own power by a centre which just had to be there. The set shows a rather evolute and complex social life, nearer to primitive communism than the life descibed by the later homerian writings, even if in the Iliad and Odyssey there are many traces going back to the world preceedind the age of the tales.
Therefore, the Minoan compounds aren't the expression of a State power or a clerical theocracy, but of a society, where life, production, science and religion are shared by all; and that's what is strongly reflected by its architecture, evidently. But here again archeologists haven't been able to consider the categories as invariants undergoing transformations, scattering light-heartedly fancy names among the rooms, and fixing them over decades by a scholarly tradition. Areas which are supposed to have cult objects are straightforwardly named "temple", a great room with a little seat made out of the wall become the "hall of the throne"; a greater area is obviously the "king's hall", if a little bit smaller is the "queen's hall"; a precious thing, who knows if it was hidden there during a ransacking, cause the room where it was found to be named the "treasure room"; a little lumber-room standing aside will be the "customs office"; a great place with tiers will be undoubtedly the "theatre"; a paved road leading to the palace will be the "sacred way"; a little molded statue will be a "goddess" or else a "queen" by the whim of its finder; a store of clay tables burnt by a fire will be the "accounting centre" (and why not "database" for the set of shelves?).
Such pieces of information as to be certain and reliable are few, when using a method of survey providing us scenarios spoiled by ideology. On the whole, however, we can draw enough information for an understanding of the social dynamics. We can, for instance, unmistakably notice a real State power to be absent, at least in the classical sense of Engels' work about the origin of family and property and then State. In the Minoan society (and likewise in many other societies of transition) there is no State. Caring about the common interests and defence against the outside had not yet moved away from the collective body, and didn't stand in front of it as a dominance. As a result, even the conception of divinity had not yet moved away from the everyday life, had not yet become "State religion".
The obstacle of "religion"
Some hold that the alternative to the "city-palace" would be the "city-sanctuary", but this is a "bourgeoisization" of ancient society as well: the same as we were speaking of Lourdes. Religion, like State, is certainly itself an invariant category over thousands of years, but it is to be dealt with like all the rest. We find it already in primitive man, or at least we call some manifestations of his life this, but it shows itself in forms substantially different as compared with what religion is in patriarchal societies, where real theocracies can be found, governing in one god-father's name, a heavenly projection, easily recognized, of the dominant class.
The "religion" characterizing the wide historical arc of primitive communism is a fantasy of both bourgeois archeaologists and paleontologists. But some of them have already rebutted their conformism. For instance, Leroi-Gourhan says this about religion in the prehistoric age: "It's abusive to try to apply to the men of the early times the multisecular conclusions of the intellectualistic thinking of a scholarly minority and search for offerings, sacrifices and cults… Sufficiently certain data are (just) enough to establish that before the homo sapiens there were practices… let's call them, if you like, religious, testifying a behaviour that transcends vegetative life". For the last phases of prehistory this author admits there are more data, but sharply rebukes those who, while attempting to find any explanation to unknown phenomena, have ended up building a stereotyped image of paleolithic man by way of transforming simple conjectures into undisputed truths, which authors pass on to one another unverified and uncriticized. We can safely transfer his tough stand not only to prehistory but also to all the historical span outside the bourgeois age.
We want to recall that today without having a strong background of knowledge about greek-roman, esoteric and social symbology, no one is able to "read" the meaning of a Mantegna or Piero della Francesca's picture, despite it being a renaissance work, that is of an art only some century old, which is widely studied and is the fruit of civilizations writing of themselves for thousands of years. Let alone read about a few discoveries concerning the transition between primitive communism and the first class civilizations.
All the more so the "religious" fact regarding the early phases of passage, although it is more well known than the paleolitic one Leroy-Gourhan analized, can't be read putting on the greek-jewish-christian glasses that the present civilization provide us with. It's not about a liturgical practice, as ancient as it is, based on a patriarchal god who is put above the men meeting him in monumental temples built to the purpose. It's about a practice of life, based on the cult of the goddess-mother, donor of fertility, whose roots go as deep as the prehistoric "venuses". This goddess-mother manifests herself in every aspect of the everyday life, so can't cause any difference between profane and holy time, profane and holy places. In the age of the female "divinity", still linked to the natural cycle, real temples didn't exist, so it is a mistake to see in the protostoric buildings the same as sanctuaries where supposedly a caste of priests resided, exerting their theocratic power in places built to the purpose. That also apply to the hypothesis of the Minoan compounds being compared to "sanctuaries". It also applies to the assyro-babylonian goddess Ishtar, who, although she is an evolved divinity of a proto-classist age, and therefore a personalized goddess, is still a donor of love and fecundity, coupling with men and animals and letting herself be honoured with the sacred "prostitution" (there is not even a name to define this holy practice): no one could compare her to the Madonna.
In our article about Caral we had quoted the archaeologist supervisor to the escavations of the peruvian city, as saying: "The life of the inhabitants in Caral was going on among complex ceremonies and rituals. Religion conditioned the behaviour of everyone, indoor and outdoor, thus marking the whole of the social and political organization". It's obvious that, in an organic society, what is now interpreted as its "religion" couldn't be separated from the everyday life of the collective body. Therefore we can't speak – neither for the minoic society nor for Caral, but not even for the ancient Egipt, for the first urban forms in the Middle East and in the Indo valley – of "priest government" or "theocracy".
The forms of cult, that is the remnants transformed over time of practices meant to put man in harmony with nature, were one with life, production and science, which in turn were the heritage and praxis of the whole community. These practices, surviving in the proto-urban forms still intertwined with primitive communism, must not be confused with the late characters of the great religions surviving until now, which passed through the forge of the classes following one another in the power. Defining them as "religion" is like defining as "capital" the golden piece on which first the Lydian king impressed his seal.
We insist on the religious aspect because the modern conception of ancient societies is soaked with biases owing to the fact that their remnants are mostly architectures and materials concerning religion and power, which often are more or less arbitrarily connected. For most scholars religion is a concept drawn not even from christianism, but from the medieval patristic, which re-shaped a christianism suitable to the new social reality as it was taking its own shape. Religion is therefore applied from the outside to the protohistoric society as an abstract idea, detached from any reference to the concrete reality. Instead of the religions following one another in material reality, we are given an Absolute Religion resting quietly in the world of ideas. Thus every difference among the concrete religions is blurred by way of a frustrating lack of dialectics.
Especially concerning ancient society, very few so far are the scholars who have managed to escape the trap of "bourgeoisizing" their social phenomena. But even some historical descriptions going along with certain projects of ambiental recovery such as the arsenal of Venice or much more recent sites of "industrial archaeology", when we read them, gave us goose flesh.
Communism never suppressed
What we've so far said, though it is to be developed by further works, should allow a sufficient understanding that communism can't be suppressed because it is a part of human becoming, apart from any force which seems prepared to prevent it. Actually, no one can counter it without, at the same time, helping its becoming. When the pressing advance of US capitalism disintegrated the big Soviet shed, passed off as communism, that impressive happening wasn't a victory of capitalism at all, but of the advancing communism. Our current had predicted it for years. "Communism's death", as said the apologists of the bourgeois world, which is really the one dying, was nothing other than a clean sweep of all the scum left obstructing the way to revolution. What the USA did, shall not need to be re-done by the communist movement. This applies also to the many events occuring when capitalism has swept away old things, as already described in the first chapters of the Manifesto. Away with the big Russian bear, away with the stalinist parties, away with the corporative trade-unions, away with the old questions connected to the past revolutionary cycle. What do you want anymore as a demonstration that capitalism is the only dead thing?
By making subjective the issue of communism (employers against workers, communists against bourgeois) a bad turn is done to the theoretical heritage of human revolution, which is, as we said, the millenary arc between primitive communism and developed communism. It's simply nonsense to think that the revolutionary movement should entail at any time a physical struggle between supporters of a certain system without value, money, atc. and supporters of the system of money, property and exploitation. It's true the economical struggle is nothing but an everyday civil micro-war, as Marx says, but the point to seize is that the class struggle never dies, communism never dies, not because some want this to be so, but because communism is part of our species' nature, and our species has never renounced communism, not even in the short time of the class-divided societies.
In the course of decades of thousands of years communist experiences has never been absent, on the contrary, in the darkest moments of history they have been the main tool for re-launching social productive forces, like, for instance, in all the forms of asian and european monarchism, the combatant orders as well. The occasions when communism has manifested and still manifests itself are more numerous than we recalled at the beginning of our article, and even than it is usually imagined; they can be grouped in "sets" encompassing the primitive societies, utopias, survivals/anticipations, realizations of the future, etc.
Our current showed how impoverished "vulgar communism" is in its having not even a faint idea of these grandiose concepts; as a result, it can in no way reach the totalitarian marxist vision denying every existing form. It can't help stopping at the "transfer of property", meant as a reformation expropriating the capitalists to the advantage of a "common" property, that is "widespread" to all the proletariat. This is the conception, for instance, which at most can be reached by the movement made up with millions of persons feeling vaguely a sense of commercial equity and justice and favourable to anti-globilization positions. The same "movement" that most of the anarchists and self-proclaimed communists tailed.
This society has nothing to be saved, it's more than enough to pick up its ripe fruits. To do that, you need to be equipped with programmes, men and means suitable to it. Hence comes our criticism to those thinking that bourgeoisie is "guilty" with their lack of success. Thus they "personalize" it and feel they are being oppressed by it, whose actions supposedly are just "employer attacks on proletariat" to lay upon the latter any crises. And these guys, in return, would like the proletariat to counter-attack, once "sensitized" and guided by themselves, of course. But the great revolutionary ruptures separating the ages doesn't depend on wills, recipes, expedients and pre-established organizational forms due to individuals or groups. It takes a great material movement to arouse all the individuals who, in the end, are the tools revolution uses to "make" history. Thus only then will they be driven to feel like a part of an immense and millenary span linking primitive communism to a developed one; to become in tune with the anticipations effectively breaching into the adversary framework with a huge destructive potential; to gather together their forces by joining the real movement until, at last, forming the historical organism of the class, which can lead and address it towards this aim.To let oneself to be dragged on in a Darwinian sense by the "concrete situations" isn't proper to a communist. To put it brutally, with Marx and Engels, it isn't proper even to a man. It is proper to an animal.
I don't know whether by reason of favour or hostility gods have denied them gold and silver. However I may not hold that the mines in Germany don't produce gold or silver: who has ever tried some drillings? They don't seek for possessing and using them. Silver pots from ambassadors are liked not unlike clay ones. They choose their kings after nobleness of soul and their leaders after bravery. Kings don't exert at will an unlimited power and leaders command by way of admiration and example rather than of imposition. Priests alone can sentence to death, and that not by punishment or by a leader's hint, but only by god's order. It's the custom of the tribe to bring spontaneously and individually livestocks and fruits of the land to he who excels; and he accepts them as a sign of honour and also as a supply for his needs. They are pleased above all with gifts from neighbouring peoples, which are sent not only by individuals but also by communities: select horses, arms, metal studs and collars. But by now we have tought them to receive also some money. (Tacitus, The Germany)