The Cart Before the Horse: On labor-time accounting, the immediate nature of the transition to communism, and “scientific” utopias

Generally speaking, there are two guarantees when engaging with Marxian literature: one, when someone tells you they have the Only Plan That Will WorkTM to strategically get us to socialism, they’re trying to sell you something, and two, whenever anyone proclaims that they’re “doing scientific socialism” as opposed to those lousy unscientific utopians, you are about to read something exceedingly unscientific.

So it goes for most proposals that attempt to concretize our communist future. In short, they fail to understand the necessary basis that such a society requires, and fall back on attempting solutions to the myriad individual problems that plague capitalism instead. But these proposals invert the order of reasoning required to solve these problems with any finality; instead of studying the foundation that would give space for these massive problems to be resolved as a matter of course, solving these issues becomes the precondition for communism itself.

The cart is put before the horse, and the whole exercise in utopian projection becomes little more than communist virtue signaling, in which the utopian makes it clear that they understand the problems of capitalism better than anyone else, before demonstrating a misunderstanding of capitalism, communism and the social basis of the latter. This happens perhaps most frequently in the “red-green” debates surrounding socialist ecology (in fact, it seems to happen whenever socialists discuss ecology in general), but it also seems to happen whenever an attempt is made to sketch out our post-capitalist future.

One representative example of this type of utopian confusion comes in the recent article Forest and Factory: The Science and the Fiction of Communism by Phil A. Neel and Nick Chavez, published by the journal Endnotes.

As we will see, Neel and Chavez confuse the mechanisms that communist society uses to facilitate planning (namely labor-time accounting) with fetters holding it back from its highest potential. This is founded not only on a misunderstanding of labor-time accounting, but of the phases of communist society to begin with.


The Problem with the Utopia

Neel and Chavez’s piece itself has much to recommend it. It begins with an exemplary survey and criticism of modern utopias, ranging from the “permanently embarrassed futurist (fully automated luxury communism)” to “aspiring technocrats (half-earth socialism, degrowth communism)” and the “folksier fairytales of city-scale communes” found in, among others, the work of Søren Mau.1 These projects are dismissed as unscientific because they are detached from reality, failing to grapple with the world as it is and what its many contradictions seem to be working towards.

"The problem with the utopia, then, is not that it is science fiction. Its fictive power is precisely why utopia is able to wield such a disproportionate force in the political imagination and therefore why the artful production of attractive aesthetics and imaginative worlds will be essential to the practical construction of any political project. The problem is instead that most utopias are not actually science fiction—or, at least, not "hard" science fiction, distinguishable from fantasy for its efforts to take the physical world seriously."2

When Marx described communism as “...the real movement which abolishes the current state of things,” he made sure to immediately follow it up by saying that “the conditions of this movement result from the premises now in existence.”3 As such, it is the job of anyone interested in political economy to study these movements and attempt to trace them out into the future to better understand how to steward and grow nascent communist movements.

What Neel and Chavez are saying about modern communist utopias is precisely this: that they fail to understand the world as it is, and instead project the author’s own desires for the world into the future, no matter how baseless, inconsistent or embarrassing they may be. Reading some of these proposals feels like work better suited to a shrink than someone seriously interested in changing the world.

"Their aesthetics do not link to any substantial, scientific critique of how capitalist society actually operates and their feats of imagination do not attempt to think through the very real problems of—social, technical, ecological—reconfiguration that will plague any attempt to break this world and build another."4

Well said. Concrete proposals for new production, ecological stewardship and technological systems are surely the types of things that add positive momentum to a communist movement. They are precisely what inspire our fellow workers to take these ideas seriously, and, in a perfect world, would be the interest of many more communists today. But the horizons for these proposals are limited by the society they exist within. Farmers today don’t forgo agroecological practices simply because they’re mean, confused people hell-bent on destroying soil fertility and polluting their watersheds. No, they erode and pollute because that is what is encouraged by the laws of capitalist production. Accordingly, the main purpose of any attempt to understand the nature of communism must begin with a study of the social relations of a future society that breaks their capitalist counterparts, ensuring they can’t return, and sets the stage for an overhaul of the entire superstructure of society.

Forest and Factory, like many other similar works, flirts with the idea of presenting us with plans for what communism actually is, but shrewdly side-steps having to actually do the work of researching what this would be by gesturing at vague “communist measures”5 that somehow guide society to high communism seemingly through virtue alone.

"Revolutions potentially initiate the process of communist construction insofar as they proceed through "communist measures" that: a) seek immediate decommodification through the destruction of money, prices (including barter, which is a sort of undead price system), and the entire complex of markets and private ownership; and, b) begin to experiment with deliberative systems of planning, allocation, and technical reconfiguration as a means of dismantling social domination."6

Fair enough. But what are these so-called communist measures that seek immediate decommodification through the destruction of money, prices and the entire complex of markets and private ownership? To Neel and Chavez, they seem to be exactly that: measures that bring about the destruction of money, prices, markets and private ownership. To see the flaws in this hand-waving analysis, we need only apply it to the transition to capitalism. How were the fundamental tenets of capitalism, namely wage labor, private property and production for exchange, introduced at the expense of feudalism? By instituting wage labor, private property and production for exchange, of course. If this was all that needed to be said, there would have been no need for the final section of Volume One of Capital. Marx could have just said that we got capitalism because we got capitalism, no need to study primitive accumulation and the contradictions within feudalism that led to capitalism at all. What needs to be proved is simply affirmed.

The birth of capitalism was an accumulation of social relations, in which, on one hand, peasants were forcibly evicted from their land and turned en masse into wage laborers, and on the other, a burgeoning capitalist class employed these new workers by way of their private ownership of means of production. Not only were what partially communal ways of living there were under feudalism wholly uprooted, but so too were whole continents, as the world’s axis realigned to serve the singular goal of capital accumulation. As the social relations that define commodity production rapidly generalized throughout society, very little could stand in its way.

To emphasize this point further, it is the social relations of the new society seeking to supersede the old that act as the main determinant of the character of that new society. It is simply not enough to say that communism is defined “ the penetration of conscious deliberation into all facets of the social metabolism.”7 This comes just short of saying nothing. What defines a mode of production are its social relations, how we relate to each other and organize ourselves around production, not an undefined measure of how much “deliberation” we are doing.

So, if we’re serious, we need to know what it is that would socially drive the communist society, pushing it to supplant capitalism. What is at its heart, and what makes it a self-perpetuating, classless society? If we begin with a negative projection of communism, that is, a calculation of communist social relations founded upon what it isn’t in relation to capitalism, we can see that in order to halt the production of commodities and value, we must abolish alienated labor, private property relations and end production for exchange.

These are the basic characteristics of the capitalist economy. Producers operate privately owned firms independent of each other and produce commodities to be sold on the market. Value acts as a type of feedback mechanism in capitalism that disciplines producers by rewarding the more productive and penalizing the less productive of the bunch. Of course, because all producers are in competition with each other, this leads to the imperatives of unlimited growth and capital accumulation at the expense of ourselves and our ecology.

In order to halt the production of value, we must create a society that has no need for it. This society would have as its basis the common ownership of the means of production with coordinated production activities and production not for the purpose of exchange, but purely for use. But if we’re looking to avoid the same mistakes made by many current theorists, who simply describe what they want and wave away questions about how it would all work, we need to go beyond this simple projection of communism.


Socialism, Communism

Unfortunately if not unsurprisingly, many communists, socialists, anarchists and other co-travellers have had their perceptions of the transition away from capitalism warped by Lenin. Lenin was, of course, an impressive thinker, and one of the most influential minds of his, or any, generation. But his theories of a transition to communism as espoused in The State and Revolution remain some of the most actively detrimental theoretical hangovers of the 20th century. These ideas pop up again and again, knowingly and unknowingly, from the to-be-expected pages of various contemporary Leninist papers to the perhaps unexpected pages of Endnotes.

The main issue with The State and Revolution that pertains to our discussion is that of the transition away from capitalism. Here, Lenin uses the words “socialism” and “communism” to represent two distinct phases in the revolutionary society. First you have your revolution, then you get your socialism, then you get your communism. But this is not only inconsistent with Marx, it is more importantly inconsistent with a well thought out consideration of the transition to communism. To begin with, Lenin outlines that after the revolution, there will be a supersession of the bourgeois state by the proletarian state. To Lenin,

"The essence of Marx's theory of the state has been mastered only by those who realize that the dictatorship of a single class is necessary not only for every class society in general, not only for the proletariat which has overthrown the bourgeoisie, but also for the entire historical period which separates capitalism from "classless society", from communism. Bourgeois states are most varied in form, but their essence is the same: all these states, whatever their form, in the final analysis are inevitably the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. The transition from capitalism to communism is certainly bound to yield a tremendous abundance and variety of political forms, but the essence will inevitably be the same: the dictatorship of the proletariat."8

Lenin, like many communists, could not bring himself to imagine that such an institution would either not be necessary or transformed so totally as to be nearly unrecognizable given the immediate implementation of communist social relations. To him, the state remains necessary to maintain social cohesion in the face of decaying capitalist social relations. In fact, it is the very mechanism that ensures this cohesion and progression. Perhaps a generous reading would imply the applicability of the phrase “dictatorship of the proletariat” to just about any system in which the working class exerts its own hegemony against that of the exploiting class, but such a reading would have to contend with the “obviously…lengthy process”9 of the withering away of the state described by Lenin. The theory of this long socialist phase is based partially on a misunderstanding of the idea of labor vouchers as a “replacement” for money, an idea discussed by Marx in his Critique of the Gotha Program. Labor vouchers, in Lenin’s reading, require a state to administer them, determining who can consume what after a certain amount of work. In order that society might make its way to that ever-promised “from each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs” slogan, the “proletarian state” would have to guide society on its way, always promising that communism was right around the corner (we promise!), an idea that, of course, was used to justify the many crimes of the supposedly communist states of the 20th century. The consequences of Lenin’s analysis were summarized best by Nick Rogers, who stated that,

"The key problem with Lenin’s misreading and his addition of a stage he called “socialism” to the Marxist conception of the transition to communism is that, during the decade between October and the final Stalinization of Soviet society, it opened up a space for ideas that were inimical to making a priority of restoring and strengthening democratic forms. A focus on democracy during the period of transition to a new society would have been the only way of creating the preconditions for a society of freely associated producers.

But if the ultimate objective was building socialism, and socialism as defined by Lenin in The State and Revolution retained a state then it was legitimate to classify the state sector of the economy as socialist. Those were exactly the terms which informed the thinking of all sides during the economic debates of the 1920s. Such a conceptual framework made it more difficult to resist the post-1928 Stalinist program of collectivizing agriculture and forcing the pace of industrialization (whatever the effect on respectively the peasants and the workers), for was not the extension of state control of the means of production progress towards socialism?"10

 Much of this was, and continues to be, based on a conflation of Lenin’s socialism-capitalism distinction with that of Marx’s “phases” of communist society found in the Critique. To understand what Marx was getting at in the Critique, we must first put the document in its proper historical context.

In the Critique, Marx was grappling with a flawed political document that sought to lead the working class to socialism. But he was also grappling with the phrase “from each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs.” The idea behind this phrase was common in the socialist movements of the time, and long predated the socialist movements of the 19th century. He was thus attempting to outline how society could progress to this audacious goal. It was clear to Marx that there would be distinct phases of communist society in order to get to this “work as you can, take as needed” phase of communism, but that the social relations of each phase remained the same. In fact, it was these communist social relations put into place immediately following the revolution that would be the driving force that brought society to this highest phase. But for Marx, many things needed to happen in order for this type of society to be possible. Namely,

"…after the enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labor, and therewith also the antithesis between mental and physical labor, has vanished; after labor has become not only a means of life but life's prime want; after the productive forces have also increased with the all-around development of the individual, and all the springs of co-operative wealth flow more abundantly -- only then can the narrow horizon of bourgeois right be crossed in its entirety and society inscribe on its banners: From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!"11

A tall order. What Marx is saying, among other things, is that in order for society to reach this high phase, it must make work cease to be toil. Consider the difference between working on a farm picking strawberries and tending an allotment. They are both farm labor, but one is hell and the other is a hobby. We must also reach a stage of abundance so that all necessary needs can be fulfilled easily. Humans must also become well-rounded individuals, capable of understanding the now alienating and complex productive apparatus that looms forebodingly over us.

But these criteria become possible only with the implementation of communist social relations (or, at least, they are if our communist descendants decide they wish for all these criteria to be fulfilled. They may not - perhaps, due to ecological constraints, they decide to sacrifice certain levels of abundance). It is simply incorrect to say, as Lenin does, that an overseeing state is necessary to reach this phase. If it is necessary in our communist utopias to insert a state that looms over us, poking and prodding us in the direction of “communism”, then we have lost our capacity not only for imagination, but for a reasoned analysis of communism itself.

So, if we can’t rely on a state to do the work for us, where must we turn for the basis of our communist society? We should begin by examining Marx’s proposition of labor vouchers. Marx does, of course, reference the idea of labor vouchers in the Critique. For him, labor vouchers represent a circumvention of the need for money and value in an economy because they are an expression of worker’s control of the means of production and communist social relations. Commonly misunderstood (both in good faith and bad) from Proudhon to Dauvé, labor vouchers are simply a unit of account for socialist society.

Labor under capitalism is indirectly social. What this means is that labor undertaken in capitalist society must go through a roundabout process of validation to be confirmed as socially valid. Or, to be more specific, the exchange of commodities is the means through which our individual contributions to the process of general production is mediated. Because of the social basis of our present society, private property, labor is only confirmed as socially valid labor through its sale in the market. Labor vouchers forgo this indirect validation of labor by rewarding labor as it is performed, regardless of productivity by directly regarding labor as social, and without the need for the intermediation of capitalist market-exchange. Individual labor is thus directly equated with social labor. If one labors for five hours, they are rewarded for that five hours of labor. Goods are “priced” at the socially average labor time it takes to produce them. This latter point is important, because if the goods were priced at the actual concrete time that went into their creation, the more productive individual firms would be the only ones people consumed from, and the critical point that communism raises the productive capacity of all productive nodes would be lost.

Firms are communally reproduced and exchange abolished as goods are simply transferred from one firm to another as necessary. There is no change of ownership of these goods because, with the abolition of private property, they belong to society as a whole. Of course, communist political, planning and organizational structures must be discussed and debated, but these are the fundamental principles of communist production and distribution: the abolishment of private property and production for exchange, and their replacement with communal property and production for use based on directly social labor.

Confusion around labor vouchers comes from their identification with money. Gilles Dauvé and Denis Authier, for example, when discussing the text The Fundamental Principles of Communist Production and Distribution claimed:

"The essential idea of the text is that the “communist economy”, like any other, needs an accounting unit to respond to society’s needs without resorting to commercial accounting and economic regulation by way of the law of value. This unit is social average labor time. This thesis takes it for granted that communism will still have an economy, and that average social labor time would be a measure on a par with the liter or the kilogram. The theory has the merit of posing the question of communism; but, by introducing the general accounting unit—a unit of average labor time not determined by the market—it preserves the value relation, the general equivalent, even though it destroys its apparent forms: money, etc."12

It is difficult to know where to begin with this criticism of labor vouchers, because there is very little substance to it. Unfortunately, however, many well-meaning communists (both within the communizer milieu and without) have taken this critique on board without questioning what on earth it’s actually trying to say. Why does labor time accounting preserve the value relation? “Don’t worry about it,” the authors seem to be saying. “It just does. Crazy, huh?” Dauvé and Authier confuse themselves into believing that any measurement of labor-time in any society, no matter the social relations, suddenly becomes value. But this is, of course, not true. Value is a consequence of capitalist social relations. Dauvé and Authier are not the first to make this mistake. Many, seeing that value is a type of congealed social labor, assume that the opposite of this statement must be true: that all congealed social labor must then be value. But this social labor only becomes value where private property and production for exchange are the dominant forms of production relations. In a defense of various council communist groups being criticized by Dauvé and Authier, David Adam wrote that,

"Dauvé uses “value” as a scare-word, a way of justifying the ascription of “capitalist” to council communist proposals without actually citing any compelling evidence that either 1) the Marxian law of value should be said to operate in a democratically planned economy, or that 2) the council communists advocated democratic planning only at the level of the enterprise."13

However, importantly, the flaws in this early communist system are what Marx refers to as the first phase of communist society. Namely, that some will be able to work more than others, and so consume more than others - Marx’s so-called “right of inequality.”14 But this flaw is overcome only when the previously quoted criteria are met. Society is then able to progress to “from each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs”. The key point here, however, is that communist social relations themselves are what allow for this phase to be reached. It would be impossible to try and institute this ideal under capitalism, just as it would be impossible to try and skip straight there without first instituting communist social relations. For Marx, this was an ideal to be strived for, but not the starting point of communism. Our ways of living, our ideologies and ways of conceiving of the very nature of the labor we perform would have to change to the point that the distinction between work and leisure is erased. This is difficult to imagine, but it is surely a phase of communist society as it finally destroys the last vestiges of capitalism.


Communism, then still Communism

And so, we return to Forest and Factory, and the piece’s similar misunderstanding of communist society.

"The earlier phases of the process of constructing a communist society might require forms of conditional accounting to manage the turbulence of reconfiguration: methods of measuring labor time, material scarcity, consumption of goods, and the use of these measurements to determine distribution according to some system of priority. Communism is not constituted by these forms of accounting, but rather gestates in spite of them. They are temporary growing pains whose trajectory must always tend towards supersession by communist planning proper."15

The first thing worth noting that’s going on in this passage is a muddling of many different ideas and concepts. Here, labor time planning is thrown in the same pot as rationing, presumably because they both are ways of determining limits. Aside from the very sketchy glossing over of who is doing this rationing and planning according to “some system of priority”16 (in this piece vague, and to the average person terrifying, “associations”), this shows a fundamental misunderstanding of labor-time accounting. Again, it is worth quoting the piece at length to avoid misconstruing or strawmanning the authors’ intentions.

"Communist construction is ultimately defined by its character as a transition from one society into another, and this transition is successful only if the remnants of capitalist society, including temporary measures that may bear some superficial resemblance to wage or price (i.e., labor vouchers or priority distributional weights assigned to scarce necessities) are being inexorably wiped away without regression. In general, commonplace fears around the term "communism" relate almost exclusively to the period of active revolutionary struggle, with its risks of scarcity and necessarily forceful means of defense and continual expansion of the revolution beyond its initial barricades. The difficulty is therefore not explaining the simple utopia of how a communist society might function at its higher levels, but how it might ever be able to emerge from these constrained, lower phases. This is where all the messy debates about strategy, authority, and means vs. ends are gathered. But, even after the civil war is won, the social war continues, marking the transition from the earliest, revolutionary period of communist construction to the subsequent "lower phase" of communism, during which the associations gestated in the revolutionary period begin to bloom. Meanwhile, the "higher phase" of communism should be understood not as the "completion" of communist society but instead something more like its birth, initiating an entirely new period of evolution for the human species."17

The piece continues with a recognition that many modern utopian projections of communism share Lenin’s socialism-communism framework, including that of Aaron Benanav. But Neel and Chavez’s framework, while seemingly an advance on Lenin’s, shares a similar problem in that it misidentifies the lower phase of communism as a fetter to its higher phase. We know that it is the social relations of this new society that will determine how it develops, and that these relations must be instituted immediately following the revolution. Communism, as stated previously, is not so much “...the penetration of conscious deliberation into all facets of the social metabolism”18 as it is a set of definable social relations. Here communism seems to be ineffable, something we just have to figure out on the fly that resembles planning and that eventually will get us to its highest phase, but is like…democratic, you know?

It is not that labor-time accounting is an ideal way of organizing a communist economy either, it is simply that labor-time accounting is an expression of communist social relations to begin with. In this way, Neel and Chavez are correct to say that “communist construction…is continually giving way to communism,”19 but incorrect to say that communism is only completed when it reaches its highest phase. This is when we reach the “from each according to their abilities…” phase, but is not the “birth” of communist social relations, just their logical endpoint.

It should also be said that even in the highest of the high stages of communism, even if we collectively decide to enter the work as you can, take as needed phase, labor-time accounting will still be necessary. Let’s say our future communists decide to build a new electric rail system for improved logistics planning and distribution. They would still need to know how much different proposals for this project would cost to make informed decisions. Goods and services could still be free at the point of use for our lucky future communists, but a system of labor-time accounting would still probably be necessary. Consumption does not have to be tied to labor at that point, but planning, short of the invention of Star Trek-style replicators powered by 100% renewable energy, a prospect easily on the horizon, still should be.

While Neel and Chavez do better than Dauvé by taking labor-time accounting seriously, they similarly misunderstand the concept by assuming it would only be necessary in the early stages of communism. This brings us to one of Marx’s most important contributions to political economy. In his famous and somewhat aggressive July 1868 Letter to Kugelmann, Marx states,

"That this necessity of the distribution of social labor in definite proportions cannot possibly be done away with by a particular form of social production but can only change the mode of its appearance, is self-evident. No natural laws can be done away with. What can change in historically different circumstances is only the form in which these laws assert themselves. And the form in which this proportional distribution of labor asserts itself, in the state of society where the interconnection of social labor is manifested in the private exchange of the individual products of labor, is precisely the exchange value of these products."20

Marx here is stating what should be relatively obvious: that all societies, no matter where and no matter when, must have ways of allocating and distributing its social labor. This was the case in hunter-gatherer societies, this was the case in feudalism, this is the case in capitalism and will of course be the case in communism. A system that does not regulate itself is not a system for very long. The reason this regulation seems to disappear in higher stage communism is because of the aforementioned abundance and overcoming of the boundaries between work and leisure. It’s a complete reframing of what it means to labor in the first place, and thus is labor’s transformation into life’s prime want. The boundaries are blurred, the binary overcome.

Neel, Chavez and many others pay lip service to denouncing the Leninist distinction between “socialism” and “communism”, but recreate the same dynamic by pitting the early phase of communist society against its later phase. Additionally, labor-time accounting is simply the system required to facilitate communist planning. Thus, it should not be “...wiped away without regression,”21 as stated in Forest and Factory.

Labor-time accounting can also play a role in the mechanism for regulating the use of certain productive inputs, if that is what society decides on. It is not the place of “associations to investigate the causes of non-compliance”22 that use their clout to peer pressure or force others into accepting their terms for rationing (the logical implication of this clout being violence). If a certain resource, for example, is deemed too valuable or too scarce to be used at its current rate, a democratically decided upon percentage of the labor time “price” of that product is tacked on as a kind of tax (a price of 10 labor hours becomes 12 with a tax of 20%, for example). Thus a feedback mechanism for society to regulate its use of various resources is baked in from the very beginning. Of course, this would not suffice in and of itself. Deliberative planning would still be required to implement hard restraints on certain inputs in various planning phases, but this aspect of labor-time accounting opens up the possibility for further planning potentialities.


Beginning Today

It is thus from these steps, the theorizing of communist social relations and the communist planning system that compliments them, that all other attempts at solving the problems of capitalism in a communist framework should begin. Many socialists will attempt to solve every problem capitalism has to offer, going so far as designing factories that produce certain electrical components in an automated way, or theorizing the perfect system of cascading councils that will oversee the communist productive apparatus, but few of these proposals recognize the fundamental base required for these solutions to be implemented. And realistically, many of these decisions will be for the future society to decide, not for us to dictate.

Finally, to take a particularly enlightening passage from Forest and Factory and expand on it, Neel and Chavez write that there are “...essentially, no hard and fast technical constraints preventing our present world from operating in a communist fashion. The "productive forces" do not need to be developed until we have achieved "full automation" for a communist social order to be feasible. Communist construction could very well begin today, if the collective political subjectivity existed to begin such a project.”23

This aligns perfectly with the adoption of communist social relations outlined in this paper. One of the main carrots early 20th century socialist thought and its successors have dangled on the end of their proverbial sticks has been this idea of a further buildup of the productive forces as necessary to achieving full communism. Firstly, we must ask ourselves how much is too much in terms of industrial capacity, as it would certainly seem like we have reached that phase by now with automation, sociotechnical experiments in social production such as in Volvo’s Uddevalla and Kalmar production facilities24 and the development of systems such as Taiichi Ohno’s “Toyota System” (a system of lean manufacturing that, while of course stamped with the mark of capitalist exploitative production, is still an important development in social production well worth our time to study).

But secondly, we are also aware that the productive forces continue to develop under communist social relations. In fact, it is this communist development of the productive forces that allows them to reach their highest possible state. Capitalism simply cannot do what communist social relations can in this regard, namely rework the entire productive sphere to be put to use for us and our broader ecology. Framed like this, it is absurd to assume that the revolution would usher in years of drudgery as the all-powerful dictatorship of the proletariat slowly builds up the productive forces with the promise of a vague communism always on the horizon.

As stated by Dauvé and Karl Nesic, “...a revolution is only communist if it changes all social relationships into communist relationships, and this can only be done if the process starts in the very early days of the revolutionary upheaval.”25 Indeed, it must start at the very beginning, and it must be self-perpetuating.

Once we recognize that the social relations implemented immediately following the revolution are communist social relations, the question posed in Forest and Factory that is “...less about how communism itself will work and more about how we can remain communists while the conditions necessary for full communism remain out of reach,”26 ceases to be a question at all. We remain communists because we have built a communist world. It is then, and only then, that the “pre-history of the human species”27 truly ends, and the new world can begin.



  1. Nick Chavez & Phil A. Neel (2023). Forest and Factory: The Science and the Fiction of Communism. Online
  2. Ibid.
  3. Karl Marx (1846). The German Ideology. Online
  4. Nick Chavez & Phil A. Neel (2023). Forest and Factory: The Science and the Fiction of Communism. Online
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Vladimir Ilych Lenin (1917). The State and Revolution. Online
  9. Nick Chavez & Phil A. Neel (2023). Forest and Factory: The Science and the Fiction of Communism. Online
  10. Nick Rogers (2018). Lenin's Misreading of Marx's Critique of the Gotha Programme. Journal of Global Faultlines, P.105
  11. Karl Marx (1875). Critique of the Gotha Program. Online
  12. Gilles Dauvé & Denis Authier (1976). The Communist Left in Germany 1918-1921. Online
  13. David Adam (2014). Marx’s Critique of Socialist Labor-Money Schemes and the Myth of Council Communism’s Proudhonism. Online
  14. Karl Marx (1875). Critique of the Gotha Program. Online
  15. Nick Chavez & Phil A. Neel (2023). Forest and Factory: The Science and the Fiction of Communism. Online
  16. Ibid.
  17. Ibid.
  18. Ibid.
  19. Ibid.
  20. Karl Marx (1868). Marx to Kugelmann in Hanover. Online
  21. Nick Chavez & Phil A. Neel (2023). Forest and Factory: The Science and the Fiction of Communism. Online
  22. Ibid.
  23. Ibid.
  24. Christian Berggren (1993). The Volvo Uddevalla Plant. Journal of Industry Studies.
  25. Gilles Dauvé & Karl Nesic (2015). Communisation. Online
  26. Nick Chavez & Phil A. Neel (2023). Forest and Factory: The Science and the Fiction of Communism. Online
  27. Ibid.

Jack is co-host of the Auxiliary Statements podcast.