Negri versus Lenin
“Capitalist socialization exalts the sociality of money as exploitation, while communist socialization destroys money, affirming the immediate sociality of labor.” (33)
“There is no revolution without a destruction of bourgeois society, and of wage labor, as a producer of value, and of money as an instrument of the circulation of value and command.” (27)
“ it is not the transition that reveals itself (and eliminates itself) in the form of communism, but rather it is communism that take the form of the transition” (153)
While reading Marx Beyond Marx: Lessons of the Grundrisse, I was struck by an unexpected tension between Negri and Lenin. Ostensibly, the authors would make cozy bedfellows(comrades). Both emphasize revolution and potential necessity for violence. Yet, ugly realities of revolution aside, Lenin’s explication and acceptance of a gradual path towards communism is hardly commensurable with Negri’s liberation from work thesis.
From the beginning of his work, Negri assumes the uncompromising position that socialism is but a developed form of capitalism whose true nature is betrayed based on the law or value.
“ Socialism is not--and can in no case be-- a stage or a passage toward communism. Socialism is the highest form, the superior form of the economic rationality of capital, of the rationality of profit. It still thrives on the law of value, but carried to a degree of centralization and of general synthesis which connects the forms of socialist planned economic management to the function of the political and judicial machinery of the State.” (165)
For Negri, the transition from the capitalist system is not socialism. On the contrary, communism is the transition (Negri, 154). Communism in this reading does not erupt from capitalist development but is the case of “its radical inversion,” (Negri, 165). Only under a new communist subjectivity might a communist idea of work be developed that fully abandons “ capitalist organization of labor.” I dare to overstate my analysis by saying that communism, for Negri, is not a utopic reward for class struggles. Instead, it is a process. A process the wretches(reconstitutes) work from capitalism and “Living labor- by liberating itself, by reconquering its own use value, against exchange value- opens a universe of needs of which work can become a part only eventually….collective, non mystified, communist work,” (Negri, 165).
Lenin’s more staged approach leads to some interesting questions of Negri. Where Negri sees the logic of capitalism epitomized in socialism, Lenin asserts a necessary stage on the road to communism,
And so, in the first phase of communist society (usually called socialism) "bourgeois law" is not abolished in its entirety, but only in part, only in proportion to the economic revolution so far attained, i.e., only in respect of the means of production. "Bourgeois law" recognizes them as the private property of individuals. Socialism converts them into common property. To that extent--and to that extent alone--"bourgeois law" disappears.” (Lenin, The State and Revolution)
In this approach, communism is a goal, a place, to be reached. Communism is achieved through a withering away of the state once held by a dictatorship of the proletariat. Lenin’s motivation for a staged approach to communism takes aim at communists and social democrats. The state is needed “... only temporarily. We do not after all differ with the anarchists on the question of the
abolition of the state as the aim. We maintain that, to achieve this aim, we must temporarily make use of the instruments, resources, and methods of state power against the exploiters, just as the temporary dictatorship of the oppressed class is necessary for the abolition of classes,” (Lenin, State and Revolution). To borrow an overused metaphor, the master’s tools are temporarily retained to thoroughly dismantle the master’s house. I am certainly not suggesting Negri is an anarchist, he himself has disavowed these accusations. But Lenin’s assertion leads me to ask if Negri’s rode to(of) communism adequately accounts for capitalism’s supporting ideological structures. Patriarchy and racism to varying degree have pervaded the capitalist system. In the United States, both systems helped increase the extraction of surplus value. Pitting parochial identifications against each other gives new meaning to the ideas of divide and conquer. Abolition of the oppressive surplus value extractors neverless seems to leave the ideas and public memories in place that perpetuate discontents between populations. These systems are intertwine with and are permeated by capitalist considerations, yet I have a difficult time understanding how Negri’s accounting of Marx makes room for a thoroughly disassemblage of these supporting structures.
P.S. More textual espousing from Lenin about work:
“The means of production are no longer the private property of individuals. The means of production belong to the whole of society. Every member of society, performing a certain part of the socially necessary work, receives a certificate from society to the effect that he has done a certain amount of work. And with this certificate he receives from the public store of consumer goods a corresponding quantity of products. After a deduction is made of the amount of labor which goes to the public fund, every worker, therefore, receives from society as much as he has given to it.” (Lenin, State and Revolution)
“The first phase of communism, therefore, cannot yet provide justice and equality; differences, and unjust differences, in wealth will still persist, but the exploitation of man by man will have become impossible because it will be impossible to seize the means of production the factories, machines, land, etc.and make them private property. In smashing Lassalle's petty bourgeois, vague phrases about “equality” and “justice” in general, Marx shows the course of development of communist society, which is compelled to abolish at first only the “injustice” of the means of production seized by individuals, and which is unable at once to eliminate the other injustice, which consists in the distribution of consumer goods "according to the amount of labor performed" (and not according to needs).