Notes on ‘Demarketisation’ in the Period of Transition

Notes on ‘Demarketisation’ in the Period of Transition

The period of transition from the epoch of capital to that of the ‘true realm of freedom’ must solve the problem of the move away from capital in circulation as a whole to its elimination from the social metabolism as a whole. To replace the process of the reproduction of capital with a system of directly socialised labour without the capital relation and the production of commodities.

This means producing to address and meet people’s needs and not producing for the market where the dominant aim is the profitable realisation of value. We need to develop social practices and corresponding organisational forms which disestablish (strip) the product of labour of its commodity-form. The products which issue from the production process must cease to take the form of commodities. This is equivalent to moving away from ‘free market’ to market-free zones of production and distribution. It is equivalent to the ‘demarketisation’ of society. This historic process of demarketisation can only successfully take place at increasingly higher levels of the productivity of labour. Only under highly developed forms of the productivity of labour can people’s needs be addressed and met in the move away from the production of exchange-values (commodity production, the products of labour which take the form of commodity-capital) to the immediate production of use-values for direct distribution to meet people’s needs.

Where labour is communal and its products are directly social products (as opposed to private and indirectly social through the sale of commodities on the market), the direct manifestation of this communal labour is the production of objects for human consumption. These objects do not belong to any private individual or organisation but are the property of the whole of society. The dominant criterion here is use and need in community as opposed to mass of private profit in the production of commodities and reproduction of capital.

Under such conditions and relations, exchange-value itself cannot subsist. In other words, the very process of the production of commodities is itself abolished because the indispensably connected process in which private labour receives the stamp of general, social labour only indirectly in the process of being sold on the market is superseded. The social relation of capital is itself superseded. Under communal production, human labour becomes directly social labour in the production process itself (ceases to be private labour but is immediately posited as the labour of the whole of society) and does not require the stamp of the value-realisation process ‘on the market’ to confer this character upon it. The aim of society is to eliminate the market by eliminating private exchange. This is done by pressing ahead with the decommodification of the products of labour.

Labour time ceases to take the form of exchange-value. The products of labour cease to the form of commodities. This undermines the existence of the market system itself and facilitates the transcendence of the capital relation itself. In the course of the development of the period of transition (‘realm of natural necessity’ as contrasted with the later ‘true realm of freedom’), exchange alters its forms. Use-value and need (not exchange value and profit) become the dominant social criteria. Progressively, exchange of labour time ceases to be disguised in the form of the exchange of commodities. ‘Money’ as ‘time chit’ (and not as expression of exchange-value) continues to function in the course of these new forms of exchange until society dispenses with money in the following ‘true realm of freedom’. These forms of exchange are….

[1] the exchange of a definite quantity of calculated labour time for its calculated materialised equivalent in the form of use-values (labour time<>products of labour)

[2] the exchange of use values with each other based on the calculation of the average labour time required to produce them (products of labour<>products of labour)

[3] exchange of activities in the course of the development of the social metabolism as directly expressed in the exchange of a equivalent and definite quantities of labour time (labour time <>labour time).

These forms of exchange (1, 2 and 3) emphasise the social usefulness of, and human enjoyment involved in, the different forms of labour in the period of transition. Beyond this period lies the actual transcendence of account keeping itself on the basis of the expenditure of labour time. ‘Free time’ and not ‘labour time’ becomes the real measure of wealth. In this period of transition, emphasis is placed on the development of the quality of use values and the continuous augmentation in the productivity of labour which is both socially and ecologically sustainable. An increase in the productivity of labour which is not ‘at the expense’ of nature. This will involve the increased but sustainable use of machines, automation and computers instead of human labour. Labour itself starts to become a ‘vital need’ (Marx) stripped of its alien character as prevailed in the epoch of global capital.

For the period of transition to successfully pass into the ‘true realm’, it is not any given individual or external (alien) body or organisation which must be in charge of the products of human labour but rather the ‘associated producers’ themselves. They will will make the ‘democratic decisions’ as to the distribution of the surplus according to the need to accumulate (technical development and innovation), transfer to a collective fund for public provision, education/training, individual/collective consumption, etc. Once the control of the surplus is taken out of the hands of the producers themselves and appropriated by an alien body/organisation (Soviet system) then all the old ‘muck of ages’ (Marx) has an even greater potential to re-establish itself. Those who appropriate and control the distribution of the surplus invariably generate and/or consolidate power structures for self-serving interest and privilege which stand in hostile opposition to those whose labour has actually produced the surplus. Unless, of course, appropriation and control over distribution is by the associated producers themselves.

In regard to accountancy of labour time in the period of transition (‘realm of natural necessity’), the age of capital has already developed card and electronic systems involving the debiting and crediting of accounts, transfers, payments, settling debt, etc. In this system developed by capital itself, we can see the potential to adapt it to the production, circulation and consumption of use values in the period of transition. It ceases to serve the interests of capital and can be adapted and deployed to animate and further social development within this transitional period. For example, each person’s labour time is credited on an electronic card system and taken off (debited) successively at those points of access to use values for personal consumption such as food, clothing, energy distribution points and centres, etc. Likewise for communal organisations, etc, and transfers registered using computer technology. The advances in computer technology has made this process of accounting and regulation easier in comparison to earlier systems without computers.

Paper money would cease to be a medium of exchange. There would be no circulation of paper or coin and the electronic card system – as a system of labour time equivalence – would be structured as non-circulable. It would simply be an electronic system of accounting of the quantity and quality of labour performed. This card system would serve as a means of payment to balance accounts at both the individual and communal levels. It could function on different levels. For example (a) for the personal/family, etc, scale of consumption. (b) for replacement of consumed machinery/materials, etc, in the workplace and on a wider communal scale. (c) for the deployment of the socially produced surplus for social provision, communal and technical innovation, development, arts, recreation, etc. (d) for the accountancy of inter-organisational exchange of use-values. For example, unit X requiring chemicals from unit Y in order to manufacture pharmaceuticals and unit Z sending chemicals to Y for this manufacture, etc. All done on the direct calculation of labour time using this electronic card system. The ‘social bodies’ of the commune would work through (audit) the annual returns and make allowances for wastage and accidental destruction and also sabotage and pilfering where the latter are still taking place in the course of the revolutionary period of transition. Cards could be personalised or specified to organisation and there would be a system of identification, checks and balances introduced to prevent fraud, pilfering, etc, in these earlier phases of development.

Shaun May

August 2018