Prometeo – Property and Capital – Part I

The first part of a series of articles released 1948 in the journal Prometeo.

PDF-Version: Prometeo – Property and Capital – Part I

1. The class revolutions

Technical basis and legal forms of production

In order to examine the traditional thesis that defines socialism as the abolition of private property, we recall the Marxist concepts about the sequence of class revolutions resulting from the contrast between old property relations and the new productive forces and production requirements. The capitalist system is the youngest of the various class societies based on individual property rights which, depending on the features of the production method and organisation, extends to various objects.

In propaganda work, socialism was always defined in a simple thesis and for plausible reasons as the abolition of private property, adding, for the sake of clarity: in the means of production, and further: in the means of exchange.

Although not fully adequate and complete, the thesis does not need to be rejected. But the essential, old as well as new questions about personal, communal, national and social property demand that the question of property is examined with regard to the historical-theoretical antagonism and the fight between capitalism and socialism.

Every economic and social relationship translates into legal formulas, and on this basis the “Manifesto” states that the communists in “all these movements” emphasise the “question of property”, because they emphasise the question of production, and more generally: the question of production, distribution and consumption, that of economy.

At a time when the great historical antagonism between feudalism and bourgeois order first appeared as an ideological and legal contradiction rather than as such in the economic relationship and as a change of production method, the legal form of the proletarian economic and social goals had to be given the greatest importance also in simple statements.

In the essential passage of the foreword to “A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy”, Marx establishes the doctrine of the contradiction of the productive forces with the relations of production and immediately says about it: “or – this merely expresses the same thing in legal terms – with the property relations”.

The correct wording of the legal wording must therefore be based on the correct representation of the relation of production, the economic relationship that socialism demands to break up. So, if we want to make use of the language of traditional jurisprudence, it is a question of recalling the decisive characteristics of the capitalist mode of production – which must be determined in relation to those of the preceding modes of production – and then to further distinguish between those characteristics that socialism will maintain and those that it will overcome and sublate in the revolutionary process. And, of course, this distinction must be made on the ground of economic analysis.

Capitalism and property are not the same. Other economic and social forms preceding capitalism also exhibited certain property rights. We will soon see that the new production system was perfectly fine with basing its legal system on formulas and beliefs derived directly from the previous regime, even though the relations of ownership were completely different. No less fundamental in the socialist view is the thesis that capitalism is the last economy based on legal forms of ownership and that socialism, with capitalism, also destroys property. But this first break-up, or rather: revolutionary and violent sublation, is an obviously dialectical relationship, and this is more precise in our Marxist language than when we talk about the abolition of property, with this somewhat metaphysical and apocalyptic aftertaste.

However, let us first return to our well-known terms. Property is a relationship between people, the human person and things. Lawyers call it the right to dispose of a matter absolutely and in the most comprehensive manner, the classical expression is jus utendi et abutendi[1]. We Marxists, as it is known, do not like these timeless definitions very much, more precisely a dialectical and scientific definition would be to say that it is the right of one person or group to “prevent” another person from using a thing.

The historical variability of the relationship can also be seen, for example, in the fact that among the things that could be property, the human person itself counted for centuries or even thousands of years (slavery). And on the other hand, that property rights cannot claim the apologetic prerogative of being natural and eternal, we have shown many times when we refer to the primitive communist communities in which there was no property, because the first groups of people drew up and used everything collectively.

In the economic relations of natural communities, or if you prefer, in this pre-economy, people’s behaviour towards things was the simplest possible. For the still very thinly sown mankind and its limited needs, which hardly went beyond that of the animal for food, nature provided the things suitable for its satisfaction (later in the legal system called “goods”) unlimitedly, and the only production act consisted of taking them if necessary. Here, it was only the fruits of the natural flora and later on the prey of hunting and fishing. The objects of practical use were abundant, there were no “products” yet, which arose from the physical, technical and active influence of mankind, albeit germinal, on the material offered by nature.

With labour, the method of production, the increase in population, the restriction of free, virgin soil on which it was possible to settle, the problems of distribution arose and it became more difficult to meet all the needs, the demands for use and consumption of the products. The contradiction between individuals, between tribes and peoples arose. It is not necessary to recall the stages of the creation of property: the appropriation for consumption, stockpiling, the initial exchange of what people and communities created to satisfy other and ever wider demands.

At various stages of development trade then appears; the things that were previously objects of practical use become commodities, money appears, and exchange value is put over use value[2].

We need to understand what progress has been made in the technical basis of production among the various peoples and epochs in terms of human labour’s ability to influence things, the raw material; which were the determinate moments of production and division of the production acts, of working processes among members of society; according to which system the consumer products went from hand to hand, from house to house, from country to country. On the basis of this information, we can come to understand the corresponding legal relations which aimed to coordinate the rules of such processes by making certain organisms responsible for their compliance – together with the possibility of sanctioning and coercing lawbreakers.

Just as property in things or consumer goods and the property in slaves does not originate from the primitive communities, landed property, that is to say on the earth and what people built permanently on it – legally speaking, these are the immovable goods – is certainly not going back to them. Compared to the personal property in movable goods and slaves, the immovable property occurred late, because at first everything, if it was not owned jointly, at least belonged to the head of a family community, the head of the tribe or the town or district lord.

But even if one were to deny that the point of departure of all peoples was this first communist form and one wanted to ridicule that golden age[3], the analysis we are interested in about the legal system, the result of the respective stage of labour technology, is not thereby invalidated; it is enough to point out the great importance that Marx and Engels placed on human prehistory at the beginning of their studies – we reserve the right to deal with this much more thoroughly.

If we confine ourselves to the great lines and well-known things in order to characterise the fundamentals of the successive historical forms of class societies, the conditions of property ownership in a) the movable, consumable and, at any rate the objects of practical use, b) the slaves and c) of the earth are sufficient for this.

Property, says the lawyer, arises from appropriation. He says this because he thinks of immovable goods, but the formula also fits on the property in slaves or commercial goods. Indeed, the “movable goods belong to the owner”. And the transition from ownership to property is no less obvious. If I hold any thing in my hands, e. g. another person or a piece of earth (which I of course don’t hold in my hands – but the person or the goods I don’t hold permanently in my hands either) without someone else being able to take my place, I am the owner. So up to here, physical ownership. However, it becomes lawful and legal, becomes the right to property, if I, against a possible competitor or troublemaker, have the opportunity to secure the help of the law or the authority, i. e. the physical power created in the state. As far as the movable object or commodities are concerned, merely owning them testifies to the right of property as long as no one proves that I have taken them away from them by force or fraud. As far as the slave is concerned, he was registered in the states with firm order in the family register of his master. As far as immovable property is concerned, the legal apparatus, even nowadays, is much more complicated, since for property determinate legal titles and public registers are needed, and the legal examination of transfers of property is also much more complicated. In any case, the physical possession, because immediately usable, is always a great resource and first of all it is also protected by law, subject to a later full-scale, and difficult, determination of the right to property in question. As a legal paradox, therefore, one speaks of the thief, who even if he has been driven out (perhaps by the proprietor himself, in order to suppose a theoretically nonsensical thesis), can legally demand the protection of his property. The smartest lawyers say that all the law books ultimately say: “paragraph five: What you have, you have.”

In general, each property order is based on the appropriation of goods. The descendants of the slave belong to the lord; if they flee, he can have them persecuted according to the law, so that they may be brought back to him.

In the medieval system of feudalism, the technical basis of production with the labour power of slaves and the corresponding legal structure regulating the property in human beings are eliminated. The disposal of the agricultural land takes on a more complex form than the classical one of Roman law[4], namely a form in which a lordly hierarchy, with the political ruler at the head, spreads itself and by means of a very complicated legal system distributes the soils among the dependent serfs. The economic basis is agricultural labour, but no longer with slaves, but with serfs, who are no longer real property and cannot be sold by the lord to another, but as a rule they cannot escape and turn their backs on the feudal property on which they work with their families. Who appropriates the products of labour? A certain part by the farm owner himself, who is usually given a small piece of soil, the yield of which must be sufficient to get himself and his family through; with the others he is obliged to work on the far more extensive estates of his master and to deliver to him the much bigger product. This work is called socage. In the more recent forms, the serf has more in common with the colonus[5], for the entire land of the feudal lord is divided into small family farms of whose every product a large part is given to the lord. In this system, the farmer has the right to acquire some of the products of his work and consume them according to his liking. Some – because there are tributes to the feudal lords, the clergy, etc., in the form of working hours or means of subsistence.

Non-agricultural production is poorly developed because of the still underdeveloped production method, sparsely populated cities, simple life and the modest needs of the population. But the workers who produce manufactured products are free men, i. e. they are not bound to their place of birth and place of work. We are talking about craftsmen, bound to guild rules and structures but economically completely autonomous. In artisanal production, the various goods are the property of the dwarf business and the small shop: Simple tools, raw material that the craftsman acquires to process it, the manufactured products that he sells. Apart from the prerogatives of the guilds and municipalities and certain feudal rights over the cities, the craftsman works for himself and owns the whole yield of his working time and his work results.

Circulation is uncomplicated in these social regimes. What the great mass of agricultural workers produces they consume on the spot, and sell little of it to buy a piece of clothing or something else. Most of the time, the craftsmen and merchants trade with the farmers and among themselves in the narrow circle of towns, villages and rural areas; only a few privileged gentlemen obtain the objects used by them from the wider area; by the way, until a few centuries ago they did not know any forks or soap, let alone a hundred other things used by everyone today.

But the conditions of the new capitalist era are gradually emerging: The technical and scientific inventions which, in thousands of ways, improve the processing of products, the geographical discoveries and inventions of new means of transport for persons and goods, which are constantly expanding the sphere of circulation and extending the distance between the place of manufacture and the place where the products are used.

These transformations are progressing very differently; there are times when everything is developing strangely slowly, and then again extremely rapidly. While at the beginning of the modern age millions of consumers were already getting to know and using spices and unknown or exotic goods, where new needs arose (coffee, tobacco, etc.), one could still hear at the time of World War I that a major landowner in Calabria had spent a total of only one copper coin on needles in a year’s time, otherwise she was supplied by her property.

Having reached this point with these few clues in mind – intentionally simplified, yet trying to clarify the context – we now ask ourselves about the real, specific characteristics of the new capitalist production and economy and the bourgeois order that provides the basis for it. And we will soon see how – in contrast to what happened in the previous feudal and artisan society – the real change that the new technical processes and the new productive forces available to man have brought about after a long and tough struggle in relations of production, that is, in the possibility and ability to appropriate the various goods.

We will begin by clearly laying the foundations of our further investigation into the real connections between the capitalist system and the way in which the various goods are appropriated: to define consumer goods, tools, soils, houses and various equipment tied to the ground, in order to then extend it to the course of development of the capitalist era and that of its end.

2. The Bourgeois Revolution

The emergence of capitalism and legal property rights

Capitalism triumphs in a revolution that breaks a series of preexisting conditions. This includes the court jurisdiction of the feudal lord over the peasants and the guild right over the craftsmen, i. e. no property relations with respect to things, but relationships between people.

Furthermore, capitalism erases the craftsmen’s property in their tools and products, and to a large extent that of the peasants on the ground, in order to transform them, like the former serfs, into wage-dependent property-less ones.

The emergence of the capitalist economy in terms of property relations is not something that establishes the rights to private property, but something that abolishes them on a broad scale. This is a statement that should not appear strange or new, as it is in fact and formally completely consistent with Marx’s presentation.

As far as feudal landlords are concerned, the bourgeois revolution radically abolishes their prerogatives, but not their property in land. For “revolution”, we should not think of the measures against rebels and emigrants in the sense of a short period of struggle, nor should we think of the later measures that would eliminate the prerogatives of ecclesiastical bodies on the lands; revolution refers to the economic-social content of the great transformation, which begins much earlier and is far from being completed even after the revolts and the proclamation and announcement of new constitutions.

The emergence of capitalism bears the character of destroying the property rights of armies of small craftsmen and, in some countries in particular, also of small peasant owners.

The history of the genesis of capitalism and primitive accumulation coincides with the cruel expropriation of producers and can be read on the most prominent sides of “Capital”. The 24th chapter of the first volume describes, like other fundamental writings of Marxism, the future overthrow of capitalism as an expropriation of the former expropriators, and even – but more of that later in the fourth part – as a sublation[6] of that destroyed and trampled “property”.

In order to understand all this clearly, we must follow the investigation that correctly applies our method and never lose sight of the relationships between the formulas of everyday language or those of traditional law and the specific formulas that we Marxist Socialists use.

The explanation for how capital paves its way in the field of the technical basis of production is related to the manifold perfections in the application of human labor to the processed material. It starts with the first technical innovations, which come into being on the workbench of the isolated, carefully working and inventive craftsman, goes through an impressive cycle with the emergence of the first factories, initially manufactories, then based on machines that replace the workers’ hands, and finally on the use of the mechanical power of large machines.

Capitalism today presents itself to us as an enormous complex of facilities, buildings and machinery with which technology covers the territory of the developed countries everywhere, which is why it also seems obvious to mark the capitalist system as one of the property and monopoly of these modern, colossal means of production, but this is only partly true.

The technical prerequisites of the new economy consist of new procedures based on the division of labour and differentiation of processing steps: In the course of history, however, there appears a more common phenomenon beforehand, namely that many workers are brought together in one place and continue to work with the same simple tools and techniques that they used as independent and isolated craftsmen.

The truly distinctive character of the innovation is not, therefore, that someone who possesses or takes possession of new means or large equipment has appeared, and these means have supplanted traditional handicraft production, because it makes it much easier to produce the products of manufacture. The large plants come later, because for the simple cooperation, as Marx says, i. e. the union of many workers, also a simple room is sufficient (that can be rented by the “lord” for a fee), or even the sweating system[7], where the workers do not leave the house at all. The distinctive character thus lies elsewhere, it is a negative, therefore revolutionary and destructive character. Workers were deprived of the opportunity to own the raw materials and tools themselves, and therefore also of what they produced to consume or sell themselves. In order to identify an early capitalistically functioning economy, it is sufficient to state that there are masses of artisan producers here who have lost the possibility of procuring raw materials and tools – and complementary to that, that in the hands of the new economic elements, the capitalists, there has been a considerable accumulation of means of earning money which, on the one hand, enable them to accumulate raw materials and equipment and, on the other hand, to buy the labour of the craftsmen who have been transformed into wage workers, thus being the unrestricted owner and owner of the entire labour product.

This second prerequisite corresponds to the primitive accumulation of capital, which is based on a variety of historical and economic factors and whose origins have been investigated in other Marxist works.

The lower costs for transport and storage and the better use of the time spent by the producers on the various, technologically still very simple working operations explain how the mere crowding-together of workers accounts for the superiority of the new system and leads to the suppression of the old one. This is the first reason why the craftsman’s performance is overshadowed in his workshop. However. it is definitely overcome by the further development due to the division of labour. It is no longer the individual craftsman, supported by one or two journeymen, who produces the manufactured product; it arises from the successive operations of workers from various trades, none of which could complete it on their own. Even later, many of the most difficult operations that used to be carried out by hand after a long apprenticeship are done by machines, and the result of the production process is achieved by far less physical and mental torment of the worker.

In the course of this process, the mass of factory equipment grows into gigantic proportions, and it is evident that they do not belong to the worker any more than the simple tools belonged to him in the early stages. However, the legal property of the capitalist and employer in these large plants is not a necessary condition; we showed this earlier, when we recalled that even in the first manufactories and before these plants existed, a genuine economic and societal capitalism was visible; we still have to investigate the many cases in the modern economy where production facilities are not legally owned by the factory owner. It is enough to remind of leases, concessions, public procurement contracts, etc., and in agriculture of the large leased goods.

In addition to primitive accumulation, it is therefore the “radical separation of the producer from the means of production” and the products that testify to the emergence of capitalism[8]. Economically and socially, capitalism shows itself to be an annulment of the workers’ ability to acquire the products and as their appropriation by the capitalist.

With the loss of any entitlement to the production goods, the worker naturally also loses his rights to the tools, the raw material, the workplace – rights of an individual property relation which capitalism destroyed in order to replace it with a new right of appropriation, of property, which is necessarily a right to the labour products, but not equally necessary a right to the means of production. The legal title of property may change without prejudice to the capitalist nature of the business. Moreover, the new way of appropriation is not necessarily – which is why one has the right to speak of capitalism in the Marxist language – an individual and personal right, as it was in the artisanal industry, which rarely went beyond the family framework.

With Marx – we are here doing nothing more than setting out the doctrine we have always been committed to – capitalism is not only constituted by expropriation, but it produces an economy, and thus a type of social property. In the classical sense, it was possible to speak of personal property when in the legal title of a single person it was possible to unite all productive and economic actions; when however, labour becomes a collective and associated activity of many producers – a fundamental and indispensable feature of capitalism – property in the whole factory is a matter of social type, a matter of social importance, even if one person holds the title of property.

This Marxist fundamental concept leads directly to the class struggle and class antagonism inherent in the capitalist system. The appropriation of the products – on the part of the employer, who no longer faces slaves and serfs but “free” wage workers – is a relation transferred to the social level, which no longer only interests the boss and his hundred workers, but the whole working class, which confronts the new rule and political power, which was founded with the new type of state. This social function is revealed in the Marxist law of accumulation and extended reproduction of capital.

The slave owner and the feudal landlord extracted their personal revenue from the surplus labour carried out by their subordinates, but were able to squander it completely without the system ceasing to function on a social scale. The part of the product of their labour left to slaves and serfs was enough for them to survive and the system to continue. The property in slaves and serfs is therefore a true individual right. By the way, the same applies to that of the independent farmer and craftsman, who did no surplus labour for anyone (the question of the tax authorities was not relevant here – in these regimes the state was “cheap”) and were able to eat up all the proceeds of their labour, which covered the yield of their property limited to a small piece of land or a small workshop (understood as a business, not as a retail shop). Although the capitalist makes a profit from the unpaid surplus labour of his workers, who only receive so much that it is enough to live, the essential feature of the new economy is not that he, theoretically and according to written law, can allocate all the profit to personal consumption purposes;[9] rather, it is a general and social fact that the capitalists have to put aside an ever greater part of the profit for new investments, for the reproduction of capital. This new and essential fact is much more important than the squandering of profit by those who do not work. Even if this latter relationship is more impressive and makes itself better on a legal and moral level as a reply to the apologists of the bourgeois regime, the fundamental law of capitalism is the other thing for us, namely that most of the profit is reserved for the accumulation of capital.

The distinguishing features of the emergence of the capitalist economy are thus the accumulation of a mass of means of earning – in the hands of a few – with which working materials and equipment can be purchased on the market, and the elimination of the possibility for broad strata of independent producers to call working materials, tools and products their own.

In our Marxist language, this precisely explains the genesis of the industrial capitalist on the one hand, and the mass of propertyless wage workers on the other. Which, as we usually say, was the result of an economic, social and political revolution.

However, we do not claim that bourgeois and neo-capitalists had set the process in motion by seizing power in the civil war and then unashamedly enacted the following law: Anyone who does not belong to the victorious capitalist class is prohibited from buying raw materials, tools and machinery and selling manufactured products. Things went down a little differently. Not only is it not forbidden to become a tradesman even today, but on top of that – while capitalist accumulation is unashamedly accelerating its hellish pace – we see fascists, Nazis and Christian socialists compete in the apology of craftsmen’s economy, in harmony with an old béguin[10] of the Mazzini followers, and equally in the apology of the self-employed farmer, the proprietor of his land.

The real process of primitive accumulation has been a different one, which can be shown in the language of philosophy and general ethics, in the language of positive law and in that of Marxism, which does justice to the cause in a completely different way.

At the dawn of capitalism, property as the right to dispose of the product of one’s own work was still defended by conservative ideologues and theologians who were mocked by Marx because of their embarrassment at the fact that property came into the hands of someone who had created nothing. In any case, all their apologies of capitalist profit, derived from savings, abstention or “initial labour”, could not morally justify the fact that the needlemaker was not allowed to take one home with him without being guilty of theft.

If in the old law of the feudal order as well as in the legal system elaborated by the bourgeois revolution, the property relation of an individual person in a workshop, a factory, a stock of raw materials and products was not excluded, the economic-social relation in the view of Marxism is made clear just by the fact that the value of the product is measured by the labour time necessary for its production. If the product is produced in the manufactory in four hours, while the craftsman needs eight hours to produce it, he will offer it for sale on the market, if he were again granted the full right to property, but only at a price that has been reduced by half, of which he cannot guarantee his subsistence for the working day. Since, in order to make ends meet, he already cannot physically work for sixteen hours, he will be forced to accept the conditions set by the capitalist, that is to say, he will have to work for him for twelve hours, leave the products to him and receive a wage for six hours, from which he will at least be able to make a living.

This brutal and dreadful transition already contains in itself the necessary preconditions for the progress in the production procedures: Only by depriving the tradesman, who is enslaved to capital, of the surplus value of his or her labour power, will the social foundations of capital accumulation be created; an economic fact that goes hand in hand with the technical, which means that the means of production and equipment characteristic of the new mechanical and scientific epoch spread.

Why then, in order to implement the new system of production and appropriation of labour products, certain obstacles in the way of production, i. e. the property relations of the old regime, had to be broken? Because – in view of the new requirements: freedom of movement for capitalists and disposition of a mass of people offering their labour – a number of contradictory sanctions and restrictive rules existed. On the one hand, the state monopoly of the nobility and the church princes exposed the first accumulators of capital – traders, usurers, bankers – to the danger of constant harassment and sometimes also deprivation, and on the other hand, the laws and regulations of guilds left the guilds of the municipal craftsmen the prerogatives of the monopoly on the production of certain manufactured products, and thus also on the sale in certain sectors. And the masses of industrial workers could not have formed if the bonds had not been torn apart, which tied the serfs to the plaice and the journeymen and ruined master craftsmen to the workshop.

Thus, the revolution did not lead to a new positive property right, but rather it was essential to abolish the old feudal laws which provided the framework for the relations of production and urban and rural trade.

Since we regard the capitalist system as being opposed to the feudal system – on whose ruins it was created – we must not consider the establishment of a new (granted to a physical or legal person) right of property in the machines, factory, railway, sewerage system or any other property to be its characteristic feature. We must, however, have a clear view of the specific traits that are the real characteristics of the capitalist economy, or else we will not be able to follow their course of development with any certainty and we will not be able to draw a clear conclusion about the characteristics of overcoming them.

With regard to the development of the property relations – if we first remain with the property rights of the movable goods, because we will immediately be talking about ownership of the land and the operating facilities on it – the essential and indispensable characteristics of capitalism are the following:

First: The existence of a market economy, so that workers generally have to buy all subsistence products.

Second: The impossibility for workers to appropriate the movable things consisting of the products of their labour and to bring them directly onto the market, i. e. the prohibition of the personal right of property in their products.

Third: The payment of a sum of wages to the workers, or, more generally: of goods and services of a value below the value added by the workers to the product; and the investment of a large part of this profit margin in new plants (accumulation).

On the basis of these fundamental criteria, we must ask ourselves whether the personal legal title to the factory and the production facilities is indispensable for the existence of capitalism, and whether there can be a purely capitalist economy without property, or whether it is not even better for capitalism at certain stages to conceal property through other forms.

Such an investigation must be preceded by a number of important explanations on the economic importance and legal development of the right to property on land, the area below and above the ground, on the part of private persons and companies today.

3. The Proletarian Revolution

Terms of the socialist objective

The struggle of the class of wage-workers against the capitalist bourgeoisie, together with private property in the means of production and exchange and the company appropriation of products, aims to abolish the production system by companies and the distribution system of commodities and money, while maintaining the technical division of labour and the concentration of productive forces created by capitalism. Only if those forms are eliminated the system of exploitation and oppression, preserving itself through wage labour, can be abolished.

Before we take a closer look at the subject of this study, which concerns the legal system of property law accompanying the course of capitalist development, it is necessary to remember what the real concepts of the great socialist objective have always been.

If we leave aside the literary and philosophical allusions of communism about communities of property that have existed since antiquity in pre-bourgeois regimes and which also refer to the special effects of class overthrow, the socialist objective historically lies in the movement that has been attacking the social foundations of the capitalist system and regime ever since its emergence. A critical and struggling movement whose entire form cannot be separated from the actual intervention in the social struggles of the working class and from its organisation as a worldwide class party, which has adopted the doctrine of the “Manifesto of the Communists”.

Without the dialectical method of Marxism, in its great depth and unembellished simplicity at the same time, the socialist demands and goals formulated millions of times on the pages of the theoretical volumes of our classics or in the humble words of speeches and propaganda newspapers cannot be real and living. In order to establish the proletarian socialist goals, it is not enough to protest loudly against the absurdity, injustice, inequality, and vilification that characterise the capitalist system to the core. Equally weak were the countless pseudo-socialist and semi-socialist positions of humanitarian philanthropists, utopists, anarchists and apostles, all of whom were more or less gripped by a new ethic and social mysticism.

The proletariat and Marxism do not shout “Vade retro Satana!”[11] to the bourgeois system. They welcome it and are ready to fight alongside it at a certain historical stage; at the same time they declare war on it and announce its destruction. An attitude that must be incomprehensible to all those who explain history and its struggles with religious faith and moral systems and, in general, with non-scientific and even unconsciously metaphysical methods, which means, at every stage of the history of human society and at every event, to search for fixed and duly capitalised values such as good and evil, justice, violence, freedom, authority, etc.

As far as the characteristics of social organisation that capitalism has imposed in its appearance are concerned, there are undoubtedly some achievements that proletarian socialism not only accepts, but without which it could not exist; and there are other forms and structures whose destruction is clearly outlined. Its objectives are thus defined in relation to the various points in which we have classified the typical elements, the defining characteristics of capitalism at the time of its victory. This victory is a revolution and it is a first, historically general precondition for the emergence of the regime for which the Socialists are fighting. As radical and unfinished as it was, the almost instantaneously adopted anti-capitalist stance did not have the character of a restoration and apology of general pre-capitalist conditions and forms. All this needs to be reconstructed today, even though the repeated efforts of our school have been working towards the same goal for more than a century, because dangerous deviations at every stage of the class struggle history produced theories and movements that distorted extremely important positions of revolutionary socialism.

In the previous chapter, we first of all presented the well-known technical-organisational characteristics of capitalist production, which is opposed to artisanal and feudal production. Generally speaking, these characteristics are preserved and fully asserted by the socialist movement. There are characteristics of the capitalist era which must not be abandoned, but will rather on the contrary be the basis of the new socialist organisation, namely: cooperation of many workers in the production of a certain product; the resulting division of labour, i. e. the division of workers into different and successive processing phases for the completion of a product; the use of machinery and equipment, as well as all means of applied science and production procedures. A no less important and irrevocable achievement is the liberation of technical processes from guild mysteries and secrets, from the guild’s exclusive right of agency; from a deterministic point of view, this created a secure basis for the difficult emergence of science from the ancient fetters of magic, religion and philosophical hubris. Essential to this is always the demonstration that the bourgeoisie, by means of oppression and barbaric methods, has pushed these characteristics through and plunged the working masses into misery and wage slavery. But this does not in any way propagate the return to the independent craftsman’s free production.

When the craftsman, together with the peasant farmer and the owner of every property, becomes a pure wage worker, he becomes impoverished, his resistance is violently broken. However, the new organisational criteria of the productive forces allowed the outcome of this process to be glorified – also in the social sense. Because despite the deductions made by the bread lord, the masses were put in a position to satisfy new and diverse needs, with the same working hours. (In another text by Prometeo, the explanatory depiction of the fundamental text of the Marxist economy, the reader can find the original terms of Marx’s thesis on the “growing impoverishment”, which does not contradict the law on increasing real wages.)[12] Even before we take a closer look at the enormous benefits in production performance that resulted from the division of labour and machinery, we see a definitive advantage; and it is certainly not about going back to the simple economy of transport, commerce and management to which the manufactory had led in contrast to the simple workshop. Every craftsman was himself an accountant, cashier, sales representative, salesman, for which he wasted a tremendous amount of labour time; in the big factories, on the other hand, it’s done by one employee per 100 workers. Any suggestion of a new fragmentation of the productive power concentrated by capital is reactionary for us Socialists. We are talking about productive force not only in terms of the people who perform the labour referred to here, but also, of course, in terms of the raw materials processed and to be processed, the working tools and the whole modern plant complex for mass and serial production.

It must not be seen as a digression if we emphasise that, in the socialist objective, the agreement to the progressive concentration of facilities and workplaces, in contrast to the small business economy, does not imply endorsement of those consequences of the capitalist system that accelerate industrialisation in certain regions and keep other regions in arrears, which applies both to the urban-rural contrast and to countries. Historically, such conditions exist until the phase of bourgeois order, in which the old productive strata become expropriated and become wage workers without property, has been exhausted. The socialist demand must be dialectically based on the revolutionary leadership function of the workers, which capitalism has mass urbanised, and it aims to spread the modern technical means and the modern life rich in events, as it has been called since the Manifesto, point 9 of the immediate program: “gradual abolition of all the distinction between town and country” – without this being in contradiction with the other measures, which are clearly centralising in organisational terms. The same criterion also applies to the socialist position with regard to the relations between the metropolises and the colonies, which want to escape exploitation by the former, without forgetting that only capitalism with its lines of development was able to accelerate the expropriation of the producers by centuries, even though all boundaries of relentless conquest methods were thereby far exceeded. So, having inherited the enormous development of the productive forces from the capitalist revolution, the Socialists are aiming to overthrow the corresponding apparatus of the mode of production, the relations of production reflected in the legal system – that, after accepting that the proletarians, the fourth estate, in alliance with the bourgeoisie, take up the struggle as they shattered the institutions and forms of the previous order to establish and consolidate their own and spread them in the developed and underdeveloped world. But how exactly do our historical goals relate to the fall and overcoming of that mode of production?

The capitalist revolution in the sphere of production forcibly separated the workers from their working tools and products, from their means of production as such; their right to decide on this personally and directly has been annulled. If socialism condemns this robbery, it does not call for the return of tools and objects of daily use to the craftsmen so that they can exchange their products for means of subsistence on the market. In a sense, the separation brutally enforced by capitalism is definitive. But in our dialectical perspective, however, this separation is sublated on a higher and broader level. Tool and product were in the hands of the free and independent craftsman, then in the hands of the capitalist factory owner. They will have to come back into the producer class; i. e. there will be a social, non-personal and also non-corporate disposition over it. And there will no longer be a form of property, but a form of general systematic organisation; if we already wanted to anticipate the course of action and formulate the thesis in its entirety, we would have to talk about the disposition of society and not of a class, because this organisation is aimed at a classless society.

Even if we do not, for the time being, speak of the individual’s disposition over the object and the “property” of it, the socialist objectives do not in any way include the fact that the worker who made the object can dispose of it at his discretion.

If the worker of a shoe factory takes a pair of shoes with him today, he will not escape jail by showing how well they fit him, and certainly not if he intends to sell them in order to, say, get bread for them. Socialism does not consist in allowing the worker to leave the factory with a pair of shoes hung over his shoulder – not because he had stolen them from the factory, but because this would be a ridiculous and unfortunate distribution process for shoes. Instead of a question of law or morality, it is a concrete systematic organisational question; one only has to think of the employees of a railway wheel factory, or, to take an obvious example of the revolutions that will be brought about by the renewal of technology and life, of those who work in an electric power station or a radio station, where – as in a hundred other cases – there was no basis for scanning them after the end of shifts…

The question of property rights in the finished or semi-finished product is therefore really the crux of the matter, much more important than property in the means of production, factory, workshop, plant or whatever.

The really distinguishing feature of capitalism is to award the factory owner the products and therefore the possibility to sell them on the market. At the beginning of the bourgeois era, the right to the product was a consequence of the right of the private owner, the industrialist, to the factory, the factory building; legally, it was treated in the same way as the property of arable land or houses. This personal private property, however, is something static, formal, it obscures the actual relationship of interest to us, which is dynamic and dialectical and consists in the characteristics of production, the concatenation of endless economic cycles.

Thus, while the socialist objective was to affirm the replacement of individual work with associated work, it was to do so by eliminating the granting of collective work products to the private property of a single owner, the business owner, who is free to sell them at will. Logically, this postulate, which is part of the overall economic dynamics, is formulated as abolition of the private right of the industrialist in the production plants.

But the thesis is incomplete, even within the framework of what we are dealing with in this chapter, i. e. the destructive task of socialism with regard to the economy – because this is not yet about the type of organisation of production and distribution in the socialist system, nor is it about the economic rules of measurement and the political struggle, the way to it.

The thesis is incomplete, since – after it has been made clear that the products manufactured in a factory should not belong to the owner of the factory and the products – it does not say what to do with the other forms belonging to the capitalist economy.

In fact, this economy was able to hold its own because in the process that separates the worker from the products and means of production, there was already a commodity economy, so that the capitalist could bring the products to market and create the wage system by passing on part of the proceeds to the workers so that they could feed themselves on the same market. The craftsman entered the market as seller and buyer, the wage-worker only as buyer and this with limited means of acquisition according to the law of surplus value.

In the classical sense, then, the socialist objective is to abolish wage labour – since this is the only way to abolish capitalism. However, since wage labour cannot be abolished if the worker becomes the form of the seller of his product on the market again, which would be absurd and backward, socialism demands the abolition of the market economy from the outset.

As we have already mentioned, distribution functioning by commodity trade preceded capitalism and encompasses all previous and different economic systems, up to that in which there was a market for people, slavery.

Modern commodity economy means monetary economy. At the same time, the socialist demand for the abolition of commodity production is accompanied by the abolition of money as a means of exchange – in addition to being a means of forming monetary capital.

In the environment of commodity and money distribution capitalism inevitably comes to life again and again. If it were different, it would be better to tear up all pages of “Capital”.

The thesis of the abolition of commodity production can be found in all Marxist writings, namely in the polemics against Proudhon and all variants of petty-bourgeois socialism. Having made this vital point crystal-clear is the merit of the “communist programme” written by Bukharin, though somewhat lengthy.[13]

At the end of the previous chapter, we also listed a third point that distinguishes capitalism from the defeated regime: that a large part of the product produced by labour is deducted in favour of operating profit, but above all that a significant part of it is destined for the accumulation of new capital.

If, this is obvious, the socialist demand deprives the bourgeois factory owner of the right to dispose of the product and bring it to market, it also deprives him of the property right in the factory, and at the same time deprives him of the availability of surplus value and profit. More than a century ago[14], it was proclaimed that the wage system could be abolished, which meant overcoming the hitherto known type of market economy. If the market is destroyed, to which the products of modern associate work come as capitalist commodities and to which the small medieval craftsman walked with shyness with his few manufactured products, it is no less clear that the market for means of production and the money market, hence the accumulation of capital, is also destroyed.

But all this is not enough.

We have already said that the accumulation process also has a social aspect. We have recalled that in the morally tinged propaganda – and who of us Socialists has not abused it? -with regard to an abstract distributive justice, in particular, the meanness of the deduction of surplus value was brought forward, which the capitalist and his family consume, who thus have a much higher standard of living than the workers. Get rid of the profit, we called out, which was right. Just as right as puny. For a hundred years now, economists have been telling us that a country’s total national income divided by the number of citizens shows that everyone is barely better off than the small worker. The calculation is correct, but the refutation is as old as the socialist system, even if one cannot find a Pareto[15] or Einaudi[16] to understand it.

Indeed, the diverse reserves that the capitalist makes before he deducts his profit, with which he lets himself be well, are in part rational and socially beneficial. In the collective economy, too, products and means of production will have to be put aside on a certain scale in order to preserve and further develop the social organisation. In a certain sense, there will be a social accumulation.

So do the Socialists want to replace private accumulation with social accumulation? We wouldn’t have won anything with that. Although the consumption of part of the surplus value is a private matter of the capitalist – which we call for to be abolished, but this is a demand without any particular weight – capitalist accumulation is also already a social thing, a factor that tends to be useful to all on the social level.

Earlier economic systems, which only practiced treasure-building, remained static for thousands of years, while the accumulating capitalist economy increased the productive forces hundreds of times over a few decades and thus worked for our revolution.

The anarchy however, that Marx observes for the capitalist regime is that the capitalist accumulates for companies, for enterprises operating in the environment of commodity production.

In this system – we will better understand this not simple but central business thesis in the following examples – in this system it is only a matter of positioning oneself according to the needs of maximum business profit, which often works out in so far as other companies are deprived of profit. In the beginning, and here the classical bourgeois economists are right, the superiority of the organised large-scale enterprise over the superanarchy of small-scale production led not only to the profit of the individual capitalist and to high reserves for new plants and new advances, but also to such a much higher profit that the industrial worker also had food on his table, which was still completely unknown to the small craftsman.

However, since every company – each with its own accounting of income and expenditure – pursues maximum profit, the problems regarding the general productivity of human labour have been poorly solved in the course of development and have even had the opposite effect.

The capitalist system does not allow for demanding instead of maximising profit, but for the same labor effort and time, the maximising of the product, because after deduction of the social accumulation rate, consumption could be increased and labor, labor effort, labor obligation could be reduced. Since it is always all about selling the factory product at a high price and paying as little as possible for the products of other companies, the capitalist system is incapable of adapting production to consumption and plunges from one crisis to the next.

The socialist demand is therefore not only aimed at suppressing the right and economy of private property in the products, but at the same time also the market economy, business economics.

It is only when the path that leads to overcoming these three forms of the existing economy is taken: private property in the products, the financial market and the organisation of production by firms, that we can talk about moving towards socialist organisation.

Furthermore, it will be about seeing that the socialist objective becomes meaningless if only one of these terms is cancelled. The criterion of the individual and personal private economy can also be largely overcome in the midst of capitalism. We do not just fight against individual capitalists, we fight against capitalism in the sense of class. Capitalism always exists where products are brought onto the market or at least “booked” on the assets side of the business (understood as one island separate from the other, even if very large), while remuneration for labour appears on the liabilities side of the balance sheet.

The bourgeois economy is one of double-entry bookkeeping. The bourgeois individual is not a human being, it’s a business. We want to destroy all businesses, abolish the economy of double-entry bookkeeping. And establish a simple accounting system that has existed in history since the troglodyte started to pick as many coconuts as there were companions in the cave, carrying only his two hands.

But we have known all this since 1848, which does not prevent us from continuing to pursue our goals with drive and vigour.

We will see that much has happened in the conditions we have studied here within a hundred years – all of them things that make us even more strongly advocate the same theses.

But not without pointing out to readers that even the most common pronouns in the socialist system become social pronouns.

4. The Peasant Property

The bourgeois revolution and the property in immovable goods

In pre-capitalist times, landed property was divided between the communal, feudal and free private form. When it obtained the right to acquire immovable goods, circulating capital, in the hands of the ruling bourgeoisie, united the three forms of exploitation: ground rent, interest on advanced capital, corporate profit.

In the common sense, land and the buildings and facilities built on it by people are immovable goods. In the infancy of the capitalist regime, objects of immovable property were mainly: arable land, houses, workshop buildings; only after that – with the spread of stationary or mobile machinery, and then also of means of transport and traffic respectively of communication and energy transmission and distribution – were there ever more complex cases in which the technical, social and legal differences between movable and immovable goods made it increasingly necessary to be more precise.

Let us stick to landed property for the sake of clarity. In the late phase of the feudal order, its division was complex, for there were communally used state and municipal lands, large fiefdoms given by the central powers to aristocratic families, and also the free smallholdings of the farmers. The first form came from the age-old communist cultivation of the land, which was subject to the ongoing attacks of lords, peasants and the emerging bourgeoisie; this communal property originated above all from the Germanic peoples and the systems of Germanic law, whose development during the Migration Period and the wars of conquest in southern Europe led to a warlike and dynastic feudalism.

The third form of autonomous small property arose from the Roman Empire and Roman law, because the constitution of Rome was based in the mother land and the conquered lands on the division of the arable land to free citizens who had to serve as soldiers in times of war; at the same time, there were other, much larger ground stretches in possession of the patriciate, which exploited the country with masses of slaves who had no political rights, but were also not used for military service. Since there was a lack of both communal cultivation of land and the absence of a supreme legal institution, which could have been passed on the land at the discretion of one lord to another (except for state control over the division of new occupied territories), the Roman system imposed a precise limitation and subdivision of the land plots, which was regulated throughout the empire by the existing civil law (this is the classical rule) and historically also carried out in the Eastern Roman Empire. Having pointed out these two secondary forms of feudal property, we now want to see what its characteristics are. It is the victorious mercenary leader, the elect of a group of leaders or allied princes, then the absolute king and also the church hierarchy who, due to their power, carry out the assignment and division of the lands to the various masters and vassals who are divided into hierarchical systems, often setting or changing the district boundaries according to their whims and moods. Within these more or less intricate forms, the entire network of masters, warriors and priests live from the work of the peasant masses, who are chained to the respective feudal property and cannot leave.

As Marx often notes, in this system, rather than the legal relationship between the owner and the land, the relationship between the feudal lord and the title of nobility associated with it and the mass of the families of his serfs prevails. The landlord was not so much concerned with commanding over much land as he was with commanding many serfs, for a certain proportion of the product accrued to him from the labour of his serfs. Another cornerstone of the feudal constitution is that the landlord cannot lose his fiefdom, no matter how he manages it; it is not for sale, cannot be expropriated and the right of primogeniture – an extremely important institution in Roman law – also prevents hereditary division. Consequently, at least as far as the vast areas of land, objects of feudal rule, are concerned, there is no market for the land, the land cannot be exchanged for money.

This evaluation of the pre-bourgeois regime, which will be our starting point when we assess the position of the victorious capital with regard to landed property, is fundamental in the Marxist analysis. In the 27th chapter of volume I of “Capital” we read in relation to the time of serfdom:

“In all countries of Europe, feudal production is characterised by division of the soil amongst the greatest possible number of subfeudatories. The might of the feudal lord, like that of the sovereign, depended not on the length of his rent roll, but on the number of his subjects, and the latter depended on the number of peasant proprietors.”

Because we do not want to leave the statements that we take from these premises as new and original ones, we also recall an essential passage on the relationship between soil and money from Chapter 2:

“Man has often made man himself, under the form of slaves, serve as the primitive material of money, but has never used land for that purpose. Such an idea could only spring up in a bourgeois society already well developed. It dates from the last third of the 17th century, and the first attempt to put it in practice on a national scale was made a century afterwards, during the French bourgeois revolution.”

Modern capital is therefore not identical to property par excellence. To abolish the latter theoretically and legally is therefore not enough to defeat capital. Capital is a social force whose dynamics are much more complex than Platonic property rights. It presents itself as a contradiction to traditional landed property and one of the main elements of contradiction is that the latter is a clearly personal matter, while the former goes far beyond the limits of personal power.

“As a matter of history, capital, as opposed to landed property, invariably takes the form at first of money; it appears as moneyed wealth, as the capital of the merchant and of the usurer.”

says Marx in chapter 4, where he notes that the last product of commodity circulation is money and money is again the first form of appearance of capital (which we will encounter later in the form of workshop, machinery, raw material stock, payroll mass). In one of the brilliant footnotes it then says:

“The contrast between the power, based on the personal relations of dominion and servitude, that is conferred by landed property, and the impersonal power that is given by money, is well expressed by the two French proverbs, ‘Nulle terre sans seigneur,’ and ‘L’argent n’a pas de maître’”[17]

The significance of the modern economy, which followed the destruction of the feudal conditions, is summarised in another quote from the 24th chapter:

“General result: by incorporating with itself the two primary creators of wealth, labour-power and the land, capital acquires a power of expansion that permits it to augment the elements of its accumulation beyond the limits apparently fixed by its own magnitude, or by the value and the mass of the means of production, already produced, in which it has its being.”

When Marx then goes into the interim period in English history between the sublation of serfdom and the brutal beginning of the great capitalist accumulation, which founded bourgeois wealth by spreading the merciless misery of the masses, another footnote recalls how Japanese society at that time, with its feudal organisation of landed property, and surrounded by a developed peasant community, provides a much more faithful picture of the European Middle Ages than the ” history books, dictated as these are, for the most part, by bourgeois prejudices”.

To today’s opportunists – who no longer know how to combine the bourgeois ideals and socialist goals with each other, and who experience a shiver running down their spine every time they claim (in their incomparable stupidity) that the medieval institutions would return as soon as the bourgeois achievements of the capitalist era are at risk – Marx’s final remark is slapping a punch in the middle of their drowsy face: “It is very convenient to be “liberal” at the expense of the middle ages.”

* * *

In the last years of the old regime, when the bourgeoisie had already acquired a significant economic power, the money accumulated in the hands of the merchant and banker exerted massive pressure to sweep away the obstacles that made it impossible to get hold of immovable property. Capitalist accumulation was undoubtedly focused on using the accumulated money to secure the supply of raw materials for the labour of wage workers and their subsistence. But for the first workshops, workrooms and buildings were also needed to transform them into manufactories, as well as land on which they could be built. In addition, the new class of wealthy proprietors were urged to compete with the old feudal lords, which they also intended to surpass and expropriate in the disposal of houses, buildings and arable land. For their part, the tenants, who had become rich, wanted to free themselves from their dependent position by acquiring the landlord’s property and, as de facto owners, by managing the agricultural enterprise, which, as Marx often points out, was a genuine industry.

In the history and literary history of the last period preceding the bourgeois revolution, there is ample evidence of this struggle, which the bourgeoisie, the rich, the upstart, fought to rival the nobility in respect of prestige too. But even if the aristocrats were short of money and had to turn to profiteers and usurers in order to sustain their glorious lives, they not only despised and humiliated the man who lived off the hustle and bustle, but also had the law on their side to oppose him when it came to repaying the loans; let’s think only of the well-known old-fashioned scenes of annoying creditors, whom the landlord’s serfs received with beatings by stick.

From this inferiority and dependency, the third estate could actually only liberate itself through the revolutionary conquest of political power; until then its rivalry with the grandeur of its class rivals had to remain as foolish as in vain – although they spent the profits from its business with full hands. In Molière’s comedy “Le Bourgeois gentilhomme” the merchant, who plays himself as a nobleman, is cruelly mocked. The author mocks him in a fictional clothing ceremony as scorned by Turkish dervishes and a mufti: in the commedia dell’Arte’s own Italian jargon they sing: “Ti star nobile, non star fabbola, pigghiar schiabbola”[18]. The bourgeois desires to wear the paladin’s epee and to forget to have once waved the blacksmith’s hammer (almost as if he had confirmed well in advance the Marxist thesis that it is not labour that allows to accumulate capital).

Very soon, however, the class of capitalists will take revenge for the humiliations, the beatings and the mockeries as they defeat the states of the nobility and the clergy in the social revolution; it establishes its own rule and does not rein in the expansion of its productive forces. The order of the feudal property is falling and the acquisition of immovable property by owners of monetary capital, who until now have been unable to satisfy this special need, is breaking up. This is one of the most important features of the capitalist revolution, which, in the lapidary words of Karl Marx, came to transform the “ground into a pure commercial article”; just as it could boast of having freed the peasants from serfdom and the workers in the cities from the shackles of guilds in order to bring them into its own dependence and exploit them, it could also boast of having “incorporated the land into capital”.

This first consolidation period of victorious capitalism we could refer to as the period of tying up of movable capital, meaning tying in the local sense, i. e. large-scale investment in the acquisition of property in arable land and urban buildings, thus economically necessary complementing the possession of large industrial means of production. This economic necessity became at the same time a political necessity, because in order to finally be able to cope with the feudal lords and the demand for feudal restoration, their prestige had to be disavowed – a prestige which they had acquired in the great metropolises, which had developed as a result of the emergence of capitalist forms, and in which the monarch and the courtiers, the military leaders and the churchmen occupied the stateliest homes. Another demand of these estates in terms of domination and prestige was to reserve large stretches of arable land in the counties for their various luxurious needs, their pleasures, hunting, summer recreation, religious life, etc., while for the bourgeois economy capital investment was a priority, both for further business investments as well as for the production that provided the industrial workers’ army with the necessary means.

We wanted to recall this first period of acquisition of immovable property by capital, because, as we continue to work ahead, we will see that it is opposed to a supermodern period in which capital will become more and more detached from the ownership of immovable property (real estate, etc.), because it can exercise its functions in the best possible way and realise the formation of dizzying profits without being in possession of immovable goods and without, on the other hand, having to worry about them falling back into the hands of a now vanished lordship.

Before coming straight to the analysis of this third supermodern period, which we have already mentioned for the sake of clarity, let us look briefly at the interim period of an already consolidated capitalism, where the relationship between property and business presents itself differently. If the various economic forms and corresponding social forces are carefully examined, it becomes increasingly clear that the differentia specifica of the capitalist era is to be found in the factor of enterprise, not in that of property.

We can only imagine the bourgeois of this first romantic period, e. g. the owner of ironworks, as a kind of sole patron in whose hands all the components and factors of production are concentrated. He owns the land on which the factory stands, as well as the mine that supplies him with iron ore, the factory where work is carried out, the machines and tools. He buys all the raw materials and all the accessories that go into the labour process, and by hiring the workers he buys labour power. He is therefore the exclusive owner of the entire product, which he sells where he believes it will bring him the most profit. He is a specialist in the production branch in which he also works himself, but pays for himself in the same way as his employees and accountants. Since the workshop has to produce everything itself, light, warmth and energy, the so-called general expenses are rather low in this early period, and even the taxes to be paid to the state are hardly significant, because in the liberal regimes of that time the bourgeoisie applied the economic policy of the “laissez faire, laissez passer”[19] and swept away all the barriers and taxes that had been imposed on its production and trading companies. The bookkeeping was therefore simple and uniform, and all the profit resulting from the surplus of revenues over expenses ended up in the pockets of the capitalist, who did not have to deduct any rents and leases from it for the rooms, facilities and buildings he used. In this first classic case, the capitalist also had plenty of cash to be his own banker; for his liquid capital, which he needed for the purchase of goods and wage advances, he did not have to pay interest on his hunchback.

If we wanted to look at the parallel of this business model in agriculture, we would find it in the hands of the farm manager, who is at the same time the proprietor of the land and the whole living and dead inventory, i. e. the machines, tools, seed and fertiliser supplies, livestock herds, etc., and he also has enough cash to advance the wages of the day labourers or the workers employed during the year. In all these cases, only the difference which the landlord realises as a surplus of his selling price over the sum of the advances, contains both the actual ground rent and the interest of the monetary capital and the profit of the enterprise, which can also be seen as separate economic components among themselves.

The bourgeois economist sees them as separate, because he says they come from sources, each of which is sufficient to generate wealth: the soil as the producer of ground rent, money as the producer of interest income and the enterprise as the producer of profit – with which the activity, skill and cleverness of the person who has been able to bring together the various components of production are compensated.

For the Marxist economist, all these surpluses are the result of human labor; they represent the difference between the value produced by labour and the lesser sum paid to wage-workers for their expended labour power.

However, the distinction between the various components of entrepreneurial profit is a historical distinction, according to the division of surplus value squeezed from the working class among the landowner, lender and entrepreneur. The distinction is historical in nature, because – before the actual wage-working industry came to the scene – the land could also provide a yield to the landlord, just as the mere money provided an interest to the owner of it – a banker or usurer.

It is now a question of seeing the real nature of capitalist production in relation to these different components when they are separated, instead of being united in the hands of a single owner, that is to say, from the time when the legal owner of the land or factory, the banker advancing the cash and the entrepreneur are different persons. The entrepreneur reserves the right to put the retail price of the products sold on the market in his own pocket after having satisfied the landlord and the banker as well as all other institutions of a public or semi-public nature that are rampant in the modern economy.

In all these cases, the proprietor of the land, the area, the building and sometimes also the machinery receives the corresponding lease money, the banker receives an interest on the borrowed money; to the state or other bodies that may have concessions, taxes or other fees or levies are forked out – all that remains is pure corporate profit, which capitalist accounting wrongly accentuates as something that only emerges after the various, moving and immovable assets have already been “remunerated”.

Marxism now declares that this – disguised in class apology as a vehicle of progress, science, civilisation – third form, corporate profit, is more vicious and meaner than the two other forms: It glorifies exploitation, oppression, misery. Socialism does not consist in taking possession of the capitalist enterprise by factory workers, but rather in the revolutionary and total negation of the capitalist enterprise.

The various components and their relationships to each other are divided into modern capitalist forms in different ways; and it is anything but a new relationship when we come across capitalist enterprises that have no immovable property of any kind, and in some cases no company headquarters and no noteworthy machinery or equipment – the dynamics of the capitalist process here, however, exists completely and in the purest form. Thus a kind of divorce is emerging between property and capital, as a result of which the latter is increasingly turning into money, while property is blurred, withdrawn from view, or represented as property of social institutions – as a result of nationalisations, socialisations that are no longer intended to pass as capitalist forms of governance.

Excursion I

The alleged feudalism in southern Italy

The opportunists’ main thesis, according to which there are still remnants of feudal relations in Italy, particularly in southern Italy, not only reflects the political tactics of compromise and denial of real socialism; It is based above all on a triple series of horrific mistakes concerning the nature of the feudal economy and social relations, the political history of southern Italy and the situation of southern Italian agriculture.

An extraordinarily disgusting thesis that is constantly hammered home by opportunism, which dominates the Italian socialist and communist movement, is that feudalism in southern Italy and on the islands unfortunately still prevails and persists, especially with regard to the badly strained issue of latifundia in the south – the highlight of sycophantic Italian politics and the rhetorical smear comedy. The fact that they justify a tactic of political block-building and collaboration with bourgeois radical parties at the level and within the framework of the decaying Roman unified state (by the way, this should also apply to Northern Italy, which is granted half and half the status of a capitalist country by these rulers) with this imaginary and fictional statement was sufficient and would suffice to call them renegades of revolutionary doctrine and action. But these people, our socialcomunisti[20], the champions of democratic bourgeois collaboration, are simply showing their contempt for our principles; for them, everything comes from an assessment of the immediate situation and they demand that the weapon of compromise be used. We must therefore make it clear that their assessment of semi-feudal conditions in southern Italy tramples underfoot any serious knowledge of the real economic and agricultural situation in the south, as well as knowledge of the different characteristics of feudal land management and, finally, of the fundamentals of the historical vicissitudes of both Sicily[21].

What is considered, by way of pity, to be a backwardness of the social development of the Mezzogiorno, analogous to the supposedly weak and poor development in Italy in general, has nothing to do with the late removal of feudal institutions, and likewise the famous underdeveloped areas are the direct product of the worst aspects and consequences of capitalist becoming in the Mediterranean Europe of the post-feudal era. If we look at the history of political struggles, we find that feudalism, understood as the control regime of the landowners’ aristocracy, has only been fought, defeated and weakened in a few countries, such as the Kingdom of both Sicily, by the authority of the state administration. This was the case both under the Spanish rule and the Bourbon king[22], as well as under the previous kingdoms, where one can go back to Frederick II, the Staufer king[23]. The repeated struggle was supported by uprisings of peasant and urban masses, and very quickly the administrators and governors of the united kingdoms of Palermo and Naples were the arbitrators of the situation. The outcome of the fight was expressed in legislation that had long been anticipated in relation to the other small Italian countries, including Piedmont, which had been left far behind; the same can be said of the control to which religious communities and the centuries-old church have been subjected by the political authorities; the remembrance of the battles in Naples on the part of the elected representatives of the people, as well as the impossibility of establishing the Inquisition here, does not have to be painted here. After the republican revolution of 1789, led by a bold and keen bourgeoisie, the historical and legal process was perfected under Joachim Murat’s stable power, and the restored Bourbon dynasty guarded against the compact and prudent legislation left by this regime in public and private law. It is therefore a trivial mistake to confuse the social history of the Mezzogiorno with that of the Bojars and Junkers[24] in northeastern Europe, who continued to dominate the serfs within independent feudal estates in order to plunder and judge them at will, while the inhabitants of southern Italy have for centuries been citizens of a modern, albeit absolutist state legal system.

As far as the structure of agriculture is concerned, the image of a feudal country is the flip side of what constitutes the shortcomings of the southern Italian Latifundia region. That picture in fact shows an agriculture which, although not intensive, is nevertheless homogeneously and broadly organised with small farms; the working population is evenly distributed on the arable land, scattered farms and small farmhouses. The village, which is unfortunately unknown to our Mezzogiorno, is the basic cell of agrarian wealth of many European countries; the feudal lords exploited it to increase their fame and the ravenous bourgeoisie rushed to leave behind sometimes only desolate land and peat bogs, as Marx explains in reference to England, and other times this rich source of income was left to endure and contented with sucking it out, as in the flat countryside of France.

The latifundia in the south and on the islands are vast, semi-developed regions where one cannot settle down and where there are no farmer’s and country houses, because the population is crowded with thousands of inhabitants as a result of a pre-industrial, yet clearly anti-feudal urbanisation, as in Puglia and Sicily. The cities are bursting at the seams, but the lowlands cannot be inhabited due to the meagre organisation and investment in labour and technology – for centuries no regime, whether national or not, has been able to remedy this situation or found it appropriate to the needs of the ruling class as it was. There are no houses, no water, there are no roads, the mountains have been deforested, there are natural and untouched waters in the plains and malaria is rife everywhere. The origins of this decline of agricultural cultivation go back a long way, farther back than feudalism, which, if it had been strong, would have counteracted it (as well as, in the Middle Ages, a real regime of decentralised and independent feudal rule would have promoted the technical and economic reclamation of the country). In view of the fact that these regions were the most prosperous and civilised of the world known to date in the time of Magna Grecia[25], and that they remained the most fertile under the rule of Rome, one must see the reasons for their decline, which have to do both with their marginal position, when feudal Germanism flooded the country with the fall of the Roman Empire (and confronting them with the alternative of being attacked and destroyed either by the peoples of the North or those of the South), as well as with the economic decline resulting from geographic discoveries overseas. Further reasons are to be found in the emergence of the capitalist colonial and industrial regime, which shifted its production centres and important transport routes in line with the basis of imperialism, i. e., resources of raw materials, now elsewhere; finally, the formation of the Italian unitary state also played a role, whose analysis would lead us too far, but which established a typically modern, capitalist and imperialist relationship and is also the precursor of this most recent phase.

In any case, before and after this unity, the mechanism of economic forces and relations was more than consistent with the characteristics of the bourgeois era, for it constituted an essential area of capitalist accumulation in Italy, the limitations of which are to be found in quantity, not quality.

Indeed, the economic climate, before and after 1860, is bourgeois by and by, despite the weak industrial development (although it must not be overlooked that the effect of national unification was noticeably negative, inasmuch as important workshops decayed and had to close down).

Of Mezzogiorno and its alleged feudalism can be said what Marx said for Germany in 1849, when he spoke to the jury in Cologne in February 1849, precisely to make it clear that – mind you – the political bourgeois and liberal revolution would still have to win:

“Big landed property was indeed the foundation of medieval, feudal society. Modern bourgeois society, our own society, is however based on industry and commerce. Landed property itself has lost all its former conditions of existence, it has become dependent on commerce and industry. Agriculture, therefore, is carried on nowadays on industrial lines, and the old feudal lords have now become producers of cattle, wool, corn, Beatrice, spirits, etc., i.e., people who trade in industrial products just as any other merchant. However much they may cling to their old prejudices, they are in fact being turned into bourgeois, who manufacture as much as possible and as cheaply as possible, who buy where they can get goods at the lowest price and sell where they can obtain the highest price. The mode of living, production and income of these gentlemen therefore gives the lie to their traditional pompous notions. Landed property, as the predominant social factor, presupposes a medieval mode of production and commerce.”

However, if the ownership of coal and iron ore in particular has turned Germany into a large mining and mechanical engineering country after this period of time (and also according to the transcript of “Capital”, which had to take as a model of a fully capitalist society England), as well as a country that operates economically modern agriculture, it is clear that the assessment of the milieu and the social situation after 100 years is even more relevant to the Mezzogiorno, which also has a completely bourgeois liberal-democratic regime for more than 90 years, a regime had to wait for Germany, after the defeats of 1848, until 1871 or even longer – if one wanted to believe the usual barren gossip about the Teutonic feudalism – had to wait.

In the south of Italy there is a lively trade in land, which is certainly more often transmitted there than in highly industrialised areas; this is precisely the determining and decisive criterion between feudal and modern economy. This is accompanied by a no less brisk trade in large and small leases and, of course, in soil products. Especially where the extensive cultivation and management of latifundia prevails, only day labourers are employed in these large economic units; for many decades now, the figure of the great capitalist tenant has prevailed, abundantly blessed with cash and warehouse stocks, that of the landowner, who is often in financial straits and crushed by the burden of mortgages. Not only is the movable capital where only cereals are grown, or where primitive livestock farming prevails, in the hands of the large tenants and not in those of the landowners, but many tenants also acquire land belonging to different owners and exploit it properly, whereby the land is not necessarily improved, but its value sometimes also decreases.

A similar assessment results from the investigation of the management of urban property. Apart from the industrial activity in the developed zones around the capitals and ports, all of these activities, which today, according to the scope and cycle of modern market movements, have for many decades led to an accumulation of capital that benefits the free, semi-protected and protected industries in the North comprehensively (long before Mussolini, Italy was at the forefront of protectionist countries). And not only have the bank deposits of the bourgeois from the south, the proprietors, entrepreneurs and traders, with their strong capital flows, always provided private finance throughout the country, but also the tax authorities, which are much more easily approaching the immovable wealth and the economic movements associated with the land than the profits and overprofits from industry, trade and speculation, have gained abundantly from the resources of the south. In any case, the capitalist economy of Italy is on the threshold of this very modern state of affairs, so it would be simply ridiculous to compare it with the circumstances of a feudal situation and to attribute to it a in reality non-existent conflict between a developed and clever bourgeoisie, which still awaits an improved and renewed liberal or meridional revolution, and the legendary “backward classes” and “reactionary classes”, so called by the obscene and modern demagogy – instead of depicting the firm alliance between the two.

The miserable role of the leading class in the South is linked to this clear picture of economic relationships. The remains of the impoverished aristocracy are after a fashion scratching along in the semi-closing houses of the largest cities; throughout southern Italy, it is not feudal lords but wealthy bourgeois, owners, traders, bankers and businessmen of less noble than uncouth calibers who play as gentlemen. The so-called “intelligence” has sunk into the ranks of middlemen and couplers of the central power of the bourgeois state in the clandestine circle of the wealth of such people, to whom it serves the crème of its pompous staff, a staff that acts as a parasite of the productive forces of all the provinces, from the commissioner of public security to the judge in red robe, from the deputy supported by all prefects, who of course casts his vote no matter what government, to the statesman who is always at the service of monarchies and capitalist republics.

Before, during and after the ventennio[26], with which so much disgrace is being played out, the social struggle in the Mezzogiorno, no less than that against the Italian state in general, has put the overcoming of the last and most recent historical forms of capitalist order on the agenda for real Marxists, but never and never the modernisation of relations and facilities that are “left behind” following the model of those on the other side of the Alps.

The thesis that feudalism persists in the south fits perfectly with the other, which interprets the fascist movement as a raising of rural bourgeois classes against the industrial bourgeoisie. The direction of the group that took the leadership of the Italian Communist Party out of the hands of the revolutionary Marxists (the so-called group of the “Ordine Nuovo”) was based from the outset on these two fundamental blunders, these blows into the water, and this was enough from the outset for an alliance policy and practice between industrial capitalists and representatives of betrayal of the proletarian cause, as we have also seen in Italy. It is not the case that the injection of the defeatist virus through the Stalinist headquarters of the International – on its global path, marked by negotiations and cooperation between the capitalist powers and their mistakenly socialist and proletarian called state – was inevitable.

[1] Principle of Roman law: The right of free disposal to use or abuse an object.

[2] Commodities occur in the sphere of circulation, not yet in the sphere of production. In the third volume of “Capital” it says:

“The product becomes a commodity by way of commerce. It is commerce which here turns products into commodities, not the produced commodity which by its movements gives rise to commerce”.

[3] In the ninth part of the work on the agricultural question (“1954-03-19 – Stepmotherly soil – pimp market”) it is said: Poetry, literature and the fable of the golden age (that once existed, for every myth is born of real life and not a mere dream; but it was not characterised by harvesting without sowing in the first cheerful and fearless communities that did not yet know landed property, but to eat after having worked before.) come to pay homage to the’ Mother of Fruits’. Mother of the fruits is labour.

[4] Roman law was developed at about 300 BC., it was the civil law of the classical period and the law of noble people, class law. It was founded on private property and “free will”. In Rome, property was first conceptualized, a legal instrument developed, especially for the protection of property. Initially, private property only had the movable things as its object.

[5] Colonus: Semi-free small tenant tied to the soil, precursor of the serf who pays the pension for his plot of arable land in kind or in money. This is a transitional form from natural economy to capitalist commodity production.

[6] “Sublation” in the sense of overcoming an old mode of production and at the same time preserving its promising sides.

[7] Sweating-system: Household industry or homework; replaced the medieval craft businesses in England; e. g. in textile production with its high demand for labour for “unskilled work”. The workers received a starvation wage and were helplessly at the mercy of illness and unemployment.

[8] See for example: Engels: “Socialism: Utopian and Scientific”, Chapter 3, 1880; or the “Marx’s Letter to V. I. Zasulich” or the three drafts of the letter, 1881.

[9] In the first volume of “Capital”, Marx mentions the interesting fact that “in book-keeping by double entry, the private expenditure of the capitalist is placed on the debtor side of his account against his capital.

[10] béguin (French): Love, crush

[11] Vade retro, Satana (lat.): Back off, Satan.

[12] See:”1929-00-00-00 – Principles of Marxist Economics (III)”, Chapter 39-41.

[13] Bukharin: „Programme of the World Revolution“, “III. General Sharing, or Co-operative Communist Production”. The revision of the party program was on the agenda of the seventh party congress in March 1918. However, the party congress did not have time to discuss the points in detail. The programme was then referred to a commission led by Lenin. In March 1919 it was accepted at the eighth party congress.

[14] It should be noted that this text was written between 1948 and 1950.

[15] Pareto, Vilfredo (1848-1923): Theorist of welfare economics, derived an “income law” from empirical studies. This worked for him like this: for example, he found out that 20% of the English families owned 80% of the national wealth, from which he concluded that the banks only needed to look after this 20% and that 80% of their order situation was secured.

[16] Einaudi, Luigi (1874-1961): President of Italy and financial scientist.

[17] “No land without landlord” and “Money has no master”.

[18] “Be brave, don’t be a scoundrel, take the sword”.

Molière: “Le Bourgeois gentilhomme”, 1670, Fourth act, 5th performance (Turkish ceremony). The Mufti speaks in Sabir, a lingua franca that was spread on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, a mixture of Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and Maltese.

[19] Laissez faire, laissez passer (French):”Let it be done and let it happen”. One of the postulates of liberalism is that the state should not interfere in economic processes: above all, the physiocrats demanded commercial freedom and free trade.

[20] The expression social-comunismo is used for the parliamentary and extra-parliamentary cooperation of the SPI and KPI in the first years after World War II. The politics of both parties developed on the basis of the united front against fascism of 1934. This pact, which was renewed in October 1946, lasted until 1957.

[21] Among the Spanish Bourbons, Sicily came to the Kingdom of Naples, which became the kingdom of both Sicily in 1816 (after the Congress of Vienna) and thus encompassed all of northern Italy, at that time it was the largest, but also economically the poorest sub-state. It existed until 1860, when it was united with the newly created Kingdom of Italy (Garibaldi).

[22] In 1799, Bourbon rule in the partial kingdom of Naples was ended by revolutionary French troops, who established the Parthenopaedic or Neapolitan Republic there together with southern Italian supporters of the revolution. However, the king, who fled under British protection to his Sicilian capital Palermo, was brought back to power by the early withdrawal of the French and a bloody antirevolutionary uprising of the rural population led by Cardinal Fabrizio Ruffo in Naples. Countless native revolutionaries were then executed. The cruel antirevolutionary furore of the Sicilian Bourbons, for example, was reflected in the Puccini opera “Tosca”, which premiered in 1900 and was carried out in the form of the rogue Bourbon police chief Baron Scarpia.

In 1806 the French emperor Napoleon I conquered Naples for the second time. The bonapartide kingdom of Naples was created in close dependence on France, initially under the reign of Napoleon’s brother Joseph Bonaparte, who moved to Spain in 1808, then under Napoleon’s brother-in-law Joachim Murat, who was able to hold his ground in Naples after Napoleon’s first fall in 1814 due to a timely change of sides, but who lost his empire in 1815 – now on the part of Napoleon, who had returned but was decisively beaten at Waterloo – and shortly afterwards lost his life.

[23] Frederick II (1194-1250), Roman-German king and emperor, whose fame is also due to his passion for science and poetry. In the southern Italian Empire, under his reign, the royal central power was strengthened by territorial administration and legislation. The first secular legal codification of the Middle Ages was enacted in 1231 with the Melfi Constitutions.

[24] Engels writes in “The Peasant Question in France and Germany” from 1894: “The power of these Junkers is grounded on the fact that within the compact territory of the seven old Prussian provinces — that is, approximately one-third of the entire territory of the Reich — they have at their disposal the landed property, which here brings with it both social and political power. And not only the landed property but, through their beet-sugar refineries and liquor distilleries, also the most important industries of this area. Neither the big landowners of the rest of Germany nor the big industrialists are in a similarly favorable positions. Neither of them have a compact kingdom at their disposal.”

[25] Magna Graecia is the name given to the regions in ancient southern Italy and Sicily, which were colonized by Greek settlers from the 8th century BC onwards.

[26] Ventennio: the time of the twenty-year fascist regime.