26 April 2010

Article: Capital and Democracy

In 2006, the Hungarian anarchist "Barricade Collective" wrote an introduction and commentary, titled "Capital and Democracy", to a 1969 text by French communist theorist Jacques Camatte ("La mystification démocratique").

Both an undated English translation of the original text by Camatte, "The Democratic Mystification", and the more recent introduction and commentary (which may or may not have been written in Hungarian initially) can be read free of charge here:


Excerpts from the introduction: "The dead labour's independence [as value] and its dominance over living productive activity – this necrophilia of capital – yields the present disgusting relationship between individuals and the loathsome ideology which adheres to it: the practice and the theory of bourgeois democracy. [...] Democracy assumes different forms according to the forms of productive labour and the extension of commodity production. Ancient democracy was an internal affair of the ruling class, because only free citizens were commodity owners (namely owners of the land, the slaves and their products). In modern bourgeois democracy everybody is a commodity owner, and the key commodity for the bourgeoisie – labour force – is put on the market by the working class. Hence, democracy is total now. [...] Political parties – i.e. the parties of the bourgeoisie, including the social democratic parties – have never represented more than the alternatives of the development of capital, in other words the interests of some ruling class groups. The democratic (parliamentary) principle was the guarantee that the political management would not separate from the interests of aggregate capital. [...]

"When capital comes to a profound crisis, it seems to break with the democratic principle. During the crisis, a huge mass of constant capital loses its value and is unable to function further as capital, to produce surplus value by absorbing variable capital. So the crisis of constant capital is also the crisis of variable capital, which manifests itself in the fall of (real) wages and massive unemployment. Capitalism is unable to handle such crises through the usual reconciliation of interests between capitals (parliamentarism) and the reconciliation of interests between capital and the working class (trade unionism). In such cases, the strongest representative of capital undertakes the task of capitalism's re-structuring, for capital's survival. The main elements of this are the destruction of those capitals which have lost their value and the destruction of the unnecessary labour force – open or hidden war. [...] Facing this phenomenon, leftists shout: 'Capitalism betrays democracy! Capital is capable of sacrificing democracy for its own interests!' Some go so far as to try to prove theoretically that capitalism can never be democratic.

"In contrast to this, it is extremely important to emphasize that the 'anti-democratism' of capital during crises is an absolutely democratic phenomenon. The case is exactly that it tries to maintain the commodity-owner individuals, private property. Capital is obliged to infringe the political rights proclaimed by capital itself (freedom of press, assembly and speech) if they hinder the process of capital's reproduction (production, circulation or both), and democracy between the people is the first precondition for this reproduction. A revolutionary situation is the peak of capitalism's crisis. [...] Revolutionaries who want to fight consistently against capitalism cannot make any compromise with democracy. Democracy is the form of existence of those who have been alienated from the human community, 'of those who have lost their original organic unity with the community'
(Camatte). Therefore the communist revolution which means the creation of human community cannot be victorious without the total destruction of this way of existence." (italics removed)

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