Space versus Cement – Il Programa Comunista

Vil

We’re in a hurry. Is that okay?

The earth, on the crust of which we live, is shaped like a ball or a sphere. Let us digress for a moment: this concept, which for thousands of years has been extremely difficult for even the most brilliant scientists to understand, is now familiar to a seven-year-old child; this shows how stupid the distinction between easy and difficult to understand is. That is why a doctrine which affirms the existence of a great course of history, accomplished by great leaps and bounds by the new generation of classes, would be meaningless if it allowed itself to be stopped by the concern to present to the advancing, revolutionary class only pills of easy concepts.

Unlike Silvio Gigli[1], we are going to pose to you some very, very difficult problems. But we will give you the questions and answers.

So, this ball, the Earth, has a diameter of about 12,700 kilometres, which we have calculated by measuring its belly, on which we have transferred forty million times the standard metre of platinum kept in Paris at the International Institute of Weights and Measures. How did they get over water? But let’s leave the joking aside and stop imitating those who speak unintelligibly for the sake of unintelligibility, so that we can say of them: How cultured! You really don’t understand anything! This darkness is the basis of the glory of ninety-nine percent of great men.

Therefore, by means of a small calculation (fourth grade level), we establish that the surface of the Earth is five hundred million square kilometres. The seas occupy more than two thirds of it, and only 150 million remain to walk on it dry. Among these are the polar caps, the deserts, the very high mountains, and therefore it is assumed that the human species – the only one that now lives in all areas of the sphere together with its domestic animals – is left with 125 million.

Since today the books say that “we are” around 2,500 million, we human animalcules who stick our noses into everything, it is clear that, on average, our species has one square kilometre for every twenty of its members.

At school, therefore, we say: average population density of inhabited land: twenty souls (in fact we don’t count the corpses of the dead, which are much more numerous) per square kilometre.

We all have an idea of what twenty people represent; as for the square kilometre, it is not difficult to imagine. We are in Milan: this is the space that occupies the Park between the Arco del Sempione and the Castello Sforzesco, including the Arena. Since fifty thousand people manage to squeeze into the stadium of the Arena for the big football games, a square kilometre can hold, with a compact crowd (meetings of Mussolini, Togliatti and others) five million souls – barely – more than the combined population of Milan, Rome and Naples, 250,000 times more than the average density on earth.

Thus, if the twenty unfortunate symbolic average men stood at the intersections of a net of equal meshes, they would be 223 metres apart. They would not even be able to talk to each other. What a disaster it would be if they were women, and even more so if they were candidates for Parliament.

But man is not rooted to the ground like trees, nor is he piled up in colonies like the madrepores we were talking about last time, and, by moving in a thousand ways, he has established himself very irregularly in the different spaces that make up the bark of the planet.

In Italy, the population density is 140 people per square kilometre, which is seven times higher than the general average. The most densely populated province is Naples: 1,500 people per square kilometre, 55 times the earth’s average. The countries with the highest density in Europe (and in the world) are Belgium, Holland and England (excluding Scotland), which are around 300, i.e. 15 times the average density. The European country with the lowest density is, together with Sweden and Norway, Russia: 29 inhabitants per square kilometre for the European part, hardly more than the world average.

The density of the various continents is 53 for Europe and 30 for Asia. But then there is an impressive drop below the average: Central and North America: 8.5; Africa: 6.7; South America: 6.3; Australia-Oceania: 1.5. This is thirteen times less than the world average density.

The density of the United States is 19, which is lower than that of European Russia (i.e. down to the Urals and the Caucasus). This coincides perfectly with the earth’s average: is that why they want it all for themselves?

That said, in the U.S. the population is extremely unevenly distributed: even without taking into account the small districts, it goes from 0.5 in the Nevada desert to 240 in the teeming New Jersey, which is a little smaller than Lombardy.

Finally, it should be noted that the population density in the R.S.F.S.R., which includes Siberia, is only 6.8. As for the U.S.S.R. as a whole, its density is 9 inhabitants per square kilometre, and the most populous of the federated republics is Ukraine, located in the west, with 70 inhabitants per square kilometre.

The Human Beehives

If we neglect the “dispersed” population, mostly rural, and if we take into account only the men who are “agglomerated” in the cities, we can observe, as we have already noted, a leap in the density, the figures being in the cities about a thousand times higher than the world average: as the scientists say, we move to another order of magnitude. It is not difficult to understand that the population of the countryside, considered in isolation, in each district, whether large or small, is, on the contrary, less dense than the average.

Establishing the number of scattered men and the number of men that are agglomerated, say in the world or in Italy, is, on the other hand, a most difficult problem. Even if we add up the populations of cities that exceed a certain arbitrarily chosen threshold, say 5,000 inhabitants, the conclusion is distorted by the fact that we have the figures for the municipalities. In Rome, for example, where the municipality is much larger than the city, the figure includes a scattered part of the population. On the other hand, for London, where the municipality is much smaller than the city, the figure includes the entire agglomerated population, and therefore the population of “Greater London” must be added in whole or in part. Let’s take a wild guess: if we consider the whole world, we can say that one fifth of the population lives in cities, given that this proportion is zero in Central Africa, whereas in Belgium at least four out of ten people live in cities.

In any case, here are the new figures which, given the new order of magnitude, are normally expressed in relation to the hectare, but which we will continue to give in relation to the square kilometre (i.e. a hundred times more). Greater London (which is still being expanded by projects under way according to the system of satellite cities, each of which has about 50,000 inhabitants and is located at an average distance of twenty kilometres from the historic centre) has a population of eight and a half million inhabitants on its 600 square kilometres. Density: 14 000. Apart from the filthy Jewish, Chinese or Italian districts, you can still breathe in London. The most congested city in Italy, Naples, has an urban area of 800 hectares, or 8 square kilometres, with a population of no less than 600,000 out of the one million inhabitants of the administrative municipality, which is made up of neighbouring municipalities: the density reaches the almost inhuman figure of 75,000 inhabitants per square kilometre, or 3,750 times the earth’s average. Even if we consider only the municipality of Naples, with its 12 traditional districts, and therefore without taking account of the ‘villages’, the density is still 45 000 inhabitants per square kilometre, three times that of London. If we consider an abstract model, like a nineteenth-century city, with five-storey residential houses and fairly wide streets occupying four tenths of the total area, a simple technical calculation shows that each local or ‘room’ occupies about 5 square metres ‘covered’ and 3 square metres ‘urban’[2]. However, only one out of three room is used for housing; on average (in Italy), each room accommodates one and a half persons (for example, a family of six members has four rooms). Thus, each inhabitant has, so to speak, about 16 square metres in the compact city, which, hygienically speaking, is barely tolerable. We therefore have a density of 60,000 inhabitants per square kilometre. Where there are gardens, parks, etc., in addition to streets and squares, the density improves, i.e. decreases.

Therefore, the historical process that, with its thousand aspects, has amassed men in the cities in the advanced countries, has brought them on average from a national density of 200 (Central Europe more populous: ten times the Earth) to an urban density that in the best assumptions, of true garden cities, exceeds 20 thousand men per square kilometre (one hundred times more than that of the nation, one thousand times more than that of the Earth).

We know that the origin of this accumulation is almost entirely due to the effects of the capitalist era. The pre-capitalist regimes were in fact content with few and by no means immense capitals dominating myriads of rural villages.

But capitalism still does not want to stop, and in fact, in this field as in all others, it cannot. It is even this very important phenomenon that defines it. It is quantitative measures that count, not qualitative, political and propagandistic labels. Anything that reduces man’s space is capitalism.

La Cité Radieuse

There were those who thought and – unfortunately – implemented better; Mr. Charles-Edouard Jeanneret from Geneva, an architect by profession. Who is he? Just a moment, you know him too: the great men change their names, and what resonates throughout the world is Le Corbusier.

The citizen Le Corbusier belongs to that category of fellow intellectuals that alone constitutes a phenomenon sufficient to disgust the big boys who once called themselves proletarians and communists. Indeed, much is said about him and, what is worse, about his theories and methods, in the Soviet press and in all the newspapers and magazines that are his projection in the world, just as much as was said about him in the fascist and Nazi press in the past. Moreover, imitations and applications of his style are encouraged, some of which constitute the charms of the immense Moscow, the daughter of ten different types of human organisation, which stretches sovereignly over grandiose spaces and whose dominating force always resided in distance and space, in the low and spaced construction whose fire stopped the poisonous wave of capitalism by overturning Bonaparte in the Berezina.

Today, Moscow can do nothing less than rival New York. But skyscrapers and paranoia à la Le Corbusier are not the same thing. One should not believe that the twelve million New Yorkers are cramped more in their urban constellation than Londoners, despite the greater height of the buildings. In a thirty-storey building, first of all, the proportion between apartments and offices is not 1 to 3 but 1 to 10 or 20; the maximum height is only reached in a narrow spire, the streets are at least ten times wider than in the typical 19th century European cities whose “indices” of overcrowding we have calculated above, each inhabitant has at his disposal a small apartment and not two thirds of a room, and so on; so that in the end the density is the same, and does not go beyond the said twenty thousand per square kilometre, and indeed beats the 14,000 of the Greater London, no doubt about it.

We have read a brilliant description of the building that Le Corbusier designed and had built in Marseilles under his direction. The author of the article has some effective formulas. For example, when he says that in the 330 cells for 1,600 tenants “space is more precious than uranium”, this is not a caricature, but a consistent way of reporting on Corbusier’s doctrines: “Le Corbusier anticipates with his buildings the bright future of humanity, which has no land to expand at its leisure”. “His architecture is an anguished struggle against the superfluous, an anxious race towards the conquest of space for life”.

However, more than impressions and value judgements that may be influenced by the prejudices of the writer, what matters to us, as we said, are numbers. Here, a few orecchists can learn what it means when quantity is transformed into quality, and not, inappropriately, in terms of the class-party relationship.

The principle of the super-exploitation of space goes as far as these mindless tendencies: superimposing the greenery of urban gardens (tomorrow also that of wheat and potato fields!), transit roads and the covered area of buildings vertically on the same space. Verticalism, this deformed doctrine is called; capitalism is verticalist. Communism will be “horizontalist”. For the imperial dictatorship, Caius Julius had advised to cut off the heads “of the highest poppies”[3], for the proletarian dictatorship it will be advisable to do the same not only with the heads but also with these high constructions. We could respect a Michelangelo or a Bernini and maybe a bourgeois Eiffel or Antonelli, but certainly not this “democratic” Jeanneret.

Man or sardine?

So, the first prototype of what is no longer a house but a unité d’habitation, which is supposed to become a neighbourhood, opposing a ridge of land, in sunny and Mediterranean Marseille, rests on 36 bare pillars, under which, since there are no walls on the ground floor, pass the street and a so-called garden. The official morons are stunned by it, but technically, this “realisation” (the great word of the reactionaries, for whom everything exists prius in intellectu, first in the heads, more or less twisted, and then in facto, in other words in the vile and passive matter) is within the reach of any good master-mason who has in his pocket a 100-page manual (the master-mason being, for his part, respectable). This rectangle placed on its 36 pillars, we estimate it to be about 800 square metres: if anyone has any objections, please send us the plan and the elevation. Above the empty height of the ground floor there are not nine floors, but nine roads or corridors, to which the apartment cells give access, where each cubic decimetre is designed to serve as furniture, utensils and, lastly, as space for the use of the inhabitant, who must be careful not to exceed the measurements of the plan. We, too, are tempted to be ironic in describing the operating room designed to resize individuals that are too long or too wide…

There are 330 cells on nine floors for 1,600 inhabitants who are subject to strict regulations for the use of individual and common spaces. Let’s not dwell on the aspects of the installation and the life of the inhabitants of this structure, which the above-mentioned journalist has fun calling a golden penitentiary, a large grey shack, and a ghost ship. Let us remember this figure: according to the project, there are 1,600 inhabitants. Keeping 1,600 cretins on 800 square metres means going down from 10 square metres roofed per inhabitant to half a square metre! But let’s be careful, and suppose that not all the units will be housing units, that there will be units for work and public services and that therefore the inhabitant will occupy a space of one and a half metres (let’s be clear: there are nine floors, to speak in the old way, and in the house itself everyone has about 5 square metres – the size of a small storeroom – to move around with the various furniture and appliances).

We could thus reach 650,000 people per square kilometre. But if we include 30 per cent for the streets and squares – assuming that artificial light and air conditioning will still not make it possible to put the various parallelepipeds directly in contact with each other, by blocking entrances and windows – we come down to 400,000 inhabitants per square kilometre. If we even plan for vast empty spaces and parks, Le Corbusier, an excellent hoarder, will still have managed to fit 200,000 bipeds over one square kilometre.

So nature has given the human species enough land to give us twenty per square kilometre.

Civilisation and history have wanted us in advanced nations to begin to squeeze together ten times as much: let us say that we can speak of progress all the same.

But the urban type of organisation has established that the richest and most advanced men in culture and wisdom would meet in cities, where they would be a thousand times more cramped!

The capitalist mania for amassing sardine men did not stop there; the Le Corbusiers, who deliberately cover their eyes, we are not talking about uninhabited deserts as there may be in Canada or Australia, but about the expanses of fields with green harvests, which alone are the source of this life in the fullness of which they claim to provide, they want to amass at least ten times more. By thus making the living undergo a density ten thousand times greater than the earth’s average, perhaps they think that such ratios will contribute to the multiplication of human ants!

Anyone who applauds such tendencies should not be considered only as a defender of capitalist doctrines, ideals and interests, but as an accomplice in the pathological tendencies of the supreme stage of capitalism in decay and dissolution, by dint of praising their science and technology and their ability to overcome all obstacles, founded cities on their own excrement (as Engels said) and intended to organise human life in such a “functional” way that the inhabitants of this ultra-rational system would no longer be able to distinguish the bathtub from the sewer.

The revolutionary struggle for the destruction of the dreadful sprawling agglomerations can be defined as follows: communist oxygen versus capitalist cesspool. Space versus cement.

The race to overcrowding is not due to lack of space. In spite of human prolificness, which is also the daughter of class oppression, space abounds everywhere. What provokes the race to overcrowding are the demands of the capitalist mode of production, which inexorably pushes ever further its prospect of work in masses of men.

Yesterday

The saving on “constant capital”

Since we do not write to immerse ourselves in the intoxication of the creative spirit but because we are at the service of party work, we must, as usual, take a break to prove that we are not launching a new discourse, or even discovering a new law of history, but that we are walking firmly in the footsteps of established doctrine.

Marx after having described in the first book of “Capital” the process of capitalist production, which, although framed in the wider social and historical field, presents above all the class relationship between capitalists and workers within the firm; and after having studied in the second book the circulation of capital, that is, its reproduction by means of that part of manufactured commodities which do not go to direct consumption, but are instruments of further production, he confronts in the third and incomplete book “the process of capitalist production as a whole” which leads to the “concrete forms” which are really encountered in society, as “the action of different capitals upon one another, in competition, and in the ordinary consciousness of the agents of production themselves”.[4]

The exposition was obviously to end with chapters that would have dealt, as we have often said, with the question of the “political” action of the struggling classes and the consciousness of class action, as the final effect and superstructure of everything else.

In the fifth chapter, before arriving at establishing the law of the tendency of the average rate of profit to fall, Marx deals with a point of first importance: the economy (savings), in the use of constant capital.

Dialectically (this is one of the points that Stalin misreported, if not misunderstood, in his famous text), capital, like every capitalist, does everything to raise its profit, and therefore also the rate of its profit[5]. If capitalist society wanted or could oppose the discoveries and inventions that increase the productivity of human labour, only then would capitalist society succeed in avoiding the fall of the rate of profit, by disproportionately increasing the number of exploited proletarians without continuously increasing consumption (cf. Dialogue with Stalin, Third Day). But unable to do this, capital struggles with other means to delay and slow down the fall of the rate of profit, a fall that accumulation and concentration nevertheless make completely compatible with the unlimited increase of the total mass of profits and the profit of each enterprise.

In each firm the profit of capital is the excess of the selling price of all the goods produced (e.g. in the year) over their cost, or cost of production. Therefore capital tries to sell at a high price, and to reduce production costs. Further on Marx will deal with the effect of the change in market prices; for now, however, he discusses the cost of production.

In Marxist theory, the cost of production is divided into two parts: variable capital, which is the advanced expenditure for all wages and salaries, and constant capital, which is the sums spent to acquire raw materials and to keep plants, machinery, etc., running at all times. We are not talking here about the obvious way to increase profit, which is to lower wages, and moreover this is not the general trend of capitalism, at least in the period following the decades of most ferocious exploitation. Historically, the worker’s wage increases in current figures and even in constant value expressed in non-depreciated currency, for example in lire or in 1914 dollars; but if it is measured in terms of average social labour time, it decreases, even though the worker’s standard of living has increased, because the increase in labour productivity, in technical terms, has lowered the value, if not the price, of all the commodities that the worker consumes. But this is a question we will address later.

For the moment, let us suppose that the selling price and the price of wages remain unchanged: it is obvious that capital will try to reduce the cost of the constant part of the spent capital. Not only are there various ways of achieving this goal, but it is a decisive tendency of the capitalist economy to move in this direction.

Marx sets aside a first way: the lengthening of the working day for equal pay (and even if the wage increases proportionally, or if overtime is paid at a higher rate). In this case, in fact, if one does not, of course, save on raw materials, one saves on the use of machines and buildings by shortening the duration of the “rotation”, that is, the length of the production cycle they allow to be carried out. It should be noted that one means frequently used by capitalism to achieve such savings is to introduce continuous work shifts, which in addition, for example, by preventing the cooling of furnaces, saves energy and therefore profit.

Threefold Parasitism

But even assuming that the workers manage to refuse any increase, even paid, in working time, there are three other ways of reducing the expense of constant capital:

  1. Enlarge or regroup the companies. The very fact of associating previously isolated workers – even if no changes are made to work techniques – leads to enormous savings: construction of a single workplace, savings on lighting, heating, and other overheads, etc. Thus, even if the hand tools remain the same, innumerable small forges scattered around represent an enormous dispersion of heat compared to a single large forge served by an army of forgers; and one can think of hundreds of other examples. “This total economy, arising as it does from the concentration of means of production and their use en masse, imperatively requires, however, the accumulation and co-operation of labourers, i.e., a social combination of labour. Hence, it originates quite as much from the social nature of labour, just as surplus-value originates from the surplus-labour of the individual labourer considered singly.”[6]
  2. The recovery of scraps, the waste products of any production, which thus become raw material for further processing (by-products) insofar as they are now available in large quantities, whereas in the case of small-scale production they were simply thrown away. This is a source of savings on production expenditure, and therefore a source of capitalist profit, which also results solely from the social character of labour.
  3. Technical improvement due to new inventions, the introduction of new machines, etc., in enterprises in other sectors which produce at a lower price the raw materials, machines, installations necessary for the enterprise in question. Progress due to the very fact of mass production, which stimulates human intelligence and encourages it to solve technical problems that small production did not even pose itself because it did not need them, therefore, here again, produces a benefit, not social, but to the advantage of capital. “The characteristic feature of this kind of saving of constant capital arising from the progressive development of industry is that the rise in the rate of profit in one line of industry depends on the development of the productive power of labour in another. Whatever falls to the capitalist’s advantage in this case is once more a gain produced by social labour, if not a product of the labourers he himself exploits. Such a development of productive power is again traceable in the final analysis to the social nature of the labour engaged in production; to the division of labour in society; and to the development of intellectual labour, especially in the natural sciences. What the capitalist thus utilises are the advantages of the entire system of the social division of labour. It is the development of the productive power of labour in its exterior department, in that department which supplies it with means of production, whereby the value of the constant capital employed by the capitalist is relatively lowered and consequently the rate of profit is raised”[7].

It is on these essential quotations that comrades, even among the best, who reduce the antagonism of interests to the simple duel between the capitalist and his worker, to the higher or lower wage he pays him, and who thus confine this antagonism within the framework of the firm at the most, should be invited to reflect on these essential quotations. The antagonism between the social classes is in fact based on a completely different appropriation: that which capital achieves on a much larger scale by seizing, for the benefit of its own domination, all the fruits of the improvement in social efficiency, which results from the combination of the workers and the reduction of the average working time contained in the products. If direct surplus value were eliminated, the worker could work only six hours instead of eight; but if we take into account the increase in social efficiency, with the elimination of all the waste formerly due to piecemeal production, and the grandiose technical inventions, one should work only one hour a day.

Where to Strike

And it is precisely the field of surplus value that will be taken away from the capitalist but not given to the worker, who will have to contribute to the services of general organisation. The conquest will therefore not take place there, but in social organisation, which will no longer be oriented towards the profit of capital, but towards the improvement of the living conditions of living labour. In socialist society, in truth, the worker will only provide society with just “surplus labour”; his “necessary labour” will be reduced because of the increase in technical power, due to the ten steel slaves that each of us could have today, whereas a century ago we had none.

Today, on the contrary, the capitalist system considers that all these infinite resources are inherent to capital, that they are virtues proper to capital and that the worker is completely alien to the conditions in which work is carried out. The capitalist, like the imperfect Marxists, sees in the amount of the wage “the only transaction” between himself and his worker. The latter would therefore not have to be interested in the savings made on constant capital, but only in those that one would try to make on variable capital, on the money spent for his month. In fact, in order to save on everything, capital saves above all on the safety and hygiene of human working conditions. Which brings us back to our theme: city and countryside, cement and space, sewer and oxygen. “Such economy extends to overcrowding close and unsanitary premises with labourers, or, as capitalists put it, to space saving; to crowding dangerous machinery into close quarters without using safety devices; to neglecting safety rules in production processes pernicious to health, or, as in mining, bound up with danger, etc. Not to mention the absence of all provisions to render the production process human, agreeable, or at least bearable. From the capitalist point of view this would be quite a useless and senseless waste. The capitalist mode of production is generally, despite all its niggardliness, altogether too prodigal with its human material, just as, conversely, thanks to its method of distribution of products through commerce [hey, hey, from Moscow!] and manner of competition, it is very prodigal with its material means, and loses for society what it gains for the individual capitalist.”[8]

From this powerful chapter of Capital, of programmatic essence (not to be read at the hairdresser’s where it is better to ask for the latest issue of Sélection), we will now quote only the conclusion: “The far greater cost of operating an establishment based on a new invention as compared to later establishments arising ex suis ossibus. This is so very true that the trail-blazers generally go bankrupt, and only those who later buy the buildings, machinery, etc., at a cheaper price, make money out of it. It is, therefore, generally the most worthless and miserable sort of money-capitalists who draw the greatest profit out of all new developments of the universal labour of the human spirit and their social application through combined labour”.[9]

Such is the description, worthy of Michelangelo’s chisel, and made in advance, of this cursed century which unfolds its splendour in the cult of the triumphant beast.

Today

Inflationary Techniques

If small reformist laws have changed something in the organisation of the factory by imposing on the capitalist certain security expenses, which he recovers a hundredfold elsewhere, the concept of Marx quoted above is particularly effective if we apply it to “town planning”. Saving incidental expenses is the criminal motive which the capitalist regularly and sufficiently asserts, and which is echoed by the stupidity of the cardboard opponents who are paid to play the same tune; in order to save incidental expenses, one piles up next to the big cities, in the big cities themselves, in the midst of dwellings whose density is growing at a frenetic rate and factories frequently stuck to these dwellings or “surrounded” by them because of the incessant growth of the population and urbanisation, deposits of harmful substances, explosives and war devices, mainly because of the accumulation in urban areas of marshalling yards and depots, ports, airports and other services. The resulting accidents are part of the daily chronicle, a chronicle which takes a particularly sadistic turn at the beginning of 1953 when a whole series of disasters were recorded which unfortunately will not end there. This situation is favoured by lightness and the arrogance of technical bureaucracies, which increases in a frightening crescendo from war to war, who collaborate with them. And war itself no longer seems as dangerous when production and life are bloody. Nor is it understood that the only measure in the opposite direction is: thinning! Interpose greater distances between the various services and at least stop the installation of new monsters in the heart of inhabited areas and industrial zones. The lesson of carpet bombing and coventrating[10] has served no real purpose.

Capital freed the serfs whom feudal vassalage had nailed to the ground, with serious disfigurement of human dignity, but it proved none the less to be an excellent formula to keep, for example, the territorial density uniform in France. They were forced to stay put, but somewhere where they could eat and sleep and spread out as much as they needed. Urbanisation responded to the needs of rampant manufacturing and the historical conquest of “combined labour”. As long as the place of production consisted of an immense room with a post for each craftsman, it was clear that there was nothing else to do and that the crowding of innumerable workers into a small space to work, inhabit and live made it possible to produce much greater wealth. When the wage earners were given a standard of living a crumb higher than that of the artisans and country bumpkins, the enormous mass of profit was used primarily to enlarge and beautify the cities: whereas in the old regime a royal palace was sufficient, in the new regime the ruling class needed a hundred different places to carry out its operations and to entertain itself.

But all the countless technical inventions followed certainly did not lead to a further increase in the number of operators in little places. On the contrary. If we were looking for an index defined as “technological density” given by the number of workers that must be collected in a given space, for a given production, we would see that the general law is that this density tends to decrease.

In the mechanical industry an enormous number of operations that were carried out by groups of labourers and a series of specialised workers are simplified by the use of automatic mechanisms or remotely operated by very few operators in front control panels. The area of the Fiat plants has grown more than the number of workers, and production has grown even greater.

Marx had already been able to describe the revolution that followed the replacement of the manual loom by the mechanical loom in the textile industry, which led to a sharp drop in the number of workers for the same quantity of spindles. In flour mills today, we have mechanical mills where all the tools are operated by a single operator, from the pouring of wheat into the hoppers to the discharge of sacks of flour. And so on and so forth.

Even on arable land, when the tractor replaces the spade or the plough pulled by animals, there is a huge drop in the number of farmers for the same farm and for the same area of cultivated land.

And finally, another example can be drawn from navigation. In the triremes and galleys a boat of a few tens of tons contained a hundred and more oarsmen, slaves or criminals, chained to the benches. Today, a much smaller number of crew and manoeuvring personnel, and less than that of the less ancient sailing ships, is enough to drive a transatlantic liner of five thousand tons.

Coordinate, not suffocate!

With the inventions and the enormous increase in labour productivity, the coordination of many workers remains, but it no longer has reason to be the beastly elbow-to-elbow clustering. This is even true of war! After all, Fourier and Marx were not wrong in defining the factories as prisons, to which, since then, supposed defenders of the workers have raised stupid hymns idealising them as opposed to rural production, which at least torments (even in the ancient forms) the muscles, but does not intoxicate the lungs and liver.

The most modern forms of production, using networks of stations of all kinds, such as hydroelectric power stations, communications, radio, television, increasingly give a unique operational discipline to workers spread out in small groups over enormous distances.

Combined work remains, in ever larger and more marvellous weaves, and autonomous production disappears more and more. But the technological density mentioned above is constantly decreasing. The urban and productive agglomeration remains therefore not for reasons dependent on the optimum of production, but for the durability of the profit economy and the social dictatorship of capital.

When, after having crushed by force this dictatorship, which is becoming more obscene by the day, it will be possible to subordinate every solution and every plan to the improvement of the conditions of living labour, shaping for this purpose what is dead labour, constant capital, the infrastructure that mankind has given over the centuries and continues to give to the earth’s crust, then the crude verticalism of the cement monsters will be ridiculed and suppressed, and in the immense expanses of horizontal space, the giant cities once deflated, the strength and intelligence of the animal-man will gradually tend to make the density of life and work uniform over the inhabitable land; and these forces will henceforth be in harmony, and will no longer be fierce enemies as in the deformed civilisation of today, where they are united only by the spectre of servitude and hunger.

Source: “Il Programma Comunista”, No. 1 of 8-24 January 1953.


[1] Radio host at the time.

[2] This calculation is based on an average area of 25 m2 per room. For a 5-storey house, 5 superimposed rooms occupy 25 m2 on the floor (covered), i.e. 5 m2 per room. Since the roads occupy 4/10 of the total surface area, a rule of three shows that the 5 m2 covered area corresponds to 3.3 m2 of roads (“urban”). Each 25 m2 room corresponds to 1.5 inhabitants, so each inhabitant has an average of 16 m2 of living space.

[3] Italian expression equivalent to “big shots”.

[4] “Capital”, vol III, Chapter I.

[5] In his “Economic Problems of Socialism in the U.S.S.R.“, Stalin maintained that it was false that “the law of the average rate of profit” (sic) is “the fundamental law of present-day capitalism”, because “present-day monopoly capitalism does not demand average profit, but maximum profit”. Consequently, the “fundamental law of present-day capitalism” became that of “maximum profit”. Stalin’s thesis (which reveals a poor understanding of Marxist theory), has been refuted in our text “Dialogue with Stalin“.

[6] “Capital”, vol III, Chapter 3.

[7] “Capital”, vol III, Chapter 3.

[8] “Capital”, vol III, Chapter 3.

[9] “Capital”, vol III, Chapter 3.

[10] Allusion to the massive bombing of cities inaugurated during the Second World War, of which the English city of Coventry was one of the first victims.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Next Post

The Theory of Alienation: Marx's Debt to Hegel - Raya Dunayevskaya

One of many contributions to the exploration of Marx's relationship to Hegel. The text proves itself to be a firm baseline for an enhanced understanding of the concept of Subjectivity within Marx and thus of the relationship of Theory and Praxis, ideas which are unexplainable in the absence of their mediator; Revolutionary organisation.