Technical production, technical reproduction, and universal morality. On the New Order Section of Gramsci’s Pre-Prison Writings. By Alberto Moreiras

(I am just reading, don’t blame me.)

In the article published in August of 1920, “The Programme of L’Ordine Nuovo,” Gramsci remembers how, barely one year and a half earlier, when they went about founding the review, “none of us (or perhaps just one!) was thinking in terms of changing the world, reforming the hearts and minds of the human multitudes, opening a new phase in history” (178).   The armistice had of course left behind a country in tatters, and there was turmoil and crisis everywhere.  The Italian Socialist Party was controlled by an old guard, and the Soviet Revolution was well on its way in Russia.  Gramsci says that Togliatti and himself “staged an editorial coup d’état” (181).  Against everything that had been a part of the left tradition in Italy, particularly the trade unions and the parliamentary activity, Togliatti and Gramsci decide to set things on a new footing by claiming that the Factory Council needed to be the only referent.  This is because it is only in the Factory Council that the worker “participates as a producer” (182).   Because of it, there is something of a historical necessity to the Factory Council.  It is the new, whereas the Socialist Party and the trade unions are no more than vanishing remnants and products of the bourgeois state.   This is the necessity: “In a factory, the workers are producers in the sense that they collaborate in the preparation of the object being manufactured and are deployed in a way that is determined precisely by the industrial techniques being used, which are independent (in a certain sense) of the mode of appropriation of the values that are being produced.  The workers in a car factory, whether they are metal workers, vehicle builders, electricians, joiners, etc., all take on the function of producers in that they are all equally necessary and indispensable in the construction of the car, in that, industrially organized as they are, they form a historically necessary and absolutely indivisible entity” (183).   The project can be clearly formulated.  The “new phase in history” must do away with anything that is not geared to giving “a specifically proletarian profile to the apparatus of production and exchange that was developed by capitalism for the purpose of making profits” (183).

It must be noted that the organization of the new society must have a technical necessity and it must follow the imperative of generalized productionism, now immeasurably more accomplished as it will have done away with the shackles and fetters bourgeois domination imposed.  “Just as in a factory, the workers form a pattern, governed by the production of a particular object, which unites and co-ordinates metal- and wood-workers, builders, electricians, etc., so in the city the proletarian class adopts a pattern determined by the prevailing industry, which by its existence orders and governs the entire urban complex.  So, too, on a national scale, a people adopts the pattern determined by its exports and the real contribution the nation makes to the economic life of the world” (184).  Gramsci says they are not pulling this out of a hat.  On the contrary, what is at stake is “a translation for Italian historical conditions of the ideas developed by Comrade Lenin” (184).  But the ultimate horizon is the Marxian specification of “the industrial character of the communist society of producers” (184).

Technical production rules.  The proletarian revolution must follow the technical imperative.  Production is all, and proletarian production will be better and more accomplished than anything the liberal-bourgeois society could manage to do.  Unleashing production under the rule of the proletariat, through dictatorship, is paramount, and it will be done whatever it takes.  In the article on “The Communist Party,” from September-October of the same year, Gramsci says: “Every revolution that, like the Christian and the communist, comes about and can only come about through a stirring of the vast popular masses at their deepest level, cannot do other than break down and destroy the entire existing system of social relations” (188).  The destructive fury of the revolution is such that even “the sentiment of [working-class] solidarity” is destined to vanish: “the enemy to be fought and defeated will no longer be outside the proletariat—a defined and manageable external physical presence.  It will be within the proletariat itself: in its ignorance, its sluggishness, its ponderous slowness in grasping new insights.  The dialectic of the class struggle will have become internalized and in every conscience the newly created man will have to be on his guard every moment against the bourgeois lying in ambush” (189).  That this radical police function of the new movement, to be led of course by the Communist Party, which mandates an internal self-vigilance against the inner bourgeois, can be saluted as “the development of freedom” is one of those scandals of history already clearly represented by the Spanish Inquisition.   The new communist society will be a negative community whose content is to be defined by those who are expelled from it.  The Communist Party will give “a new, proletarian order to the existing arrangement of physical forces” and it will “lay the foundations of popular liberty” by expelling from its order every one who gives in to some other, alternative order.  “At the present moment, the Communist Party is the only institution that may be seriously compared with the religious communities of primitive Christianity” (189-90).   The “moral life” organized by the Communist Party “is destined to become the universal consciousness and the ultimate end of all men” (192).

The industrial configuration of society imposes an industrial discipline on the social.  Every worker must fulfill its function in the name of social productionism, and there is nothing else.  Except, of course, the Party: “The Communist Party is the instrument and the historical form of the process of inner liberation through which the worker is transformed from executor to initiator, from mass to leader and guide, from pure brawn to a brain and a will” (191).

Yes, there is something properly Christian to this, Pauline in fact.  Inner liberation is precisely that: the radical internalization of the mandate for infinite technical productionism, which is akin to the Pauline mandate of love, which exceeds and liberates from the law.  The Church, now become the Party, will watch over you, to help you along not to deviate.


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