On the Dictatorship of the Proletariat
October 22, 2022
The Psychosis of Anti-Theory
Revolutionary socialists are often accused, by the right, of having a lust for violence and a lack of concern about corruption. For example, in his debate with Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek, Jordan Peterson states:
Marx had this crazy idea… a dictatorship of the proletariat [that] could come about… the first stage in... a bloody violent revolution and the overthrow of all… existing social structures.
Now, this claim is only partially correct in that revolutionary socialists do see that revolution, even violent revolution, is a likely aspect of the development of socialism . However, this violence is not the goal of revolutionary socialism but rather the concern of the socialist party, and it is here where we must first distinguish that one’s concern is not one’s goal. I am concerned with ensuring that the engine in my car runs well, but my goal is to drive to my destination. Revolutionary socialism would be a total misnomer if the term ‘socialism’ didn’t gesture, somewhat weakly, at its actual goal. This goal is the dictatorship of the proletariat, the rule of the proletariat first over capitalism and then over whatever society may come after.
Here, the socialist party is revolutionary because this goal, the dictatorship of the proletariat, necessitates a revolutionary understanding of violence, production, political association, and theory. But people fixate on violence, whether they view revolution as horror or an opportunity for revenge.
For a proper revolutionary socialist movement, revolution does not serve as a moment of revenge or even mere apotheosis. Rather, revolutionary socialists concern themselves with revolution because capitalism necessarily produces crises followed by counter-revolutionary cycles that demand working-class intervention. Suppose there is no such intervention by some section of the working class during the crisis. In that case, the counter-revolutionary threat is far greater than it could be. Capitalism produces these crises with or without the implementation of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Further, any such movement out of capitalism will encounter at least the crises created by its own self-substantiation --- that is, crises occur with or without our intervention, and the exit ramp from this cycle of crises that we propose also necessitates at least one crisis more. To be a socialist, to seek the dictatorship of the proletariat, one must be revolutionary as a matter of course --- it is not for bloodlust or justice or love or any other high ideal that one must be revolutionary: simple enlightened pragmatism will do.
But what of this dictatorship itself? What kind of thing is it? For many opposed to the socialist movement, this dictatorship is not only not a goal but something to be opposed. If we go back to Peterson:
When you do establish a dictator of the proletariat… [and] replace the capitalist class with a minority of [proletarians], how they're going to be chosen isn't exactly clear in the communist manifesto, [And there’s this assumption that] none of the people who are from the proletariat class are going to be corrupted by that sudden access to power. That's a failure conceptually on both dimensions because first of all the proletariat aren't going to be good and when you… put people in the same position as the evil capitalists, especially if you believe that social pressure is one of the determining factors of human character, which the Marxists certainly believe, then why wouldn't you assume that the proletariat would immediately become as or more corrupt than the capitalists?
For those opposed to proletarian rule, their opposition grows from their blindness to the currently existing order --- the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. This dictatorship appears first as a kind of limitation or restriction on our political and social life. Then later, as capitalism piles capital relation on top of capital relation, it becomes a literal dictatorship by a small caste of individuals, fusing state and business interests. Libertarians will assert that imperialist capitalism is not ‘true capitalism’ but rather ‘crony capitalism’ or ‘fascist communism’; however, this final form of bourgeois dictatorship is in reality, a kind of inevitable ‘lowest energy’ state for capitalism as a whole. The structure of capital focuses more and more veto over productive capacity into the hands of a smaller and smaller group of people.
The primary understanding of revolutionary socialism is that capitalism cannot avoid its own internal dictatorships: liberalism is a kind of Utopian mirage of capitalism, its ultimate horizon so that it is never quite possible to realize the liberal dream of a free and democratic people united by self-rule alongside the ravenous, all-consuming power of the capital markets. There are places and times where this dream is almost true, but never completely realized. The problem is not that we are all bourgeois subjects but rather that no one can ever become a bourgeois subject under capitalism because, ironically, the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie forbids it.
But what of the dictatorship of the proletariat, this oft-maligned and unhappy creature? As Peterson says, hasn’t it shown us untold horrors in the Soviet Union? Is it not also a mere mirage and chimera, an impossibility? My claim, along with many other Marxists and Hegelians, is that the impossible has more content than we realize. What is impossible does not so much never exist as always almost exist --- because ‘a and not a’ must always be half true. The true problem is not when we attempt to implement a contradiction but when we are not contradictory enough. The goal is to avoid a bad infinity --- a contradiction that does not move smoothly back and forth between positive and negative nodes but rather moves in a disjointed manner, consuming some important resource through its unhappy movement. Under capitalism, the important resource that capital relations consume is the future demand on human attention.
I claim that the proletariat's dictatorship allows the possibility of a contradictory movement that does not move in a bad infinity --- or which at least moves in an infinity that is less bad than our current system. This dictatorship will appear during the crises of capitalism as a revolutionary focusing of the power of workers in a small section of their class, yes, but with the purpose of laying out a framework capable of extending finally, to every person, full bourgeois right --- just as the old dictatorships of the Roman republic and Grecian democracy used the most authoritarian measures to ensure the popular sovereignty of the people of both polities during crises. And what the dictatorship leaves behind is the trace of a new working class contradiction far more stable than the capitalist orbit that fluctuates production in fits and starts.
But there is a history to the notion of dictatorship that the left has not fully grappled with, a history that must examine all hitherto existing societies. Here it is useful to ‘give the devil his due.’ Past attempts at achieving the dictatorship of the proletariat have led to caste society formations and semi-permanent rule of a small minority over captive populations. Something is lacking in our understanding of proletarian rule.
To advance our understanding, I feel I must make a speculative theoretical claim about the history of class society, a claim that I trace through four kinds of ‘institutions’ that have existed during four historical epochs. My claim applies to these institutions, their trace through history, and finally, their embodiment in communist society. They are:
1. The institution of violence, or the state
2. The institution of production or the firm
3. The institution of association or politics
4. The institution of theory or religion
My claim is that in each epoch, these institutions have a given structure and that, if we follow this structure, we can begin to see the shape of a true dictatorship of the proletariat worth having and the radical possibility that this dictatorship has in the liberation of humanity.
Section 1, The Life Cycle of the State
In the past, before caste/class society, there was tribal society or what Marx termed ‘primitive communism.’ Under primitive communism, there is no state, which is to say that as far as there are ‘special groups of armed men’ --- following Lenin’s definition of the state --- these groups are ‘special’ in that they only concern themselves with themselves. There is no basic ‘tribal state’ we can gesture towards; rather, the people of each tribe are concerned only with defending themselves from whatever outsiders, human or animal, they may encounter. Whenever there is something a bit more like a ‘state’ --- a group of people who police others --- its violence always appears in a partial manner as the possibility of a fetish generated to support a concrete object in reality. We can find two good examples of tribal-state violence as a mere possibility in the seasonally bound states of the North American plains peoples and the locality-bound chief-kings of coastal tribal peoples in Louisiana.
The seasonal states of the plains tribes formed during the annual hunt. There, one tribal clade would act as a group of ‘clown-police’ whose job was to keep the peace during the hunt and punish those who might threaten the success of this significant annual event. However, this 'state' dissolved during the rest of the year as various tribal groupings split up. In pre-colonial Louisiana, a different order of ‘state’ existed, one composed of king-chiefs who had absolute power of life and death over tribespeople --- as long as the king was within close physical proximity. Otherwise, the sacred power of the king was such that there was no notion of delegation. Thus, people mostly led their lives free of the burdensome royal power, relying upon its disciplining force only during emergencies.
Under primitive communism, there is no singular tribal state. Rather a multiplicity of pseudo-states may use violence in an obscene, partial, unjustified, or free-floating manner during emergencies or exceptional periods to fetishize (or exclude) those periods from daily life. The states of primitive communism are dead objects whose violence is a partial object, sublime to some and obscene to others, that appears and disappears as concrete circumstances demand. The tribal pseudo-state does not rule over society but defends only its particular concrete and limited interests. The violence of the tribal state only exists when it needs to exist.
This limited pseudo-state is distinct from the state under the second epochal form --- caste society. In this social epoch, the state itself, in its very organization, starts as a sublime or obscene possibility (an excluded fetish) that exists to sustain a contradiction within society.
The contradiction it seeks to sustain is one of theory --- namely, the theory that one group of people, the ruling caste, should have power over all others: an impossible theory. In tribal society, the patchwork and disconnected nature of tribal pseudo-states imply that it is always possible to flee state violence in the worst conditions, limiting this violence. However, under caste society, the partial, image-like state uses its very symbolic character to cover enough territory in a sufficiently permanent manner to support a broad and permanent castal division.
The contradiction in theory that the state supports also impacts this same state, leading to violence that moves forward and back in a contradictory motion. However, because the state starts as an obscene-sublime partial object, the expression of this contradiction takes on many forms: gamic, administrative, and pharaonic caste societies are all possible.
In the gamic caste society, the contradiction of the state explodes outward, driven by a lack of direct administrative capability on the part of the ruling caste --- they often base their power on some kind of slave relation to subaltern castes. This slave relation is ‘administered’ by specific slave drivers rather than through a unified social compact. What is more the society is gamic because one obtains a slave by winning a game of some kind, either on the battlefield, in business life, or politically. This game also generates a large body of ‘proletarians’ who are technically part of the ruling caste but otherwise own no slaves to support themselves, as was the case in ancient Rome. In this kind of society, the contradiction of the state forces it to constantly grow in the hopes of eventually providing slaves for this middle layer of persons who are part of the ruling caste --- but without property. However, growing the state large enough to sate their hunger is impossible. Here, the specter of capitalism operates above and beyond the gamic slave society, making larger slavers more powerful over time (as they use their slaves to win even more slaves). As the price of labor collapses to zero, the over-accumulation of bound persons throws smaller slavers and ‘proletarians’ deeper into debt unless the ruling caste finds new populations to exploit at the edges of the gamic caste-state. Eventually, this state grows to its fullest extent, and the enslavement game becomes untenable: the ‘proletarian’ layer of the ruling caste becomes mercenary, provoking internal disorder until the caste society collapses --- as in ancient Rome.
Administrative caste societies, however, are not forced to keep growing or die. Rather, these societies encounter the pressure of internal corruption as the priestly caste uses its superior control over information to demand more and more from the subaltern castes. As time goes on, there is an increasing possibility that the caste society will lose its administrative quality or that there will be a general collapse in order and civil war. This stabilization-collapse cycle around questions of corruption forms a partial basis for the eternal cycle of violent contradiction often observed throughout ancient Chinese history.
In a pharaonic caste society, the pharaoh personally embodies the state's social contradiction. If they are incompetent or otherwise limited in their capabilities, the ruling caste can lose its internal coherence, possibly leading to the overthrow of the pharaoh or a civil war. If the pharaoh is capable, however, a contradictory cycle can be established, such as the tendency in the middle east for rulers to declare a ‘jubilee’ --- society-wide forgiveness of debts. These Jubilees served three purposes. First, they helped increase the popularity of the Pharaoh. Second, they created the conditions for continued commerce in the pharaonic caste societies. Finally, and most importantly, they disciplined the ruling caste as a whole, rebinding them to the Pharaoh and separating them from an independent power base --- wealth itself.
Therefore in caste society, the state is always bound to rise and fall. This process either explodes into all possible space (ancient Rome), moves through a continual cycle of civil-social unrest/renewal (ancient China), or depends upon a periodic religious re-negotiation of power (Egypt). This rise and fall pattern informs conservative wisdom about the cyclical nature of ‘society.’ This understanding is inadmissible in the modern era as capitalist social contradiction inscribes itself on the state from without (from the market and politics). But this cyclical understanding does start from a correct observation of the behavior of the state in caste societies.
Under the right circumstances, the warrior caste can short-circuit the rise and fall cycle. During a social fall, the increase in their relative power makes stabilization around a new kind of contradictory non-state possible.
Thus enters the feudal estate.
In feudal society, the state loses its obscene-sublime quality and becomes merely contradictory --- with a non-state composed of the oscillation of violence between various lords and princes. Unlike the caste state, which sustains a social contradiction, the feudal state is a contradiction where power oscillates primarily on the battlefield. Now, the state
sustains an overall theoretical order in which theory-religion becomes a stultified dictum that all should remain in their place, faithful to their lord. Even as the feudal order is one where the state power is least secured, it is also the realm where that power is most absolute; violence is the rule of the day in a way that is not true of any other social form. The random outbursts of tribal violence and even the periodic horrors of general disorder in caste society pale against the constant warfare of feudal society. Every year rent collection may lead to death at the hands of a knight, or a slight insult in a castle may lead to thousands dying on a battlefield.
In the fourth epochal form, capitalism, the state mutates again. Now the state has a monopoly on violence that is missing even in caste society, where the state only appears to support the violence of the ruling caste. This monopoly exists only to sustain the bourgeois right of property and market operations. Here, the state becomes a super object pulled about by the various societal forces in proportion to their relative weight in terms of their existing capital. But this motion does not lie ‘within’ the state but outside of it so that it becomes the ground of class contestation: a dangerous territory dominated by the capitalist class as they have the greatest active conscious impact on the shape of capital under normal liberal capitalist dynamics. Here I extend the Marxist dictum that “the capitalist state serves as the managing committee of the bourgeoisie” --- yes, as long as we understand that bourgeoisie are all of the capitalist class, including the working class as a section of the capitalist class. That is to say, the capitalist state marches to the tune of capital, both living and dead, but is itself dead and unmoved without that external mover.
The capitalist state is more advanced than the caste state, becoming a fixed super object ruling over all society. The goal of the caste state is merely to maintain the power of those in charge. In contrast, the capitalist state cares not so much about the individual concrete members of the ruling class as about sustaining property relations. This focus on private property is not a minor difference: the castal state engages in direct and brutal political persecution against any who appear to be enemies of the ruling caste. The capitalist state, however, only has enemies when there is a threat to property --- capitalism can sustain all political and legal rights as long as private property remains unthreatened. In this sense, the capitalist state is almost like the primitive communist pseudo-states of old. Still, it fails to meet this standard since the concrete thing it is defending --- capital, property relations ---- is an abstract universal and not a specific concrete object. Here, the state does not implement concrete laws, like the prohibition on murder, to satisfy the internal logic of the laws themselves: the state does not prosecute murderers to eliminate murder.
Murderers are prosecuted because they lower property values.
But what does this history say about the state under the dictatorship of the proletariat? The theme here is that under the next epoch, the final communist epoch if we are to have it, the state returns to the position it held under primitive communism and tribal society --- but at a higher level. The goal of the dictatorship of the proletariat is not a single global communist
state; it is not to unite all humankind under a single banner of violence --- this was already achieved by the peasantry and bourgeoisie together in the bourgeois revolutions of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. Rather the state under the dictatorship of the proletariat will fracture again into many small concrete county-level jurisdictions. There will be many small working class militias/unions/pseudo-states, each responsible for its particular concrete and limited territory. When these pseudo-states use violence, it will once again be a partial obscene-sublime object, a fetish excluded from the normal order of society --- violence that sustains the possibility of working-class social theory. This violence speaks to the working class's failure to properly account for every social group and social need so that no person or group feels they must do violence to meet their physical or psycho-social needs. I would almost say that the communist pseudo-state’s violence is equivalent to the mythologized liberal justification for the use of violence by the capitalist state: the workers' militias, unions, and states exist to protect people’s bourgeois rights to bodily autonomy, speech, association, etc. even while the capitalist state only protects these rights when they serve the true underlying right of property. However, precisely because these states exist to administer violence only under specific concrete conditions, their violence is thus obscene-sublime --- an inconsistency derived from the free action of people choosing, in the moment, to follow the law or abnegate it with mercy.
The Structural Position of State in Each Epoch
Limited Pseudo-State without Universal Law
Fixed Super Object
Limited Pseudo-States with Universal Law
Section 2: The Life-cycle of the Firm
In the institution of production, the firm, we see a similar movement. However, this movement starts and ends in a different structural place from the state, the structural position of the fixed social super object that orders all other objects while remaining itself dead. Whereas the state starts as a collection of tribal pseudo-states spread across an ecoregion, the conditions for production under primitive communism are more global and abstract. They are set and constrained not by the behavior of any small tribe of humans but rather determined by the collective action of all humans across an entire ecoregion.
Primitive communism does not immediately and efficiently socialize production beyond a single tribe; Nevertheless, cultural norms ensure a weak circulation of products within a given ecoregion in this epoch. So we have the custom in some parts of the world that, upon receiving a compliment on a product, one must turn the product over to the complimenter. Alternatively, in some parts of North America, it was the tradition that a dream could create a claim to a product.
However, the natural productivity of the ecoregion formed the basis for productive output that was often socialized and consumed within a single tribe. It is here that we find the next difficult point for communists. Under primitive communist tribal society, the firm is mostly the environment itself and what small labors humans can apply to that environment, an environment which produces all manner of things for people, but which is beyond human ken and control.
In caste society, production somewhat separates from the limits imposed by the ecoregion through agricultural practice. Simultaneously, productive activities are split along a division of labor between various castes so that a multiplicity of castal associations become embedded in distinct productive centers. Here we can see a kind of repetition of what happens with the state under primitive communism --- there we have many different states, each of which moves violently under specific concrete circumstances. In caste society, we have many different productive units --- limited concrete objects --- the collective action of which produces some kind of social surplus that must be absorbed. While such surpluses may periodically appear in tribal society, in caste society there is an absolute explosion in such surplus.
However, the fact that the society is a caste and not a class society also limits the growth of surplus labor so that it must exist but tends not to accumulate on an exponential trajectory as under capitalism. Instead, in some sense, this surplus is consumed by the contradictory theory of the ruling caste: religious fetes, monuments, fetters for enslavement, and grand parties eat through the excess. Caste society is a society where production is primarily or singularly for consumption, not production. As such, technical advance slows to an absolute standstill as the ruling caste seeks to absorb surplus in their various projects of anti-theory.
In feudal society, production is no longer divided among many different labor castes. Instead, it becomes a pure surplus or obscene partial object --- a fetish, with the servile serf swearing their labor to the feudal lord. Under feudalism, the only thing produced en masse is food --- and productive capacity in all other fields is tied directly to this surplus in food production. Beyond farming, there is a small amount of properly ‘productive’ activity. Eighty to ninety percent of the population in a feudal society are farmers, and their production is the fuel upon which the very tiny sliver of non-farming producers and consumers live. This reliance on a narrow productive surplus in food generates the contradiction of town and country, where the cosmopolitan bourgeoisie finds themselves subject to the provincial demands of the peasantry. Further, the smallest fall in the surplus productive capacity of those who work the land can devastate the whole of society. Such upsets, like the black death and the historical economic shock created by the discovery of gold in the Americas, can lead to a rise in the power of the peasants --- whose productive capacities may then increase sufficiently so that power then moves back into the cities.
A process like this shook Europe, moving from the fifteenth century into the nineteenth and culminating in the capitalist epoch. In this epoch, the firm's drive does not orbit about the existence or absence of a mere agricultural surplus. Instead, production is in a state of constant self-contradiction between the various sections of the bourgeois classes. Each section of these classes competes against the others for market share, with the most important division being between the owners of living capital and dead capital --- namely between the working class and the capitalist class. As long as we operate under capitalism, neither side of this war can win. Instead, the contradictory nature of capitalism ensures there isn’t merely a division of labor but rather a division of capital that moves back and forth between the two classes and between their various pseudo-castal sections or layers. Thus we see that capital moves in ‘fits and starts’ with production moving forward at an amazing, almost miraculous, pace before there is a crisis of overproduction and undervalorization of capital that then causes a collapse in the price of dead capital and thus a significant decrease in investment. There is no singular firm but a million firms, large and small, clawing at each other for market share. Their anarchy creates a singular market with its price signal for everything available under the sun, including the sweat of a man’s brow.
And finally, what of production under the dictatorship of the proletariat and the communist society after that? Here, I should point out that we return to the ecoregional society of primitive communism but at a higher level. While it should not be the goal of the socialist movement to have a single world communist state, it will be the goal of this movement to build the singular worker’s firm, a kind of engineered preconscious producer of what is needful for all humankind. This firm would be owned by all and would act as the single monopolist producer of necessary goods and the single monopsony where one could sell their labor. Its goal is to produce everything we need to pursue life, liberty, and happiness at zero marginal labor cost (and at a fair wage before reducing labor costs to zero). The hang-up for most communists has been the belief that the construction of this firm requires the domination by the working class of the capitalist state from the beginning of the project --- that is to say, for many communists, the model of revolution goes:
1. First we win the revolution
2. Then we get control of the capitalist state
3. Then we build the firm.
This model, I posit, is incorrect; the construction of the workers' firm is the first and primary goal of the working class --- as a class. It is something that must be done from the first stirrings of class consciousness to the final moment where labor has become not only a means of life but life's prime want.
The Structural Position of the Firm in Each Epoch
Ecoregional / Natural Object
Limited Concrete Object
Consciously engineered Super Object
Section 4: The Life-Cycle of Association
Under primitive communism, the master of society was the associational division between particular tribes. That is to say, rather than any kind of advanced notion like democracy or law being the primary ‘glue’ that held together tribal society, instead it seems likely that the absolute freedom of movement between tribes, provided to early humans by the general anarchy of tribal society, implied that the reason people stayed together was that staying together worked at the level of associational identity --- people stayed in a particular tribe and did not wander off to seek others precisely because that tribe suited them at the level of the tribe’s local tradition, language, lifestyle, and personnel. People stayed in a tribe because they loved the tribe. That is to say, tribes formed and disunited relatively freely according to the movement of actually existing human relations, relations which are in constant flux/contradictory movement.
The rule of humans from this time is that we don’t all have to be friends but can associate with whomever we wish. Yes, there was a great deal of evolutionary pressure on people to behave. Someone constantly running from their previous tribe due to their crimes and misdemeanors is less likely to find success reproducing as each ‘flight’ amounts to an immense and traumatic expenditure of personal resources. But given that many tribes swapped guests with each other in a relatively free flow across continental scale ecoregions, it also seems likely that this evolutionary drive to fit in is not absolute. We are not a uniformly harmonious species. Rather, we oscillate between harmony with those we like and discord with those we do not like.
Luckily the conditions of the major ecoregions in prehistory made it possible to sustain the contradiction of association in tribal society. Many distinct and contentious tribal associations could coexist with the relatively large ecoregions occupied by our ancestors. While they all remade the region through their minor efforts, none completely dominated a region for any period, instead simply acting to change some small part of it for their habitation before moving on.
In caste society, associations are no longer capable of more or less freely mutating and flowing across an entire ecoregion. Instead, the tribal association develops into factionalism --- the ruling caste association seeks to disorganize and dominate other potential associations, establishing a central faction. This central association, now a permanent super-object of society, is the ruling caste. This ruling caste and its material and social domination of subaltern castes become the fixed point or dead object that defines the social preconscious --- the very space of social understanding. In a caste society, we have a society that really does move by the ‘conspiracy logic’ that people often tend to assign to the capitalist class under capitalism. That is, while the modern capitalist state is generally looking only to prosecute crimes against property, in a caste society, the state instead is constantly looking to persecute anyone who seems like they may pose a political threat to the personnel of the ruling caste. A castal state is, in some sense, a private state, owned and directly administered by the ruling caste who personally know what is to be done with whom.
This social form often appears as if it has no ‘‘factions’ even though there is no caste society without stable, large-scale associative factions. Often, the ruling caste hides its factional divisions from all other subaltern castes, driven by a holy fear of their revenge should they get the upper hand and bring down the state. The caste society is, in fact, ‘harmonious’… until it comes tumbling down, and the appearance of strong factions at the top of caste society heralds its self-destruction.
In feudal society, however, the unified operation of a singular ruling caste controlling a particular state is more permanently shattered into a thousand pieces so that there is a mishmash of different ruling factions fighting with each other for control over territory. Under feudalism, we begin to see the formation of the nation but not the creation of the ‘nation-state.’ Here there is a different image of factional ‘harmony’ available to us --- the backward and insulated peasantry and their attendant backwater nobility can live in ‘harmony’ only by violently excluding outsiders from their notion of humanity. The harmony of village life is predicated upon relatively stable productive relations within the village. However, In exchange for village harmony, society at a broader scale exists in a state of chaos. Under these conditions, the deep divisions of factionalism necessitate wild underproduction.
Then, we have association in capitalist society. Here, association without factionalization becomes a possibility once again: but only by identifying a kind of association or subject that can never exist within society --- this association or what is now termed an identity is the fully bourgeois subject, the subject that Marx talked about who could “do one thing today and another tomorrow, hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner... without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, shepherd or critic.” This subject is one that the capitalist class can almost embody: except that they exclude themselves from the most radical material critique, as the capital they hold drives others into poverty. Alternatively, the working class can never individually embody this bourgeois subject or identity but can only ever embody it as a collective --- a collective they are, to this day, struggling to build. This bourgeois subject is the thing tugging upon all classes and castes within every nation, a kind of flickering possibility at the corner of everyone’s eye.
It is the repression of this bourgeois subject which drives forward the contradiction of production within capitalism. Workers seek, individually and collectively, to become bourgeois subjects with full freedom and right. In return, capitalists seek to sustain the freedom and right they have already obtained against the workers. In all cases, the lure of possibility within this subjectivity drives forward the behavior of everyone involved. But this lure is a mirage under capitalism: any approach towards its realization causes a general crisis in the system, as occurred in the late 60s when the working class chose a stable partial bourgeois existence against a more risky move for power.
Under capitalism, the image of the bourgeois subject constantly oscillates: sometimes, it appears as working class and sometimes capitalist. Here the ideal human is a poor woman; now it is a rich white man; there it is a well-to-do racialist comprador; now it's a miner in South Korea, and then it's a barista in Seattle. But how does this differ from association in tribal society and under the dictatorship of the proletariat? In both societies, tribal and advanced communism, freedom of association forms the highest social right of mankind replacing the spectral, repressed bourgeois subject with a cacophony of actually existing contradictory associative identities, none of which completely dominate the others, but also none of which are completely ‘settled’ so that there is a continuous movement of persons from one association to another. This movement may appear very similar to capitalism, which constantly revolutionizes and reconstructs identity --- and it is similar --- but with an added twist. Under capitalism, the bourgeois subject is a concrete subject that cannot exist because the bourgeois subject is the revolutionary subject. Under the dictatorship of the proletariat, there is no particular repressed subjective identity to be pulled towards as the movement through various forms and kinds of associations, various identities, becomes the very definition of identity itself. My identity becomes the associations I’ve decided to make, not my concrete distance from some universal repressed spectral ‘free’ subject. Under the dictatorship of the proletariat, I will already embody the bourgeois subject because I have the freedom to associate as and with whomever I will. This freedom can never properly exist under capitalism due to the capital relation --- a relation that forces me to know people I would not otherwise care to know and that divides me from those I love.
Under the dictatorship of the proletariat, we will need the highest possible defense of the right to association. This right must be the bedrock of proletarian rights, akin to how property forms the bedrock of capitalist right. Just as the capitalist state must recognize who owns what to defend property rights --- in the same way, the workers' firm must recognize who associates with whom to fund worker’s right to association.
For this reason, we must select the advisors and officers of the worker’s firm according to their association. However, to ensure that there is freedom of association, this does not imply that the party-firm compels associations to register: such compulsion could be a sign of degeneration into a caste society. Rather, just as I am not required to inform the state of everything I own, it is not the case that I am required to inform the workers' party-firm of every association in which I participate. Instead, I inform the state about my property to protect and strengthen my ownership and receive state protection for that ownership. In the same manner, the party-firm provides material resources to registered associations, but other associations may exist beyond this registration mechanism.
There may be factionalization, the conscious disorganization of an association, under the workers' party. Still, this factionalization should function more like the collapse of a corporation under capitalism than like the conquering of one people by another: a bad association may be disorganized because it has become a problem for all other associations --- in general, however, no association should so dominate that it can reorganize all other associations around itself, as in caste society. Just as a capitalist state may disorganize a monopoly to ensure the reproduction of capitalism, the party-firm may disorganize a too-powerful worker’s association to sustain workers' democracy and the identity of the party-firm as the association of workers' associations. In this sense, we find the final self-contradiction of the freedom of association: for workers to have freedom of association, they are compelled to associate in common through the workers’ party-firm.
In the party-firm associations trade power back and forth, according to the democratic dictates of the body of all the workers who own the worker’s firm. This firm develops according to a cooperative program determined through a party-wide democratic process, combining each association's projects that have support from the body of workers into the common program. Juries of workers then implement these projects using advisors drawn from the worker’s associations in proportion to each association’s popular support. In this sense, party-firm of the dictatorship of the proletariat is unlike any party we have seen so far --- a marketplace of working-class associations.
The Structural Position of Association in Each Epoch
Materially Deprived Contradictory Free Flow
Factional Super Object
Concrete Limited Provincial Object
Obscene-Sublime Partial Object
Materially Supported Contradictory Free Flow
Section $, Second as Farce.
Now, this brings us to the realm of theory and its advance through each form of society.
Under primitive communism, we could say that theory was, in some sense, psychotic. There was even a lack of social theory beyond a certain size and scale. We have to be careful here, though, because as Wengrow and Graeber state in their seminal work, the Dawn of Everything, it wasn’t like our ancestors were rival bands of chimpanzees without any theory of the human. Rather, the disconnected nature of humanity foreclosed a general theory of the human. Those falling ‘outside’ a tribal association would appear not as political subjects but as a material force. Rather than treating the other as a priest, lord, or capitalist, under tribal society, humans who did not share a common association lacked a common fetish and fantasy. Strangers would have to negotiate their relations upon every new meeting.
This psychosis appears in theory in the form of shamanic religion --- the earliest form of religious practice. There is no immediate need in shamanism to treat spirits as identical to ‘gods.’ These spirits may be powerful, but the spirit of the woods, the river, the stone, etc. are more like people who live in a particular place and have a particular capability rather than gods who rule over an entire domain in some kind of permanent manner. If one makes a sacrifice to the local spirits, it is more like being polite and asking for help from a powerful equal rather than making supplication to a superior.
In caste society, theory, however, becomes both generalized and self-contradictory to support the ruling caste. Now, there are proper gods of specific domains who all must supplicate through various rituals. The failure to call on the gods is not merely rude but rather incredibly dangerous. Moreover, these gods are not physically bound to a particular location --- the attention of Athena, Shiva, or Set may fall across the globe. The ruling caste requires gods that could not exist, except in self-contradictory theory, to instill in the population the ultimate true understanding of their predicament --- that an outside force will dominate them, namely the ruling caste itself. Each god represents a potential ‘theory’ that the ruling caste can apply willy-nilly to a particular situation as it suits them. If they need to go to war, then augury says it is a good idea to go to war. Mars is in a bad cycle if they need to avoid war. Here the point is that theory is self-contradictory precisely so that the ruling caste can always have a justification in theory for whatever policy they wish to pursue. What is more, fights over theory become brutal within the ruling caste as the best interpretation of the social rorschach test can greatly impact their space of available choices.
But, when the contradictory motion of the state within caste society leads to a period of collapse, theory might become ‘frozen’ in place. The ascendant warrior caste may use this dead theory (social super-object) to legitimize their rule, as with the medieval church or the figure of the Emperor in feudal Japan. In both cases, this swap between a bureaucratic/priestly caste and warrior caste leads to a transition so that the ruling caste no longer directly manages the realm of theory. Rather, the church and the household of the Emperor become the locus of dead theory --- which also means they become the locus of knowledge, freeing the warrior caste to fight their wars. This swap explains the significant loss of literacy amongst the feudal ruling caste (aristocrats) and the creation of a specialized caste of priests and monks. It became the church's job to know on behalf of the warrior caste who was in good standing and who was going to hell.
The separation of church and state heralds the next advance in theory as we transition from feudalism to capitalism. Now, there are many churches, temples, and gods again --- but unlike in caste society where these churches and gods are part of a self-contradictory pantheon --- under capitalism, there is a kind of true separation between churches. It is not that the various flavors of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc. are in contradiction with each other, oscillating freely back and forth --- rather, each has its separate domain, its own set of faithful. In the same way, science also splits from philosophy and produces an infinite list of different delimited ‘fields’ of expertise. This stupid list of religions and scientific theories collectively generates the obscene/sublime possibility of a bourgeois subject --- the truly cosmopolitan subject of an unbound theory that understands that all theories have truths and lies. This subject is not a contradictory oscillation they collectively produce, but rather an image of an occasionally actually existing ideal that constantly moves around and through the religions and philosophies in counter-position to the movements of the market.
Finally, we have the theory of the dictatorship of the proletariat, and it is here, I posit, that Slavoj Zizek has provided us with the missing object of theory --- though perhaps not in the
form he has often given. Unlike the churches that exist today, which are each a separate contained object and collectively generate an image of a missing bourgeois subject, the theory of the dictatorship of the proletariat instead is already directly composed as a repressed object. A perfect association, without disharmony, in which we know a priori what we are doing --- this is impossible. But if we strip knowledge out of our theory and leave ourselves only with the image of the possibility of such an association --- then we have the actually existing partial obscene-sublime object of theory.
However, to make this an image of an actually existing object in theory, and not just a contradiction, we have to modify our understanding of our lack of knowledge somewhat. That is to say, rather than there being no ‘telos of history’ as Zizek has put it, I am arrogant enough to claim that theory does outline a telos of history. Human history will always be in one of five epochs: either primitive society/annihilation for the human race, caste society, feudal society, a constant and horrific capitalist oscillation, or, hopefully, communism --- and by listing all possible human epochs, I’ve given human history a telos. But this isn’t the interesting part --- the repressed, constantly missing object. What is missing is not the telos but rather our place in it.
Here we can look to quantum mechanics to understand what is going on in theory. In a quantum mechanical system, as long as we have all the inputs, we can calculate exactly what the system's future quantum states will be, even if that calculation will take more computing power than has ever been built. No, the problem with quantum mechanics is that we can never know where we are on the wave function, so we can never know exactly which future quantum state (of the multiplicity calculated) we will partake in until that future has come to pass. That is to say, history has a telos, but we can never know, materially, if we are working towards the telos we want or towards some other end.
But given this fact, we can say some things that are likely true about our tasks if we wish to implement the dictatorship of the proletariat. At the workers' party level, we must reject the notion of the ‘correct line’ and the idea of social harmony --- instead, we need the strongest
possible associational rights and a constant and lively debate between various worker’s associations about how to move forward. Protecting associational rights, however, means that we will have to think more deeply about these rights in a context where we cannot use private/individual material wealth to support freedom of association. Instead, we will need a party that gives material support to various associations in proportion to their popular support amongst the party members. However, the imperative to maintain freedom of association within the party also implies that this material support must be limited to some maximum (the aforementioned 30% of all total support available). In this way, no association can dominate or overawe the party, thus producing an internal ruling caste.
We should not elect a rotating cast of leaders to control the high seats of the party, as occurs under bourgeois democracy. Instead, we should understand that associations serve as advisors to the real owners of the party --- the workers joined together as a body of the whole or sortated as special juries for dealing with particular projects and day-to-day difficulties. In this model, what associations are actually competing for is the right to speak to the jury, to claim its attention, to put forward their program, to request specific, limited, but dictatorial powers necessary to implement that program, and to go away and reconsider their options when they lose those powers because their program has advanced as far as the workers will allow (or because they have overstepped and become irksome as individuals).
Beyond this, we should realize that our major task is constructing a workers' firm capable of directly controlling as significant a portion of capital as we can bring under the workers' control. This firm should focus on the dual tasks of building its capital and providing a platform for worker enjoyment of that capital under capitalism. Here, the worker’s associations must develop novel methods of internal resource distribution through the workers' firm that allow the firm to develop during both booms and busts. In busts, the firm should have enough unencumbered capital to play the games capitalists play, buying up assets to integrate them into its operation. During booms, the workers should tend to self-exploit to maximize workers' firm profits. The firm should also strategically use workers' struggles outside the firm to build its internal capital.
Further, the firm should aim for a maximum internal income ratio that is no more than 1 to 4 or 1 to 8. If one is already a worker-owner in the firm, the goal is to ensure that one continues to have a right to the productive output of the firm even if one is not working at the present moment. This rule will incentivize the firm to keep workers employed. Beyond this, there should be a reasonable maximum ratio of capital to workers, so the firm constantly brings new workers into its fold as it accumulates capital.
Building this firm, however, will require a great deal of political acumen and chancy difficulties. Here, I restate the fundamentally missing point of theory --- we cannot know what we are doing will bring about the desired outcome. This is not a formula for a workers' firm, but merely an image of a direction we could go that seems likely to succeed in building the workers' party-firm.
Finally, we must also consider the worker’s states. Marxist theorists have neglected the theory of the workers’ firm in preference for theories concerning the state. To me, this question of the state is still essential for Marxists because the spectral image of the state obscures and represses the notion that the workers’ party should pursue the workers’ firm directly. This repression tends to occur in one of two ways: the social democratic repression calls for shoving this firm into the state, while the anarchist repression calls for some kind of syndicate formation without either party or state. There are at least three ways the state's image represses this notion:
1. The fear of telling the working class that the goal of communism is workers' monopoly on the means of production. Even though the workers will own this monopoly through their internally democratic workers' party, the working class naturally fears monopolies due to the rapacious behavior of capitalist monopolists, who use their state-derived property rights to exploit the workers ruthlessly. The best response to this is the construction of a thoroughgoingly democratic workers' party that can support the maximum number and kinds of distinct workers' associations, all of which share in the prosperity of the workers’ firm.
2. The fear of opportunism within the party due to its attachment to the firm. However, this fear of opportunism is somewhat misplaced: as long as the workers’ party has strong internal governance --- like the governance proposed here --- this opportunism can be curtailed or made explicit and controlled.
3. A cold-hearted, cynical, and correct calculation that the capitalist state will not simply allow any such workers firm to develop peacefully without push-back. It is here where I must finally state that the worker’s states function to disrupt the violence of the capitalist state. The workers exercising their bourgeois rights under the capitalist state, the unions, the workers' militias, and finally, the workers' states composed as such will all need to be organized in a patchwork across the earth to defend the worker’s party-firm.
To put it another way, the final thing which makes the worker’s party-firm function is an organic connection to militant workers, unions, militias, and states that recognize the party-firm belonging to the workers. This connection is the glue that provides the workers' party-firm with its material defense against the capitalist state in the streets and in law. The critical theoretical recognition here is that these bits of ‘worker’s state’ are neither a super-object that is the same ‘everywhere’ nor do they replace the worker’s party-firm. These states are not the locus of economic activity, but rather their job under the dictatorship of the proletariat remains the same as it is today --- to defend the rights of living labor. The workers' states, in the form of unions and militias, will aid the workers' party-firm in building the dictatorship of the proletariat. Still, these states will not, themselves, compose that dictatorship.
And finally, what is this dictatorship? But I have defined it already, haven’t I? It is the democratic association of worker’s associations managing the workers’ firm for collective benefit --- established precisely on the right of free association and material well being. Will this dictatorship liberate humanity? It’s hard to say, but that very difficulty, the impossibility of telling for sure what will happen, is precisely the repressed object of theory. What the dictatorship of the proletariat buys is not surety but possibility --- every other structure humanity has tried has failed. But within this democratic association of worker’s associations lies the sum of that failure and, therefore (in good Hegelian fashion), the only possibility for our collective freedom.
The Structural Position of Theory in Each Epoch
Lack of Partial Object:
Theory as Super Object / Church
Theory as Concrete Limited Object: scientific 'fields' and separate churches
Theory as obscene-sublime possibility of freedom
 However, the claim that socialist revolution aims at destroying all hitherto existing order is exaggerated, to say the least.
 Even though Peterson vaguely mentions the tendency for the value of wages to decrease over time as dead labor piles up, he does this in a cavalier way only to take this fundamental Marxist observation off the table. Specifically, he does not mention how labor's value was re-established in the 20th century --- through the destruction of two world wars.
 Such as during the ‘trente gloriousus’ from 1945 to 1975.
 An easy way to see this impossibility is to look at the contradiction of meritocracy. Such a hierarchy must self-deconstruct as winning meritocrats use their power to benefit their friends or children.
 This especially includes the latent capital value of general freedom held by the working class.
 Here, we have to understand that before we obtain the notion of labor as producing all value, we have a situation where labor is merely another means to getting a profit so that the generation of any income is a 'profit.' It is only through the development of industrial means of production, the exclusion of workers from their tools of the craft, and their subsistence on the market for their very survival that we end up in a space where the eminent critique of liberalism (i.e., Marxism) can show labor is a special category that sublimates capitalist profit. This move from a capital-first to a labor-first understanding of production is a logical kernel of capitalism that cannot be erased. Thus, labor produces value --- something more important than profit, and we learn that capital is 'dead labor.' However, while Marxism may have obtained this understanding, this is not the perspective of the capitalist state. The capitalist class and their state reverse these notions so that living labor becomes 'living capital,' meaning that the working class, from the perspective of the bourgeois state, is a kind of section or division of the capitalist class. For this reason, many commentators have suggested that the capitalist state can 'float above' society and fairly arbitrate between the classes. There is some truth to this view: the capitalist state can arbitrate between different sections of capital, and the working class appears as a section of capital to the capitalist state. However, this arbitration is ultimately unstable. It is a mirage embodying the liberal failure to recognize that 'living capital' --- labor, the creator and guarantor of all wealth --- is permanently antagonistic to all forms of capital it has not yet appropriated for its enjoyment as an outgrowth of its efforts.
 As the market constantly conditions and reconditions the global imperial state.
 I posit that the need for violence, the need to explore/conquer that some feel, will be fulfilled by the violence of games, but games that do not have another’s labor as a trophy.
 Incidentally, while these communist states may end up killing persons in self-defense during a crisis, likely the most significant level of punishment a communist state would deliver to an individual would be banishment.
 Social surplus is a mismatch of human attention, so some people do not sustain themselves, and others produce much more than they need to support themselves.
 The capitalist and working classes are the only two classes because their members are fungible: the capitalists are fungible because they can trade places with each other on the capital markets. The workers are fungible because they can switch positions in the labor market. The ‘C’ in PMC should stand for ‘caste’.
 For example, in the Dawn of Everything, Graeber and Wengrow point out that about half of persons in a tribe at one time may have been ‘guests’ --- indicating that tribal units were constantly collapsing and reforming in a more or less contradictory manner as persons flowed through the web of tribes in a particular ecoregion.
 In tribal society, factionalism can appear when neighboring tribes go to war. However, factionalism is deeply contradictory in tribal society, appearing and disappearing, while in caste society, it is absolute.
 Trotsky, in Revolution Betrayed, observes the Soviet Union as an advanced castal state that degenerated out of the workers’ state. If we accept this observation, we can view the ideological excesses of the Soviet Union as a kind of necessary self-defense by the bureaucratic nomenklatura that they could weaponize against each other and ‘normal’ (non-party) everyday citizens. However, because the material conditions of the Soviet Union were also rapidly developing, the ideological contradictions that the bureaucracy developed to sustain their rule would quickly turn against the very bureaucrats using them when circumstances changed. The only way for the ruling caste to justify its rule is through a contradictory law that claims ‘everyone is guilty of all crimes’ held in check by the internal coherence of the ruling caste who except themselves from this guilt --- and others as well on good behavior, which is to say, on servile behavior. But in the Soviet Union, this ruling caste could not cohere as an already excluded and unwanted ruling caste operating under the conditions of constant social and political upheaval that composed early 20th-century capitalism.
 For this reason, anyone who believes we can build a ‘techno-feudalism’ without murdering most of the population is deeply misled. The conditions that lead to feudalism require limiting people to particular feudal lots, which, themselves, require assigning separate estates to those lots which dominate the people through brutal force. The fracturing of the state destroys the preconditions for the bourgeois market. This market must be much larger than a ‘feudal county’ due to the necessary economies of scale required in bourgeois production. The destruction of the market, without an appropriately engineered workers firm to replace it, leads to a collapse in productive capacity as rentiers gain greater and greater choke-holds on the linkages between producers and consumers. This collapse in productive capacity leads to political and social instability and, eventually, mass-scale destruction.
 An example procedure for producing a common program for the worker's party-firm may start by registering all worker's associations that seek to affect the program. This registration will be voluntary, but it comes with two important benefits. The first is material support from workers who are not strictly within the association but who do support the association's projects and program --- through the association's registration, workers outside of the association can lend it material support. The association then uses this support to build its material capabilities, rent offices, run media arms, hire experts, etc. But, to maintain the existence of other working-class associations, this support is maxed out at some reasonable percentage of all available material support --- perhaps 30%.
However, beyond this, the support is also used to determine which associations have priority when speaking in front of a worker's jury --- a sortated group of workers whose job is to compile and oversee the implementation of a general program for the party-firm. This jury defines the broad category of 'human' pulled out of the contradictory movement of the worker's associations by representing the human as a random group of workers drawn from the general association, advised by the worker's associations on the possible developmental paths available to the worker's firm. The worker's associations represent these possibilities in their individual programs, each composed of a series of projects that the worker's firm can implement. The worker's jury must choose between these programs or compose their own program from the various projects proposed by the worker's associations. Finally, worker's associations should also be given advisory positions within each project, using their support to determine the relative number of advisory posts they might hold over all available projects.
 Most likely, we are doing both simultaneously. Schrodinger's cat teaches us the universe itself is contradictory, producing all possible outcomes.
 The dedication to rule by worker's juries embodies the obscene-sublime nature of the theory of the association of worker's association in its purest form.
 The firm, however, should also develop methods of authorizing workers to take goods from its common stores outside of the capitalist market. Even a company script may be acceptable so that busts do not lead to an absolute collapse in internal consumption. A guide to internal production, adopted for the purposes of the firm, may be found in Paul Cockshott’s Towards a New Socialism.
 Such a syndicate formation will lead to a caste society. The reason is that, rather than having a single workers firm, syndicates form according to various industrial sectors. However, this means there will always be one syndicate that is not like the others, one syndicate that doesn’t belong, which will be the ruling syndicate --- i.e. the ruling caste. Instead, we need a single preconscious space for organizing the means of production, not a multiplicity of such spaces as in caste society.
 I would append to Zizek's theory of 'principled opportunism' a supplemental theory of 'opportunist principles.' Principles that use opportunism positively rather than calling for an ascetic perfection which is 'not opportunist.' This ascetic appeal often looks to build the 'perfect cadre,' but in reality, it is the beginning of the factionalization of the workers' movement, a factionalization premised on the division between the (good) revolutionaries and the (bad) opportunists. Such factionalization may be necessary sometimes: associations seeking to destroy or limit the workers' party-firm for private gain may need to be unmade.
But this does not mean the party-firm should seek to stop all forms of ‘opportunism’: in the broadest sense, only a few associations within the workers' party-firm need to follow the strictest codes of conduct. For the party-firm as a whole, sound 'opportunistic principles' should outline the actual bounds of acceptable opportunism. These principles may allow the party-firm to sell a non-controlling stake in the firm for capital or use the capitalist state to bring resources into a 'private' firm. They may allow for favorable mutual deals between the workers and the petit bourgeois. We need simple 'opportunist principles' that grow the workers' firm and workers' power.