Dauve and Martin again, from the early seventies. To me, the text feels very seventies. Its atmosphere is one of rejecting states, bureaucracies, and mediations and trying to connect with another directly, 'taking matters in our hands.' I don't even know what 'taking matters in our own hands' means or why it's desireable. It seems to me that all institutions arise as the arrangements people who have taken matters in their own hands introduce. It also seems to me that institutions can be useful--it saves us from having to do everything new and differently each time we do something (I read Hegel as making this point in the Philosophy of Right). To me, some problems occur when institutions lose their adaptive capacities, get into negative feedback loops, become unresponsive. Other problems occur because the institutions we have developed to preserve and protect capitalism; they are difficult to subvert, undermine, infiltrate, eliminate--that takes a revolution.
At any rate, the text unfolds in an outline, A-K. My comments will follow along.
A. Wage labor as a social relation.
The general point is non-controversial, repeating Marx's discussion of the violent imposition of wage-labor as well as the critique of the fiction of free contracts. But, there is a further element in the discussion that strikes me as reductive:
The two pillars of modern society, exchange and wage-labour, are not only the source of periodic and constant disasters, but have also created the conditions which make another society possible. Most importantly, they compel a large section of the present world to revolt against them, and to realize this possibility: communism.
Are exchange and wage-labor by themselves the source of periodic and constant disasters? Do exchange and wage-labor themselves create these conditions which make another society possible by themselves? In other words, are they necessary causes? sufficient causes? quasi-causes? Do they by themselves compel revolt? It seems to me that there are additional factors that matter, factors that are inter-related: ideology, social relations, technological development, resistance. To be sure, all these factors come up in the text. But their relation to the two pillars isn't clear. And, insofar as communization seems to require the abolition of exchange and wage-labor, it seems that they are the most important factors in and of themselves. They are in effect the 'true basis' of capitalism.
It's curious to me that the problem isn't identified as commodity production and exchange. First, to focus on exchange seems to confine the inquiry to circulation and to leave out production (although it could be the case that wage labor is the opening to production; if that's true, then this first point goes away). Second, I don't think exchange is a problem (or even a pillar of modern society). Exchange does not require exchange value. We can easily imagine communist exchanges on the basis of need, desire, and pleasure. One group might exchange the corn they grow for the milk and leather produced by another group. The groups don't have to exchange these in any proportion other than community need.