We are all aware of the general concepts of
"praxis" and "social reproduction". We understand that the "means
of existence" of each of our lives are the product of a world-spanning
web of intermeshing human activities, a global labor-process, which is
now shriveling up and breaking down.
But precisely because this global metabolism that sustains our life is
now, by virtue of its capitalist form, collapsing in on itself, the
time has come when we must fulfill the concepts of "praxis" and "social
reproduction" with actual content. We must get beyond the concepts in
general to grasp the specific, detailed content of the social
reproductive praxis now going on.
This means mastering a vast sea of information. We can do this by
taking over a very powerful technique for the organization and
presentation of such data which has already been developed, and
adapting it to our specific purposes.
The attached resolution proposes, as an ongoing project of each local
unemployed council, the construction and maintenance of a model of its
local "unit of reproduction" and of the detailed relation of this unit
to the rest of the global economy, as a database for developing program
and strategy, for anticipating coming developments and their strategic
and tactical implications, and, in the end, for planning the detailed
process of expropriation of capital.
As we enter what may well be the final decades of the decadent phase of
capital, habits of struggle developed in the ascendant phase must, as a
comrade last night pointed out, be discarded as no longer useful. In
the decadent phase, reforms are increasingly impossible for capital to
afford, and we as workers must prepare ourselves and our class to
assume responsibility for social reproduction, as capital (wage-labor)
becomes increasingly irreproducible; impossible as the social relation
of reproduction, and as the bourgeoisie and bureaucracy are forced by
their position to destroy, rather than perpetuate, the reproductive
potential of humanity. We can no longer successfully make "demands"
upon Daddy Capital and Mommy the State, petitioning the government as a
class of capitalist society to grant us certain "rights" or "favors".
We must be developing ourselves in the direction of a class-for-itself,
wherein we grasp conceptually and practically our own self-production,
and work to agreement among ourselves, not what we "demand" of others,
but what we plan to do ourselves.
We, as workers, must develop the experience of and confidence in being
initiators and planners of our own life-production; a
planning-consciousness with respect to social praxis and social
reproduction; an identity of subject, not object, with respect to the
global economic process. Socialism radically depends on making the
social unconscious conscious in this way. And, the social unconscious,
in capitalist society, is the social activity upon which all our lives
depend: social production.
The proposal of this resolution also relates to this need.
The specific method recommended is a modification of one known by the
foreboding title of "input-output table" or "Leontieff matrix". There
is no reason to be overwhelmed by such verbal inflation. This device is
just a particularly powerful, abbreviated, convenient way of presenting
the information of social production, best likened to a cookbook. What
is a cookbook? A stack of recipes. The input-output table is also a
stack of recipes. It is constructed by listing all the products of our
labor twice — once vertically and once horizontally, and in the same
order, forming a grid of rows and columns under and after each product.
Each of the slots of "cells" of this grid gets filled with a number
(see figure). The row after "product 1" gives the "recipe" for product
1; it tells how much of each of the (other) products (including itself),
goes as an ingredient into making a unit of product 1. The row after
"product 2" gives the "ingredients" of product 2, and so on. A stack of
recipes. A cookbook.
As a whole, the chart shows the mesh, the interconnection, of all
production in the society whose productive activity it models. The
chart portrays the choreography of the incessant global dance of social
reproduction which we daily do. The products listed on the outer edge
of the body of the chart are just the momentary particular results of
the vast intermixing production process whose structure is laid bare in
the interior of the table.
OK — a cookbook. But what kind of cookbook — for what? One could give
the answers. One is that this cookbook tells how to make the entire
man-made world; existing world society — how we do make it. The other
is that the I/O Chart is the "Us Cookbook". Since each product we use
is interdependent with virtually every other product as shown in the
chart, this chart as a whole shows us how we are presently, for good
and ill, making ourselves.
For our purposes, we would want to modify the usual I/O cookbook in
several ways. The usual ones have their numbers in units of price. For
our purposes, especially given rapid inflation, we should have them in
units of labor-hours, and methods for doing this translation from
dollars to time are being worked out.
Also, the usual ones break down production only into abstract product
categories — they give no insight into the spatial distribution of
production; no geographical information. We could build this
information in by adding layers on either side (forward and back) of
the basic product-category chart, which layer we could call the
"zero-layer" or "Leontieff layer".
The "cells" in layer +1 would-have numbers referring to all the product
of each category produced in a defined geographical region "1". Layer
+2 would give this production data for region 2, and so on. Layer -1
would contain numbers telling the amount of each product category
consumed in region 1 for each adjacent recipe row, i.e., for use in
that recipe, and so on with layer -2 for consumption in region 2, and
so on. Adding the numbers in the cells for a given product-category
either forward (minus layers) or backward (plus layers) up to the zero
layers would yield a sum equal to the number in the same
product-category cell in the zero-layer (with some exceptions).
Finally, we would want to include labor-power as both a
product-category and an ingredient, in order to "close" the table. Most
traditional tables treat "household" or individual consumption only as
consumption, not also as the production of labor-power. They treat
household demand as an aspect of "final demand" — i.e., as an output
only, but not as an input again as well.
The use of such an I/O model is to aid in conceptualizing actual human
praxis, the vast, manifold interconnection of our self-production
process. The array of digits in itself is nothing, and should not be
fetishized. Any intelligence-value of such a model exists only in the
relationship between the array as objectification of an
information-gathering process, and the conceptual activity of those who
created it and who use it to increase the productivity and acuity of
their concept-forming activity in their effort to grasp the actual
ongoing human practice, and to develop program and strategy on the basis of
that developing grasp.
Once such a relationship, including the model, is created, there are
well-developed methods for operating on it to quickly determine: (1)
effect of a strike, or general strike, or production-collapse, in one
geographic region, on all the other regions; (2) decline of the
reproductive potential of humanity occasioned by each successive
development of the depression (damage assessment); (3) reproduction
potential of the existing means of production versus those being planned by us (losses
due to unemployment of productive forces, versus the increased production
to be counted on given a socialist transition); (4) amount production
of all other products that would have to be increased in order to
increase output of a particular product by a specified amount; (5)
effect of a realized increase in productivity for one kind of product on
potential output of all other products; (6) existing realized
productivities (ratio of outputs to inputs for each "recipe", such
a "recipe" also being known, in the "Leontieff matrix" context, by the
formidable title of "production function").
That is, such a model-building project would give us the means to
determine, given our assumptions, what actually can be done and needs
to be done with the already existing productive forces, and to monitor
closely what actually is happening to the possible reproductive
trajectories of humanity as a result of the ongoing continuum of events
of the crisis, the moves of the ruling class, and our own strategic
Moreover, the data on the interconnection of product flows contained in
the table can be tagged with "pointers" to a file containing an
inventory of the existing stock of means of production, detailed down
to the level of address/location and specification information in some
instances. Such a database is a preparation for the monumental task of
planning the actual revolutionary expropriation process, in terms of
targets and objectives, how and where to setup local-central workers'
council facilities, how and where to link up councils into a
communications/protoplanning network through expropriation of the
existing international communications nets (Telex, ARPA net, Autodin,
Autovon), priorities of expropriation in terms of more than local
necessities, and so on, as well as preparing for the first transitional
social production plan of an emerging socialist society.
In general, such a database would allow us to simulate in advance,
given various assumptions, the probable consequences of our various
strategic and programmatic options, as well as of the actions of our
class adversaries and of depression-collapse events.
The effort to build such a database will be greatly abbreviated by
available studies done under government auspices which have produced
county-by-county I/O matrices for the US for various years, as well as
by the ongoing U.S.A. Census of Manufactures Standard Industrial
Classifications Data, and other statistics gathering projects.
Optimum productivity in this project would require the acquisition of
some computer power by the National Unemployed League, but rapid
developments in computer obsolescence and in new, cheap microcomputers
are bringing such power within our reach.