Amadeo Bordiga 1952
First Published: Battaglia Comunista No. 8, 17-20 April 1952;
Translation: Communist Left, No. 2, January-June 1990;
HTML Mark-up: Andy Blunden 2003.
The decontamination to which we dedicate 90% of our humble work will be continued a long time after us and be realised only in the distant future. This decontamination combats the epidemic — always and everywhere dangerous, of those who — in all places and at all times — innovate, bring up to date, renovate and revise.
It would be useless and even detrimental to specify or to personalise — to search around for a bacteriological bomb thrower — rather, it is a matter of identifying the virus itself and of applying the antibiotic which we obstinately assert exists in the continuity of the line and fidelity to principles, with preference being given 999 times out of a thousand to catechistical ruminations rather than to the exploit of the new scientific discovery, which require of us the wings of eagles, but to which all too often vulgar gnats feel themselves drawn by destiny.
It therefore disturbs these quivering winged creatures, when, bluntly down to earth, we remind them of the modest altitude that it is given to us to attain, we to whom all heroism and all romanticism is forbidden; we, who stick to irony rather than lyricism, feel obliged to remind those who are too impetuous: Don't play at being Phaeton. It would be nice to test out on the abacus those who suffer from the hysteria of making purist calculations, to ascertain if they are capable of adding up on the ends of their fingers or not.
Woe betide to those who believe themselves to be expressing revolutionary theory and who pretend to be — as is said nowadays — a mouthpiece of the proletarian movement, who haven't yet digested and assimilated the crucial turning-point where our doctrine abandoned traditional positions.
Woe betide to all, but especially those groups who wish to place themselves at the extreme left of the movement, and to personify the struggle against degeneration. It has been far too easy for opportunists and those who collaborate with the class enemy, to defame the "left" by accusing it of being prey to illusions, sectarianism, extreme formalism and of not comprehending the overall dialectic of Marxism.
The retort and defence of the international left has consisted and consists, of demonstrating that the rejection of concessions, compromises and manoeuvres doesn't stem from a relapse into mysticism and metaphysics, like that of the extremely simple child who, like in the old religious beliefs, opens all doors with the key of one sole antithesis between two opposed principles: good and evil.
The "good" for us would equate with the proletariat, and the "evil" with capitalism: which everywhere at all times without need of further reference points, is this same capitalism, an absolute evil, — always one — always the same. The rest a fairy-tale! We have fought for a long time to demonstrate that we don't reason thus, and that we have understood well "the dialectic of living history" by unmasking the falsity of postleninist opportunism, and by tracing out with sufficient exactitude the path of its line over thirty years from orthodoxy to total renunciation.
We certainly weren't deterred when they reminded us that with the onset of each historical stage the terms of the antithesis change. For although for believers in all mystics, good can only beget good, and evil beget evil for fear that the eternal values etched in the light of the spirit should fall, according to our revolutionary doctrine, Communism is the son of capitalism and it could only have been engendered by it and that despite that, and even because of it, it must fight and overthrow it. Furthermore, the historical timing of turning points and of reversals of positions occur by virtue of material conditions and relations — never thanks to the clownishly vigilant will of petty men or grouplets, self-appointed through their negligible conviction of being instrumental in checking the path is not a mistaken one.
The spread of the "Communist Manifesto" was slow in Italy. In the preface to the 1.2.1893 Italian edition, Frederick Engels was clearly aware of the "general opinion" according to which what was being dealt with were a country and a Proletariat that were "behind". A view so general and enduring, that not less than half a century later, the second Risorgimento, the second 1848, would still remain "to be made". Engels harked back at that time to 1848, to recall that this revolution contemporary to the "Manifesto" wasn't Socialist, but prepared the ground in Europe for the Socialist Revolution.
We have returned to this text to rediscover there two important truths, truths which are on the level of two and two equals four, but which it is evidently necessary to "resuscitate" — namely: "the manifesto gives full credit to the revolutionary part played by capitalism in the past. -The first capitalist nation was Italy". Let us chew this over thoroughly. The end of the feudal middle ages and the beginning of the modern capitalist era is fixed by Engels — not with Walter Audisio, Mussolini's executioners — but with Dante.
We have often said that the "Manifesto" is an apology of the bourgeoisie, and we add that today, the Second World War and the reabsorption of the Russian Revolution, a second one should be written, not in terms of philosophies of values; for these values pour into the bourgeois ideology the implacable economicism and shopkeeper's spirit appropriate to the class and the time. We need to vindicate the accused, in order to conclude that it is time to condemn him to death.
To prove this we should draw evidence from the Manifesto as a whole. We will confine ourselves however to memorising ten words: "the bourgeoisie has played an eminently revolutionary role in history".
We now take up from a later passage. The main reason why the pre-bourgeois production relations were, in a certain sense, static regarding the requirements of the ruling class, whilst bourgeois relations are brutally dynamic, lies in the breaking down of the narrow circles of satisfaction of needs of the autarkic islands of production/consumption. Here is the thesis, expressed so of ten, but ever new: "In place of the old needs met by local (spell it! L-O-C-A-L) production, new ones appear which demand for their satisfaction, the products of distant countries and regions".
Karl Marx's "Capital" (whoever is horrified by the smell of decay and mumification is invited to seek after new, more exalted texts) contains a section, the fourth in the first chapter, which, in ten pages resumes the entire work and its subject, in fact all Marx's work, written and unwritten. The section is entitled: "the fetishism of commodities and the secret thereof", an illiterate manual labourer can easily understand it, but for the intellectual who attempts its mastery, fifty years of elementary school will scarcely be enough.
We would recommend for inclusion on the agenda at a party meeting, for anyone who would like to give it a — "truly political" foundation, the reading and application — whilst looking out of the window of course — of chapter 1, section 4.
Marx was face to face with a thesis already established by classical political economy. Thus he named the school which openly sought to explain the nature of naissant capitalist production without glossing anything over, "in opposition to vulgar economy which contents itself with appearances (....) and restricts itself in truly pedantic fashion to erecting a system and proclaiming as eternal truths the most banal and stupid illusions, with which the agents of bourgeois production like to people their universe, the best of all possible worlds". A vulgar school still alive and well to which we may enrol the great economists of the like of Sombart and Keynes. Therefore Marx accepted a thesis, a discovery of classical economy: "the exchange value of a commodity is given by the labour time necessary for its production".
Proletarian science accepts this thesis on the one hand whilst on the other it demonstrates that as long as this truth implicitly includes the conviction that as long as the world exists, objects utilised by people to satisfy their needs will have the character of commodities, this "scientific truth" shrinks to the level of arbitrary assertion, mystical, on the level of fetish, that is to say, to the level of a misleading falsehood, different in no respect from those contained in the ideologies and beliefs of pre-bourgeois times from which bourgeois science turned in derision (not that they scoff quite so much anymore, but this phenomenon was to be expected).
Let us follow some of Marx's evocative steps, after having in our turn anticipated, with a didactic aim, what he was getting at. The objects of consumption haven't always been commodities — today they are affected by a price and a value of exchange which derives from work-time crystallised in them — but they won't always exist as commodities; Once the complete analysis of the capitalist industrial mode of production is made, it can be deduced not only that it isn't necessary that all the objects which satisfy the needs of our existence be commodities and be exchanged at their price and value, -but that on the contrary, at a certain moment, they won't be such anymore.
From primary school, we know what this statement signifies "politically" (agreed?). It signifies: the capitalist mode of production isn't eternal and it will collapse with the victory of the working class. It will have disappeared as soon as exchange values and commodities don't exist anymore, that's to say when there isn't either mercantile exchange of the objects of consumption, or money anymore.
This signifies something more precise: there cannot exist in the future an economy which is still mercantile but which isn't capitalist anymore. Before capitalism there were economies which were partially mercantile, but capitalism is the last of this genre.
As obstinate adversaries of novelty, we show to those who are able to read properly, that this was written down: Let us suppose I have a candle at my disposal, and I need light. I make use of it by lighting it, and in a few hours I will have consumed it. Almost nothing odd there, in the candle or in the light, so "the mystical character of the commodity doesn't derive from its use value (the property the candle has of giving light). It doesn't derive either from the features which determine the value (so many grams of stearin)".
From whence then derives therefore, Marx asks himself, the enigmatic quality that the object of consumption assumes in cloaking the commodity form? Evidently from this same form. Do not take for banal what is profound!
The value form, that is the relation which establishes itself between the candle and the fifty francs which we pay for it, isn't a relation between things: between the stearin and the grubby bits of republican paper; but it does conceal a social relation between men who participate in production. The mercantile monetary relation seems to be a simple means to exchange the candle that I burn, with let us say, the matches which I produce; it seems to be a relation between products: in reality it is a relation between producers, a social relation, better still a relation between social classes. It is here that Marx unveils the mystery of the commodity "fetish".
"A commodity is therefore a mysterious thing, simply because in it the social character of men's labour appears to them as an objective character stamped upon the product of that labour; because the relation of the producers to the sum total of their own labour is presented to them as a social relation, existing not between themselves, but between the products of their labour, this is the reason why the products of labour become commodities, social things whose qualities are at the same time perceptible and imperceptible by the senses".
Marx wanted to best explain this "Journey" in which the innocent candle — as opposed to the dry sticks snapped off the tree and rubbed together by primitive man in his lair — becomes, by assuming an exchange value, the expression of the relationship of exploitation which the owner of the factory makes his workers put up with in the candle factory.
He made a comparison with the stimulation of the retina which appears to us as an object existing exterior to the eye which sees it. But the light radiated by the object and the stimulation of the eye are physical realities, whilst the value form is nothing physical at all, contained neither in the stearin or in the light or stimulation of the optic nerve. The latter is a definite social relation between men, that assumes in their eyes, the fantastic form of a relation between things, "in order, therefore to find an analogy, we must have recourse to the mist-enveloped region of the religious world".
As in mysticism, "the productions of the human brain appear as independent beings" and it is the same with the products "in the world of commodities with the products of men's hands. This I call the Fetishism which attaches itself to the products of labour, so soon as they are produced as commodities, and which is therefore inseparable from the production of commodities".
Marx, who isn't a man of letters but a fighter, sees the class enemy in front of him with every line he writes. He isn't a "thinker" and he doesn't soliloquise, but writes in dialogue form with his enemy. You thought, oh theoreticians of the bourgeoisie, to have reached the acme of development in, clearing away from the spirit of man the fetishes of beliefs in the divinities which justified the authority of the class to which you have succeeded, but you have set up a new and much sadder fetish which we will throw down in its turn from your altars — the banks — and eject from your temples — the stock exchanges.
"It is, however, just this ultimate money-form of the world of commodities that actually conceals, instead of disclosing, the social character of private labour, and the social relations between the individual producers. (....) The categories of bourgeois economy consist of such like forms. They are forms of thought expressing with social validity the conditions and relations of a definite, historically determined mode of production, viz, the production of commodities". All mysticism is dissipated if we refer ourselves to another type of distribution, one that is non market.
We have asked Karl Marx to demonstrate the transitory character of mercantile forms and to confirm the annexed thesis: the mercantile forms appeared at a certain stage in history, and it is when they have disappeared that we will be in the Communist stage. Marx then, in the twinkling of an eye, takes us from Robinson Crusoe to the society of the future. It is our standard and usual method: to elaborate the analysis of future development with indisputable data from the past. Would that they — who having read without reading, say that Marx stuck to the prudent science of contemporary facts and gave a mere photograph of capitalism of his day — (the imbecile puppy of 1952 knows more about it than Marx of course). Would that they clean their gummy eyelids; realised communism, they will find it on pages 82-3 in Volume 1 of Capital!
Since economy is fond of "robinsonades", let us start from there, said Marx, Robinson had needs and satisfied them with objects that he gathered together: he saved ink, pen and ledger and made an inventory; but...that's all. He didn't engage in double entry book-keeping, nor did he receive or deposit money, for around him there were no commodities of any description. Marx transports us away from "Robinson's island bathed in light to the European middle-ages shrouded in darkness". This next part is for you; the liquidators of feudal guilt for the better glory of the brilliant neon civilisation of today. You, who understand only that light comes of light and dark from dark; deum de deo, lumen de lumine. For our part, we recognise the necessity for the passage from the light of the early and generous primitive communism, without commodities, to the shadowy society of feudalism, and then onto the fetid sewer of bourgeois civilisation in order to pass beyond it. For us nothing is a fetish, not even hatred of capitalism.
Right then, so in the middle-ages, commodities still don't exist on a wide scale: the privilege of the dominant class is constituted by openly visible personal payments in labour. The social form of labour is also its natural form, that's to say, particularity, and not as in the mercantile form, generality. Let us try to understand this. I have turned the winepress for you and after having stretched yourself out somewhere, you will imbibe a good glassfull. This is less ignoble than buying from the pub the poisoned capitalist liquid, containing water and colouring — to increase the profit-margin.
Clear relations then in the gloomy Middle-ages: the lies of the priest dominate! But, "the tithe to be rendered to the priest is more intelligible than his blessing". The foul conjuring trick of representing the relations of human slavery as an equal relation between exchangeable things, will be the characteristic feature of the subsequent bourgeois epoch.
But can a human activity exist that is fit to fulfil essential needs without such a modern deception, outside of the fetish of the market? Yes, says Marx, and he gives examples for three periods: the past, the present, and the future.
The past: Robinson, as an entirely abstract figure used for the purposes of analogy doesn't interest us. Man is the species, not the person: this bizarre, solitary and evidently sterile being, knows only consumer goods and not exchange, and not finding himself in the Garden of Eden and besides the disadvantage of being deprived of Eve, he procures himself useful goods through his work.
Our example from the past we draw from the primitive communities. Between the "Manifesto" and "Capital", practical archaeological research has established that not only certain peoples, but every one of them, had their origins in organisations based on the work of all and the property of no-one. An organisation where one finds: "labour in common or directly associated labour" in its "spontaneously developed form which we find on the threshold of the history of all civilised races".
"We have an example close at hand in the patriarchal industries of a peasant family, that produces corn, cattle, yarn, linen, and clothing for home use. These different articles are, as regards the family, so many products of its labour, but as between themselves, they are not commodities. The different kinds of labour (...) possess a spontaneously developed system of division of labour. The distribution of the work within the family and the regulation of the labour-time of the several members, depend as well upon differences of age and sex, as upon natural conditions varying with the seasons".
On several occasions we have pointed out that these streams of autonomous organisation exist not only in backward areas into which the global market hasn't yet penetrated, but exist still in the bourgeois countries: in 1914, a Calabrian woman, a large landowner, boasted of spending one penny a year on needles and buying nothing else. If we weren't dialecticians we would say that our ideal is contained in such streams. On the contrary however, we say that the quicker these are swallowed up in the infernal circle of market capital — be it in Calabria or Turkestan — the better.
"Let us picture to ourselves, by way of a change, [the moderate tone employed here so as to avoid utopian affectations, blinds superficial people to the fact that it is the revolutionary programme being dealt with] a community of free individuals, [for us, on the historical level, free is equivalent to non-salaried] carrying on their work with the means of production in common, in which the labour-power of all the different individuals is consciously applied as the combined labour-power of the community. (...) the total product of our community is a social product. One portion serves as fresh means of production and remains social. But another portion is consumed by the members as means of subsistence. A distribution of this portion amongst them is consequently necessary [Take note! you look for the designation 'into equal parts' but it is not there] The mode of this distribution will vary with the productive organisation of the community, and the degree of historical development attained by the producers".
In order to best establish that this "state of things" (nothing other — oh critics, oh vacant ones — than Communism; that Impossible Communism!) is the negation of commodity production, Marx makes a comparison by examining one of the ways of dividing things up, i.e. "the share of each individual producer in the means of subsistence is determined by his labour time" (this would be the lower stage of Communism, as Lenin correctly described it drawing from the critique of the Gotha Programme — which in itself was another formidable hammering out of fundamental points). Very well then! Here, within communist organisation, "the social relations of the individual producers, with regard both to their labour and to its products, are in this came perfectly simple and intelligible, and that with regard not only to production but also to distribution".
The last part of the paragraph deals with ideologies which necessarily reflect the three stages: ancient pre-mercantile economy, mercantile economies, and non-mercantile or socialist economies.
The ancient national religions belong to the first barbarian and semi-barbarian stage based on conditions of despotism and slavery.
The society of the universal market finds an appropriate religion in Christianity, and above all in its bourgeois development, the reformation.
It is only in the third stage, the communist one, that social life casts off the mystic veil that conceals its social aspect iron itself. However, as we have noted elsewhere, there is a but, "This, however, demands for society a certain material ground-work or set of conditions of existence which in their turn are the spontaneous product of a long and painful process of development".
Marx finishes with a final taunt, by assimilating alongside earlier superstitions, the idiotic "self-knowledge" appropriate to the bourgeois epoch.
He chose Bailey, but we could choose Einaudi. The capitalist scientist speaks thus: "Value (that's to say, the value of exchange) is a property of things. Wealth (use value) is a property of man." Thus this capitalist savant is able to scientifically deduce that commodities, and the rich, will exist for ever and ever, amen, (for through reductio ad absurdum, Everyone will be rich).
We, who by the revolution will abolish commodities and the rich, will demonstrate to these alleged sages meanwhile, that on the contrary, it is things which have the property of being of use to mankind, and it is people alone and their present relations, which have the mercantile property, such that exchange value expresses an attribute of people — that of being exploiter or exploited.
The more the opinion of official science is enlightened and brought up to data, and the more it concludes that capitalist relations are irreplaceable and "natural", the more we consider it to be intrinsically ridiculous. Its calibre is comparable to the imbecilities that Shakespeare puts into the mouth of his ludicrous character Dogberry: "to be a well-favoured man surely is the gift of fortune, but to write and read comes by nature".
With the matter being so simple — but simplicity is hard to achieve, while complex things are well within the capacity of any peddler of culture — there are those who come along and say that "new formulas" are necessary. Why? In order to account for Russia and the encumbrance of the Marxist edifice, and for the fact that over there, whilst the means of production are no longer private, there nevertheless exists a capitalism not different by one Jot from those in the west! The entire international gang of stalinists loudly proclaim that Socialism is to be found there in its complete form. And the entire not less vast capitalist gang proclaim the same thing: communism exists over there; communism being nothing other than central and statist dictatorship over all wealth and over all people (to the horror of those in the wonderful free world).
Dear searchers for new formulas, why not go back and have a check over the old formulas, for I rather fancy that instead of convincing you to open an advanced research institute, they will convince you of the necessity of enrolling in a "school for dunces".
It is possible that Demosthenes got over an innate stammer and became a great orator — by dint of stuffing his mouth full of pebbles: But we are more than suspicious of the "cacaglios" of Marxism. You have understood that in neapolitan dialect "cacaglio" means stammerer. Scandalous usage of dialect? Perhaps it was for Stalin who denied that the national language is a transitory class product. But in many cases, dialect is actually nearer to the thought of the dominated class. Dante strengthened the revolution in the measure that the bourgeois opposed the Tuscan vernacular to the latin of the noble men and the prelates. In Russia the aristocrats mumbled in French whilst the proletarian revolutionaries expounded their ideas in German. Stalin, by ignoring both languages, expressed well the fact that one of the characteristics in the formation of bourgeois power is the extolling of the national language.
One need not hesitate to classify Russia within one of three stages: pre-mercantile, mercantile or socialist. At the time of Engels, the first stage was still manifestly evident, not only in the asiatic principalities, but also in the air — the rural community of European Russia, Was it possible then to graft this Communism of exclusive little islands, primitive and rudimenty, onto the Communism of a modern well equipped society? Engels, who was a great and wise diplomat of the revolution, recalled in presenting the "Manifesto" to the Russians, that Marx had predicted in 1862 that it was a possible point of departure if the Russian antifeudal Revolution signalled the Proletarian revolution in the West. If that didn't occur, or if the signal was insufficient, Russia would have to go through the mercantile phase; this it is in the process of doing at the moment. In fact, the collapse of the fabric of Tsarist feudalism provoked the following result: the swallowing up of all the closed-off little islands of Eastern Europe and Asia — thanks to an accelerated industrialisation of the backward territories - in the irresistible tide of the mercantile system.
And the revolutionary outcome? Marx and Engels had always thought that a second 1848, no longer bourgeois but proletarian, could not be victorious as long as there existed in Russia a powerful feudal army. From 1917, this counter-revolutionary condition is removed.
Like them, we consider that in order to be able to transform the anti-feudal revolution into a proletarian revolution in Russia (Lenin's line), the indispensable condition is a revolutionary victory in Europe.
In 1952, Russia hasn't built Socialism, but capitalism, just as Germany, Austria, and Italy built it after 1846.
Today, England, America, France and the other industrial countries are no longer building domestic capitalisms, but protecting global capitalism. Their respective state machineries working solely in a counter-revolutionary direction, with their arsenals pointed solely against the future — not even partly against the past and partly against the future.
We will not elaborate any further here on the question of the mercantile character of the economic organisation rather we will examine in greater detail how the isolated spots within the ocean of general commerce dissolved, by explaining the historical conclusion to be drawn from the fact that in given countries the process is still taking place, while in the territory of others "there are no more economic islands". And we will demonstrate further that this distinction is to be found in the pages of Marx, situated where he develops the history of the passage from fragmented labour to associated labour, which forms the necessary basis of the proletarian revolution and of Communist social organisation.
It has been announced that within two or three years, Russia should be able to exchange with other countries goods with an annual value totalling 40 billion roubles, that is 10 million dollars or 6,300 billion lire.
This Western propaganda would have us believe that this is all just a big hoax, and that this 40 billion will be spent with the sole aim of impressing the electors in the back of beyond, so as to get them to elect a Cominformist mayor.
We would like the tycoons of Western economy to explain to us how it comes about that the captains of industry who have set of f for Moscow have become, not as 'Unità' would romantically have it, suitors at the window but rather suitors of Potemkin, (1) that is, mere hirelings.
It would be more worthwhile surely if they discussed other phenomena like the stalinist decision of Truman to requisition the steel industry and to fix prices and wages by state edict — given that there remains a clear margin of 16$ per ton, or perhaps the phenomena of the founding by the capitalists of an international financial Institution for economic development with the aim of resisting the intervention of governments in their business.
The present development of capitalism towards profit is no surprise to the marxist doctrine, and this much is clear: there is not a single iota of Socialism in this development, as evidenced by the fact that for bourgeois economy — the economy which is diametrically opposed — this directed politics is "Socialism" par excellence. For Vilfredo Pareto for example, Socialism isn't understood to mean the same thing as it does for us, namely organisation without market and without "the firm"; quite the contrary in fact, it is understood as arbitrary intervention of moral and legal elements within the natural economic fact.
(Marxism, on the contrary, maintains the opposite view, namely the intervention of economic reality in the shaping of the legal and moral artifice.) At any rate, at least Pareto is consistent when he declares: the Socialist systems, (as he sees them) are not different from the various protectionist systems. These latter, he adds, represent properly speaking, the Socialism of entrepreneurs and capitalists. This Socialism, envisaged by Pareto, more than half a century ago, we will willingly leave to Truman and Stalin. Never more than today has it been so obvious that Soviet Socialism is the Socialism of captains of industry. But in Russia have these not been suppressed? Well, now they're importing them!
In magnitude, 6300 billion lire is double the size of imports into Great-Britain, six times those into Italy, and equal to those of America. It is equivalent to the annual labour of 26 million workers; of probably all or almost all the Russian workers already drawn into production other than that of the exclusive little islands, but certainly of the work of the whole population of a developed country with half the population of the present day U.S.S.R. If half of the labour effort of this people — excluding that expended in pre-mercantile asiatic type consumption — has an equivalent price on the global market to that produced by the capitalist countries, other figures are not really needed in order for us to define the Russian economy as capitalist. Moreover, why doubt that it is immersed in fully fledged mercantilism when the ideological projection consists of the complete domination of the popular religiosity which is encouraged and utilised by the public power?
With the dialogue of exchange between the Russian commodity and the dollar which pays for it, and between the American commodity and the rouble which pays for it, we scarcely need to unravel its "fetishistic character". Objects can't talk, commodities can't talk, but where any type of commodity is produced, the relation is, in reality, the relation of the exploitation of wage-earners.
There is nothing to indicate that at the moment exchange isn't an open palpable reality. Exchange functioned during the war between 1941 to 1945 under various forms, such as arms and ammunition from the west for industrial and "military" effort and work from the east. Today the respective industries step up the accumulation of capital which is a social fact even in the bourgeois regime, either with the aim of arming for an imperialist war (with Truman invoking reasons of national defence for the requisition of enterprises and the militarisation of strikers) or with the aim of the mercantile satisfaction derived from international exchange.
If one wishes to say anything new about Russia, it is more than useless to know that caviar was served at Stalin's table and a millet paté to the workers. This could be compatible with a lower stage of communism. At the higher stage we will give caviar to everyone... and the millet to recalcitrant pupils who have an incurable itch to play at being teacher.
For our part, we are interested to ask ourselves if by having roubles in our pockets we can have caviar or millet, and whether, once the exchange rate is worked out, we can do the same with dollars or lire.
After this, for us the fetish quality of caviar or millet contains no more secrets, as indeed nor does the supremely stupid character of the latest jargon!
1 Fiancés de Potemkin = allusion to Catherine II of Russia and her favourite of the moment Potemkin. At the time of a journey of the Empress across the Russian countryside, Potemkin conceived a collapsible village which he could transport across Russia, and which he used to take Catherine to visit each time she wished to see the state of the peasants. With the surroundings changed at each visit, Catherine thus received a very favourable impression of the state of the Russian countryside and of her subjects.