domingo, 17 de fevereiro de 2019

Capitalism and the Naive Spirit for Building the Future

Convincing capitalists to abandon the logic of growth that leverages profit-making would require them to consider hara-kiri as a business opportunity


A – Capital’s structure and operating mode
1 – Capitalism’s essential objective – The accumulation of capital
2 – Main instruments of capitalist accumulation
3 – Side effects of the capital accumulation model
B – The insufficiency of any piecemeal approach to capitalism

A – Capital’s structure and operating mode

Capitalism loves profits, above everything else; and to ensure them, it looks at every means to achieve them, assessing the costs that must incur to achieve that goal, performing what is technically called a cost-benefit analysis.

That analysis is subsumed on a purely technical and accounting approach in the case of small businesses. The same doesn’t happen when it comes to big business, involving huge financial, human and capital resources; in the last cases, in addition to those trivial approaches, the surrounding variables, such as economic, social, political, ideological and, more recently, ecological are brought into perspective.

Let us now look at an essay on defining the global organization of capitalism.
1 – Capitalism’s essential objective – The accumulation of capital 

  • This accumulation feeds on the production of goods and services, for consumption or investment, based on human labour;
  • And, in the form of speculation in the financial market, is based on decisions made by algorithms.

2 – Main instruments of capitalist accumulation

  • Consumerism is the masses’ psychological capture; it is a vice, an addiction that feeds the "market". This capture makes the very victims of capitalism interested in its continuity. 
  • Debt is a lever of consumption and for the commitment of future incomes. Through it, the financial system seizes peoples’ wages and assets; it ensures a share of the tax burden levied by governments on the people; and, through debt, conditions public finances ad aeternum.
  • Military spending animates the economic activity of producing countries; they are elements of containment of external interventions although, in general, there is little they can contain; or they are instruments for actions abroad, based on an illegitimate right to intervene. In all cases they support parasitic military castes.
  • Transnationals, the financial system and the crime capital intertwine themselves in a complex matrix and changing array of collusions and conflicts, the ends of which justify all means, including an enormous procession of dysfunctions and suffering of relations between and within peoples. These are the structural elements of capital reproduction.
  • Nation-states are geographical units of division and differentiated management of the human herd, an inheritance of colonialist and competitive capitalism of the past centuries, currently framed, in their majority, by the transnational corporations and the financial capital that structure today’s globalized world. It is within that context that national political classes carry on with the proximity management of peoples’ meekness.
  • Several international organizations act as sector managers with planetary scope –  WTO, IMF/WB, WHO, UNCTAD ... – or by aggregating several countries in a broad regional context – OECD, EU, NATO, ASEAN, OCX ... Of course, these organizations show the hierarchy between nation states, many of which do not even have the ability to follow up on matters, due to either financial or technical difficulties, confining themselves to voting along with the stronger ones, be that because of belief or vote purchase.
  • The national political classes are the caretakers of the national capitalists’ interests and of their integration and compatibility with the global capital; they hierarchize the interests of national groups that know well how to co-opt or corrupt influential members of the political classes. As a rule, they are divided between government and opposition, a sort of Dupont and Dupond[1] but with more of a penchant for the theatre. On forums such as the Bilderberg, the local mandarins – taken as promising candidates to supranational positions – are annually called to take their tests.
  • Nationalist ideologies, patriotic-like or xenophobic, cross the national political spectra as instruments for division, diversion and control of the peoples. The enemy becomes globalization – although it has been around for centuries and its depression crises have promoted nationalisms and apocalyptic wars. The national capitalists are exempt from responsibility and the culprit for the misfortunes is the Other – immigrant, refugee, Islamite, black, foreign; a speech that ignites those people lost in a world they do not understand, and that the TV does not explain.
  • The great media combine several characteristics – opinion manipulators, through concealment or misrepresentation of facts – propagandists of social, sports or political futilities, and translators for the great global media. Those characteristics push people into social networks where, in the midst of a great emptiness, some free expression is possible, with a smaller margin for censorship; although the counterpart is the mass exploitation of data. Those platforms belong to corporate groups which have intimate relations with big business and the political classes.
  • The state authority carries on activities in the area of police or legal repression, very discriminatory from a social point of view, and also through taxation within the context of reverse redistribution of income. It is the state that seeks to combine benefits that meet the competitiveness of the capitalists with a fiscal burden that becomes compatible with the unions capability for social restraint; and also to produce legislation which provides in a discreet way elements conducive to entrepreneurship, the movement of capital, and the exploitation of workers.
  • The symbiosis between the state and capital, notably the financial one, corresponds to a capture of the former by the logic of the latter; these are the cases of the health, education, social action, and social security systems, of the abandonment of a housing policy, of public transportation, of roads, of public supply of water, electricity, communications, etc.
  • The educational system – public or private – is commercialized, extremely parcelled out (as opposed to the meaning of universality), especially at the high education level. It is the great indoctrinator of individualism, of competition and of technocratic entrepreneurship, of preparation for the labour "market", the bureaucratic machinery of enterprises or public institutions, and also to the shaping of the political classes.
  • The market democracy commonly known as representative (despite only party gangs being represented) is nothing more than a placebo for a real democracy. It establishes a gap between the elected and the electors, which are placed beyond any possibility of representation; it eternalizes the members of the political class as "representatives"; it excludes, in fact, any referendum or other popular initiative, especially for the withdrawal of the mandates of those who demonstrate their incapacity or unworthy behaviour.

3       – Side effects of the capital accumulation model 

1 - An ongoing bitter commercial, political, military struggle – between companies and States – for the material resources of the planet, and for the control of the so called consumer markets. 

2     - Faced with the environmental damages generated by the competition inherent to the capitalist groups and their states, two attitudes emerge on the capitalists and the political classes’ side – one being the mercantile management of such damages, as if they were another business opportunity, and another of their actual devaluation as a problem, as can be seen in Trump and Bolsonaro’s positions. 

3     - In the absence of a holistic and sufficiently consensual narrative policy for overcoming capitalism, technocratic or politically innocuous formulas for facing the social, political, economic or environmental issues become dominant; and, recently, fascist-like narratives, picked-up in the attic of unsavory grandparents, are showing up.

4     - The increase in the share of national incomes pocketed by the rich – as well as the wealth in their possession – pushes populations into economic difficulties that generate stagnation or reduction of their standard of living which, however, have not been the source of popular uprisings; faced with the systemic crisis of low capital reproduction rates, the state is mobilized to play a supplementary or preventive role of the effects of economic, social and environmental disruption caused by capitalist accumulation. This role is also embodied in the support of capitalist groups, particularly banks, or in supporting the unemployed to launch themselves into individual entrepreneurship adventures, which in the majority of cases end in bankruptcy, debt, and frustration.

5     - The role of propaganda promoted by political classes has been increasing, in order to induce meekness into the crowd — with the judicious use of various instruments such as manipulation, threat and repression. The idea that the current active models — economic and political — are the best and the most efficient of all — there is no alternative — is prevailing, contrarily to other epochs, given the absence of a noteworthy anti-capitalist left, alien to the tangles that wrap up and make all the political classes look the same.

6     - The great goal of accumulation has been leading to the drowning of humanity in debt[2] – public or private – with regular financial crises that the peoples’ inaction allows to be temporarily overcome. Debt, in general, serves to anticipate consumption and, above all, to capture debtors. Seen from this angle, debt is not payable, with or without paltry restructuring actions. On the other hand, the cascades of debt securities that fuel financial speculation serve this purpose and are not to be payed up; even because the initial debtor, the real one, quickly becomes unknown after successive securitizations.

7     - Some of the technological innovations are aimed at social control through emptiness and manipulation – social networks, media, the focusing of time and attention in smartphones in addition to the generation of fast-paced businesses that accumulate capital; a social control much more intense and effective than at the time when the press was dominant.

The growing share of capital accumulation that comes from the financial delusions associated with current and future advances in information management or automation brings to the top capital spheres and their think tanks the medium term issue of a drastic reduction of the human resources needed.
As a system, global and integrated, capitalism can be seen from several angles – economic, social, political, technological and environmental, among others; and because of these characteristics any sectoral measure or event per se interacts with other sectors, improving performance in some but negatively affecting others. The Second World War caused enormous material and human destruction, resulting in profound changes in the global, technological, economic, social, and political orders. The celebrated 30 glorious years led, in Europe, to the establishment of the European social model that was later adulterated and extinguished by neoliberalism, which, in turn, generated new paradigms in the labour field. The collapse of the USSR and its state capitalism facilitated the integration of Eastern Europe into the EU and pushed Russia to strategic alliances based in Asia... However, globally, it can be said that only readjustments were made to the capitalist production mode.

Another readjustment case, which is obviously less deep and more strict, is that of the ban on chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and halons in 1987, which contributed to the reduction of the ozone hole, although the agreement for such a deletion was facilitated because its production was centered in a large company, DuPont; ... and also because substitutes were soon found, no damage having been caused to the capitalist system. Incidentally, CO2 helps increase ozone in the stratosphere as opposed to methane, a net effect that is possibly under study.

While the contestation groups – despite having technical and political merits in circumscribed matters – restrict themselves to the adoption of a piecemeal approach  lacking a strategic profile, capitalism will know how to manage concessions, co-optations and repression, necessary and convenient for its continuity; above all, because it has available to it several organizations, think tanks, and consultants with powerful means of a technical, financial and knowledge nature, capable of carrying out political, tactical, geographic, and social syntheses, more specific or broader in scope, more truthful or more falsified[3].

The more circumscribed – in space and in scope – the contestation is, the more facilitated the repression will be and the more difficult the congregation of popular support in the face of the attitudes of power will be. If the protest groups, each one with a circumscribed basis of action – environmental, social, political, economic ... – agree on their action or federate their objectives against capitalism as a blocker of peoples' well-being, their performance will gain strength, consistency, resources, visibility, and breadth of combat. On the other hand, this integration, through the exchange of ideas and the interaction between the various thematic groups, will contribute to a greater maturity of the awareness of the necessary suppression of capitalism.

The failure of the anti-capitalist struggle – even in their distinct areas – is guaranteed as long as it won’t have behind it the lifeblood and the express and militant will of the multitude of human beings, stripped of nationalistic, ethnic or religious complexes; or, furthermore, if they incorporate vertical and authoritarian institutions, as are the States or the political parties which, incidentally, are becoming discredited, as has been seen in France with the revolt of the Yellow Jackets. States were born at the dawn of capitalism to give cohesion to the nation-states, as hunting grounds for restrict capitalist groups, seeking to establish in “their” people, through school and military service, the difference to and antagonism towards other peoples; causing us to forget that on both sides of a border there are only human beings with the same essential purposes in life.

In this way the nation-states[4], with their instruments for repression and plundering of the crowd, are becoming, in their majority, subordinates of globalization, giving rise to two trends. A cosmopolitan one, inclusive, of crossing of bodies and cultures, of building the common; and another, fearful of the future and retreating behind xenophobia, the borders and antagonism towards the Other, always seen as a threat, and hoping to recreate the paradise within the nineteenth-century narrative of "to every people a nation."

Thus, in the global struggle and on all fronts in which capitalism exerts its dominion or influence, its suppression[5] must be exercised by swarms of rhizome-like networks[6] with a democratic, horizontal decision process, participated by everyone, since the existence of hierarchies and privileges facilitates situations of betrayals, cooptation or collusions coming from institutions that serve capital – especially the political classes.

This and other texts in:

[1] Reference to Herge’s fictional characters in Tintin’s adventures, the incompetent and undistinguishable twin detectives. (NT)
[3] As an example of the typical manipulations produced by consultants recall, in the 90s, that EDP (Electricidade de Portugal – Portugal Electricity – NT) intended to build a dam on the river Coa, but the discovery of ancient rock paintings came to raise barriers to that initiative. Expeditious, EDP’s management used a "reputed expert" who denied historical value to the findings, which he ascribed to the work of shepherds of the… XIX century. It was found out that the specialist was a swindler and, with the change of government, the construction of the dam was abandoned.