segunda-feira, 4 de fevereiro de 2019

Degrowth, capitalism and market democracy

Capitalism is a global and invasive system. And no challenge based on a sector-scoped theme, from a location or a group of anointed ones, is sufficient to extirpate it

1 - Capitalism is a global and invasive system 

2 – How to fight capitalist management’s great helpers 

a)     Dovetailing areas in the anti-capitalist fight
b)     Shaping elements for an anti-capitalist network

Since a few years ago, the theme of degrowth has appeared more frequently as a determining theme in the circles of environmental militancy. Without disputing its relevance, we understand that there is a tendency to consider degrowth as the key to obviate the neoliberal and authoritarian drift, with which capitalism puts in jeopardy not only Humanity but also the sustainability of planet’s life support capability.
It seems to us that this view is very partial, perhaps naive and lacking an integrative approach to the problems that capitalism, day after day, has been placing before us with increasing danger. And, being partial, it can be integrated into the capital’s strategy, as has happened with the ecological approach in general or the "sustainable growth" one.
The defense of degrowth must be added to other central aspects of capitalism and its political model, market democracy or, by itself, it will not produce the necessary fruits; that is, the liberation of Humanity from the tyranny of capital. Pursuing the issue of degrowth is necessary but not enough; and, as a piecemeal approach, risks its integration into the logic of capital, always willing to give in to something so that everything remains the same, to pursue the search for its perpetuity.

1 - Capitalism is a global and invasive system
In the midst of the top capitalist media, those that count globally – transnational corporations and the financial system – the big issue is maximizing the profit rate, which will ensure increased capital accumulation. And they use as their main political management elements the nation-states, their national political classes and multi-country bureaucracies (such as the one that infests the EU). Put in a more popular and synthetic way, GDP must be increased indefinitely. 

Neither Humanity, nor its needs or the planet's resources are infinite. Hence a logical question arises: that the infinite growth of the GDP is an economics nonsense that is only in line with the need, the gluttony, the one that is, yes, theoretically infinite, of accumulation of capital. 

In this sense, the political classes, and in particular the governments, in their floral games with oppositions, with the media and their menial penmen, are constantly fighting about GDP growth, imputing responsibilities to the population, demanding sacrifices from workers and to the incomes’ size, imposing austerities and wrestling around the usual differences of a few tenths of GDP’s growth percentages, possible or desired. As a rule, any prediction is by nature inaccurate and quickly revised, as is clearly visible to those having the patience to follow the revisions carried out during the year by the charitable IMF. 

In material terms, these discussions have little real meaning; they are but a show-off within the political class, in order to show service and to entertain the plebs, similar to the discussions about the sporting assets of football clubs; a show-off carried out to intoxicate and capture the population, especially the election’s regulars, paper ushers into the so-called polls... the name itself evoking, in fact, that the voter is, by this very act, deceased[1], prostrated before the mandarin or set of mandarins to whom, stupidly, he or she granted the right to decide about himself or herself and his or her life. 

GDP is a concept created by Kuznets during the Great Depression of the 1930s, at a time when the liberal paradigm gave way to Keynesian logic, and it was deemed to be imprecise and not much accurate by its own creator. In fact, GDP leaves out large portions of income, under the criminalizing title of parallel economy (estimated to be, in Portugal, about 1/4 of the GDP), whether it consists of the activity of those who seek to escape tax punishment – which has a dimension much greater than the benefits it promotes – or of the fruits of maneuvers and business, more or less shady, such as drugs or human beings trafficking... or encouraged by governments such as the products of corruption. Finally, as part of the recent assessments within the EU to increase the volume of GDP, it now includes an estimate of the income from prostitution and also counts as investment... the purchase of military equipment! 

Capitalism, in its neoliberal phase, has been changing the financial system into the main contributor to accumulation; this means that much of the "production" results from speculation, from the delivery by the central banks of money to be launched into the "financial market", invested in stocks, bonds or derivatives, which incorporate debt securities and others, in a huge agglomerate and in a chain where no one has the notion of who the original debtors are and what their respective solvency is. It is a game in the dark that, when it goes wrong, has immense and unforeseeable impacts for which it is now recognized that there is no intervention capacity by the central banks, given the predictable crisis that will erupt in a few years, dragging along the real estate sector, common banks, companies producing goods and services and rendering unpayable the cascades of debt taken on by individuals and companies, launching the former into unemployment and into bankruptcy the latter. 

At first glance, the outbreak of the next financial crisis, being a virtual reality game, affects the sacrosanct GDP, promotes its decreasing but this, in itself, will not exempt Humanity from the real sequels, impacting the life of most humans, be it through unemployment, evictions, poverty, the failure of health and welfare systems, massive migrations, war, which certainly will lead to more predation of the planet's resources. These problems will have the collaboration of the political classes, defenders of capitalism, who will know how to properly repress the affected populations, since for the armed forces, the police and the courts – the repressive area of ​​each nation-state – there will always be funds. 

The degrowth originating from a major crisis of capitalism and political systems is not a degrowth that human beings will applaud. No one wants degrowth to be materialized in wars, rubble, poverty, hunger and repression, except for some of capital’s marginal sectors having a scavenger’s vocation. 

Humanity’s great goal is, perhaps, the well-being of all its elements, the satisfaction of needs that can only be met collectively - tranquility, food, health, housing, education - taking into account the planet's resources, in particular the non-renewable ones, but also  rationality in the production of those that are susceptible of reproduction. Today, however, many human beings live in permanent contamination by consumerism, anchored in the assumption of debt, through the capture by the capitalists of their future incomes; in slavery. Beyond the consumerist compulsion and the burden of personal debt, to each individual’s debt one has to add the debt that his "state" has assumed to boost the global financial system and support their national parish’s capitalists. 

To this end, each state places itself above and beyond individuals to guarantee that slavery, pointing to the individualized solution of all problems, the compression of available time, quite contrary to the slogans of a hundred years ago, when workers demanded eight hours of work, eight for rest and eight for coexistence, culture and management of affections. Today, the evils of capitalism lead to austerity programs, precariousness is trivialized in the name of flexibility, before the ineffectiveness of the unions or parties that call themselves left wing, well inserted into the sphere of power; the hours of work increase, including the enormous travel times; just as do the costs of education and health – that governments gradually privatize, if not de jure, then de facto; in addition to the tax burden on labor and consumption, benevolently sparing capitalists. 

On the other hand, the consumer-debt binomial captures not only present and future income, but also generates a compulsive behavior of constant acquisition, replacement with the more modern, the fashionable model, which having soon become subjectively and commercially obsolete, will be placed as waste, in the trash, in recycling bins or in a corner of the pantry. This compulsion is a disease, an imbalance that manifests itself in a constant dissatisfaction, only satisfied in the next act of consumption... that soon changes into a déjà vu situation. And it has, of course, financial sequels since part of the income (or a new bank debt) is earmarked for the acquisition of the new object. Fashion, introduced by asphyxiating publicity, becomes a spur to consumption, to compulsion, to addiction, to slavery. 

Capitalism, in its search for raw materials, does not retreat before environmental impacts on land, air, and water, the origination of armed conflicts, the displacement of populations and the constant drainage of goods to destinations included in an increasingly dense mesh; as in the context of massification of tourism and professional travel (202157 airplanes flew on 6/29/2018).
Faced with this incomplete panoply of damages and procedures, polarizing action only around degrowth is very inadequate. This insufficiency is the mother of a very likely ineffectiveness and discouragement for many of those who engage in this cause, as has happened to the environmental movements and the environmental parties that hang around. For example, the German Greens, at the time of their leader Joshka Fisher, supported the NATO war against Serbia, thus yielding to Germany's strategic interests. In Portugal, a party (?) self-called The Greens is known as watermelon, because it has a green bark, being red inside; and no relevance is ascribed to it, either in the past or in the future. A few years ago, a well-known environmental association recommended to the plebs the inherent energy savings... by powering off the Christmas tree’s lights when leaving home. And the PAN[2] seems very proud in that one can have his/hers dog shake the rainwater inside the restaurant...

2 – How to fight capitalist management’s great helpers

Since capitalism is a global, complex, invasive system with enormous human, technical and financial resources, there are two questions to consider:
·   Definition of some of the areas of anti-capitalist struggle that should be articulated, federated, in common and solidarity actions, thus increasing the effectiveness and visibility of this struggle;
·   Definition of the elements that should give form to the anti-capitalist network which will necessarily incorporate the struggle for degrowth.
a)   Dovetailing areas in the anti-capitalist fight
i)       A hindrance called nation-state[3]
The nation-state is a space objectively outdated at a time of globalized capitalism; this is hidden by the political classes that in it have their turfs, even if by the delegation of the great global powers. It was born as a support for the rise and aggrandizement of capitalism, as a transformation of feudal landlords into well-defined entities, with borders, a centralized state apparatus for managing the population and guarantee meek workers to the local capitalists, and to guarantee soldiers motivated through patriotism inculcated in school, and cheaper than the recruitment of mercenaries, as can be read in the descriptions of Aljubarrota or Alcácer Quibir[4]

Globalized capitalism, set around transnational corporations, financial capital and the crime economy, has created and uses global instruments to manage its interests – relegating to second place the role of the vast majority of nation states - such as the IMF/WB, the OECD, WTO, ASEAN, WHO, NATO, G7, G20... and the EU itself. 

Thus, to this global logic it is necessary to oppose, as an alternative, strategies and concerted plans, of global or regional character, stripped of prejudices or hegemonies of nationalistic content; without that hindering the development of more localized struggles – such as the opposition to the exploration and exploitation of hydrocarbons in the Algarve – which should not dispense with support and solidarity from other geographical or sectoral areas. 

ii)      The multi-pronged power of states and the role of the political classes
State apparatuses, with their governments, parliaments, police, courts, laws and political classes, are the caretakers of the good order of capital within the nation-state, knowing that it has a degree of political autonomy conditioned by its geopolitical insertion. 

Given that several party lineages exist within each nation-state where there is a market democracy, some will be true capital’s mandataries, others, in the left wing of the political system, show some reticence and alternatives that, obviously, do not question the capitalist order; they are only tactical formulations for a greater share of seats in parliament or public funding. 

The struggle against capitalism demands a total and determined opposition against the economic and political institutions of the nation-state. 

We have always considered it naive and regrettable the presence of activist groups at the RA[5] seeking to motivate the parliament members about their causes, the results of which are necessarily poor. An experience we know of closely occurred at a RA hearing before some commission. Its president, a parliament member (who turned out to be corrupt) leafed through papers without paying any attention to the subject about which they tried to sensitize him; and the other members of the same committee... did not even deigned to be present. 

The State, being the capital’s manager, is not an advocate of causes alien to or harmful to capitalists. And the parties’ members, especially the chiefs and first-line militants, are truly skilled manipulation technicians and are not welcome to the popular and alternative contestation movements even – as it is more common – when they come from the "left" parties. The deviant and objectively sabotaging practices in the Lusitanian parish are immense and had harmful effects that contributed to the current state of apathy experienced there, as in the rest of Europe. They even reached the point of denunciation and collaboration with the police[6]. In short, never should they have any important role in combating for degrowth, as in all other forms of combating the world of capital; Trojan horses are dispensable. 

iii)    The intense pressure on the planet's resources
The resources of the planet are limited and, in the case of minerals, especially the rarest, now used in batteries and screens, are subject to bitter disputes, especially with Chinese demand directed to them. In the case of hydrocarbons, in addition to the traditional release of gases as a product of their combustion, hydraulic fracturing has been installed, with disastrous damage on groundwater levels and soil stability. The industrialization of agriculture requires the deforestation of immense areas, to the detriment of its inhabitants, displaced persons and refugees in areas less suitable for their reproduction as communities (Borneo, Brazil, for example). The drought is advancing in the Sahel and other parts of Africa, contributing to the wars in Mali or Nigeria and pushing millions of people into the unhealthy suburbs of large African cities. The seas show their infestation with common rubbish, discharges of pollutants with devastating effects on the flora and the fauna, also contaminating the populations that consume fish; to the previous one can add aquaculture production, where animals are grown on feed and generate immense quantities of organic debris contaminated with antibiotics. In Antarctica and in the Arctic, the ice mass is melting with increasing temperature, causing sea level to rise with the inherent threat of riparian areas, in addition to changes in currents; and in Siberia deep changes in permafrost are being seen. The huge conurbations generate toxic helmets that prevent air circulation, already hampered by buildings density and height, among which the gases from the often clogged car traffic are concentrated. Finally, in Portugal, the desertification of a large part of the territory, accompanied by the planting of eucalyptus trees and the non-clearing of the bushes, promotes devastating fires as in Pedrógão Grande or Monchique, before the incapacity or inoperability of governments. To top it off, a person as ignorant and arrogant as Trump decides there is no climate change problem. 

Few or none of these evidences have a solution within any nation-state, and it is not even easy for the various political classes to agree in order to obviate these increasingly complicated problems, as time passes. 

It is only through the creation of collective networks, affected or not directly by some of the mentioned problems, within the appropriate geographic scale, that actions that can defy the powers and reverse the processes can be born; perhaps by forcing governments to act. We recall, for example, the media reported actions of disobedience and defiance of powers, as happened, in the past, with the cases of the Frankfurt or the Landes airports; or the cutting of eucalyptus, years ago, on a village from Trás-os-Montes[7]

iv)    Against consumerism and debt
Consumerism, as we said earlier, is a disturbance of behavior that is reproduced by the induction of advertising and by mimicry, in order to be fashionable, if one intends to be a promoter of modernity. 

To encourage it in a continuous way, dominant companies constantly and creatively construct the consumer drive, capturing minds, driving them to compulsively buy more and more goods, to use more and more services, as seen in recent years in the faces concentrated and absorbed by games on the mobile phone.

Consuming is an act made easy to the maximum possible extent, provided that one has money or steps are developed to acquire it through credit; and the financial system is all for it, since, with due guarantees – mortgages or sureties – it can capture people for a lifetime of loan paying, which includes interest, of course. In this compulsion, many people go into the category of over-indebtedness, torn between the craving for the next act of consumption and the concern with the payment of debt installments. And things can become particularly serious given the ease with which redundancies arise and the precariousness of the meager unemployment benefits, making the debt’s instalments impossible to pay. 

The path that the financial system likes most is open; the dependence on such amounts of credit that make the payment of instalments a lifelong income, to be transferred to the heirs. For businesses, the situation is not very different. And hence the financial system, through credit, conditions or controls the lives of families and businesses. 

As for public debt, the process is easier from the point of view of the financial system and the reimbursement guaranteed since states do not go bankrupt... as long as there is a population to plunder. And if there is a political class, anchored or pressured by global institutions (EU, IMF, for example), there will be an increased fiscal punch, reduced availability of services, privatization and austerity. 

Thus, there is an enormous area of civic education and mobilization against debt, be it private or, above all, the public one. In fact, given that debt is an financial system’s instrument for capture[8]; that its deployment is widespread in almost all countries and families; that its existence is an essential instrument for the reproduction of capital, with the precious help of the central banks, the question of debt is a structural element, of a political character and that it is incumbent to an informed and active citizenship to place it within a political content, as a means of perpetuating capitalist accumulation. And, thus, it is not globally restructured or reducible as it is disseminated by governments and political classes in general[9], intent on presenting debt as a commercial transaction and never as an instrument of domination and reproduction by and of capital that can and should only be looked at from a political point of view. 

The global debt was, in 2017, $ 215 000 000 000 000, corresponding to 325% of the world's GDP, something that cannot ever be paid but which remuneration imposes an enormous pressure on peoples, and the creation of dangerous expedients for the continuity of the accumulation of capital, such as the derivative products which amount was, last year,  $ 544 000 000 000 000 ... 822% of the same GDP! 

To speak of debt spirals is to point to the financial system and the political classes, the famous regulators. It is intended to nullify financial speculation and to make investment directed only to something dedicated to the well-being of humans and the planet as a whole; and dependent upon the decisions and savings of the various human communities, with bigger or smaller territorial scope. 

v)     Militarism and war  
As is well known, war is a way of doing politics by means other than the political debate. War has always been something of a destroyer, of lives and property and, following the wars that accompanied colonization by the Europeans, imperial wars between rival national capitalisms arose. Today, with the globalization of capital, wars tend to be located or practiced within asymmetry - powerful armed forces well equipped with means and technologies against armed groups (by definition terrorists in the media or in political classes’ slang); and more sparingly in the form of declared invasions, such as that of the US and its Western dependents, in Iraq. 

The profusion of weapons, their incorporation of technology, makes them more expensive, more destructive, and a source of great business, enormous profits which, in the capitalist logic, are partially spent on research into new forms of destruction or areas of activity, such as the creation of the "Space Corps"[10] by the US, with which it is intended to add a new area as arena of war. Trump's recent presence in Saudi Arabia, loaded with catalogs of weapons for sale, symbolizes the usual relationship between the political classes and the armament business. Cameron, on the contrary, was surprised by the war in Libya when he was about to sell weapons to Gaddafi... probably impacting that year’s growth of the English GDP...

In Europe, the creation of the EU was an instrument of dilution of the rivalries between the various powers, after a vast history of wars; which, however, occurred in the former Yugoslavia, in a process of influence sharing and through NATO. On the other hand, in most cases, European countries are small, isolated without possible defense in a modern war; and it is very doubtful that the Europeans are enthusiastic about wars. 

The biggest problem is NATO, the great war machine, totally dominated by Pentagon strategists and using a very unlikely Russian threat to demonstrate objectives, which in reality are limited to the permanence of US troops in several European countries and taking advantage of the European proximity to the Middle East and Africa (Africom is headquartered... in Stuttgart); in short, to the military presence on the eastern shore of the Atlantic, knowing that on the western shore, the US does not allow any troops other than those with its flag. The political nonage in the EU contributes to the global strategy of the decadent US, which divides Europe and pushes Russia to the constitution of a large Euro-Asian bloc, where China is preponderant and which will have as main adversary the NATO countries. 

In most countries, after the end of the of colonial conquest wars in the case of Europeans, the armed forces are of little use and are scarcely used. First, because its maintenance in operational terms is too expensive and hence the armed forces are generally just a repository of idle or uselessly busy people, remaining through tradition and as a remnant of the time of nation-state assertion for the pride of the patriots. 

The emergence of the idea of ​​returning to compulsory military service in Portugal is an unnecessary expense, with no real effect on the operational ability of the armed forces which, today, is reduced to the sending of some assets to the Baltic... to dissuade a Russian invasion, of course, and imbedded into NATO’s imperial logic. On the other hand, a presence in the ranks does not look to us as other than a contribution to the stirring up of nationalism and patriotism, the "values" of authority and hierarchy, usual platforms pointing to racism and fascism. 

The extinction of NATO and the strategic emancipation of Europe are predicated on an express renunciation of war, anchored in the transformation of the armed forces into forces integrated in civil protection, in the surveillance of territorial waters and their resources. The armament industry can make good profits but it does not bring any health or safety to the planet or to life. 

vi)    – Organizational and psychological factors - authority, hierarchy, market democracy
The fight against capitalism, in its various aspects and components, must contemplate, among other objectives, the aforementioned nation-states, state apparatuses, political classes, environmental destruction, consumerism and debt, militarism and the demented dependence on growth. 

The main objective of that fight must be the pursuit of the satisfaction of the needs of the human population - food, health, peace, education, housing – while as an aggregate of communities and in a cooperative and solidary way, taking into account the essential respect for a healthy environment, the rational management of the resources necessary for human, animal and plant life; that is, seeking to minimize the human footprint.

This fight represents or should represent the fight of Humanity against capitalism, its promoters and beneficiaries; but this combat cannot reproduce outdated and ineffective tactics, such as localized and individualized challenges, restricted to the framework of a nation-state; it cannot reproduce opportunism or childish behavior such as the thinking that changes can happen within a framework of "progressive" or benevolent capitalism; nor to consider that the political institutions, being elitist and exclusivist, ruling out the masses of those harmed and wounded by the existence of capitalism, can be solution sources; nor that this change, which will be more like a revolution, can occur with the reproduction of the ideological framework of social relations, based on authority, hierarchy and with decision-making concentrated on elites or groups of anointed ones, as in the framework of the current muscled or market democracies.

Today, authority manifests itself in our lives in almost every situation – through the state and its government-led bureaucracy; in the companies, through their owners, shareholders and minor bosses; in the family, where patriarchy continues to impose itself; in school, and in the most acute forms, in the barracks and prisons. 

Hierarchies segment human beings and materialize power relations of ones over others; and they are anchored in the authority which, by custom, presents itself as a founding principle in human relations, firmly presented (and accepted) as something biological, part of the genes. 

We designate as market democracies the current political regimes present in most nation-states, even if political circles say that democracy (read its degenerated form, the market) is the worst of political regimes, all others excluded, in the already worn designation by Churchill. 

  1. In fact, the designation of market democracy stems from the fact that competition for the possession of the state / local authority is established between party gangs and last but not least for the control of the pot. Identical in all aspects to the competition between brands of beer or television channels, for capturing audience. As in these cases, consumers do not decide based on the quality of the products, as also happens with elections, the choice is made between the competing parties, with the formulation of the proposals presented, by the consumers / voters, taking place.  
  2. These regimes make the members of the political class as truly anointed by the gods, presented and posing themselves as an elite of people of a higher order than the general population, as the sacrificed fighters for the well-being of the people.
  3. It is up to the people to choose as their representatives those people integrated in that elite, with the de facto ineligibility of those who do not belong to political parties, especially to the larger ones, since those of smaller regiment are relegated to the role of animators of the electoral fairs.
  4. The political class decisions cannot be annulled or altered by the electorate; nor can it directly put questions to the vote but, at most, call the attention of the members of the political class to these questions, with their reception dependent on the exclusive and sovereign will of the mandarins.
  5. In the so-called elections, the proposals are drawn up by the political class, with the exclusive and divine mission of interpreting popular wishes... provided they do not call into question the maintenance of the regime; the latter, as a rule, is cast into stone in constitutions that fix authorities, hierarchies, oligarchies, limitations and threats.
  6. The public administration, which is the theoretical executor of the measures that should satisfy the collective needs, whether of a national or autarchic nature, is domesticated, privatized by the government in charge, which will infest it with elements of its caste or docile imbeciles, establishing a hierarchy, as a rule ineffective, inefficient and crisscrossed by old boys networks, and corrupt acts of public money use for private benefits.

b)        Elements for forming an anti-capitalist network
Any alternative to capitalism has to include the refusal of market democracy and, within the context of organizing the contestation with the patient and pedagogical construction of collectives, at the base, with a true democracy, without leaderships, hierarchies, with the decision making within each collective.

Thus, it is deemed to be essential:

  • The establishment of groups, local, regional, sectoral or thematic, for the  contestation of the capitalist system and its institutions;
  • The establishment of rhizome-like, articulated networks of solidarity groups, in addition to national plans and, necessarily, with a global action point of view;
  • The absolute refusal of nationalist, racist, sexist, patriarchal or in any other way discriminatory positions;
  • The rejection of collaboration or conciliation with the institutions of capitalism, its governments and political classes;
  • The practice of media able or media divulged actions of enlightenment, propaganda and civil disobedience;
  • Groups are open to participation by all, but should exclude prominent leaders and members of the political class as a way of obviating their practices of manipulation, deviation or sabotage;
  • Internally, these groups should function on the basis of the collective decision, as much as possible with a face-to-face, consensus, without authoritarian and hierarchical formulas;
  • When group representation is required, the choice belongs to the group, and is temporary, rotating and can be ended at any time by the decision of the group itself.

This and other texts in:

[1] in Portuguese the word urna means the box where the voters put the paper with their chose in the polls and also  urn, the box where the dead are placed to go to cemitery
[2] PAN – Partido dos Animais e Natureza (Nature and Animals Party) (TN)
[4] Aljubarrota and Alcácer Quibir were two major and history-defining battles for Portugal. The first to consolidate the independence against Castilla, with the help of English soldiers (1385); and in the second (1578) the Portuguese were defeatd in their stupid idea to conquer Marocco (NT).
[5] RA – Republican Assembly – the Portuguese Parliament (NT)
[7]  Northeast of Portuguese territory
[10] The cost of this delirium which will please so much the military industry and most idiotic generals will be $ 13000 M for five years

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