sábado, 29 de fevereiro de 2020

The acceptance of capitalism and the state reduces ecology to a technical reverie


 

The logic of capitalism presents the production of goods and services as aiming the satisfaction of Humanity’s needs, extracting from this activity a surplus for investment in the increase or improvement of its productive capabilities; that is a lie, presented in the economy schools’ textbooks. That logic is not the satisfaction of the needs of Humanity; if that were true, the billions of needy people in essential areas such as ​​food, health, housing, education, and others – while capitalists, national governments and their regional or global bodies complain and worry about low GDP growth – would not exist.

From the previous context it follows, then, that the objective of the capitalists is the production of value, the constant and unlimited accumulation of profits, of capital, using the satisfaction of people's needs as an instrument for that purpose; and not as a goal. Basically, for capital, humanity and the planet's resources are nothing but instruments for the achievement of the aforementioned accumulation; thus, capitalists, small, big, multinationals, within the scope of their respective scales, seek to accumulate money, wealth, capital, using their businesses as their tool and the meeting of people's needs as a means to achieve that end.

If, for the generality of capital, the production of goods and services serves to accumulate capital, for Humanity what makes sense is the production of goods and services that satisfy its needs; and, in that thought, there is nothing abstract or unlimited.

In this context, capitalism, as an economic model, aims for unlimited, infinite growth. On the one hand, capitalists need to generate goods, value; and, on the other hand, they need workers to produce goods and services, all of which are forms of merchandise, of extraction and accumulation of profits. On the other hand, these goods and services have to be transformed into money through sales, thus requiring the existence of consumers (families, people), purchasing companies and States, that spend the money of the taxes subtracted from, in their vast majority, labour income.

Ludicrously, while it is sufficient for a person to eat half a chicken per day, the capitalist, for his part, will use every means so that each person consumes, not half but one whole chicken, two chickens... From a human logical viewpoint, food needs fall within limited parameters, in terms of quantity and variety; the capitalist always wants to produce more and more and that a flow for this production exists, by inducing artificial needs in consumers, a consumerist drive, if necessary by compromising future income through credit. At the same time, the capitalist wants that its workers accept a contention in their wage baselines at levels that do not lead to an increase in costs which are proportionally greater than the growth in revenue. Seeking to reach the infinite through the accumulation of capital is a logic which is intrinsically demented and predatory on people and on the planet.

It has become commonplace, in the current economish speak, the daily talk about growth (specifically, the GDP); be them the governments wishing to show off their skills, banks waiting for new customers, entrepreneurs seeking to increase sales, armies trying to occupy additional territories or buy new toys, large companies looking to buy smaller ones. Growth has become an addiction for the political classes and the business community, with evident contagion of the commoners. And yet, GDP is an incomplete, diffuse, generic measure, which covers only about 70% to 75% of the economic activity and does not measure the “value” of domestic work and care given within families, the social relevance of which is immense; that in addition to not including corruption, favour, bribes, trafficking (drugs, organs, migrants, women, wild animals...) On the other hand, it considers to be included in the GDP an “investment” in… armament!

Synthetically, the lust for infinite growth, inherent to capitalism, is measured through the nebulous GDP; and since material production requires a consumer market, which is restricted by the low growth of popular income and the limitations in access to credit, capitalism has developed, in an unprecedented way, financial speculation for the creation of value through the mechanism of the Ponzi pyramids; those have became the dominant element for the increase in GDP, making it even more diaphanous and of uncertain evolution, as was seen after 2008, with the flood of money through central banks, without any relation with the so-called “real economy” and without having to “get your hands dirty” with the placement of workers around machines, sales structures, logistics, advertising ...

Country
Benchmark
Current Value (in S&P 500 terms)
Gain since Nov 26, 1990
United States
S&P 500
3,168
901%
Hong Kong
Hang Seng Comp.
2,926
824%
Germany
DAX 30
2,913
820%
Canada
S&P/TSX Comp.
1,717
444%
France
CAC 40
1,16
268%
United Kingdom
FTSE 100
1,072
238%
Japan
Nikkei 225
315
1%
                         Note: Data has been transformed to match the scale of the S&P 500, and is current as of December 13, 2019

It all works based in supercomputers, very agile in deciding what to buy or sell, even when it comes to ships loaded with fuel, cereals or oilseeds, for example, which cargo is bought already on board and resold in the context of speculative games. A few years ago, the trend to use vegetable oils to replace those of fossil origin came to cause sharp rises in cereal prices, which led to popular uprisings in poor areas of the globe, such as Africa[1].

In addition to the new “financial products” that keep being created, the pressure for higher consumption of goods and services is made through the induction of fashion and the deification of novelty, which turns buying and consuming into real addictions. The dynamic of capital is very strong, with real or formal improvements being launched in consumer goods, with the incorporation of new features and uses into objects, betting on design and, thus, requiring a massive investment in advertising. On the other hand, the imbedding of cheaper components (including wage costs), the increase in productivity, the segmentation of production and sales across various companies (e.g. through franchises) and different parts of the planet, involves long and complex transportation networks[2]. The need to remove or suppress competition may involve an artificial reduction in the useful life of productive equipment, so that it can be replaced more quickly by new, or just more appealing, more fashionable, models; with a subsequent increase in garbage; with, in many cases, expensive and difficult recycling, itself also inserted in long logistical chains.

This long, frequent, and diversified destruction of goods and equipment, made obsolete, outdated, physically or commercially, requires a constant application of new capital in investments and applications where the profit is higher per unit of time and per unit of invested capital.

All the elements described are the life of capitalism, they frame the existing competition between production sectors, between countries and geographic areas, between economic or financial groups, between political classes; all of them are included in a chain that, despite being an arena for fierce disputes over primacy, has in common the essential production of goods, their injection into the market, having as the desired effect the accumulation of capital.

Within this socioeconomic model, major perpetuation difficulties arise:

·         The first one refers to Humanity's needs for goods and services, which is, of course, finite, as are the resources offered by the planet in terms of water, minerals, fossil energies, forests...; however, these needs, their volume, and their manipulation, are an essential instrument serving as the foundation of capitalist accumulation.
·         This basic finitude is obviously confronted with the level at which consumption or, more generally, the expenditure by human beings, direct or indirect, is. It is convenient that this level is kept stable, harmonizing the volume of the human herd and the needs of its existence with the levels of well-being, requiring those to be fed through increases in productivity, recycling, and new inventions and not through of the disastrous pressure on the planet's finite resources.
·         The accumulation of capital is a result of three major factors:
o   Firstly, there is a pressure on peoples to reduce real wages, for sterilization through unemployment and starvation, while at the same time fiscal punishment is accentuated; from this compression of income results a larger share available to capitalists, in their various strains, without prejudice of the differences between them.
o   Secondly, the maximization of accumulation, inherent to the logic of mercantile production, with the creation of value, is not satisfied with just the crushing of income directed at the human crowd; and it tends to expand this creation of value, including the predation on the planet's resources, for purposes only laterally directed to the production of consumer goods and capital.
o   Thirdly, disputes between capitalist groups and companies force States to maintain armed forces, heavy judicial and police systems, to promote constant developments in weapons production – a particularly damaging area to the planet – in addition to mobilizing the peoples to, through garish electoral journeys or fascist-like nationalist drifts, defend one group of capitalists against another, including the sacrifice of human lives, in an outrageously useless way because that sacrifice does not benefit the peoples and stupidly segments Humanity[3].
·         From the previous three points ensues a constant pressure for capital accumulation, in multinationals and in the financial system, in particular; and, at the same time, a penchant for the predation on the planet and the sacrifice of billions of people, victims of war, sectarian conflicts, desertification, poverty, disease, hunger ... resulting, in general, in phenomena of xenophobia, racism, nationalism, religious and ethnic antagonisms, of defense against threats by the Other; those, as a rule, reveal fear, ethical minority or strategic harmlessness.
·         The production of goods and services as defined above is far from satisfying the gluttony of value creation. Even satisfying the needs of the entire world population – which is far from happening – would not lead to the sacred objective of creating value, which is intended to be accumulative, until reaching the infinite. For this reason, capitalism cannot avoid conflicts, bankruptcies, and the concentration of means in large emporiums, and cannot be satisfied, to that end, with any level of production of goods and services, consumption or indebtedness. The search for the infinite requires struggle and destruction, destruction and struggle, innovation and abandonment of technologies, the production of new goods and services and the convincing of consumers to drain that production – often one source of harmful consumption – thus compromising their income (even precarious, as is evident) current and future, with a high level of indebtedness that, in the case of housing, can be transmitted to the next generation, without the States losing the opportunity to collect taxes within the scope of ownership and succession.
·         This drive to ride upon production-destruction-production cycles... typical of capitalism, constantly rebuilds hierarchies between nation-states, within political classes, between groups of capitalists, also segmenting workers and articulating them, in a kind of revolving door, with the mass of unemployed; pushing into a corner, as a hindrance, as non-productive, weak consumers and others, not very interesting to become indebted with banks – the unemployed, sick, and retired – whose income… are a burden to public accounts and contribute to deficits, which governments complain about; and also entire populations from the peripheries of capitalism, in Africa, South America, Asia and even Europe.
·         The consumerist logic, the constant destruction of capital, the productivity drive – for which the production of goods and services is an end in itself and is not aimed at satisfying needs – has very visible impacts on the planet, far surpassing the transformations and the damage caused by Humankind in the last millennia. Although it seems to us that Humankind’s preference has been in causing harm to itself.
·         When some damage, a problem, is identified in any sphere – domestic, social, economic or planetary – human logic immediately questions its cause. In capital’s logic, the system is perfect; and, being perfect, it must be eternal. Hence, in Reagan or Trump's intellectually destitute logic, it is only necessary to eliminate Evil, that is, to eliminate al-Bagdadhi or bin Laden (former friends which fell apart ...), distribute economic sanctions throughout the planet, make central banks issue credit without limits, feed military actions, widen conflict and population flee areas, offering soldiers branded with the UNO/UN stamp as entertainment. They extend or intensify the sacrifices to be imposed on populations, as has been observed in Latin America, Europe or the USA, the Middle East, India or Africa, where governments tend to be increasingly authoritarian and repressive, even when using electoral processes (usually not democratic) to legitimize their respective oligarchies.
Being – the logic of capital – synonymous with perfection, conflicts between capitalists for access to consumer or raw material markets would be part of the dynamics of the system itself, of healthy competition, in which the new replaces the old, with technological evolution as an engine for the construction of the future, and smartness, as well, as building elements of progress. Competition, in the context of the solid Protestant morality of Adam Smith’s times, should remove corruption from market mechanisms; however… this competition, free and fair, was never widespread. And the intervention of States and their governments to bias competition through discriminatory laws, by colonial predation and war, by the possession of lands and markets, with the nation-states that became enemies at that time, has been more common and determinant; and also through the internal war over the low price of labor, as celebrated in the pioneering Peterloo massacre.
·         Today, despite technological advances, it remains to be demonstrated that the putative perfection of the logic of capital generalizes well-being, which seems to be increasingly restricted to the minority social segments (and in a minority of countries) from where the brilliant brains that cross ideas in Davos or Bilderberg come. In real conspiratorial acts, from a being resulting from the cloning of Gates, Hitler and Al Capone, against Humanity.
·         In order to grow the accumulated capital stock it is necessary to feed, continuously, the creation cycle for new products and services so that the destruction of capital, resulting from conflicts, with columns of migrants and refugees on the run, with homes and infrastructure destroyed by bombings, resulting from the recourse to war and banditry, can be overcome. This state of constant destruction and creation is inherent to the logic of capital, constitutes a criminal means of renewing capital stocks, in interaction with new technologies of production, marketing, manipulation and control of people, according to the different faces of the human polyhedron – workers, students, retirees, military, consumers, taxpayers, capitalists, members of political classes, men/women, voters...; a peaceful and dignified life for all, taking advantage of existing knowledge, with an increase in collective well-being without loss in the quality of the environment, however evident it may be to common sense, however indisputable it may be to human rationality, cannot be subscribed to by capitalists as a whole[4].
·         This creative destruction of capital, together with the creation of value, corresponds to the beginning of a new cycle of growth in the production of goods, the creation of profits, and a resumption of consumption... until the next crisis. More banally, what matters is that the GDP grows... grows…
·         The model of infinite growth is inseparable from capitalism. Value creation is its pulse, its breath. The Golem broke free in the 17th century, occupied the planet in three centuries and resistance was crushed or co-opted, while the alternatives collapsed under the strength of capitalism, also because the losers did not know how to, or could not, deepen strategies and proceed with the practices to contain it and direct it to suicide. Today, it is feared that suicide could drag Humanity to a total war, to a devastating contamination, to the destruction of living conditions on the planet, to a brutal reduction in the number of human beings since, in the chapter of animal and plant species’ extinctions, the count was lost long ago.
·         Capitalism has never had as its first priority the satisfaction of human needs; human beings are just the living elements essential to the production of value, consumption, and indebtedness, the latter being a mooring, a capture of the debtor, of its future life, by the financial system. Humanity is mainly an instrument for the accumulation of capital.
·         Nowadays, financial speculation is the most dynamic element for capital accumulation, with the advantages of requiring little human intervention and only light productive infrastructures, when compared to the times, a few decades ago, when the industry polarized the substantive part and politically active population. Apparently, the next bursting of the financial bubble (like the previous one) will be dampened by governments that will mediate the transfer of damages to ordinary people through public finances (the Draghi doctrine), with strong intervention of the States and the political classes; the latter, that intervene in an increasingly committed manner, see in that action their continuity as executing agents. This will not be the case only if peoples refuse this intermediation, contrarily to what happened after the crisis that started in 2008; if they refuse the deviant and provocative action of the so-called left parties, which fully fulfilled their function in Portugal, Spain and Greece in 2011/15.
·         Environmental damages, like many others, are elements that come from the functioning of capitalism, they are collateral damages that capitalists try not to internalize in order not to affect their levels and rhythms of capital accumulation; allowing, as is evident, that this damage affects populations of various dimensions and leaving to the States (and to the in-shift political classes) the patching or remedying of that damage... with the tax money paid by those who have difficulty in exempting themselves from them.
·         As it is obvious, to cry out against the damages without having a strongly critical attitude towards the causes and their causers, is to be benevolent with capitalism; it amounts to an acceptance of capitalism as a fatality, an internalization colluding with capitalism, respectfully extending a hand to the political classes for their charity of a lower environmental aggressiveness. So will it come down to building a world of happiness by eating transgenic soybeans and not meat? Or to replace the diesel car with an electric one, incorporating fossil energy produced somewhere? Are unemployment, precariousness, militarism, nationalism, the gaming with the retirement age, the suffocating tax burden, the absence of democracy, the commodification of the satisfaction of all human needs, solved in the follow up of an action focused on the environment? In that context, this benevolence and acceptance of the status quo, added together, are called complicity.
·         It is notorious the generalized inability to construct alternatives to the current dangerous situation, after the failure of socialisms, which have never been more than state capitalisms, with a single party divided into several rival tendencies, instead of several rival parties, as in the dominant market democracies. All of them, however, are very adept at corrupt practices, lobbying, and securing a never-shrinking fiscal mass.
·         Any sectoral focus of capitalism, which is always insufficient, is part of that inability. It is methodologically stupid to think that it is possible to fight the effects without having the causes as a central objective; as it is childish or reactionary to defend improvements within the scope of capitalism, admitting the emergence of a pious, understanding, domesticated, environmentally friendly and committed to curbing climate drift, capitalism; or, still, maintaining a capitalism that uses consumerism and debt as ways of capturing people and peoples, which are rendered increasingly precarious by capitalists and their States, and also carry the costs of climatic deviations in their health, in supermarket bills or, in an increased tax burden, included in the pay slips.
·         What makes the crowd accept the capitalist yoke? The acceptance of the capitalist, of dismissal and unemployment, of low salaries and the miserable pensions, the increase in working-life span despite the capabilities derived from new technologies, constitute a humiliation for all who need to submit in order to survive. However, it is not difficult to see that productivity gains only marginally lead to increased incomes for wage earners and, even more rarely, to reduced working time; on the other hand, it is easy to see the expansion of useless, bureaucratic, control, and tedious tasks, the purpose of which is precisely to occupy the life span of human beings, transvestite as workers or collaborators[5]. The latter, if they are busy for many hours, subjected to metrics to measure their performance – which, to a large extent, are integrated with the measure of the performance of their counterparts – are commonly said to be… working. If each employee, before and after his/her work journey, has to squeeze into crowded transport, traffic queues and eventual drop-off/pick-up of children from schools or nurseries, in addition to household chores, if that employee may still have a few hours to, exhausted, indulge in television or social media vacuity, then it is an automaton integrated in a controlling society.
   
·         In order to render slim any possibility of revolt, capitalism has been developing the State’s apparatuses to a level of complexity and resources unparalleled with the pre-capitalist proto-state, which confused itself with the private property of a king or emperor[6]. The capitalist state, in the early stages of its development, had an administrative apparatus and another, a repressive one, both of which were fragile enough so that a popular revolt or a coup d'état could effect changes in power. Today, taking into account the extension of the administrative apparatus and the information circuits, there is a very strong connection between the political class and the economic circles, which, in the European case, work in an integrated and tendentiously uniform manner. This European cooperation (and in the area of NATO) can also be seen in the realm of the armed forces, disconnected from interventions in domestic politics, especially through pronouncements as in the past; even at their base, they are made up of contracted elements rather than part of a mandatory military service, obsolete in the face of modern weaponry. As for the various police forces, they are highly armed and trained to juggle popular demonstrations with adequate brutality, as was recently seen in the case of the yellow jackets. And one should not forget the role of private security guards, their connections with the police or as contractors in supporting actions for the armed forces to carry out “dirty war” actions.
·         In the market democracy’s political models, the economic oligarchies, the patronage that “counts”, that is, the powerful interests of multinationals or of the financial system, do not organize coups d'état… just because it is not necessary; the putsches are reserved for neo-colonial scenarios where tribal or racial antagonisms coexist with an army that provides a precarious way of earning a salary and from which emanate, frequently, "heads of state" corrupted by mining companies or emporiums of extensive and predatory.
·         In market democracies there is a suit of parties among which some, very few, are the main recipients and beneficiaries of legislative orders, subsidies, or ready-to-sign contracts, emanating from large local or global economic groups. As there are no free lunches, these great economic interests discreetly finance the parties and place in their staff people from those parties, well paid and acting as links to the traffic of influences. The people, lulled by elections, fraudulent in their own configuration and, ignoring the above mentioned collusion, will remain meek, accepting and paying the bill of a decrepit capitalism linked to the state machine.
·         Regularly, those who work will pay taxes on the consumption of goods or services, on income or property, so that the State can function as the guarantor of the controlling company, maintain the competitiveness of the economy or, more precisely, maintaining the political class and the capitalists connected to it, united in the suction of the “pork barrel"
·         The acceptance by the crowd, with a high degree of passivity, with resignation, of the state and corporate oligarchies’ power has a very old origin in the creation of hierarchies anchored in the power of weapons and/or in connections with the divine. For one or both of these reasons, obedience to hierarchies became commonplace, as well as considering as being of the proper nature of things the existence of small groups of people who give orders to the rest of the community. The acceptance by the working classes of the population of this permanent and renewed structural coercion is extended and deepened, in an overwhelming way, with capitalism, within which the coercive apparatus of the State can reach almost half of the wealth created, measured by the famous GDP. 

“The population, in general, does not know what is going on, and does not even know that it does not know.” (Noam Chomsky)

This and other texts at:



[1] Some years ago, in 1973, following the war between Arabs and Zionists, a Portuguese company operating in the area of transportation of fuels and oil crude saw the price of the cargo of one of its large ships rise in an astronomical manner which, in that year, caused it to have a fabulous profit.


[2] We know that the electric scooters which have become fashionable in European cities are made in China, and then shipped to the USA and from there to Europe by ... by air! Its production, exploitation and duration is far from having substantial environmental benefits, but… it makes the mayors proud and the environmental groups to jump up and down, while hiding the energy costs of operating, collecting and repairing vehicles that do not last more than two months . Dogs may bark but the caravan still goes on by, unperturbed ...

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