Commentary on Political Economy

Tuesday, 19 January 2021


 It is impossible to avoid the parallels between the present geopolitical state of affairs and the one that obtained in 1936, three short years before the outbreak of the most terrifying and barbaric conflict in human history - World War Two. Then as now, the Western democracies - chiefly Britain, France and the United States - were wholly unprepared in the face of the clear and present danger that the Nazi Dictatorship in Germany posed for humanity overall. The Chinese Virus that marks in these days its first anniversary has shown conclusively just how unprepared these self-same Western democracies, which are first and foremost advanced industrial capitalist economies, are in the face of the imminent and pernicious threat posed to all of us by the ruthless dictatorships of China above all, but now joined by the likes of Russia under the Putin oligarchy, and then Turkey and Iran, in the throes of Islamo-fascisms, and then the China-sponsored insane regime of North Korea.

The unpreparedness of Western democracies has many causes, many origins, all interconnected and not easy to separate and analyze individually. The ultimate cause has to be, of course, that process of capitalist expansion known broadly as "globalization" that began in earnest even before the accession of the Chinese Dictatorship to the World Trade Organization under the auspices of the US Administration twenty years ago. Faced with deteriorating prospects of accumulation in the capitalist core, the business and political elites of the West decided to embrace enthusiastically the opportunity presented them by the Maoist Chinese Dictatorship to double the global number of workers available for exploitation the better and more seiftly to be able to decompose Western working class political organizations that posed a constant challenge to capitalist hegemony over society and to profitability. The result was the gradual decomposition of the Western working classes through the labour process, first - a phenomenon known as deindustrialization constituted by the migration of manufacturing industry to China above all - and the gradual yet relentless demolition of all forms of social cohesion by means of the monopolization of new forms of communication and social interaction permitted by the rapid cataclysmic spread of the internet.

It is an essential property of capitalism to separate workers from the means of production and exchange value from use values. The most fundamental requirement for capitalist enterprise is that human living activity or concrete labour be reduced to abstract labour, that is to say, to a homogeneous measurable quantity that can then be priced in monetary terms from which the profitability of enterprise can be calculated. But this homogenization of living labour is quite simply impossible except by means of a complex web of social institutions that coercively allow the transmutation of concrete living labour that takes the disparate forms of the division of social labour into an exchange value that appears to be independent of the concrete manifestations of this social labour - living labour as use value - only so long as these violent social institutions - the social relations of production imposed by capitalist command over workers - can be kept into place and maintain their coercive effectuality. 

The vital problem with this capitalist separation of monetary exchange value (the homogenization of  living labour as abstract labour) from the real use values involved in the division of social labour for the reproduction of society is that the political institutions that allocate exchange values or finance between the different branches of social productive activity and those that enforce the observance of capitalist command over concrete living labour at the point of production - this separation of finance capital from industrial capital can and quite often does lead to the parallel separation of political control between different nation-states. This is exactly what has happened to capitalist industry under the process of globalization. Essentially, finance capital as the control centre for the allocation of social resources between different branches of industry has been separated not just operationally but above all politically from the control of industrial production itself - the process of production and the labour process involved in the manufacture of use values for the physical reproduction of society (this includes both so-called intellectual labour or the planning and design of industrial production, and manual labour under the direction of management). Simply put, finance capital has been concentrated in the West and industrial capitalist direction has been assigned under the control of the Chinese Dictatorship because only the latter could enforce and implement brutally the financial and managerial projection of capitalist command.

Capitalist globalization was intended therefore to separate politically the capitalist functions of finance and management as project planning from the functions of management and coercion in the workplace as implementation. Finance as project on one side and management as forceful implementation on the other: one in the Western capitalist financial core and the other in the Chinese industrial periphery. - Except that things have not gone quite to plan for the capitalist world order: because the Chinese dictatorship of the capitalist workplace has been so industrially empowered by the Western finance-capitalist core that it is now in a position to threaten, at least inchoately, the world order that the financial paradise of the Western core presumed to establish on this globe! It took a virus, one that ironically started in the Chinese industrial periphery, to demonstrate to Western capitalist financial and political elites that industry is knowledge, and knowledge can quickly turn into military might, if not necessarily into its financial counterpart - because financial capital, unlike industrial capital, is mobile and fungible, and therefore requires the rule of law of Western "democratic" institutions as against the "rule by law" of totalitarian dictatorships like the Chinese Communist Party-State.

Suddenly, in the midst of a pandemic, Western capitalist elites realize that without industrial power their financial power is much diminished; that although finance capital can be transferred at the speed of light, industrial factories capable of producing material goods of strategic importance from medical equipment to computers to microchips cannot be snapped out of thin air, cannot be telegraphed via banking terminals in the twinkling of an eye. Having decomposed and disarmed and deindustrialized the working class in its Western core, capitalism now finds that it is entirely and vitally dependent on the reliability of what it thought were its Chinese slave masters for the very survival of its social and political systems. Not only. Western capitalists are now learning also that capitalism is nothing at all without a skilled and cohesive working class - one that can operate not just industrially but also politically. Because without the antagonism of the working class, capital is nothing at all; it has no eyes or ears or nose, no sense of reality - the reality of producing those use values that are not just projectual, but that serve the most fundamental reproductive needs of any human society, advanced or primitive.

Well may the Western capitalist elites continue to espouse vague and vapid ideals of human rights, of freedom and progress, of racial and sexual equality. In reality, human beings live not of the ability to change their gender or to rediscover their identity, but of the need to satisfy basic living necessities - a need that has been shattered into the precarious reality of a daily struggle to survive, no matter what the Lady Gagas and the Beyonces of this world may sing at a Presidential Inauguration. The Western bourgeoisie forgets to its lasting damnation that without a measure of social and global material equality its pile of dollars is bound to be annihilated in the holocaust of thermonuclear war brought about by the insanity of totalitarian dictatorships that will soon usurp and transfigure its current dominion over the earth.


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