Saturday, June 17, 2006

We've Arrived: The Highest Stage of Capitalism

It is far less controversial today to suggest that monopoly capitalism has taken control of societies and over the lives of individuals then it would be a decade ago or three decades ago. It has become quite obvious. Large corporations and the ultra wealthy have command of most governments. Within the scope of American hegemony, politicians have unabashedly put policies in place under the dictates of big money. In other parts of the world the IMF and The World Bank have grabbed governments and their citizens by the collective throat in a stranglehold that literally squeezes the life out of many and impoverishes most.

In the 1980s, big money demanded that governments slash social spending. Governments marched in step to the dictates of Wall Street. Now, in the so-called new American century, pressure is still pushing governments to cut social spending. This is done with much less alarm than in the 80s or 90s. They have succeeded in cutting the expectations of the working classes and the process of cutting distribution to those in need is done with far greater ease. Contrarily, spending on death and military machinery is rarely criticized as it is hyped up under the fabricated threats of terrorism.

What can we make of this? What can we make of the impulse to spend money to kill but not to feed and take care of people? Has Satan himself taken control of the planet? The answer is not to be found in such superstitious drivel but may be just as, or more, frightening.

A Caustic Blessing

The answer is that capitalism has matured to a point where it no longer has a single humane sentiment left. It has become an abstract psychopath. It has matured to a point where it's impact on societies is far more detrimental than beneficial. Early capitalism may have taken us out of the inertia and stagnant mood of feudalism. But this revolutionary force itself is turning in on itself and on all of us. We are coming or we have come to a point where we must seriously consider revolution against capitalism itself.

In the last century, the policies of John Maynard Keynes served to distribute wealth to make life palatable for most in modernized capitalist societies. This was in response to the communist threat emanating from the USSR as well as from the working classes within capitalist societies themselves. Besides Keynes' apparent benevolent initiatives, much effort went toward convincing us that communism and any true socialistic governance would necessarily result in dictatorial tyranny. On the other hand, capitalism was a golden arched gateway leading to a kingdom of materialist heaven. They built a ring of modern buildings near the Berlin Wall to show the poor sods on the other side what they are missing in the Land of Oz. Propaganda was aimed mostly at showing the wonders of life under modern capitalism and the misery and drudgery suffered by those that dared rebel against their legitimate masters. Many remain convinced that wealth distribution of any kind will result in totalitarian horror.

The revolutionary impact that capitalism has had on humanity cannot be overstated. It has transformed the physical landscape. It has also transformed the way we do things and perhaps most profoundly, it has changed our minds. The impact of our financial life on who we are and how we behave is rarely studied but if we look at any single dimension of this we can see that it is profound. For instance, if we are either the victim of financial devastation and experience sudden poverty after a life of opulence or conversely, if we suddenly become wealthy after a life of poverty, our experience of the world and our own lives is altered dramatically. Status and wealth mean freedom in capitalist society. If we are poor, freedom is, as the song says, just another word for nothing left to lose. The rich can move things and people around in arbitrary and capricious shifts of mood. The poor cannot do anything but beg an employer to buy their labour, their time, and their fleeting glimpses of freedom.

That massive transformation into capitalist society may seem small when we consider the reality of the average Joe selling his life in order to eat. But consider the material deprivation of life under feudal conditions and then Joe appears in far better shape. Joe has also left behind the mental shackles of feudalism. We no longer blindly consider those with wealth 'our betters' and we no longer march to war when the master tells us to kill to secure his place. We have, as a result of capitalism, become far more rational beings than our feudal ancestors had been. The 60s social revolution was not a socialist revolution, but capitalist psychology usurping the tired archaic dictates of religious and traditional values. In some ways, capitalism has been a great blessing to most of humanity.

Now, as capitalism matures and morphs into monopolism, we increasingly find ourselves living under the dictates of the ruling class and they are ruling with far more arbitrary and ruthless whips and chains than they did in the relatively genteel Fabian socialist past. They no longer aim to ply us with social programs and trinkets (unless there is profit in it) and are more inclined to rule with an iron fist. It seems as if the feudal lord is returning to make our lives more miserable and frightening than ever. There has been a colossal shift in the past few decades.

Monopoly Capitalism

The question arises at this point; Why not return to the quasi-socialism of the past? The answer is, it can't be done. And even if we could, the we would resume another trajectory toward the barbarism of the present. There are iron laws inherent in capitalism and as a result of the nature of this system, it's death is indigenous to it. We are plunging headlong into the future whether we like it or not. Unfortunately, we are on a collision course.

Consider two aspects of monopoly capitalism and the impact it is having and will have on us. First, the tendency to the centralization of capital and the impact that has on the lives of the ruled (us) and secondly, consider the impact of the internationalization of production.

In its adolescence, capitalism was a matter of various businesses competing with each other within a given society or nation. Although trade always gave enterprise an international flavour, nations worked through relative sovereign authority. Although large corporations influenced policies, sovereign nations could defy the extreme right and popular socialistic policies could be legislated into law and policy. In its early adolescence, there was a national cohesiveness within the scope of that nations particular capitalism and the will of the electorate held a measure of sway. This remains the case in European nations to a greater extent than in America. But America is the most evolved from a capitalistic sense and that is why it is the most backward in a humane or socialistic sense. They lead and unfortunately, we will follow.

As maturation evolves, the whole system becomes more dynamic and anarchistic. And as it evolves, the system also becomes increasingly hungry. What was true yesterday is not true today and what is true today will be forgotten tomorrow.

Within capitalism, there are a number of iron laws. First and foremost is the maximization of profit. This iron law leads to numerous other iron laws. Competition amongst sellers tends to cut profit margins and as a result, there is a strong tendency for capitalists to form cartels. This capitalist solidarity provides them with the power to control prices and to dominate markets. As a result, free wheeling competitive free enterprise is crushed and replaced with large corporations that dominate and control enterprise as well as government polices. How corporations control government is a question for another essay. For the time being, let us presume this assertion is correct. It is hardly controversial. Another tendency of capitalism speeds up the killing off of small enterprises. That is, the boom and bust cycles that are a result of over-production (another tendency of capitalist production). When the economy goes sour, it is an opportunity for the big fish to eat the small fish.

Consider one field of enterprise and the control that it exerts over business and over society; the media. At this point, there are several very large entities that control American as well as international media. Their influence goes well beyond the enterprises they control. For example, their influence over the thinking and beliefs of citizens is immense.

The tendency to grow in wealth and power is a natural and necessary feature of capitalism. Money is a money magnet and a large concentration of it grows as if it is a beast from a 'b grade' horror flick.

Those that have control of capital also have control of industry as well as government policies. The IMF and the World Bank are the most deplorable and outlandish examples of this. They can not only dictate the way business is done, they can also dictate government polices. And dictate they do. Governments that do not abide by their demands face punishing retribution far more ruthlessly than the mafia could have ever dreamed of. But it is not just the World Bank and the IMF that do this. It is a natural feature of the power of financial capital.

Competition Between Demons

The contrast between China and America indicate cleavages in modern day massive monopoly capitalism. China has a state apparatus that controls capitalism and American has a capitalism that controls the state (many states). The differences are substantial although they are both societies under the control of large corporate/state monopolies. China's is, for time being at least, insular in their nationalism. American capitalists would sell out America in a New York minute if it meant more wealth and power for the shareholders and as a result, American capital may flee overseas with much greater ease. China appears to remain chauvinistic to some degree. It is only a matter of time before the corporations in China control the state as opposed to the other way around. Again, it is the nature of the beast.

As it is, there is competition between these super-states or more accurately, trading blocks. This is an extremely dangerous situation. It is one of the reasons for the huge military expenditures of both nations and it is why thousands are being slaughtered in Iraq and Afghanistan. It may and probably will result in major global conflict in the near future. What may stop major world wars would be a merging of Chinese and American capital (as well as European and Russian).

Capitalism needs to grow and to grow constancy in order to maintain itself. It has grown beyond national boundaries and nations are increasingly under the control of large trading entities. The earth is a limited entity as are its resources, including labour. These large trading blocks not only promise to impoverish us and increase the terms of exploitation, they also promise to slaughter us is wars that will make the past world wars look like skirmishes.

The competition that exists in the world today is not what we generally think of when we think of the word, 'competition'. It is more a matter of survival for entities that must continually grow and dominate and the larger they grow, so does their need to dominate. It is not competition between this grocer and that grocer. It is competition among chunks of monopoly capital. A beast that is far more terrifying than anything invented by spook story writers.

We must realize and not forget that all of their wealth and power has been appropriated from us, the workers that have built and transformed the world have been the creators of their wealth. Every dollar, pound, and yen that they horde in their vast vaults has been created by workers that mine the ore, melt it down, fashion it into commodities, and transport it for sale onto shelves and sell it to consumers.

The ruling class has become traders of ghosts; entities that are ethereal as dreams. They are gamblers in the large casinos called stock markets. They are gambling addicts as addicted as any crack user and far more dangerous. Their function, value, and utility in our societies is nil. Even the managers of enterprises are us, the workers that make this human world function. We are not only better off without them, we cannot afford to keep them. They are the ultimate parasite and are ruled by their own lust for power; their own pathetic and pernicious addiction. And we are the workers, the managers, the soldiers, and we are humanity. Throw away the delusions and we have the power, all the power, and they have none. They have served their purpose. The time to say good-bye has arrived.


Ben said...

Hey Arch - Just gave this blog a quick read. Tons to talk about bro', if you are ever so inclined.

I was gratified to read "The owl of Minerva has lifted off. There's a lot of work to be done. Let's roll up our sleeves." in your blog header ... you know, some of the initiatives in decentralized information coming out of MIT and W3C echo and amplify the stuff I was talking about / attempting in the late 80s? That's the power of group process when individuals are well oriented and motivated ... my huge loss to have been so marginalized. HeyHo!


p.s. I have 3 blogs on the go, 1 of them being quite tech oriented.

Ben said...

p.s. Just wanted to pass you two documents I came across today: "Civil Society" and "Islamic Values" ... typical of the stuff I use as raw material for my "Participatory Deliberation" project which I've exposed only slightly at href=" ... because I'm intent on generating livelihood from this the real work is hidden. "Steal mode", doncha know. ;-)