Although stirrings of discontent are increasing and are world-wide, we still need to recognize the gravity of the situation. We are in real trouble and it's going to take more than taxing Wall Street to get out of it. We need to recognize that we have become dependent on a way of carrying out the business of surviving that we can no longer depend on. We need to recognize that we are under the imperial rule of the corporation; an entity that is far more toxic and dangerous than terrorists or psychopaths. It is not only toxic but its basis is utterly ethereal. It is ether that is based in straightforward exploitation. It is a system of incredible absurdities and contradictions.
There was a time not so long ago when it was generally believed that eventually, capitalism will get to all or most of the problems of deprivation. The trajectory was positive. No serious economist worth his or her salt would make that argument however. Serious economists will say that capitalism is not responsible for feeding the hungry or housing the poor. And they are correct.
We then must ask the question: Do we, as a society, let babies, children, mothers, the elderly, the disabled and so on suffer and even die due to material deprivation?
Like children in the 30s walking bare foot past closed shoe factories, factories sit idle in rust while millions are looking for work. Homes sit empty as millions of evicted homeowners no longer have a place to live. If an enterprise or activity can’t fortify investors wealth, it can’t happen. To suggest that this process is rational reflects a logic of stupefying myopia. To take it for granted smacks of hyper-dependency or addiction.
Our Collective Addiction
We have become dependent on capital derived from surplus value to survive and we are at its mercy. We are at the mercy of a simple formula (buy or make for x - sell for y), a formula that, like all formulas, has no mercy. It also has no substance. But we cannot seem to survive without it. The bad news is, we have to. The good news is, we can.
The fact that we have developed a mentality of dependence on surplus value capital as the only viable catalyst to get us out to work, to trade, to start an enterprise or to repair a bridge is a very serious problem.
We need to take responsibility for ourselves, our communities, and our nations. We have been relying on residual capital from underdeveloped hungry ghosts (investors) to feed us, clothe us, and house us. We have been reliant on an abstraction (surplus value) that, even in its glorious heyday, was heavily reliant on the plunder of the hinterland for resources and sweet Keynesian deals in the homeland. In other words, it never worked. And, even in its heyday, capitalism has been highly unstable. That is the nature of the beast and again, no economist will make the argument that liberal and unfettered capitalism is or can be a stable system of financial governance.
Like any addiction, the way to health is by first admitting that it is an addiction. To do so, we need to contemplate and discuss our dependence on capital. We need to ask ourselves tough questions:
-Can we open a factory without excess capital?
-Can we trade without it?
-Can we provide services to others without capital derived from taxes?
-Have our elected representatives, the politicians, been utterly subservient to the owners and controllers of surplus value?
- Are we so weak that we need to beg capitalists to invest in ways that will help us survive?
The Value of Work
We could have opened that factory and we could have let those children wear shoes. We can not only move into existing houses, we can build houses for everybody. We can provide medicine and food for every person that needs it. It is us that have been doing it all along and it has been the greed of HMOs and other vultures that have been wilfully killing people for profit. Capitalists don't make useful and necessary things that we need to survive. We do.
Our dependence is on a glorified middleman with zero social conscience. This middleman’s relations to the production process is not innate. If the middleman can make profit without the bother of employing human beings that fall ill, complain, need ‘benefits’ and so on, he or she will certainly do it as you or I would do it. And he is doing it all over the world. Playing and gambling with finance capital is far more exhilarating and profitable than running a grimy factory. As capitalism matures, and the possibility of squeezing a dime from a unit of human labour diminishes, the connection between capitalism and providing goods and services becomes more remote and untenable.
When we consider the unstable and illusory nature of capitalism and the fact that the actual provision of services is provided by us, the workers. And that each and every item we use, computers, cars, food and drugs, have been mined, shipped, manufactured, and delivered by us, the workers, we can see that the future is not only possible, it is fantastic. The possibilities are endless.
Each and every capitalist dollar can be traced back to its genesis; work. And all the wealth that exists and will exist is rightfully ours. Best of all, we can make as much as we want. We just need to get over our illusion of dependence on speculators, gamblers, and thieves.
Our Wealth is Our Work
Economists and politicians behave and speak as if wealth somehow emanates from the wealthy and makes its way down to the rest of us. In reality, everything we see and use begins in the ground and is made into useful products either by human hands or by natural processes. Exchange value (profit) is a simple matter of exploiting and taking ownership of that process. In fact, wealth flows from the bottom and is vacuumed to the upper echelons with increasingly efficient means.
The notion that marketing and profit grabbing will produce what is best for society is a precise and specific point we need to contemplate. For example, a given society may need more cancer research or health care or housing. The market suggests however that more profit can be made by producing cigarettes or guns. Very serious meetings decisions will be made to research and develop the production and sale of cigarettes and guns. Capitalism is very good at producing trinkets, shiny toys, and killer hamburgers.
Basic human needs are considered a nuisance from the point of view of investors and their governors; even when there’s a profit to be made. It is the self serving child with ‘getting the most stuff’ as his life’s goal that we have become dependent on. No wonder we are in serious trouble.
When we consider what can be done with labour power in terms of developing goods and services, we may then consider possibilities beyond the poor and short sighted rationality of the marginalists, popularly known today as neo-liberals. We might abandon the superstitious nonsense that the expansion and theft of the money value that is produced by labour as an indispensable ingredient to financial security and progress. In other words, we can afford to abandon the notion that exploitation, war, and theft are necessary evils for societies to function well. At that point, we may go beyond the tyranny of psychopathic greed and develop a sane, stable, and humane world.
When we really examine the situation, the capitalist class (and it is no exaggeration to label them the ruling class) can be seen to function merely as parasites. They don't even manage businesses. They simply play the grand casino and hire workers to manage it for them. Managers are not them; managers are us. As dispensable functionaries, they stand on the same precipice we all do. While a firm may replace an individual manager, the function itself is essential.
We are all in this together and we are the ones that make this world work. We can afford to rely on each other and we can afford to have confidence in ourselves. The ethereal monarch can take its rightful seat in the history of social and economic development and we may salute them all. But their time and usefulness has passed.
The semi socialist system of production (capitalism) and distribution (Keynesianism) has worked reasonably well in some situations. It is possible but not probable that we can return to Keynesian formulas to rescue our deteriorating standard of living. Social safety nets are being ripped to shreds because the diminishing rate of profit is forcing capitalists to squeeze wealth from every nook and cranny. They are in no mood to throw us any crumbs whatsoever. On the contrary.
We are getting to a point where we must take matters into our own hands. There are some elemental social and economic conditions and standards we need to adhere to. We cannot tolerate a condition where an individual's body may die due to deprivation. We certainly cannot tolerate conditions where whole collectives of individuals may die due to material deprivation. This condition is silent violence and it is class war. It is ongoing and it is getting worse.
To push back, to take back what is rightfully ours, we need to become politically alive. We need to not ask, but demand, a vast expansion of our public infrastructure. We need it to include service to the vital needs of each and every individual. And we, not them, can make that happen and make that work.
As towns and cities infrastructure is neglected and falling apart, we need to recognize that we, and not them, need to fix it. It is ours and it is our children's inheritance. Money does not fix bridges and roads, even if you believe deep down inside that it does, it is in fact real, tangible work that does it. Money is merely a catalyst. We can build it as elaborately and as beautifully as we wish. But it will not happen as long as politicians are in the pockets of corporations. And they certainly are.
We have enormous volumes of capital and latent capital (labour). We need a new catalyst.
At the end of the day we can blame capitalists and capitalism for the social and financial ills plaguing increasing numbers of individuals, communities, and nations. It isn't their fault. The ultra wealthy have merely secured themselves and their families in a system, a context, where they could conceivably fall into destitution. With enough wealth, they can rest assured they will be okay.
It is not a matter of blaming individuals, the problem is systemic and that is what needs to change.
Rather than blaming any individual or individuals, we can take responsibility for ourselves, our homes, and our communities and we can roll up our sleeves and get to work.
But before we can do that, we need to take control of our political and financial systems.
Ay. There's the rub.