Re-arranging the Deckchairs

June 28, 2010 at 1:13 pm (Uncategorized)

Leaflet distributed by IP at the June 26, 2010 G-20 demonstarions in Toronto, Canada. A fuller account of the demonstration and the events which accompanied it will appear later.

The meeting of the G-20 summit in Toronto this weekend, and the G-8 in Huntsville earlier this week is ostensibly about how some of the world’s largest economies arrange their affairs. The reality is very different. As we approach the two-year mark for the current world economy crisis, it is clear that the global capitalist class is merely re-arranging the deckchairs on the Titanic.  

What began as a housing or mortgage crisis, became a banking crisis, and has now become a sovereign debt crisis, which has thrown many economies into crisis and threatens to pull down many more.  

Governments and Finance Ministers across the globe have repeatedly announced the beginnings of recoveries, even as they simultaneously preach restraint and austerity. Yet the crisis continues to deepen: The capitalist system is in a deep recession from which its managers have no exit strategy except to mouth tired formulas. At today’s summit, behind the fences and a massive police presence costing upwards of $1 billion, sit the frightened and uncomprehending managers of capital who cannot control their own system.  

Why? The heart of capitalism is the law of value. Things, goods, services are produced, not for their social worth, but for their exchange-value, for the profit they can return.  But the continuance of this system guarantees greater disasters ahead.

For the United States, the fragility of the Euro, and the consequent threat to the political and economic integrity of the EU, the world’s second largest economic bloc, has brought some respite: capital from all over the world seeks refuge in what seems to be the strongest, most stable center of capitalism. Europe certainly wanted to be this center, but it has been unable to do so. Now the EU Central Bank, the German government, and the new British Conservative government are planning to impose the sharpest austerity measures aimed at the European working class, since the end of World War Two. It’s only the beginning. More attacks on wages and pensions will follow, and the working class in North America will not be spared.

For the G-20 and the other managers of capital, there is no other choice: Consumers, workers, companies, governments must spend less to make room for future payments to capital because otherwise, the value of existing capital collapses. However, these austerity measures undercut demand. The overcapacity of the economy increases. The opportunities for productive investment diminish, and this trend pushes the owners of capital towards speculative investment, to the formation of new bubbles of fictitious wealth whose implosions will create new and greater shocks.  

From the perspective of capital the workers must pay, and so attacks on the working class are logical. If workers don’t accept wage-cuts and other austerity measures, “their” economy won’t be competitive, so again, from the logic of capital, it’s entirely reasonable to ask the workers to sacrifice themselves: just as long as you continue to look at the world through the framework of the value form.

And yet, it need not be so. Workers, most spectacularly in the battles in Greece and the wildcat strikes in China, have refused to accept the logic of capital; that they are commodities to be discarded when capital no longer has use for them. Their struggles call into question capitalism, the law of value and the continued commodification of existence. Their struggles raise the question of a way beyond this wretched system that offers nothing but misery for a future.

But to create that alternative, means the rejection of this system, lock and stock. Many of those protesting today seek a return to more “enlightened” policies of capital: of spending on the welfare state, on education, health care and social services. But to argue for these things within a frame work of capital is a dead end. Throughout history, “Socialist” governments and their leftist allies no less than “free market” ones have bowed before the alter of capitalism, carrying out attacks on living standards every bit as vicious as those who work openly in the name of capital. The policies the left proposes today such as massive deficit-spending would not stop capitalism’s crisis, they would merely affect its symptoms. Their framework remains capital, the value form. It is only by rejecting the commodity form, the value system, that a human society can ultimately be constructed. 

The task of revolutionaries is to try to show where the horrific logic of the value form will lead. In this age of a vicious social retrogression, we seek to provide different answers to the questions that are beginning to be asked, to intervene in all the cracks that open up in the body of “capitalist normalcy”; to devote ourselves to the work of that old mole of revolution, and to the possibility of the creation of a genuine human community.

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1 Comment

  1. John Garvey said,

    A great post!

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