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July 2005, Volume 12 Nr. 27, Issue 162

The Impending Insignificance of Capital

Jozef Hand-Boniakowski

On Bastille Day, July 14, 2005, just a few days past the 20th anniversary of the French bombing of the Greenpeace ship, the Rainbow Warrior, the Associated Press published an article where Julia Parrish, associate professor at the School of Aquatic Fisheries and Sciences (University of Washington) reported, "Something big is going on out there".  Parrish was referring to the alarming high number of seabirds that were washing up dead on beaches from British Columbia to half-way down the California shoreline.  Parrish reported that for the month of May, ten times as many dead birds as is typical have washed ashore.  The evidence Parrish says, points to the oceans being in trouble and the sea food chain showing signs that it is impoverished.  

In 1992, more than fifteen hundred of the world’s scientists signed The World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity which spoke of their concerns about the biosphere.   That was thirteen years ago.  More than half of the signers were Nobel Prize Laureates.  Since that time the rate by which the biosphere is degrading has increased.  Yet, we move forward in our adherence to the religion of economics blind to the ever-increasing inverse correlation between the accumulation of money and wealth, and planet-wide ecological and social degradation.  Our faith in "free trade" makes us blind to the exploitation of hundreds of millions of people and their impending mass revulsion to it.  Free trade agreements and their imposed policies of structural adjustment are creating a global backlash in opposition.  People who cannot afford to buy privatized water, nor subsistence nourishment because they are too expensive either die, or revolt.  In Argentina, recently, they chose the latter.  At the turn of the 21st century widespread poverty and a recession led to public anger which took the form of widespread vandalism, rioting, looting, and frequent angry protests.  The government fell.  People rebelled against capital institutions that turned the basic necessities of life, such as water, into fetish commodities.

In Iraq, our lack of humanity toward each other in the pursuit of controlling West Asian oil has created a shortage of caskets, that is, for those Iraqis who can afford to buy them.  Meanwhile, U.S. flag-draped coffins are surreptitiously flown home under the cover of darkness.  In Iraq, the poor and the homeless are buried without caskets.  In the United States, the economically disadvantaged who bear the burden of this illegal war are buried out-of-sight and out-of-mind.  Those without capital fight the war.  Those with capital send them.  The human and ecological disasters in Iraq are a direct consequence of decades-long neo-liberal policies that exploit that country's oil resources.  To Wall Street being born again means being fully immersed in oil.  It means satisfying its ever-increasing appetite for energy and the savoring of increased profits that come from it.  The Iraqi people's misery is good for big business.  Arm.  Bomb.  Destroy,  Take.  Sell.  Rebuild.  Repeat.  Each step in the process is more money in the hands of the purveyors of death and destruction.  But, what will it all matter in the near future?  What will the value of Blue Chips, or any other stock matter when clean potable water is unavailable?  What will it matter whether social security survives when nuclear weapons become readily available on the world's black markets being sold to the highest bidder?   What will it matter what the NASDAQ numbers are when the planet's population exceeds the capacity for peaceful co-existence?  

The beginning of the 20th century saw a human population of 1.6 billion people.  The beginning of the 21st century saw 6.1-billion.  By the middle of the 21st century the population may exceed 13-billion.  The continuing neo-liberal tendency of seeing the world's population as only market share is a path to the destruction of neo-liberalism itself, and everything else along with it.  In Das Kapital, Karl Marx uses scientific materialism to lay out the evidence for the self-demise of capitalism.  He called his  prediction "laws of motion" which he summarized in the five steps:

  1. As the economy expands, profits fall, both within the business cycle and outside it.

  2. As profits fall, business seeks new survival techniques by innovating, inventing, and experimenting.

  3. Business runs in cycles of depression and boom.

  4. Huge firms dominate the business scene and suppress smaller firms.

  5. Finally, the working class overcomes factory owners and capitalism disappears.

Norman Solomon in his piece entitled, "War and Venture Capitalism" published on the Common Dreams website (July 15, 2005) writes, "In recent years, some eminent pundits and top government officials have become brazen about praising war as a good investment."  Solomon quotes from Thomas Friedman's 1999 book "The Lexus and the Olive Tree" that,

McDonald's cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the designer of the U.S. Air Force F-15.  And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley's technologies to flourish is called the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.

Venture capital shoves hamburgers, cola, F15s, light arms, and war down the throats of Third World (and other) people with equal aplomb.  In exchange, the capitalists steal the natural resources, whether sugar, nickel, copper, bauxite (aluminum), diamonds, fruit, cheap labor, or oil.  Venture capitalists sell the weapons of war to anyone wanting to buy them.  While U.S. capitalism fails to provide health care to its workers and affordable prescription medications and higher education for their children, it quite successfully feeds the perpetual war machine whatever it needs, the bombs and munitions, the cruise missiles, the ships and planes from which to launch them, and the planes from which to drop bunker busters and napalm.  U.S. capitalism profits immensely from feeding the soldiers, providing them uniforms, shoes, shipping them their fix of Coke, Pepsi, McDonalds, Marlboro, Brittany Spears and Rush Limbaugh.  One could conclude that the war in Iraq is "business [seeking] new survival techniques by innovating, inventing, and experimenting" as Marx put it.  It is nothing new in the history of imperialism.  Capitalism  provides the military with the postal, communications, transportation, medical, entertainment, etc., services necessary for its expansion.  Think of the shock and awe profit of it all!  The Pentagon war apparatus budget is larger than that of all the other G8 countries combined.  The United States military budget is six times, larger than that of Russia, and more than the combined military budgets of Russia and China.  It is on track to soon being more than what all the world's other countries spend on war-making combined.  China, however, which has heavily taken on capitalist tendencies, however, plans to change this.

Most of the United States' manufacturing base has moved off shore.  Much of it has been replaced with the war manufacturing industry.  Making war keeps the system going.  When president Bush says that he wants to spread freedom and liberty across the globe, tens of millions of people worldwide respond with skepticism and fear for they know imperialism is knocking at their door with the barrel of a depleted uranium canon.  The forceful spreading of democracy, i.e., capitalism, has led to extreme reaction as the world abandons its trust in the superpower to be good for their well being.  The growing indignation of many has turned very violent.  We have now reached a point in West Asia where human bodies are one of the main delivery vehicles for high-yield incendiary devices.  We wonder what is behind such motivation and horror.  But, we need not go far to understand it.  Lt. Colonel, Smedley Butler, in his book, "War is Racket" writing about soldiers said:

Boys with a normal viewpoint were taken out of the fields and offices and factories and classrooms and put into the ranks. There they were remolded; they were made over; they were made to "about face"; to regard murder as the order of the day. They were put shoulder to shoulder and, through mass psychology, they were entirely changed. We used them for a couple of years and trained them to think nothing at all of killing or of being killed. 

Smedley Butler's comments about US soldiers can be applied in describing the training that suicide bombers receive.  Each group commits its own atrocities.  While one side presses a button from an altitude of  50,000 feet launching thousand-pound bombs, the other side presses a button at ground level creating human shrapnel.  Another world war is beyond mere possibility.  For many who believe in market fundamentalism, it is highly desirable.  Freepers (free market fundamentalists) salivate at the profits a world war would bring.  Their excitement over the potential economic windfall through global conflagration is superceded only by their greed.  What the Freepers fail to realize is that their market fundamentalism is proving that Karl Marx was correct.  In an article entitled, "Why Marx is Man of the Moment -- He had globalization sussed 150 years ago" published on Sunday, July 17, 2005 by the Observer (United Kingdom), Francis Wheen, the acclaimed author of the biography Karl Marx: A Life (published by Fourth Estate) writes about capitalism,

Even those who gained most from the system began to question its viability. The billionaire speculator George Soros now warns that the herd instinct of capital-owners such as himself must be controlled before they trample everyone else underfoot. 

"Why Marx is Man of the Moment" is the title of an article making reference to a poll of BBC's Radio 4 listeners where thousands had recently chosen Karl Marx as their favorite thinker.  The article references George Soros stating that the so-called end of history (the clash between capitalist and communist ideologies) marked by the fall of the Soviet Union is incorrect.  The Freepers universal predictions of the demise of Marxist ideology, according to Soros, are greatly exaggerated.  Soros writes, 

The main reason why their dire predictions did not come true was because of countervailing political interventions in democratic countries. Unfortunately we are once again in danger of drawing the wrong conclusions from the lessons of history. This time the danger comes not from communism but from market fundamentalism.'

Perhaps, most significantly, neo liberalism is proving Karl Marx correct in saying that "that modern industry produces its own gravediggers".  Consider the hard won gains of collective bargaining, workers rights, benefits and job longevity.  Where are they today?  They are for the most part either gone or disappearing.  As Marx put it, "'All that is solid melts into air.  All that is holy is profaned."  We need but ask the Enron employees who lost their pensions, or the General Motors workers who lost their jobs, or, the millions who lost their medical insurance what profanity is.  Neo-liberalism is in trouble and the for-profit food chain is showing signs that it is impoverished.  "Something big...", is indeed "...going on out there."  The implications go far beyond dead seabirds washing up on California beaches.  Free market fundamentalism is washing up large numbers of working class corpses.  

Frances Wheen ends his article by writing, "For all the anguished, uncomprehending howls from the right-wing press, Karl Marx could yet become the most influential thinker of the 21st century". That is, unless, the democratic forces of which George Soros speaks of  and the progressive elements in solidarity worldwide, fail to check runaway capitalism in its tracks.  Their failure may lead to a 22nd century with no one left to look back upon the 21st from which to draw conclusions.  There may well be no one left to look back and conclude that Karl Marx was indeed right and show that capital has become insignificant.

Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes...known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. ... No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.

James Madison, Political Observations, 1795

© 2005 Jozef Hand-Boniakowski, PhD
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