Open defense of imperialism/imperialism today part 1

JOEFREEMEN at aol.com JOEFREEMEN at aol.com
Tue Dec 11 09:36:24 MST 2001


Perhaps this might help the discussion.

Imperialism Today part 1

The following conception of imperialism and the fundamentals of "this phase"
of imperialism is taken from documents of the League of Revolutionaries for a
New America (www.Irna.org/texts/reports). This excerpt is taken from a report
(Political Resolution) issued over three years ago, April 1998. Much of the
data is outdated or rather 3 years old. I have added nothing.

Capitalism today

Capitalism as a system operates in accordance with a handful of laws: The
source of value is human labor. Commodities exchange according to the amount
of socially necessary labor that goes into their production. Profit comes
from surplus value -- unpaid human labor. This value is bound up in and borne
by commodities. The commodities must circulate, that is, they must be sold.
If commodities cannot be sold, the value in them cannot be realized, and the
capitalist will not profit. Capitalists must strive for the maximum profit --
if not, other capitalists who do achieve the maximum profit will drive them
from the market. And like all economic systems, the relations of classes of
people in society must correspond to the level of development of tools and
the people who use them.

 Capitalism has evolved through definite stages in its 700 or so years of
history. These stages have corresponded to stages of development of the
productive forces. At each stage of development, one section of the
capitalist class has dominated the rest of its class. With the introduction
of electronics into the economy, beginning with its first faltering steps
after World War II, and really taking off with the introduction of the
microchip in the 1970s, capitalism has entered a new stage.

To adopt a term in common usage, we call this stage globalization. That is,
globalization is capitalism in the age of electronics. Globalization has been
shaped by and has emerged out of the environment of imperialism. It inherits
many of the features of imperialism, but it differs in fundamental ways. The
old contradictions of imperialism -- between socialism and imperialism,
between imperialist powers, between imperialist and colony, and between
capitalist and worker -- linger on but are being overtaken and replaced by
new polarities. The main polarity today is between the speculative
capitalists and the emerging new class made up of the majority of the world's
population with little or no tie to the capitalist system.

 Electronics is labor-replacing technology. Virtually all of the functions of
the worker can be recorded, stored outside of the worker, and replicated in
the machinery of production. These functions can be played back over and over
by self-activating machinery, in the absence of the worker. The microchip is
the cheap, light, versatile device that activates the production process, and
brings to life, as it were, dead labor -- the knowledge and skills of past
workers that has been encoded into the instruments of production.

Production without labor is production without surplus value; it also is
production without wages, and hence production with no means of purchasing
use values. With no means of purchase, circulation of commodities is
impossible. The capitalist cannot realize the value in commodities.

The process of transforming production from value-generating industrial-based
production to value-less electronics-based production is, like all processes,
uneven. It began in advanced sections of the economy, and has been introduced
in definite stages throughout the economy. However, it may temporarily be
cheaper to deploy monstrously exploited labor in place of more expensive
technology. Profits may surge at times, or in specific industries. Employment
may temporarily jump. But the introduction of electronics undermines the
basic foundations of capitalism by dissolving the cornerstone of the system
-- the exploitation of human labor.

Eventually, the economy must come in line with the underlying destruction of
value.
Globalization is not a strategy for capitalists, a choice they freely make.
They have no other choice if they want to continue to exist as capitalists.
The capitalist has always had a limited number of devices for maximizing
profit: cheapen production, expand markets, and speed up the circulation of
capital. With electronics-based production, we can see each of these devices
expressed in particular ways in "globalization": the drive towards a global
labor market in search of cheaper labor; towards a global commodity market
unimpeded by trade barriers; towards a global financial market to speed up
the transit of money.

With electronic production, however, the capitalist's devices crash into
absolute limits. The living labor component can only be driven to zero, and
no further. As living labor approaches zero, circulation becomes impossible.
Capitalist relations and markets can be expanded up to finite geographical
limits; beyond that they can only be more intensely exploited. Regardless,
production without wages destroys the market. Production without labor
defines the conditions for the end of value and the destruction of the
capitalist class. Today, we still obviously have production and value, and
surplus value and profits. But the boundaries of capitalism are visible on
the horizon of history, beyond which capitalism, as a system can go no
further. In this sense, we can say that this stage is the final stage of
capitalism.

Globalization and productive capital

A substantial section of the capitalist class continues to try to profit from
production. Investment in modern, capital-intensive factories has fueled a
tremendous expansion of productive capacity in the world. Fierce competition
forces corporations to cut their costs by utilizing more and more high-tech
production. This result in the global economy producing more commodities than
can be purchased. The connection between production and consumption is being
severed, resulting in the inability to realize the value of the commodities
being produced.

A few examples illustrate this glut of capacity: In the 1980s, Japan built
offshore production equal to that of France. In the 1990s, Japan added still
more capacity abroad, again equal to that of France. This expansion took
place without regard for possible sales. China's productive capacity has also
jumped, fueled by massive investment from the West. In 1996, it sold some
$150 billion of goods abroad -- almost as much as Malaysia, Thailand,
Indonesia and the Philippines combined. In the U.S., manufacturing capacity
is rising at a 4.3% annual rate -- the fastest in 25 years -- while
consumption is growing at only 2.5%.

With more technology and less living labor, not only is the profit rate
squeezed, but also the capitalist faces more difficulties in selling
commodities, which also squeezes profits. Faced with shrinking returns, a
section of capitalists begin to abandon the productive process, in hopes of
accumulating capital through speculative activity.

Speculative capital

When money capital cannot be profitably invested in the reproduction of
capital (i.e., production and consumption), it can become speculative
capital. Speculators may trade in stocks and bonds, in anticipation of
selling them at a future date at a higher price. More important, in terms of
dollar volume, are currency funds. The amounts traded in currency dwarfs the
stock market. Some $1.29 trillion passes through the major interbank
clearinghouse every day -- about 100 times actual commodity trade, and about
100 times the daily trading volume of the three major U.S. stock exchanges.

The massive flow of funds effectively represents an "instant plebiscite" by
speculative capital over national social and economic policies. Speculative
capital demands the free flow of capital, anti-inflationary policies and
maximum profitability from the productive sector. Through the International
Monetary Fund (IMF), this sector of capital is able to force the
restructuring of local economies to be more accommodating to its needs.
Global harmonization of economic and social policy is achieved by forcing
"neoliberal" policies on nations to open their economies to the full gale of
global capital. "Opening up" means cutting wages, restricting unions,
slashing social programs, privatizing public services and removing local
controls over the economy and the environment.

In this way, speculative capital emerges as the leading sector of the
capitalist class that controls the world's economy. Speculative activity
exists in a world where productive activity obviously still takes place. It
intermingles with productive capital, and movements of speculative capital
respond to and reflect the underlying motions of various national economies.
But the abandonment of production in favor of speculation is symptomatic of
the emergence of production without value, which characterizes the final
stage of capitalism.

Consequences

The recent economic quakes in Asia indicate that we have leapt to a new stage
of the economic crisis. The string of Asian currency devaluations, stock
market drops, and bankruptcies they touched off reflect several aspects of
the globalized economy: the global competition for ever cheaper labor and
maximum profits; the absence of markets capable of absorbing the global glut
of commodities; the replacement of labor with technology in the workplace and
the resulting decline in profitability; and the shifting of capital to
speculative investment. The crisis poses grave dangers for capitalism. As
with other financial crises of the past 25 years, each effort at containment
of the problem sets the stage for even more severe crises.

Globalization binds tightly together all of the world's economies. For
example, the problems in Korea, the world's 11th-largest economy, directly
threaten Japan, the world's second-largest economy, from which it had
borrowed $24 billion at the end of 1996. A default would harm Japan's
already-fragile economy. Korean companies are also big investors in many
former Eastern-bloc nations, which would feel the impact of problems in
Korea. As South Korean Finance Minister Lim Chang Yuel warned, "If Korea ...
is dragged into a predicament similar to that of Southeast Asia, it is very
likely to set off even more serious repercussions on not only its major
trading partners but on the entire world economy." Bad as the Korean
situation is, the problems there are dwarfed by those of Japan. The cost of
an economic bailout there will dwarf the savings and loan debacle in the U.S.
in the late 1980s.

The speculative wing of capital, through the IMF, is using this opportunity
to smash open the partially closed economies of the Asian nations in order to
re-organize them around the transparent flow of capital -- as the U.S.
economy has already been re- organized. The immediate social consequences for
the working class are layoffs, wage cuts and rising prices. As in Mexico in
1995, in Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia, people have seen
their savings and wages fall in purchasing power by up to 40 percent.

With the price of their currencies falling, the exports of the Asian
countries become cheaper, forcing producers in every country to compete with
them. One of the greatest fears of capitalists now is falling prices, or
deflation. Deflation means that prices and wages fall. With severe deflation,
firms' revenues fall, so they are unable to repay loans. Workers wages are
cut, so they are unable to pay their debts. The crisis snowballs.

The US economy

As Asian economies try to export their way out of problems they turn
eastwards, to the United States, as the market of last resort. The United
States plays a special role in the global economy. It is an enormous, unified
market -- one dominant language and a single currency to serve 260 million
people; the dollar serves as a coveted currency for reserves; and its
relative political stability provides a refuge for the stormy world economy.
The U.S. role as "consumer of last resort" is fueled by easy credit and a
concentrated propaganda effort to get workers to consume -- there is about
three times as much retail space per capita in the U.S. as in Europe.
Relying on the U.S. to fulfill this role as the absorber of the world's
productive capacity is a risky gamble. Despite the U.S. government's regular
pronouncements about the economy's strength, the stage is set for breakdown.
Several U.S. firms including Kodak, Levi-Strauss, and Kimberly Clark
announced large-scale layoffs and/or factory closings in the early weeks of
November. Despite more workers entering the workforce to maintain a family's
standard of living, the median household income for 1996 was below that for
1990, and just slightly ahead of 1980. But consumer debt delinquencies hit a
record high a year ago. The bad debts placed with collection agencies in the
U.S. jumped from $84 billion in 1994 to $117 billion in 1995. In a bizarre
twist on new employment opportunities, between 1994 and 2005, employment in
credit collection agencies is expected to rise 37%. With most new wealth
going to the richest 10% of the population, wealth is more concentrated in
the U.S. than at any time since the 1920s.

While we should be careful not to overestimate the immediate danger of the
crisis, there has been some very dire language coming from the usually
sugarcoated financial press. The New York Times admits that, "the global
economy appears, in effect, to be capable of self-destruction." The Financial
Times recently declared, "the Asian crisis has become a global threat." They
caution, "with the world economy in danger of burning, the time for fiddling
is past." This advice holds as true for revolutionaries as for the caretakers
of capital.

Social and political situation

The new world order

The changes that allow for production without labor have called forth both
elements of a new class polarity. At one pole, the speculative capitalists
accumulate unprecedented wealth not so much from buying labor power and
extracting surplus value as through financial transactions that are
increasingly removed from actual production.

At the other pole, a new global class of propertyless people is forming. This
class is formed on the basis of qualitatively new methods of production based
in electronics. It is increasingly separated from wages in an economic system
currently organized around the selling of labor power. We see the formation
of this new class in the increase in sweatshop, prison and slave labor,
part-timers and temporary labor, rampant unemployment and job insecurity, and
the growing gap between wealth and poverty in the world. The real interests
of this class -- and for all of humanity -- is for the wealth produced by
society to be distributed according to need. In this sense, this new class is
a communist class.

The introduction of labor-replacing methods of production is clashing with
and disrupting not only the old relations of production, but also the
institutions and ideas, which facilitated them. Nation-states are losing
their significance. Whereas rising capitalism required the definition and
protection of markets that gave rise to nations-states, capital today demands
a free flow across national borders. Country or national identity, which has
been the main force setting the parameters of people's thinking, is being
eroded.

These developments are forcing fundamental changes in the world's political
order. Capital has always created those political forms, which advance the
maximization of profit. Bribery and bourgeois democracy in a handful of
imperialist nations and fascism as the method of rule over the oppressed
peoples of the world characterized the world political rule of the past
period. Today, this form of rule is being replaced by the accelerating
implementation of fascism worldwide. It is developing unevenly and within the
confines of national history and culture, but it is developing.

This is not the fascism of the Nazi period or the post-war neocolonial
regimes. Today fascism is emerging as an outgrowth of the growing struggle
between an increasingly supranational ruling class with no ties to nation or
country and the growing new communist class with no ties to capital. This
fascism provides the wherewithal for control in order to guarantee the
unrestrained rule of private property on a global scale. There is no split or
diverse interests among the capitalists that would compel a section to ally
themselves with the propertyless mass.

This process is being played out in different ways. In part, it is emerging
de facto from the steps being taken to facilitate the development of the
global economy. Various international trading agreements are being proposed
and implemented which are directed at tearing down even the limited
restraints on the rights of private property that have existed. These
agreements have been implemented with little, if any, public participation,
public oversight or recourse. At the same time, the implementation of fascism
is evolving through the full range of existing institutions within the
various nation-states, consolidating a foundation for an emerging global
system of control.


to be continued.


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