Oil and overproduction

David Schanoes dmsch at attglobal.net
Wed Jan 22 15:59:51 MST 2003


I would like to use  this opportunity to answer your response, LP's
response, MJ's "caution,"and  to thank Michael Friedman for his

As if by magic, as soon as I sent off the email with the remarks about
Malthus and overpopulation scenarios,  up pops Barry Brooks recylced
Malthusian finger-wagging about too many people consuming too much.
Objective chance had intervened again.  I was hoping somebody would respond
to Brooks' austerity pumping, and I hoped it wouldn't be me.  The great
danger to the development of an ecosocialism is not people like me who
stress the fundamentals, but the manipulation, distortion of the socialist
message by those terrrified by the billions on the planet looking for
something to eat.  Marxism, and Marxist ecoology has to take pains and make
every effort to isolate and attack those primitivists who would see in it
another vehicle for the reduction in living standards.

MF took those pains and effectively isolated Mr. Brooks' primitivism from
the Marxist analysis and solution to the wasting of the environment.  For
that I thank him.  And I hope my thanks doesn't cause anyone to immediately
oppose his analysis.  Mr. Friedman is not responsible for those who agree
with his work.  And indeed his conclusion that it is the appropriation of
the fish as a commodity, an object of commodity production, that places the
stocks in such danger, is exactly the Marxist/ecological point.  It is not,
to my mind, the deployment of  factory ships in and of itself.  It is the
deployment of them with the requirement for profit to keep them afloat that
makes them ever larger,  forces production to be wasteful, indiscriminate,
warlike.   All economy of capital is the economy of extraction, slaughter,
of the airburst, the artillery round with cluster bomblets spewed
everywhere.  More and more capitalist appropriation depends on the kill

Excuse the emotional outburst, the hyper-imagery.  Bad day.

Really, 2 billion people are living on less than $2 a day.  How much fish
can they be eating?  How much fish are all those living on less than $20 a
day eating?  Are we saying we can only feed them if everybody decides to
live on $10 a day?   I think we don't know yet what changes we must make,
but in suggesting an answer to this, I remember the 1st Encounter on
Problems of Globalization and Development held in Havana.  Fidel Castro
talked about the "special period," and stated among other things, after
stating that he still isn't sure how Cuba survived that time, that plans
were implemented and designed to specifically avoid the closing of any
schools, and medical facilities, and to avoid the reduction in the milk
allowance for children and women.   I think the answer is in the effort we
will make to mitigate the privation of all.

Now to your questions:

 CB: On this (somebody might have mentioned it already) , doesn't
 "overproduction" in the ABC''s usually refer to the whole economy , not
 one industry.  Do Marxist's talk about a crisis of overproduction in the
 industry ?

DMS: Yes and no.  And yes.  Marxists and capitalists both talk about
overproduction in specific industries, including the auto industry.  Such
was the case in the 70s, when the auto industry began its assault on its
labor force.  In the 70s, GM had enough productive capacity to satisfy all
forseeable demand for autos in NA solo.   Without any contribution from any
other manufacturer. That didn't stop VW, Ford, etc from expanding,
particularly in Mexico, LA, etc. in the 70s, 80s, 90s.  The boom of lthe 90s
was not, however, characterized solely by the overproduction of oil.  Oil
just dominates, exemplifies the situation.  Telecommunications, trucks,  and
even hogs all exhibited the classic symptons of the chronic disease.

Regarding Mark Jones, or the Great and Powerful Oz as I refer to him, I
couldn't make him up if I wanted to, and believe me, I don't want to. .  I
refer him and you to his communication of 1/13/03  "RE: One more time....
Perhaps that will refresh his memory and get him up to speed about his own

 CB: I'm trying to remember from the ABC;s. Is it Marx's thesis that
 capitalists resolve the problem of falling rates of profit by ...what ? war
 like this ? I thought they resolved the crises of overproduction by
 production, idling means of production, laying people off, slashing
 capital, creative destruction. Well, I know war is sort of the ultimate
 creative destruction like in WWI , but the American capitalists don't
 to beget much destruction on their own stuff by this war , do they ?

DMS:  Capital uses all of the above to secure itself and its property.  I
would argue that the LBO period of American capital, arson by other means is
a sort of war.  Let me take this opportunity to correct, or actually deepen
an earlier observation:  I asked "Why now?"  "Why not a war in 1973."  Of
course capital did initiate a war in 1973.  A war against the working class
particularly in Latin America, the US, and Europe.  Chile, 1973 is NOT
separate and apart from OPEC.  OPEC ushers in the "austerity" period
designed to reduce the wages and living standards of the working classes in
the US and Europe.

CB: I think you are correct that the classic capitalist dynamics are at
 but also, since oil is so strategic in the technological regime, couldn't
 there be also at work the dynamic that the capitalists want more privileged
 physical access to the natural resource in Iraq ? This would be a little
 different point than anything about depletion. But it is not a economic ,
 physical argument ( it's still materialist , in terms of ABC)

DMS:  The "great" thing about exchange value, about the market is that
everything has a price, everything is alienable, exchangeable, convertible
into a price.  Certainly the strategic location of Iraq, as Charles Januzzi
has shown, is of importance.  That importance will translate directly into
lower costs of production and transit.

CB:    Are you saying the war on Iraq will raise the rate
 of profit back up by reducing the supply and raising pricdes , because the
 war will reduce the supply coming from Iraq ? Or will taking the oil allow
 the American capitalists to raise their rate of profit back up ? How does
 war fit into your logic of solving a crisis of  overproduction ?

DMS:  I do not know if the war will be successful in resolving the rate of
profit problem in the industry.  Success isn't the issue for the
bourgeoisie.  Any and all means will be attempted to restore profit and the
ratio of profit to expense.  If my finding costs are $0 (and I hope to
discuss the impact of finding costs on the oil industry later on.  Don't
groan, I promise to make it interesting).  My production costs are 97cents a
barrel and I'm charging my European allies $30.... well, stand back Martha,
I'm a fixin' to run like a race horse...

Now regarding LP's response, I found it particularly gratifying, because of
the concrete historical approach that is taken.  And indeed, we are never
able to escape the "rebound" impacts of our changes to the environment.  But
we change the environment by necessity.  That's our history.  And it won't
end.  At least not naturally.

In particular, I think LP is dead on target in his dispute over China and
the importance of coal vs the importance of the exploitation of... colonies.
And indeed I think as LP explores this he will discover more and more the
significance of Africa, of African trade. and ultimately of the slave trade.
Hugh Thomas's recent book, and Eric F. Williams' works, particularly FROM
COLUMBUS TO CASTRO (minus the last two self-serving anti-communist chapers)
are important illuminations of this area.

So all in all, thank you all.


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