[Marxism] On Capital-Imperialism: An Interview with Virgínia Fontes

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Jul 18 05:05:08 MDT 2018

GLG: At the root of the notion of capital-imperialism lies the 
discussion about expropriations, which refers to Marx’s reflection on 
so-called primitive accumulation. There is a long tradition of this 
debate going back to Rosa Luxemburg. How do you fit into this tradition? 
What does expropriation mean and what is its relation to the extraction 
of surplus value?

VF: Marx insists that expropriations integrate capitalist social 
dynamics. They are not only its “previous moment.” The existence of free 
workers constitutes the social basis for the expansion of its crucial 
social relationship, embedding capital and labor for value extraction 
(valorization of value). Nowadays, this massive disposability tends to 
reach the whole population, converting singular beings into a bare 
necessity, a compulsory disposal for the sale of labor-power under any 
conditions. Massive expropriation is the initial social condition and 
result of capitalist expansion.

Until recently, the vast majority of the world’s population lived in the 
countryside, under pre-capitalist conditions. The rural world appeared 
as an effective exteriority vis-à-vis urban capitalism, but this has 
changed. Rosa Luxemburg believed that the expansion of capital required 
non-capitalist frontiers because of the impossibility of mercantile 
achievement within the strict limits of capitalist societies. David 
Harvey modified the formulation asserting that, today, capitalism 
produces such externalities (the “dispossession” that portrays a further 
unfolding of “normalized” capitalism). I disagree: there has never been 
a “normalized” capitalism, and the countries in which that seemed to 
happen, employed barbaric and imperialist forms of value extraction. 
These are suggestive propositions, but we must insist that the basic 
social relation, internal (not external) to capital, is the production 
of necessities and the first of them is the production of social beings 
who need to provide their own subsistence through markets. Rosa 
Luxemburg reminds us of the overwhelming role of the continuous 
expansion of capitalist social relations.


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