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Capitalist crisis, pandemic and the program of the revolution

What follows is a piece by the comrades of Vamos hacia la vida from the Chilean territory. Capitalist crisis, pandemic and the program of the revolution.

Originally published by Vamos hacia la vida. Translated by Los Amigos de la Guerra de Clases Class War (TŘÍDNÍ VÁLKA).

Marx himself pointed out that the abstract scheme of capital development was not enough to provide any predictions about the actual world. All crises in capitalism must be explained out of the given empirical conditions, “out of the real movement of capitalist production, competition and credit.” The value analysis of capital development postulates “the possibility of crises by a mere consideration of the general nature of capital, without regard to the additional and real relations that form the conditions of the real production process.”

Paul Mattick, “Marx and Keynes”, 1969

The current movement in society generally (we are talking about the whole world) tends to a decomposition of the traditional forms of bourgeois domination.
The social peace sponsored by credit and consumption in recent decades has been broken since a long time; the proletariat in different parts of the world has been acting with both strength and weakness, demonstrating against its conditions of exploitation, misery and exclusion.

[…] The social decomposition of capitalism will necessarily lead to a confrontation between the proletariat and the State.
[…] This capitalist restructuring (which leads to a mobilization of all the strata of society) is always done at the expense of the proletariat and the latter, however weak it may subjectively be in its current phase, will not give up without fighting in defense of its lives.

Newspaper “Anarquía y Comunismo” Nº3, “The old and forgotten class struggle”, 2015

It seems that the capitalist crisis finally begins to break out. The tragedy for us is that it’s blowing up in our faces. While the crisis was a kind of commonplace for the experts in the capitalist economy that only confirmed the existence of its own limits and its state of decomposition, today it is presented to us as something surpassing any lesson that could be drawn from their manuals, making everyone question their own historical era. Will it be a temporary crisis or will it be the beginning of the end? Will humanity be able to overcome the economic figures and impose its needs, or will it again offer itself as cannon fodder for the restructuring of the market?

As we can see, and as usual, there are many questions and few answers.

For starting, the crisis of value itself was just around the corner for several years and, as we said, it had become a constant threat; one could even say that it never went away since it erupted in 2008 under the famous Lehman Brothers crisis. From then on, economists have not stopped lamenting and coming to terms with the slow economic growth. And although there is talk of its important historical depth for quite some time, its way of presenting itself in daily reality was nothing else but the same one with which the entire military apparatus of the States was deployed until today, in an underhanded and hidden way only perceptible to the most critical or paranoid people, as a normality imposed by force of pure habit. In the same way as the permanent world war, the terrorist deployment of economic imperialism was imposed as a norm in the war on terrorism in its Al-Qaeda and Daesh versions. And so the war in Syria, the thousands of refugees who escaped to the old continent, the Brexit and the disruptions of the trade war that at the same time provoked the rise of the Chinese economy. The productive development of the latter in terms of technology and its army of wage-earning proletarians ended up disrupting the “turbulent” world panorama, its trade map and the old alliances of the bourgeoisie, whilst accelerating the economic volatility due to the invasion of its trinkets.

It all turned out to be possible and close, because, as the old Marxist theory says, only living labor creates value; only in this regard can credit and financial capital be deployed, and since capitalist competition expels an ever-growing mass of proletarians from its bosom, replacing them with machines, it was only a matter of time before this social system proved to be unsustainable and incapable of maintaining the profits of the ruling class. The honey of capitalism began to look more like a stale and tasteless artificial substance.

In the midst of this panorama (and although we didn’t see it coming, given the daily normalization of the catastrophe), the revolt in Iran, France and China gained momentum, passed through Ecuador and reached Chile last October, splashing everywhere the misery accumulated under the credit bubble. In our case, it was expressed as a fertile and joyful spring which lasted until the summer; full of hope and brotherhood, to such an extent that it was frightening to imagine how these beautiful acts of pride and disrespect of the proletariat were going to take place in a grim future; hence we understood that there was indeed no turning back. The months that followed and the turning point in March did not cease to affirm our understanding, especially with the chaotic demonstrations from the Party of Order and its inability to frame the process.

Or so we thought. After the second week of March when the proletariat made a massive show of force, the State played its trump card by declaring a state of catastrophe and then a curfew. Although the possible arrival of the pandemic to the country was already known since the end of 2019, the Piñera government, supported by its entire coalition and opposition, criminally and opportunistically chose to get involved in the matter only in March as a response to the social situation, legitimizing the deployment of police and army throughout the territory under the excuse of its health dictatorship.

The phenomenon of the coronavirus can be understood from many perspectives: as a biological weapon to eliminate proletarians and thus respond to capital’s always limited needs of labor force; as a way to confront the world-wide problem of pensions or as a direct form of counter-revolution and justification of State terrorism. We can also simply understand it as a “natural accident” (which is used to the fullest extent possible by world Capital) resulting from the disastrous and unhealthy market competition (with its human, animal and biological trafficking in general), and probably all these elements contribute to the catastrophe. Even so, all of them collide directly with a single limit: their profound and negative consequences on the capitalist economy; and one thing is clear, the coronavirus is not a response to the crisis, but its consequence. The isolation and social distancing as a global phenomenon is something that neither teleworking nor an increase in exploitation within the sectors that are still productive can compensate for: the decline in traffic, the bankruptcy of large sectors of small and medium-sized businesses, rocketing unemployment, among others, are not things that no State can plan, and even less evaluate when most of them opt for credits which amount to billions and that can hardly be paid back in tune.

The coronavirus has brought the capitalist crisis to a level that economic science alone is unable to solve, and in that sense Marx’s theory of economic limits was not only not wrong, but also – and unfortunately – it could not see the Dantesque magnitude of its catastrophe [1].

But the capitalists of the world, even if this is an unknown context, know about counter-tendencies and the inevitable issue of the economic cycle into the crisis, and in this regard they know – at least in theory – what measures to apply to weigh up the economic collapse and, on the other hand, they also know about the gravity of the situation. From the critique of political economy, three main counter-tendencies have always been identified and, although as the initial quote says, they are not enough to predict anything, it is worth taking them into account:

  1. A reduction of working time socially necessary for the reproduction of the working class, or which is the same, the wage.
  2. A destruction of productive forces: elimination of proletarians.
  3. Compensation of the fall in individual surplus value with the increase in volumes of value, which means a market expansion.

These three counter-tendencies were clearly brought to light in the world wars with their enormous genocide and the lucrative effect on the arms industry and reconstruction; on paper it would not be unreasonable to think about a similar possibility for today’s reality. But times are “changing”, and if the effects of the crisis could not be foreseen in their magnitude by theoretical calculation, they may also be insufficient for the next attempt of the capitalists to save their skins: we could almost be sure that world capital will play its cards shamelessly in order to restructure its economic order, and in this process it will obviously increase exploitation, eliminate proletarians and look for sources of fresh capital to exploit; what is difficult to imagine is: to which extent. It is possible to read signs of this in the Colombia-Venezuela conflict, while putting a price on the heads of the Bolivarian State and the response of Iran doing the same on Trump’s head, or in the clear intention of the capitalists to exploit the Amazonia (remember the IIRSA project and the tendency represented by Bolsonaro in Brazil) [2]

Even so, it is difficult for us to think of an imperialist way out following the pattern of both world wars and, given the characteristics of the way capitalist despotism has been imposed in the last two decades [3], we cannot but think of a similar way of imposing world war, as an extreme and military form of everyday social control that contains the proletarian response to deepening exploitation and misery, and as a way of allowing access to the shameful pillaging of the virgin areas of the planet. It is difficult for us to think of another option, but it does not take away its always latent possibility.

Anyway, all this is just one more reason to continue the struggle. The proletariat is doomed to struggle and confront the State and has no choice in the matter. It will do it in a dignified, prepared and conscious way, or it will do it out of hunger. What we can choose is not lowering our head and seeking victory if we want to (we saw this with our own eyes in our revolt and emerging revolution). World capitalism can play its cards, but no one can guarantee that it will do so, because its state is serious and the proletariat in the imperialist countries themselves and all over the world will not make things easier; the proletariat can make world revolution if the possibilities allow for it [4].

But for all this we have to understand the urgency of these tasks, we have to understand that the destruction of capitalism is not a utopia or a slogan but a necessity. We have to break with the politics of crumbs and social demands to prepare the ground for a real and direct struggle. We have to understand that this is an international and class phenomenon and that this commitment means also to stand against its own States and against anyone, no matter how leftist he looks like. This is what we call the proletarian program and it is the only guarantee of not falling into the enemy’s traps, which will always be presented in the nationalist defense or in the defense of some red-painted bourgeois block (for example, the case of Venezuela with its Russian and Chinese alliances).

Capitalism is in crisis and it will want to overcome it by all means at our expense. It will be up to us to hand over a world worse than the one we live in or to be part of the first fatal blows delivered to this system of death.

Let’s build territorial power, let’s deploy solidarity and community networks; communism is a reality present within the capitalist catastrophe and we can leave behind us all the old shit accumulated over years and centuries only if it becomes stronger. Now more than ever it is necessary to extend the international community of struggle against genocidal capitalism.

Let’s build the proletarian alternative!

Living without capitalism is possible!

We Move Towards Life

  1. Even so, we can read within the Marxian analysis an attempt to understand the economy from this more complex and total vision. In this regard, the vision we read in the article Virus and Materialistic Conception by Rolando Astarita, or other comrades’ contributions, is interesting. Although this attempt to organically understand existed even before, the COVID-19 has brought this analysis and the classic economy of the crisis to a level that was not very well known until now.
  2. When we finished writing this text, we were just getting reports of the Venezuelan State’s mobilization of troops to the Colombian border, while a supposed “destitution” of Bolsonaro by the military authorities is announced, all news under development.
  3. Increasingly extreme social control, police and military deployment (remember the US Army’s old alliances and military exercises in Colombia and in Chile, with its military base in Concón and the criminal training of the “Jungle Commando” in Colombia) and job insecurity under the guise of independence and “small business”.
  4. Obviously, when we talk about revolution we do not mean it in the sense of ideological purism. When we refer to the concept of revolution we mean the practical question of the radical overthrowing of the dominant structure. The proletariat lived through several revolutions without however having eliminated capitalism, but it questioned its entire order and represented a total reorganization of the social structures. When we talk about the current revolution we talk on the same terms and as this has been demonstrated over time, there is indeed no turning back and nothing will be as before, what we do not know is its outcome.

April 7, 2020.

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