The autophagy of capital

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By ELIZIÁRIO ANDRADE*

Could there be a better circumstance for capital and bourgeois governments than to take advantage of this global pandemic of the coronavirus to get rid of a population that is outside the labor market?

With the French Revolution in the eighteenth century, expressing the advance of productive forces, reason and scientific knowledge, the bourgeoisie taking in its hands the direction of revolutionary struggles under the motto: freedom, equality and fraternity, drags all classes and oppressed groups of the old regime to impose its order that would become capitalism. In effect, a new model of civilization emerges based on profit, private accumulation of socially produced wealth and on the creation of a brutal individualistic culture that, par excellence, suppresses real solidarity and recognition of the other as a human being, as a citizen, unless as a mere interchangeable and disposable commodity within the relations of production that moves through the principle and destructive logic of reproduction of capital. Expression of an insatiable social relationship, feeding on more value (in physical-material or fictitious form) imperturbably and endlessly, similar to a vampire who drains his victims to the last drop of blood to stay alive, or as he does the Minotaur of Greek mythology who feeds on human flesh.

As elements of this same dynamic, life, health, body and even religion and faith only reach economic and social importance when they are converted into merchandise. These are constitutive products of the form of current social relations of the workforce and the relationship between men and their peers, the representations that men formulate of their concrete world. For this very reason, these elements are subject to the laws of the market and the cold accounting calculation that guides decisions regarding the protection needs of human beings. Therefore, when this coronavirus pandemic hits society, it is also permeated by the character of class and market relations, which impose unequal and severe conditions on those who live from work or are on the margins of the production process in the pursuit of survival, and now to save themselves from covid-19.

Since 1980, with the advance of neoliberalism, this reality has been getting worse as capital seeks to resist the decline in the rate of profit on a world scale in the economy produced through real production processes. Hence, it seeks to transform all work activities (productive or unproductive) into sources of profit through the financialization of the capitalist economy. For this reason, activities formerly run by the State: hospital networks and clinical input products, medical care, education, research and public services in general, are subjected to a privatization process to convert them into profitable businesses, opening up new areas of dispossession and exploitation of the workforce. Regardless of the nature of the work here, whether directly or indirectly, material or immaterial, what counts in the frying pan is the total social production and its links with financial capital that converts the real into the unreal, that is, the profitability of the appropriation of values ​​generated in “dirty work” (production-labor force in the industrial and service base) in fictitious values ​​of financial capital.

What to expect then from this society and from the capitalist State that seeks, through the aegis of capital, to reduce as much as possible the losses of its profit rates with the devastation of the human life condition? What hopes and expectations can we have of a State and bourgeois and social-liberal governments that apply the same neoliberal macroeconomic policies: reforms that remove rights, make work precarious, cut benefits, reduce or freeze wages, dismantle public health and launch the majority? of the population in poverty? Certainly, only the naive can come to believe that these right-wing or extreme right-wing governments, as well as class coalitions promoted by social liberals – could be imbued with some kind of humanitarian, liberal, non-"savage" commitment, capable of controlling the “madness of economic reason” of capital that determines the practical life of human beings (MARX, GRUNDRISSE, 1987)

It is necessary to abandon the illusions. Well, the fact to be understood is that the capital crisis and the effects of the coronavirus on society are, at the same time, a tragic and dramatic example of the deepening of the destructive crisis with all its social and human consequences that, although different in its essence intersect concomitantly and generate a reality that lays bare, turns upside down all the cruelty of a civilizing model with the crisis of legitimacy over its form of political regime: the bourgeois parliamentary democracy that – to the astonishment and objection of many – will become becoming an obstacle to capitalism itself. At the same time, as Wolfgang Streeck points out (Jornal Valor, 2014:26-12), chaotic disorders are developing in the system, such as: low global economic growth, suffocation of the public sphere imposed by neoliberal policies, advance of the financial oligarchy, increase in corruption and international anarchy of capitalist production.

As a result, these real and objective tendencies dismantle once and for all, not only the utopia of economic thought and classical liberal and neoclassical political philosophy, but also the neoliberal ones that impose a complete subsumption of the human being to the rational and irrational dictates of the logic of money and its way of reproducing itself, where the meaning of life boils down to consumption, to hideous, immediate and pragmatic pleasure; where the fetish of merchandise and money is definitively consolidated in all its universalizing fullness, completely conforming to its essence that is expressed in the  social inequality, where the objective determinations of this phenomenon are hidden through the world of appearances and social alienation.

The truth that has been imposed since the mid-70s is the fact that the neoliberal prescription, in a pure and clear way, has definitively assumed the question of social inequality as a natural and irreversible phenomenon of the logic of the productive process and its form of social relations of wealth production in capitalism. At this moment, neoliberals completely break with the notion of social justice which was advocated in the Western world most emphatically in the post-World War II period. But when the 80s began, the generalized destruction of the state of social welfare that sought a relative integration of workers in the mode of production and in the social and political order of bourgeois democracy that operated certain material concessions to the working classes in the period of capital expansion, consolidation of the Soviet bloc and polarization of socialist ideas in the world. But today, this reality has already faded away, the ruling classes refuse to bear any cost of socialization and integration of the workforce into the system, as well as the costs of increasing environmental damage.

Therefore, it is clear that a large part of the population in society is already excluded, without access to basic survival conditions, rights, social protection and a life that can be characterized as “civilized” within the scope of the bourgeois democratic order. The option for a state of growing barbarism is a clear and conscious path on the part of the dominant classes that seek to defend themselves in closed condominiums, armored cars, security services and private police protection, which grow like a big business and in the face of financial accumulation. This new way of life of the dominant classes, which have formed their wealth based on financial assets, seeks to preserve those conditions that they conquered in the more recent past and fight against any attempt to limit their path of accumulation, way of life and material interests. Thus, we are facing a trend in which the rationality and irrationality of the genocidal action of capital and the classes that embody its interests remain firm and strong in order to continue earning money and more money, even if for that it is necessary to resort to the form of destruction , to collapse living conditions in order to restore their foundations for generating wealth and accumulation.

Here, it is worth asking: would there be better circumstances for capital and bourgeois governments than to take advantage of this global pandemic of the coronavirus to get rid of a population that is outside the labor market? An example are the elderly and another significant portion of individuals who have no more chances to return to work activities, those who suffer from racial and xenophobic segregation, segments that live on the margins of the productive process and that are transformed into pariahs for society, living in Fetid and abandoned neighborhoods on the outskirts of large cities marked by violence: a somber portrait of deep indifference and social injustice. Just as capital in crisis destroys capital in an autophagic logic of reproduction, in order to resume new conditions of accumulation, it also destroys human lives that are increasingly unattended and even abandoned to let die and become part of the statistics of those who continue to perish with justifications. cynical facts that seem to be the product of an “invisible enemy”, random, as well as all other pandemics that emerge more frequently and with great lethality.

In this new context of crisis in the national and international economy, of the vast social and human consequences caused by covid-19, once again, the Keynesian reformist liberal left, together with the neoliberals, are again deluded with the possibility of state intervention to neutralize the bankruptcy of capitals that are plunged into recession. The responses that governments gave to the 2007 crisis, today face serious obstacles to their application, and if they insist on the same, at any cost, since they do not find other ways out, the scenario tends to be explosive in the short and medium term. Because, if we observe the debt levels of the capitalist States are much higher than in 2007, therefore, contracting more public debt means putting the fiscal deficits in the clouds; on the other hand, with the world recession, a sharp decline in commercial transactions, governments will no longer be able to cut expenses or even lower interest rates. As a result, they are forced to sell their existing financial assets in the form of exchange reserves or pledge part of their sources of natural wealth.

These impasses lead the Brazilian bourgeoisie and the neoliberal governments to a dead end, having to take measures more to rescue financial capital than to stabilize the economy. Hence the permanent instability and uncertainties in the direction of capitalism and admittedly neoliberal governments, or even those of the center-left based on a class coalition and on neodevelopmentalist, selective and minimalist economic policies. Therefore, there is no horizon in sight that indicates a change in this conjunctural scenario of capitalism, which today is worsening with the economic and social impacts caused by covid-19 that detonated the ongoing crisis of capital. For this very reason, the bourgeoisie, through the State, seeks to safeguard private interests at any cost, based on financial contributions to the banks and mitigated economic initiatives of a Kenyan nature, provisionally granting crumbs to portions of the population in the face of a social order torn apart by contradictions that can threaten the system itself.

The emergency actions of bourgeois governments through the State to help society and the majority of the population is under public calamities, at the same time that it finds limits and difficulties to act broadly due to the frameworks of neoliberal policies imposed on society through the State itself . The growing unemployment rates, impoverishment of the working masses and other extreme situations (hunger, wars, destruction of environmental and human conditions) generated by the contradictions of the capitalist mode of production and the neoliberal prescription will continue with an even greater degree of conflict.

Thus, in this circumstance in which the extra-economic factor of the coronavirus triggers the ongoing crisis of capital, humanity, once again, has the opportunity to see in a painful and frightening way the limits and essence of this model of civilization. In particular, because at the same time that it produces the productive forces, innovated at each period, they need to be destroyed at an ever-increasing speed in a way never seen in history. Because, with the accelerated rotation cycle of capital reproduction, the consequences on health, environment, social, political and cultural for the human condition deepen and reach devastating global effects; generate more environmental degradation, where many species become extinct from biodiversity, making the human condition and its existence limited and difficult for its reproduction. And, with that, everything pushes us towards irrational crisis situations in which all peoples are living, but which is processed in a differentiated and unequal way between nations and classes.

In all crises, it is the working class that lives off the workforce, creating value for capital, which always pays the bill, the highest price for the damage caused in the form of impoverishment, illness, unemployment, loss of rights and violence that strikes as a form of social control and containment against the reactions of those “from below”, which according to Gramsci, are spontaneous manifestations that express unbearable extreme situations, which is why, sometimes, they explode in the form of rebellions, or anarchically.

As part of this same systemic process of the capitalist mode of production – the result of its intrinsic logic – there is also a dramatic and, why not say, genocidal action on social work and workers' gains achieved in past decades. In Brazil, it is enough to observe Provisional Measure n. 927, signed by the Brazilian neo-fascist and neoliberal government, which, due to the impacts of the coronavirus on the economy, profits and advantages for the business community, throws workers and the entire impoverished population into miserable conditions of survival by removing from them the minimum conditions for face the action of the coronavirus that falls on everyone.

This is not an accidental objective, but a conscious and pre-planned objective that tries to impose itself in a tragic social moment in which mortified bodies reproduce and pile up in hospitals, due to the pandemic. The cynicism and impudence of neoliberals and media power in the face of the crisis and human lamentations in the face of sinister scenes due to the lack of spaces and places to bury thousands of human beings victimized by covid-19, are enough to make any citizen feel profound indignation. Thus, at the same time that parties and governments say they are concerned about the chaotic social situation, they hide the fact that it is the authors of reforms in the country that produce this reality, such as the labor reform, social security and, now, the administrative reform that massacres the civil servants, democracy and even workers' freedom of expression and organisation.

The neoliberal calculations of these reforms, which were expected to achieve in a short period of time: the arrival of a greater flow of foreign capital in the country, increased employment, GDP growth, increased investment in industrial production and in the service sectors with a scandalous process of privatization of state-owned companies and natural resources has not worked out, at least, so far. Therefore, we are facing a national and international economic scenario that pushes the country towards the growth of the economic, social and political crisis. Faced with the price war between corporations in imperialist countries in the world market in recession, added to a situation of belligerence of inter-imperialist geopolitical disputes in the world, the Bolsonaro government tends to burn a large part of national resources, and sell what is left of state-owned companies, natural resources, operating all types of delivery never seen in the history of Brazil

Big capital, FIESP and CNI rentiers, the media and US imperialism that articulated and guided the coup project to impose the aforementioned reforms with fire and iron, through a canastrously neo-fascist president, have encountered enormous difficulties to stabilize governance in the face of the political crises that ensue, even within the ruling class's own hosts that seek ways out of the political and economic impasse in which the government finds itself plunged.

From that moment on, a new situation opened up in which the government was faced with a displacement of some of its right-wing supporters towards a critical stance and even political distancing and ruptures. However, these facts still do not constitute a significant loss of its base of support, even though the support it had from the right, liberals, part of the media and even from some bourgeois fractions that gave them the electoral victory, has been reduced. dispersed and starts to erode part of your power block.

Bolsonaro's governance conditions are full of uncertainties and instabilities, whether due to the failure to impose his ultraliberal project, which has the support of the entire Brazilian right and imperialism, mainly the US, or due to the negative impacts that the pandemic caused on his government. For this reason, a situation emerges in which Bolsonaro becomes more involved in an effort at political survival than even at governing. However, the main political problem is that the sectors of the left and the political organizations of social movements weakened by successive defeats are unable to build a popular solution, on the left, for the crisis, which leaves an open space for the right in the country to be able to build an institutional political exit from above, in order to preserve the reforms and prevent the autonomous and independent strengthening of the political action of a democratic and popular project of the left in the country.

* Eliziário Andrade He is a professor at the State University of Bahia (UNEB).

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