The struggle for the socialization of profit

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By JOSÉ MICAELSON LACERDA MORAIS*

Establish a new form of sociability in which production, circulation and distribution have social objectives

Introduction

John Maynard Keynes, one of the most influential economists of the XNUMXth century, in his main work, The general theory of employment, interest and money, identified the “inability to provide full employment”, together with the “arbitrary and unequal distribution of wealth and income”, as the “main defects of the economic society in which we live”. The author himself states that his work constitutes a direct response to the first problem and an indirect response to the second: “[…] the relationship between the previously exposed theory and the first defect is obvious. But there are also two important points where it is relevant to the second” (KEYNES, 1996, p. 341).

For Keynes, in general terms, the problem of full employment seems to be just a “task of adjusting the propensity to consume with the incentive to invest”. A task for which the “[…] State should exert a guiding influence on the propensity to consume, partly through its system of taxation, partly through the fixing of the interest rate, and partly, perhaps, by resorting to other measures […] But apart from that, no obvious reason can be seen to justify a state socialism embracing most of the nation's economic life (KEYNES, 1996, p. 345).

Keynes' optimism with his general theory, who himself suggests that it could even contribute to world peace: “[…] but if nations can learn to maintain full employment through their domestic policy alone (and also, we should add, if they manage to reach equilibrium in the growth trend of their populations), there should no longer be a need for important economic forces designed to predispose a country against its neighbors […]” (KEYNES, 1996, p. 348).

Nothing could be more false in the context of 1982th-century imperialism, which only resulted in a lasting “balance” after two major world wars interspersed with a great depression and, only by means of a highly nefarious instrument, a “permanent arms economy”. Through which “[…] the permanent production of weapons not only became one of the most important solutions to the problem of surplus capital, but also, and mainly, constituted a powerful stimulus for the acceleration of technological innovation […]” ( MANDEL, 212, p. XNUMX). A wide range of one-off wars in the second half of the XNUMXth century, a new phase of imperialism in the early XNUMXst century, and an endless war waged by the United States to maintain its world hegemony in the last decades of the XNUMXth century and the beginning of the XNUMXth century XXI, leaves no doubt about the belligerent, inhuman and antisocial character of capital; in its incessant process of accumulation and crises (resulting from its own internal dynamics).

The father of modern macroeconomics understood, theorized in a unique way and gave political form to what would constitute the dynamics of the capitalist economy for a good part of the XNUMXth century. In this respect, his thought, despite some initial rejection, had become the bastion of an era: state monopoly capitalism or, in the language of conventional economics, the welfare state. However, reading his great work between the lines, it is possible to understand clearly that his solution to save capitalism from the great crisis (and the economic theory in effect from its failure), could not result in any other reality than the great social disaster, environmental and political that would become the capitalism of the late XNUMXth and early XNUMXst centuries.

 

Keynes' theory of full employment and investment

In Keynesian theory, the amount of investment “depends on the relationship between the interest rate and the marginal efficiency curve of capital”. In turn, the marginal efficiency of capital (EMgK), “depends on the relationship between the offer price of a capital asset and its expected income” (KEYNES, 1996 p. 158). So that for Keynes, two variables of great importance to direct the economic dynamics, towards full employment, are the interest rate and what he defined as state of trust (expectation of an expected future income), which exerts considerable influence on the marginal efficiency curve of capital: “[…] It can be said that the marginal efficiency curve of capital governs the conditions under which available funds are sought for new investments , while the interest rate governs the terms on which these funds are properly offered […]” (KEYNES, 1996, p. 173).

In general, for Keynes, EMgK fluctuations in relation to the interest rate explain (in terms of description and analysis) the alternations between expansion and depression of the economic cycle. Thus, the interest rate assumes great importance in the general theory, when it comes to controlling the economic dynamics (fixing an interest rate compatible with productive investments), towards an economy with full employment. About this aspect, the comparison that Keynes establishes between the relation of marginal efficiency curve of capital/interest rate for the XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries is quite revealing:

“During the nineteenth century, the increase in population and inventions, the exploration of new lands, the state of confidence, and the frequency of wars (on average, say, every decade), together with the propensity to consume, seem to have been enough to maintain a curve of the marginal efficiency of capital, which allows for an average level of employment satisfactory enough to be compatible with an interest rate high enough to be psychologically acceptable to wealth holders […] Today, and probably in the future , the curve of the marginal efficiency of capital is, for various reasons, much lower than it was in the 1996th century. The sharpness and peculiarity of our contemporary problems therefore emanate from the fact that the average rate of interest compatible with a reasonable average volume of employment may be unacceptable to the possessors of wealth, so that it is impossible to establish it easily by means of of simple manipulations of the amount of money […]” (KEYNES, 288, p. 299-XNUMX).

As previously highlighted, EMgK also depends on current expectations regarding the future return on capital goods”. Asseverates Keynes (1996, p. 294) “[…] that expectations for the future play a preponderant role in determining the scale at which new investments are deemed advisable […]”. This is because the expected income from an asset depends, in part, on known facts, and, in part, on expectations about the future that “can only be predicted with a greater or lesser degree of confidence”. According to him, this state of long-term expectations is closely associated with the degree of confidence in businessmen's forecasts about the future. Therefore, the state of trust has “considerable influence” on the marginal efficiency curve of capital. More than that, the state of confidence is “[…] one of the main factors that determine this scale [of marginal efficiency of capital], which is identical to the investment demand curve” (KEYNES, 1996, p. 160). This aspect is so important to Keynes that he dedicated the entire chapter 12, The state of long-term expectation, from general theory, to discuss changes in investments as exclusively arising from expectations of expected incomes.

That said, the general theory it already reveals how the economy of the 1996th century is literally made up of a large betting pool. Every day the fate of millions of people, in terms of income, housing, health, work, food, life and death, depends, not directly, on work and what its product can supply in terms of the social needs of the community, but on the expectations of what a small group of capitalists, through the banking of the Stock Exchange, expect regarding their future earnings: “the creation of new wealth depends entirely on their probable income reaching the established level for the current interest rate” ( KEYNES, 210, p. 211-XNUMX).

In this way, employment, interest and currency and their relations in the capitalist economy, even in the context of Fordist accumulation, do not have a social purpose by nature, nor are they related to the fulfillment of what would be considered collective. We, as economists, have a duty to demystify the idea of ​​selfishness as a social principle as established by Smith in The wealth of nations: “[…] Therefore, since each individual seeks, as far as possible, to employ his capital in promoting national activity and in such a way directing that activity that his product will have the maximum possible value, each individual necessarily strives to increase at the same time maximum possible the annual income of society […]” (SMITH, 1996, p. 438). It is historically proven that selfishness as an economic principle produced a contradictorily unsustainable society (social and environmental); we are facing the greatest historical proof (capital is antisocial). The principle of effective demand and the Keynesian multiplier are just redressing this old myth in a new body of theory.

This is because in capitalism, due to the trinitarian formula of economic performance, employment is basically related to surplus value (in the form of profit) that a part of the employed workforce can provide capital; as well as the consumption of goods that maintain a certain rhythm of effective demand compatible with the expectations of the capitalists (at least until an oversupply of capital is established and an accumulation crisis sets in); regardless of whether this pace of consumption implies environmental devastation and predation of natural resources. In this mode of production, employment has nothing to do with the question of social subjects participating as workers and, at the same time, as those who will benefit from the result of the work they produce.

Employment for Keynes (1996, p. 346) is merely a question of volume: “[…] it is the volume and not the direction of effective employment that is responsible for the collapse of the current system”. Although this statement refers to an analysis of the efficiency of the capitalist system in relation to the use of production factors, it reveals that the Keynesian analysis takes for granted a construction that is social (the distribution of the product between salary, profit-interest and rent). and that the main purpose of the economy is the accumulation of capital; in Keynes the investment and permanent renewal of its stimulus. Therefore, Keynes's solution is only a problem of scale, from a low level of employment to full employment, it does not matter that the system always reproduces itself by reproducing, at the same time, capitalists, on the one hand, and wage workers, on the other. other.

If, despite reaching full employment, the “arbitrary and unequal distribution of wealth and income” still persists, the problem is now of a different nature. According to him, with an apparently simple solution, since it is a mere question of taxation: “since the end of the 1996th century, direct taxation — income tax and surcharges, and inheritance taxes — has managed to achieve, especially in Great Britain, considerable progress in reducing the great inequalities of wealth and income [...]” (KEYNES, 341, p. 1970). However, we know that there are no guarantees for the continuity of government policies, whether tax, social or labor, as a resolving measure for the problem of “arbitrary and unequal distribution of wealth and income”, in the face of capital and its crises. For, a general crisis of accumulation, as in the XNUMXs, as well as the emergence of new means of accumulation (digital-technological revolution and its consequences) is enough to put down a whole set of historical conquests achieved with great difficulty by the working class (worldwide).

As Marx (2017a, p. 697) very well put it in Book I of The capital, although he was referring exclusively to the price of labor in the face of the capitalist production relation: “[…] In reality, therefore, the law of capitalist accumulation, mystified into a law of nature, expresses only that the nature of this accumulation excludes any decrease in degree of exploitation of labor or any increase in the price of labor that could seriously threaten the constant reproduction of the capitalist relationship, its reproduction on an ever-expanding scale [...]”.

Let's go back to the idea of ​​the economy as a big gambling bank in the big casino of capitalism (and Mr. Keynes' solution). He understood and analyzed both sides of “the development of organized financial markets”. On the one hand, it facilitates investment. On the other hand, “it contributes greatly to aggravating the instability of the system”. Regarding the first aspect, the Stock Exchange as a permanent investment evaluation system “provides the frequent opportunity” for investors to reevaluate their investments, as well as being a thermometer on the expectations of new investments: “[...] the daily reevaluations of the exchange of values, although they are primarily intended to facilitate the transfer of investments already made between individuals, inevitably exert a decisive influence on the amount of current investment […]” (KEYNES, 1996, p. 161).

On the other hand, Keynes is fully aware that the Stock Exchange, by transforming “investments that are 'fixed' for the community” into investments that are “'liquid' for individuals”, gives short-term fluctuations “an excessive influence and even absurd” about the market. Keynes (1996, p. 164), illustrates his reasoning as follows: “[…] it is said, for example, that the shares of North American companies that manufacture ice can be sold at a higher price in the summer, when their profits are seasonally higher than they are in the winter when no one wants ice. The occurrence of longer bank holidays may increase the market value of the British railway system by several million pounds […] In unusual periods in particular, when the hypothesis of an indefinite continuation of the present state of affairs is less plausible than usual, even if there are no concrete reasons to foresee a certain change, the market will be subject to waves of optimistic or pessimistic sentiments, which are unreasonable and still legitimate in the absence of a solid basis for satisfactory calculations”.

The possibilities open to the capital accumulation process in the form D-D' (fictitious capital), direct “the energies and skills of the professional investor and the speculator” towards short-term gains: “[…] As the organization of investment markets, the risk of a predominance of speculation, however, increases […]” (KEYNES, 1996, p 167). Although Keynes is very critical of this process (the “most anti-social” implication of the “liquidity fetish”), he views it “as an inevitable result of financial markets organized around so-called 'liquidity'”.

For this reason, he condemns the rentier and praises the long-term investor: “[…] the one that best serves the public interest and is what, in practice, incurs greater criticism, while investment funds are managed by commissions or banks, for, in essence, their conduct is eccentric, unconventional, and reckless in the eyes of average opinion. If he succeeds, it will only confirm the general belief in his temerity; if, in the end, he suffers momentary setbacks, few will be able to sympathize with him. Universal wisdom indicates that it is better for reputation to fail with the market than to win against it” (KEYNES, 1996, p. 167).

Keynes also makes a very blunt criticism of Wall Street by suggesting that a Stock Exchange can gain so much power as to convert the development of a country's capital into a “by-product of the activities of a casino”; not being able, therefore, the same despite its fame “to be pointed out as one of the most brilliant triumphs of capitalism of the type laissez-faire”. But, he still believed “that the brightest brains of Wall Street” had in mind the “primary social purpose” of that institution, which would be to “lead new investments through the most productive channels in terms of future income” (KEYNES, 1996, p. 167-168).

Along the general theory, Keynes points out some measures to alleviate “the evils of our time”, such as making the purchase operations of an investment definitive and irrevocable (“except in case of death or for another serious reason”), which “would oblige investors to direct your attention only to long-term perspectives” (KEYNES, 1996, p. 169). Or, still, “[…] restricting the choice of the individual to the only alternative of consuming his income, or using him to order the production of specific capital goods, which, although with precarious evidence, seem to him to be the most profitable investment. interesting within your reach […]” (KEYNES, 1996, p. 169). But Keynes himself recognizes that these are not adequate solutions given the complexity of the problem.

Keynes' ultimate solution is presented in Chapter 16, Miscellaneous observations on the nature of capital. From some hypotheses he deduces that the EMgK will reduce to an equilibrium level close to zero (the Keynesian steady state). In this context, “the products of capital” would be sold at a price in proportion to the labor embodied in them. This would eliminate the problems arising from accumulation and speculation, given that in this steady state the economy would be at full employment. The final part of his argument is as follows:

“If I am right in supposing that it is relatively easy to make capital goods so abundant that their marginal efficiency is zero, this may be the most reasonable way to gradually eliminate most of the objectionable features of capitalism. A moment's reflection will show the enormous social changes that would result from the progressive disappearance of a rate of return on accumulated wealth. Anyone could still accumulate income from their work with the intention of spending it at a later date. But your accumulation would not grow. She would simply be in the position of Pope's father who, on retiring from business, took a trunk full of guineas to his village of Twickenham to meet household expenses as much as he needed” (KEYNES, 1996, p. 216-217 ).

Had Keynes understood Marx that “interest is presented as the proper and characteristic product of capital”, he would have concluded that any social solution (in terms of its totality), regarding employment, income and distribution of wealth and income becomes impossible in the context of social relations established in the capitalist mode of production: “[…] here is the trinitarian formula in which all the secrets of the social production process are contained […]” (MARX, 2017b, p. 877). The most brilliant economists, like Keynes himself, unfortunately did not understand the dimension of the “highly mystical entity” into which capital had become, creating the image from which “all the social productive forces of labor appear as forces belonging to capital” (MARX, 2017b, p. 890).

So that all images produced in this form of economy are inverted and object of appropriation by capital itself. For example, the salaried worker who is apparently free, in essence, becomes a servant of capital's designs; and the product of work, which in its essence is use value, is transformed into an accumulation fetish (a socialization factor transformed into its opposite).

When an economist states in any social media that the dynamics of the economy is the result of economic growth, that this generates jobs and income and, consequently, increases consumption, which in turn favors the expectations of businessmen regarding new investments, which will generate a new cycle of economic growth; he is actually justifying the exclusion of a portion of the social subjects that live in society from the economic process (production and product). This is because by repeating the idea of ​​the Keynesian multiplier, the old story that the increase in income due to the increase in the level of employment caused by investments will lead to greater consumption, which will boost production and raise the national income even more; he is not considering that the value produced by this mode of production moves autonomously in relation to workers and their needs and social rights.

A cause for greater concern is that the effect of the Keynesian multiplier, as an economic growth policy, throughout the XNUMXth century, given the trinitarian formula of capitalist income, implied a continuous growth in the power of capital, to the point of creating such gigantic masses of capital. and so concentrated that they became capable of regulating political forms and regimes around the world. In addition to the fact that it is part of the logic of the intercapitalist casino of capital to exercise the unbridled exploitation of natural resources as a justification for sustaining economic growth (again emphasizing that such growth is antisocial due to the nature of the economic structure of that society).

 

Resuming an old fight for a new society

When at some point in history (generalization of mercantile exchanges) it was established as a social norm (which many consider to be a natural law), that the original sources of economic income (as well as of all exchange value) are constituted by economic trinity “capital-profit (business profit plus interest), land-land rent, work-salary […]” (MARX, 2017b, p. 877), not only employment, but everything that should have a social character has ceased to have such a meaning.

For, in this way, the participation of each one in the trinity of economic income is apparently justified through the social position of the social subjects in production and, consequently, their place in the hierarchy of capital society. In the essence of capitalism, however, the use of the workforce has as its sole objective the valorization of profit capital, relegating the majority of salaried workers to a condition of consented servitude. For, from the product of his work, he is only allowed an income immediately necessary to replace his value as a labor force useful for the economic processes of capital.

To better understand the essence of the problem, it is enough to compare the social relations in the slave, feudal and capitalist modes of production. Roughly speaking, societies are constituted based on the privilege of one class over another precisely because of the “economic” power that one of them holds; even in the face, for example, of “[…] all the complex and varied ties that tied the feudal man to his 'natural superiors'” […] (MARX and ENGELS, 1998, p. 42). Free labor in capitalism is the greatest fallacy ever produced by economic thought. Profit representing a collective good, in the Smithian sense that everyone acting in their own interest will result in a rich and prosperous society is another great fallacy.

When money is established as a norm of social distinction, at the same time the foundations of a society of goods and not of social subjects are installed. It is one thing for a social subject or a group of social subjects to found a company in which the profits are privately owned for the privilege of some social subjects, while salaried workers receive an income that only represents their reproduction as the commodity labor power. (capitalism).

Another thing would be a company in which, regardless of the initiative or pioneering spirit, profit (economic surplus) does not represent private property, but reflects its essence: the social work contained therein. In this way, a portion of the profit would be equally shared among all participants in the enterprise, regardless of ownership, position or function performed. The other part would be destined to modernize and expand the business. From this perspective, the idea of ​​the Trinitarian formula as a social norm of economic income and, consequently, of the exploitation of labor as a source of appreciation of value would cease to exist.

I keep imagining the type of technical innovation that would arise, since such a change would change the purpose of machinery in the capitalist mode of production (cheap goods and shorten the part of the working day destined for the reproduction of the worker himself). We need to demystify the idea that innovation is a function of profit. Only by eliminating the trinitarian formula will this be possible, which would be the same as eliminating the capital relation and, consequently, capitalism.

Let us return to mid-nineteenth-century England to recall the long struggle of the working class to regulate, between 1833 and 1867, through the Factory Acts, the work of children, women, the reduction of the working day from 12 to 10 hours and working conditions; “The fact is that, before the 1833 Act, children and youth were put to work all night, all day, or both, ad libitum [at will]” (Marx, 2017a, p. 350; citing the Factory Inspector Report of 30th April 1860). In 1837, the economist Nassau Senior elaborated an argument in defense of the Manchester manufacturers in which he was against "the growing agitation for the 10-hour day"; struggle that lasted practically 20 years (1830 to 1850), and in which “class antagonism had reached an unbelievable degree of tension”.

According to him, in what Marx (2017a, p. 637) called “Senior's last hour”, “[…] the entire net gain, including 'profit', 'interest' and even 'more'" depended on the last hour of work. He further asserts that if such a law were passed it would ruin English industry. However, what was witnessed, between 1853 and 1860, in the regulated branches of industry was “their admirable development” and the “physical and moral rebirth of factory workers”. Marx (2017a, p. 367), even shows the change of economists in relation to factory legislation: “[…] The Pharisees of “political economy” proclaimed, then, the understanding of the need for a working day fixed by law as a new conquest characteristic of their 'science'[…]”.

What prevents us from implementing a struggle for the socialization of profit in contemporary times, in the same way that workers fought for the workday in the XNUMXth century? Since it is already more than proven that the Trinitarian formula of capitalist economic performance has not proved to be sufficient as a foundation for the consolidation of a society full of freedom, equality, justice and democracy. Why do different social functions need different monetary rewards if each and all of us have the same social needs in terms of health, housing, education, transport, culture, leisure, etc? We have to demystify recognition and personal merit for the amount of money we can accumulate (private ownership of profit) and recognize ourselves solely for our social functions as social subjects.

Let's do a short imagination exercise! Let's imagine that all lives matter and that being a street sweeper or a doctor, a waiter, a lawyer, an entrepreneur, an innovator, a politician, etc. Let's imagine that a “construction worker” can have as much access to the product of his work as his boss. That the civil construction branch does not produce with the aim of accumulating capital, but to meet the needs of housing, health, education, government, etc.; finally, that all economic and social infrastructure be produced for the needs of the community and not for the interests of the casino of capital.

Likewise, imagine a city that is not made for cars, but for people. In which, still, daily commutes were carried out by a broad, fully social public transport system. Imagine an agriculture that is not designed for profits. Would we use so many poisons? Would we produce so much grain to feed livestock and not people? What types of cultures would take place in this agriculture and how would the city/country relationship be reconfigured? Imagine, furthermore, that everyone could have access to the same education, health and all social services under equal conditions and access. Imagine a pharmaceutical industry producing drugs not to increase shareholder profits, but for people's health.

I keep thinking about this society without profit-interest, salary and rent, in which we would enter a supermarket, for example, and we would see that everyone in that space, despite their different functions, has the same importance as social subjects, because everyone also has the same economic importance to each other. Socially, everyone has the same economic and social infrastructure to carry out their collective, individual and family life. What types of social spaces for meetings, leisure and culture would we have in such a society? In addition to spaces restricted to mere consumption as we have today (shopping malls, Outlets).

By the way, what sense does it make to think about growth, employment, interest rates, in this form of economy? Governments will no longer function to serve the interests of companies (big capital), since these will change their objective from the capital commodity to the social subject. Imagine public debt being used for the collective good and not for the accumulation of half a dozen large owners or shareholders. Banks in an economy of this nature would no longer function as “income traps” for the population as a whole and as a means of producing money through money (fictitious capital).

When at some point our struggle succeeds through some countries, perhaps we will also be able to transform relations between nations. Nations producing for people and not for goods (money-capital) will be able to exchange the permanent production of weapons for the production of more reasonable solutions for societies and for the planet. Finally, maybe we have the chance to consciously and collectively subdue our “death drive”, always so exploited in capitalism for its accumulation purposes. Only another economy, based on the social subject and the contents of life, will be able to equalize the social, environmental and human health issues, exhausted by capital and its metamorphoses. There is no alternative to capitalism with its trinitarian formula of economic return and its great intercapitalist casino of capital.

The social, environmental and health limits of human beings, of an economy whose objective is production for the sake of production and accumulation for the sake of accumulation ‒ because at the base of its economic structure are social relations that transform social subjects into goods to be consumed in form of work and over-work by another group of social subjects ‒ are already completely evident to everyone and in all parts of the world. We are also increasingly aware of the perversity that is production and the trinitarian formula of capitalist income.

By way of illustration, we call the reader's attention to a small set of documentaries that may begin to awaken the desire to take this fight forward. Because somehow we need to fight again, we need to join forces and now, through the possibility of instant communication, say no to the trinitarian formula of capitalist income, to the great intercapitalist casino of capital and establish a new form of income, in which all lives matter equally in the face of the technical level of the productive social forces achieved (same social rights for all, since we no longer recognize economic differences between social subjects).

Filmmaker Michael Moore in Capitalism: a love story, from 2009, in addition to analyzing the causes and impacts of the great financial crisis of 2008, shows how capitalist activity in general does not have the slightest regard for life and the community (a system that takes more than it gives). In the health sector, the documentary Misleading Operation, from 2022, by American director Kirby Dick, reveals the power of the medical device industry both in harming the lives of thousands of people and putting the lives of thousands more at risk, in the name of innovation and profits in this sector. seaspiracy, 2021, directed by and starring Ali Tabrizi, and Cowspiracy: the secret of sustainability, from 2014, directed and produced by Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn, despite its appeal to veganism as a final solution, represent important reports on the magnitude of the destruction already achieved with the capitalist form of production (predation-exploitation) on the oceans and on the land.

Finally, we highlight the article by Ricardo Abramovay, entitled detox program chemistry, published on the website the earth is round, in which he reports what is being called in Europe the “great detoxification”, in view of the finding that: “the evidence on the toxic nature of wealth in contemporary societies is increasingly robust. What is conventionally called 'everyday pollution' is not only found in food (in the form of pesticides) and in the air (due to the burning of fossil fuels), but also in toys, baby bottles, diapers, electronic devices, food packaging, cosmetics, furniture, clothes, in water, in soils and, increasingly, of course, in our bodies”.

Money and, more precisely, any means and form of its accumulation and concentration (like capital) became the most “noble” form of distinction between social subjects in capitalism; which in turn reduced social relations to mere economic relations with all their nefarious implications from the point of view of human sociability, as we know so well today (the fetish of money and merchandise has never been more on the agenda than in the contemporary capitalism). It is worth emphasizing, as an illustration, that the construction of the American dream was less a result of Keynesianism, despite its practice becoming a form of active economic policy in many countries, between the end of World War II and the 1970s, and more a form of accumulation arising from the great material destruction (industrial apparatuses in Europe and Asia) and thousands of human lives from that terrible historical event; which ultimately became so opportune for the consolidation of the United States' world hegemony in the second half of the XNUMXth century.

 

Conclusion

If we do not accept that capital is a social relation that makes different social subjects not because they have different social functions, but simply because of the objective of capital accumulation by capitalists; and of unlimited consumption by a relatively limited class of high earners who manage and promote capitalist businesses. If we do not accept that money, with the generalization of exchanges, assumes an autonomous function in relation to value, or rather, it makes value autonomous in relation to its creator, the salaried worker. If we do not accept that the degree of civilization provided by technical progress based on capitalism is much more a matter of greater possibilities for extracting surplus value and concentrating abstract wealth in a few hands (capitalists).

If we do not understand that economic growth is only the result of an intercapitalist game in search of greater capital gains in the great casino called capitalism; we will never really be able to understand the real meaning of the society we have established, of our civilization and humanity, its possible possibilities of transformation or not. For example, if we continue to accept as natural that the degree of distinction between social subjects takes place according to the trinitarian formula of capitalist income, capital in the form of profit-interest will continue to increase its power of command and dominion over all aspects of the totality. Social.

When we transform all the material and immaterial aspects of life and, correspondingly, of society into commodities (work, health, education, housing, culture, transport, etc.), we immediately deprive them of the social character contained in them and, we make precarious, at the limit, social relations, reducing them to mere monetary symbols, without any regard for the contents of life and being. Understanding the capitalist economic process from this dimension of the fetish of money and merchandise allows us to direct our struggle towards the radical transformation of social relations beyond interest-earnings, wages and rents, as a social formula for the original sources of income. economic.

For that, work, health, education, housing, culture, transport, etc., necessarily need to be stripped of their commodity character and reestablished as activities with social purposes. It is fashionable to talk about smart cities due to the technological revolution we are experiencing. However, in the context of the social relations of production (social production and appropriation of the private product) and of an economy based on the adjustment between “the propensity to consume and the incentive to invest”, that is, without a revolution in the capitalist economic structure ( in the trinitarian formula of economic performance), smart cities will only be reproducing the type of city we already know; with the difference of offering advanced technological services to those who can pay for them.

A smart city, regardless of the level of technology we reach, would be a city that provides its population as a whole, without distinction of race, creed or skin color, equally, work, health, education, culture, housing, transport, leisure, etc. However, this will not be possible as long as these elements are treated as merchandise and as long as the objective of the economy is determined by the adjustment between “the propensity to consume and the stimulus to invest”. The same goes for renewable energies, electric cars or any other solution that does not consider the problem of the economic structure of capitalism (Trinitarian formula of capitalist income).

There are no alternatives within capitalism! Either we establish a new form of sociability in which production, circulation and distribution have social objectives; in which social subjects are recognized for their social functions and not for the amount of money and capital they can concentrate, in relation to other social subjects, or we will perish in the face of capital. Only through this understanding and a lot of struggle will we reach the social revolution necessary for the realization of Marx's dream, of a classless society; represented by the emancipation of the social being (freedom, equality, justice and solidarity), and by the end of the exploitation of man by man (marking the end of our prehistory and the beginning of our human history itself).

After all, even a bourgeois economist like Keynes (1996, p. 161) can recognize that: “[…] if human nature did not feel the temptation to risk one's luck, nor to feel the satisfaction (excluding profit) of build a factory, a railroad, exploit a mine or a farm, there would probably not be much investment as a mere result of cold calculation”.

“Proletarians of all countries, unite!” Well, capital may be on the way to creating a world in which salaried workers may no longer be able to constitute themselves as a class to face its power. Broad struggle for the socialization of profits! For economic equality among social subjects! For the end of capitalism!

*José Micaelson Lacerda Morais is a professor in the Department of Economics at URCA. Author, among other books, of Capitalism and the revolution of value: apogee and annihilation.

 

References


KEYNES, John Maynard. The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money. São Paulo: Editora Nova Cultural, 1996.

MANDEL, Ernest. late capitalism. São Paulo: Abril Cultural, 1982.

MARX, Carl. Capital: critique of political economy. Book I: the capital production process. 2nd ed. São Paulo: Boitempo, 2017a.

________. Capital: critique of political economy. Book III: The Global Process of Capitalist Production. São Paulo: Boitempo, 2017b.

________; ENGELS, Friedrich. communist manifesto. Sao Paulo: Boitempo, 1998.

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