The truth is the daughter of time

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By PEDRO DE ALCANTARA FIGUEIRA*

Nwe find them living a process of decay that, as in all periods of great transformations, we are all called to fight

“Truth is the daughter of time” (Francis Bacon).

Let's start at the end, as our reality demands. Dealing with history is nothing more than considering what stage we are at in a process that began in the mid-nineteenth century and has taken on radical transformations in our days. I started by stating that I would start at the end, well, it is precisely this situation, the urgent transformation, by the way, that is demanding all our attention.

In all planes of life, the cries for change are heard. Not a few, and possibly the most basic ones, have already been fulfilled as a result of the changes inherent in the very process of development of capitalism.

The changes in this period are so profound that it would be more correct to count the time from the Industrial Revolution onwards due to the intense acceleration capacity that industrialization gave to these changes.

With all the possible and unimaginable setbacks, it was in this period, of approximately a century and a half, that capital became the world's dominant economic power. A troubled path, since, at the beginning of the twentieth century, a war whose purpose was to resolve its contradictions, ended up exposing them in an unmistakable way with the outbreak of the first socialist revolution in 1917.

The main motivation of the period that followed was to resolve its contradictions, the first of which was the evidence that under the socialist form the productive forces acquired such strength that they became a real risk to the survival of capital. On the level of political organization, the response to this “danger” was the birth and expansion of Nazi-fascism throughout the capitalist orbit.

Facing this explosive reality resulted in the organization of a conflict that was primarily intended to exclude socialism. Nazi-fascism, which spread throughout Europe in order to prevent revolutions in several countries, as was the case in Spain, where fascism gained its own name, Francoism. On the other hand, the fantasies of a 1.000-year-old empire, as dreamed of by German Hitlerism, allied to a possible German colonial expansion to the detriment of the British Empire already in a state of bankruptcy, generated an intercapitalist war, without losing the main objective that was to eliminate socialism in Russia.

The defeat of Nazi-fascism against the Red Army was, at the same time, the first defeat of capitalism against socialism.

It is not our purpose to narrate this period in which the shocks suffered by capitalism were not reduced only to its most apparent evidence. The historical process necessarily implies social development, and it is from this that the changes that take place at all times derive.

We are exactly at the moment when all manifestations that call for change can be synthesized, with absolute exclusivity, in the term Transformation. We would be making a serious mistake if we were to abandon at this point the imperative need that consists of considering the facts in their historical chain and what this means as a revelation of changes on all levels, both in terms of the world of ideas and their origins in reality. concrete.

That said, let us consider where we are in terms of the validity of scientific categories, originating from the very nature of capital, considered then as the productive force par excellence, and which constitute the analytical structure of The capital from Marx.

No one better than Marx to define the range of processes in which history undergoes radical changes. I quote here passage from The misery of philosophy: “The same men who established social relations according to their material productivity also produce principles, ideas, categories according to their social relations. Thus, these ideas, these categories are as little eternal as the relationships they express. They are historical and transitory products”.

Well then, the important fact, result of this whole period of profound transformations, is that capital left in the past its revolutionary character, its productive excellence. As it couldn't be otherwise, those categories that were related to this character, no longer lend themselves to the analysis of its current situation in which the very term capital lost historical validity.

Starting with the maximum category of any scientific analysis, work, whose birth coincides with the birth of capitalism, and whose product necessarily takes the form of a commodity in capitalist society, including surplus value, whose existence also necessarily implies the relationship of capital with work; all the other categories, which had been losing some of their essential characteristics over the course of a century and a half, have reached the end of their validity period.

There remains, however, standing, firm as a rock, “the law of the tendency to fall in the rate of profit”, chapter 13 of the third book of The capital, precise conceptualization of the trajectory of the development of a mode of production that, like all others, produced its own decline.

If society still depends, as it could not, on work, the fact is that it quickly and necessarily loses its salaried form and, therefore, ceases to accumulate as capital, a condition, according to David Ricardo, for being able to speak of capitalist society.

We are facing a situation that reminds us of the historical turning point that the transition from feudalism to capitalism generated in the world of ideas. John Locke expressed this change as radically as were the manifestations of a real upheaval on all planes brought about by changes that quickly acquire the character of irreversibility. He hit right to the heart of the fundamental dogmas of the Catholic Church when he stated that the origin of property was due, not to a divine gift to feudal lords, but to work, property that all men possess in their body. John Locke brought down an entire conception that had lasted for more than a millennium, evidently aided by strong signs of a real transformation that reached the very foundations of feudal society.

We are in a situation that bears significant resemblance to that detected at the end of the XNUMXth century.

From the rubble of a mode of production incapable of reproducing the forms of productive relations that allowed its existence, we are left with work, a force that, for this very reason, will have to find other social corners. For the time being, involved in this rubble, it survives as residue capable of reproducing forms already liquidated by historical development. We are still living in situations that are mistakenly characterized as capitalist. Transitional processes carry with them abnormalities of all kinds. We can say that all of this indicates that the social productive forces are in a critical phase that can only be resolved through a radical transformation at the base of society.

All the rubble into which wage labor is degenerating is visible. On the other hand, the character who commanded the production process and who monopolized the means of production fundamentally committed to productive activities, the capitalist, was completely lost when he embarked on activities that contradicted his previous role in absolute terms.

The worker, on the other hand, is no longer an economic category, that is, a productive one. It lives at the whim of circumstances, expressed, for example, by outsourcing. Proximity to slave labor is no longer something remote.

The revelations about the existence of slavery are nothing but moral denunciations, a barrier that is created by not revealing the historical nature of the fact resulting from the impotence of properly capitalist relations. A similar phenomenon is the frequent denunciation of billionaires, a group that, with great taste and without exaggeration, someone said could fit in a van. It is important to go beyond denunciations, this is what reality demands to be said. It is necessary to show that this phenomenon, monetary concentration, is not only the result of the reproductive impotence of a certain mode of production, but also exerts a monumental destruction of productive forces.

At this level, I confess, it is difficult to accept, without a certain irritation, the conversion of this disaster into news, into an agenda, into an agenda, which is how television ideology is expressed. Thus, the revolutionary meaning that its scientific interpretation can reveal is killed. I want to say that the next step indicated by this concentration, which constitutes a monumental expropriation, cannot be anything other than a revolution in the foundations of society.

Someone could ask how it is, in view of the arguments developed so far, The capital of Marx? I would answer, bluntly, that it is more upright than it has ever been. The question has its reason for being, in view of our conclusions regarding the historical conditions of work. The capital has firm historical support in Ricardo's definition of capital, that is, capital is accumulated work. For Ricardo, as for Marx, this accumulated work that becomes capital is not any form of productive activity, that is, it is not, for example, artisanal. The process of historical transition imposes a change in the nature of work, a condition for distinguishing modes of production. We are living, in fact, the wage labor crisis. A new form is therefore required.

To conclude, we can say that current reality lends a special force to Thesis 11 on Feuerbach for attributing to our time the need for transformation: “Philosophers just interpreted the world in different ways; however, what matters is to transform it”.

And, for that very reason, The capital marks his presence at this moment, because, ultimately, we can say that the analytical construction of his magnum opus has an eye on the transformation in the foundations of capitalist society.[I]

Therefore, it is from here, that is, from the proper, mature conditions of transformation, that we must look at the elements that serve as a sure indication of the need for transformation.

It is precisely here that we find ourselves, experiencing a process of decay that, as in all periods of great transformation, we are all called to fight. Reality is deserving that we abbreviate the pains of childbirth.

* Pedro de Alcantara Figueira he holds a doctorate in history from Unesp. Author, among other books, of History essays (UFMS).

Notes


[I] I insert here a passage from the article by Prof. Ilarión Ignatievich Kaufmann published on the occasion of the publication in Russia of the translation of the first book by The capital for Russian. A long passage from this same article is found in the Afterword of the Second Edition. Prof. Russian states the following: “For him [Marx] what matters above all is the law of its modification, of its development, that is, the transition from one form to another, from one order of interrelation to another”.


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