Anatomy of a creed

Roger Hilton, Oi Yoi Yoi, 1963
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By JOHN KENNEDY FERREIRA*

Comment on the book by Ronald Rocha

Antônio Ermínio de Moraes was a symbol of Brazilian industrial capitalism; he was critical of the ostentation of the nouveau riche and the financial system. Once, he entered a store to buy an imported watch and the seller, seeing his humble clothes, warned him that it was not for his beak. Little did he know that he was looking at one of the richest Brazilians. He dressed simply. Legend has it that he wore his late father's clothes. In addition, he has always been an outspoken critic of the financial system. He even said that if he didn't believe in Brazil, he would be a banker. That's because, in a time of crisis, his company took out a loan that took 15 years to pay off.

In that period, the structuring of monopoly capital was beginning to take hold in Brazil and the idea prevailed that there was a progressive national bourgeoisie, defender of national interests in the face of foreign and financial capital. Antônio Ermínio was a bourgeois hero of late industrialization, hailed in society as the leader of the “producing classes”. He lived through the heyday of an industrial capitalism in which, for most of his business life, the monopoly fusion of industrial and financial capital was not consummated (CANALE, 2013; GORENDER, 1981).

This romantic aura and the debate that developed in the 1950s and 1960s, until 1980, about the progressive role of a “national bourgeoisie” producer, returned heated up with the advent of social-liberal governments, in 2002 (Boito, 2017; Martuscelli, 2018; Almeida, 2019). The growth that was seen with the heated internal market and with the powerful intervention of the State, favoring national groups in internal and external disputes, led many observers to imagine the emergence of a powerful internal bourgeoisie capable of generating a new phase of prosperity at the same time. Brazilian capitalism. There were many who saw Brazil as a minor partner of the select group of imperialist countries (FONTES, 2009, p. 115).

Shortly after all this euphoria, Dilma Rousseff's social-liberal government fell without a fight, without one of its main beneficiaries, the internal bourgeoisie, taking any concrete position to defend its interests. Which led many to ask themselves: why was there no resistance from this class fraction?

 

The current formation of Brazilian capitals

Ronald Rocha, in Anatomy of a credo – Financial capital and the progressivism of production, set out to discuss the current formation of Brazilian capitals and, hopefully, make an anatomy of the organic composition of its structure and in demarche of their political interests. In this way, he carries out his work in three main approaches: the first will be about the old composition of financial capital, the second about financial capital in the XNUMXst century and, finally, the political consequence of this new capital in the days that follow in Brazil.

Right off the bat, Ronald Rocha shows that a mantra was formed that is repeated year after year in newspapers, academia and even segments of the left: a fictitious separation between a productive capitalism and a financial one. According to this legend, speculative capital vampirizes society and productive capital. By this logic, usurious capital would be a species apart from capital.

Ronald Rocha recalls that since the XNUMXth century, modern interest comes from the very realization of surplus value, that is: a manifestation of business profit that is divided as capital employed in production or commerce and another, in interest on credit capital, but the its origin is the surplus value extracted in the production of the commodity.

He points out that such mobility occurs due to the development of bourgeois civil society in the XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries, which presents the being as an autonomous and exclusive individual, which exists exclusively from its own initiative. This reified imagination qualifies and sees the individuality (of its capital) as being oppressed by a usurious movement, which leads the walled petty bourgeoisie – and with a small profit margin among the big corporations – to believe that its production is limited to the payment of interest. One even dreams of an earthly paradise without interest. Evidently, this sector ignores the concrete fact that its businesses would not have started or prospered without financial capital and, therefore, imagine themselves – the producers – burdened by the financialization of the economy.

Marx noted this process as follows: “In the actual movement of capital, return is a phase of the circulation process. First, money is converted into means of production; the production process converts it into merchandise; through the sale of the commodity it is again converted into money and, in that form, returns to the hands of the capitalist, who initially disbursed the capital in the form of money. In interest-bearing capital, however, both the return and the transfer of capital are merely the result of a legal transaction between the owner of the capital and a second person. What we see is just assignment and devolution. Everything between these two poles disappears.” (Marx, The capital, Book III).

For this ideation, great Brazilian tycoons, their millionaire industrial federations, more academics and the press, present this economic group as producers and victims massacred by “financial capital”, forgetting the fact that wealth comes from expropriated human labor and transformed into surplus value. worth. Rocha recalls that for more than 100 years, financial capital has centralized all capital mobility into an organic whole.

Robert Kurz (2003), in his debate on financial capitalism and the communist labor movement of the early twentieth century, notes that: “[…] alongside industrial and commercial capital there is credit capital (described by Marx particularly in the 3rd Book of The capital). All capital is primarily money capital, that is, money not spent on consumption but invested in a capitalist way. The form of these investments is, however, different. Industrial and commercial capital (also in service companies) is invested in workforce, buildings, machines, etc., to be valued through the production or distribution of goods. The use of labor power adds surplus value to the original money capital and this is achieved by selling products on the market. Credit capital, in turn, is money capital, which is not valued for the production of goods, but is loaned at the 'price' of interest. It is really only a derivative form of surplus value, because the interest (and of course the repayment) on borrowed money capital can only be received if the borrowing body, usually industrial or commercial capital, applies this money to capitalist production. commodity material and this is realized in the market.” (KURZ)

Ronald Rocha, in turn, resumes the process that triggers the financialization of the world, recalling the studies and resolutions of the Congresses of Social Democracy, with the intellectual production of John Hobson (Imperialism, 1902) Rudolf Hilferding (The Financial Capital, 1910), Rose of Luxembourg (primitive accumulation, 1914) and Vladimir Lenin (Imperialism, the highest stage of capitalism, 1917). It makes it clear that, from the moment that there was a merger between industrial and financial capital, the old autonomous capitals entered into decay, with the future either merging with the large conglomerates or perishing, at most marginalizing itself.

Since then, financialization has advanced a lot, just to see that between 1980 and 2006 it grew 14 times, while GDP only 5. The third and fourth industrial revolutions endowed capital with immense speed, giving the impression that capital has no material basis. But, on the contrary, never has exploration and the extraction of surplus value been so extensive and intense. In this way, a financial monopoly capital is formed and strengthened.

The same Robert Kurz observes that rudolf hilferding conceptualized “financial capital” without being fully clear about the dimension it could take on social relations: “When the social-democratic theorist Rudolf Hilferding published in 1910 his main work, the financial capital, he was not himself aware of the perfidies of this term. For him it was not an ideological critique, but only an analysis of the capitalist process of reproduction under [at that time] new circumstances. At the heart of the investigation was the role of so-called interest-earning capital or the 'credit superstructure'.” (Kurz, ditto).

François Chesnais, on the other hand, carries out his approach on the globalization of capital, demonstrating that this process led us to the internationalization of capital (productive, commercial and financial), resulting in the triumph of financial capital over productive capital, and thus in the centralization of capital over the baton of finance capital during the accumulation process. In Chesnais, the style of accumulation is given by new forms of centralization of gigantic financial capital at rates that are qualitatively superior to those of investment growth indices, or GDP (including in OECD countries), or foreign trade. (CHESNAIS, 1996, pp. 14/15).

In this way, competition and the conformation of the market results from the process of capital concentration. Oligopolies begin to play a central role in capital reproduction structures, these are “the most characteristic form of supply in the world” (CHESNAIS, 1996, p. .92), building on the one hand an immense competition and creating, on the other, an “interdependence between companies” (CHESNAIS, 1996, p. 92). Oligopoly is thus configured as an environment of rivalry […] delimited by relations of mutual dependence on the market, which interconnect a small number of large groups that, in a given industry […] come to acquire and maintain the position of competitor effective worldwide. (CHESNAIS, 1996, p. 93) In globalization, financial capital is at its highest stage, financial movements have grown and expanded, but this does not mean that they have gained autonomy, because “the capital that is valued in the financial sphere was born – and they continue to be born – in the productive sector” (CHESNAIS, 1996, p. 241).

This debate between François Chesnais and Robert Kurz reinforces Ronald Rocha's point of view, which demonstrates that the core understanding of the capitalist system is not in circulation or humor or other market subjectivities, but rather in the anarchic process of commodity production, the which is crucial to understanding the crises of 2008 and 2014 and Brazilian politics itself.

Here we observe how the options of monopoly financial conglomerates decided to end the Brazilian social-liberal experience, as this superior fraction of capital transformed the mass of entrepreneurs into its tributary, as well as acquired a dominant weight in the exploitation of labor, in social life. , in media control, in the operation of state bodies, in the correlation of parliamentary forces, in the elaboration of government policies and in the exercise of hegemony (p. 87).

From the moment that the financial monopoly condominium reflects and, through a return action, determines social relations, the logic that suggests the overcoming of dependency within the order becomes a chimera, since imperialist relations become naturalized and become parts of of general reality, acting internally and externally on its own behalf. In this way, the issue of national sovereignty ceased to be a bourgeois prerogative and became a priority task for workers, to the exact extent that the proletarian issue became a national imperative (p. 91).

Likewise, a profound change is taking place in the State apparatus, which starts to act according to the interests of financial monopoly capitalism, as a facilitator of private interests. If before the liberal bankruptcy (1929) led the bourgeoisie to put limits to free competition, today the opposite follows: the marriage between oligopolies and the State is replaced by the strengthening of free monopoly-financial initiative both in aspects related to privatization as in concessions. There are two possible faces of the action and expansion or not of financial monopoly policies and their State.

 

The State under monopoly-financial hegemony

The characterization of the bourgeois State as a sphere under the monopoly-financial hegemony defines two moments of analysis: the first, showing the national dimensions and particularities in comparison with other experiences. Rocha takes, for example, the countries that made ruptures with the world financial system (Cuba, China, etc.), drawing attention to the fact that the concessions made to the capitalist system were made by States under the control of revolutionary and communist organizations. ; then, it shows that the concessions made by the Brazilian State were promoted by a bourgeois state under the control of financial monopoly capital. This leads to some false understandings: the most notorious of all is to limit the universe of actions of the proletariat to the limits of the bourgeois order, believing the analysis of reality and history to be false in which there is a stage of “national-democratic revolution” or simply “democratic”, based on pacts with a supposedly anti-imperialist national bourgeoisie.

The second, and just as important as the first, is the theoretical limitation that the false analysis of reality produces, since it limits the action and imagination of parties and movements within a State dominated (internally and externally) by imperialist action and its financial monopoly condominium.

The scenario designed by Ronald Rocha is one of an acute crisis in the capitalist relations of production, based on the pattern formulated by Krondratieff, in which the depressive phase of the fourth long wave, the most extensive until then, strengthened the forces that defend the autocratic functioning of the State and the reduction of spaces in the democratic regime, as well as social and labor rights. Furthermore, it promoted the recrudescence of the repressive apparatus, in addition to reducing the intermediary sectors in the deleterious antediluvian action. In this way, intra-bourgeoisie strategic conflicts would be clearly circumvented and relations of exploitation would gain deeper aspects.

A phenomenon that had already been perceived by Jacob Gorender on the state's ability to reduce and expand, which could be done with the minimum, but also with Keynesian measures in times of structural crisis, as it has been designed today in central countries from the accentuated collapse by the Covid-19 pandemic.

 

The exhaustion of capitalist relations

Here are some observations and questions about this vigorous text. The scenario designed by Rocha is one of the exhaustion of capitalist relations and centralization within an imperialist framework defined by financial capital, preventing or dramatically reducing plurality and strategic struggles between bourgeois fractions, as well as eliminating or drastically reducing intermediary sectors in the action antediluvian deleterious. Even radicalized in localized wars or risk of world confrontation, they are hegemonized by disputes between geopolitical forms and interests in the domain of capital. There is neither super-imperialism nor the euthanasia of capital.

In this way, intra-bourgeoisie conflicts would be re-evaluated and relations of exploitation would gain deeper aspects, leading to a scenario in which there would only be, within the order, tactical spaces for social-liberal governments, such as those of Lula and Dilma. Therefore, it would be illusory to expect that, without revolutionary situations, they play an anti-capitalist role.

It is not the first time that the debate about the bankruptcy of capitalist relations has surfaced. In another historical situation, in the 1920s, the Communist International declared that the productive forces had run out and that imperialism was centralizing all actions. The consequences were tragic. In Brazil, for example, any alliances with middle sectors, with the petty bourgeoisie or discontented fractions of the bourgeoisie were prohibited, leaving the PCB, the main proletarian organization at the time, unarmed before the 1930 Revolution and the Vargas government. Wouldn't the existing tensions between the various fractions of capital and the discontent of various middle sectors place us before the possibility of another political conformation?

Another factor to be considered is capital mobilization: the main flow is aligned with China, especially the so-called agribusiness and the importing and exporting commercial bourgeoisie. The alignment of the Chinese movement is very different from that made by imperialism. Wouldn't that make room for more progressive forms of government, with importance for tactical dispute and the accumulation of forces?

Finally, it is worth noting an important factor: the labor movements are conforming to the economistic and reactive agenda, whether in the party field or in the trade union field. Wouldn't that imply different organizational experiences, focused on new ways of organizing work and the most impoverished sectors of society?

Let us return to Antônio Ermírio de Moraes. This one, when founding Banco Votorantim, said that the idea was not to pay the interest charged by the market and established by the Central Bank. A few years later, BV was already one of the most important financial banks in the country. Antônio Ermírio de Moraes Neto, heir to this important economic group, welcomes the growth, explaining the ability and mobility that financialization has made possible for the corporation.

Ronald Rocha's book is a contribution that arrived silently and gradually gained voice in the debate, after the 2016 coup. bourgeois, Rocha shows the opposite, how the proletarian-popular classes should be organized and prepared for clashes in the center of a new concrete reality: capitalism under the monopoly-financial hegemony.

Finally, the 148 pages, well written, demonstrate his refined Marxism and demanding erudition. The “ear” comes with a good commentary by union leader José Reginaldo Inácio and a brief biographical presentation of the author. The indispensable presentation by Carlos Machado, director of Sinpro-MG, is an invitation to read. The book is an excellent contribution for the days to come!

*John Kennedy Ferreira is a professor at the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the Federal University of Maranhão (UFMA).

 

Reference


Ron Rocha. Anatomy of a creed: financial capital and the progressivism of production. Belo Horizonte: Editora O Lutador, 2018, 148 pages.

 

REFERENCES


ALMEIDA, Lúcio Flávio Rodrigues de. National bourgeoisie and internal bourgeoisie: elements for the analysis of the current phase of imperialism. Social Struggles Magazine, n. 43. São Paulo: NEILS, 2019.

BOITO Jr., Armando. Reform and political crisis in Brazil: class conflicts in PT governments. Campinas: Unicamp/Unesp, 2018.

CHESNAIS, François. The globalization of capital. São Paulo: Chesnais, 1996.

SOURCES, Virginia. Brazil and capital-imperialism: theory and history. 2a edition, Rio de Janeiro: EPSJV/Editora UFRJ, 2010.

MARX, Carl. Capital, Book III, In:

file:///C:/Users/Usuário/Downloads/Critica%20da%20Eco nomia%20Politica%20-%20Karl%20Marx%20(4).pdf.

KURZ, Robert. The treacheries of finance capital. Available in http://www.obeco-online.org/rkurz159.htm.

GORENDER Jacob. The Brazilian bourgeoisie. São Paulo: Brasiliense, 1981.

Idem. Interview to Theory and Debate Magazine, No 11, July/August/September 1990. Available at https://drive.google.com/file/d/1I9vV6jRfrQiRr519KtLqtbrkTyQgr5ei/vie

MARTUSCELLI, Danilo Enrico. Ruling classes, politics and contemporary capitalism. Florianópolis: Editora em Debate-UFSC, 2018.

Votorantin website. https://www.sunoresearch.com.br/tudo-sobre/antonio- hermirio-de-moraes/

Magazine this is money. Ermírio, the banker. Edition 16/4/08. https://www.istoedinheiro.com.br/noticias/negocios/20080416/ermirio- banker/13009.

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