Kaleidoscope of capitalism



A radical decision is urgently needed, contrary to the worldview guided by the short-term interests of capital. In different and dark aspects, we have reached the point of irreversibility

Ernest Mandel interpreted three phases of capitalism. The first is that of the market (1700-1850) with capital limited to nations. The second is monopolistic until the 1960s, in which the tree of post-war reconstruction is marked by the imperialism of transnational markets and colonialist exploitation. The third stamps a “late capitalism”. It alludes to multinational corporations, the globalization of markets and mass consumption. The reproduction of capital ruins natural resources. The consumer society exhausts the productivist logic. Overproduction transfers jobs (“deindustrialization”) to the services sector and makes jobs precarious. The alert came on.

The catastrophe was brewing. late capitalism (1972), the book by the Belgian leader of the Fourth International, “is one of the few that can be said to gain relevance as time passes”, writes Paul Singer. But the mode of production had not collapsed. The historical actor of emancipation remained in the wings. He was waiting for the moment to enter the scene to face the challenges that came to his conscience.

Focusing on the XNUMXth century, in the preface to the edition of humanities and philosophy (1952), Lucien Goldmann classifies as “capitalism in crisis” the period of the revolutionary movements of 1917-1923, the hecatomb of 1929-1933, the two world wars and Italian and Spanish fascism on the periphery of the European industrial center. The crisis highlights the disorganization of the liberal market due to the development of monopolies.

In the post-war period, “organizational capitalism” emerged with regulatory mechanisms and state interventions in a context of continuous economic growth, whose greatest symbol was the construction of the welfare state. The Romanian-French thinker's categories on the stages of hegemonic structures resonate in academia. The images in the kaleidoscope did not yet show the form of terror that now embraces chaos.

The curtain of nonsense

Philosophically, the transition from capitalism in crisis to organizational capitalism replaces anguish and death with confidence in a scientific, rationalist future. The difference with the classical Enlightenment is that, instead of individualistic values, the collective acquires primacy through institutional care for the social dimension of the population's rights (education, health, work, etc.). Social achievements revive hope. Faced with the influence of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (former USSR), capitalism is forced to present a more human face.

Literature disillusioned with war carnage (F. Scott Fitzgerald, in This side of paradise) gives way to literature linked to the science fiction of technological advances, robotics and alien knowledge (Erich von Däniken, in Were the gods astronauts?). Youth changes fears. During May 1968, a time of full employment in Europe, students fear losing their professional dreams to invading robots that threaten their employability in the next quarter. You hippies, in alternative communities, map the geopolitics of fear in society. Dennis Hopper's film easyrider (1969), translated as No destination, portrays the feeling in vogue.

Neoliberal ideology makes “inequality” the new ideal of States. “Unemployment” becomes an instrument to weaken unions and popular resistance. Democracy distances itself from social justice. Work struggles are suffocated. The crazy horse of “deregulation capitalism” attacks social democratic relations. Destructive violence assaults the people and the environment with “biopolitics” and “the new reason for the world”. Political analysts emphasize cyber technologies: “surveillance capitalism”, the “information society”, the “power of Big Data”, “infocracy”, “artificial intelligence”, “algorithms”, “manipulation of will”. Few look up and notice the contentious divorce of the Homo sapiens with Gaia. The theater curtain comes down nonsense.

The future we want

The Stockholm Conference, in 1972, was the first held on man and the environment. It admits the problems triggered by the industrialization process, pollution and the drain on natural resources. The Nairobi Conference in 1982 highlighted the need to recover degraded areas and create environmental conservation units. The Montreal Protocol, in 1987, bans harmful gases from the ozone layer. The Rio de Janeiro Conference, in 1992, preaches the indispensable reconciliation of socioeconomic development and the protection of ecosystems. It paints the precious concept of “sustainable development”, the outline of Agenda 21.

The Kyoto Protocol, in 1997, commits to reducing the emission of polluting gases arising on a large scale from fossil fuels. In Johannesburg, South Africa, in 2002, Eco-92 was taken into account with an action plan that highlights natural resources and their rational use, globalization, misery, poverty and respect for human rights. Rio+20, in 2012, made another assessment of the proposals made, without explaining “the future we want”. It's understood.

Also in 2012, the World Social Forum (FSM, Porto Alegre) opens spaces for discussion by social movements about compensation for the metamorphosis of the planet. It condemns economic “elites” and demands changes in society's development model, which increases inequalities and destroys nature. It proposes the use of renewable energy, the use of organic waste and the limitation of predatory consumerism and the oppression of indigenous people. The absurd dismantling of control bodies deepens climate change, which sometimes ignites and sometimes floods the headlines.

No to all fatalism

The idea that “inevitable progress” is a runaway train, with no one to pull the emergency brake, is denounced with the launch of International Ecosocialist Manifesto (2001), signed by the Brazilian intellectual based in France, Michael Löwy, and one of the icons of the Green Party in the United States, Joel Kovel. Scattered groups in the Northern and Southern hemispheres signal the danger that lies ahead, and come up against a solid wall of silence under the control of finance. Not to mention the denialism about the “greenhouse effect” which – if you wanted empirical evidence – they already have it.

Michael Löwy and Joel Kovel warn of the terrible environmental disaster that awaits us and the resulting global recession or depression. Furthermore: they accuse “the internalized fatalism that claims there is no other possibility of a world order other than that of capital”. O Ecosocialist Manifesto is published in the magazine's editorial Capitalism, Nature, Socialism (2002). Twenty years later, the wall shows significant cracks, from top to bottom.

The last General Assembly of the United Nations (UN), through President Lula da Silva's historic speech, highlights the urgency in finding solutions to the inequalities caused by neoliberalism and in containing global warming. However, developed countries are reluctant to bear the expense of reversing the trend.

A consensus forms on the gate to hell. Any answer is placed between two camps. On the one hand, the extreme right that revives the reactionary tendencies of Nazi-fascism in the 1930s; on the other, the democratic and socialist forces that put the gait capitalist in check. This is a question of survival for the human species in the face of a devastating specter.

The young Swedish woman, Greta Thunberg, knows that the fight is not against “those who are over thirty”. The fight has an anti-systemic character, targeting the lifestyle governed by the method of wasteful, unsustainable production and consumption. It is necessary to demand action from governance institutions. The scientific discipline suggested by biologist Ernest Haeckel in 1866, “Ecology”, contains in its nomenclature Logos (science) and the derivative of the Greek word Oikos (home, inhabited environment) – must be part of the curriculum of secondary schools, such as Philosophy and Sociology. Better late than never.

Put the block on the street

The cry for help was heard by a notable pioneer of environmentalism in Brazil land, José Lutzenberger, founder of the Gaúcha Association for the Protection of the Natural Environment (AGAPAN, 1971), author of the Ecology Manual (1974) and the Brazilian Ecological Manifesto: The End of the Future? (1976). “It is possible that we are already witnessing the beginning of a global climate inversion, seriously affecting the condition of the atmosphere. Modern man ruins every single part of the gear – and throws sand into the mechanism, preparing the collapse. The day will come when the victims and the dead will number in the millions. If we destroy the oceans, we will have destroyed ourselves”, warned the master.

Lutz, as he was affectionately called, was Minister of the Environment in the sad Collor de Melo government. In open conflict with the Amazon Military Command and the governor of Amazonas, he was soon dismissed from office (1990-1992). It promotes the demarcation of Yanomami lands with 9.664.975 hectares, a size larger than the dimensions of Portugal. He defeats his enemies in the trenches, defenders of the territorial dismemberment into nineteen condominiums, and those who consider themselves owners of the Garden of Eden: agribusiness, loggers and miners with their ethno-environmental necropolitics.

A radical decision is urgently needed, contrary to the worldview guided by the short-term interests of capital. In many dark ways, we have reached the point of irreversibility. Melting ice at the poles, rising seas, desertification of agricultural land, and series of calamities are already part of our landscape. It’s time to take the notion of “revolution” out of the closet and put the block on the streets. If the subject of history was the worker in blue overalls, in ancient times, today it is 99% of humanity.

* Luiz Marques is a professor of political science at UFRGS. He was the state secretary of culture in Rio Grande do Sul during the Olívio Dutra government..

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