Imperialism, dependency and anti-capitalist struggle

Image: Elyeser Szturm

By José Raimundo Trindade*

In recent years, critical Latin American thought has reduced its analyzes to internal structural factors, underestimating the contradictions of the “international division of labor” and the permanent presence of the US command..

In recent years, there has been a gradual resumption of debates that we could call classics between leftist organizations and militants who, in some way, still claim the historical and social analysis of Marxism. It is curious that this takes place at a moment of particular and momentary decline of social movements in Brazil, however, what seems to us to be full of contradictions and conditions capable of building a strong anti-system movement that has as its central principle the radical break with capitalism .

The text that follows seeks to dialogue with the young left that has been gradually forming and asserting itself in spaces of concrete disputes and in the world of virtuality that incorporates both the dynamics of individuality and dialogue as a collectivity that seeks to identify options for the economic crisis , social and representation in which capitalism struggles.

A lot of things seem to smell old, such as the opening dialogue of the excellent film Interview with the Vampire ( Imperialism as a historical notion seemed to be part of those old things that many of us had removed from our common spelling. A sad illusion and, to a great extent, a naive view of the world.

Imperialism as a classical Marxist theoretical notion appears as the spatial form of capitalism expansion. According to an author who has long since been forgotten and who inhabits the underworld of the renegades and the damned, Vladimir Lenin is an indisputable anti-capitalist, in a work that proves to be increasingly necessary to be read (Imperialism, the highest stage of capitalism”), such a process would be characterized by five points, namely: (a) the export of capital; (b) centralized production and distribution in large companies; (c) the merging of “banking capital” with “industrial capital” in the form of “financial capital”; (d) the “geopolitical dispute between the capitalist powers”; and (e) wars as a recurrent phenomenon of this dispute.

I would ask many young people, but also older ones, if they would be able to deny that, like that text from 104 years ago (1916), what we have today would not be so similar that we could say that we are once again in a stage of capitalism in which the imperialist dispute is again a key issue. Those characteristics exist today and are added to some others, but undeniably we live in a new period of imperialist dispute and, obviously, Brazil and Latin America are disputed terrains and not a controlling center of the dispute, being the Brazilian bourgeoisie, these people that represents less than 0,1% of the Brazilian people, subordinated to the imperialist bourgeoisie, those 0,1% that control the societies of the central countries (USA, Germany, Japan and France), something like 2.153 billionaires who command people like Moro and Bolsonaro, in addition to exploiting people like you and all of us to the core.

The process of globalization, the debt crisis of the 1980s and the passive and lagging Latin American economic dynamics from the 1990s onwards deepened the precarious conditions of autonomous development of their national economies, either through the denationalization of expressive segments of industry, or by the increase in external vulnerability in the main aspects to be considered: in productive capacity (greater dependence on foreign direct investment), technological capacity (low capacity to structure a national innovation system and low technological dynamics) and financial capacity (increasing dependence on financial investments, loans and financing, with permanent risks of capital flight and disruption of the economy).

It is worth emphasizing that the specific economic conditions faced in the 1990s, as a result of the transition from the developmentalist model to neoliberalism and thus the reduced role of the State in the economy, composed the more general picture. This conjuncture of economic and social changes in Latin America was accompanied by a strong theoretical reflux of critical Latin American thought, especially since the late 1980s, a theoretical culture was established, even in the Marxist left, of “endogenism”, that is , the entire process of development and contradictions of Latin American capitalism was due “only and solely” to internal structural factors, and those that somehow pointed to the contradictions of the “international division of labor” and the permanent presence of the forces of US power of command, for example, were soon branded as delusional and primitive readers of old, now outdated manuals.

These formulations ignored the weight and form of articulation between Latin America and the world economy, otherwise abandoning the perspective that capitalist relations were, above all, relations of imperialist economic power that produce at the same time development and underdevelopment as components of the same totality that is the world capitalist economy.

In the mid-1990s, Brazil sinks into its first neoliberal wave. Fernando Cardoso (FHC), an exemplary member of the São Paulo elite, is responsible for the complete integration of the Brazilian economy into the framework of the Washington Consensus, which implied accepting the new structural frameworks (theoretical, economic and social) that originated in the dominant centers for purportedly to seek within them the best subordinate insertion in the capitalist dynamics of the “end of history”, as the recently deceased Hopkins professor Francis Fukuyama fancifully announced.

However, the changes that took place in the 2000s and 2010s replaced the debate on dependency and the return of radical analyzes of Latin American development, and this resumption was centrally based on the influence of Marxist authors, especially Theotônio dos Santos, Ruy Mauro Marini, Vânia Banbirra and Jayme Osório. It is worth clarifying that one of the factors that led to the influence and resumption of Latin American social and economic analyzes of imperialism and dependency from a Marxist perspective, refers to the complete failure of the model of “associated dependency” resulting from FHC’s formulations and taken effect in his neoliberal government.

The worldwide expansion of capital and the configuration of capitalism as a world-economy is unevenly processed in territorial terms, with no “convergence” as an economic process, but the establishment of different geoeconomic hierarchies, in accordance with an unequal and combined dynamic of development. The international division of labor establishes three zones of economic and geopolitical power in the world: the center, the semi-periphery and the periphery, and this division appears functional to guarantee the appropriation of wealth by the centers and new-centers, allowing development in the regions of technological leadership and financial control, alongside the dynamics of underdevelopment and the formation of pauperism societies in the peripheries and semi-peripheries of capitalism.

However, it is worth denoting that the relations between central and peripheral capitalist economies are maintained by the transfer or net outflow of value from the periphery to the metropolitan countries, either through the classic mechanisms of remittance of dividends, interest and wages paid to the directors of the great imperialist companies and to the growing debts of underdeveloped countries, but also due to the worsening of unequal exchange and the enormous mass of values ​​that are transferred by the States of neocolonial countries to the capitalist centers via payment of public debt.

Two major trends were established in world capitalism from the mid-1990s onwards (i) The development of the scientific-technical revolution that determined the contradiction between the exponential growth of productivity and the growing reduction of the mass of value employed in the workforce, establishing a social pattern of enormous growth of the productive forces, however imprisoned in a society whose main stimulus factor is the return on individual capital; (ii) technology in the national economies allowed a significant reduction in prices, due to the increase in the level of productivity, and the growing adoption of automation drastically reduced industrial employment, further aggravating the conditions for the expansion of the industrial reserve army and the underutilization of the workforce, alongside the intensification of the exploitation of workers.

It is worth noting that the recent global economic reforms, in the 1990s and 2000s, were based on a strong business rationalization that accompanied the neoliberal script: trade opening; financial deregulation; privatization of public companies and deregulation (flexibility) of labor relations. In this context, Latin American economies and, especially, the most industrialized countries in the region (Brazil, Mexico and Argentina) imposed an agenda of industrial destruction and the reprimarization of their economies.

A central aspect is that in this conjuncture of the 2000s, sensitive changes can be observed in the new US economic policy for the peripheral Latin American economies: it established conditions such as strong currencies (valued real), trade deficits and attraction of financial capital. This tripod of international trade policy persisted, with some variation according to the country, in almost all of Latin America until the mid-2000s.

The Marxist Dependency Theory (TDM) constitutes one of the most original theoretical efforts produced by Latin American radical authors. Moving from the abstract to the concrete, the authors not only contributed to the elaboration of the specificities that constitute the “sui-generis” capitalism of underdeveloped nations, but also established new categories in the Marxist critical construction, enriching their conceptual universe necessary for the interpretation of the accumulation of capital in the peripheries and in the world economy, otherwise renewing Marxism. The categories of “overexploitation of labor”, “subimperialism”, “dynamics of dependency”, which add up to the pattern of reproduction of capital, are decisive contributions of his thought that open up an enormous field of investigation and research.

These contributions should not, however, as Ruy Mauro Marini warned, be taken dogmatically, but submitted to the scrutiny of a radical review of historical processes, seeking to understand and transform them. TDM, in the current effort of renewal and theoretical deepening, has posed several challenges, something that can be seen as part of the resumption of Latin American critical thinking in this second decade of the XNUMXst century. Among these, it is worth mentioning:

1. Understand the structure and dynamics of the globalization processes that deepen the articulation of the main social formations in the organization of the world economy, as well as the reciprocal influence that they establish among themselves: namely, the central capitalism of US hegemony, the peripheral dependent capitalism and semiperipheral.

2. To analyze the changes in political regimes and the relations between the forms of national States and social classes in Latin America, considering democratic instabilities and the advance of radicalized and authoritarian neoliberalism that imposes itself as the predominant economic form in this second decade of the XNUMXst century. As well as the connection of this region with the Chinese growth dynamics and its short, medium and long term perspectives, as well as the risks of deindustrialization and economic reprimarization in Latin America.

3. Finally, analyze the civilizing perspectives raised by the advancement of the world economy in the XNUMXst century: particularly, those of socialism and multipolar planetary civilization in the face of capitalist civilization and its hierarchical reproduction of power, the concentration of wealth, social inequality and the gigantic risks of environmental destruction of the planet.

The agenda for action and studies that the new generation of militants and thinkers of the Brazilian and Latin American reality is putting forward is directly related to the impasses we find ourselves in in this first quarter of the century. More than at any other moment, there is an imperative need to rebuild an autonomous Latin American thought on the international dynamics of capital, not to think in isolationist ways, but to integrate the region in the necessary dynamics of overcoming capitalism and building a global anti-capitalist movement.

*Jose Raimundo Trinidad He is a professor at the Graduate Program in Economics at UFPA.

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