The supposed limits of capitalism

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By RAÚL ZIBECHI*

The new world after capitalism is not a place of arrival, it is not a paradise where “good living” is practiced, but a space of struggle

For a long time, a portion of Marxists claimed that capitalism has structural and economic limits, based on “laws” that would make its (self) destruction inevitable. These laws are immanent to the system and are related to central aspects of the functioning of the economy, such as the law of the decreasing tendency of the rate of profit, analyzed by Marx in The capital.

This thesis led some intellectuals to speak of the “collapse” of the system, always as a consequence of its own contradictions. More recently, not a few thinkers argue that capitalism has “environmental limits” that would lead it to destroy itself or at least to alter its most predatory aspects, when in fact what has limits is life itself on the planet and, very , that of the poor and humiliated half of its population.

Today we know that capitalism has no limits. Not even the revolutions were able to eradicate this system, because, again and again, capitalist social relations expanded within post-revolutionary societies, and, from within the State, the bourgeois class responsible for making them prosper reappeared. .

The expropriation of the means of production and exchange was, and will continue to be, a central step towards the destruction of the system, however, more than a century after the Russian Revolution, we know that it is insufficient if there is no community control of these means and political power. in charge of its management.

We also know that organized collective action (class, gender and skin color struggle against oppression and oppressors) is decisive for destroying the system, but this formulation is also partial and insufficient, although true.

The updating of thinking about the end of capitalism must go hand in hand with the resistance and constructions of the people, in particular the Zapatistas and the Kurds of Rojava, the peoples originating from various territories of our America, but also the black peoples and peasants, and, in some cases, what we do in urban peripheries.

Some points seem central to overcoming this challenge.

The first is that capitalism is a global system, encompassing the entire planet and must permanently expand in order not to collapse. As Fernand Braudel teaches us, scale was important in the implantation of capitalism, hence the importance of the conquest of America, as it allowed an embryonic system to spread its wings.

Local struggles and resistance are important, they can even undermine capitalism on this scale, but to put an end to the system, alliance/coordination with movements on all continents is essential. Hence the enormous importance of the Giro for Life that the EZLN [Zapatista National Liberation Army] is currently carrying out in Europe.

The second is that the system cannot be destroyed once and for all, as we discussed during the seminar “Critical thinking in the face of the capitalist Hydra”, in May 2015. But here there is an aspect that challenges us profoundly: only a constant struggle and permanent can asphyxiate capitalism. It cannot be cut off in one blow, like the Hydra's heads, but in another way.

Strictly speaking, we must say that we don't know exactly how to put an end to capitalism, because this has never been achieved. But we intuit that the conditions for its continuity and/or resurgence must be limited, subject to strict control, not by a party or a State, but by communities and organized peoples.

The third point is that capitalism cannot be defeated if at the same time another world, other social relations, is not built. This other or new world is not a place of arrival, but a way of life that prevents the continuity of capitalism in its daily life. The ways of life, the social relations, the spaces that we are capable of creating must exist in such a way that they are in permanent struggle against capitalism.

The fourth is that as long as the state exists there will be an opportunity for capitalism to expand again. Contrary to what some thought proclaims, let's say progressive or leftist, the State is not a neutral instrument. The powers from below, which are non-state and autonomous powers, are born and exist to prevent the expansion of capitalist relations. They are, therefore, powers by and for the anti-capitalist struggle.

Finally, the new world after capitalism is not a place of arrival, it is not a paradise where “good living” is practiced, but a space of struggle in which, probably, peoples, women, dissent and people from low in general, we will be in better conditions to continue building diverse and heterogeneous worlds.

I believe that if we stop fighting and building the new, capitalism will be reborn, even in the other world. The report of Old Antonio that the struggle is like a circle, which begins one day but never ends, is of enormous relevance.

* Raúl Zibechi, journalist, is a columnist for the weekly Brecha (Uruguay).

Translation: Fernando Lima das Neves.

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