Oct 2, 2008

Dave Ranney comments on Capitalism in Crisis?

the following was forwarded to us and is a response to D. Hamerquist's, Capitalism in Crisis?

Generally Don's short note on crisis fits with things I am thinking about and incorporating into talks. There are some important details that could not be covered in such a short post. I argued in my book and generally in talks that the present period represents a new mode of accumulation as a response to the crisis that emerged in the mid seventies. I agree with Don's formulation of crisis as capitalist production reaching the limits of the law of value. I have outlined elements of this new mode elsewhere. One important thing of the mode of production is that it turned debt into a global commodity to the extent that it heightened the duality between use value and value for many of the commodities it was financing. This was seen most clearly in housing in the U.S. where the price of the house is driven by the trading of mortgage backed securities and housing itself took on the appearance of a pure exchange value. I argued back in 2000 that the global credit structure in turn was evolving into a new manifestation of crisis that amounts to a Ponzi or a huge game of musical chairs.

One key thing about labor mobility being a possible social base for an internationalist perspective is that part of this new (since mid 1970's) mode of accumulation is that labor is not simply mobile but "flexibilized." Flexible labor means labor being "declassed" as they are reduced to individuals who can not only work anywhere but also be part timed, two or three tiered etc. This has necessitated an international attack on labor organization and an international ideological assault to individualize labor.This seems to me to be an important and critical area for struggle. So I think I am simply underlining what Don said about this.

With regard to the contradiction Don notes between the continuing need for a nation state and capital mobility there are some important issues regarding how this is being approached by capital that also point to important arenas for struggle. There are two interesting issues of NACLA Journal (September/October, 2008 and January/February 2007 in this regard. In the 2008 issue several articles point to how NAFTA broke the concept of social compact which had been the framework within which the left in
Mexico struggled against the state there. They define "neo liberalism" as a world of actors who are all "sovereign individuals" unregulated by the state. The institutional arrangement of NAFTA, WTO and IMF rules created a total dependency on the U.S. economy, fragmented and flexibleized the peasantry and working class and essentially undermined all the old clientist relations that were the power base of the PRI and the target for the left. Mexico depends on the U.S. economy for 85% of trade including basics like food. The model for the role of the state is emerging in this context with the creation of a regional defense based initiative called the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) in 2005 by the Presidents of the US, Mexico and Prime Minister of Canada. The SPP web site says that the initiative -- part of NAFTA Plus -- "understands North America as a shared economic space" in which "security leads to prosperity." This was referred to by the State Department as "armoring NAFTA." This has been presented under the general rubric of a regional component of the war on terror and war on drugs. With the failure to negotiate FTAA, a series of bi national trade agreements are also being used as a wedge to extend the reach of the SPP agenda. Even Bolivia has a unit of the military completely trained and equipped by the U.S. to "conduct the war on drugs. Generally there have been more people trained at the new versiion of School of the Americas in the past 10 years than through the entire cold war era. A key componet of this is that after the overthrow of Somoza by the Sandinistas in 1979 the U.S. abandoned its cold war era practice of supporting and arming brutal dictators to control and contain "communism." It was replaced by a form of "democracy building" that NACLA calls "Plutocracy" or rule of the few using democratic electoral processes. What I believe is happening now is the development of a crack in these initiatives that is tied to contradictions of the current mode of accumulation. In South America and parts of Central America the contradictions of neo liberalism have become so severe that there is growing unity among nations that is grounded in being anti neo liberalism. What these nation states are for and the class forces they represent are quite varied and often contradictory. But U.S. capital is responding by trying to intervene and "tame democracy." Argentina's defiance of IMF seriously undermined its political and even economic viability. But it was a real shot across the bow.