Subject: 'REVOLUTIONARY CAPITALISM' AND ITS EFFECTS AT HOME AND ABROAD.
Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,
The Second World War was a seminal event in the lives of many Frenchmen, and they are unlikely to forget the famine inflicted on them by their German masters in the 1940s. Germany’s massive theft of French foodstuffs –grains, dairy products, wines, etc.—caused not only wide-spread hunger in most parts of the France, but produced malnutrition, endemic medical and dental problems and, of course, shortened life-expectancy for the survivors of the war. This was the price paid by the French nation in WW II, as their food was shipped away to Germany for civilian consumption --not for the German military fighting on the Eastern Front, as Hitler’s General Staff bravely advocated, but to the German housewives feeding their families at home. (These civilians would have cut Hitler’s throat if he had abandoned them, and he knew it!)
It is not lost on most French people that capitalism produces goods in abundance, that revolutions in technology, in medicine, and in ideologies are a constant spin-off of capitalist development. Nor is it lost on them that the system inflicts excruciating violence; as the inexorable growth of capitalist accumulation continues someone, somewhere must pay for it. The defeat of the Third Reich in WW II (at an unprecedented cost in European lives) was followed by the loss of the French colonies in Vietnam and Algeria (at a high cost for the indigenous populations who were targeted). In this case, the violence of capitalism was displaced from Europe to Asia and North Africa. But no matter what the human cost --before, during and following the various wars-- the expansion of investment opportunities had to be sustained or the capitalist system, as we know it, would have collapsed. The technological, medical, and ideological revolutions under capitalist growth speak for themselves –computers and software in the “IT” industries, vaccines and surgery in medicine, the ideologies of civil rights, feminism, gay rights, globalization and neoliberalism, etc. etc… all of these aspects are ‘revolutionary’ elements in this system of displaced capitalist violence and labor exploitation.
Until recently, it has been difficult to see the forest for the trees. Yes, there has been progress! But at what price? Well, the cost has been cyclical, in different parts of the world and at different moments….
Two books which speak to the necessity of this displacement of violence, as an imperative for capitalist expansion, are Howard French’s book, China’s Second Continent, How a Million Migrants are Building a New Empire in Africa (2014) and Nick Turse’s Tomorrow’s Battlefield, US Proxy Wars and Secret Ops in Africa (2015). Together, these books warn that ‘revolutionary’ changes are occurring in the world-capitalist system at a glacial pace; a multitude of microscopic developments are occurring on the continent south of Europe, and they will change our lives forever. This is the latest stage of the ‘Capitalist Revolution,’ as it proceeds almost undetected by most of us.
The neo-liberal ideology of ‘individual freedom,’ which exalts the acquisition of money/power over any other possible reward in life, has been unleashed. Finally, western artists and intellectuals have broken free from the magic spell of this ideology of homo œconomicus; they are beginning to express critical appreciation of the limits of the ‘Capitalist Revolution,’ the constraints which threaten to destroy us from within and from without. The new French film, Nocturama, by Bertrand Bonello offers us an artist’s insight into the world of this ‘Capitalist Revolution’ and the intoxicating excitement of individual freedom found in the ubiquitous market place of ‘consumers out of luck,’ which ultimately ends in their suicidal insurrection. Appropriately, the theme song of this ‘last hurray’ that takes place in today’s Paris is a Frank Sanatra favorite: I Did it My Way. (For more on the subject of insurection, see CEIMSA Bulletin N° 699.)
Capitalist violence is nothing new, as Mark Ames has pointed out in his book, Going Postal, Rage, Murder, and Rebellion (2005); hopeless insurrections against ‘the banality of slavery’ were not infrequent occurrences in North America from the very start of the European conquest. Frederick Douglass (1818 – 1895) observed firsthand :
Find out what any people will quietly submit to and you have the exact measure of the injustice and wrong
which will be imposed on them.
On an international scale, like on the domestic scale, the violence of capitalist accumulation is an imperative, given the alternative of economic collapse. The Chinese capitalists have pointed to the African continent in the same way as the American newspaper editor Horace Greeley once pointed to the North American continent : “Go West Young Man !” Howard French tells us that today there are more than one million Chinese living in Africa, most of whom are not associated with Chinese corporations or Chinese government projects. They are a virtual army of ‘liberated’ petty bourgeois pioneers who are ‘self-actualized’ and looking for opportunities to make money and realize their new sense of freedom. French remarks on the seeming inevitability of such a scenario :
. . . it scarcely seems coincidental that China, a country that has surged from near autarky to becoming the so-called factory of the world in the space of a mere generation, has quickly become the most ambitious builder of infrastructure in Africa, the world’s fastest-growing region, both demographically and economically, and the source of a disproportionate share of the globe’s natural resources.(French, p.262)
Some fail and return; most do not, and their numbers continue to grow. Historian Peter Duus wrote in his book, The Abacus and the Sword, an account of Japan’s takeover of Korea, that imperialism requires ‘an available victim – a weaker, less organized, or less advanced society or state unable to defend itself against outside intrusion.’ He goes on to give an historical account for this unequal development of societies :
Industrialization upset the technological balance of power between the Europeans and the rest of the world, and this imbalance made possible rapid European successes in conquest and domination . . . . the peoples of Africa, South and Southeast Asia and Oceania were no more able to withstand the impact of Western traders bearing machine-spun cotton yarn than they were able to resist Western troops armed with repeating rifles and Gatling guns. The penetration of distant markets went hand in hand with political domination. (cited by French, p.206)
In this context of the imperatives of capitalist accumulation at a global level, we can see more clearly the alternatives facing Americans this election year. If to save the US capitalist economy is the imperative, the options are limited to an aggressive expansionist military economy (such as emerged out of the ruins of post-WW-I Germany), or a conservative nationalist organization of labor exploitation (as was created with considerable success for decades in Franco’s Spain, following the defeat of progressive forces in the Civil War). (See CEIMSA Bulletin N° 710 for more on State terrorism.)
THE OPTIONS :
I. A President who has to do what a President has to do to represent : the corporate interests of the imperialist state.
A. Hillary Clinton Speech at The American Legion convention in Cincinnati, OH (8/31/2016)
B. Donald Trump Immigration Speech in Phoenix, AZ (08/31/2016) Donald Trump Arizona
II. A President who has to do what a President has to do to represent : We the People.
A. Who Should Bernie Voters Support Now? Robert Reich vs. Chris Hedges on Tackling the Neoliberal Order
B. Jill Stein vs. Ben Jealous: Should Progressives Reject Hillary Clinton & Vote Green?
C. All 13 Bernie Sanders 'Our Revolution' Leaders Revolt Over Jeff Weaver Appointment As Head
III. An Insurrection :
"Nocturama ": un film explosif dans la France post-attentats
“ASSAULT ON WALL STREET”
Chuck D and B-Real Are Making America Rage Again
IV. « Voluntary Servitude » :
The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude
Étienne de La Boétie
The 13 items below suggest that a moment of reckoning is fast approaching as world capitalism digs deeper into a sclerotic mode of futile military survival, devoid of reason, vision, and respect for human life. The private profit motive reigns and will destroy all that is in its way….
Professor of American Studies
University of Grenoble-3
Director of Research
University of Paris-Nanterre
Center for the Advanced Study of American Institutions and Social Movements
The University of California-San Diego
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