Invisible Hands: Part II

Capitalism has been geared toward and has generated great efficiency, which, taken to its logical conclusion, would in itself spell the end of capitalism, as it would mean the end of profit. Based on a systemic awareness of this state of things, neoliberalism seeks to prolong the existence of capitalist arrange-ments by generating inefficiency. A good ex-ample of this is what is known as \”overhead\”. By having resources used up in implementing various market schemes and corporate ar-range-ments and rearrangements, a need is created for acquiring and exploiting even more re-sources, thereby generating more possibility for profit. Thus, for instance, open-ing up spheres of activity to free-market com-petition and having many companies \”compete for the customer\’s dollar\” lays open that sphere of activity to agglomeration into global corporate structures. With its typical dynamic of deploy-ing conflicting forces to achieve an ultimate objective, the transna-tional ruling class touts the diversity and qual-ity of services which its free-market deregulation schemes are to pro-duce, know-ing full well that all that diversity will be soon enough absorbed into it\’s global corporate structures, if it hasn\’t been already. The em-phasis on individuality and diversity in social as well as economic spheres is a prelude to globalization-the enforcement of a single global order.

The devolution of individuals into atomis-tic consumer entities and the concomitant disso-lution of communities is important in support-ing the envisioned global order. The same vapid consumerist individualism which pro-duced a continental homogeneity in North America is to be extended across the globe. The latent threat that communities may break with the global order of domination is to be diffused and eradicated by ensuring that all human relations be systematized and chan-neled through institutions controlled by global capital.

In short, neoliberalism aims at the imposi-tion of a completely liberal (free, open) global society: a global order in which the private property rights already secured on a more limited scale by the capitalist elite will be im-posed over and above all other rights every-where worldwide. It projects a complete sup-pression and vitiation of difference and dis-sent, a totalization and standardization of existing power structures on a planetary scale. Individual freedom, the clarion call of liberal-ism, is to be fully subsumed in proc-ess-in the institutional systemic arrangement of the liberal world order. The neoliberal proj-ect is thus to be a fulfillment of the Enlighten-ment vision whereby God reunites with the world of his creation, i.e. the capitalist ruling class institutes complete global control and domin-ion. This transcendental vicarage has precedent in Jesus, but he came too early-before the development of the free market.

Fractures of world order

While ac-cumulation of capital is correctly seen as a primary goal in capitalist economic activity, the neoliberal quest for power is more than just a matter of having a lot or the most money: the power of a currency is restricted insofar as there are objects, activities and relations which cannot be purchased or con-trolled through that currency. The set of sys-temic and institutional arrangements which support the expression of money-power are known as the market, and thus extending the power and purchase of that money is effected by extending the reaches of the market sys-tem itself to cover everything. As we have seen, this sort of radical extension of the mar-ket can only be effected after a substantial concentra-tion of capital has already been achieved, and is a natural continuation of that process of concentration, which forms some-thing analo-gous to a critical mass which initi-ates a reac-tion that is new in time but not in essence. In this respect, neoliberalism is not essentially new.

What implications does this conclusion have? Insofar as the current stage in the de-vel-opment of capitalism is a necessary and natu-ral part of that development, rooted in its very inception, and is not an aberration or unfortu-nate choice made all of a sudden based on some contingent explosion of \”cor-porate greed\”, notions or attempts to \”fix\” the system are nonsensical. Whilst one can at least in principle reasonably argue about the possibil-ity of \”fixing\” something that is broken, to speak of fixing something that is not broken and is functioning just as it is supposed to, is to engage in a dialogue devoid of meaning.

Neoliberalism entails the decoupling of the market as an institution from specific concerns of production or social benefit-the totaliza-tion of market to the exclusion of all other principles. It is a shift from primacy to exclu-sivity. Its single-minded purpose is the perpet-uation of capitalist accumulation.

The fundamental, essential purpose of an economic system is to support life, not to perpetuate the system. Today, the ability of capitalism to support life is increasingly being called into question. By presenting and institu-tionalizing its own self-perpetuation as a pri-mary objective, the capitalist mind-control machine seeks to equate the preservation of the system with the preservation of life itself. The group (corporate) consciousness of the capitalist ruling class and the logic of its insti-tutions will not hesitate to fulfill this prophecy in an apocalyptic moment of global destruc-tion.

And while troubled and troubling calls have been and are being issued from all quar-ters, what with all the threats facing the planet and the human race, there is still a notable lack of critical clarity in those calls. It is as if to sug-gest that all these \”little\” things that are going on that are going to destroy the planet if they continue are all just slight oversights or inno-cent faux-pas, and well, if we just did a little more of this or a little less of that, every-thing would be just fine. The matter is how-ever much more grave than that. Perhaps people\’s unwillingness to face up to these problems is grounded fundamentally in a lack of solutions: reality is much too grim to face. However, the immediate lack of solutions to a critical con-stellation of problems more than anything indicates the need to search for and work toward those solutions.

There have been some stirrings in \”the movement\” to the effect that what we are fighting is not globalization but global capital-ism, and this is a good start. Now let us mod-ify this a step further: what we are fighting against is not globalization or global capital-ism, or neoliberalism, but capitalism, and what we are fighting for is not justice or democ-racy, but life.

In this vital struggle, it is important not to set up straw men that disperse people\’s criti-cal energy for the sake of yielding largely Pyrrhic victories. Thus, for instance, loosening environmental and labor standards is often cited as a notable component of neo-liberal policies and presented in such a way as to suggest that such loosening is somehow es-sential for the promotion of corporate power. Now, while such standards may indeed pro-tect workers and the environment to some extent and in that much are beneficial, \”corpo-rate power\” does not depend upon nor is it strengthened by the absence of such regula-tions. The loosening or looseness of regula-tions is more indicative of the weakness of capitalist structures than of their strength: thus, corporate power is much stronger in the \”First World\” than in the \”Third World\”, which is often cited as a locus for this looseness. The neoliberal wishes to loosen environ-mental regulations not because he is hell-bent on destroying the environment as an end in itself, but because he knows that \”good liber-als\” will fight him on the issue, and that is exactly the sort of avenue into which he wishes to channel all opposition to his plan of world domination. This good liberal/bad liberal game is a losing game, and it behooves us little to absorb ourselves in playing it.

Critiquing the neoliberal institutions such as the IMF, World Bank and WTO, Susan George writes: \”The common denominator of these institutions is their lack of transparency and democratic accountability. This is the essence of neo-liberalism. It claims that the economy should dictate its rules to society, not the other way around. Democracy is an en-cumbrance, neo-liberalism is designed for winners, not for voters, who necessarily en-compass the categories of both winners and losers.\” This all too common sort of analysis sets up the typically liberal division of a func-tional whole into two sides, two teams, and proceeds to attempt to play one side off against the other.

This false division between politics and economics is a division which is crucial to the rationalization and propagation of the lib-eral/neoliberal system and which it is crucial to expose and surmount in moving forward with our revolutionary struggle. This false division fosters the notion that the abuses and excesses of capitalism can be guarded against or even eliminated by a personnel change in the governing apparatus of the capitalist state-voting the corporate cronies out of office. The existing liberal democratic form of government, however, far from being a messi-anic antipode to corporate domination, is a system hand-picked to promote the conditions necessary for implementation of the very corporate takeover that it is touted as being a defense against. Democracy is the political engine of neoliberalism. \”Democratizing\” the WTO, etc. is precisely what would render it even more powerful and intractable by making its institutional dictates the \”will of the peo-ple\” (i.e. making the will of the people subor-dinate to, and expressible only in terms of, its institutional arrangements). Institutions like the WTO or FTAA must be shut down, not gus-sied up in populist trappings.

Any democracy that can be practically im-plemented under the existing socioeconomic order is a democracy subject to the ruling position of the capitalist hierarchy. The exist-ing democracy which George feels to be at odds with these neoliberal institutions in fact expresses the institutional arrangements of state power necessary to implement the power of those very neoliberal institutions. And it is all too clear that the capitalist ruling class believes there can be no democracy without capitalism, and will kill you to prove it.

Adam Smith, the liberal ideologue of capi-tal, spoke of an invisible hand that guided the free market process toward the desired re-sult-the wealth of nations, i.e. the expan-sion of the imperial power of the capitalist ruling class. In a way, he was half right. The neolib-eral free market process has two hands, the left and the right, between which it has squeezed the world to near death. These invisible hands wear many gloves: education and incarceration, regulation and de-regulation, democracy and fascism, welfare state and free market, Democrat and Republi-can, internation-alism and nationalism, public and private, peace processes and wars, envi-ronmental protection and ecological destruc-tion, humani-tarian interventions and genocide. The machin-ery of capital deploys these hands in pursuit of a grand transcendental vision of total domin-ion whereby all things in the world shall be brought under the single governing principle of the market.

Yet this vision, even as it appears imma-nent, proves elusive. In seeking to end the conflicting process of history through totaliz-ing and thereby eternalizing a supreme capital-ist world order, the would-be masters of that world face the contradiction of having to end the very dynamic which has maintained their power. Competition, conflict, strife, war are the motive forces of capitalist rule. Thus, the vision inevitably becomes apocalyptic: in eternalizing the order and thereby reuniting creation with the Creator, only by ending all life at that grand moment of union can it be ensured that life never again strays from the Creator\’s will. In the face of this, inevitably life rebels.

At its highest levels, the ruling class too be-comes aware of the fallacy of its vision, but finds itself organically incapable of radically changing that vision. Cracks and fault lines appear, fracturing the eerily beautiful vision into an ugly, decrepit facade. Neoliberalism is, in a sense, a desperate measure in an at-tempt to repair that cracking facade. This moment, when the corporate ruling class ap-pears to be at the height of its power, is si-multaneously a moment of greatest weakness-the potential of a tumultuous col-lapse. The revolutionary task is thus, in a sense, to turn that potentiality into reality.

As we face the ruling class\’s newest bid to institutionalize its hierarchical power rela-tions-the FTAA-we must bear in mind that this overt superficial display of overwhelming power belies a great underlying weakness. We must not allow ourselves to be beguiled by the false prospect of immediate access to this useless power and must not fall into the de-featism of reformist schemes. As protest and resistance mounts, and the capitalist power structures implement their repressive measures, justified and propagandized through the corpo-rate media on grounds of a need to prevent some angry kids from break-ing a window, let us remember that what they rightly fear most, is that those kids may grow up and smash the whole facade of the de-crepit bourgeois edifice that is destroying the world. We must grow up.