Thursday, July 17, 2014

Cooking the Books: Imperialism? (2014)

The Cooking the Books column from the July 2014 issue of the Socialist Standard

Capital is value that expands. As self-expanding value capital is naturally imperialistic. Expansion is the essential process of capitalism. Capital expands via concentration (expanded reproduction through successive investments of a portion of surplus value realized as profit over and above consumption by the capitalist class) and centralization (whereby one capital kills many). And it always looks out for low-cost sourcing – cheaper sources of productive resources and labour-power on the one hand, and for upbeat profitable markets on the other. This is how the empire of capital expands. Therefore, every region of the capitalist world, developed or underdeveloped, small or large, is potentially expansionist or imperialist. Every aliquot part of the global capital is intrinsically expansive – imperialistic. Capital is global from its inception. It is not a national or regional entity. It has to be understood as a dominantly global entity.
A contrary treatment of capitalism is utterly misleading. The problem of our world is not imperialism, it is capitalism.
Capital is not a thing at rest; it is a circuit describing process continuously passing through three distinctive forms – money capital → productive capital → commodity capital – constantly reproducing its exploitative, oppressive, wasteful and alienating relations of production and distribution. Capitalists as we see them (individual, joint-stock, state, etc.) are but capital personified. They are merely the functionaries of capital. Capital grows unevenly via a centre/periphery framework and relation – some regions being highly industrialized centres while others remaining mostly raw material providers. And capital is inherently anarchic and self-contradictory moving through perpetual cycles of boom and slump.
Nobody could ever accurately predict about, and effectively administer, the anarchic behaviour of the capitalist socio-economic system. As Marx pointed out, ‘The essence of bourgeois society consists precisely in this, that a priori there is no conscious social regulation of production. The rational and the naturally necessary asserts itself only as a blindly working average.’ (Marx’s letter to L. Kugelman, July, 1868)
Capital is an active social force. And we know as Engels knew, ‘Active social forces work exactly like natural forces, blindly, forcibly, destructively’ ; in spite of us, in opposition to us, they master us ‘so long as we do not understand and reckon with them.’ (Anti-Dühring, Progress Publishers, Moscow 1969, p. 331)
This is true for every region of the world. You cannot do away with this pattern of capitalist growth. 
You can, however, do away with capital itself with all its paraphernalia only by organizing world socialism only.
Binay Sarkar