The pandemic is expanding social control and generating a new cycle of capitalist accumulation
April 29, 2020
We are in a transition to another cycle of capitalist accumulation, a relatively new phenomenon, a cycle that is being born through the greatest planetary catastrophe since the Second World War. Capitalism’s impotence in the face of Covid-19 has created expectations that the tragedy would be a moment of renewal; that a period of greater solidarity would open up, of Keynesian capitalism, of nationalization, and the universal basic income. These illusions in the regeneration of post-coronavirus capitalism are materially based on the emergency measures taken by a number of governments.
This was and continues to be the illusion of a broad spectrum of left-wing intellectuals. They believe that all this is possible without a tenacious struggle by the working class to defeat the bourgeois offensive, which has a series of extreme right and neoliberal-libertarian governments at its forefront.
Work Intensification and Compression of Wages
With the world pandemic established, the lumpenization of the most populous layers of the proletariat seems to have become the plan of the exploiting classes. The miserable economic aid packages for informal workers, for a few months, point to this. It is worth remembering that informalization is a predominant policy in the world. According to the International Labor Organization (2015), 60.7% of the world labour force has no permanent job. In many countries, such as Brazil, informality reaches half the workforce. In other countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, informality is even greater.
During the pandemic, the Bolsonaro government’s aid to informal workers was $100. Bolsonaro initially considered paying $35. In other countries, such as Thailand, it reaches $170 dollars a month. This is still very little because it is much less than the average wages of the countries themselves. In turn, this average is often below the vital needs of a family of workers. According to the Inter-Union Department of Statistics and Socioeconomic Studies (DIEESE) of Brazil, in March the minimum wage needed should be approximately $780.
The number of workers who signed up to be able to receive the miserable aid exceeds by two or three times the number expected by the government. $ 100 is little more than half the $ 183 minimum wage in Brazil for formal workers and almost eight times less than the necessary wage suggested by DIEESE. After quarantine, with unemployment and underemployment much higher than the current ones, which affect, respectively, 13 and 30 million workers, the working class is induced to get used to surviving on half or less of the salary they received before the pandemic.
Then a new minimum wage floor is created, lowered, formally or informally, because in times of calamity capitalist anarchy increases. Wages are compressed below their value, for the class as a whole and, in increasingly broad sectors, also for new technological applications.
Once again, the overexploitation of the working class, about which Ruy Mauro Marini had written, deepens when the wages paid are below the value of the labour force, preventing this class from reproducing in its normal conditions of life. It will also deepen the degree of exploitation of work by new technological tools that extend the journey and occupy the moments of the workers’ day and night to the maximum, now with work also at home. The intensification of work and the compression of wages below their value are two countervailing tendencies to the fall in the rate of profit, already pointed out by Marx in Capital, used by capitalists to avoid or get out of crises for more than 120 years. Since then, mediated by the social gains and defeats of the exploited majority, exploitation and its mechanisms have become more complex. Forced to survive and adapt with incomes well below the vital minimum, barbarism leads most human beings to live as a human sub-race.
Fatalism and Class Intent
This perverse element of overexploiting work is combined with suspected health procedures for SARS-CoV-2. For example, the so-called “herd immunity”, which was explicitly adopted by Great Britain until the moment when the Prime Minister himself also contracted the virus. Minimizing the severity of the problem, conscious neglect and fatalism with the loss of thousands of lives, especially of the working population, reveals a certain amount of intent. The pandemic, which victimizes social classes unequally, is used, objectively, as a weapon of class war. If it wants to survive and live, the working class can by no means accept the fatalistic predictions of its enemies as “normal”, “inevitable” the high number of deaths. The class cannot passively accept its suffering and extermination.
This is not based on reason, and illusions abound in those who hope that these governments and bourgeois states will take measures favourable to the majority of the population. These illusions become true hallucinations faced with the bailouts of those capitalists who can be rescued from the new financial crisis and competition among them for those who will take the lead in the new cycle of capital accumulation. It was these governments and states that made the living conditions of the working masses so vulnerable, with ultra-parasitic measures against the subaltern classes (euphemistically called neoliberalism). The greatest proof of this was the collapse of almost all national health systems within less than two months of the new virus.
Brutalism, Coronocracy, …
Achilles Mbembe, who coined the term “necropolitics”, already pointed out before the pandemic that we were moving towards regimes that he called “Brutalism”. This is the title of his work published in early 2020. According to the Cameroonian philosopher, the final project of “Brutalism” would be the transformation of humanity into matter and energy, when all spheres of existence are crossed by capital and the ordering of society it is defined by the same digital computing orientation. If it is correct, the pandemic represents a leap, or an acceleration in that state of affairs. Many analysts around the world, probably among the first, was the journalist Eshrat Mardi of the Tehran Times, who have used the term “Coronocracy” to refer to repressive and centralizing measures.
The government of Israel, in the state that already had a Nazi-Zionist character against the Palestinians, headed by the arch-corrupt Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who would face trial for corruption, took advantage of the moment to establish measures that increase surveillance over citizens, opportunely closed the courts (the Israeli Federal Supreme Court), increased the repression of the Palestinians, without allowing any interference, instituted that the Zionist Army is the maximum sanitary authority, above the Ministry of Health.
In Hungary, Viktor Orbán gained the to govern by decree, creating an indefinite state of emergency and threatens with imprisonment of up to five years to anyone who publishes information that contradicts government guidelines, that “obstruct or prevent the effective protection of the population”.
In Peru, Congress passed a law that gives police and military personnel legal immunity for injuring or killing people on grounds of violating social isolation orders. Something similar to the “exclusion of illegality” for police officers, defended by ex-minister Sérgio Moro and Bolsonaro. Agents of repression would have full rights to execute the population under subjective justifications such as “surprise, fear or violent emotion”. Trump made a 180-degree turn, from disdain for the pandemic to definitions like: “absolutely critical”, “invisible, incredible enemy”. The President of the United States recommended an injection of disinfectant into the body would be beneficial in killing covid-19. Desperate and ignorant, dozens of people followed Trump’s recommendation. The New York poison control centre received 30 calls related to the use of disinfectant in the 18 hours following the president’s suggestion.
When workers are weakened, their class enemies, the bosses, ride roughshod over them. Without organized and victorious resistance from the oppressed peoples and the working class, the prospects point to a severe stage of barbarism that we are experiencing. The situation of the working class, which was already precarious, is now globally catastrophic. The “new great depression” (terminology of journalist Pepe Escobar) has been closing millions of companies. Unemployment soared. According to optimistic ILO estimates, 25 million jobs will be lost. But in the United States alone, whose Trump administration celebrated “full employment”, it now reaches almost 20% unemployment. If this is so in the richest country on the planet, how will it be in the rest? Even France, representative of the sixth world economic power, has been unable to defend its citizens from the virus, 23,000 French have died, 10% of all deaths in the world by the covid-19 so far.
In this desperate situation and with the over-supply of labour power, there is a brutal drop in the wages of formal workers and civil servants. However, the prospects of barbarism are much, much worse for precarious people of all kinds, immigrants, women.
Governments have been taking advantage of the pandemic to impose states of siege against the masses, to enslave them and to increase preventive social control in the face of latent rebellions. Everyone knows that the poor and exploited people are being dragged quickly into a situation of desperate struggle for life. Thus, populist measures do not regenerate health systems or rebuild the living conditions of the working class. In fact, capital is taking advantage of the brutal drop in working life conditions to exterminate part of the surplus unemployed army, militarize social life and expand the police state.
The “Anti-Authoritarian” Manifesto of Neoliberals
In this scenario, about 150 neoliberal intellectuals, right-wing opportunists, in a list headed by former governors, aspiring to return to power in their countries in the Ibero-Latin American region launched the manifesto “Que la pandemica no sea un pretexto el autoritarismo ”, Organized by the” Fundación Internacional para la Libertad “(FIL), chaired by Mario Vargas Llosa, a former leftist writer who became a neoliberal politician in Peru. The manifesto was also signed by the former presidents of Spain (Aznar); Argentina (Macri), Mexico (Zedillo and Vicente Fox); Colombia (Uribe); Uruguay (Lacalle and Sanguinetti); El Salvador (Cristiani) and Paraguay (Franco). The following is a list of businessmen, economists, and coup institutions like the “Mises” Institute of Brazil or the Venezuelan “Vente”, an opposition party that has unsuccessfully tried to dissociate its image from drug trafficking.
The manifesto criticizes:
“In place of some understandable restrictions on liberation, in several countries there is a confinement with minimal exceptions, the impossibility of working and producing, and the informative manipulation […] has suspended the state of rights and, even, representative democracy and the justice system […] in the dictatorships of Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua the pandemic serves as a pretext to increase political persecution and oppression ”.
Obviously this is a gamble and a long shot. Macri, for example, is a long way from returning to being president of Argentina. In this and the next presidency. But who knows? Much may change (for the worse) post-pandemic. In addition to the profile of the subscribers, the text leaves no doubt that it is nothing more than a manifesto of US foremen, and, more likely, the fraction of the imperialist bourgeoisie within the Democratic Party. In the text of the neoliberal manifesto, nationalist governments like Venezuela and Nicaragua, and the Cuban workers’ state are attacked as dictatorships. No mention is made of the true dictatorships, instituted by coups d’état on the Latin American continent, as recently occurred in Bolivia, where presidential elections were suspended indefinitely long before the start of the pandemic.
These lords, like Aznar, and their parties, like the PP, were driven out of power by political wear and tear by the population of their countries, due to their policies of neoliberal oppression and plundering of the State, privatizations and diverting of public resources to private mafias, of which they were political representatives. They were mainly responsible for making the health systems and living conditions of the working masses, who are now semi-defenseless, vulnerable to the pandemic. Now, these very same gentlemen, try to present themselves as an alternative to the current governments, taking advantage of popular dissatisfaction that they know will explode soon.
The traditional right reorganizes itself in the name of democratic and civil liberties and against authoritarianism. Increasing authoritarianism is in fact an opportunistic move by several governments to centralize political power. Bolsonaro mobilizes his neo-Nazi base and threatens the closure of the Supreme Court and parliament (as Benjamin Netanyahu did in Israel) but due to his political fragility he has not been taking all possible advantage of the moment for his dictatorial aspirations. Like the manifesto, Bolsonarism is against quarantine and accuses those who defend it of measures against the pandemic of “conspirators to impose a communist globalist dictatorship”. Bolsonaro could also quietly signed this neo-liberal manifesto headed by Vargas Losla. But, certainly, most subscribers would not want the Brazilian neo-Nazi to join because they do not want to be labelled authoritarian and because exactly when executing the manifesto’s political and economic program, it made Brazil the new world epicenter of the pandemic.
Different bourgeois fractions dispute the barbarism that results from the association pandemic-economic crisis. Each fraction relocates, elaborates the strategic program that is most convenient for them, moves, rearticulates and makes the agitation corresponding to its strategy. The majority of the world population, the main victims of this process, need to carry out similar movements, but in reverse, against the exterminating classes and for humanity.
The tragedy is already happening, we have no doubt about it. The question now is what to make of the tragedy that the world system of capital has brought upon us. On the one hand: death, overexploitation and brutal oppression. On the other hand, the revolutionary struggle for socialism, for survival and for a dignified life for the majority.