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The crisis of September expands out to a crisis of the entire organization of this society. We can conceptualize this crisis using two contradictory tendencies within the development of modern capitalism. One the one hand, we can see the explicit tendency of capitalism - the visible movement of capitalism over time has been to change from intensive exploitation to extensive exploitation. In this tendency, we can see this the mechanisms of financial capital, of modernization and of rationalization. In this corner, democracy and freedom of speech are a critical factor since free expression allows investors to know which companies are good investments.
One the other hand, on the edge of this visible growth has been the growth of the thief, covert capital, the fraud, dictatorship and the racket. More exactly, we are viewing this section as all enterprises that require secrecy for their operations. Contrary to the broad ground of overt capital, covert capital seems obscure, backward and arbitrary. This obscure second area has always existed, yet has always depended on the growth of rational commerce for its growth: The mafia cannot shake down merchants for more than what the merchants produce. Unknown factors only matter as much as there also known things that matter- the covert capitalist depends on the overt capitalist's sense of cohesion since the covert capitalist has loyalty to neither the system or even his fellow gang- and so-forth. Covert operations have been concentrated at the center of power and at the very edges of power. This edge and center can be geographical or social. The very rich and the very poor each have an incentive to break the law, one because they are above the law and other because they are too miserable to worry about the law. In Afghanistan, there are few police to enforce any laws. In CIA Headquarters, few have to worry about the law.
If the area of the hidden is the very center and very edges, then the area of the known is the broad middle. In our modern capitalism, drab, day-to-day businesses and commerce are a well-oiled machine. The normal, honest capitalist may wish to keep his bank account secret but he would prefer the operations of his firm be open and verifiable to his outside investors. And this openness results in resources that are used the most efficient manner possible, an outside investor would demand that used office space be rented out, unused factories be close and so-forth. And with this demand for efficiency, the apparently normal operations of the market have expanded to more and more aspects of life, producing democracy, a market place of ideas and a bio-technological marketplace for life. We should notice that this tremendous efficiency produces a relatively low but predictable rate of profit (something that can be seen indirectly in the low interest rates which banks will offer to all comers).
And just as much, covert capitalism tends towards tremendous inefficiency. The Mafia Don or the CIA agent cannot rent-out any of his resources since that might give his enemy some clue about his operations - moreover, the money he makes from rackets or drug dealing seem far more profitable than what could be gotten from more efficiently using the space. Compensating for the inefficiency of the illegal enterprise is extremely high money rate of profit that a successful illegal enterprise has.
Which of these aspects of capitalism has dominated history really depends on how you frame and divide these tendencies (admittedly we are talking about the tendencies, the tendency to control, the tendency to multiply money, the tendency hide to money, and so-forth). Neither tendency could exist without the other. Commerce has expanded through both a state that sends adventurers around the world and from the build-up of normal, regular stock companies whose operations can be inspected by outside businessmen.
Still, each has its unique aspects. We should notice that a gang has always
been needed to prepare the way for ordinary commerce to occupy more terrain
(and naturally this gang never leaves either). Columbus began thescheme
extracting gold from the new world and certainly used the leastcost-efficient
methods, since it was the indians who pay this bloody cost.
Today we can look at those commodities which are naturally world commodities.These are drugs, gold, guns, oil and miscellaneous raw materials. Many commodities circulate today with these "world commodities" havingonly a precentage of the trade. But the world commodities are the oneswhich circulate primarily on the world level. Automobiles or steel mayindeed play a powerful role in world commerce. Yet there is nothing whichprevents a region such as Europe, East Asia or North America from beingessentially self-sufficient in these industrial goods. The situations whereJapan sell automobiles to the US comes in terms of the natural imbalanceof capital flows rather than inherently within the automobile market -later Japan switched it's production to the US. Thus geopolitics and themanagement of the world as a whole been something of a province of thecovert capitalists.
Now, capital has two dillemas. How to sell the things it produces andhow improve the efficiency of it's opperations - how to maintain circulationand how to organize reproduction/accumulation . Problems with accumulationmanifest in problems of circulation so these problems are strongly linked.And each form of capital has only part of a solution to these problems.Covert capital does not have any solution to the question of improvingthe efficiency of an opperation, while overt uses open accountingstandards to tell investors about the companies which need more money andthus ideally overt capital produces a system of continually increasingefficiency. Still, when overt capital sells uses advertising to tell consumersthat they need the products it wishs to sell, it does not a guarenteeda sale. Covert capital forces the consumer to buy - buy guns or be conquered,buy drugs because you are addicted, buy oil because everything needs it,etc..
We can see capitalism using both overt and covert solutions to it'sproblems in the last twenties. In many nations, Argentina being noteworthy,dictatorship has replaced democracy and then been replaced again by democracy.From one perspective, the world is being divided between spooky, mafiaand ligitimate businessman. This isn't raw power but a matter of each aspectbeing used for the purposes of over-all capital.
Thus we can say that covert capital fundamentally lacks the powers offinancial capital. Covert capitalists at least begin placing their winningsunder a rock. Thus covert capital is sink of capital: The rise of covertcapital results in a problem of the circulation - buying coke doesn't createjobs the way that buying a car creates jobs etc.. Just as much, covertcapitalists lack a cohesion with the world capitalist class. The mafiais equally willing to engage in stock fraud as drug dealing and so forth.
The CIA is invariably a drug dealer in all place in which it opperates.And
drugs thus are one of the ideal intensive exploitation products. Drugsmultiply
tremendously the overt budget of the intelligence agencies.
So we can ask, "is this a drug-cartel with intelligence connectionsor an intelligence organization with drug-connections". To answer this,we look at the structure of covert capital. While money-laundering is oneof the world's largest businesses, it still presents serious logical problems.The flow from covert to overt sources is not a one-time but a continuousproblem. Thus, the drug dealing which CIA activity cannot generate self-reproducingclasses of covert capitalists. The drug-dealers which come out of "company"activity still fight each other, fight world capitalism and hide theirmoney under a rock.
We can say that covert and overt tendencies of capitalism have been withus for as long as capitalism has infested the planet. But at the same time,the changing distribution of this pie of world power are symptoms of theultimate crisis of capitalism.
Individual capitalists have always liked to partially cloak their actualwealth - those who are rich enough will generally succeed. Today, the internationalcapital markets float in the same sea of unknown as the money of OssamaBin Laden. The secrecy of this cloud of unknown money is far more importantthan a hypothetical "victory in the war on terrorism". And the decisionsgoing into the secrecy of this cloud express well the current balance ofovert and covert capitalist power.
Since each capitalist is something of his own gang, ultimately covertcapital
is what buys overt capital. Both banks and individual investorswill be in on a
particular venture. But if we trace such an investmentback, we will naturally
find one or more distinct wills.
Thus, according to the particular context, we speak of "poles" of capital.These poles are groups of capitalists united enough by a common ideologyto be able to act together. The vast pools of currency speculation flittingfrom nation is ultimately a single empty center for capital.
On this level of opperation, the crisis of capital is expressed by thereduction of the number of poles.
On the level of the individual firm, the situation seems relativelyclear.
The management of Enron extracted $1 billion from the company beforethe
financial house of cards collapsed. The inability for Enron as
originallyconstituted to make the money which Wall Street expectedcertainly
gaveit's management incentive to begin a sucking the company. Moreover, theneed
to pump-up the entire stockmarket gave considerable incentive forthe creation
of such boondoggles.
The critical dynamic now seems to be that the opperations of the crisispush more and more money into the covert sector. Those companies whichcease having ordinary profits begin pumping out profits by more shadowymeans. This conversion allowed the American economy to claim to have "escapedthe business cycle" during the 1990's. Yet the crisis then appearssuddenly, as a bolt from the blue, as a stockmarket collapse, as a nationwho's topsoil is washed away, as suicide pilot's destroying the world'slargest office building or as the world's 7th largest company suddenlygoing broke - and so-forth.
An important princeple of markets is that bad money chases out good.The capitalist can't make normal profits in a system filled with crooks.The internet bubble in many ways prevented the internet from being anythingmore than a boondoggle, with only one-person firms and the largest firmscapable of making real money. In Argentina today, capital has reached utterloggerheads. Argentina has largest external debt in the world, $140+ billiondollars, twice the original value of Enron corporation. The situation showsan economy that one manifestly cannot extract this amount of money from.Yet any effort to reduce or extend the debt payments risks reducing thediscipline of the world debt market. Other nations may then imagine takinga similar road to Argentina. The conditions of Argentine non-accumulationcannot be solved solely in terms of concessions from the Argentine workingclass. Only a slow realization and write-off by world capital could gainenough capital to allow a further cycle of accumulation.
This situation comes tremendously close to the classical collapse ofcapitalism predicted by Marx and Engels. And just as much, things mostgo from a unsustainable situation to a situation where the proletariatseizes power for itself, and they have a long way to go to acheive thatsituation.
In many ways, the world hasn't recovered from the crisis of 1998. The Dot-com bubble partially spent the world's economies out of this problem but the problem of capital's unwillingness to invest in development remained. Economic expansion continued through-out the world yet from Korea to Argentina, capitalists were unwilling to re-invest and machinery suffered decay.
Drug capitalism is the largest sector of covert capital. Drug serve as both
a tax on the poor and a reflection of a condition of total desperation within
the population as a whole.
When George Bush and Al Gore exactly bisected the US electorate, they perhaps should have realized that democracy had reached a serious crisis. This isn’t because the exercise in computerized prediction discredited democracy in the eyes of the ruled but because this predictability had ended elections’ ability to act as a damper to market forces as a whole.
This pure manipulation is just as much an expression of ultimate crisis of capital. On one level, the use of cynical propaganda and electioneering expresses a progress of the means of falsification; mostly in terms of a society that has lost it's moorings visa-vis spectacular manipulation. Simultaneously it expresses the need to unify with the state, the need for a single pole of capital to predominate.
The crux that I would say united September 11th with the more immediately obvious crises of the economy is the way that ideology has become more and more a means of production, how ideology has become purely instrumentalist.
And this is not to say that ideology is not a means of deception. Indeed it is but this means of deception and manipulation is inextricably woven into the production process. Ideology and propaganda sell a tremendous number of goods as well as increasing a less than rational loyalty of workers to bosses. But there is a key balance in the way this means is applied. The lie must be both used and believed at a very fine balance. Ideology is a substance which is used simultaneously to unify capital and to provide extra boosts to the exchange system.
When ideological control serves only as a manipulation towards the masses, it expresses a lack of ideology’s ability to control the rulers themselves. And this lack of control is a lack of coherence within the whole system. A universally believed ideology is what keeps a given entrepreneur from hiring thugs to assassinate his rivals. The destruction of the WTC tower is strong evidence such an ideology is faltering. With both CIA agents and Enron management, the methods of capitalism certainly became only schemes which would be used against the rubes. The problem isn’t that these folks failed personally as members of the ruling class but that they did things that ultimately put the entire system in danger.
In our department model, those acting without an ideological commitment to capital as a whole have passed into “covert capitalism”. The Ponzi scheme is the most obvious way in which a capitalist well wind-up treating the “fellow” capitalists in a purely instrumentalist fashion. But naturally the schemes of the CIA, which involve “doing anything to protect national security”, are also in this general realm.
Now, our “departments” are relatively rough short-hand for a complex process. The point is exactly what form the covert or nihilistic enterprises take. The CIA was cynical and self-serving fifty years ago. But the exact form of its cynicism where the entire question turns.
So here we can say that there is an ideological economy with runs in parallel to the more usual qualities of the economy. And our conclusion is that this ideological economy shares the crisis of the mundane economy. In moments of this crisis, the guiding ideology of world capital becomes less and less oriented towards maintaining capitalism in anything longer than the very immediate term. The CIA's willingness to deal with Al-Qaida up to September 11th shows this as much as the IMF's nihilistic policy towards Argentina. This incoherence is part and parcel of the entire crisis.
The rise of covert capital appears also as capital running out of ideologies.
Anthrax experts certainly understand that the more interviews they give, the more devastating both the hoaxes become and the more likely real attacks become. This lack of concern with actual security isn't ultimately surprising.
The ideology of security is the stock of the covert enterprise. The claim
that more secrecy equals more security is it's intellectual Ponzi scheme. For
example, the "security" provided by concealing the movement of
nuclear material through populated areas means that few voices get to contest
such ridiculous actions and this ultimately means that very insecure situations
result. But such further disasters are likely to answered witha call to greater
Like the high-tech ponzi ideology, the security ponzi ideology has already had many ups and downs, yet unlike the dot-coms, not enough sections of capital have suffered enough to bring the sellers of security under any scrutiny. And the security sector has the option to ultimately arrest those who doubt it.
Following this pattern, the FBI man who failed to find the real Lockerbie bombers naturally was promoted to head of FBI anti-terror operations against Al-Qaida. The unity of Al-Qaida and CIA methods is just as telling as the reputed Bin Laden-CIA contacts month before September 11th. Islamic Fundamentalism has followed the CIA in the same way as drug dealing has followed company activity. This is entirely natural given the characteristics of this ideology (link). Some might be surprised how easily this apparent antagonist collapsed in the Afghan conflict but it follows a natural system. The structure of gang capitalism makes the destruction of the lesser racket inevitable at any one point (we were in fact among those surprised at an earlier point).
A Vietnamese-American worker compared the Enron's demise to the fall of Saigon in 1975. "I watched the fear in the eyes of the South Vietnamese soldiers as they retreated and disposed of their weapons. I watched families and friends hugging each other for comfort as they waited in fear for the uncertainties that were about to fall on them. Last Monday those memories came flooding back. I saw chaos and confusion. I saw co-workers and friends hugging one another for comfort."(corp-watch article on Enron).
Today, West media has made no serious secret that Ossama Bin Laden was trained, armed and directed by the CIA and Western interests. If no one has reacted to this, it because no can imagine an alternative to the idiotic narrative of events put forward by this same media. Just as much, we can see
The purpose of a short summary of the situation is to provide tools for considering the direction of the present system. In an earlier period, state capitalism and private capitalism openly pushed forward their respective agendas for development. While the private capitalist West certainly absorbed the Soviet Union, private capitalism isn't holding out any hope for the world improvement. With this situation, it is reasonable that Guy Debord dubbed the resulting period the "integrated spectacle". But ultimately, we can see that the present world is not integrated in any absolute way, indeed all the contradictions of previous times exist and are asserting themselves in newer ways. The system trumpets its advantages today as "the end of history", as a single, unchanging democratic bloc. But here it could also be argued that capitalism's contraction to a single bloc is a sign of weakness.
In anycase, today there are no more explicit opposition but rather opposing tendencies within the same bloc. We use the terms "covert" and "overt” for those tendencies which earlier lead to the division of the world into intensive state capitalism and extensive private capitalism. This dualityis specific to the present period where capitalists universally repudiatestate capitalist ideology yet the tendency to state capitalism remainsquite strong. The mass of capital which stands on it's own, whether a militarymachine or stacks of dollars in a mattress, favors intensive extroitationand covert opperation. It is not surprising that the "Russian Mafia" hasreplaced the bureaucracy as one contestant for capitalist power.
One of the Russian Mafia's specialties today is the stock fraud. This involves creating a company by selling shares, falsifying the amount of money that company makes to increase the value of the stock, and ultimately escaping with the money hapless investors shell-out. This scheme is no different than the Enron scheme.
Those who claim that September 11th "changed everything" generally have shown almost no change in their own fundamental. Those who claim that September11th was "saddly predictable" paint with an equally idiotic broad brush. Certainly, we who trace the directions of the
Certainly, these categories are an effort to puzzle-out the many riddles that September 11th created. And on that, it's important for us to say that we were surprised by the exact events of September 11th. While we have certainly aimed for an understanding of the over-all system which gave birth to the events of September 11th and it's aftermath, there is no doubt that recent events have revealed many previously hidden manifestationsof the systems dry-rot. We aren't afraid to say that it's been challengegiving a new formulation to these events. This text is not a bolt fromthe blue but umteenth itteration of an effort to understand the event -we're changing our approach and we might change it again.
One important aspect is that today 100-200 economic entities control more than a third of world-trade, and the most important third. Now, these vast entities have a powerful ability to engage in “intra-company trading”. This economic activity is very much analogous to the activity of the Soviet Union in that they balance their economic activity without the usual need for profits on each transaction. And in this process, they have wide latitude to produce entirely fraudulent effects. Enron corporation had extremely strong “intra-company trade” as well as the ability to
The struggle of the Palestinians today is perhaps first among those struggles which generate a crisis for capital. The willingness to fight at thosepoints where things seem utterly hopeless places one at the vanguard ofclass struggle.
Beyond this, the contrast of the events in Argentina and those in
Afghanistanshow the absolute contrast between class struggle and bourgeois war.
TheSeptember 11th events and the Afghan war followed the pattern of
bourgeoiswar, a struggle that can be fought once the consciousness of the
proletariathas been destroyed, once solidarity has been destroyed.
We have full solidarity with those Afghans who rebelled against theTaliban during the "War Against Terrorism" - remember that in many citiesthe Taliban had been expelled by uprising and demoralization before mercenaryNorthern Alliance arived to occupy the area.
In Argentina, an uprising of the vast majority prevented the "stateof seige" declared for the enforcement of austerity.
Revolutionaries can hardly confront a wounded person with the sufferingof others. We do not need an appeal to moralism Through-out the world,the proletariat has an objective common interest. We can trace a line ofcausation between the death of the office-dwellers of the WTC and the actionsof the American CIA. This is just an instance of a general princeple thatthe enemy lies within. The brutality of the Taliban is more obvious tothe average Afghan than the schemes of the CIA are obvious to the averageAmerican.
We can imagine the bursting of various financial bubbles. We can also
imagine a financial system that is propped up with various devices similar to
Japan’s system, with a similar resulting depression.
The productivity of overt capital and the scams of covert
can both be understoodwithin the mechanisms of the "money
multiplier". This multiplier opperatesthrough a cycle of a capitalisting
deposit money and banks lending outthat same money in turn. The bank is expect
to verrify that those theyloan the money to either buy "colateral",
items of verified value or simplydeposit the money in turn. But with the bought
colateral or the deposits,the loaned money tends to find it's way back to the
bank and thus the banksare able to loan it again, starting the cycle over
again. Based on theamount of capital which banks or individual capitalist hold,
this resultsin a geometric series expanding the size of total desposits by some
ratio(in modern America the percentage expansion about 10). Thus there can
beten times as much "financial capital" as there is total "real
The money multiplier means that items which qualify as collateral for banks loans now have N times as much money chasing them as they would have previously and thus their value can expand by that ratio of N. The question certainly becomes whether this increase in value is ultimately justified.
Such a cycle results in an expansion of the value of items
bought by anyone barrowing money. For example, houses are now chased by ten
times as much money as before (which means that without banks, the price of a
house would about the price of what is presently a "down-payment").