[OPE-L:7681] Fwd: Plan of capital

From: Rakesh Bhandari (rakeshb@stanford.edu)
Date: Tue Sep 17 2002 - 23:24:16 EDT

An anonmyous analysis which was forwarded to me. A critique of the 
thesis of the possibility of organized capitalism.

On the Oiseau-tempÈte special issue...

"Plan of capital"

After the attacks on New York and Washington on 11 September, while 
the CIA sought to explain its inability to guard against such things 
and scrambled to find someone in the United States able to speak 
Pashto, leftwing commentators of many stripes speculated on the 
designs of the American state realized in the form of these events. 
Surely this was an aspect of a long-laid plot to seize control of 
Central Asian oil, to safeguard pipeline routes, to carry out some 
general plan for the control of Asia formulated after the fall of the 
Soviet Union. A curious feature of such conspiracy theories, in the 
U.S. at any rate, is that they echo a mode of thought employed by the 
ultra-right, which is obsessed with the plans of the federal 
government to control the country in the interest of the United 
Nations, world Jewry, or the Antichrist. The universal bar code now 
appearing on nearly all commodities is the first step in the 
governmental registry of all citizens (and perhaps also t! he Devil's 
mark, a preparation for the final war of Armageddon); efforts at gun 
control are attempts to disarm a population soon to be at the mercy 
of government agencies.

The proximate roots of such views lie in the expansion of government 
regulatory and economic activity, not only in the United States but 
in all capitalist countries, in response to the Great Depression and 
in preparation for the second world war. After the war, the return of 
global prosperity did not bring the dismantling of state economic 
agencies. Rather, the state served to facilitate the international 
reorganization of the global capitalist economy under American 
hegemony. This seemed especially urgent given the existence of 
non-market systems of exploitation in the USSR and China, and the 
perceived threat of Communist influence in Europe after the war. The 
United States organized the Marshall Plan in Europe, and the 
reconstruction of the Japanese economy and polity, as means to 
counter this threat as well as to develop a world system suitable for 
the needs of American capital. NATO provided a multinational military 
organization protecting the "West". Eventually, the ! European 
nations organized themselves into the EC as a counter to American 
hegemony, an example followed, with varying degrees of success, by 
groups of nations on other continents.

These developments seemed the realization of ideas proposed within 
the Social-Democratic movement since the end of the nineteenth 
century. Rudolf Hilferdingís theory of Finance Capital predicted the 
development of multinational capitalist cartels, which would be aided 
in their regulation of the capitalist economy by a rationalizing 
bureaucratic state. Socialism, Hilferding predicted, would thus be 
prepared by capitalism itself; all that would be required would be 
the taking over of the capitalist planning apparatus by an elected 
socialist government. Lenin adopted this view, stressing the 
international dimension - imperialism - of capitalist economic 
organization, and substituting vanguard party-led revolution for 
electoral politics. The Third International, founded after the 
Bolshevik seizure of power in Russia as an agency for the promotion 
of Soviet national interests, adapted Hilferding's vision to depict 
its leadership as the general headquarters of global revolution! ary 
forces, formulating strategy and tactics in the struggle for control 
of the world. Each change in the war plans of the capitalist enemy 
must be countered by Communist planning, transmitted in the form of 
the ever-changing line to the national parties around the world. It 
was this view that was mimicked, in a curious way, by capitalist 
ideologists after World War II. Not only the picture of the world as 
divided between tendentially unitary blocs - with a contested neutral 
"Third World" between the primary First and Second - but the idea of 
planned economies proved popular among ruling-class thinkers.

There were national variations, of course: the United States 
officially insisted on the virtues of the (nonexistent) free market, 
while France touted the powers of state planning. But it is worth 
noting that a group of thinkers like the French "Regulation School" 
discovered a controlled economy in the behemoth of capitalism as well 
as at home. Similarly, Herbert Marcuse, reworking ideas already 
advanced in the 1930s by other members of the Frankfurt School, 
described a "one-dimensional society" in which Keynesian manipulation 
of the economy had eroded the traditional basis of class struggle. 
And yet events have shown the superior wisdom of the old idea of 
capitalism as an anarchic system, ruled by uncontrollable 
developmental processes the drive every period of prosperity and 
political stability in the direction of economic, political, and 
social crisis.

Despite the once-touted wonders of Japanese management techniques and 
government overseeing of highly cartelized business activity, Japan 
has been in a state of depression for the last decade, with no 
apparent exit in sight. The "Asian crisis" of a few years ago has 
made its way throughout the world, under cover of the recently popped 
American stockmarket bubble, appearing most violently in Africa and 
now in Argentina, but even disturbing the powers that be in the 
United States itself. Economic troubles, as ever, have been 
accompanied by political instability. It may even be appropriate to 
describe the transformation of the USSR into a novel form of gangster 
capitalism as the most spectacular result of the malfunction of the 
world economy. At any rate, the stagnation and devolution of the 
underdeveloped parts of the world - including North Africa and the 
oil-producing states generally - has had the consequences we have 
seen, both for the Soviet Union, driven from Afghanis! tan by the 
union of American money and Islamist warriors, and now for the 
Americans. The latter now find themselves in a world they did not 
expect, even if they - or at least the group of people currently in 
power - still imagine they can master the international situation by 
military means, while simply hoping for the return of prosperity on 
the domestic front.

If the current American governing class - and in this there is little 
significant difference between the two parties - has an economic 
plan, it seems to amount largely to stealing as much of the national 
income as possible for themselves personally but especially for the 
economic interests that pay for their elections. In this they are 
continuing the great work of the Reagan government, of restructuring 
the tax codes and government economic activities so as to accelerate 
the transfer of money from the working class to the wealthy minority 
at the top of the system. They are completely unprepared, except for 
expanded police powers, to deal with the growing masses of 
unemployed, homeless, ill-fed people without access to health care 
the system is producing. They are unable to think beyond the 
immediate economic imperatives of the energy industry and other 
business oriented towards petroleum-based fuels to consider seriously 
the eventual decline in these fuels, not to mention! the effects on 
the environment.-Of course, governments and private think tanks pay 
for thousands of experts of various stripes to project scenarios of 
possible economic, political, and military futures.

Just as groups like Al Qaeda and the Uzbekistan Islamic Movement no 
doubt dreamt of creating a system of Islamic states in Central Asia, 
to be financed by eventual exploitation of oil reserves in 
Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan, western companies, with the 
support of their governments, have had their eyes on the same 
properties. Since September 11, such plans have been on hold, along 
with the project of an Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline. What 
coalitions of states and corporations will eventually realize what 
projects only time will tell. Meanwhile, as in the past, military 
adventures will alter the situation in ways unanticipated by the 
politicians who initiate them, while the continuing erosion of the 
world economy will continue to produce new political and social 
realities. In the state of affairs with which we are confronted, the 
idea of capitalist plotting and planning seems little more than an 
imaginary counterpart to would-be leftist strategists' dreams o! f 
their own dubious significance.

PM, New York

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