by Tomasz Konicz
Stupidity is the best ally of leftist opportunism, the current crisis proves it once again
Capitalism or death? In an interview published in December 2019, the famous American Marxist David Harvey made it very clear, with depressing frankness, what Marx’s theory can quickly degenerate into, when, after decades, we continue to sovereignly ignore the systemic crisis, and consequently do not shape an adequate concept of crisis. Revolution? A “communist fantasy”, we no longer live in the 19th century. Capital is “too big to fail”, it has become too necessary, and therefore we cannot afford its collapse. On the other hand, things need to be “kept moving,” since otherwise “we would almost all starve to death.” And there is also a need for us to invest our time in “reviving” this capital, Harvey says. Perhaps a gradual reconfiguration of capital could be worked on slowly, but a “revolutionary overthrow” is something that “cannot and must not happen”; and we must also actively work to ensure that it does not. At the same time, in the end the Marxist professor also noted that capital has become “too big, too monstrous” to survive. In short, it would be a “suicidal path.”
Once again, we have at the bedside of suicidal capitalism, our famous leftist doctor who feels compelled to try to find explanations for a crisis, but has no theory of the crisis worthy of the name, and therefore can only mumble something about “social inequality”, “climate mutations”, and to mumble a few words of criticism of growth, seeing all these things only as reified factors of the crisis, which is assuming truly monstrous dimensions, without even getting to suspect the causes that lie in the internal contradictions of the relation of capital, which is crashing against its own internal limits, as well as against the external limits of development.
This distressing picture makes clear, as if it were under a burning lens, the theoretical and practical misery of a stubborn and truly conservative left that not only ignores the theory of the crisis, but also works diligently to denounce and marginalize it as an “ideology of collapse”. And in fact, Harvey repeats the usual pattern of the path of an ideological degeneration that leads, once again, to opportunism and reformism. The current economic crisis, triggered by pandemic measures, is taking on dimensions not seen since the 1930s. In the United States there are already millions of people who are starving, although none of the “revolutions” feared by Harvey have occurred there. The climate crisis, as made clear this year by the heat wave in Siberia, has passed the point of no return. And yet, nonetheless, the left appears to be dominated by an archaic neo-Leninism, which can see nothing but interests at work everywhere, and continues incessantly to ask “who does it benefit? “Or, consequently, it starts from a mere social-democratic redistributive thinking, through which they go in search of a “just” distribution of the burden of the crisis, without even considering what are the causes of the current catastrophe, which for them must only be “administered” by means of the social-democratic administration of the crisis. All the way to the great social democratic talk about “climate justice”.
It seems that on the left the theory of the crisis has been particularly marginalized, and this happened just before the outbreak of a crisis. In this case, appearances are not deceiving. The systemic crisis is not a one-off event, but a historical process of the growing internal contradiction of capital, which develops as explosions, crisis outbreaks; capital, which, due to the rationalization of its own substance, by means of competition, disposes of value-creating labor, getting rid of it, and leaving behind both an economically superfluous humanity and an ecologically devastated world. The increasingly intense outbreaks of crisis, through which the crisis manifests itself, are thus preceded by a long dormant phase, in which the crisis broods and accumulates its potential, resulting from the self-contradiction of capital, mainly in the form of ever-increasing mountains of debt or financial market bubbles, which still allow the system a kind of illusory zombie life.
Considered superficially, capitalism, in these ascendant latent phases in which bubbles form, “continues to function”; and we find no manifest crisis phenomena as long as the stock and real estate debt bubbles continue to grow merrily, and a credit-financed demand is created for the production of goods that then remains stifled by its own productivity: which is why for the ordinary consciousness of the left all this is nothing more than its proven capitalist path. So we can go back to the good old inheritance, and thus stop thinking about it for a while. Especially at a time when entire regions, devastated and abandoned by capital during these explosions of crisis – which occur from the periphery and reach the centers – are crystallized as if it were a “new normal”, and are no longer perceived as the result of a historical process of crisis. So we have … the Greeks who are poor, the “Arabs” living in failed states, etc.
On the basis of all this, the meanness of the left, the unwillingness to abandon that beloved enemy which is capital, can now be summarized by means of a formula adapted to its stupid object, to the coefficient of stupidity of the left, which could also function as an alarm signal capable of indicating in advance the outbreak of a new crisis: the degree of marginalization of the theory of the crisis by the left is proportional to the degree of latent development of the next outbreak of the coming crisis. Just before the crisis arrives, nobody on the scene wants to hear about any crisis. It is not only stupidity. It is not only stupidity that leads to the fact that the vast majority of the left will stumble ignorantly into the next crisis, to the point where the new German right wing, with all its plans for forced subversion inside and outside the state apparatus, now possesses a more pronounced “crisis consciousness”. It’s also about the resentful egos of the protagonists who are on the scene, who can’t admit that they’ve been talking nonsense all these years, denying the fetishist and irrational character of capitalist socialization, and relegating to the realm of myths the essence of capital as an automatic subject, in order to continue pursuing, at a mere surface level, the famous interests, whose narrow and short-sighted rationality makes sense only within the fetishist and irrational movement of capital.
The Leninist “cui prodest” is shamed even by the climate crisis, which threatens not only human civilization, but also the economic foundations of capital. It is precisely the functional elites of capital that seek literal refuge in bunkers, on deserted islands or, in perspective, on Mars (Elon Musk) and the Moon (Jeff Bezos), since they themselves find themselves powerless in the face of the destructive dynamics of capital, in what is its global capacity as an automatic subject; and because the state apparatuses are now no longer able to act as “total idealistic capitalists” and thus ensure a continuity of the system through appropriate legislative measures, since ultimately, with consistent climate legislation, the accumulation movement would collapse. So far, a significant global reduction in CO2 emissions has only been achieved now, at the cost of a global economic crisis (2009), as has recently emerged in the wake of the “Lockdown”. The recent demonstrations of the right wing against the measures taken for the pandemic have been, among other things, a caricature of neo-Leninism that is taken to its logical conclusion, in which the search for what are the “concrete interests”, along with what are the elements in the shadows, which would have caused the current crisis, becomes truly desperate.
The most intimate impulse of the left is to want to go back to the “roots”, to go back again to focus on the struggle for Distribution within capital; which in the end is a reaction to the diarrhea of the new right. One wants to oppose the simple fascist lies, by means of equally simple truths about the omnipotent capitalists; and so, for example, one interprets the crisis of over-accumulation resulting from the systemic crisis as if it were a mere distributive question, which could be solved through expropriation (Leninist) or through taxes (socialist). But the great class struggles to which these currents refer, are only an expression of the growing struggles for distribution, induced by the crisis, in the course of which a new proletarian class does not emerge, but rather an economically superfluous humanity is produced, whose production, in the periphery of the global system, is now almost completed – and which now takes place at a high rate even in the centers. The growing misery of late capitalism merely reflects the conditions of early capitalism.
And all this because this largely absurd and anachronistic movement of confidence in the state has been so successful, despite the fact that the crisis has now reached such a degree of maturity that even those who previously denied it can no longer avoid incorporating fragments of crisis theory into their social-democratic or Leninist ideology, thereby constructing veritable Frankenstein Monsters.
Here it is now really a question of asking who it benefits. Stupidity, narcissism and ideological blindness form an excellent basis for what is the only movement within the left that has a real interest in marginalizing crisis theory: opportunism. Those forces who see the left as a ticket to a career in the red-red-green coalition, and who are actually already practicing to make the case for statehood, need to marginalize or domesticate the whole “crisis discourse” that – as opposed to the distribution debate – is simply incompatible with the political business, where they claim to do anything.
What consequently follows from a theory of crisis? The fact that – for the purpose of survival – the overcoming of capital, as a self-destructive totality, is simply necessary. The automatic subject, like an Amok, left to its own fetishistic dynamic, will complete the destruction of the world that has already begun. This premise, therefore, is non-negotiable. With respect to the attempted emancipatory transformation of the system, there is no alternative. But how to make the sale of all this possible by making use of the social or political media, in negotiations to form a coalition or on talk shows? Through the marginalization of the radical consciousness of the crisis, opportunism can still hope to emulate Mr. Harvey, making an attempt as a doctor, on the deathbed of capital; which ultimately amounts to becoming a subject of the coming crisis administration. In the panic, it is the logic of “every man for himself,” which ends up giving opportunism what is its particular brutality in the last great race for office and candidacy. Since bunkers and private islands are not available, people seek refuge in the eroded and beleaguered apparatuses of the State – which, for some parts of the left, also constitutes the basis of the growing confidence in the State – preferring to serve in the Apparatus rather than to confront outside of it.