Crunch time for capitalism or how the past returns to haunt the present By William Bowles

5 May 2006

Computers are wonderful tools—sometimes. A couple of days ago I almost got through writing this piece and inadvertently tossed the damn thing away, back-ups and all! Not having a photographic memory, I was forced to try and reconstruct my original essay which is frankly an impossibility and in any case, it seemed pointless trying to reconstruct what had been lost.

Trying reconstruct the past is not confined to my lost files. Ever since the Thatcher/Reagan counter-revolution of the 1970s, capitalism has been trying to restore the lost ‘glory’ of 19th century imperialism, when ‘gun-boat diplomacy’ was a sufficient deterrent to keep the ‘natives’ in their place.

Not so today. Today, the ‘enemy’ is, as they say, within and without with millions more hammering on the doors of Babylon demanding their rightful share of what’s been stolen from them over the centuries.

What started out five hundred years ago with the conquistadores, the traders in spices, the slave traders—upon which the wealth that launched the industrial revolution was based—is coming home, with a vengeance.

So even as the developed world battens down the hatches, or tries to, it is, just as it has been for five hundred years, totally dependent on the vast armies of the dispossessed for the wealth it extracts from their resources and their labours.

The globalisation of capital has only amplified the contradictions as it struggles to maintain the rate of profit by exporting production and through the expropriation of resources by brute force, of which Iraq is the most obvious example and a prime example of the attempt to turn back the clock to an earlier epoch.

Until now this has been met with resistance by forces that also seek to turn back the clock, the so-called fundamentalists but who ultimately have little to offer except their own brand of reaction that plays right into the hands of imperialism and in all likelihood is a direct creation of imperialist machinations in the first place eg, Osama bin Laden, ‘Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’ and the ‘international terror network’.

In any case I contend that this is no more than a phase through which we will pass and it can be argued that it has already passed. It is only being kept alive by the propaganda war the West is waging as it seeks to divert attention away from the real struggle being waged by the dispossessed of the planet.

The sleeping giant is waking once more following the defeats that culminated in the end of the Cold War. The lessons have been learned and an entirely new period of struggle is unfolding, for unlike the struggles of the Cold War era, imperialism is stretched to breaking point.

Two forces are combining to challenge the power of capital, the vast army of uprooted peoples, forced through the economic policies of the capitalist world to find work elsewhere than the lands of their birth and the countries where the resources upon which the capitalist world is completely dependent.

Thus I contend that the ‘war on terror’ and the war on ‘illegal’ immigrants are no accident, both are the product of the economic policies set in motion with the so-called neo-liberal agenda, the results of which has been the impoverishment of millions of people around the planet.

And the tactics being used to fight the ‘war on terror’ are not surprisingly the same ones being used to fight the ‘alien hordes’ even to the point of accusations-all unproven-that ‘illegal aliens’ are really terrorists in disguise or almost as bad, people-trafficking gangs.

It’s also true that as with the ‘war on drugs’, criminalising immigrants has resulted in the creation of gangs trafficking in people. You really have to ask yourself whether the people in government have all their marbles until you realise that the policy of criminalising entire classes of people has deep ideological roots that extends back through the centuries with the prejudices of a ruling class that considers pretty much everyone else as inherently (read genetically) inferior.

Add to this the ‘scapegoat effect’, so handy when it comes to shifting the blame from an insane system and those who run it onto the essentially defenceless victims of the system in the first place!

It’s no exaggeration to say that the modern capitalist state has criminalised everything that it has been responsible for creating in the first place, except those products that are intrinsic to the profitability of capitalism, pharmaceuticals, alcohol and of course, consumer products.

One result has been the creation of a vast global business that has the added advantage of killing two birds with one stone, for the laws that have been enacted to try and curb trafficking in one thing or another are also being used to restrict our democratic rights. All very neat and tidy.

Note also, that the privatisation of state operations from prisons to so-called rehabilitation centres for addicts of one kind or another, supplies yet another incentive to criminalise all manner of human behaviour including now, simply being young and found wandering around in public places without buying anything as a reason for being there.

There’s a method to the madness of capitalism, the bottom line being money, lots of money to be made from the criminalisation of people. What we have is truly a gangster capitalism that is holding the populace to ransom by effectively outlawing any and all activities that aren’t prescribed by the state.

It’s a pretty frightening scenario but it seems it’s a scenario that is now being challenged by those who have the least to lose, the dispossessed both within and without. Without in regions such as Latin America, surely just the first expression of what will undoubtedly turn into a global movement of resistance and from within, the armies of cheap labour imported legally or illegally to do the shit work that the locals turn their noses up at.

And it’s more than simply signs or omens of things to come, it’s already here from the suburbs of French cities to the Barrios of Bolivia and even more remarkably, in the belly of the beast itself, the US of A where literally millions of people have taken to the streets to protest against their imminent criminalisation by the gangsters who run US capitalism.

The question is posed to the rest of us: which side are we on? Will we ally ourselves with the dispossessed or side with reaction much as many did in the 1930s and back the Nazis in the hope that we can hang on to our positions of privilege? The parallels are more than symbolic and the dangers just as great.

Are the dispossessed millions the Achilles Heel of capitalism? Sounds somewhat farfetched, after all, they possess little in the way of weapons or armies but they are realising that the resources they have under their feet are a powerful lever just as the unseen armies who clean the offices, serve the food, change the babies nappies and glue all those Nike sneakers together are an army of an altogether different order that can strike at the very heart of empire, where it hurts most-in the corporate pockets.

Some further reading

President Morales Detonates a Bomb, with Repercussions that Reach Far Beyond Bolivia

Morales Does the Unthinkable – He Carries out his Campaign Pledge

MEXICO: Zapatista Leader Reaches Out to Neglected Minorities Diego Cevallos


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