February 8, 2010

Parasites and Imperialism


The 19th century evolution of private casino gambling to state imperialism occurred as follows. It started when the capitalists had accumulated enough surplus capital that there was no longer any productive outlet for it within the domestic economy. They responded by exporting investment, in the form of speculation on always dubious foreign projects. They gathered momentum by inciting small investors among the masses to join the gaming. It became the familiar environment of scams and swindles. When such a bubble inevitably collapsed it wiped out the middle class and left the casino class alone with its surplus capital, right back where it started, and this time with no clear way to get the boom going again.
Concentrated wealth is by its nature parasitic, and where this destructive uselessness is clear to the people, its position becomes politically untenable. It was out of this parlous position that the bourgeoisie, who had so long held aloof from politics, hit on the idea of corporatism. The already existing and accelerating physical colonization overseas, which had to date been exploited in a mercantile fashion, could be leveraged for the purposes of imperial capitalism. The casino impresarios could make the globe their gaming hall, with the state serving as the hired muscle to guarantee these investments. Now the bubble could inflate more securely.
When the surplus wealth extractors were just private overseas gamblers, they were mere apolitical parasites. But when they demanded the institution of the privatized profits/socialized costs imperial model, they “re-entered the life of the nation”, as Arendt puts it in Origins of Totalitarianism. They became “political”, meaning anti-political.
The bourgeoisie had to re-politicize itself to hijack the state for this purpose. It had long demanded nothing of state and politics other than that these respect (indeed revere) the rights and prerogatives of the private sector, dedicate themselves to protecting private property, and stay out of its private affairs. Here we see what to this day is still the “conservative” ideology.
But now they no longer really wanted to be left alone. Now they wanted to aggressively hijack state and politics, on behalf of an aggressive deployment of private capital. We should see this as we would a criminal plotting murder, demanding everyone leave him alone during the period of his weakness, while he’s surreptitiously laying his plans, but who attacks, seizing all the powers he previously claimed to despise, the moment he feels strong enough to do so.
So the corporate bourgeoisie re-entered politics in order to consolidate corporate and state power and radicalize the depredations of capital. They were and are anti-political and counterrevolutionary, opposed to the essence of the civic polity we back home to us.
Here again we see the behavior of American corporatists (and the property rights movement in general) – their rhetoric is always defensive, while their intentions are always aggressive, and their actions become aggressive the second they feel strong enough.
(The economic libertarian says “your right to swing your fist stops at my face”, but what he really means is, “once I have property and power, I have the right to swing my fist anywhere I want, and if your face is in my way, tough.”)
So the corporatist casino, as well as its more overt military and repression operations, starts out overseas. But it’s eventually brought home as well. No big capitalist is ever a patriot; on the contrary, since he is by definition a sociopath, so as a globalist he is by definition a traitor. He will view the people of his own country as just another resource mass to be exploited in the same manner he does in the colonized countries.
Imperialism is, as Lenin called it, “the highest” stage of capitalism. In my last post I discussed how prior accumulation must be repeated by the system. New pre-capitalized populations have to be assimilated as capital. Foreign imperialism seizes native populations in order to coordinate them according to imperial corporatist imperatives. In the same way, once the imperialist model is established overseas, from its point of view the population of the home country, still organized according to the earlier model, is now “pre-capitalist”, and must be coordinated according to the same imperial model.
Although big corporations would no doubt prefer to rule home populations through direct exploitation and oppression the way they do their overseas slaves, this was not at first politically possible, so they had to start with indirect means of coordination. There are many ways to do this. For awhile, during the times of cheap, plentiful oil, consumer co-optation was the preferred method. But as the globalized economy entered simultaneously the energy crisis and the productivity bottleneck, while America saw its real wages peak in 1973, and it became more and more impossible for consumerism to sustain itself, the only way out was financialization and consumerism fueled by exponential debt.
So the new domestic colonization was the despotism of debt, and the tremendous new demands and risk exposures of an economy based on a treadmill of indebtedness. This was used to enforce grimly deteriorating working conditions – wages go down, hours up, security erodes, all at exactly the time technology was supposed to be almost completely freeing us all of the bonds of work, according to the lies of capitalism and its prostitute government and media.
Once the workers have been economically liquidated, they can no longer play in the casino if it’s not corporatized by the state. So now they too have been enlisted to advocate the banksters’ interests. The average person instinctively opposed the Bailout as a scam, but probably agrees with the premise that “lending has to get going again”; that we can’t have an economy at all without massive indebtedness. (I imagine most who oppose the Bailout would have a hard time explaining what they think should have and should be done, if they still want all these banks making all these loans all over the world.)
Arendt comments:

Expansion then was an escape not only for superfluous capital. More important, it protected its owners against the menacing prospect of remaining entirely superfluous and parasitical. It saved the bourgeoisie fro the consequences of maldistribution and revitalized its concept of ownership at a time when wealth could no longer be used as a factor in production within the national framework and had come into conflict with the production ideal of the community as a whole.

And where can we go from here? We have globalized casino, which has collapsed once and for all. There’s no longer any question of its being sustainably based on real economic activity. It’s now a zombie powered by government-to-bankster looting. Nor will the co-opted people any longer be able to participate. No new jolt of electricity can reambulate the zombie debt consumer.
We do have the Global War on Terror, which is a fictive attempt to revive physical expansion. But there’s no new pre-capitalist class to be coordinated on any level. No debt can be manufactured for them. The real productivity of the globe has been completely engulfed and liquidated. Those who can still eat are lucky.
So the real path is to a new (but really not so new, rather a distant mirror of the Dark Ages) hell of serfdom.
In the meantime we’ll continue for a few years in this odd twilight world of the zombie. Have you ever seen a partial solar eclipse? When I was out during one, I saw it bathe the landscape in a spooky, spectral blandness. It was kind of like the whole world turning blue from hypothermia. Rather ghastly in a subtle way.
That’s how this twilight looks to me. We’ll have the system stagger along trying to inflate new bubbles and ignore the imminence of new crashes, like the one looming in Greece. The holders of superfluous wealth will still try to pretend they serve a purpose and are not just worthless parasites and thieves. Everything we read in the business press has this relentless subtext, that concentrated wealth serves a purpose and deserves to exist. Here’s one ridiculous example.
Arendt describes their predicament of two centuries now:

Only the fortunate coincidence of a new class of property holders and the industrial revolution had made the bourgeoisie producers and stimulators of production. As long as it fulfilled this basic function in modern society, which is essentially a community of producers, its wealth had an important function for the nation as a whole. The owners of superfluous capital were the first section of the class to want profits without fulfilling some real social function – even if it was the function of an exploiting producer – and whom, consequently, no police could ever have saved from the wrath of the people.

The bourgeoisie’s rise was coincident with the rise of fossil fuels. They constructed their system on this platform. And now they’ll fall with its collapse. It’s only now, with Peak Oil, that the Marxian dynamic of the capitalists liquidating one another really begins.
The stolen wealth no longer serves any purpose but for the thugs to pay themselves to steal yet more.
Will the people arrest this crime? Or shall we muddle on through to the bitter end, the feudal Hell?


  1. Indeed, we have, as capitalism collapses, a recrudescence of feudalism. That is what these folks are after. The forces that would impel man back to a meaner state of being have always lain just below the surface haven’t they. If that were not the case then one of the heroes of The American Revolution would not have observed that the price
    of liberty is (eternal) vigilance.

    And not to bang on about the Tea Party, but a fascinating phenomenon has reared its ugly head. (and I don’t just mean TWOB) Apparently some Tea Party Convention attendees expressed dissatisfaction with the prohibitive levy to attend the event. However, those very same people had no such beef with Sarah Palin being paid 100,000 dollars to speak.

    So, what we have is a self styled (nominally) populist movement where an elite is not only not condemned, but is, in fact, approved of. In short, The mindset of the people in “the people’s party” is that of serfs.

    Comment by Edwardo — February 8, 2010 @ 11:26 am

  2. That is just stupid. Even the ones who object to the organization’s cash grab have no problem with Palin’s own cash grab.

    I guess that the stupid American celebrity worship for you. Palin’s rich – if she really cared about these people she’d speak to them for free.

    But they’re too stupid to understand that.

    I just read Kunstler’s column, mostly about the “corn-pone nazis” in Nashville. Same crap.


    I keep hearing that there are lots of tea partiers who really do want to get rid of the Washington/Wall St system. So where the hell are they?

    They’re like Bigfoot – lots of claimed sightings, little in the way of documentation.

    Comment by Russ — February 8, 2010 @ 3:48 pm

  3. They’re like Bigfoot – lots of claimed sightings, little in the way of documentation.


    Seriously, though, given the nature of the MSM, you have to believe that The Revolution-which I am not, for one second, claiming is occurring in the form of the Tea Party- will not be televised. In other words, if some coterie of the Tea Baggers actually have their heads out of their asses, no one in the MSM is going to let us know. Far from it.

    Comment by Edwardo — February 8, 2010 @ 10:07 pm

    • Yes, I agree. Though I haven’t seen them in the blogosphere either. (I’ll admit I haven’t systematically looked. But like we discussed, I’ve encountered quite a few people, and they all looked like astroturf agents or victims.)

      Comment by Russ — February 9, 2010 @ 7:19 am

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