From mass media to dissenting magazines, we are told these days that the Covid health crisis and the recession will end with the "collapse of the neoliberal capitalist system". The truth is that we never really knew what they meant by "neoliberalism". Was it a phase of capitalism? A political system? An ideology? All at once?
When we look at the "anti-neoliberal" literature, the term actually seems to be limited to a set of policies of systematic reduction of state social cohesion spending and the ideology that justifies them. For instance:
The neoliberal state guarantees above all the freedom of business and trade, and resists democratic control to correct, for example, human rights or environmental violations. This encourages a trend towards authoritarian regimes, while the border between state and corporate power becomes increasingly porous.
Another significant story:
Since the 1970s, a "neoliberal consensus" has been formed (or imposed) whereby the state is inhibiting its obligations to provide public services in areas as diverse as housing, health, education, transport or public services (drinking water, sewage disposal, energy and even infrastructure), in order to open them up to private accumulation of capital and the primacy of exchange value.
- They seem to believe that if water or sanitation are supplied by the state, they will cease to be commodities and will be outside the cycle of capital accumulation.
- That in principle there is no intimate interconnection, a merger, between the corporate bourgeoisie and the state; that is why their borders would have become porous and direct state intervention to rescue or support companies would be shocking or new at all.
- Based on this belief, they seem to hold the expectation - and therefore the belief in the possibility - of "democratic control" of production under capitalism...
- ...and therefore they believe that "another capitalism is possible."
Nothing could be further from the old liberal bourgeoisie than the present ruling class. Summarizing the result of what we have been able to study:
- There are at least three circuits: the high bureaucracy of the state, the political apparatus and the managers - not founders - of large companies, banks, etc. Each one of them forms a dense network: many advisors "have" several councils or move from one to another, the high bureaucracy is interconnected and even "inherited", etc.
- Together they form a network that is in turn highly interconnected through personal relationships resulting from proximity or studies, NGOs, foundations, think-tanks, state institutions... and in their direction through the composition of governments and high state institutions.
- The high state bureaucracy is the main connector between the productive-financial and the political apparatus. There is a certain fluidity as well, of course - judges and managers end up in government, the military and politicians in boards of directors - but in the end the role of state bureaucrats is essential to sustain the cohesion of the ruling class.
- The three circuits have the capacity to recruit "talent"... but it is limited, class membership is hereditary and this is reflected even in governments, thanks above all to the socializing role of some private schools and universities.
"To understand state capitalism", 6/9/2019
The consequences for understanding what "neoliberalism" is are direct:
First of all, it does not mean a transfer of power to a supposedly "entrepreneurial" bourgeoisie longing for "space" to undertake "individual initiative". There is nothing individual about it. When a public enterprise is privatized, the management of a vehicle of national capital is transferred from one circuit to another, but it does not leave that circuit. When a sector is deregulated or companies from other capitals are invited to "compete," they are not breaking the monopoly, much less the monopoly of the class running production, they are only diversifying risks in an equally monopolistic model but... with two, three or at most four vehicles (this is what happened with phone companies, electric companies, etc.) that will serve the national bourgeoisie to recapitalize national capital as a whole in exchange for some profit returns going to the countries of origin.
"Understanding State Capitalism", 6/9/2019
In other words, "privatizations" are, under normal conditions, a way of strengthening national capital by incorporating foreign capital at a cost. Their aim is to increase average productivity in terms of profit and to obtain a greater percentage of the world's profit distribution via the capital market. Far from denying the concentration and centralization of national capital, they are its direct consequence. It is a natural strategy for those who are being left behind or who want to consolidate advantages in the global distribution of capital.
The "other" state capitalism
What was "neoliberalism"?
If we go back to the 1980s and look at the public spending curves that the first "neoliberal" governments declared they wanted to reduce to make room for "private initiative", it is difficult to find a break in the trends of the time or even between countries with supposedly different models.
"To understand state capitalism", 6/9/2019