The underlying contradictions of capitalism as seen in today’s press

11 June, 2022

Today is Saturday, in our Telegram channel we have not even finished our daily exhaustive “combing” of the news of the press of the five continents. And yet… the contradictions of the system which brutally portray the historical moment we are living in, emerge in the journalistic notes themselves.

Table of Contents

The basic mechanisms of “progress” are definitively broken

The Economist now discovers that underneath the fuel shortage lies a perverse mechanism. Scarcity increases prices and margins. Refineries have no desire to invest and increase production only for prices to fall again and the rents on the capital invested in them to fall.

They wouldn’t even need to build expansions. Production, where it is not shut down, is below full capacity. Obviously it is a cost to switch units on, but it is not comparable to that of building new units.

This divorce between physical productivity and productivity in terms of profit is a characteristic element of capitalist decadence, a contradiction of the system which reflects its character as a fetter on the development of the productive capacities of human labor.

While the growth of the productivity of capital in terms of profit (the profit obtained by capital for hiring an hour of labor) went hand in hand with the increase in the physical productivity of labor (what an average hour of labor produces in terms of goods and services), the growth of capital also implied human development.

The system’s capacity to satisfy workers’ needs increased (everything was cheaper), the working day was progressively reduced (eight-hour working day, paid vacations, etc.) and the general conditions of exploitation improved (health services for workers, training, etc.).

These were the characteristic mechanisms of progress under rising capitalism: the development of capital drove the growth of humanity’s productive capacities – its “productive forces” – and this in turn tended to produce human development.

The divorce between profit-productivity and physical productivity is not only manifested in cases such as that of refineries and so many other more or less monopolistic industries that use artificial scarcity as their ” normal ” way of improving results (from pharmaceuticals to intellectual property industries).

When traditional industrial companies want to increase physical productivity, what is produced in an average hour of work of the staff, they no longer incorporate or develop innovations by increasing capitalization… on the contrary, they increase work rates, destroying the nerves and bodies of the workers. Another news item today gave us the example of the Stellantis car factory in Figueruelas.

Yet another example of how, in every aspect of production and social life, the growth of capital is increasingly antagonistic to human development.

The “new globalization” destroys even more productive capacities

The war in Ukraine culminates a whole period in which competition between imperialisms has been calling into question the international division of labor established in the 1990s. This intentional and brutal rupture of the productive structure and production chains is driving even powers such as Germany out of the global market.

But it is also dislocating the productive structures of the semicolonial countries which, as the press reminds us today, are establishing restrictions on exports of basic goods in order to minimally ensure the supply of their own markets. Basically: if international wheat prices rise above what can be paid in the country, farmers sell everything for export and no matter how much wheat is produced, there will be shortages and hunger in the country itself.

The result is a new effect on prices: as global supply is further reduced, they rise again. And so the inflationary disaster returns to Europe and to the US, which also fails to escape the disaster accelerated by its own militaristic determination.

The inflationary violence may subside in a moment. But the background, the breakup of global production chains to form commercial and military blocs, will continue. Today, a French media outlet warned that globalization is not going to disappear, but that it will be a globalization of high prices.

In other words: the fractured global market, full of redundancies that the imperialist tug of war is leaving behind, as it could not be otherwise, is more inefficient. It produces less with more. The situation brought about in political and military terms by the competition between the big national capitals has destroyed productive capacities.

If war and its disasters were not enough to make it clear to us, capitalism -the growth of capital- is purely and simply destroying productive capacities, it is undeniably for anyone, a brake on the development of the productive forces of Humanity. And that means a lot in the historical perspective.

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