- Capitalist crisis, pandemic and the program of the revolution
- The alienated telework
Capitalist crisis, pandemic and the program of the revolution
“Marx himself pointed out that the abstract scheme of capital development was not enough to provide any predictions about the actual world. All crises in capitalism must be explained out of the given empirical conditions, “out of the real movement of capitalist production, competition and credit.” The value analysis of capital development postulates “the possibility of crises by a mere consideration of the general nature of capital, without regard to the additional and real relations that form the conditions of the real production process.””
(Paul Mattick, “Marx and Keynes”, 1969)
“The current movement in society generally (we are talking about the whole world) tends to a decomposition of the traditional forms of bourgeois domination.
The social peace sponsored by credit and consumption in recent decades has been broken since a long time; the proletariat in different parts of the world has been acting with both strength and weakness, demonstrating against its conditions of exploitation, misery and exclusion.
[…] The social decomposition of capitalism will necessarily lead to a confrontation between the proletariat and the State.
[…] This capitalist restructuring (which leads to a mobilization of all the strata of society) is always done at the expense of the proletariat and the latter, however weak it may subjectively be in its current phase, will not give up without fighting in defense of its lives.
(Newspaper “Anarquía y Comunismo” Nº3, “The old and forgotten class struggle”, 2015)
It seems that the capitalist crisis finally begins to break out. The tragedy for us is that it’s blowing up in our faces. While the crisis was a kind of commonplace for the experts in the capitalist economy that only confirmed the existence of its own limits and its state of decomposition, today it is presented to us as something surpassing any lesson that could be drawn from their manuals, making everyone question their own historical era. Will it be a temporary crisis or will it be the beginning of the end? Will humanity be able to overcome the economic figures and impose its needs, or will it again offer itself as cannon fodder for the restructuring of the market?
As we can see, and as usual, there are many questions and few answers.
For starting, the crisis of value itself was just around the corner for several years and, as we said, it had become a constant threat; one could even say that it never went away since it erupted in 2008 under the famous Lehman Brothers crisis. From then on, economists have not stopped lamenting and coming to terms with the slow economic growth. And although there is talk of its important historical depth for quite some time, its way of presenting itself in daily reality was nothing else but the same one with which the entire military apparatus of the States was deployed until today, in an underhanded and hidden way only perceptible to the most critical or paranoid people, as a normality imposed by force of pure habit. In the same way as the permanent world war, the terrorist deployment of economic imperialism was imposed as a norm in the war on terrorism in its Al-Qaeda and Daesh versions. And so the war in Syria, the thousands of refugees who escaped to the old continent, the Brexit and the disruptions of the trade war that at the same time provoked the rise of the Chinese economy. The productive development of the latter in terms of technology and its army of wage-earning proletarians ended up disrupting the “turbulent” world panorama, its trade map and the old alliances of the bourgeoisie, whilst accelerating the economic volatility due to the invasion of its trinkets.
It all turned out to be possible and close, because, as the old Marxist theory says, only living labor creates value; only in this regard can credit and financial capital be deployed, and since capitalist competition expels an ever-growing mass of proletarians from its bosom, replacing them with machines, it was only a matter of time before this social system proved to be unsustainable and incapable of maintaining the profits of the ruling class. The honey of capitalism began to look more like a stale and tasteless artificial substance.
In the midst of this panorama (and although we didn’t see it coming, given the daily normalization of the catastrophe), the revolt in Iran, France and China gained momentum, passed through Ecuador and reached Chile last October, splashing everywhere the misery accumulated under the credit bubble. In our case, it was expressed as a fertile and joyful spring which lasted until the summer; full of hope and brotherhood, to such an extent that it was frightening to imagine how these beautiful acts of pride and disrespect of the proletariat were going to take place in a grim future; hence we understood that there was indeed no turning back. The months that followed and the turning point in March did not cease to affirm our understanding, especially with the chaotic demonstrations from the Party of Order and its inability to frame the process.
Or so we thought. After the second week of March when the proletariat made a massive show of force, the State played its trump card by declaring a state of catastrophe and then a curfew. Although the possible arrival of the pandemic to the country was already known since the end of 2019, the Piñera government, supported by its entire coalition and opposition, criminally and opportunistically chose to get involved in the matter only in March as a response to the social situation, legitimizing the deployment of police and army throughout the territory under the excuse of its health dictatorship.
The phenomenon of the coronavirus can be understood from many perspectives: as a biological weapon to eliminate proletarians and thus respond to capital’s always limited needs of labor force; as a way to confront the world-wide problem of pensions or as a direct form of counter-revolution and justification of State terrorism. We can also simply understand it as a “natural accident” (which is used to the fullest extent possible by world Capital) resulting from the disastrous and unhealthy market competition (with its human, animal and biological trafficking in general), and probably all these elements contribute to the catastrophe. Even so, all of them collide directly with a single limit: their profound and negative consequences on the capitalist economy; and one thing is clear, the coronavirus is not a response to the crisis, but its consequence. The isolation and social distancing as a global phenomenon is something that neither teleworking nor an increase in exploitation within the sectors that are still productive can compensate for: the decline in traffic, the bankruptcy of large sectors of small and medium-sized businesses, rocketing unemployment, among others, are not things that no State can plan, and even less evaluate when most of them opt for credits which amount to billions and that can hardly be paid back in tune.
The coronavirus has brought the capitalist crisis to a level that economic science alone is unable to solve, and in that sense Marx’s theory of economic limits was not only not wrong, but also – and unfortunately – it could not see the Dantesque magnitude of its catastrophe .
But the capitalists of the world, even if this is an unknown context, know about counter-tendencies and the inevitable issue of the economic cycle into the crisis, and in this regard they know – at least in theory – what measures to apply to weigh up the economic collapse and, on the other hand, they also know about the gravity of the situation. From the critique of political economy, three main counter-tendencies have always been identified and, although as the initial quote says, they are not enough to predict anything, it is worth taking them into account:
- A reduction of working time socially necessary for the reproduction of the working class, or which is the same, the wage.
- A destruction of productive forces: elimination of proletarians.
- Compensation of the fall in individual surplus value with the increase in volumes of value, which means a market expansion.
These three counter-tendencies were clearly brought to light in the world wars with their enormous genocide and the lucrative effect on the arms industry and reconstruction; on paper it would not be unreasonable to think about a similar possibility for today’s reality. But times are “changing”, and if the effects of the crisis could not be foreseen in their magnitude by theoretical calculation, they may also be insufficient for the next attempt of the capitalists to save their skins: we could almost be sure that world capital will play its cards shamelessly in order to restructure its economic order, and in this process it will obviously increase exploitation, eliminate proletarians and look for sources of fresh capital to exploit; what is difficult to imagine is: to which extent. It is possible to read signs of this in the Colombia-Venezuela conflict, while putting a price on the heads of the Bolivarian State and the response of Iran doing the same on Trump’s head, or in the clear intention of the capitalists to exploit the Amazonia (remember the IIRSA project and the tendency represented by Bolsonaro in Brazil) 
Even so, it is difficult for us to think of an imperialist way out following the pattern of both world wars and, given the characteristics of the way capitalist despotism has been imposed in the last two decades , we cannot but think of a similar way of imposing world war, as an extreme and military form of everyday social control that contains the proletarian response to deepening exploitation and misery, and as a way of allowing access to the shameful pillaging of the virgin areas of the planet. It is difficult for us to think of another option, but it does not take away its always latent possibility.
Anyway, all this is just one more reason to continue the struggle. The proletariat is doomed to struggle and confront the State and has no choice in the matter. It will do it in a dignified, prepared and conscious way, or it will do it out of hunger. What we can choose is not lowering our head and seeking victory if we want to (we saw this with our own eyes in our revolt and emerging revolution). World capitalism can play its cards, but no one can guarantee that it will do so, because its state is serious and the proletariat in the imperialist countries themselves and all over the world will not make things easier; the proletariat can make world revolution if the possibilities allow for it .
But for all this we have to understand the urgency of these tasks, we have to understand that the destruction of capitalism is not a utopia or a slogan but a necessity. We have to break with the politics of crumbs and social demands to prepare the ground for a real and direct struggle. We have to understand that this is an international and class phenomenon and that this commitment means also to stand against its own States and against anyone, no matter how leftist he looks like. This is what we call the proletarian program and it is the only guarantee of not falling into the enemy’s traps, which will always be presented in the nationalist defense or in the defense of some red-painted bourgeois block (for example, the case of Venezuela with its Russian and Chinese alliances).
Capitalism is in crisis and it will want to overcome it by all means at our expense. It will be up to us to hand over a world worse than the one we live in or to be part of the first fatal blows delivered to this system of death.
Let’s build territorial power, let’s deploy solidarity and community networks; communism is a reality present within the capitalist catastrophe and we can leave behind us all the old shit accumulated over years and centuries only if it becomes stronger. Now more than ever it is necessary to extend the international community of struggle against genocidal capitalism.
Let’s build the proletarian alternative!
Living without capitalism is possible!
We Move Towards Life
- Even so, we can read within the Marxian analysis an attempt to understand the economy from this more complex and total vision. In this regard, the vision we read in the article Virus and Materialistic Conception by Rolando Astarita, or other comrades’ contributions, is interesting. Although this attempt to organically understand existed even before, the COVID-19 has brought this analysis and the classic economy of the crisis to a level that was not very well known until now.
- When we finished writing this text, we were just getting reports of the Venezuelan State’s mobilization of troops to the Colombian border, while a supposed “destitution” of Bolsonaro by the military authorities is announced, all news under development.
- Increasingly extreme social control, police and military deployment (remember the US Army’s old alliances and military exercises in Colombia and in Chile, with its military base in Concón and the criminal training of the “Jungle Commando” in Colombia) and job insecurity under the guise of independence and “small business”.
- Obviously, when we talk about revolution we do not mean it in the sense of ideological purism. When we refer to the concept of revolution we mean the practical question of the radical overthrowing of the dominant structure. The proletariat lived through several revolutions without however having eliminated capitalism, but it questioned its entire order and represented a total reorganization of the social structures. When we talk about the current revolution we talk on the same terms and as this has been demonstrated over time, there is indeed no turning back and nothing will be as before, what we do not know is its outcome.
English translation: Los Amigos de la Guerra de Clases
The alienated telework
“By its very nature, [wage] labour is an unfree, inhuman and unsocial activity, conditioned by private property and creating private property. The abolition of private property will not become a reality until it is conceived as the abolition of labour”.
Karl Marx, On Friedrich List’s book ‘The National System of Political Economy’, 1845
“Under the conditions of private property [work] is alienation from life, for I work to live, to make a living. My work is not life.”
Karl Marx, Notebooks of Paris, 1844.
In recent decades, as a result of the development of automation and microelectronics, teleworking has been increasingly announced as the form of work par excellence of a future that seemed distant, but which today appears in the form of an increasingly catastrophic present. Indeed, the global coronavirus pandemic – a particular symptom of the global ecological debacle currently underway – has put millions of human beings into telework. This process of artificialization, unprecedented in the history of alienated work, should not be taken as an exceptional measure that will soon be abandoned once “normality” has returned. In the first place, because this normality will never return – the neologism “new normality” is already emerging in all the states of the Western world as the reference par excellence to the militarization of society and distant work – and, secondly, because the generalization of telework was a process that was progressively developing since at least a decade ago, and which has received a boost today due to the context of global crisis. There is nothing abnormal about teleworking, but it is part of a historical trend that is immanent in capitalist production: the replacement of living labour with machinery, a historical trend of capital that makes human labour a less and less decisive element in material production alongside the development of science and technology that domesticate natural forces.
In teleworking we see a sharpening of all the characteristics of market production : 1) the degradation of the entire objective and historical human world to abstraction, the reduction of all the products of human activity, and human activity itself, to value. 2) The physical, the material and the sensitive, as the wrapping of the suprasensitive and, consequently, the inversion of the reality: the human species as a slave of its own creations. 3) The private work, detached from the community and carried out, therefore, without having the satisfaction of human needs as an objective but the production of value, appears and presents itself as directly social work. In short: the merchandise as universal organizer of society under the consummate form of money and capital, that is, of the value that valorizes itself. In our time, the material community of capital has been empirically realized on a planetary scale, and already preparing to cross the border that separates the planet earth from the nearest planets, satellites and asteroids in the coming decades. The principle of the fetishism of the merchandise, that turns human beings into simple things, and that ends up humanizing the merchandise, finds its full realization in a society in which an increasing number of activities can be carried out “at a distance”.
If all the technical forces of the capitalist economy are to be understood as operating in separations, in the case of telework it is the very administration of the separate as separate. The integration of teleworkers and employees into the system must bring back individuals as isolated individuals as a whole. In telework, the inhuman principle that governs this society – the subjection of real social life to the despotic logic of value – reaches a new degree of degradation of human life with the strengthening of the atomisation and separation of individuals inherent in the capitalist division of labour. Some see in work only the precarization of life, the truth is that it is the increasingly consummate triumph of the proletarianization of the world, which commodity production potentially carried in its entrails and which has empirically constituted itself into a planetary material community since the middle of the last century. In fact, teleworking – like “face to face” wage labour – is the modern realization of the uninterrupted task that safeguards class power: the maintenance of the atomization of the workers that the capitalist conditions of production regroup around the valorization nuclei of the big cities. The October revolt in the Chilean region, which was inserted in a global context of proletarian revolts in different continents, showed that the social isolation in the midst of the big crowds typical of life in the megacities of capital dangerously contains the germ of rebellion, especially as the continuous scientific-technological revolutions of capital considerably increase the masses of surplus humanity -of superfluous and unemployable proletarians- that are grouped in the peripheries of all the big cities on the planet.
However, the generalization of wage-based teleworking is in no way a conspiracy secretly led by the capitalists in order to further isolate human beings, but is a concrete necessity for the realization of the valorization of capital in our times: it is, as we said above, a necessary consequence of the incessant scientific and technological revolution of the specifically capitalist mode of production and, therefore, of the increasingly scientific character that production in general takes on. It is only from this perspective, insofar as it further reinforces competition and subjects proletarianised humanity to even harsher conditions of survival, that teleworking becomes a tool of class domination. In other words, telework is nothing but the necessary consequence of the logic of wage labour in the epoch of the cybernetic organisation of capitalist production. It is, said in Hegelian terms, the historical coincidence of the essence of wage labour with the phenomenon of sentience, the materialization of the very concept of alienated labour that inherently contained the distancing of human beings from the product of their labour, and the isolation and estrangement of human beings from each other.
Capital, as a mode of social production, historically reaches its real domination when it manages to replace all previous social and natural premises with its own particular forms of organization, which now mediate the submission of the whole physical and social life to the real needs of valorization. From there comes the apparent inertia of the capitalist production process, which is a consequence of the generalization of the commodity production as a universal organizer of social life, which submits all human and natural life to the imperative of the incessant valorization of capital. The inability of the October revolt in the Chilean region to effectively subvert the society it criticized was the clearest manifestation of this “hidden power of capital” that results from the social automatism inherent in the value form of the commodity, and from the subjugation of humanity as a whole to the mediation of the commodity for the effective production of its life.
In short, to give the social metabolism of the species a scientific character, which is the historical tendency of capitalist production. However, at a time when humanity has long since surpassed the productive potential to turn hunger and death from curable diseases into remnants of an obsolete past, the old miseries of the human species are being revived on a new basis, the basis of expanded survival. Indeed, the enslaving and alienating potential of teleworking – and of the necessary non-virtual work – is so much stronger than 19th century Fordist assembly line work or factory work, and the reason for this is that, in our time, particularly with the replacement of human labour by the automatic system of machinery, the commodity has also broken down the barriers of our homes and enslaved the worker in the totality of his or her privacy. There is no longer an outside of productivity: the commodity is still, almost 200 years after the Communist Manifesto, that artillery which breaks down all Chinese walls, and which today ends up breaking down the increasingly diffuse barrier between private life and working time which was empirically realized with the proletarianization of the majority of the human species in the last 100 years. Thus, teleworking ends up consummating that tendency to convert leisure time into productive time, which was already a reality with vacations and with the generalization of the consumption of goods as an essential element in life in modern capitalist society.
In the first place, teleworking is sold as an advantage for workers, because it allows them to work “from home” in close proximity to family and/or loved ones, but the reality is far from as complimentary to workers. Indeed, teleworking produces miracles and enormous organizational advantages for the rich, but misery for teleworkers. It produces reports, calculations, education and drone deliveries for those who can afford it , but it also produces anxiety, fatigue and stress for teleworkers. As Marx noted over 150 years ago: “[wage labour] replaces work with machines, but it throws one part of the workers into barbaric work and turns the other part into machines. It produces spirit, but creates stupidity and cretinism in the worker.” This is precisely the reality of those who telework, being part of a dispersed organic metabolism that takes place behind their backs, anonymously, to their lives: they work at a distance, and have lost physical contact with the object of their work. Not only is the product of his or her work alienated, but his or her activity itself acquires a virtual character. The height of this servitude is that only as a teleworker can he or she maintain himself/herself as a physical subject and that he or she only exists as a physical subject to the extent that he or she exists as a teleworker. It goes without saying that this is precisely the reality of proletarianized humanity since the very dawn of capitalist production, but here we analyze precisely what is new about the phenomenon of labor that is found in this sharpening of the alienation contained in the logic of wage labor and that is carried out in teleworking.
The production itself becomes here the active alienation, the alienation of the activity and the activity of the alienation. Telework does not allow escape, distraction – or rather it only exists as a moment within telework – since it is embedded within the life time of the teleworker. Those who are confined, working at home, have lost the ability to manage their own lives, because they have to carry the burden of reproducing themselves as teleworkers, while teleworking becomes an increasingly diffuse working day that far exceeds the limits of face-to-face work. It knows no limits or, rather, its limits are the little rest it allows and the availability of connection. As it already happened with wage labour in its “face-to-face” format, the activity of those who telework belongs to others, is the loss of themselves.
There is also a distortion of time as a result of the effective extension of the working day, since neither day nor night nor tiredness are no longer barriers to the performance of paid work. There is a continuity here and a break with the capitalist labour organization typical of previous eras of production. On the one hand, there is a continuity in the measure that the tendency to turn night into day, or rather the tendency of capital to make use of 24 hours of the earth’s day, is a reality from the moment factory work is constituted. Chapter VII of The Capital is abundant in examples about the miseries of wage labor in times when machinery was massively introduced in industry, and about the intensive and prolonged exploitation of children that was typical of this historical moment of capitalist production. However, as the capitalist mode of production increasingly subsumes more and more spheres of social life, subjugating science and technology as powerful social powers in the service of the valorization of capital, we see a progression in the dehumanization of wage labor, in the limits of the working day and productive time are effectively extended with the accelerated development of industry and the development of new sources of energy. As Robert Kurz warned in Lights of Progress: “Capitalism tends to convert the active and solar side into the whole, occupying the entire astronomical day. The night side is a hindrance to that trend. The production, circulation and distribution of goods must function at all times without interruption.” Therefore, the rupture lies in that which teleworking possesses as unprecedented, and is the effective virtualization of human labor, which we can understand as the historical production of the organization and form of waged labor that is typical of capitalist society in one of its highest phases of development.
As a result, the city, as a technical organization of isolation and social life in view of the valorization of capital, effectively converges with the development of machinery shaped by the imperatives of valorization. It is true that, at least since the 19th century in Western Europe, the machinery subsumed by capital behaves as a means for the absorption of living labor, as instruments in the absorption of other people’s labor and, therefore, key elements in the development of the specific capitalist mode of production by endowing it with the technical and material budgets for the most effective production of surplus value with the exploitation of human labor of proletarianized humanity. However, in this 21st century that sees the beginning of the generalization of teleworking, proletarian housing effectively realizes the urbanistic nightmare of being a “machine to live in”, since now a growing army of teleworkers has a machine in their own home that absorbs their work, that extends the working day to the biological limits and often crosses them, and that, in sum, has become an instrument for the suction of surplus labor.
On the other hand, we should not forget that the overall capital that a society puts into motion day by day, can be considered as a single working day. Given a certain length of this working day, the mass of surplus value can only be increased if the number of proletarians is increased, the population limit here being the mathematical limit for the production of surplus value by total stock capital. And vice versa. Given the size of the population, this limit is made up of the possible extension of the working day. In an epoch like ours that knows the miseries characteristic of a generalized crisis of value, of a growing difficulty of capital to value human work, we see that precisely the counterrevolution of our time adopts, among other factors, the form of the prolongation of the working day by work virtualization and, therefore, empirically abolishing the astronomical day as reference of temporality, and substituting this by the abstract temporality of the exploitation of human work that knows hours, minutes and seconds, but at the same time lacks temporal limits.
The alienation of the vital activity is consumed in teleworking, in which the human being has lost all reality, and his or her productive activity is reduced to a truly abstract activity, disconnected from any concrete character. In teleworking, workers are limited to produce for their own survival, which was already essentially waged labour, but it has added the feature that they never leave their jobs. Thus, in a completely new way, the system of warm beds  is revived – or rather extended – in the 21st century by teleworking that can be done from one’s own bed or while eating breakfast. Those who have criticized political economy for more than a century as the final triumph of the negation of the human being were not wrong: happiness as castration, this is the ultimate achievement of modern capitalist industry, which in the first decades of the 21st century has managed to effectively convert human beings into atoms of valorization at every moment of their life cycle.
The flip side of teleworking is the barbaric on-site work, especially work that is done by hand. Although we mentioned that telework and its expansion are the result of the scientific development of capitalist production, this same scientific development tends, in turn, to increasingly devalue human work. This translates into the increasing precarization of the ever more extensive mass working conditions of unskilled workers. In the same movement and because of the same need for valorization, capital can confine millions of proletarians to their homes while keeping them working and, at the same time, throw billions more onto the streets to do the most harmful and superfluous jobs; precisely those jobs in which capital considers it cheaper to rent out surplus proletariat than to introduce machinery. Thus, the so-called “essential workers” are at the same time the accomplished expression of the inessentiality of the human being in this society, since they are disposable and quickly replaceable. It is absurd: society has never been so much a labour society as at a time when work is becoming increasingly unnecessary in material terms. In this way, the humanity left over to capital must surrender to the crudest, most barbaric competition in order to survive. Meanwhile, crime is on the rise, led by the mafias and the police who, in one way or another, are constantly threatening the lives of the proletariat, either because of the militarization of society, or because going out into the streets of the cities at night is an increasingly dangerous act insofar as police or criminals are increasingly risking their lives. The facts prove it: in almost all the countries around the world, most of which are democratic, there are more people in prison than in any military dictatorship . And in the midst of a global pandemic, the death squads of the market economy kill more children and poor people every day than the opponents in the worst moments of political repression. In the Chilean region, almost 40 people died in the police and military repression of the proletarian revolt, but the corporate administration of death has already claimed more than 7,000 victims.
In this way, the effectively revolutionary character of capital has become evident in our century – the radical critique of this society has long understood that it is not only the proletariat that makes revolutions – while it has effectively demolished the natural limits of the working day and turned the entire planet into a field of exploitation of labour and nature. “Arbeitmachfrei” , the infamous slogan on the Auschwitz gate, could be written today on the artificial satellite belt that surrounds planet earth. However, at the same time, this process entails a growing difficulty for capital to valorize human labour, which is the product of the same technological and scientific development that has generated the expansion of teleworking. Labour itself is becoming increasingly obsolete, which gives real headaches to capitalists all over the world when the introduction of new technologies threatens to put tens of millions of proletarians out of work. The spectre of communist revolution and global warming looms like a sword of Damocles over the world bourgeoisie – and over the human species as a whole – especially since this obsolescence of labour itself only makes it increasingly clear that communism is produced spontaneously by the catastrophic development of the value form of the commodity to its ultimate consequences. The complex and terrible development of class struggles up to our days has led the revolutionary project to visibly become what it essentially already was: communism is a plan of life for the human species.
From all this the left “identity” is lost and its progressive supporters of today, who in their natural ignorance and in the repeating of empty phrases from the most rancid academic production, see in teleworking a “privilege”, so they urge this horde of unhappy teleworkers to feel guilty or, better still, happy, since they have the unhealthy privilege of no longer having to leave their homes to enter the space of labor exploitation, while the rest of the proletariat – it goes without saying that the identity-based left rejects this and other concepts – must go out to work, risking their lives in the midst of a health crisis. At the same time, while the catastrophe is already here for the entire human species, they advocate accelerating the transition from current capitalism to more ecological forms and, of course, they blame the current misfortune on these proletarians who are so passive towards the existing order that, instead of eating healthier and more ecological food, they still continue to eat fast food, meat and take long showers en masse. So, in the absence of any real practical critique, i.e. collective action that tends to really subvert the capitalist society, the left is content to launch its neo-sermons through the internet, and in the process take advantage of celebrating that thanks to their “struggle” the mega-corporations Calvin Klein and Coca-Cola are including models and logos of the LGBTQI+ community in their advertising battery. In this way, they have lost all the innovation that the revolts of the last decade have had, and even more so, they see a triumph where in reality capital has found the weak point of the precursory signs of the radical negation movement that this era of disasters is making mature in its heart.
Who are the capitalists, but those people who make our lives impossible? Millions of people every day get up from their beds to fry their eyes in front of computers, or to risk their health and lives in crowded transport wagons. We don’t know each other yet, but we all share the same tiredness, the same anxiety, the same misfortune of living in a body and in a world that doesn’t belong to us, but that we daily create without rest as a strange power that becomes more and more threatening to our survival. In other words, in our homes or on the street, working from home or delivering food on motorcycles, we have in common that our lives are pulled by the invisible threads of money, the inhuman power of capital. And that is why the capitalists see in us nothing more than numbers, graphics, impersonal statistics with which one can do what one wants, unessential beings waiting to die from this pandemic or the next in order to decongest public assistance and free capital for big business. They don’t know us, they don’t know our names, but they manage our lives as entrepreneurs and, therefore, they are the concrete architects of our misery. In this sense, we can affirm that their control over our existence has always been “teleworking”, insofar as all of our daily life and our movements are conditioned at a distance by the material need to work for them to survive. Wage labour has always been, by essence, not only the creation of their wealth, but also the active creation of our own misery.
However, as can be seen from the analysis above, although capitalists are not usually known for their love of humanity and the well-being of nature, this is due not to a “natural evil” in them, but to their condition of being personifications of an abstract logic that makes the capitalist appear to be subject to exactly the same servitude with respect to the relationship of capital, of the logic of valorization, although in a different way, than the proletariat. In any case, radical critique allows us to see that the narcissistic characteristics necessary for the success of market competition, which are today generalized to members of all classes, are accentuated in the capitalists and their armed servants to the point of reaching what today’s “psychology”  calls psychopathy. However, just like Marx in his time, we must avoid resorting to psychologism, and therefore morality, to explain social and historical reality. Capitalism is not a conspiracy of a group of powerful people, but a social and historical system that alienates the social metabolism of the species, and that makes value and its constant increase the driving principle of the entire society, from which derives the terrible consequences that its development entails for humanity and the earth.
However, every time that Piñera, Trump, López-Obrador, Sánchez or Bolsonaro transmit the numbers of the dead accumulated by the capitalist management of the crisis, it is certain that in millions of proletarians a vengeful fury, a nameless rage, runs through their veins, especially when death comes to their own homes. However, one thing is clear: while the capitalists and their hitmen deserve to be hung out in a public square to be objects of popular mockery, our emancipation is not simply a matter of physically exterminating our class enemies – the self-emancipation of the human species is not a matter of revenge – but of emancipating ourselves from the social relations that allow the emergence and domination of the capitalists. In other words, to abolish ourselves as proletarians, to abolish creative activity as the creator of capital and private property. As long as we [tele] work to purchase our life, as long as we must [tele] work to live, and live to pay for life it will never really be our life.
“Capital, by its nature, tends to overcome every space barrier. Consequently, the creation of the physical conditions of exchange – of means of communication and transport – becomes for it, and to an entirely different extent, a necessity: the annulment of space by time”
Karl Marx, Grundrisse, Notebook III (1857-1858).
“No social formation disappears before all the productive forces within it are developed, and no new and higher relations of production ever appear before the material conditions for its existence have matured within the old society itself.”
Karl Marx, Preface to the Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, 1859
All of the above has practical consequences for the radical negation movement within this society, since we are entering an epoch of world capitalist restructuring where the fourth industrial revolution – whose technological advances will accelerate the expansion of telework – atomization, isolation and hyper-surveillance will go hand in hand with the destruction of proletarians and machines. Since 2008, it has become increasingly difficult for world capital to recover from crises, and it has only been able to do so by resorting to the development of fictional capital. Given that it is impossible to establish market mechanisms that compensate for the declining production of value, the crisis of fictional capitalism leads us to a historical period characterized by two major possibilities: the collapse of capitalism resulting from the self-emancipation of proletarian humanity, or the effective roll-out of counter-revolution and the overcoming of “space frontier” capital. We are experiencing deep transformations in the socially alienated metabolism of the species, and in this new historical scenario the generalization of teleworking and the degradation to the aberration of face-to-face wage-labor will be a historical trend within the context of the current needs of capital, which will be carried out, evidently, at the cost of sacrificing of millions of people. It is a necessary task of the proletariat to clearly elucidate the real character of the counter-revolution of our time, and to foresee the trends of the immediate future. The starting point of that radical critique will be the clarification of the historical moment that currently contains us -a task to which this text intends to contribute-, and the relentless criticism of the weaknesses and limits of the proletarian revolt that began in October 2019 in the Chilean region and, consequently, of the cycle of world revolts in which it was inserted.
Marx was a radical revolutionary who went beyond the limits of his times by taking the dialectic of capital – the phenomenology of the total movement of capital as a social relation – to its ultimate consequences: the civilization founded on value, that is, on the exploitation of proletarianized humanity, cannot be brought down until it has developed all the possibilities of material and social development that are potentially included within this social and historical relation. Collapse theorists forget that Marx gave a series of possible alternatives by which capital could skip the successive crises to which the value-based mode of social production is condemned, and that the irreducibility of the earth’s nature (the theory of the rent of the earth) can be circumvented by the colonialization of space. The possibility of the end of prehistory, of the barbarism that is the domination of the human species by the human species itself, will be developed in the midst of a historical scenario marked by the simultaneous convergence of the technological revolution that will give planetary capital the capacity to go beyond the terrestrial limits (this is, the industrialization of nearby space), the sharpening of the ecological and natural disaster currently underway, the war between the world economic powers and the maturation of the proletarian movement and the radical criticism that is immanent in a historical theater marked by catastrophe.
The revolts of recent times have shown, despite the limits that must be relentlessly criticized, that the world already has the dream of a time, which conscience it now possesses in order to really live. The radical criticism of this society and its summary condemnation already exists in our time, together with its criticism in acts. Both have converged in space and time, but still remain separate in the collective consciousness. The conscious convergence of both moments of the overcoming negation of this society will mark the preface of the establishment of the proletarian class in organic unity and, then, of the effective takeover of social reality.
Vamos Hacia la Vida
- The characteristics listed below are typical for wage labour and are characteristic for capitalist society in the last 200 years. The novelty of teleworking lies in the sharpening of these characteristics, and in the fact that capitalist society increasingly tends to be a world where things really become autonomous to the point of acquiring movement of their own or being managed at a distance.
- For some time now, the Amazon corporation, owned by the world’s first trillionaire (Jeff Bezzos), has established drone delivery and work automation as the hallmark of its business. This, which is a reality only in some parts of the world, will soon be a general rule within companies in the same field and, a fortiori, in the circulation of goods in the near future.
- The “hot bed system” is a widespread form of labour exploitation in Asia and Latin America where workers live, work and sleep where they are exploited for many hours. They are called “hot beds” because when a worker finishes his shift he is immediately replaced by another worker who gives up his bed for him to rest until the cycle restarts.
- According to data from 2013 there are two million prisoners in the US, which is about 25% of the total number of prisoners in the world.
- “Work makes you free.”
- In quotes, because a deep knowledge of the psyche of the human species understood in its historical character is something that, until today, is not a real fact. Today psychology is a “social science” that collaborates profoundly with the pathologization of normal nervous responses to this inhuman society.
Source in Spanish: https://hacialavida.noblogs.org/705-2/
English Translation: https://enoughisenough14.org/2020/07/11/the-alienated-telework/