Sunday, November 13, 2022

Imperialism Theories as a Perspective on the Human, Nature, Race and Gender

Draft paper presented at the Historical Materialism 2022 conference, SOAS London - 12 November 2022

Author: Jonas Van Vossole, Center for Social Studies, Coimbra University

This text is a preliminary exercise of reflection that seeks to develop and systematize Marx's approach of primitive accumulation and Rosa Luxemburg’s approach to imperialism as a tool to re-understand nature, race and gender as a relation between capital, the state and its boundaries. The text seeks to understand different forms of exploitation and discrimination with the background of value theory and thus a form of understanding of capitalism that facilitates unified forms of anti-capitalist struggle and solidarity.


Since the dawn of capitalist modernity, the boundaries of civilization have been considered as “nature”. Within this modernist perspective, “nature” always functions as “the other”, the “non-human” or at least the “non-social”. Nature is conceived as opposed to society, natural sciences are opposed to social sciences, the natural body is opposed to the human spirit.

The opposition between human and nature is a dialectic opposition though, as humans are, appart from being opposed, themselves also part of nature. The separation between what is nature and what is human is itself a field of constant struggles and change.  

In most of the modern philosophy and social science, the state of nature functions as an abstract “original position”, a pre-civilized situation, upon which laws and theories about reality are projected.

This state of nature usually includes humans. Humans who are attributed only a “natural” dimension. Without a state and “modern” norms and institutions these humans are considered as uncivilized. They are often represented through stereotypes, as barbarian, indiginous, non-evolved, without culture or by contrast with an excess of culture. This is the state of nature of Hobbes in which violence, the homo-homini-lupus, reigned. A state of nature which could only be saved through the modern state and the European enlightened colonizer.

Such perspective is only the ideological reflection of the capitalist political economy which started to develop around the same time as when those theories became popular in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

The divide between nature and labour tends to reflect the taqae,wo different forms of accumulation of wealth upon which capitalism as a socio-economic system came to be based.

Karl Marx in his Critique of the Gotha Program describes how both labour and nature are sources of wealth or use-values. It is, however, in the interest of capital to divide the categories of Labour and Nature in order for the accumulation process to be structured: Marx writes: 

“Nature is just as much the source of use values as labor, which itself is only the manifestation of a force of nature, human labor power. Insofar as man from the beginning behaves toward nature, the primary source of all instruments and subjects of labor, as an owner, treats her as belonging to him, his labor becomes the source of use values, therefore also of wealth. The bourgeois have very good grounds for falsely ascribing supernatural creative power to labor; since precisely from the fact that labor depends on nature it follows that the man who possesses no other property than his labor power must, in all conditions of society and culture, be the slave of other men who have made themselves the owners of the material conditions of labor. He can only work with their permission, hence live only with their permission.”

In Capital, Marx described the different forms of accumulation based on the exploitation of human Labour and the dispossession of nature, respectively as expanded and primary accumulation. The “normal” process of capitalist accumulation is called expanded accumulation and seems a purely economic process. It is the transformation of C into C+, through the exploitation of labour. Money is transformed into Capital when an initial amount of Money is used to acquire means of production, hire labour power, and eventually sell commodities through the circulation process. From the start its goal is to eventually achieve a larger amount of Money. To get this process started, however, an initial amount of Capital is necessary. The process of acquiring this initial sum is what Marx, in a polemic with the classical liberal economists, sarcastically unveiled as the “secret of primitive accumulation”. According to Marx, such primitive accumulation was based upon undisguised violence and bloodshed. In Capital, Marx writes:

The discovery of gold and silver in America, the extirpation, enslavement and entombment in mines of the indigenous population of that continent, the beginnings of the conquest and plunder of India, and the conversion of Africa into a preserve for the commercial hunting of blackskins, are all things which characterize the dawn of the era of capitalist production. These idyllic proceedings are the chief moments of primitive accumulation (p. 915).

Marx, however, saw this process of primitive accumulation rather as an initial or primitive phase of Capitalism.

Rosa Luxemburg, in her “The Accumulation of Capital” and her analysis of the phenomenon of imperialism, upgraded the status of this so-called “primitive” accumulation. Rather than approaching primary accumulation as a mere initial phase of the development of capitalism, Luxemburg’s theory of imperialism assumed that primary accumulation is a continuing process. This form of violent accumulation happens not only before but also parallel to expanded accumulation.

Luxemburg arrived at this conclusion from the analysis of the phenomenon of imperialism. At the dawn of the twentieth century, Imperialism became an ever more relevant phenomenon. The period was marked by the scramble for Africa since the Berlin conference in 1884 to the wake of the first world war. Luxemburg explained the logic of imperialism by the ever growing need for Capital to find new resources and markets. Capital needed to overcome the inherent obstacles or contradictions in the “normal” accumulation process - particularly during crises when those contradictions emerged. Value is thus continuously extracted both through exploitation AND dispossession. The latter occurred in the relation between capital and non-capitalist economies.

As you all know, Lenin, inspired by Hilferding, defined imperialism as the stage of capitalist development in which financial capital took over control of the state. Its goal was to guarantee the accumulation process beyond its national borders. The state is thus THE essential institution of imperialism. Its goal is to control non-conquered, wild, “natural” territories and resources: these included the scramble for the colonies, new trade routes and the development of slave plantations. 

For Luxemburg, the phenomenon of imperialism - through its relation to the state - is essentially linked with political struggles and strategies of the working class. In particular, the practical implementation of imperial logics by the state are a consequence reformism in the Labour movement and the incorporation of this movement into the bourgeois state. Reformism guaranteed some economic advantages and limited political emancipation in the form of liberal democracy for the organized working class in the imperialist countries. It was particularly beneficial for its bureaucratized leadership and the labour aristocracy. At the same time, it made the working class complicit with imperial phenomena of war and colonialism beyond its borders. In order to achieve social peace at the domestic front, the class conflict - expressed in declining exploitation rates - was literally exported to foreign affairs. Literally, Labour aristocracy colluded for a social agreement that exchanged expanded accumulation for accumulation by dispossession.

Nationalism, chauvinism and racism became important political devices to save capitalism. In Luxemburg there is thus not only an essential economic but also a political link between primitive accumulation and expanded accumulation, between the factor Labour and the factor Nature, as we will defend here further on! 

Over the last decades, various Marxist authors have been inspired by Luxemburg. Her approach was integrated into many new debates about Imperialism in Political Economy and International Relations. She inspired David Harvey's approach towards new imperialism, and the way how accumulation by dispossession became essential to understand the processes of privatizations and over-exploitation under neoliberlism. 

Here, I defend however that this relation between Imperialism, political strategy and the two forms of accumulation can be generalized as a much broader phenomenon. In which sense is the silenced agreement of Union leaderships with industrial waste not a similar cooptation in detriment to renewed accumulation by dispossession.

The phenomenon of primitive accumulation is, after all, not restricted to international relations. It happens in all new territories or scales capital enters. These include all non-conquered and wild territories and phenomena such as space, the amazon, genetics, the internet… But more importantly for this discussion today: also in feminine bodies and so-called “uncivilized” races and nations. 

Capital deals with the identities of gender and race in a similar way as it does to nature. In the historical development of bourgeois ideology, race and gender are literally “naturalized”. Within the framework of primary accumulation racialized people are pushed towards the fringes of civilization and humanity. They are robbed of their history and rationality. Animalistic characteristics are attributed to them. In the same way, women have long time been denied human rationality. Their essence being restricted to their natural body. Their social role has been pushed towards the “natural” activities of reproduction.

Plenty of authors have applied the schema of accumulation by dispossession to several of these “natural” fields. To name some examples: Maria Mies and Silvia Frederici have applied the idea of primary accumulation to the familiy economy and female bodies. Jason Moore has used it in the field of nature and climate. Nancy Fraser focussed on it in her debate with Dawson on the question of racial capitalism. Boaventura de Sousa Santos has developed the same logic in his paradigm on the Abissal line.

The difference between feminine and racialized bodies and other “natural” phenomena is, of course, that these are never fully, or only, “nature” - they are human Labour as well. The relationship between accumulation by exploitation and by dispossession is thus often complex, changing and dependent on political struggles.

Let us take the example of the position of a black male worker in the United States. Untill the abolishment of slavery; for Capital his existence was purely a natural resource; its value was extracted through a legal system based on pure violence. For the female enslaved worker, the lived reality was even worse, as besides the extracted value of work, she was reduced to a breeding machine of new slaves at the lowest possible cost. But the very possibility of understanding and organize resistance to these inhumane living conditions by these violated subjects, and their desire to change those things - the very essence of political praxis, is what makes them ultimately human. In contrast to other “nature”, they have the potential to be “labour” as well. Since the abolishment of slavery; the black worker is confronted with both regulated-labour and violent-nature dimensions of his or her life. While his or her labour is paid in the labour market - and can even over time have gained social and trade union rights, its value is kept low, - and super-exploitation occurs - through the continued structural violence in other aspects of life.

Boaventura de Sousa Santos explained this recently in one of his lectures on the Abissal line. The student living in the favela can have decent formal status and working conditions, but when he quits the job, he crosses back into nature when going home, confronted with police violence because of his skin colour and neighbourhood.

Ricardo Antunes, in his análises of working conditions of Uber workers during the Pandemic, aknowleged the same phenomenon: workers subject to both exploitation and expropriation in the same labouring proces.

Likewise the salaries of women are structurally kept low by their reproductive labour at home, the risk of domestic violence. They are confronted with their “nature” as they risk walking home alone at night. The nature-labour frontier crosses their reality at different aspects of their lives, depending upon political power relations.

None of the things described here is “new” to you, of course. But in the end, I believe a systematization of such approach provides a very useful overall framework to understand many different phenomena within the overall framework of value theory. It provides an advantaged position to understand race and gender for several reasons. First because it makes it possible to understand race and gender within the mechanism of commodity exchange and the capitalist political economy without abandoning the idea of class. And second because it provides a political framework to articulate those political struggles. It provides a framework for labour, feminist and anti-racist struggles, not just to work together in accidental alliances or political articulations. It structures alliances through the form in which the capitalist mode of production itself works.

At the same time, it is a critique of reformism. Thus it is a critique of liberal feminism and postcolonialism - like Luxemburg’s imperialism was a critique of the reformist SPD. It assumes that any improvement of living conditions or social emancipation within capitalism eventually tends to provoke a strengthening of imperialist logics towards its borders and a further expansion of primitive accumulation in other spheres and markets. It is thus a call for revolution. Luxemburg viewed international solidarity and anti-imperialism as essential in the anti-capitalist struggle. She claimed that the responsibility for this lies with the strongest and organized workers movements. In a similar way, it should be the primordial responsibility of organized labour to struggle for the emancipation of the subjects at the nature-labour border, while recognizing their own right to sovereignty. It thus also provides a critique of the male-chauvist and racist tendencies in bureaucratized labour. 

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Crise e Democracia - Apresentação da Tese

[Tradução portuguesa da apresentação da tese de doutoramento em democracia do século XXI, pelo CES, 21 Maio 2021]

Não é fácil introduzir tantos anos de pesquisa que resultaram em uma tese de doutorado de mais de 400 páginas no espaço de tempo de escassos vinte minutos.

O objetivo primordial desta tese foi um inquérito sobre a interação entre crise e democracia no cenário de Portugal.

Por fim, optei por abordar essa interação partindo de uma estrutura político-econômica marxista. O conflito político sobre o significado da democracia ocorre no nível da ideologia e dos discursos. A legitimidade democrática é construída sobre o consenso hegemônico sobre a forma de interpretar “Democracia”.

Nesta tese, basicamente, defendo que a crise da democracia é uma expressão do colapso hegemônico. O dissenso na sociedade concentra-se na própria conceituação da democracia. Isso é expresso pelo surgimento de diferentes perspectivas opostas sobre a democracia. Cada um deles expressa diferentes interesses políticos e econômicos na luta de classes. Ao longo da tese, busco a história dessas narrativas. Eu estudo como eles fortalecem ou propõem alternativas à ordem pré-existente. Eu analiso como eles se articulam entre si. Eu examino suas estratégias possíveis e quais são os erros que eles podem encontrar.

No primeiro capítulo, concentrei-me na história e no contexto político-económico da democracia em Portugal desde a revolução. Em 1974, em poucas semanas, a ditadura e o poder colonial de vida mais longa da Europa transformaram-se no centro mundial de experimentalismo democrático, revolucionário e socialista. A integração europeia acabaria por consolidar uma democracia liberal parlamentar. Mas Portugal tentou construir um estado de bem-estar social-democrata no exato momento em que a revolução neoliberal começou a varrer a Europa. Privatizações e liberalizações generalizadas que acabariam por reconstituir as elites econômicas financeiras dos países. Rapidamente, eles se tornaram um obstáculo para a democracia social e econômica. Como economia periférica, o processo de integração europeia levaria à desindustrialização e à perda da soberania político-econômica. As políticas económicas de Portugal tornar-se-iam cada vez mais dependentes em questões de dívida, finanças, subsídios europeus, emigração e turismo.

A democracia portuguesa já sofreu anos de problemas crescentes de legitimidade. A participação eleitoral diminuiu. A crença nos partidos, na justiça e nas instituições políticas foi corroída pela despolitização, corrupção e desigualdade. Em 2011, o projeto europeu entrou em sua pior crise até agora. As políticas de austeridade golpearam duramente os direitos sociais, os serviços públicos e as condições de vida. Por fim, a legitimidade da forma parlamentar liberal de democracia parecia entrar em séria crise.

O segundo capítulo enfoca o próprio conceito de crise. A crise desempenha um papel central no surgimento de contradições. Atribuímos a potencialidade esclarecedora da contradição ao antigo conceito grego de crise - ou kritein. Kritein, ou julgamento, envolvia uma dimensão objetiva e subjetiva, um momento de escolha.

Alguns vêem a contradição como uma ambigüidade, um elemento confuso. Sua utilidade científica seria limitada. Com base em uma análise histórica dos conceitos de crise e crítica no pensamento dialético, esta tese argumenta o contrário. O contraditório conceito de crise permitiu-nos abordar dois campos do conhecimento muitas vezes vistos como uma oposição epistemológica à ciência; história e política. A crise marca a coincidência temporal da necessidade política de verdades universais e do conhecimento de sua particularidade histórica. A crise, portanto, abre a possibilidade de mudança política.

No entanto, as crises não são emancipatórias. A "Doutrina de choque" de Naomi Klein mostrou a famosa maneira como a crise tem sido usada para implementar políticas neoliberais. Mas a crise acaba nos obrigando a escolher um lado na ciência. Portanto, o conceito de crise está relacionado ao conceito de Político. Carl Schmitt definiu o significado político com base na distinção anti-liberal entre inimigo e amigo. Ele, no entanto, igualou o liberalismo com a ciência e a modernidade. Em termos schmittianos, uma verdadeira “ciência política” seria, portanto, uma contradição de termos. O conhecimento político estaria condenado a significados míticos.

Não é assim para Marx. Marx é mais do que apenas político. Na análise de Crise, portanto, propus uma “leitura schmittiana de Marx”. A oposição radical entre Capital e Trabalho serve como o núcleo ontológico de uma ciência política marxista. O foco na economia “politizada” do trabalho. Marx então introduziu a luta de classes no próprio cerne da crítica econômica da reprodução capitalista. Assim, ele foi capaz de historicizar o capitalismo. Em Marx, a questão da verdade objetiva torna-se uma questão prática de uma estratégia política para provar a verdade.

O terceiro capítulo é uma exposição dos diferentes modelos históricos e teorias da democracia. Mostra como a democracia sempre foi um conceito essencialmente contestado. Partimos da premissa de que a “luta atual pela democracia ... é o que vai significar”. Poderíamos, portanto, estar inclinados a seguir a hipótese pós-marxista de Laclau e Mouffe de que o social é um mero espaço discursivo. Ellen Wood nos lembrou, entretanto, que a luta entre diferentes formas de democracia pode ser concebida como uma luta entre o capitalismo e o socialismo. A representação e a separação do político da economia é do interesse oligárquico do capital. A cidadania liberal individual imita o trabalhador alienado. O teórico é, portanto, desafiado a conduzir a crise atual da democracia de volta a uma oposição entre capital e trabalho. Nesse contexto, voltamos aos debates históricos sobre socialismo, estratégia e democracia.

A tese tocou na utilidade do conceito de ditadura do proletariado e na escolha entre reformismo e revolução. Discutimos a dinâmica do imperialismo e da periferia, a questão do parlamentarismo. Mergulhamos no debate entre as táticas de frente popular versus frente única.

 O objetivo desta tese é chegar a uma estratégia de como chegar a uma noção alternativa universal de democracia e alertar para os perigos da cooptação e da confusão ideológica.

No quarto e quinto capítulos discutimos como as dinâmicas de classe se refletem nos discursos democráticos em Portugal. Entre 2011 e 2015, uma severa austeridade foi implementada. Isso, no entanto, não foi acompanhado por um abandono discursivo da ideia de democracia por parte dos formuladores de políticas. Os formuladores de políticas geralmente reivindicam legitimidade democrática para essas medidas. Entre eles estavam nossos entrevistados; Selassie, representante do FMI e ex-ministro das finanças Albuquerque. Eles tentaram articular os significados e práticas da democracia com sua necessidade percebida de austeridade. Isso resultou em um “discurso democrático de austeridade”; o foco do quarto capítulo desta tese.

O discurso é caracterizado pela despolitização e culturalização dos problemas políticos, e o discurso neoliberal da inevitabilidade. A despolitização pode ser encontrada em argumentos tecnocráticos e no discurso “economista”. Pode ser encontrada no uso da ideia de “boa governança” e na transferência de responsabilidade para outros / atores externos - como a Troika. Ela pode ser encontrada no quadro da “excepcionalidade” e na prática da irracionalização de quaisquer alternativas políticas.

As políticas são repetidamente legitimadas com base em procedimentos democráticos formais. Os argumentos incluem “a lei”, eleições, maiorias parlamentares, tratados ratificados e sentenças constitucionais.

Entre 2011 e 2013, o número recorde de pessoas se mobilizou contra as políticas de austeridade. Entre os movimentos mais icônicos estavam Geração à Rasca, Que-Se-Lixe-a-Troika e o movimento de ocupação dos indignados. Eles são o foco do quinto capítulo. No geral, as pessoas que participaram desses protestos pareciam ter uma opinião muito negativa sobre o estado da democracia. 89% dos nossos entrevistados consideram a democracia como inexistente ou em mau estado. A insatisfação com as políticas governamentais se projeta diretamente na própria ideia de democracia. As pessoas reclamaram da falta de direitos sociais, falta de prestação de contas e falta de participação. Eles criticaram a falta de liberdade de expressão e de informação. Eles falaram sobre a falta de soberania nacional e a falta de respeito pela constituição.

A deslegitimação levou ao surgimento de uma ampla variedade de visões alternativas de democracia. Poderia ser descrito empiricamente pelo conceito de demodiversidade de Sousa Santos: “a coexistência pacífica ou conflitual de diferentes modelos e práticas democráticas”. O discurso dos sindicatos está vinculado às tradicionais condições de trabalho e de vida cotidianas. Democracia, para os sindicalistas, significava garantir salários dignos, pensões e segurança no trabalho. Significou também solidariedade direta e incondicional entre colegas de trabalho, ação coletiva e participação direta nas decisões sindicais. O discurso dos movimentos sociais mais recentes era mais utópico. Centrou-se na mudança sistêmica, participação cidadã direta e horizontal nas assembleias. Destacou valores de internacionalismo e solidariedade, bem como práticas de prefiguração. O discurso dos partidos, por outro lado, era mais institucionalista. Centrou-se na organização, poder e estado. Centrou-se nos direitos sociais e constitucionais, eleições, história, ideologia e estratégia.

Entre os três diferentes discursos que estudamos, observamos um “vazio”. Estudamos os antagonismos entre os diferentes movimentos de protesto. No entanto, todos refletem alguns aspectos do que no passado teria sido chamado de democracia socialista. O que faltou, ao longo da crise, foi a articulação dessas ideias como contraponto hegemônico. A tarefa de uma verdadeira Ciência Política é preencher o vazio novamente com seu conteúdo socialista e alertar para possíveis armadilhas.

Os capítulos sexto e sétimo enfocam alguns dos problemas e armadilhas. O movimento de assembléia enfraqueceu. O protesto seguiu duas direções diferentes: articulação e êxodo. A estratégia contra-hegemônica pós-fundacional de Mouffe reflete o primeiro. A estratégia de "êxodo" pós-operística de Hardt e Negri reflete a última. O debate entre os dois nos guia por esses capítulos.

No Capítulo seis, enfocamos os chamados movimentos pós-protesto. Isso diz respeito a pessoas que perderam a confiança em protestos diretos. Esses ativistas preferem se concentrar na mudança por meio de seu próprio comportamento no dia a dia. Mouffe rejeita a virada estética ou simbólica quase exclusiva, presente nos movimentos pós-protesto. Ela afirma que o momento estritamente político não pode ser evitado. A evasão é um sintoma da hegemonia neoliberal e sua representação pós-política da sociedade. A difusão e complexidade intrínseca da definição de antagonismos é uma característica do capitalismo financeiro.

Foram analisados ​​seis manifestos dos novos movimentos de protesto social contra a austeridade em Portugal. Muitos já refletiam alguns desses elementos pós-políticos. Os discursos pós-políticos - ou pós-democráticos - incluem:

-uma vaga auto-identificação do sujeito político

-um foco nos efeitos colaterais do capitalismo, como a corrupção

-tendências de culturalização da política

-um foco na participação sem um conteúdo político-econômico claro ou alternativas

- silenciamento ou distanciamento em relação a partidos, política e ideologias

Isso não significa que também não haja elementos de politização. Esses movimentos se mobilizaram contra a austeridade - e definiram um inimigo político na prática. Eles envolveram milhares de pessoas em debates públicos. Eles certamente também criaram uma consciência política crescente por meio da participação.

Outros movimentos, como o QSLT e suas sequências, seguiram o caminho da articulação com a esquerda organizada. Eles se articularam com os sindicatos para apresentar uma agenda anti-neoliberal.

O sétimo capítulo enfoca essa articulação e a formação do governo-Geringonça.

Começa com uma análise dos ciclos eleitorais de Portugal desde os protestos de 2011. Quando os movimentos de protesto eventualmente desapareceram, a sua energia e esperanças foram gradualmente canalizadas para os processos eleitorais. Nós distinguimos amplamente três fases. Primeiro, um foco em candidatos independentes e listas de cidadãos. Em segundo lugar, um fortalecimento da esquerda anti-austeridade. Terceiro, as negociações com o governo Geringonça. Este processo acabou com a austeridade mais dura. Não terminou em uma mudança radical; nem em termos de representação eleitoral, nem em termos de soluções estruturais para a crise. Esta forma de pacificação e cooptação das lideranças dos movimentos sociais é inevitável na democracia representativa liberal?

Contra a ideia de Geringonça como uma revolução democrática, propus o conceito de termidor. Termidor referia-se ao último mês da Revolução Francesa. Pôs fim a um processo potencialmente revolucionário e emancipatório. Tirou a iniciativa dos movimentos revolucionários das classes exploradas e institucionalizou uma nova normalidade. Em muitos aspectos, Geringonça é um retorno a uma situação de “normalidade”. Pacificou os elementos radicais que surgiram durante a crise. Isso levou a um governo relativamente estável que respeita as regras da zona do euro e da União Europeia. A esquerda parlamentar radical formou a expressão política dos movimentos sociais que durante os protestos. Abandonou, pelo menos temporariamente, suas posições radicais em relação à transformação social. Os protestos anti-austeridade e a perspectiva de uma democracia radicalmente diferente desapareceram. Pelo menos por agora ...

Recapitulando: Nesta tese defendi que a crise da democracia é uma expressão do colapso hegemônico. O dissenso na sociedade concentra-se na própria conceituação da democracia. Isso é expresso em uma “demo-diversidade” de diferentes perspectivas opostas sobre a democracia. Cada um deles expressa diferentes interesses políticos e econômicos na luta social. Ao longo da tese busquei a história dessas narrativas. Estudei como eles fortaleceram ou propuseram alternativas à ordem pré-existente. Eu analisei como eles se articulam entre si. E eu examino suas estratégias possíveis e quais são as dificuldades que eles podem encontrar.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Crisis and Democratic Legitimacy - Structure

1.1 The making of Portuguese democracy 5
1.1.1 The collapse of Fascism 6
1.1.2 The Revolutionary period 8
1.1.3 European Integration and Parliamentary Democracy 15
1.1.4 Pre-crisis state of democracy 20
1.2 The Political Economy of Austerity 24
1.2.1 Periphery and Europe 24
1.2.2 Crisis and Austerity 28
1.3 Research hypotheses 31
1.3.1 Democracy as a historical and ideological product 32
1.3.2 Divergent discourses of democracy 35
1.3.3 Central hypothesis 36
2.1 The scientific concept of crisis 39
2.2 Dialectics and Critique 41
2.2.1 Socrates – Questioning Discourse 42
2.2.2 Plato – The idealistic solution 43
2.2.3 Hegel – Dialectics in Modernity 44
2.2.4 Marx – Crisis and Praxis 46
2.3 Crisis, Science and History 47
2.3.1 Historism and Science 48
2.3.2 From a history of scientific dualities to the current Crisis 51
2.4 Crisis, Science and the Political 54
2.4.1 The context of the Political 54
2.4.2 Crisis, the exception and the political 56
2.4.3 Marxism as a more than Political Science 59
2.4.4 Frankfurter School, Crisis and its rupture 62
2.5 Crisis, Critique and Political Science now 67
3.1 Schools and Waves of Democracy 72
3.1.1 From the classic approaches to world war 73
3.1.2 Lessons from the “South” 77
3.1.3 The end of history 80
3.2 The crisis of Democracy and its alternatives 83
3.2.1 Participatory Democracy 85
3.2.2 Deliberative Democracy 87
3.2.3 Agonistic Democracy 90
3.2.4 Demodiversity 95
3.3 Crisis of the Alternatives and a restart of history 98
3.3.1 Capitalism and Democracy 101 Liberalism and the separation of the Political and the Economic Sphere 103 The making of the working class 106 Citizenship and representation 108
3.3.2 Socialism and Democracy 109 Dictatorship of the proletariat 110 Reformism 113 Imperialism, periphery and democracy 114 Discourses on Parliamentarianism 117 Popular Front and United Front 119
3.4 Inquiring about democracy in todays’ crisis 123
4.1 The context of Democratic Rhetoric: three ways to read the Crisis 128
4.1.1 The Crisis through a (Neo-)classic lens 129
4.1.2 The Crisis through a (Neo-)Keynesian lens 131
4.1.3 The Crisis through a Marxist lens 133
4.1.4 Democracy in times of Austerity 136
4.2 Elements of the Austerity-Hegemony 138
4.2.1 Neoliberalism 141
4.2.2 Depolitization 143
4.2.3 Culturalization 145
4.2.4 Formal Democracy 149
4.2.5 Substantive Legitimation 150
4.2.6 Exception as a Rule 152 There is no alternative 153
4.3 Critical Discourse Analysis of two policymakers 155
4.3.1 Democratic Austerity Discourse as Text 156
4.3.2 The Discursive practice in the Interview 158
4.3.3 Democratic Discourse as social practice: Explanation 160 Depolitization 162 Formal Legitimation 162 Austerity as an exception 163
4.4 An austerity-definition of democracy in crisis 164
5.1 From Crisis to Protest: an overview 168
5.2 Questioning the protestors 173
5.2.1 The State of Democracy 175
5.2.2 Perception of Change 178
5.2.3 Redefining Democracy 181
5.2.4 Change over time 183
5.3 From Protest to Democratic Alternatives 185
5.3.1 The Acampadas 186 Real Democracy 188 Prefigurative democracy 190
5.3.2 The Trade Union Alternative 193 Trade Unions and Social Movements 198 The example of the Dockworkers 199
5.3.3 The Party Alternative 202 Parties and Portuguese Democracy 205 Parties and Social Movements 208
5.4 Back to Hegemony and socialist strategy 215
6.1 From Protest to post-Protest – Aesthetical practices 222
6.1.1 Post-protest-movements 223
6.1.2 Artivism and Aestetics 224
6.1.3 Exodus 227
6.1.4 A symptom 229
6.2 Post-Democracy as a discourse 230
6.2.1 Depolitical elements in the movements 231 Geração à Rasca 233 The Assembly movements 233 Movimento 12 de Março 237 Que se lixe a Troika 238
6.2.2 A critique of ideology 240
6.3 Conclusions 243
7.1 The Portuguese party landscape on the left during the crisis 248
7.1.1 The local elections of 2013 251
7.1.2 The European elections of 2014 253
7.1.3 The Legislative elections of 2015 257
7.1.4 Possible coalitions 260
7.2 Geringonça as an articulation on the left 264
7.3 Democratic Revolution or Thermidor? 267
7.4 Contemporary Socialist perspectives 271
8.1 Summary 275
8.2 Conclusions 289
8.3 Significance 292
8.4 Shortcomings 293
8.5 Future research 295
8.5.1 Gender, Race and Crisis 295
8.5.2 A new crisis: COVID-19 297
I. Interview with Mr. Abebe Selassie 351
II. Interview with Mrs. Maria Luís Albuquerque 358
III. Interview with Mr. José Soeiro 366
IV. Interview with Mr. Miguel Tiago 370
V. Interview with Mr. António Mariano 377
VI. Interview with Mr. Mário Nogueira 383
VII. Interview with Mrs. CD 394
VIII. Interview with Mrs. CVB 399

Friday, May 1, 2020

Um dia de trabalho essencial na pandemia

Á mais de um século o primeiro de maio é a data mais marcante para os socialistas em todo o mundo. O dia do trabalhador – ou melhor em inglês International Labour Day - foi instaurado pela Internacional Socialista em 1904, para assinalar a luta internacional pelos direitos do trabalhador. Os trabalhadores de todo o mundo eram chamados a manifestar-se pela jornada de trabalho de 8 horas. A luta pela redução da jornada de trabalho, foi sempre uma bandeira importante to movimento. Não só é uma reivindicação importante para combater o desemprego, mas também assinala que os direitos do trabalho são os direitos á vida: a ideia era 8 horas de trabalho, 8 de sono e 8 de tempo livre para socializar, relaxar, estudar, arte, etc…  Passados 116 anos de aumentos de produtividade, ainda muitos não chegaram a esse patamar e estamos a regredir. É importante sempre repetir que o 1º de maio não é só um dia livre onde celebramos as conquistas sociais do passado, é principalmente um dia de luta, manifestação e unidade anticapitalista. Este primeiro de Maio será diferente. A pandemia da covid19 parou as sociedades, manifestações estão condicionadas pelas precauções de saúde. O convívio tradicional está proibido. A maioria de nós terá de passar o dia do trabalhador em casa. Motivo para algumas considerações sobre a defesa dos direitos do trabalho e a resistência anticapitalista no contexto da pandemia.
Pandemias e doenças infeciosas são eventos quase inevitáveis ​​e recorrentes na história da humanidade, mas os sistemas socioeconómicos têm efeitos determinantes no desenvolvimento e nas consequências sociais dessas pandemias. O capitalismo global produziu e galvanizou o impacto do vírus. Distingo aqui 4 razões: 1. A globalização capitalista comprimiu o tempo e o espaço de tal forma que dinheiro e bens, mas também passageiros e vírus, dão a volta ao mundo de forma muito mais rápida que em qualquer outra época da história do planeta: todas as barreiras sociais e naturais - das fronteiras aos oceanos – deixaram de existir. 2. A indústria capitalista de carnes – que produz alimentos baratos para trabalhadores baratos – é comummente ligada ao surto de pandemias: Os espaços fechados e não-saudáveis ​​onde se concentram milhares de animais são incubadoras potentes para vírus que usam essa cadeia de transmissão para saltar do mundo animal para o humano. 3. Os cortes neoliberais na saúde reduziram drasticamente a infraestrutura e o pessoal disponível para combater possíveis pandemias. Uma das necessidades básicas para combater pandemias é a capacidade, em termos de leitos hospitalares, e estoques estratégicos de material higiênico básico, como máscaras, desinfetantes e reagentes para testes - todos que foram drasticamente reduzidos nos últimos vinte anos, apesar do enorme crescimento da população mundial e da riqueza financeira. 4. A privatização da pesquisa e desenvolvimento farmacêutico direciona investimentos para a invenção de novas substâncias químicas que tratam doenças que são financeiramente interessantes e evitam a pesquisa de possíveis efeitos curativos de produtos químicos sem direitos de propriedade intelectual para doenças direcionadas aos mais pobres e vulneráveis ​​do mundo. Outra consequência foi a quase-monopolização de reagentes para testes de covid19 pela multinacional farmacêutica suíça Roche.
A crise pandémica demonstrou-nos mais uma vez as debilidades do capitalismo, e das verdades neoliberais que nos foram ensinadas nos últimos 30 anos. A crise mostrou a impossibilidade de o mercado dar respostas; fora de Bolsonaro, poucos libertários lunáticos hoje defendem a não-ação do estado perante esta crise. Os serviços públicos de saúde reconquistaram o seu destaque para o bem comum, enquanto que os privados foram desmascarados por aquilo que são, especuladores que não se importam com a saúde. Vai ser difícil legitimar privatizações neste sector nos próximos anos, e o pessoal médico terá apoio social para exigir melhores condições nos próximos anos.
O combate á doença exigiu a paralisação quase completa da economia capitalista. A quarentena funcionou praticamente como uma greve social – muitas vezes imposta pelo estado – que afetou todos os sectores da sociedade. Esta paralisação e o subsequente colapso económico relembrou-nos do facto que a riqueza é fundamentalmente produzida pelos trabalhadores. O capital investido, o “empreenderismo criativo”, os gestores, a publicidade; tudo é completamente inútil sem a exploração do trabalho. A pandemia mostrou-nos também quem executa as tarefas essenciais na sociedade: são aqueles que não podem parar e tiveram de correr um risco de vida desconhecido para o bem comum: são eles os produtores de alimentos, as trabalhadoras no supermercado, são os trabalhadores na limpeza, o pessoal da logística e transportes e o pessoal médico. Muitas vezes esses trabalhadores essenciais são as pessoas que sofrem a maior exploração, que têm a maior precariedade e os piores salários. Muitas vezes também são os trabalhadores que sofrem as maiores opressões, a mulheres e trabalhadores racializados que sofrem além da exploração de sexismo e racismo.
São esses trabalhadores e trabalhadoras essenciais que merecem destaque neste primeiro de maio. A sua integração e luta é um dos maiores desafios contemporâneos do movimento dos trabalhadores; são dos sectores com menos tradição de sindicalização devido á sua grande precariedade. As velhas organizações sindicais tiveram – pelo menos até agora – grandes dificuldades para entrar nestes sectores. Mas são estes também os sectores estratégicos numa economia capitalista cada vez mais focada em serviços e produção just-in-time, e como tal estes sectores tem um poder potencial muito grande. Alguns sectores já descobriram esse poder; lembremos o impacto das lutas poderosas dos estivadores, camionistas de petróleo e enfermeiros em Portugal no ano passado. Será um processo pedagógico com muitas contradições e erros – devido á falta de tradições e organização – mas essencial para todos.
O reconhecimento das falhas do mercado livre, não nos trouxe necessariamente políticas para o bem comum; também ressuscitou o “socialismo dos ricos”, que está principalmente preocupado em encontrar um mega-ventilador para o sector financeiro e as grandes empresas. Alem disso, entre os vencedores dessa crise estarão os piores sectores da economia capitalista: as economias de plataforma - como Amazon, Uber e Glovo - as grandes superfícies e as grandes indústrias de alimentos. A crise e as quarentenas impostas fortaleceram suas posições, em vez de serem interrompidas, sua acumulação de capital disparou enquanto que suas alternativas em pequena escala, o pequeno comércio local dependente da interação direta com os clientes e o acesso limitado a novas tecnologias digitais sofrerá uma destruição do seu capital e terão enormes dificuldades para sobreviver. Se a ordem mundial capitalista não for contestada, muitas de suas tendências contemporâneas se fortalecerão ao longo desta crise. A única alternativa é a luta organizada! Saudações de um dia de trabalhador combativo!

Este texto foi escrito a convite do Jornal Mundus.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Crisis, Science and the Political – some reflections on covid-19 (Draft)

Crisis are moments of disruption. They are the key moments in which subjectivity and objectivity intersect. Krisis, the Ancient Greek noun, is derived from krinó/krinein - a verb which means to separate, to choose, to decide or to judge. Crisis thus designated the existence of a situation or moment that showed a restriction of alternatives and called for a decision. The use of crisis in its “natural scientific” form dates back to its medical signification which prevailed since 5th century BC. Crisis denoted a turning point of a disease, a phase of an illness, in which it is decided whether or not the organism's self-healing powers are sufficient for recovery. The illness, appears objective; as empirical deviations from the normal, healthy state of the organism. The patient experiences his powerlessness vis-a-vis the objectivity of the illness, a subject condemned to passivity and temporarily deprived of the possibility of being a subject in full possession of his powers. Crises are therefore associated with the idea of an objective force that deprives a subject of one part of his normal sovereignty. (Habermas, 1975) We would not speak of a crisis however, if death were certain. Crisis is thus never only an objective, external process. In its medical form – like in its theological - crisis designates a phase calling for an irrevocable decision. (Roitman, 2011)

Crises are moments of exception, the require exceptional measures. This covid19 pandemic is an extreme example. The attempt to control the crisis requires to stop the normal functioning of society, measures interrupted all normal social interaction from young to old , from closing schools to interdicting funeral rituals, they stopped and changed large parts of the economy, closing commerce and obliging people to work from home, the foreclosed most of public life and democracy, emptying the streets, imposing states of emergency, forbidding strikes and postponing elections. It is very important to keep in mind that states of exception and crisis are first and foremost political processes – even when, or even just because, they apparently disrupt “normal” politics. 

In recent public interventions, Giorgio Agamben has warned for this state of exception, which sacrifices not only our freedom in order to defend it – like did the war on terrorism. According to Agamben, life is reduced to its purely biological condition of bare life, losing all its political and human dimensions. To control the effects of the virus, all other normal life is suspended. Inspired by Foucault, Agamben claims this state of exception is the confirmation of a historical trend that totally transformed modern politics into a bio-politics in which biological life is the ultimate stake. Foucault’s concept of Bio-power referred to scientific and expert-based policies which were directed to the biological health of people. The Belgian paper De Standaard recently featured a debate between several social scientists and philosophers around the usefulness and validity of the concept of bio-power to address the contemporary pandemic. Bert de Munck started the debate, arguing in an opinion piece (data) for caution towards biopower and the danger of “science” controlling our life and freedom. He pointed towards how decisions are taken upon scientific data; and scientific data control our current life in unimagined way, while there is even no scientific consensus about the data regarding the impact of covid19 among scientists. He therefore called for a political and moral debate about the measures. Blancke, Loobuyck and Boudry reacted with an opinion article in which they argued that “playtime” is over. They claim that informed policies are not the result of bio-politics but are based upon the principles of democracy and a critical dialogue between policymakers and scientists. They claim that the reliance on biopolitics is just an easy trick applicable upon any political debate. They ask if Munck would apply the same principle to the political question of climate change – calling climate policies a “climate-dictatorship”, and conclude that the analysis of Muck only undermines the much-needed trust in democracy and science itself. In the same way Agamben was and is fiercely criticized for bringing these issues to public debate in Italy. His ideas - effectively minimizing the numbers when he stated that so far according to the official numbers only one in every 1000 Italians would be infected - would create doubts into the scientific measures put in place to control the pandemic and thereby would endanger tens of thousands more victims.

Was Munck right to warn about the lack of reliable data and deficient statistics? The statistics are certainly debatable. There are various arguments to question the actual impacts and possible trends of the covid19 pandemic in every direction. The public data in the media rely on confirmed deaths and confirmed cases, based upon tests – mostly rt-PCR tests, which search for corona virus rna in swabs that collect saliva and mucous in nose and throat. Due to margins of errors in those tests, they are often repeated twice or trice for diagnosis. In case of death and a positive test, it is not easy to determine if death was caused by the disease or by underlying conditions: Portugal’s youngest victim so far, 14 year old Ruben Dias, died from organ failure after contracting acute meningitis. He had a positive covid-test – expectable because he lived in the quarantined community of Ovar where the virus was believed to be widely spread -  but he was asymptomatic for covid19 symptoms and nothing indicated it to be the cause of death besides the test.

Due to the limited number of tests, different testing policies and the fact that the tested people do not represent a random sample of society, the actual outcomes of those tests don’t say much about the prevalence nor evolution of the corona-virus in our society, nor about the actual numbers of deaths due to covid19 in our society, nor about the actual risk of death due to covid19. Other data point to different directions: Iceland is the only country which organizes random tests, and their data show a death-rate of 0,1 to 0,3% of the infected – 1 to 3 times the usual flu-statistic. Belgian funeral agencies reported no increase in deaths during the month of March, despite a spike in the covid19-statistics. Spanish and Italian data on average death-rates in the society at large, on the other hand, showed considerable underreporting of covi19-induced deaths. They showed a significant increase of deaths of affected areas which was 3 to 4 times higher than those accounted for in the official statistics. On a yearly basis, overall national death-rates nevertheless still seem to fall within the usual variations between years – even if the pandemic continues its current course for a few more weeks.
Do the emergency-measures have an impact of the death-rates? Most probably! But it is nearly impossible to calculate how much and what effects without reliable data. We will probably have no reliable data until this crisis is over. Prudence is a good advice in situations of high risks, but prudence should not be an obstacle for thinking and critique… particularly in moments of crisis. With capitalism on the brinks of collapse and its contradictions made bare to everyone - with civil, social and political revoked - we should never just trust technocratic policies. Crisis call for politicization and alternatives.

Personally I don’t buy the concept of bio-politics advanced by Agamben and Munck. It reflects a certain essentialization and reification of power and the state – as if these would be single entities or defuse phenomena – as Foucault would have argued. This approach to politics was only possible because of the very specific, inter-class appearance of the state which had developed in the West during the post-war period. In this period, the state – and science - could gain the appearance of a class-independent bureaucratic institution that spread its ever-bigger control over all spheres of life up to the biological level of interaction between the social and the natural. With the collapse of the welfare regimes and the emergence of neoliberalism, this kind of neutral bureaucratic state has disappeared, and with it probably the usefulness of the concept of bio-politics.

As a socialist and a Marxist I believe that the best approach towards our contemporary debate about crisis and science is one of critique of the political economy. Science is never neutral. And just like the state, "the truth" and "science" are historical products; they are part of a prevailing hegemony and the fruit of class interests. Much beyond the rational critique and method the positivists adhere to, scientific truth is subject to political and social pressures and constantly changes. What may be tomorrow’s truth, is not necessarily the truth today. Truth and science are therefore political, or as Marx put it; the truth is the fruit of Man’s historical praxis. Therefore a socialist or working class science can never be the same as a capitalist science, and the scientific validity of the socialist perspective on science will always be contested as unscientific as long as we live in a capitalist political economy.

This principle does not mean that all elements of the contemporary bourgeois scientific framework are considered false and should be thrown into the dust bin, much like a thought-exercise on socialism not necessarily eliminates all concrete material elements of capitalist production methods. Probably "bourgeois measurability" and "standardization" – products of 18th and 19th century capitalism will remain very useful in socialist societies. Today's capitalist science is, moreover, still a form of hybrid, despite the neoliberal revolution: It still reflects a number of elements of socialist science, much of which are the result of public research by states where the working class has or had relative strong power positions. But in global terms, science is not class-objective: is after all, most of the research and science, both in public and private sector, is guided by principles of capitalist political economy and ideology, in terms of methods, funding, priorities and frameworks.
The framework of Marxist political ecology – which in the last decade has gained considerable influence - offers us a more useful framework for this crisis than the lens of biopolitics. Marxist political ecology considers capitalism not just as an economic or social system, but as a socio-ecology (Moore, 2011). Clashing with his German social-democratic contemporaries, Marx already pointed out that use value has two sources: nature and human labour. The purpose of existence of capital is profit. In the capitalist socio-ecology, capital accumulates through exploitation – based upon a legal framework of wage labour – and primary accumulation or expropriation – based upon the extra-legal framework of destruction, colonization and violence of what is “naturalized”. Capitalism not only structures relations between humans, but also between humans and nature. The processes of capitalist accumulation have various contradictions which create obstacles for capital accumulation and provoke crises. Some are in the sphere of classic political economy, such as insufficient initial capital, difficulties with the labour supply and resistance or inefficiencies in the labour process, inappropriate technologies and lack of demand, (Harvey, 2010, p. 47) others are so-called natural limits of the accumulation process, such as pollution, difficult environments, depletion of resources or diseases. From socio-ecological perspective, we cannot speak of a clear distinction between these natural or social limits of capital, as all social limits have a natural component and all-natural limits have a labour-component. Political ecology also this framework to tackle the problem of “climate dictatorship” which uses depoliticized technocratic frameworks to transform a scientific consensus on climate change into a form of green neoliberal capitalism which financializes natural assents and carbon emissions and thus opened new markets for accumulation. Diseases are a problem for capitalism in so far as they destroy demand and disrupt the labour supply. Our contemporary covid19-pandemic is such a crisis.

Let us now use this framework to address the present crisis. We could have seen this crisis coming – and some have seen it coming. Pandemics and infectious diseases are near-inevitable and recurring events in human history – as episodes of pest and flu have shown us -, but socio-ecologic systems have very important effects on the social consequences of those pandemics. Crises of these systems are moments of politicization when long-term tendencies become apparent and are attributed to a common enemy. Global capitalism has produced and galvanized different of these tendencies. Among these tendencies: 1. Capitalist globalization compressed time and space to such an extent that not only money and goods, but also passengers and viruses travel around the globe much faster than any time in the history of the planet. For the virus – in many cases spread out by the white traveling cosmopolitan elite to such an extent that in some African countries it has been designated as a disease of the riches - all social and natural barriers – from borders to oceans – ceased to exist. 2. The capitalist meat industry – producing cheap food for cheap labourers - is commonly linked to the outbreak of pandemics. The concentration of too many animals in closed unhealthy spaces creates the perfect breeding ground for viruses which use this chain of transmission to jump from the animal to the human world. 3. The neoliberal cuts in healthcare have drastically reduced the infrastructure and available personnel to fight possible pandemics. One of the basic needs for fighting pandemics is capacity, in terms of hospital beds, and strategic stocks of basic hygienic material such as masks, disinfectants and reagents for tests – all which were drastically reduced in the last twenty years despite the huge growth of global financial wealth. 4. Privatized pharmaceutics direct their investments towards the invention of new chemical substances that treat diseases that are financially interesting and avoid research into possible curative effects of chemicals without intellectual property rights for diseases which target the poorest and most vulnerable in the world. Examples are the lack of research into old anti-malaria drugs as Chloroquine and Mefloquine - which seem to have some unconfirmed curative properties for covid19 – and the monopolisation of reagents for covid19-tests by the Swiss pharmaceutical multinational Roche.

Crises play an important role for capitalism to renew itself, to eventually overcome the barriers of accumulation. If the capitalist world-order is not challenged, many of its contemporary tendencies will strengthen throughout this crisis. Among the winners of this crisis will be the platform-economies – such as Amazon, Uber and Glovo - the big retailers and large food industries. The crisis and the imposed quarantines strengthen their positions, instead of being halted, their capital accumulation spiked. In the meantime, their small scale alternatives, small local commerce dependent on direct interaction with costumers and limited access to new digital technologies will see a destruction of their capital and will have enormous difficulties to survive.

Capitalism most often relies upon the states in such times of crisis, and states have demanded exceptional measures to control the crisis. Schmitt famously stated that sovereignty is defined by the one who rules in the state of exception. While governments quarantined entire populations and robbed them of their social, constitutional and political rights, it provided a ventilator for Western Capitalism - provided by US treasury, the Federal Reserve Bank (1700 billion $), the European Central Bank (870 billion €)  and the German (1000 billion €) government - that cost at least 3.500.000.000.000 Euro – the equivalent of roughly 700 million real ICU ventilators.
It is nevertheless exceptional that capital eventually accepted and imposed the contemporary lockdowns. Conservative leaders such as Trump, Bolsonaro, Johnson and Trump initially played down the possible impacts of the pandemics and argued that the economies shouldn’t stop, but they lost their plea. A few weeks later, the majority of the world’s population - including most of the value-producing working class - finds itself in a situation of lock-down that affects all the continents. It would have been expectable that capitalism would not stop the global economy to save a few hundreds of thousands of lives from covid-19 (at this moment the official global death-toll is around 50.000), taking into account that none of such measures had been taken for AIDS for example, which still kills around 800.000 people/year. One explanation is that some mighty sectors of high tech capital saw potential profits in the crisis and the state of exception. Another is that the disease first spread massively in the core capitalist countries, transforming Europe, and later the United States, into hotspots of the disease. It affected countries with “less disposable” people, people which still had a right to healthcare, whose healthcare systems came to the brink of collapse and whose revolt would be more dangerous to the survival of capitalism, provoking unforeseen containment strategies.
It is important to always emphasise that we are not “all together in this”. While states try to save capitalism, the pandemic – through its direct biological consequences and/or the capitalist management of it – will inevitably cost the lives and living conditions of the most vulnerable, not only the old, sick and poor but also the workers and their families that lose their jobs, salaries and freedoms. Workers – particularly those who are working in non-essential sectors like in industries and call-centres – get the feeling of being sacrificed, literally, for the continuity of capitalist normality. The contemporary crisis exposes the weaknesses of capitalism and disrupts the hereto existing common senses: nationalizations of private healthcare and banks are back on the agenda, even some industrial production is taken over by forms of state planning to prioritize socially essential production. Healthcare, food sovereignty and solidarity have resurfaced as essential elements of human survival. The crisis showed the importance of workers in the production of socially necessary value for the running of every aspect of economy and society, while managers and privileged actors of spectacle capitalism - such as celebrities and sport-stars - have become nearly irrelevant. Workers, even in precarious sectors such as call centres and logistics, have rediscovered their power to strike in order to guarantee the safety and payment of their labour. In the Italian Bergamo area, only strike-action was able to halt non-essential industries.

In the contemporary state of exception of disaster capitalism, the workers have the possibility to become again the historical political subject that can provide the much necessary systemic alternative, as the leading force to overcome not only the perils but of capitalism as such. Like in any crisis, this is not a given – it will be a matter of consciousness and political organization. Other, reactionary subjectivities loom around the corner. The crisis has also provoked a surge in anti-Asiatic xenophobia and racism in the United States and Europe. Nationalists have seen opportunities in appeals to close borders and the suspension of universal social and political rights. Many poor in the neo-colonial world see the quarantine measures as a privilege of the rich North, of those who still have a privilege to have a home in which they can remain, and state benefits that can buy them food to survive. A unified humanity does not exist at the moment, it can only be a political goal, reached upon the universality of working class against capitalism.