Why capitalism now needs ‘lockdowns’ (social enclosure) and ‘medical’ tyrannyMon 9:49 am Europe/London, 3 May 2021
Left Lockdown Sceptics hosts an excerpt of this excellent article by Ted Reese.
Because capitalism is working towards its own abolition by replacing commodity-producing labour with automated machines, the profitability of capital is increasingly dependent on low wages, public debt, state orders, and the centralisation of wealth and power.
Whether you believe that covid-19 broke out as a result of capitalism’s ever-greater need to turn the environment into commodities;  that the infection and death rates have been inflated by sleights of hand  to justify lockdowns and a profit-motivated vaccine arms race; that the outbreak was planned bioterrorism all along; or that there is no proof that covid-19 even exists as a novel virus (on the basis that it has apparently never been isolated, see here also); one thing is undeniable: given the dire state of the world economy, the timing of the pandemic could not have been more convenient for the ruling class and the needs of capital accumulation.
Doubts about the severity or veracity of covid-19; and concerns about the safety and effectiveness of rushed vaccination programmes that cannot be smugly dismissed as anti-vaxxer hysteria  have been widely discussed and debated elsewhere. What has not been covered convincingly, at least widely, is an analysis of why the ruling class might have resorted to any conspiracy (or at least such a level of rank opportunism), and why now exactly (with the World Economic Forum speaking of a ‘Great Reset’; and one of its contributors anticipating an entirely rent-based economy whereby “you’ll own nothing and be happy”). What we tend to hear from those who do believe in a conspiracy is that it is all about grabs on power, land, and wealth. These grabs are certainly happening but stopping there does not get to the root of the issue. The root of the issue? The demands of capital accumulation.
Capitalism is a system that needs to keep expanding production to keep the accumulation of capital rising; to offset the general rate of profit’s tendency to fall (it trended down from an estimated 43% in the 1870s to 17% in the 2000s). The rate of profit trends downwards (and therefore historically towards zero) because in order to raise the productivity of commodity-producing labour (capital’s exploitation of which is the sole source of profit), the innovation required conversely tends to replace labour. The more capital-biased the ratio of capital-to-labour becomes, the more difficult it becomes for labour to reproduce and expand total capital yet further, yet the solution is to intensify the contradiction. The system suffers from a rising overaccumulation, or surplus, of capital, that which cannot be reinvested profitably in production.
Wages must be slashed to rewiden thinning profit margins, but the exploitability of labour continues to become increasingly insufficient to meet the ever-rising demands of accumulation. The centralisation of capital therefore becomes increasingly necessary (often through speculation). The bigger companies buy up smaller companies (preferably ones that have gone bust on the cheap) and monopolise industry.  And debt rises to ‘fill the gap’ left by the insufficient amount of surplus value that capital appropriates from workers and realises through commodity sales.
Capitalism has now entered its deepest ever crisis. A decade of savage austerity after the financial crash of 2007–09— enabling governments to redirect a large portion of public spending into subsidising capital — proved inadequate. Capital required a deeper depression. The lockdown induced, for example, Britain’s worst recession since 1709 (an economic contraction of around 30%, taking the size of the economy back to that of 2002, when the population was 59.24 million compared to 2019’s 66.65 million). Economic growth, which has slowed decade-on-decade for 50 years, was already grinding to a halt — in August 2019, German’s economic growth was 0.1%; Britain’s 0.2% — before the hardest ever stock market crash on 19 February 2020.
Even before the financial crash, world debt had reached mountainous heights. It has since continued to hit new highs for so-called ‘peace time’ — the US, UK and Europe are of course waging endless wars on the Middle East and elsewhere — with the spending on the pandemic (subsidising capital; enforcing lockdowns) reaching world-war-like proportions. This is not just capitalism’s deepest ever crisis, though — the system is approaching its final crisis, since the contemporary innovation required to raise the productivity of labour — automation — is now conversely abolishing the source of profit, i.e. capital’s exploitation of commodity-producing labour.
The depth of the crisis of accumulation is such that the centralisation of capital is accelerating at an extraordinary pace. Capital’s dependence on public debt is reaching extreme highs. Monopoly capital has no choice but to make the state its number one customer if it is to remain profitable. This has always been true of weapons manufacturers, for example. Without capitalist states waging wars, weapons manufacturers cannot remain profitable, and so bogus justifications for wars (remember Saddam Hussein’s never-found weapons of mass destruction?) have to be dreamed up to retain enough support for the government of the day and capitalism in general from the general population.
Whether covid-19 is real or not, exaggerated or not, the same is now true of ‘Big Pharma’. Some 97% of the funding behind the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine came from public sources. The private pharmaceutical industry in the US has become so unprofitable that it has closed the bulk of its research & development facilities, relying instead on publicly funded state facilities. Big Pharma needed something like a state-mandated mass vaccination programme to remain profitable. Similarly, public education is being privatised, made dependent on ‘Big Tech’, another disaster for children and their privacy (their data being a treasure trove to sell on to marketing firms) after a year of denied education and social development.’
Why capitalism now needs ‘lockdowns’ (social enclosure) and ‘medical’ tyranny