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by Maurice Ulrich

The Earth Is Round.

Translated Wednesday 2 July 2008, by Gene Zbikowski


At the crazy rate at which things are going, the discovery of new planets and tribes is going to become an urgent economic necessity. Capitalism has always needed to extend the limits of human and geographic exploitation, in their every dimension. Wars of conquest, colonialism, and the massive destruction of surplus goods through war in order to jump-start production; pressure on the workforce and on the cost of labor, and the systematic exploitation of all natural resources...

The present crisis, which in France is sapping morale and inspiring the government’s reactionary neoconservative decisions — notably the smashing of those welfare state barriers that limited the market’s voracity — is perhaps the most serious of all the crises which have marked human history. We now know that the earth is round and that it is not inexhaustible, that there are no new Indies or Americas to be discovered.

Globalized capitalism is not the forerunner of a model of world management; instead, it is made up of individual capitals that are all seeking maximum profit. The financialization of the economy has made this thirst unquenchable. The subprime crisis was no isolated accident. Millions of households were sold houses that they could not afford because it was absolutely necessary to keep the money-making machine running. To get a new lease on life, speculation is now reaching into the very heart of life on this planet. Energy and oil, agricultural production and foodstuffs. Thus, while billions of euros and dollars flash on the screens of the world’s financial markets, hunger and despair have pushed thousands of men and women, the poverty-stricken of the pariah countries, to demonstrate in the streets, and sometimes to face the bullets of the police or the army. Never has wealth been so insolent and cynical, never has our planet faced such dangers.

In Wednesday’s issue of the economic newspaper les Echos, a Japanese economist and business school professor, Noriko Hama, wrote an opinion article entitled: “World Capitalism Is Coming to an End.” Among other things, she wrote this: “If world capitalism allows itself to be too much blinded by its apparent splendor, it runs the risk of engendering, among its own citizens, a desire for world socialism.” And she appealed to the next G8 Summit, “which will do us a service if it succeeds in staging a quality debate on the situation in the world economic jungle.” Noriko Hama certaintly knows that this is dubitable; even she, who seems to think that capitalism can become virtuous. But world socialism, to use her expression — would that really be a danger?

In any case, everyone is going to have to pitch in. We stand at a turning point. There may be temporary upturns, but this is certainly a long-term crisis. The United States is headed for a recession. Europe is already following in its wake, and, in this context, the major developing countries are certainly going to see a dip in their rate of growth. Other regions in the world are going to be sucked down into a living hell.

World socialism will not result from a decree. But everywhere where people turn back the wheel of finance to give a breath of life to the real economy, they will be acting for themselves and — as they say on TV — for the good of the planet. Yesterday’s announcement by the French government that it was backing off from its decision to decrease social security coverage of the treatment of long-term illnesses demonstrates that the battle-lines can shift. And they can shift in a more general way. That requires the sharing of resources and know-how and the democratic development 1) of the goals of production by public service agencies and 2) of social gains through wage increases. Lacking new worlds to discover and aliens from outer space to sweat, the choice that remains is human beings and “reinvesting,” if we may be allowed the expression, in people.

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