Capitalism crashes all the time. It’s so regular it’s called the business cycle. Everything else is just spin. As Jeremy Irons says in the movie Margin Call:
It’s certainly no different today than its ever been. 1637, 1797, 1819, ’37, ’57, ’84, 1901, ’07, ’29, 1937, 1974, 1987 — Jesus, didn’t that fuck up me up good — ’92, ’97, 2000 and whatever we want to call this. It’s all just the same thing over and over; we can’t help ourselves. And you and I can’t control it, or stop it, or even slow it. Or even ever-so-slightly alter it. We just react.
Capitalism somehow harnesses the cosmic cycle of creation, preservation, and destruction into a ‘business cycle’ that keeps going round and round, and spitting more and more money out. Capitalism should have died many times already, but it gets resurrected more than Jesus Christ. Unlike the risen Lord, however, it actually sticks around.
As Leon Trotsky said,“there is no crisis which can be, by itself, fatal to capitalism.” Via Hadas Thier:
He said “the oscillations of the business cycle only create a situation in which it will be easier, or more difficult, for the proletariat to overthrow capitalism.” And this did indeed happen, in the early 1900s period of collapse, violence, and revolution that shook the globe. And we’re in another such period now. But no conclusions are foregone.
What’s interesting is Trotsky’s last sentence, that (generally) “the life of society will continue necessarily upon capitalist foundations—until a new crisis, a new war, perhaps until the complete disintegration of European civilization.” And that, I think, is where we are.
The truth is that European civilization did disintegrate last century, just not completely enough. As that genocidal racist Winston Churchill said, “the New World, with all its power and might, [stepped] forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.” And so for another century the violence and exploitation continued from America, the new capital of Capital abroad.
But now even that bastion is coming apart. The Capitol of Capital has already been stormed once. It’s World Trade Center and Pentagon had already been struck. It’s a trifecta really. White Empire is just one big financial crash away from disintegrating once again and I don’t know where they retreat to this time. Australia?
And yet even this, even the complete disintegration of European civilization (as welcome as it would be), even this is not enough. As Irons said in Margin Call, “there’s going to be a lot of money to be made coming out of this mess.” As there always is.
The stock market goes back to colonialism in the 1600s, but let’s start from the 1870s because that’s what I can find. There’s a lot of crashes, but overall it’s ‘up and to the right’. So why would you ever stop this? Sure a bunch of proles might starve sometimes, but workers are a renewable resource. Sure the markets always crash, but they always regain. And so they remain.
The only way Capitalism finally crashes is if something completely disrupts this Cartesian Plane. Like, comes from outer space. Which is happening, in a way.As you can see from this graph or, like, going outside. The rise of global capitalism is the rise of global warming. It’s one and the same. As the IPCC says,“Economic growth measured by total or individual income growth is a main driver of GHG emissions.” And yet this is all markets really measure. They might as well be measuring climate change.
As you can see, a market based economy is simply incompatible with a livable planet. You can certainly have markets within socialism or communism (economies planned around human needs). But you cannot have markets taking over everything, as they have been under neoliberal regimes.
You can see the IPCC calling for socialism in its complicated-ass way:
There is a growing realisation that mere monetary value of income growth is insufficient to measure national welfare and individual well-being. Hence, any action towards climate change mitigation is best evaluated against a set of indicators that represent a broader variety of needs to define individual well-being, macroeconomic stability, and planetary health.
How are you going to enforce this ‘set of indicators’? Certainly not by Capitalism alone, which sees only dollars and cents. You need governments that work not for the oligarchs, but for the 99%. And so you get the ripest conditions for revolution. Not the exploitation of workers—which people seem to give a fuck about—but the final resource exploitation of the planet, effectively tipping us into the sun.
But is even this enough? We know climate collapse is happening right now, but oil and coal markets are still going up. The fossil fuels companies have known for 40 years, but they never gave a fuck. When a war or crisis impacts fossil fuels, do we cry out for renewables with new urgency? No, we just want lower prices at the pump.
As I have discussed, if you look at the geological record, what we are seeing is not one species dying as much as another species being born. We think of Capital as this ‘thing’ that we control, but it is really a symbiote. It takes the blood of labor and the love of lucre to become its own lifeform. Geologically speaking, this has actually happened before.
3.5 billion years ago, aerobic bacteria started tapping a novel energy source—the sun. They tapped it so hard that their emissions almost turned the whole thing into a snowball. Climate collapse, just the other way round. Then over millions of years they learned to balance the thermostat, and here we are. Do you see where I’m coming from?
We think of Capital as being our slave, but c’mon. Joint stock companies have literally been enslaving people since the 1600s. Wage slavery effects everyone still. Even the wealthy corporate raiders in Margin Call keep saying ‘do we have a choice?’ They don’t. None of us do. We’re all caught up in the maw of this rising beast, choking on its residue.
Capital, as a species of artificial life, is changing the climate, and new species generally don’t give a fuck about where they came from.Aerobic bacteria killed off most ancestral bacteria with their emissions, and that previously dominant species had to retreat to deep sea vents and up our butts.
Do you know what we call the toxic, volatile emission that killed anaerobic life off? Oxygen, which we love. It’s entirely possible that future generations of Capitalist life will think of carbon dioxide as fun.
Hence it is entirely possible that corporations—relying on a threadbare amount of human labor—could be wandering the Earth in 400 years, an Earth stripped of 90% of lifeforms, and not feel bad about this at all. Do you give a fuck about anaerobic bacteria? In this way, rich peoples feelings have really have a life of their own.
This is why I saw that even as we’re nearing what should be the final collapse of Capitalism—the collapse of White Empire—even that is not enough. Even as we near the final-FINAL.docx of Capitalism—the collapse of the entire climate—even that is not enough. Trotsky was right when he said“there is no crisis which can be, by itself, fatal to capitalism.” He was right without qualification, neither the collapse of European civilization or human civilization is enough.
For human beings to survive, for a human-livable planet to survive, there must be revolution. Overthrowing the neoliberal idea that markets need to eat everything, and harnessing them within socialism for human needs, like eating, and not shitting where we eat.
Every crisis we will face this tumultuous century will provide an opportunity greater (re: worse) than any opportunity before. And yet great thinking, great sacrifice, and great actions must still be taken for the wheel to turn. Evolution doesn’t help us here, if anything we’re being out-evolved. We need actual revolution to turn this thing around.