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The "Historical Inertia" of Globalized Capitalism


#1

In the Brooklyn Rail, theorist Eddie Dioguardi turns to astrological metaphors to explain the sense of “historical inertia” that defines our present—the feeling that the system of globalized capitalism cannot be fundamentally changed or overthrown. He proposes the notion of a binary star system to understand why we fail to believe that a major historical break is possible, even though a series of historical breaks brought us here in the first place. Here’s an excerpt:

Of particular interest in this context is the phenomenon of binary star systems. Earlier this year, MGMT sang about these in the song “Me and Michael” (“Binary star sink like the setting sun/ /Too happy with ourselves to notice when the change had come”). In contrast to how we usually think of the alternatives of geocentricism and heliocentricism—between the idea that the sun orbits the Earth and the idea that the Earth (as in fact it does) orbits the sun—binary star systems present a third option, where a star orbits another star, which orbits it. Whether the shared center of two bodies in a system of orbit is external to both bodies or within one of them, that center is an effect of the bodies’ mutual gravitational pull, called the “barycenter.” Beyond the mathematical “two-body problem” presented by binary stars, there is the “three-body problem,” involved in the attempt by mathematicians to model the way in which the Earth, the sun, and the Moon are gravitationally bound to each other. It was in the course of trying and failing to develop a solution to the three- (or n-) body problem that Poincaré developed the foundations of what would become deterministic chaos theory. In contemporary astronomy, most visible stars are thought to orbit other stars, forming the phenomenon of star clusters, groups of stars that are gravitationally bound with each other in a chaotic way.

Analogously, in the historical situation in which we find ourselves we see ourselves as no longer hierarchically subjected to some greater or transcendent body, yet as unable to break from processes and routines that we seem condemned to repeat indefinitely. Worse, those around us, “in our orbit,” so to speak, are caught in the same system of movement, as we look at them (looking at us) for orientation, as we are. It does not suffice to wish to break this cycle or rupture it, because we are not only in the shadow of what happened previously, but find ourselves enacting its repetition in our very attempt to deviate from it. So often when we speak of a “system” history is subsumed in advance, in its apparent capacity to circumvent all dissent or the possibility of rupture.

Subjectivity, however—unlike celestial movements—is not reducible to the relative positions of bodies. We are already aware of the various crises (ecological, economic, or otherwise) that constitute the horizon of our activity today, but our awareness of the gravity of these crises would seem to only reinforce the image of ourselves as inert bodies. For Adam Curtis, the “hypernormalization” common to our present and the late Soviet Union consists in the fact that we are “so much a part of the system that it [is] impossible to see beyond it,” just as in the case of the binary star system metaphor. In actuality, the limit of these metaphors consists in imagining one’s self as a part of a system that is constituted by one’s own belonging to it. Historical events never repeat the same way twice, and this should lead us to consider the idea that our present might look quite different in retrospect—that is, if a new system is indeed about to be born.

Image via the Brooklyn Rail.


#2

Argument by metaphor and astrophysics related to the world situation are always going to be extremely dubious routes to clarity about the balance of class forces on the planet.
Instead, Marxist materialist dialectics should be used.
Things are highly contradictory, in a material way. On the one hand, capitalism remains deep in historic and global crisis, both economically and politically, with fascism (Mussolini-like Trumpism, Europe’s ultra-right, Duterte, Zionists, Brexit racism etc) and warmongering rising (Western imperialist blitzkriegs on Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Saudis destroying Yemen, mad-dog Zionists killing Palestinian children in turkey shoots, etc).
Exactly when all the economic factors at work translate into such a deep slide into trade war that the financial system goes into meltdown is unknown, but the signs keep on coming that another 2008-type crash but far worse is imminent. In this way, the global collapse of capitalism and its march towards WW3 is predictable and requires sharp and clear warnings from anyone claiming to offer socialist leadership.
It is this that remains hugely problematic for the world’s proletarian masses: where is the clear-thinking Leninist mass leadership that can inspire and give correct objective scientific leadership to the world’s masses? Still tiny.
No wonder that vast millions of Arabs and Iranians still turn to Islamic jihadist movements in their efforts to fight the anti-imperialist fight against Nazi US domination of their region, and no wonder the confusion in say, Brazil, where the middle-class turn to Bolsonaro’s vicious fascist “strong anti-crime, anti-corruption leadership” (lying garbage) - precisely because the Workers Party ‘leftists’ do not lead a REAL socialist revolution, but instead haplessly try to reform capitalism, leaving the mega-wealthy and their capitalist state forces intact. The ultra-right even point to Venezuela’s flailing-around “left-wing” nationalism, call it “communism” and use it as a bogeyman to incite violence against the left-wing.
Brazil gets fascism, whether the “left” likes it or not. The “lefts” say “no to the coup” - but it has already happened. Their leaders, like Lula, are jailed for “corruption” by right-wing senators who have their hands permanently in the till. What a sick joke! And what a stupid farce “21st-century socialism” is.
And here is where the contradiction in politics gets most acute: how long can reformist stupidities keep gulling people - whether it’s the Workers Party in Brazil, Syriza in Greece, Sanders in the USA or Corbyn in the UK?
As the miserable situation in Venezuela keeps showing - either expropriate the rich and overthrow the capitalist state and impose the dictatorship of the proletariat - or the capitalist system continues to rule and undermines and destroys all reformist “socialist” prospects, and just dismays and disappoints the working class.
Leninism stormed to power in Russia in 1917 precisely because the well-trained Bolshevik party knew all this stuff. Since then, the waters have been muddied both by Stalin’s retreats from international revolutionary perspectives into block-headed popular-frontist and “peace-campaigning” nonsense and the anti-communism of the West’s pet stooges of anti-Soviet Trotskyism.
The Economic & Philosophic Science Review leads the hugely-needed battle to restore Leninist science to the head of the workers movement, constantly arguing for proletarian dictatorship and correct Marxist understanding of the all-round evil fascist viciousness of the bourgeois system’s class war on workers. Its tiny forces will not be tiny forever - as suggested by warm receptions to its arguments at meetings on Brazil and Venezuela, challenging the insane juvenile “leftism” that says: “Why doesn’t Washington treat our election wins fairly and remove the crippling sanctions?”, “why isn’t Washington nice to us? - it’s so unfair”.
Duh.