The covid-19 crisis and the second general crisis of capitalism

The health crisis, which is at the same time an ecological crisis, cannot be separated from the general crisis of capitalism; everything actually comes together in a bundle of contradictions. The capitalist mode of production (CMP) has reached its limit and its crisis comes by itself, condemning it to death.

The termss of this new general crisis of capitalism are different from country to country, in accordance with the principle of unequal development. However, it leaves no other choice apart from imperialist war or revolution.

The birth of the concept of general crisis of capitalism

The concept of general crisis of capitalism was put in place by the Communist International from its foundation, in order to describe the decline of capitalism as the wave of the world revolution develops.

The assessment of this crisis was of course considered to be decisive in defining the tactics of each Communist Party, since the social changes, rapid and brutal, brought political turning points which had to be understood.

We find here anew the principle of uneven development. The Communist International had seen that the rising powers of the United States and Japan were spared the general crisis of capitalism, but that this could not last because Europe had collapsed. And if the Western European countries managed at first to neutralize the effects of the crisis by pressurizing workers as much as possible, in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, it was a collapse.

The Communist International had thus analyzed the situation well, especially since it announced from the start that we were going to a new world war between imperialists. On the other hand, it showed that it was very difficult to manage very different national situations in a centralized manner.

The situation after 1945

American capitalism had, in 1918, taken the place of Great Britain as the spearhead of the CMP. Taking advantage of its relative isolation, of its large territory, of constant immigration, of capitalism from below always renewed but already also of powerful monopolies, American capitalism succeeds in crossing a milestone in its development of accumulation.

American capitalism had in fact systematized approaches greatly improving productivity and consumption, notably with the large-scale industrial use of animals in food. It had widened the fields of consumption and production and this process managed to deepen more and more.

By exporting itself after 1945, this American capitalist model modernized capitalism and allowed a whole wave of capitalist growth in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s. The decolonization process was also misused by the CMP in establishing semi-feudal semi-feudal forms colonial in the majority of the countries of the planet, fully integrated in the CMP.

The USSR, which had become social-imperialist after 1953, integrated itself into the CMP, and the collapse of 1989 brought about an even more advanced capitalist modernization. The addition of Deng Xiaoping’s social-fascist China then greatly benefited the CMP.

Assessment of the situation after 1945

In the immediate post-war period, it was considered by the International Communist Movement that the situation was only an extension of the past. The needs of reconstruction were underestimated, but especially the leaps in the development of the capitalist mode of production (CMP).

It was not until the 1960s and 1970s that a new communist generation, uncorrupted by the previous capitalist development, was at the level of the deepening of the CMP. In semi-colonial semi-feudal countries, this was carried by a whole generation of leaders who understood how the CMP had used neo-feudalism to form bureaucratic capitalism from above maintaining a strong colonial dimension. These were the Siraj Sikder, Ibrahim Kaypakkaya, Akra Yari, Charu Mazumdar.

In the capitalist countries, it was the Red Army Fraction that inaugurated the 24-hour understanding of capitalism, the Italian Red Brigades following in its footsteps from the Metropolitan Political Collective who had similarly grasped the nature of this process .

The three interpretations of the general crisis of capitalism

There are three options for interpreting the general crisis of capitalism. The first is to say that the crisis began in 1917-1918 and has continued since. This option is unlikely, and Trotsky claimed that the productive forces had not grown since that date, what the Trotskyists still assume today. Bordigist leftist currents hold a similar discourse.

This is anti-dialectical and indeed does not even conform to what the Communist International said, which never raised unilaterally the question of the decline of capitalism. A development of a particular branch may very well exist in the midst of a general crisis. However, it is clear after 1945 that this is indeed a broad development and not at all a general crisis.

The second option is to suppress or neutralize the concept of the general crisis of capitalism. This is what most organizations have done, removing it in most cases, maintaining it formally, simply as a very rare rhetoric for example in basic texts.

The third option is to understand that the CMP developed well after 1945, but reached the limit. This is what is correct.

The invasion of covid-19 and the second general crisis of capitalism

The crisis of the capitalist mode of production (CMP) was expressed by the crisis provoked by the covid-19, because it was by a frenzied accumulation that the CMP was brought to reinforce its extreme pressure on the natural environments. The contradiction between natural reality and the CMP has been explosive. The consequence has been that the CMP, a reproduction of social life, is a partly stopped machine.

The economic crisis is therefore not added to the health crisis, as the ecological crisis is not parallel to the economic crisis. All of this is one and the same thing, a bundle of contradictions that can only be grasped concretely in the light of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, naturally when one has understood its real substance.

If the CMP was not decadent, it could face the health crisis – but it cannot, and in fact the health crisis would not have occurred dialectically if it was not decadent.

It is wrong to seek a source of the crisis in “the economy” before the health crisis or to summarize the crisis in covid-19. There is dialectically no cause and consequence, nor even before or after: there is a multifaceted unified phenomenon, the CMP.

The second general crisis of capitalism is a whole and one cannot abstractly separate the overproduction of goods from the industrial production of farm animals in the 1960s or the destruction of natural conditions in the 2000s.

The first moment: the petty bourgeoisie takes the blow

It is of course necessary to analyze in detail the modalities of the crisis, but we can see that with the outbreak of the health crisis and the ensuing containment, the CMP immediately faced a crisis of overproduction of goods. The distribution circuits being partially stopped, we have too much oil, too much electricity, too many flowers, too much bread. The baker can close his shop and hope to pass the storm. But flower producers have carried out destruction by the millions. Atomic power stations can be restricted in France, other means of electricity production slow down. But US oil stocks have gone so far as to be sold with a deficit.

These are only examples, of course, to indicate that depending on the sector, the break has not been the same. But it hurts very much in some fields. This is the reason for the ideology of rapid deconfinement. The bourgeoisie linked to the broken sectors is ultra-demanding, its pressure is enormous.

All sectors operating on a just-in-time basis due to a petty-bourgeois dynamic, such as the hotel industry, small businesses, small crafts, or even the industry of many sports such as football or hockey… have been stabbed by the health crisis.

The second moment: the tendency to deconfinement

The petty bourgeoisie is not a class, but a layer between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. It is logical that it was the first to know the initial blow. However, as the health crisis was severe, the changeover at the expense of one of the two classes was inevitable. This is the reason why the bourgeoisie as a whole tends to agree to the deconfinement.

It is afraid that social relations, so well framed, so well stabilized, could be affected, that this could lead to demands at its expense. It wants at all costs to avoid the recomposition of the proletarian fabric.

ir also considers that the breakage has been limited, that it’s possible to try to revive the “frozen” movements as quickly as possible. It is also very worried about the “abnormal” conditions of production and enlarged reproduction of capital. To this must be added the idea that a rapid upgrading would strengthen national capitalism in the context of global competition.

This conception of a confinement then of a deconfinement, possibly of a new confinement, then of a deconfinement, etc. comes up nevertheless against a whole series of obstacles.

And the problem is also that it’s necessary to have the means to do so. Then, there are also alliances requiring internal solidarity. Finally, there is the world market which is independent from the national market.

The third moment: the state infusion

The bourgeoisies quickly understood that the nationalist logic placed them before a possible catastrophic scenario: success could be achieved in parallel with a general collapse. This is especially true in Europe, where Germany with its Austrian satellite would gladly have sailed alone, with the Netherlands in particular, before realizing that its status as the main European power required it to maintain the European framework.

An Italian, Spanish, and even worse French collapse would plunge it into crisis itself. Hence the trend towards a state infusion in the economy. We are talking about hundreds and hundreds of billions here. All economic commentators have rightly spoken of “magic money” coming from the states to secure credits and infuse the economy.

It goes without saying here that it is the proletariat which will have to provide this magic money. In the first time the petty bourgeoisie took the shock, in the second the bourgeoisie wanted to revive directly, in the third it noticed the difficulties and intends to make the proletariat pay.

Overproduction of capital and overproduction of goods

The general crisis of capitalism is based on a dialectic between an overproduction of capital and an overproduction of goods. The latter has taken place and continues to take place. With a good part of the distribution channels blocked, with the impediment to leave home to go to consume conventionally, the goods accumulate without being sold.

By prolonging itself, the crisis acts so that the cycles of capitalist consumption were powerfully broken in places. It’s simply not possible to restart it by relying directly on day-1. Powerful imbalances will appear according to the sectors, with massive bankruptcies, and this will echo between sectors.

De facto, there is also a crisis of overproduction of underlying capital, because part of the economy being at a standstill, capital can no longer place itself, it is “in excess”. The idea of the states is to keep as much capital as possible where it is, coming to the rescue of big business. It is a question of maintaining the traditional poles of attraction of capital.

Maintaining the main activities and reviving them must prevent a freeze and scattering of capital. Here we can take advantage of the example of the first general crisis of capitalism to find out how it unfolds.

The uneven development of the general crisis of capitalism

During the general crisis of capitalism after 1917, some countries succeeded in making workers pay for the crisis in order to restart relatively, in the context of the decline of capitalism on a world scale. This was particularly the case in France and Great Britain, where the revolutionary momentum was quickly broken. The Communist Parties of these two countries have an isolated journey. On the other hand, this did not succeed in the countries of Eastern and Central Europe, provoking deep crises and the assertion of truly massive and combative Communist Parties.

We now have practically the opposite pattern. The countries of Eastern and Central Europe are experiencing great stability, either because of a strong CMP as in Germany and Austria, or because of a deep-rooted bureaucratic capitalism as in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, etc.

On the other hand, countries like Italy, Spain, France and England are hit hard. Their capitalism was already experiencing too many internal problems and the expression of the general crisis is directly linked to these. Concretely, a real push by the masses is enough for these countries to experience a crisis of the greatest magnitude.

France, the weak link

With Brexit, nationalism in Britain has a head start on the communist strategic proposal. Spain is experiencing massive internal dissensions where the national bourgeoisie, particularly the Catalan one, can pull the chestnuts out of the fire. Italy and France appear all the more as the weak link in the imperialist chain.

Italy is, however, trapped in a multitude of structural problems paralyzing any capacity for centralized political projection. There has been no real revolutionary base since the 1990s, whereas the far right has grown massively.

France, on the other hand, is experiencing a centralized crisis. The reactionary wave of “yellow vests”, an ultra-minority but very noisy movement reflecting the panic of the petty bourgeoisie, had already shaken social reality. The wave of strikes against the reform of pensions, with especially the rail workers, from the beginning of December 2019 to the end of February 2020, was a complete failure, but similarly destabilized social relations.

Here we find the situation after 1918, but this time with no possibility of exit. The Communist International was already seeing the contrast between the extremely ambitious objectives of French imperialism and its sinking base, with a largely parasitic capital already noted by Lenin. France then came out of it by its agrarian base and its immense petty bourgeoisie. This will not be possible this time.

It is just necessary to see the do i yourself of French capitalism. France has thus benefited greatly from the formation of a department, the Seine Saint-Denis, serving as an immigrant lever for the Paris base, causing a situation of massive third worldization. The presence of immigrant children sleeping in the streets of Paris, of drug addicts in the Paris metro, of bands of pickpockets on the Champs-Elysées … testify that the state is overwhelmed. The failure to have even masks for the population and even for health workers is the direct expression of a large-scale crisis.

Belgium in a bundle of contradictions

The situation in Belgium is both very similar and particularly different from that in France, with contradictions going mainly in the same explosive direction. The Belgian state has literally resigned from its responsibilities with regard to the application of confinement in certain districts, testifying to its decline as well as its contempt for the health of the population.

The state is in fact increasingly out of step with the broad masses. A very significant example is the pedestrianization of the historic center of Brussels, commendable in the abstract, but which in fact has proved to be a concrete basis for the increased development of anti-social behavior, from delinquency to drug trafficking, with groups of pickpockets or drug addicts going so far as to harass passers-by.

However, this example is placed in the midst of the North / South contradictions, Wallonia / Flanders, masses / State, proletariat / bourgeoisie, which intertwine and do not cease, in the absence of revolutionary solution, to cause a political collapse.

The necessary study of the general crisis of capitalism

There is a need to study the second general crisis of capitalism. It is necessary to study the aspects, the interrelations. It is a contribution that is inevitably necessary to find one’s bearings in an entirely new period, a revolutionary period.

We are entering the era of the masses and their journey follows dialectically the development of the general crisis of capitalism. Who is unable to understand the CMP, to grasp the modalities of its crisis, will be unable to lead the revolution.