Cool Jerks

Scratch any boutique leftist, academic radical, smoke and mirror pseudo-Marxist and you’ll find a dedicated follower of fashion. So yesterday’s fashion was “hegemony,” and today’s fashion is “loss of hegemony.” Yesterday’s fashion was US super-exploitation of the rest of the world through dollar dominance and today’s fashion is declining US economic dominance as the euro appreciates against the dollar. Yesterday’s fashion was Japanese, European, Chinese, Asian, Latin American, subservience to US capitalism. Today’s fashion is European, Japanese, Chinese replacement of the United States at the top of capital’s pyramid. All this changing of clothing is explained by the mannequins, these shopkeeper Marxists, as “dialectics,” when of course, none of it is dialectics, none of it is the negation and overthrow of a system by the reproduction of its opposite identities.

Fashion is a market creation, and like all market exchanges, fashion is designed to obscure rather than reveal the source of produced values. Hegemony, dollar dominance, declining competitiveness are the rag trade. Expropriation of surplus value, aggrandizement of PROFIT, first, next, and last big thing.

Nothing sells in the fashion business like nostalgia and retro and we’ve seen this before, along with platform shoes, the layered look, and bad hair. Japan was destined to replace the United States, or perhaps Germany would; US industrial output could not compete with Europe’s, Japan’s, and watch out for the emerging dragons of Taiwan, South Korea, Malaysia. The US dollar was too strong or too weak or both and everybody knows the oil is about to run out.

And today? As yesterday, neither Japan, nor Europe, nor China can replace the United States’ role in the capitalist network. Euro high or low, capital account surplus or deficit, merchandise trade deficit or not, the strength of the United States is in its exploitation of wage-labor both inside and outside its borders.

The appreciation of the euro has been a drag on the export production of the eurozone economies, economies that are much more export dependent than the US. While the US merchandise trade deficit continues to grow, the deficit itself is the product of the US penetration of the economies of its major trading partners– China, Japan, Mexico, Canada, and Europe. Indeed, while much is made of the “export of capital” as the hallmark of advanced capitalism, the US merchandise trade deficit is the result for the profitable realization of that export through reimportation of the commodities so produced. If China is quite correctly identified as an import-reexport economy, the US is correctly identified as an export-reimport economy.

US industrial labor productivity has continued to outpace productivity gains in the eurozone, so much so that eurozone bureaucrats have attempted to establish a common policy to close the productivity gap, to little avail. Gross economic measures for 2003 year to year changes in GDP, unemployment, employment, industrial production, output per worker all indicate the relative strength of US capitalism vis-a-vis Japan and the eurozone.

This strength is not simply a military or financial strength, but a real strength in the expropriation of surplus value,and in offsetting declining rates of return by diminishing the standards of living of the workers.

Japan’s recent recovery, fed not by the China demand, but by depreciation of labor and a 25% reduction in capacity utilization, has done little to arrest the deflation in industrial and residential real estate assets.

Tomorrow is not a whispered promise of some other capitalist economy supplanting the United States in a restabilized global capitalism. Rather it is the accelerating decline of the system of exchanges as a system, with the United States, that is the US bourgeoisie, making out better than its counterparts, collaborators/competitors. A rich man can always get through poor times better than a poor man. And the fashion plate Marxists, as always, are all dressed up with no place to go– and dressed up in last year’s model.

S. Artesian

Address all comments to sartesian@earthlink.net

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