In Marx’s time, the proletarian potential for resistance did not arise primarily, as some Marxists still like to wish, from the struggle against the commodity form, but rather it was the techno-economic conditions of the transition from wood to coal as a source of energy that also provided for new forms of action and resistance by the working population. These conditions allowed, on the one hand, the creation of large industries, which, on the other hand, opened up, at least to organized workers, for about a century, an unusual potential of power that served to subvert the power exercised by capital, especially by the workers blocking both the coal mines and the transportation routes in times of strike, that is, paralyzing important bottlenecks or nodes at the beginning of the production chains. By also organizing horizontally, workers were able to temporarily shut down large parts of the industrial system, which at the time was based on coal and steam power, when, in addition, railroad workers, who blocked other bottlenecks and nodes along the production lines and transportation routes and when, in addition, workers in the steel industry took part in the strike, which could then quickly expand into a general strike, for which the state had neither the legitimacy nor the security forces to be able to stop it completely, and this then even influenced the elections with which the state legitimizes itself to this day.
Elections usually establish common sense in capitalist systems, but they also serve to reduce the costs of the state’s repressive apparatuses. During the duration of a general strike, it was often only a matter of time before the state brought its military apparatus to bear against the workers. Later, the linking of the right to strike with the right to vote established the class compromise between labor and capital, and this in the context of a strengthening of unions and the invention of social policy by governments, aspects that are, however, often enough analyzed only in the context of Fordism, in which workers’ relatively high wages were supplemented by the welfare state.
Looking at the transition from the coal regime to the oil regime in the mid-20th century, one must first note that there were far fewer workers in the oil industry than in the coal industry, so that the former therefore already did not have the same potential power to interrupt production as the latter. Accordingly, production was more likely to be disrupted by individual attacks on oil pipelines, again requiring broad public support if any political effects were to be achieved. The central nodes of the oil industry were in the hands of the major oil companies and the OPEC states, which could also control oil prices.
(Saboteurs, insurgents, and strikers work with threats to get higher wages, higher income tax for the rich, and new social programs). The threat potential of a general strike, which had previously been aimed in part at blocking or even gaining control of central account points, was suddenly tied to the need to create public spaces or occupy places, whether virtual or physical. A tactical question of struggles today is still whether and how to link symbolic occupations of public spaces with collective actions in the private spaces of capital.
We have repeatedly emphasized at NON that the riots, many of which are now carried by the global surplus population, are the current expression of international class struggle. The most important surplus in this is the actively negating, the resisting population in the erupting moments of mass mobilization, which condense into an event in which the uprising explodes the police management of a concrete situation and at the same time radically decouples itself from everyday life. This kind of insurgent surplus production, however, always remains confronted with the conditions of socioeconomic processes and transformations that respond to crises or constitute them in the first place. All this by no means indicates insurgency as a purely contingent, but also as a necessary form of political struggle.
Going further, however, the question arises: is it possible for factories, transportation routes, police and military installations, and Internet-based industries to be iblocked, at least by those with access to significant nodes? Then again, a more already strategic question is whether the political-economic conditions that make up the oil-based financial system might offer an opportunity for broader collective action. And going further, there is the question of the nature of the links and networks between the current financial system (including its financial collateral and derivatives) and the new private and state security industries, where what is particularly important for resistance here is precisely to identify those points at which the entire financial system threatens to become illiquid as a consequence of disruptive and crisis events. This would require a more detailed analysis of the political potential that coal and oil-based global technologies enable for resistance in relation to the global financial system, but we cannot yet do that here.
Let us turn to the questions of current forms of resistance that could provide the occasion to join the uprisings, riots and circulation struggles. For the analysis of financial capital, we refer to texts already published elsewhere on NON. Today we must assume that credit is no less a resource for covering the reproductive costs of wage-dependents than wages are today; think, for example, of the steady growth of the credit card system, consumer credit, and student loans, which means nothing other than that the calculation of credit is becoming no less important to the capitalist economy than surplus-value-creating wage labor was and is as a vehicle for capital accumulation. And precisely for this reason, the question of new forms of resistance arises urgently here as well, think of collective debt strikes.
The Marxian concept of the credit-unworthy and debt-free worker has long since become obsolete when the financial industry can make profits from credit card systems, consumer loans and pension funds. Today’s credit systems constantly require new information, some of which borrowers generate themselves via participation in credit scoring procedures, with borrowers spending more and more of their time online, whether they work there (unpaid) or not; borrowers constantly generate new surplus information and data streams, from which the financial industry creates new financial products using credit scoring, ranking and and rating procedures. From now on, it is imperative for subjects to pay attention to the gap between paid and unpaid online work, which in turn has an impact on their credit, on the credit they want to receive and that they have to pay, in a context entirely controlled by the financial industry in cooperation with the big Internet companies and the state.
The expansion of the credit system as an eminently important part of the global interconnectedness of capital has given rise to two important industries, including their nodes: first, the global derivatives and insurance industry, which must constantly tap into new information flows to create new financial products, and second, new private and state security industries that safeguard the financial industry through the instruments of surveillance and violence. There is a constitutive interconnectedness of the insurance industry and the security industry to be observed today. To understand the close interconnectedness between the financial industry and state violence, one must in turn examine the role of sovereign bonds, which we will do elsewhere.
While the growth of commodity production requires a global increase in the labor force, the global production of derivatives and assets includes a global growth of new forms of debt, which significantly affect the socio-economic conditions of capital accumulation.
In this context, it is important to examine the social production of the credit-based economy as a new form of biopolitics. Increasing knowledge about risk in times of uncertainty fosters the capacity of actors to make more effective decisions and optimize their hedging, which in turn makes them optimal clients of the financial industry, think of microcredit, for example. Market participants simply must optimize their decision-making procedures with respect to financialization in the age of uncertainty. Even still ethnic differences between different segments of the population can now be optimized in the context of lifestyle options, which in turn attracts global capital that is constantly looking for ever new investment opportunities, think here of the wellness and tourism industries.
In order to capitalize on all the new forms of investment, there is less need for restrictive policies that focus exclusively on the payment of debts; rather, today, policies precisely ensure the maintenance of a liquid market for all forms of credit and assets. Consequently, the ruling bloc in power must try to really stop any attack on the financial system, which requires a globally positioned security industry that protects the fragile system of the information industry and the financial collateral industries; indeed, based on the model of the war on terror, there is even a militarization of the financial system, which in turn runs along the financialization of the military industry, which, moreover, is being transformed into a public security maintenance enterprise, and this, by the way, also in cyberspace.
The political question that currently arises is whether there can be new forms of resistance that use the technologies normally used to maintain liquidity in financial markets to increase the resistive potential to create illiquidity in financial markets. Can the leaders of Wall Street, as nihilistic suicide bombers or saboteurs, perhaps even lead the way for us to blow up the financial system and those themselves, and eventually perhaps even the state, if the brokers themselves keep saying that their assets and financial collateral could not ultimately be valued unless governments guarantee the financial system in an emergency.
The first important node of the financial system relates to the liquidity of assets and financial collateral that must be in place for profits to be made in the exchange of derivatives for money, and the second node relates to the private fencing of information used by capital to generate profits. These are institutionalized forms of violence that depend on the unconditional uncertainty of capital accumulation at the heart of the financial system itself. But can the financial instruments and derivatives that already exist be used, as it were, to subvert the financial system itself? In this sense, perhaps the attacks against the nodes of liquidity in today’s financial system can be related to the potential power of labor in the age of the coal industries. These nodes make the financial system vulnerable and open it up to collective forms of resistance. The threat of liquidity in financial markets is now mutating into the complement of plaza occupations, blockades, and the occupation of public spaces. If the insurgents manage to combine their forms of occupations, blockades and sabotage with actions that question the liquidity of the financial markets or even bring it into play in order to profit from it, then we would be an important step further. Moreover, can the resisters turn certain instruments, such as derivatives, against these themselves in order to finally appropriate social wealth and redistribute it?
Today, one must attack where the structures of financialized capital accumulation interlock in the context of networking with the information industries. This immediately addresses the subjectivity of data producers. Often enough, information production today serves to reduce our ignorance of past risks, but does so only to increase our present uncertainty about the future. The more we know that we don’t know, the more information we need to make more efficient decisions in the future. Today, one definitely mutates into a part of the data flows by simultaneously participating in the financial system, the security system and the Internet – systems that produce and guarantee financial wealth through the form of financial collateral and security services.
How can we subvert the capitalist logics and operations used to extract and exploit information, or, to put it another way, how can we attack the political-economic capacities of the system and occupy or block the nodes of the financial system? And why have collective forms of resistance become almost unthinkable for us as debtors today, while every new shock strategy of capital means a tightening of credit conditions?
There is a parallel to report between debt production and commodity production, especially when it comes to the logistical forms of resistance themselves: there is a relative surplus production today that exploits the spreads between financial instruments and data flows to produce profit (arbitrage), and this is analogous to Marx` relative surplus value production. The function of technology in capitalism is generally to generate spreads that enable arbitrage to create returns that are subsequently accumulated either as machines or as financial assets. Financial capital is constantly generating new technologies to create and capitalize these spreads, constantly re-evaluating them insofar as production is per se oriented towards the future. This requires increasingly sophisticated risk management and derivatives, and this in turn affects the central nodes of the financial industry, which must be the starting point for new forms of resistance if the fragility of the financial system is to be further attacked and the financialized value chains disrupted.
Today, data is guaranteed by the financial system, patent law, and the state qua its security services, which often enough converge. The state monitors in real time stock market trading to protect it from hackers’ attacks, while, conversely, the major Internet corporations (Google, Amazon, and Facebook) make their intelligence, tools, and data available to the state through contractual agreements. An insurrectionary logic of distributed disruption of financialized monetary capital flows and information needs to be developed here in order to possibly undertake collective appropriations and socializations of social wealth in the future. Collective disruption, as already represented by the bank run, for example, may alternate today with disruption generated, in extreme cases, by a single person producing ten million copies of the same message or algorithm. Sometimes it only takes a few actors to cripple or subvert financial value chains. When we finally realize how few actors it actually takes to crash or make illiquid the financial system (the form of singular action being used by the financial system to answer the question of the legitimacy of private property in its sense), then of course at the same time it is a matter of creating collective movements broad enough to legitimize the acts of sabotage done in our name. Our current situation, after all, is that people are constantly producing information and needing money, while at the same time being reduced to helpless subjects of precariousness and surveillance.
Perhaps in the future it will even be a matter of demanding money without limits, which is neither credit nor wages. Today, money is created by permanently generating the liquidity of financial instruments that are currently not yet money, but are realized in money. If, however, the resisters demand money through new forms of appropriation to be invented and use derivatives for this purpose, then this would be understood as a direct demand against the lending capital system. We would then be faced with the situation of proclaiming derivative communism.
translated by deepl.