IMperialism and State (Interview with Pravda)

The essay you published with Laika Publishing is called „Imperialism, State Fascism, and the War Machines of Capital.“ How do you define these individual terms?

The war machine is a Deleuze/Guattari term, a machine that does not have war as its primary goal, but rather the creation of a creative line of flight, the formation of a smooth space and the movement of people within that space. The weapons of this machine are nomadic existence and invention. But when the state appropriates the war machine, the smooth space is notched and the machine is subjected to the political purposes of the state. When the state appropriated the war machine in the 19th century, there were conflicts between the military objective, which was the destruction of the enemy, and the political purpose, which implied the end of conventional state policy- The military objective remained subordinate to the political purpose, which Clausewitz consistently expressed in the statement that war was the continuation of politics by other means. When capital appropriates the machinery of war, the state and war transform into its components, and the end tends to become autonomous and infinite in accordance with the potential infinity of capital. This can only be so because after the two world wars, the war machines of capital no longer had war as their purpose, but a specific peace, which, however, became indistinguishable from a specific form of endless (economic) war.

With neoliberalism, the process of capital’s appropriation of the war machine and the state was fully realized. Integrated global capitalism is the axiomatic of the war machine of capital, capable of subjugating the military deterritorialization of the state to the superior deterritorialization of capital. The production machine is now indistinguishable from the war machine, which integrates the civil and the military, peace and war, in a single process of a continuum of isomorphic power in all its evaluative forms.

The current war machine of global capital exaggerates states with a multiverse (finance, multinational corporations and administrations) of organizations and strategies, while at the same time governments become, in a sense, agents as they try to regulate the processes of transformations of capital as a kind of repair store. In this process, the weaker states in the peripheries of the globe are disciplined not so much by the armies of imperialist states, but by their disconnection from international financial markets, currency wars, appropriation of economic and natural resources, land grabs, controls on capital, trade sanctions, and other economic factors.

In recent years, the debate over the concept of imperialism has been reopened, but in a very different sense than Lenin or Hilferding had discussed twentieth-century imperialism. Today, a small number of imperialist states form a hierarchical alliance in the world market, which is at the same time constituted by means of their large multinational corporations that feed enormous quantities of goods and services into global supply chains. The economic power centers in the world market are thus based on a complex interplay between the imperialist states, which are the initial platforms for developed capital due to the provision of material and social infrastructures, and the large transnational corporations, whose monetary capital constantly flows around the globe.  ,

To the extent that the state dismantles social services, it must rearm in its function as social police, for example, by orienting labor policy toward the increased use of repressive methods. Austerity and authoritarianism go hand in hand. Or, to put it another way, the market and a strong state are mutually exclusive in neoliberal doctrine, but not in

mutually exclusive in practice. However, the new type of structural fascization of the state does not emerge exclusively as a reaction to regressive development trends and crisis processes; rather, it anticipates the coming trends, the economic, social and political crises and conflict potentials, which is also clearly stated in corresponding official pronouncements. To this end, the state is developing a number of techniques, such as new control and surveillance instruments that record, accumulate and evaluate data, techniques for further quantifying and measuring the population, and those of a police and military nature. The transformation of the ordinary capital state into a fascized state today, therefore, does not necessarily result from a spectacular rupture, but from the creeping but steadily advanced accumulation, displacement, and compression of restrictive operations, from reconstructions and measures that do not necessarily have to lead to a fascist state, but do not exclude a rupture either,

What makes the concept of imperialism topical today, and what development has imperialism undergone since Lenin’s analysis („imperialism as the highest stage of capitalism“)?

Lenin was wrong in his theory of monopoly capitalism, nor did he theorize imperialism in terms of financialization, the rising organic composition of capital, or the tendency of the rate of profit to fall,

The big companies of the imperialist countries have important economic advantages on the world market and occupy a powerful position in the networks of the national economy and in those of the world economy, but the latter precisely because of their intensive relations with their own state. The imperialist states massively protect the property rights of their own companies and, through a series of political measures, strengthen their economic power in international trade and in the expansion of foreign direct investment, and last but not least, they ensure the solidity of their own currency, especially in crises, and thus act as public insurance institutions for capital. The political-economic power relations differ on the world market with the unequal differential accumulation of national capitals, the competition of transnational corporations and the power struggles between different countries.

Today, the economic power of large corporations in world markets unfolds especially through global supply chains, that is, through densely interconnected and transversal spaces constituted by infrastructures, information, commodities, and social actors and traversed by flows of monetary capital. These transnational spaces with their nodes, lines, and borders are traversed by material and immaterial flows of logistics and flows of capital. Logistics transforms the factory into divided and globe-scattered networks of production and circulation that, while not eliminating the territories of nation-states, reshape them We are also dealing today with a super-exploitation of labor in the south-eastern hemisphere of the globe, orchestrated by certain transnational corporations, with profits being consistently transferred to northern imperialist countries.  Large parts of global industrial production have been transferred alvom the North to the South, be it the T-shirts produced in Bangladesh or the latest electronic gadgets in China.

 The analysis of the global market must always take into account the respective access of multinational companies to the internationally operating financial industry. Indeed, the globally operating corporations absolutely need their financial service, think of the stability of the international payment systems, the role of foreign exchange in international trade, the long-term investments, the securities and derivatives trading, the short-term loans and, in general, the exchange of money for money.

There are three important factors that indicate that the financial sector plays a dominant role in the economy of an imperialist country and, in particular, in the world economy:

(a) The use of money from abroad to lend to domestic companies and to the state. This can be done today especially by U.S. financial companies (because of the dollar’s function as the world’s reserve currency) and the London-based banking system.

b) The financing of investments made abroad by domestic companies in order to initiate value-added production processes abroad. This can be done through bank financing or through stock markets, allowing further concentration of capital across national borders.

c) The appropriation of a portion of the surplus produced globally.

What does globalized capitalism represent today and what are its main contradictions?

There is always a main contradiction, but contradictions can change places on the scale of importance. So when we are dealing with a complex set of contradictions, we should locate the overarching contradiction, but we should also keep in mind that main and non-main contradictions are not static.

Financial markets today have a dual function – on the one hand, they value economic actors (firms, states, and households) using statistical and stochastic power technologies, and on the other hand, they act as a functional instance of capitalizing future promises to pay, with these now being traded at the speed of light on a global scale. While accounting in the „real sector“ has long been past-oriented, from the 1970s onwards future-oriented capitalization, i.e. the calculation or discounting of future expected payment flows and promises, mutated into the most important method of the capitalist financial system by which the attainment of monetary profits either takes place in the very real sense or is at least financed. Derivatives and all other exotic financial instruments, which must be understood on the one hand as technologies of power and on the other hand as new speculative forms of capital with which profits are made, are today a necessary condition for the constantly occurring implementation of financialization in the entire economic field.

The metaphor „central nervous system of capital“ correctly indicates this development of capitalist economies. If the capital principle is the engine of the breathing monster called total capital, then the financial system is its brain and central nervous system.  The financial system executes, to a not inconsiderable extent, the competition, coordination and regulation of enterprises (in all sectors), which in turn are presupposed by the apriori of total capital, which is actualized through the real competition of enterprises, which for Marx is always not a ballet but a war. Financial capital constantly modulates and reignites the competition of all enterprises – it is therefore an integral part of the economy of capital and not a cancer that a doctor removes to help the body of capital back to health.

What is the role of states today in interacting with global capitalism?

The transnational functioning of finance and logistics weaken the state vis-à-vis capital. William I. Robinson argues in this direction in his book The Global Police State. For him, the main agents of capital are a new transnational capitalist class that has emerged from the leading capitalist groups in the industrialized world, emphasizing the importance of global markets and thus representing the hegemonic faction of capital on a global scale.  These corporations have internationalized markets through networks that transcend national borders.

Yet beyond all neoliberal theories of market fundamentalism, capital continues to need the capitalist state, while conversely the state is structurally dependent on capital. On the one hand, transnational capital and its representatives instrumentalize states all over the world; on the other hand, every country is now dependent on the circuits of transnational capital. In this context, states have to create good conditions of location for this kind of capital accumulation, i.e. on the one hand a climate for profits and on the other hand repressive rules for the proletariat that serve capital. States, however, are not transnational political instances, even if the new transnationalist class repeatedly tries to translate the structural power of the global economy into a supranational political instance, a kind of transnational state apparatus that does not have a global government but can at least be understood as a loose network of transnational and supranational organizations that work closely with nation-states to secure the conditions of transnational accumulation. It is an institutional network in which nation-states do not disappear because, on the one hand, they have to produce the national conditions for global capital accumulation and, on the other hand, they should not lose their political legitimacy as a nation in the process. The powerful capitalist corporations and imperialist states are now the key players in the world markets, insofar as they can set almost all the important conditions for international trade, the financial system and cross-border investment flows, and finally derivatives trading.

What is the new state governance and what are its essential characteristics?

The new war machines of capital correspond to the interplay of civil and repressive power in the state and tend to make the two components indistinguishable. The state has long tended toward the privileging of executive power, associated with the decline of legislative power, leading to a profound transformation of its administrative and governmental and juridical functions, the latter becoming redundant through the almost daily production of laws, decrees, and directives, while at the same time perfecting the functions of the social police.

Carl Schmitt has described the state as a motorized legislator, noting a growing motorization of the executive machinery. Today, the transactions and crisis thrusts of financial capital are accompanied by speeds and reactions that simply require that laws in particular, which require parliamentary investigation and blessing, be replaced by rapid decrees. This kind of technologization of the state apparatuses takes place through the use of private, informal and state expert regimes that, through the use of techniques expressed in series of projects, practices, channels and supports, moreover create a statistical popular body that must be constantly monitored, evaluated and, at the same time, mobilized precisely by exerting power on it.

 The shift of power from the legislative to the executive, the loss of importance of the parties, the expansion of the bureaucracy, and the shift of decision-making to informal power networks operating in parallel alongside the official state has already been used by Poulantzas to authoritarian etatism – for him, a concomitant of the intensification of economic intervention. intensification of the economic intervention of the state, which must now not only constantly issue rules, directives and regulations in accordance with the conjunctures, fractures and cycles of capital movements within the framework of a short-term economic policy and technical rationality, but must itself act as an enterprise.The state itself is becoming an enterprise.

State fascization does not simply aim at the expansion of repression and of authoritarian, racist and nationalist discourses and systems of opinion, but rather requires the use of highly technologized techniques of power, which no longer aim at the control of free individual-citizens, but rather reinterpret the population as a potential source of danger and ultimately lead to a lasting change in the materiality of the state apparatuses and their interventions, so that one can speak in terms of a new dispositif of fascization.

What elements of fascism does the neoliberal model of capitalism bear? What are its differences from the „old“ fascism of the 1930s?

Adorno already suggested that the new fascism does not have to come with uniforms, boots and Nazi symbols.

For Lazzarato, the new fascism is a mutation of historical fascism, also in the sense that it appears national-liberal instead of national-socialist. The political movements that emerged from ’68, he says, are so weak today that the fascists do not even need to take up their demands and twist them, just as the fascists and the Nazis did in the 1930s. Marlène Benquet and Théo Bourgeron, in their book on authoritarian finance, ask whether the capital class, precisely because it is not threatened by any other class or competing elite, is even interested in democracy today. The new fascism, then, no longer needs socialist dressings; on the contrary, it is ultra-liberal: it is in favor of the market, capital, and individual initiative, even as it calls for a strong state to exclude minorities and „foreigners,“ a state that is supposed to simultaneously secure the market, business, and above all capital.

The new reactionary libertarians go further than the neoliberals in limiting the role of the state: The state is to be deprived not only of education, health care and infrastructure, but also of sovereign powers by further privatizing even the army, police and judiciary. Nevertheless, economic libertarianism, or the vanguard of the second financialization (asset managers and hedge funds), has extremely authoritarian tendencies at the political level.

Why does the neoliberal capitalist model require fascist methods today? What role do the new extreme right-wing parties play in this?

While the war machine of capital rules through an „inclusive“ differentiation of property and wealth, the new fascist war machines function through exclusion based on racial, sexual and national identity. The two logics seem incompatible. In reality, they inevitably converge (see „national preference“) as the economic and political state of exception transitions into the coercive era of global power.


In your analysis you speak of the „dividend“ – what exactly does this term imply?

The dividend characterizes a dividedness traversed by multiple flows, integrated into specific spacetime dynamics of machinic configurations. The machinic indienstnahme, a term used by Deleuze/Guattari to characterize this relation, is to be understood as a mode of entanglement, connection, and coupling, even merging, of dividuals, each already biologically divided, with divided machine complexes, operationalizing the control and regulation of dividers, this mode of coupling tending to operate without repression or ideology, rather requiring the techniques of modulation and modeling to guarantee the functional interpenetration between humans and machines. In the mode of machinic servitude, the person no longer functions as an entrepreneurial subject (human capital or corporate form), but co-exists with the machines as their functional part, or co-varies with the machines as a variable component of the even more variable machinic assemblages. These structures must be understood as machines of subjectivation that functionalize the interpersonal relations of the subjects, the family complexes, and the forms of participation in the digital media.

Dividends today primarily incorporate a statistical existence that is recorded, controlled, and regulated by various private companies, opinion institutes, and the institutions of the state. One classifies the dividends as biopolitical and -genetic existences with the help of statistical procedures and probability calculation, respectively, and classifies them into different population groups. At the same time, risk profiles indicating the affective, physical and mental capacities of the dividends are constantly regenerated, recombined and subjected to various tests.

Among other things, you write of the „prevention model“ and global surveillance. How do you define it? What was the role in the establishment of this model.

If one observes the political field and the state, we are dealing with a kind of permanent policing of the securitization of insecurity, whereby the procedures in this regard presuppose that one can constantly detect new threat situations, dangers and risk factors that only make the necessity and legitimization of preventive state action possible, and this policy of prevention is then also implemented and, especially in the case of state prevention, can extend to the liquidation of supposed enemies of the people or class enemies. This hyper-rationalism of anticipatory reason is at the same time a totalitarian pragmatism when it pretends to eradicate a risk as if one were exterminating vermin or pulling out weeds. Today, in order to generate suspicion, it is not necessary to have concrete symptoms of abnormality; it is simply enough to have a characteristic that is classified as a risk factor by the experts and technocrats who are responsible for the definition and modes of preventive policy. The aim is not only to anticipate individual undesirable actions, but to construct and analyze the objective conditions of the emergence of hazards in order to design new intervention strategies. A laboratory of risk factors is virtually created, in which one creates a potentially infinite multiplication of possibilities for intervention on the condition that prevention elevates suspicion to the scientific rank and mode of a calculus of probabilities. In any case, this kind of prevention requires extensive state data collection and processing in order, on the one hand, to constitute and at the same time control the population, and, on the other hand, to translate uncertainties of any kind into calculable probable risks, so that specific apparatuses of the danger or security state can be constructed based on them. Thus, preventive policies virtually require a new kind of surveillance, namely that of systematized investigation in advance, with the intended goal being to anticipate and prevent the occurrence of any undesirable events such as deviant behavior or resistance.

 What about September 11:

Social policing’s focus on prevention policy began before 9/11, but it increasingly accelerated after 9/11 with the „war on terror.“ It was precisely in the course of counterterrorism, the production of the enemy both internal and external, that „precautionary principles“ were introduced, starting from worst-case scenarios, imagining all possible threats, and then exploring, further projecting, and finally combating them. The enemy is now not so much a foreign state, but rather the encirclement of an unspecific and invisible enemy, an undescribable enemy that operates in the midst of the population, or, to put it another way, it is about interventions against an irregular enemy that is particularly presumed to exist in the milieus or environments of globalized poverty, where here the threatening terrain is clearly the ghettos or suburbs of the surplus population. All these political narratives of the preemptive state also operate through the media construction of internal and external enemies: Russia and China, for example, are classified by the private media as well as the state media as particularly authoritarian states that now also threaten the „West“ through their capital power, while their authoritarianism is still justified by their (ex)communism. In the name of fighting terrorism, camps are being built for the „Orientals“ and the question of Islam is being short-circuited with that of all refugees. The resulting possible war is an irregular war that no longer knows any fronts and must ultimately encircle and hit the population again.

What impact will the COVID-19 crisis have on this model?

Foucault has drawn attention to the different legal, disciplinary, and security technologies and rationalities of government that correspond to different techniques and ways of dealing with an epidemiological phenomenon (exclusion, quarantine, vaccination). Contagion and epidemics are always also cultural categories whose management and administration is the result of a particular, albeit temporary, political rationality.

State apparatuses choose a to do what is logical, or simply to do what they know how to do, and enter the fragmented, segmented space of the nation-state. National segmentations, inherently mutually exclusive, function as modes of containment that intercept transmission. As a result, state apparatuses ask us to protect ourselves from a virus that occupies everything, a virus that is both present and absent. On a primary level, the state policy of rescue is introduced horizontally: The entire internal national space is quarantined. Of course, within its own logic, the state will accuse the population of not protecting itself enough, of not obeying, of trying to transfer the moral burden (as during the financial crisis). But the state divides the internal space and manages it differently. Some places are free of quarantine restrictions, others are completely sealed off. Workplaces, nursing homes, prisons, refugee facilities (even cruise ships) are in large part vital disciplinary structures; they become spaces where either a useful or an abandoned-if publicly closed-off-population is concentrated, where quarantine is not in effect, leading to internal transmission of the virus.

What role does the North-South divide play in today’s world?

Capitalism began with the exploitation of labor through absolute surplus value (a longer workday)- Then, as capitalism developed, an increase in relative surplus value dominated, namely the introduction of labor-saving technology to reduce the value of labor power in the same workday.  Now, in the 21st century, however, the exploitation of the workers of the South is not so much through an expansion of absolute and relative surplus value, but rather through the reduction of wages below the value of labor power (super-exploitation).

But why has imperialism developed in such a way that exploitation now takes the form of super-exploitation?  In part, it is because in countries with a rapidly growing, formerly peasant labor force, authoritarian regimes in the South and powerful multinational corporations from the North have been able to overcome the usual social limits on excessively low wages, hours and conditions of work, etc., so that wages could be kept below the value of labor power (the cost of the necessities of life). 

Where do you see beginnings for the emergence of a new revolutionary subject?

The Riot is interesting in this context. The riot has a certain relationship to the strike: the strike is a collective action that revolves around a) the price of labor power and better working conditions, b) in which workers are purely in the position of workers, and which c) takes place in the context of capitalist production, whereas the riot a) includes the struggle over prices and the availability or theft of commodities, b) its participants are dispossessed, and it c) takes place in the context of circulation,

The overproduction of commodities, capital, and labor is a production of non-production that is accompanied by the production of a new surplus population. At this point we should again refer to Marx` law of capitalist accumulation, according to which the industrial reserve army and the surplus population move to the margins of the official labor market, where they work at low wages, with slave labor, part-time jobs and illegal activities to somehow ensure their reproduction. The surplus population is incessantly subjected to racist attacks in terms of wage differentials between whites and blacks, segregation of the labor market, and exclusion of the population in metropolitan slums. The surplus population is part of the current Riots, a surplus rebellion characterized by resistance to racism.

This new proletariat, which includes the surplus population and parts, is today directly confronted with the state and the police in their struggles . The local uprising, therefore, even if it may have economic reasons, must necessarily be directed against the police. Nevertheless, the reference of the riots to the socio-economic conditions remains, looting and other forms of action are to be understood as a response, indeed as an overruling of the logics of the market.

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