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More on "from rights to power."

In their haste (MR, November 1983, pp. 37-39) to point out that the flow of capital to the United States is greater than that invested in the third world, the MR editors miss my main point, namely, that the struggle in the United States has moved "From Rights to Power" because multinational capitalism is a new stage of capitalism beyond the Imperialism analyzed by Lenin as "the highest stage of capitalism" nearly 70 years ago.

In the Age of Imperialism, monopoly capitalism used the superprofits from exploitation of the third world for reforms to appease the workers at home. In the Age of Multinational Capitalism, U.S. global corporations, far from appeasing the workers at home with reforms, use their new mobility to extract concessions. Giant multinational or transnational corporations are now able to use the world as a huge factory site and market, routinely transferring capital, technology, and production beyond national boundaries from country to country, controlling all the steps in the process, from finance, research, design, and production to storage and marketing. Because these corporations produce for the global market, their production has no relationship to the needs of any community, city, state, or nation. Instead, through their sophisticated marketing techniques, they manufacture wants according to what they can produce most profitably.

Thus these multinational or transnational corporations are not so much international as anti-national, distorting the economies and culture of developing and developed countries. They shift production from one country to another, based on where they can make the most profit, forcing workers and governments of developing and developed countries into competition with one another. Not only city and state but even national governments are powerless against this corporate blackmail. Even in such advanced countries as the United States, they have destroyed the basis for reforms and therefore for effective unions, at the same time exposing the futility of electoral politics because no elected politicians can control them.

Without a clear understanding that multinational capitalism is a stage beyond the monopoly capitalism of Lenin's day, it is easy for U.S. Marxists to slip into the idealism of suggesting that "if it wanted to," the government could put the unemployed to work by organizing public projects, obtaining the necessary funds by drastically reducing military expenditures and properly taxing the wealthy; or that displaced workers and new entrants into the labor force could be absorbed "if the production of goods and services had been increased sufficiently." The government of a capitalist country is not a philanthropic institution any more than capitalism is a philanthropic system. Multinational corporations are today more powerful than any governments. As Salvador Allende said in his address to the UN General Assembly on December 4, 1972: "We are witnessing a pitched battle between the great transnational political, economic, and military decisions are being interfered with by worldwide organizations which are not dependent on any single state and which, as regards the sum total of their activities, are not accountable to or regulated by any parliaments or institutions representing the collective interest. In a word, the entire political structure of the world is being undermined."

The industrial reserve army of the unemployed is not a result of the stagnation of capitalism; it is a product of the operation of the law of capitalist accumulation, which leads to the accumulation of wealth, power, and knowledge at one pole, adn misery, agony of toil, slavery, ignorance, brutality, and mental degradation at the opposite pole. That "only a small fraction of overseas investment results in the closing down of factories in this country" is not as important as the fact that direct foreign investment is increasing much more rapidly than domestic investment and the corporate blackmail which this foreign investment makes possible. As Bluestone and Harrison point out in The Deindustrialization of America, between 1950 and 1980 direct foreign investment increased 16 times while gross domestic investment grew less than half as rapidly.

By 1980 25 percent of every dollar was going into overseas plant and equipment, particularly heavy industry, deindustrializing the United States, destroying whole communities, and eliminating 26,500 domestic jobs for every $1 billion of direct foreign investment.

The power of multinational corporations to use superprofits for overseas investment and reinvestment, for corporate mergers, speculation, and high technology, is the objective basis for the undeclared war against the American people now being carried on by U.S. capitalism. Using its mobility and the threat of the unemployed, multinational capitalism is now bludgeoning and blackmailing Americans into giving up working and livign conditions that we have come to consider as our god-given right. But it has also created the objective conditions for a second American revolution against the capitalist values and insitutions that have brought us to this stage of powerlessness.

That is why, instead of struggling for rights and reforms, we have to make clear to those displaced by U.S. capitalism at this stage of its development, and especially black young people whose only future under this system is in prison, on welfare, or in the military, that we have no alternative but to struggle for power against multinational capitalism.
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Author:Boggs, James
Publication:Monthly Review
Date:Apr 1, 1984
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