The Guardian January 26, 2000


Theory & Practice: The anarchy of capitalism

by Marcus Browning

"It is the compelling force of anarchy in social production that turns the 
limitless perfectibility of machinery under modern industry into a 
compulsory law by which every individual industrial capitalist must perfect 
his machinery more and more, under penalty of ruin", wrote Frederick Engels 
in Socialism: Utopian and Scientific more than 100 years ago in 
1892.

When Engels penned these words, capitalism had already emerged from its 
"free" competition stage and was moving into its monopoly stage.

He accurately saw the developments in capitalism we are experiencing today. 
His observations still apply and have the ring of truth. The "compelling 
force of anarchy in social production" and the "limitless perfectibility of 
machinery" are still unfolding before us.

The means of production, including the means of communication, are 
developing in ever larger leaps, but the capitalist's need to "perfect his 
machinery, under penalty of ruin" continues.

Hence the merger of America Online (AOL) and Time Warner, the latest and 
biggest of a string of mergers and takeovers among the world's media 
giants.

In fact, AOL Time Warner is the biggest corporate merger of any kind in 
history. Its $530 billion cost is about equivalent to Australia's annual 
GDP.

It combines the technologies of the internet, media entertainment, 
television and personal computers and brings together AOL's 22 million 
subscribers with CNN, Compuserve, Time, Netscape, Cartoon Network, 
Entertainment Weekly, Warner Bros, Sports Illustrated, People, 
Who and more.

Media company shares shot up following the mega-merger and there was a 
frenzied search for new merger and takeover targets by rivals.

In the US during the past few years Disney has taken over the American 
Broadcasting Corporation; News Corporation owns Twentieth Century Fox and 
Fox Television as well as 130 newspapers globally; General Electric, one of 
the world's biggest arms contractors, owns NBC which itself has a joint 
venture with Microsoft and has taken over the Washington Post; 
Viacom has taken over Paramount Pictures, CBS News and cable channels 
Nickelodeon, Showtime and MTV.

In Australia Telstra and an internet service provider Ozemail are looking 
to close a $300 million deal and the Seven Network has tied up an internet 
agreement with NBC.

"Finally, modern industry and the opening of the world market made the 
struggle universal, and at the same time gave it an unheard-of virulence", 
said Engels.

"Advantage in natural or artificial conditions of production now decide the 
existence or non-existence of individual capitalists, as well as of whole 
industries and countries."

Looking worldwide Robert McChesney, a progressive thinking professor of 
communications at the University of Illinois, in the US, maintains that 
nine corporations control information and delivery systems internationally 
 Time Warner, Disney, General Electrics, AT&T, News Corporation, Sony, 
Seagram, Bertelsmann and Viacom.

McChesney points out that the internet is now being roped into the circle 
of this handful of major corporations. "The Internet is going to have a 
billion Web sites", he says in his book Rich Media, Poor Democracy, 
"but it is not going to spawn a new generation of commercially viable media 
companies. The few that are left are destined to be bought."

The outcome of this monopolisation process, as Engels observed, is that 
workers are made jobless. With every merger and hostile takeover, with 
every new step in the perfecting of the means of production under the 
anarchic drive to monopoly, thousands and tens of thousands of workers are 
made redundant.

"But the perfecting of machinery is making human labour superfluous", wrote 
Engels. "If the introduction and increase of machinery means the 
displacement of millions of manual by a few machine-workers, improvement in 
machinery means the displacement of more and more of the machine workers 
themselves.

"It means, in the last instance, the production of a number of available 
wage workers in excess of the average needs of capital, the formation of a 
complete industrial reserve army."

On US public television's News Hour program the heads of AOL Time 
Warner, Gerald Levin and Steve Case, used up most of their interview 
denying the merger was mainly about control and profits; their deepest 
desire, they assured us, was to provide people with services.

What nice guys, standing atop the biggest corporate conglomerate in 
history, with the power to influence governments, or have them overthrown.

They will play a major role in laying to waste the lives of millions of 
people while pushing the agenda of the New World Order and enriching 
themselves with unimaginable wealth. But all this will not be enough. They 
will always want more.

As Engels noted: "It is the compelling force of anarchy in the production 
of society at large that more and more completely turns the great majority 
of men into proletarians; and it is the masses of the proletariat again who 
will finally put an end to anarchy in production."

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Copies of Socialism: Utopian and Scientific available from 65 Campbell St Surry Hills cpa@cpa.org.au

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