Today we publish an article by Fabio Vighi, who is professor of critical theory and Italian at Cardiff University. Fabio has published significant analyses of the relationship between the Covid phenomenon and the reliance of the financial system on debt-fuelled expansion.
Fabio will be speaking at our meeting on 13th November. Find out more and register here.
Today’s financially driven economy is fuelled by global emergencies, whose primary role is to shield the system from its increasingly destructive practices. Lockdowns and related restrictions are the latest model of social engineering. Their immediate purpose is to allow Central Banks to carry out their astronomical money-printing programmes, which inflate the financial sector while also – as we are witnessing at present – causing inflation as soon as any cash is leaked into the real economy by commercial banks. COVID-19 is, essentially, a cover-up for systematic debt-leveraged monetary expansion. In capitalist terms, there is no alternative to this cynical exercise – at least until the authoritarian paradigm shift currently underway is normalised. Before it is too late, then, we must stop believing that vaccine mandates, lockdowns, and other forms of mass regimentation are health related. Rather, the ‘pandemic’ continues to work as the ideological front to a mode of social reproduction that has no way of perpetuating itself other than by imposing its despotic reshaping as necessary and even desirable.
‘Since October 17, there have been multiple scattered local outbreaks in China, and they’re expanding rapidly. There is an increasing risk that the outbreak will spread even further’ (Mi Feng, a spokesman at China’s National Health Commission, 23 October, 2021). Since 17 October, new Covid cases have affected nearly one third of China’s provinces, where the alarm is said to be so serious that local authorities have banned tourist trips as well as bus and taxi services. Beijing has recorded 14 confirmed Delta variant cases in the latest outbreak. Consequently, new curfews and travel restrictions have been imposed to minimize the spread of the virus, while both the Beijing and the Wuhan marathons scheduled for 31 October were postponed.
Whoever wants to retain a modicum of critical autonomy in this seemingly never-ending nightmare needs to think ‘emergency measures’ as a lever to move the world of monetary policy. The microbiological threat leading to lockdowns and other restrictions was always a means to expand the Central Banks’ balance sheets, which is the only way for the capitalist system to survive its terminal crisis of value production. Thus, it is the structural downturn of the global economy that produces the health emergency, not vice versa. It seems no coincidence that China’s most recent Covid alarm, unsurprisingly caused by variants, has arrived on the day in which Evergrande (one of the largest construction companies in the world and the second largest in China after Country Garden) announced the reopening of 10 of its vital projects, which were suspended due to the Real Estate Group’s liquidity crisis. While default appears to have been avoided, Evergrande’s $300-billion debt exposure is nothing short of a calamity, affecting a key sector of the Chinese economy and forcing the redeeming intervention of the People’s Bank of China.
China’s new Covid restrictions, in other words, seem linked to rising inflation, considering for instance that the price of vegetables has soared by 28% over the last months, with spinach up by 157%. This erosion of purchasing power is now affecting the diet of the poorest part of the population, with potential for widespread protests. Once again, Covid appears to work as a well-timed socioeconomic buffer, against both inflation and organized dissent. The contraction of China’s economy is now set to continue into next year, no doubt aggravated by the global supply-chain crisis. And the overarching point is that the precarious state of most economies is increasingly unmanageable without global emergencies, whose fundamental role is to allow for the perpetuation of monetary stimulus.
As I have argued in detail here and here, the Covid crisis should be framed as a capitalist phenomenon through and through, rather than a contingent microbiological event that has taken the world by surprise. It is naive to think that the “pandemic” was merely an accident. Almost two years down the line, it continues to work as a financial tool with a twofold purpose: 1. To conceal contemporary capitalism’s epochal implosion (structural crisis of surplus-value creation), and 2. To accelerate the authoritarian process of global governance (stakeholder capitalism) through which the system attempts to reproduce its logic at a higher level of structural violence. While the first aim is defensive, the second is aggressive. In the current phase the two aims merge into one, as the elites are pushing for the enforcement of digital Covid passes upon entire populations. To do so, they employ public-private partnerships like the Vaccine Credential Initiative (VCI) in the US, whose avowed aim is to implement a single ‘SMART Health Card’ that could be recognized ‘across organizational and jurisdictional boundaries.’ VCI, as detailed by Jeremy Loffredo and Max Blumenthal, is coordinated by MITRE, a corporation led mostly by military-intelligence surveillance professionals and sponsored by the FBI and the US Department of Defense. Can anyone in their right state of mind still claim that this is a conspiracy theory?
By turning defence into attack, the oligarchs are escorting humanity into a potentially totalitarian nightmare camouflaged as humanitarian interventionism. They do so in the name of the blind capitalist drive for profit-making, which they duly represent. As demonstrated by Jared Diamond in his 2005 book Collapse, when affected by terminal sickness most societies tend to intensify rather than de-escalate the very practices that cause their implosion. This is currently happening to capitalist modernity, the ‘form of life’ that began with the exploitation of wage labour and is now imploding through compulsive financialization and a tyrannical agenda cynically peddled as ethical or ecological innovation. Rather than confronting its objective implosion, then, capitalist modernity mummifies into bio-technological despotism. The “pandemic” was unleashed as an accelerator of capitalist predatory violence aimed at the preservation of the financial sector and attendant hierarchies of power. It has thrown into sharp relief how, after a long series of ineffective neo-liberal or neo-Keynesian endeavours to resurrect our moribund mode of production, the extrema ratio of global emergencies (followed by lockdowns and a plan for monetary control via digital transition) is now regarded as the only viable way forward.
We are therefore in the midst of a global geo-financial and geo-political mutation, one of those watershed moments that very rarely occur during one’s lifetime. In this respect, economic implosion and the exercise of biopower should be regarded as two sides of the same coin. The ongoing narrative based on cases and variants works as a smokescreen hatched by the perverse imagination of the elites and their behavioural psychology advisors. Their aim now is to normalise the state of exception in the hope that the people will accept their servitude spontaneously.
At the moment, the asymmetric warfare by Virus is still the most effective tool in the hands of those presiding over our future. If, however, the pandemic bubble should continue to deflate, other politically expendable alibis will be made available by the emergency industry, from financial greenwashing sold as climate change policy to new microbiological threats like the Marburg virus recently publicised by the WHO. Without resistance, the pandemic coup will be remembered as one of many global emergencies used to drill us into willing obedience.
Those who are resisting mass propaganda and media hypnosis have long realised that the Covid Pass is of no use against Virus. They know, rather, that Virus is very useful for the rolling out of the digital health passport, as stressed by Giorgio Agamben in his recent address to the Italian Senate. They know that if even our bodies succumb to fully digitised capitalism, there will be no turning back: there will be no limit to what power can demand of us with the emergency® pretext. Defending the right to refuse a health treatment that is not only clearly useless (just read the data), but also a potentially dangerous biotechnological treatment capable of manipulating gene expression, is now a priority for anyone who still cares about the future generations.
At present, it appears that (privately controlled) Central Banks are giving governments their marching orders so that mandatory digital IDs are implemented as the foundation of the locked-in society, where, as the well-known World Economic Forum slogan has it, we (not them) will ‘own nothing and be happy’. Italy, a country where staying in employment is now dependent on vaccination compliance, is at the forefront of this global authoritarian project, whose aims are no longer even concealed. Not only are Governments and Central Banks openly communicating their plans to move to digital currencies, but they are telling us that they will have mechanisms in place to control the use of digital cash. Monetary slavery seems to be their end game. However, blaming the financial puppeteers is not enough, as it remains a hysterical gesture. Rather, we must organise rational resistance against the ongoing blackmail while also beginning to rethink society beyond the bottlenecks of terminal capitalism.
The current Virus-dependence is of the order of perversion: through SARS-CoV-2, the systemic breakdown of the world ruled by capital continues to be ignored. In psychoanalysis, the pervert is the one who, through fetish attachment, chooses not to see the impotence of the Other, pretending that things work despite overwhelming evidence of the contrary. In this respect, the following passage from a 1961 interview with Aldous Huxley seems highly relevant today:
There will be, in the next generation or so, a pharmacological method of making people love their servitude, and producing dictatorship without tears, so to speak, producing a kind of painless concentration camp for entire societies, so that people will in fact have their liberties taken away from them, but will rather enjoy it, because they will be distracted from any desire to rebel by propaganda or brainwashing, or brainwashing enhanced by pharmacological methods. And this seems to be the final revolution.Interview with Aldous Huxley, 1961
The last sentence should serve as warning: getting out of a techno-scientific dictatorship based on the fear of Virus, and on centrally controlled digital cards regulating access to society, is even more complicated than getting out of a military dictatorship. In addition to the gene therapies, digital IDs will be able to record the “virtuousness” of our behaviour, both in health and, more broadly, socioeconomic terms. All our activities, already largely conditioned by “economic rationality”, will be further regulated by the use of technology – no doubt in the name of ‘the Common Good’, as always claimed by humanity’s worst enemies. The purpose of the health passport is to pioneer Universal Digital Identity, a pillar of the Great Reset promoted by the Davos clique and, at least since 2016, by the ID2020 alliance.
The elementary reason for the current dystopian acceleration is that wage labour, the pillar of the capitalist mode of production and its social ontology, has grown obsolete. The exponential increase in technological automation has progressively eroded capital’s capacity to generate surplus-value (and therefore wealth) through the exploitation of labour. Since the third industrial revolution in the 1980s, capital invested in the real economy has experienced a dramatic loss of profitability, as the employment of increasingly sophisticated machines has continued to eliminate wage labour well beyond the system’s capacity to reabsorb it.
The most obvious symptom of the sickness of societies founded on profiting from human labour is its monstrous indebtedness. I am referring to an economy crippled by an ever-rising global debt that today is closing in on $300 trillion. The financing of this mountain of debt is now entirely dependent on a regime of monetary expansion with interest rates nailed to near-zero levels. Even a small interference with this precarious balance is guaranteed to cause pandemonium. From the point of view of capital, the artificial inflation of the financial balloon is the only escape route available, but only viable through the covering fire of global emergencies ushering in the authoritarian administration of life. Perhaps there is no better contemporary example of what Hannah Arendt meant by ‘banality of evil’ than the technocratic compliance of today’s inept and opportunistic global political class.