Across society battles are emerging that are contesting the content of what ‘Living with Covid’ means. In NSW we see three fronts of class struggle: nurses, teachers, train drivers. All state employees, all working in what we could consider to be social reproduction, fighting over broadly the same issues: pay, staffing and quality of the service provided. They are specific fights which are also starting to construct the possibility of a common good and a good life. (Since writing these words a strike by Aged Care workers has been voted for – showing a movement of struggle into private providers of care services). On the other hand, we have a dwindling Freedom movement. Reacting against the state management of social life in response to COVID (and arguably the continual decay of the conditions of the masses in general) expressing their opposition to these restrictions through audacious protests – increasingly interpolated by an ideology of the Cosmic Right and enmeshed with the various fractions of Australia’s reactionaries.
Above this the state, the executive committee of capital, is attempting to manage the contradictions of both popular desire and accumulation. It does so in a condition of intellectual and theoretical disarray amongst the media and political caste. There is no clear strategy for capital at this historical juncture. Political fractions attempt to displace this lack by endlessly stoking culture wars, reactionary and progressive, and old ideas are recycled and reinflated (maybe another Accord?). This is a local version of a global illness: ‘I think what we must diagnose instead is a ruling class brain tumour: a growing inability to achieve any coherent understanding of global change as a basis for defining common interests and formulating large-scale strategies’ (Davis, 2022).
During the election campaign, we saw this play out at a distance as a debate over ‘economic management.’ In this atrophied public spectacle economic management boils down to a few questions – debt, productivity, IR reform, privatisation. Obviously, there is a discursive relationship between these issues, but it is debt (and moving from deficit to surplus) which has become the totemic economic question of the media and political caste. Thus, we see the reheating of arguments for the necessity of paying down state debt. Achieving a budget surplus, or at least reducing the level of debt and deficit, is seen as the very basis of good economic management. Though increasingly there is some questioning of this doxa, and some influence of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) amongst the Left. However, this debate is a vortex of stupidity, the gravitational pull of which threatens to also suck in friends and comrades amongst proletarian forces.[I]Continue reading “State Debt as an anchor point of Capitalism”