Far from being the essence of socialism, planning is a typical feature of capital as it reaches hegemonic maturity (Negri 2014, 295).
Last year I argued here on this blog that capital in Australia had a ‘Plan A’ to deal with the end of the mining boom: a vast wave of investment in infrastructure.[i] My core argument was that this plan would see the rise of an ‘Infrastructure State’ (in the tradition of Negri’s (2005) ‘Planner’ and ‘Crisis’ states) that would enable and often fund or help finance infrastructure spending, shift some of the costs of social reproduction off its books and onto the wage and into the home, and work to dissolve points of opposition. There is a clear alignment between organisations such as the Business Council of Australia and Federal and state governments. Indeed since writing the original piece the volume of arguments for just such a plan have increased. As the government argued in the Mid-Year Economic and Financial Outlook:
A key component of this Strategy is the continued roll out of over $50 billion of infrastructure investment. These investments have already begun and include major
projects across the nation that will reduce congestion, improve productivity and create jobs. The Government’s investment in infrastructure also includes incentives of
$5 billion through the Asset Recycling Initiative, which will catalyse over $38 billion in new infrastructure. In total, the Infrastructure Growth Package will lead to over $125 billion of new productive infrastructure over the next decade.
(Commonwealth of Australia 2014b, 11)
On a global level both the G20 and the IMF are looking to infrastructure as the solution to flagging demand (International Monetary Fund 2014 , G20 2013). The secretary of the Treasury summarised the logic for infrastructure spending committed to at the Brisbane G20 Leaders Meeting as follows:
G20 members focussed on supporting investment in infrastructure as a means of managing the short and longer-term challenges of promoting growth while undertaking fiscal repair. In this regard, they noted the benefits of investing in expenditure are threefold:
it supports aggregate demand during construction;
if done well, it augments the economy’s supply capacity and boosts productivity for the long term; and
if priced appropriately, it may even help the fiscal position in the medium term (Martin Parkinson 2014, 7)
However it now seems that governments on both Federal and state levels has significantly failed to implement this plan – despite the above claims in the MYEFO.[ii] In August it was reported that none of the major planned infrastructure projects which were meant have been started within one year of the Coalition’s election were ‘shovel ready’(Duyn 2014).
How much is this due to the crisis of political authority due to the antipolitical condition of the present (to draw on the work of Left Flank)? How much is this due to the struggle of the class – even if this takes most often sullen and silent forms (to draw on the theoretical legacy of operaismo)?
Continue reading “Short notes on the failures of Capital’s Plan A”