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Capitalism is not economy but power

The insight that capitalism is not economy should lead to a work at least the magnitude of Das Kapital. Let me say outright that the ideas I will express here have nothing to do with power reductionism. Neither will I accept any criticism that I am linking capitalism (in terms of it being an economy) with the state. What I am talking about here is the formation of a political power that controls the economy but is conceptualized as “capitalism,” “capitalist,” and “capitalist economy.” This power became influential for the first time in sixteenth century Europe and later became the true dominant political power in the Netherlands and England under the aforementioned labels.

That it makes use of economy does not affirm that it is economical in character.

Fernand Braudel openly states that capitalism is antimarket, a monopolist plunder externally imposed on the economy, and he is the first sociologist and historian to have realized it. Although he is aware of having ruined one of the creeds of European thought, he is unable to put it into words.

The question then arises: What is this thing that externally imposes itself, that is anti-market and not economy? The answer to the question is yet insufficient. Is it a political power, religion, or a school of thought?

When a theoretical concept becomes too complicated it may be instructive to examine the practical developments. Let us examine the example of Venice. In thirteenth century Venice, there was a group of big merchants that, at the same time, were in control of the town’s administration. Because they fought with their rivals they acquired armadas; hence, there was military power in Venice, too. They were patrons of the arts and influenced the Renaissance. They strictly controlled the economy and society-an integrally intertwined network of such relations in which money was the adhesive. What term, then, can be coined to denote this integral network of relations? Venice was able to control the economy through the group called the big merchants and hence was able to siphon off an important portion of the surplus value. In order to achieve this, it had to either be the political power or control the political power. When force was needed, it was able to use the military power. This group, controlling everything in Venice, was the merchant monopoly. They were the ones controlling the state, the army, and the bureaucracy. They were the patrons of the church and art community. This group transcended the state. It externally imposed itself upon the economy but was not economy. It imposed hegemony over society that transcended the hegemony imposed by that of the state. What should we call this group then but the concentration of power itself? If this group had succeeded in being an influential power over all of Italy, we would have called it a national power; a nation-state had it taken over control of the entire society; an economic power had it taken control of the entire Italian economy. If, on the other hand, it had expanded to all of Europe and then to the world at large, it would have been called the European and World Empire.

Let us now examine the situation in sixteenth century Netherlands and England on the basis of the above hypothesis. The continuous pressure applied by the French and Spanish Kingdoms was decisive. These kingdoms aspired to become empires and wanted to turn England and the Netherlands into their provinces. Yet the king of England and the Prince of Orange wished to preserve and expand their political independence. To achieve this, and to prevent becoming absorbed, they desperately needed power – political, military, monetary, and intellectual power. They welcomed thinkers and artists to their countries – Descartes, Spinoza, and Erasmus. Jewish moneylenders streamed in. The foundation for a new kind of army was laid, a professional army with professional training, discipline, and techniques. In order to foster the development of social support and solidarity, they placed an emphasis on freedom. They overcame the internal political quarrels. But, more importantly, they showed an economic skill that proved effective across Europe. Thus were the Netherlands and England able to successfully defend themselves. More than that, they were able to utilize the situation and establish their hegemony towards the end of the century. Let us now re-ask our questions: What should we call this intertwined and interconnected web of relations?

How should we define its system?

Were all these developments achieved by a new, creative economic class? An economy was rendered productive - who brought this about? Thousands of craftspeople, farmers, workers, small-scale merchants, shopkeepers, markets, and money and deposit slips that increased circulation. Most importantly, such an economic productivity increased the surplus value. But who received the lion’s share of the increased value? It must have been those who regulated the economy through monetary, political, and military power. If there was no money, there would be no retail and productivity would decline. If there was no army and no political power there would be an invasion, which would also reduce productivity. So money and its derivatives have an influence, but such supervision is maintained so that economy is brought under a certain level of control and, in return, the growing surplus-value can be usurped. We can assume that, as in the thirteenth century Venice, the group controlling the economy in the sixteenth century England and the Netherlands had a good relationship with the political and military powers. The enormous need for money that the prince and king would have had as head of their armies implies that they would either have belonged to this group or had strong ties to it. While they sought recognition as champions of individual freedom through their support of artistic and ideological movements, they did not refrain from supporting movements opposing their rivals.

Let me ask once again: How do we conceptualize this movement as a whole? Could we call it “economical” while not a single member is involved with real economic practice except to seize the surplus value? Who are they then, the members of this group? They are the ones who, from outside the economy, impose themselves on the economy and multiply money by increasing value and money in circulation; who then pass the money on to the state in the form of debt; who then, perhaps in return, become partners of the state.

It is clear that those who indirectly control the economy are capitalism, the capitalists, and the capitalist economy, although, for the most part, they are not intrinsically involved in the economy.

What then is their real endeavor? Their interest is power monopoly – combining their economic monopoly with the power monopoly. They wage war. When they win an internal war their power within that country increases. This means more surplus value. Victory in external wars means colonial gain and hegemony, which in turn means the plunder of monopoly. Let us look at the English and Dutch examples to get a more concrete picture of how such a situation developed. The English and Dutch first used their alliance to achieve hegemony across Europe. By the end of the sixteenth century the oppression of the Spanish Empire had been shattered and its ambition to build a Europe-wide empire had been dealt a fatal blow. The end of the seventeenth century witnessed the defeat of the French monarchy’s hegemonic desire of Europe. They struck a fatal blow to the Hapsburg dynasty’s dreams of a European empire by supporting Prussia against Austria. They brought an end to the era of religious wars with the closure of Thirty Years’ War, and with the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia they laid the foundation of a system based on the equilibrium of national states. The response of France, in terms of the 1789 revolution, ended in a strategic hegemonic loss for France during the Napoleon era. By this time, most of Europe’s colonial wars had been won. The Industrial Revolution that took off in Britain at the start of the nineteenth century opened the door for British world dominion. After Prussia’s victory over France in 1870, the German giant slowly awoke, but its attempts to become the European and world hegemonic power were defeated during the two World Wars. The USA, essentially the second England, profited from both World Wars, and after World War II became the new hegemonic power of the world. The Russian Soviet Empire - repeating what Germany had done - came out of this hegemonic war defeated. The USA is now striving to become a world empire, and in order to prevent its collapse it is, at the same time, seeking to extend its life through defensive wars.

The stream of political power that started at the city of Uruk converged with many tributaries to form the course that reached the Atlantic coast of Northern Europe. After a deep swirl during its stopover in England and the Netherlands the main stream of civilization continued its flow to the coastal waters of New York City, having gained speed and a new color when the discontinuities converged with the main stream during this swirl. Nation-state, the new version of the traditional state, and its industry, the biggest economic revolution second to the Neolithic Revolution, are two very strong tributaries. More than anything else, these were the two factors that accelerated and defined traditional civilization to give it the form that we know today. The main stream of civilization is now disappearing in the ocean near New York City. Currently, there are speculations that the shores of China will be its next stop. I believe that the chances of its arriving there are less than its chances of not arriving. The chances are higher that civilizational society will dissolve. Because of the monstrous levels of social and environmental problems worldwide, the chances of democratic societies stepping in and constructing their own civilization have become a real possibility. A confederative union of democracies has a better chance to deal with global problems than the empire cult left over from the old state systems.

Once again the question arises: Where is capitalism? Where is it – in terms of economic contribution – in relation to the nation-state and industry? I cannot find an answer within economy despite my sustained effort. It may be viewed as strange, but

I believe the true owner of the economy, despite all the attempts to invade and colonize, is still the woman.

If we wish to meaningfully evaluate economy from a sociological perspective, we must see the woman (bearing, carrying, raising and nurturing children until they can be independent, as well as being the artisan of the house) as the fundamental power. This sociologically based answer is far more respectful to the truth. It does not ignore the relationship between economy and biology. As the gatherer of plants for millions of years, as the main actor in the agricultural revolution to date, not only inside the house but in many areas of economic life, it is the woman who has always spun the wheel. The ancient Greeks determined this truth thousands of years ago and acknowledged it by naming woman's household management economy. Second in line after the woman are of course those who fall into the category of slave, serf, and worker. Endless, merciless methods ensure their labor and keep them under the strictest leash in order that the civilizational powers can seize the surplus product and value. Those third in line are somewhat freer: the various craftspeople, small merchants and small farmers, artists, architects, engineers, doctors, and those who are self-employed. These are the social groups - or classes - that have spun the economic wheel throughout history. No capitalist, seignior, agha, or landlord can be found amongst them. It is clear that they are not economic powers but occupying, exploiting, colonial, and assimilationist powers who externally and monopolistically impose this on the people and their labor. It is not only capitalists such as the large-scale merchant, industrialist, and banker that is externally imposing and anti-economic; the seignior, big landowner, politician, high-ranking military members, and the civilizationalist intellectual can be included in the list of powers that are not economic but who externally impose themselves on the economy.

- Abdullah Öcalan



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