World Market and World Power Ruthless Criticism


On Globalized Civil Society and its Anti-Terrorist Culture of War

[Translation of Part I from GegenStandpunkt 3-2006]

Reasons for war come about in times of peace – when else? Conversely, peace is the “state of affairs” brought about by wars and is unthinkable without the capacity and willingness to wage them. This is something the Romans were already aware of long ago when they declared that “si vis pacem, para bellum.” And in the twenty-first century, NATO follows the same principle when it commits to being willing and able to carry out no less than six simultaneous military missions at any time – two larger wars with 60,000 troops and up to four smaller wars with 20,000 to 30,000 troops – for the purpose of securing world peace.

It’s not just the dimensions in which the strategists in charge think and act that have changed over time. The fact that the great powers now want to be responsible for no less than world peace, let no armed conflict go unsupervised, are capable of intervening all over the world and reserve themselves the right to do so in accordance with their own designs, has – to say the least – “something to do” with the fact that they have brought about a truly worldwide capitalist system, and that their economic existence is dependent on the uses and benefits they reap from this capitalistically unlocked world. For the greatest beneficiaries, such existential dependency implies the necessity – and for their governments this is an imperative – to ensure that political rulers in all the world acknowledge their own involvement in global business as the material basis, essential content and binding guideline for their rule, and that they don’t step out of line. In no way do the authoritative world politicians thereby rely on the inherent constraints of the world market, which, according to many modern theorists of globalization, have degraded even the mightiest states to feeble henchman in the service of the superior power of economic relations. It is clear enough to their pragmatic minds that even the most severe constraints and imperatives of market-economic rationality only take effect if and as long as a sovereign state-power is resolved to take part in the world economy and imposes upon its society the necessity of making money in order to survive. This being accomplished, however, every part of market-economic life contains an imperative, and all aspects of the societal reproduction process become occasions for asserting extortionately the private power of money and the authority of its creators. But in order to be able to deal with each other in this way, on the orderly path of extortionate business maneuvers, the leading capitalist powers require an argument to persuade sovereign state-powers, which ultimately only understand their own language, the “language of force,” of a few essential things: that there is no alternative to the decision to participate in the capitalist world system, that the big guys are responsible for the order and security of the course of global business, and that “good governance” on the democratic, market-economic model is a vital necessity. There is no doubt as to the necessity of being able to exercise incontestable force, because politicians responsible for the world order always find a few troublemakers against whom their peaceful economic order must be defended. For decades, the universal validity of the freedom of private property and its inherent constraints was obstructed by the Soviet power and its Socialist bloc, so order and peace had to be defended against them. The successful globalization of the market-economic idyll required no less than a lengthy Cold War with a continually perfected threat of nuclear destruction, along with many secondary theaters of war. And it’s no secret that the world war system founded by the leading power of the free world, armed and organized through a network of alliances for just this purpose, has not become superfluous after the triumph over that one big exception to the world capitalist order. On the contrary, it has come even closer to its true meaning. No longer hamstringed by “counter-deterrence” and a “nuclear stalemate,” the “West” now confronts the world with its willingness and capacity for total military deterrence, lending credence to both through its threats and “asymmetrical” military missions against real and potential deviants wherever they may be found. The traditional distinction, the clear separation between the state of war and peace, is no more. The highly esteemed rules of free competition on the world market only come into and remain in effect if smaller and larger security issues are solved continuously and violently. On this condition, on the basis of constant military engagement, the peaceful use of these rules in nations’ economic dealings with each other is guaranteed – a kind of use that brings to bear a good deal of potential for extortion and creates both remarkable dependencies and a striking distribution of wealth.

There is, however, a catch to the glorious success of free imperialism: it undermines the cooperation to which the great capitalist powers let themselves be compelled during their confrontation with the common archenemy in Moscow. Even during the Cold War, for which the United States used and functionalized its partners in Europe and elsewhere, and in which the latter in turn enlisted America as a protective power for their national interests, all parties kept a constant and critical eye on the costs and benefits of their common security policy. They weighed the costs of cooperation, which included not only money for arms but also alliance discipline, respect for their partners’ interests, and abstention from unilateral actions and exclusive rights – after all, one of the reasons that the colonial empires of the two western European war victors were dissolved was because America didn’t have any use for them in their new world order – against the benefits of cooperation, which consisted in the freedom to compete on the world market and to have economic access to other countries, political influence on allies and strategic importance in general, etc. Since the self-dissolution of the Soviet Union, the outcome of the allies’ efforts to revise the terms of this cooperation, efforts marked by distrust and dedicated to improving their own respective status, is no longer decided in advance by the common world war option. All parties involved are recalculating. None of them wants to throw away the collateral benefit of their military alliance, i.e., their shared control over the world order, nor the authority to domineer over other sovereigns, nor the obligation of their partners to accommodation, nor the freedom to dominate the entire world as a sphere for economic activity. No modern imperialist power wants to go back and re-divide the world into exclusive spheres of influence. On the other hand, none of the parties – neither the superpower nor its allies – are really content with the status quo of their own nation’s control over world order, nor with their respective prospects for economic success, nor with their respective political and economic yield from world peace, nor with the political and financial expenses involved in securing the required universal regime of deterrence. The strategic and material services that the United States demands of the other great powers coincide neither with the latter’s interests in economically utilizing the world, nor with their claims to power, nor with their will to gain respect from the American world power as a rival of equal stature. Both sides are struggling to make revisions in their relations, and this corrodes their will to come to an agreement, a will upon which the customary, peaceful course of the competition of nations is based, and which none of the powers responsible for this competition cares to call off.

That’s how it works – imperialism today.

I. The Competition of Nations for the Wealth of the World

Capitalist wealth is something over which its owners and managers compete; they do so in accordance with the absurd logic of market-economic rationality and the precepts and licenses laid down by their national legislators and political guardians. The latter, for their part, are keen on the overall success of the economy over which they govern – on successful capital accumulation in general and positive balances of transnational business in particular. After all, the power and influence of their state depends on it. That’s why a modern ruling power not only registers the competitive results brought about by its foreign traders and multinationals, it also competes against its peers over national profits with the instruments of state power.

1. A Nation’s Capitalist Base and its Instruments of Success


A modern people needs work – not in the banal sense that a certain amount of effort is always required to satisfy a society’s need for food and other means of consumption, and to create the needed means of production. If this were the case, that is, if a rationally planning materialism was at work, then the expenditure of labor power would be a mere means to an end, and it would take place with the aim of reducing the necessary effort as much as possible and thus increasing freely disposable time for freely chosen activities. But things aren’t that simple in a free market economy, where countries are only doing well if as many of their inhabitants as possible are going to work day in and day out, from late youth to early old age, from morning until night or in continuously rotating shifts in offices, factories or other, mobile, workplaces. These nations aren’t struggling to overcome a shortage of useful goods that could be remedied through the purposeful use of labor and machinery. On the contrary, they actually suffer hardship when in view of overfilled store shelves there is no work to be done.

The immanent logic of this irrationality is so familiar to every enlightened modern individual that this absurd inversion of means and ends doesn’t occur to them even when engaged unionists, American presidents and European prime ministers and chancellors call for the development of new commodities and the awakening of corresponding needs to “give people jobs.” In the market economy even needs themselves, be they natural and necessary or acquired and cultivated, and which get satisfied with products of labor, are merely means to an end: earning money with labor. In fact, this purpose equates labor expenditure and money income so completely that a society caught up in the market economy actually develops a need for work. However, as everyone knows and unfortunately takes to be absolutely normal, this is only the case because the prevailing equation of labor with the earning of money actually has two complementarily opposed meanings, which divide society into classes:

– The “broad masses” need somebody, i.e., an employer with money, who pays them for performed labor. So to be more precise, they don’t so much need the work as they need the money they get paid for doing it. But as “wage-dependent” individuals, even the chance of working and demanding money for it is not within their power; instead they are dependent on an entrepreneur to give them something to do at all. The very opportunity to earn money with labor lies in another person’s power, like an elementary item of necessity that lies beyond their reach. Necessity thus turns work itself into their elementary economic purpose. If some of these people have the fortune of finding a job, this doesn’t mean that they will have escaped the equation of labor with money, for their only opportunity to improve the remuneration of their labor is to toil more and longer. And even this is a means that is not at their disposal, but an offer their employer has to make, and which they themselves have to “demand” as if it were an object they need.

– This other party, which in accordance with the market-economic expression bears the short and sweet label of “business,” needs the labor of other people, the employed rank and file. It doesn’t require this labor for any particular need that it would like to fulfill conveniently in exchange for money, rather it requires labor as a source of money, of freshly created property in the shape of salable commodities that can be of whatever kind as long as they bring in money. Business has a need for labor that is as conditional as it is boundless. The condition is a relation between the money an employer pays for labor and the money that this labor yields, a relation that not only makes the employer richer, but to an extent that allows him to succeed among his peers, i.e., against his competitors, by offering particularly attractive bargains “on the market.” In this sense, an employer calculates with labor as a means to an end, as a necessary expenditure – not of time and effort, but of money that has to be paid to other people in order to squeeze out a maximum yield from their labor. This calculation necessitates thriftiness in two senses: first, the needed amount of labor must be inexpensive, so wages per unit of labor time have to be low; second, the amount of needed labor itself has to be low in relation to the salable product, or, conversely, every paid hour of labor must yield as much money output as possible. This sort of thriftiness is thus extremely wasteful with respect to the work that wage laborers perform – the expenditures they make in terms of labor effort, labor time and labor per unit of time. At the same time, it is disdainful of the value of the applied labor power paid for in money. This combination of wastefulness and disdain is what makes labor profitable, and that is both the indispensable and sole condition that labor must meet in order to be useful for business and in demand, as the latter’s need for profitable labor is simply boundless. There is no need whose satisfaction could make it content. The competitive struggle among firms rages over who can command an ever greater maximum of profitable labor; more and more profitable labor is itself the economic purpose of society. This boundless need in turn intensifies the efforts of the competing actors in the free market economy to restrict their payments for labor and their use of paid labor, i.e., to achieve an ever smaller minimum of labor in relation to the money value it creates and the money they pay for labor. That is the weapon in the competition over capitalist wealth, a kind of wealth that has its source in profitable labor and its measure in the quantity of profitable labor.

“Naturally,” the paradoxical character of this competitive struggle asserts itself for both sides, who in the market-economic idyll actually need labor, in very different ways. The wage-dependent majority, along with its labor time, its capacity for work and the salary it thereby earns, is subjected to the doubly restrictive constraint of profitability. In the course of capitalist progress, the majority rid themselves of neither toil nor long hours of labor; they don’t get rich, and certainly not rich enough to buy their way out of their predicament. On the contrary, with its “labor saving technological progress,” business ensures that the wage-dependent population’s need for opportunities to work repeatedly goes unsatisfied to an ever greater extent – be it because successful firms attain competitive success with fewer employees, or because unsuccessful firms can only manage to exploit labor profitably in lesser quantities, or not at all, thus leaving behind armies of unemployed. So even if the economy grows, the business community retains a reservoir of available labor power they can draw upon to satisfy their need for cheap labor at any time. However, the growth they bring about by combining the restrictive conditionality and boundlessness of their need for labor in such a highly profitable way engenders a most absurd limit on growth. In their endless quest for money, capitalist entrepreneurs repeatedly produce more salable goods than can in fact be sold profitably – especially in view of the extremely limited sum of money that the members of the wage-dependent population can spend in their capacity as consumers. Employers’ demands to make ever more money through the boundless use of ever more profitable labor exceed the amount of money that can be earned at all on their markets. That is what makes their competitive struggle so intense, and occasionally it is not only those who make the least profitable use of labor that pay the penalty for this. Business on the whole suffers periodically because of the limits on growth that it itself produces, and in the case of an economic crisis, the business class can’t get around the necessity of destroying wealth across the board – in order to then continue on with the same absurdity.


A modern state manages these relations with all the force it uses to lay down and enforce the law. Of course, no responsible politician would admit that the state first of all forcibly imposes these relations on its legal subjects, nor that the state’s political economy is a violent affair in general. Those who have a say in this free society have no qualms about forcing the existence of their citizens into a corset of rules and regulations, which turns labor for money into the sole purpose of social life and the sole means for making a living. On the contrary, they take it to be a service that those who govern owe to their autonomous subjects, and with which they must meet the objective requirements of the “naturally” prevailing market economy, since otherwise it just wouldn’t function. This is how modern politics fittingly makes the two-sided fundamental social need for labor its own. The state stands by its entrepreneurs, who by virtue of their legally protected right of ownership are licensed to make use of and exploit the labor of society, and provides them with a constantly refined catalog of rules, measures and various forms of assistance, so that the exercise of the private power to command the sources of market-economic wealth is as profitable as possible for individual entrepreneurs and for business as a whole. That’s no easy task in view of the fact that the state cannot steer the all-sided competitive struggle between capitalist property-owners, as well as the anarchy of the markets that this struggle implies, so as to make the entire class happy. At any rate, those in charge get along just fine with the fact that there is always somebody who objects to the way they foster the flourishing of capitalist growth as being a denial of freedom and a violation of private property, while demanding action on the reform front in the interest of economic rationality. They incorporate the contradictory demands made by business into their party rivalry. And as long as they keep to the central line that all parties agree upon, they can’t go wrong anyway: first, labor has to be profitable, and second, a constantly increasing and maximally profitable amount of labor should take place under the command and for the benefit of the nation’s firms. By doing its part to help achieve these ends, a proper economic policy fulfills its responsibilities not only toward business, but also toward the masses’ need for and moral entitlement to having a job. The modern class state acknowledges these people’s demand for jobs completely, while sticking to its principle that the provision of this supreme good be left up to the employing minority. And on that basis, it fosters the general willingness of active workers, especially of those prevented from working, to cut back on their living standards while stepping up their flexibility and work ethic for the sake of having a job at all. That’s how those in power serve their communities while always keeping their eye on the material basis of their rule, which consists in the money – the objectified power over the entire market-economic world of commodities and the labor that produces them – created in profitable workplaces under the direction of competitive employers and accumulated by capitalist property-owners.

Being such a self-interested and thus particularly unconditional friend and supporter of economic growth, i.e., of the endless efforts of its propertied class to enrich itself, the state discovers a most critical fault in the territory and people that it makes available for these efforts. Regardless of how extensive the sphere of its rule may be, in principle it is always too small for capital’s boundless drive to expand. Society’s purchasing power, whose purpose is to transform the products of societal labor into real, i.e., abstract wealth, into money, is limited to the domestic citizenry – whose buying power is additionally limited by the fact that the wage-dependent majority only possesses as much of this power as the criterion of profitability allows them to receive for their labor. This limit contradicts the basic requirements of capitalist accumulation – wholly independent of whether all basic needs have been satisfied, and regardless of the sorts of needs invented and awoken for the purpose of earning money by supplying the most extravagant goods and services – and also regardless of whether and how many producers and retail stores remain stuck with their goods. The same goes for the natural resources that a nation’s economy needs and consumes for the purpose of growth; after all, the resources within the state’s territory are always finite, and are thus always a potential and possibly an actual restriction on the accumulation of wealth. And even if the national labor market is well stocked with unemployed, the growth potential that business should develop and deploy fundamentally exceeds the supply of domestic personnel; so in this regard as well, the spatial borders of the nation-state’s power is irreconcilable with capital’s boundless drive to expand. Consequently, those in charge do everything to make their state’s borders, and thus those of their neighbors, and in fact all the borders of this world, “porous” – so that domestic capital’s private power can get hold of the wealth resources of the world.

– Any state power concerned with the flourishing of its market-economic power base provides its businessmen access to natural resources in other countries, both mineral resources that are lacking at home or could only be extracted at high costs, and agricultural goods from other climates or countries where such goods are cheaper to produce than at home. At the beginning of capitalism’s modern history, a need that is as absurd as it is appropriate to this mode of production had its glory days: gold was extracted and acquired in huge volumes and heedless of any losses incurred in the process – not because gold was useful for any specific material need or indispensable as a means of production, but because, thanks to the force of the state and habit, gold became the material representation of the power of property over all that is useful, as well as the labor that produces it. Gold thus became the “fetish” of the bourgeois world; it embodies this world’s economic relations of force in units of weight. It is quite appropriate that the marauding colonial masters, who merely spent the money, were not the ones who accumulated the benefits from this grand procurement, but merchants, who earned the money, used it as a basis for credit, used credit as capital, and thus launched their project of enriching themselves through business, through the use of their own labor force and the products it creates, as well as through those of others. The nations that became centers of capital accumulation – not by possessing this plundered money commodity as such, but by using it in a capitalistically purposeful manner – have long since developed a much more demanding need for access to foreign sources of wealth. They now fight tooth and claw over sources of raw materials for their industries, and especially over the secure control over the fuel sources so materially indispensable for their economies, and whose prices go into every market-economic cost calculation and thus co-determine a nation’s growth potential.

– Cheap raw materials from all over the world, which keep down firms’ costs for materials and energy, are crucial. This is because capitalists’ price competition has become a worldwide affair; after all, the modern state puts all its effort into giving its capitalists access to foreign markets, where they can pit their command over profitable labor against foreign competitors and earn other nations’ money. In return the state opens up the territory over which it rules to foreign suppliers, exposes its domestic firms to foreign competition and thereby risks the outflow of realized wealth. So it cannot avoid critically comparing the costs of doing business on its own territory with that of other locations. Although the modern capitalist state’s first priority is always to remove the barriers that the domestic market’s borders represent for the growth of the nation’s economy and its boundless need to make profit out of profitable labor, this does not mean that state stops assessing the advantages and disadvantages of international trade at this point – on the contrary, this is where its calculations begin! These calculations obviously don’t merely concern the prices of imported raw materials, but also the conditions of international competition as a whole. By imposing protective tariffs, quotas and other barriers to trade, the state restricts or even bars foreign firms that are superior in terms of profitability and growing power from churning up the domestic market at the cost of domestic suppliers. Conversely, it expects other nations to submit to its own firms’ strategies for conquering foreign markets. On the premise that money should and must be made across all borders, the inter-nationalists that govern the market economy combine policies of protectionism and free trade, and have succeeded in bringing about a world market which, with its flood of commodities and the competition for money raging over them, leaves no corner of the earth untouched.

– In their worldwide competition to get control over a maximum of profitable labor, firms compete to make the labor they control maximally profitable. This is why they don’t restrict themselves to commodity trade in their efforts to conquer markets worldwide, but assert their interest in making use of labor wherever there are opportunities for competitively profitable exploitation. A modern, worldly political sovereign understands this need quite well, too, and in the expectation that regardless of where its firms enrich themselves their profits will inevitably serve the nation’s economic growth, it gives its employers the fundamental right to take their profit-making power over labor abroad and make use of cheap labor in other countries. Conversely, the state invites foreign businesses to come into its own country and fulfill their own need for labor, as well as that of the local population, and, above all, that of the ruling state power. Although the expectation that the nation will inevitably benefit is by no means always fulfilled, and cannot be fulfilled for the simple reason that the competitive strategies of firms and the maneuvers of states constantly thwart each another, all these bad experiences have not yet led states to call off the game, but to make several advances and new achievements in capitalist site policy.


There is a practical conclusion that modern state powers draw from the worldwide competition they empower and compel their firms to take part in: regardless of whether the results of trade have been positive or negative for the nation, they see themselves compelled to foster the competitive power of the nation’s firms as much as possible and to make domestic conditions for business as attractive as possible. To this end they take a critical look at all the local conditions encountered by those who make or look to make exploitative use of labor, undertaking reforms as needed; and they evaluate all the official courtesies they provide to this end according to their role as weapons in international economic competition. With this goal in mind, they turn to the labor factor. This involves ensuring the attractiveness of the national wage level including “additional wage costs” for social insurance, making sure that labor’s usefulness is up to date – basic and higher education, public health and morals, willingness to work and sacrifice – as well as keeping the costs for all this under control. Although these things are always found on the task list of every responsible government that rules over a class state anyway, those in charge have no problem letting themselves be driven by the self-created “objective constraints” of international competition to be purposefully relentless in their actions, while explaining to the victims of their policies that they are powerless in the face of foreign competition, which they must then use their power to keep under control. On the other hand, politicians are quite generous when it comes to establishing and maintaining infrastructure and promoting technological advances in the fields of “innovative” products and production processes, commodity transport, communications, money circulation, etc. Although they thereby inevitably burden the “business community” whose worldwide competitiveness is their mission – after all, the money has to come from somewhere, and even the most resolute thriftiness in social spending won’t bring it about – the art of government borrowing can attenuate this contradiction and can even be made into a source of income for investors. And besides, a modern government knows to aid its more important firms to achieve a size that allows it to take full advantage of the state’s offers in terms of profitable use of societal labor, regardless of the taxes they must pay, and to develop a competitive power capable of succeeding on a global scale.

A state power’s determined efforts to arm its national economy for the conquest of the world market logically presents it with the necessity of insisting all the more, and all the more resolutely, on a functioning world market, i.e., one in which all nations expose their economies to international competition irrevocably and without any restrictions. After all, it’s the most successful capitalist nations, whose firms earn money all over the world and thereby augment the wealth of the nation, that are existentially dependent upon their multinationals’ continued guaranteed access to the money of other nations – and that means in principle of all other nations. Capital accumulation in these countries is “globalized,” and it needs a fully opened and perfectly functioning world market that matches the dimensions of its size and weight as a means for its success. And this has to be ensured constantly, for one thing is certain: the incessantly repetitive message about all-sided growth through free trade is a slogan that glorifies the success of the successful, and ignores the victims that global competition inevitably causes – even among the dominant actors of the capitalist struggle for survival. Not even in phases of general worldwide economic growth does it work out that all nations fuel each other’s accumulation through their activities on the world market, an accumulation from which they profit, nor that they profit from the growth they trigger for their trading partners. National markets that are too small for the nation’s own capital do not thereby all of a sudden become large enough to accommodate foreign capital on their own territory as well. Or conversely, national business communities, for whom their domestic economies offer too few opportunities for expansion, don’t just automatically all expand and prosper along side each other when they expand into their competitors’ home economies. The fact that firms from one country both share in and contribute to growth in another country always has a flip side: these firms contest their competitors’ growth, and losses in the national accounts are inevitable. This is why precautions must be taken against the likelihood that nations which temporarily or notoriously belong to the losers in the competition over capitalist wealth and sources of growth will withdraw “unduly” from the freedom of worldwide competition. Conversely, precautions need to be taken so that the winners don’t take “undue” advantage of their market power. In short, modern capitalism must go on as world business, because otherwise it won’t go on at all.

So enlightened politicians have plenty to do.


After two world wars over the division of the world, the bosses of the leading capitalist powers, pragmatic as they are, came to the conclusion – or rather, they saw themselves compelled to subscribe to America’s conclusion – that sufficiently unrestricted capitalist growth requires more than forcibly separated and monopolized spheres of business: a secure and worldwide free movement of commodities and money, and universal free capitalist access to markets, resources and labor power. It was clear to them that it is not enough to take advantage of bilaterally superior competitiveness and carry home the profits. In order to utilize trading partners as reliable and permanent sources of money and as spheres of capitalist expansion, the dominant nations have to make offers to each other and the rest of the world – chances to make money on the world market and prospects of garnering contributions to growth in their own countries. It is only in this way that their competitors can be entangled in dependencies that cannot be terminated so easily in the case of negative national balances, and which allow them to get the desired effects by threatening to revoke these licenses and denying business opportunities. It was the Americans in their alliance with the Western European nations that made the decisive advances in this direction during the decades of the Cold War. NATO was not meant to be a mere anti-Soviet war alliance, but a capitalist bloc, committed to the “rule of law” and a complete political economy of private property, and obligated to economic cooperation and mutual support. This launched the competition among the economically dominant nations, while at the same time subordinating it to the principle that all allies be strengthened vis-à-vis the common enemy in the East. Their competition was left up to capital’s drive to expand, naturally and especially that of American capital, whose feats were to create and secure the material basis of the alliance. In this way, a multilaterally administered competition got underway between the dominant capitalist nations, between these nations and the gradually independent members of the former colonial empires, and finally worldwide – even reaching into the Socialist Bloc. This set in motion a thoroughly stipulated and supranationally regulated anarchy of markets, which constituted the framework for a political-economic test of strength whose very structure virtually ensured the success of the strongest competitor. The mutual dependence thus forged between competitors of differing strength offered the stronger partners opportunities and leverage for exercising influence on the trade policies and domestic economic policies of their weaker partners – an influence which has long since gone beyond pressure to make calculated concessions, and now aims at taking every area of their economic policy under scrutiny. On the basis of the “most favored nation” principle – the non-exclusivity of bilateral trade concessions – a body of rules was institutionalized in GATT and later developed in the WTO into a canon of permitted and forbidden state interventions, which gave a very far-reaching and very one-sided international system of extortion the semblance and even the character of a grand powwow with the interest of achieving mutual consensus, of a permanent and collective process of deliberation with the aim of bringing about peaceful resolutions on the progress of all-sided prosperity through the freedom of world trade. Within this system, the Western European nations launched the enterprise of subordinating their competition as partners and their reciprocal exertion of influence to a common political authority. By offering firms the chance to grow to a whole new scale on a spacious common market, and by managing their countries and populations in a manner of partial cooperation, they sought and seek to take up competition with a far-superior American capitalism – an unmediated performance test in the struggle over the concentration of profitable labor on their own territories and access to markets, resources, and opportunities to exploit labor in other, non-European countries. In the permanent dispute over the proper rules for the freedom of global business, the European Union acts as a collective economic great power. And for the dominant actors in this collective, it follows from their common competitive power almost automatically that they not only have to set the appropriate conditions for business in their commerce with foreign competitors, but also ensure their security with corresponding military undertakings….

The result of this world trade policy over the last decades has not only been an enormous increase in the worldwide movement of commodities and money. Through the accumulation of competitive victories and defeats on different sides – this being the true political-economic substance of the rapid “explosion” of world trade – and the political management of the inevitable antagonisms, the participating nations – a category that now encompasses all nations – have each worked their way into a status, an overall state of their national capitalism, which defines their ranking in a system of mutual utilization and dependencies, and determines their position in a remarkably stable hierarchy of trading powers.

- North America, the EU, and Japan with its Western Pacific periphery are the dominant world trading powers. They function as each other’s decisive markets, where big money is to be made and where they therefore need to succeed in competition. This means in turn that it is their multinationals that compete against each other worldwide; their competitive power sets the standards for profitable labor and successful business, and they are constantly raising the bar. According to this criterion they inspect and make use of other nations as business locations wherever appropriate, and concentrate the growing power of global capitalism in their home countries. Despite their rivalry with one another, as the profiteers of worldwide competition these three centers of world business maintain a basic consensus over the terms of competition that they impose more or less concertedly on the rest of the world. For the time being, their agreement even covers the safeguarding of the ordered anarchy that allows them to profit from their competition against each other and the rest of the world.

- In this competition, the dominant nations are not only faced with each other but with a handful of emerging markets – half of Latin America, half of South Asia and half of East Asia. These nations stand out as most attractive spheres of investment, because under the currently prevailing conditions of competition set abroad, they need nothing more urgently than capital, while on the other hand they offer quite useful conditions for growth: cheap and profitably exploitable labor power above all, sufficiently functioning class relations that stand under somewhat reliable state control, an infrastructure that satisfies modern business’s need and demand for comfort. They therefore represent an interesting market with public and private customers on whom good money can be made. The label “emerging market” indicates the precarious status of these countries, which stand on the threshold between a shortage of capital and capitalist success. And this status has a very different meaning for the dominant world trading powers and these upstarts. The latter are struggling to cross the threshold and become world trading powers, that is, to successfully establish a process of capital accumulation at home that will allow them to co-determine the course of world trade, and to become a launching pad for exporting capital, enabling them to make use of and shape other nations accordingly. The established great powers of world trade, on the other hand, are doing a good deal to maintain their multinationals’ competitive edge and prevent their new and useful business partners from attaining equal competitive power – in short, to keep them in the contradictory status of a fruitful market and simultaneously capital-needy sphere of investment. The inevitable conflict revolves around issues such as free market access for agricultural and other consumer goods from these aspiring near-“industrial nations,” while the other side focuses its efforts on the “protection of intellectual property” and thereby strives to consolidate the dominance of their own business class over all higher levels of capitalist commodity production and moneymaking in “their” emerging markets.

- The participation of most of the remaining countries in the modern world market puts them into the category of suppliers of raw materials. Apologists of capitalist wealth love to attribute to these countries a “contradiction” between “natural resources” – mineral resources, favorable climatic conditions, splendid nature – and the actual poverty of the masses. These experts simply ignore the fact that wealth in the capitalist world has its substance and measure in the volume of profitably exploited labor, and not at all in some kind of natural resource, to say nothing of the ease with which these can be obtained. Raw materials aren’t wealth at all in this sense, and in the market economy they are only worth as much as capitalist firms are willing to pay for them in the interest of enriching themselves. And as for the deprivation in these countries, poverty in its modern form – the exclusion of the majority from produced surplus – is part of the very essence of capitalist wealth. The drastic deprivation of the masses in these countries, whose political-economic definition consists in the export of raw materials, has even less to do with a natural shortage that stands in contrast to these countries’ fertile nature, but is the product of the global money economy’s forcible exclusion of capitalist surplus population: the exclusion of innumerable people, who are worthless as labor power, from overabundant heaps of commodities. In fact, the very brand name these countries carry is an expression of the fact that under the currently prevailing world market conditions, they are incapable of making profitable use of their natural endowments and are completely subsumed under the role of helpers for the capitalistically productive economic powers. All the same, an elite has formed among these countries: oil states that earn lots of money selling their mineral resources. But this money is far from functioning as capital, as a wellspring of national wealth in the form of money. It is only by “recycling” (a decisively biased expression) their “petrodollars” that these countries become doubly and so very capitalistically useful, that is, by transferring their revenues to the centers of capitalist finance, where the means exist to make more money out of them. Or, they stock up on luxury goods on the world market and, in their efforts to work their way up to the status of emerging markets and beyond, purchase all they need in terms of factories, plants and infrastructure in order to establish a full-fledged capitalist economic circuit, thereby turning the products of profitable labor in the proper “industrial nations” into money. The sizable remainder of the world of states divides up into those countries which, as a result of their natural endowments and of what their colonial and post-colonial history has made out of them, have found a niche in global business, perhaps as a privileged sugar producer under the patronage of the EU or as a Caribbean tourist destination, and those countries for whose deterioration and collapse the first world has developed the status of “failing” or “failed states,” only paying attention to them from a cynical perspective that categorizes these countries as threats in terms of aids, terrorism or droves of refugees.


Just like any business result, a nation’s world economic success or failure is realized in money – in the quantity of nationally earned money and in its further use as a means for further economic growth. The mass of this money and its potential to yield more money are what make up the capitalistically decisive receipt for a nation’s political-economic achievements and failures. They are the valid expression of its competitive status and decide in advance what its political-economic prospects for success are in the future. This is only logical and just, for if everything revolves and should revolve around money – and it is to this that states all over the world have committed themselves, subjecting their societies’ process of reproduction to the purpose of earning money, and passing the verdict on its population and environment, its productive forces and articles of consumption, labor and material wealth that it either functions as a source of money or counts for nothing – then money will also decide the economic fate of nations; it is only logical that the latter will be measured and their worth judged according the use they make of their money as a means for accumulating that money. And they will be confronted with a bill that adamantly fixes their ranking in the system of global capitalism and – for better or for worse – determines it for the future.

I. The Competition of Nations for the Wealth of the World

2. The currency and its value

Money is materialized and quantified power to command products and work, the irrational material form of the relationship of exclusion and force upon which the political economy of capitalism is based. This power vested in money by virtue of state decree depends on the economic use a nation makes of it, on the economy’s success as a source of money. Conversely, the nation’s competitiveness, its position in international economic competition, manifests itself in the power of its respective money. Assessing the results of this competition and determining the relative value of each nation’s money falls to a special sphere of business, whose objective is neither to purchase and sell commodities, nor to invest capital and exploit labor, but to make money by critically comparing national moneys. In the course of its daily business, this trade establishes the position of each nation in the world political-economic hierarchy.


Moneys have exchange rates, whose great importance is revealed by the fact that they are determined and published several times each day. Even millions of television viewers who don’t make any practical use of such information are kept regularly informed. And regardless of the various different conclusions that exporters, investment advisers, or heads of central banks may draw on the basis of this information, all of them are interested solely in the quantitative relation between different moneys – x British pounds equal y Swiss francs, or €1 = $1.29. But in and of itself, the fact that a lively exchange between currencies goes on worldwide is simply taken for granted.

This is not just. After all, this is the substance that matters most in the economic life of capitalist nations. This material is just as much the measure and means of the modest livelihood of the masses – all the way down past the poverty line – as it is of the wealth on whose growth everything and everybody depends: jobs and profits, the private lives of the citizens and the national budget. And the first thing revealed by the currency trade is that what constitutes the real embodiment of the entire wealth of society no longer does so beyond the nation’s borders. The wealth around which everything revolves in capitalist nations, wealth in its capitalistically appropriate form as universally employable private power, the societal means of sustenance and the economic substance – loses its validity at the place where the state’s authority ends and that of another begins. The material a national economy does business in, the one product that a market-economy ultimately produces, the instrument that the “business community” uses to command the labor of society, the means people must use to live, the instrument with which a state rules – all this turns out to be the work of state power, and its validity reaches only as far as the authority of the state.

This is an unbearable contradiction – the second point the currency trade reveals in the parities it determines ever anew. After all, when states commit their societies to the goal of making money, they don’t intend for everything inside their nations to revolve around this supreme good just to have a different definition of wealth reign between them. According to the will of the state that guarantees it by law, the private power embodied in the nation’s money is to have absolute validity; it is not merely meant to be part of some domestic economic arrangement, but to be the essence of material wealth, whose validity is both boundless and exclusive. A capitalist state not only imposes on its citizens the necessity of earning and accumulating money, making it the means and condition of their subsistence, it itself adheres to this commandment in its capacity as the governing housekeeper of its community, quite as if its own decree was a kind of objective requirement imposed on it from a higher authority. Thus it is only logical if a state that does both these things also insists that the money it issues is wealth per se, and is therefore to be recognized as such worldwide.

But there is a snag. Although every state denies with all its might that the “nature” of its society’s wealth is based on nothing but its own violent control over its citizens’ material life process and its own provision of this instrument of private power, it sees through this denial as soon as it comes from another state. In the first instance, the state refuses to acknowledge foreign money as money in the same sense that it demands recognition of its own money; it regards what other sovereigns declare to be legal tender as nothing but colored slips of paper. At best they are a substitute for money, a symbol for money that needs to somehow be backed by some “real” monetary substance, that is, one that it also recognizes as fully valid.

Hence capitalist state powers confront each other in the following way: When it comes to the recognition of their own currency as money – as materialized and unrestricted power to command products and services, i.e., work of every kind – their demands know no bounds. When it comes to recognizing other states’ currencies as money, they are extremely critical. A compromise is required and can certainly be found. Not so long ago, capitalist states declared their self-created means of payments to be banknotes in the original meaning of the word – promises to pay issued by the central bank on the stocks of precious metals that all enlightened nations hoarded and coveted as the embodiment of wealth. In these bygone days states made their acknowledgment of other states’ currencies conditional on the right to get hold of their reserves of precious metals. The international exchange of goods with the use of national paper moneys thus required two things: first, an international consensus over the material fetish that should embody the power of private property; second, a guarantee – furnished with all sorts of provisos – that a state could have its trade surpluses paid out in precious metals. Today, capitalist states have left this recourse to gold or silver far behind. Domestically, they refuse to acknowledge any difference between the notes issued by their central banks and “real” money, and they demand that their peers unconditionally acknowledge their currency as money sans phrase – at least in principle. Conversely, they insist that every other sovereign power make its money available for any foreign party that seeks to use it as a means of business, and that it vouches for this money’s validity. Modern states have managed to reach an agreement: the currency of every capitalistic nation is basically convertible, i.e., a valid version of one and the same universal private monetary power measured and denominated in national units.

What remains to be settled are the proportions in which each nation’s money exchanges for that of another. The exchange rate is an issue that plagues the business world and politicians constantly. After all, a great number of things depend on it: whether or not an exporter’s price calculations still work out after it takes up competition abroad, how importers are affected by having to exchange currencies, whether – ceterus paribus – it is profitable to invest abroad, and whether the domestic economy is attractive for foreign capital. Indeed, the wealth of the nation as a whole and its ability to grow depend upon what happens as soon as it is measured in another currency. Even within a nation, these are all issues over which competing interests clash; between nations, the conflicting interests and ambitions, calculations and demands only multiply. And they all need to be reduced to the abstract common denominator that is a currency parity. By acknowledging each other in principle as equally responsible creators of capitalistically usable moneys, states have opened up a permanent and rather complex battle over the mutual valuation of the currencies they have declared convertible. And despite their agreement about convertibility, in no way have they dropped their fundamental reservations about the monetary substance of their partners' currencies. Their mutual assurance that they are each deadly serious about the capitalistic value of their currency implies their mutual obligation to back up the universal power of command that their slips of money are meant to represent. Thus they do not merely formally promise to ensure the exchangeability of their currency into every other kind of money, but vouch for it materially. In basically the same way as they did in the times of precious metals, central banks have to vouch for the universal exchangeability of their currency with an appropriately sized stock of foreign exchange reserves. And even after the “demonetization” of gold, i.e., its demotion from the definitive money commodity to a mere material asset that can easily be “liquidized,” it continues to populate every capitalist nation’s treasury.


The practice of internationalizing money, of actually “converting” convertible currencies, is the business of the money and credit trade. It accepts currencies earned in foreign countries and credits the appropriate equivalent in local units, obtaining and selling foreign currencies for cross-border business operations. After all, this trade has already concentrated the money of society in its hands and has a finger in every significant transaction, which it uses as the basis for creating credit, for giving loans to the business world, and for making use of others’ business for its own business. As soon as the state has decreed and guaranteed the recognition of a foreign currency, finance capital does not hesitate to also use means of payment, promises to pay, and debt denominated in foreign currency as money and means of credit. This it does in the service of international trade, and for its own business purposes. And it wouldn’t be the capitalist money and credit trade if it didn’t know how to immediately make an extra business out of the use of foreign money, and a complete new line of business out of this extra business.

This business has rather unspectacular beginnings: money traders exchange sums of money into corresponding sums of other moneys on the basis of exchange rates fixed by the states. And for providing this difficult service, they charge a small fee. Even at this stage, they do more than merely service their individual clients. They collect offers and demands for currencies; their trading activity brings about aggregated quantities, an overall demand for local currency on the one hand and for various foreign currencies on the other. By professionally comparing these quantities out of plain avarice, they draw their first practical conclusions. They find that some currencies come in and go out in large quantities. It always pays to deal in these currencies – small premiums and deductions suffice. Stockpiling these currencies is as good as holding deposits in local currency; they make a suitable basis for granting loans in any currency, because they can be converted quickly and easily into any other currency on demand. Currencies for which there is great demand but which flow in only scantily allow and necessitate a greater price margin at the cost of the client, because the required sums cannot be obtained from their inflows of foreign currencies, but must be borrowed or purchased from foreign partners. If this is the case with various different or even all other currencies, then this sheds a poor light on the local money, because there is obviously too little overall demand for it. Conversely, the stronger and the more one-sided the demand for the local currency, the larger the margins to sell it dear. From the trader’s technical perspective, this is a sign of its quality. With currencies that flow in but don’t attract any considerable demand, no business can be done apart from the fee for purchasing them in the first place. They are suitable neither as a guarantee for creating credit, nor as a means of credit, and the trader charges the customer for the nuisance of accepting and getting rid of them. And so on and so forth.

With the relations between supply and demand they thereby produce, currency traders then confront both the central banks whose products they exchange and the currency custodians who have the legal authority to fix exchange rates. If at the specified rate a local currency must constantly be converted into foreign money and finds no reciprocal demand, the central bank in charge will have to plunder its currency reserves, since it is liable for the convertibility of the notes it issues. It is thus faced with the question as to how long it is willing and able to cope with the outflow of national monetary assets in the form of the foreign currency in its possession. This is how the activities of that part of the business world empowered to trade currencies makes clear to the central bank that the national currency is too expensive and of much less value “in reality” than purported by the official exchange rate. If, conversely, the currency trade sucks up enormous amounts of foreign currencies and passes them on to its own central bank, while being unable to get hold of enough local currency to satisfy the demand of its clients and demanding an increasing amount of printed material from the national bank of issue, then those in charge of monetary policy must conclude that they are selling their currency “under value,” getting nothing but low-grade currencies in return, and thus essentially throwing money out the window. In both cases, of course, there are significant beneficiaries and high-powered interests in the national and international business world who wish to maintain the status quo. Yet, solely through their own business activity, the currency traders create an objective necessity for the political authorities to correct the exchange rates they have decreed. In this way they manage to create for themselves an additional business opportunity of a higher sort: they speculate on the corrections they take to be due. This they do with their own money and with money they have borrowed from others, at any rate entirely independent of the interests of their clients. They buy “undervalued” currencies and sell large quantities of currencies they consider “overvalued,” merely for the purpose of profiting from expected rate changes. They thereby increase the pressure on the currency custodians to make these very corrections. By being constantly compelled to adjust the relative values of their currencies, capitalist states receive the fitting response from those they have empowered to do business with the moneys they have declared convertible.

With a radical step, the dominant trading nations have overcome the torturous difficulties involved in the back and forth between the constraints of the international money market, the political calculations of the states involved, and the conflicting interests within both the local and global business worlds. They have decided to leave the task of determining currency parities to the currency traders themselves. After all, if the proportions of supply and demand produced by speculators are what determine exchange rates, then obviously it is futile to determine these rates in advance. On the contrary, it would be inconsistent with economic logic and with the licensed competition of those who use and deal in money to try to impose the result of their business activities on them. With this conviction and the decision to let their currencies “float,” the world’s currency custodians have empowered finance capital, already busy comparing currencies, to evaluate the units of measurement of national wealth, and thus its relative total value. Of course, central banks still vouch for the convertibility of their money with a stockpile of foreign reserves, but now they react to the terms that the financial sector's own business strategies and maneuvers impose on them. In doing so, this trade confronts the states with the results of their national and international business activities, and these results set the decisive conditions for the further course of these activities.


The first set of results that the “money markets” put together concerns the nation’s cross-border trade in goods and merchandise. Although capital industrialists, exporters and importers always make a profit on their cross-border transactions, when it comes to the nation the competitive successes and failures of the domestic business world add up in the exchange of money earned and spent abroad to an inflow or outflow of wealth in its decisive market-economic form. What makes a trade balance positive in both a technical and economic sense is not when a nation can lay back and enjoy the products others have toiled to produce. The opposite is the case. A country's trade balance is positive only if it “supplies” the rest of the world with its products, making more money than it has to pay to foreign suppliers of indispensable raw materials and to more competitive foreign manufacturers. Vice versa. There is no difference between the buying and selling that goes on within a capitalist country and between capitalist countries. In both cases the aim is to increase abstract wealth, to acquire money and thus the material power to further one's own growth in competition with others. The first thing that the international currency trade manages and registers in the course of the competition it organizes between buyers and sellers of currencies is whether this aim is achieved on a national level, i.e. whether money proceeds from the accumulation of capital abroad are appropriated and used to further growth at home. Conversely, it manages and registers whether a country suffers an outflow of money made domestically, and thus of growth potential developed at home, or even a part of the substance of national wealth. Therefore, both effects of the currency trade work to distribute the abstract wealth of the world. It causes the reserves of successful states to rise; for countries with notoriously negative balances of trade, it diminishes the foreign currency reserves and other “funds” at the disposal of their central banks. Finally, it takes the scant or rich use of a currency and draws a practical conclusion about its value; it takes the traded volume of both economically useless and highly demanded currencies and determines the value of each nation's respective unit of measurement. It thus devalues or revalues these currencies, decreasing or increasing the international economic clout of the capitalistic wealth of each nation.

Foreign trade is not the only purpose for which money flows between nations. It also travels the world in the form of loans and investments. These international capital movements make up the second set of results put together daily by the international money trade. Capitalists that export capital are simply interested in increasing their property in foreign countries, just as they are used to doing at home. They make use of foreign resources and labor power, and thereby make a selfish contribution to production and circulation in the target countries. They buy their way into the local accumulation of capital, earning heaps of money on the need of both foreign capitalists and state powers for credit. By putting their own money into nations in which they reckon to succeed in competition, they intensify the effects that trade balances have on the exchange of currencies; they amplify the effects on the international distribution of capitalistic means of growth, or correct them insofar as they put their “good” money into financially weak countries. Their capital export increases the latter's stocks of foreign currency reserves, and possibly even benefits the exchange rate of its currency. It slows down or even prevents the outflow of national reserves, and increases both the amount of capital in the nation as well as its capacity to grow. For the home country, its capitalists’ foreign investments make appropriate capitalistic use of the surpluses accumulated on a successful location of capital; money earned at home thus serves abroad as a means for its own growth. This not only benefits companies searching for investment opportunities and finding them abroad, it also benefits the state whose currency is sent out into the wide world as a means of business for globally active businessmen, either in the form of credit or investments. This, after all, confirms these states as creators of money and creditors of capitalist commerce. Capital export means that their money is used on foreign markets, and ultimately worldwide, to do all those things it is used to doing at home – but for purely economic reasons, not merely because of their sovereign decree as is the case at home.

The significance of this is profound, because modern states do not use the money their central banks issue merely to satisfy a “natural” demand for means of payment – although this alone would be extremely useful for promoting national capital accumulation – but to inject credit into their national economy as a means of triggering growth that might otherwise be a long time coming. At the same time, they use this money to finance their own expenses, creating additional purchasing power that stimulates business at home. Hence they put money to work as a means of growth – but this money has neither been produced by profitable labor nor earned by anybody, but simply represents anticipated future growth. For this operation to succeed, state money-creators count and depend on capitalistically successful national business to justify their anticipation and thus prevent a general rise in prices, i.e., an inflationary devaluation of the national monetary unit, that would expose their credit money as merely inflated fiction. When the nation's money is exported and used worldwide as it was intended and economically demanded, that is, as the starting point and endpoint, the instrument and material result of capitalistic production, circulation and accumulation, and as a financial means for other capitalist state powers, then the state's calculation is proved correct and the money it creates by fiat is confirmed as unconditionally capitalistically useful money. When it is used by the business world as a means for exporting capital, it becomes a global means of credit and the material of worldwide capitalistic wealth. And its global use justifies every sum that its creators bring into the world; it confirms these sums as real wealth in precisely the shape that the whole world seeks to earn and accumulate it, and it certifies the financial power of the state, which the latter continues to take the liberty of using in order to create money. A state such as this commands the capitalist wealth of the world – not just to the extent that its exporters earn other nations' money or foreign currency reserves, thereby strengthening the power of its own currency. The money this state creates functions as power over the wealth of the world to the extent that it creates it, and therefore is the wealth of the capitalist world. This is the very fundamental and lofty way that a nation benefits from the capital its successful capitalists export.

This success, however, comes at a cost. The countries that bear these costs are those that not only benefit from extensive imports of capital – more or less, depending on the course of competition between domestic and foreign companies – but are dependent on it. Unlike the “developed” nations, these countries do not make the global capital market grow by investing or attracting investment, rather they tend to or admittedly do suffer from a lack of capital. If the money that a nation creates and puts into national circulation as credit doesn't suffice in terms of quantity and profitability for attaining sweeping successes in world-market competition, and if the nation's growth is dependent upon a supply of capital in the form of foreign credit-money, then this foreign currency competes with the local currency over which money is the dominant means of credit and payment. Foreign money then threatens to demote the local currency, displacing and replacing it as the source and more generally as the “material” of national wealth. In the end, the use that the business world makes of this imported money can reject the claim of the local sovereign to have created and emitted viable credit-money, with the money-creating sovereign of the capital-exporting country gradually displacing the local money guardian as the guarantor of its money, as the source of the financial means required for accumulation, and even as the originator of the local state's purchasing power. The latter finds itself demoted to dependent agent of the financial power held by the home-states of the locally active multinationals, which are always ready to withdraw their good money from any country that doesn't provide a currency they regard as a safe haven for their capitalist wealth.

By speculating on, with and against national currencies, the currency-trading International judges the success of each nation that has made money-making into its lifeblood and raison d'etre, i.e., into a source of money that is to be used successfully as credit-money and therefore to enjoy corresponding worldwide demand, and presents the states with the results. By purchasing and selling currencies, government bonds, all kinds of securities from most every country on their own account, and by shifting around enormous sums of money “merely” for the purpose of exploiting the most minimal differences and fluctuations, finance capitalists continuously compare the capacity of entire nations for capitalist growth. From their appropriately narrow point of view, they assess how profitable and solid the nations’ debts, and the moneys representing these debts, appear to them. All different kinds of observations, as well as pure conjecture, go into forming their judgments, but what is most important is whether and to what extent a nation is indebted domestically or to foreign countries, whether these debts are denominated in its own currency or in foreign currency. What also play a role are the means and prospects of local growth and export policies, the rate of inflation and budgetary policy, the state's foreseeable need for credit, its power to influence the foreign, financial and monetary policy of other states, as well as the conditions of world trade as a whole. Therefore, the political clout a state enjoys also comes into play – from government stability to the security of raw materials supplies, and so on and so forth. All these elements are encapsulated in the market-value that “the markets” “place” on various nations' currencies and debts, only to immediately call these results into question and speculate on further changes.

This is not just a matter of numbers. The speculations of money traders draw a much more fundamental, qualitative distinction between the few currencies that offer them security in and for their speculation – and which therefore constitute the true endpoint and indispensable means of their business activities – and those debts and currencies “into” which they “go” only to “go out” of them again with large profits. They take pleasure in making excursions into speculative high-risk areas, only to return in their search for speculative security to moneys they have trusted for so long and thus helped make solid for speculation. A few currencies prove to be “hard,” while most others disqualify themselves as “weak” to various degrees. The latter are recognized only conditionally as representatives of real money, i.e., as money that is reliable and useful for all kinds of skillful financial maneuvers, and are accordingly only lent at extra high interest rates and supplemented with numerous hedging operations. Other national moneys simply do not exist for the global money market. Although all currencies are supposed to be convertible, equal expressions of one and the same wealth in various different national units of measurement, in the end they not only differ quantitatively in terms of their “purchasing power” and its fluctuations, but qualitatively in terms of the confidence with which finance capital makes use of them in its speculation on and with the debts of nations. It is in this solely appropriate “language” of money that the currency trade passes judgment on each nation's usefulness in terms of speculative money accumulation, and thereby on their economic worth in general as national locations of capital. Finance capital informs states as to their potential to use their money as credit for generating capitalist growth, and thus as to what their future will be according to the most reliable speculative assessment.


Although the leading capitalist states have handed over to the money and credit traders the power to evaluate how suitable each nation's capitalist base is, in no way does this mean that they have conceded their sovereign power over this base. They continue to maintain control of the global course of business just as they have always done. Within its part of the debris left by World War II, the United States re-established worldwide capitalism on the basis of the dollar by exporting capital and crediting new currencies. A quarter of a century later, after bitter conflicts and an ultimate arrangement with its allied rivals, the United States gave up the fiction that what made the dollar world money was its gold backing, and conceded that the other successful national currencies were on a par with the greenback. Right from the beginning, the political initiators of the newly established world market took into account that this market would produce winners and losers. They did so by coining the euphemism “liquidity shortages” for the constantly reoccurring payments problems – especially with a certain class of participants – that were to be reckoned with, and by taking measures to ensure that international money-making could run its course unobstructed. Thus the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was founded as a supranational authority that politically guaranteed that international obligations would be redeemed – even after a country has long since lost its solvency. The IMF was supplemented by the World Bank, an institution for granting political credit to insolvent countries in order to restore their ability to participate in the world market. This is how the leading capitalist nations sought to ensure the creditworthiness of all states in which capitalists could find opportunities to earn money, and flooded the world market with reliable world money, especially from America. This enabled the international financial trade to do business on the scale so universally marveled at today. Whenever this sector's speculative investments ruin states and expose them as insolvent and no longer really creditworthy, the more successful states are also faced with the question as to how their wonderful world business is to go on. And the political masters of the world market have no problem coming up with an answer – with all due respect to the “verdict of the markets,” which is only as relevant as the dominant states take it to be. They extend credit guarantees to insolvent nations in order to ensure that business will continue, and prevent the losers from dropping out of the world market. In each of their rescue operations, the international financial institutions implement the resolution that no state, not even candidates for debt relief, may terminate its participation in the competition of nations. Under the watchful eye of the home countries of good, hard currency over the debts of other nations, and with an institutionalized system for prolonging accumulating liabilities and irrevocable debts, that which finance capital keeps track of in its practical manner has come about: a hierarchy of currencies in which the world-economic status of nations is manifested and so completely determined that as long as the prevailing world order is respected, it can hardly be corrected and only with great difficulty. And this means that as far as the great beneficiaries are concerned, their position in this hierarchy can withstand most any crisis.

- The devastating result for most members of the modern community of nations is that they have no money – even if their national currency is, technically, convertible and even exchanged. The money they create is not used as fully recognized means of payment, nor does it count as world money, and therefore does not provide any financial freedom for its creator. Just like any sovereign power enlightened in the ways of the market economy, these states grant themselves credit in their own currencies in order to promote growth on their own power and finance their budgets. But as soon as one of these states does so, the devaluation of its money obstructs and ruins the business it thereby credits, and damages the public finances. The threat looms that its own currency will be exposed as being basically useless for business. These countries are forced to earn the world money created by other states, preferably the U.S. dollar, in order to import goods and pay their obligations. This is no easy task given their lack of capital and the unsuitability of their money as a means of crediting capitalist growth. Few such countries are in a position to make a reasonable attempt at – and perhaps the one or the other might even succeed – attaining such a positive balance of trade with the aid of massive and successful imports of capital that their earned currency reserves can provide them with some measure of financial liberty. This does not mean, however, that their currency will then be promoted to the rank of world money, which initiates successful business activities at home and abroad and is thus confirmed as a viable means of credit.

- At the beginning of the 21st century, there is but a handful of states that can chalk up such success. These world financial powers not only serve their domestic business community with means of payment and credit, but the money and credit needs of the entire world. Conversely, they enlist the business activities of the whole world for confirming the monetary quality of their paper money and their debts as true capitalist wealth, as if each bank note and each government bond was backed by truly produced and realized value, not just by the authority of the state in charge. These states alone enjoy the freedom to credit themselves in their own currency and force the entire capitalistic world, with all its means of business and currency reserves, to vouch for the value of this money, however much it might represent nothing but the state's debts. This is what constitutes their financial power, and the rulers in charge use this power to the best of their ability. By supporting other states – the ones without world money in the proper sense – with credit, they preserve the world as a sphere of business for their multinationals, while at the same time compelling foreign rulers to respect all sorts of economic constraints. By doing so, they also compel these nations to recognize the world-economic hierarchy and their own dominating role in it. Accordingly they claim the authority and the right to enforce good governance all over the world. As soon as they sense any significant shifts in the global balance of power and hierarchy of states, in unforeseen places and locations not under their control – perhaps due to the exploitative economic relations they themselves have installed – they see themselves affected and get alarmed. Then they feel challenged to use their financial power to restore their position as masters and beneficiaries of these developments – and if that doesn't do the trick, they take steps to be explained in the next section, interfering directly with the security calculations of the problem states. This is not the only way that capitalist world powers clash with each other, for they do so with every step in the implementation of monetary and credit policy. Even for the more powerful nations, the competitive struggle for the wealth of the world has become an all out fight, a struggle to “crowd out” each other’s currencies. Wherever credit is needed and money is used as a means of investment, speculation and reserves, that is everywhere and on all “fronts,” the great world-money creators fight to attract demand at the cost of all other moneys. For this very purpose, the partners of the euro-zone economies have even gone so far as to give up a crucial part of their financial autonomy and their economic competition with one another, pooling their national currencies – some successful, some at risk of devaluation and degradation – into a collective means of payment and credit. By combining the quintessence of their national economic power, they seek to make an unrivalled offer to the global financial industry's perpetual quest for safety in speculation, and to convince central banks all over the world of the quality of their world-money. The aim is to challenge the traditional role of the US-dollar as the ultimate world currency. This is an attack on the “American way of life,” not only on the private life style in the motherland of world capitalism, but on the world power’s economic conditions of success and survival.


Capitalist states compete for the wealth of the world in an absurd way: They compete over the confidence and affections of property owners committed to increasing the power the sovereign has bestowed upon them to command labor and wealth. They hope to make a good impression on investors and speculators, whom they themselves have empowered – not irrevocably – to determine the value and usability of their money. To make the dream a reality, they go to every length to turn their country into a lucrative source of money, and to turn their money into a universally used and demanded business means, or at least one that is acknowledged by the moneyed class and their managers. Following the “verdict of the market,” which no government obeys if it does not jibe with the nation's claims to wealth and power, capitalist states treat their own people and one another as brutally as necessary in order to secure for themselves the international business world as the material base of their rule.

Domestically, every state power organizes its own economy to meet the demands of international competition. Again and again, and in accordance with the status of the nation in international competition, they never fail to come back to the banal quintessence of all political-economical wisdom: to organize as much profitable labor as possible. States that compete for the money of other nations subject their masses, in line with the relatively undeveloped state of their average national productive forces, to a regime of exploitation that reminds quarrelsome first world observers of “Manchester capitalism,” a stage their home-country has fortunately outgrown. These critical observers do not intend to criticize capitalism in the least, but instead denounce what they deem to be unfair competitive advantages, e.g., “wage dumping” or “environmental dumping.” And after they have finished complaining about the tenacity of exploiters elsewhere in the world, that is, after it is clear that they won’t give up their bad habits, they go on to urge the domestic business community to do what it has always done even without the threat of third world competition: make full use of the superior methods of successful capitalism – not only by increasing labor productivity through various technological advances, but by paying less for more labor. Unlike countries where exploitation is at its most extreme, in more advanced nations it is possible to curtail a great many “privileges,” which in the face of low-wage and low-price foreign competition jeopardize the only truly relevant and permanently endangered “privilege” a modern employee has: his job. What left-wing critics of the capitalist mode of production denounce as exploitation has meanwhile become the openly propagated and practiced secret of success in these nations. All the methods that worker-friendly social reformers once came up with for making capitalist exploitation endurable for its useful victims are now rejected and combated as methods for weakening the nation in international competition and sowing the seeds of national destruction. That is the share the wage-dependent masses get of the money-imperialism practiced by their nation.

Internationally, when cross-border money-making is at issue, states are all the more determined to leave neither the domestic capitalist class nor their internationalist peers to their own devices or competitive fate. They incessantly struggle with each other to shape business conditions to their own one-sided advantage – not only with individual partners, but over universal regulations and how they are to be interpreted, over the development of an international economic regulatory framework that they expect to benefit the competitive position of their national capitalist base, as well as their credit and currency. And like every inter-national debate on this higher level, the struggle over individual stipulations is accompanied by the more potent states' fight over influence and positions of power, which allow them to play a substantial role in determining and enforcing the entire world economic order. The objections of the great economic powers to unlicensed dumping, especially by certain all-too ambitious “emerging markets” are part and parcel of these debates, as well as the complaints of the less powerful about trade-distorting subsidies in the wealthier nations. All of them accuse each other of not complying with the rules of capitalism, of violating the elementary rules of harmonious trade on the world market, and thus of breaking the basic consensus between all sovereigns on the condition for their co-existence in the world economy. Depending on which power raises these accusations and with what emphasis, they can go beyond the sphere of mere moral rhetoric and become diplomatic threats – for instance, if a government announces that it might consider the behavior of one or several partners as a violation of the premises and substance of their mutual recognition as reliable, market-economically committed partners, in the harmonious world of international business. These things can no longer be settled so easily with trade diplomacy, i.e., economic extortion, because this is a case in which one of the great powers calls into question the will of certain partners to comply with the rules of procedure and to respect the basic world-political stipulations under which economic constraints and peaceful coercion can work at all. States are never far from raising these fundamental questions, because in their disputes about export conditions, debt problems and other such things, they tend to argue not about relative benefits and disadvantages, but about their authority over their economic basis itself. In other words, they tend to see their partners' competitive efforts as a challenge to their sovereignty over their own vital conditions, which is true from a certain perspective. Indeed some states have already all but lost their political-economic sovereignty to the world financial powers, and they see themselves prevented from achieving their oh so justified aim of gaining back some sort of economic autonomy by accumulating a hoard of honestly earned foreign reserves. Others take the mere fact that the rest of the world does everything to earn their money as a tremendously generous concession on their own part, and therefore claim the right to control how others use this money. Whenever another state gets too high-handed in its economic policy, they see their sovereignty as world financial powers jeopardized. And to the extent that a state insists on its standpoint that others have violated the rights that must be respected if nation-states are to deal peacefully with one another, it views this as a challenge from an enemy to its position as a supreme power and its desire to maintain peace.

The complete text will be published on the web by GegenStandpunkt. Part II contains:

II. The Competition of Nations for Predominant Power

  1. War and peace
  2. World peace after the World War: a “Cold War”
  3. America's “New World Order”: a permanent “war against terrorism”