Capital emerges when money is put into circulation in order to get more money (David Harvey, A Companion to Marx’s Capital: The Complete Edition, 2018, pg.78).

This quote from David Harvey’s book which provides very useful companion notes and analysis to help with reading Karl Marx’s Capital — is a very revealing one. The most important point is that in a capitalist economy money is invested in order to make more money — this links to what is often referred to as the profit motive. …

I started writing this article at the beginning of the year, before the reality of the COVID-19 global pandemic was really grasped in the UK, despite warnings, with a slow government response (see here, and here, for instance) that was also criticised by the World Health Organisation for its Social Darwinist herd immunity approach (for more on this, see here). The issues that are discussed in this article are now more relevant than ever: morality and capitalism; debt and debt forgiveness; anti-capitalist strategies and the power of mutual aid.

Morality is a concept central to debates and arguments to do with capitalism. As part of this, its use and application is inconsistent. Consider debt: public debt is often framed as morally wrong. We are frequently told that we have a moral obligation to reduce public debt for future generations. However, private debt, central to creating the 2007/8 financial crisis, does not carry the same morality clause — unless it is household and consumer private debt. Bankers utilising collateralized debt obligations, credit default swaps and other financial ‘innovative’ products were rewarded with bonuses and then a financial bailout where public money was transferred to the financial sector to ensure it didn’t collapse (the film The Big Short covers this in great, yet accessible, detail). However, we have seen this morality argument around public debt be put on the back burner given the increase in government spending in response to the coronavirus crisis. But there are also rightful concerns that this higher public spending by governments could eventually result in a push back from some for even more austerity, destruction and privatisation of key services. For instance, Taxpayers Alliance “has told supporters that ‘spending restraint’ should pay off the government’s coronavirus debts. …

This article has taken me a lot longer to write than I had hoped. This has been one of the toughest years for me in terms of my mental health, significantly impacting my work and even my ability to communicate. …

Jane Watkinson

Anti-capitalist, intersectional feminist, vegan. Likes Marxism, social ecology, revolutionary humanism, theory/practice, sociology. AFC Unity player. She/her.

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