Nuclear Catastrophe, Fukushima, The Fourth World War, Immateriality, Forsmark, “the Information Society” and the Red-Green Crisis of Capitalism

Ernest Mandel has described oil and nuclear energy as typical primary energy sources of the Fordist mass production/consumption capitalism that emerged after 1945 in Western capitalist countries. Today there is much talk about the end of this mode of production, the dominance of the computer, knowledge and the Internet in the economy and as a result of the “dematerialization” of the economy and society.

On March 16, 2011, 41 days before the 25th “anniversary” of the Chernobyl disaster, the explosions and fires in the Japanese nuclear power plant Fukushima reached an extent that resulted in a new global nuclear disaster. This situation is indicative of the circumstance that the 25 years that followed Chernobyl have not much resulted in a strengthening of alternative energy sources. Fossil fuels and nuclear power are still the primary energy sources of worldwide capitalism. The first are the source of global wars, the second are high-risk technologies. Both are predominant because they are profitable. And in capitalism profit stands over people and over human lives. That is what Fukushima shows in the most brutal form.

Fukushima’s inhumanity, the masses of human lives that it will destroy and kill, is indicative of the materiality of capitalism – its bestial, life-threatening, human-killing materiality. It is pure nonsense to say that we today live in an immaterial information society. Yes, the Internet, ICTs and knowledge work have a certain role in today’s capitalisms. But no, they are not the single most important feature of contemporary societies. Informatization is just one of many tendencies that shape contemporary society – financialization, various crises, hyperindustrialism, warfare, hyperneoliberalism, etc are others. What all these tendencies have in common is their inhumanity, which stems from the immanence of the expansive, accumulation-based mode of production in the various capitalisms.

The racist and ideological argument found frequently in the West after Chernobyl was: “Those Soviets are retarded communists, they use old high-risk technologies. Nothing comparable could ever happen in the ‘West’”. And now, 25 years of ignorance later, it has happened in the West. And the racist argument will now be: “Those Japanese are a retarded authoritarian people, they use old high-risk technologies. Nothing comparable could ever happen in the rest of the ‘West’”. This is ideology and fetishism at its purest. It is time that people read or re-read Charles Perrow’s very good book “Normal Accidents”, which shows that very large complex technological system tend to become uncontrollable and are therefore accident-prone high-risk systems. Therefore nuclear power has no legitimacy, it is always high-risk and operating it is inhumane because it is part of what Karl Marx called the “destructive forces” of the economy. The destructive potential is the potential mass annihilation of masses of humans. And why are destructive energy-supplying technologies operated anyhow? Because they very well fit with and support the logic of accumulation.

I live in Uppsala, Sweden, and in our nearest neighborhood, in 70 km distance, we have the nuclear power plant Forsmark that had a serious incident in July 2006. Forsmark could have been Fukushima five years earlier. And Fukushima is everywhere and concerns us all and is the expression of capitalism’s inhumanity.

The alternatives? If in the past 25 years more alternative energy sources based on wind, water, sun light, the earth (geothermal energy) had been developed, Chernobyl II=Fukushima could have been avoided. The argument that a moratorium on nuclear energy would result in a lack of energy supply is pure fetishistic ideology – if alternative energy sources would have been developed sufficiently, this were possible. But there are economic reasons why this has not taken place to a significant extent.

The Fourth World War has not taken on the form of a nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union, it is happening now. The Fourth World War is the destruction of humanity by the immanent destructive potentials of contemporary capitalism itself, forces like global war, nuclear energy, global ecological destruction, neoliberalism, finance capitalism, the new imperialism, the global exploitation of the working class, etc. The Fourth World War has a double feature, a red one and a green one: 1) the global exploitation of employees (the reaction to the new world capitalist crisis was “socialism for the rich and the banks” and a new round of neoliberalism (neo-neoliberalism, hyperneoliberalism) that expropriates the mass of citizens (their taxes, their commons) in order to save a minority class of banks, companies and the rich), 2) the permanent unleashing of destructive forces that threaten humanity and nature, which is now culminating in Fukushima and has earlier unleashed the global war for oil. The red crisis and the green crisis are not two independent moments of the Fourth World War. They are rather mutually constitutive.

The only alternative to the capitalist Fourth World War is Worldwide Red-Green Participatory Democracy.






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