NEW FORMS OF GLOBAL VIOLENCE CREATED BY CAPITALISM
Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw invites on debate.
As hopes of overcoming neoliberal capitalism grow dim, the political horizon tilts dangerously to the right. The post-fascist right’s growing role in the public sphere has been accompanied by the spread of violence. Whether it’s discursive, symbolic or physical, violence is a response to the anxiety that comes from living in a world of unpredictable changes, unexpected events, and an uncertain tomorrow.
The right skillfully manipulates this anxiety, preventing it from boiling over into mass outrage and outright rebellion against the system. It reinforces, stokes, and redirects it onto the most vulnerable and exposed social groups, including refugees. Legitimate anger over social and economic inequality, dispossession, gentrification, precarious work, and the socioeconomic degradation of the middle and working classes is being channeled against people who have been forced to leave their homes and travel great distances to provide basic living conditions for themselves and their families.
That’s why it’s becoming increasingly urgent for us to understand the genesis of right-wing populism and today’s turn to the right. It’s not enough to recall adages about history repeating itself, or to reexamine the methods used by the fascist and nationalist right in the first half of the 20th century. Today’s right is simply remixing old idioms and strategies, effectively forming a patchwork project — a functional one, despite its many internal contradictions — that is a response to the current state of global capitalism, with its financialization, liquid capital, and myriad forms of neocolonial exploitation. In this model, violence takes the place of disgraced politics, hierarchy replaces equality, called into question by neoliberal capitalism, while class identities and civic involvement across ethnic divides is being supplanted by loyalty to a particular ethnic and cultural group.
The violence of imperialist wars and armed conflicts of ill-defined status waged by states, private security contractors, religious and partisan militias, corporate armies, and regular gangs is engulfing vast swathes of the Global South. It has led to the exodus of around 60 million refugees, part of the largest population of migrants in world history (250 million). Labor relations are also marked by sheer violence. There are 40 million slaves in the world today, most of whom receive no compensation for their forced labor. The two phenomena are inextricably linked: it is migrants and refugees that are most likely to be exploited as slaves.
Both phenomena are inherent to the primitive accumulation of capital, a process that reemerges during crises of capitalism and economic downturns. Plunder, dispossession, neocolonialism, slavery, and migrations occur when returns on investments prove insufficient and growth curves take a dip or flatline. This is not some abstract, delocalized process. According to the Global Slavery Index, in 2016 over 181,000 people lived in conditions of modern slavery in Poland alone. Why is this phenomenon invisible? Why does it go unmentioned in the public debate? Why are these unthinkable statistics virtually unknown? Where are the slaves in Poland, and what do we mean by “modern slavery”?