Plastics and Petroleum: Signs of Capitalism

Plastics and Petroleum: Signs of Capitalism

By Matyas Mon

Plastic is the main sign of these industrial and consumer times, a substitute for all the values ​​that make us human, to become superficial beings, devoid of history, obsolete, softened and molded by the heat of wars.

Brief introduction to contemporaneity.

Plastic is the main sign of these industrial and consumer times, a substitute for all the values ​​that make us human, to become superficial beings, devoid of history, obsolete, softened and molded by the heat of wars. From credit cards to clothing, plastic is going to be the sign of modern life and oil is the driving force behind it. The world economy (capitalism), has become increasingly unstable and finds new dynamics from oil.

"His obese emperors
They live in New York, they are soft
and smiling assassins,
who buy silk, nylon, cigars,
tyrants and dictators.
They buy countries, peoples, seas,
policemen, councils,
distant regions where
the poor keep their corn
like the greedy gold:
Standard Oil wakes them up,
uniforms them, designates them
what is the enemy brother,
and the Paraguayan makes his war
and the bolivian unravels
with his machine gun in the jungle. "

"La Standard Oil Co" Pablo Neruda

Plastic is a very used element in our days. The first plastic originates as a result of a competition held in 1860 in the United States to produce a substitute for ivory, whose reserves were running out, for billiard balls. Celluloid was his first name. Celluloid is a thermoplastic, which can be softened and molded with heat, it is obtained by dissolving cellulose (a carbohydrate obtained from plants) in a solution of camphor and ethanol. Soon, various utensils of modern life began to be manufactured with celluloid, the best known being the cinematographic film. Due to the cost of their mass manufacture, natural resins were abandoned and from now on, plastic will be obtained from cheaper and more abundant petroleum-derived raw materials. The problem with plastic is its non-biodegradable characteristic.

Plastic is the main sign of these industrial and consumer times, a substitute for all the values ​​that make us human, to become superficial beings, devoid of history, obsolete, softened and molded by the heat of wars.

The founding basis of capitalism is the accumulation of capital. When Karl Marx carries out his analysis of the birth, development and future of this system of social relations, he focuses his criticism on that cornerstone on which inequalities between men are based: the possession of Kapita. '

By the middle of the 19th century, the exchange of goods through financial means was already popular. Money became the exchange value of goods and everything was resolved in the market.

Well into the twentieth century, the great circulation of printed money and the appearance of new goods that would revolutionize daily life, such as the automobile, and the fury of the international financial system, made a new payment cancellation system appear on the scene : The credit card. A chip embedded in a plastic card becomes the substitute for money in circulation.

Oil is at the same time the primary source of energy for the nascent capitalism after the crisis of '29. The substitute for coal, becomes the mainstay of the capitalist economy (along with gas), mainly for mobiles, primarily those of war (which began to be more and more frequent in this world).

From credit cards to clothing, plastic is going to be the sign of modern life and oil is the driving force behind it.

The so-called 'Black Gold' is the main source of wealth, the corporations that extract, transport and commercialize it are the companies with the most profits over the decades, that oligopoly (increasingly monopolistic) is found in the central countries, Mainly the USA, which after the Second World War became the main oil importers in the world. The laws of the market do not adhere to this group, which obtains large profit margins due to the fact that the international price of crude and refined oil continues to fall, while its demand, and its final consumer prices continue to rise.

The great difference between profits and diatribes between producing countries (mainly peripheral) and consumers (mainly central countries), has its reason for being by the owners of large private corporations such as Standard Oil, the Rockefeller group, Shell, Chevron, Texaco, British Petroleum, who make up a great global cartel that has and deposed governments and coups worldwide when their profits are threatened.

The world economy (capitalism), has become increasingly unstable and finds new dynamics from oil. The main source of man's energy is today his main problem, since it not only makes man confront man (the main armed conflicts now existing throughout the world are due to the control and possession of the sectors with the greatest reserves of raw) but can also end the existence of nature as we have known it.

It is a strategic product, due to its importance, its reserves in danger of extinction, and its international exchange. Consumption as a boost to the economy and its nascent urban society, along with the birth of energy-intensive industries (such as cement and steel), the Bretton Woods agreements (monetary system linked to the gold standard, international monetary cooperation , expansion and balanced growth of world trade) and the Welfare State, have as a need oil, which in the hands of oligopolies caused in the 70s the second great crisis of the capitalist economy of the 20th century.

Certain political and economic condiments were mixed in the 1970s, exploding in what was called 'The Oil Crisis', when the international price of a barrel of crude soared, unleashing global inflation and creating a progressive and usurious debt , in backward countries.

The Middle East was the axis, the oil exporting countries (nucleated in OPEC) decided arbitrarily and unilaterally to increase the price of a barrel, due to the nationalization of their oil companies (Iran, Libya, Iraq, Egypt, as well as Venezuela and Mexico), the war carried out between the nascent Israeli Zionist State and the Palestinian people, etc ... caused the oil bourgeoisies of the Middle East to turn that profit margin (petrodollars) to the banks located in the central countries (who become in majority creditors, entering the public sector in recession, which causes the crisis of the Welfare State and the emergence of neoliberABISM or post-Fordism or outsourcing of the economy). These private financial institutions, having great liquidity, began to give credits to developing countries (or new independent states, recently decolonized).

These excessive credits, adopted in most cases by illegitimate military dictatorships in power, were the germ of the dependence and subordination of the weak and peripheral economies to the central economies, and to the oil-producing countries and their directives. Credit is the guillotine, suffocating debt its ploy.

The breaking of the Bretton Woods agreement by the Nixon government [2] led to the dollar being equated with the new ‘gold’ in the world economy: oil. This is how its preponderance was born worldwide, due to the price in oil dollars.

At the end of the last century and with the fall of the Soviet bloc, a new unitary power bloc began to be forged that began to dispute the hegemonic space of the United States and its economy worldwide. The remaining Europe was unified in political and monetary criteria, managing in 2000 to put the Euro into circulation, a new currency that surpasses quotation records every day.

The war declared between the dollar and the euro is called by many 'the new cold war', although it is not an ideological question that is at stake but the hegemony of globalizing capitalism (both economic and political), in spaces of world geography unpublished: the United Nations Security Council [3], the situation between Israel-Palestine in the Middle East and even on Mars!

Both plastic and oil appear in the history of humanity due to the need to reduce costs, as well as the substitution of certain other products with depleted reserves or difficulty in their importation.

The same capitalist mercantile logic of reduction (of costs) and substitution (of raw materials), make necessary the emergence of products that replace oil and all its derivatives (plastic is one of them).

The climate crisis, disproportionately aggravated in recent decades and a great problem for the future, is the product of 200 years of industrialization and its interest in profit at any cost. Global warming is extremely potentiated by the massive-compulsive use of fossil fuels (oil, coal and natural gas) to obtain energy. The emission of gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, etc.) that enable the greenhouse effect (or heat retention effect) have been concentrated in the last century due to the influence of human activity.

The neoliberal ideology caused governments to give way to large multinational companies to act as they pleased (especially the large and corrupt specialized in energy, which, beyond deteriorating the environment, fill their pockets with the blood of the peoples )

The plastic

"I think this discovery could be used to solve the serious problem of plastic pollution," said Chen Zhongguang, the 18-year-old Chinese student who discovered that yellow worms have a special enzyme that digests plastic, according to the " Chinese Youth Journal ". After a year of analysis and laboratory work, Chen concluded that there was a certain enzyme capable of digesting plastic, a material that is not degraded by the action of microorganisms and that remains intact for hundreds of years. A third of the waste is plastic, which, as it is not biodegradable, means that it is a polluting element that ends up in waterways, parks, squares or in chronic garbage dumps in cities.

The oil

Studies carried out by Greenpeace International [4] affirm that alternative, renewable and clean forms of energy reduce the impact that the burning of fossil fuels creates on the environment. The future is seen as the end of the use of fossil fuels and nuclear energy.

The climatic events that have been taking place around the world are calling for a change in the energy regime, be it the application of the Kyoto Treaty [5] or a change of course in the way of acquiring energy, towards renewable sources ( wind or solar power, for example). Energy can not only be acquired from fossil fuel, whose industrial uses are the main cause of environmental pollution. This belongs to the unique discourse of hydrocarbon companies (from the most industrialized countries).

The capitalism

For another world to be possible, another consumption is necessary, which changes towards another production, which changes towards other forms of human relations, where it is not one-sidedness, nor the single discourse on the inevitability of economic destiny, but the multilateral construction of policies of fund, that undermine the authoritarian terrain of the international financial dictatorship in pursuit of a truly democratic course of history.

In the words of Jeremy Rifkin: "Today's globalized capitalism is a creature of this centralized energy regime. There is a great contradiction between an energy regime and an economic infrastructure that is centralized, from a commercial and political point of view and the growing desire of more democratic societies "[7], Rifkin states in his latest book," The hydrogen economy: The creation of the world energy network and the redistribution of power on earth ", the great economic revolution, the end of oil as an engine of the economy, the emergence of more democratic societies based on the use of hydrogen as an energy engine, and with it mainly a change in the economic-social-civil paradigm as opposed to centralized-global-capitalism.

By Matyas Mon


[1] Parts of this text belong to the article "When the crisis of global capitalism becomes the crisis of the globe" by the same author
[2] "At the end of World War II an agreement was reached at the Bretton Woods conference that set the value of gold at $ 35 an ounce and this became the international standard by which currencies were measured. But in 1971 Richard Nixon took the dollar off the gold standard and since then the dollar has been the most important global monetary instrument and only the US can produce it. The dollar, now an unbacked currency, is high despite record current account deficit and status of the USA as the main debtor nation. The debt of the USA on April 4, 2002, was of $ 6.021 trillion against a GDP of $ 9 trillion. " - ‘USA vs. UE ’- Harris, Paul (
[3] "What precipitated - the war in Iraq - was what Saddam Hussein did - on November 6, 2000, by switching to the euro as the currency with which to do his oil transactions. At the time of the change it may have seemed silly that Iraq was giving up so much oil profit to make a political statement. But this political statement was made and the steady depreciation of the dollar against the euro since then means that Iraq has made good profits by shifting its reserves and currency to make The euro has gained about 17% over the dollar since that time, which also applies to the $ 10 trillion in Iraq's "oil for food" reserve fund. " - BID
[4] La Capital Newspaper Source - Wednesday, December 31, 2003
[5] "Fossil Fuels in a Changing Climate: How to Protect the World's Climate by Ending the Use of Coal, Oil & Gas? (1993);? Towards a Fossil-Free Future: The Next Energy Transition? (1993)
[6] Treaty that contemplates the control and reduction in the emission of gases responsible for the greenhouse effect by the most industrialized countries, abandoned by the United States government, being the country that emits the greatest amount of gases of this type generated by factories and power generating plants, and that was formed within the framework of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
[7] Economic Supplement, Diario Clarín (Sunday, October 20, 2002)

Video: Why does capitalism love plastic? - Amy Leather (July 2021).