Gifford Hartman – Crisis in California. Everything Touched by Capital Turns Toxic (2009)


Image: A newly finished house is demolished in California

California dreaming turns to California nightmare as decades of agribusiness, real estate development and exploitation of migrant workers take their toxic toll. Gifford Hartman takes us on a guided tour of the Golden State’s darkside.

I should be very much pleased if you could find me something good (meaty) on economic conditions in California […]. California is very important for me because nowhere else has the upheaval most shamelessly caused by capitalist centralization taken place with such speed.
Letter from Karl Marx to Friedrich Sorge, 1880.

This centralisation has continued with such a velocity, right up to the present, that conditions in California are so overripe they are toxic. While despoiling both the natural and the built environment, capital has also achieved levels of productivity and the capacity to expand use values never before imagined. This overcapacity is in glaring contrast to human needs that are increasingly going unmet; capital’s inability to expand exchange-value makes superfluous whole sectors of the working class. California’s Central Valley is where these conditions have become most toxic; homes sit vacant alongside the squalor of the newly homeless who fill to overflowing the burgeoning tent cities and shanty towns. This upheaval pulls the veil of capitalist mystification aside and reveals the real conditions […]

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