REVOLUTIONARY-HUMANISM ( Part 3)

In revolutionary-humanism parts 1 and 2, evidence and the logic flowing from it was introduced to make the case that class-based economic systems distort and suppress the original (and still preferred essence) of what it is to be human. It was suggested that for millions of years, the permanent beneficial association of humans in bands, tribes and hunter-gatherer groups, had resulted in social relationships which we now usually describe as mutually beneficial or symbiotic. That is to say the type of socio-economic associations which underpinned and further enabled the long evolution of humanity were such that all parties to the group benefited substantially.

Evidence from various anthropological and ethnological studies, strongly suggests that among hunter-gatherers, pastoralists and early agriculturalists, the communal tribe or band collectively controlled the means of production (tools and skills etc.) along with the materials from which production was drawn (the surrounding natural environment). By everyone being involved in mental and physical production, these societies engendered a relative equality and the rounded development of all its members.

For the vast majority of the evolution of the human species, this predominantly egalitarian pattern of socio-economic existence was the ultimate determining factor molding and forming the physical and psychological essence of what it was to be human. Within each of these modes of production, their members were able to develop an extended range of abilities; physically, mentally and culturally. The emotional content of this group-promoted, socio-economic symbiosis was experienced as a communally developed, but individualised human ‘need’ and desire.

It was (and is) the need and desire not just to belong, (since the advent of ‘civilisations’ slaves and now a wage-slaves ‘belong’ either to a society or a class) but to beneficially and fairly belong. There was also an accompanying need and desire by most people to exercise and develop all the faculties and potentials available to them and in the process develop new skills and discover new means of enjoyment. Over millions of years, these aspects of human living became the ‘holistic’ needs and basic desires which are still powerfully felt, but which are now continually frustrated.

This frustration arises because, successive class-based socio-economic forms have largely replaced permanent beneficial association (based upon symbiosis) with a form of negative association (based upon class parasitism) in which the main beneficiaries of the productive and cultural activites of the community were an elite. The modern capitalist system is merely the most recent form of a class divided, one-dimensional and parasitic mode of economic and social production. It is also the most destructive of social cohesion. The capitalist mode of production has spread its parasitism and competition into every corner of the globe, destroying practically all other forms of production. In addition, the agents of the capitalist system, (primarily the industrialists, politicians, scientists and intellectuals) have now normalised acquisitive forms of warfare, they have institutionalised racism/genocide, they have globalised pollution and internationalised ecological destruction.

All these large-scale, self-destructive, inhumane abberations are a negation of everything most humans need and aspire to. As a result, beneficial association and symbiosis among humans has been pushed back into the immediate family (and close friends) and is even detrimentally effected there by capital’s competitive contradictions. For all but a relative few, life really has become ‘a vale of tears’, needing drugs, religion or retail therapy to tolerate it’s many contradictions. But all is not yet lost. The striving and potential to be truly human is still with us. What follows in the next section are four compelling reasons why a revolutionary-humanist perspective is not utopian, but is in harmony with the natural essence of humanity and should be essential in informing the present and future anti-capitalist struggles.

Biology and the ‘essence’ of humanity.

Until the mid 20th century the level of understanding of the human body and the ecological balance of the natural world was at such a stage that certain ideas such as competition and parasitism seemed confirmed by experience and so-called scientific research. These ideas and the ideologies ‘spun’ from them were generally supported by the pro-capitalist elite and those who borrowed their thinking from them, because the capitalist mode of production itself was based upon such practices. However, these bourgeois male-centred ideas and practices, particularly the the ones in the field of economics, were contested by a notable few. Yet it was with the development of the feminist movement in the 1960s, that this generally male-centred view of the world became subjected to penetrating criticism. The disciplines of history, anthropology, biology, philosophy, sociology and even politics were critically examined by feminists and found wanting.

Furthermore, the 19th, 20th and 21st century advance in the scientific 6understanding of biology and astronomy also added to the need for a reassessment of previously taken for granted 19th and 20th century ideas and ideologies. Telescopes, satelites, and now inter-planetary probes have not located the once imagined ‘heaven’ in the region’s of space beyond earth, but simply more planets and even more galaxies. Not god or gods in the beyond the sky, but matter in motion. At the opposite, microscopic level, we now know that the human body along with it’s internal organs, for example, is a complex, multi-cellular entity which is made up of millions of living cells and bacteria (endo-symbiants) which communicate, co-operate, co-ordinate and support each other to the essential benefit of the whole. We human beings are the most complex living evidence of the extent of symbiosis in the realm of nature. Unsurprisingly, this ‘modern’ understanding increasingly extends to multi-cellular life-forms in general.

It has become obvious over the last few decades, that multi-cellular life-forms could not have originated without the long-term mutual integration of single-cell organisms. The human species (along with other species) could not have evolved at all, let alone become conscious, thinking and reflective if it were not for the fact that life itself, in the form of bacteria in the primal conditions, developed and continued over billions of years on the basis of beneficial associations and endo-symbiosis. In evolutionary and practical life terms, beneficial association and symbiosis are life-affirming, parasitism is not. Parasitism has long been recognised as a form of disease within the individual human body and other life-forms, but it is not yet fully or clearly recognised as such within the socio-economic body of human communities.

For those who want to see, it is becoming increasingly obvious, in the 21st century that beneficial associations and symbiosis actually abound in nature. Microbial, plant, insect, fish and animal species all have endo-symbionts within them and enter into beneficial or symbiotic relationships with other species. Survival of the fittest, a Victorian concept for example, is no longer adequately interpreted as survival of the strongest. Ants, bacteria, and other such small life-forms, survived extinctions whilst dinosaurs did not. An invisable (to the naked eye) living organism such as a virus can end the life of even the largest and strongest life-forms. In contrast, beneficial associations and symbiosis increase survival rates. The terms, humanism, humanity, and humility are merely the conscious linguistic expressions of what constitutes that underlying complex endo-symbiotic package which makes up the human body and makes up the structure of all living things.

The social basis for the ‘essence’ of humanity.

There is also a social basis to the essence of humanity and points to the need to adopt a revolutionary-humanist perspective. Over millions of years of human reproductive and social development, the essence of what it is to be really human has also been humane and humanist. That is to say, humans have lived in collective, co-operative and reciprocally beneficial associations known as families, groups, bands or tribes. Indeed, the dependence upon social networks for each individual starts in the womb and continues throughout childhood. Physical well-being, language, skills and culture all require nurture and social support. Learning sociability is all part of a ‘healthy’ development leading to maturity – before the whole process commences again. Because of this necessary social basis to productive and re-productive activity of the human species, the social essence of our humanity, can never be completely eliminated or destroyed. It can only be distorted or suppressed.

And it is only in oppressive and exploititive societies such as the present capitalist one, that this humanist essence is severely distorted and supressed. Yet even in the worst of times as well as the best, there continue to be those whose humanity is not entirely eliminated by the class divided and competitive circumstances they find themselves in. Charity for some is undoubtedly a matter of easing a troubled conscience, but for others it is a genuine way of easing the worst circumstances for those negatively effected by the symptoms of capitalism. There is an essential difference in motive between the wealthy elite who give a little of the surplus-value they extract from the system and those among the ‘only just managing’ who dig into their shallow pockets to mitigate extreme poverty at home or abroad.

The essential class difference between the charity provided by the rich and poor is that the wealthy upper classes invariably do all they can to maintain the existing mode of production even while some of them are giving a little back. In contrast, the lower classes invariably wish their lives to get better or the system to change, whilst lending a helping hand to those even worse off than themselves. They often question why charity is needed in a system producing so much wealth. In view of this fragmented but not completely destroyed humanist essence it cannot be surprising, that in exceptional circumstances, the frustrations, competition and indifference engended by the capitalist mode of production is surmounted and people respond exceptionally.

Yet it invariably takes existential disasters such as famines, earthquakes, sunamis, floods, volcanic eruptions etc., to bring out the unrestricted humanity of people who then rush to help by physical, emotional, material and financial means. However, this ‘essence’ of humanity – as a common characteristic – can only be brought out because it is there in the first place. But the problem is that it’s flourishing can only last for a limited time before the socio-economic necessities and contradictions of capitalism kick in and things go back to what is normal. And what is normal for capitalism – competition, private ownership of the means of production and class divisions – on the scale of human evolution, is actually abnormal for the species.

Ecology and the ‘essence’ of humanity.

It is now undeniable that the capitalist mode of production has taken economic production to unprecedented heights – or depths – depending upon ones point of view. Myriads of complex commodities role off the 24/7 automated conveyor belts of global factories and workshops at breathtaking speeds. They are then stockpiled in factory sized supermarkets and shopping malls to feed the growing commodity purchasing fetishism that capitalism requires to keep its profit-making cycle of production ‘spinning’ along. On the one hand the owners and managers of this profit-motive-led capitalist system of production show no realisation of any moral, physical or ecological barriers standing in the way of its continuance. Whilst on the other hand, consumers become little more than the partly hypnotised victims of over-consumption – experienced as a ersatz form of emotional therapy.

For millions of years humans only took from nature what they needed to survive. Indeed, they could do no more. The essence of humanity was thus to preserve and conserve the environment which provided them with what they needed. Now, lacking any serious understanding of the balance of nature or even of evolutionary transitions of modes of production, its supporters take the domination of capitalism for granted and assume it ought to be able to continue for ever. Such a lack of historic understanding is compounded by a failure to comprehend the economic contradictions within capitalism. The most profound capitalist contradiction with regard to its effects upon the ecological balance of the planet, is the fact that the profit motive for production is a never ending class-driven force. Moreover, it is a predominantly elite motivation which can never be fully or finally satisfied. This produces four unsolvable ecological problems.

First, the raw material resources required to feed this voracious system need to be limitless, but they are not. The second is the fact that the energy sources required to drive this production, also need to be limitless, but again they are not. The third unsolvable ecological problem is the fact that the air, sea and water pollution caused during the capitalist production processes is a never ending by-product and these resources are not only limited but necessary for humanities survival. The fourth unsolvable problem, is the limited ability to safely dispose of all the dangerous waste materials produced by capitalist production methods. Already heavy metal, chemical and nuclear waste material elements in the air, soil and sea, are a life-threatening serious problem for humanity and the rest of the earth’s life-forms.

Not one of these natural resources used in production and distribution, are fully payed for as part of the costs of production, capitalists simpy take them – for the secondary costs of extraction – without replacing them. Cheap commodities, from which capitalists derive their vast profits, would not be so cheap if the costs of replenishing, forests, raw materials such as coal, oil and gas, and cleaning the polluted air, water and sea were added to their prices. If the real costs of replacing the destruction of the planets resources were added to the costs of production, commodities would be so expensive, that the system would collapse. Instead, the true cost is being forwarded to future generations with little regard as to how difficult this will be for them.

The ecological situation is so bad that for many decades reformist attempts have been suggested and some implemented to solve these symptoms, with little or no regard for eliminating the cause. Logical sounding petite-bourgeois schemes around recycling waste materials, creating alternative energy sources, filtering and diluting pollutants, proposing sustainable planting and repopulating species where possible, have been suggested and tried. However, they have scarcely made a difference. How could they? In most cases costs would rise and profits would fall catastrophically if all these measures were consistently and fully implemented – hence they are not.

Believe it or not, slightly socially deranged, highly paid scientists and technicians, are now actually working out how to colonise and pillage the raw material resources of Mars in order to feed the capitalist system they obviously take for granted. Destroying one planets environment is not enough, the mad logic of the capitalist system influences its professional classes to start eyeing up foreign planets for conquest as it’s earlier representatives once eyed up foreign countries. The class-based synergy driving capital accumulation, endless production for profit, fuelled by the greed of the capitalist and pro-capitalist elite, exerts far more influence and power, than those not so driven.

The moral basis for the ‘essence’ of humanity.

The moral basis for adopting a revolutionary-humanist perspective arises from a detailed understanding of the economic basis of capitalist production. The profits made by investing capital do not appear by magic, nor do the often bloated salaries of the public servants, artists and intellectuals. It may not be immediately obvious, but on closer inspection it becomes clear, that these profits and incomes all come from the unpaid labour of working people. The value of the wages and salaries paid to working people are less than the value of the goods and services produced by them. The difference between these two values, is known in economic terms as surplus-value. When converted into money, surplus-value is the source of profits, interest and taxes which in turn pay salaries.

Repeatedly paying less than the value of something – just because you can – is a form of institutionalised cheating or theft. Yet this is exactly what the capitalist system of production is set up to do. Working people are not the only ones to get ripped off, but they are the only ones who get ripped off on a daily, yearly and life-time basis. Having, by various nefarious historical means, gained control of the main means of production – land, buildings, machinery, raw materials and technology – those who live off the proceeds of productive-capital, are to a greater or lesser extent, able to dictate, when, where and how paid production is to take place. The working classes, by their lack of the means of production, are compelled by these socio-economic circumstances to go cap (or diploma) in hand and compete amongst themselves by interview, test or examination results for the right to be exploited – a dubious right indeed.

Since profits (or converted surplus-value) are the motivation of those who live off the proceeds of capital, they are able by numerous means, to set the wages, salaries and productivity at such levels that astronomical profits accrue. This situation would be bad enough (it would still be a huge ‘rip-off’) if working people all had a job and a reasonable standard of living for their entire working lives, but the dynamics of capital and the greed of capitalists for profit, also lead, via mechanisation and automation, to large-scale unemployment and periodic absolute as well as relative poverty. So capitalism – even at its most benign – is an immoral system of production, and when huge profits can be made there are no depths to which the agents and servants of capital cannot stoop.

Wars or aggressive skirmishes (and the threat of them) for example, are essential for the profits of arms manufacturers; cigarettes were known to harm and kill for decades whilst profits from them were allowed to roll in. Unsafe working practices are in the interests of the profits of industrialists, so they continue; producing chemicalised foods are more profitable than producing natural foods; debt slavery and cheap immigrant labour, enable building, office cleaning and food preparation to be done more profitably. The list could go on.

A failure to comprehend the inner workings of the capitalist mode of production leads to the view that such extreme symptoms are unfortunate anomalies to be wished away, rather than direct manifestations of the capitalist system. A fuller understanding of the capitalist mode of production, however, leads to an inevitable conclusion. Sooner or later if the ecology of the planet is to be saved and humanity is to return to its essential being, this mode of production will have to undergo a revolutionary-humanist transformation.

Revolutionary-Humanism.

Perhaps the first thing to state is that in suggesting anti-capitalists adopt a revolutionary-humanist perspective it is not meant to imply a commitment to a new form of ideology. Revolutionary-Humanism is not a system of finished or set-in-stone ideas. Indeed, this particular perspective is based upon a criticism of everything, including a consistent self-critical attitude. Even the most refined ideas are only approximate and need to be tested, evaluated, improved or rejected if they prove not fit for purpose. This form of humanism is certainly not based upon ideas of absolute truths or claims to infallibility. And of course, since it is based upon the needs of humanity as a whole it is, non-sexist, non-racist and non-sectarian. Nor does its adoption imply the formation of a political party. This is because politics, even so-called revolutionary politics, from a revolutionary-humanist viewpoint, is a one-sided, oligarchal tendency. As such it is part of the problem for humanity, not part of the solution.

Nevertheless, the concept of revolutionary-humanism is not aimless. It presupposes an anti-capitalist perspective but recognises that simply being against capitalism (the negative motivation) does not express what kind of post-capitalist society (the positive motivation) is envisaged. However, that is not inconsistent with revolutionary-humanism because the creative process of a post-capitalist reconstruction is held (as a principle) to be the decision and task of the egalitarian collectives of working people who engage in such a transition. From this revolutionary perspective, the creative process of reconstruction is not the task of any self-appointed vanguard who think ordinary people should be led like sheep. However, prior to that collective transition, revolutionary-humanism does have at least one important facilitative task.

That is to energetically promote a critical understanding of the workings of the capitalist mode of production, including the concepts of surplus-value, past and present labour, productive and unproductive labour and relative overproduction. My own various contributions to these topics appear on this blog. Without a clear understanding of these four economic categories and the above noted negative, biological, social, ecological and moral symptoms created by capitalism, people will be misled into attempting further reformist dead-end solutions during its recurring crises. Yet its principles can be implemented and the concepts promoted by individuals as well as groups. Vast numbers are not required to keep hard won ideas alive until they are needed. Those who adopt revolutionary-humanism should not be dismayed at being among such small numbers.

The present period is clearly one in which the ideas championed by previous revolutionary-humanists need to be kept alive and in the public domain. This is so they will be available when any future serious and further critical dislocation of the capitalist mode of production, creates the material conditions and compelling realisation why the mode must be changed. Revolutionary-humanist ideas are analogous to tools, fashioned and tested by past experience of success and failures (sadly many failures) that await being taken up by a revolutionary class when they are needed. Meanwhile they ought to be kept sharp, improved and updated by those who recognise their importance and who will regard themselves as temporary custodians of this approach rather than high priests of a new orthodoxy. Shouldn’t there be more of us?

Roy Ratcliffe (May 2017)

Posted in Anti-Capitalism, capitalism, Critique, Ecological damage., Economics, Revolutionary-Humanism | Tagged | 2 Comments

REVOLUTIONARY-HUMANISM (Part 2)

In ‘Revolutionary-Humanism (Part 1)’ evidence was provided to establish two important facts that are fundamental to Marx’s analysis of the problems facing humanity. The first thing to be established was that Marx implicitly and explicitly (in the 1844 Manuscripts in particular) advocated the adoption of a revolutionary-humanist purpose within any anti-capitalist perspective, campaign or post-capitalist mode of production. It was also pointed out that those vanguardist anti-capitalists of the 20th century (Bolsheviks, for example) who claimed to follow Marx, showed little or no understanding of this crucial concept. Instead they created and staffed an oppressive state, maintained an economy based on wage labour and punished all forms of criticism. It was a system so devoid of humanist sentiments and practices that practically no one wishes to repeat it.

The second factor was to establish the reason for Marx advocating such a humanist content to any revolutionary anti-capitalist perspective. Many reasons were given in Part 1, why the division of of human societies into one-dimensional economic categories, had served to de-humanise individuals of all classes. It was argued that those who lived extremely well from surplus-value (off profits, interest or tax revenue) were able to supress their humanity and consciences with regard to the poverty and deprivation around them. It was noted that capitalism had merely continued such class divisions and in addition reduced working-class productive activity to the most lengthy, mind-numbing, repetitive, mechanical and intellectual tasks, thus de-humanising them even further.

This second part will consider how the de-humanising effects of the capitalist division of labour manifests itself to an extreme degree within the middle-class intellectual spheres of production. It will also indicate how intellectuals, by their near monopoly of printed and oral media, also manage to spread their reactionary, inhumane and discriminating ideas among all classes of society. It is obvious from their output, that most intellectuals defend the capitalist system, ignore or minimise the negative effects of capitalist production and vilify working people when they protest or rebel against their inhumane conditions. Intellectuals publically blaming the victims of the present cancerous economic system, is almost routine in the press and media. But as we shall see, outpourings from some of this sector of production are even more extreme than that.

a) The expansion of Intellectual production.

In modes of production preceding the capitalist system, the need for specialisation in thinking and recording was restricted to the bureaucratic and religious sections of the hierarchy. The rest of society remained largely illiterate and their thinking by necessity was primarily focussed upon their everyday productive function and mundane levels of culture. Even the warrior classes and their leaders (Kings, Emperors, Pharaohs, etc) who could read and write were perhaps the exception to the general rule operating throughout the natural (and social) world of the time – if it is not absolutely necessary for survival or contentment – why bother? The evolutionary progress of a potential ability rarely occurs unless this brings a distinct advantage.

However, under the capitalist mode of production, literary and intellectual abilities do exactly that. At the industrial stage of its development, owners of capital and their managers, increasingly required a workforce which was literate and numerate to at least an elementary level. They needed their workers to be able to read instructions, follow detailed written work procedures and add up, subtract or occasionally multiply, the number of basic items they encountered in their lives at work. For the first time in history, an economic system needed universal literacy and numeracy, hence the inauguration in the 19th century of elementary schools and later secondary schools for all children including working class children.

At the same time, the complex and rapid development of industrial production, also needed a relatively large intellectual class of scientific, mathematical, technological, medical, beaurocratic, managerial and educational specialists. The growth of these sectors of the industrialised economy became necessary to ensure capitalisms full and profitable development. This extensive development of intellectual labour, allied to its previous elevated elite status, ensured that intellectual production eventually appeared to be superior to, and dominant over, all other aspects of the capitalist system. Specialist intellectuals in most of the above noted categories, were particularly prone to imagine that ‘thinking’ dominated ‘doing’ because for them it did. From attending university lectures to studying in the college library; Thinking was doing.

Thought processes and writing them down dominated intellectuals lives because thinking and writing was the form of labour that payed their bills. Not only that, thinking and writing often provided access to high-level elite status within capitalist societies. Well rewarded careers could be forged by wielding nothing more than pen (or typewriter) and paper. It was also this period (17th – 19th century) of one-sided, full-time, intellectual production which introduced the manufacture of suitable ideologies to rationalise the domination of capital. Today, it is only necessary to be aware of the number of think-tanks and spin-doctors which have spread among the economic, media and political elites of the 20th century, to recognise that the process of ideological production has become an important function of the modern intelligentia.

b) Intellectual production and inhumanity.

The past production and present elaboration of ideologies promoting, racist, sexist, eugenic, nationalistic, religious and sectarian positions, are perhaps among the most repugnant ones and they are invariably the product of the petite-bourgeois intellectual classes. The professionalisation of intellectual labour and the production of dominant ideas along with discriminating ideologies demonstrates the extent of de-humanisation among the intellectual elites. A life-long dedication to intellectual production, as with any other form of one-sided production, creates an extremely one-sided development of the human essence. A reliance upon pro-capitalist hierarchies for secure careers adds a further biased element to their character. The self-serving ideology of nationalism in which the welfare of the bourgeois Nation – State was set above the welfare of its oppressed citizens was one such intellectual product of the period. But more of that later.

At the same time, immersion in this sector easily leads intellectuals to adopt an exagerated sense of individual self-importance along with a general disrespect (or patronising concern) for those who are paid to use their hands instead of their brains. The results of the occupational deformation of their essential human character among intellectuals may not be as obvious as the blackened lungs of a coal miner, the stunted growth of an undernourished child, the legless survivor of an ‘accident’ at work or deaths and disfigurements as the result of bombing raids, but it does exist. The issuing of gagging orders by managers and other professionals, along with dodgy dossiers and plausible denial of the many things which go tragically wrong require the severe deformation of the humanity of those who order and implement them. The following examples indicate how far this poisonous intellectual virus can go. First, a notable intellectual commenting upon the 19th and 20th century struggle for women’s suffrage,

“Woman wishes to be independent, and therefore she begins to enlighten men about ‘woman as she is’ – THIS is one of the worst developments of the general UGLIFYING of Europe.” (Friedrich Nietzsche. ‘Beyond Good and Evil’ Section 232.)

The campaign against the double oppression and exploitation of women (half of humanity) under patrifocal capitalism, during their economic and social – reproduction activities is described by this celebrated intellectual critic of philosophy as ‘the UGLIFYING of Europe’. This hostile dismissal of the struggle for the liberation of the female half of humanity is matched by his attitude to the rest of oppressed humanity – male and female – who he considers are inferior. For he also writes;

One must make one’s self superior to humanity, in power, in loftiest of soul – in contempt. (Friedrich Nietzsche. ‘The Anti-Christ’)


Nietzsche, whose necessities for living and criticising; ie accommodation, food, drink, clothing, writing materials and much else, was supplied by male and female members of the working-class, has nothing but contempt for those upon whom he ultimately and completely depended for his everyday needs. This emotionally abandoned, detached and de-humanised bourgeois intellectual, who wrote and thought himself superior to the common man, had no other wish than to be among other superior male beings – or supermen as he described them. In respect of this type of elitist attitude, he is one among many of the 19th and 20th century non-productive middle-class intellectuals, who had lost or abandoned their essential humanity and blinkered by their stipends, were rendered blind to this loss. A whole group of them during this period took their de-humanised attitudes to extremes and anticipated the distorted logic of what later became the politics of extreme sexism, racism and eventually – fascism. Here is another example:

“…history teaches us, that the genuine European (the Indo-German) while migrating to the West and South, had to fight his way through strange, strongly mingled and intellectually inferior ethnic elements, which he never exterminated but……we’re suppressed by him as slaves.”(HS Chamberlain. ‘Aryan World -view’. Racial purity section.)

And another;

‘History and the task of the future no longer signify the struggle of class against class or the conflict between one church dogma and another, but the settlement between blood and blood, race and race, Folk and Folk. (Alfred Rosenberg. ‘The Myth of the 20th Century. Preface.)

Here we witness at the published level, a link between the bourgeois intellectual arrogant disrespect for the bulk of humanity for their supposed lack of culture (as exemplified above by Nietzsche) and the the formation of social forms of this rejection applied to other nations and ethnicities. The exercise of a suggested choice between slavery or extermination of those considered ‘intellectually inferior’ is more than hinted by Chamberlain and racial war is advocated by Rosenberg. Both opinions eventually became accepted and absorbed into the political fabric of right-wing authoritarianism and fascism.

c) Intellectuals, Eugenics and Parasitism.

Next on the fascist intelligentia’s target list for projecting their inhumanity upon were those who were suffering birth defects.

“Compassion for the hereditarily ill contradicts the laws of nature and life, laws that are apathetic to the trivial fate of single individuals, seen as drops in the huge stream of blood that flows eternally through history. . . . Whenever compassion and false humanity help the unhealthy to survive, man sins against the will of the creator who established the laws of life that, brutal as they are, always destroy the sick as soon as the existence of a race is in jeopardy.” (Walter Gross. Director National Socialist German Workers Party.1934.)

As I argued in the article, ‘The Invention of Race’, such ideas were not restricted to a few abberant individuals; during the 19th century, they had originated within and permiated large sections of the intelligentia in Europe and the rest of the world. Neither where the ideologies of racism, sexism and fascism spun out of thin air. University departments, for example, sponsored racial biology and eugenics studies, all of which were regurgitated in the popular newspaper and magazine media of the day. The period was rife with the de-humanised outpourings of an arrogant, unself-critical middle-class intellectual elite. It still is! Not surprisingly given this noxious intellectual ‘atmosphere’, Fascists appeared in all countries of Europe before they gained power in Italy, Germany and Spain and carried their ideas to their ultimate ends. The psychologist Willem Reich wasn’t too far away from accurately summing up the irrational psychology of fascism in its most pure form when he wrote;

“In its pure form fascism is the sum total of all the irrational reactions of the average human character……The Fascist is the drill sergeant in the colossal army of our deeply sick, highly industrialised civilisation. (Willem Reich. ‘The Mass Psychology of Fascism. Preface.)

A deeply sick, highly industrialised civilisation indeed – and one continually producing circumstances and intellectuals who produce ideas which are miles away from humanist concerns. Despite large-scale poverty and crisis in public services, some frequently indulge in expensive, publically-funded vanity projects such as sending satelites to Mars, whilst others veer off in other more fascistic directions. We can see from these few eclectic examples (and those noted in part 1) that class based systems of production cause varying degrees of de-humanisation within all classes, but these are particularly exagerated among intellectuals.

Fascism along with Stalinism became the most extreme examples of the de-humanisation of our species in the 20th century. Fascist ideology mixed reactionary and distorted ideas of elite male superiority, patriarchal domination of women, inferior ethnicities, extermination of ‘unfit’ peoples, purity of blood and race along with slavery and total war. These ideologies (and their incorporation into a complete petite-bourgeois intellectual pallete) were promoted and further developed by the intellectual output of substantial sections of the bourgeois and petite-bourgeois intelligentia.

This is despite, or perhaps because of, the fact that the intellectual classes were (and are) parasitic upon the productive activities of the working classes of the world. If we do not design and build our own houses, plant and harvest our own food, supply our own electricity or clean water, make our own clothes etc., then our own intellectual activity is dependent upon the productive activities of those who do. This fact alone should engender sincere respect among intellectuals for the working classes and a commitment to end the economic, class-based system which relegates them to the role of perpetual wage-slaves.

Whilst fascism as a political tendency in control of capital and state power in Italy and Germany was defeated in the 1939-45 war, sadly the ideas and ideologies informing the Fascist and Stalinist movements were not. They may have been subdued for a time but they were not eradicated. This is because, like weeds, they sprout from the class structures of bourgeois society and choke all but a few expressions of our essential humanity. Consequently, ideas positing and supporting racial superiority, female inferiority, elitist assumptions, sectarian preferences, age and disability discrimination lived on among some sections of the intelligentia and the political classes. After a war supposedly against the extreme advocates of racial, sexist, class and other forms of discrimination, the struggle for racial equality, for womens equality and workers rights again became an uphill struggle in all the capitalist countries during the 20th century.

The disciplines of psychology and psychiatric analysis have also catalogued the numerous variants of the mental disorders of individuals over the last 100 years, but few have traced the source of these multiple emotional and psychological problems to the de-humanising effects of the capitalist mode of production. That, of course is to be expected. Those who have not yet understood that the mode of production to a large extent determines everything else which arises as a result of it, will have a blind spot interfering with their ability to see what should be obvious once serious consideration is given to it. In its place are numerous erzats ideologies ostensibly describing and analysing the symptoms, without at any stage explaining the underlying cause. And in the manufacture of these ideologies the intellectual classes are in their element as well as being trapped in them.

d) Ideology as elite propaganda.

In general ideologies represent the vested interests of particular sections of society, rather than humanity as a whole. Ideologies are systems of ideas selected and woven together to represent and justify a particular view of the world or a part of it. In general, ideologies originate and are perfected by the intellectual elites in their own intellectual sector of production. Ideological justifications and mystifications exist in religious, economic, scientific, social and political forms, where they are invariably asserted as ‘true’. In this way the working classes are subjected from birth to death to ideologies that in no way represent their own interests or the interests of humanity as a whole. Some of which they are then persuaded to adopt.

Once established, the maintenance of an ideology usually involves the use of a pernicious process of confirmation bias. That is to say only facts and opinions which confirm the ideology are given weight and accepted, whilst facts or opinions which contradict it are denied weight, rejected or even ignored. Until recently, the control intellectual elites have over the ‘established’ media has meant any opposition to dominant ideologies has been difficult to circulate. The recent battle over what constitutes ‘authentic’ news and ‘fake’ news indicates that the Internet has allowed, among other things, a space for the masses to poke fun, unpick (de-construct) or contradict the dominant bourgeois narratives in economics, religion, politics, sociology and even science.

But the intellectuals are able to fight back. Using terms such as ‘market forces’, ‘supply and demand’, ‘monetary policy’, and ‘economic laws’, for example, bourgeois economic ideology has been made to seem scientific and natural and therefore there can be no acceptable economic alternative. Interestingly, the state-capitalist Bolsheviks and Maoists also used scientific-sounding elements in their own form of elite ideology which they used to justify their rule. Terms such as ‘dialectics’, ‘historical materialism’, ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’, etc., served a similar purpose to those of the capitalist elite. The purpose being to camaflage the real facts of oppression and exploitation for the purpose of surplus-value extraction. Then and now, where ideology is supported by a determined elite, the act of successfully challenging it can lead to punishment and even assassination. That’s how important it has become to elite forms of rule.

For this reason the importance of ideology to systems of oppression cannot be over – stated. Ideologies have always been useful rationalisations of a power already achieved by force but under the domination of capital (industrial, commercial and financial) the disemination of supportive ideologies are now absolutely necessary for its survival. This is because in an age of widespread education, it is necessary to convince people of the desirability or naturalness of the system which exploits them. So bourgeois forms of ideology are not just secondary intellectual supports for the capitalist mode of production, they, along with force are absolutely essential to its continuance. From the stand-point of the shrewd class-conscious elite, where they also serve to divide the oppressed as with religions, individual competition and nationality – so much the better. Two particularly important elements of bourgeois divisive secular ideology are the system of ideas selected and woven into the concepts of nationalism and individual rights.

e) Individualism and nationalism.

It was noted above that the intellectual classes are absolutely dependent upon the productive activites of millions of working people who labour to supply their basic needs which then frees them to focus on their supposed ‘individual’ intellectual activites. However, the ideology the intellectual classes both produce and absorb takes that previously created unequal social situation for granted. Economic and social inequalities are presented as the normal functioning of civilised societies, and that the only rights needed to redress any percieved wrongs are the rights of the individual. Such bourgeois individualist ideologies assume that societies are an aggregated product of individuals when in fact individuals are the socialised product of societies. In this sense there is no such thing as an individual ‘individual’, all individuals are social individuals.

This misperception and misrepresentation is the result of their paid employment as individuals and the ideas spun into the fabric of bourgeois ideology, but they also arise from how capitalism was developed. Capitalism was developed on the basis of an elite conception of individual private property – as it relates to the communal means of production. Capitalists don’t just own money, they own the means of production. This was not always the case. For the bulk of humanities evolution, the main means of production, land, resources, tools and skills were the property of the community. The community decided what to produce, when to produce, how to produce and how much to produce. Cooperation was the established norm. Even a few hundred years ago remnants of this social practice were still extant in Europe as well as in the rest of the world.

In country after country, the capitalist classes by various forcible means ended this practice in favour of individual ownership of land, tools and resources by a new capitalist elite. Capitalists replaced cooperation with competition. The owners and managers of capital began to hire and fire workers as individuals. They also paid them as individuals. They still do. Over generations this fact, together with ideological propaganda, has reinforced the idea that economic activity and access to it, is the product of individual effort. The modern capitalist state embodies the logic flowing from this economic model and grants individual rights and expects individual responsibility. This political dimension reinforces the impression (or appearance) that the individual rather than the social element is the primary economic engine of bourgeois society. Under the influence of bourgeois ideology, the idea of the individual has been abstracted away from its social context.

Discussing the ‘individual’ human being is a bit like discussing an individual body organ such as a heart, a lung or a kidney and forgetting or ignoring the fact that it (or they) can only function organically and continue to ‘live’ within a human body. And even then such individual internal units and sub-units can only continue as long as they are crucially linked and cross networked through living nerves and nurturing tissues with all the other organs of the whole body. It would be a sign of delusion or madness if someone thought a kidney should be able to function moderately well without a body, but there are people who imagine a human individual should be able to function moderately well without crucial nurturing social connections. We should perhaps begin to recognise that suicide, depression, anxiety and loneliness are not necessarily or primarily the result of individual psychological problems, as bourgeois science has often suggested, but are the result of severe social disfunctions operating at the heart of the capitalist mode of production.

Individualism and nationalism are the heads and tails of the capitalist main ideological currency. Individualism is an important aspect of bourgeois ideology for it has also played a decisive part in diverting attention from the primary importance of the collective. Consequently appealing to ‘individualism’ and individual rights has also been used repeatedly to undermine collective struggles by working people. Abstract individual human rights have been adopted by international institutions such as the UN, yet individuals are almost powerless to assert them against those who control wealth and power. Bourgeois Human Rights are little more than paper promises used as distractions. Despite the fact that individuals are nothing if they are not embedded in a whole network of social support mechanisms brought about by the original natural and later economic division of labour, bourgeois individualism has infected practically all cultural dimensions within the capitalist mode of production.

Despite the reality noted above, in education, sports, arts, careers, and even love, the individualist narrative asserts that individual effort is the key to winning and success. Many people believe this and repeat it ad nauseum despite the additional obvious fact that if only a relative few positions, medals, titles or loved ones are available and there are many aspiring to achieve them, then logic suggests otherwise. In a competition for privileges, it doesn’t matter how much effort all the thousands (or millions) of individuals make if only a relative few privileged positions exist. This indicates how pernicious ideological constructions are. Despite obvious facts and the logic flowing from them, ideologies can so infect people’s thinking that millions see the world upside down.

This is also the case with nationalist ideologies. On the scale of human evolution, the idea of humanity being divided up into large parcels of land marked by lines drawn upon a map, is a very recent invention – and one with a very definate purpose. This forced imposition of unatural boundaries upon the natural and social world represented the needs of an elite to control sufficient land and productive resources to keep them in the manner (or manor) they felt appropriate. Yet such manufactured divisions, once achieved, never did satisfy the elites either under the long fuedal middle-ages or the short capitalist centuries of modernity. Hence the repeated wars for control of, or influence over, other stretches of global territory.

f) Gross inhumanity in the name of Nationalism.

The perfected ideology of ‘nationalism’ has become a necessary consequence of the modern capitalist elite greed for wealth and power. This is because on their own they would not be able to conquer and control anything but their own tempers. To conquer and control lands and territories, elites need a means to force or persuade thousands of ordinary working people to pick up arms and do most of the killing and dying. The idea and practice of working people fighting and dying for ‘their’ country against other working people fighting and dying for ‘their’ country became the defining intellectual de-humanised achievement of the capitalist mode of production in the 19th and 20th centuries. The fact that the majority of the working classes in all countries didn’t actually own or control any of the land and resources of these countries, shows the pernicious power of ideologies if they remain unchallenged and are allowed to dominate.

Over 60 million ‘individuals’ dead in one world war alone along with all the millions of others before and since indicates the depths to which the inhumanity of the human species can be driven by class-based societies and the production and manipulation of divisive, religious, political, economic and social ideologies. Ideologies which are produced by the intellectual classes to justify this self-destructive carnage. The use of ideology and confirmation bias to support contemporary inhumanity is being displayed on mainstream media even as I write this paragraph. The incompetent rhetorical blame game of who let loose the chemicals which decimated the lives of citizens in Syria during April 2017, reveals as much as it hides. The accusation of crimes against humanity levelled at those who used or stockpiled chemicals, fails to recognise that all sides in this conflict have been perpetrating crimes against humanity for years.

Why, after using barrel-bombs, laser-guided bombs, missiles and other non-chemical agents of destruction, against innocent civilians, do certain politicians and media pundits, suddenly draw the line at chemicals – when they were silent before? The hypocricy of European, North American, British, Russian and Syrian elites is further demonstrated by the fact that chemical weapons have been manufactured and released by them to many other elites by the main countries involved. The de-humanised economic and political elites in America, Britain, Europe and Russia over several generations, have promoted and financed the development of all kinds of weapons of mass destruction. From the the 20th century on this included the manufacture of chemical, nuclear and depleted uranium killing systems. Furthermore, these bestial, inhumane weapons have been designed, tested and perfected by de-humanised middle-class professionals in white coats with the precise intention of them being used to kill on a massive scale.

The capitalist mode of production has caused the de-humanising of whole classes of people and competitively set them at each others throats. It is an economic and political system at war with itself, with whole peoples, with animals (via extinctions) and nature in general (deforestation, pollution, etc.). It is at war with the ecological environment of the entire planet from the Arctic to the Antarctic – and at the moment it is winning all these self-destructive battles. This is despite the fact that the whole of humanity is dependent upon the ecological balance of the planet. And also, more than ever, humans are economically dependent upon each other – also on a global scale. I once again suggest that humanity – as a whole – needs a different set of ideas and practices, this time stemming from a revolutionary-humanist understanding of the socio-economic evolution of humanity. It is this category of anti-capitalist ideas – but not presented as yet another form of self-justifying ideology – which will be the focus of the next and final part of this exended article, ie in – ‘Revolutionary-Humanism (Part 3)’ .

R. Ratcliffe (April 2017)

Posted in Anti-Capitalism, capitalism, Critique, Ecological damage., Economics, Marx, Nationalism, Politics, Revolutionary-Humanism, Revolutionary-Humanist theory | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

REVOLUTIONARY-HUMANISM. (Part 1)

When Karl Marx articulated his view of the humanist purpose of ‘communism’ in 1844, he could not have anticipated that so few people – many of whom would later claim to be following in his footsteps – would simply not comprehend it’s central importance. In 20th century Russia, for example, the Bolsheviks demonstrated a complete disregard for anything even coming close to the concept of revolutionary-humanism. There political ideology drove out humanity. Neither could Marx have forseen that the word he used – ‘communist’ – would become so attached to the despicable regime initiated by the Leninists and consolidated by the Stalinists, that it would in a very short time become an anathema among a majority of working people. The concept as well as the practice, as carried out by the Bolsheviks, became something to avoid rather than embrace.

In the 21st century the word ‘communism’ has also been abandoned by most of what is left of the anti-capitalist tradition, but missing too has been the idea of humanism. There is still very little reference to this viewpoint which was so central to Marx’s criticism of capitalism. There is even less which resembles it in practice. Political ideology still obscures social understanding. This year (2017) will mark the 100th anniversary of the revolutionary uprising occuring in Russia during October 1917. So it is perhaps fitting that among all the likely evaluations to come this year, the importance of the concept of revolutionary-humanism and it’s century-long absence in anti-capitalist circles should be stressed on this blog. Among many references he made to the humanist purpose of a revolutionary post-capitalist transformation, Marx wrote the following;

“..communism therefore as the complete return of man to himself as a social (ie human) being – a return accomplished consciously and embracing the entire wealth of previous development. This communism, as fully developed naturalism, equals humanism and as fully developed humanism equals naturalism.” (Marx Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts. 3rd Manuscript.)

In this extract we see that the term used at the time – communism – had been given an important and explicit link by Marx to the terms humanism and naturalism. The word was not used to describe a political position but to propose a post-capitalist form of egalitarian social cohesion. There is also a clear reference to humanity completing a ‘return’ to its natural state as communities of fully social many-sided beings. This ‘return’ had implicit and explicit revolutionary implications as his frequent references to revolution made absolutely clear. Hence it is obvious that he was advocating a ‘revolutionary-humanist’ content and purpose to any post-capitalist transition.

Such a ‘return’ of humanity to its naturalistic and social essence was considered desirable by Marx because he concluded that successive modes of production had severely distorted the essence of what it is to be human. I might add at this point that the extent of this distortion under capitalist production has been considerable. This most recent economic system based upon the domination of capital over production is the probable cause of the many kinds of human physical and mental problems which have been identified by physicians and psychologists over the last 100 years. More of that later.

Meanwhile the idea of a ‘return’ to a previous more ‘humane’ condition presupposes at least a basic understanding of what that condition was (and is) as well as what had propelled humanity away from such a distantly-evolved social form (over millions of years) and still prevents such a return. Marx identified a key factor in this separation was the removal of production from the direct control of those who did the producing – now catagorised as workers. Or as Marx also described it – the ‘estrangement’ of the worker from his or her means of production and the resulting products.

Removing the direct ownership and control of the means of production and the objects of production from the majority of those who produce them, was not just a process of thinly disguised theft. It was much more devastating than that. In fact this historic process of dispossession had denied those who produce the full extent of their many-sided ‘human’ species potential. As a consequence, a one-sided, class-based development of humanity began which continues today under the capitalist system of production.

Humanity: divided by socio-economic class.

Wherever this separation occurred, one class of humanity (originally the slaves and serfs etc.) was forced (invariably by armed elites) to do all the necessary work, all or most of the time, whilst a privileged class, the elite, chose what to do from all the unecessary types of work which then became possible. With a few exceptions, the slave, serf and peasant classes of the past lived a life of mundane repetitive tasks acted out in fields, mines, workshops, the front line ranks of the military and of course endlessly cleaning the homes of the rich. The former natural symbiosis within egalitarian human communities was replaced by the parasitism of a ruling and privileged strata.

In contrast to those henceforth destined to become the workforce, the elite were then relieved of the need to labour for their essentials and were thus free to chose to consume, to command, to philosophise, to dramatise, to explore, to invent, to read and write etc., often ranging from one activity to another as the mood or muse struck them. In other words, the establishment of Religion and other forms of ‘high-culture’ such as Art, Drama, Literature, Mathematics, Philosophy etc., was achieved on the backs of those who toiled away in the fields, mines, workshops and kitchens. The original voluntary social cohesion of human communities was eroded, force and ill disguised class warfare replaced it.

For generations of working people in particular, faced with a life time of hard labour, religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism) became the intellectual refuge rationalising their continued (and seemingly eternal) oppression. Religion was promoted as, and achieved a form of, emotional rejection of this world, and for some, it invited belief in the fantasy of a better egalitarian future in an imaginary realm (heaven) beyond the grave. The priestly caste by professionalising the myth and mystery associated with religion, and like the military elites were able to carve out lucrative careers for themselves by also grabbing a share of necessary production by tithe or gift.

The rejection of the ‘this world’ reality by the masses, in favour of an imaginary ‘otherworld’ was perhaps the first recorded form of a mass psychological disorder. However, it was not a self-imposed disorder but one arising from the ruthless imposition of class based societies. Human beings intellectually rejecting existing human society in favour of an imaginary one is not evidence of a rational state of mind, particularly when this rejection was linked to a future life after death. The normal rational outcome of disatisfaction engendered in the lives of humans is to change what they are doing. Therefore, it is only when change is made impossible by a socio-economic system based upon power over others, that fantasy makes its appearance in preference to reality.

The normalisation of one-sided human labour.

Again with exceptions, the modern system of capitalist wage-slavery, replicates essentially the same pattern of earlier class divisions. The working classes (white-collar and blue) are more or less compelled by want and need to do all the necessary work of, producing food, building, educating, healing, transporting, cleaning, recording, administrating etc., whilst the elite classes more or less choose to do what interests them. And as we know the capitalist bourgeois democratic system also continues the vast differences in the allocation of wealth derived from the productivity of working people’s labour-power. By the way, the fact that this was also the case in the Soviet Union, China, Eastern Europe etc., reveals that the only difference between these authoritarian regimes and typical capitalist democracies, was (and is) the lack of accumulation of excessive wealth by the former elites.

Capitalist production methods expanded the number and type of employments but at the same time continued to reduce the workers productive activity to the most extreme routine, repetative and simplest mechanical or intellectual tasks. In addition its bourgeous representatives (economists, educators, politicians, etc.) by their domination of the pro-capitalist narrative declared this form of labour as perfectly ‘normal’. Indeed, they still do. For these reasons, the capitalist mode of production offers the vast majority of ordinary working people, no other form of life-long productive existence except repetitive drudgery. Fifty years of weekly and yearly monotonous, repetative graft is their lot until retirement or death releases them from this so-called privilege. And they do learn to count themselves the lucky ones if no bouts of unemployed poverty (or forced war duties) interupt their many years of toil.

This forced adaptation of the bulk of humanity to live within class structures of oppression and to endure almost life-long monotonous and precarious exploitation also sits heavily upon the social and emotional development of humanity. Large numbers of stunted bodies, frustrated emotions and crippled intellects are the inevitable outcomes of this mode of production. Marx noted that under the capitalist mode of production, the workers labour had been even further transformed from a rounded form of self-expression (combining curiosity, skills and knowledge) prior to working age, into a largely de-skilled commodity to be bought and sold – as they saw fit – by the owners of capital. Thus under the domination of capital he suggested that;

“Production does not simply produce man as a commodity, the human commodity, man in the role of commodity; it produces him in keeping with this role as a mentally and physically de-humanised being.” (ibid)

Under the capitalist mode of production, the position the majority of working people are placed in, produces more or less physically and mentally de-humanised beings. Competition for jobs and services introduced by capitalism, also takes its toll both physically and psychologically. On the physical side we know this assertion to be true from the statistics of accidents and illnesses at work which were reduced during the 20th century – but not eliminated – by the existence of large numbers of health and safety regulations. Regulations incidentally, which had to (and still have to) be imposed by law upon the callous individual or collective owners of capital.

In some branches of capitalist industry there is still ample evidence of occupational illnesses and premature deaths due to long exposure to unhealthy, dangerous and stressful working and living conditions. None of these symptoms are a result of natural, socially agreed or humane forms of production. Although, the link is not as easily demonstrated, the frequency and variety of incidents of mental illness and increasing anti-social behaviour in advanced capitalist countries, must be related to the capitalist mode of production as a whole. Such a conclusion is probable and warranted since these symptoms have clearly increased incrementally during the period of its domination.

To some readers it may seem that Marx made a sweeping generalisation in asserting that capitalist production system also produces mentally de-humanised human beings, but how else do we account for the general lack of humanity within so many modern humans? The existence, on a global scale, of ideas and attitudes, implementing and justifying warfare, mass bombing and rationalising collatoral damage, are not simply the ideas of a few individuals. Although those who act out the logic of these inhuman ideas are in a minority, they still represent a social trend of some magnitude. This is not how humanity started out and is not what most people want, but the system ensures it’s what we get.

And how else do we account for the mental attitudes or physical aptitudes enabling torture, rape, murder, genocide (not to mention suicide) to take place? If it is not normal for members of any species to do these things to other members of its own species or themselves – then it is certainly not normal for humans. These widespread symptoms can only be evidence of a socio-economic system which routinely creates de-humanised beings. And of course this de-humanising effect doesn’t just take place among those who are compelled by the system to become one-dimensional wage-slaves or resentful economic rejects through unemployment. The process of de-humanising takes place among the ruling classes and the intermediate classes also.

The de-humanising of other classes.

Those who live off the proceeds of capital at the highest level care little about the lives and general welfare of those who produce the wealth in the first place. Providing profits or interest on capital continues to flow into their bank accounts they are able to turn a blind eye to any impoverished circumstances endured by the workers who directly produce their profits. Likewise the lives of those who produce their food, water, their clothes, their buildings, their electricity, their forms of transport etc., are of no practical concern to those who benefit from capital investment. The profit seeking actions of employers often cause working people to strike or otherwise rebel in order to prevent their non-work lives getting worse or if they want to lessen the level of their exploitation. Human beings have not always treated (and many still do not treat) other human beings this way. Only class divided societies create such crippled humanities.

The indifference by elites to the welfare and circumstances of other human beings, many of them amongst whom they live, is exactly an expression and practical result of de-humanised human beings. To continue in the role of wealthy parasites living upon the combined efforts of productive working classes, members of these elite sections have to suspend or eliminate any serious empathy or real concern for these fellow human beings, inhabiting factories, fields, slums, foodbanks, soup kitchens or gutters. They have to dispense with any moral conscience or ocasionally appease it with a morsel of charity, before buying themselves another house or yacht. Yet empathy and concern along with having a conscience are among the hallmark achievements of evolved humanity. By supressing or dispensing with these characteristics in general (apart from immediate family) those who live off capital have become more than just partly de-humanised.

A similar pattern of indifference arises among those well-salaried non-productive professionals who staff, the Church, the State, the Media, the Universities, the Arts, the Sports, etc. They too witness, the vast concentrations of wealth accumulating in one section of society and the relative and absolute levels of poverty in their own countries and globally, yet do nothing except occasionally hitch a ride on the charitable band-wagon. Their bad consciences are apparently eased a little by helping to drip a little food and clean water into the mouths of a few of the most desperate and devastated communities.

These recipients of food, water and medical aid are communities moreover, who are suffering from the past and present colonial, imperial and neo-liberal incursions into their lives and economies. As a relative new generation benefitting from the wealth extraction of the past, these current middle-classes willingly accept the capitalist invitation to partially or totally suspend their humanity in order to obtain the dubious monetary and social privileges offered to them. In exchange for this middling, and often ‘fiddling’ position, they offer their continued support in maintaining the capitalist mode of production.

Clearly, humanity is now facing, if not yet facing up to, major problems. Ecological destruction, atmospheric pollution, an increased lack of social cohesion, a collapse of the welfare state model and rising levels of unemployment and poverty along with wars and proxy wars, are all the result of the capitalist mode of production. Reformist and revolutionary political ideas and strategies to solve the fundamental problems arising from the domination of capital have been repeatedly tried and failed. Something better is needed. In the realm of ideas I suggest that something is revolutionary-humanism. In ‘REVOLUTIONARY-HUMANISM (Part 2)’ evidence will be provided of the way in which the de-humanisation caused by the class – based system of capitalist production, manifests itself in the intellectual spheres of production.

R. Ratcliffe (March 2017)

Posted in Anti-Capitalism, Critique, dispossession, Marx, neo-liberalism, Politics, Revolutionary-Humanism | Tagged | 5 Comments

RECURRING PROBLEMS IN EUROPE.

Over the past decade or more the core nations within the European Union, have been in, or close to a terminal economic and social crisis. Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy and the UK, are among the worst effected, but these are not the only countries exhibiting severe economic, financial and social dysfunctions. Even those in the best of conditions are only lower down an increasingly long sick list and still waiting for some form of financial triage. The various forms of capitalist inspired welfare-state economic models, set up after the Second World War are now progressively failing the bulk of their working-class and lower middle-class citizens. Most of the social-welfare systems in European countries are either under considerable strain or slowly hemorrhaging as the economic and social crisis deepens. In addition, unemployment and low-paid precarious employment have become outstanding features also common to all EU countries.

Even in the UK, which is by no means the worst example, there are crisis levels of failure in housing, hospitals, prisons, old-age and child-care services, education, policing and local government services. To a greater or lesser extent, such compound failures are to be found within all the nation’s of the European Union. A noteworthy consequence of this state of affairs, is the fact that it has become popular in the media and some political circles to blame the act of union itself along with its adopted currency (the Euro) for these multiple failures. This superficial blame-game is occuring despite the fact that these self-same symptoms are to a considerable degree, replicated throughout the entire capitalist world.

Europe’s problems are actually global problems.

For example, in North America and South America, the same or similar siguations exist despite the fact that none of these countries are part of a structured economic, political or monetary union. The socio-economic situation became so bad for working people in the Middle East and North Africa that it sparked off what became known as the Arab Spring. Not one of those countries was in an economic or political union or operating with a common currency. From such a degree of global concurrence, it should be obvious that something much more fundamental than national co-operation and a currency weakness has been at work in Europe. Yet very few media commentators and so-called economic experts have concluded that it is the capitalist mode of production globally that is causing the problems within the EU and elsewhere – not the union of European people, nor the common currency they have adopted.

This unwillingness or inability to understand the role of capitalist economic model when serious problems occur, has led to the search for secondary and superficial symptoms to blame. It is as a consequence of this failure to understand the real cause of the problems facing people and nations in Europe, that the European Union project now has a good chance of falling apart. Economic and political disunity is replacing unity. The UK has already decided to exit and this spring intends to trigger it’s Brexit process of institutional separation from the European Union.

Unsurprisingly, and arising from a similarly mistaken diagnosis, it is also the case that many people in other countries are thinking of doing the same. This rejection of the EU, is a movement which is gathering strength and being led in a right-wing nationalist direction rather than an anti – capitalist internationalist one, with all the potential dangers this holds. After Brexit, will there be a Grexit, or a Frexit, or any other alphabetic prefixes from the 27 member countries of this capitalist club? That remains to be seen, but either way as the capitalist economic system continues to convulse and stagnate there is more big trouble brewing in Europe. And not for the first time.

Europe – a source of immense wealth.

Since the beginning of recorded history there have been elites fighting each other for domination of what is now known as Europe. Long before the present countries of Europe were formed by means of the sword and cannon, tank and bomb, the continent was seen as an attractive place to live for some and a lucrative place to loot for others. The reason is obvious. Europe is a very productive landmass. It has an excellent range of climates, with well – watered land. It can produce large surpluses of food and raw materials. Navigable rivers and nearby seas made access for trade or invasion not too difficult. The ancient Greeks elites found Europe so productive they invaded many parts of it and colonised as much as they could manage. Later the elites of the Roman Republic, Empire and Principate did their best to tax and tithe as much of the Eastern and Western Europe as they could control before this form of forced European unity eventually broke apart.

Other successive elite attempts to exploit the people and resources of Europe – as a whole or in part – by armed aggression have included the French under Napoleon Bonaparte, the Austria-Hungarian dynasty of oppressors, the Prussian elites of Bismarck’s time and even the Czarist aristocrats of pre-revolutionary Russia managed to march their peasant army as far as Paris before retiring to control more manageable portions of eastern Europe. The Nazis by blitzkrieg and ‘boots on the ground’, occupied as much of Europe as possible before being fought to a standstill and final defeat.

The Stalinist elite at the end of the Second World War got as far as Berlin in their so-called socialist union of states, before it too collapsed. All these successive fuedal and later non-fuedal elites recognised that Europe could not only sustain it’s working population in an adequate fashion, but could also be a source of wealth extraction for their own insatiable greed. That is why they fought lengthy wars to get their hands on it. Each time – whoever won – the successful elites drained wealth away from those who produced it and brought misery, hardship along with premature death into their lives.

Undoubtedly it is a fact that wealth extraction by elites has been the recurring trouble for Europe in the past and it is still the trouble now. Europe (including Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy etc.) would be fine without its collective production being continually diverted into the pockets and bank accounts of the obscenely wealthy. It would have always been a wonderful place for working people to live if it were not for them being excessively exploited and continually being dragged into the ‘us’ and ‘them’ wars between squabbling factions of the numerous feudal and post-feudal elites. In the early 20th century the countries of Europe experienced essentially the same symptoms of widespread unemployment, economic stagnation and financial collapse, from essentially the same causes.

In that case – as now – there was a rejection of establishment politics and a turn to more radical right wing and left wing forms. In western Europe the left-wing radicals lost, the right-wing radicals won and led many countries to flirt with or actually fully embrace extreme forms of nationalist tribalism – Fascism! But this outcome did not occur before working class resistance to that crisis was first divided (racially, politically and nationally) before being defeated. At one level the modern European Union of the mid to late 20th century was created in order to regulate wealth extraction by the various national elites without the need of going to war with each ‘other’ as had happened in the past and again in 1914 and 1939.

The neo-liberal occupation of Europe.

Yet it clearly hasn’t worked. Wealth is still being extracted from working people in Europe and they are still being pitted against each other by their national elites. The essential difference is that this contest is currently being conducted by means of economic wars instead of the military wars of the past. In addition, over several decades the European elites of each country have repeatedly used divisive ideologies and the power of the state to crush the organised resistance of working people to their increased exploitation. Defeated workers in this neo-liberal economic war have been forced into unemployment schemes, foodbanks, slums and street living rather than being herded into ghettos, concentration camps and work detachments. Financial explosions have replaced high explosive bombs raining down on innocent people in towns and cities, but lives are still being shattered when credit-default swaps and other instruments of financial destruction detonate. The edifices of welfare provision are now being steadily undermined rather than the trenches of militarised warfare, but casualties are still mounting up in practically every town and village. Alongside discrete pockets of prosperity in Europe there has been a long 50 year economic and financial war against the working classes.

At the heart of the EU neo-liberal economic and political agreement, is the free movement of capital and labour which enables high levels of wealth extraction to take place. This, together with the political institutions necessary for its smooth functioning, has allowed the business, financial and political elites to accumulate large amounts of wealth and carve out lucrative careers for themselves. All this elite wealth has been extracted by means of taxes and unpaid labour-power from the combined working classes of Europe. The hugely disproportional wealth accumulation at the heart of the capitalist mode of production, is merely the other side of the coin to the unemployment, precarious employment, low pay, and atrophy of welfare services for ordinary working people.

Moreover, it is the relative impoverishment of the majority, which has helped to further accelerate economic stagnation and welfare reductions within this huge continent and threatens the unravelling of the Europe Union in its present form. Less income paid to the masses means less taxes paid to the state and less spent in the shops. Tax dodging by rich individuals and companies adds to the problem of state debt. Once again capitalism has entered a systemic crisis and stagnation phase and a downward economic and social spiral has developed. It cannot be surprising, then that after many economic and social defeats, working people in Europe have now begun another fight back – albeit within the realm of elite-controlled politics. With as yet very little alternatives, many working people have broken completely with neo-liberal social democratic globalists and are choosing to follow the nationalistic pro-capitalists wing of politics which has once again become more emboldened and more successful.

Renewed nationalism in Europe (and elsewhere).

However, a move to nationalism offers no solution for the working classes in Europe or elsewhere. Nationalism, in its modern bourgeois form, is more than just an ideology based upon the needs of a particular section of the pro-capitalist elite to control the resources of an area of territory and deliniate it by natural or human determined ‘borders’. To accomplish this territorial control it also needs an emotional dimension which utilises an ‘us’ and ‘them’, social pathology. It is this aspect of nationalist ideology, which under certain circumstances, can also function as a cancerous social pathogen. The ‘us’ is imagined as being a collective based upon some pre-selected partial form of identity. The ‘them’ are all other human beings who are judged to not belong to the ‘us’ collective.

As noted earlier, this ‘us’ and ‘them’ dualistic social pathology leading to war ang genocide has a long terminological history; eg. Greek and Barbarian, Jew and Gentile, Orthodox and Catholic, Protestant and Catholic, Hindu and Muslim, black and white, etc. This pattern of pejorative ‘us’ and ‘them’ discrimination also occurs in many other areas of contemporary life, from gangs to football, for example. How dangerous this commonly displayed symptom becomes depends upon the area of focus and the type of stress people are under. It becomes particularly dangerous when it is ramped up into something resembling a socio-psychological disorder such as ultra-nationalism. This is because hightened nationalism and extreme nationalism, due to real or perceived stress, frequently claims an imagined superiority to the ‘us’ and an imagined inferiority to ‘them’. That way they can then become stereotyped as the despised ‘other’. With the massaging and grooming of a collective ego, in this way the ‘us’ and ‘them’ syndrome can then take on a more malignant form.

It was a combination of extreme nationalism and a compounded ‘us’ and ‘them’ syndrome (using race, religion or political criteria) that became something of a bourgeois inspired social disease and enabled the 20th century Fascists in Italy, Germany, Spain (and the elite in Japan) to gain political and then military power. And this is merely to note the 20th century examples of the ‘us’ and ‘them’ genocidal outcomes of this ideological malady. It is precisely, this ‘us’ and ‘them’ syndrome worked up into a serious socio-psychological disorder which is also the hallmark of modern day Islamic Fundamentalist Terrorism rooted in the Middle-East etc., and Jewish and Christian Zionism focussed on the gradual anihilation of Palestine. However, it should be remembered that the cultural origin of all the various ‘us’ and ‘them’ pathologies is a part of all our histories. It is a tendency to which we can all become susceptible – if we fail to recognise it’s danger and oppose it.

Another World (and another Europe) is possible.

For this reason, any proposition which does not consistently elevate ‘humanity’ over all other forms of identity will allow the ‘us’ and ‘them’ virus to stay alive. And, as in the past, this virus can easily become immune to the superficial remedies normally used to keep it under control – or more accurately – which drive it underground. When immunity happens, the pathogen can then break out in a full-blown epidemic or social pandemic. I suggest, a resurgent Fascist movement is still not yet on the cards in Europe, or elsewhere, but currently the ideological virus of ‘us’ and ‘them’ discrimination is being kept alive on all sides of the political spectrum. It is also evident that various forms of authoritarian tendencies are impatiently waiting their chances to assist in spreading this intellectual disease further.

The possibility of such a development is particularly dangerous when one section of the working classis is considered as the ‘us’ and another section of the working class projected as ‘them’. This is a policy utilised by all past elites and the pro-capitalist elites of today are no different in this regard. They are eminantly capable of using it in one form or another, (based upon the ‘us’ and ‘them’ of race, age, gender, nationality or religion) to divide the workers and pit them against each other. Even – despicable workers (voting for Trump) versus reasonable workers (voting for Clinton) – or pro-brexit workers versus anti-brexit workers – has recently been used to serve such a divisive purpose. This too needs to be resisted before it goes any further. It should be obvious that being united to the highest possible degree is the only way working people can eventually challenge and overcome the powerful system which exploits them all to a greater or lesser degree.

When some on the left join the bourgeoisie in positing ‘us’ and ‘them’ in relationship to any divided opinions among working class victims of the capitalist mode of production, then intentionally or unintentionally they are betraying the project of uniting the working classes of the world. The working classes of Europe (as elsewhere) are currently being drawn toward nationalism and religious – sectarianism by right-wing political or religious reactionaries. They are being pushed in the same general direction by social-democratic left-wing reactionary ideology which elevates secondary identity antagonisms over class antagonisms. The latter by their failure to seriously and consistently champion the rights of all workers, white, black, men, women, young, old, to a life beyond wage-slavery or even beyond unemployment and relative, if not absolute poverty, have left many of the oppressed with very little choice but to assert their chosen non-class based identities and pit these against all the ‘others’.

I further suggest that genuine revolutionary-humanists should not be expressing ideas which try to persuade workers to adopt any of these divisive opinions even when they – like ourselves – make problematical or contradictory decisions from time to time. The future for a peaceful Europe and a peaceful globe requires a voluntary unity of working people owning, controlling and sharing their resources on a needs plus basis, not on a profit driven greed basis. For this reason, among many others, we need to view all working people as ‘us’ – as one common humanity. We are the majority of a single species which has before it the urgent task of ending class oppression and divisions and saving the planet along with it’s associated life forms before the capitalist mode of production pushes it and ‘us’ beyond our combined capacity to recover. Sadly, that way of viewing Europe and the world has still to be struggled for on the intellectual level as well as achieved on the practical level. Whether enough of ‘us’ respond to this task, to make a difference in the difficult years ahead, remains to be seen.

Roy Ratcliffe (March 2017)

Posted in Anti-Capitalism, Arab Spring, Critique, Economics, Finance, Fundamentalism, Nationalism, neo-liberalism, Palestine, Politics, Revolutionary-Humanism, Revolutionary-Humanist theory | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

BLAMING THE VICTIMS.

It has long been a recognised phenomena, that the bourgeoisie and petite-bourgeoisie when facing criticism, are prone to ‘blaming the victim’. The bourgeoisie and the petite-bourgeoisie rarely accept any blame for the very many negative symptoms which arise from the capitalist mode of production from which they benefit. Instead, where negative symptoms are exposed, the blame for these is transfered to those who are the victims of the capitalist system. The capitalist system by its constant warmongering creates refugees, but rarely owns up to this. In this way refugees are projected as the problem and allows them to be blamed for a situation they have no control over. Bourgeois ideology requires a shifting of systemic blame to scapegoats.

For example, until recently it was common in rape cases to blame women for dressing provocatively or putting herself in places of danger. The fact that male socialisation is saturated by bourgeois patriarchal assumptions about women is ignored. Structural unemployment, among white and non-white people was (and still is) too often blamed upon lazyness and lack of education. The fact that jobs have disappeared or been replaced by automation is conveniently forgotten. Drug addiction and gang violence in inner cities is blamed upon lack of effective parental supervision. As if inner city, depravation, unemployment and neglect had little or no bearing on the problem.

Such is the ideological domination and power of the representatives of the bourgeois system that they regularly induce other sections of the oppressed to join in the blame game. Some conventional women are persuaded to blame non-conventional women for what happens to them. Some workers join in the vilification of the unemployed as scroungers who they have to support out of their taxes. Working class commuters are encouraged to blame striking or working to rule transport workers for any inconvenience they encounter rather than the greed of privatised transport companies.

Students, squeezed by the cuts to education are encouraged to point an envious finger at pensioners, with little regard to the life times work they have expended on the system or the fact that they themselves will be the next generation of pensioners. Getting the victims to blame each other, rather than the mode of production is a very productive tactic for the elite. That way they can step back a little and just supply ammunition in the form of distortions, fabrications and rationalisations and let the oppressed slug it out. Is it not truly pityfull when some on the left join in this elite ‘blaming the victims’ game? Shouldn’t the left be stridently opposed to both sides of the pro-capitalist political divide?

More recently half the working population in the UK have been blamed by the European neo-liberal establishment for voting to exit the European Union. In the USA, nearly half of the working population have been pilloried by the neo-liberal establishment for voting for Donald Trump. Yet these various developments, such as the emergence of Trump, Farage, Le Penn etc., are nothing more than the political symptoms of the the current five-fold crisis of the capitalist mode of production. The fundamental socio-economic contradictions ripping apart the capitalist system and causing such political bifurcations are invariably ignored or not even recognised by the ‘establishment’. However, even for some left commentators, these symptoms are being treated as if they are the cause of the problems facing the various national populations at large. Yet it should be clear that chasing the symptoms whilst ignoring the cause is a self-defeating process.

Another of these symptoms, is the reaction of the social-democratic left who have once again failed to recognise that contradictions in the socio-economic base of societies also give rise to contradictions in how people react to them. This problem is particularly relevant to the consciousness of the classes which are most burdened by the effects of the crisis – the working classes. Even though the pro-capitalist elite are themselves split into pro and anti-Brexit, pro and anti Trump, pro and anti Le Pen camps, etc., workers are pilloried when similarly effected. According to many neo-liberal pundits, workers (the so-called despicables) are supposed to think outside their current existential circumstances and think like their middle-class social-democratic betters. Everywhere, such dualistic thinking trumps (pardon the unintended pun) the dialectic and bifurcates the intellect of the social-democratic and even many of the unself-critical left.

Suddenly the neo-liberal establishment (with collaboration from the social democratic left) have encouraged demonstrations against immigration bans on Muslims from the seven countries previously flagged up by the Obama administration. Muslims have had the the sh..t bombed out of their communities, by the US and European neo-liberal political elite for at least a decade with very little concern shown for them. How hypocritical is that? Suddenly they really care about them? I suggest dumping Trump is what they really care about. They do not like his negative remarks on Trade Deals, unelected Judges, Washington bureaucracy, curtailing the freedom of indigenous industrial capital, Secret Service machinations, positive remarks on relations with Russia and more importantly because he won the election. For these reasons, among others, they are out to get him. There is no real need for anti-capitalists to join in the anti-Trump fest. He and the Democrats are the two janus faces of US capitalist rule. We need only let both wings of the pro-capitalist elite destroy each other and while they are busy, get on with the serious task of campaigning and organising against both sides and their entire system.

And in view of the recent anti-Trump/anti-Russian propaganda, is it not worth reminding everybody just who has done the most invading over the past decades and one of whom is also suspected of being behind the killing of Martin Luther King and many others the US elite were scared of? Are the Government’s of the west really any better than Putin et al? In Europe, campaigns have been activated to prevent Donald Trump visiting or speaking when practically every other head of state has been welcomed by elite fawning and extravagant banquets in the UK and Europe. This is despite the fact that many of these heads of state have overseen the most brutal forms of oppression in their own countries and have also been guilty of systematic torture, war crimes as well as crimes against humanity, in others. Why did the elite not call for a ban on all these? Hypocricy over here strides about dressed in regal and faux fur clothing.

The current anti – Trump fever has so infected the brains and thinking of so many neo-liberals and social democrats that they probably now appear to the working classes of the world as first rate hypocrites. They do not care enough for working class Muslims to have institutionally demanded an end to the drone war, the bombing campaigns, and the resource pillaging of many of their middle-eastern and North African countries over the past decades. They are so little concerned with women’s rights, that they still haven’t granted them equal rights in pay and equal institutional representation in the advanced countries, let alone anywhere else. In championing immigration, they show little or no regard for the fact that many immigrants will be forced into low-paid non-unionised jobs and some will be inducted to the underworld of modern day slavery including sexual slavery. As a economic and political class, the neo-liberal and social-democratic elite over many decades have never seriously demonstrated that black lives and jobs matter. Now they really care about how easily they get through passport control?

In their support of religion the neo-liberals and social democrats also show little regard for the fact that all the major religions, are oppressively patriarchal and prejudiced against women, homosexuals, other religions and those of no religion. These same elites and their supporters have never urged campaigns and demonstrations against this obvious form of oppression and discrimination. Over two or more decades, they have not been sufficiently concerned with the lives and welfare of the indigenous workers of all countries, to prevent large-scale unemployment, welfare reductions and community depravations. But they suddenly turn on the latter when they turn to the only seemingly radical alternative offered to them. And by the way; where is the radical political alternative to the present dual party system? The system and it’s supporters among the economic, social and political elite – including the so-called radical left – never blame themselves for not being able to offer a healthy radical alternative to the working classes. It’s all the fault of the working classes particularly when they vote the ‘wrong’ way.

In defence of all the victims.

But there is a different perspective from which to view a class – riven society such as the capitalist mode of production now spinning around the whirlpool of a five-fold crisis. This alternative viewpoint is not too difficult to understand for those with a genuine commitment to the working classes, regardless of gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age or disability etc. It was a perspective most clearly developed by the revolutionary-humanist Karl Marx in the 19th century, but tragically distorted in the 20th century and neglected in the 21st. Consider the following;

The mode of production in material life determines the general character of the social, political and spiritual processes of life.” (Marx. A contribution to the critique of the political economy.)

The current mode of production is based upon the domination of capital. If we agree with the conclusion Marx came to, then it is the domination of capital which determines the general character of the social and political processes of life in the current and past few centuries. It is this system which dominates not just what people do but also how they think. Competition for jobs and resources are at the heart of the capitalist system and competition separates individuals from each other. This is a practical competitive schism which is particularly severe amongst the working classes and moreover it is way beyond their control. It follows from this fact that solidarity is extremely difficult to achieve. To wish otherwise is tantamount to wishing away the reality of the capitalist mode of production – easy but futile. Further;

“It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but on the contrary, their social existence determines their consciousness.” (ibid)

In other words, in general, it is not what people think which determines how they live but how they live which in general determines how they think. And how the working classes live within capitalism is different than how the other classes live. For this reason working people’s consciousness will have some differences to it than the consciousness of other classes. If their position in the division of labour within the capitalist mode of production creates different concerns than the position other classes adopt, this is not because of some difference in intelligence. They are disproportionally more effected from globalisation and immigration. If their consciousness is more practical, immediate and less effected by abstract intellectual concerns and historical considerations than the middle-classes, this is a product of their position as wage-slaves, not a lack of intellectual potential.

If workers live in a society dominated economically and intellectually by a racist and sexist, male dominated elite, then it can hardly be surprising if those subjected to the dominant ideology absorb some of these values. If many sections of the working classes have little time for, or access to, further education, cultural exchanges and expressions of international solidarity, this is not their fault. On the contrary, it is the fault of an economic system which condemns them to such impoverished socio-economic circumstances. In addition if some sections of the working class feel that the rest of society, with its more privileged workers and middle-classes doesn’t care what happens to them, then it cannot be surprising if they adopt a similar attitude in return.

Past class solidarity, built upon huge capitalist factories and industries, has effectively disappeared over the past decades of neo-liberal globalisation along with the industrial form themselves – at least in the west. Therefore I suggest it is arrogant and churlish to expect high – minded solidarity to automatically flow from those at the bottom or near the bottom of the current socio-economic pyramid, whatever their colour, age, gender, religious or sexual preference. In the west in particular the decrease in industrial workers and increase in public service workers has created its own problems of struggle.

If capitalism during its neo-liberal stage has become a system of economic and social existence in which a version of bourgeois individualism has finally come to dominate all classes, then we shouldn’t be surprised if solidarity among and between communities is now in short supply. If it is now a cultural norm, for everybody to look after No 1, then blaming just one group and not another for doing exactly that, is simply helping the elite to create scapegoats. And I suggest as anti-capitalists and revolutionary-humanists we need to firmly resist making any section of the working class – black workers, white workers, Muslim workers, women, young, old, etc., – the scapegoats for a system in an advanced stage of systemic crisis.

Socio-economic class and revolution.

It has become clear over successive generations that the capitalist mode of production cannot adequately employ all the members of society. For this reason it has become an existential problem not only for the majority of the working classes of the world, but for all life forms on the planet and the eco-systems upon which all life depends. Capitalist forms of production, in pursuit of profit are on the one hand consuming essential raw materials, faster than they can be replenished, and on the other, producing waste materials quicker than they can be safely recycled or disposed of. This mode of production is like an uncontrollable cancer eating away the essential elements of the planet.

There is now in all countries the spectacle of a minority with more wealth than they can possibly consume in one lifetime, a majority with only just enough and another minority with far too little to support an average lifetime. The military industrial sector of the advanced countries has ably assisted, if not actively promoted, the current global distopia of armed warfare in civil and national guises. Over successive generations, the capitalist supporters of the system have demonstrated their complete unwillingness and inability to radically transform it. From the perspective of the majority of the worlds populations, a revolution has become increasingly necessary. However, revolutions, require the solidarity of large numbers to initiate and sustain them. So where could such numbers come from, or more accurately which of the main classes might supply these numbers?

Could it be the upper classes who live off the earnings of private capital in one of its numerous forms? I doubt it. They have no incentive to sufficiently lower their standards of living so that the lowest may have theirs raised. Would the change agents and numbers arise among the middle-classes? Again I doubt it. Their best efforts to date have been to suggest slight reforms in order to lessen the rate of exploitation or ease the burden of ill health or old age amongst the working classes. Again apart from a few individuals these middle-classes are more likely to wish to conserve what they have and become even more reactionary when the system looks like being threatened by a radical transformation.

That leaves the working classes, blue collar and white collar – warts and all. Yes warts and all! It is still the fact that potentially this section of the capitalist economic and social pyramid have the most reasons for not opposing and even welcoming such a transformation. In addition, they are the only sections of society which keep the foundations of any social system going. Without workers people cannot eat, be housed, clothed, kept warm, nursed, and educated. The accelerating precarious economic position of all working people under 21st century capitalism means that sooner or later they will have to act in concert if they are to resist what is increasingly in store for them. But of course, as already noted, the circumstances of increased competition for jobs and resources makes such solidarity extremely difficult. It certainly cannot happen overnight. It can only happen as a result of a long (and perhaps slow) process in which this result is worked for by all those already conscious of this need.

With this in mind blaming the victims and making impatient and unrealistic demands upon working people to immediately alter their consciousness to coincide with one derived from a different set of circumstances, is unrealistic and counterproductive. Working people will invariably make mistakes, like voting for Trump, Farage, le Pen and others still to come, hoping this will help their future situation. This stage, or stages, are clearly part of the process the working classes need to go through in order to begin to reflect and think differently. Traversing those stages, I suggest, is not helped by the left adopting a ‘holy than thou’ position and ranting at them. Instead we need a process of patient reasoning and admitting – that we get things wrong too! It should be obvious that a revolutionary alteration of their understanding requires extreme circumstances not the bombarding of working people with derogatory slogans and phrases. Or as Marx put it;

..the alteration of men (and women RR) on a mass scale is necessary, an alteration which can only take place in a practical movement, a revolution; the revolution is necessary, therefore, not only because the ruling class cannot be overthrown in any other way, but also because the class overthrowing it can only in a revolution succeed in ridding itself of all the muck of ages and become fitted to found society anew.” (Marx. German Ideology.)

I further suggest that, the role of those anti-capitalists who have a love of humanity is not to play schoolmaster in order to lecture the systems victims on what they ‘must’ and ‘must not’ do, at every twist and turn. Nor is it their role to be acting as ‘prophets’ in order to teach their hoped-for future disciples the ‘truth’. Neither should we be condemning those who currently refuse to listen as despicable heretics, as the Bolsheviks, Maoists and others once did. In view of the examples of 20th century ‘vanguard’ anti-capitalist leaderships in the Soviet Union, China, Eastern Europe and elsewhere, I see no reason to abandon the following 19th century revolutionary-humanist position adopted by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels in this regard;

The emancipation of the working classes must be achieved by the working classes themselves. We cannot therefore co-operate with people who openly state that the workers are too uneducated to emancipate themselves and must be freed from above by philanthropic persons from the upper and lower middle classes.” (Marx Engels. Selected correspondence. page 307. )

Roy Ratcliffe. (February 2017.)

Posted in Anti-Capitalism, capitalism, Critique, Ecological damage., neo-liberalism, Revolutionary-Humanism | Tagged , | Leave a comment

FASCISM: CAN IT HAPPEN AGAIN?

The term fascism has become used as a form of emotionally charged description for actions and attitudes which are seen as authoritarian and damaging to ordinary people. Fascist police, fascist ticket wardens, fascistic employers, fascist pig are expletives, among many others, that have been bandied about over a number of decades. It has also been applied as a descriptive term to politicians such as George Bush, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher etc. Now Trump, Farage and others. However, as right-wing, prejudiced and self-serving as these politicians were, (and are) are any of these instances (and many countless others) really an accurate use of the term ‘fascism’? And if not, is not its misuse becoming part of a wider form of social-democratic inspired distraction from the underlying economic crisis now facing working people?

For in 2016 and 2017, it became obvious that what remains of the liberal and neo-liberal establishment started throwing their toys out of the pram and foaming at the mouth as the more radical left and the radical right gain the political ground that they think is theirs by hereditary succession. They only see dull-witted racists and fascism whenever they encounter serious challenges to their hegemony. Using one-sided manipulations and distortions of reality (amplified by the media) they try to frighten people into supporting their failed agenda and threatened careers. Jeremy Corbin in the UK was smeared as an anti-semite and closet communist, Donald Trump in the US as a fascist. Do such emotionally charged uses really help us understand what fascism is, why it came into being and how it came to dominate certain countries in the 20th century? I suggest it doesn’t. And do we not need a more sober analysis of fascism in order to really judge whether it is likely to succeed in the 21st century? I suggest we do.

There is an extensive literature on the topic of ‘fascism’ from a historical, sociological and even psychological perspective, so to deal adequately with all that material would require far more space than an article such as this. Instead I shall use what is perhaps one of the most clear descriptions of what fascism is and what it stands for from one of its most fervent and original exponants. I refer to Benito Mussolini, who actually gained control of a European nation state – Italy – and published a document in his name entitled ‘The Doctrine of Fascism’. I propose that this one source will not only provide a concise and coherent definition but it will also provide us with more than this. It will allow us to form a conceptual template with which to judge to what extent other authoritarian forms of governance can be classed as fascist.

What is fascism really?

“Fascism, in short, is not only a law-giver and a founder of institutions, but an educator and promoter of spiritual life. It aims at refashioning not only the forms of life but their content – man, his character,and his faith. To achieve this purpose it enforces discipline and uses authority, entering into the soul and ruling with undisputed sway.” (‘The Doctrine of Fascism’. Mussolini.)

This extract makes it clear that Fascists desire a form of totalitarian governance. They seek to inform and rule societies over the full range of human activites, economic, political, and social. This full spectrum domination includes, education, leisure, and even spiritual beliefs. Because a total control of what people do and what they think is difficult to achieve by persuasion, the Fascist mindset recognises that they will need to use force. They aim to achieve an undisputed authoritarian sway over nations and govern by using force and disciplinary measures to achieve this extreme state of socio-economic unity. Another important platform of the Fascist programme is the abolition of any trace of democratic forms which would undoubtedly interfere with their plans. For example;

“Fascism denies that numbers, as such, can be the determining factor in human society: it denies the right of numbers to govern by means of periodical consultations.”(ibid ‘The Doctrine of Fascism’.)

This proposal to abolish parliamentary and other forms of democratic consultations is not as scary a proposal for many (perhaps even a majority of) working class citizens as it is for the middle-class and the capitalist class. The reason is simple. The bourgeois forms of representative democracy are little more than a series of tightly controlled oligarchies dedicated to responding to the requirements of capital in its need to exploit labour. The bulk of the working class are far removed from economic and political power and rarely see it wielded for their own benefit. The pyramidal division of labour within the economic sphere of life; capitalists – managers – workers is also the model for the capitalist state; Prime Ministers (or Presidents) – Parliamentarians (or Congressmen) and state bureaucrats – citizens. Itĺis a similar hierarchical pattern which arises in political parties.

Even the left and so-called revolutionary parties conform to this hierarchical pattern of – leaders – executive committees – members. Here too party leaders are invariably chosen by an inner circle (formal or informal), presented to the broader party membership for acceptance or rejection before being presented to the electorate in the best possible light. The masses are the last to be consulted in terms of who is to govern them and have little or no say in the policies they pursue. In other words democracy everywhere under the capitalist mode of production is already but a few steps away from a full – blown authoritarian oligarchy in both party political forms and in state forms. It only requires the elimination of internal party or civilian rights for bourgeois democractic forms to become so. That, however, is a difficult and dangerous step to take, yet as we shall see, Fascism once managed to bring this about. Meanwhile;

“The Fascist state lays claim to rule in the economic field no less than in others; it makes its action felt throughout the length and breadth of the country by means of its corporate, social and educational institutions, and all the political, economic, and spiritual forces of the nation, organised in their respective associations, circulate within the state.” (ibid ‘The Doctrine of Fascism’.)

Fascists, no less than any other political trend, recognise the necessity of economic production both for feeding, clothing and housing the nation they seek to govern – including themselves – but they also recognise more. There is a clear realisation within Fascist thinking that the owners of the means of production and the means of exchange cannot be allowed to make their own decisions of how, where and what to produce. This is because such decisions may not conform to the Fascist visions of how a nation should function. Logic, from this fascist perspective requires a form of state-dictated capitalism. Hence;

The Fascist conception of the State is all-embracing; outside of it no human or spiritual values can exist, much less have value.” (ibid ‘The Doctrine of Fascism’.)

It is obvious that as yet no sizable political party or movement subscribes to any of the above four core values of fascism or any of the other similar totalitarian principles in other fascist documents.

How did Fascism win power?

If we consider the last time fascism became a serious totalitarian political form (1920’s to 1930’s) it was also during a period of extreme and sustained economic, social and political crisis. And part of its attraction was the promise of jobs;

Into this desperate situation, the Nazis appeared under the guise of the National Socialist German Workers Party with a promise of jobs for the unemployed and relief for the impoverished.” (Life in the Third Reich: Paul Roland. Chapter 1.)

Despite the much publicised horrors of Italian, German and Spanish Fascism in the early 20th century, there are still a minority who admire it and would undoubtedly like to replicate it in the 21st. However, there is no automatic guarantee that a group of fascist minded individuals will become a sufficiently large force to create a fascist political party or eventually threaten humanity with yet another world war. Indeed, there was no such guarantee of success before the full horrors became widely known in the 1940’s. The success of a totalitarian party in gaining sufficient power over a nation to inflict it’s fascistic programme on suffering humanity was dependent upon three broad areas of socio-political developments.

First it has to be diligently and persistently worked for by an organised group wedded to the Fascist ideology and practice. Second, it requires a significant section of the ruling capitalist and pro-capitalist elite to begin to support and fund such a party or movement. This they do when they think that this is the only way to save the privileged economic and social system they administer. Thirdly, it is necessary that those who oppose such a development, the vast majority, through faulty analysis and divisive tactics are sufficiently weakened to effectively oppose it. Let us consider these three areas of potential concern in turn.

Organised Fascist groups.

There are many right-wing groups which are racist and nationalist, but as yet there are few, if any, which advocate the spectrum of fascist beliefs and principles noted above. Whilst it is true that the 20th century European brands of Fascism, did not start off with the full fascist programme, there are also many differences between then and now. For a start, before the 1920’s there hadn’t been, within recent history, a popular movement which perpetrated such genocidal crimes as those perpetrated by Franco, Hitler and Mussolini brands of Fascism. Most of the world now knows what full spectrum Fascist dominance can lead to and this should hinder if not prevent the development of a new fascist movement. Secondly, in the cases of the Germany and Italy in the 20th century, the prime movers of the movement had been former socialists and large numbers of former socialists had joined their ranks. Of these two examples, the German example, as we have seen, embodied this concept into its party title – National Socialists. There is no such massive development of so-called ‘national socialist’ thinking in the 21st century.

The capitalist and pro-capitalist elite.

Whilst it is also undoubtedly true that if their system was sufficiently threatened, many among the 21st century capitalist and pro-capitalist elite would be happy to turn to a strong authoritarian leader, it is unlikely that the 1930’s system of Fascism would be resurrected or replicated. The bourgeois elite too know the dangers of Fascism to their own welfare and that of their children and partners. As in the past, the loose cannon of a Fascist fanatic who gained power, would not hesitate to loose the most up to date weapons of mass destruction upon his enemies. Tellingly, these now include nuclear and biological weapons, which would threaten the existence of more than just their enemies. The more likely outcome to any future hightened socio-economic crisis would be an authoritarian form of government and the deliberate provocation of an internal civil war.

One only need reflect upon the almost total war conducted against oppositional civilians in the middle-east countries of Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Lybia and Egypt supported by the pro-capitalist elites of the west, to understand what could happen without the need for a fascist resurgence. News footage of cities in Syria in particular bear a remarkable resemblance to the street after street of bombed out houses and buildings in German cities such as Hamburg, Cologne and Berlin at the end of the Second World War. This indicates, the length which modern elites will go to protect themselves and system which sustains them. Of course this outcome too has been made possible by the errors and mistakes of the oppressed and exploited, splitting their ranks and weakening their opposition. Which brings us to the third important factor.

Faulty analysis and divisive tactics.

In fact this is the most important element in any descent to authoritarian regulation and any possible rebirth of Fascism. The primary fault in not seeing what is coming and preventing it arises from a failure to analyse what is really going on within any serious socio-economic crisis. The easiest thing for commentators to do is focus on the surface events to the exclusion of deeper problems. Taking rhetoric for reality within politics, and blaming the victims who may have mixed but not yet fixed motives, for what is happening, is another. Deliberate distortions and exagerations also contribute to the problem. It follows from faulty and impressionistic analysis that faulty and reactionary tactics are likely to be and proposed and adopted. The prime example of this latter in 1930’s Germany was the Stalinist sectarian designation of Social Democratic voters as Social Fascists and as as bad – or almost as bad – as the Fascists themselves. This led to a dilution of an anti – fascist mood and a bifurcation of anti fascist activity, within Germany. More of such divisions later. Meanwhile, as one historian of the period commented;

“No class or group or party in Germany could escape it’s share of responsibility for the abandonment of the democratic Republic and the advent of Adolf Hitler. The cardinal error of the Germans who opposed Nazism was their failure to unite against it. (‘The rise and fall of the Third Reich.’ William Shirer.)

And not just in Germany. The left sectarian problem of faulty analysis and divisive tactics was also replicated in Spain among the forces opposed to Franco’s military and civilian forces – if to a lesser extent than those opposed to Mussolini in Italy. Some left sectarians in Spain, also spent almost as much time torturing and killing each other as they did combating Franco’s forces. However, faulty and partial actions and analysis was not (and is not) just a symptom of left sectarian groups, it is part and parcel of the bourgeois way of viewing the world. For this reason, the bourgeoisie and petite-bourgeoisie also often misread the coming together of a strong man and moods of deep desperation among the working classes not all of whom are able to see where things we’re heading.

In Italy and Germany, instead of patiently explaining the possibilities and probabilities to easily influenced workers, these were quickly labelled as Fascists and written off by the so-called ‘left’. Just voting for Hitler and Mussolini on the basis of their promises of jobs and social welfare, was sufficient for the radical left (predominantly the Communist Party then) to classify ordinary workers as Fascists or Fascistic supporters and have nothing but contempt and derision for them. With no recognition of contradiction, everything was pitched by the left in the formula ‘you are either for us or against us’. Those not convinced by the radical sectarian left became cast as the enemy to be combated even though many such voters considered themselves socialists and we’re simply hoodwinked by the official title of the National Socialists and the promises of jobs and curbs on capitalist employers. Confused and simplistic as many Italian, German and Spanish workers may have been, they were not born racists and fascists and not all became so. However, large numbers were repulsed by left sectarianism. And there were good reasons for workers being confused;

Hitler’s critics accused him of being a crude, ill – educated rabble – rouser, but he articulated the people’s anger and sense of injustice more effectively than the professional politicians and it was evident he had touched a raw nerve.” (‘Life in the Third Reich. Chapter 1.)

Does that ring any contemporary bells? In any structural and deep seated crisis there will be splits among the ruling elite on how to manage or solve the problems facing themselves and the system they uphold. Since all ruling elites are numerically weak, they need to recruit the masses to assist their struggle for dominance within ruling circles. To do so both sides will exploit the power and advantages they enjoy and at the same time exploit the weaknesses and confusion of the population at large. This strategy and tactic is as old as civilisation itself. It occured regularly in ancient Greece and during the days of the Roman Empire, where the demos or the plebs were invited to join one side or another of the disputing Greek oligarchs or the later Roman tyrants, with disastrous effects upon the masses when they did so. As already noted in the 20th century it happened in Italy, Germany and Spain, with equally devastating results for the working classes. Sift through the mess in most of the middle east in the 21st century and essentially the same symptom will emerge in one form or another – workers siding with one section of an oppressive elite or another and then fighting and killing each other for this dubious and counterproductive privilege.

Splits in the ruling class.

In Europe and the west these splits are also happening again. In the advanced capitalist countries there is now a serious rift within the contemporary ruling circles governing or seeking to govern these nations. On the one side, there is the existing and severely weakened social-democratic and neo-liberal establishment and on the other side, the emerging right-wing authoritarian nationalists. Working people are being invited to join each bourgeois side as the better (or least-bad side) in the elites internicine struggle for power. Each side is deliberately utilising popular media to distort and denegrate the other side and misguide the majority when in actual fact, both sides are promoters of fake news, witholders and distorters of facts as well as being the architects of exploitation, oppression and unemployment. This is a role they will continue to play whichever side wins.

One of the main weaknesses and mistakes of the bulk of the population is again to fail to understand this, to believe the fabrications and distortions of one side and reject the fabrications and distortions of the other and then be drawn into bourgeois ideological and practical battles in which they will continue to be the main victims. Opposing Donald Trump in favour of Clinton, or opposing Teresa May in favour of Jeremy Corbin, (or one of the other global political analogues) is to fail to recognise that both sides in these political ‘theatres of the absurd’ are committed to the existing capitalist system of economic exploitation, ecological devastation and political domination. Both sides, the globalists and the nationalists are incapable of providing a positive future for humanity. Both political tendencies have had repeated chances and failed miserably, it makes no sense to give either of them even more chances to continue to ruin the world in which we live.

It is important to recognise, that under capitalism the social-democratic, liberal and conservative political tendencies (and of course their Democratic and Republican analogues) are not the diametrically opposites to Fascism as these tendencies like to make out. Their current antics and concerns amount to a distraction from the real economic forces at work in the background and represent a deviation from the real needs of the bulk of humanity. As a recent contribution in the Black Agenda Report noted;

The truth is that if Hillary was being sworn in Friday instead of Big Cheeto we’d still be spending half the nation’s wealth yearly on a murderous global military empire with over a thousand overseas bases. We’d still be bombing seven countries and operating networks of global torture, kidnapping and secret prisons. If Hillary was president the US would still have the two biggest air forces on the planet, the first being the USAF, the second being the US Navy.” (‘Mocking, Marching, etc., are not enough’. Bruce A. Dixon. Black Agenda Report. 14/1/17.)

Mocking, marching, against the ‘right’ along with distorting and blaming the victims are certainly not enough and although they are attractive because they are relatively easy to fulfil, on their own they represent in fact a considerable distraction from what is really needed. Humanity, urgently needs a new revolutionary movement which understands the necessity to go beyond the capitalist mode of production and recognises that this cannot be achieved on the basis of liberal social democratic politics or past sectarian anti-capitalist dogma. It is a much harder intellectual and practical task to help found and nurture a new revolutionary-humanist movement which has learned from past mistakes and points to a future in which gender, class, religious and ethnic divisions are recognised as distortions of our common humanity. It takes much more effort to initiate and sustain a movement which understands that the kind of distortions which have served a very definate historical purpose – the subjection of the many by the few. Can it be that difficulty and lack of motivation is the real barrier to such a much needed revolutionary transition in thinking and practice?

Roy Ratcliffe (February 2017.)

Posted in Anti-Capitalism, capitalism, Critique, Ecological damage., Economics, neo-liberalism, Politics, Revolutionary-Humanism, Sectarianism | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

2016. NEO-LIBERALISM – R.I.P.?

The year 2016 not only saw the deaths of a considerable number of music, film and sport celebrity millionaires, but it could also be the year when decades of neo-liberal politics finally expired. Two outstanding examples of this probable demise in the west took place during 2016. They were Brexit and the election of Donald Trump. Let’s start with the US election – more of Brexit later. If anyone needed to grasp what was really motivating Trump supporters and voters, in rejecting the US version of the neo-liberal political agenda, it was only necessary to listen to the boo’s and cheers at any one of Donald Trump’s celebratory speeches across the USA. Complicated questionaires and intensive debates about the results of opinion polls or speculations over alleged Russian election involvement couldn’t have revealed anything clearer than the numerous audience outbursts during Mr Trump’s various thank you speeches.

The audiences to at least three of these high profile events were clearly partisan supporters and as a consequence they remained respectfully quiet during most of the President elects delivery. However, when some areas of elevated interest or intense concern were mentioned then the audience responded with either loud boo’s and jeers or enthusiastic cheers and applause. To illustrate the concerns that have led to the collapse and possible extinction of the neo-liberal political concensus in the USA, during 2016 it is worth considering those which prompted both negative and positive responses to Donald Trump’s speeches. Doing this should also reveal whether these responses might be more representative than just these conference hall participants and whether they bear a similarity with what has been happening elsewhere in the world.

Boo’s and jeers.

During his address, the US President elect, pointing to the press at the back of the hall, implied that they were hostile, untruthful, one-sided and had deliberately mis-represented his views. This mention of the media brought forth boo’s and hisses. There was an obvious recognition by the audience that by implication, the press also misrepresented the Trump voters views of why they were voting for him. The ‘basket of despicables’ jibe by Hilary Clinton which had been broadcast widely by the media, was clearly still fresh in many minds. This connection was reinforced, when he actually named the rival Democratic candidate, for his reference to her was also met with more boo’s and jeers. Even when he declared that she had eventually congratulated him by phone, this did not produce silence or any signs of approval. A similarly response occurred when he referred to Obama and Obama Care until he declared the latter would be dismantled. When he mentioned drug culture and illegal immigration these issues were also met with vocal disapproval as was his reference to ISIS, Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism.

Despite media depictions of Trump being the mouthpiece for white male racists and sexists, the audiences in at least three of the venues I saw on television, were not exclusively white or male. There were representatives of the black, Asian and Hispanic communities visible within the limiting framework of the camera lens. Women were also sat there with placards supporting Trump as were young and old participants. This display of diversity within the camera’s field of view may or may not have been deliberately set up, but nonetheless they were there and presumably there voluntarily. It makes little sense therefore to pretend that before, during and after the election Donald Trump was speaking for and to an elderly white group of working class voters. Similarly it does not aid the understanding of what is taking place within the USA to right off all Trump voters as racist bigots who are simply not capable of thinking things through. I think it far more accurate to suggest that the evidence of these boo’s and jeers of 2016, by a mixed audience, represents the prelude to an almost universal dancing on grave of neo-liberal politics.

Cheers and applause.

The issues or concerns addressed by Mr Trump which produced cheers and applause are also instructive in understanding what is taking place within the USA. When he said he would penalised firms who took jobs from American workers this brought forth loud cheers and applause. When he said he would encourage the reopening and deregulation of coal and steel industries in order to create well paid jobs, in currently devastated communities, this too was met with loud cheers and sustained applause. His promises to destroy ISIS, defeat Islamic terrorism, end illegal immigration and prevent the importation of drugs were also met with cheers and applause. His reiteration of the intention to build a wall at the Mexican border and to improve the crumbling infrastructure of US cities were also met with more cheers and applause.

Similarly his promise to look after what he described as the neglected military veterans provoked enthusiastic responses, as did his promise to supply the armed forces with up to date equipment in order to defend American interests. Another area which engendered applause was his declaration that the police forces across the country would be strengthened so that people could go about their daily lives in safety. Mr Trump and his advisors obviously understood the anger, frustration, hopes and fears of ordinary working people and he was promising to strengthen the state and make radical changes to address them positively.

From this vocal and visual evidence it appears that what substantially motivated Mr Trumps audience (and probably many working class US voters) was the promise of more well-paid jobs, sufficient housing, quality education, dignity, security and apropriate health and social welfare. These are basic civil society requirements which to the disgust of many voters had all but disappeared during the period of neo-liberal political domination in the US and elsewhere. Clearly, not all working people had been convinced by Donald Trump’s rhetoric or approved of his off-the-cuff un-PC references during the electioneering process, hence the support by many voters for the neo-liberal Hilary Clinton as the hoped for lesser of two evils. But in 2016, there was undoubtedly a strong and persistent economic motive to the political push back against neo-liberalism from ordinary working voters – and not just in America. So it could easily be the case that these various conference responses – along with Brexit in the UK – do represent the death of the neo-liberal political agenda in these two countries and are part of a global trend.

Global resistance.

For several decades in the USA, South America, the UK, much of Europe and the Middle East, there has been a simmering resentment and growing anger over neo-liberal ‘globalisation’. Its effects, if not it’s intentions, had been to reduce living standards, increase job insecurity, privatise everything possible and spread corporate and financial corruption. This international resentment and anger during the last few decades of the 20th century had burst out sporadically in largely unsuccessful strikes and demonstrations in country after country. Nevertheless until the 21st century it had recieved no consistent wider public support in most countries. However, in the Middle East this pent up resentment and anger with neo-liberal induced socio-economic conditions eventually exploded in the Arab Spring Uprisings. There too there had been Boo’s and hisses aimed at the various establishments and (in this region) often accompanied with throwing shoes.

Earlier, in South American countries, the pattern of economic and social discontent with its pots and pans along with banging on the doors of failed banks and anti-privatisation demonstrations had been similarly guided into well worn political channels before arriving at the impasse they have reached today. Yet again, and on another side of the world, this politicisation of the struggle for basic human rights did not resolve the situation to the satisfaction of the working classes in these southern hemisphere countries despite the immense wealth and resources available there. During their struggles, they found that politics of all shades – sucks.

Later still, in Europe the increasing anger and frustration there became extremely hightened within Greece. There too the public and reaction against neo-liberal policies caused the collapse of the vote for the neo-liberal political establishment. As already mentioned, for the two countries which spearheaded the ‘new’ economic agenda of free trade, privatisations and de-regulation of industrial and finance capital, (the USA and the UK), the wider political focus of discontent, albeit in different forms, arrived in 2016. The referendum on European membership was the catalyst in the UK and resulted in a ‘shock’ majority there for Brexit. It was a further ‘shock’ when against all expectations, the US Presidential elections, resulted in the election of Donald Trump.

In other words, the workers in the advanced capitalist countries of Europe and North America are starting to catch up with global opposition movements against neo-liberalism. For millions of ordinary people across the globe their accumulated resentments of the neo-liberal decades have surfaced in various social and political forms of expression – all with economic discontent as their foundation and so far with politics as their expression. In the Middle East the political expression of discontent was aimed at the removal of dictators and the establishment of more democratic forms of government. But in each of these middle eastern cases, the limited political means the masses set themselves only frustrated their socio-economic aspirations.

Before further mention of the probem with politics we should recall that the initial socio-economic aspirations of those in the Middle East, South America were modest by any standards. They were for decent jobs, sufficient housing, quality education, dignity, security and adequate social welfare. Unsurprisingly these aspirations are almost exactly the same as those looked for, fought for and defended by the ordinary working people of the USA, UK, and Europe. Undoubtedly, throughout the world realisation has progressively dawned upon growing numbers of blue and white-collar workers that neo-liberal politicians of all countries will not or cannot sustain such basic living standards to all its citizens. Hence the progressive difficulties for this version of bourgeois politics. Nevertheless, a word of warning. Although neo-liberalism may be awaiting an official death certificate from humanity, the study of history shows that the politics of exploitation can take many different forms.

Political deadends.

Surely it has now become obvious that in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Syria and Yemen, among others, that after their uprisings, the political route chosen by the majority to achieve their modest economic goals only led to political deadends. These political avenues and their frustrations inevitably transformed themselves first into divisions along party and religious lines and then to the suppression of dissent, the outbreak of civil wars and sectarian strife. Once launched in that political direction the fractured momentum of protest started a process in the Middle East which has led to internicine brutality, rapid demoralisation, and subsequent defeats for the oppressed. Yet in spite of all these examples, it is also the case that in the advanced countries of North America and Europe the political path is still being chosen and consequently a similar disappointment lies in store.

This disappointment with political solutions to economic needs is certain because politics is nothing more than a shifting surface layer of society which from generation to generation has rested upon the combined economic activity of each countries citizens. Despite surface appearances, politics is dependant upon economics and it is a fundamental crisis in the active economic circuits of the capitalist mode of production which is primarily driving the problems now facing humanity. Neo-liberal politics, as with previous (and future) brands of politics, was just a different way of overseeing the exploitation of working people and exploitation in all its forms is a corrosive and corrupting process. So simply rejecting neo-liberal politics will not end exploitation and hardship, for capitalism is based upon extreme forms of exploitation. As such it is a disfunctional economic system which has routinely caused the deprivations, frustrations, and physical exhaustions that are once again disrupting all aspects of social and even biological life.

In fact it was previous systemic contradictions maturing within the capitalist mode of production that several decades ago gave rise to the neo-liberal agenda in the first place. The Reagan and Thatcher inspired and sponsored political agenda of economic and financial de-regulation was designed to shake capital out of the stagnation it’s contradictions had already produced in the 1970’s and 80’s. Despite this financial ‘shake-up’ these self-same economic contradictions have intensified further and are again causing agravated economic hardship along with instability and fracture in the political establishment. This negative view of politics is nothing new. For example, a studied comment by the revolutionary-humanist Karl Marx in the 19th century, long ago made this clear.

“The political mind is a political mind precisely because it thinks within the framework of politics. The keener and more lively it is, the more incapable it is of understanding social ills.” (Karl Marx. Critical marginal notes on the Article by a Prussian.)

Deficiencies of the political mindset.

Nowhere was the deficiency of the political mindset more clearly demonstrated than in the activities of the politically skilled Leninists, Stalinists and Trotskyists during the last systemic crisis of the capitalist system during the 20th century. They thought their brand of elite left-wing ‘vanguard’ politics could be a means to supersede the domination of capital and it’s related economic and social injustices. They couldn’t have been more mistaken, for in actual fact it is the motive for, and type of, economic production which needs changing not simply the type, number, gender or ethnicity of the parasites (dressed up as saviours ) who control or oversee it. Every such left (or right) political ‘vanguard’ attempt to introduce purely political changes to the capitalist mode of production resulted in new structures of oppression and exploitation before finally collapsing. This is because it is the entire mode of production which needs a revolutionary change not a change in the quantity or quality of the people who use politics as a means of carving out privileged positions for themselves.

Until this realisation sufficiently enters the consciousness of large numbers of similarly motivated people, then it is inevitable that in response to economic hardship and social insecurity political solutions will be tried again and again and with similar negative results. The continued pursuit of political or religious solutions to economic problems will either result in sterile religious or sectarian civil wars, as currently in the Middle East, or the emergence of radical nationalist parties and tendencies with dubious (left or right wing) promises of salvation from above, delivered by charismatic leaders. This latter is what has happened throughout South America during the last few decades (Chavez etc.) and more recently in Greece with Syriza and Tsipras; in the UK with UKIP and Farage, and with Tea Party republicanism and Donald Trump in the USA. Analogous symptoms (mainly right-wing) are emerging in other countries of Europe and the rest of the world.

In the present circumstances this counterproductive ritual of voting or otherwise backing a strong leader (male or female) to many people ‘seems’ the obvious, (not to mention the easy), way forward. Yet past experience (Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Mussolini, Hitler, Franco, Castro, Sadam, Gadafi, Mubarak, Assad etc., and even Thatcher and Obama) has shown, and future experience will undoubtedly confirm, that politics and the political classes are themselves ultimately under the control of, and fully integrated with, exploititive modes of production and not the other way around. Seriously challenged to change, they will kill, torture and even bomb their own citizens rather than change the mode of production.

Despite all the rhetoric and promises they direct towards the voters – whose votes they nearly always require – once in power they will not, for they cannot, deliver what the people and the planet really need. Putting an end to production for productions (and profits) sake, with all the inequalities and pollution that competitive private (or state) capitalist production creates, is just simply beyond their abilities and comprehension. Politicians are simply the well paid and well rewarded dupes and to some extent also the stunted victims of capital’s internal contradictions. In 2016, we may well have witnessed the final demise of neo-liberal politics, but beware – what replaces it politically may be just as bad. So be prepared and let us hope that sooner rather than later we will not have to conclude that for the majority;

….their political understanding concealed from them the roots of social distress, thus it falsified their insight into the real aim, thus their political understanding deceived their social instinct.” (Marx ibid)

Roy Ratcliffe (January 2017)

Posted in Anti-Capitalism, Arab Spring, capitalism, Critique, neo-liberalism, Politics, Revolutionary-Humanism, Sectarianism, The State | Tagged , , , , | 16 Comments