(Another authoritarian occupation in Europe?)

On Monday 5th December, only weeks after anti-democratic appointments to governance; Mario Monti in Italy, Lucas Papademos in Greece, Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy publicly declared their Vichy style allegiance to the Banksters of international finance capital. To avoid ‘market chaos’ and finance sector boycott, they jointly announced the proposal of a ‘golden rule’ which is intended to apply throughout the euro-zone. Of course it is a cliche to observe that not all that glitters turns out to be gold, but what else might this form of authoritarian ‘rule’ turn out to be?

Fascism is usually defined as; ’an anti-democratic form of governance, placing the needs of the state over the needs of the individual and using the states armed bodies of men to force citizen obedience to the state.’ And isn’t this remarkably similar to what is envisaged by the modern fat cats and quislings among the European political class? Once again the infrastructure of money and finance is to be directly used by the elite as an added solution to the current crisis. So after an interval of 72 years, the countries of Europe face the imposition of another occupying regime, which like a previous hideous one, intends to oppress and enslave their citizens. This time the occupying power is intending to use forced ‘debt-obligations’ rather than forced territorial annexation, but the purpose will be the same – to govern and exploit them in its own elite interests.

It is worth recalling that as a result of the 1920’s and 30’s financial crises and bank rescues, big changes occurred to the political and social fabric of Europe. Politico/military dictatorships, backed by the fat-cats and finance capitalists of that period, emerged and went on to install puppet regimes throughout the countries of that continent. In the process of military occupation, centralised control of budgets, production, labour relations and other fiscal arrangements were introduced. Fascism was the name adopted by this new approach to police-state governance, but control, suppression and exploitation were still the essence. In the 21st century appointment of senior politicians to governance, rather than their election, we are also witnessing what appears to be an innovative approach. It is one which not only involves the imposition of figureheads and collaborators, along with centralised control of budgets, labour conditions and fiscal arrangements, but also increased policing powers. This similarity of purpose to the 1930’s should be no surprise. It is because the needs of the 21st century finance and fat-cat 1% are exactly the same as they were in the 20th. The transformation of 20th century neo-liberalism, into a form of 21st century trans-national financial neo-fascism is an IMF supported, logical necessity for capitals continued survival. And it is a necessity which exposes the illusory sovereignty of individual nation states.

Yet it should be obvious to anyone not blinded by nationalist and racist assumptions of superiority, that there is no national or ‘chosen people’ solution to the problems now facing humanity. Economic and financial systems have for many decades transcended national and ethnic barriers and are now extensively international and interlocked. Global economic interdependency for food, raw materials and products, even for production on a much restricted level, cannot be currently unravelled, even if some people, for a variety of reasons, would like to see this. The current financial crisis has exposed this economic interdependency as national governments of all countries have for decades, owned, and increasingly own, huge slices of each others tangible assets. It is also now glaringly apparent that in particular they ‘own’, if they do not control, huge portions of each others debts.

There is no way escaping this economic and financial interconnection. Countries and businesses, controlled by the dictates of international finance capital, are currently like a set of dominoes stood on their ends and set close together. If one becomes unstable and falls over the rest go down in rapid succession. On the one hand, in the private sector, a default in one industrial or commercial segment of production will spark, bankruptcies and defaults in others. Defaults which will cross numerous international administrative borders. On the other hand, defaults in any one countries huge government debts will trigger defaults in others, whether they are in or out of the EEC. The current play-ground type spats between European political elites (such as Merkel, Sarkozy and Cameron) over who is responsible for the debt crisis and whose country holds most of it is, therefore, something of an imbecilic farce. Actually, despite Cameron’s naïve and optimistic protectionism for the ‘city‘, it will probably turn out to be the US and particularly the UK which holds most, due to the uncontrolled leveraging antics of the banks and finance houses there.

As noted above, the eventual rise of Hitler and other continental dictators, expressed politically one element of the economic logic for crisis-riddled European capital in the 1920‘s and 30‘s. The recurring anarchic cycle of international capitalist competition, expansion and overproduction had even then brought the system to its knees. For this reason a solution to the extended crisis was urgently sought by the elite representatives of capital – and eventually only one pro-capitalist solution seemed realistically possible to significant sections of them. To prevent any anti-capitalist solutions being championed, they backed a political thug and his henchmen. “Wir haben Hitler engagiert!” – ‘we have hired Hitler’ – wrote Frnaz von Papen to Alfred Hugenberg in January 1933. To the industrial and finance fat-cat capitalist backers of Hitler, the return on their ‘investment’ was a strong government with authoritarian regulation of the economic system, leaving capital free to re-supply its moribund factories and expand its profit-led activities.

The National Socialist, corporatist state-regulation of economic activity, via re-armament and infrastructure development, overcame the last severe economic and fiscal crisis and provided the capitalist system in Germany (and Italy) with a welcome, short-lived, helping hand. International or world domination by Arian military means, was the political and economic goal promised by the elite of this 3rd Reich racist enterprise. Such an expansionist project was a prospect very much in line with the economic logic of capital and enthusiastically welcomed by the oligarchy of Bankers, industrial Barons of the Ruhr and others who financed the Nazi‘s. However, the price of this political life-line to the crisis of capital was, as we know, the creation of an extended death agony for millions of workers and other oppressed people of Germany and Europe, culminating in the globalised carnage of Second World War.

Attempts to solve the 20th century capitalist crisis, using the means of ‘modern’ Political Fascism and total war, have perhaps proved this method too costly and it would seem, too barbaric even for the capitalist class itself. Too many of the economic, financial and political elite also lost their lives, wealth and property in the increasingly industrialised form of total war, promoted by fascism and engendered by modern industrial production. Their modern counterparts and modern citizens are therefore, unlikely to want to repeat the experience of direct fascist rule. But what are they to put in its place? So far in the late 20th and early 21st century, neo-liberal economic and finance elites have preferred promoting and corrupting national democratic facades. Nevertheless, as the second huge economic and financial crisis looms in the 21st century, the representatives of the global system of capital are again seeking an alternative and even more secure authoritarian way out of the present crisis. Their need, driven by the logic of international finance, is once again for a new form of total domination of economic and political policies in Europe and beyond. What they have already introduced and are currently introducing stops short of political fascism, but nevertheless it does already represent; ’an anti-democratic form of governance, placing the needs of the state over the needs of the individual and using the states armed bodies of men to force citizen obedience to the state.’

So the financial and economic domination sought by ‘the markets’ at this moment in time, as noted above, is by inserting its elected and un-elected, tie and suit wearing representatives within and at the head of a coalition of European states. Their mission is to unify Europe under one overall fiscal regime and thus control the economic and financial strings of a whole swathe of countries. They hope this will allow them to stabilise the present problems in the system and continue to loot the wealth out of each of the financially controlled countries. The ‘golden rule’ agreed by Merkel and Sarkozy, will be the necessity of member states to adhere to centrally agreed budgets (and more) courtesy of Brussels. Failure to do so would entail penalties in the form of fines and other penalties. It will be up to the political regimes within each member country to enforce, by all means necessary, the policy dictates of the banking elite. And they certainly have the means. In the so-called ‘war against terror’ the pro-capitalist elite internationally have already introduced authoritarian anti-terrorist legislation, which enables them to restrict or ban protests and arrest or incapacitate anyone they please. Such established and proposed measures once again demonstrate that, under the rule of capital, the political elite and the economic elite, whatever their current political camouflage, remain two sides of the same devalued coin.

However, it also should be remembered, that the previous totalitarian economic and financial control of Europe did not occur unopposed. Huge battles between the working population, other non-fascist citizens and the totalitarians took place in practically every country under threat. What should also be remembered is that the defeat of these anti-fascist forces, in many authoritarian moving countries, was achieved primarily because of the divisions amongst their ranks. Catholic workers were encouraged by their priests to avoid unity with protestant and Jewish workers, and visa versa. Communist workers were told by their leaders not to unify with workers who were socialists. Workers who were socialists were advised by their officials to boycott the actions of communist workers. Many white-collar and professional workers thought it better to distance themselves from the uncouth and militant industrial workers. In such ways, religious and political sectarianism along with dogmatism and snobbery was the cancer that first debilitated and eventually destroyed the unity necessary for successful opposition. Unity is required, first for protesting, second for resisting, third for challenging and fourth for overcoming the ascendancy of fascism and the continued domination of capital.

This time lessons can and should be learned from the history of the working class struggle against the corrupt and exploitative domination of capital. It is a domination which again deforms and devastates the lives of so many of the world‘s citizens, their villages, cities and their lands. In particular the lessons of what happens to the anti-capitalist struggle if we fail to overcome racist, religious, gender, sexuality and sectarian differences, should be fully absorbed and the present shortcomings remedied. This time a further realisation should also enter the understanding of those opposed to capitalism. It is a awareness, that in addition to the problems for the majority of people, the planet, its ecology, natural resources and non-human inhabitants are also threatened by the insatiable appetite capitalism has for raw materials and unbridled production.

In the 21st century, the crisis of the capitalist mode of production is no longer episodic and structural; it no longer merely requires a renewed burst of energy after a temporary or extended ‘double-dip’ or triple-dip collapse for things to get back to normal patterns of growth. What is currently happening is now systemically normal. The disaster for humanity, due to the crises of capital, is now also uniquely global and universally devastating. In the 21st century, the neo-liberalised world of capital is being resisted by huge numbers of citizens throughout the entire globe. That resistance too is now normal. In the hands of the protestors, and the hands of those who join them as the crisis unfolds, lies the fate of humanity and the planet.

As we learn from each other in struggle we can learn to recognise that the enemy is not the globalised interconnection between other human beings, but something which is parasitic upon this important international relationship. The real problem we face is over control of global economic resources. It is currently in the hands of a relatively small section of the economic and financial elite – this needs to change. The financial Blitzkrieg of the bankers and their political supporters which is rapidly spreading through Europe, North America and the rest of the world needs to produce a new mass resistance movement in all financially ‘occupied’ countries. Indeed it has already produced an embryonic anti-capitalist one in the ‘occupy movement’ so anti-capitalists should not stand aside and criticise but get stuck in and help it to develop in both numbers and scope.

R. Ratcliffe (December 2011)

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  1. Really stimulating piece, Roy, with which I have much sympathy. In recent years I have found myself thinking that we are witnessing a slide to a contemporary form of social fascism, increasingly authoritarian, in control to a highly significant extent of the means of communication and committed to the global triumph of neo-liberalism whatever the cost. However I have found myself holding back on my thoughts. The notion of fascism has been sloppily used to describe anything nasty. The very concept of social fascism harks back to Third Period Stalinism. Whatever these reservations I do agree that we need to revisit and discuss the character of the present regimes dominant in Western Europe and beyond. I think it would be helpful if you could clarify what you mean by political fascism as opposed to what other varieties. What I believe is widespread is a ruling class attempt to suppress dissidence. Here in Greece, where I spend most of my time, street protests have been met with brutality, the radical papers have closed and the media parrots the technocratic line. In Britain the situation may be less stark, but the continued effort to claim there is no alternative dominates mainstream discourse. And yet, as you rightly underline, resistance continues. Whatever the flaws of the movements resisting, they are not to be scorned, especially by those of us long in the tooth, who have made many an error ourselves. We need to be in critical, but sensitive debate and hopefully thus collective activity.

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