Over recent weeks there has been a torrent of claims and counter-claims by various pro-capitalists and their supporters of what is authentic and legitimate with regards to community self-organisation and voting in elections or referendums. For example, Spain’s Government declared a vote for independence by Catalonia would be illegitimate. In another well publicised case, the interim un-elected Kiev government in the Ukraine declared itself an authentic government and the improvised worker-led referendum in the east of Ukraine as illegitimate. Not surprisingly, in the latter case, the Anglo-Saxon capitalist cabals of North America and Europe were quick to echo and amplify this assertion and collude with its self-serving perspective.
This publicised declaration was followed by Kiev’s own electoral procedure which ignored the fact that the elite there had alienated and were alienating even more of its citizens in the east. Its organisation (or orchestration) of military and air-born bombing attacks upon the dissident east, was presumably seen as a ‘legitimate’ way of dealing with such opposition. In fact the Kiev elite was increasing its illegitimacy in the eyes of everyone except the elites and their most die hard supporters. Kiev’s actions were actively driving eastern Ukraine people even further away from reconciliation with itself. The ‘state’ in Ukraine as in Syria, Turkey, Egypt, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Thailand etc., is being used increasingly to engage in open warfare against its own citizens, whilst claiming to act legitimately.
So in the name of legitimacy and authentic governance the Syrian government barrel bombs whole communities, the Ukraine government shells community schools, public buildings and hospitals. Egypt condemns thousands to death without due process, imprisons further thousands for protesting along with news reporters for reporting this. Once again these symptoms and many others too numerous to mention here, indicate that there are no limits to what the elites in control of states, will go to in order to hang onto power. In the past they have preferred to institute civil-wars or even start foreign wars in order to prevent or deflect opposition to their rule. Historically, pro-capitalist elites have turned to authoritarian fascist and proto-fascist remedies in order to deny their populations a remedy to oppression, exploitation and social injustice. In the 21st century many are again doing the same.
Even in countries, where the war against its own citizens has not yet been militarised, such as Europe, US, and much of South America, there is nevertheless a relentless war of austerity, low pay, zero hours and unemployment taking place. This economic war is directed primarily (but not exclusively) against the white and blue-collar working and unemployed citizens of this section of the world. Is that really a legitimate way of solving the current crisis? I don’t think so. Not surprisingly in response to this unremitting class war, there is growing resistance and increasing questioning of the ruling elites. Many citizens in most (if not all) of the countries in the global village are starting to resist. Predictably it is this resistance and questioning which is being labelled as illegitimate and unconstitutional no matter what form it takes.
Alternative criteria for judging legitimacy.
Protesters and separatists are being re-classified by state elites as illegitimate terrorists or extremists and are targeted as such. Yet in all these cases it is the bourgeois and pro-capitalist states and their political classes whose authenticity and legitimacy is increasingly being questioned. Typically the political and state elites view this the opposite way around. Of course, legitimacy and authenticity can only be really judged against some particular criteria and one obvious yardstick in this case is; who caused the crisis? It is certainly not the working classes throughout the world who are causing unemployment, reductions in public services, banking failures, sovereign debt problems, increasing global instability and irreversible ecological destruction.
In more general humanitarian terms there is also another yardstick. The criteria to judge the legitimacy of a mode of production can be (and in my view should be) by how well it serves the vast majority of its citizens. Ideally a mode of production should allow for the safety and well-being of all the members of the society adopting it, whether they be young, old, black, white, male or female or incapacitated. Indeed, at the rhetorical level this much is admitted by the ‘liberal’ upholders of the capitalist mode of production, but of course, the reality is a long way from the rhetoric. A very long way! Indeed, except for the very poor and exploited, (who know all to well how the system works against them) the liberal rhetoric of professed intentions serves to direct attention away from seriously considering the reality. Until that is, reality can no longer be ignored.
The present crisis means it can no longer be ignored. The structural fact has to be recognised that the competitive drive for profits improved production methods and over a number of decades, reduced the need for workers, once again creating poverty and unemployment in the heartlands of the most advanced capitalist countries. These improved methods of production also increased the need for markets and raw materials, resulting in further commercial and military wars which devastated communities world wide. Each side in these barbaric capitalist competitions for domination of trade and finance naturally claimed legitimacy and authenticity for their campaigns, because the logic of the capitalist mode of production requires ever more control over human and material resources. To survive it can do no other than to continually expand its theatre of operations.
So stripped to its bear essentials the current five-fold crisis of the capitalist mode of production and its entire history to date reveals that the system itself is incapable of ensuring the safety, the well-being of the majority of the citizens subject to it and the elites who control it. From its inception, the capitalist mode of production has produced vast wealth for a minority and vast amounts of poverty, oppression and injustice – which its supporters spread across the world. Even the advent of the 20th century welfare-state did not eliminate such negative conditions except in some advanced countries, particularly in Europe and North America. And as the crisis deepens, even this brief oasis of job security and welfare provision for a privileged few in Europe and North America is being steadily removed.
Judged from the point of view of the pro-capitalist elites and their privileged supporters, serious protest and struggles against their system is unauthentic and/or illegitimate. As a consequence of this pro-capitalist point of view anything the elite supporters of this system do to uphold this mode of production whether this involves, contradictions, lies, deceit, individual killing, torture, mass murder or turning upon its own citizens is legitimate and authentic.
However, judged from the standpoint of the welfare and well-being of the vast majority of the worlds population and the very fabric of the global environment it is the upholders of capitalist mode of production whose actions are illegitimate. In promoting, sustaining and defending a mode of production which like a cancer is consuming the healthy tissue of the planet and stunting the lives of those – the vast majority – who are suffering from its multiple symptoms, they cannot be judged to be authentic representatives of humanity and its future.
This is a detail which is partly (and often confusedly) reflected politically in the many of the current mass protests and the low voter turnouts in bourgeois elections. The current global radicalisation which is taking place on practically every continent is implicitly anti-capitalist – even if it is not as yet explicitly so. What ordinary people moderately aspire to cannot be achieved under the capitalist mode of production. Nor can it be realised on the basis of separate, nationalistic or religiously inspired activist struggles. Workers of the world will have to unite to revolutionise the mode of production along non-sectarian and humanist lines or remain slaves to a system heading for self-destruction.
R. Ratcliffe (June 2014.)