An extended book review of. ‘Being in Time’ (a post-political manifesto) by Gilad Atzmon.

Despite the two abstractions in the title of this recent book by Gilad Atzmon, (ie. ‘being’ and ‘time’) it’s main subject matter is far from ‘being’ abstract. Indeed, it commences with the results of the 2016 American presidential election of Donald Trump and it’s complex connection to the phenomena of identity politics and political correctness. Nevertheless, the author acknowledges having been influenced by the extremely abstract ideas of Martin Heidegger whose book ‘Being and Time’ deals philosophically with what it is to ‘be’ and it’s connection with the concept and practice of the measurement of movement or – ‘time’. [For a critique of the misuse and confusion over the concept of ‘time’ see the article ‘The Fetishisation of Time’ on this blog.]

I shall comment (briefly) later on the abstract conceptual framework, as developed by Heidegger, meanwhile I will focus on the lucid and important criticism which Gilad Atzmon applies to the current political symptoms of ‘identity politics’ and ‘political correctness’. These are two aspects of left/liberal (or what I personally designate as petite-bourgeois) ideology, which he suggests many people have uncritically ‘borrowed’. This act has impeded their ability to ‘think’ for themselves and ‘follow the rules of reason’. In explaining his motive for writing the book he writes;

“For some time now, we the people who dwell on this planet, have been reduced to a mere audience to a devastating drama that tells the story of our own destruction. Despite all the liberal democratic promises, we are not players, but forgotten, voiceless subjects. The time to speak out is long overdue.” (page 10.)

The author continues by pointing out that in his opinion the ‘left’ political vision is based upon ideas of what ‘ought to be’ whilst the rival ‘right’ political vision is based upon ‘what is’. Elsewhere, this is also often referred to as idealism versus pragmatism. But these two partially rival tendencies he insists are not just simple opposites but represent a functional socio-political relationship which supports and sustains the liberal, and neo-liberal democratic agenda. In other words, they are like two sides of one official bourgeois coin of the realm. They ‘belong’ to each other. I largely agree with this perspective and would merely add to it the following. The left/liberal (social democratic) wing of the political class mainly wish to make capitalism much fairer, whilst the right/conservative political wing mainly wish to make capitalism more effective. But both sections are champions and defenders of the existing capitalist system. The author goes on to suggest that the ‘political’ is now totally detached from the ‘human’ and that the role of politics is now to ‘facilitate consumption’ by being subordinate to a range of capitalist interests. Interests which, he notes include ‘oligarchs, major market forces’ big monopolies and banks’. He writes;

“Democracy operates to convey a false image of freedom of choice. It suggests that this dystopia in which we live is actually the crude materialisation of our own (democratic) choices. Democratic freedom only conceals the fact the choice is illusory and generally meaningless or non-existent.” (page 22.)

This assessment will come as no surprise to many of us on the revolutionary-humanist left, since experience from past and present working class struggles has amply confirmed it. Nevertheless, the source of this shared perspective is interesting. This is because the author does not come from an established anti-capitalist tradition. This is only one reason (of many) why this is an important book and should be read by everyone on the revolutionary-humanist and anti-capitalist left. A further reason lies in the fact that it delivers a much needed merciless criticism of much of the lefts infatuation with political correctness and identity politics.

Political Correctness.

Of course, the political strategy of Political Correctness (PC), is not something new. Nor is criticism of it. [See, for example, the article ‘Political Correctness’ (July 2016) on this blog.]. But importantly, Gilad Atzmon reminds the reader that it was a defining ideological component of the Leninist and Stalinist branches of Bolshevism which insisted on the adherance to an ever-changing supposedly ‘correct’ (sic) party line whether this corresponded to reality or not. It was in the 1920s and 1930s, of the Soviet era, that the concept of political correctness was first used to suppress criticism of, and enforce patterns of behaviour, acceptable to the then ruling Bolshevik elite. He notes that George Orwell, author of ‘Animal Farm ‘ and ‘1984’ had experienced this trend during the Spanish Civil War of 1936 – 1939. The revival of a ‘political correctness’ strategy by the liberal Left in the 1970s served essentially the same purpose. He writes;

“Even at its most innocuous, political correctness crudely interferes with freedom of speech, freedom of expression….Initially we don’t say what we think; eventually we learn to say what we don’t think.” (pages 38/39)

In my opinion, the advocates of ‘political correctness’ arrogantly assume that there is a social and political ‘truth’ about life which only certain privileged intellectuals and elites are capable of understanding, promoting and enforcing. They elevate their one-sided, considered (or more often ill-considered) opinions into relative or absolute social truths. Not content with such acts of cerebral arrogance, these elite diviners and Guru’s of life’s ‘truths’ (sic) insist that the rest of us must follow their dictates or suffer whatever consequences they are capable of inflicting. This is a process eloquently described by the author in this book. Incidentally his observations confirm the point made by Marx that the literary representatives of those who dominate the economic and social world also dominate the language and customs available to those who they consider socially and intellectually below them. Not content with simple disaproval, however, many of the PC proselytising elite are quite prepared to indulge in distortion and character assasination with the intention of depriving people of their livelihood if they fail to conform.

The other side of the social and intellectual ‘political correctness’ currency which is promoted by this section of the petite-bourgeois elite, (liberal and left) is the demand that we should pander to the current obsession with the politics of ‘identity’. Critics of the capitalist mode of production, along with the rest of humanity, are invited to turn their backs upon issues of class and prostrate themselves in front of the recently erected altar of ‘identity politics’. But Gilad Atzmon clearly and consistently refuses to do this. Instead he subjects this tendency to a critical examination.

Identity politics.

Using Old Testament imagery, the author of ‘Being in Time’ describes the political Lefts current ‘identity-led’ catagorisations of struggling humanity, in the following manner.

“..newly emerging ‘tribes’ (gays, lesbians, blacks, vegans, etc) are marched into the desert, led toward an appealing ‘promised land’, where the primacy of the symptom (gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, skin colour etc.) is supposed to evolve into a world in itself. But the liberal utopia is in practice a sectarian and segregated amalgam of ghettos that are blind to each other. It has nothing in common with the promised universal inclusive cosmos.” (page 50)

He is correct in my view that identity politics strives for various forms of sectional symbolic unity in opposition to a general class or national unity. There have, of course, been attempts to bridge this psychological/ideological divide as was the case with the Lesbian and Gay support groups for the miners in their strike in the 1980s, but this particular form of unity seems to be an exception which only serves to prove the general rule. The author gives some examples of how this segregation functions in the chapter ‘United against Unity’. The author then draws the readers attention to the fact that identity politics is primarily based upon biological criteria and not economic class. In this way modern petite-bourgois ‘left’ ideology, by concentrating on unity of skin-colour, biological gender, sexual orientation, disability etc., ignores or bypasses the underlying socio-economic system of capital which fundamentally divides humanity by economic class.

He therefore argues, correctly in my view, that the lefts eager acceptance of identity politics produces a form of sectarianism and that this commitment has rendered it’s adherents incapable of being an effective oppositional force to ‘capital accumulation’ or the ‘dominance’ of Mammon. By this strategy, the Left, he suggests, have separated themselves from the bulk of the ordinary people. Furthermore, the current domination of biological characterisations of humanity has also led to the simplistic identification of many oppressed working people as ‘privileged whites’! In this way identity politics has functioned to divert public discourse away from the fact that most white-workers are also precarious wage-slaves, have long been so and are therefore far from being privileged in any real sense. In general I agree with this assessment but arrive at it from a different and almost opposite line of reasoning.

In my view it is the liberal ‘lefts’ firm ideological support for capital accumulation and Mammon that in the modern era leaves it with no other form of political expression than identity politics. This is also nothing new. The historic mission of petite-bourgeois liberalism and social democracy has been to attempt to prevent (or rescue) the capitalist mode of production from wallowing in its own worst symptoms and to protect it from those who wish to supercede it by a revolutionary transformation.

During the 19th century, significant numbers of Left liberals and social-democrats in Europe, for example, chose nationalism and later, sections of the same political mileu, supported national socialism during the 20th century. Both times this was accompanied by militarily armed geographical expansion in order to save capital from its internal and international contradictions. From a working class perspective, their backing of that strategy twice spectacularly backfired in two world wars of genocidal destruction. Unemployment was replaced by military employment, further hardship and of course millions dead. However, this whole-sale human and material destruction did allow the system of capital accumulation to be rebooted during the various post-war reconstructions and expansions. This post-war period also served to create an illusion that capitalism had changed for the better.

So in my opinion too, identity politics has added to and perpetuated the range of biologically-orientated distinctions devised by the ruling elites, to split humanity into manageable sub-groups pitted against each other. So from this perspective, it is now ok for black workers to see white workers as the main problem, for female workers to see male workers as the main problem, for gay workers to view straight workers as the main problem and so on. Again in my opinion, exclusive focus and stress on these important but secondary characteristics of suffering humanity takes attention away from our common humanity and our common economic exploitation and oppression under the domination of capital. But that is not all. Gilad Atzmon usefully points out that some of these identity – politics criticisms of patriarchal prejudice have been cleverly used (co-opted) by the neoconservatives and Zionists to provide a moral fig leaf for the invasion of Afghanistan and the confrontation with Palestinians and Russia.

In a later section, the author draws attention to the repression of inconvenient events and the related evidence in the historical records of most countries. It is ‘no wonder’, the author suggests, that ‘a sincere investigative historian is often perceived as a public enemy’. As the author also asserts “The past is dangerous territory; it contains some inconvenient stories.” It certainly does. And it is not only the past which is hazardous to explore. The radical criticism of the present is also dangerous territory and exposure of inconvenient stories linked to the capitalist mode of production and it’s supportive institutions also brings ‘public enemy’ status. Witness the recent treatment of Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange and remember these are the tip of a huge iceberg of punitive measures against critics and whistle-blowers who put the exposure of unfairness and injustice above self-interest.

Jewish Identity Politics.

For those who do not know that the author is also an extremely talented musician of Jewish origin, it may come as a surprise that he is so knowledgeable and critical about Jewish ideology and politics. However, once it is understood that he is humanist supporter of the Palestinian struggle for self-determination against the Zionist State of Israel, then his viewpoint cannot be surprising. He is tireless in his criticism of the tribal mentality of those who subscribe to Jewishness and their ties to the dispossesion of Palestinian land and resources. His first book ‘The Wandering Who’ (also reviewed on this blog) provides much detail on the question of Zionism, Israel and Jewishness and in many of the pages of this latest book he fearlessly returns to the same topic and what has been described as the ‘The Jewish Century’ by Yuri Slezkine. He points out that many Jewish intellectuals are openly proud of Jewish positions of power, wealth and influence, but adds the following caviat;

“The real power of the Jews is to silence criticism of Jewish power.” (page 144)

He goes on to outline how Left Jewish intellectuals are in the vanguard of those who wish to silence criticism of the connective tissues between Jewishness, Zionism, and the Apartheid state of Israel. In a later section of the book he examines the concept of the Bell Curve in relation to the concentration of individuals of Jewish birth in intellectual and financial affairs. [The bell curve was a diagramatic representation of a suggested division of social groups into three categories based upon alleged cognitive ability; ie. low ability, average ability and high ability. RR]

His conclusion is that the particular features of Jewish educational and social traditions meant that the high ability elites within Judaism were concentrated in finance and scholarship. From this he reasons that Jewish people are particularly suited to a mode of production (as is the case under capitalism) in which these two realms of endeavour provide access to wealth and elite status. This explains their disproportional representation in these two areas of modern life. He writes;

“Jewish elites were uniquely suited to succeed in mammon and scholarship – not only were they often more sophisticated in certain fields, they were also far more clannishly organised than their European counterparts.”(page 164.)

Although using different language and lines of thinking, this view does come close to Marx’s position regarding the adopted role of many Jews in the development of merchant capital and the rise and domination of finance capital. Marx in a short article pointed out that with or without Jewish cooperation money had become not just a means of exchange, but a world power. It was merely logical that those Jews who where able, welcomed and absorbed this power into their own lives. Marx summed it up in the following way;

“Judaism could create no new world; it could only draw the new world creations and relations, within the orbit of its activity…..” (Marx. ‘On the Jewish Question. Section 2.)

Critical Comments.

For a good deal of this book I was with the author in spirit as well as in most opinions. My initial assessment was that as far as it went the book was soundly based but that in some aspects it did not go far enough and in others it went too far. However, on reflection, a few points were just too important for me to ignore. To my mind, the concept of ‘big capital’ used by the author to account for negative contemporary economic problems represented something of an uneccessary regression. So too, the idea in the chapter on ‘Mammonism vs Production’, that capitalist production can be separated from Mammonism (!) and be often viewed as ‘healthy’. In my view this is wrong, and such abstractions will not help the reader to adequately understand the domination of finance-capital and its incestuous relationship with globalised industrial and commercial capital. It is the absolute and relative control of the mode of production by these inter-related branches of capital which in my view has created, the five-fold nature of the current crisis facing humanity. [See the ‘Five-fold Crisis of Capitalism’ on this blog.]

In this same chapter the author claims not only that ‘capitalist production is often healthy’ but also that ‘capitalism facilitated prosperity’ and that ‘capitalism was a positive force’. It must be said that such claims are frequently made by apologists for, and defenders of, the capitalist mode of production and for this reason it surprises me to find them in this book. Taken as a whole since its inception, capitalism has never facilitated prosperity, except for a privileged few. The industrial revolution, ushered in by the owners of capital, was accompanied with an extended period of poverty and devastation for generations of ordinary working people in the European heartlands of capital.

Even the short – lived and narrowly spread boom times for European and North American workers in the 1950s and 60s (as noted above) only came about as a result of two capitalist inspired devastating wars (nothing positive there) and was achieved at the expense of the degradation and impoverishment of the rest of the workers of the world (very little positive there either). In addition, capitalist production is the most unhealthy system ever created by humanity. Its negative environmental and ecological pollution impact is second to none and it’s food production methods are arguably the most toxic and dangerous to human health ever invented.

However, it is also where it goes too far which unfortunately requires a further critical rebuttal. For me, the problem arises, when Gilad appears to disrespect Marx, rather than just the ‘Marxist’ distorters of Marx’s revolutionary-humanism. For example, in regard to the acceptance of certain ideas in the West, the author asks why this has occurred and then includes the following phrase;

“….Marx and his crude misinterpretation of Hegelian dialectics..” (page 103)

The mentioning of these two great thinkers (Marx and Hegel) in the same sentence and using such a dismissive expression with regard to Marx, cannot be allowed to go without further comment on this blog or its assumption remain uncontested. There is so much ‘borrowed thinking’ within modern economic and political discourse, that readers of this book may be tempted to accept such a common and prejudiced assessment of Marx. That would be an unfortunate mistake. In my opinion, no one who has extensively read Marx would wish to string together such a sequence of words.

A reading of the three volumes of Capital, the three volumes of notes on surplus-value, along with the 1844 manuscripts, the Grundrisse and his criticism of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, let alone his extensive political writings cannot be undertaken without arriving at the conclusion that whenever Marx ventured on research and offered an opinion it was far from crude. Indeed, the consiencious reader of Marx, I suggest, cannot fail to be struck by the detailed complexity of his researches and the equal profundity of his conclusions. The same applies to his interpretation of Hegel. However, don’t take my word for it. Just read Marx’s own words with regard to Hegel.

“The mystifying side of Hegelian dialectic I criticised nearly thirty years ago…But just as I was working at the first volume of ‘Das Capital’, it was the good pleasure of the peevish, arrogant, mediocre (commentators) treat Hegel in the same way as the brave Moses Mendelssohn in Lessing’s time treated Spinoza ie as a ‘dead dog’. I therefore openly avowed myself the pupil of that mighty thinker, and even here and there , in the chapter on the theory of value, coquette with modes of expression peculiar to him. The mystification which the dialectic suffers in Hegel’s hands, by no means prevents him from being the first to present it’s general form of working in a comprehensive manner. (Marx. Preface to the Second Edition of Das Capital.)

I have included such a long extract so the reader can judge for themselves whether Marx’s view of Hegel was crude and whether he was disrespectful of the contribution Hegel (the “mighty thinker”) had made to dialectical analysis and criticism. Karl Popper, who the author later favourably mentions, for example was much more scathing of Hegel, claiming that he was a kind of missing link between the authoritarian Plato and modern forms of totalitarianism. It has long been my own advice to readers, never to take the prejudicial words of any author or speaker, without first checking any possible primary evidence for themselves. I have provided some, here and on this blog (see Marxists versus Marx), but there are others for those so inclined. Unfortunately, that was not the only reference to Marx which I consider needs challenging. In my opinion a further implied criticism of Marx by the author of ‘Being and Time’ is contained within the following words.

“The less Marx’s thought is able to predict events, the more ardent the Marxist disciples are;” (page 105)

The first part of this assertion seems to assume that Marx was in the business of prediction. In essence this implication is repeated on page 107 so it seems the authors opinion on this proposition is seriously held. However, in my opinion this too is mistaken. For a start; Marx’s thoughts were never aimed at creating predictions, but aimed at detailed description and analysis and (as we shall see later) a criticism of everything that exists. If those who claim to follow in Marx’s footsteps try to use his analyses as a means of predicting events, then this was not of Marx’s doing and it merely proves that they, along with far too many others, have not understood either Marx’s methods or his purposes.

Even Marx’s general conclusions suggesting repeated economic and financial crises for capitalism were presented as tendencies, given the developing circumstances – not as predictions. He knew (and frequently remarked upon the fact) that unforseen or unknown circumstances could alter future outcomes in both economics and politics. His examination of social and economic contradictions and tendencies was merely one aspect of the materialist dialectic he did much to develop. Nevertheless, despite multifarious attempts to discredit Marx, the economic and financial tendencies including potential economic and financial crises he outlined are still working themselves out as the 1890s, 1930s and the 2008 crises demonstrate. After 2008, even neo-liberal economists were forced to admit that in general Marx had been proved right.

Karl Marx and the criticism of everything.

So in this new book, Gilad Atzmon is correctly (in my opinion) severely critical of the Marxists who inhabit the restricted world of sectarian and dogmatic politics, however he perhaps unintentionally joins the liberal establishment (who he elsewhere severely criticises) and unfairly extends that criticism to Marx himself. Of course it should be well known by now that Marx before he died frequently criticised those who claimed to be Marxists and declared in writing he was ‘not a Marxist’. Furthermore, it should be born in mind that although Marx could only take in the evidence and resources available at the time he was always alert for (and open to) reassessing his opinions in the light of new evidence or changed circumstances. Having said that, Marx’s economic, social and political research on and analysis of the capitalist mode of production was outstanding at the time and has still not been bettered in my opinion.

Here is another relevant point with regard to Marx and criticism. Very early in his career as a revolutionary-humanist, Karl Marx in a letter to a collaborator wrote the following;

– I am speaking of a ruthless criticism of everything existing, ruthless in two senses: The criticism must not be afraid of it own conclusions, nor conflict with the powers that be.” (Marx. Letter to Ruge 1843.)

I suggest in this regard, that Gilad Atzmon is also closer to some of Marx’s revolutionary-humanist motivations than he perhaps realises. And incidentally this suggestion by Marx is in keeping with the observation by Karl Popper (mentioned by the author) on refutation. To paraphrase Popper; if it is science it must be refutable, if it is not refutable it is not science. For Marx, criticism of everything that exists, implies that what exists is refutable and moreover – ought to be refuted – by rigorous criticism. To my mind, despite the authors preference shown to Heidegger over Marx, the author of ‘Being In Time’ is not really at one with Heideggers abstract philosophical jargon and purpose in ‘Being and Time’.

I suggest he is closer to the above-noted, life-long attitude proposed by Marx for he too is not afraid of challenging the most basic assumptions and prejudices of those on the left and the right. This includes his challenge and refutation of the pretentions of the most powerful interests such as the Israeli intellectual and political class along with their supporters in the Jewish community. In his first book, and in this one, he engages in a ruthless criticism of the established sectarian ‘left’ and the various supporters of the Israeli state, caring little for the opinions of the powers that be.

Heideggers’ concepts including ‘Being’ and ‘Time’.

Since the author seems to admire the philosophical positions of Martin Heidegger rather than Marx, and given that not all readers of his book (and this review) will be familiar with Heidegger, it is worth presenting a couple of short extracts, from numerous examples, of what I personally consider are Hedegger’s ‘newspeak’ word inventions and fog-encrusted abstractions. First;

“World is present insofar as it worlds. That is, the worlding of the world is neither explainable in terms of others nor can it be ground in others.” (Heidegger. ‘The Thing’.)

And second;

“Being, by which all beings are marked as such, Being means being present. Considered with regard to what is present, being present shows itself as letting-be-present. But now we must try to consider this letting-be-present explicitly insofar as being present is allowed. Letting-be-present shows its own – most character in bringing into unconcealement.” (Heidegger. ‘Time and Being’.)

‘Worlding of the world’; ‘letting-be-present’; ‘unconcealement’, ‘lostness’, ‘thrownness’ and many other such obscure, made-up words and phrases are the main substance and content of Hedegger’s writings. It cannot be surprising, therefore, that many people, including other philosophers, considered Heideggers work fancy-full, dominated by Jargon, and self-indulgent. Whether such reactions and responses were entirely justified or not is a matter of opinion, but it needs to be recognised that Heidegger offered the following typically convoluted observation of his own kind of abstract reasoning.

“It might be that this kind of thinking is today placed in the position which demands of it reflections that are far removed from any useful, practical wisdom.” (Heidegger. ‘On Time and Being’)

Having read (and now re-read) quite a lot by Heidegger I cannot but agree with his own provisional assessment. However, despite the critical comments I have made, this book by Gilad Atzmon, is far from replicating Heideggers abstract way of thinking. In contrast it is useful and practical. I would go even further and claim that it is not only a useful contribution to a clearer understanding of the political world we encounter today but an extremely important one. It deserves to be on the bookshelves or electronic devices of all those who are not afraid to challenge their own perceptions or the dominant ideology perpetuated in the mainstream media.

Finally, I should say that I also offer this review, in the collaborative spirit advocated by the above noted Karl Popper. Eg.

“Reason like science grows by mutual criticism.” (K. Popper. ‘The Open Society and it’s Enemies.’ Volume 2 page 226.)

I would merely include ‘respectful’ within the concept and practice of ‘mutual criticism’.

Roy Ratcliffe (August 2017)

Posted in Anti-Capitalism, capitalism, Left Unity, neo-liberalism, Patriarchy, Politics, Religion, Revolutionary-Humanism, Sectarianism | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments


The subject for this second part of ‘Enemies Within’ our communities (The political and bureaucratic elite) was originally meant to be the third in the series. However, in view of the tragic events in London of the high-rise, towering inferno at Grenfell House in Kensington, I have decided to bring it forward, for this ‘enemy within’ is deeply implicated. It has become clear that the residents of this block of working-class homes had made many complaints (at least eight) to the local politicians and bureaucrats who held housing oversight positions which would have allowed them to take preventative measures, if they had taken the complaints and their responsibilities seriously. They did not. Like their national elite equivalents, they drew their salaries and expenses and not only ignored evidence provided by the residents but it appears they threatened legal action against the representatives of the tenants.

They are not the only ones who in terms of struggling humanity now represent another tier of ‘enemies within’. This dismissive response to the concerns of working people is typical of of the Anglo-Saxon political and bureaucratic elite over the last 40 plus years. At all levels, local, national and international, indifference and even antipathy to working class struggles has become a global disgrace. Yet, the financial, economic, bureaucratic, media and political classes here in the UK and the US show no evidence of shame or a desire to come clean about their own absolute and relative levels of culpability. The so- called ‘duty of care’ may seem to some a bit of a joke but it is far more than that. It is the opposite. Under any system dominated by capital, there is no heart-felt duty of care, there is merely rhetoric disguising systematic exploitation, neglect and abuse.


Housing is one of the areas of life in which the working classes have been dumped in the cheapest, shoddy, unhealthy, unsafe and inconvenient locations since the domination of the capitalist mode of production. The Victorian slums and terraces of the 18th and 19th century may have been cosmetically upgraded in many places, but housing for all but the most privileged white-collar workers is still the shoddyist than can be indifferently supplied. Make no mistake about it, like accidents at work, the conditions at this tower block is the result of elite class decisions which have a long history. Grenfell Tower was an accident waiting to happen, and it flowed logically from the increasingly anti-working-class cost-cutting measures which commenced during the era of Thatcher, was supported by Blair and New Labour, and continued under Cameron, Clegg and now May.

Privatisation and de-regulation have been the two disgusting faces of the neo-liberal elites insatiable lust for accumulating wealth and profit at the expense of those who actually create it. How could it be otherwise?  Privatisation of house – building, as with all other aspects of privatisation, means that profit comes before safety, for those private companies who undertake such activities. With regard to the development of high-rise tower housing itself, this was clearly based upon cutting costs as hundreds of people can be housed on a plot of land that normally would only house a few. Building vertically, is cheaper in land costs per family than building horizontally. In addition, there is no need to provide green spaces for each tenant – so even more savings. Build it up tall, pack them in and collect the rents and council taxes to fund an increasingly bloated local government elite. The salaries of the chief executives of even small local authorities have reached obscene levels and of course national elites have seen their salaries, expenses and conditions keep pace with their local counterparts.

From the building of the first 1970’s tower – blocks, cost cutting continued with the laying of concrete foundations. Some building workers on various sites at the time complained these were not all up to acceptable standards – but of course they we’re ignored. This parsimonious profit-seeking attitude continued throughout the construction period with the introduction of low grade steel and other essential materials along with the absolute minimum of safety features. Again; how could it be otherwise? The economic system is set up to perpetuate production for profit. In the eyes of the local and national elites, these on-site complaints were only coming from workers with no university degrees and little power.

This arrogant and patronising attitude was continued with regard to the future tenants of these concrete industrial monstrosities who they knew would also lack power to effectively complain or otherwise influence any future administrative decisions. Lets face it, very few people would really choose to live in relative or absolute environmental, and social poverty 20 or more stories high. However, the poor and moderately paid working class in London or elsewhere, were priced out of any other choice. Like it or lump it was the choice they faced and this was precisely the attitude stemming from the elites of all political persuasions who think working people should be grateful for anything they condescend to offer them. You are nothing and we are everything is the attitude of the bourgeois and petite-bourgeois elite to working people – until they need their votes or their spare cash to turn into profit.

There have been more recent harbingers of such fires in other sub-standard housing developments and the safety implications deliberately ignored. Camberwell 2009, Dubai 2015 were just a few of the many ‘lessons’ available for those who really wanted to learn. However, this time the loss of life was just too high to ignore. In scale, the Grenfell Tower disaster has been likened to the hurricane Katrina events in the USA, although many more lost their lives in Gulf region. Yet in many ways it is more like an inverted version of the so-called unsinkable engineering masterpiece – the Titanic. There too the low paid were housed out of sight while a fire raged, and found themselves unable to escape when the final disaster struck. At Grenfell the poor and low-paid were also housed vertically out of sight in a supposedly non-flamable, recently refurbished, so-called architectural masterpiece. Yet like the steerage class of so long ago (and the inhabitants of New Orleans etc) they too had little or no chance of escape in the event of a serious incident, such as an explosion, structural collapse or in this case fire. Was this tragedy an accident? Not really. An accident is something that cannot be avoided. This could have been. So why wasn’t it? The answer lies in the chain of events encapsulated in the term neo-liberalism.


The roots of the present socio-economic crisis in housing, employment, education, health-care and environmental deterioration, date back to the Thatcher and Reagan political era of the 1970’s. That period marked the definitive end of the post-Second World War marriage of convenience between labour and capital; between the working classes and the capitalist classes. The 1939 -1945 war had saved the Anglo-Saxon (UK, USA) branches of joint capital (industrial, commercial and financial) from control and domination by the Germanic and Japanese branches. For that the western elites were grateful to the millions of working people who in that war had sacrificed themselves on behalf of their so-called ‘betters’. Welfare capitalism, in various national forms was the marriage gift by a grateful elite to the remaining working classes of Europe and North America, but like typical patriarchal and oppressive partners the owners of capital soon grew tired of their promises to cherish and be faithful to the workers. Once again the capitalists abandoned the workers to the dictates of ‘market’ forces, (ie their market forces) motivated as they were, by a lust for ever more profit.

For a period, the results of this neglect and abandonment was resisted by the organised workers in trade unions in the form of strikes, sit-ins and demonstrations, but this was to no avail. With a powerful state machine and an eagerly supportive media, the ruling classes were able to win the propaganda battles and defeat the practical struggles. Working people were eventually left with no organised defence to capital’s manipulations and the neo-liberal programme could proceed unhindered. Since the early neo-liberal decades, the cuts to local government spending by national governments, have gained additional support and annual traction. This has resulted in further cost – cutting measures for all the services provided by local (and in the US state) governments. In the UK, the increased privatisation of basic services, such as housing, water, electricity, gas, postal services, tele-communications, transport, prisons, education, health and care of the elderly, has detrimentally and disproportionally effected the working classes, both white-collar and blue-collar.

This will ensure that many more serious accidents (sic) are likely to happen in the future lives of working people, such as fires, floods, collapses, explosions, chemical spills etc., as the national elites continue to cut costs, privatise and deregulate as many areas of working class life as possible. The condition of care homes for the bulk of the working class elderly, for example, is similarly disasterous to life even though the individual victims are spread across, thousands of now privatised residences throughout the advanced capitalist countries. Young and middle-age working-class people, in particular, should demonstrate solidarity with the elderly and campaign for better conditions of care, for that is exactly where they will finish up if the system doesn’t get them earlier.

By their actions and often by lack of action, the national political and bureaucratic elites represent the top tier of the ‘enemies within’ their respective communities, but they are not alone. This top-tier of course could not impose their policies without the active support and involvement of local elites who administer and bureaucraticaly manage them. Instead of refusing to implement unsafe practices, and cost-cutting exercises these career-orientated renogrades maskerading as representatives and champions of local democracy, enthusiastically embrace them or like the defendents at Nurembourg declare they are merely following orders given from above. The disasters and the self-serving rationalisations which follow are bad enough, but what usually follows such events compounds the insult.

The diehard commitment to neo-liberal capitalism means that when modern disasters such as Grenfell, New Orleans and other Gulf Coast communities occurs, the task of post-disaster restoration is handed to quango agencies and the private sector – the very group who benefitted from creating most of the problems in the first place. Having made profits from shoddy building and sub-standard facilities, the private sector are granted the privilege of making profits out of doing it all again – including further opportunities for financial corruption. To add insult to injury, the governmental elites graciously provide any relief funding needed to the private sector – out of tax-payers forced contributions. That is to say partly out of the pockets of those who have worked hard and suffered the most. Leaving aside any possible or rather probable back-handers, Neo-liberal capitalism is a ‘heads we win; tails you lose’ scenario for the economic, social and political elite.

The political and bureaucratic elite.

There are many who are culpable within this neo-liberal system, but most of them are doubly culpable. Through conscious neglect, deliberate actions and calculated inactions, as at Grenfell, the Thames floodings, New Orleans and elsewhere, the political and bureaucratic elites at local and national level have gambled that – as usual – they will be able get away with indifference and looking after number one. They will still hope to do so. Prolongued Inquiries, vast quantities of documents, together with cover-ups, convenient memories, restricted parameters of information gatbering and elite bias will undoubtedly see blame numerically thinned out and dissipated across time and successfully buried among volumes of evidence.

This was the case with the Hillsborough, the Iraq (Chilcot), the Leveson and many other Inquiries in the UK. At best a few scapegoats may be sacrificed to salve the consciences of the middle-classes (particularly those in the media) and to appease the discontent of the under-privileged, before business as usual returns. The reputation of the political class as a whole and the current socio-economic system which spawns all the problems facing humanity, will both undoubtedly emerge unstained and hardly mentioned and this will render them guilty not only of willful neglect but also of an obvious system cover up.

Working people, white-collar and blue-collar, need to recognise (as many already do) that the political elite at the local, regional and national level also represent enemies within the ranks of struggling humanity. They represent an intermediate (and often parasitic) layer between the owners and/or controller’s of capital and the working classes who by hand and brain staff our essential services and manufacture and service the products we need. These local and national elites are also responsible for sowing reformist illusions among ordinary people as to how they can improve their situation. They peddle the same message to each new generation relying upon short memories and naivity. These politicians and bureaucrats are certain to make only paltry recommendations which ‘conserve’ them and their system intact.

An important role they play in defending and preserving the capitalist mode of production, is to perpetuate the illusion that there are political solutions (local or otherwise) to the compound crises facing humanity – of which the Grenfell House disaster was merely the latest example. Politicians of all persuasions collaborate in defending capitalist – based forms of production and consumption along with their own administrative (or managerial) role within it. As such we can expect numerous expressions of sorrow and regret along with myriads of excuses and rationalisations, but no radical critique of the system. They will seek to direct every new outburst of anger and disatisfaction into the ‘safe’ parliamentary channels which they control. In contrast revolutionary-humanists ‘reject illusions even before they are burst by experience and their emptiness proved’.

Decades ago there was a movement by humanist inspired employees of local government, public services and state institutions which bore the title ‘In and against the State‘. Their mission was to oppose and whistle blow on any actual or proposed measures aimed directly or indirectly at worsening the social and economic position of the working classes and the poor. There is an urgent need for recreating such an organisation for those who currently do not wish to be part of the problem or be classed as an ‘enemy within’ the ranks of struggling humanity. So far Snowden, Manning and Assange along with their few supporters have individually trod such a path, but there is much more to do. There are not only the inhuman machinations of a greedy war-mongering elite to expose and oppose but the callous indifference of local and national elites to be thwarted, not to mention a planetary eco-system to save as well.

Roy Ratcliffe (July 2017)

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


The recent spate of murderous attacks by ‘home-grown’ Islamic inspired fundamentalists, in Europe and the UK, has led to the promotion of the concept of an ‘enemy within’. This term has now been used by quite a few individuals and repeated by some news agencies. This concept is certainly accurate – as far as it goes – for increasingly the perpetrators are individuals who live in the countries whose citizens they decide to assassinate by bomb, gun, knife, cleaver or motor vehicle. However, this term does not go far enough for the inspiration and motivation for these atrocities is international, if not global. The inspiration stems from the international trend of Islamic fundamentalism (in the form of ‘Islam against the West’) which is traceable back to some Muslim intellectuals in the aftermath of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. The more recent motivation for Islamic fundamentalist assassinations in Melbourne, Manchester, London, Paris and elsewhere in Europe, has been prompted by the new generation of Islamic fundamentalists who attempted to create an Islamic state in the middle-east.

It is important to realise that the ideology which underpins this rise of 20th and 21st century Islamic fundamentalism and it’s terror inspiring atrocities arises from within mainstream Islamic ideology. Islamic terrorism has not sprung from nowhere nor matured in an ideological vacuum. It is impossible to understand why young men are prepared to die whilst ending as many (predominantly) working class lives as possible, if the power of socially reinforced religious ideology is not seriously considered. Whatever other motives may be involved in the process of what is termed their ‘radicalisation’, religion is certainly a crucially important one. If it were not for the social, cultural and psychological reinforcement by significant others that the Qur’an contains religious truth and Allah’s will, then it is almost certain that fewer would undertake the murderous and self-destructive martyrdom that this form of fundamentalist Jihad requires. If you doubt the veracity of this assertion, then consider the following;

“It is He who has sent His apostle with guidance and true faith to make it triumphant over all religions, however much the idolaters may dislike it.” (Qur’an. Surah 9. 33.)

So the declared objective of the so-called true faith of mainstream Islam is, and always has been, to make it triumphant over all other religions, whether non-Muslims like it or not. If that is the true goal of the religion of Islam, then it must also be the belief of all true believers in Islam, whether they – or we – like it or not. Every Muslim must openly or silently accept this Qur’anic pronouncement or deny it and cease to be a true Muslim. The religious logic is compelling once the initial premise is accepted. So fundamentalist Muslims, including, as we shall see, those who terrorise, are merely adhering to the fundamentals of Islam, and there is little that is more fundamental to Islam than the Qur’an. This stricture of course only sets the goal of Islam, but does not indicate the means rendered acceptable to achieve it. We must look elsewhere in the Qur’an for the suggested means to assure it’s victory over all religious or secular opposition.

When the sacred months are over slay the idolaters wherever you find them.” (Qur’an. Surah 9.5)

There are 9 other references in the Qur’an of when it is appropriate to kill, almost 30 references to physically fighting for Islam and there are 195 suggestions of suitable punishment for non-belief. So those Muslims and non-Muslims who say there is nothing in Islam which justifies killing, fighting with (or punishing) non-believers, they are either ignorant of their own scriptures, or are being deceitful. Or perhaps alternatively, they are in complete denial. All of these three possibilities are problematic because it is only by a recognition of the tap roots of violence within this particular Abrahamic scripture that can lead to its open rejection and begin to erode its inhuman and despicable influence. But again these previous extracts only establish that the fundamentals of Islam – as portrayed in the Qur’an – allow killing and punishing of ‘other’ people. It still does not explain why those so dedicated, willingly take their own lives in the process. For an explanation of this we need to delve further into the Qur’an. For example;

Let those who would exchange the life of this world for the hereafter, fight for the cause of Allah; whether they die or conquer, We shall richly reward them.” (Surah 4.74.)

In the Qur’an there is the repeated promise of reward for living, fighting and dying in the unswerving cause of Islam. Indeed, rewards for doing as instructed by the Qur’an are mentioned over 90 times. Reclining on couches with fruits on hand, dwelling with bashful dark eyed virgins, amid gushing fountains (Surah 55); robes of silk, silver dishes, goblets and boyish attendants with eyes like sprinkled pearls (Surah 76) are mentioned numerous times as being among the so-called bountiful rewards of what amounts to a paper promise of Paradise for fighting the ‘good fight’ (sic). But as a further illustration of the Qur’anic promise of reward for fighting and dying in the name of Islam consider the following;

As for those who are slain in the cause of Allah, He will not allow their works to perish. He will vouchsafe them guidance and ennobled their state. He will admit them to the Paradise He has made known to them. ( Surah 47. 9)

Many of the (mainly) young people who take gun, knife or truck in hand or strap on an explosive vest as well as perhaps being angry over the situation in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan or elsewhere are also convinced by something else. They are utterly convinced – they are doing Allah’s work – and as a consequence will be rewarded by eternity in a paradise of willing virgins and luxurious living. We need to ask ourselves by what means are they so thoroughly convinced by this grotesque sectarian logic and patriarchal fantasy if not by the fact that the whole of the Islamic community believe in the so-called absolute ‘truth’ of what is written in the Qur’an as Allah’s (their God) will. Only unanimous peer pressure from the Islamic community and religious indoctrination from early childhood could have convinced them that the de-humanised reasoning and self-indulgent fantasies written in the Qur’an are valid ideas to adopt in the 21st century.

In one sense all believers in Islam are direct or indirect accessories in the radicalisation of Islamic youth. Without the continuous religious and cultural collective imput by Islamic leaders and communities, these ideas of religious superiority and heavenly rewards would not have entered their young minds let alone lodged there as convictions to ultimately act upon. Furthermore all those who fully subscribe to the other two Abrahamic religions, Judaism and Christianity and their Old and New Testament scriptures have also provided low-level but general ideological support to the idea of an imaginary eternal life in an imaginery heaven governed by an imaginary – invisible (!) – male super-being. In addition, they have invariably failed to condemn or even acknowledge that their scriptures too justify killing in the name of their particular version of the patriarchal monotheistic belief system.

Clearly, converts to radical Islamic, weapon-wielding activism, do represent an ‘enemy within’ their respective communities and nations, but that’s not the only problem! At the ideological level – their religious ideas, as with Judaism and Christianity also represent an alien ideological cancer within the ranks of humanity. These Abrahamic religions, of which Islam is one, were created when humanity was organised in patriarchal tribal formations which subordinated women and divided humanity into competitive groups – each one convinced of the superiority of their antique belief system. Such ideas are no longer relevant to the inter-dependent globalised world we are now all living in. And, problematically, unlike other forms of terrorist activity, Islamic Fundamentalist terrorists do not wish to negotiate with those they claim disrespect or oppress them.

They have no political or social demands to make; they do not want better wages or social conditions nor the right to practice their religion. They already have these by courtesy of long working class struggles for establishing basic human rights and welfare provisions – for all. These rights have been established by the very class of people they indiscriminately murder whilst these ordinary working people are out shopping, eating or listening to music. The sum total ambition of these converts to aggressive nihilism is to kill and be killed so they can escape to an imaginary paradise (eg the gardens of delight – in Surah 31.4) and send their victims to an imaginary hell of eternal torture. Eg;

“As for the unbelievers, the fire of hell awaits them. Death shall not deliver them, nor shall it’s torments be ever lightened for them. ( Surah 35.34,

In the face of all we now know about the galactic universe and the evolution of life – including humanity – isn’t it time that all the mystical, imaginative and dangerous nonsense of an invisible, male, super-being creator, is abandoned as we did with our childish belief in fairies and Father Xmas?

Roy Ratcliffe (June 2017.)


Posted in Critique, Fundamentalism, Patriarchy, Religion, Sectarianism | Tagged , | 3 Comments


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 understanding 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.


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)

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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)

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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


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