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


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

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 The fact that jobs have disappeared or been replaced by automation is conveniently forgotten.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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In defence of all the victims.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Socio-economic class and revolution.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roy Ratcliffe. (February 2017.)

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


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

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

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

What is fascism really?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How did Fascism win power?

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

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

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

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

Organised Fascist groups.

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

The capitalist and pro-capitalist elite.

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

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

Faulty analysis and divisive tactics.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Splits in the ruling class.

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

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

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

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

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

Roy Ratcliffe (February 2017.)

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


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

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

Boo’s and jeers.

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

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

Cheers and applause.

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

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

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

Global resistance.

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

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

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

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

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

Political deadends.

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

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

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

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

Deficiencies of the political mindset.

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

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

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

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

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

Roy Ratcliffe (January 2017)

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


On both sides of the Atlantic, and perhaps elsewhere, there are currently several forms of panic among the political and media elite of all persuasions. The mainstream left, right and centre politicians are now loosing their grip on political power after they had previously lost their credibility. And that’s not all. They and their various media institutions/supporters have been loosing control of the flow of information. One of the forms this panic has taken is a developing concern with what some politicians and media gurus have recently classified as fake news and others have christened post truth. The latter amazingly presupposes that there was once a pre-condition of truth within the main news media.

The medium they accuse of dispensing all this so-called fake news and post truth information is the Internet. It is clear that the Internet and the availability of facebook, twitter, instagram and low cost blog-space has opened up the flow of information, to and from the masses. In the opinion of middle and upper ‘establishment’ figures this uncontrolled flow just will not do. For the first time in history ordinary people can report what has happened, express opinions, make up stuff, poke fun, vilify, criticise and transmit this mixed bag of information to a wider audience than, immediate friends, family and workmates. You can almost see the elite thinking – how dare they!

This new grassroots dissemination of fact, fiction and opinion (the main three components of information or what often passes as news) can potentially reach a national and international audience. The problem for the elite is that the Internet currently bypasses the monopoly of pro-establishment, gatherers, creators, mediators, gatekeepers, disseminators and witholders of the worlds news. It is this which scares the Clintons, Obamas and May’s etc., of this world. For the previous monopoly of information gathering, editing and dissemination by the establishment served a very definate purpose. It was, and is, to control (by witholding, restricting, distorting or amplifying) the quality, quantity and direction of the flow of information to the general public in a way suitable to their needs.

Capitalism and information control.

If we consider the generally accepted definition of fake as the deliberate intention to create a misleading appearance or a fraudulent misrepresentation or even a simulated pretence, then fake news (along with forged documents) has a long and dishonourable history, particularly, but not exclusively, among those who could write. For this reason fake news is nothing new and has been a powerful tool of the capitalist and pro-capitalist elite since universal literacy became a requirement for the capitalist mode of production. The creation and control of newspapers, as a means to gather, select, edit, modify, disseminate or withold fact, fiction and opinion, was deemed an early necessity by the capitalist class and their Citizen Kane type supporters.

Tight control of the flow of information was deemed so important that large quantities of capital were sunk into the mechanics of mass produced printing and distribution. Later capital flowed into the even more advanced technology of electronic sound and visual mass media. This ensured that the ideas which suited the dominant classes, the bourgeoisie and petite-bourgeoisie were the ideas which dominated the whole of society. In this process, fact and opinion became the warp to the weft of elite and government driven propaganda in the fabric of mainstream media production. It constantly needed to be unpicked to disentangle fact from fiction, prejudice from description and bias from neutrality – and it still does. Only (to continue the metaphor) the fabric of information production is now being woven on a much more diverse set of looms.

For decades, the political class and the elites in control of modern state institutions have routinely blocked damaging information from dissemination by ‘gagging’ orders, ‘secrecy’ laws and by threats of punishment for publication of classified information. They have also put out misinformation, disinformation, distorted or doctored information and manufactured downright fabrications (eg the Zinoviev letter etc.) to discredit some and distract others from pursuing a more accurate understanding of the alienating world we live in. Do we know what the real involvement of all governments and war industries is in the genocidal horrors being currently visited upon the citizens of Syria and Yemen? Some insiders most probably do but are keeping quiet either by choice, censorship or fear of reprisals.

The comments made by governments and media on these two contemporary tragedies (not to mention the many others) mean that news reporting is often far less than truthful and when not tapping phones or bribing informants, is frequently guilty of weaving a web of fake news and propaganda. At a more national and mundane level how often are unemployment statistics massaged or poisonious industrial emmissions understated? What are ‘plausible denial’ statements and ‘dodgy dossiers’ if they are not the establishments routine output of fake news or ‘post truth’ information? The mainstream press and media, apart from occasionally breaking ranks with the rich and powerful, have more often than not colluded with the opinions, narratives, distortions and ommisions of information which dominate the official news outlets.

Alternative information outlets.

Any alternative to this pro-establishment controlled information flow, such as the Internet, is now seen as out of control and increasingly dangerous. After all, didn’t it help to spark off the Arab Spring? And doesn’t it produce visual evidence of government inspired war crimes? This potential for subverting the prefered establishment narrative is what really lies behind the current hyperbole concerning the so-called fake news and suggestions to curb it. Yet this alternative outlet for a counter narrative and alternative vision of what humanity can become is increasingly important, given the evolving five-fold crisis of the capitalist mode of production.

It is not so much the obvious cranky, off the wall, ‘post truth’ hysterical stuff which disturbs them for they, along with most people, will ignore or see through this material or only be fooled once by a hoax before they fine-tune their crap detectors. Actually it is the alternative, critical and we’ll researched information outlets, which really rocks their boat. It is these sources of serious alternative facts and views which are actually in their sights for possible eradication. The treatment of whistle blowers such as Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden and the enabling outlets such as Wikileaks (provided by Julian Assange et al) shows how much they abhor the internets non-fake revelations and much-too-close-for-comfort approximations to truth telling.

Of course in the gathering, archiving, editing and disseminating information there is always selection regarding what is gathered, where it is gathered and how it is gathered, before selection also takes place in what is stored, how it is edited and how and where information (fact, fiction and opinion) is disseminated. Since all these processes are the product of human activity there can be no true objectivity even with regard to facts, for selection there (as with fiction and opinion) is a subjective matter. This selectivity always needs to be born in mind. Subjectivity can also be exagerated to an extremely high degree by those with an axe to grind, a prejudice (for or against something) to support or an income stream to protect.

This too needs to be constantly born in mind. It is therefore wise to double – check as many things as possible before bestowing validity on an opinion which purports to be based upon facts. Such scepticism should apply to everyone, left, right or centre in politics, religion or economics. If opinion is being expressed seriously it should be backed up with openly available and reliable evidence unless this evidence is already reliably and widely known. If it is not backed up in this way then it is probably no more trustworthy than pulp fiction. The complementary intellectual warning to the economic cliché ‘buyer beware‘ should always be ‘reader (or listener) beware’.

Particular care should be exercised in cases where character assassination is being undertaken for partisan or personal reasons. Here too in matters of importance it is wise to check what someone has actually said or written not what someone says he or she has said or written. Taking words or part sentences out of context or distorting what is meant is often resorted to in order to discredit a person, an opinion or an idea. This caution of necessity applies to articles, book reviews or even such resources as enteries in Wikipedia, all of which are particularly subject to editorial distortion and input manipulation from those with access, together with an elite or sectarian cause to serve.

R. Ratcliffe (December 2016)

Posted in Anti-Capitalism, Arab Spring, capitalism, Critique, Ecological damage., Sectarianism, The State | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments


Despite the millions of written or spoken words either for against the Cuban President Fidel Castro after his death and before it, to me the characterisation of his social and political role remains somewhat muddled. For some commentators, he was a brilliant charismatic leader of a revolution which introduced universal education and health care to a country starved of both and in the grips of a corrupt pro capitalists dictatorship. To others he was a ruthless dictator in control of a police – state with a disgraceful human rights record and a destroyer of individual initiative and alternative left politicians. Such dualistic partisanship exagerates and distorts, in one favoured direction or the other, his real historical role. It also fails to make clear the evolution of the political positions which he adopted in order to maintain himself (and his inner circle) as the sole political party of the island of Cuba. In fact the reality as it unfolded within Cuba was full of contradictions, and as we shall see they were the contradictions generated by a petite-bourgeois elite.

In Cuba, before what has been described as ‘the revolution’ in 1956, the ruling strata of Cuban social and political life was headed by the dictator Fulgencia Batista. To enrich themselves and their cronies, this corrupt elite were hand in glove with two exploititive and oppressive institutions based in the USA – corporate capitalism and organised crime. This meant that practically the whole population of Cuba was at the mercy of this corrupt combination of brutal and ruthless elites. Not surprisingly the corruption spead elsewhere in Cuba, including all the state institutions, the police and the armed forces. It was this corruption which Fidel Castro sought to eradicate when he petitioned a Cuban Court to have Batista removed from power. When this petition failed (it was not even accepted by the court), Fidel, his brother Raul and some of their supporters tried another tactic. They attempted to capture a military barracks, and failed in this also. Fidel was imprisoned for this failed attempt. He was later released and moved to Mexico where he met Che Guevara.

The Guerrilla phase. (1956 – 1959)

While they were in Mexico, Fidel and Che recruited other like – minded individuals and a group of them covertly sailed back to Cuba. Unfortunately most of them were captured, but Fidel and Che managed to escape into the forested mountain region. From there they began a series of armed confrontations with Batista’s army forces. Recruitment to this rural guerrilla force was slow mainly because the socialists and communists in the urban centres did not appear to support Fidel or Che’s political goals. For a considerable time the feeling was mutual. Fidel at this early stage did not have political positions based upon a commitment to class struggle – at least not in the Stalinist form. The left was split in Cuba as elsewhere.

At this early stage Fidel and his rural guerrilla group simply wanted a government and state free of corruption together with a rural and urban economy freed from the stranglehold of American big agri-businesses. After several years, the guerrilla forces began to outsmart and regularly defeat the loyal Bastita military forces and in 1959 becoming aware of his eventual ousting, the corrupt dictator fled the island. Shortly after Batista’s delarture the fighters around Castro and Che swept all opposition before them and with sufficient popular support behind them seized political power. All those who were judged to have obstructed this political ‘revolution’ were dealt with by imprisonment or execution.

In 1960 the new regime placed American businesses under the supervision of their loyal supporters and this action prompted America to implement an embargo on Cuban goods. This response was not what Fidel and his compatriots wanted because the Cuban economy was largely dependent upon exports to America. It was taxes and duties arising from this trade which financed the government, both of which suffered drastically from the embargo. Under the model of economic activity envisioned by Fidel and his comrades taxes and duties were important because without them there would be no wages and salaries to support the non-productive sectors of society such as the military, state officials, educators, doctors and the political class etc.

For this reason another trading partner was urgently needed and one was forthcoming in the form of the Soviet Union. This was a political dictatorship which wished to increase its influence in the region. It is this change in circumstances that prompted a change in Fidel’s political orientation. In other words in 1960’s the economic interests of the new Cuban elite and the political interests of the Soviet elite coincided and it was this raproachment which brought forth a new strategy in Cuba. Economic trade with the Soviet Bloc via the Soviet sponsored ‘Council for Mutual Economic Aid’ in 1972 influenced much which then happened politically. Meanwhile.

The bay of Pigs. (1961)

In 1961 the American CIA hatched a plan to use Cuban exiles to invade Cuba (at the Bay of Pigs) and foment a popular uprising against the new ruling elite. It failed miserably but it prompted Castro and his inner circle to increase the ties with Russia for security as well as economic reasons. It was during this period that Castro then decided to declare his allegiance to Marxist/Leninism. This declaration must have been primarily a tactical move for there is no reason to believe that he really agreed with Marx’s position on anything, let alone Marx’s economic analysis of capitalism or his revolutionary humanism. Indeed, it is doubtful whether any of these self proclaimed revolutionary elites had seriously and thoroughly studied the works of Marx such as Das Capital or the Grundrisse or had examined the counter – revolutionary nature of Stalinist sectarianism or its roots in Leninist vanguardism.

Nevertheless, the pragmatic adaptation of the Cuban elite in 1965 to the vanguardist model ensured they adopted a similar Jacobin outlook to that of the Soviet leadership. [The term Jacobin is derived from the French Revolution of the 18th century in which a section of the French revolutionary middle-class leaders (the Jacobins) professed absolute faith in the ideal of mankind, but exhibited absolute distrust of all real men – and women. Trotsky initially characterised Lenin and the Bolsheviks as having a Jacobin mentality before he joined them and became a convinced Leninist.] It was this vanguardist middle-class Jacobin arrogance which I suggest also prompted the four or five hour long speeches in which Castro lectured those who managed to endure them. To my mind such marathon events stem from a presumptious assumption that such leaders are the font of all revolutionary wisdom and that working people are the ignorant and passive soil in which to plant their patriarchal prejudices – no matter how long it takes.

The Soviet Union implodes. (1990 -1991)

With the eventual break up of the Soviet Union, the economic lifeline provided by Russia to Cuba ceased. This meant that Fidel and his inner circle no longer needed to doff their cap to Marxist/Leninism but this did not alter their vanguardist views. At no point did they see their role as working alongside the workers and facilitating their self-governance and communal control of production. They still thought it absolutely necessary that they remain in power as a guiding elite for the future development of a Cuba they thought suitable. And indeed, on the basis of the support they got and using the energy and determination of the Cuban people, they had introduced many policies positively effecting the socio-economic basis of Cuban life. Education and health care provision in particular were outstanding developments and way in advance of many much larger countries. Still, it is not by their modest life-styles or any acts of elite generosity or benevolence, (numerous or otherwise) that modern socio-economic systems should be judged.

For it is an undoubted fact that right-wing dictators have introduced some benefits to their citizens as well as left-wing dictators. Yet these have been granted whilst the elites have retained their privileged positions and kept their citizens in childlike fear and state controlled dependence. Even many enlightened capitalists have embraced some limited forms of equality for women and people of colour. So the granting of these limited privileges (which lessen the burden a little) are not the basis for assessing whether a mode of production has radically changed in favour of the oppressed. Indeed, beneficial reforms for workers under oppressive regimes were precisely the attraction of Fascism, Stalinism and Social Democracy for many workers. It is also a telling fact that all those middle-class radicals on the left who sought to initiate challenges to capitalism from above, Lenin, Stalin, Trotsky Mao, Tito, Chavez and yes Fidel Castro, actually prevented the working classes from taking control of the means of production. And yes they all demanded fatherland or death from the working class in defence of this top – down system .

All the above (and their inner support networks) imposed exploititive systems upon working people which were experienced by these classes as less preferable than the exploitation imposed by the capitalist mode of production. As a result, in every one of these so-called countries of socialist realism, the capitalist mode of production has either re-established its domination or is well on the way to doing so. That is how these so-called ‘socialistic’ experiments should be judged. And in some countries, (Russia, China, Yugoslavia, and now Cuba) the ‘vanguard’ leading and promoting the resurgence of capitalist domination were (and are) the political descendents of those elites who created the ‘socialist’ power structures in the first place. How ironic is that?

An open invitation to capital.

Cuba was no different in this regard. From 1998 to 2002 the political agents of American economic control (Jimmy Carter etc) and the agents of religious, pro-capitalist mind control (Pope John Paul 2 etc) were invited to Cuba whilst Fidel was still alive. In 2008, when he became too ill to function as the leader, he passed his authority on to his brother in a gesture worthy of ancient kingdoms where domination and elite leadership was passed on – as far as possible – within the male line of the family. This new form of left-wing patriarchal ‘vanguard’ preeminence was initiated in the 19th century, enthusiastically embraced by the Bolsheviks, and is still being kept alive by a majority of the left in the 21st. The Cuban elite provide just one more example.

The overall result, despite some undoubted benefits (beneficial social programmes and anti – racist gestures for example) is the continued steady intrusion of international capital into the production processes of Cuba. This steady economic infiltration has been accompanied by the elite spolitical accomodation to capital’s needs for profits via a docile and impoverished Cuban working class. That is the actual inheritance bequeathed to the present generation by the middle-class, left-wing Hero’s or Villain’s of the past – including those such as Fidel Catro operating in Cuba.

Interestingly, this process of inviting the internationalisation of capitalist exploitation within Cuba is occuring at precisely the period in which the capitalist mode of production has once again entered a severe crisis of relative over-production with its attendent economic and military wars of aggression and dispossession. Humanity is still faced with the problem of going beyond capital before it further destroys, exhausts and pollutes the planet driven as it is by an insatiable greed for surplus-value. Whilst the need is to go beyond capital, Cuba is actually going back to domination by capital. Despite the pioneering work of some 19th century middle-class intellectuals, the middle-class left intelligentia of the 20th century have provided no practical examples of how to solve this historic problem. They have only provided examples of what not to do.

We can conclude from all this international history and the example of Fidel Castro (et al) in Cuba, that the working classes in future need something entirely different. More and more working people need to outgrow any child-like dependence on charismatic patriarchal males as father figure guides to a better future. We need to reject this secularised version of the outmoded religious ‘good shepherd’ dependancy and work collectively to revolutionise the mode of production in order to create a post-capitalist method of production worthy of humanity in its most generous and egalitarian form.

R. Ratcliffe (December 2016)

Posted in Anti-Capitalism, capitalism, Critique, Economics, Left Unity, Patriarchy, Politics, Revolutionary-Humanism | Tagged , , | Leave a comment


Any attempt to understand the current political, social or cultural turmoil caused by immigration which does not include the capitalistic economic motive in its analysis, will remain incomplete and distorted. In most, if not all, the more recent media discussions between those arguing for and those arguing against immigration, the economic factor and the key role this plays in capitalist economic cycles has been either downplayed or missing altogether. Yet immigration, in its present form, (as the ‘free movement of labour’) is entirely a product of the capitalist mode of production. Strongly expressed opinions for or against the ‘free movement of labour’ cannot be fully understood until the costs of labour-power in the process of capitalist forms of wealth accumulation are openly recognised.

Those who own or control capital can only maintain or augment it’s value by using it to make profits or attract interest. If they do not use it in this way, they must live off it and see it decrease in amounts which are commensurate with how they choose to live. Furthermore, the class of capitalists can only maintain their capital or augment it if large numbers of them use it to employ workers to make things or do things which are valuable and can be sold. To do this they must use the capital they control to supply the workers with the tools of production, the means of production and pay them wages or salaries which the workers then use to feed, clothe and house themselves and their families. The trick the capitalist engage in to produce sufficient value in production to produce huge profits is simple, but not immediately obvious.

They pay the workers an amount (in wages or salaries) which is of considerably less value than the value the workers create during their employment. The difference between these two values is the surplus value which is contained within the products (commodities or services) and will be realised in monetary form when these commodities or services are sold. It is obvious that in this production process, the installments of profit accruing to the capitalists will be greater the lower the amount they have to pay to their workers. Therefore, cheap labour has always been the sought after golden goose that has helped the employers of labour-power to amass their past and present fortunes. The free movement of labour is the current method of ensuring the golden goose constantly migrates toward capital.

Low pay equals big profits.

So it is in the interests of those who employ workers to keep wages low, and it is in the interests of those who work to try to keep them at a level which they feel is appropriate to how they want to live. This is the economic basis of what became known as the class struggle. In the past, (as now) the employers invariably had the upper hand and used many means to keep wages low. They would lay individual workers off until they were starving and would agree to work for wages the employers thought gave them enough profit. In response the early workers formed unions and associations and defended their wages and conditions by negotiating and if necessary striking. In such circumstances, the employers then introduced a method of strike breaking by bringing in workers from elsewhere who were able and prepared to work at the wage or salary levels the employers insisted upon.

Cheap labour-power from outside (or occasionally within) the immediate area was used to replace local organised labour-power. It was known as strike – breaking and the workers who in this way were undermined or defeated gave those strike-breaking workers the unpleasant name of scabs. It was their name for this early bourgeois form of the ‘movement of free labour’. That is labour which was ‘free’ to starve or free to be used to replace other workers in dispute. These new imported workers who in this way took the jobs from other workers were despised and hated because they had effectively taken the food from the mouths of the strikers and their wives and children.

Very little consideration was given to the fact that those who took their jobs were also victims of the same capitalist system. Capitalism is a mode of production which had in many such cases rendered them so desperate to feed themselves and their families, that they were prepared to leave their place of origin, risk their own wellbeing and suffer the hatred of those whose jobs they had taken. Poor workers were being moved around in order to undermine other poor workers – and they still are. That is the essence of the ‘free movement of labour’. It was a cynical case of ‘divide and rule’ and was a process which eventually took two major forms – emigration and immigration.

Capitalist inspired Emigration.

When the capitalist mode of production reached a certain stage of industrial development the numbers of workers needed to saturate the home market with commodities was much reduced. This created two problems for the capitalist class and their supporters. The first problem was an economic one – where to sell the surplus production pouring out of the factories and workshops. The second problem was a social one – what to do with the growing numbers of unemployed workers who had by this time no other means of earning a living. Britain as the dominant capitalist nation in the 19th century, solved these two problems with one solution – Colonial/Imperial inspired emigration! Others would follow. For example;

“My cherished idea is a solution for the social problem, ie in order to save the 40,000,000 inhabitants of the United Kingdom from a bloody civil war, we colonial statesmen must acquire new lands to settle the surplus population, to provide new markets for goods produced in factories and the mines. The empire, as I have always said, is a bread and butter question. If you want to avoid civil war you must become imperialists.” (Cecil Rhodes. Quoted in ‘The Third World.’ Worsley M. page 28.)

It is rare these days to find such a clear and honest statement of the capitalist purpose behind Imperialist emigration and the other side of this bourgeois coin – immigration. Yet the stages of Imperialism and Colonialism – served exactly this purpose. The purpose being to obtain the essential components of capitalist production – raw materials, cheap labour and markets. Where cheap labour was unavailable as in the new world colonies of North and South America, the the forced emigration from Africa of slave-labourers supplied the deficiency. In this case it was a ‘less free’ movement of labour, but a movement of labour nonetheless.

The captured slaves became the forced emigrants from Africa arriving as the enslaved immigrants to this ‘new world’ of capitalist exploitation. They became slave workers and were forced at a minimal cost to produce surplus-value in the cotton, tobacco and sugar plantations of North and South America and the Caribbean. We can see from this and what comes next that under the capitalist mode of production, emigration and immigration are terms used for regulating the international flow of ‘free’, cheap and/or desperate labour to where it is needed by the owners and beneficiaries of capitalist accumulation.

Capitalist inspired Immigration.

As noted it is undoubtedly a fact that with a few exceptions, under the capitalist mode of production, cheap labour is essential for maximising profits. Under developed capitalist systems, the free movement of labour serves the same economic purpose as strike breakers did in previous periods of union militancy. The economic purpose being to keep wages down and working conditions as basic as possible. Immigration and strikebreaking are just two different ways of using one set of desperate workers, against another group of workers who are struggling to maintain or improve their standards of living. Both strikebreakers and poor immigrants have been deliberately recruited and ‘moved’ around to where they are needed by capitalist employers for exactly that economic purpose and no other. Of course this is seldom openly admitted by those championing immigration.

In the UK, for example, with the final defeat of trade union militancy in the mid to late 20th century, strike breakers were no longer needed by employers but lowering wages was still desired by capitalists and their pro – capitalist supporters in politics and government. Immigration was therefore the obvious solution. In Europe, the EEC and later the EU with its clauses on ‘free movement of labour’ and capital were deliberately designed for that precise purpose. In the late 20th century and on into the 21st, the recruitment of cheap labour and the undercutting of wages and salaries in most advanced capitalist countries, has been achieved primarily through immigration.

It is this aspect of of the role of immigrant labour which is resented by many working people, not primarily the country of origin, ethnicity, culture, colour or religion of those being brought into the countries of Europe and North America. It is only immigration in its ‘free movement of labour’ guise which arouses large-scale opposition. Apart from a racist minority, most of the prejudice against immigration is because immigrant labour has become predominantly prejudicial to the wages and welfare of the indigenous workers. Being against immigration is primarily a prejudice against a capitalist tactic of lowering wages, salaries and conditions. Of course if some individuals from these immigrant communities, also introduce criminality or terrorism, then these factors become another additional reason for indigenous workers resenting or even fearing large-scale immigration.

The reason that the middle-classes are generally less prejudiced against immigration and some accuse workers of being racist is because their socio-economic conditions are less threatened by it. It rarely effects their access to housing, schools or health care. Some even gain from the free movement of labour – from cheap domestic labour, cheap service labour or cheap productive labour. In fact these self-serving middle-classes are often more prejudiced against their own working classes and their unions for being less docile and deferential than immigrant workers. For when workers strike, demonstrate or riot, it invariably does effect their socio-economic wellbeing. It also offends their petite-bourgeois ideas of social stability and order in which everyone knows their place and respectfully accepts whatever austerity is is handed out to them. Middle-class prejudice against workers is demonstrated when they blanket accuse anti-immigration workers of being motivated by racism.

Meanwhile, because the dominant capitalist ideology and narrative (supported and promoted by most of the middle-classes in academia, media and politics) ignores or covers up the insidious forms of economic exploitation and social oppression, workers are left with very little option but to oppose immigration (as free movement of labour) simply for existential reasons – as it severely and detrimentally effects their lives and their families. If there is no well publicised alternative perspective of going beyond private ownership and production for profit, then what other perspective is available to workers faced with rapidly reducing standards of living?

Will the workers of the world ever unite?

If there is no generally accepted clear perspective of a future economic system which is communal and produces for need instead of greed and which reduces hours of work so that everyone (regardless of colour or creed) can be economically active and live a decent life (and there isn’t – yet!) then there there are only two other options remaining. The first is to accept the capitalist inspired conditions resulting from the free movement of capital and labour and live with the injurous effects of unemployment, austerity, low pay, precarious employment and dwindling social resources. The second is to oppose the free movement of labour by voting for any radical right-wing pro-capitalist charlatans such as Farage, Le Penn and Trump who falsely claim they will regulate it. A more radical alternative is needed.

Fortunately one distorted and dictatorial perspective of a non-capitalist mode of production has been thoroughly discredited if not entirely destroyed by those Leninists, Stalinists and Maoists etc., who called themselves anticapitalists. In the past these so-called revolutionary leaders sought to replace the situation of privately owned capital dictating the wages and conditions of workers by state owned capital dictating the wages and conditions of workers. They too had their own enforced versions of the ‘movement of labour’. Theirs was not a socio-economic revolution, but a political revolution.

They merely replaced one oppressive and exploititive male ruling elite with another, a situation which they described as socialism or communism. However, in no place was a post-capitalist society established for not one of them tried to resolve the contradictions of wage-labour and surplus-value extraction by elites. Nor did they allow the institution of communal ownership and control of production. But this tragedy of the blind leading the short-sighted leaves a problem of what is to replace it. In the 21st century, the economic and social perspective of a free association of working people, minus a parasitic ruling elite, needs to be resurrected or rather re-discovered for it still survives in a few isolated places. Here is one such survival from the writings of that much maligned champion of the working class Karl Marx.

Social progress cannot consist in the dissolution of all association, but in the replacement of the forced and oppressive associations of times past by voluntary and equitable associations……Perfection is found in voluntary associations, which by their union multiply the forces, without taking away the energy, the morality and the responsibility of individual authority.” (Marx. Grundrisse page 581 electronic version Penguin.)

Roy Ratcliffe (November 2016)

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