From email@example.com Thu Dec 6 12:02:57 2001
Date: Wed, 5 Dec 2001 14:37:29 -0600 (CST)
Richard K. Moore <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: How we came to live under fascism...
Someone sent me a paper which included the following paragraph. As so often happens, in responding to someone else's comments, I found myself led to expressing some ideas in a clearer way. I hope you find the outcome useful.
regards, rkm http://cyberjournal.org
If Marx showed us how the social relations of production act as so many fetters on the development of the productive forces, those social relations today take the form of territorial states seeking to maintain established privilege by constraining the movement of people, goods, money and information in a world society that is both more integrated and divided at the same time. Transnational capitalism, complemented by grassroots democratic movements of all kinds, today leads the way in challenging old national and regional structures, in much the same way that national capitalism underpinned liberal revolutions in the 18th and 19th centuries.
What you say here is largely 'true', in a literal sense, but from my perspective it seriously mis-characterizes the various relationships and forces in question.
I believe that your 'social relations today' characterization applied 'fully' up to 1945, and 'mostly' until about 1980. Since then we've been in the throes of a full-fledged takeover by transnational capitalism by means of the neoliberal revolution, now in its final globalization phase.
You say these changes have been 'complemented by grassroots democratic movements', which has been sometimes true at a surface level. I'd say rather that the neoliberal revolutionary propaganda has been aimed at those with progressive sentiments, deceiving them into believing that globalization will move things in a direction they would favor. Your characterization becomes even less applicable post-Seattle. Grassroots democratic movements the world over have now rejected the neoliberal party line and have become largely counter-revolutionary in that regard. Not that they are effective, but they no longer 'complement'.
As you say, the situation is parallel to that of the earlier national liberal revolutions. And in those liberal revolutions as well, any complementarianism was based less on mutual interest than on deceit of the masses. In both cases, the main event was a shift in power among elites, with the people being pulled along from an old prison to a newer one. The liberal revolutions shifted power from monarchic hierarchies to networks of commercial-baron / financier cliques. It also replaced divine right, as a justification for governmental authority, with 'popular sovereignty', presumably expressed in our pseudo-democratic institutions. Over the subsequent two hundred years the natural forces of capitalism led to a concentration of global wealth and power into the hands of an elite Western clique. The neoliberal revolution leaves that same clique in power, but it brings a cataclysmic shift in power relationships nonetheless, and an equally cataclysmic transformation of societies.
The power shift can be compared to a corporate reorganization. Think of a conglomerate which is made up of a number of semi-autonomous companies. Then one day the CEO announces that he's installing a centralized administration to micro-manage each operation, disempowering local managements. Pre-neoliberal Western nations were like the semi-autonomous companies; globalization strips them of their autonomy and relegates governments to the status of Mandarin functionaries - subservient to the WTO / IMF administrative regime and to the whims of corporate operators, banks, and financial traders.
As regards the substance of democracy, this reorganization brings no change - those at the bottom are still controlled by those at the top. The administrative machinery has been altered, but the democracy-quotient was zero before and remains zero afterwards. The false rhetoric of democracy continues mostly unchanged, but becomes each day less credible - the emperor's clothes become increasingly transparent. The anti-globalization movement arises from those who have seen through the veils.
But the era of the 'great liberal democracies' (1798-1980) was stabilized less by the rhetoric of democracy than by the reality of middle-class prosperity. The empowerment that really mattered was that which could be carried in wallets - together with a faith by the middle classes in the future continuance of that empowerment for themselves and their children. Neoliberal globalization became a necessity precisely when capitalism could no longer afford to support the middle classes in the fashion to which they had grown long accustomed. The elite perception of this necessity crystallized around 1973, as memorialized in Huntington's 'Crisis of Democracy' paper.
Elites were waking up to the fact that the continuation of capitalism was not compatible with then existing democratic institutions. As long as middle-class prosperity could be continued, elites had little problem manipulating the political process to get precisely the policies they wanted.
But if the middle classes were to be abandoned, then the democratic institutions would become a potential threat to elite power. There was too great a risk that an effective independent political party might arise and turn the rhetoric of democracy into a reality. When the middle classes find common cause with workers and ethnic minorities, et al - and if sovereign governmental institutions are available - then elites could have a real revolution from below on their hands.
The decade of the 1980s was used to lay the foundations for the new neoliberal world order, aimed at eliminating the risk of an outbreak of democracy. While corporate operators were looting public assets, they generated enough economic activity to provide a bubble of pyramid-scheme prosperity to the middle classes. This masked the shift of power that was happening behind the scenes, while simultaneously providing accelerated elite wealth accumulation during the decade.
As the nineties began, the groundwork had been laid, and events began to reveal the realities of the new world order, so dubbed by Daddy Bush. The new order brought intensified imperialist interventionism, of both the military and IMF variety, (Iraq, Yugoslavia, Macedonia, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Brazil, Korea, etc. ad infinitum). Particularly significant were the machinations around 'internationalizing' these interventions, and creating an aura of legitimization for them - quite outside the bounds of established international law and of sound economic policy.
By '93, we had the Uruguay Round, transforming GATT (a treaty initiative) into the WTO (an administrative body).
During the decade the global administration laid down its policy structures and began to exercise its power in a scattering of precedent-setting test cases (hormone beef, bananas, Ethyl additives, ...).
Also during the eighties and nineties, another program was afoot. That was the intentional development of international terrorist networks and the encouragement of Islamic fundamentalism. From the installation of the Ayatollah, to the encouragement of Israeli excesses, to the creation by the CIA of the Taliban and its predecessors and competitors in Afghanistan - the USA did everything it could to create an 'extremist terrorist threat' to replace the Cold War's demon communism.
As the new millennium dawned, the new world order was fully established and ready to start playing hardball. At the same time, the global economy was moving into serious doldrums, requiring that such play begin. All that was needed was an appropriate trigger event, an appropriate agent to throw the ritual first pitch. For this purpose, as I read the evidence, some secret inner CIA team began nurturing a particular group of terrorists who had a vision of using airliners to destroy major buildings. The group was so clumsy that it came to the attention of the FBI, who had to be shooed off the case by orders from Washington.
Whether the group actually controlled the planes on 9/11 is doubtful, but the evidence they left behind them made it easy to lay blame where intended, and was adequate (barely) to cover up the fact that the event was primarily an inside job.
This elite-arranged trigger-event strategy is of course nothing new, having been used frequently by the USA (Battleship Maine, Lusitania, Pearl Harbor, etc.). by Nazi Germany (faked invasion by Polish troops, Reichstag fire), and many other times in history.
So now we are in the era of hardball global capitalism. In order for capitalism to continue, i.e. for GDP-measured 'economic growth' to continue, the scale and nature of exploitation (of people and resources) must be greatly expanded. Alaskan and Caspian fossil fuels must be tapped; cloning and other biotech must be harnessed; unproductive populations must be eliminated through genocide. In the third world, imperialism needs a heavier fist; the second world needs to be pushed down to third-world status; in the first world, there must be a severe decline in the quality of life and political / economic activism must be brought under tight control.
The so-called War on Terrorism, while doing little to thwart dedicated terrorists, serves very well to enable this new scale of mega exploitation. First-world expectation levels have moved down a notch or two on the Maslow scale, descending to concerns with bare survival and security. This has created a climate (in the 'land of the free') where the Constitution can be abandoned, and Gestapo-style arrests and arbitrary executions can be carried out. The cleansing of the Internet has begun, with precedent-setting shutdowns of a few progressive websites. The anti-globalization movement had already experienced fascist-style repression in Genoa, even before 9/11. With expanded definitions of 'terrorism', and with the ubiquitous presence of Black Bloc provocateurs, it is clear that the anti-globalization movement cannot continue in the form whose momentum had been growing since Seattle.
One cannot describe this fascist emergence as being 'complemented by grassroots democratic movements of all kinds'.