WE PAY FOR THEIR CRISIS
The economic crisis moved the world but the direction is not clear
By Holger Marcks
[This article published in the anarcho-syndicalist Direkt Aktion Sept/Oct 2011 is translated from the German on the Internet, http://www.linksnet.de/de/artikel/26910
It could be an exciting movie: digital boys with armed pick-ups in a desert war, nuclear-contaminated coastal regions, climate change and famines, burning big-city ravines and robo-cops at the Themes River, crazed Nazi terrorists and private mercenary armies. These dystopian scenarios almost seemed reality as the picture of the future in the 1980s. The “end of history” loudly proclaimed in the 1990s was nothing. In that decade, the future was painted as a high-tech land of milk and honey when neoliberalism was the religious promise of salvation.
Nearly three decades with their plundering and redistributing from bottom to top, first hesitantly and then brazenly, are past. Now there are lanes of impoverishment, social devastation and people who made the crude battle-cry of neoliberalism their own certainty under the mind-numbing cry of market fundamentalism: “there is no alternative.” Now there are only written-off existences. Whole societies are becoming unstable. The battle over resources, sharing and joining in the conversation is underway.
Class struggle is nothing romanticizing. Class struggle is the result of the complex conditions in which actors still play their roles all too perfectly. Hardly anyone does not see the error is in the notorious “system.” “Isn’t the left right at the end?” Charles Moore, conservative journalist and Margaret Thatcher’s biographer recently asked in light of the social brutalization and contradictions produced by the so-called “free market.” He triggered a little “middle class system debate.” Making a game sound appealing whose frauds are blatant is also increasingly hard for the governments. The shift of fictional assets and a few rating letters have enormous effects on real economic affairs. In reality the assistance for the “bankrupt Greeks” flows directly to the banks. The redistribution machine rattles with the distribution mechanisms and naked swindling. The economy is not a moral field but a terrain of interests and property- and power-relations.
Should we be surprised that greater competition produces losers and not only winners, that increased pursuit of profit leads to greater exploitation, that the accumulation of wealth causes spreading poverty and that individualization, the pressure to perform and the rat-race mean social brutalization? The neoliberal vision was always a society of the asocial. Whoever is now shocked about the effects of its sermons was bewitched or propagandized. Frank Schirrmacher was right when he said in the Frankfurter Allgemeiner Zeitung newspaper neoliberalism did not simply “come over society like brainwashing.” It was not a discursive mistake that people were collectively taken in, as Schirrmacher seemingly implied. The categorical imperative of neoliberalism was always an open even if cynical declaration of war on the working class. Enrich yourself – for the public good! That watchword was obviously only directed at those with the means to enrich themselves. Sweeping away social achievements for which much blood flowed in the shortest time shows how much explosive imbalance is inherent in the capitalist hierarchy of power.
Those achievements did not originate from a whim. The triumphant advance of the social state and Keynesianism after the Second World War, the so-called “social democratic epoch,” rested on a broad middle class consensus. Finally, the capitalist crisis economy inflicted social devastation bringing revolutionary and reactionary movements into the political arena. The dynamic of this conflict ultimately poured onto the political and international planes with the well-known catastrophe as the consequence. The social state and the conditional limitation of capitalist freedom were the necessary and apologetic concessions for a tolerable and relatively stable capitalism. Seen this way, these achievements were more results of the maximum credible human accident inflicted by unreasonable capitalist demands than a success of the workers’ movement. The workers’ movement could not develop any commission against the dominant forces to bring about a revolutionary change in the social sense. Often their efforts only provoked reactionary actors who were stronger in these confrontations. These reactionary actors gave security to the nervous middle class and appear as an alternative to many system-losers. They profit, so to speak, from the revolutionary movements even if these failed as an alternative for the disappointed of society. Syndicalists referred several times to these “dangers of revolution.”
One should have no illusions about the parameters of social change today as in the debates over the crisis protests and the upheavals in the Arab world. The conditions are completely different. Autocrats and dictators have great inner strength but no retreating zone when something breaks out and the multitude turns against them – except for physical confrontation. This is especially true for Libya where economic and political power is concentrated in the state. A distribution battle is inherent in the political power struggle so that the state comes into the undivided focus of both middle class and social interests. The conflict fronts are also different in Egypt and Tunisia where a synthesis of the middle class and workers could chase the autocratic rulers relatively quickly. Still female workers stand alone with their social interests where substantial improvements are crucial.
“Western democracies” are more flexible and more broadly legitimated so they can counter mass protests with greater composure. No political regime change is on the day’s agenda. Rather questions of social justice are uppermost, a field of conflict largely in the area of the economy but projected in the state’s “area of responsibility.” Therefore all the new social movements face the urgent task of developing resources that promise real successes without counter-productive conflicts with the state. Riots as in England may be socially understandable but are certainly not a process of empowerment. They are expressions of an organization weakness and a lack of strategy that cannot be simply mastered. Rather riots offer the state the possibility of recovering part of its lost legitimacy as an organizer of security.
This is also true for hotspots like Greece and Spain. Here social change demands more extensive efforts at organization than in the past if the structural power imbalance of capitalism should begin to totter. Otherwise the leftist watchword “We will not pay for your crisis” is only mobilization rhetoric and the crisis dynamic rides on another wave. Initiatives making possible permanent turning points and reducing dependence on the state in the social question are necessary: structures of social and economic countervailing power. Through such structures, official politics loses its legitimacy as an alleged mediator between the social and the economic – and comes under much stronger pressure to act. At the same time the reactionary potentials in the dynamic interplay of crisis and movement must always be considered in the particular strategies. Then crisis could also be a social chance.
Chomsky, Noam: “Students Should Become Anarchists” http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2011/06/27/18683074.php
Chomsky, Noam: Riverside Church, June 2009
"Technological solutions like cap-and-trade do not change our ecological footprint, climate change or the frauds of banks and big business. The edifice must be debated and changed: the role of government, the illusions about market and democracy, public and profit goals, long-term and short-term demands and stakeholders and shareholders.."
"We face a democracy deficit, a striking gap between public opinion and public policy. James Madison said there should be a democracy deficit to protect property against minorities. A huge public relations industry controls opinions and attitudes in the engineering of consent. The '68 activism helped civilize society. Government is in the pocket of Wall Street. Government seems unwilling or helpless to confront Wall Street..
We have to reverse the social engineering project promoting wasteful energy consumption, suburbanization and gentrification of neighborhoods. The state-corporate program began with the conspiracy to buy up electric streetcars in Los Angeles and dozens of other cities.."
Noam Chomsky's latest book is "American Power. The New Mandarins."
to hear emeritus MIT professor Chomsky at Riverside Church, June 12, 2009, click on http://free--expression.blogspot.com/2009/06/chomsky-at-riverside-church-nyc-12-june.html