Western societies and states are moving inexorably toward conditions resembling barbarism; structural changes are in place which are reversing decades of social welfare and subjecting labor, natural resources and the wealth of nations to raw exploitation, pillage and plunder, driving living standards downward and provoking unprecedented levels of discontent.
Barbarism is most clearly evident in the genocidal wars, organized and directed by the US and Western Europe. Imperial destruction of entire societies is accompanied by the disarticulation, murder and exile of the modern scientific, secular and artistic core of Iraqi society and the fomenting of retrograde ethno-religious strife and satraps. Imperial barbarism is found in the systematic application of cruel and unusual punishment, government sanctioned torture and cross-border assassinations as official state policy. Barbarous imperialism is driven by militatists and Zionists who seek to destroy adversaries, their economies and societies, in contrast to traditional imperialists who seek to take control over and exploit resources and skilled labor. Barbaric practices are the result of policymakers and their aides embedded in barbaric institutions: doctors and psychologists advise and participate in torture; academics propagate doctrines (“just wars”) defending barbarous wars; military officials design and practice crimes against humanity to secure promotions, higher pay and lucrative pensions. The mass media transmit the official triumphalist euphemisms in support of mass population displacements, attributing war crimes to the victims and lauding the executioners. In a word barbarism begins with the metropolitan elite and percolates downward to the provincial manual worker.
We will proceed by outlining the economic political and military processes driving the process of decay and decomposition and follow with an account of the mass popular responses to their deteriorating conditions. The deep structural changes accompanying the rise of barbarism becomes the bases for considering the prospects for socialism in the 21st century.
The Rising Tide of Barbarism
In ancient society ‘barbarism’ and its carriers, ‘the barbarians’, were envisioned as threats by outside invaders from outlying regions descending on Rome or Athens. In contemporary Western societies, the barbarians came from within, among the elite of society, intent on imposing a new order which destroys the social fabric and productive base of society, converting stable livelihoods into insecure deteriorating conditions of everyday life.
The key to contemporary barbarism is found in the deep structures of the state and economy. These include:
1.The ascendancy of a financial-speculative elite which has pillaged trillions of dollars from savers, investors, mortgage carriers, consumers and the state, siphoning enormous resources from the productive economy into the hands of a parasitic elite embedded in the state and paper economy.
2.A militarist political elite which is in a state of permanent warfare since the middle of the last century. Endless wars, cross border assassinations, state terror, the suspension of traditional guarantees has led to the concentration of dictatorial powers, arbitrary jailing, torture and the denial of habeas corpus.
3. In the midst of a deep economic recession and stagnation, high levels of state spending on economic and military empire building at the cost of the domestic economy and living standards reflect the subordination of the local economy to the activities of the imperial state.
4. Crime and corruption at the top, in all aspects of state and business activity – from state procurement to privatization to subsidies for the super-rich – encourage the growth of international crime from top to bottom, the lumpenization of the capitalist class and a state in which law and order have fallen into disrepute.
5. As a result of the high costs of empire building and the pillage by the financial oligarchy, the socio-economic burden has been placed square on the shoulders of wage and salaried workers, pensioners and the self-employed, resulting in long term, large scale downward mobility. With job losses and the loss of well paying jobs, mortgage foreclosures skyrocket and the stable middle and working class shrinks and is forced to extend its hours of labor and years of work.
6. As imperial wars spread across the world targeting entire populations, via sustained bombings and clandestine terror operations, they generate opposing terrorist networks which also target civilians in markets, transport and public spaces. The world resembles a Hobbesian world of ‘all against all’.
In reality the “western world” (the US/EU/NATO/Israel and their satellites) are engaged in a ‘total war” against the peoples of the world, resisting imperialists and Zionist subjugation. “Total war” as practiced by the West, means that (a) no distinction is made between military and civilian targets – all are routinely considered worthy of destruction. In a perverse sense of totalitarian irony, by bombing civilians the imperial powers turn a guerilla war into a “peoples war”: total wars unify communities, families, clans with resistance fighters. (b) Total wars use all means to annihilate the enemy – weapons of mass poison ( depleted uranium), death squads, summary executions, indiscriminate drone bombing of villages, mass roundup of adult males in regions of intense conflict. As a consequence of imperial “total war” as the standard of conflict, the opposition has followed suit, targeting civilians, including teachers, doctors and translators employed by Western agencies.
7.Rising ethno-religious extremism linked to militarism is found among Christians, Jews, Moslems, Hindus, replacing international class solidarity with doctrines of racial supremacy and penetrating the deep structures of state and societies.
One of the most egregious outcomes of the post-world war two period has been the unprecedented influence of the Zionist Jewish power configuration and its central role within the US imperial state, fusing US imperial and Israeli barbaric practices. These include systematic torture, economic sanctions, bombings of civilians and other crimes against humanity. Israel’s long wars against Arab and Muslim peoples – over 60 years and counting, is now matched by Zionist strategists in Washington who promote prolonged, serial wars which follow the Israeli agenda and who incite hysterical Islamophobia via the mass media and academia. Today Judeo-fascism is embedded in the Israeli cabinet (3 ministers), military,religious orders and substantial sectors of the population.
8.The demise of European and Asian welfare collectivism – in the ex USSR and China – has lifted the competitive pressures on Western capitalism and encouraged them to revoke all the welfare concessions conceded to labor in the post World War II period.
9.The demise of Communism and the integration of social democracy into the capitalist system has led to a severe weakening of the Left, which the sporadic protests of the social movements have failed to replace.
10.In the face of the current large scale assault on workers and middle class living standards, there are only sporadic protests at best and political impotence at worst.
11.Massive exploitation of labor in post-revolutionary societies, like China and Vietnam, includes the exclusion of hundreds of millions of migrant workers from elementary public educational and health services. The unprecedented pillage and seizure by domestic oligarchs and foreign multinationals of thousands of lucrative strategic public enterprises in Russia, the ex-Soviet republics, Eastern Europe, the Balkans and Baltic countries was the greatest transfer of public to private wealth in the shortest time in all of history.
In summary ‘barbarism’ has emerged as a defining reality, product of the ascendancy of a militarist Zionized and parasitic financial ruling class in the US. The barbarians are here and now, present within the frontiers of Western societies and states. They are dominant and aggressively pursuing an agenda which is continually reducing living standards, transferring public wealth to their private coffers, pillaging public resources, savaging constitutional rights in their pursuit of imperial wars, segregating and persecuting millions of immigrant workers and promoting the disintegration and diminution of the stable working and middle class. More than at any time in recent history the top 1% of the population controls an increasing share of national wealth and income.
Myths and Realities of Historical Capitalism
The sustained, large scale roll back of social rights and welfare provisions, wages, job security, pensions and salaries demonstrates the falsity of the ideas of the linear progress of capitalism. The reversal, product of the heightened power of the capitalist class, demonstrates the validity of the Marxist proposition that class struggle is the motor force of history – at least, in so far, as the human condition is considered the centerpiece of history.
The second false assumption is that states based on ‘market economies’ require peace and the corollary that ‘markets’ trump militarism, is disproven by the fact that the premier market economy, the United States has been in a constant state of war since the early 1940’s; actively engaged in wars on four continents, to the present day.With new bigger and bloodier wars on the horizon. The cause and consequence of permanent warfare, is the growth of a monstrous ‘national security state’ which recognizes no national borders and absorbs the greater part of the national budget.
The third myth of ‘advanced’ mature capitalism is that it constantly revolutionizes production through innovation and technology. With the rise of the militarist – financial speculative elite, productive forces have been pillaged and ‘innovation’ in largely in the elaboration of financial instruments which exploit investors, strip assets and wipe out productive employment.
As the empire grows, the domestic economy diminishes, power is centralized in the executive, legislative powers are diminished and citizenry is denied effective representation or even a veto via electoral processes.
Mass Responses to Rise of Barbarism
The rise of barbarism in our midst has provoked mass public revulsion against its principal proponents. Surveys have repeatedly found
1.Profound disgust and revulsion against all political parties.
2.Huge majorities harbor profound distrust of the corporate and political elite.
3.Majorities reject the concentration of corporate power and the abuse of that power, especially among bankers and financiers.
4.There is widespread questioning of the democratic credentials of political leaders who act at the behest of the corporate elite and promote the repressive policies of the national security state.
5.A large majority rejects the pillage of the state treasury to bail out banks and the financial elite, while imposing regressive austerity programs on the working and middle class.
The Transition from Economic to Barbarous Imperialism
The US has been engaged in continuous imperial wars for over 60 years. War has been endemic to the imperial system; most of the time it has been integral to securing economic resources, market shares, and the exploitation of cheap labor. The dialectic between military expansion and conquest, political dominance via collaborator regimes and privileged economic access for US multi-national corporations (MNC) was effectively the defining character of US imperialism. This imperial dialectic no longer operates today. The rise of financial capital and the flight of US MNC overseas to sovereign Asia states had weakened the role of manufacturing capital as the driving force of imperial expansion. Today we have a new set of mechanisms driving imperial wars – militarism and Zionism – which see wars and military conquest as “ends in themselves”. They do not seize resources or market shares, they destroy them, as the US wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, Honduras and elsewhere demonstrate. These wars destroy the wealth of nations.They deplete the American treasury.They do not enrich corporations (except temporarily mercenary war contractors) and do not lead to outflows of profits back to the US/EU.
Imperial wars, which destroy civil society, the state and disarticulate modern secular societies, lead to alliances with the most retrograde clerical- ethnic collectivities which share the barbaric murderous inclinations of their imperial backers and sponsors.
Prospects for Socialism
The faint hopes for socialism lie outside of Europe and the United States. Even in the regions of high intensity anti-imperialist warfare such as in the Gulf, South Asia, the Horn of Africa, the main resistance forces are led by Islamic movements which reject secular socialist programs. Islamic led movements may weaken the empire but they also oppose and repress any overtly Marxist led working class movements. In Latin America nationalist regimes have weakened US imperialism’s stranglehold over their foreign policy and opened opportunities for the local capitalist class to gain new markets, but they have also de-radicalized , demobilized and co-opted formerly independent class movements and trade unions led by Marxists and socialists.
Insofar as socialism exists as a mass phenomenon – and not merely among academics and intellectuals attending each others conferences – it is found among dissident sectors of the Bolivian miners factory and public employees trade unions, sectors of the Brazilian landless workers and scattered among minorities in the trade unions and peasant movements throughout the region. Only in Venezuela, under President Chavez does a socialist program have both state and popular mass support, even as deep contradictions between “state” and “regime” co-exist.
In Asia the recent working class strike waves in China, in the context of a revolutionary socialist past, give substance for hopes of a mass socialist revival based on working class and peasant militancy. The same is true in Viet Nam, where worker militancy is in search of independent class organizations against the savage exploitation of foreign capital and local “Communist” oligarchs. In India peasant guerrillas control broad swathes of tribal regions and have established ‘dual power’ in limited domains, subject to military encirclement and search and destroy missions. Mass protests in Greece, Spain, France and Italy demonstrate profound working class hostility to class selective austerity programs. Theoretically they could provide the bases for a revival of Marxist politics; but as of the moment, no significant revolutionary party or movement exists to transform the mass strikes into a project for political power.
While the prospects for socialism especially in the US are especially distant and at present almost invisible, certain conditions could trigger a radical revival – which unfortunately may “turn right” before it looks left. In any case the prospects for socialism in the US and Western Europe involves a prolonged and difficult process based on (re) creating class consciousness and organization.
The capitalist offensive has certainly had a major impact on the objective and subjective conditions of the working and middle classes, increasing immiseration and provoking rising tide of personal discontent but not yet massive anti-capitalist movements or even dynamic organized resistance.
Major structural changes require a coming to terms with the current adverse circumstances and the identification of new agencies and modes of class struggle and transformation.
One key problem is the need to recreate a productive economy and to reconstruct a new industrial working class in the face of years of financial plunder and de-industrialization. Not necessarily the ‘dirty’ industries of the past, but certainly new industries using and inventing clean energy sources.
Secondly, the highly indebted capitalist societies require a fundamental shift from high cost militarism and empire building toward a kind of class based austerity that impose sacrifice and structural reforms on the banking, financial and big import retail commercial sectors, substituting local production for cheap consumer imports.
Thirdly, downsizing the financial and retail sectors requires the upgrading of skills of the displaced workers and employees as well as shifts in the IT sector to accommodate the shifts in the economy. Paradigmatic shifts from the money wage to the social wage, in which free public education to the highest levels and universal health care and comprehensive pensions replace debt financed consumerism.These changes can become the basis for strengthening class consciousness against individual consumerism.
The question is how do we move from weakened, fragmented labor and social movements in retreat or on the defensive to a position of launching an anti-capitalist offensive?
Several subjective objective factors are possibly working in this direction. First, there is the growing negativity of vast majorities to the political incumbents and in particular to the financial and economic elites who are clearly identified as responsible for the decline in living standards and growing inequalities. Secondly,there is the popular view shared by millions that the current austerity programs are clearly unjust – having the workers pay for the crises that the capitalist class brought forth. As yet these majorities are more “anti” status quo than pro transformation. The transition from private discontent to collective action is an open question as to who and how, but the opportunity exists.
Several objective factors could trigger a qualitative shift from passive angry discontent to a massive anti-capitalist movement. A “double dip” recession, the end of the present anemic recovery and the onset of a more profound and prolonged recession/depression, could further discredit current rulers and their economic backers.
Secondly, a period of unending and deepening austerity would discredit the current ruling class notion of “necessary pain for future gain” and open minds and move bodies to seek political solutions to achieve immediate gains by inflicting pain on the economic elites.
Unending and unwinable imperial wars that bleed the economy, ultimately create a consciousness that the ruling class has “sacrificed the nation” for ‘no useful purpose’.
Likely, the combination of a new phase of the recession, perpetual austerity and mindless imperial wars can turn the current mass malaise and diffuse hostility against the economic and political elite and toward socialist movements, parties and trade unions…