As another member of the Euro zone enters a period of extensive economic and social depression the talks predicting the collapse of initially the European community and afterwards the world order as we know it become more extensive by the day. The people most affected have to deal with their disillusionment for life itself via making sense of the economic jargon and constant scaremongering extended to them via the political establishment and the media.
The last time the world was entering the fifth year of a global financial crisis, the Nazi government was introducing the ‘Law for the Prevention of Genetically Diseased Offspring’, under which compulsory sterilization of humans was made possible, in fascist Italy school teachers were forced to wear military uniforms in classrooms, Spain was heading towards civil war and in France the French far-right was attempting to take power via a coup.
While it is important to draw conclusions from that era as to the repercussions global crisis has to society in general and adjust to the current period, it would be at the same time inadequate for the understanding of the present crisis as well as the understanding of the tasks humanity is faced with, if we were not to see the vast differences that separate the two economic events and effectively the two eras.
Indeed it would be in the interest of the political and in effect to the financial establishment to convince us of the similarities of the two periods by evoking the nightmares society had to witness. The argument simply goes, accept conditions as they are or face the possibility of world disorder and war. To every onslaught instigated towards society, the choice is always the same. Acceptance or face catastrophe. It is so well orchestrated that once this notion has gone through the final stages of its propagation, the media, the picture formed is one of antagonism between the European and World bourgeoisie.
Yet never in history has there been such a coordinated global attack on every aspect that constitutes how democratic a society is.
The world has changed dramatically since the last financial crisis, and although it is obvious to point out that capitalism in its core as an economic system has not undergone significant alterations and hence one is able to observe, at times, the existence of duplications between the two periods, it is important at the same time to point out the transformation society has undergone politically and culturally under the drive of the bourgeois ideals. In essence what we have witnessed is the alteration of what characterizes the bourgeoisie as class.
Prior to the Second World War the bourgeoisie were confined within the limits of the nation state, in essence existing as domesticated ruling classes, based on industrial capital and domestic financial capital. Up until WWII the role of the state was that of increasing the strength of the domestic ruling elite’s interests at home by using its institutions (parliament, judiciary, police, etc) against the productive classes and through means of imperialism expanding that force outside the borders of its nation state.
Yet today we see a vastly different picture. The role of the state has been transformed significantly since the end of the Second World War by the development and expansion of finance capital from a domestic form of capital to a truly international one with global institutions and economic alliances. Through this development the bourgeoisie as a class has developed for the first time in history to an international class with a global notion and perspective of the world rather than inward domesticated one.
In 1916, in the midst of the First World War, Lenin wrote the book ‘Imperialism the Highest Stage of Capitalism’; at the time one can easily see why such a notion could seem true. However the problematic nature of that notion lies in that it is based on an economic fatalistic and deterministic outlook of the capitalist system, inherited by Marx’s economics and passed all the way to the present theoretical adherents of socialism and their present examination of capitalism. While Lenin and Marxist economists in general saw the advances of financial capital and how it would dramatically shape the world by escaping the boundaries of domestic markets, they did not see the bourgeoisie as a political and cultural entity which will also be transformed by this development and in turn shape politically and culturally the world in order to provide the foundations for a new international vision. Thus the end of the Second World War saw the emergence of an international ruling class, poised to shape the world in accordance to the idea of a free market. A non stagnant outlook of the Bourgeoisie as a class places revolution and socialism not in the realms of economic necessity in a deterministic way, but relative to a class’ political capacity, hence establishing the capitalist system via an ever changing bourgeoisie as an eternal possibility.
Yet is perhaps only now, during a global crisis that this notion has become so visible. The state is no longer the enforcing power of a domestic ruling class but the servant of international finance capital and therefore of an international bourgeoisie, for the first time able to mobilize all political establishments of all states, in particular in the advanced world, to enforce policies of further impoverishment, exploitation and social degradation for the preservation of their economic model.
Indeed, what we witness on a daily basis is the economic ramifications of the political culture of a well established international ruling class, which has propelled its global financial and political institutions above the limitations of the modern nation state, but at the same time in command of state machinery throughout the advanced capitalist world by means of the attachment and dependence of domestic capital to international capital, following by the subjection of the domestic political establishment.
However within the realms of this global world a great paradox has unraveled. While the international character of the modern bourgeoisie as a class is very much visible, especially when one is referring to the advanced capitalist world, the same cannot be said for the productive classes, with the working class and all its socio-economic layers being at the core. Indeed the world working class seems less international in character and culturally than ever before. While the ruling class has transcended the limits of the nation state, socialism as a political theory despite its internationalism has not managed to escape the confines of the nation state either that be in its reformist form as social democracy or its revolutionary form.
In this crisis the working classes of the nation states along with the agrarian classes and the majority of middle class layers are left to fight a political enemy in the form of the ghost. This is evident to a great extent as far as Europe is concerned as the impoverished classes of the European states look further apart than ever before despite co-existing in a massive political union. The political fight has been contained within the respective national states, with any movement unable to materialize or crystallize around archaic, backward and at times reactionary ideas about the capturing and reformation of the bourgeois state at a time that the bourgeois state itself has been rendered by the bourgeois themselves to a secondary institution and more like an instrument of buffering international public discontent.
At these times of globalism and international events there is not one international or even European campaign that has encompassed and mobilized masses around it, able to provide them with a political-class consciousness, when more than one hundred years ago in 1886 in Chicago, the violent ending of a general strike for the eight hour day triggered an international movement, propelled by the newly formed second international and the newly formed social democratic parties, solidifying them as the theoretical and political international champions of the impoverished and oppressed of the world.
The working class through its political parties managed to use bourgeois mainstream politics to be first to create international institutions to promote its own economic, political and cultural analysis of the world. Today the working class having been led away from being active in its own traditional political parties and its own international organizations for the sake of not being involved in main stream bourgeois politics, has been left politically isolated, unrepresented, politically illiterate and without an international or even a social outlook, to the extent that what characterizes modern workers as a class, is their economic stature, position and condition within a bourgeois world rather than their political cohesion and self-awareness as a socio-political entity. Thus the modern worker stands alone to observe events rather than act upon them.
The modern working class is faced with a choice between the bourgeois apologists and the remnants of the adherents of socialism. In the case of the former we are reminded that the economic situation dictates that this impoverishment is the only way, and in the case of the later we are reminded that there is nothing to be gained unless there is a socialist transformation. The tragedy is that in both cases we are reminded of our inability to change our present and to protect the gains of the past. So as the working class doesn’t have the political capacity to lead a revolutionary transformation of society, it stands politically still, remaining nothing but an economic class, politically cultureless and inactive.
The quest towards re-acquisition of political essence in the existence as a class, can only be initiated with engagement in main stream bourgeois politics and thus taking advantage not only the international character and history of the political parties the workers have created in the past, but also through them, the globalised nature the bourgeoisie have furnished the world with.
Whether a bank should be nationalised or not, is not really the issue, and any argument for, or against such a notion can only have a theoretical character, since what the real issue is whether the working class has the political capacity to act upon such a task wrongly or rightly. Not only the tasks that today’s socialist theoreticians assign to the working class are politically flawed, they are also tasks that would find response from a working class of a different era. Partly because of their outdated political nature, but also, partly because of their irrelevance to the political character of the modern working class, like with the bourgeoisie as a class, the assumption has been of an ever enduring politically working class, predictable and to a large extent immune to bourgeois political culture.
The modern working class does not have the political capacity and therefore the immediate need to fight for socialism. It has the need to fight for its political soul so that one day can find itself in the position to provide and fight for an alternative to capitalism. The task is to regain its international character and social consciousness. As in the past campaigns with an international character must become the heart of a political movement, (for example a campaign for a European minimum wage and European social insurance) that will take place within its traditional parties not only so that the working class can also transcend the confines of the state but also to be able to challenge bourgeois politics internationally. For what option is there other than that of re-engagement.