ON SOME FIN-DE-SIÈCLE MYTHS
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On some fin-de-siècle myths
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Among the many and varied myths that this fin de siècle is busy breeding, two are particularly virulent and obnoxious - that of the European Union as a necessary path to the general well-being and that of globalisation as a new, unaccounted for perspective demanding new responses.
Of course, both - in different ways - have to do with the miserable state in which the long, disastrous counterrevolution named Stalinism left the whole world, after dismantling Marxist theory from the bottom up and then making harakiri.
Let us look into these two different myths.
The myth of a European Union is based upon the belief that, given the capitalist mode of production, it be nonetheless possible to reach a state of peaceful unity among different national capitals, which agree to set aside reciprocal competition, in the name - of what? a presumed common history, culture, identity, geography?
Such a myth simply erases the elementary fact that, if so much talking is being done in Europe about the European Union, the reason is that the inter-imperialist competition has reached such a disquieting level that national capitals pose themselves the problem of a «united front» against stronger competitors. That is to say: face to the rule of the U.S. superpower and of its most direct competitors (Germany, Japan, Far East, etc.), the other European nations risk to play the role of the famous earthenware pots among the steel pots - i.e., the risk to be crushed into thousand fragments! At the same time, Germany itself needs preparing a stronger bulwark against both the U.S. superpower and the Far East ones and of course envisages such a bulwark in its own image and to its own ends.
Bourgeois propaganda mystifies such a perspective by incessantly talking of it as a necessary step towards a sort of New-Age well-being which would shine on «all the peoples of Europe», once that Union be accomplished.
But this is simply bullshit!
We know too well:
a) that if ever such a Union will be accomplished it will be after a tumultuous process of strife and veritable clashes - economic, financial, and lastly, sooner or later, military -, out of which the strongest capital will emerge to rule the rest of Europe (and this can only be Germany);
b) that if ever such a Union will be accomplished, it will rest under the iron heel of German capital and it will not be a «people's Europe» (as bourgeois propaganda claims it to be and as so-called «leftists» demagogically oppose as a possible perspective, from the bottom up, a «grassroots» perspective, so to speak);
c) that all the economic measures which are being introduced by all European nations «in the name of Maastricht» are really meant to drain as many capitals as possible, in order to direct them towards the process of capital's valorisation, in a phase of acute recession in which the capitalist machine seems unable to start marching again, due to overproduction of goods and capitals;
d) that all «sacrifices» accepted «in the name of Maastricht» are simply in the interest of the recovery of «national economy», and this means a more savage exploitation for the working class and an increase in inter-imperialist competition, which will ultimately lead to a new world conflict;
e) that for these reasons the European Union is no perspective to be fought for by the working class, because it would only be the substitution of one specific nationalism with another «larger, «geographic», one;
f) and that, finally, we as communists have no matter with the talk of creating another pole able to resist both the U.S. and the Far East competition, but must devote our energies to the preparation of the only task required of communists - the international revolution - and this task is one that steers clear of all nationalisms and «area» united fronts of «European peoples»!
What we fight for, in fact, is the overturning of this over-ripe, indeed rotten, mode of production, which is by now the same in Europe and in the Americas as in Asia and in Africa.
And this leads precisely to our other fin-de-siècle myth, that of globalisation.
At the core of this myth lies some intellectuals' misconception - that we face here another «post», after the «post-modern», the «post-industrial», the «post-communist», etc. According to this way of thinking, we are always living in some entirely «new» age, which requires to be dealt with by resorting to «new» solutions, strategies, etc. But it occurs that the intellectuals' «new» is most often a very old «old». And in fact...
And in fact, all this talk of globalization as if it were something totally new hides the fact that, from its very beginnings, capitalism is an international force bound to submit to its economic laws all areas of the planet. In its search for profit, to be extracted out of a working class the cheaper the better, capitalism is inevitably pushed to reach and submit areas after areas of the planet to its mode of production. What we are witnessing today is but another step in this incessant process. It is an internationalisation of capitalism: an internationalisation of the labour market, an internationalisation of finance, an internationalisation of profit-making...
But is it anything new? Not at all! Do you want a proof?
Just go back to Marx's and Engels's 1848 «Communist Manifesto» and read (Chapter One: «Bourgeois and Proletarians»; our italics (1)):
«The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionising the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society. Conservation of the old modes of production in unaltered form, was, on the contrary, the first condition of existence for all earlier industrial classes. Constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life and his relations with his kind.
The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the whole surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connections everywhere.
The bourgeoisie has through its exploitation of the world market given a cosmopolitan character to production and consumption in every country. To the great chagrin of reactionaries, it has drawn from under the feet of industry the national ground on which it stood. All old-established national industries have been destroyed or are daily being destroyed. They are dislodged by new industries, whose introduction becomes a life and death question for all civilised nations, by industries that no longer work up indigenous raw material, but raw material drawn from the remotest zones; industries whose products are consumed, not only at home, but in every quarter of the globe. In place of the old wants, satisfied by the production of the country, we find new wants, requiring for their satisfaction the products of distant lands and climes. In place of the old local and national seclusion and self-sufficiency, we have intercourse in every direction, universal inter-dependence of nations. [...]
The bourgeoisie, by the rapid improvement of all instruments of production, by the immensely facilitated means of communication, draws all nations, even the most barbarian, into civilisation. The cheap prices of its commodities are the heavy artillery with which it batters down all Chinese walls, with which it forces the barbarians' intensely obstinate hatred of foreigners to capitulate. It compels all nations, on pain of extinction, to adopt the bourgeois mode of production; it compels them to introduce what it calls civilisation into their midst, i.e., to become bourgeois themselves. In a word, it creates a world after its own image».
Well written, Karl and Friedrich! And 150 years ago!
Do you need another proof? Think of what is happening in Asia and Africa in the past few decades (or of what happened in South Korea early this year) and, after the theoretical proof you have the matter-of-fact one!
«New» phenomenon, «new» stage, «new» perspectives, «new» responses, «new» strategies?
Bullshit again! We don't need such paraphernalia, the usual junk which intellectuals like to heap, because it is so self-rewarding dealing in «new»!
What we need is going back to basics, in order to re-establish, in all its powerfulness, a Marxist doctrine which Stalinism pitilessly destroyed - a destruction within which all these talks of «new» are dramatically embedded, but from which our Party, however small and presently unheeded and unheard of, managed to keep away: the only force which knew how to react to the Stalinist counterrevolution, by holding Marxist doctrine tight through all the ups and downs of history (and till now they were mostly downs!).
To this task we have been devoting ourselves. Most of the articles in this issue of «Internationalist Papers» deal exactly with this task and with the necessities which it imposes to all sincere revolutionaries (2).
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Source: »Internationalist Papers«, n. 6, may 1997
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