7 January, 2008
“The dominant trend shaping the present situation – is the advent of ‘neoliberalism’ – a concerted capitalist offensive aimed at sweeping away the gains made by working people during the last century and at deepening the subjugation of Third World countries.” — Cuban Communist Makes the Case for International Revolution
I have to admit to a feeling of being totally overwhelmed by the state of our planet even though I know the chaos that threatens to drown us all is the direct result of an economic system, capitalism, being nothing more than the anarchic addiction of capital accumulation now run riot (the profits that are being made are obscene and the pain of the victims, numbering in the millions, indescribable). That since the 1970s and the advent of so-called neoliberalism, it’s been a no holds barred, free-for-all on the people and the planet.
And If you have the impression that those who claim to be in control are not only totally clueless but are unable to do a damn thing about it, it’s because you’re correct. As they stagger from (self-made) crisis to crisis, invoking all manner of ‘evil forces’ as the cause, they dig an even deeper hole for all of us. They may rule our lives by dint of force and the control exercised by the ruling political classes but they too are swept along by forces they only dimly perceive (if at all).
Indeed, it can be argued that at this point in our social evolution, the ruling elites are the dumbest, the most stupid, the most short-sighted we’ve ever had. In deceiving us they first have to deceive themselves and unfortunately there are millions of ‘managers’ only too willing to carry out the deception for them.
But the reality is that it’s been this way for literally centuries, until the 20th century came along that is, when for the first time in our history we saw the opportunity to usher in a new era, where rather than being at the mercy of forces over which we, the people, had no control it was possible to envisage a society that cared more about the common good than the greed of the minority. All that’s changed is that the crisis of capital is now severe and with such immense ramifications that all but the self-delusional cannot avoid the truth.
Some contend that the period these gangster idiots have propelled us into is comparable to the 1930s — economic meltdown, the rise of Fascism and impending world war — but I contend that today the situation is far worse, for at least back then there was a real left opposition and some sense that the future could belong to us (if we played the right cards which obviously we didn’t but then that’s how we hopefully learn from the errors and crimes of the past).
And to add to our woes, two centuries of industrial capitalism have finally caught up with us that now threatens the entire planet. Amazing, it took four billion years for Nature to create a homeostatic (in balance) environment within which all of life could co-exist and only the blink of an eye to bring it all crashing down.
At this point, I suppose I could be forgiven for throwing in the towel, after all three generations of my family (along with millions of other progressives over the past century) have struggled to bring about a better world only to see the entire project come crashing down around our ears.
But before I metaphorically head for the hills, it’s worth noting that even now all is not lost and coincidentally, along comes a book by Cuban communist Roberto Regalado ‘Latin America at the Crossroad’ which succinctly unpacks the issues:
“After having wagered everything on the welfare state…the bankruptcy of that ideological construction today places … [social democracy] in the public pillory”. Unwilling to consider a perspective of superseding capitalism, its only course is total surrender. As a result, the outcome of the great reformist experiment in imperialist countries is that it was not social democracy that reformed capitalism, but capitalism that reformed social democracy.
What we now call neoliberalism. Now those of us in the so-called advanced countries are surely aware of this, after all, haven’t we seen the systematic dismantling, that is to say, privatisation of the public sector, health, education, housing, transport and communications, the penal system, social security etc, all in the name of the ‘market’, that fantasy land that only exists in the editorial offices of the BBC and the corporate media and of course the apparatchiks who have sold their souls to the system and (try) to make it work.
And of course the poor of the planet have seen their countries razed to the ground, have been slaughtered in their millions, driven from their homes and starved, all in the name of ‘defending the free market’. The events in Pakistan and now Kenya are the direct result of the past thirty years of neoliberalism as are the disasters which are Iraq, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Palestine, Lebanon and Haiti. And now with gasoline at $100 a barrel, the poorest countries will be even more impoverished than they already are.
And unless we take drastic steps now, we will see many more Pakistans and Kenyas littering the landscape as the effects of the oil cartels and Bushâ’s mad dog gangsters increase the contradictions, contradictions that impact most severely on the poor first.
Predictably, the mass media pile on the headlines about ‘tribal conflict’, ‘ethnic cleansing’, ‘failed states’ and the like just as they have always done but Kenya, just like Pakistan is the result of colonial rule, after all, who propped up Daniel Arap Moi of Kenya for decades? The West, especially the UK and the US.
Meanwhile, back in the belly of the beast, we can see the effects of capitalism attempting to’reform’ social democracy.
Ironically, our ruling elites, in their attempts to build a database-driven, corporate security state, have revealed not only their real intentions but thankful for small mercies, their total incompetence (not that it makes them any the less dangerous but at least it exposes them as a bunch of incompetent crooks). It makes you yearn for the gangsters of yore, like Churchill, at least they had a plan and a functioning bureaucracy and some sense of their place in the scheme of things.
And it’s not difficult to get inside the minds of these corporate geeks (I’ve been there). Obsessed with the alleged omnipotence of technology and the lure of easy money (ours) they sit in plush offices ogling Powerpoint presentations, flow charts and the like, making it all look like a stroll in the park. And if they fuck-up (which they do all the time), they pick up their bonuses and simply wash their hands of the entire enterprise, leaving it some other bunch of shysters to try and make it work (and pick up yet more millions). And we’re talking here about billions of pounds/dollars/euros of the public’s money pissed down the toilet. Our ruling classes are truly a disaster area of global proportions.
But these hi-tec con men are barely educated (in the traditional sense) as are most of the people they work for. We’re ruled by a bunch of ill-educated barbarians folks, who, if we are to have a future of any kind worth having, have to be swept from office before it’s too late.
Regalado’s call for a world revolution may seem impractical but what choice do we have given the circumstances? Regalado advocates:
“A political system — based on mechanisms of popular participation and representation capable of establishing a consensus that guarantees unity of thought and action on the key points of socialist construction and of mutually reinforcing this unity through the free and constructive flow of all ideas and proposals that reflect the diverse interests of the sectors of society for whose benefit such an effort is being undertaken.
“And this, Regalado specifies, requires nothing less than “the seizure of political power” under conditions where “those holding power in the world will cling to it to the very end.”
And this is the scary bit, that those who hold power might well see the planet destroyed rather than relinquish their power and privilege.
All quotes are taken from John Riddell’s excellent review of ‘Latin America at the Crossroad’ by Roberto Regalado,. Translation by Peter Gellert. Ocean Press (www.oceanbooks.com.au), 2007, US$17.95; America latina entre siglos. Ocean Press, 2007, US$17.95. John Riddell is co-editor of Socialist Voice