Category Archives: Greece

No Conservatives Allowed on This Website!

We have had a few conservatives posting here in the past few days. These are US-style conservatives, which are the worst kind of all. US-style conservatives are absolutely banned from posting here in any way, shape or form.

Conservatism means different things in different countries, so conservatives from much of the rest of the world (except Latin America and the UK) can continue to post. Even Canadian conservatives can continue to post, as I do not mind them. It’s not conservatism itself that is so awful. Almost every country on Earth has people who call themselves conservatives, and there are conservative parties in almost every country on Earth. But being a conservative just about anywhere outside of the Americas is more or less an acceptable position for me. I probably won’t like their politics much, but I could at least look at them and say that this is an opposition I could live with.

US conservatives and their brethren in the UK, Latin America, the Philippines, Nepal and and Indonesia are quite a different beast.

I have to think hard about conservatives in Eastern Europe, especially Estonia, Latvia and the Czech Republic. These fools had such a bad experience with Communism that they went 180 degrees in the other direction. I would have to see the positions of these conservative parties in those countries to see whether they would be OK or not.

Just to give you an example, Vladimir Putin is considered to be a right-winger, and his party United Russia advocates a politics called Russian Conservatism. Looking at the party’s platform, this is not only a conservatism that I could live with but one I might even vote for!

Conservatives in South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, and most other places in Asia are acceptable. The conservatives in the Stans, Georgia, Ukraine, and Armenia can be rather awful, particularly in the nationalist sense, but I will not ban them.

I dislike Indian conservatives, but I will not ban them.

Conservatives from the Muslim World are all acceptable. In the Muslim World, conservatism just means religious and sometimes nationalist. I can live with that. Even the ones in Iran are orders of magnitude better than the US type.

Conservatives in the Arab World are acceptable. They are mostly just religious people.

Turkish conservatives are awful, but I will not ban them. They are just religious and a particularly awful type of nationalist.

African conservatives are OK.

Conservatives in Ireland, France, Spain, Portugal, Germany,  the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Italy, Switzerland, Italy, the Balkans, Bulgaria, Greece, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, and Romania are sometimes good, sometimes pretty bad, but they are all acceptable here. Conservatism in Europe mostly means nationalism. I am actually rather fond of the conservative running Hungary, Orban. LePen conservatives leave something to be desired, but they are acceptable. They’re mostly just nationalists. Hell, I might even vote for Marine LePen! If it was down to LePen versus Macron, I would absolutely support LePen!

Conservatives from Indonesia, Nepal and Philippines are not OK. These are an “everything for the rich elite, nothing for anybody else” type of conservative. Some of them even hide under the labels of Socialist or even Communist.

The word conservative has no real inherent meaning. It means whatever people say it means.

Anyway, the conservatives in the US are pure garbage and recently they have become out and out fascists after moving in that direction for a long time. And a particularly horrible type of fascist at that, a Latin American/Filipino/Indonesian style fascist. I will not allow any US conservatives to post on this board. You all are lucky I even let you lurk here. That’s an idle threat as I can’t ban lurkers, but if they all stopped lurking, I would not mind frankly.

You all really ought to go back to the gutters you crawled out of.

PS This especially applies to Libertarians, the very worst of all the US conservative vermin. We shoot Libertarians on sight here, so you better watch out.

*This applies only to economic conservatives. If you are not an economic conservative, and your conservatism is only of the social variety or you are only conservative on race, religion, guns, law and order, respect for tradition, American nationalism, the military, gender, sexual orientation or gender identity issues, you can stay. I’m not crazy about some social conservatives, but I can live with them. I will probably even let patriotards post as long as they are not economic conservatives.

I am an American nationalist myself. I just don’t like patriotards. Of course, I very much dislike and even hate the country as it is right now, but I sure don’t want to make it worse! I have to live here too you now, and it might as well be as pleasant as possible as long I stay here.

I want what’s best for my country. I don’t want to harm this country or screw it over. That will be bad for me! And believe it or not, most US patriotards do not want what is best for the country! I have dreams of a greater and better America. It’s not impossible, but we will have to undergo some serious cultural changes. One of the reasons I am so against illegal immigration is because it is ruining my country and making this place even worse. Also illegal immigration is terrible for US workers and I am for the workers. I am against H-1B visas for the same reason – they are wrecking my country. IT workers are workers too, so they are my comrades. I want what is best for America and American workers.

I cannot live with economic conservatives. I like cancer way more than I like US conservatives. Cancer is much more decent and respectable.

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Problems of Communist or Socialist Democracy

Steve: I think the worst thing about 20th century communism was not the economic system but the totalitarianism, the police state and the spying and prison camps.

Maybe it was the revolutionary origins, the utopianism, the materialism, the fact the government had too much power because it owned and controlled everything BUT if it were possible to have communism with democracy, free speech, freedom of religion, trial by jury etc it really wouldn’t be so bad, you could live with the economic system.

Remember the communist countries had the cold war and sanctions and stuff to contend with too.

They have a certain amount of free speech in China, Vietnam and Cuba, but maybe not as much as you would like. They have anti-government demonstrations in Vietnam, and there are 100 protests every day in China.

There is critical press in Cuba that no one does anything about (check out Havana Times) and dissidents are mostly allowed to publish openly (check out the famous Cuban woman dissident blogger). There is freedom of religion in Cuba, and believers can now join the Party. They have trial by jury in Cuba. I am not sure how fair it is though. But there are some defense attorneys who are taking anti-government cases right now, people accused of criminal charges, police brutality cases, etc. You can read about them in Havana Times. Nobody does much to them.

In Cuba it was supposedly inside the revolution, total freedom of speech, outside of it nothing. But it never really worked out that way, and they went after a lot of loyal opposition types. In Cuba today, you can’t try to overthrow the government and you can’t advocate getting rid of the socialist system. Outside of that, you can supposedly say what you want, but even that may be limited. Check out Havana Times though. There are some very government-critical people there being published all the time, and I think they are mostly left alone.

Every time they try that, the capitalists go berserk, cause chaos and make endless coup and assassination attempts. Also they engage in mass economic sabotage. But this was only tried in places where the economy was still capitalist. The US starts flooding the country with millions of dollars to the dissidents and spends more millions setting up countless “democratic” pressure group that mostly spend every second of their time trying to overthrow the government. You going to let people own newspapers, magazines, TV and radio stations. Guess who’s going to buy up all the media? In Venezuela even today, 75% of the media is privately owned. OK you will allow free elections. How about campaign contributions? Guess who’s going to buy the elections?

You can’t have Communist democracy. That’s why Lenin talked about parliamentary cretinism.

You can’t have somewhat socialist democracy in a lot of places. Look what happened in:

  • Brazil (military coup, parliamentary coup)
  • Guatemala (military coup + 200,000 murdered over 40 years)
  • Iran (military coup + 150,000 murdered)
  • The Congo (military coup + assassination)
  • Haiti (military coup + chaos + contras + 3,000 plus murdered)
  • Dominican Republican (US invasion to topple regime)
  • Guyana (regime toppled by British)
  • Honduras (military coup + 1,000 murdered)
  • Syria (military coup)
  • Greece (military coup)
  • Italy (election fraud)
  • Indonesia (military coup + 1 million Communists murdered)
  • Colombia (assassination + death squads)
  • Panama (assassination)
  • Mexico (election fraud)
  • Afghanistan (contras)
  • Nicaragua (contras + sanctions)
  • El Salvador (military coup followed by 75,000 murdered)
  • Chile (economic sabotage, chaos, military coup, 15,000 murdered, defense attorneys tortured to death)
  • Venezuela (military coup, economic coup, constant riots and chaos), endless assassination plots, assassinations and murders, death squads, economic sabotage)
  • Argentina (military coup, 30,000 murdered)
  • Uruguay (military coup, 300 murdered)
  • Peru (military coup, 1.5 million arrested)
  • East Timor (military coup, invasion to topple regime, 300,000 murdered),
  • Paraguay (legislative coup + death squads)
  • Zimbabwe (sanctions)
  • Ukraine (coup)

Mao warned about this. He said there were always capitalist elements in the party trying to restore capitalism. That was the reason for the cultural revolution. Mao thought you would have to have cultural revolutions all the time to keep weeding out the reactionary elements in the party because they would keep springing up again like weeds.

Look what happened when Mao died. The reactionaries in the party around Deng took over and restored capitalism (sort of). Mao was right.

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Alt Left Manifesto

From the Alt Left Manifesto group on Facebook, a post by Ryan England.

If I personally had to decide upon one single definitive statement of what the Alt-Left is, I’d go with this entry in the Beyond Highbrow blog – Dealbreakers: What the Alternative Left Is Not. Firstly, I think this movement owes Robert Lindsay a hat tip for blazing this trail for us. Agree with him or not on any given issue, respect is owed the first (to my knowledge) blogger and online presence to use the Alt-Left label.

I don’t think we have to agree with every last qualification Lindsay lists in the post. But he does state with perfect succinctness what I think the overarching defining principle is:

The Alternative Left should be for people who are mostly liberal, Left or progressive in their characters, souls, politics and voting. However, we are disenchanted with some aspects of Left, especially the Cultural Left in the US. On those issues, we feel that the Left has gone too far. So while we are more conservative than the Cultural Left, we are not all the way to the social conservatism of the US Right, which mostly appalls us. So Alt Left types would be more centrist on cultural issues, not as leftwing as the Cultural Left but at the same time repulsed by the cultural reaction of the Right.

However, on economics, most Alt Left types would feel that the Western liberal/Left has not gone far enough. The Democratic Party in the US, Labor in the UK, the “Socialist” Party in France, and the “Social Democratic” PASOK in Greece have all sold the workers out badly for the rich, the corporations and capital in general. They claim to represent the working people, but instead they are traitors to the working class.

So the Alt Left would be for people who feel that the Western Liberal-Left in governments of the West is too rightwing on economic issues but too leftwing on social issues.

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The Hell with the Pentagon

As the agency which enforces US foreign policy at gunpoint, the Pentagon has always blown.

First of all, there is no such thing as the Defense Department. When has the Pentagon ever defended the country? Pearl Harbor? They did a fine job there, huh?

Obviously the task of the Pentagon is not to defend the US mainland, which is all it ever ought to do anyway.

Its task is to running around the world starting wars and killing people in other countries. Leaving aside whether that is sometimes a good idea (and I think it is,) what’s so defensive about that?

The real name of the Pentagon is the War Department.That’s what it was always called until World War 2, which the War Department won. After that in a spate of Orwellian frenzy, we named an army of aggression an army of self-defense and comically renamed its branch the Defense Department.

It’s like calling cops peace officers. You see anything peaceful about what a cop does in a typical day? Neither do I?

There was a brief glimmer of hope there in WW2 when we finally starting killing fascists and rightwingers instead of sleeping with them, but the ink was barely dry on the agreements before we were setting up the Gladio fascists, overthrowing Greek elections and slaughtering Greek peasants like ants.

Meanwhile it was scarcely a year after 1945 when the US once again started a torrid love affair with fascism and rightwing dictators like we have always done. We were smooching it up right quick with Europe’s fascists, in this case the former Nazis of Germany (who became the West German elite), Greek killer colonels, Mussolini’s heirs, actual Nazis in Ukraine, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, Jew-Nazis in Palestine, Franco (who we never stopped sleeping with anyway), Salazar, the malign Mr. Churchill, the true repulsive Dutch royalty and disgusting European colonists the world over, who we showered with guns and bombs to massacre the colonized.

In 1945, a war against fascism, reaction, Nazism and malign colonialism had ended, and for some reason America had fought against these things instead of supporting them as usual.

1946, and we were back in old style again, hiring Nazis by the busload for the CIA, overthrowing democratic governments and putting in genocidal dictatorships, becoming butt buddies with fascist swine everywhere.

So you see we have always pretty much sucked. World War 1 was fought amidst one of the most dishonest propaganda campaigns the world had ever seen, the Korean War was a Godawful mess where we turned North Korea to flaming rubble with the population cowering in caves while slaughtering 3 million North Koreans.

The horrific catastrophe called the Indochinese Wars, such as the Vietnam War, the Secret War in Laos and the Cambodian Massacre, where we genocided 500,000 Cambodians with bombs, driving the whole place crazy and creating the Khmer Rogue.

Panama and Grenada were pitiful jokes, malign, raw, naked imperialism at its worst.

The Gulf War was a brief return to sanity but turkey shoots are sickening.

Of course that followed on with the most evil war in US history, the Nazi-like war on aggression called The War on the Iraqi People (usually called the Iraq War), the Afghan rabbit hole which started out sensibly enough but turned into another Vietnam style Great Big Mess.

I suppose it is ok that we are killing Al Qaeda guys and I give a shout out to our boys over there fighting ISIS or the Taliban and Al Qaeda in South-Central Asia, Somalia and Yemen. Some people need killing.

But I sure don’t feel that way about their superiors, the US officers who fund and direct ISIS, Al Qaeda, etc. out of an Operations Center in Jordan with Jordanian, Israeli (!), Saudi, UAE, and Qatari officers.

And it was very thoughtful of the Pentagon to cover up the Ukrainian Air Force shootdown of the jetliner which we saw on the radar of our ships in Black Sea.

And it was nice of the US to relay the flight path of the Russian jet to the Turks 24 hours in advance so they could shoot down that Russian jet and kill that pilot.

One hand giveth and the other taketh away. For every good thing we do in Syria and Iraq, we do 10 or 20 bad things. Pretty much the story of the Pentagon.

Sure if you fought in WW2 or one of the few other decent wars, you have something to be proud of, and I can even say, “Thank you for your service,” but the main thing is that you signed up for the rightwing army of the rich that is dead set against the people and popular rule everywhere on Earth. Sure, it’s a great army, professional, super-competent and deadly, but it’s generally tasked with doing lousy things. Why anyone would sign up for that reactionary nightmare of an institution is beyond me. America needs to level the Pentagon and put in a true People’s Army instead. Like that would ever happen.

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“Western Moral Decline or Capitalist Decadence?,” by John Kovas

This is a good piece. You can find it at Kofas’ website, or I got it off of Academia.edu. Looking at his website, it appears that the rest of his stuff is pretty good too. I need to read this guy more.

I actually think he is onto something here, and you need to be hip to this argument because the Right is always trotting out this “moral decline” argument that I think needs to be countered.

Western Moral Decline or Capitalist Decadence?

by John Kofas

Historically, during periods of economic contraction, the intelligentsia, politicians, business, academic, community and church leaders invariably try to steer the debate away from what has gone wrong with the political economy to the subject of values.

This was certainly the case during the 19th century when the depressions of the 1840’s, 1870’s and 1890’s took place. Well-meaning individuals as well as opportunistic propagandists questioned society’s values, despite the fact that structural causes in the political economy accounted for the economic contraction and social ills.

A somewhat similar situation existed during the Great Depression of the 1930’s when novelists, philosophers, politicians and others decried the values of the 1920’s. There are similarities between those historical periods and the economic contraction and diminishing of the Western middle class that started during the Reagan-Thatcher era and continues to the present.

The universal topic of values served its purpose when the Industrial Revolution was causing socioeconomic problems, and it serves its purpose today when Western Civilization is captive to banks and corporate capital that are concentrating capital while weakening the social fabric and democratic institutions.

The very elites suggesting to the masses redirection toward reexamination of values are the same ones that:

1. do not practice the values that they preach;

2. are responsible for the widening socioeconomic gap and sociopolitical instability that ensues;

3. benefit by deflecting the focus of the masses from the essential problem in the systemic flaws of the political economy to values.

Naturally, there is the salient question of the vast differences in value systems between societies and individuals; differences between religious and secular values within a pluralistic society, or the differences/nuances of values within a community whether it is predominantly religious or secular.

That scholars, politicians, businesspeople, priests, and the laity have been concerned about western civilization’s decline is a story as old as Oswald Spengler who wrote about the topic after the German Empire lost the First World War, and Europe as the world’s global power center began to give ground to the US and USSR.

But are the values of Bismarck and his generation of imperialist politicians and business titans the ones that Spengler’s generation lamented against the background of the Bolshevik Revolution and its global impact? Is it the Western values of imperialism, nationalism and militarism that led to global war in 1914 that were lost along with the decline of Western Europe?

Spengler focused on Western decadence, but the question is one of the underlying assumptions of what constituted decadence and what constituted ascendancy, the degree to which humane and communitarian principles rested behind assumptions. Was it dreadful that imperialist Europe of the old elites began to decline as a result of militarist confrontation, or was it tragic that millions of people died, injured, displaced, impoverished as a result? If one values power, then one laments the decline of Europe’s power. But what if the value system is human-centered, instead of power-based?

When the Great Depression erupted to cripple societies across most of the planet, why was there a sharp turn to a discussion of values, whether by US President Roosevelt who favored a quasi-communitarian orientation that mirrored the New Deal or ultra-nationalist one that Hitler advocated who was interested in ethnic cleansing as a means of restoring the purity of the mythological Aryan race as Alfred Rosenberg conceived it and the NAZI party practiced it.

In a very strange way, the NAZI regime’s populist ethnic collectivist approach intended to achieve the same goal as that of FDR and for that matter Josef Stalin who advocated superimposed collectivism.

The Third Reich manufactured a value system that a large percentage of Germans and Austrians, accepted and lived under with the hope that it would propel them to greatness as the NAZI party defined the concept. Why did millions of people accept an utterly barbaric and inhumane and racist value system under Hitler, and why did they not retain humane principles based on the wider philosophical framework of the Enlightenment that revolutionized European culture in the 18th century?

Is it merely a question of brainwashing – no matter how good German propaganda was – or one that a large segment of the population actually embraced values because they perceived benefits accruing to them – everything from keeping their jobs to feeling great that the ruling party told them they were ‘superior’ to other races.

From the end of World War II that marked the end of Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and militarist-imperial Japan until the end of the Vietnam War, Western and non-Western (Communist regime) societies operated on broader values – in theory and certainly not in practice – of communitarian principles as part of an ideological mix.

Certainly in Western societies, led by the US, the value system of individualism, business progress, consumerism, commercialism of culture, and hedonism were prevalent, but the existence of the welfare state entailed tangible evidence that communitarian values mattered. The beginning of the breakdown of that value system comes when the US and the West in general begin to gradually eliminate the communitarian aspect in the societal mix because it interferes with finance capitalism and the neoliberal model of capital accumulation.

More than political trends, material conditions influence evolving value systems, something that is evident in the consumerist values (to which we must add hedonist and atomistic) of much of the world in the last fifty years. After all, values too are class-based. The relative decline of compassion for humanity, and a rise of alienation which many try to cure by going to therapy and with legal and illegal drugs, has been sharply on the increase in the last half century to the degree that we now have a Western culture of therapism thriving.

Ethical ambiguity naturally translates into ambiguity of values, thus reflecting cultural relativism. In a recent public opinion poll, the vast majority of the people in Finland agreed that if their close friend committed murder, they would notify the authorities. In the same poll, the vast majority of Greeks agreed they would not turn in their friend. Not surprisingly, Greek elites, including academics, praised the virtue of honoring friendship, while the people of Finland stressed the virtue of social conscience.

What accounts for the absence of convergence in the values of the two societies? History, tradition, religion, culture, etc., and what does this example teach us about the values of ambiguity? How could any human being with an once of moral fiber not report a case of murder? How could someone betray their friend, even in case of murder?

Beyond values of ambiguity, there is a much clearer case regarding basic values that are time-tested and transcend time and place.

1. Lying is clearly immoral. Not the kind of lying involving little lies that cause no harm but big lies that bring about great harm to a great many people. Yet, lying is at the core of both business and politics, but it is passed on as public relations. Lying to an entire nation about the reason for going to war is acceptable because it is a matter of national security. Lying to consumers about a product is acceptable because it is in the name of peddling a product or service.

2. Stealing is clearly immoral. I was hardly surprised to read stories about people across southern Europe actually stealing food because of the current hard times. However, stealing in the framework of institutionalized ‘appropriation’ of government subsidies to make banks stronger, is morally acceptable. Yet this is a process that forces people to steal food. Are we back in the era of Victor Hugo’s Jean Val Jean?

3. Killing is clearly immoral. However, mass killings of collateral damage victims in time of war is just fine. Why do human beings categorically reject the individual who kills her husband that abuses her but accept mass killings in wars? What does this tell us about our values and how they are molded?

How does a politician, a journalist, an academic, or much less a leading businessperson tell the masses to reexamine their values against the background of austerity economics that benefit those preaching reexamination of values?

For more than half a century, the same elites now preaching reexamination of values were advocating consumerism, commercialization of culture, hedonism, and atomistic proclivities, all in the name of an open society when in reality the only interest was the thriving of the market economy.

Having conditioned citizens as consumers steeped in that frame of mind and value system, how do elites now try to tell them that embracing everything from nature to God, everything from family values to community values, filter down, and even if it did, what exactly does that do for the high structural unemployment and underemployment, low wage structure, lack of opportunities for college graduates, and lack of job security?

When Ronald Reagan was beginning to dismantle the welfare state and strengthen the corporate welfare state, his administration, various think tanks, journalists, academics, clergy and business leaders began to speak of values, namely ‘family values’.

One odd thing about many of the people advocating ‘family values’ is that they themselves were not practicing them. Another odd thing was that these values advocates were interested in pushing society in the direction of conformity to the changing status quo, so value discussion was one tool they used.

Of course, there was a contradiction between ‘family values’ rhetoric and policies – government and business – that were contributing to undermining the family by forcing both parents to work, in some cases at second jobs to make ends meet.

At the same time, reorientation to values discussion did not mean that workers must stop shopping, given that the population remained under the spell of increasingly intrusive advertising that helped shape consumerist and atomistic values. Are we witnessing a Western moral decline or merely a decline of the capitalist system and its apologists trying desperately to distract the masses by shifting the focus to values?

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Neoliberalism Kills

Here.

Gee, it only kills 850,000 per year every single year in the US. What’s so bad about that? Now you see why some of us hate capitalism so much. The prevailing view is that it is ok to kill 850,000 people/yr. in  the US just so we can have more money and more stuff. In other words, let’s kill a million people a year so I can have more stuff. But wait! What if we don’t do that? What if we say, no, it’s not ok to kill a million people a year so you guys can have more stuff? Let’s put in some policies that at the very least lower that rate, ok? How about that?

Oh no! We can’t have that! If you kill fewer than 850,000 people/yr., then I will end up with less stuff! You cannot kill one person less! That means I won’t get as much shit!

You capitalist supporters think it is ok to out and out kill almost a million Americans a year so the rest of you get more money and more stuff.

Well…screw you.

You know what? That’s not a moral system. I am queasy about the notion of killing even one person so I can get more shit. I know 90% of the population says we have to kill all these people so we can have more money, but I might just object. Or if I go along, it might be reluctantly.

Now capitalist society makes great claims about being the ultimately moral society. This is because in capitalism, freedom = morality. Never mind that capitalists don’t even believe in freedom in the first place. No one believes in freedom less than the capitalist. He’s quite a totalitarian fellow. And capitalism as an ideology is damned undemocratic. True, it’s not as undemocratic as slavery or feudalism, but when the only good thing you can say about your system is that it’s better than being a slave, I’d say you have a pretty lousy system.

Capitalists have a very twisted, dishonest, hypocritical and ultimately nonsensical attitude towards freedom. In capitalism, freedom is defined as the right of the capitalist, business, corporation or investor to do whatever the damned Hell he wants to without interference from the state. Anything less that, the Heritage Foundation insists, is somehow “not free.”

See that factory dumping all that polluted water in that river? That’s called freedom in capitalism. See that government passing a law to force the corporation to spend lots of money so it pollutes the river a lot less? That’s called “unfree.” Hence, in capitalist ideology and the media, “free” countries and the joke called the “Free” World are any countries that let the capitalists do whatever the Hell they want. “Unfree” countries, dictatorships or autocracies are defined as countries that try to regulate business by placing limits on the profits of the capitalists.

So the next time some politician or media organ starts going on and on about “freedom” or criticizing some regime as “not free” or a “a dictatorship,” keep that definition of freedom in mind. That’s the sort of freedom they are talking about.

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Manufacturing Consent: What Good Is Freedom If No One Uses It?

SHI writes:

You do realize that Russia isn’t free in any sense of the word. That makes any comparison with the current situation in the West totally pointless.

Maybe the Russians have always preferred it that way but for last three centuries, that entire expanse of land called Russia has settled for nothing but one strongman dictator after another. From the autocratic Tsars to tyrannical leaders like Stalin, Khrushchev and Putin now, if you’re a child growing up in Russia, you have not known freedom the way a Western child does. There are exceptions though, Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin broke away from Russian iron man traditions and tried to be benign leaders but their short-lived experiments failed.

There is no disputing the fact that Vlad the Putin is the biggest autocratic tyrant at the moment, not very different from Gaddafi, Idi Amin, Saddam Hussein, Assad or Pinochet. This man oppresses his own people. Given a choice, most Russians would want to escape their country but they can’t as the State still puts a restriction on emigration. If you were born in Russia, you simply can’t defect to another country unless you’re married to a person over there. That is why the Russian mail order bride business has always been booming.

Why do you think the Polish, Lithuanian, Romanian and Hungarian people like to distance themselves so much from Russia? Not only are their countries most active NATO members but the people themselves are anti-Russia. Why do you think Ukrainians want to escape the shadow of Russia to merge with Western Europe and the Schengen region? While Britain can’t wait to escape from EU as the overall sentiment over there favors Brexit, the former countries of the Soviet Bloc can’t wait to join the Western Hemisphere.

Thing is, people in the West take their freedoms for granted. They simply have no concept of what it feels like to raise your child in a tyrannical, dictatorial regime. There are things like internet censorship, forced incarcerations and murders that you take as “normal”.

Maybe the recent US elections seem like a complete joke when you find that your Final 2 happen to be Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. But that’s a problem that can be fixed within four years. If you were born in Russia, you don’t have that choice in the first place. You have to put up with your autocratic government day in and day out. And so will your children.

It might sound cliched but the US is indeed a free society. Just check the annual rankings of Freedom House. There are other freedom indices including the UK-based Democracy index, Canada-based Fraser Institute’s “Index of Freedom in the World” and Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters without Borders. Countries like China, Russia and Islamic countries are consistently scoring “not free” in every independent assessment each year the rankings are prepared. Just check this year’s Freedom House map, no one really emigrates to any country that isn’t marked “blue”.

Let us take this apart one by one.

You do realize that Russia isn’t free in any sense of the word. That makes any comparison with the current situation in the West totally pointless.

Russia is far freer than we are. There is a huge dissident media, mostly funded by the West. There are large dissident websites that are very popular, and there are a number of dissident newspapers, radio stations and even TV from outside. You can buy dissident newspapers anywhere you want in Moscow. Dissidents are quoted every single day in the Russian media.

How many large dissident websites do we have? How many dissident newspapers are there in the US? How many dissident newsmagazines? How many dissident radio stations? One, Pacifica, and no one listens to it. How frequently are dissidents quoted in the US media. Never.

Maybe the Russians have always preferred it that way but for last three centuries, that entire expanse of land called Russia has settled for nothing but one strongman dictator after another.

Yes, they like it that way.

From the autocratic Tsars to tyrannical leaders like Stalin, Khrushchev and Putin now, if you’re a child growing up in Russia, you have not known freedom the way a Western child does.

It is far freer under Putin than it ever was under Communism.

There are exceptions though, Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin broke away from Russian iron man traditions and tried to be benign leaders but their short-lived experiments failed.

Yeltsin looted the country. The Communist Parliament was blocking all of his free market reforms, so he dissolved Parliament by decree and when they refused to accept his decree, he called out and the military and he attacked his own Parliament with tanks and guns. 600 people died, including a lot of legislators. That would be like Obama calling out the US military to open fire with tanks and guns on Congress and killing a bunch of Congressmen. Hell, even Putin hasn’t done that.

The US media cheered wildly. Not one single outlet failed to cheer. They had an election and the West sent over moneybags guys with literal suitcases full of illegal money for the campaign. These guys were photographed walking down the street carrying literal boxes of money. They flooded the campaign with illegal money and he won. 100% of the US media cheered for this. Yeltsin sold out the country to the US. He sold the whole place for 10 cents on the dollar to a bunch of Jews in the UK, the US and Israel and bankers in the US, UK and Frankfurt. They looted the whole country bare until there was nothing left to steal. Why do you think Putin came in. The Yeltsin supporters now have 1% support in the population.

87% of the population loves Putin. The opposition is miniscule.

Yeltsin was NOT a Democrat. He was way worse than Putin. Things are much freer under Putin than they were under Yeltsin.

There is no disputing the fact that Vlad the Putin is the biggest autocratic tyrant at the moment, not very different from Gaddafi, Idi Amin, Saddam Hussein, Assad or Pinochet.

Those are actual dictatorships. And they also killed a lot of people. Putin has hardly killed anyone. Putin does not have a dictatorship. There are free elections, however most media is state media, and the state media is biased for Putin, but how is this different from the West? Putin wins all the elections because the dissidents are all seen as traitors.

This man oppresses his own people.

How can you oppress people with 87% support?

Given a choice, most Russians would want to escape their country but they can’t as the State still puts a restriction on emigration.

My understanding is that you can walk out of that place anytime you wish. Anyone can leave, it’s just that most do not want to. If 87% support the President, why would they all want to leave?

Why do you think the Polish, Lithuanian, Romanian and Hungarian people like to distance themselves so much from Russia?

Because they were formerly under the thumb of the USSR which more or less forced Communism on them. They got rid of Communism, and they have been mad at Russia ever since, although the Hungarian leader is pretty pro-Russian. They’re all just drinking the Koolaid.

Of those countries listed, only Poland and Lithuania are Russia-haters, and the Lithuanians are Nazis. They have statues of Nazis up all over the country. All of their big heroes are Nazis.

The Poles are simply insane. They hate Russia far more than they hate Nazis. The Nazis war on Poland killed 10 million Poles. The Soviets killed 275,000 Poles. So the Poles hate Russians. The Poles are insane.

Not only are their countries most active NATO members but the people themselves are anti-Russia.

Everyone in the West is anti-Russia because of the brainwash. There is not one single dissident pro-Russia media outlet anywhere in the West. With anti-Russian propaganda on every media outlet, how do you expect people to think?

However, most Hungarians are particularly anti-Russia because they elected a pro-Russian leader. Most Romanians don’t care about Russia.

Why do you think Ukrainians want to escape the shadow of Russia to merge with Western Europe and the Schengen region?

Because they hate Russia.

But they didn’t even want to join the EU. The EU supporters never had more than 35%. Ukraine was split between pro-EU and pro-Russia factions until the Nazi coup. After the coup, all of the pro-Russian parties were outlawed and a number of their legislators were murdered. The leader of the biggest pro-Russia party, the Party of Regions, fled to Russia after the regime tried to kill him by setting his house on fire, but they set his neighbor’s house on fire instead. Before the coup, the country was badly split between pro-Russian and pro-EU factions.

The Ukies think they will join the EU and get rich. But they are poor because all of their leaders have been stealing from them since Independence, not because they are close to Russia. They won’t get rich by joining the EU.

While Britain can’t wait to escape from EU as the overall sentiment over there favors Brexit, the former countries of the Soviet Bloc can’t wait to join the Western Hemisphere.

They’ve all already joined, not that it’s done them much good. The Greeks want out too.

Thing is, people in the West take their freedoms for granted.

What freedoms? If you have no dissident press, you have no free press. If you have no dissident press, you have no freedom of speech. If you have no dissident politicians, you do not have a free politics. Russians are far freer than any Western country.

They simply have no concept of what it feels like to raise your child in a tyrannical, dictatorial regime.

Yes but that’s not Putin.

There are things like internet censorship, forced incarcerations and murders that you take as “normal”.

There is no Internet censorship in Russia. The Russian-language web is flooded with dissident sites, all paid for by the West.

Hardly any dissidents go to jail in Russia. They might arrest a few from time to time, but dissidents are quoted in the Russian media every single day. Most of them are free to yap along all they wish.

Yes, there have been a few killings of dissidents, but Putin was not involved in the most recent notorious one outside the Kremlin. There have been a few killings of journalists, but there were many more killings of dissidents under Yeltsin than under Putin. Yeltsin had many of his opponents killed.

Maybe the recent US elections seem like a complete joke when you find that your Final 2 happen to be Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. But that’s a problem that can be fixed within four years.

No dissident politician ever runs in the US, or at least one never gets very far. Trump is very interesting in that he is an actual US dissident politician who has made it into the final round. I cannot remember the last time that happened, but it was probably Kennedy, and he was murdered by the Deep State who run the US. See what happens to dissident politicians in the US? See what happens when the American people elect a dissident? The Deep State kills them. That’s why few politicians go against the Deep State and the System because they are afraid of getting the “Kennedy treatment.”

If you were born in Russia, you don’t have that choice in the first place.

Actually elections in Russia are quite fair other than the media issues. The worst dissidents you could possibly imagine run against Putin. I mean almost out and out traitors. We never have any dissidents like that running for President. Putin wins overwhelmingly because the population thinks the Opposition are traitors.

You have to put up with your autocratic government day in and day out. And so will your children.

Sure, but this is how they like it. I know Russians, and they tell me they are fine with the system.

It might sound cliched but the US is indeed a free society.

It isn’t. There is no dissident press, so there’s no freedom of the press. Because there’s no free press, there’s no freedom of speech. There are no or almost no dissident politicians, so we don’t have free politics, although Trump is changing that.

Just check the annual rankings of Freedom House.

You realize that Freedom House is run by the reactionary Reaganite Republican nuts, and their joke indexes are worthless, right?

There are other freedom indices including the UK-based Democracy index, Canada-based Fraser Institute’s “Index of Freedom in the World” and Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters without Borders.

Like I said, what good is some abstract freedom of press if you have no dissident media? What good is freedom of the press if there is no dissident media to voice it in? What good is free politics if there are few if any dissident politicians? You might as well be living in a dictatorship. Freedoms are no good if you can’t use them or if nobody ever uses them. When everyone goes along with the program automatically, you’re no different than North Korea.

Countries like China, Russia and Islamic countries are consistently scoring “not free” in every independent assessment each year the rankings are prepared.

I would agree that China is not free, however, there are many political protests. There are 100 political protests every single day in China. The authorities just let almost all of them go on, and they don’t do anything about it. There is no free press though, I agree.

Islamic countries are not free because they can’t handle freedom, and they do better under dictatorships. Look what happens when they try to do democracy in the Arab World. It doesn’t work. Malaysia is a pretty free country, and Pakistan does have dissident political parties that regularly get 15% of the vote. There is a large dissident political party in Turkey, though they are under siege. Lebanon is a free country, as is Tunisia. Algeria is free.

Yemen is such a free country that a dissident movement just overthrew the government by force! You can’t get much freer than that. In Egypt, Syria, and Iraq, dissidents are armed to the teeth and are threatening to overthrow the government. You can’t get much freer than that in a sense anyway! The Iraqi Parliament is split; Sadr’s party and the Sunni parties are very much dissident parties.

Just check this year’s Freedom House map, no one really emigrates to any country that isn’t marked “blue”.

This is not true. There is a lot of immigration to China from all over the world. There is also a lot of immigration to Russia from Ukraine and the former Soviet states to the south and east. Under Ghaddafi there was huge immigration from Sub-Saharan Africa. Egypt was the same – mass immigration from Black Africa to Egypt. There is huge immigration to the Gulf nations from all over the world to work. Before the crash, many Colombians had immigrated to Venezuela for a better life. There is huge immigration of Central Americans to Mexico.

Just check this year’s Freedom House map, no one really emigrates to any country that isn’t marked “blue”.

That map must be some sort of a joke. Venezuela is the freest country in Latin America. The opposition has many media unbelievably outlets, and they all resemble Fox News X10. They tell constant lies, and they have regularly called for assassinating the President. They continue to do so now, and now all of the Opposition press is agitating for a coup. Could you imagine if the US had huge media outlets that told the most vicious lies on a regular basis and regularly called for the assassination of Obama, and now were screaming for the US military to stage a military coup and overthrow Obama to put in a military dictatorship? Venezuela is a 10X freer than the US.

The Opposition has taken over Congress and stages constant demonstrations/riots in the streets. And recently the Opposition is armed and has started assassinating government officials.

Venezuela has the fairest elections on Earth.

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Race and IQ in Latin America: Time for a Study?

A. B. Prosper writes:

This is an old post but do remember Hispanic also includes White Hispanics.

If you factor it by race say using the old Casta system for simplicity I suspect you’d end up with different result,

White Hispanics (Criollo and Peninsulars, German and other stock lines) with White IQ, Mestizos with lower, Negritos (Blacks) lower and Indios with probably lower than that, though I’m not sure about the latter.

Some Indian admixture if in a Flynn Effected environment doesn’t seem to matter. My guess and I don’t know is that it reduces the likelihood of very high IQ, but this is unlikely in any case.

Argentina is the Whitest Hispanic country and it has an IQ of 93. That’s not broken down racially of course. Argentina is 21% Amerindian when you look at the entire nation’s genome. Chile is about the same IQ-wise, and the estimates for Indian blood may be even higher. At any rate, a fair amount of Indian blood does not appear to be fatal to IQ or even behaviorally for that matter.

Argentina and Chile function more or less like European countries except for the typical “Latin American sickness” which has always enveloped them. But even a lot of Europe was nearly feudal with wild inequality and  polarized and radicalized politics split into fascists versus communists and socialists and a lot of political violence even up until 70 years ago. Latin American style coups followed by Latin American style dictatorships occurred in Greece only 50 years ago. Latin American style fascist dictatorships ruled Portugal and Spain until only 40 years ago. Europe’s no paradise.

The very heavily Indian countries in Latin America do tend to have lower IQ’s, often IQ ~83-85. Mexico is a mestizo country, and it is somewhere in between Argentina/Chile and the more Indian nations at 90.

A racial IQ study in Latin America would be a nice study though.It might be a bit hard to do as things are so mixed down there that it might be hard to sort out valid groups to test.

I am thinking maybe in Mexico:

Whites:   IQ 96
Mestizos: IQ 90
Indians:  IQ 84

What is interesting is that those figures stick in my mind for those races in Mexico, and my mind keeps telling me that I have seen those figures somewhere. But offhand, I can’t dig up the study and it may not even exist. My mind may just be playing tricks on me, or maybe it was someone’s guesstimate.

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“Democratic Capitalism in the Last Stages? Capital as Agency in Wolfgang Streeck’s Analysis of the Crisis,” by Kees van der Pijl

This is an excellent paper discussing Wolfgang Streek’s latest and popular book, Buying Time. People like to bash Marxism, but as a tool for analysis of capitalism it is unsurpassed. But no capitalist will ever admit that. Everything in this paper is 100% true (except for the suggesting that the Charlie Hebdo attack was a false flag) but no US newspaper, newsmagazine, TV News or radio news will ever tell you this true story. Instead they will recycle an endless series of lies from the capitalists.

The capitalists do not want you to know what they are doing, and this is why they operate in secret, lie constantly and use codewords and memes. This is because the capitalist project is not good for the vast majority of Americans. Only perhaps the top 20% benefit from the capitalist project in the US. As the paper shows, Western capitalists have been trying to get out from under the Social Contract that they made with labor and society as a whole after World War 2 as a measure to head off Communism.

This project hays been operating in stages since  the 1960’s, and we are now near the final stage. Every one of these stages has been good for the capitalists and bad for wage labor, society, and I would argue democracy.

This is because the capitalist project lately is a profoundly antidemocratic one. Any project that redistributes wealth from the bottom 80% to the top 20% is hardly democratic.

Further if your project is to redistribute wealth from the bottom 80% to the top 20%, it would make sense to lie about your project and not admit that you are doing that. Instead of harming the bottom 80%, you say you are helping them. The capitalists also argue that those who seek to redistribute wealth from the top 20% to the bottom 80% (the Left) are actually harming the bottom 80%! As the capitalists own all the media in the West, there is no contrary narrative to this wild lie.

Any project that seeks to harm the majority at the expense of a minority must disguise its aims. As this is generally the project of capitalists and conservatives in general, both capitalist and conservative discourse is typically profoundly dishonest as they both seek to convince the bottom 80% that an elite project to harm them is actually going to help them.

What would happen if the capitalists and conservatives were simply honest about their redistributive aims? They would have to say that they were pushing a project to redistribute wealth upwards from the bottom 80% to the top 20%. Further they would have to say that their project is going to harm wage labor every step of the say.

What is the likelihood that such an elite reverse Robin Hood Project would fly? Never estimate the American voter’s tendency towards conservative masochism and supporting their class enemies economically. Nevertheless, I doubt that even the hyper-masochistic American working and middle classes would go along with a project to take from the bottom 80% and give to the top 20%.

Since conservative and capitalist projects are always designed to take harm the masses and help an elite through upward wealth redistribution, conservatism all down through history has typically been extremely dishonest. If you are running an elitist project, you can’t exactly come out and say so.

This is perhaps my biggest beef against conservatives – their extreme and continuous dishonesty in public discourse. The extreme and near continuous lying of conservatives only confuses the masses and poisons the well of public discourse.

Talking with a conservative is like trying to have a conversation with a psychopath. How can you possibly have a productive conversation with a pathologically lying sociopath? This is what political discourse in the West has boiled down to in he last 35 years.

Furthermore, when one side is lying constantly, this makes a mockery out of claims of freedom of the press and freedom of speech. What good is freedom of the press if the press is all owned by pathologically lying sociopathic capitalists? How can alternative or dissident voices even make themselves heard if the only way to talk to the public is to be rich enough to own a printing press, TV station or radio station?

Democratic Capitalism in the Last Stages?
Capital as Agency in Wolfgang Streeck’s Analysis of the Crisis

Paper for the 5th EU experts’ Discussion, Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, Berlin, 11-13 December 2015

Kees van der Pijl
Centre for Global Political Economy
University of Sussex

Abstract

Wolfgang Streeck’s Gekaufte Zeit/ Buying Time contains a compelling analysis that points to the origins of the current crisis in the wave of strikes of 1968-69. It caused the capitalist class to try and wrest free from the post-war social (-democratic) contract forced on it by labor.

However, not only does Streeck not pay attention to imperialism and war, he also tends to assume that capital-as-agency governed the entire period since, attempting to postpone the full social impact of the crisis in three different ways, restricting democracy as it went along. However, the three periods he distinguishes (inflation, state debt and private debt) were directed by changing coalitions of capitalist interests uniting behind a different concept of control – corporate liberalization and two versions of neoliberalism.

This highlights that in 2008, when these remedies all had exhausted themselves, capital-as-agency in command was the bloc of forces led by speculative money-dealing capital, which in the 1990’s had captured the states of the West and steered them onto a path of high-risk, high-reward policies both in the economy proper and in international affairs. This explains why after 2008, solutions to the crisis followed this particular political-economic orientation, with more risk-taking in all areas on the agenda.

The debate on the crisis of 2008 continues to produce significant works, often concentrating on the fact that although the crisis was caused by neoliberalism, tackling it has not included a clean-up of the worst features of that particular form of capitalism such as off-shore, financialization, or the flexibilization of labor(e.g. Mirowski 2013).

Wolfgang Streeck’s Buying Time (here cited from the German original, Gekaufte Zeit, Streeck 2013) in this connection claims that the options for a democratic capitalism to find a way out of the crisis after three attempts to postpone its effects have been exhausted. It is the argument of Buying Time that will serve as a framework for organizing my reflections here.

Streeck’s conversions, first from and then back to a historical material position, are best left for the gossip column. Yet whilst it is a laudable step to pick up where he left off as a Marxist, the readings back from his earlier days are not sufficient to cover all aspects of the current situation.

More particularly, his argument that we must conceive of capital as agency, a self-conscious social force, remains incomplete. It misses the dimension of capital/class fractions as moments/components in the process of class formation, their different abilities to weld class compromises with forces outside their own ranks, and the successive concepts of control (German, Herrschaftskonzepte) that guide them and society at large along a path of a certain necessarily limited rationality.

Corporate liberalism and neoliberalism are such concepts. Since these different concepts have very different implications in the sphere of, say, whether or not violence plays a role in the formulation of policy, we must pinpoint their precise composition in terms of ruling blocs. That this shortcoming is not immediately evident in Buying Time is also because Streeck does not really deal with imperialism, war and repression as aspects of a capitalism in crisis.

Fractions, Class Compromises, Concepts of Control

Streeck begins by taking his distance from the structuralist premise of Theodor Adorno (in whose honor the lectures brought together in Buying Time were delivered) and the Frankfurt School theorists. They employed a notion of capital as apparatus, not as agency; as means of production instead of class.

Thus difficult class-theoretical questions, e.g., concerning the difference between managers and property-owning capitalists, small and large capital, and so on, could be avoided. But a theory of capitalism from which capital as agency is absent, remains anemic (Streeck 2013: 43-4, 44 n., 47).

This is indeed the beginning of all wisdom, but it is not enough. To understand capital as agency we must realize that capital as such, as a totality, is never a given. When we look at it in class terms, we will see different axes of capitalist class formation, contesting the terrain among each other as they seek to build coalitions of interest casting their nets beyond the immediate concerns of firms/sectors from the process emanates – fractions of capital.

Forming from vantage points such as productive versus money capital, international, national, or sub-national/regional, and the like, fractions of capital in the process of class formation seek to transcend the initial principles which they must uphold to survive by developing a tentative, broader concept of control, a program for managing a broad range of political-economic terrains.

Such a program requires the political-ideological talents of organic intellectuals who arise in the same process and who earn the patronage of powerful interests expecting to gain from it.

These ‘intellectuals’ (professional politicians, corporate executives, participants in private planning groups, writers) may in fact be the first to see an opportunity and start the process. But they always are the ones who take the initial project forward into the sphere of politics, where it either blossoms out into a comprehensive concept of control, or not.

For as Gramsci writes, politics is an immediate impulse to action which is born on the “permanent and organic” terrain of economic life but which transcends it, bringing into play emotions and aspirations in whose incandescent atmosphere even calculations involving the individual human life itself obey different laws from those of individual profit, etc. (Gramsci 1971: 140).

Hence groups that do not obtain any material reward, but only symbolic concessions, may yet become part of the constellation of forces supporting a particular concept of control: say, an armaments policy that benefits the military-industrial complex in real terms also satisfies the chauvinism of people who stand to lose from a warlike stance in terms of income, life-chances etc.

In that sense, a political-economic fraction profiting from a specific conjuncture will succeed in making their particular interests appear as the interest of the entire capitalist class or even society at large (Hickel 1975). We can think of export-oriented capital when foreign trade opportunities are on the rise, finance in a period of restructuring when fixed capital is being liquidated, and so on.

A successful process of class formation culminates in a stage where so many real and symbolic concessions have been made (‘symbolic’ generally referring to political aesthetics, often by conjuring up a threat that feeds into bellicose chauvinism) that no rival concept of control can hope to cover all these fields.

One concept of control thus becomes truly comprehensive in that all political efficiency and success is premised on it and all social forces, even those from whom the whole process emanated to begin with, must subordinate their immediate, short-term interests to this program (Bode 1979).

At the heart of each such constellation of forces, then, we must assume there are key class compromises that lend coherence to the starting point from which a concept of control can be developed before it merges with the conjunctural conditions under which other interests will be inclined to sign on – at a diminishing rate of actually inflecting the final result (which by the way, as a formula of the general interest, is never spelled out but is experienced as self-evident ‘common sense’).

Only when a concept loses its comprehensiveness and unravels will it be recognized as the particular project of special interests and lose this common sense quality.
So when Streeck proposes to enlarge the notion of a legitimization crisis (originally formulated by Adorno’s student, Jürgen Habermas) by substituting the two actors identified in that theory, the state and the citizen (Habermas 1973) by three (the state, capital, and the wage-dependent population), what is still lacking is which fraction is providing the capitalist class interest with a specific thrust.

Also, closely related, we must know whether or not and to which extent the ‘wage-dependent population’ is either part of the initial class compromise, a later entrant, or not rewarded at all except perhaps with symbolic gestures or sentiment.

Why is this important? Streeck’s argument is that the crisis of a capitalism seeking to liberate itself from the democracy imposed on it after 1945 really dates from 1968-69. Since then, ‘capital’ (acting through the state) has tried three methods of postponing its full impact – inflation, state debt, and private debt – until in 2008, the entire edifice came crashing down.

That suggests four crises of restructuring in which ‘capital as agency’ acted under different concepts of control, reflecting different fractional vantage points based on entirely different class compromises, a different balance between material and symbolic rewards, etc.

Thus in the last crisis of 2008, ‘capital’ was the capitalist coalition formed (as I will explain) by speculative, money-dealing capital, immersed in high-risk operations both economically and politically, connected to the apparatuses of covert action and violent power projection that must compensate for the fact that it hardly makes any real concessions any longer outside the oligarchies in command.

The environment too is only seen as an object of speculative gain, with an emissions exchange the typical (and useless) form of dealing with the crisis of the biosphere. Other ‘solutions’ too will carry the stamp of this particular coalition and the concept it operates under, and it was the same for the previous crises of restructuring. In each case, a different ‘anthropology’ is involved as well – from the responsible, ‘embedded’ citizen-worker of the 1950’s to the atomized, ‘elementary human particle’ of today.

From this perspective, the immediate future, bar a political landslide away from capitalism altogether, may be much bleaker than Streeck envisages. Even his (already bleak) prediction that democracy may be abolished altogether under the factual directorate of high-risk, covert operators will exclude any negotiated reduction of democracy and instead involve provocation and war, covert action-induced emergencies and a suspension of rights.

This is what is happening before our eyes. So whilst for capital as a whole we cannot be sure where it will be heading in seeking a way out of certain profitability constraints from a fractional viewpoint in combination with the tendency in the conjuncture of profit distribution, the degree of probability in fact increases.

Even if we follow Streeck’s understanding of a legitimization crisis as arising from the dissatisfaction of capital with democracy and the obligations imposed by it and his thesis that the functioning of the capitalist economy is not a technical but a political issue as are growth and full employment, we should again specify this for the separate, fraction-to-‘imagined totality’ trajectories of each post-war concept of control.

Crises indeed are not technical malfunctions but follow from legitimization crises of a special kind (Streeck 2013: 49), but these can be understood in a much more specific sense. In fact he says a lot that enriches our understanding of a concept of control and its inherent class compromises, as when he writes about capitalism presuming a social contract in which legitimate mutual expectations are laid down formally or informally (Streeck 2013: 51).

Again a differentiation in terms of fractions works to enhance this understanding of capitalism as a time-bound, historically specific social order in need of legitimization, which crystallizes in different forms in space and time; forms that are negotiable and are negotiated anew once the malfunction of a particular format of the social contract, that is, the comprehensive concept of control, becomes evident.

I begin with the post-war concept of corporate liberalism (my terminology) because it was the crisis of this form of capitalism in 1968-69 of which the full impact according to Streeck was postponed several times until it exploded in 2008.

Corporate Liberalism after the War

Corporate liberalism is the liberalism governing relations between bodies internally organized along their own principles, so ‘sovereign’ in their own domains. It was based on the class compromise forced on capital by organized labor with the strengthened Soviet bloc adding its weight to the balance of forces and decolonization announcing potential further shifts to the detriment of the West’s pre-eminence in the global political economy.

Economically it rested on Keynesian countercyclical state intervention, capital controls (allowing the Bretton Woods system of a gold-dollar standard with fixed exchange rates to function), and the spread of demand-led, Fordist mass production.

This was what Streeck calls the ‘very specific settlement’ in which capital had to make an effort to prolong and renew its social license, whilst allowing politically determined social goals to govern the profit economy and yet avoid a spillback to fascism or yield to the temptations of the Soviet-type planned economy (Streeck 2013: 51).

In the terms introduced above, the fraction of capital positioned centrally in this set of intersecting influences and lending substance to the original New Deal and post-war Marshall Plan projections of a corporate liberal capitalist social contract was productive capital.

The class compromise at the heart of the corporate liberal concept of control was that between capital and organized labor in production. In this sense we can speak of an epoch of democratic capitalism, at least for the North Atlantic political economy – not for Vietnam, or Indonesia, and other areas for which no parallel Yalta compromise (which in Europe included the legitimate presence of large communist parties outside the Soviet bloc) had been agreed.

As such it is the strongest corroboration of the thesis that in capitalism, democracy does not depend on the bourgeoisie but on the presence in force (including, in the state apparatus) of organized labor (Rueschemeyer et al. 1992). Streeck notes that in the course of the 1950’s and 60’s, election turnout increased everywhere (2013: 87).

The global wave of wildcat strikes in 1968 and ’69 then signaled to the capitalist class that social protection and countercyclical crisis management had lasted too long, and capital found that its maneuvering space for further concessions had been closed (Streeck 2013: 53). As full employment was undermining workplace discipline, managers were reminded of Kalecki’s 1943 thesis concerning the need to maintain a certain level of unemployment to cushion labor militancy.

Capitalists now began to prepare for evacuating the post-war social contract, abandoning their erstwhile passivity and restoring their capacity to act and actively shape social relations instead of being ‘planned in’ by democratic politics (Streeck 2013: 54). As noted, the capitalist crisis that we are experiencing today according to Streeck has its origins at that juncture.

For since that time, the state postponed the full social impact of the crisis by throwing money into the breaches in order to neutralize and defuse potential social conflicts – inflation, state indebtedness, expansion of private credit markets and finally, in 2008, buying up state and bank debt by central banks; through these phases, capital has wrested free from the post-war democratic compact with labor by steadily reducing democracy and citizen’s rights.

Thus a phased unfolding of the fundamental tension between capitalism and democracy through a progressive liberation of the capitalist economy from democratic intervention, indeed a removal of democracy from capitalism by removing the economy from the sphere of democracy. What awaits us now is possibly the suspension of the remaining democracy itself.

This is the Streeck thesis. I will now go through these different phases, beginning with inflation. Like the New Deal prefiguring comprehensive, North Atlantic corporate liberalism, all these changes were initiated by the United States, although sometimes the rise to pre-eminence of different fractions occurred in or via other component parts of the English-speaking West, or as I call it, the ‘Lockean heartland’.

‘Europe’, that is, the expanding Franco-West German compromise out of which today’s European Union evolved, followed the trend. It also necessarily suffered from the successive crises/transitions, because the continental European economies are structurally far less amenable to the neoliberal departure(s) from corporate liberalism – the further to the south (beginning with France relative to Germany), the less.

The Decade of Inflation and Its Architects

The first instance of ‘buying time’ following the crisis of 1968-’69, the decade of inflation, was not neoliberal, it was charted by productive capital under its compromise with labor – indeed deepening the compromises on which post-war capitalism had been built in the first place. ‘The inflationary money policy of the decade following the strike wave around 1968 secured social peace in the context of a rapidly expanding consumer society’ (Streeck 2013: 62).

Inflation enlarged, at least seemingly, the ‘cake’ to be distributed without really making it larger. Inflation not only prolonged the class compromise with organized labor but also brought out the underlying compromise on which the stand-off with the Soviet bloc, agreed at Yalta in 1944 (again, the division of Europe), had been based.

Détente resulted from the eroding bloc discipline in the two zones of limited sovereignty. The Atlantic ruling class had to deal with a Gaullist rebellion leading elements of the European capitalist class to explore economic opportunities in the east, and with Greek pressures for democracy (which were only kept in check by a NATO-supported military dictatorship from 1967 to ’74).

In the 1970’s the West also came up against a ‘Eurocommunist’ challenge, respectful of Yalta but not necessarily of corporate liberal capitalism. The Soviet state class in turn faced the 1968 Czechoslovak ‘spring’, likewise a politically hybrid development it feared it might not control, Romania’s explorations beyond the Yalta divide, and so on. The United States also ran up large deficits in order to continue its doomed war in Vietnam, a costly disaster that in August 1971 forced it to cut the dollar from gold.

The point here is that this decision, which opened the decade of inflation, was essentially an action following the logic of the corporate liberal concept of control and its core class compromise with labor. So it was not just ‘capital’ which ‘bought time’ but to a particular fraction of capital and its organic intellectuals (politicians, economists, and so on) doing it for capital, in this case, productive capital first.

The decision to end the (already restricted) exchange of dollars for gold had mercantilist overtones, with the ten percent import duty the clearest sign of the interests of productive capital dictating it. Likewise, abandoning the fixed exchange rates of Bretton Woods was not originally conceived as a step towards a liberalized financial regime, on the contrary.

In the Nixon administration only George Shultz, and at a further remove, Charles Kindleberger among economists, thought along the lines of making US deficits a foreign investment proposition. The others were still corporate liberals focused on Keynesian deficit spending having to be recouped later in the business cycle (Bassosi 2006: 34).

Productive capital concerns also expressed themselves in the incomes policy advocated by the head of the Federal Reserve, Arthur Burns, a hard Rightist no doubt, who was irate about the wave of strikes and who, to quote the New York Fed’s own report, was strongly opposed to any attempt ‘to “buy” low levels of unemployment by tolerating inflation’ (cited in Panitch and Gindin 2012: 141 – note the terminology, the opposite of the Streeck thesis).

Even so, the authoritarian undertow of the incomes policy was aimed at enforcing the corporate liberal class compromise on the terms prior to the 1971 turnabout. Even more ominously for the still marginal neoliberal tendency, the productive perspective was echoed in the 1975 proposal for a national economic planning body (Panitch and Gindin 2012: 143).

Elsewhere I have documented the autonomization of the managerial cadre in the context of the crisis of the 1970’s, and their role in the ‘planned interdependence’ of the period – the credit-financing of the industrialization aspirations of the Third World coalition for a New International Economic Order as well as Soviet bloc modernization with inflationary dollars accumulated in the London Eurodollar and Eurocapital markets.

In Europe, too, the productive capital perspective and its inbuilt class compromise with organized labor were still guiding policy, not only via the rise of the Left in southern European and Social Democratic governments or majority coalitions in the north. Even in Britain, a Tory prime minister, Edward Heath, after a visit to West Germany returned with the idea of fostering ‘finance capital’ combinations modeled on the continental model whilst attempting to rein in labor militancy by (mildly) authoritarian legislation.

Yet this drew the fire of the employers’ organization CBI for …spoiling the relations with organized labor (cited in Overbeek 1990: 160; on Heath and capital groups, Ramsay 2002: 12-13). The key step was of course British entry into the European Community in 1973, a step again motivated by Heath’s expectation it would stimulate Britain’s industrial modernization (Overbeek 1990 157).

In sum, Stephen Gill writes, ‘the dangers in Nixon’s policies… were the way they nurtured “domestic” forces, and, by undercutting the welfare of key allies, undermined the international consensus which was needed to manage the system effectively’ (Gill 1990: 136, emphasis added).

In the second half of the 1970’s when the capitalist economies were hit by a marked decline in the growth rate in spite of rising inflation, a period of stagflation set in that eventually, in 1979, led the US Federal Reserve to intervene and raise interest rates to around 20 percent, thus terminating inflation until the present day (Streeck 2013: 63; see the statistics in Panitch and Gindin 2012: 142, table 6.2).

Thus the proliferation of the class and international compromises of the corporate liberal epoch, bolstering the forces opposed to the operation of liberal capitalism nationally and internationally, provoked a counteroffensive, not from capital per se but specifically from money capital. This explains why such a sharp turn was made after the inflationary prolongation of the post-war compromises.

The Turn to Systemic Neoliberalism

From Wolfgang Streeck’s perspective, capital in the late 1970’s ‘withdrew its consent from the postwar social contract by denying it the necessary investment funds,’ and the history of the system since the 1970’s can be understood as the struggle to free capital from social regulation forced on it after the war.

Capital no longer trusted a state which almost everywhere had fallen into the hands of Social Democratic governments or coalitions (Streeck 2013: 54-5, cf. 45). What was in order was to end the inflationary prolongation of the post-war social contract with organized labor, a high-risk operation given the resistance that was to be expected on the part of the trade unions and which had to be broken at all costs (Streeck 2013: 64).

However, it was not capital as such acting here but a different fraction leading capital and imbuing society as a whole with its particular perspective. In other words, the capitalist class and the managerial cadre and all other auxiliary and subordinate social forces switched the pursuit of their interests and expectations to a concept no longer formulated from the vantage point of productive capital.

Instead it was formulated from the vantage point of what ‘was needed to manage the system effectively’ (as above). It is as important to recognize the internal struggles within the capitalist class as to see the struggles with labor, in international relations etc., if we want to be able to predict the shelf-life of a particular format of capitalist development and especially, to see the political crisis moments in the transition phase from one concept of control to another, as the ‘outgoing’ leading fraction continues to pursue solutions typical of the concept unraveling.

So the head of the CBI protesting that anti-strike legislation was spoiling relations with organized labor, cited above, was simply arriving late at the party.

Now the fraction perspective available to ‘manage the system effectively’ can be any one. But in the conditions of capital abrogating the post-war class and international compromises and intent on shifting production to locations outside these compromises and hence, liquidate previous positions including breaking the mold of the national state compartmentalization in order to establish a global political economy, in the circumstances was money capital as the embodiment of capital in general.

For production to take place, the cycle of industrial capital must ‘land’ in what David Harvey calls, ‘human resource complexes… to which capital must, to some degree, adapt’ (Harvey 2006: 399); after which it resumes its ‘circulation’ in the form of commodities for sale.

Under the compulsion of competition, capital in money form is then reinvested, not mechanically in the same type of activity but only after a survey of all productive opportunities, which implies a comparison of all ‘human resource complexes’ in relation to markets, transport costs, and the like.

Under the compromise with organized labor, and various ramifications such as capital controls, state countercyclical policy, etc., the human resource complexes were very much fixed in national spaces, but this was now to be opened up.
If the ‘moment’ of liquidation of fixed assets and the attendant relations of production assumes the quality of a systemic correction, as it did between the crisis of 1974-75 and the early 1980’s, the commanding heights of the cycle as a whole, money capital, must be given the maneuvering space in which it can perform this reordering.

This then was the juncture at which the revocation of the post-war social contract ushered in the epoch of neoliberal capitalism, but with the emphasis (initially) on the systemic aspect, not the predatory neoliberalism that would follow. It was intended, first of all, to bring back the income share of the capitalist class to the pre-war level and everywhere produced rapidly increasing inequalities (Streeck 2013: 58; Piketty 2014).

For the core Lockean heartland, 1979 was the cut-off date in which the entire set of compromises on which the previous era of corporate liberalism had been based, was called into question. Besides the abrogation of the class compromise with organized labor in production, it also was the year of the NATO missile decision, intended to scuttle détente and launch a new round of confrontation with socialist forces as around the globe obstacles to the restructuring production were to be removed.

This time the new Cold War was really ‘waged’, not as a posture on the basis of an (incomplete) international compromise as at Yalta, but as a fight to the end. 1979 was also the year of the Volcker Shock, which squeezed inflation from the system by raising real interest rates to around 20 percent and thus kicked the world into the debt crisis.

This was the crisis of sovereign debt, Streeck’s second instance of ‘buying time’. It worked to cut the classes and states profiting from inflation down to size economically just at the time when a violent crusade (announced already by the fascist coups in Chile, Argentina, and other Latin American countries, as well as the ‘Strategy of Tension’ in Europe) was launched against them.

The new posture of the capitalist class, formulated from the vantage point of systemic money capital, entailed a class compromise with asset-owning middle classes. Propertied middle classes had been mobilizing against the corporate liberal consensus and exploiting its ‘legitimacy crisis’ from the late 1970’s, but they were only a subordinate force in the transition.

At such a juncture alternative concepts are being formulated, all striving for comprehensiveness. Yet only one will triumph in the end – for as long as it lasts. It then also captures and reorganizes the state. Streeck mentions that the taxpayer movement resisting levies, and agitating under the banner of ‘starving the beast’ (the state), no longer trusted as the embodiment of the general interest (Streeck 2013: 103).

One is reminded of the fact that this class compromise and hence the ascendant concept of control is shaped by class struggle as was the case with corporate liberalism in the 1930’s.

However, the neoliberal concept that took the place of corporate liberalism in the transition period necessarily came to rely on ‘the beast’ again (a strong state), because every concept of control finds its ultimate expression in the state/group of states in the sense of the specific format of class relations condensing at that level (Poulantzas 2008: 307). As with changing capitalist fraction roles, we are looking at changing forms and orientations of states.

The tax revolt as a process of class formation fed into a form of state relaxing the tax burden on the upper income groups; governments reduced taxation and then borrowed from those it no longer taxed, obviously aggravating the public debt (Chesnais 2011: 113).

Privatization policies also gave asset-owning middle classes a chance to profit from booming stock markets, whilst rising asset prices, notably of real estate, allowed middle classes to borrow against the value of their (mortgaged) property.
However, as Streeck highlights, after the restrictions on democracy by rolling back trade union power and blunting the ability to strike, the contraction of debt and reduction of public services to pay for it to middle classes no longer taxed at former rates also further reduces democracy.

Democracy, he writes, is about the identity between the population as the principal and government as the agent, which should be sufficiently strong to make the former subscribe to the debt obligations incurred by the latter – irrespective whom they voted for and whether the credit was ever destined for them (Streeck 2013: 138). Of course as public provision withers, the readiness to pay taxes can only further decrease (Ibid.: 176).

In addition to the compromise with asset-owning middle classes, there also evolved a subordinate compromise in production with new groups entering the labor market such as women and the young and other hitherto marginalized categories of workers, in the sense that flexibilization of labor to some extent corresponded to their individualized lifestyles (Streeck 2013: 60).

Here the role of postmodern culture with its rejection of hierarchies and established rights also contributed to shaping a popular base for attacking organized labor in the name of ‘combating rigidities’, a notion spreading with the new volatility of finance (Harvey 1995).

All this of course does not compensate for the momentous loss of influence of labor, ‘the wage-dependent population’, which would double in size once China as well as the Soviet bloc and its outliers were thrown open for investment in the late 1980’s.

In the Anglophone Lockean heartland the systemic neoliberal concept crystallized first; outside it, Streeck argues, the neoliberal orientation of the European integration process too dates from the 1980’s, when the de-democratization of the economy and the bracketing of democracy from the economy began (Streeck 2013: 147-8).

He cites a 1939 article by Hayek which argues that moving decisions to a supranational level already implies a neoliberal tendency (Streeck 2013: 144-5). In Europe, the newly founded European Round Table of Industrialists after a brief flirtation with protectionism reflecting the outgoing corporate liberalism (notably in France under Mitterrand, the 1980-83 period), became the spearhead of making continental Europe conform to the ascendant concept of systemic neoliberalism.

It fell in line with abrogating the class compromise with organized labor as it identified inflexible labor markets as hampering ‘competitiveness’, which in a sense was true, coming after the defeats of the labor movement in the United States and Britain and other Anglophone heartland countries (van Apeldoorn 2002: 67-8).

The transition was accompanied by Delors’ move from the helm of Mitterrand’s failed Keynesian experiment to the European Commission, supposedly for a second try at the appropriate level (the level at which, as Streeck cites Hayek, the odds are against any sort of compromise with labor).
In fact therefore he managed the neoliberal wave by announcing the completion of the European internal market and modeling European policy along the lines of the German high productivity/low inflation export strategy (van der Pijl et al. 2011: 392).

In the course of the 1990’s, governments began to worry about the share of debt service in their budgets whilst creditors starting worrying about the ability of the states to pay back their debts. Once again the United States took the initiative to curtail social spending and restore a balanced budget under Clinton (Streeck 2013: 66).

O’Connor did not yet recognize in 1973 that the growing burden of debt service itself would be a major factor in the fiscal crisis (Streeck 2013: 109; O’Connor 1973). One can look at the debt state in light of ‘buying time,’ but one can also see it as the emergence of a new political formation.
The privatization of state assets in the process reduced the state role in the sphere of social protection, tasks which were now delegated to the market (Streeck 2013: 110). Also states resorted to forms of advanced financing in order to avoid breaking constitutionalized limits on public debt.

Public-Private Partnerships are such a form, in that states ask private firms to provide credit for public works (building hospitals etc.) that are then paid back over decades, usually at very unfavorable rates for the public purse given the relative incompetence of governments faced with international lawyers assisting the companies in drawing up PPP contracts (Streeck 2013: 174n.).

Here I would add the element of criminal complicity given the ease with which ministers move from public office to the private sector they had been dealing with when in office, as in the case of the British NHS (Pollock 2004).

The Final Round: Privatizing Debt under the Auspices of the ‘Financial Services’

As a result of the assault on social spending, a new legitimization deficit threatened, which was responded to by a new round of liberalizing capital markets to provide further means of payment, in this case by creating private debt, or ‘privatized Keynesianism’ (C. Crouch). This is the third way in which the fund of disposable resources is increased and purchasing power is created to try to close the gap with the promises made in the post-war period (Streeck 2013: 68-9).

Again I would argue that we must specify the forces involved in this third phase of buying time in order to know who was in charge when it collapsed in 2008 and who wrote the script for dealing with that collapse and its aftermath.

Here the fact that the restructuring away from nationally compartmentalized, compromise-rich corporate liberalism to a globalizing capitalism under a neoliberal concept required lifting the restrictions imposed on money capital in the 1930’s plays the crucial role.

For if money capital in the sense of quasi-social capital necessarily had to guide this process if it was to bring about a restoration of capitalist class power relative to the forces ranged against it nationally and internationally, all aspects of that regime had to be loosened.

The financial repression achieved by the New Deal’s centerpiece, the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, separated high-risk, speculative international financial operations from low-risk, national deposit banking; only thus was productive capital able to accommodate to the militancy of the labor movement at the time.

The Volcker Shock of 1979 inevitably enabled a resurgence of this commercial form of money operations too. Here the abandoning of the fixed exchange rate regime in 1971 did play a role even if it occurred under the auspices of a productive-capital bloc (interestingly also including Paul Volcker in a key role as a Treasury official).

Inflation expanded the amount of US dollars circulating across the globe and accumulated outside the reach of the US financial authorities notably in the city of London, especially after the OPEC cartel and others demanded an inflation correction beginning in 1973. Their dollar holdings caused the offshore Eurodollar and Eurocapital markets to balloon and served as a key source for borrowing by the Soviet bloc and the Third World coalition (Burn 2006).

Capital in money form, ‘finance’ thus got back in its stride across a broad front, step by step undermining the separation between speculation and deposit money (Glass-Steagall was formally revoked in 1999). This is best understood by looking once again at how money functions as a means of market exchange first, symbolized as the M (money) in between two forms of goods or services, C (commodities), so C – M – C.
This includes what Marx calls ‘money-dealing capital’, say, trade in currencies or commercial paper. The profit that is made here is commercial profit, buying cheap and selling dear. Once money becomes capital, and is invested in production, the cycle assumes a different form, M – C (..P..) C’ – M’, and profit is based on surplus value obtained as unpaid labor in production (..P.. , and denoted by ’, the value increment).

In developed capitalism, money-dealing capital, ‘trade in financial services’, remains operative. Unlike investment money with its ‘systemic’ view of the whole cycle, it is only marginally connected to the production of surplus value; it preys on it from the outside, via the profit distribution process, not directly (in the Institutionalist tradition of Thorstein Veblen, all forms of capital prey on production in this sense).

Peter Gowan captures the shift with finance that occurred in the 1990’s when he writes about the rise of proprietary trading and financial arbitrage that ‘trading activity here does not mean long-term investment…in this or that security, but buying and selling financial and real assets to exploit – not least by generating- price differences and price shifts’ (‘speculative arbitrage’, Gowan 2009: 9, emphasis added).

Here we are looking at money capital with a completely different, in fact ‘irresponsible,’ attitude even from a capitalist point of view, hence the label ‘predatory’ neoliberalism. The financial operators driving it forward by exploiting new accounting rules and legal loopholes after the definitive collapse of state socialism in 1989-91 assembled allies among politicians and (‘micro’-)economists into a rapidly widening array of forces eager to share in the bonanza.

Streeck highlights how this frenzy was underpinned by a new theory of capital markets; which were now considered able to self-regulate rather than remain under state supervision (the ‘efficient market hypothesis’) (Streeck 2013: 69). Amidst the high-velocity movement of funds flowing through offshore jurisdictions, asset bubbles became a regular feature of 1990’s capitalism, culminating the predatory raid on Asian economies in 1997-98.

Just as corporate liberalism had produced the responsible citizen-worker and systemic neoliberalism the heroic late-20th-century bourgeois, predatory neoliberalism shaped an anthropology of its own in the form of the postmodern homo economicus, nervously finding his/her way in a jungle of potentially fatal choices in which all certainties have been suspended.

Across the spectrum, predatory neoliberalism fueled an attitude of anti-politics, since as Streeck emphasizes, its ideological mantra is that markets distribute wealth through general rules, whereas politics brings into play power and connections.

Once the idea has settled that the market is natural condition, its ‘decisions’ can be presented as falling from the sky and all politics dismissed as driven by ‘interests’ (Streeck 2013: 97). Organizing for anything becomes suspect as interest-driven power-play, ultimately entailing new Auschwitzes or gulags.

The language of the epoch, still widely spoken today, is replete with demagogy, in which ‘our side’ is endowed with an inherent goodness in the confrontation with successive incarnations of evil – from Milosevic to Saddam and on to Putin. This aesthetics of politics takes the place of material compromises for which the space is closing down. Speculators in fact gambled away many of the assets the middle classes had counted on to bolster their wealth and even their social security.

The aesthetics of politics, the invocation of highly emotive themes such as the ‘tsunami’ of foreigners invading our land, civilization in danger, the threat of terrorism and war, thus substitutes for real material concessions, although pockets of compromise, carried over from the earlier phases, remain, both with organized labor and with asset-owning middle classes.

The thrust, then, especially after the turn of the millennium, has been in the direction of unrestrained predatory neoliberalism with no barriers against risk-taking and with demagogy riding high. This is not a general condition of capital as such, but the operation of the system from the vantage point of money-dealing capital, immersed in risk and (often exorbitant) reward and relying on deceit to obtain social consensus.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, and with the international posture both of China and of post-Soviet Russia not able to really challenge the pretensions of the US to lead the ‘international community’, promote ‘good governance’, etc., the risk-taking inherent in predatory neoliberalism has also spilled over into adventurous, high-risk foreign policy maneuvers with an enhanced role for covert action.

At this juncture the European project too switched to predatory neoliberalism with the establishment of the Eurozone. As majorities for social protection became less and less possible as a consequence due to the adhesion of eastern European countries, the European Commission in the 1990’s forced through the privatization of large slices of the public sectors of member states in the name of competition law.

Under EU Commissioner Mario Monti, the German public banking system’s competition rules, long an irritant to the private banks, were finally eliminated (Streeck 2013: 150, 150n.).

Streeck provides some important pointers such as the fact that in the first decade of the 21st century the European Court of Justice became the chief executor of the ‘Hayekization’ of the EU, or the ‘European Union as a liberalization machinery’ (Streeck 2013: 148).

The Court’s rulings concerning the right to strike and codetermination in the name of untrammelled service provision and capital movements turned the EU into a machinery for liberalization. Its high point was the Eurozone, in which the freeing of the capitalist economy from democratic constraints reached its pinnacle (Streeck 2013: 151; an earlier, positive analysis of the Court’s role is in Cohen-Tanugi 1987).

Streeck calls the Eurozone a frivolous experiment as it removed the possibility of highly heterogeneous economies to defend themselves without simultaneously abolishing the national states and national democracy (Streeck 2013: 250).
The euro was indeed a project of and for money-dealing capital. The committee consisting mainly of central bankers that worked out the euro project in 1988-89 could not miss the pre-eminence of this form of capital even if it had wanted to – certainly after the European Exchange Rate Mechanism collapsed under the attacks of speculators in the early 1990’s.

Hence it recommended that the Euro’s role as a means of exchange would remain confined to the Eurozone, making the euro an investment object first of all. To attract short-term money flows, its interest rate (the sole monetary policy instrument of the European Central Bank at the outset), was set just above the US rate (Chesnais 2011: 90, 120; Varoufakis 2013: 198-9).

The mistaken but widely-held assumption that after the crisis of 2008 there existed a sort of pure capitalist vantage point with its anchorage in the states of the West which would be able to see that speculation had gone too far, etc. overlooks that capital as agency only comes about as a result of a build-up of a class coalition around a certain fraction, which thus is able to generalize its particular interest as the general capitalist interest and even the general interest altogether.

The collapse of 2008 happened when the formula of the general interest was predatory neoliberalism advanced by money-dealing capital. There was no other capitalist or popular force that had been able to contest its hegemony.

The idea that a crisis of this magnitude produces a rethink again abstracts from real power relations; the bail-out may briefly have looked like a return to Keynesianism but in fact was about saving the banks with public money and consolidating the capture of the state by a bloc of forces operating under the auspices and with the world-view of high risk/reward money-dealing capital.

This socially irresponsible fraction, relying for social consensus on political aesthetics and demagogy, will not be able to find solutions that are rational even for capital as a whole because its rationality is far narrower. There is no other form of capital waiting in the wings, and this is in fact also argued by Streeck (as when he writes that it has become practically impossible to determine what is state and what is market and whether the states have nationalized the banks or the banks have privatized the state, 2013: 71-2).

However he also appears to assume a sort of commanding heights from which successive episodes of ‘buying time’ have been tried by capital as such, whereas in fact we are looking at never-ending struggles in which money-dealing capital has been able to reap the fruits of privatization, liberalization and flexibilization of labor on a global scale.

A Terminal Crisis of Democracy?

As with capitalism, Streeck also tends to assume that there is a hypothesized ‘democracy’ which ‘failed to recognize’ the counterrevolution against the social capitalism of the post-war era, just as it ‘failed to regulate’ the financial sector in the 1990’s (Streeck 2013: 111-2). Just as he tends to turn capitalism into a spectator witnessing its own corruption by speculation, he presents democracy a witness of its own demise.

I should add immediately that this tendency in Streeck’s argument is contradicted by his own often acute observations concerning the real relations of force (as when he describes the creditors of the indebted states as a second constituency, a sort of shadow citizenry far outstripping the power of the original constituency, the people (Streeck 2013: 118-9).

In fact capitalism, as I have argued above, never exists outside its own momentary constellation of social forces, so it cannot by definition ‘correct’ any supposed aberrations in how it functions. That instance, a sort of independent regulator within the bounds of the system does not exist. The same with democracy: democracy denotes the degree to which the population at large can influence the operation of the forces that govern it, both the formal government and the relations of production.

Here the claim of the Communist Manifesto that all history is the history of class struggle should guide our understanding or Gramsci’s argument about Marxism as absolute historicism, an absolute humanism of history, for that matter (Gramsci 1971: 465).

Only in the context of the real relations of force, in all their complexity, can we discover the ability for change; not by appealing intuitively to the good conscience of a social order. Because ultimately capital as agency appears to stand outside its own field of operation and thus retains an ability to ‘try’ different solutions, the notion of class struggle remains underdeveloped in this otherwise important book.

More particularly absent is how class struggle reverberates in and is relayed through the fraction structure of capital as it strives to establish itself as agency embodying the general interest of capital. Hence the struggles within the capitalist class (nationally and internationally) remain in the dark, and democracy merely registers how in the development of class and fraction struggles, class compromises crystallize.

Here an echo from an earlier period appears to take the place of a developed class analysis when Streeck writes about Marx’s idea of countertendencies as in the case of the falling rate of profit, a familiar trope for the readers of Capital Volume III (Streeck 2013: 15, 15 n.).

The succession of instances of buying time seem to arise from one fundamental malfunction due to the operation of these countertendencies which are conjunctural and necessarily temporary as the incorporation of more spheres of life by capital clashes with the logic of the social life-world (Streeck 2013: 16).

Yet here the author tends to overlook that the analysis of Capital volume III takes the analysis of class struggle of Vol. I and the analysis of fraction struggles in Vol. II to an even more concrete level, and without taking these prior struggles into account more explicitly, the tendencies/countertendencies argument remains superficial, not identifying the real dynamics animating successive constellations of forces.

This again affects the understanding of what awaits us after 2008. Again Streeck’s analysis is highly relevant in its main conclusion. Each of the instances of ‘buying time’ was accompanied by a defeat of the wage dependent population that made it possible to introduce and deepen neoliberalization (Streeck 2013: 76).

The end of inflation, by a secular weakening of the trade unions and the termination of their ability to strike in conditions of durable unemployment; the consolidation of the state budget by cuts in and privatization of social provision and curtailment of social citizenship and a commercialization of many aspects of social security, granting new opportunities to insurance companies stepping in as guarantors of social security. The crash of 2008 then also robbed many of their savings, whilst entailing further cuts and job losses (Streeck 2013: 77).

Since the 1960’s voter participation in elections has fallen substantially; the lower the income group, the steeper this decline has been. It is not a sign of satisfaction but of resignation: ‘The political resignation of the lower strata protects capitalism from democracy and stabilizes the neoliberal turn that is at its origin’ (Streeck 2013: 90, cf. 87-8).

Democracy is slowly being replaced by a pure spectator sport, a form of entertainment for the middle classes, in which emaciated, essentially similar political parties temporarily play as if they are enemies only to conclude Grand Coalitions between them – a strategy that Streeck rightly argues is probably the most appropriate form of government anyway in the era of states having to answer to creditors’ demands first (Streeck 2013: 127-8).

Politics as entertainment and theatre reminds one of the thesis of Guy Debord in one of the signal texts of the 1968 movement (Debord 1967).

Here too a fraction analysis would work to deepen the argument. For the lingering assumption that there remains a conscientious democracy that can intervene as such tends to also assume that this theatre will obey the laws of the theatre in that it is orderly staged, the audience knows its place etc., whereas if predatory neoliberalism runs the show as it does today, there is nothing orderly about the response to the crisis in this respect either.

Indeed whilst economically the system is running aground amidst rampant speculation, the abolition of democracy too obeys the laws of high risk policies, involving covert action and provocation, terror scares to bolster the forces calling for a state of emergency, and military adventures, today in the Middle East and North Africa as well as on the borders of Russia, soon to be enlarged with a more pugnacious policy towards China.

Under such circumstances, the abolition of democracy will not take the form of a peaceful spectacle fooling and entertaining the audience but of repression and war.

Of course in the EU the abolition of democracy has already passed through a phase of high-handed demagogy of which the handling of the Greek Spring and the prevention of a Portuguese one are the key instances (in Portugal the Left was not even allowed to translate its election victory into forming a government).

After all the president of the Bundesbank in mid 2012 already declared that if a country does not meet its EU budget obligations, national sovereignty should be automatically transferred to the European level and consolidation measures will be adopted for which in the national parliament may not exist a majority (Streeck 2013: 155).

After Greece and Portugal, France’s subjection to limited democracy was not a matter of enforcing budget constraints any longer but obtained by a terror scare, the declaration of the state of emergency and the suspension of civil rights.

As the consequences of the wars in the Middle East and North Africa are spreading to Europe via the refugee crisis, fragments from the warring parties in these regions (Turks vs. Kurds, jihadists fighting secular regimes) inevitably link up with destitute, marginalized groups in societies here. In that sense the attacks in Paris in November 2015 (perhaps unlike the Charlie Hebdo attack which still had a strong whiff of a double-agent operation) are certainly a sign of things to come.

In this situation we should certainly heed Streeck’s exhortation that critical intellectuals have a duty not to be primarily concerned with their reputation by repeating the mantra that there is no alternative and not be intimidated by the ruling technique of dismissing opposition as populism (Streeck 2013: 219). At the same time, we need a sharper eye for the actual forces the critics are up against if they want to be effective.

References

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What Is the South Stream Pipeline and Why Is the US So Determined to Kill It?

There is a project to run Russian gas down through Turkey and the Black Sea to eastern Europe and then up to Austria. This project is called the South Stream, and the US has been anxiously trying to kill this project for some time now.

The US is furious that Russia is trying to run a pipeline up to Europe to sell the Europeans gas, and we will walk through Hell and high water to try to stop this project. America’s hatred for the South Stream is twofold.

First, the US is determined to destroy Russia’s economy any way it can. Cutting off a gas pipeline is a good way to do that.

Second, the US hates the idea of Europe getting hooked on Russian gas. This makes the Europeans not want to fight Russia much since they do not want to alienate their gas supplier. The problem is that the Europeans do not have many alternatives when it comes to gas. They either buy gas from Russia, or they buy gas from Russia.

At first the South Stream was scheduled to go through Bulgaria, and the Bulgarians were ready to agree to it until they came under tremendous pressure from the US, and they nixed the deal.

Then the project shifted over to the Balkans. It would go through Greece and up through the Balkans to Austria.

Regime changer Victoria Nuland (R-Tel Aviv) whose husband is neocon brain trust Robert Kagan (R-Tel Aviv), the same Ms. Nuland who plotted the nefarious Nazi coup in the Ukraine that caused so much death and chaos, quickly went to work in Macedonia trying to set off another color revolution to throw out the government there which had agreed to let the South Stream run through its land.

There were some rowdy demonstrations as Nuland tried to do another Maidan overthrow of the government with crowds in the streets or a coup.

This attempt fortunately failed, so the last chance to stop South Stream was to throw a wedge between Russia and Turkey because all South Stream routes have to go through Turkey. By causing a huge rift between Turkey and Russia, the US thinks it is killing South Stream for the third time.

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