Fascism, Ol' Buck, etc.

B Mayer concrete at idiom.com
Mon Feb 26 14:41:01 MST 1996

At 11:06 AM 2/22/96, L. Proyect wrote:
>On Tue, 20 Feb 1996, Bradley Mayer wrote:
>> militias, etc., "have always been with us".  Today's militia movement has
>> experienced a rapid growth in only the last few years, and rightwing
>> populism, if taken to its logical conclusion today, can only lead to
>> fascism. Why? Because the economic crisis we are experiencing today is
>> more severe than even those of the 1930's or 1880's in one key respect:
>> in its unrelenting permanence.  For the American bourgeoisie and the
>> population at large, this is a situation unpreceedented in its history.
>Louis: We are experiencing an economic crisis worse than the 1930s? This
>statement can be borne out neither in terms of unemployment statistics or
>any other significant economic measurement. Wouldn't it be more accurate
>to say that capitalism is restructuring? In some areas, investment is
>declining while in others it is expanding. China is experiencing one of
>the most rapid growth rates of any nation since WWII.
>I certainly don't have the competence to explain what is happening
>economically all in all, but the term "crisis" without further
>explanation seems inadequate.

Note: somehow this did not get posted to the l*ist, so this is a repost.
 Apologies in advance for any duplication.

The passage Louis quoted above clearly states: "..the economic crisis we
are experiencing today IS MORE SEVERE than even those of the 1930's or
1880's IN ONE KEY RESPECT: in its unrelenting PERMANENCE" (emphasis
added). This passage in no way claims that the present general crisis
(as opposed to acute crisis, such as in the early 1930's) exhibits
levels of unemployment greater than those of the 1930's.  On the other
hand, it does make a very specific reference to a significant economic
measurement: time. The present general crisis (a structural crisis)
emanated from the Anglo-American countries in the early 70's, and has,
in stages, rippled across the rest of the world (with the partial
exception of East Asia) in unrelenting waves of austerity to this very
day, with no solution to the structural crisis in sight.  Even the
former economic powerhouse of imperialism, Japan, has finally felt the
effects of the crisis.

The "great depression" of the late 19th century stretched, by most
accounts, from the end of the 1870's to the mid 1890's - less than
twenty years in all. The "crisis of the 1930's" actually lasted from the
last years of WWI (1917-1918, as key imperialist antagonists in that war
reached a point of economic exhaustion and even collapse under the
strain of the war effort) to about 1948 - approximately thirty years, of
which the early 1930's represented the most generalized of several acute
phases of that period of general crisis.  Out present crisis is already
pushing the quarter-century mark, which places it in between the
previous two in duration.  However, there is no sign on the horizon that
a process of "restructuration" is going to come along to launch us again
into a prolonged period of general economic prosperity similiar to that
of the turn of the century or the postwar.  Here, then, is a prediction:
that our present general crisis will outlast the previous two.

If the use of the term "crisis" needs explanation, so to does its
dialectical twin, "restructuring".  Understood in the most fundamental
terms, capitalism tends towards *disequilibrium* in its development.
"Restructuring" , on the other hand, represents a countertendency
towards the reestablishment of the equilibrium of the system as a whole.
 The development of East Asia as the most dynamic region of world
capitalism today does not represent a "restructuring" of capital, but in
fact is symptomatic of a growing disequilibrium in capitalist
development, since it represents a displacement of important sectors of
capitalist production outside the center of imperialism, which still
resides in the North Atlantic region.

So too with the much talked-about "globalization", i.e., the
concentration and centralization of capital on the world scale.  This
process is part of the crisis, not part of the "restructuring" out of
the crisis. To see this, it is interesting to compare the present
process to the period after 1896.  There the process of concentration
and centralization, which took the form of the appearence of the first
monopoly corporations and cartels of the modern type, was a means of
overcoming the crisis. Furthermore, this process developed in relative
equilibrium with an increase in state intervention, both in the national
economy and on the world stage in the form of an armed interimperialist
competition - in fact, the monopolists were the leading exponents of
state intervention in this period. This is only to state that in this
period, on the eve of the epoch of capitalist decay (remenber that
one?), capitalism still possessed, sui generis, the means to extricate
itself from structural economic crisis.

Not so today. The process of "globalization" occurs in sharp
contradiction with the structure of the bourgeois nation-state. This
contradiction is all the sharper in that the present political regimes
in the imperialist countries are in part the product of concessions
ceded to the working class in the aftermath of the defeat of fascism,
concessions granted in the face of the threat to the survival of
capitalism posed by the subsequent postwar revolutionary wave.  The
resultant improvement of the working class standard of living
in these countries, coupled with the rapid economic expansion which took
hold in the workers' states, was the engine for the postwar expansion -
the economic advance of the proletariat, wrenched by their own hands
from the capitalists in the course of the class struggle, is the hidden
key to understanding the origins of the postwar "boom". The theoretical
point to be garnered here is that capitalist restructuration out of the
crisis is now only possible in two ways: either with an increase in
wages, which under fully matured capitalism leads to a massive expansion
of the production of articles of consumption (i.e., "economic growth")
contained within a economic regime of relative surplus value extraction
(the so-called "Fordism"), or with the imposition of the political
economy of fascism and the drive towards the absolute immiseration of
the working class that we saw previewed under the Nazis. Anything in
between does not conctitute a structural solution to the general crisis,
but a continuation of the "deconstructed" muddle that is our living
reality today.  (Any thoughts on the material basis of the "postmodern
sensibility"?)  This point bears emphasizing: Any "solution", within
fully matured capitalist society, that would result in a renewed period
of broad capitalist expansion MUST BE FOUNDED ON A RISE IN THE WORKERS'
WAGE. It will not be founded on a rise of capitalist profit at the
expense of wages. This is the economic lesson of the postwar. Which
structural "solution" we end with - short of the abolition of
capitalism, of course - will be determined by the course of the class

Hence today the "social welfare" wage, as "guaranteed" by the bourgeois
imperialist state, is seen as an intolerable barrier to both
"globalization" and the existence of marginal capitals. This explains
the unending austerity plans aimed at the liquidation of these barriers,
plans which grow bolder in depth and scope with every new political
cycle in the class struggle.  This process extends further to include
the "protectionist" forms of state intervention which benefit only the
bourgeoisie of a particular nation-state: thus privitization,
NAFTA, GATT, etc.  It even extends to the military apparatus itself as
seen in the "downsizing" of these in the U.S. and France, for example.
This process, driven forward by the big bourgeoisie of all countries, is
not to be mistaken for the structural solution to the general crisis,
but is the driving force of the crisis itself. Compare this to the
previous fin de siecle: The growth of monopoly and finance does not
develop in tandem with the aggrandizement of the bourgeois state, still
less with the advance of the organized working class, as it did with the
appearence of the modern trade union confederations and social
democratic parties in the 1890's.  One hundred years later, capitalism
"unchained" reveals itself in a purely parasitic relation to any
possible "solution" to the crisis.

To return to our point of departure: Buchananism vs. traditional
rightwing populism.  In all previous general crises, the United States
played an exceptional role.  It was the great economic beneficiary of
the late 19th century - the "East Asia" of that time.  It was both the
"savior" of capitalism and its chief beneficiary after WWII.  These
relative sucesses of the U.S. insured that bouts of rightwing populism
AND any working class upsurge would remain episodial. Not so today: the
U.S., far from being a part of the bourgeois liberal "solution" to the
general crisis, is instead at the very center of the crisis as its
primary source.  This is due to the change in the structural relation of
the U.S. to imperialism as a whole required as a "solution" to the
previous crisis of the interwar period.  In this way, yesterdays'
solution becomes todays' problem.  So on to the point being made in the
previous post: while, initially, extreme reaction will work through the
traditional historical forms of rightwing populism, in the radically
different historical situation that the U.S. finds itself in today, a
section of right-populism will "mutate" in the direction of fascism, it
will undergo a further reactionary evolution of its politics. That
divide is precisely defined in the difference between Ross Perot
and Pat Buchanan.

This is the context within which the question of fascism today must be
addressed.  This sketch of an outline is, of course, only provisionally
valid - it is not some oracular revelation.  Substantial analysis and
empirical verification are required to develop the view presented here,
for which an email list hardly provides the space. It does provide a
fairly instantaneous means for the presentation of general perspectives
which in turn can generate in short order a very multifaceted response
from a variety of quarters.  This is the sense in which this perspective
is presented.

                        -Brad Mayer

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