domingo, 18 de novembro de 2018

The Precarious Future of the Nation-State (3)

(Parts 1 and 2, here and here)

The destruction caused by the Second World War, particularly in Germany and the USSR, forced a great effort to rebuild and reconstruct the economies, which led to a sister approach by both blocks of a very deep intervention of public expenditure, within the framework of what came to be called Keynesian policies, in order to increase the GDP. 

Everything seemed to be going well, workers were thinking more about consumption than about revolution, unemployment was marginal, and the USA was the great godfather of the Bretton Woods system and a great beneficiary of decolonization that had reset the former colonizing powers into a regional framework. 

Until ... the model imploded for internal and external reasons, as will be seen in the following text. 

C – Capitalism’s Thirty Glorious Years

13 – The reformulation of the political thinking and the Keynesian splendour 

14 – The reconstruction of infrastructures and the beginning of European integration 

15 – Supra-national institutions shape globalization 

16 – The decolonization and decline of colonizing nations 

17 – Workers acceptance of the capitalist order 

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C – Capitalism’s Thirty Glorious Years
All business cycles have an ascending phase, which manifests itself in terms of wealth creation, more employment and optimism, and lasts while a set of new technologies, other business models, and other political costumes develop. This period is succeeded by another in which the exhaustion of the combination of those factors, until then creators of optimism, as well as its beneficial effects, occurs. During this period of decline other technological, financial, and political factors are emerging or will be established, which will tend to establish a new paradigm of capital accumulation through another combination, which will relaunch the economy into a new upward phase. 

This is how Kondratiev's waves were built, even beyond his death, and which we have been using to characterize capitalism since it was established as the dominant economic structure on the planet. It should not be inferred from the above that capitalism is the final destination of Humanity; like any other production mode, it has a duration that goes far beyond the time of a generation, to the great and just impatience of those who, feeling its harmful effects, are not satisfied with their conjuncture or superficial modifications, even when favourable to crowd. For example, the overwhelming majority of a population will not disdain a wage increase; but only an idiot will conclude that it signals a structural change for capitalism. 

It is a fact that the traditional, historical, critically-minded theses of capitalism have belittled its evident capabilities for exploiting opportunities and adapting to technological innovations, its ability in social, political and business management, of expansion into a global market, of credit creation and monetary stability. They also underestimated the fact that the levels of capital accumulation have allowed the allocation of financial and technological resources to the creation and maintenance of repressive means of bodies and minds; in a first plane, through a consumerism made playful and compulsive and, in a second plane, through a silent genocide of peoples and social strata, or the ancestral method of war. As Zygmunt Bauman says, "the Holocaust was born and executed in our modern rational society, at a high stage of our civilization, on top of the human cultural level and, therefore, it is a problem of our society, our civilization, and our culture" [1]; as is exemplified by the imprisonment of the Palestinian people by the Israeli entity, shamelessly accepted by the "international community". 

Shortly before World War I, the divisions between the powers and the force of the workers' movements allowed for a near collapse of capitalism, a conception that was accentuated with the Russian Revolution of 1917. This global collapse did not happen but the dominant theory kept predicting a short-term collapse, the fruit of an unstoppable crisis of capitalism. 

Evgeny Varga, a prominent figure in power in the USSR, realized capitalism's adaptability in 1946, but was forced to acknowledge that capitalist economies would only come to know collapse; Varga might have, a few years earlier, masterminded Kondratiev's execution because he had concluded – and rightly so – that scholasticism was a mere ideological construction when reality denied it. Reality would be... wrong; Stalin and the Western Trotskyists agreed on the eminent overthrow of capitalism in the west as a consequence of an impending stagnation that, in the end, would only arise much later, in the 1970s, and which then brought the implantation of the neoliberal paradigm and not the revolution or even a placebo called "socialism". 

The second post-war is the beginning of the ascending phase of the fourth Kondratiev wave that will reach the inflection point in the early 1970s. It is a period of great innovations such as transistors, automatic calculus, synthetic materials, television, the pill, mass consumption, automation, space exploration, nuclear energy, and a new arms race. It is a period of growth of the state apparatuses, of the extension of their actions, and also the creation of groups of nation-states with various degrees of articulation and integration.
In what follows, we will address a number of structuring elements of a geopolitical and social scope that mark the political and economic scene of the post-war period.

13 – The reformulation of political thought and Keynesian splendor
The Soviet army's compressive roller over the Nazis, in the final phase of the war, boosted the peoples’ support for the socialist and communist parties of the time and, for several years, even attracted the intelligentsia; this despite the destruction of fascism having stopped north of the Pyrenees, sparing the regimes of Franco and Salazar. 

That popular dynamic of sympathy towards the Soviet model began to decline as Stalin's repressive practices started to become known. Nevertheless, the socialist parties themselves were forced to present advanced social ideas in a progressive dynamic that forced the conservatives to adapt to the new times. The English Labour, that came to power isolated in 1945, created a national health service and a state of universal and lifelong social welfare, in addition to having begun decolonization; in most cases, with the agreement of the conservatives, traditionally little inclined to big state involvement, and still convinced of the country's great power... promoted nuclear weapons. 

Unlike the English pragmatists, France showed, with the colonial wars in Indochina and Algeria, difficulties in adapting to the new times. Despite the right’s predominance in power, a social security was instituted[2] the right to vote was extended to women, while large banks, insurance companies, electrical companies, and the iron and coal industries were nationalized, without the acquisition of the atomic bomb being forgotten. 

In Western Europe the times of applying the Keynesian policies are lived with strong public investment, large government intervention and increased consumption. In Eastern Europe, the procedures were identical, with a much higher state intervention in the decision and in the execution, a reduced role of the private initiative and a great care for investment, to the detriment of consumption.

14 – The reconstruction of infrastructures and the beginning of European integration
The USA, with its economic and military powers not only intact but even strengthened after the end of the war, vis-a-vis a fragile Western Europe, financed part of the latter’s reconstruction through the Marshall Plan and the investment of American companies. These have seen in Europe an opportunity for achieving large capital gains with the rebuilding of infrastructures and the reactivation of trade and capital circuits; and from then on they were also aimed at stamping out or reducing interest in the Soviet model. 

On the other hand, the memory of the bank crash of 1929 being fresh, strong control was implemented over the capacity of the banking system to grant credit, with the obligatory bank reserves corresponding to 20-25% of the total credit granted; by comparison, it should be noted that the ECB currently only requires 1% of cash reserves, since money is generally a product of computer records in credit operations, it does not leave the banking system, excluding, with comparatively small values, banknotes and coins. This fact justifies an important part of the current power of the financial system, of its domination over national economies, enterprises, families and states, through debt, delegating to the political classes the transfer of the effects of the insanity of capitalism and the financial system to the population. 

Returning to the post-war period, real interest rates were then low or even negative, facilitating debtors, especially the states, who found ways to finance themselves without burdening societies with high tax loads, while, at the same time, allowing the erosion of public debt. The same does not happen today: states get indebted in parallel with very high taxation, in a context of low inflation. 

Subsequently to the Marshall Plan, the Comecon (January 1949) was created in the East between the USSR and the countries that had adopted its one-party, state-based model, a disconnected set from the Western capitalist market system; and in acerbic strategic competition with the latter. 

This competition, in a context of the Cold War and large political cleavages on the left-right axis, would be the starting point for the creation of a sequence of acts of economic and political integration in Western Europe. We refer to the Council of Europe (May 1949), the Schuman Declaration (May 1950) and, in a more structured way, the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) (1951) and of the European Economic Community (1957); in the latter case preceding a long series of decisions and treaties, always in the forge, aiming at the creation of a super-state (the European Union) which is now growing in size, depth, and totalitarianism; and whose institutions are perfectly in line with the national oligarchies, which compete for reactionary penchant. After the danger of confrontation and competition with an adversary in the East was waived in 1991, the EU has accentuated its economist and oligarchic tendencies, favouring multinationals and the financial system, while accompanying the USA in war adventures in the Mediterranean area. 

De Gaulle's strong nationalist sentiment put Britain – perceived as being under strong USA influence – out of the process of European integration, withdrew the French troops from the NATO chain of command and advanced to a nuclear arsenal. In the same vein, de Gaulle sought a suzerainty of France in Western European space, benefiting from the then weakness of West Germany; later this suzerainty evolved into a parity (the Franco-German axis) which became German supremacy, with the strength of its economy and the reunification. 

Also at the military level, antagonistic coalitions that separated Europe into two parts, with a few neutral countries in between, were structured at the time. NATO [3] (1949) is seen as an expression of the American suzerainty, lasting until today, of defence against a propagandized Soviet threat and, nowadays, Russian; is part of the military oversight that the USA believe in extending to all quarters of the planet, with the assumed right to bomb, invade, block, manipulate and fund regimes, military groups or merely terrorists. Within the context of the Cold War, in response to the creation of NATO, the Warsaw Pact emerged in 1955, but was meanwhile extinguished in the wake of the collapse of the Eastern Bloc. In the military camp, as in many others, between the two opposing blocs of regimes of the Cold War, mimicry prevailed; even in the oligarchic way in which populations were (and are) estranged from decisions about their lives.

15 – Supra-national institutions shape globalization
Bretton Woods was the setting where the new global monetary and financial order was established in 1944, with total domination by the USA and the dollar. The IMF was created at that time to support countries with problems of external deficit, economic growth, with the objective of increasing employment and reducing poverty (!) After the end of the dollar convertibility to gold (1971) and the decline of Keynesianism, it adopted neoliberal precepts by imposing draconian measures on countries with difficulties, which invariably result in population austerity programs and privatizations, in return for the granted financing at high rates. In Portugal, IMF intervention took place in 1977, 1983/85 and recently (2011/14) under the structural readjustment program, the IMF being in partnership with the ECB and the European Commission. Another institution resulting from Bretton Woods was the World Bank, which vocation is to finance development support projects. 

Also in Bretton Woods, a stable model of the relationship between national currencies was drawn, by setting the dollar parity at $ 35 per ounce of gold, the American currency serving as the reference currency, thus avoiding fluctuations with harmful impacts on the international trade; this central role of the dollar did not raise any great challenges at a time when the US held 80 percent of the world's gold reserves, a productive capacity not destroyed by war, and enormous supremacy in global trade. The system worked while the American economy also had great dominance in international economic relations; when the dollar began to decline, in parallel with an intense demand for gold or other currencies such as the German mark or Japanese yen, both countries with strong trade surpluses, the USA ended the convertibility in 1971. 

In 1947, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) was created with the aim of liberalizing world trade, restricted before the war and, then, under strong protectionism within each of the colonial empires, as well as between nation states, in general. It was understood that free trade, free of barriers, was a source of economic efficiency which fed democracy and social welfare; and following the same logic, in addition to trade in goods, services, investments and patents were included in a process that gradually allowed the domination by multinationals and the expansion of their presence throughout the world, a process that culminated in 1995 with the creation of WTO - World Trade Organization, where the vast majority of countries are present, being dominant amongst the absentees a large number of Arab or Muslim countries, which reserve their position as observers. 

It is also worth mentioning several of the many institutions of a global or regional character which federate or replace the member states thus revealing an ever increasing number and scope of problems that cannot or should not be confined to the autarchic logic of the nation-state and their domestic oligarchies. Among the global ones, one may refer to UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), the WHO (World Health Organization), the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development), the ITO (International Trade Organization), the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization), the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency), the UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) ... 

However, assaults on the environment and climate change, although little discussed during the 30 glorious years of the growth of the famous GDP, are now of inescapable importance and are late in getting global management bodies, everything being dependent on episodic and temporary conferences at the end of which the major nation-states responsible for the existing problems act as they see fit, without being subject to sanctions or boycotts, as is always the case when geopolitical divisions or the commercial interests of the great powers are at stake. 

International institutions of a regional nature are many, and it is essential to refer to the European Union as a unique case of deepening political and economic integration, with multiple decision-making bodies that stand above the member states. We also refer to NAFTA and Mercosur, in the Americas, ASEAN, APEC and the Arab League, in Asia, or SADC and ECOWAS in Africa. Global-scope, non-state institutions for specific themes, such as the Red Cross or Amnesty International, should also be mentioned. 

In political terms, the UN was created in 1945 as a forum for dialogue and consultation between the nations... represented by the national political classes and, in addition, with the creation of a directory with veto power, consisting of the USA, USSR, France, UK, and China (the Taipei regime) and which continues to this day, with the People's Republic of China replacing the island of Taiwan, and Russia inheriting the place of the extinct USSR, all of them nuclear powers.

16 – The decolonization and the decline of colonizing nations
In addition to the latent conflict at the borders of the two blocs that divided Europe, a further threat came from the incipient decolonization and that would render the European countries, as whole, regional powers under the protective shadow of the USA, for some, and of the USSR, for others, with very few neutral ones. 

Neutralities relative to the East-West antagonism would grow, especially in the new nation-states erected in the former colonies, which for some time after the Bandung Conference had a role of some relevance under the impulse of Nehru, Tito, and Chu-En-Lai. But for many of the new countries, especially in Africa, one thing was the political independence, the creation of an anthem and a flag, and another, much more complex, was to create economic coherence and autonomy having as a material substrate structures aimed at supplying the Western countries with raw materials, minerals, and plantation’s agricultural products, in a situation of market and prices’ dependency; and to do all of this in parallel with the traditional way of populations living of a traditional subsistence agriculture, ignored by the former colonizer and despised by the new elites. 

These situations led to repeated coups d'état with the support of groups of the military, or by the military hierarchies themselves, which directly assumed the predation in collusion with the multinationals or interests anchored in the old European metropoles, so that colonial exploitation could continue, after independence, under another flag; and there are even cases of mercenary intervention. In other situations, corrupt leaders – Mobutu, Houphouet-Boigny, Idi Amin, Mugabe, Bokassa, Nguema, J. E. dos Santos ... – set up repressive and predatory, personalized regimes. In the few cases where groups with commendable intentions came to power, they had to face the lack of capital and technology, and also the manoeuvres of multinationals who exploited ethnic or tribal divergences, leading to their overthrow. The continuity of the colonial borders in their complete artificiality, the existence of tribal structures separated by these borders, undermined possible solidarities and, on the contrary, imposed conflicts and wars, the most serious of them in Rwanda. 

In other cases, colonial shares had divided territories with old state structures, redesigning them or imposing new entities, generating or exacerbating ethnic and religious antagonisms, as occurred after the dismantling of the Ottoman Empire, with the invention of new entities such as Lebanon, Jordan or the Zionist entity; in this case, in the form of territorial occupation by strangers to the region, expelling their ancestral inhabitants. The same has been observed in the separation of Hindus and Muslims in India, which generates an artificial Pakistan as a pretence unifier of Bengalis, Pashtuns, Baluch and others, based on religious belief. More recently, the Sudanese drama has first emerged, continued for the South Sudanese, at the present time. In the Persian Gulf, Westerners have supported the "democracy" run by medieval kings and dignitaries who guarantee the policing of oil wells at the cost of the absence of any civic liberties. Finally, after the collapse in Dien Bien Phu of French domination in Vietnam, it was the USA that attempted to put the Vietnamese on the axis of neo-colonialism... by sprinkling them with napalm and with Agent Orange. 

Two political and humanitarian cancers survived during the period under consideration, under degenerate forms of nation-states; the South African apartheid that was to last until 1994 and the Israeli genocidal dementia, with a religious facade, that still lasts. In the first case, most of the non-white population was confined to Bantustans, serving as labour reserves, affectionately called homelands; or sent to the suburbs, to the townships where workers without any rights or decent habitation conditions were piled up, and to whom the regime magnanimously granted daily access to the masters’ areas, gastarbeiters in their own land. It was a system whose social structure and the capture of labour was studied and methodically set up, based on a racist and laic scientism. 

In the Zionist entity, due to the smallness of the territory, there is an increased and constant occupation of the space that continues, however, to be shared, in overlapping layers or cells that are intended to be watertight. The lords’ one, richer, and another in continuous reconfiguration, with military controls in every corner, made up of the ancestral inhabitants, plundered, humiliated, segregated, under the passive annoyance of the "international community", no matter how ethereal this concept may be. The ideology of this racist regime does not include so much the expulsion of the Palestinians as their submission as precarious suppliers of cheap labour; a sacred state design that fills religious fanatics and is a vain hope, threatened by the unfavourable demography[4]. The continuity of the Zionist entity will be assured while in the USA,[5] and to the West in general, there is a need for oil land control barracks; only in this way can it be understood that Zionists are allowed the possession of atomic weapons and Jericho missiles, with a range of 11500 km (which can reach... Rio de Janeiro...). 

More broadly, the proliferation of closed, well-equipped, protected and guarded condominiums (in today's South Africa, as in the rich circles of other countries), is part of the social segmentation logic in which the rest of the population lives in townships, be them the suburbs of European cities or most of the huge African conurbations (Lagos, Nairobi...).

17 – Workers acceptance of the capitalist order 

Technical innovations, post-war reconstruction, popularization of mass production, increased employment, the influx of countryside people to the cities, the emigration of Europeans from the South to the North, and the great increase in productivity are factors that created a great mass of people and of income, generators of accelerated consumption. It is a period of great state intervention, also in the analysis of the conjuncture and planning, demanding the elaboration of detailed statistics. 

Of the State it was required, in its renewed role, formulas for labour political control that could not correspond to its militarization, as practiced by the fascists and, even less, allowing revolutionary propensities on workers. The capitalist accumulation of the post-war period was carried on through technological and management innovation, organization of labour, mass production, with the development of a market tending to be global, open and not tainted with wars such as those of the last decades; it was also achieved through objectives introduced into workers' expectations, with easy access to diversified consumer goods, good wages and low unemployment, guarantees against dismissal, social security, paid vacations, health and public education. Certainly some of capitalism’s think tanks (Mises, Hayek, Friedman), contemplating these "capitals" wasted on measures of social penchant might have smiled and grunted... “we will catch you soon!" 

This framework also converted the unions into a complacent and routine action, without revolutionary pretensions, as it also did to the parties included in the leftist spectrum. If this was to be achieved – and it was during the glorious 30 years – there was no need to fear competition from the Soviet model, which had all those ingredients but failed to achieve the mass production of consumer goods or the freedom of expression existing in the West. The challenge to this accumulation model – known as the European social model – arose from student and worker movements in Italy and France in the period 1967/68, fuelled by a bureaucratic and conservative education as well as by Ford-like massification of factory work. The quest for a systemic, albeit minority, exit was fuelled by the Mao’s Cultural Revolution, USA military intervention in Vietnam, Che's romanticism, while the traditional Communist parties became sane, conservative, as was their electoral competition and not complacent with the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia (except the Portuguese Communist Party). 

Normalization, standardization, and social pacification also went through national party systems and models of representation. The favourable conjuncture pointed to conservatism and the acceptance of formulas of alternation between two parties, a combination of rotation with bipartisanism between two political formations little differentiated but that served to fit the popular hopes in one or the other, nothing of substance being altered. 

Translation - Right group “we want the pots* again”. Left group “The pots* are in good hands  
    * in popular Portuguese language “pots” means stewardships

The swamp thus created marked a difference relatively to the period between the two wars, with political turbulence between multiple and unstable party formations, with the presence of fascist parties and militias and even of fascist regimes throughout much of Europe. In fact, the harmonization that was achieved avoided war in Europe (but not the guerrilla activities of the IRA, Brigate Rosse, RAF, or ETA); but, through the instigation of the European powers and the United States' tutelage, promoted the outbreak of war in Yugoslavia, some twenty years later. 

(to be continued)

This and other texts at:

[1] "Modernity and the Holocaust", quote in Collapse, by Carlos Taibo
[2] In this theme, in France, Ambroise Croizat’s role should be highlighted. He included all the social risks of workers in a single institution, the creation of a social security system covering both actively working and inactive people, with business financing, from birth to death and with the management entrusted to the beneficiaries themselves. One of the most socially advanced aspects was the award of a salary equivalent to 225 h, monthly, to a mother who stayed home to care for two children, a recognition of an effective job, disconnected from the orbit of capital (conf "End Defensive Struggles" by Bernard Friot (Le Monde Diplomatique, nov / 2017)
[3] The overthrow of the Berlin Wall and the dismemberment of the Eastern bloc and the USSR led to the disappearance of the Warsaw Pact but not of NATO’s. The USA needs to keep a foot in Europe, as monitor, waving a Russian threat to guarantee the sale of arms; and, in practice, directly through NATO or other militaristic acronyms where it participates, it has intervened in geographic areas that do not involve, nor even confine with, member countries, or from where no threats to those countries emanate.
[4] In Portugal, the small and isolated Jewish community of Belmonte has been subject to harassment amongst the young people so they go live in the territories occupied by the Zionists. In order to please the Zionists and ... attract foreign investment, in the Portuguese parochial  government circles there is an intention to grant Portuguese passports to Sephardim of Lusitanian origin but that emigrated to Great Britain when they were expelled some 500 years ago; while the same is not extended to the descendants of the Moors expelled on the same occasion ... Within the imbecility that is the apanage of the Portuguese political class, it is expected that on June 10, the day of the "race" - posthumous passports are bestowed to David Ricardo and Benedito Spinoza, who had ancestors close to members of Jewish communities of Portuguese origin.
[5] The position of the great powers has been common in sustaining Zionism on Palestinian lands. Great Britain favoured the installation of the first flocks of Jews in Palestine at the end of World War II; France provided nuclear technology; the USA is the major financier of private capital and armaments; and the USSR in the 1980s sent hundreds of thousands of Soviet Jews to reinforce the settlement of the Zionist entity.

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