Revolutions of 1848

Excerpts from

Clark, Christopher. 2019. “Why should we think about the Revolutions of 1848 now?” London Review of Books 7 March.

Conceptualizing Revolutionary Change in Space & Time

Clark depicts the Revolutions of 1848 as having “sparked” an exceptional, spatial “transcontinental cascade.”

Rather than contrasting revolutionary moments, we can regard the 1848 Revolutions as part of a slow-release cascade over time, an “Extended European Revolution” that also included the French Revolution of 1789, the Haitian Revolution of 1791-1804, the July Revolution of 1830, the Paris Commune of 1870, and the Russian Revolutions of 1905 and 1917.

Yet perhaps under liberal constraint and from a military strategy point of view, revolution has been largely understood not as a complex, non-linear, punctuated process over both space and time, but as the exceptional event. Impressively-social, shared emotion, democratic confidence, has been thought to restructure perception and in so doing diffuse sovereign agency, an unpredictable emotional spasm coordinating signalling and so action. The event, this social-emotional Mayfly moment across space (but not time) that perceptibly, if ephemerally, overmasters elite hierarchy, becomes fetishized in 20th century imperial Western social philosophy as the limit–the romantic simultaneous birth and death– of democratic change. 

“For politically sentient Europeans, 1848 was an all-encompassing moment of shared experience. It turned everyone into contemporaries.” The simultaneous 1848 Revolutions was a shared affective experience, a “euphoria of unanimity.”

Opposed to understanding revolution as a complex, punctuated, non-linear process over time, an Animal Spirits-type explanation for revolution has ancillary functions. It permits liberals and conservatives to tendentiously frame revolution as an exceptionally, unjustly violent eruption, doomed to failure. The explanation further permits conservatives and liberals to maintain a view of the “mob” as a sub-rational species to be managed, making democracy impossible or restricting it to parliamentary process, as Clark observes liberals prefer.

Our conceptualization of revolution has been twice-adulterated by the interests cohering hierarchical social orders.

Further fragmenting and misrepresenting revolution, the shared trans-regional event of the 1848 Revolutions was rewritten ex post facto as isolated, exceptional national events.

“These revolutions were experienced as European upheavals – the evidence for this is superabundant – but, as Axel Körner pointed out, they were nationalised in retrospect.”

Revolutionary organization innovations

Coalitional assembly reformations

“The Revolutions of 1848 were revolutions of assemblies: the Constituent Assembly in Paris, which made way for the single-chamber legislature known as the National Assembly; the Prussian Constituent Assembly or Nationalversammlung in Berlin, elected under new laws created for the purpose; the Frankfurt Parliament, convoked in the elegant circular chamber of St Paul’s Church in the city of Frankfurt. The Hungarian Diet was a very old body, but in 1848 a new national Diet was convened in the city of Pest. When the Austrian Emperor Ferdinand I dissolved the Diet by decree, a new Hungarian national assembly met in the Protestant Great Church of Debrecen. The revolutionary insurgents of Naples, Piedmont-Sardinia, Tuscany and the Papal States all established new parliamentary bodies. The revolutionaries of Sicily, seeking to break away from the rule of Naples, founded their own Sicilian parliament, which in April 1848 deposed the Bourbon king in Naples, Ferdinando II.”

Organization innovations introduced by revolutionaries, but reviled by liberals

1848 Revolutions were a fluorescence of both polity and social movement innovation, representing both the included bourgeois citizenry and the working class excluded by absolute private property right. “But the assemblies were merely one theatre of action. By the summer of 1848, they were coming under pressure, not just from the monarchical executives in many states, but also from a range of more radical groups: networks of clubs and ‘committees’, for example, or radical counter-assemblies such as the General Crafts and Manufacturing Congress founded in Frankfurt in July 1848 to speak for workers in the skilled trades whose interests were not represented in the liberal and middle-class-dominated National Assembly. This body in turn split after five days into two separate congresses, because it proved impossible to bridge the divide between masters and journeymen.”

“Liberals revered parliaments and looked with disgust on the clubs and assemblies of the radicals which seemed to them to parody the sublime procedural culture of properly elected and constituted chambers. Even more alarming, from the perspective of ‘chamber liberals’, were organised demonstrations intended to intervene directly in the affairs of parliaments. In Paris on 15 May 1848 a crowd broke into the lightly guarded chamber of the National Assembly, disrupted the proceedings, read out a petition and then marched off to the Hôtel de Ville to proclaim an ‘insurrectionary government’ to be headed by noted radicals.”

“The tension between parliamentary and other forms of representation – between representative and direct forms of democracy – is another feature of 1848 that resonates with today’s political scene, in which parliaments have fallen in public esteem and a diverse array of competing non- or extra-parliamentary groups has come into being, using social media and organising around issues that may not command the attention of professional politicians.”

Revolution promulgates a cascade of non-linear transformations

Within 1848, the spring “euphoria of unanimity” degraded into summertime “violent clashes between liberal (or in France republican) leaders and radical crowds on the streets of the larger cities in Prussia and France,” and by fall the conservative reaction was ascendant. “In September, October and November, counter-revolution unfolded in Berlin, Prague, the Kingdom of Naples and Vienna. Parliaments were shut down, troops returned en masse to the streets, insurgents were arrested and sentenced.”

A radical revolt redoubled its efforts before they were crushed by conservative-commanded European militaries in the summer of 1849: “a second phase, radical revolt dominated by democrats and socialists of various kinds broke out in the southern German states (especially Baden and Württemberg), in western and southern France, and in Rome, where the radicals, after the flight of the pope on 24 November, eventually declared a republic.”

“In the south of Germany, this second-wave upheaval was only extinguished in the summer of 1849, when Prussian troops captured the fortress of Rastatt in Baden, the last stronghold of the radical insurgency. Shortly afterwards, in August 1849, French troops crushed the Roman republic and restored the papacy, much to the chagrin of those who had once revered France as the patron of revolution. At about the same time, the bitter war over the future of the Kingdom of Hungary was brought to an end, as Austrian and Russian troops occupied the country.”

Legacy: Strategizing how to counter the international/global power of elites’ military-force infrastructure

While revolutionary organizers strove to build internationalist networks, conservative elites own the military infrastructure that has allowed elites to successfully, and violently, operate across boundaries.The radicals and liberals were impressively successful in creating transnational networks, but these networks were horizontal: they lacked the vertical structures and resources required to wield decisive force. The counter-revolution, by contrast, drew on the combined resources of armies whose loyalty to the traditional powers had never been seriously in question.” “The Prussians intervened against the revolution in Baden and Württemberg. The French intervened in the Papal States against the Roman republic. The Russians intervened in Hungary.”

Clark argues that this collective experience of the international military might of hierarchical conservatism was also profoundly influential on the development of Western ideas. While revolution was reduced to senseless, brutal failure–or at best, beautiful but doomed, youthful, romantic folly–and dismissed in the minds of most conservatives and liberals, others put much thought to how democratic progress could advance in the face of conservatism’s military command efficiency–how networks could beat hierarchies. “You find this (latter) quest in Marx and Engels (especially Engels), in Ludwig von Rochau’s Grundsätze der Realpolitik (1853), in the Saint-Simonian technocracy that infiltrated administrative practice in France after 1848, and in the primacy of ‘blood and iron’ so memorably articulated by Bismarck.”

Yet the revolutions prompted a vast transformation in ideas, and in political and especially administrative practice across Europe. 

Legacy: Administrative practice shifts

Saint-Simonian technocracy… infiltrated administrative practice in France after 1848.”

In Social Structures of the Economy (2005) and Manet (2019), Bourdieu showed how Saint-Simonian French administrative practice provides ample space for elites to legitimately commandeer the state, deftly avoiding Weber’s  dreaded “Iron Cage” of rationality. First elites’ sons are washed through elite universities, where they learn to master articulating elite interests in an abstract, neutral register–either technocratic or philosophical. Then, starting immediately upon graduation, they are imported into state-supported leadership positions within bureaucracies, academies, and the public sphere. They don’t follow bureaucratic career steps to influence. The state bureaucracies and institutions are subordinated to politically-organized French capital.

Legacy: A 3-way division of political vision and prescription

Ideas forwarded by the 1848 revolutions include the necessity of social rights to secure or counterbalance the economic and political liberty of elites, such as are protected by states–law and militaries. Leading up to the 1848 Revolutions, in the 1840s Europeans realized that full-time (overtime) labor in exploitative and extractive capitalism would far too often result in pauperization, while the rich enjoyed the elite liberty of unbounded accumulation and political power.

This 1840s recognition promoted a distinct political tri-furcation: Conservatives argue that socio-economic inequality is divine and natural, a good thing; liberals demur that socio-economic inequality is negative, but they argue that socio-economic inequality is a symptom of illegitimate state interventions undercutting natural market equilibrium; socialists argue that socio-economic inequality is the result of elite interest maximization prioritized by capitalism, as that unbalanced, unchecked elite interest maximization destroys life, and stunts and militarizes polity, institutional, and disposition development.

What is to be done about socio-economic inequality? 

For conservatives, divine social inequality provides an opportunity for elites to express their monopoly on human virtue via absolute, exclusive Herrenvolk liberty, including discretionary, ad hoc forays into chivalrous charity.

For liberals, illegitimate social inequality provides a theoretical pretense for reorienting states to support further wealth accumulation, deregulating markets and liberating capitalists from social and ecological responsibilities.

Socialists strategize how egalitarian ideas and network organization can effectively contend with international, militarized conservative and liberal opposition, to permit democratic development.

Legacy: Revolutions constrain and channel elites’ discourse and tactical degrees of freedom

Yet aspects of the democratic ideas persisted through the counterrevolution, channeling inegalitarians’ behaviour, their degrees of freedom. “Counter-revolutionaries were as often as not – in their own eyes – the executors, rather than the gravediggers, of the revolution.” For example, “Louis Napoleon, who became president of France at the end of 1848 before making himself emperor in 1852, did not depict himself as the crusher of revolution, but as the restorer of order.” Against the far more laissez-faire liberal and conservative prescriptions, Napoleon “spoke of the need not to block, but to channel the forces unleashed by the revolution, to establish the state as the vanguard of material progress.”

Revolutions are also driven by anti-revolutionary, imperial socio-spatial management

Clark explains the global quality of the European Revolutions of 1848 with reference to how British ruling elites, managing the spatial distribution of disruption, dispersed protest to British Empire tributaries.

“The news of revolution in Paris had a profound impact on the French Caribbean and the measures adopted by London to avoid revolution on the British mainland triggered protests and uprisings across the imperial periphery as the historian Miles Taylor has shown. The transportation en masse of potential trouble-makers from England and Ireland triggered protests in Australia and the Cape Colony. To keep sugar cheap the British government abandoned the system of tariff walls known as ‘imperial preference’, exposing colonial planters in Jamaica and British Guyana to competition from outside the British Empire and giving rise to protests, riots and political paralysis. In Ceylon, the introduction of new taxes to cut costs without burdening British middle-class taxpayers triggered the emergence of a protest movement that soon encompassed around sixty thousand men.”

An empire, as a militarized hierarchy, controls the spatial distribution of disruption in order to contain revolution. After 1776, Atlantic elites successfully contained revolution in the Anglo-American empire, including both the Commonwealth countries and the US. London’s role–managing disruption spatially–in maintaining capitalist stability in the face of the Extended European Revolution, has over time resulted in a consumption-stimulating Anglo-American domestic class settlement. This successful system of imperial redirection, on behalf of capitalist metropole stabilization, is what has earned London and New York their status as secure depositories for global wealth in the capitalist-extractivist-slavery era. 

However, the Extended European Revolution shows that in prioritizing the accumulation of power over the development of life, the imperial disruption shell game contributes a procession of social and mounting environmental destabilization globally over time.

Legacy: Revolutions embed revolutionaries within some states, channeling institutional and policy development

Revolutionaries became embedded in the militarily-imposed state, constraining its conservative capacities. “More than a third of the préfets of post-1848 Bonapartist France were former radicals; so was the Austrian minister of the interior from July 1849, Alexander von Bach, whose name had once stood on the lists of suspect liberals kept by the Vienna police department.”

Revolution promoting the integration of some revolutionaries into European states has not overcome militarized, inegalitarian capitalism. But it has forged a more socially- and environmentally-rational, more-democratic Continental Europe, despite European elites’ command of international military force.

This is a fundamental distinction between Continental Europe and UK class compromises. In that sense, I am not really surprised about Brexit.

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Manet & Bourgeois Revolt

“Manet” (Bourdieu, 2017) synopsis, with my own extended analysis.

Emerging from a bourgeois background, Manet was the primary exponent of France’s bourgeois symbolic revolution against the state-sponsored art academy just after the Crimean War peak of Napoleon III’s modernizing empire. Manet had all the cultural capital of his class background and state-sponsored training, and he used it to create more economically-efficient painting techniques and a subject matter that better fit a stronger businessmen’s interior decoration market.

Manet’s subject matter tended to to deviate from the imperial-rivalry signfications of classical subject matter that the Salon academy reproduced–particularly in Manet’s cheeky play with the symbolic boundaries of sexuality. A consumer public of “the (bourgeois) people” supported Manet’s rebellion, a symbolic blow for absolutist state-supported antistatism. After all, isn’t antistatist symbology the most radical revolution imaginable, from within the bourgeois interest?

olympia-1863_u-l-o4ne20

As well as flat, contextless scenes of the new urban life, Manet painted a couple scenes from the collapse of that French Empire, including the Execution of Emperor Maximilian (when Mexico defeated Imperial France) and a sketch of the Barricade (the restoration of–the 3rd–French Republic).

The-Barricade-Civil-War

But in Manet’s communication with his friend Zola, it is clear that Manet regretted the return of democracy, which he perceived as the ascendance of brutes–just as he had treated the French imperial state’s art academy functionally as a contrasting background wall for the display of his work, and morally as a vehicle of conformist oppression. Manet and bourgeois aesthetics flourished in the pure and defiant urban bourgeois interstice that inegalitarian late-absolutist imperialism created.

It was clear that Manet’s symbolic revolution, “which interprets nature with a gentle brutality” (Zola) was the product of the final absolutists’ modernization campaigns, and its particular  beneficiary, the urban bourgeois world those reforms established in a few European metropoles.

the-luncheon-on-the-grass

The rarified, charming, naughty, ingratiating, and playful way of life that finally found footing and new expression was the product of an imperial, late absolutist–including  Napoleon III, Bismarck, the dying Austrian and Ottoman Empires, the continuing Anglo-led repression of Russian and Egyptian development–reaction against and management of democratic Enlightenment, an orchestration to take the Enlightenment’s ideas and implement them, with economic liberalization but without democracy.

Edouard_Manet_-_Le_Chemin_de_fer_-_Google_Art_Project

That island of urban French life, with its luminous, ginger cast of well-dressed bourgeois and naked servants, is what Manet valued. That is the worldly “peace” condition that the romantic antidemocratic bourgeoisie values, because it has created for them a little private topos of sexualized play and bourgeois decisionism, an affirming, “universal” collective experience of transitory symbolic structural subversion, complementing the enabling, institutionalized elite decisionism of (democracy-conditioned) conservativism, and substituting for the painful if also transitory universal decisionism of democratic revolution. Exclusive, ephemeral, nubile, tragic beauty is what romantics aestheticize.

The French symbolicists’ and the White Austrian managers’ precious conditions were the epitome of combustible. What built that European modernized-metropole bourgeois world, loved and represented by Manet and other French aesthete beneficiaries of late absolutist-imperialism, also must devolve from Crimean War unto the loss against Mexico and the Franco-Prussian War loss, then onto WWI and WWII, the rolling implosion/explosion of rearguard late absolutism.

Manet_Maximilian

…Leaving a gilded cherry, a bourgeois world poised to dominate, its expendable ally democracy having been discreetly managed away.

The Austrian emigres were court dregs, fueled by the Excellent urban experience, the bourgeois decisionism of that romantic metropole moment within an inegalitarian, rearguard, fast-decaying imperial mobilization, a mobilization that co-opted the ideas of the democratic Enlightenment it repressed, and then imploded in imperial war, before exploding into a thousand pointed shards finally in WWI.

The Austrian Whites blamed the socialists for the end, but the Red Vienna socialists came to build in the interwar period, long after the Austrian empire was collapsing and even after the empire died. That is what Atlantic Anglo-America’s capitalists imported upon us: The Austrian courtiers of inegalitarianism’s thievery, brutality, dishonesty, and failure. Bolstering the diffused institutions of slavery and the spatialized institutions of colonial conquest, inegalitarian romanticism fuses with inegalitarian pragmatism in the US.

Haven’t romantic bourgeois aesthetics institutionalized pre-1870s imperial absolutism’s urban bourgeois metropole ideal as the ruling mystification of capitalist order in the Anglosphere and Atlantic Europe?

The key to romantic-pragmatic inegalitarianism is never giving credit where credit is due. To keep up, and to transform into meritocratic ideology, the instrumentalist Burkean faith that the elite are the only excellence possible in this world, while the vast servant class embodies all of humanity’s faults, we have to pretend that Napoleon III did not repress democracy and co-opt democrats’ ideas, but rather invented the modernizations wholecloth in the mid 19th century–and invented them in his free time on the side, while he stormed Europe and the world to subjugate and expropriate its wealth, for capitalist modernization.

Scandinavian history in the revolutionary era & Implications

From Barton, H. Arnold. 1986. Scandinavia in the Revolutionary Era: 1760-1815. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota

Gustav IV Adolf’s (GIVA) monarchal crusade againt democratic Enlightenment in Europe,
Feat.: Sweden, France, Russia, England, Prussia, and some bit players.

At the turn of the 1800s in Sweden, Gustav IV Adolf (GIVA) succeeded his father Gustav III to the throne. GIVA was determined to restore Swedish prominence in Europe. Prepared to wheel and deal both for territory and his conservative-idealist aspiration to organize and lead royalist Europe against the democratizing French, in 1803 Gustav IV Adolf traveled to Germany with his Queen Frederika, a German princess. GIVA was a pretty good strategist, but he was striving from the geographic margins against the historical tide, and as with his father who had tried in vain to institute pro-aristocratic policies against welling democracy, his elite power strategy was generally underappreciated by his rivalristic, Enlightenment-bedazzled royal relatives.

Cosmopolitanism as Responsible Management;
Disorganizing Rivals via Management

The noble German administrators who managed European kingdoms were well-educated, efficient, and cosmopolitan. Their “cosmopolitanism,” understood as responsible management, did not stop them from keeping the Nordic countries divided (in accord with Russian and British policy), even making clandestine agreements with Great Britain to break emergent pan-Nordic coalition (eg. Bernstoff 1780, see Barton 1986: 118.). That is an interesting aspect of statescraft (and its market equivalent): Providing managers to your potential rivals, to keep them just disorganized enough.

What Denmark got out of this is not having to follow Sweden’s lead, or lose its Norwegian colony to Sweden. As a more egalitarian country, Sweden was more solidaristic, stronger, innovative and ambitious. Run by Germans, Denmark was the ag-economic market of Scandinavia, at the cost of a stunted domestic peasantry.

So long as the Nordic countries were divided, Bernstorff served as a reliable noble German administrator for Denmark, until he pulled a fast one and, in the face of an agreement amongst the Scandinavian countries and Russia to form a coalition to defeat belligerent imperial England’s control of sea trade, he made a secret deal with England to subvert the coalition.

His betrayal was discovered pretty soon and he was ousted.

How the Holy Roman Empire Ended: A Swedish King Subjugated Pomeranian Aristocrats in 1805

In 1804 Duke Enghien was captured by French Republican forces in Baden. This provided Gustav IV Adolf with the pretext to declare that he was ready to lead monarchist Europe against Republican France.

GIVA spearheaded a royalist Russian, British, and Austrian coalition against the French Republic. “Brutal oppression, French despotism” is how the royalist described democratic France. He took his time negotiating, as he was bargaining for a military subsidy in exchange for Sweden’s strategic bridgehead geoposition, as well as a royal French Bourbon restoration. Finally in 1805, at the Treaty of Backaskog, GIVA won himself command of the troops in Germany, 20K pounds sterling, security of Swedish rule over Pomerania, in an all-in/all-out deal. In the Treaty, there was no mention of a royal Bourbon restoration.

Along with actually commanding soldiers in war, Gustav IV Adolf was an absolutist ruler. The Treaty of Backaskog enjoyed no support from his court advisors, and given that Sweden had long depended on French support, was considered overly idealistic, in the anti-democratic direction. Gustaf af Wetterstedt grumbled that it was “Impossible to speak with the King about commercial interests.”

Prussia was lurking, playing the dozens. It joined the monarchical coalition, only to immediately conclude an agreement with France that promised non-intervention in exchange for Hanover. Prussia’s fancy footwork broke the coalition: England and Russia withdrew from Northern Germany. But Gustav IV Adolf occupied the Hanoverian territory of Lauenberg. He used a legalistic justification to try to restore British and Russian backing and to extort unpaid, promised military subsidies. England and Russia declared GIVA’s position untenable, urging him to abandon the fight. GIVA was relentless: “A Prussian attack on Lauenberg is an attack on Sweden!” he declared, but he quietly reduced his army in Lauenberg to a token 300 men. Then GIVA instituted a naval blockade. Their commerce disrupted, this move deeply irritated his erstwhile allies, England and Russia.

Fortunately for Gustav IV Adolf, France and Russian détente broke, and GIVA returned to occupy Lauenberg. GIVA’s victory in that moment has been dubbed a “Triumph of Obstinacy.” When Sweden’s aristocratic Pomeranian subjects resisted conscription, GIVA dissolved their constitution and their aristocratic privileges, which as a side-effect, dissolved the Holy Roman Empire. GIVA replaced Pomerania’s German legal institutions with Swedish legal institutions, outlawing serfdom. Pomeranian Junkers were pissed.

Prussia declared war on the French in fall of 1806, whereupon the French smashed the Prussian forces. Frederick William, King of Prussia retreated east for protection under the royal Russian wing. Now Swedish Pomerania was behind the front. Napoleon asked if GIVA would agree to peace. How do you think Old Obstinatey replied? That’s right. Absofuckinglutely not. No peace!

Varieties of Modernization;
How “German” Tyranny Propels Migration

The German nobility of the Danish Dutchies, in Swedish Pomerania, and in Prussia were furious about the abolition of serfdom at the turn of the 19th century. But what GIVA’s modernization allowed German nobles to do is steal peasant land and stop contributing to the public. They became fatter cats than ever.

In the Scandinavian territories, as in France (even today, places like Minnesota and Quebec have protections for family farms that jurisdictions under the most inegalitarian policy traditions lack), the nobles were prevented, by enforced law, from stealing peasant land.

But in German lands, together with ‘rational,’ ‘producivity’-enhancing enclosures, the abolition of serfdom just created a small pool of petit-bourgeois farmers (kulaks) and tens of thousands of landless people who were existentially and legally forced into compulsory labor for the liberated kulak class. The resolution to this land theft and hyper-exploitation “modernization” was mass migration.

Capitalism’s robust structure of command

At a minimum, whatever France’s government, Sweden has geopolitically required France’s support, and either Britain or Russia’s lack of opposition.

Between 1803-07, Gustav IV Adolf’s belligerent monarchism produced geopolitical policy failure, as he opposed revolutionary/Napoleonic-phase France.

GIVA’s ideologically-blinded geopolitical failure depleted confidence amongst not only his allies, the British, Russian, Prussian, Austrian and Portuguese anti-democratic coalition, but most fatefully, amongst the Swedish people.

Despite his commitment to monarchism and opposition to democratic enlightenment, GIVA was a nationalist who, like his Danish counterpart, sidelined the Scandinavian nobility, instead working with a rational bureaucracy and freeing peasants in German communities. The foundation of his absolutism was the Swedish free-peasant social model. Monarchy enjoyed political flexibility, but perhaps too much political flexibility.

Sociologically, capitalism’s comparative ruling advantage is an articulated chain of command AND return fealty (though the fealty may skip rungs). Significance: This is not the same as saying capitalism is only about exploitation and not appropriation. Rather, capitalism’s graduated networks of exploitation and rung-skipping upward fealty (It’s okay if you secretly hate your manager, as long as you admire Bill Gates and Michelle Obama.) more reliably secure valuable appropriation.

Conservative theorists and organizers including Burke and Hayek understood capitalism’s advantages for elite rule.

 

Salon life is more important to democracy than a Free Press

Is a breakdown in centralized, professional comms the right variable for explaining information quality and political outcomes, as is so often asserted by professional comms technicians today?

In 18th century Denmark the free press was the model for Europe, while Sweden’s press was under strict censorship. And yet what seems to matter much more to information flow and its capacity to support needed, otherwise-blocked reforms was the fecund culture of salons and clubs, wherein diverse, gender-inclusive, but often-homogeneous groups exchanged and debated ideas of the good life and the institutions needed to support that utopic horizon.

Our professional press would say that these salons and clubs were little more than “echo chambers;” but that dismissive characterization would run counter to the salons’ impressive impact–fomenting enlightenment pressure, eliciting elite efforts to preemptively own those enlightenment ideas by implementation, and ultimately producing the democratic social realization that rational reform did not require elites.

Cross-class Legal Consciousness v. the Antistatist Justice of the Exception

“…and this law should, if it is to protect a weaker class against a more powerful one, be given such strength and consistency that the latter shall not be able, through its strength and the other’s weakness, to disturb or hinder its effective enforcement.”

–Norwegian juridical counselor to the Danish government, Christian Colbjornsen, 1783. With the wall of Enlightenment ideas behind it, this viewpoint won the majority on the agrarian commission, leading to reforms and revolutionary advancement.

The aristocrats, as is always the case, complained that this politics of “animosity and grudge against proprietors” would result in transferring too much power to the “petty functionaries” of the state bureaucracy and so result in the society’s “ruin.”

Democracy: Expanding, not contracting, privilege

The difference between emancipation in the Scandinavian countries v. the liberal republics is that privilege was not first abolished in the Scandinavian countries. Rather, they levelled upward. “The privileges thus gained would ultimately clear the way for the peasant’s full integration into national life” (Barton 1985: 173). That’s how you do inclusion. You make everyone sacred, not everyone profane.

The Ideas and Decisionism of the Democratic Enlightenment

The laboring class, which alternately is utilized both by [princes and other classes]…stands ready, with the sword of destruction in one hand and the torch of enlightenment in the other” (Minerva, Sverige, 1798).

The French Revolution put the fear of god into Europe’s aristocratic and bourgeois classes. The Enlightenment was no man’s property. Together, elite fear and intellectual intimidation got shit done.

“Orders and decorations are hung on idiots,
Stars and ribbons go to noblemen alone…

(By contrast) We teach no despotic principles,
It is for equality among men that we strive;
Nor do we, like the Jutland proprietors
Wish for slaves and peasants for us to flay.”

–from a 1787 Danish poem (PA Heiberg). The urban Danes were really getting about the freedom of expression in the late 18th century, in the context of Enlightenment clubs. periodicals,and anonymous pamphleteering.

Jutland, in breadbasket Denmark, was the Scandinavian outpost of hard-core feudal despotism.

The Swedish Female Aristocracy: Sufficiently Traitorous to their Class

Denmark very much dicked around with German princes. In 1765 the amazing and ballsy Dr. Johann Friedrich Streunsee inserted himself in that inbred morass to introduce the first real progressive reforms in Denmark. They were almost immediately overturned by a reactionary aristocratic coup; but Streunsee’s reform model nonetheless served as a policy bank thereafter. Streunsee was executed by the Danish aristocracy, but it was probably totally worth it.

Sweden was systematically super dynamic. I can never recommend enough Barton’s (1986) Scandinavia in the Revolutionary Era for anyone interested in the Enlightenment and how that works out class-wise.

Sweden took on the Enlightenment as a political project. The Swedes wrestled straight up with class conflict in the 1770s parliament (The Swedish Riksdag long included affluent farmers, in addition to the royals); and while their king tried to organize their aristocracy as an elite bloc, the country was too influenced by Enlightenment thought, and the aristocratic ladies especially refused to follow the king’s effort at elite political mobilization. This gendered elite refusal to cooperate was one of the major factors that provided room for labor and social democratic organization in Sweden.

Rousseau was a favored theorist amongst the Swedish royal ladies.

Voltaire called Sweden “the freest kingdom on earth” (1756). Mably considered Sweden’s pioneering 1720 constitution the “masterpiece of modern legislation” in its provisions for “the rights of humanity and equality.”

Ideas for Organization

One of the most important things to be done is to– like your life, people’s lives around the world and after you, and the Earth– depend upon it, produce egaliberte Enlightenment ideas and culture, including proliferating in-person “clubs” and salons, which my reading of Swedish history tells me, turn political (as tyrants know and quixotically arrange for their legal and policing apparatus to suppress). The ideas, it’s the fecundity of ideas you produce and share with vigor and confidence that can capture the minds of political-economic elites enough for others to gain strategic organizational footholds.

Sure, no one wants little you to tell them how to think. But if you work with ideas from the master class position, like a servant, you make us all slaves.

Conservative-liberal Enlightenment: Egaliberte as the Enemy of Liberty

Upon Gustav III’s 1772 coup d’etat, overthrowing the formidable, pugnacious, and increasingly egalitarian Riksdag, the king was keen to both improve Sweden’s war-ruined currency on the financial markets and to implement liberal-physiocrat modernizing reforms, including in the first four years, enclosures, reducing guild control over labor conditions, removal of mercantilist trade constraints, outlawing judicial torture, reducing Sweden’s model freedom of the press to mere critique of middle class state employees, and the introduction of a secret police on the French model.

Within a Swedish social environment inducing him to competition on the grounds of rationality, amongst the European monarchs Gustav was the greatest admirer of strains of Enlightenment philosophy. But he sternly distinguished between “true (elite) freedom” and harmful hoi poloi “license,” “benevolent philosophy” and “dangerous philosophy” which “to dominate alone, overturns all that is respectable.” As a liberal and elitist, Gustav redefined despotism as failing to preserve the executive role as distinct from the legislative, and cited philosophy that supported his incomplete autocratic rule as the kind of philosophy that “clears away all harmful prejudices, all those petty considerations.”

The reduction of critique to a focus on middle class state employees is the signature of the reactionary, elitist, conservative-liberal coup d’etat.

Liberalism: Violence occurs strictly when elites are disrupted. versus:
Socialism: See the continuous slavery and mass killing.

We won’t call those displaced multitudes any form of “slave,” because that would be “un-nuanced” and “uncivilized.” The liberal world is discontinuous. Where socialists see the continuity of slavery, liberals see absolute, progressive breaks in the relations of production, both what they proudly claim as “nuanced” differentiation, and just as the nobility had initially feared.

The liberal world is not only discontinuous, it is flat. Liberals don’t recognize institutionalized and automated violence. For them, as for conservatives (eg. Burke) before them, there’s just an apparent order of civility–a flat world, in which culture is Truth, and networks, institutions, and material relations are not subject to civilized observation. Violence is strictly perceived in breaking that civility, as all the opponents of the French Revolution, and fans of enlightened absolutism (incurious about how it got enlightened) have agreed.

It does no good just to point this out. You have to use it strategically.
If we allow ourselves to think in terms of forms of slavery, then we can think together about how to stop producing the continuous, inhumane rolling modification of slaveries.

To Suppress Democratic Ideas, Appoint Conservatives to Govern Universities

In Scandinavia, the tactic of stifling hegemonic challenge by appointing belligerent conservative aristocrats to head the universities goes back to the turn of the 19th c.

Count Axel Fersen was appointed to Uppsala to throw out the enlightenment democrats. In the Duchies (theoretically incorporated in Denmark, but German, built on serfdom, opposed to both enlightenment democracy and enlightenment absolutism, and an original cesspool of the mysticist German romanticism that would be regurgitated in the Nazi period), Fritz Reventlow was appointed to attack enlightenment thought from the helm of the Univesity of Kiel.

Plus ca change…

 

“(Swedish Hats’) economic policy was rigidly mercantilistic, considering necessary both a small, favored entrepreneurial elite, concentrated mainly in the capital, and a large and growing population, strictly regulated in its economic pursuits and held close to the poverty line to provide cheap labor. Their system of subsidies, protective tariffs, and monetary inflation favored the larger exporters and manufacturers. As war and expansion held out tempting opportunities for officers, bureaucrats, and entrepreneurs alike, the Hats favored alliance with France…To stifle criticism, they held strongly to secrecy in Riksdag transactions and to press censorship…

The faction turned out of power in 1738, which came to be called the Caps, was in disarray, and certain of its leaders were discredited through unseemly intrigues with the Russians to overthrow their rivals.”

 

Unfree Labour & Mass Killing

“The preoccupation with the origins of ‘freedom’ and a persistent understanding of market economies as essentially ‘free’ has clouded our perspective of the past. It is time to engage with new explorations on the role of unfree relations, not only in the form of slavery, but in other variations as well. Studying the role of slavery in the Dutch global empire and the presence of slavery in the Dutch Republic is only a modest first step. It is important to critically re-examine the role of coercion in other parts of the history of and explicitly in Europe as well. How did debts, legal and economic force, or other limits to freedom influence migration, labour relations, social strategies, everyday life and politics?…As much of the global history of slavery, these questions are waiting to be explored” (Karwan Fatah-Black and Mattias van Rossum. 2014. “Slavery in a slave-free enclave?: Historical links between the Dutch Republic Empire and slavery, 1580s-1860s.” Werkstatt Geschichte 66-67: 55-73.

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I.

What is liberalism? Liberal principles have been asserted as rear-guard, ad hoc defenses of elite privileges under significant assault by absolutist rulers, chartered corporations, and centralized states. Across these rear-guard defense options, one principle grounds liberalism: absolute private property right.

  1. See Losurdo 2011.
  2. Fatah-Black and van Rossum: The States General (1776) “The freedom of the Negro and other slaves, brought here from the State’s colonies to these lands” ordinance stipulated that “the freedom of the citizens of the state, who would lose their property (if slaves were freed), would be damaged more severely than that the upholding of the principle of freedom would be worth… ‘This would be a far graver affront against the birthright and immediate freedom of the inhabitants of this Republic,’” the preamble announced (64).
    1. Roman Law was introduced in 1629 to manage slavery in the Dutch Republic (62).
    2. Creditors’ rights superseded both plantation owners and slaves’ rights (65).

II.

Varieties of domination across space: Why (where) slavery and not wage-wage slavery or genocide?

Premise 1: There are different forms of slavery.

Premise 2: Imperialists rely on genocide where slavers’ freedom cannot be supported by the slavery of the regional population.

What conditions support or attenuate slaver freedom?

  1. Structural explanations:
    1. As slavery contributes to slaver societies’ value accumulation–for example, between 1595 and 1829, slavery contributed around 70 million guilders to the Dutch port cities’ economic profit margins (69), slavers are an economic network. Within this network, slave traders‘ profits are typically “modest” (70), and could be a bottleneck for the development of slavery.
    2. To capture and distribute wealth within an oligarchical metropole, specific commodity chains produced by slavery promote or prevent slavery across locations.
      1. Slavery-promoting commodities: Cotton, sugar, rum, coffee, sexual services, domestic service, diamond mining. See also economic sectors that rely heavily on “volunteer,” “labor of love,” and “intern” labour: education and research, conservation, community and social services,…
      2. Wage slavery commodities: Expansive, alternates with slavery, see above.
      3. Genocide commodities: Commodities requiring total territorial control? Doubtful. Rather than “genocide commodities,” genocide probably is structurally caused by irreconcilable oikoi within a region, and may be indicative of a closer power balance than is present in slavery and wage slavery regions. As they are central in financing slavery commodity production, expanding financial metropoles and capitalization may play a role in spurring oikos rivalry blocs into genocide.
      4. To parse out the distribution of slavery, wage slavery, and genocide, compare commodity production and capitalization histories of high- indigenous population American regions–Guatemala, Peru, Bolivia, the Four Corners, USA, (New Zealand?); and regions that relied more heavily upon genocide: financial-manufacturing Eastern US and Canadian regions, Argentina, Australia, etc. What is happening distinctively with commodity production and capitalization in indigenous-settler mixing zones– “La Malinche” Mexico, New Zealand, and Metis Manitoba?
  2. Cultural & social network explanations:
    1. Within this structure described above, relative regional coordination capacity and culture would matter.
      1. In Dutch Asia, slaves came from East Indonesia because the non-Islamic population had low coordination capacity and lacked anti-slavery culture (60). By engaging in internecene war and raiding, supplying slaves to the imperial merchants, violent Indonesian parochial competition made Dutch slave traders’ work easier and profit margins higher.
    2. The trade in slaves was (re-)produced through elite networking. Slaves were taken from merchant elites’ business travels and dislocated around the globe, via elite network gifting, etc (59-60).
      1. Network symbolic capital, distinction (63)–as in modern, inegalitarian, imperial, cosmopolitan immigration/colonial settler societies–incentivizes the separation and relocation of humans as slaves, and by that, produces “trouble” in metropoles.
        1. This trouble had to be regulated with metropole laws that progressively reduced slaves’ freedom further, until at the last (just before illegalization of the slave trade) owners’ sacred property was threatened–the law threatened to free any slave who gave herself up to authorities when entering the metropole (65-67).
          1. Capitalism works by unevenly allocating exploitation and appropriation across space, across social categories. Yet over time separating these geographically requires great management effort, including racialization to reproduce exploitable parochial competition, and this differential breaks down when the slave comes to the metropole. The metropole is a value-distribution zone opposed to extraction zones.
            1. Contemporary: Core global metropoles–NYC, SF, Singapore– are even today policed and efficiently cleansed of anyone surplus who is not a wage slave or owner. Non-capitalist populations in metropole space degrade the capitalization-coordinator/accumulator function. Check out geography lit.
    3. Slavers could depend on black overseers to use their human capacities to innovate torture, to control slaves on plantations (72).
      1. The Master’s dependency on the humanity of the dehumanized: “Men do not want solely the obedience of women, they want their sentiments. All men, except the most brutish, desire to have in the woman most nearly connected with them not a forced slave but a willing one.” –JS Mill, 1869, “The subjection of women.”
        1. See also Hegel’s critique, “Herrschaft und Knechtschaft” (1807).
      2. The human capacity for unmaking (see Scarry 1985): Using others’ human sentience against them to destroy their material worlds, and in place of their semantic world, promote the imperial voice and order.
      3. The stimulated jump from a state of unsolidaristic, competitive, parochial soveriegnty to a state of subordinate patriarchal intermediary secures the social construction of steep and complex social hierarchy.
        1. According to Federici 1998, patriarchy in complex societies invokes intimate and, by categorical extension, systematic alienation and fear of the target of defection and the defected relation, to realign trust and solidarities to an inegalitarian, socio-spatially dispersed network, an imagined global community of men, “winners v. losers.” This trust realignment permits the transfer of property to and up the hierarchy of men. Alienated on multiple everyday levels, and crippled by fear, non-elites are compelled to reproduce exploitation and appropriation.
          1. Not all communities are responsive to patriarchal co-optation, and it is not structurally advantageous. For example the Basque maintained intra-community solidarity that permitted an autonomous and successful economic development path within capitalism (Federici 1998). Some communities rather are disposed to the protection racket bargain and patriarchal co-option. Why? What are the factors?
            1. As well as Robin (2004), the comparative history of the Scandinavian countries suggests some hypotheses, see Barton (1986). Ask Jonah Olsen about the Basque exception as well.
        2. Once instituted, capitalist law recreates the vertical-solidarity, competitive patriarch.
  3. See Losurdo (2011), Robbie Etheridge, Fatah-Black and van Rossum (2014).

What conditions support or attenuate genocide?

  1. See Straus, Scott. 2007. “Second-generation comparative research on genocide.” World Politics: 476-501. Of the early 21st century efforts to improve on genocide theory, Valentino’s (2004) is the most convincing, least ideologically-motivated, most comparative explanation. He argues that in the modern era, small groups of leaders are ideologically persuaded to choose mass killing (including both genocide and politicide) as an instrumental solution to resource and land acquisition, or to defeat collective resistance. Everyone else just accommodates and enables the political entrepreneurs. Valentino’s theory has the virtue of specifying a central role for rational calculation as well as a lesser role for irrational ideology, both by a small leadership group. In modern/capitalist societies, the popular classes are dominated and socially accountable to elite-ruled networks.
    1. Valentino (2004) identifies two categories of mass killing: a) Dispossessive mass killing, such as where leaders seek to transform/modernize societies across diverse, populated territory; and b) Coercive mass killing, including mass killing in wars and in imperial strategy, where “leaders try to defeat resistance and intimidate future resistance” (485).
      1. Arguably the long colonial genocide in North America is the progressive confluence of both forms of mass killing.
    2. Levene’s (2005) explanation is flawed but offers a couple of insights of value. In his first volume, Genocide in the Age of the Nation State, he argues that genocide is a contingent outcome and more likely when targeted populations resist. He specifies the irrationalism as phobia. However, Levene is an elitist, and his overall argument is that popular irrationalism in late-developer countries causes genocide. To arrive at this explanation, he ignores colonial mass killing. However, the irrationalism of phobia could just as well be imported into Valentino’s theory to specify the elite ideology behind the genocidal path. Semelin suggests that leaders use ideology to transform popular anxieties into fear, and this is affirmed by Federici’s study of the European witch hunts.
    3. Of the comparative genocide theorists, Levene’s second volume alone attempts to survey mass killing in the vast expanse of the pre-modern period. While he is unable to substantively theorize pre-modern mass killing, it exists empirically. The transhistorical abstraction of mass killing explains it as a byproduct of “political development.” So by comparison (following the Marxist technique of comparing a phenomenon’s capitalist form to its transhistorical form), “modern” or capitalist-era mass killing is caused by political development (also), state interest, and to a lesser extent, ideology, or the elite deployment of fear.
    4. Midlarsky’s comparative work (2005) is also flawed but has the virtue of exploring where genocides did not occur: There was not genocide in Cambodia, but politicide. Greeks in the Ottoman Empire and Jews in pre-WWII Poland were not targeted for genocide. Such examples could be used to help explain mass killing. Midlarsky thinks that modern genocides are created in the context of loss: territorial, economic, or population loss in war (486). His theory also helpfully specifies that targeted populations are simultaneously feared as threatening and assessed as vulnerable (486), and he points out that genocide perpetrators have both gotten away with violence before they commit the genocide, and have some international support, such as the Vatican for Nazi Germany and France for the Rwandan genocide (486).
    5. This brings up the point that theorists of genocide have to take political sides. In the early 20th century, the UN defined the problem of mass killing as genocide on the model of the Shoah. That specific context and formulation produces a liberal moral framework and research agenda, which at first produced explanations of genocide that were highly idiosyncratic to the Jewish community’s preexisting frameworks and post-Holocaust political needs (see pp. 480-483), and in the second wave of genocide scholarship, still produced explanations, like Weitz’s (2003), that identified communist revolution as genocide, or like Mann (2005) tended to select genocide cases from amongst the Anglo-American Empire’s late-to-the-party rivals. Less ideological approaches recognize and theorize the mass killings committed across the political and geographic spectrum, including the colonial genocides.
    6. Note that both Mann and Levene think that late capitalist development causes genocide. I don’t agree with this, but I think it’s interesting that sociologist Mann as well as Levene acknowledge the position of Germany relative to the Anglo-American Empire at the start of the 20th century. Idealist explanations for the rise of fascism typically obscure what Hegel had identified in the early 19th century as the intractable problem of an already-owned world–at the individual level, The Right of the Starving Man.
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At stake:

Consider the recent indigenization interventions of Glen Coulthard and Leann Betamosake Simpson. They call for a reclamation and reinvention of indigenous lifeways and associated ways of knowing, and anti-capitalist and anti-colonial refusal, rather than mere Reconciliation and cultural celebration. Their intervention is heroic.

At the same time, even liberal Reconciliation is countered by furtive but insistent protest. If a viable alternative to capitalist extractivism was built in extractivist Canada, a place that exists within the World-system in order to transform nature’s work into capitalist accumulation, would the settler protest switch into mass brutality again? As it is, it’s more like a constant mining or blood-letting. One thinks of the baby moose of the north-eastern U.S. seaboard, drained to death by tens of thousands of ticks. Humans have mass-killed off our rival macro-predators, and the tiny killers, the biomass of bugs, flood into the breach. We sit like Mr. Kurtz amidst the entropy we have created, and we celebrate culture.

Under what conditions does capitalist power organize through its hierarchical network its primary forms of economic- and other warfare, its infinitely-negative judgment–wage slavery, slavery, and genocide?

Research Site

The Equal Justice Initiative’s The Legacy Museum in Montgomery, Alabama. For background, see review by Laquer, Thomas. 2018. Lynched for drinking from a white man’s well. The London Review of Books.

The US has killed more than 20 M people in 37 countries since WWII.

 

 

 

The 2018 Swedish vote and the global problem of political and apolitical conservatism

Antiracism in Sweden: The Left Party

To understand the recent election in Sweden, Doug Henwood interviewed an apparently stand-up guy, a California Democratic Party politico, Daraka Larimore-Hall, who also consults for the Swedish Social Democratic Party (the SAP).

First, the two valid points the California-based political consultant brought up:

1) Social democracy depends upon socialism. Or as I always like to put it: Socialism is the backbone of social democracy. You remove your vertebrae and see how that goes.

2) Across Europe, the Right can secure no more than 20% of the voting population, though depending on the electoral representation system, this can be enough to push the rest of the parties “rightward.” The solution is anti-racist organization that recognizes immigrants and restores class critique.

Yes! But however valid this second insight is, it is riddled with serious problems as formulated and as forwarded on the Behind the News interview. Larimore-Hall suggested both parts of the solution, though he did not put them together in the interview. I did, and before me, the Swedes did. Henwood separated them, and explicitly rounded out the interview railing against the strawman of race-blind leftism. What professional, liberal American elitists want everyone to agree is that their network alone can offer anxious, labor-affiliated European parties their special race knowledge “borne of over 200 years of experience.”

What people need to know is that for its entire existence, anti-racist organization that restores class critique has been the primary role of Vansterpartiet, the Left Party in Sweden. Vansterpartiet is the party of socialist immigrants, socialist ethnic-Swedes, and socialist-feminists. Behind them is Sweden’s historical pro-left refugee policy, its tight social science capacity, far more-developed historical-materialist culture, as well as its long experience as an immigration country (only interrupted by the mid-19th-early 20th century emigration). As experts in this ideas and organizing work, Vansterpartiet were enormously successful, keeping the Right disorganized and in miniscule numbers in Sweden. A good question: Why is the SAP importing political expertise from California when it has a working relationship with Vansterpartiet? Is the global liberal meritocrat network more important than real anti-racism?

capitfodrasism

“Who needs to school whom?” A photograph from the turn of the 21st century.

Let’s look at the data: This 2018 election the SAP did not lose votes to the Sweden Democrats. The bourgeois parties lost votes to the Sweden Democrats. The SAP lost votes to Vansterpartiet. This is because liberal elitism not only cannot fix today’s social alienation, it exacerbates it. In terms of anti-racist organization, all the liberal American elitists have got nothing to teach the Swedes. They also have little insight to offer about turning around the hinterlands barbarians more generally, because they cannot recognize (in the Hegelian sense) hinterlands people. They literally do not see them; the US is too vast and the North American interior periphery is a lousy place–You’re not going there if you don’t have to. And in an obdurate inegalitarian context, their privileged status and income, their inclusion, depends on not recognizing hinterlands people.

Tragedy & Farce

In contrast to Vansterpartiet’s approach, liberal elitism’s operationalization of anti-racist organization can be a grotesque parody, a farce. In the Meritocrats’ account, Right-wing parties push other parties rightward, and this is imagined to be because the parties are too anxious to capture the Right’s dying, “white” middle-class vote. Perhaps it is based in the California experience. Nonetheless, this is a spurious general formulation; its extension leans too heavily on the narrow equation of meritocracy, liberal elitism (or apolitical conservatism), with virtues, such as anti-racist virtue, distinguishing it from conservative elistism (or political conservatism). Theirs is a peculiar definition of what it means to be a thorough-going anti-racist; and it is constrained by what Dem Party politicos mean when they resolve to “stay the course,” to stick with their brand.

Empirically, under “anti-racism” consultant expertise, the SAP blew itself up (lost the election) in 2006 by campaigning on an anti-Facketgubbe (anti-Union Good Old Boy) “blame and shame” platform to wrest northern communities’ communist leaders from their jobs, and replace them with immigrants from the urban south of Sweden. This “anti-racism” platform was designed by in-house (conservative immigrant Swedish) consultants and championed by the SAP’s most EU-oriented politicians. As a real campaign platform, it was everything an anti-racist American Meritocrat could only dream of. It was also everything the conservative parties and their American political consultants could dream of.

Both time-order and identified interests (Bourdieu 2005: 102) warrant a causal claim here, rather than mere association: Hopelessly chained to the lodestone of absolute private property right, global liberal elitism, apolitical conservatism, has helped the world’s growing billionaire class advance political conservatism. It has even in recent years helped bring the Sweden Democrats from their long war of position at the margins into the polity.

Pursuing the transcendent vision the US Democratic Party recommends, specified clearly as conceptualizing hinterlands peoples as a ruined (economically and morally) and so ethically-disposable population–that is, heroically shifting the liberal concept of “ruined”expropriable–peoples from the early -20th century liberal racist imaginary to the neoliberal geographic and class imaginary, neoliberalized parties are “governing to the demographic-electoral future,” using the racial categories of today. That is, they are hoping to buy the credit of future voters by naming and shaming, sacrificing the lives of excluded, feared and vulnerable, nationalized “White” citizens–but not their conservative White bosses, who are organized as political conservatives–upon diminishing citizenship rights and crippling debt.

This self-celebrated liberal elitist version of “anti-racism” contributed to the political realignments over the past 15 years that have allowed the Sweden Democrats, in consultation and strategic coordination with Right-wing parties within slavers’ societies, to develop as a party from a very small population of marginalized Nazis. At this historic moment, the Sweden Democrats and mobilizing like parties around the world use their properly-conservative credibility as uncompromising protectors of nationalisms (symbolic or material), to offer a politicized network alternative to what we’ve grown accustomed to: neoliberalization, or the conservatization of liberalism. This is to also say, contra Giddens (1998), that neoliberalization, both from the right and from the left, was never an equilibrium “Third Way.” It was an apolitical conservatism always restoring political conservatism.

Internationalism > Cosmopolitanism

In Sweden it is also the case that Larimore-Hall’s analysis, and by extension the liberal elitist analysis, is absolutely invalid in important empirically-verifiable respects. For many political-economic reasons, the nationalized non-elite citizens of social-democratic Sweden are not the nationalized non-elite citizens of 1980s-90s California. Crudely applying the Dem Party electoral modernization strategy from California to national and global contexts, Larimore-Hall claims that hinterlands barbarians in small Swedish manufacturing towns “as in the U.S. Midwest” are the main Right base (along with older immigrant enclaves). This is absolutely wrong. Larimore-Hall has no political-geographic analysis; perhaps he’s spent too much time in metropoles. He’s probably certainly spent too much time in US Dem Party employment.

What happened in Sweden’s northern manufacturing towns in the 2018 vote is that more people voted Vansterpartiet. If you’re a political Marxist, you may note that that took their votes away from Larimore-Hall’s employer and Dem Party sister org, the SAP: That’s powerful incentive to analytical error. If you’re a structuralist, you will affirm that economically, these manufacturing-base hinterlands have no interest in making immigrants vulnerable. It makes all kinds of sense that they transferred votes to the pro-immigrant party at the expense of the cosmopolitan party. If your primary motivation is liberal elitism, you won’t even be able to hear this fact and analysis, let alone grasp them. To spell it out: The non-meritorious are not morally ruined, their interests are not an economic dead-end, and it’s not ethical to expropriate their worlds. Don’t believe everything capitalism tells you–especially when it’s flattering you.

Moreover, if you knew Swedish history, you would know that Sweden, with its higher state automony (thanks to the socialism behind social democracy, permitting sovereignty dispersed across class, gender, and race), developed Active Labour Market Policies (ALMPs) that planned for global market developments, and sank resources into continually retraining and relocating workers out of aging industries. Yes, ALMPs have declined as neoliberalization has ascended, and Swedish workers bear more of the brunt of economic disruption. However, they’re still relatively protected, Sweden still manufactures as well as innovates technologically, and they simply are not the Right’s electoral base. What they are is a force behind the long-standing Swedish political-economic Scandinavianism, as a counterweight to conservatization. This is why they are the targeted bete noir of liberal elitists’ political parties.

Political-economic Scandinavianism is not a racial politics. It’s a long-standing, often-thwarted internationalist aspiration of Swedes to form a coalitional alternative to serving as a tributary region to Germany (as the more right-wing Danes have long done), the UK (as Norway and Denmark have long done), and to the US (as Norway and Denmark have notably done). To keep Sweden’s prime economic niche, Sweden needs independence from the EU and Germany, as Germany thrives by monopolizing high-end science, technology, and manufacturing. Political-economic coalitional Scandinavian semi-autonomy, and the sub-regions that support political-economic Scandinavianism, is a thorn in the side for the political careerists in the SAP, because the EU is European politicos’ career apex. Again, Larimore-Hall’s analytical failure is the probable result of who pays his bills. Maybe Henwood should triangulate with people who study Sweden to contribute to the community of scholars’ knowledge, rather than relying for corrective “leftist” analysis on paid consultants whose chief authority is how their liberal elitist framework resonates in the alienated metropoles.

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Beyond Borders: Anti-immigrant Politics in Southern Sweden

Where the Right picked up votes from the bourgeois parties is in southern Sweden. This region is not an analogue to the post-industrial US Midwest. It’s an imperfect analogue to the agriculture-extractive aspect of the Midwest. Manufacturing was not dispersed across southern Sweden because that part of the country did not need the economic stimulus to survive capitalism.  What southern Sweden is is a bourgeois, high-population region with agriculture at its extractive economic base. It is the most Danish-entwined population, culture and political-economy in Sweden, indicating both inegalitarian cultural strains rooted in exploitative agricultural class relations, and Euro-German subsidiarization.  Agricultural capital is usually property-belligerent, because agriculture depends on appropriating nature’s work while hyper-exploiting labor (Though, to be thorough, in the early days on the 20th century, the SAP was able to launch partially based on a temporary, Red-Green coalescence of interests between farmers and labor). When immigrants come into any country, agricultural capital and their dependents want those immigrants as vulnerable as possible.

As Sweden has incorporated more refugees, family-reunification, and other immigrants, and as its bourgeois parties deregulated labor markets, over the first 18 years of the 21st century, the political-economic leadership interest of the affluent, populous agricultural region of Sweden has switched to a significant (though not total) extent from the bourgeois EU integration priority to an immigrant-exploiting priority. Whether this direction of change is temporary or not depends on many factors, which include but are certainly not limited to left strategy.

The interview between Larimore-Hall and Henwood is everything you’d ever want to know about why the international network of neoliberalized labour-affiliated parties are all strategically adrift, and, in the liberal world, drowning at the national and regional levels. To pull few punches, it’s related to how this ocean-views, echo-chamber network of paid political strategists and Thought Leaders can’t quit the liberal version of elitism, meritocracy, or apolitical conservatism. Why they cannot quit the disastrous meritocratic virtue framework is because it pays their bills, as well as fluffs their sense of self.

Lessons from Sweden

There are no lessons from Sweden to be learned about the utility of brow-beating, and further threatening the incomes of, hinterlands barbarians.

There are no lessons from Sweden to be learned about the utility of shaming socialists to bolster your own sense of Meritocratic virtue in combat with conservative elitists (Because what other strategic value could it have?).

The English-speaking left could step up its internationalist game and reach out to Vansterpartiet. The small, hard-working Vansterpartiet still does very effective anti-racism work. There are lessons to be learned from Sweden in how to plan and execute anti-racist organization that restores class critique. This expertise has been developed in a context relatively free of police repression and slavers’ institutions, so it is both advanced, and it’s heavy, difficult work to translate directly into countries where policing and slavers’ institutions dominate society.

A central lesson to be learned from Sweden today is that we have to figure out how to fix liberal elitism, meritocracy ideology within the capitalist context. Tweedledum rival to conservative elitism, it is what shocks life into the fascist body agglomerated upon the cold stone dias of inequality.

300px-Narcissus-Caravaggio_(1594-96)_edited

Know your market! Some day someone needs to write the book on American conservatives’ and meritocrats’ undying, consumptive hunger to transfer all their prodigious failures upon the Scandinavian social democrats, whether it’s racism and xenophobia, failure to recognize the existential threat of Islam, failure to achieve communism, failure to reverse capitalogenic climate crisis, or failure to produce justice. It’s almost as if there are paying interests behind this narrative.

Privilege, Elitism, and Rivalristic Symbolic Dominations

Shamus Khan (Sociology, Columbia), author of Privilege (2012), analyzes inegalitarian, predatory class social reproduction via elite education institutions. Privilege etymologically means an exclusive legal system for elites, set apart from laws that govern commoners.  This was a better Behind The News Henwood interview.

Khan examines how modern elite education institutions instill the elite privilege disposition, oblivious entitlement. Entitlement, I’ll further suggest, to both monopolistic access to resources, credit, and cooperation (making, in the Scarry 1985 sense), as well as to exploitation and appropriation (unmaking). The elite privilege disposition, or elitism, helps reproduce scarcity, though the context may be abundance (eg. an $80+ trillion global economy). It’s an important contributor to capitalist reproduction.

Elitism is a foundation of apolitical conservatism. It denies non-elite human development capacity. Insofar as elitists suppose, following Edmund Burke (1790), that non-elites uniquely fail to develop beyond a natural or structural disposition to pettiness (provincialism, parochialism, narcissism, exploitation and expropriation, stupidity, withholding cooperation or credit), elitism problematizes distributed sovereignty and poses it as a central social crisis to be “solved.”

Elite privilege incentivizes symbolic domination, for liberals particularly through meritocracy and cosmopolitan discourses, for conservatives particularly through Excellence discourse. What’s attractive, or co-optative, about Excellence discourse is that it is about exceptionalism. Just as you may occasionally buy a lottery ticket, anyone can imagine herself as an exception.

In contrast,  meritocracy discourse is about superior capacity to successfully execute a long-game individual or familial (multigenerational), multi-pronged domination strategy within the rules of an inegalitarian society. Both forms of elitism reproduce scarcity. If, as Bourdieu (2005: 186) described, “The petit bourgeoisie spend their whole lives trying to adjust themselves to their limited possibilities, their deceptive successes leading to complete dead ends…’doomed to structural decline,’” meritocracy discourse is a decreasingly-appealing, increasingly uncompetitive version of elitist symbolic domination.

Across fields of privilege and elitism, the conservative symbolic-domination advantage is clear, if baffling and infuriating to meritocratic apolitical conservatives, elitists who may even be politically liberal or critical. Now regard the unhappy marriage of apolitical conservatism and political conservatism (Robin 2017) and you realize How We Got to Trump & Kavanaugh.

Recommendations for Sweden

Keep pouring energy into internationalism and supporting internationalist innovation.

Build separate tracks within the SAP for domestic and EU public service.

The US Democrat Party is poison at home and in its worldwide coalition. It is constrained not by the limits of its politicos’ intelligence, identity, portfolios, prestige networks, or personal achievements, but by the limits of the interests that can be expressed in the polity of an anti-democratic, slaver-institution-bedevilled country at the center of global capitalism. Use all your diplomacy. Enjoy cocktails and ocean sailing together. But do not implement its handsome, articulate, likable operatives’ well-meaning strategic recommendations.

Reverse bourgeois governments’ legislation.

Recognize the contributions of socialists and reward the contributions of Vansterpartiet.

Bring in Pasi Sahlberg to restore public education.

As long as the private sector is male-dominated, and heterosexual families predominate, the public sector needs to remain female-dominated; and feminists should save addressing that difference for the last feminist policy change.

Keep strategizing for the development of a Nordic alliance.

Now and again, nationalize the banks.

Translate Swedish materialist philosophy into English.

Find a way to get back to Meidner’s plan for socializing the surplus.

Open Borders & the Carceral Candyland

A couple weeks later, Henwood interviews one of those German idealists, who proposes that we should ignore political economy and concentrate on the cultural failure of the hinterlands Rural Idiots, particularly the East Germans, who, presumably because of their rude communist history, fail to celebrate the relocation of imperially-disrupted populations. The stupid point of this meritocrat/cosmopolitan discourse is about how it’s the Rural Idiots–former communists–who are to blame for the lack of working class solidarity. Not that there’s anything to be done besides side with financial capital, open borders, and demand the “just” expropriation of the hinterlands and the welfare state.

In the German case, Henwood asks if voters are migrating left to right (Perhaps an anachronistic assumption borrowed from the “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” thesis. As per above, he and his California Dem Party rising star had incorrectly assumed that was the case in Sweden.) The interviewee clarifies that the anti-immigrant right-wing party in German is taking votes from all quarters, for different reasons. However, this diversity of adherents the German uses as evidence that Die Linke should not be opposing neoliberalization or replacing conservatized liberal institutions.

The logic at play here is that the diversity of adherents for the anti-immigrant party means that xenophobia is a cultural institution in Germany, and not indicative of a coalition of voters dissatisfied for different reasons with the same structural constraint–neoliberalization, including in its class conflict and labor market interventions.


An aside: The master frame that xenophobia is a cultural institution in Germany is a premise Henwood continually suggests throughout the interview, and certainly a hoary piece of cultural essentialism that has haunted the idealistic German imagination, serves as a socio-psychological manipulation handle, and preempts historical-materialist analysis, abetting the conservative restoration.

It reflects an older consensus in genocide scholarship that genocide is caused by “deep divisions” between groups (Strauss, Scott. 2007. “Second-generation comparative research on genocide.” World Politics 59: 480-483). That older consensus emerged from the hegemonic Jewish community interpretation of the Shoah experience, and was better suited to serve that ethno-religious community’s modern political needs than to explain either genocide or Germany. Sometimes the metropole experience provides intellectual resources; sometimes it imposes unhelpful biases. Always it’s a loud voice. That’s why triangulation is important to valid knowledge.


The idealist proposes that the whole Left, but particularly the political parties, should be fighting for “Open Borders.” In this anarcho-liberal imaginary, capitalist liberation is equated with universal liberation. Conservatized liberal institutions are conceived in this neoliberal view as liberation from borders. Here we can see the idealistic convergence of left and right political conceptualization–or perhaps the conservative co-optation of left idealism. Yet borders always remain, and the “borders” capitalists are liberated from are not just those that serve absolutist kings or their states, but those borders, those constraints on elite liberty that have been fought for and erected to help workers liberate themselves.

Dear Gerry Mander,

If you want to join a coalition erasing and rewriting borders,
first be able to answer:

What is the scale of society at which we can have participatory parity today?

The cosmopolitan Open Borders coalition is hot with idealist and financial-metropole liberal-leftists. The key to the cosmopolitan Open Borders stratagem is that you have to suspend  belief in class conflict, and conceptualize the welfare state simply as a bureaucracy, as opposed to an historical, contested and impure institutionalization of semi-accountability to the working class within a state thats “higher” functions, as Bourdieu (2005) identified, are to support capitalist accumulation. What causes leftists to drift this way? Poor state conceptualization, and panic. Terrible things are happening in the US under conservatives, guardians of slavery. The horror is wielded to assure liberal-leftists that the open path to protecting the innocents is to join the capitalist Open Borders coalition.

I’ve discussed this for about 10 years now, but increasingly as cosmopolitans’ Open Borders idea has captured the left. The left-right Open Borders coalition will not liberate the working class because there is class conflict, and state institutions are forged in it. Open Borders work for actual universal liberty in a latter stage of communism that we are far, far away from. There are other utopias to be fought for first.

open border

Hey guys, the door to this rich man’s house is open!

There are three Open Borders strategy issues: 1) In the US, immigration policy is more subject to potential democratic intervention than other policy, because it’s not under juridical supervision. That seems hopeful. 2) However, the problem today, especially across Anglosphere countries as well as several others, is that borders and immigration are already an integral part of the militarized mass carceral-guard state and market securing unfree labor. Not just the state, but a very large and stratified market stands like a tsunami between global migrants and freedom. 3) Any shadow of Open Borders policy, within left political parties, will have to be fed strategies that divert that market and restore pre-9-11 rights of movement and freedom from surveillance.

Otherwise, we’re looking straight down the throat of open borders with prisons and indentured servitude behind them. As have been steadily erected for the past four decades.

Toward Internationalism

Rather than pining to share in bankers’ cosmopolitan virtue, pro-immigration and Open Borders, the left should struggle step-wise, methodically, to innovate and build internationalist networks and internationalism: cross-border solidarity that values and champions non-elites’ capacity to develop as social, material humans. These are related but very distinct coalitions and solidarities (See Anderson 2002, as well as Lamont & Aksartova 2002). For example, unlike cosmopolitanism, internationalism does not ever black box what induces immigration–capitalist imperialism, expropriation, and climate crisis–and that this dynamic is no favor to the working class, whether established or newcomer. Internationalism, and not cosmopolitanism, can recognize non-elites’ visceral understanding of migration as a symptom of important political-economic problems, and align sympathies and networks to address those.

Internationalism and immigrant recognition are especially, as I concluded in my 2007 dissertation, a responsibility for organized labour. Organizing and organized labour is in the best, most interested, most embedded position to fight for recognition of immigrants’ contributions across space and their human capacity for development. It is organized labour that needs to work and struggle for egaliberte work relations, including building solidarity across the working class. This is also a very good way right now for organized labour to resist capitalist cooptation.

Whereas left political parties do need to recognize the various harms neoliberalization has afflicted people with, and correspondingly do need to focus upon building alternative policies and institutions to conservatized liberal institutions. This should include supporting the work of organized labour; but there needs to be a strategic division of labor extra-polity and intra-polity, as actual social democrats have long known. Left political parties should not be celebrating immigration and “dismantling” borders, because they will only be on-neoliberal agenda, stupidly dismantling institutionalized working-class supports, driving a wide swath of orphaned voters into the Right’s waiting wings. The institutionalized capitalist supports, the class borders and prison walls, will remain and grow, and the beatings will continue until morale improves. Another form of elitism, cosmopolitanism reproduces inegalitarianism and capitalist exploitation and expropriation.

Left political parties need to turn instead to learning how to hear the mob as human voices, learning what is wrong with both kinds of elitism, political conservatism and liberal/apolitical conservatism, articulating what is wrong with elite liberty and absolute private property right, and replacing conservatized liberal institutions with internationalist networks and egaliberte policy and institutions (Here’s one good example).

You can’t just sneer and spit “Social democrats!” and clutch capital’s skirts as your strategy because, historically, effective, actually- existing social democrats (That’s not Berstein’s SPD.) had a real, strategic plan that was effective up to a significant point. We can actually apprehend it and learn from it; the English-speaking left has not so far.

Pro-Immigrant v. Pro-Immigration: Breaking the political and apolitical conservative chokehold

The liberal approach to the problem of solidarity is characterized by a relentless idealist conflation of pro-immigrant and pro-immigration. Symmetrically, as befits a two-party capitalist system, the the conservative approach to the problem of solidarity is characterized by a relentless idealist conflation of anti-immigrant and anti-immigration. Throughout this ideological and coalitional rivalry, liberals, neoliberals, and conservatives converge. They pragmatically take advantage of the empirical difference between immigrant and immigration interests and sentiment–to jointly make labour voiceless and vulnerable.

This conflation has growing resonance, because when the idealist conflation is asserted, an attempt is being made to cohere a liberal or conservative political coalition around that silent elite goal. In marketing the polity organization’s capacity for securing social cooperation for policy and institutional maintenance or change, these mobilizations have effects. A small group of true-believer White Nation political entrepreneurs equates anti-immigrant and anti-immigration. Backed by global conservative support, and reinforced by liberals who equate pro-immigrant and Open Borders, White Nation political entrepreneurs organize and draw in adherents who may not start out with much by way of anti-immigrant attitudes, but who perceive–bear the brunt of–the effects of citizenship attenuation. This was the case in Sweden, where poll after poll showed extraordinarily high pro-immigrant, low anti-immigrant attitudes for decades, through thick and thin, through immigration surges.

What’s different now is that the anti-labour thrust of anti-immigrant politics–both anti-immigration and pro-immigration— is broadcasting an audible signal, forming White Nations around immigrant and labour vulnerability goals, the vicious conservative Winner-Loser protection racket. It’s grotesque and violent, and its effects are enduring and wretched, but for many, White Nationalism is the only protective social network left to them in capitalism, where, outside of capitalist networks, only family, religious-ethnic, and militarized policing networks are not criminalized.

Breaking that advancing conservative politicization will involve breaking the conflation of anti-immigrant and anti-immigration, pro-immigrant and pro-immigration, as these twin conflations vie to coalesce political blocs for capitalist interests. Together, conservatives and liberals have been constructing a behemoth global machine for disrupting and uprooting people from their homes, drawing them into core countries, and sucking them into unfree labour and prisons, replacing labour contracts, organizations, rights, and public goods and services that broadly redistribute recognition and value, and leaving native core populations to  servitude, surveillance, militarization, and the inegalitarian White Nation protection racket. Liberals will explain this has to be the policy because some people (sometimes Blacks, sometimes Whites) are ruined. Conservatives will declare that, even though this institutional structure and the Winner-Loser dispositions it proliferates are obviously constructed, it’s natural.

The capitalist pro-immigrant/immigration Open Borders utopia springs from a venerable tradition of conservative strategy: In 1651 the original conservatizer of liberalism, Thomas Hobbes proposed in his refutation of democracy that the only freedom we need to recognize is the freedom of movement, or as his Dutch twin Grotius would further specify: freedom of imperial movement upon the seas. This conservative siren song has a proven co-optation track record. The alternative utopia is socialist–mobilizing internationalism (or “ordinary cosmpolitanism” in Lamont & Aksartova’s language), and not elite “Open Borders” cosmopolitanism.

Internationalism is the only way out of a regressive one-two chokehold that increasingly devalues and stunts migrant life while increasingly devaluing and stunting working class life. Liberalism’s lodestar is absolute private property right; without socialism, inheritor of the democratic Enlightenment, liberalism’s noblest sentiments on behalf of that absolute private property right can do nothing but return us, over and over again, to the brutal prison workhouse of inequality, inegalitarianism, and conservatism, the patriarchal enforcer. In this vortex, freedom of movement–for non-elites–is reduced to little more than a white-eyed, cold marble statue in a museum.

SONY DSC

Apolitical conservatism is not the opposite of political conservatism.

References and Further Reading

Check out the geographic and sociological distributions of the 2018 Vote at SVT NYheter’s interactive website. Because, you know, Swedes are not idiots with the sociology, the geography, and the political economy.

Abraham, David. 1996. “Liberty without Equality: The Property-Rights Connection in a ‘Negative Citizenship’ Regime.” Law & Social Inquiry, Vol. 21, No. 1, pp. 1-65.

Abraham, David. 2007. “Doing justice on two fronts: The liberal dilemma in immigration.” Ethnic and Racial Studies, 01 June 2010, Vol.33(6), p.968-985.

Abraham, David. 2014. “Immigrant integration and social solidarity in a time of crisis: Europe and the United States in a post-welfare state.” Critical Historical Studies, 01 September 2014, Vol.1(2), pp.215-253.

Anderson, Perry. 2002. “Internationalism: A beviary.” New Left Review 14.

Bacon, David. 2007. Illegal People: How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants. Beacon Press.

Bacon, David. 2009. Interviewed by Doug Henwood, Left Business Observer.

Bacon, David. 2013. The right to stay home: How US policy drives Mexican migration. Beacon Press.

Hurst, Allison. 2018. “Do you know who your foreman voted for?” People’s World, September 24.

Lamont, Michele and Sada Aksartova. 2002. “Ordinary Cosmopolitanisms: Strategies For Bridging Racial Boundaries Among Working-Class Men.” Theory, Culture & Society 19(4): 1-25.

Sampaio, Anna. Terrorizing Latina/o Immigrants: Race, Gender, and Immigration Politics in the Age of Security. Temple University Press.

WWII & the twilight of Western Enlightenment

AT the turn of the 20th century, ruling classes mobilized nation states to struggle for territorial control and economic development, while working classes struggled for emancipation

From the 16th century, the Atlantic ruling class (the ruling class of Britain, the Netherlands, the US, France, and other North Atlantic territories) successfully ascended to world power through a potent combination of capitalist relations and primitive accumulation, including enclosures, global imperialism and colonialism, and slavery. By the turn of the 20th century, both German and Russian networks were left out of this power ascent, stagnant but still latently capacious and entitled. They had long-influential ruling classes managing and intervening in European territories. Where Russia had dwindled from Enlightenment and power influence to supplying mercenary militaries to the ultimately-losing European ruling class repressions of democratic revolts, German society had lost its influential long-time role supplying the educated, princely managerial staff to European monarchies.

Communists overthrew the dissolute Russian monarchy network, and mobilized massive and disruptive economic modernization campaigns across the Soviet Union’s vast Eurasian territory. German territories attempted to correct their over-investment in European aristocracy by reorganizing as a militarized nation-state mobilizing strong managerial and productive capacity. To carve out territory in an already-owned world required warfare. While the Atlantic ruling class has had enormous capacity to absorb other ruling elites, it has not accommodated them, with the exception of the semi-independence concession to Middle East absolutist tyrannies ruling keystone geopolitical and oil extraction territory. When upstart Germany lost WWI, the Atlantic ruling class sought to crush an independent Germany and the German sense of entitlement with the Treaty of Versailles. This vainglorious effort only produced more outraged re-organization in Germany, spawning the fascist campaign to put Germany on the global capitalist map.

Germany’s reactionary, anti-socialist fascism at first was thought to be compatible with the anti-communist Atlantic ruling class order. For seven years, from 1933 to the September 1939 invasion of Poland, the capitalist Atlantic ruling class had agreeable relations and multiple pacts with the pro-capitalist, anti-communist fascist regimes, including Nazi Germany. During this period, the young Soviet Union had been struggling with imperial, fascist Japan, which was invading China.

13 Nation-state Compacts with Fascist Germany

YEAR SIGNATORY COUNTRIES NAME OF PACT
1933 UK, FRANCE, ITALY THE FOUR POWERS PACT
1934 POLAND HITLER-PILSUDSKI PACT
1935 UK ANGLO-GERMAN NAVAL AGREEMENT
1936 JAPAN ANTI-COMINTERN PACT
1938 SEPTEMBER UK GERMAN-BRITISH NON-AGGRESSION PACT
1938 DECEMBER FRANCE GERMAN-FRENCH NON-AGGRESSION PACT
1939 MARCH ROMANIA GERMAN-ROMANIAN ECONOMIC TREATY
1939 MARCH LITHUANIA NON-AGGRESSION PACT
1939 MAY ITALY PACT OF STEEL (FRIENDSHIP & ALLIANCE)
1939 MAY DENMARK NON-AGGRESSION PACT
1939 JUNE ESTONIA NON-AGGRESSION PACT
1939 JULY LATVIA NON-AGGRESSION PACT
1939 AUGUST SOVIET UNION MOLOTOV-RIBBENTROP NON-AGGRESSION PACT

A side product of Britain’s imperial expansion and its opposition to Russia and that country’s power, Polish and other weaker-community nationalisms surged in the 16th century. Russia and Poland then struggled for territorial control, with Russia controlling the territory from the 18th century until Russia’s collapse after WWI. By contrast, the Atlantic ruling class gained further power after WWI, taking control over former Ottoman Empire territory and populations.

In August 1939 Germany made an opportunistic, temporary alliance with the Soviet Union and Slovakia to re-take Poland and divide it. Britain and France had a post-WWI pact that should Poland be invaded, they would regard the invasion as an act of war against the Atlantic ruling class. Polish gold was smuggled out to London and Ottawa. In reclaiming territory, the Soviet Union was again acting independently of the Atlantic ruling order, and so was a categorical enemy. But the geopolitical crisis was a fascist state acting independently of the Atlantic ruling order. In an already-owned world, German economic development intolerably forced both (temporary) capitalist-communist cooperation and a dis-identification between the Atlantic ruling order and capitalism.

While the Atlantic ruling class has remained in fairly-constant geopolitical opposition to Russia (regardless of its government), British sponsorship of Polish and Eastern European national ambitions has been rather more opportunistic than a primary goal. It is the Polish (among other Eastern European buffers) nationality’s perspective that the Western powers “betrayed” their sponsorship agreements in 1939 (inter alia), as the North Atlantic powers allied with the Soviet Union to fight WWII, to stop Germany’s further territorial invasions and expansions. The Soviets ground down the imperial German war machine; and the Soviet Union’s gambit to reduce the Atlantic ruling order’s combined anticommunist and geopolitical opposition was thus soon played out.

British war leader Winston Churchill hoped to simply redirect WWII against the Soviet Union upon Germany’s defeat in April 1945. But British analysts concluded that the Atlantic powers would not be able to defeat and control the Soviet Union’s territory via direct warfare. So, in another “betrayal,” Churchill and Stalin divided up the former Austro-Hungarian borderlands (the Austro-Hungarian Empire collapsed in WWI), from 1945 until the modern Russian communist experiment was liquidated in 1989 under the co-optative idea, and a patently false and geopolitically-naive expectation, suggesting that simply by dissolving communism to the benefit of oligarchs, Russia would become included and supported as an autonomous capitalist country in the North Atlantic metropole archipelago, much as Germany, Italy, and Japan had been under the redistributive Marshall Plan. But in that North Atlantic, states had since largely been claimed by a financially-liberated, cosmopolitan ruling class, and that class already had a capitalist relationship with the great reserves of Chinese and Indian labor, resources, pollution sinks, and consumers. Nor was it possible for even-oligarchical Russia, with its broader social networks and infrastructure, to be integrated into the Middle East tyrants’ efficient, special relationship with the Atlantic ruling class.

Since then, the Atlantic ruling class has pursued an oppositional relationship with Russia, offering instead the City of London as an increasingly-posh haven for the Russian klepto-collaborators and their booty, the once-public wealth accrued with brains, blood, sweat and tears within the Soviet Union territories. A globally-networked, cosmopolitan ruling class with key bases in North Atlantic financial cities and countries currently enjoys the restoration of its undiluted, unrivaled power, as well as steep and immobile social hierarchy and all its effects. As billions of people are surveilled, policed, incarcerated, militarized, exploited, poisoned, dispossessed, violently disrupted, and dislocated into spectacular migrations, outside of continental Europe, aristocracy and servitude have been restored. Western Enlightenment ideas, culture, and institutions have fallen, but the extraction and slavery infrastructure remains and has been technologically enhanced.

Thus, while there are still states and of course market institutions managing cosmopolitan extractivism and the social reproduction of inegalitarianism, with the eradication of Enlightenment thought and institutions, nation-states have been reorganized as rigid, stagnant Night-watchman states. Nations are reserved for the industrializing countries.

Hobsbawm on the Vicissitudes of Left-liberalism

Hobsbawm, Eric. 2012. “After the Cold War: Eric Hobsbawm Remembers Tony Judt.” London Review of Books, April.

Beautifully-written rebuttal of the 20th century liberal rejection and condemnation of communism, as well as homage to civic courage. Crafting a story of intellectual and political maturation and redemption, Hobsbawm dissects how Tony Judt traversed from the Cold Warrior troops and conservative tooldom (as Judt started out trivially focused on critiquing dying French Left intellectualism) to trenchant critic of imperial Israeli apartheid politics.

Both Hobsbawm & Judt understood the twentieth century’s “basic passion: namely the belief that politics was the key to our truths as well as our myths.”

 …Judt “launched one of the most implacable attacks on (Hobsbawm) in a passage which has become widely quoted, especially by the ultras of the right-wing American press. It amounted to: ‘make a public confession that your god has failed, beat your breast and you may win the right to be taken seriously. No man who doesn’t think socialism equals Gulag should be listened to.’

 …after 1968 (Judt) became much more of a militant oppositionist liberal over Eastern Europe, an admirer of the mixed but more usually right-wing academic tourists who provided much of our commentary on the end of the East European Communist regimes. This also led him and others who should have known better into creating the fairy tale of the Velvet and multicoloured revolutions of 1989 and after. There were no such revolutions, only different reactions to the Soviet decision to pull out.

 …Four things shaped French history in the 19th and 20th centuries: the Republic born of the incomplete Great Revolution; the centralised Napoleonic state; the crucial political role assigned to a working class too small and disorganised to play it; and the long decline of France from its position before 1789 as the Middle Kingdom of Europe, as confident as China of its cultural and linguistic superiority. Denied a Lenin and deprived of Napoleon, France retreated into the last and, we must hope, indestructible redoubt, the world of Astérix. The postwar vogue for Parisian thinkers barely concealed their collective retreat into Hexagonal introversion and into the ultimate fortress of French intellectuality, Cartesian theory and puns. There were now other models in higher education and the sciences, in economic development, even – as the late penetration of Marx’s ideas implies – in the ideology of the Revolution. The problem for left-wing intellectuals was how to come to terms with an essentially non-revolutionary France. The problem for right-wing ones, many of them former communists, was how to bury the founding event and formative tradition of the Republic, the French Revolution, a task equivalent to writing the American Constitution out of US history. It could not be done…

 …Tony had so far made his name as an academic bruiser. His default position was forensic: not the judge’s but the barrister’s, whose objective is neither truth nor truthfulness, but winning the case. Faced with governments and ideologues who read victory and world domination into the fall of communism, he was honest enough with himself to recognise that the old verities and slogans needed to be junked after 1989. Probably only in the ever nervous US could such a reputation have been built so quickly on the basis of a few articles in journals of modest circulation addressed exclusively to academic intellectuals.

 …(Judt) was well aware of the risks, personal and professional, he ran in attacking the combined forces of US global conquest, the neocons and Israel, but he had plenty of what Bismarck called ‘civilian bravery’ (Zivilcourage) – a quality notably lacking in Isaiah Berlin, as Tony himself noted, perhaps not without malice. Unlike the ex-Marxist scholiasts and intellocrates on the Left Bank who, as Auden said of poets, made ‘nothing happen’, Tony understood that a struggle with these new forces could make a difference. He launched himself against them with evident pleasure and zest. This was the figure who came into his own after the end of the Cold War, widening his courtroom technique to flay the likes of Bush and Netanyahu rather than some political absurdity in the Fifth Arrondissement or a distinguished professor in New Jersey. It was a magnificent performance, a class act; he was hailed by his readers not only for what he said, but what many of them would not have had the courage to say themselves. It was all the more effective because Tony was both an insider and an outsider: English, Jewish, French, eventually American, but plurinational rather than cosmopolitan” (Eric Hobsbawm 2012).