Preparing the new world order

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By ANDREA ZHOK*

The left system has no real ability or will to oppose the degradation of the system

To define our historical space of possibility, it is necessary to understand the place we occupy in the trajectory of our civilization. All of us, Italians, Europeans, Westerners, find ourselves in a phase of epochal, potentially terminal, crisis in the liberal world that took shape just over two centuries ago.

By the mid-nineteenth century, it had already become clear from Marxist analysis that this form of civilization, unlike all that preceded it, was plagued by self-defeating internal contradictions. The main internally contradictory elements have since become clear, although Karl Marx concentrated his gaze on the social fault line (tendency towards oligopolistic concentration and mass impoverishment), while, for obvious historical reasons, he lacked the perception of other critical outlets inherent in the same contradictions (there was no awareness of the possibility of extinction of the species by war, which became a possibility after 1945, nor the idea of ​​the relevance of the degenerative impact of capitalist progressivism on the ecological system).

A system that only lives if it grows and that, when it grows, consumes individuals and peoples as indifferent means for its own growth always produces, necessarily and systematically, tendencies towards collapse. The Marxist reading, perhaps very conditioned by their own desires, predicted a revolutionary collapse as the form of the coming collapse, in which impoverished majorities would revolt against plutocratic oligopolies. The downfall that presented itself to the eyes of the next generation was war, a world war as the final conflict in the imperialist competition between states that had really become “business committees of the bourgeoisie”.

The current phase presents trends very similar to those of the early 1900s: an apparently progressive and opulent, secularized and scientific society, in which the margins of growth (“surplus value”), however, had narrowed and had led to the search for increasingly distant sources of food resources and raw materials in colonized countries. That is until individual ambitions for growth began – more and more often – to collide at the international level, pushing to prepare for a possible conflict, through secret treaties of military alliances that were supposed to be activated in the presence of a casus belli.

That the result of the current crisis will be an all-out world war, on the model of World War II, is just one possibility.

Pressures could prevail to make a war more like the First, where the front is Ukraine and the rearguards, in charge of providing means for the war, are Europe and Russia. In World War I, civilians were not directly involved in war events, except in contact zones, but the overall involvement in terms of impoverishment and famine was huge. Between 1914 and 1921, Europe lost between 50 and 60 million inhabitants, of whom “only” between 11 and 16 million (depending on the counting method) died directly during the conflict.

A specific industrial class emerged from the war, richer and more powerful than before, and it was directly or indirectly involved in supplying the front. Countries furthest from the front, and not directly involved, came out of the war even richer and comparatively more powerful.

This is, of course, also the perspective and hope of those who are fueling the conflict from a distance today.

The experience of entering the war, with the de facto complicity of almost all socialist and social-democratic parties, represented a trauma from which to draw a fundamental teaching, a teaching that, if updated, could be translated as: the left system has no ability or real will to oppose the degradation of the system. In response to this trauma, Antonio Gramsci, in 1919, founded a magazine with a highly symbolic name, A New order; and two years later, based on the apparent success of the Russian Revolution, the PCI was born, with the intention of being precisely an antidote to what happened: an “anti-system” force capable of overthrowing the social and productive paradigms that had led to the war ( and which remained intact).

In the same year, the movement of Fasci di Combattimento,[I] whose “Sansepolcrista” manifesto[ii] (June 1919) It may surprise anyone who knows the later evolution of the fascist regime, it took shape.

Here, too, the wave of pre-war and war experience pushed in the direction of a radical renewal of the “anti-system”. There we find the request for universal suffrage (also female), the 8-hour working day, the minimum wage, the participation of workers in the administration of industry, an extraordinary tax on capital of a progressive nature with partial expropriation of all wealth , the seizure of 85% of war profits, etc.

In a few years, however, the movement of Fasci di Combattimento it will lose all the most socially radical instances and will be reabsorbed by the system, obtaining in exchange the economic support of agrarians and big industry, who will use it in anti-communist and anti-union operations. With an updated reading (and naturally forced, given the vastness of historical differences), it could be said that the split of the anti-system protest (fostered by capital) managed to neutralize the character of a threat to capital itself, maintaining only a character of revolutionization external.

In almost perfect parallelism with the publication of the “Sansepolcrista” manifesto, Antonio Gramsci opened the pages of The New Order (May 1919) with a famous appeal: “Instruct yourselves, because we will need all our intelligence. Get excited, because we will need all our enthusiasm. Get organized, because we will need all our strength”.

Antonio Gramsci was perfectly clear that the chances of success for a force that wanted the overthrow of a capitalist system, which emerged almost unscathed from the greatest conflict of all times, certainly required agitation and protest (not difficult to obtain in an Italian where the post-war discontent was enormous), but it required above all “study” (training) and “organization”.

A century has passed. Many things have changed, but the socioeconomic system is the same and the phase is similar: after a profound revision after 1945, it quickly returned to the old tracks from the 1980s onwards.

Today we are in a situation reminiscent in many respects of 1914: the quite unconscious beginning of a long and destructive crisis.

Coming out of it more or less like 1918, with a condition of widespread impoverishment and a more violent society, but without the destruction of war directly at home is the scenario I believe is the most optimistic. With a few years of energy, food and industrial crises, Europe will be reduced to being a supplier of low-cost skilled labor for American industries. This is the best scenario.

The chances of braking the moving train are minimal. What you can do is prepare yourself to rise to the occasion, to guide the free-falling pieces so that they become the foundation for a future building.

And that requires, as Antonio Gramsci said, first of all an adequate “training” to interpret events, to get out of the dogmatism and rigidity that prevent understanding the strength and character of the “system”. At this stage, those who remain anchored in the conditioned reflexes of the right and left, with their relative dogmas, saints and demonizations galore, are part of the problem. The system of world financial capitalism domination on an Anglo-American basis is a power in crisis, yes, but it is still the greatest power on the planet and has survived other major crises.

It is capable of persuading almost anyone, of almost everything, through a meticulous control of the main media articulations. It is capable of corrupting those who have a price and threatening those who do not.

It can also quickly shed its skin on “decorative” and “superstructural” issues, like all the various civil rights and human rights, which it sometimes wields like clubs when they serve, but which it can make disappear in an instant with a fable and following the best practices, if a different strategy is helpful.

Having a cultural awareness of what is essential and what is contingent here is crucial.

And secondly, still with Antonio Gramsci, “organization” is needed. Who aspires not to “overthrow the system” (today nobody has the physique du role to do so directly, "revolutionary"), but to go along with the partial endogenous collapse, to bring about a new form of life, has any chance of doing so only if it takes the obligations of a collective organization terribly seriously.

What the “system” consciously feeds is unconsciousness (ignorance, disorientation) and fragmentation (falling into the private, mutual distrust). Whoever tries to challenge him must row with all his might in the opposite direction.

*Andrea Zhok Professor of Philosophy at the University of Milan.

Translation: Juliana Haas

Originally published in The Anti-Diplomatico.

 

Translator's notes


[I] Italian Combat Beams.

[ii] Commonly known as the Fascist Manifesto. The term “sansepolcrismo” refers to the origins of fascism in Italy, inspired by the principles enunciated by Benito Mussolini, on March 23, 1919, in the founding act of the Fasci Italiani di Combattimento, during the rally in Piazza San Sepolcro (Saint Sepulcher Square) in Milan, which was later published in the newspaper Il Popolo d'Italia.

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