Gian Piero de Bellis
Polyarchy : a Manifesto
23. The final demise
18. The state takes over (^)
Parallel to nationalism, two dishes were becoming more and more the staple food of the masses, cooked in various ways by the state now in association with degenerated (i.e. bureaucratic/monopolistic) capitalism and socialism. They were:
- race hatred
- class hatred
The struggle for political power was conducted by groups competing for mass support and arousing irrational passions for ignoble motives.
Hatred directed against the 'others', those with different religions, cultures, ways of life, political beliefs, became common currency in late 19th century Europe.
The Jews became, generally, the scapegoats, a soft target to divert attention from any crisis or misdeed. From the "Dreyfus affair" in France to the nazi 'final solution' and, beyond that, throughout the 20th century, state sponsored race and class hatred have mixed in an intoxicating cocktail.
This cocktail, based on nationalism as its main ingredient, has produced two major results:
Let us focus on each of these phenomena (imperialism, militarism) since they lead straight to the (total) demise of both capitalism and socialism and to the full emergence of the virus (statism) that plagued communities and individuals since the end of the 19th century and for a large part of the 20th century. This period was marked by the dominance of the nation states and by the disasters and destructions of which they were the cause.
19. Imperialism (^)
Imperialism is the starting stage of statism.
In the past, merchants, pilgrims and adventurers have crossed the oceans, set foot on uncharted territory; people have migrated and occupied land, mixing with indigenous peoples or settling and cultivating new territories (colonization).
When the mercantilist state entered the world arena, the aim became to find riches to appropriate, especially gold and silver, because these represented an increase in its wealth and power.
This policy became known as colonialism.
During the period of development of capitalism (end of 18th century to the end of 19th century) colonialism came almost to a halt. The state, the main backer of colonialism, was no longer the centre of power, whilst the new dynamic powers represented by capitalist entrepreneurs and merchants were busy manufacturing/trading goods and inventing/perfecting new mechanical devices.
The situation changed when a system of nation states was in place all over Europe and capitalism had built such productive machinery as to make possible the maintenance of an ever increasing parasitical stratum (bureaucracy and its social appendages).
At that moment, both colonialism and the capitalistic trading posts became things of the past and a new phenomenon appeared : imperialism.
Imperialistic dominance was built, in many cases, on the basis of existing commercial outposts : that is why capitalism has become associated and confused with imperialism. But imperialism (political dominance) was not a necessary concomitant of capitalism (economic benefit) or even of pre-capitalistic economic exploitation. In fact, before the advent of capitalism, huge profits were made with the slave trade relying on small trading stations scattered along the African coast of Senegal, without the need for white slave merchants to occupy a country or, even, to penetrate deep inside it.
As regards capitalism, it was interested in producing and exchanging goods, not in holding and administering a territory. It needed a trading station, not a land, a capital or a bureaucracy.
The thesis that behind any imperialistic venture there are economic gains, hoards of wealth, vast treasures, is so very plausible that it is (almost) universally accepted even when it is factually untrue. Clearly it has served the state well when it had to find a post-factum rationalization for its follies. But, in reality, imperialism, on the whole, has been a very costly adventure and one that no sensible capitalist would have ever underwritten or even considered if their personal fortunes were at stake.
Only state nationalism, clearly relying in an exploitative way on the productive achievements of capitalism, could produce imperialism.
What is more important is that, beneath imperialism, advocating and supporting it, there was the growing mass of the state bureaucracy and the growing role of the state military.
20. Militarism (^)
The consolidation of national states and their imperialistic adventures demanded not only servants wielding the pen (bureaucrats) but also servants wielding the sword (soldiers).
Military expenditure rose considerably between the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. In Germany it went from £10 millions in 1870 to £110 millions in 1914 (a tenfold increase); in Britain, over the same period, from £23 millions to £76 millions.
With the expenditures rose the arrogance of the military, spurred on and reinforced by the equivocal folly of patriotism, so respectable on the surface and yet rotten at the core.
In France this can be clearly seen through the tragically farcical development of the "Dreyfus affair", the military caste out for blood, piling up outrageous lie after lie, in a bid to protect itself at any cost.
In Germany, the militaristic Prussian attitude, held in high esteem all over Europe, was ready to involve and associate other continental states in the massacre that is war.
The First World War was not an accident but the almost inevitable outcome of an outgrowing and outpouring of militarism fuelled by each state's own nationalism and imperialism.
The scramble for Africa was the muscling of the nation states, the preparation for total war.
The pistolshot in Sarajevo would become the pretext for the end of the brief interlude of liberalism and provide the spark for the events that, shortly thereafter, would lead to the demise of both capitalism and socialism.
21. The demise of capitalism (^)
The joint growth of nationalism and militarism contributed to driving capitalism down the road of bureaucratism and monopolism.
Starting from Germany, protectionism, weakened but never totally removed under capitalism, had already reaffirmed itself towards the end of the 19th century.
In fact, not all of capitalism was, by then, a dynamic system as portrayed by friends and foes alike. New economic masters had increased their power (trusts and corporations) trying to avoid both risk and responsibility (limited liability companies). In some cases, monopolies and cartels, favoured by the resurgent protectionism, had already made a mockery of the freedom of the market (the so-called invisible hand); in other cases, weak and outdated industries were asking for trade protection by the state, in the old tradition of the mercantilist political economy.
When the First World War broke out, the state, almost everywhere, seized control of the railways, shipping, gold reserves, and a few strategic materials.
After the war the German state controlled the use of more than 50% of the national income; in Italy, by 1934, Mussolini could boast that 3/4 of the economy was in the hands of the state.
At that point, the state was ready to take over and dominate not just the economy but the whole of society. And, subservient to a logic of nationalism, protectionism and monopolism, capitalism was willing to accept a subordinate position, to become for the state, in the years to come, the useful idiot to be blamed for anything going wrong, the docile cow to be milked for all its worth. And this just to be kept alive even in a degenerate form.
The imposition by the state of a neo-mercantilist policy based on protectionism strangled world trade and was responsible for recurrent crises and a long depression, both attributed to the working of capitalism. For long periods in the first half of the 20th century production stagnated or grew very slowly even in presence of unsatisfied needs. It was only during the second half of the century, with the abolition of many tariffs (1948 Gatt, 1957 European Common Market) that people could enjoy a rising standard of living. The contribution of the state in post Second World War economic growth is nil, unless we count as merits the fact that it reduced its asphyxiating presence and its damaging control on 'foreign' trade (but not on 'domestic' matters).
That, in the first half of the 20th century, capitalism was purged and liquidated by the state appears clearly and in an exemplary way in the treatment reserved for the Jews. If there was a group that truly represented the spirit of capitalism (internationalism, liberalism, economic calculation, etc.) it was the Jews. And the 20th century, the century of statism, saw the discrimination, ghettoization and extermination of Jewish communities, by the state, in many countries of Europe.
The demise of capitalism and its replacement by statism with its neo-mercantilist policies can be dated, in Europe, to the outbreak of the First World War. From then onwards, Europe would be dominated by a policy of protectionism and dirigism administered by the nation states.
22. The demise of socialism (^)
The ascent of capitalism and the growth of factories had meant a vast increase in the number of factory workers.
On the political front, the expansion of the right to vote signified the possibility, for the workers, of electing representatives to the national parliament.
To enhance the living conditions of the masses of workers, socialist (labour) parties and trade unions were formed in countries all over Europe. Parties and parties' delegates, on the one hand introduced more discipline and continuity to the fight for workers' emancipation and betterment; on the other hand they became, more and more, external agents who took control and manipulated the masses to their own purpose (income, security, power).
A new bureaucracy arose. The dynamic was similar to the spreading of the state bureaucracy : production made it possible to feed parasitism, in this case new parasitic strata coming out of or taking sides with the workers. Party bureaucrats became the manufacturers and mediators of conflicts, replacing direct action and self-emancipation.
The mighty German Social Democratic party became modelled on the Prussian army and a model for other socialist parties to follow.
As in the case of capitalism, the demise of socialism was, first of all, an internal moral debacle that destroyed the soul (the socialist yearning) while keeping the body (the party bureaucracy).
There are plenty of tombstones to mark the death of socialism:
- 1919 : Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht killed by para-military groups (the Freikorps) with the connivance of the minister of the interior, the socialdemocrat Noske;
- 1921 : the repression by the Bolsheviks of the Kronstadt uprising;
- 1936-1937 : the defamation of and crackdown on the anarchists by the communists during the Spanish Civil War.
These were all marked by actual physical deaths. But none is so representative of death (inner death) as the almost unanimous vote of the representatives of the German Social Democratic Party in the Reichstag in favour of war credits (1914)
After that date, the word 'socialist' (as in 'socialist party') was, already, no longer related, in actual fact, to freedom, emancipation, internationalism and pacifism, that is to the basic tenets of socialism.
23. The final demise (^)
The peak of all this dynamic that finally brought to worldwide dominance a new power system based on the state, took place on a Tuesday in late October 1929.
On the 29 October 1929, the USA stock exchange crash damaged forever the reputation of capitalism as a viable economic system, able to carry on without regulations from above. After that event, capitalism was totally irrevocably dead, theoretically and factually.
The fabrication of that event and of the resulting anti-capitalist feeling was a master stroke of the Federal Government of the United States of America.
At that time, the word 'capital' applied more to pieces of paper, be they notes or shares, than to productive machinery, and this tells us a lot about the transformation of the word and of the world since Adam Smith. The actual fact was that this so called 'capitalism' had undergone such a radical transformation (from industry to finance, from free trade to protectionism, from laissez-faire to dirigism) that it would have been more appropriate (theoretically and practically) to declare that it had died rather than that it had evolved. But this frank declaration of death suited neither the state, the new hidden master, nor the public at large, still fantasizing about freedom of trade, free enterprise and the balanced budget, realities all long-since disappeared or which, in some countries, had never existed.
In the USA, since the war with Spain (1898) and the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt, the federal government (the central state) had started intervening and interfering in business large and small.
In 1913 the Federal Reserve (state central bank) was instituted in order to put an end to the so-called 'anarchy' of capitalism and as a remedy for bank failures that had numbered 1,748 during the previous twenty years.
Protectionism was on the rise. The United States government had been highly protectionist since the end of the civil war (1865) and then later (1890) with the ultraprotectionist McKinley tariff act. As a matter of fact, the decade that saw the big crash started with the protectionist tariffs of the Fordney bill (1922) and ended with a further increase sanctioned by the Hawley-Smoott tariff act (1930).
So the master stroke of the USA federal state was to destroy freedom in production and commerce with all sorts of state controls while at the same time reproaching capitalism, or what was left of it, for misusing a freedom (despairingly called anarchy) it no longer enjoyed.
The crisis came because of the incompatibility between a mercantilist (i.e. protectionist) state and a capitalist (i.e. free-trade) economy on the wane. This contrast created frictions and imbalances that were attributed to the basic working of unregulated capitalism, and so justified further doses of state intervention (neo-mercantilism).
That state interventionism was not the solution, is made very clear by the fact that, during the next 20 years of Federal Reserve control, bank failures went up to 15,502 (almost a nine fold increase). And this led to wider powers for the Federal Reserve and to a larger role for the state under the "New Deal". The less the state medicine worked, the more it was prescribed !
We can mark the big stock exchange crash and the subsequent New Deal as the final demise of capitalism, and the worldwide ascent to dominance of statism.
24. From capitalism/socialism to statism (^)
The First World War and the subsequent malaise and excesses, up to the big crash of 1929, were the visible phenomena of a gigantic crisis that threw what was left of capitalism and socialism into a state of terminal exhaustion from which they would come out all but dead, in Europe and elsewhere.
Needless to say, as elements of feudalism survive amid the development of capitalism, so elements of capitalism and advocates of socialism (both of a degenerate or mutilated type) survive during the dominance of statism but in a wholly subordinate position.
The demise of capitalism/socialism is marked by three deaths:
- the death of liberalism : people abdicate freedom in favour of patronage and protectionism, i.e. subordination, controls, restrictions;
- the death of individualism : individuals give way to masses, parties, bureaucracies;
- the death of economic rationalism : economic calculation is replaced by considerations of power, prestige and patronage.
Besides these regrettable disappearances, the only aspect that survived was the powerful industrial machine and disciplined workforce set in motion by capitalism and socialism and now at the service and disposal of the state for the extraction of revenues and for the production of instruments of war.
Actually, something else survived: the labels 'capitalism' and 'socialism' were kept, to designate what were, by now, empty shells, to be filled or fought over for the use and convenience of the scoundrels of statism. It must be made very clear that, as the word 'capitalism' used during the 20th century has nothing to do with the historical phenomenon of free enterprise that flourished mainly during the 19th century, so the word 'socialism' (or for that matter 'liberalism') employed in the 20th century has similarly undergone such a total change of meaning, with respect to the previous century, as to be not any longer useful in a scientific historical context.
And so, finally, from the death of capitalism and socialism and the incestuous intercourse of degenerated remnants of so called capitalism and socialism, statism was born.
25. Statism (origin and typology) (^)
The state is the power constituted for the preservation and perpetuation of parasitic strata and statism is the general label that applies to all ideologies and realities that aim at expanding and consolidating the power of the state.
The origin of statism can be ascribed and dated to the First World War and the incredible enlargement in the role of the state that ensued. Wars, as Randolph Bourne stated, are the health of the state. They lead, almost inevitably, to a situation in which people are ready to give up freedom in exchange for security. And usually, the very forces which, in the first instance, deprived them of security (the state, especially the state military apparatus) are then supposed to reestablish it and grant it. The usual deceitful pre-condition for doing so is that people remain silent and obedient (besides killing and being killed in war).
As history has shown over and over again, from that single shot in Sarajevo at the beginning of the 20th century to the many shots in Sarajevo at the end of the same century, the silence and obedience demanded or imposed by the state have produced appalling tragedies in which neither security nor freedom have survived, let alone been granted.
The binomial 'law and order' as a trademark of the state and the very justification for its existence, has actually become a misnomer for oppression and disruption. In fact, the proliferation of laws by the state to keep everybody and everything under its control, has produced the phenomenon of 'disnomy', that is laws that provoke material and moral disorder.
The term statism refers to a system of power characterized by the control and dominance (absolute or relative) of the state in any life situation and activity, with the crushing or subduing of all opposing or intermediate bodies. The only recognized sovereign body is the state. Clearly, there is no such thing as "the state" but bureaucrats of all kind and in all sectors (political, administrative, judiciary, military, financial, etc.), working hand in glove for the feeding of parasitic strata of which they are the central core.
The old vocabulary has remained on the surface (i.e. capitalistic society, fight for socialism) as a smoke screen, a useful device for the bureaucrats to employ when things go wrong.
Statism has presented itself under three main typological labels:
As previously repeatedly pointed out, labels should not distract us. The 'socialism' here concerned has nothing to do with the ideas elaborated and fought for during the 19th century (especially the first half). The state 'socialism' referred to here shows many resemblances with fascism and nazism (that is, national socialism) and in fact people moved from one movement to the other as it suited their own ambitions for power (Mussolini, Laval and Quisling, amongst others). And even the word 'welfare' under statism does not refer to physical and mental well-being of individuals and communities.
26. Socialism/communism (^)
The first clear example of statism took place in the most backward and most absolutist state in Europe: Russia.
Russia at the beginning of the 20th century was a feudal society that had almost nothing to do with capitalism and certainly nothing at all to do with liberalism.
In the same way that, in England, the existence of freedom provided the best conditions for the birth of the industrial revolution, so in Russia, the lack of freedom and the existence of a large bureaucracy under an absolutist ruler were the ideal conditions for the growth of statism.
To have qualified the October Revolution as a socialist revolution has been either a misunderstanding (self-deception) or a mystification (mass-deception) of reality. Nothing, theoretically or practically, supported this belief other than the use of a socialist phraseology. Not enough, to say the least.
In reality, the October Revolution marked only the passage from feudalism to mercantilism under a new leadership.
Almost from the start, this revolution favoured and imposed the same mix of mercantilist principles that would be applied for years and years to come:
- interventionism : the state activating and controlling industry and trade;
- fiscalism : the state extracting the maximum of revenues through taxation, to the point of total expropriation and physical elimination (e.g. the kulaks);
- suprematism : the state striving for expansionism and for the imposition of unequal terms of trade (e.g. in dealing with foreign nations or with the so called 'brother' nations, that is, satellites or subordinate countries).
It was this mercantilism that was hailed as socialism by infatuated or deceitful intellectuals and accepted by gullible or hopeful believers.
Later on, the attempt by the Russian state to modernise the economy through plans for mechanization and electrification masterminded from the top, that is to develop a full blown form of statism, was presented as the transition to communism. Through propaganda, this became the example to follow for increasing numbers of workers and intellectuals, each camp attracted by the security and protection the state was offering to large masses, though in exchange for total submission.
The Russian experience, while presenting further evidence of the death of socialism, would provide a lesson to many future leaders-dictators (especially in backward countries) on the path to statism.
27. Fascism/nazism (^)
As the First World War led to so-called socialism in Russia, so it was the source of fascism and national socialism in Italy and Germany.
Italy had an economy with a few capitalistic areas, mainly in the north, while, elsewhere, it was basically up-dated feudalism.
Fascism found fertile soil in the resentment of those who, after the turmoil of the war, could not find any satisfactory position within the existing power bases (the state bureaucracy, the socialist bureaucracy). Everything had already been taken. There were no more posts available.
Something had to be done through a new movement : fascism and the "fasci di combattimento".
To attain power and impose their dictatorship, the fascist leaders were ready to promise all things to all men as they did on various occasions, like in the San Sepolcro manifesto (1919) : suppression of the monarchy, universal suffrage, fight against imperialism, distribution of land to peasants, workers control and so on and so forth. Promises not worth the paper on which they were written. Once fascism was in power what remained beyond the empty words was the bureaucratisation, militarisation (the so called "fascistization") and, finally, disintegration of an entire society
Germany had very advanced capitalistic enterprises; however, at the same time, state interference in the economy from the end of the 19th century onwards had given a strong impulse to cartels (monopolies and oligopolies) and state controlled banks.
It was then a very ambiguous and fragile social and economic balance, that collapsed when, in a period of crisis (the recession of the early '30s), the Germans consigned their freedom to the state and the state to the nazis in a quest for security and protection.
Nazism was the movement that seemed best able to provide an answer to people's anxieties, culturally and materially. Fine tuned propaganda, impressive gatherings, grandiose shows of power, all contributed to the success of nazism. Later on, once the nazi party was in power, the state embarked upon a series of public works (i.e. the motorways or "Autobahnen") and on other huge projects aimed at providing employment. This reflected a new economic thinking from which the intellectuals of the new deal took inspiration and on which Keynes based his state spending recipes.
Nazism was the clearest, most advanced and so the most horrific expression of statism in every aspect of life : cultural, political and economic. As a social experiment it vied with Russian communism. In fact, Hitler and Stalin can be considered like the bosses of two criminal gangs, similar in every respect, that initially agree on sharing the loot (Molotov - von Ribbentrop pact and the carving-up of Poland) but, finally, are destined to fight each other for the total and exclusive control of the territory.
Fascism and nazism, both anti-capitalistic (in their phraseology 'anti-plutocratic') movements, were those that best represented the monocratism and imperialism intrinsic to statism in its extreme criminal form.
28. Dirigism/welfarism (^)
While communism (Left) and nazism (Right) dominated hearts and minds in the first half of the 20th century, dirigism and welfarism (Centre) became the common ideological tenets of statism, in the developed countries, from the second half of the century.
Needless to say, Left, Right, Centre are ideological concepts, that is weapons of political struggle, void of any cognitive (scientific) value insofar as they are labels masking not just similar but, in many cases, identical policies.
In the United States the big crash (brought about by the federal reserve with a policy of easy money followed by one of restriction of money) and the following depression (sustained by the federal government with a policy of high tariffs that strangled world trade) threw large masses into a desperate situation.
The conditions were in place for the appearance on the political stage of a fatherly figure : Franklin Delano Roosevelt. His proposals (the "New Deal"), shortly preceded by the new national socialist government in Germany with similar measures of state control and intervention, would put the federal state in charge of many spheres of social life.
What the New Deal tried in psychologically helping people to regain confidence was considerable; but the practical results in the fight against unemployment were very poor. In 1933, over 12 million people were out of work; in 1938, after 5 years of New Deal and huge federal expenditures, 10 million people were still unemployed. But, by then, the Second World War was about to erupt, unemployment could be absorbed through enrolment in the army and by the massive production of armaments and Roosevelt could emerge triumphant both on the domestic and on the foreign fronts. In the end, it was the war which eventually gave millions of unemployed Americans what the New Deal had not been able to deliver, confirming, once again, what had already been acknowledged, that war is, truly, the health and salvation of the state. However, the true economic recovery came when the war was over; at that point the state reduced its parasitic spending and its bureaucratic meddling, leaving the productive forces to do what is normal for them to do in the absence of state-made obstacles: to employ people and to produce goods and services.
In England the war had the same effect of greatly extending the power of the state to regulate the life of the citizens. At some point in the course of the war it was only natural that somebody started thinking about the state taking care of everybody and everything even after the war.
The welfare state was thus born from a series of good intentions by caring and decent people.
The result is that dirigism and welfarism have led to the state taking control of society and dominating the life of the individual. More and more the state has occupied the role once played by the mediaeval church, perfecting it to become even more greedy (taxes), more intrusive (secret police, un-American activities committee, etc.) and more paternalistic (social security) than the old church and, in addition, with compulsory membership, from birth to death.
29. Statism as a world system (20th century) (^)
During the 20th century statism has emerged and affirmed itself all over the world, even in backward countries, sometimes more as mercantilism than as full blown statism.
All these experiences of statism have been characterized, at least initially, by:
- the emergence of a father figure, a saviour
- an anticapitalist stance that was, in actual fact, an attack against liberalism and individualism.
Besides the most striking examples such as Mussolini (the corporative state), Hitler (the volk state), Stalin (the proletarian state), Roosevelt (the interventionist state) and Beveridge (the welfare state), many more figures and experiences of statism have appeared all over the world.
In France, where the state has generally played a primary role, Gaullism and the Fifth Republic reaffirmed and reinforced the dominance of the state in a period of troubled transition from decolonisation.
In Spain and Portugal, Francoism and Salazarism represented a more pre-capitalistic phase of statism, still meshed with colonialism and feudalism.
In Argentina, a very wealthy country after the Second World War, Peronism built and consolidated its statism by associating vast sectors of the population in the sharing and squandering of all the available assets.
In China, Maoism became the new imposed religion and Mao the high priest of a despotic imperialistic state. He was the main culprit for the economic disasters of the "big leap forward" (around 30 million deaths from famine) and for the destructive struggle for power, deceptively called the "Cultural Revolution."
In Africa the state and its bureaucracy have been the poisonous legacy of the European powers, the true black man's burden. In fact, it is not what has been taken away (i.e. natural resources, which are still plentiful in Africa) but what has been left behind (i.e. the beginning of statism) which constitutes the real shackles to any attempt at social emancipation and economic development. African statism has been, in some cases, the result of the combination of nationalism with marxism; this allowed the ruling élite to disguise, underneath the glossy varnish of a revolutionary phraseology, what was nothing else than the expropriation of freedom and the monopolization of resources by the state masters and their servants (the bureaucracy, the police, the army).
In all these cases the state can be considered neither as the "comité d'affaires" of the bourgeoisie nor the "patron saint" of the proletariat but a bureaucratic, often criminal, organization sucking wealth from productive groups and allocating it to parasitic strata (factions and sycophants).
And statism is the historical period of wide and deep dominance of this entity called the state above any other social and economic organization.
30. Statism : foundations (warfare-welfare) (^)
Statism, as it emerged after the Second World War, is based on two main pillars.
- Warfare (militarism and authoritarianism) : the army and the police.
State and state of war are two faces of the same coin. Without preparing incessantly for war and waging war, at regular intervals, the existence of the state cannot be justified, as regulatory tasks can be more suitably performed by other, wider and smaller, organizations. In the absence of full scale war, enemies have to be invented and anxieties have to be be artfully manufactured. The cold war, for instance, was a clever invention of statism on both sides. This does not deny the fact that aggressive posturing and imperialistic behaviour were common practice in the post war period, but they were the result of statism and not the product of communism or capitalism, realities already dead and surviving only as emotionally charged labels. From the perspective of statism it is possible to view and account, in a more satisfactory way, for the Sino-Soviet clashes and the French-USA rivalry.
As a matter of fact, the propaganda about the communist or capitalist menace, while making people insecure and docile, allowed statism to carry out, everywhere, the biggest programme of army and weapons build up ever seen on the face of the earth.
There were two main reasons for this display and deployment of military personnel and war equipment :
- to increase and reinforce (willingly or unwillingly) allegiance to one's own side, internally and externally
- to provide employment for masses of people. And this leads to the second pillar of statism.
- Welfare (paternalism and parasitism) : the bureaucrats and the underclass.
The increase in productivity through the introduction of more effective means and modes of production has led to an increase in output. Over time, the state has become, on a grandiose scale, the controller and allocator of this massive production. And here resides the cunning of statism. With the introduction of welfare it has produced a revised and updated version of the old provision of "panem et circenses" to the Roman plebs. Its aims are identical : to manipulate the masses in order to win their favour. State welfare has become the path towards mass 'wares-fare', the ever increasing consumption of goods which, in time, dulls the senses and destroys the critical mind. The proletariat has been replaced by the 'consumariat', a crowd of consumption addicted people ready to follow any fad and any craze, whose sole aim in life is to swallow anything, any time, anywhere. The original sentiment of compassion that was at the basis of the welfare provision has led to corruption via consumption.
Welfare parasitism and ever escalating levels of consumerism have also acted as a barrier to the progressive shortening of the working hours. This because a growing mass of superfluous goods is expected from a shrinking number of workers, instead of useful and fruitful activities being shared by everybody.
The two associated/antagonistic groups (entrepreneurs and workers) that represented the dynamic of capitalism, have been largely replaced under statism by two mutually supporting groups that feed off each other: the distributor and the recipient of state benefits. An increase in the numbers of the second group (recipients) requires an increase in the first group (distributors). So it is a bonanza for both of them, as long as it lasts. Welfare has truly become the 'worstfare' of late statism, the programmed fabrication of a lost and wretched humanity.
From cradle to grave or, rather, from pristine innocence to moral death: what a devious work of castration and corruption done in the name of care and compassion!
31. Statism : the cultural system (^)
Statism has not been a trick played by a small minority of devious people against the large majority of decent folks. Not at all.
Statism has been the (almost) inevitable, if temporary, result of a long historical process of tumultuous change ushered in by industrialization. In its wake, power libido and anxiety reduction, the longing for terrestrial gods and the quest for security, appeared and mingled, amongst other factors, to give birth to the Leviathan.
The common person of the 20th century, like the one emerging from the dissolution of the Roman empire, was possessed by the terrible angst of being alone and defenceless. In the past, the church had represented, during fearful times, the fatherly/motherly figure in whose embrace the soul could rest until a new period of splendour would come (e.g. the renaissance) and new, more resilient individuals would emerge (e.g. the merchants).
In modern times, capitalism, on the one hand advocating freedom and individualism and, on the other, transforming human beings into machines, had the effect of plunging masses of people into a feeling of utter impotence. That is why the factory workers felt such a strong need to get together into trade unions and parties.
Even many capitalist entrepreneurs, feeling threatened not only by workers' movements but also by the continuous revolutionizing of means and modes of production, joined into associations and lobbied for the safeguard of their interests, financing factions and coalitions.
All these collective bodies offered protection, assistance, identity under the guidance of strong leaders.
Almost inevitably, they modelled themselves on the organization in power (the state) and, under the control of ambitious personalities, they became more interested in grabbing a share of that same power than in abolishing its despotic nature.
The long march of approaching power was finally completed in the 20th century when, even those organizations previously fiercely antagonistic to the state of the 'bourgeoisie' (e.g. the socialist parties), became themselves "the state." This was made possible by the common person:
- exchanging freedom for protection
- abdicating responsibility through delegation
- drowning individuality and loneliness in gregariousness and yearning to belong to a 'superior' entity, such as the state or the party.
As for the state, its paternalistic and patronizing role during the 20th century was most evident in the economic sphere and was made possible by the powerful productive machine previously brought into being by capitalism.
32. Statism : the economic system (^)
The economy of statism is based on three main pillars :
- Employment. The survival of statism and its raison d'être consist in granting employment to the common person. While capitalism laid the accent on productive or profitable work, statism stresses employment, regardless of the usefulness or meaningfulness of what somebody is employed to do. Employment is paramount even if it consists in alternately digging and filling holes. This need to create jobs is hence at the root of the expansion of bureaucracy and of many intermediation and regulatory tasks (lawyers, accountants, consultants, etc.). During the 20th century the rise of statism was unstopped and unstoppable mainly because more and more people were earning a living from the state (bureaucracy, army, police), by the state (lawyers, accountants), for the state (tax collectors). The state was feeding them and they were dependent on the state. Without the state, no job, no security, no future, nothing. At least, so many believed.
Many of these jobs, and the high number of people filling them, were not a physiological requirement for the working of an advanced society but a necessity of state control (the stick) and state paternalism (the carrot of parasitic allocations).
- Consumerism. The availability of resources and manufactured goods on an unparalleled scale has made possible an orgy of consumption. While capitalism was the realm of production, so statism is the realm of consumption. For the state, consumerism is the way to kill two birds with one stone; on one the side it produces an obtuse numb happiness in the mass of consumers; on the other, through indirect taxation, it quietly extracts revenues to feed (e.g. through welfare payments) a further expanded cycle of generalized consumerism.
- Tax and Debts. To pay for parasitic employment (bureaucrats), parasitic unemployment (welfare recipients) and gargantuan consumption by parasitic strata, there is a need for huge amounts of revenue. To this end the state has resorted to
- printing money : this has caused inflation and it is not by chance that the period of statism has been historically and intrinsically associated with constant inflationary pressures;
- borrowing money : this has resulted in the accumulation of a huge debt (domestic or foreign) that is the most conspicuous economic legacy of statism to future generations;
- extorting money : this has taken place through scorching taxation that has hampered if not discouraged investment and hindered social and economic development. The state is not at all interested in craftsmanship (the ability to produce useful and durable goods) but in taxmanship (the ability to tax merchandise - the more useless and ephemeral the merchandise, the better for the coffers of state).
Under statism two aspects become paramount:
- the pricing of every transaction : the state is interested in the price of everything and in the value of nothing, for the simple reason that, for the purpose of taxation, price is everything and value is nothing;
- the control of every transaction : the state attributes such a weight to the control of every transaction (e.g. hiring of workers, selling of goods) that any economic intercourse unsupervised by the state is criminalized and blacklisted (black labour, black market).
The economy of statism, in fact, relies totally on this pricing and control of everything to drain resources from producers and channel them towards parasitic strata and parasitic occupations under the aegis of the state.
33. Statism : the political system (^)
The political system of statism is based on a series of organised groups (parties, lobbies, electoral committees, mafia groups, etc.) whose aim is to acquire power or to put like-minded people into positions of power.
The capitalist aim of profit through production has been replaced, under statism, by the push for power and prestige through patronage.
Where universal suffrage exists, everybody, in principle, can be elected or help to elect somebody to the highest positions of power. This is the strong appeal of democratic statism.
In both democratic and autocratic statism, as in every system of delegated/usurped power, the overall objective, once the summit is reached, is to stay there for as long as possible by using, towards the masses, a mix of benevolence and brutality, charity and cruelty, tenderness and terror, as deemed applicable and appropriate.
To hold on to power any trick is acceptable. The two basic ones are:
- falsification-mystification of reality
The main (inevitable) political mystification is to promote the identification of party interest with the general interest and to discredit political adversaries (if they are not physically liquidated or practically silenced) with all sorts of specious arguments or manufactured lies. Plausible innuendoes take the place of factual truths. To put it briefly, what is part and parcel of political life would not be at all acceptable in any productive activity where mutual trust and cooperation are basic and essential pre-requisites.
- corruption-captivation of people
The mystification of party interests through their identification with the general interests is achieved mainly by corrupting large sections of the electorate through selected allocations of public resources extorted by the state. This buying of consent is done through
- hiring an army of servants. Modern statism has done away with the "ancien régime" restricted attribution of state positions. It has flung the doors wide open and created a large army of bureaucrats taken from all walks of life.
- feeding a large number of dependent people (e.g. the welfare recipients), who rely more and more on the big brother state. This dissipation of public money also wins for the state the complicity of some productive sectors that find an artificially created mass market (the welfare recipients as eager consumers) for their goods.
In short, the political hand of statism supports the economic hand and both, artfully using words such as 'compassion', 'employment' and 'redistribution', play the moral card wearing the mask of the benevolent provident parent.
34. Statism : positive aspects (^)
The fact that statism has lasted for decades means that, in many situations and in several aspects, it has been a historically necessary response to the needs of the people.
It must also be recognized that, in the early phases, when it was not yet a monopolistic power, the state (i.e. the Parliament) introduced highly progressive and worthy laws (the limitation of the working day, the protection of children, etc.).
Furthermore, not all the money allocated by the state went towards parasitic endeavours; sometimes it contributed to improve a regional area (e.g. the Tennessee Valley Authority) or to create favourable conditions for economic revival (e.g. the case of Singapore).
In some other cases, the state, i.e. intelligent individuals within the state, have taken measures that have given some dignity to the downtrodden and lifted the common person to a better life.
Even homogenisation, when it results in the introduction of higher standards or in the repeal of cruel local customs, has to be put on the positive side of the state's balance sheet.
In many cases things would have taken place locally, in due course, through the process of imitation, but this should not discount the role of accelerator played, in various instances, by the state.
At the same time, it must be recognized that, as the state accumulated power and became a monopolistic agent, the negative aspects grew exponentially; they have now reached the point where they provide the rationale for the extinction of the state if human beings and communities are to develop further.
35. Statism : negative aspects (^)
While advocates could put forward other positive aspects of statism, no exhaustive register of them could match the catalogue of utter desolation and tragedy for which statism is responsible, superior in horror and depravity to any other organization or phenomenon in history. Only a pallid euphemism could describe them as the negative aspects of statism. They are here classified into three headings :
Statism has made people dependent on an impersonal power, on a collective super-imposed conscience to which the personal moral conscience has abdicated. It has restricted people's freedom to move from place to place unless consented and regulated by the state (passport, visa, special permit, etc.). It has created an underclass of lifeless puppets, who wait at the door for a cheque to arrive in order to numb the futility of their lives buying objects that make them feel alive while already morally and mentally dead.
Dependency has served statism very well, while crushing personal and social development. In actual fact, development and statism are incompatible terms insofar as development is an inner process of gaining strength and becoming independent, whereas statism is a top down situation of control and subjugation.
Statism is responsible for many phenomena of hatred known as racism, antisemitism, chauvinism, nationalism, ethnocentrism, in which one group, becoming "the state", has gone on the rampage and has manufactured, for others, a condition of utter hopelessness and despondency. The deportation and destruction of ethnic communities (Native Americans, Armenians, Jews, Kurds, Tibetans, Tutsi, and on and on), has been one of the most revolting products of the domination of statism.
Besides that, the brainwashing of so-called dissidents, the crushing of individuals, of anyone not in agreement with or in obedience to the State power. The Cheka, the KGB, the SS, the OVRA, the Carabinieri, the Prefecture, the Committee for un-American activities, the police, the army, or even the petty bureaucrat, all have had the power, at one time or another and in various ways and at different levels, to make the life of free individuals and communities simply miserable or totally unbearable.
Statism has been obsessed with creating a machine for destruction that has reached its zenith with the atomic bomb. Under statism, we all have been witnesses, many times, of systematic material destruction and physical and spiritual death. The atrocities committed by states during the 20th century are unparalleled in scale and can be compared in brutality (but not in duration) to those committed by the most deranged, disturbed and depraved of personalities.
Even the Spanish Inquisition, the most despicable show of power of the catholic church that resulted in the killing of 2,000 people in the course of 50 years, cannot remotely compare with the 6 million Jews exterminated by Nazi statism, the more than 10 million liquidated by Stalinist statism, the 30 million starved to death by Maoist statism, and these are only a small sample of the death fury of the state. In fact, during the historical period of statism, approximately from 1870 (French-Prussian war, destruction of the Porta Pia wall in Rome and invasion of the Papal kingdom by the Italian state) to 1989 (fall of the Berlin Wall and dissolution of communist statism), the deaths caused by the state through the countless disasters, large and small, that it engendered (wars, deportations, famines, etc.), exceed 100 million people, on average 1 million individuals sacrificed every year to and by Leviathan.
Looking back at the 20th century, the horror of statism is still there for anyone who cares to open their eyes or remember: the gas chambers, the concentration camps, the ethnic cleansing, the mass murders, the abolition of freedom, the annihilation of dignity, communities torn apart, children denouncing parents, friends betraying friends.
Under the yoke of statism too many people have lived in constant fear and danger of violent death, and still do, because, all too often, the state has made the lives of free human beings and communities poor, nasty, brutish, and short.