Fragility and ideological crisis

6 July, 2020

El primer ministro británico, Boris Johnson, durante un discurso en su visita al Dudley College of Technology en Dudley, Reino Unido, el 30 de junio de 2020. Paul Ellis/Pool vía Reuters

Trump revealed the arguments of his election campaign last July 4th: to fight the new far left fascism. This is by no means the first time that he shows a primary anti-communism, McCarthyist-style, in his speech. This type of discourse has never been completely absent in American politics. Another thing is its normalization on a global scale. That in itself is a significant novelty.

Demonstration in support of Bolsonaro demanding a military coup.

It’s inevitable to think of Bolsonaro. Now it has been revealed that the ideological foundation of Bolsonarism is a conspiratorial theory, part of the war of disinformation elaborated by the military when they left power to justify their dictatorship and the assassinations: Orvil. According to the Brazilian press, the only merit of this archaeological treasure of chicanery would be to have anticipated with militaristic and Brazilian keywords the discourse on cultural Marxism of the American ultra-right wing. A discourse that has become state ideology in Poland or in Orban’s Hungary, but which is spreading throughout Europe through parliamentary groups like Vox… although not only through them.

Guaidó at Puerta del Sol, Madrid, last January.

In countries like Argentina, Portugal or Spain, the pressure of the revolt of the angry petty bourgeoisie joins the arrival of a massive petty bourgeois migration from Brazil and Venezuela. Armed with a rabid McCarthyism of worrying violence and with a multitude of personal and financial ties to the local institutional right-wing, the ultra-right in exile has permeated the language and argument of parties like the PP, to the horror of its old guard. It is not only Feijóo in Spain who seeks to put a stop to what he senses as a danger of breakdown. In Portugal, even in the economic press, the liberal sectors of the conservative opposition charge against the bolsonarist influence and its brutality, rejecting as ridiculous -it is- the concept of cultural Marxism and claiming what it means for them.

The problem for them is that the ideological fragility of the right wing revealed by their permeability to the delusions of the ultra-nationalist petty bourgeoisie is not limited to the tactical sphere.

From Macron to Boris

2018. President Macron’s National Networking Address Announcing a $100 Minimum Wage Increase

Macron was the first president of a large European state to be politically educated during a period when strikes and workers’ struggles were not central to the political agenda. He was a product of the post wall ideology of the end of communism and the end of History. The development of the yellow jackets movement and the appearance in it of hints of working class claims shook his vision of the world. He responded with pre-emptive concessions and a long and absurd deliberative process after calling to the Elysee a whole fauna of academics and trade unionists to understand why the news about the death of the class struggle had been so exaggerated. This reflection helped him to weather the storm and tackle the pension reform with a more sophisticated strategy than the one originally proposed. But this did not serve as an ideological basis for his mandate or his strategy, which undoubtedly coincides with the fragmentation of his parliamentary support.

We have seen something similar these weeks in Great Britain with Boris Johnson. Johnson, a clever boy from Oxford, although he is well read and has a cultural level that Trump and most European heads of government would like to have for themselves, has never boasted of intellectual depth. With his ministers and his entourage, he realizes perfectly that the only way to revive accumulation at a critical moment for British capital like the present one is to resort to the old manual of Keynesian policies and practice a degree of state interventionism that he recently denounced as aberrant in Corbyn’s proposals. How did he justify these measures? With a slogan that not even Albanian stalinism would have surpassed in terms of lack of sophistication and inclusiveness (Build! Build! Build!) and an absurdly meek reminder: I am no communist. No one with the slightest bit of sanity thought that Downing Street and its Oxonian lords were contemplating the formation of soviets. But the Prime Minister had to rehearse an apology and ground – in the absence of a strategic vision – the spending package on a pressing need.

Again: the bourgeoisie is limited at first by the ideological discourse imported from the US in the 1990s, it changes course quickly when the recession shows up in all its virulence, but it is incapable of transforming its practical need into an ideological discourse with which to try to rally society around its objectives.

There is only one exception: the green deal, which is currently the only discourse capable of dressing up massive transfers from labor to capital as a universal need and an urgency. That is why environmentalism is so in vogue among ideologues and is sold to us as the new progressivism.

But even among the most convinced supporters of the green deal among the Brussels bureaucracy, ideological fragility has its costs. Brussels has been stunned by the abrupt end of the Brexit negotiations. They simply couldn’t imagine it. They now discover that the cost to Britain of a rough Brexit can be partly alleviated by Keynesian strong policies like those undertaken by Johnson and that therefore the continental negotiating position, which was based on their own old ideological orthodoxies, is not as strong as they thought.

Ideology is not just an elaborate form of social deception useful to the ruling classes and their objectives. It never has been. It also limits or conditions their understanding of the world and therefore their ability to act. The ideological fragility of the dominant classes, their inability to renew their analysis of material reality and to create cohesive political discourses, has costs for them. And not only in their internal quarrels or in the face of the drift of the petty bourgeoisie. Also in the face of the workers’ struggles on the rise nowadays. It is significant that the current crisis is also an ideological crisis, that is, a crisis of the discourses that underpin the social domination of capital. It shows the historical exhaustion of the state capitalism in which we live. It is the other side of its inability to prevent the devaluation of capital.


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