Against Racism and Authoritarianism: the Problem is Capitalism!

Against Racism and Authoritarianism: the Problem is Capitalism!

“We will chase them out!” Alexander Gauland bawled straight after the entry of the Alternative für Deutschland (Alternative for Germany, AfD) to the Bundestag. It should be clear, at least after the racist riots in Chemnitz and Köthen, that this was no empty threat. The AfD’s rise has lent wings to the entire extreme right and is increasingly being translated into racially-motivated violence on the street.

For many, the events in Chemnitz may be nothing new. In Freital, Heidenau, Einsiedel and Bautzen there were racist attacks favoured by an extremely aggressive mood. Just as in Cottbus, Nazi and hooligan groups in Chemnitz and elsewhere succeeded in bringing in a mass of people from outside who willingly put themselves in their service and allowed their unbridled hatred to flow freely.

In terms of numbers, they were no longer a few hundred, but a few thousand. More and more, it seems that they are succeeding in speaking to authoritarian “angry citizens” in the centre of society. A reactionary movement, whose ideological cement rests on conspiracy-theory, anti-Semitic, racist and “völkisch”-nationalist ideas, is forming here. The events in Chemnitz and Költhen have thrown a spotlight on how far this symbiosis between the Nazi and neo-Nazi mob and the “concerned citizens” has already gone. The coherence in action across the various spectra of the Nazi right has been remarkable, like the speed and volume of targetted rumours which were sown across social networks and online media, creating a veritable pogrom mood which ended up in violent attacks on refugees and on a Jewish restaurant. The fact that arrest orders were “leaked” and used by racist propaganda, once again points to the interconnections between the Nazi right and parts of the state apparatus. This is made clear not least by the affair around the chief of the Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz (Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution) Maaßen, who, after offering the AfD political advice on several occasions, has now publicly stepped forward as prompter for right-radical conspiracy theories. The fact that the AfD in Chemnitz has not just openly tried closing ranks with PEGIDA and explicitly Nazi groups, but even put itself at the head of the protests, again shows how far inhibition levels have fallen. This doesn’t mean that AfD as a whole is a fascist party. But, with its strategy of deliberate provocation, it is becoming more and more a rallying point and parliamentary mouthpiece for fascists.

The Right and Thereabouts

The AfD is without question on the right, but it is in no way outside the present authoritarian social structure. It’s true that politicians of the established parties condemn the “Chemnitz violence”, but they show understanding for the sympathisers of those carrying it out. “Home minister”, Horst Seedorfer declared, that if he wasn’t a minister he would have demonstrated, and described “migration as the mother of all problems”. Although he is considered a living dinosaur, he is not alone. There is an all-party consensus that the cause of the racist riots is to be found in “erroneous migration and integration policies”. The belief in “real controls”, the “securing of European borders”, “ordered immigration” and, obviously, “fighting the causes of the flight of refugees” now belongs to the standard rhetorical repertory of all parties. All there is to discuss are the details and technical questions — this is now the quintessence of bourgeois parliamentarianism. With great speed, the asylum and immigration laws were made even harsher, the police and security apparatus were extended and a gigantic armaments programme for the army was launched, thus fulfilling the central points of AfD policy. The AfD finds itself in an extremely comfortable position where it can continually add to and escalate its demands and thus depict itself as an especially effective representative of an authoritarian solution to the crisis. The AfD is thus simultaneously the expression and accelerator of a crisis-laden development, which can be seen all over Europe.

The Crisis…

It is now ten years since the “sub-prime crisis” burst the speculative bubble and sucked the world economy into the whirlpool of recession. Since then, the crisis has continually sharpened despite all the prognoses and incantations of various “economic experts”. The debt mountains grow bigger, instability grows and financial speculation continues unchecked. The collapse of the economy in Turkey and Argentina are unambiguous signs that the probability of a new crash is growing more and more. The “sub-prime” crisis of 2007-8 was in no way an accident, but the expression of a structural crisis of the system, which has already been growing for decades. When the post-war boom ended at the beginning of the 70s, an unparalleled cycle of accumulation was exhausted. To offset the fall in the rate of profit, capital pinned its hopes on a massive restructuring of the production process and the massive increase of the rate of exploitation. The de-industrialisation and shutting of concerns in the capitalist centres went hand-in-hand with an exodus of capital to countries where wages were low and no boundaries were set on the dictates of the bosses or exploitation. The opening of markets put the various segments of the working class into a relation of direct competition with each other.

…and the 'Anti-capitalism of Fools'

This development was generally discussed under the heading “globalisation” and depicted in the media as an almost inevitable fate. Nevertheless, a critique began to develop in the shape of the so-called “anti-globalisation movements” which expressed themselves in impressive mobilisations and protests against “globalisation and free trade”. Politically, the movement never went beyond accusing “concerns and banks” and/or “finance capital”, and these were to be supposedly tamed by a tax on transactions on the finance markets and stricter state regulation. Leading strategists of the movement expected this to enable them to keep the movement “as broad as possible” and break the “neoliberal hegemony” in favour of more state intervention. We have stressed many times that it is not enough to criticise a manifestation of capitalism (so-called “globalisation”), without questioning the capitalist system of exploitation as a whole. A limited and superficial criticism of “global capitalism” always opens up a space to make it easy to confuse left and right approaches to the benefit of the latter. Precisely this can be seen in the strategy papers and propaganda channels of the authoritarian right. After the obvious bankruptcy of the reformist left, which continually capitulated to the diktats and interpretations of capital, the authoritarian right is trying to present itself as the “embodiment of the people’s will” against the “bourgeois establishment”. They concoct a dangerous brew out of anti-globalisation rhetoric, conspiracy theories grounded in anti-Semitism and nationalism. This enables them to say things which sound “non-conformist” and “rebellious”, but are firmly based on capitalist premises: the defence of our “home and national state” against the “egotism of the globalist elites” on the one hand and “economic migrants”, the “lazy” and the “worthless” on the other.

Racism, Migration and the Logic of the Valorisation of Capital

Racism, in all its variations, is an ideology which reflects and justifies the structural disadvantage of people on the basis of characteristics ascribed to them. Racism evolved in the wake of colonialism and became an essential principle of organisation of commodity society. The maintenance of the capitalist economy demands that wage-workers strive for work, accommodation and social benefits as competitors. Racism is, however, also stirred up as a conscious policy. It is structurally in the interests of the capitalists and it serves both the maintenance of their class dominance and for the justification and enforcement of their economic, political and military aims. The wars and social devastation called forth by the crisis have led to the flight and expulsion of millions across the world. According to the reports of UNHCR, by the end of 2017, 68.5 million people had fled their homes. In the previous year, there were 65.6 million, and ten years ago there were 35.5 million. This increase in the number of refugees once more underlines the destructive dynamic of capital’s development.

It is against this background, that the ruling class is trying to develop effective instruments, by using new selection mechanisms, with which they hope to regain control over migration movements. This process will be by no means completed without tension. The big bourgeoisie and the export-oriented wing of German capital are aiming to complement the old völkisch nationalism with a modern performance racism. Alongside heritage, nationality and skin colour, a separation according to “productivity”, education, wage level, “profitability” and “usefulness” is being propagated. The fractions of capital of the middle classes threatened by decline, on the contrary, see in chauvinism and aggressive nationalism the possibility of defending their privileges. They are rather sceptical of the euro, the EU and free-trade agreements like the TTIP and are banking on the isolation of the local and regional markets they sell on through an authoritarian protectionism. Among wide parts of the wage-workers another process is being completed. Attacks on living standards and the effects of the crisis on this society are leading to growing dissatisfaction. The Social Democratic promise of a gradual improvement in living conditions is no longer believed by anyone. Recent years have shown too clearly that the unions’ politics at best lead to the maintenance of the status quo, but in most cases benefit the capitalists. A long period of class peace has left its traces. There is little experience of struggle and no traditions of resistance rooted in the class. A division into a largely secure core workforce, a low wage sector and a middle segment which is more and more eroded continues to function and favours feelings of weakness and anxiety about losing social status. Tendencies towards individualisation are growing, even in the class. Job losses and unemployment are often seen as the working of individual fate, sometimes even as the result of one’s own failure.

What is to be done?

Racism draws its attractive power from the idea that the problems of the capitalist crisis, like unemployment or homelessness, can only be remedied if someone else, naturally not the capitalists, tightens their belt. On this basis, the thought, conveyed by bourgeois propaganda, that “we” must defend ourselves against “foreigners” and “strangers”, can find echoes. So long as a start is not made here, and such conceptions opposed, the racist right will dominate the social climate. Therefore, a clear rejection of nationalism and racism must be at the heart of class politics which must be developed. Wherever it is possible, communists must make it clear in everyday social and political confrontations, that the cause of all manifestations of the crisis is the system itself. Despite the internationalisation of capitalism, the bourgeoisie exercises its political rule in the form of the nation state. Contrary to this, the proletariat is an international class, a class of migrants, which daily produces the wealth of this society. Every division weakens its struggle and tightens the screws of exploitation. Nationalism, of whatever type, means the continual submission of wage-workers to their “own” bourgeoisie. A perspective against racist division and exploitation can only be found in the political struggle against all laws, decrees and the corresponding practice of violence especially directed at migrants. Or, as Karl Liebknecht formulated it: “Away with the Damocles sword of deportation! That is the first prerequisite for foreigners to cease to be the pre-eminent reducers of wages and strike-breakers.” Without the defence and organisation of refugees and migrants, no successful struggle for more wages, good and cheap housing, better education and health care, etc., is possible. Representing an internationalist standpoint may currently be everything other than popular. No matter how it is shaped, a “mass politics” of the left is not possible under present circumstances. The task consists of entering a political dialogue with people who are open to revolutionary positions, pushing forward processes of clarification and developing the kernel of a communist organisation, which is capable of giving the struggles against exploitation and racism consciousness and perspectives.

For a society without states and classes!

Friday October 12th, 2018