An Investigation of This Supposedly Victorious Capitalism, Considered with Regard to Some of Its Political, Social and Ideological Aspects – Claude Bitot
In opposition to our contemporary lexicon of received opinion, according to which capitalism is a system possessing infinite capacities for renewal, development and transformation, we have instead maintained, in the first part of our “investigation”, that, economically, capitalism has entered the final stage of its historical cycle, a stage that cannot be precisely evaluated, since it may span an entire historical era, but will nonetheless inevitably culminate in a final crisis. The tendencies that are today taking shape only confirm this diagnosis. There has been no vigorous recovery. Capital still displays an aversion to investing in the real economy due to the lack of sufficient profitability. In fact, the bourgeoisie, as an industrial class, is becoming smaller every day. Its main activity has shifted to the stock exchange, towards “financial markets” and “pension funds”, as if money could reproduce itself magically, without having to pass through the production process, while we have the evidence of the “financial bubbles” that periodically burst, to prove that this is not so (like the last one, in 1998).
The purpose of this second part of our investigation is to show that this final stage of capital’s cycle is not verified merely economically, but that we may also observe evidence of its advent in the domain of the political, social and ideological superstructures of capitalism, as events in the economic subsoil of capitalism have not taken place without having an impact on its forms of domination. Without any pretension to offer an exhaustive treatment of the subject, we have focused on some of the aspects that have been affected.
We may thus observe clear evidence of a decline of the bourgeois nations, that is, the political frameworks in which capitalism has developed. Confronted by the return of regionalism, the rise of communitarian ideologies and, above all, destabilization by a capitalism that is now “globalized”, their foundations are being undermined at the same time that the very idea of the nation is being weakened.
Bourgeois democracy is not doing any better. Short-circuited by a “market democracy” with which only the commercial bourgeoisie and the affluent layers of society identify, it is withering away, increasingly abandoned by its electorate, while the political parties are undergoing a precipitate decline.
Caught in the storm of the final stage of capitalism’s cycle, the proletariat has been fractured into various segments that experience different conditions. One, the majority, still has stable employment, more or less well paid, with the social benefits that go along with it. Another has been completely excluded from the job market, condemned to public assistance and minimal social benefits, when not actually pauperized, which causes those who fall into this category to tend to undergo a process of lumpenproletarianization. Another finds itself in an intermediary category: one foot in the labor market, the other outside of it. This category is composed of those who are commonly called the “precarious”; they are actually a subproletariat that is occasionally utilized, having become very “flexible”, often low-skilled, badly paid, and despised, whom the Americans call the “working poor”. The emergence and expansion of such a layer of precarious workers mean that the capitalist wage labor force is collapsing.
Even the middle class wage workers, who are the pride and joy of the capitalist wage labor force, are affected. A fraction of this new petty bourgeoisie (especially its younger elements) can no longer find a place in the privileged milieu of executives and managers and is declassed, proletarianized, and forced to take subordinate positions in the workforce.
If we take a look at the prevalent ideological forms of contemporary capitalist society, we shall note that they are undergoing a process of decline. Political beliefs have collapsed, and no collective system of convictions functions any more. All that remains is a moralizing litany of the “human rights” variety, but without any real mobilizing power. Such a state of decay reveals the ideological vacuum that will henceforth overwhelm capitalist societies.
Finally, that which in the past was called “the moral order” is also undergoing a process of complete decomposition. The pillars of that order were Work, Family and Fatherland. All three have been shaken to their foundations and are eroding. For the moment, this decline has resulted, especially among the younger generations, in a moral disorder characterized by a vast array of disturbances and more or less violent behaviors, devoid of aim or purpose because of the loss of all points of reference.
The second part of this “investigation” is based for the most part on the capitalist society of France. Such a field of research might therefore seem to be too restricted. This having been said, French society is not an exception that is totally isolated with respect to the other capitalist countries. Because it is one of the elements of the bloc of “advanced” countries, whatever happens in France is also encountered, despite certain particular differences, in the other countries that have a comparable level of bourgeois civilization, although sometimes in different or more striking forms.
The Decline of the Bourgeois Nations
A little history
Nations were born in the early phase of the capitalist era in the 16th century. During that stage of their development they were formed under the aegis of the principle monarchies of Europe (England, France and Spain). The main activity of these monarchies was devoted to the construction of states that were centralized enough to impose their rule over the diverse local feudal powers. When, beginning in the 18th century, the bourgeoisie seized power, it continued to pursue the centralizing project begun by the monarchies, and at the same time attempted to transform the nations into the direct emanations of the “peoples”, with the notions of the republic and democracy. At that time the Nation-States that fully characterized the bourgeois and capitalist era were created.
For the capitalist mode of production, the nation constituted the proper framework for its development: a market that was extensive enough, freed from the feudal obstacles that restricted exchange and trade. In addition, it allowed the national capitals to protect themselves, if necessary, thanks to their customs barriers, from competing nations. This protection was even more important for the emerging capitalist nations. For the latter, whose capitalist development was not competitive enough compared to their more advanced national competitors, an all-encompassing policy of free trade threatened to abort the development of their still-underdeveloped economies.
During the 19th century, on the political plane, some national bourgeoisies had to wage fierce struggles to impose the nation-state in their respective countries. Thus, in North America, there was the Civil War that pitted the states of the North against those of the secessionist South. In Europe, there was the war for Italian unity against the Austrian Empire and the war for German unity against France in 1870, all of which allowed for the firm establishment of the national idea in these countries.
On the cultural plane, the national bourgeoisies had to fight against the surviving regional particularisms that constituted so many obstacles to the success of the idea of the nation. This struggle was fought with more or less determination, depending on the country involved, against the regional languages and dialects in order to impose a national language. Thus, in France, where this was accomplished by uprooting religious education, the nation became “secular and republican” at the end of the 19th century.
Finally, on the ideological plane, the national bourgeoisies transformed the nation into an almost transcendental idea: rallying all the classes behind it, in the nation there was only one community of citizens, one that was capable of “living together” in a “single and indivisible” nation. It was this extremely powerful ideology that served as the handle by which the peoples were driven off to war against each other, and became transformed into the saying, “to die for one’s fatherland is the most beautiful fate….”.
So we may summarize the historical progress of the bourgeois nations. An irresistible forward march, against which all contrary forces, whether reactionary (clerical) or revolutionary (the socialist forces that claimed to be internationalist), could mount hardly any resistance.
But how is it going for the nation today? We see that its forward march has come to an end and that from now on it is in retreat.
The return of regionalism, the rise of communitarianism, the decline of the idea of the nation
For some time now, those regionalisms that were thought to have disappeared have been making a comeback and are once again on the rise. Everywhere a consciousness of “identity” in search of its “roots” is emerging. Depending on one’s place of origin, one discovers that one is a Breton, a Corsican, a Savoyard, Flemish, Scottish, Welsh, Basque, Catalan, etc. Of course, this is by no means a new phenomenon. These regionalisms have often been forcefully integrated into the Nation-States, leaving only some of their particularities, even if only in the domain of language. What is happening today is that they are expressing the view that they were mistreated in the past and are therefore seeking revenge and demanding reparations from the Nation-States.
This cannot fail to lead to serious consequences, even in a country that is as traditionally centralized as France, which signed, on May 7, 1999, the European Charter on “Regional and Minority Languages”, which will become the law of the land when it is approved by the Legislature in 2000. This Charter calls for, among other things, the use “of the traditional forms of place names in the regional and minority languages”, the teaching of these languages in primary schools, “at least to those students whose families want it and whose numbers are considered to be sufficient”, as well as the encouragement of the use of these languages in the media.
We thus note this striking fact: with this Charter, the bourgeois nations, under pressure from the renascent regionalisms, seem to be dismantling the hard-won victories they had achieved over these regionalisms in the past.
Under the guise of “identity” consciousness we also discover categories that affirm their “differences” with respect to ethnic, sexual or religious groups. One therefore affirms one’s identity as an Arab, black, woman, homosexual, Jew, Moslem. What characterizes these distinctions is that they tend to establish so many more communitarianisms among those who, even if they are separated from one another, at least tend to think, feel, and react in terms of the group to which they belong. And this cannot but have an effect, in this respect as well, on the Nation-State.
Thus, in France, during the controversy regarding the wearing of the “Islamic veil”, or hijab, in school, the state, acting through the Council of State, legalized, so to speak, a practice that is in direct contradiction of the secular principles that underlie its republican educational system. This constituted a retreat in the face of the “right to difference”. The latter has been institutionalized in the name of a “multiculturalism” that is presented as a good law (“cultural variety can only lead to our mutual enrichment”), but which was actually a sign that the “integration machinery” of which the republican bourgeoisie was so proud, has some peculiar mechanical flaws.
This is also demonstrated by what is taking place in certain suburban areas, where not everything can be explained by unemployment or the depressing uniform landscapes of La Courneuve and Les Minguettes [on the outskirts of Paris and Lyon—Note of the Spanish Translator], as short-sighted economism or sociology would have us believe. When some young Arabs or blacks burn cars, destroy telephone booths, harass bus drivers and thus create a climate of fear, what does this mean? By acting in this way, these sons of immigrants assert their “difference” and their ethnic “identity”. Such a thing would have been unthinkable during the past, when Italian or Polish immigrants arrived in France. Despite some friction at first, they were rapidly integrated.
We shall also note an accelerated decline of the very idea of the nation, which is not unconnected to the phenomena we have just mentioned. After having been praised and idealized, it is now much less esteemed, even by the bourgeoisie. Thus, the war of 1914, which up until recently was considered to be “the Great Patriotic War”, is now not so far from being presented by the authorities in the same way that, in the past, the pacifists viewed it: as a vast butchery in which the various nationalisms confronted one another in an absurd war. In any event, the winds of our time no longer blow in favor of such an idea, presented as “archaic”, or else given an entirely pejorative connotation: Nation=nationalism, with all that “ism” implies with regard to chauvinism, xenophobia and narrow-mindedness.
Such a decline of the idea of the nation is not a French exception. Thus, what is the significance of the American “zero casualties” policy in the recent Kosovo conflict? It reveals the fact that from now on the American bourgeois nation is no longer prepared to accept the sacrifices that any real war implies. Its entire military operation, composed of ultra-sophisticated electronic gadgets which render the enemy incapable of mounting any defense, has no other reason for existing. After the painful experience of Vietnam, which saw the “boys” withdraw and American opinion turn against the government, it had to avoid a direct confrontation with the enemy that would run the risk of generating casualties that from now on can no longer be tolerated. From now on, what good is the American bourgeois nation, however powerful it may seem? Like all the others, it is in decline, and its idea is no longer worth the sacrifice of anyone’s life. In any event, even more than the other nations, America is being corroded by communitarianisms and ethnic identity movements, up to the point where the American universities are designing “a la carte” curriculums depending on the ethnic group to which one belongs.
How do we interpret these facts? We have recalled that nations have not always existed, contrary to what a certain nationalist mythology would have us believe; that they were imposed with the birth and the heyday of capitalism; as a result, if they are in decline today we must seek the real reason for this not in “politics”, or in “culture” or even in “the evolution of customs”, but in the capitalist economy itself.
The falling rate of profit, the “globalization” of capital and the decline of nations
“Globalization of capital”: just what does this concept, which one encounters everywhere, actually mean? The fact that there is now a world market? There has been a world market for a long time. It goes back at least to the 16th century. The world market means that each capitalist country, from its national base, produces commodities and exports them to the most distant corners of the world, in order to find buyers with money. “Globalization” is something very different. It is the hallmark of an increasingly more complete divorce between the nation and capital: with its “multinationals” and “transnationals” (numbering 37,000 worldwide, with 200,000 subsidiaries), capital is emancipated from its national framework, it is expatriated and without frontiers, and the world becomes its field of exploitation; with this kind of “globalization”, the idea of a “French economy”, or a “German economy”, etc., is losing its meaning; every “multinational”, as its name indicates, is composed of a multitude of capitals of various origins and operates according to its private interest, that is, without taking account of any “national interest”; it therefore will relocate if this is in its interest, even if it leaves a vast number of “national” workers in the lurch. It remains to be seen how capitalism arrived at this condition.
The most important fact that characterizes the capitalism that has reached the final stage of its cycle is the falling rate of profit, a fall that was previously relative and is now tending to become absolute (we refer the reader to Part 1 of our “Investigation”). From that point on, the imperative for capital is to locate a place to invest where profitability is still high enough, and to be prepared to abandon those zones where profitability is insufficient. In other words, regardless of where the investment is made, what is essential is that it should yield a good profit; if its labor power is too expensive or if its productivity of labor is too low, it is necessary to shift production from that locality in order to find satisfactory conditions for the extraction of surplus value. In short, what is called the “globalization of capital” is nothing but this mad scramble for the highest possible rate of profit; in other words, “globalization” is a result of the falling rate of profit, and at the same time it is an attempt to stem this decline locally by relocating where the profitability is still relatively high.
This “globalization” has resulted in increasing economic instability. Entire regions of the world have been spurned and abandoned, while others are still relatively prosperous economic poles. In Europe, northern France, Lorraine, Wales, Wallonia, the former German Democratic Republic, are disaster areas, undergoing a process of deindustrialization. Other regions that were already backward are now collapsing yet further into underdevelopment. This is the case with respect to southern Italy, Andalusia, and Scotland. Other regions, however, are showing signs of continuing economic dynamism. In this category we can include the Flemish part of Belgium, Catalonia, Lombardy, and the Rhineland.
As a result, under the impact of the effects of these instabilities, some nations will be just shattered into pieces, as the most prosperous regions have absolutely no desire to bear the burdens implied by the existence of the zones left behind by economic development. Thus, if Slovenia was the first region to separate from the Yugoslav Federation, this was above all because it had a per capita GNP that was between 2 and 3 times higher than the average per capita GNP of the Federation. The same thing happened to the Czech Republic, whose GNP was higher than that of Slovakia, and these two national entities separated “amicably”. The same could be said of the Ukraine, which became independent of the former USSR.
Furthermore, these economic imbalances nourish a desire for greater autonomy on the part of the prosperous regions. As in Catalonia, which alone produces 20% of the Spanish GDP and where numerous multinationals have been established: in the chemical industry with Air Liquide, Rhône-Poulenc, Elf, Atochem; in the automotive sector with Volkswagen and Fiat. Hence the pressure imposed by the Catalan bourgeoisie on the central government for lower taxes and more autonomy. The Flemish part of Belgium has also become a privileged site for the multinationals. Alone, it generates approximately 75% of the GDP of Belgium and “‘federal solidarity’ feels more and more like a ball and chain. The transfers of funds for social security or unemployment insurance constitute, in the eyes of numerous Flemish officials, a hindrance to the competitiveness of their region” (Le Monde Économique, March 18, 1999). The same is true of Lombardy, which alone produces 20% of Italy’s GDP and whose unemployment rate is half the national average. There, too, a powerful desire for autonomy, and even separatism, has arisen, with the Northern League of Umberto Bossi. In short, it is the same old story: the rich do not want to pay for the poor, which has the effect of undermining the Nation-States.
For their part, the regions left behind by economic development have also made their contributions to this destructive labor. Feeling abandoned, they perceive their union in a nation with much less interest and feel more or less tempted by the prospect of independence. This is what has taken place in Corsica, Wales, Scotland (which now has its own Parliament for the first time since 1707) and Wallonia (which is host to a current, known as the “unioniste” movement, that wants to unite with France).
Finally, some communitarianisms in the peripheral neighborhoods of the disinherited are prone to the same impulse. They, too, are attempting, more or less consciously, to secede from the Nation-State by constituting separate entities where, for example, the police will not interfere in local business (generally linked to drug trafficking), thus depriving the “legal state” of control over its territory.
The “European Structure” and the decline of nations
Given these developments, within the context of the “globalization” of capital that is destabilizing the nation, what is the significance of the project of the “European Structure”? Must it be understood as an attempt to counteract this decline by creating an even larger collective unit? If we consider the debates currently underway among the various national bourgeoisies with respect to this matter, the least we can say is that they seem very much divided over the question of the validity of this project.
“Will France Disappear?”, is the anxious query of a book by the Gaullist J. C. Barreau (published by B. Grasset in 1997). Barreau is a representative of the bourgeois fraction that is opposed to the ongoing European project. He thinks that the Euro, the European Central Bank, the Brussels Commission, and the Treaties of Maastricht and Amsterdam are threats to national sovereignty, and that the latter is no longer the source of the integrity of laws and regulations. On this basis he paints a dire picture of what could happen if such a process of national dissolution were to proceed to its logical conclusion: a Balkanized France, delivered over to tribal warfare, doomed to disappear in an indescribable chaos…. In view of this prognosis, this bourgeoisie is quite aware of what is going on: with the “European Structure” there is certainly a decline of the national entity. For what is a “national” bourgeoisie that has to pass under the Caudine Yoke of higher authorities that presume to dictate its conduct over a wide range of domains? Obviously, such a bourgeoisie is no longer the master of its fate. But what solution does he propose? More or less, the return to full national sovereignty. His opponents will respond: is this a realistic proposal? In fact, given the “globalization” of capital, a retreat back to the nation appears to be especially risky, not to say impossible: upon what economic foundation will the nation be based and thus exert its independence? In reality, such a proposal stems from a bourgeoisie that is nostalgic for the past, a bourgeoisie that ideologically imprisons itself in a vain desire to turn back the clock, thus imagining that it will be able to exorcise the ineluctable decline that is overwhelming the bourgeois nations.
Another fraction of the bourgeoisie believes that it can overcome this decline, but in a different way: it wants to plunge headlong into the “European Structure”. This bourgeoisie dreams of a new nation, on a larger scale, more powerful, that would be called “Europe” and will thus be capable of confronting the American colossus by throwing all its weight onto the scales. It therefore proposes that the European Union should provide itself with a parliament that has real legislative power, a government that is no longer dependent on the various national political powers, and the joint military defense force that is implied by an independent government. Such a project is, in fact, just as unrealistic as a return to the past: the tendency of contemporary “globalized” capitalism, as we have seen, is not towards the unification, but towards the fragmentation, and even the dissolution of nations; all national borders have become obstacles for it, not only in the old nations but also in the new ones that will eventually arise.
In fact, the “European Structure”, such as it exists in its current form, has assumed the only possible form: a free trade zone, and a certain number of institutions that restrict national sovereignty (the European Court of Justice, the Euro, the European Central Bank, the Brussels Commission), but which do not entirely abolish it (the Council of Europe is still the creature of the various leaders of national governments, its decisions must be unanimous rather than by majority vote, while the Parliament in Strasbourg does not wield full powers); this is the Europe that has the support of the majority fraction of the national bourgeoisies. It allows them to form a more or less united bloc in international trade negotiations; to prevent, as far as possible, the exacerbation of imbalances in regional economic development by allocating funds to the less favored regions; and, finally, it is a good way to impose compulsory regulations affecting social policies (such as the recent reintroduction of night shift work for women), immigration, etc. This Europe that wants to have its cake and eat it, too, corresponds closely enough to the state of decline of the bourgeois nations: too weak from now on to act alone, they are obliged to pursue some degree of unification, but not so much unification that they disappear as separate entities. Finally, we shall add that a “Greater Europe”, numbering 20, and even 27 (!) countries, as is planned, far from resulting in more cohesive unity, will only accentuate the already existing confusion.
Tendencies towards the fragmentation and break-up of nations in the rest of the world
But what is going on in other parts of the world? Instead of a decline of nations, has there not been a resurgence of nations, accompanied by a return of nationalisms, as recently demonstrated in Yugoslavia?
We shall refrain from analyzing the geopolitical considerations that led the Western powers (the USA, England, Germany, France) to throw fuel on the fire of the Yugoslavian inferno, which did not need their interference in order to burst into flames, and proclaim this inescapable conclusion: the Yugoslav Federation has ceased to exist; it has broken up into distinct pieces to such an extent that the only “Yugoslavia” that remains is Serbia itself…. It has been replaced by a myriad of tiny political entities (Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Kosovo) which cannot be reasonably defined as “nations”, as is evident due to their small size and their artificial borders. Instead of “nationalisms”, what we have witnessed in the former Yugoslavia is the destruction of a nation and an unleashing of tribalisms, of warlords, and of the mafias that wave the flag of nationalism in order to provide a cover for their crimes. This has nothing to do with the real historical process that led to the formation of nations, such as took place in the 19th century with the achievement of German and Italian unity.
We are now getting a glimpse of what is happening further to the east in Europe. As we pointed out above, the Czechs and the Slovaks have “amicably” separated. Meanwhile, two new “nations” have been born…. The case of the former USSR is different, however. The USSR was not a nation; it was an empire. Inherited from the old Czarist Empire, a multitude of Asian “republics” were added to the self-styled Union of Socialist Soviet Republics. Once the USSR broke up, a kind of decolonization process has taken place. So far, so good. However, the petroleum resources that are located in this region are not at all unrelated to this “decolonization” process…. But what meaning can be attributed at this time to the appearance of the Ukrainian and Belorussian “nations”, which traditionally formed part of White Russia? It means that we are witnessing a process of Balkanization that is spreading to the far east of Europe.
Finally, let us cast a glance at what is happening in the rest of the world. What we are witnessing is a proliferation of new states on the planet. There are now approximately 200 of them and this tendency has only just begun. But mark our words: it remains to be proven that this represents the proliferation of states, that is, of real nations.
In view of these developments, we can make one general assertion. The new “nations” that, in the name of the “right of national self-determination” (a pretext that is always available), which are sprouting up everywhere like mushrooms, arise from separatist movements or the breakup of old nations; the process by which this takes place by no means corresponds with the process of unification in a particular region that occurred in the past when nations first arose (at the end of the Middle Ages, that is, during the 16th century, there were some 500 political entities in Europe, while at the beginning of the 19th century there were no more than thirty, subsequent to bourgeois and monarchic centralization); their existence is nothing but the sign of a capitalist development that is running out of steam and thus provokes this tendency to fragmentation and diminution. Even the American Superpower is not immune to such fragmentation, which is frequently proposed on the basis of ethnicity. Thus, when the Latinos become the majority in the South and the West Coast of the United States, it is not unreasonable to imagine that they might point out that Texas and California used to belong to Mexico…. And who can assure us that, in China, the central government will be able to contain for much longer the centrifugal forces that are already at work and that these forces will not end up leading to the breakup of the country? All of these considerations support the claim that the time for the constitution of new nations has come to an end (that historical trend ended, more or less, in the 1960s, with the anti-colonial movements in the Third World) and that the danger we face during the course of this final stage of capitalism’s cycle is a Balkanization of the planet.
We may thus conclude as follows: within the framework of capitalism, which is approaching its end, the old nations, the historical bourgeoisies, are in decline, and the new bourgeoisies that are rising and multiplying are the products of the decomposition of this capitalism.
The Decline of Bourgeois Democracy
A brief review
The word democracy, in the capitalist regime, must not be understood to mean “government by the people”, as its etymology might lead one to believe. Of course, political power in that democracy derives from the people, since it is the people who, with their right to vote, choose their representatives in the legislature. But this formulation overlooks the fact that the people are divided into classes and that in a class society, “[t]he ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, consequently also controls the means of mental production, so that the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are on the whole subject to it” (Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The German Ideology, Prometheus Books, Amherst, New York, 1998, p. 67). Thus, the ruled classes can vote as they wish, as long as the bourgeoisie, that is, the class which in capitalist society possesses the material and the spiritual power, knowing in advance that the opinions of the ruled classes will be subject to them, will always be sure that the elections, and therefore, political power, will always remain in its hands. Such a democracy is, then, only in a formal sense “government by the people”; its substance is bourgeois.
The “political freedoms” that have been established in such a democracy (freedom of opinion, expression, assembly, association) are all equally formal. Because the bourgeoisie is the ruling class that “has the means of material production at its disposal” (schools, universities, press, radio, television, publishing), it is easy to proclaim the existence of a “plurality of opinions”, which actually means the plurality of bourgeois opinions, that is, their complete dissemination, in all their diversity and varieties, through the major media and under the direction of a myriad of politicians, journalists and intellectuals, while ideas contrary to bourgeois society, revolutionary ideas, are simultaneously necessarily relegated to marginalization, since they are not the ideas of the ruling class.
As for the legislature, its essential function is to allow the various fractions of the bourgeoisie to assert their specific interests. The diverse “nuances” and other “political factions” can thus come to debate and vote on the laws that are in their interest, which leads to all kinds of crude maneuvers and manipulations. It is true that the legislative chamber contains a left and a right, but this does not mean that two antagonistic forces confront one another, but simply that there is a camp that is more conservative (“the right”) than the other (“the left”), the latter seeking to make bourgeois society develop somewhat with the help of certain reforms, without, obviously, really subjecting it to challenge, in order to make it stronger.
From “social democracy” to “market democracy”
This picture of bourgeois democracy that we have just rapidly sketched, however, needs a little touching up. Within the framework of modern capitalism, especially after the 1930s, democracy assumed a somewhat social aspect. After the great crisis of 1929 it was necessary, for reasons of social stability, to pay a little more attention to the interests of the popular classes, and above all to those of the working class. The state then began to play a certain redistributive role: by means of the parties of the left, but not exclusively (thus, in France, the right wing Gaullist party played this role after 1945), the bourgeois class consented to certain reforms, such as social security, paid vacations, pensions, etc. This had the effect of reinforcing the reputation of bourgeois democracy, which had been somewhat tarnished during the 1930s. From then on, social democratic or Christian Democratic “policies” (as in Germany with its “social market economy”) came into their own.
It is, however, precisely these “policies” that are now under attack. Stunned by the falling rate of profit, capital has devoted all its energy to an attempt to restore the rate of profit as much as possible. It is therefore less and less willing to allow itself to be drained by these “policies”, as was previously the case with the “Welfare State”. As loudly as it can it calls for lower taxes and fewer regulations that are burdens on business. Suddenly, governments are forced to reduce their budgets and cut back on social spending and reduce taxes. And if by chance they happen to do anything that even slightly impinges on the interests of capital—“of the markets”—they are subjected to pressure in the form of the specter of capital flight or business relocation, and are subjected to the compulsory rule of “globalization”….
“France’s policies are not decided at the Stock Exchange”, De Gaulle boasted in other times. Today, a vainglorious boast of that kind would be totally inconceivable. Under the guise of “policy”, all that anyone needs to know is how “the markets” will react. Evidently, government leaders are still trying to give a convincing performance, however. Such as Prime Minister L. Jospin, for example, who recently proclaimed: “Yes to the market economy, no to market society”. This is the very pinnacle of charlatanism, but what difference does it make, as long as, above all, you do not disappoint the stock exchange, you do not have to completely give up on the voters, either…. This having been said, one question arises: if governments see that their political margin for maneuver has been reduced to a hair’s breadth, if they are constantly being monitored “by the markets”, if they are obligated to open up their books for the least of their decisions, who is really in charge here?
In an essay entitled, “The Imaginary Left and the New Capitalism” (Editions B. Grasset, 1999), two journalists, G. Desportes and L. Mauduit, one from Libération, the other from Le Monde, have the merit, despite their whining about the “decline of politics” and “the disappearance of republican values”, of at least lifting one corner of the veil: “therefore, in every prediction that bears, in this game that is being played (in fact, the game is already over!), on the relationship between the markets and the public power, one decisive question is highlighted: Who is running the country? Is the government still in charge? Or, at the head of gigantic conglomerates, are these the real ‘private heads of state’, as the economist Jean-Paul Fitoussi puts it?” Here we have finally arrived at what is called, to employ the current jargon, “market democracy”, composed of financial magnates, bankers, major players in the stock market, speculators, CEOs of the multinationals and other “private heads of state”: this whole beautiful world discusses, considers, speculates in order to know what should or should not be done and then dictates to the “politicians” the direction that should be followed, even when the latter still pretend that they have a function. “The executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie,” as it says in the Communist Manifesto; with “market democracy”, capital, by assuming ever more firmly the reins of affairs in its hands, almost reaches the point of dispensing with its “managers”!
Such a situation gives rise to a chorus of lamentations. All kinds of well intentioned souls, imagining that things could be otherwise, get on their soapboxes to denounce this “impotence of the politicians”, their “capitulation to the moneyed powers” and their lack of “will”.
Meanwhile, if one casts a glance at the polls, they are hardly reassuring for the politicians. Like the Sofres poll whose results were published in Le Monde on November 18, 1999, in an article entitled: “The mistrust of the French population for politicians is still very strong”. One such poll, described as “alarming”, shows us that “rejection of politics is massive”, since 57% of those surveyed viewed politics with “mistrust”, 27% as “boring”, and 20% with “repugnance”, as opposed to only 26% who associated it with “hope”, 20% with “interest” and 7% with “respect”. This is obviously only a poll, but even so it appears there are many people who have a negative judgment of politics and politicians.
In consideration of these facts, as governments are increasingly reduced to playing the role of puppets on the stage, where the real actors are in the wings, whispering to the puppets their perennial “unique ideas”, while leaving to the puppets the role of playing to the gallery, the public is losing interest, as we have just seen, up to the point where such boredom is transformed into what the experts of political science call a “democratic deficit”. Let us see just what this is all about.
The “democratic deficit” or the decline of bourgeois democracy
This “deficit” assumes the form, first of all, of the rise of abstentionism. Even if in France the presidential elections still arouse some interest, one cannot say the same regarding legislative elections (we shall not speak of the European legislative elections, which are a resounding failure, with a rate of abstention, in June 1999, above 50%, while in Germany and England it reached the astronomical figures of 70% and 80%): whereas the average abstention rate between 1958 and 1978 was 20%, in the legislative elections of 1993 it was 34.7% of the registered voters, meaning that there were 12 million voters who stayed home or else cast null votes (1.4 million). In the most recent legislative elections of 1997, this upward trend was confirmed.
We have to make one thing clear, however. In France, the abstention rate is calculated on the basis of the total number of registered voters, but since the number of those eligible to vote but who are not registered is approximately 10% of the eligible voters, the real abstention rate approaches 50% if you add the null votes. One can thus evaluate the real share of the votes of the eligible voters obtained by the parties: so, the party that gets 25% of the votes (which under current conditions is a respectable figure), actually only represents no more than 12.5% of the eligible voters; this gives you an idea of just how representative the parties that win 10% or less of the votes are…. The Americans, more logically, calculate the abstention rate on the basis of the total number of those eligible to vote. But they do no better. While the abstention rate during the 1960s was approximately 40%, today it easily surpasses 50%. In other words, in “the world’s greatest democracy”, only a minority bothers to vote….
The abstention rates are only national averages, with all the classes mixed together. But if one examines abstentionism in terms of the various “socio-professional” categories, to use the language of the INSEE (National Institute of Economics and Statistics), it is clear that the poorer one is, the more likely one is to abstain from voting; generally, the abstention rate is higher among the blue collar workers and the lower paid white collar employees than among the middle class executives; and while we are talking about abstentionism among the working class, it is no less clear that it would be even higher considering the fact that, in 1995, 27% of the working class voters voted for Le Pen’s National Front, that is, they cast a kind of “populist” protest vote against the “politically correct” milieu.
Therefore, if one were to quantify the “democratic deficit” in terms of electoral abstentionism, one could say that the latter is now on the order of 50%. A poor showing for societies that are constantly crowing about their democracy to the whole world!
If we now turn to a consideration of the political parties, what do we find? First of all, we note that due to their paucity of followers they have been obliged to accept state funding, the P.“C.”F. included. But this is not even the most serious indictment: whether left or right, they are undergoing an “identity crisis”. Frankly, they no longer know for what purpose they exist, as all their points of reference have blurred. But why should this be surprising when everyone knows that real power lies elsewhere, among the “private heads of state” who, imposing their “unique ideas”, assume responsibility for making sure the parties are on the same wavelength, regardless of whether they are of the right or the left, although they still pretend to quarrel?
In this respect this “identity crisis” is even more pronounced for the parties that once had a significant popular base. Thus, in France, this crisis is having a very serious impact on the party of the Gaullist right (RPR), whose profession of faith was that it was “the people’s party”. If one takes into account this party’s support for the Europe of Maastricht and its conversion to liberalism, a party that, in other times, was instead a statist party with regard to economic questions, then its loss of support among the popular classes is not at all surprising. On the left, while the “Socialist” Party, the party of the middle classes, has not done too badly in terms of electoral support, the same thing cannot be said for the P.“C.”F., the former “party of the working class”, whose supporters have melted away and whose share of the national vote has plunged, falling from 20% in 1975 to approximately 8% today. So the “identity crisis” has reached its peak. Going from one “change” to another, the leader of this party, R. Hue, declared in an interview given to the Tribune of March 15, 1999 that, “the communists are not enemies of the market. We want, in a movement that embraces all of society, to place ourselves at the service of human needs and profit”. You don’t know whether you should laugh or cry! Meanwhile, if “communism” is now the “market” (whereas in other times, for this same party, it was “nationalization” and “the state”; those days are over now!), it should not be at all surprising that the working class has defected from that party, and whether they have taken refuge in abstentionism, or gone to vote for Le Pen, it could not be any worse than that kind of communist party!
Therefore, since the voters will not heed the call, the parties are in decline. However, one question arises: where can such a “democratic deficit” lead, which in fact amounts to a decline of bourgeois democracy?
It is not too bold to imagine that we are heading for a situation in which only the bourgeoisie, the upper middle classes and the other privileged layers will still have some reasons to vote for and identify with the parties. For them, this would still make sense, as they will still be in step with the system. Of course, we have not yet reached that point, but the trend is plain to see. Ultimately, we will have a democracy, ostensibly in fact although not legally, that will be increasingly more restricted, or an oligarchy, that is, a democracy reserved for the privileged ones of capitalism, somewhat similar to what happened during the era of Guizot and the “possibilités”, when suffrage was based on census qualifications and only the well-to-do could vote and stand for election. And if you are not satisfied with such a plutocratic order, instead of proclaiming like Guizot: “Get rich!”, once can say (this is what they are already saying now): “Be a success!”, which amounts to precisely the same thing.
This decline of bourgeois democracy that we are witnessing, and which has not yet revealed all of its contours, is inscribed within the framework of today’s capitalism that is at the end of its cycle: just as it is destroying the reality of an economy that is still supposed to be “national”, so too is it undermining the reality of a democracy that is still supposed to be “social”; but at the same time, the illusions that were bound to bourgeois democracy are dissipating, and an increasingly larger part of the masses are abandoning the ballot boxes, while the parties are discredited in the eyes of these same masses.
The Rise of the Subproletariat
Proletariat and subproletariat
In the first part of this “Investigation” we have noted the absolute diminution of the proletariat of industry and manufacture, a phenomenon that has been evident over the last 25 years in the highly developed capitalist countries. The bourgeois commentators, in their ideological confusionism, see this as a sign of the pure and simple disappearance of the working class. So where will profits come from, then? Not to worry, they will come from machines … as someone like J. Atali, says, for instance: “the machines are the new proletariat. Say goodbye to the working class.” While it is true that certain parts of the working class have disappeared, especially in mining, aerospace, steel and the automotive assembly line, capitalism is not just abolishing the proletariat; it is also creating a new layer of proletarians whose situation is much less comfortable. What does this mean?
The bourgeois economists and sociologists, in order to designate this new layer, speak of the “precarious”. While it is true that it is characterized by precariousness, we have to call things by their right name: it actually constitutes a sub-proletariat. We call this layer by this name because it occupies an intermediate position between the proletariat with full-time permanent jobs and that part of the proletariat that is almost totally excluded from the process of production (such as those individuals who are subsidized by the RMI), or, in any case, does not have much expectation of ever rejoining it, even if only sporadically, and which in reality no longer comprises part of the working class. This does not apply to the subproletarians, since they constitute a floating layer that is employed and then laid off by turns. This situates this layer below the proletariat that has stable full time jobs (that is, until the next wave of layoffs…), and slightly above the layer that is definitively excluded from the job market. Another characteristic of this subproletariat is that its situation as a floating layer is not temporary, but tends to become permanent: it does not have a job for life, but precariousness for life!
There is a connection between the proletariat and the subproletariat. The latter is recruited from among the proletarians who, after having been laid off, have not been able to find a job except on condition of accepting the new situation of precariousness that is offered to them; or they come from among the young workers from the classical working class who have not been able to find a real full time permanent job like their fathers; or, finally, they are recruited from among the proletariat of the tertiary sector and sometimes from the lower middle class, a fraction of which is cast out and falls into the proletariat.
The importance of the subproletariat and its situation
The communications media customarily provide monthly unemployment statistics and herald the good news—based on false statistical data—when they are declining. On the other hand, they ignore the scale of precarious labor or, in other terms, partial unemployment. To give an account of its importance we must therefore have recourse to much more specialized sources.
With respect to this question, Jeremy Rifkin’s book, The End of Work: The Decline of the Global Labor Force and the Dawn of the Post-Market Era (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, New York, 1995; a mystifying book as its title indicates and, in addition, naively reformist, but sometimes interesting due to the social data that it provides), is quite enlightening regarding the state of precarious labor in the United States. “[i]n August 1993 the federal government announced that nearly 1,230,000 jobs had been created in the United States in the first half of 1993. What they failed to say was that 728,000 of them—nearly 60 percent—were part-time, for the most part in low-wage service industries. In February 1993 alone, 90 percent of the 365,000 jobs created in the United States were part-time, and most of them went to people who were in search of full-time employment.” Rifkin cites the case of a former sheetmetal worker who, along with his wife, hold down four jobs between the two of them that altogether pay less than what he used to make from his old job alone, and when he was told that the Clinton administration was bragging about having created so many jobs, he responded with a forced smile: “Sure, we’ve got four of them. So what?” Rifkin points out that in the United States, “In 1992 temporary jobs accounted for two out of every three new private-sector jobs. Temporary, contract, and part-time workers now make up more than 25% of the U.S. workforce.” And he predicts that “35 percent of the U.S. workforce will be contingent workers by the year 2000”.
The emergence of this subproletariat of precarious workers has also occurred in the other capitalist countries. In France, the INSEE acknowledges that labor employed under contracts of indefinite duration (C.D.I.) no longer represents any more than 60% of the total wage labor force. In 1996, 9% of jobs paying wages were precarious (as opposed to 2.8% in 1984). Today, 9 out of every 10 jobs created are part-time jobs. Even public sector enterprises have their share of precarious workers. Thus, in the postal service, “contingent” workers employed by private companies under contracts of determinate duration (C.D.D.) numbered 22,000 (Le Monde, November 13, 1996). In England, approximately 25% of jobs are precarious. The Netherlands, which had been praised for having reduced its unemployment rate from 12% in 1983 to 7% in 1996, saw the proportion of part-time jobs as a share of the total number of jobs rise to 33%. (Le Monde, October 29, 1996). In Spain, 95% of the millions of contracts signed every year are temporary (Le Monde, October 23, 1997).
What do we mean by precarious jobs? Essentially, contracts of determinate duration, valid for several months or a few weeks (or a few days, or even a few hours) and which, once they come to an end, compel the worker to sign up for unemployment insurance or else to “get by” as well as he can, with “odd jobs”, if he can find them, or off-the-books work, until he can once again get another “assignment”.
What Rifkin says about this topic is quite interesting. In the United States, he tells us, “[p]art-time temporary workers earn on average 20 to 40 percent less than full-time workers doing comparable work. According to the Department of Labor, part-time workers averaged $4.42 per hour in 1987 compared to $7.43 an hour for full-time workers. While 88 percent of full-time workers received health coverage through their employers, less than 25 percent of the temporary workforce was covered either by temp agencies or the companies they were leased out to. Similarly, while 48.5 percent of full-time workers were covered by employee pension plans, only 16.3 percent of part-time workers received pension benefits”. In other words, for the same work, lower wages and fewer benefits: the subproletariat must undoubtedly feel that it forms part of an inferior, disposable labor force. Thus, at the Citroën plant in Aulnay-sous-Bois, in order to distinguish the different kinds of employees, the temporary workers wear a green shirt so they are not confused with the permanent employees.
In order to be more competitive and profitable, businesses have to reduce “labor costs” (this means: reduce real wages) and in order to realize this goal they do not hesitate to “externalize” part of their production by shifting it to small and medium-sized enterprises, which in turn ruthlessly exploit precarious workers and pay them very low wages. As Rifkin writes, “Many of the outsource suppliers are smaller companies paying low wages and providing few benefits to their workers. Outsourcing … has become increasingly popular in the United States and Europe…. Chrysler procures more than 70 percent of the value of its final products from outside suppliers. According to a study conducted by Paine Webber, upwards of 18 percent of the workforce in the steel industry is now made up of employees working for subcontractors”. Rifkin cites the case of a pipefitter at U.S. Steel who made 13 dollars an hour and who, after being laid off, performed the same work for his old employer, but now in the capacity of a subcontractor, at 5 dollars an hour. This is what is called “external flexibility”, which allows for a substantial reduction in wage levels. This is why, when they tell us that the small and medium-sized enterprises are the most important “gold mine of jobs”, we have to believe it. But what kind of jobs are we talking about? We just got a glimpse of the reality.
More than just an industrial reserve army
What does the emergence of such a layer of working poor, as the Americans call them—precarious, low-paid, and despised workers with no benefits—mean?
It is true that they comprise an “industrial reserve army” that capital can take advantage of whenever it needs to do so. “Just-in-Time” production and “zero inventory” management require a very flexible workforce, always available and easily dismissed.
This answer, however, is not good enough. Since the emergence of this layer of the workforce at the beginning of the 1980s, it has constantly increased in number and today we have reached the point where businesses (although we are told that “growth is back”) almost never employ full-time, permanent wage workers (except executives, and even then not as much as before). Some research institutes even foresee the complete disappearance of C.D.I.s (contracts of indefinite duration). But we shall not take these predictions seriously, as they are often confused and unfounded. For now, most jobs are still based on C.D.I.s. This does not mean, however, that from now on it will not be harder to find a permanent job. What does this mean? It means that the wage labor system, as a specific mode of capitalist exploitation, is dying. To put it another way, having reached the end of its cycle, capitalism is incapable (similar to the situation during its beginnings) of producing and reproducing the proletariat except in an intermittent and very partial way, and the precarious workers of every variety are the social expression of this fact: they have one foot in the wage labor force, which proves that they are still a proletariat, and they have the other foot outside the wage labor force, which proves they are no longer a proletariat. These phenomena have invariably been highlighted by commentators of every stripe, such as Rifkin, but, exaggerating its significance in a totally disproportionate manner, they interpret it as the “end of work”, and therefore, the “end of the proletariat”, but not the end of capitalism, obviously!
The Decline of the Middle Classes
Middle classes—or are they?
We have to break with the almost mythical image of the “middle classes” that is constantly being propagated everywhere today. The middle classes, within the framework of highly developed capitalism, are salaried employees and by the term “middle classes” we must essentially understand the executives and managerial staff of public and private enterprises, that is, the personnel who are not connected with the tasks of execution (like the blue collar workers and lower level employees) but with conceptualization, research, management, and direction.
With the vast development of the productive forces and the resulting modernization of enterprises, the perfection of machinery and production techniques, the Scientific Organization of Labor (SOL), and the modern management of commerce, the number of executives and managers has increased considerably. In 1975, France had 1,270,000 high level executives and 2,760,000 mid-level executives and managers. In addition to the school teachers (approximately 1 million) one may also include in the middle classes the so-called intermediate professions: technicians, administrators, foremen, social workers, etc.
This non-working class labor force is recruited from all classes, including the working class, albeit to a lesser extent, however. The possession of a degree (and if possible, a graduate degree) is the indispensable precondition for rising into the salaried middle classes. From then on, with a degree in one’s pocket, one can have access to the good life, with greater career expectations, higher salaries, and better working conditions than those obtained by the blue collar workers in industry and the low level employees in the tertiary sector. Thus, ensconced in this aristocracy of salaried labor, one finds the layer of government officials, major and minor, but all of whom have the privilege of having a guaranteed job for life. And in private enterprise, you have the high level executives who are paid very high salaries, and possess stocks and stock options, which enables one to speak, with respect to this category, of the existence of bourgeois salaried workers.
Because of their growth, their educational level and also their privileged social situation, the modern middle classes have played a very major role in the cultural life of the highly developed capitalist societies. As their trademark image, they are allowed to “set the standards of taste”. That is why they are the ones you always see on stage in films, advertising and the communications media. An entire category of the press, from Le Figaro Magazine to Le Nouvel Observateur, and from Le Monde to Libération, is devoted to them. Generally, their lifestyles, their tastes, their preoccupations, and their worldviews are incessantly exhibited. It has reached the point that the petty bourgeois dream of many workers is to be like them and they even identify with them. Thus, according to a poll conducted among workers, 58% of them believe they belong to the middle class (Le Monde, March 26, 1997). A poll of this kind, like all polls, has to be taken with a grain of salt, but it does indicate the impact that the new middle classes can have on people’s attitudes.
The status attained by the middle classes and the tendency displayed by the blue collar workers and the lower level white collar employees to identify with them, have led the sociologists to speak of a “medianization” of society: we are no longer living in a class society, but in a “wage society” in which the immense majority lives in more or less similar situations. But with the excluded and the subproletariat constantly increasing in numbers, we have to take a closer look. As for the workers who think they are members of the middle class, this expresses more of an aspiration than a reality. In fact, the middle classes, even though they play a large role in modern capitalist society and exercise a great deal of influence on many people, form a world apart. They do not consume the same products and they do not frequent the same places of entertainment and leisure, depending on whether one is an executive or a worker. In any event, the middle classes have a distinct feeling of belonging to the elite of the workers. They are the privileged members of the working population and they know it. This is why they constitute the strongest social pillar of the capitalist system, and there can be no doubt concerning their alliance with the bourgeois class; and whether they call themselves right wing or left wing makes no difference at all.
There is no longer room for everyone on “the social elevator”
But we must point out that even for the middle classes the sky is getting darker. “Middle Classes, Anxious Classes”, is the headline of the “Economy” section of Le Monde, December 23, 1997. And why? The newspaper tells us why: “Education no longer guarantees social mobility”, or to put it another way, it no longer automatically guarantees access to the golden world of the executives. Let us see just what is the cause of this anxiety.
In 1968 there were 500,000 college students in France. At the beginning of the 1990s, there were 2,000,000. As you can see, the increase has been spectacular. How can it be explained?
After 1975 capitalism had gone all out in an attempt to take advantage of all the “new technologies”, modernizing and automating its production and management apparatus in every possible way. There arose, then, a large demand for scientific, technical and commercial skilled labor. In order to satisfy this demand the number of technical schools and universities had to be increased, which would be responsible for training the new executives that were needed by “high tech” capitalism. Therefore, the number of college students rose. But in parallel with this technological advance, capitalism also began to lay off workers in large numbers and this led to growing unemployment. All of a sudden, fear of unemployment led many ordinary families to try to make sure that their eldest sons would pursue a higher education (and they were prepared to make sacrifices for this) so that they would escape unemployment. The number of college students grew even more. That was when a frenzied competition for degrees began. We have come a long way from May ’68, when students tried to start a “revolution”. From then on, in the universities you did not “protest”, you “crammed”, since you had to pursue, regardless of the cost, the much-desired degree that would allow you to become a member of the middle class and thus escape unemployment. At least that is what they thought.
But what happened then is what always happens in a capitalist regime: when the supply exceeds the demand, there is a surplus and part of the supply does not find a buyer, in this case a certain number of applicants for jobs as executives, for which the students sought to apply once they got their degrees. “If the higher categories seem to have maintained their privileges, for the others the university degree no longer confers an automatic right to a job”, proclaims the Le Monde article mentioned above. And this is the problem. Claude Allègre, the recently appointed Minister of Education, saw the end coming in 1996 when he wrote: “We have to accept the consequences: a university degree no longer automatically confers the right to a high-paying job. It is a higher education without any guarantee of a high-level job! For the middle classes, which are the real beneficiaries of the demographic opening, school no longer guarantees upward social mobility”. There is the rub! And he concludes by saying that not facing up to this reality inspires “false hopes”. Actually, nobody was “deceived”: back when the demand exceeded the supply this excess was noted, and the universities, like any other capitalist commodity, only obeyed the laws of the market.
This is why a situation arose in which the technical schools were capable of producing 80% of the bachelor degrees and the universities mass produced degrees after 2, 3 or 4 years of study, and these institutions were transformed into partially uncontrolled machines, and once they graduated, many students did not find jobs that matched their high expectations, and the “social elevator” that was supposed to bring them to the penthouse, on the wages scale, had no room for everyone. The only beneficial effect of this process was that, by thus prolonging the school years of the younger generations, the unemployment figures for young people between the ages of 18 and 25 were reduced!
Lebaube, in Work: Always Less of It or of a Different Kind (Le travail. Toujours moins ou autrement, Le Monde Éditions, 1997), perfectly summarizes the situation when he writes: “Within 5 or 7 years, the productive system of national education will be in a position to ‘graduate’ between 500,000 and 700,000 young people annually with degrees at a level that is equal to or superior to a bachelor’s degree with three years of study, the same number of years of study that would have allowed, only a little while ago, one to get a job as an executive. We must take into account the fact that, according to the statistics of APEC (Association for Skilled Employment), during the same period, businesses will recruit on the order of 120,000 young executives per year (….) The job deficit for skilled graduates, has every chance of overwhelming us in relation to the future graduating classes”.
From then on, with “the social elevator” overcrowded, the young people of the middle classes, college students and, above all, students at the technical institutes, will not take long to express their discontent. Since 1986 they have been engaging in massive protests. Their anger reached a peak in 1994 when the government proposed instituting the Contract for Professional Work Placement (CIP) for young people, paid less than the SMIC (Minimum Interprofessional Wage), even for those with two years in the university. This proved to be a major provocation for the young people who had ambitions, among other things, of “having a career”. The government replied that it was better than going on unemployment. That’s where we are now. After having been seduced with the prospect of executive jobs, all that the government could propose for them were the lowest paying jobs; jobs that were good enough for the young proletarians, but not for those who wanted jobs as executives and who had no scruples about becoming the “guard dogs of the working class”, as the students of May ’68 said….
The inevitable relapse
Today, despite the euphoria of the 1980s, we are suffering from malaise. The degree is no longer the “open, sesame”. One part of the graduates was demoted, declassed, and obliged to accept an ordinary job with a two-year degree. It is frustrating, but that is how it is. Thus, there are young people who enter their working careers overqualified for the jobs they are offered, and whose acceptance of these positions closes them off to less qualified young people, jobs which the latter would have been quite happy to accept, but now they are shown the door, which swells the ranks of precariousness and exclusion. At the rate things are going now, soon it will be necessary to have at least a bachelor’s degree to be a street sweeper….
Others descend into the working class. A. Lebaube points out that during the strikes at SNECMA in 1987 and at Alsthom in Belfort in 1995, it was often young people with two-year degrees who were at the head of the movements. “Basically,” he writes, “they had nothing to lose, they know their professional careers are over and their personal aspirations stolen from them. Despite their degrees, they were employed as skilled workers, without any hope of ever being anything else, or else they were working as technicians, in the most fortunate cases as technical supervisors, having already reached in just a few years the highest level possible.” But others were not even that lucky: one-fourth of the new beneficiaries of the RMI subsidy had at least a bachelor’s degree, the newspaper Les Échos informs us (May 15, 1997).
And while young people are subjected to a merciless selection process in order to be able to have access to the privileged circle of executives, older people are laid off as soon as they reach the age of 50, or even sooner. Under these conditions, finding a job as an executive at that age is very difficult for these older workers.
Generally speaking, the situation of the executives is not what it used to be. If the “dynamic young” workers get a good job, capital demands from them in return their constant presence at work. For them, at least in the private sector, there is no 35-hour week, but more often 50 hours or more. Even during their vacations they can get phone calls from their managers. In the public sector, the working conditions of some teachers in the “problem” schools in bad neighborhoods have deteriorated significantly: insults, threats, and occasionally violent assaults from the students. In short, a large part of the middle classes view life much less optimistically. Thus, according to one survey, more than one out of four executives believes that in 2007 he will belong to the ranks of the “common” and “disadvantaged people” (Le Monde, March 26, 1997).
The golden age of the new middle classes has passed. After having grown and made so much progress, they have begun to undergo a reflux that is far from having ended, if one takes into consideration the number of job seekers who are graduating from the universities and the number of job openings that are available to them. As a result of its technological advances since the 1970s, capitalism has been able to foment the illusion of a society in which everyone, as long as they get a degree, can become a “new look” petty bourgeoisie, paid a wage, but forming part of the highest layer of the wage labor force. But from now on, this technological advance has reached a stage beyond which the extraction of surplus value will be impossible due to the almost universal automation of production. As a result, the need for executives has also reached its limits and capital can only reject those that exceed the demands of the labor market, reducing them to the condition of ordinary employees earning an ordinary wage, or blue-collar workers, when their proletarianization does not lead to pure and simple exclusion from the workforce. This is yet another sign of the end of capitalism’s cycle.
The need for a collective belief system
Every class society needs a collective belief system that cements all the classes together and thus transcends them. We emphasize that it is a system of “belief”: it has nothing to do with any theory, science or philosophy; it is rather an idea, a political faith that compels the support of the masses and which can be defined as an ideology.
Such a system of belief is absolutely indispensable for a society plagued by conflicts, tensions and clashes between the classes that reveal that the interests of the latter are not identical to each other. To prevent all this from breaking out into violent conflicts and class struggles that would destabilize society, a ruling ideology has to be imposed for the purpose of incorporating all the classes behind it.
In the framework of capitalism, the task of elaborating such an ideology quite naturally falls to the bourgeoisie, that is, to the class that possesses the “material”, and therefore, the “intellectual” means of production. (Marx-Engels, quoted above, from The German Ideology.) In other words, the bourgeoisie must become the class that assumes ideological leadership over society and is not content with dedicating itself to its economic and commercial occupations. At this level, it is necessary for it to assume its responsibilities, and if it does not, this reveals that it is either not yet mature enough to lead society or else that it has become an exhausted and declining class.
For the ruling class upon which this responsibility for the production of ideology falls, the purpose of the operation is to successfully present its particular interest as if it were the general interest of society. Thus, “the state”, or rather the “nation”, is reputed to embody and defend this “general interest”.
Such an ideology must furthermore be able to obtain enough support from society, that is, it must create a system of belief that is capable of engendering “zeal” or “enthusiasm”, like “patriotism” upon the outbreak of war, or “republicanism” during a serious social crisis.
Historically, the ruling ideology assumed various forms, depending on the country, and was imposed by means of a process of greater or lesser complexity.
Thus, in Germany, for a long time—right up to 1918—the politically immature bourgeoisie relinquished its ideological role to the landowning aristocracy and its military caste which, in turn, created a super-nationalist, arrogant and aggressive ideology.
In England the bourgeoisie reached a compromise with the old landed aristocracy; this led to a hybrid ideology, a kind of national liberal ideology tinted with monarchism.
In France the ideology of the ruling bourgeoisie was not fully imposed until after 1871. This was the nation conflated with the republic. Prior to this date the idea of the nation was not a bourgeois idea, but a revolutionary one: until the Commune of 1871 the fatherland was defended by the extreme revolutionaries of the Blanquist type, or other kinds, since for them France was “the fatherland of the revolution”, the country that had first carried out the Revolution in 1789-1794, and had begun to do so again in 1830, 1848 and 1871, thus showing all the other countries the road they should follow. This revolutionary nationalism was still evoked in support of the Commune of Paris when the latter, even though wrapped in the red flag, decreed that the “fatherland was in danger”; with this proclamation it showed the bourgeoisie, after the shameful capitulation of Sedan (September 2, 1870), that it had betrayed the nation and that from then on the latter no longer belonged to it, it would pass into the hands of the “working people”. After 1871, everything changed, and the bourgeoisie reclaimed for its own the idea of the nation by successfully imposing the belief that it belonged to all the classes. It proved to be more successful in this respect than it had expected when in 1914 the people, that is, all the classes, happily marched off to “defend the fatherland” and consented for 4 years to make unprecedented sacrifices for this cause. Having succeeded in this, the bourgeoisie managed to fuse all the classes, “to rally all the French people”, to speak in their terms. Socialism, which presented itself as internationalist, then experienced a cruel defeat. Later, Gaullism, between 1945 and 1968 (assisted by the French Stalinist party, which presented itself as “the heir” of the revolutionary tradition of 1789-1871 and which thus combined the red flag with the tricolor), took up the nationalist torch, although “in an attenuated and somewhat grandiloquent way”.
But today, what remains of the ruling bourgeois ideology?
The downfall of political beliefs
If one examines the world of the so-called advanced capitalist societies, one fact is particularly striking today: in this world, there are no collective passions, or great political ideals, or systems of convictions capable of rousing the support of the masses, of stimulating enthusiasm and instilling hope. From the ideological point of view it is a somber and bleak world that has arisen. Only sporting events, on occasion, can provoke collective outbursts but they quickly subside, since they are nothing but spectacles.
We observe that political life, and the debates to which it gives rise, now only take place on the television screen and that the modern masses therefore no longer have to go anywhere and gather together in order to listen to their political leaders, because they have them right before them while they are sitting in front of their televisions. Politicians of all stripes know this. That is why they are always on TV expressing their opinions, responding to the questions of the journalists and other specialized “moderators”. What remains to be investigated is the question of whether or not many people are really interested in these broadcasts. For this purpose we do not even have to consult the ratings, all we need to do is to see when these programs are broadcast in order to immediately know that, if they are broadcast late at night this is because the program in question is not likely to be popular, as the public prefers entertainment or sports. In short, the politics-spectacle on television is no longer a box office hit.
One conclusion is in order: we are witnessing an almost universal de-politicization and de-ideologization. The modern masses have become desensitized to everything that refers to the “res publica” and to “the clash of ideas”. All such things bore them profoundly and they prefer to be entertained rather than listen to politicians, for whom, in any case, they only have the lowest regard. Even during the celebrated “bar-room” discussions they talk about any other topic besides politics.
But we shall take our investigation one step further. If the masses thus desert politics, this amounts to saying that they are no longer influenced by it, and that it is no longer capable of “making them dream” of a “bright future” and “sacred causes”. And this is what is most revealing. Such a state of affairs is first of all a challenge to the bourgeois ideology because the latter is the ruling ideology in society; it has become incapable of arousing the active support of the masses, since it has ceased to excite them; and in fact, as we saw above, the bourgeois ideas of “fatherland”, “republic” and “democracy” are already in free fall.
We must nonetheless make some distinctions. The illusions with regard to the ruling bourgeois ideas have fallen, not because the masses have become aware of their artificial character and have dealt them a setback by rejecting them; if this were the case, there would have been a politicization of people’s attitudes; instead, they have collapsed because capitalism, having entered the final stage of its cycle, has made their survival impossible: thus, the idea of the nation, condemned along with this capitalism to an irreversible decline, and the idea of democracy, which is from now on short-circuited by “market democracy”. In other words, capitalism, lacking an ideology, has ended up destroying all ideologies, including that of the bourgeoisie.
Of course, the bourgeoisie is still trying to deceive people, and trying to manipulate consciousness. But what will now become of its ideology? We shall see that it has lost all its consistency.
As an illustration, let us take the idea of “human rights”, which has been seized upon by the media and the politicians of every stripe and concerning which they ceaselessly harp at every opportunity. What does this flood of words about human rights actually mean? They are actually and fundamentally the opposite of a collective ideology or belief: they derive from the egotistical and individualist Declaration of the Rights of Man, elaborated by the bourgeoisie of 1789, which Marx criticized in “The Jewish Question”; what they value is the private man, the man of private property. The bourgeoisie of the 19th century, by becoming the class that assumed the ideological leadership of society, was very careful to put the damper on this bourgeois-liberal-individualist Declaration. It needed something else to “rally all the French people”: the Nation, the Republic … that is, political subjects that evoked ideas of community, the collective interest. That is why there is still a faction of the bourgeoisie—very much in the minority—that, rejecting “human rights”, wants to return, without being able to do so, and for good reasons, to the Republic of Gambetta and Clemenceau, to the secular school of Jules Ferry and, of course, to the Nation, “one and indivisible”….
If the bourgeoisie has had to resort to the weapon of “human rights”, this is simply because it no longer possesses a collective system of beliefs; furthermore, because it has even ceased to understand the need for such a system. Proof of this is offered by the enthusiasm with which, not so long ago, it fought against the old ideologies that were current during the 20th century, which it referred to as “totalitarianisms” (fascism, communism—which it identified with Stalinism, but that does not matter here); “totalitarianisms” with which, we may add, it flirted in the past, having sympathized with Hitlerism (“Hitler is better than the Popular Front”, the French bourgeoisie was loudly proclaiming in 1936), and having shamelessly formed an alliance with Stalinism, like the American and English bourgeoisie in the Second World War in 1941; which shows how inconsistent and trivial that variety of critique directed at “totalitarianism” really is; but for today’s bourgeoisie it does not matter, the deafening and insistent condemnation of fascism and “communism” has only one purpose: to discover a pacifying justification for the absence of any collective belief, serving as a comfortable line of demarcation between it and the “totalitarianisms” in question.
Currently, the ruling bourgeois ideology has become so inconsistent that it is nothing but a moralizing litany: a slurry of flabby, “tolerant” ideas, of feel-good issues (“humanitarian causes”) that are very “moving”, but which mobilize no one politically. It is the zero point of thought all along the line, or, if one prefers, it is the “politically correct”.
The only arena in which the bourgeoisie does not just fool around is the economy. But there it operates without any ideology at all. It only obeys the laws of capital, the requirements of the market, the harsh necessity of profitability, and the most humanistic employer will not hesitate to implacably lay off workers if necessary, while the multinationals have no scruples in using the forced labor of children. Here we have such demonstrations of resolve that they become blind to the need to uphold and secure their system of rule. Hence, one may read the following in the November 12, 1999 issue of Le Monde, from the pen of one of its intellectuals, R. Redeker, professor of philosophy and member of the editorial committee of the journal, Les Temps Modernes:
“‘How can one live without ever facing the unknown?’, asked René Char. We no longer have to face ‘the unknown’. All perspectives have been closed, reduced to the constant repetition of capitalism. The death of communism is accompanied by a shrinking of the human soul: there is no longer a horizon for societies. This results in a state of mourning, a glaciation of hope: man is condemned to remain as he is (history will not give birth to the new man), societies are condemned to capitalism, to private property, to the ‘privatization of the individual’ (to employ the term of Castoriadis). Contemporary man is cold: the death of communism leaves him isolated before the absence of a future.”
What is remarkable about this passage is not the despair that overwhelms the author as he contemplates the absence of any alternative to capitalism in the wake of what he calls “the death of communism” (despair over the death of Stalinism? Spare us from this death of a communism that never existed!); what is remarkable is the dread that overwhelms him when he thinks of the possibility that capitalism is eternal, and humanity is condemned for the rest of its days to suffer the impact of such a system. Here we have the last illusion of the bourgeoisie, however much Le Temps Modernes may affect to be of the left. Today it no longer has much ideological belief about anything; it even admits, as we have just seen, that its system is not very pleasing to the spirit, yet it adds, it is indestructible and invincible. This it continues to believe without any hesitation. Which amounts to saying that it imagines that capitalism can last indefinitely without a collective belief system that could give meaning to existence and therefore, it can pass the tests of time and overcome all obstacles. Actually, this is pure illusion, since it is precisely this factor that is lacking in today’s capitalist societies. It is true of course that capitalism is immensely sad and mournful if it is not accompanied by a strong ideology capable of sublimating it in the “Fatherland”, the “Republic” or other ideals. When it descends into a “1929-type” crisis, what will happen then? Today’s capitalist societies, in view of their total absence of any ideological reason to exist, will collapse and go under at the first blow, and there will be a massive stampede for the lifeboats, and the “elites” will be the first ones to set the example. For the rest of us, it will be like what we recently saw in the East: when an economic blockade led, as we saw in the former so-called communist system, to the establishment of what was believed to be an internally indestructible regime due to its “totalitarianism”, it collapsed in an instant, once the ideological tie to pseudo-communism had been cut, that is, the prevailing system of belief which had upheld the system until that point. Such an ideological collapse is also taking place in the western capitalist societies and, once the crisis breaks out, we will see that everything that sustained it ideologically was hanging by a thread. A class society cannot exist by congratulating itself about the “end of ideology” without suffering the consequences.
From “Moral Order” to “Moral Disorder”
The real bourgeois values
The French bourgeoisie had played the game well when at the beginning of the Third Republic it firmly assumed power: it claimed that it was the heir of the ideas of the French Revolution—Liberty, Equality, Fraternity—in order to transform them into the symbols of its rule, symbols that it caused to be inscribed on the facades of all public buildings. This allowed it to rally all the classes around it, getting each class, in its own way, to be interested in it and to interpret these ideas according to its needs. In a country like France, which had been convulsed by especially violent class struggles (June 1848, the Commune of 1871), this was a good way to reconcile all the French people. With the exception of the “reactionary clerical” faction, which never accepted the French Revolution and which still made this apparent through its behavior during the Dreyfus Affair, the operation was crowned with success: the Republic had opened its arms to all its children, regardless of their social conditions. In this way the rule of the French bourgeoisie was conflated with a progressive rule that was associated with dignified and respectable values.
When in 1940 the same French bourgeoisie unforgettably dropped its pants and bent over almost as one man in its “collaboration” with Nazi Germany, and succumbed to the allure of fascist ideology, it removed its mask and said: “Work—Family—Fatherland”. And at the same time it vilified and rejected the famous triptych, Liberty—Equality—Fraternity, which was, according to this same bourgeoisie, “the cause of the defeat”.
From that point on the following question was posed: which of the two bourgeoisies, the one from 1880 or the one from 1940 (it was in fact the same bourgeoisie) expressed the truth about the real nature of bourgeois values? Obviously, it was the bourgeoisie of 1940! In reality, the values proclaimed by the Pétain regime were always the operative values. Of course, after 1945 the bourgeoisie returned to the fetishistic Republican values, but this was just another one of those famous “French exceptions” by which the bourgeoisie of that country had taken such delight in distinguishing itself. Nowhere else does one find a trace of this profession of faith. Generally, one refrains from any such declarations, it is better that way….
So, let us take a look at those values that the bourgeoisie, once upon a time, boldly proclaimed.
Work. Actually, how can it not be glorified, given the existing economic system, which makes the exploitation of labor power the source of the valorization of capital and its incessantly renewed accumulation. On the other hand, more generally, bourgeois society can be defined in its entirety as a civilization of labor, the largest that has ever existed, bringing forth unsuspected results from human activity. The socialist P. LaFargue was not mistaken when he wrote his famous pamphlet, provocatively entitled, The Right to Be Lazy, in 1880. This essay was a fly in the ointment of the bourgeois moral order that constantly praised the “honest, hard working” worker, who did his duty without complaining, which he performed without even having to pay him an old age pension, so much had his existence been abbreviated by working him to death….
Family. After the worker had performed his day’s work, it was quite natural for him to find a “comfortable nest” together with his wife and children, and thus he could reconstitute somewhat his labor power for the next day. This is why the family was sacred. Thanks to the family the worker escaped that site of dissolution that was the tavern. And in order for the family to be based on firm foundations, it had to be consecrated by way of the bonds of matrimony thus putting an end to that mania for just “living together”, with couples cohabiting and splitting up as they pleased.
Fatherland. As we already pointed out, the Fatherland was worshipped, exalted, and sublimated, and it was the job of the “patriotic teachers of the Republic” to mould the schoolchildren from their most tender years. Everyone had to rally around the Fatherland, there had to be a national front without any gaps. This too, could not be more logical. In an era when capitalism was not yet “globalized”, it was the national capitalism that in the economic order of things was to be honored: it was from within the borders of the nation that the essential surplus value was extracted (“relocations” had not yet made their appearance…), even though the colonial empire constituted an additional source….
Work—Family—Fatherland, for the goals that Pétain’s regime had established, this corresponded quite well to the requirements of capital. If one also adds religion (“religion is good for the people”, declared the bourgeois Voltaire), one thus has a Moral Order capable of guaranteeing social peace in the city; and it will certainly take more than a few anarchists and anarchosyndicalists, bomb-throwers, strikers and anti-militarists, to seriously disturb such an Order….
Greatness and decline
What remains of that Order? We shall review its various components and note the changes that have taken place.
Work. With “high technology” capitalism, we have been informed that it has become “inessential”. Some, like Rifkin, even claim that, from now on, what we are witnessing is “the end of work”. Yet today, the economic horror (V. Forrester) is no longer the exploitation of man by man, but man’s exclusion from work, now that machines are “the new proletarians”, while we “say goodbye to the working class” (J. Atali). Work is “inessential”? Has it come to an “end”? We no longer need to exploit human labor? This is not at all the case! If it were so, the valorization of capital would be impossible and capitalism would cease to exist! But we shall not engage in an explanation of why these “ultra-modernist” interpretations are false. With respect to this matter we refer the reader to Part One of our “Investigation”. We shall simply state that, due to the last stage of capitalism’s development, which has the effect of eliminating labor, at the same time that it still needs labor to revalorize capital (this is the contradiction of capital), the old moralistic bourgeois discourse concerning the virtues of work has been dealt a hard blow, and is not far from falling by the wayside.
Family. This, too, is on its last legs. In reality, more than one-third of marriages result in divorce a short time later; paternal authority over children has been severely compromised; one-parent families are becoming more and more common; as for the sacred character of the marriage between man and women, one can only laugh when with the PACS (Civil Agreement of Cohabitation) we have reached the point where homosexuals can “get married” and perhaps even adopt children….
Fatherland. To evoke it has become “somewhat archaic”, when it used to be “the place of the sacred soil” and to die for it was “the most beautiful fate”…. Here, too, the collapse of this value is spectacular, and one can count on the fingers of one hand those who have gone to the Elysian Fields wrapped in the tricolor the night after the French team won the World Cup, ready to risk their skin for the fatherland.
In short, it is easy to state: the edifice that constituted the bourgeois Moral Order has cracks all over its surface and is in full decline. In this regard it is quite curious to see some leftists and anarchists who continue to vilify that Order as if it was still vigorous, as if we were in the era of Jules Ferry, Gambetta and Clemenceau. Obviously, these people have cobwebs in their eyes and have to get some new eyeglasses in order to become aware of the times.
There are, of course, some “fundamentalists”, and a few “leagues for morality and virtue” that are offended by such a “loss of values” and dream of a “conservative revolution” that would reestablish the Moral Order in its full power. They have only exhausted themselves in dubious rearguard struggles without anything to show for it. What these people have not understood is that if the Moral Order has been weakened, this was not due, as they believe, to a mysterious perversity in the human soul that surrenders to the demons of “sin”, but to the new conditions that have arisen. Their Order was constructed on the foundations of a capitalism in full ascent, which had a whole horizon of development before it. It is true that it was criticized for its bourgeois character by revolutionaries. In economic crises and wars it was challenged by various currents (such as the Surrealists). But for good or for ill, it survived these attacks. Its ideological superstructure corresponded well enough to the economic structure of capitalism. Now that capitalism is nearing its end, the capitalism that is characteristic of our era, this Order is proving to be increasingly ill-adjusted to the latter and reveals its obsolete character. Indeed, why celebrate work if work has not only lost any attraction for the proletarians (which has been the case for a long time), but now that it has also become a rare commodity for millions of individuals who have been excluded from it, or else condemned to getting by on odd jobs, part-time work, garbage picking and other forms of precarious labor? What can paternal authority mean to young people whose parents are submerged in chronic unemployment? What can Fatherland possibly mean if the bourgeoisie themselves are no longer very certain of the reality of their nation? Necessarily, the old Moral Order ended up losing all consistency and at the same time all the points of reference that constituted it have faded away in the minds of the people to the point that they are finally just ignored. And this all the more so insofar as the institutions that are supposed to recall its norms have ceased to function as such: there is no longer an “ethics course” as in the old days of the secular and republican schools….
With this weakening of the old bourgeois moral order, there is, however, a price to pay. Every class society needs a duly established moral code in order to determine what is “good” and what is “bad” for it. If this order decomposes, and dissolves in peoples’ minds, as long as no other society arises, or at least as long as no revolutionary movement arises that is the bearer of new values, this will necessarily result in a moral disorder that will take the form of all kinds of more or less dangerous behaviors. This can be verified today among the young generation, which is much more affected by this than the older generations, since the latter have preserved some points of reference.
Our intention here is not to engage in a journalistic sociological exposé on what is called “urban violence” and thus say what everyone already knows: drug use, violence in sports stadiums, in colleges, aggressive behavior towards teachers, vandalism of public buildings, burning cars, aggression in the streets and, sometimes, murders without any apparent reasons, such are the most visible manifestations of the moral disorder that has become commonplace. Obviously, we shall be told that none of this is new. At the beginning of the 20th century there were “apaches” and homeless youths who infested the abandoned “pillboxes” on the outskirts of Paris, and during the late 1950s we had “hooligans”. Today’s youth gangs of the outskirts of the cities would therefore be just so many more chapters in this ongoing history. So, all is well! There is nothing new under the sun! In brief, it is never music to the ears of the defenders of the system to hear it said that the latter, in its putrescence, is giving way to a moral degeneration that is taking the form of a deterioration of behavior and blind violence. In fact, things have reached such a point that we even miss the old bourgeois morality that at least told individuals what they had to believe and not believe, to do and not to do. It is not another world, but with the situation that has been created, a worse one that is being established; the disruption and the absence of points of reference are such that anything can happen.
Since, in any event, it is hard to ignore what is happening by continuously downplaying its seriousness, all that we have is repression. But once you have imprisoned—if possible—the most dangerous “gangbangers” and attempted to enter into “dialogue” with the others thanks to “local policing” and “street entertainers and clowns” (?!), the moral disorder will still not have been driven out of people’s minds, for the good and simple reason that, the old moral order having broken down, for the moment there is nothing to replace it.
This is where the “most fashionable” bourgeoisie intervene, who, with their intellectuals, their “engaged” artists and other stars of the Cohn-Bendit variety, think they can be the bearers of a “new ethics”, one that is more flexible and not so uptight, one that would supersede the old bourgeois moral order. Thus, to give an example, instead of prohibiting drug use, they advocate the legalization of “soft drugs” like hashish and marijuana. This is called the “liberal-libertarian” attitude, which former minister Jack Lang has made his specialty, as he is always present whenever the television cameras are covering some “love parade” [in English in original—translator’s note] or a march staged by some raging exhibitionists. Legalizing soft drugs (and, since this will not be sufficient, the “hard” drugs will have to legalized, too, sooner or later), such a solution in fact amounts to the legalization of the whole world of moral disorder, without responding to the basic question: why do people feel the need to drug themselves? But such a question cannot, obviously, be asked by such a bourgeoisie, since to do so would be equivalent to questioning the capitalist society in which drug use developed and therefore to finally to indict that society, which, above all, must not be done!
Such a “liberal-libertarian” bourgeoisie is nothing but one more component of the prevailing moral disorder. Its vast pretension to want to replace the old bourgeois moral order which is dying, is a pure and simple fraud. The way it calls all those who express doubts about the changes that it seeks to make “antiquated” and “old fashioned reactionaries”, forms part of the very pinnacle of ideological terrorism.
As long as capitalism is not abolished, the old bourgeois moral order will not be replaced, but its death throes will only be prolonged a little while longer, although here and there it will attempt to carry out remediation operations. As for knowing what will replace it, the only thing we can know for sure is that it will have to take place by means of a revolution!