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Revolution from North to South

A detachment of worker Red Guards poses for a photograph before departing for the front. Photograph by Ia. Shteinberg

A detachment of worker Red Guards poses for a photograph before departing for the front. Photograph by Ia. Shteinberg. David King Collection. (The Bolsheviks in Power, p. 191)

Samir Amin is director of the Third World Forum in Dakar, Senegal. His most recent book is Russia and the Long Transition from Capitalism to Socialism (Monthly Review Press, 2016).

The North-South conflict between centers and peripheries is a central factor throughout the entire history of capitalist development. Historical capitalism merges with the history of the world’s conquest by Europeans and their descendants, who were victorious from 1492 to 1914. This success provided the foundation for its own legitimacy. With the presumption of superiority, the European system became synonymous with modernity and progress. Eurocentrism flourished in these circumstances and the peoples of the imperialist centers were persuaded of their “preferential” right to the world’s wealth.

We have been witness to a fundamental transformation in this phase of history. The South has been slowly awakening, clearly apparent during the twentieth century, from the revolutions undertaken in the name of socialism, first in the Russian semi-periphery, then in the peripheries of China, Vietnam, and Cuba, to the national liberation movements in Asia and Africa and the advances in Latin America. The liberation struggles of peoples in the South—increasingly victorious—have been and still are closely linked with the challenge to capitalism. This conjunction is inevitable. The conflicts between capitalism and socialism and between North and South are inseparable. No socialism is imaginable outside of universalism, which implies the equality of peoples.

In the countries of the South, most people are victims of the system, whereas in the North, the majority are its beneficiaries. Both know it perfectly well, although often they are either resigned to it (in the South) or welcome it (in the North). It is not by accident, then, that radical transformation of the system is not on the agenda in the North whereas the South is still the “zone of storms,” of continual revolts, some of which are potentially revolutionary. Consequently, actions by peoples from the South have been decisive in the transformation of the world. Taking note of this fact allows us to contextualize class struggles in the North properly: they have been focused on economic demands that generally do not call the imperialist world order into question. For their part, revolts in the South, when they are radicalized, come up against the challenges of underdevelopment. Their “socialisms,” consequently, always include contradictions between initial intentions and the reality of what is possible. The possible, but difficult, conjunction between the struggles of peoples in the South with those of peoples in the North is the only way to overcome the limitations of both.

European Marxism of the Second International ignored this essential aspect of capitalist reality. It viewed capitalist expansion as homogenizing (whereas it is polarizing) and consequently attributed a positive historical function to colonialism. Lenin broke with this simplified interpretation of Marxism, which allowed him to lead a socialist revolution in a semi-periphery of that era—his “weak link.” But Lenin thought that the revolution would rapidly spread from his country to the advanced European centers. That did not happen. Lenin had underestimated the devastating effects of imperialism in those societies. Mao went further in his conception and implemented a revolutionary strategy in a country even more peripheral than Russia.

The central reality of the imperialist character of historical capitalism implies an inescapable correlate: the long transition to socialism occurs through unequal advances, mainly originating in the peripheries of the world system. There is no “world revolution” on the agenda whose center of gravity would be found in the advanced centers. Lenin, Mao, Ho Chi Minh, and Castro understood that and accepted the challenge of “constructing socialism in one country.” Trotsky never understood that. The limits of what was achievable in these conditions, beginning with the heritage of the “backward” capitalism found in the peripheries, accounts for the later history of the twentieth century’s great revolutions, including their deviations and failures.

In the other countries of the peripheries, the first victorious struggles that transformed the world were the product of the great popular anti-imperialist movements. Nevertheless, the leaders of these movements had not properly assessed the necessity of combining the objectives of national liberation with a break from the logic of capitalism. Instead, these movements fostered the myth of “catching up” with the centers by capitalist means within globalized capitalism in the aim of building national capitalisms developed along the same lines as those found in the centers. Consequently, the changes that could have been achieved by what I have called “national popular” governments were in reality quite limited, and their rapid exhaustion soon collapsed into chaos.

The challenge from the socialist revolutions lay behind the fascist direction taken by the counterrevolution in the imperialist centers. Fascism simultaneously sharpened inter-imperialist conflicts, particularly between Nazi Germany and Japan, on one side, and their major opponents—the United States and Great Britain—on the other. These circumstances account for the alliance of convenience between the USSR, the United States, and the United Kingdom during the Second World War. It is easy to understand, then, why this alliance was ended by the Western powers in 1945.

The exhaustion of the possibilities in the socialist and national populist transitions has not, by itself, opened the way to new advances in the East, South, or West. The important political forces behind the original successes, and a fortiori the peoples involved, have not properly assessed the reasons behind the limitations inherent to the advances of the twentieth century. This is why the current counterrevolution led by the historical imperialist powers (the United States, Europe, and Japan) has been able to exploit the resulting chaos. For the time being, this chaos instead encourages illusory responses adopted by projects of so-called “emergence” on the part of some countries in the South as well as the irrational, and consequently fascist, deviations of others (as shown by the examples of reactionary political Islam and reactionary political Hinduism). In the imperialist centers themselves, the capitulation of socialist and national populist projects has not encouraged any critical analysis of capitalism, but, on the contrary, reinforces illusions on the virtues of advanced capitalism. Here the victory of the counterrevolution and the retreat from earlier accomplishments (the Welfare State) encourage, in turn, the rebirth of neofascist responses.

In this article, I will discuss the reasons behind the powerlessness of the working classes in the countries of the central imperialist triad of the United States, Europe, and Japan. This analysis emphasizes the political cultures of the peoples involved. A political culture is the product of a long history, which is always, of course, specific to each country. Perhaps the reader will consider my “judgments” a little too harsh. They are indeed. My observations of the South are no less so. Incidentally, political cultures are not transhistorical invariants. They change, sometimes for the worse, but just as often for the better. What is more, I believe that the construction of “convergence in diversity” within a socialist perspective requires such change.

United States

The political culture of the United States is not the same as the one that took form in France beginning with the Enlightenment and, above all, the Revolution. The heritage of those two signal events has, to various extents, marked the history of a large part of the European continent. U.S. political culture has quite different characteristics. The particular form of Protestantism established in New England served to legitimize the new U.S. society and its conquest of the continent in terms drawn from the Bible. The genocide of the Native Americans is a natural part of the new chosen people’s divine mission. Subsequently, the United States extended to the entire world the project of realizing the work that “God” had ordered it to accomplish. The people of the United States live as the “chosen people.”

Of course, the American ideology is not the cause of U.S. imperialist expansion. The latter follows the logic of capital accumulation and serves the interests of capital (which are quite material). But this ideology is perfectly suited to this process. It confuses the issue. The “American Revolution” was only a war of independence without social import. In their revolt against the English monarchy, the American colonists in no way wanted to transform economic and social relations, but simply no longer wanted to share the profits from those relations with the ruling class of the mother country. Their main objective was above all westward expansion. Maintaining slavery was also, in this context, unquestioned. Many of the revolution’s major leaders were slave owners, and their prejudices in this area were unshakeable.

Successive waves of immigration also played a role in reinforcing American ideology. The immigrants were certainly not responsible for the poverty and oppression that lay behind their departure for the United States. But their emigration led them to give up collective struggle to change the shared conditions of their classes or groups in their native countries, and adopt instead the ideology of individual success in their adopted home. Adopting such an ideology delayed the acquisition of class consciousness. Once it began to mature, this developing consciousness had to face a new wave of immigrants, resulting in renewed failure to achieve the requisite political consciousness. Simultaneously, this immigration encouraged the “communitarianization” of U.S. society. “Individual success” does not exclude inclusion in a community of origin, without which individual isolation might become insupportable. The reinforcement of this dimension of identity—which the U.S. system reclaims and encourages—is done to the detriment of class consciousness and the forming of citizens. Communitarian ideologies cannot be a substitute for the absence of a socialist ideology in the working class. This is true even of the most radical of them, that of the black community.

The specific combination of factors in the historical formation of U.S. society—dominant “biblical” religious ideology and absence of a workers’ party—has resulted in government by a de facto single party, the party of capital. The two segments that make up this single party share the same fundamental liberalism. Both focus their attention solely on the minority who “participate” in the truncated and powerless democratic life on offer. Each has its supporters in the middle classes, since the working classes seldom vote, and has adapted its language to them. Each encapsulates a conglomerate of segmentary capitalist interests (the “lobbies”) and supporters from various “communities.” American democracy is today the advanced model of what I call “low-intensity democracy.” It operates on the basis of a complete separation between the management of political life, grounded on the practice of electoral democracy, and the management of economic life, governed by the laws of capital accumulation. Moreover, this separation is not questioned in any substantial way, but is, rather, part of what is called the general consensus. Yet that separation eliminates all the creative potential found in political democracy. It emasculates the representative institutions (parliaments and others), which are made powerless in the face of the “market” whose dictates must be accepted. Marx thought that the construction of a “pure” capitalism in the United States, without any pre-capitalist antecedent, was an advantage for the socialist struggle. I think, on the contrary, that the devastating effects of this “pure” capitalism are the most serious obstacles imaginable.

The avowed objective of the United States’ new hegemonic strategy is not to tolerate the existence of any power capable of resisting Washington’s commands. To accomplish that, it seeks to break up all countries considered to be “too large” and create the maximum number of rump states, easy prey for the establishment of U.S. bases to ensure their “protection.” Only one state has the right to be “large”: the United States. Its global strategy has five objectives: neutralize and subjugate the other partners in the triad (Europe and Japan) and minimize their ability to act outside of American control; establish NATO’s military control of and “Latin Americanize” parts of the former Soviet world; assume sole control of the Middle East and Central Asia and their petroleum resources; break up China, secure the subordination of other large states (India, Brazil), and prevent the formation of regional blocs that would be able to negotiate the terms of globalization; and marginalize regions of the South with no strategic interest. The hegemonic ambitions of the United States are ultimately based more on the outsized importance of its military power than on the “advantages” of its economic system. It can then pose as uncontested leader of the triad by making its military power and NATO, which it dominates, the “visible fist” in charge of imposing the new imperialist order on all possible recalcitrants.

Behind this facade there is still a people, of course, despite its evident political weaknesses. Nevertheless, my intuition is that the initiative for change will not come from there, even if it is not impossible that the American drive for hegemony will subsequently come to clash with others, which could begin the movement for a fundamental transformation.

Can Canada or Australia be something other than an external province of the United States? It is difficult to imagine another Canada, despite the political traditions of English Canada and Quebec’s cultural specificity. The major political forces—polarized along the linguistic dimension of their resistance—do not envision a delinking of the Canadian economy from the economy of their large neighbor to the south.

Japan

Japan has a dominant capitalist economy and, at the same time, a non-European cultural ancestry. The question is which of these two dimensions will gain the upper hand: solidarity with its partners in the “triad” (United States and Europe) against the rest of the world, or the desire for independence, supported by “Asianism”? Analyses—even wild imaginings—on this topic could fill an entire library.

A geopolitical analysis of the contemporary world leads me to conclude that Japan will continue to follow Washington, just like Germany, and for the same reasons. I note here the long-term significance of Washington’s strategic choices following the Second World War. The United States had then chosen not to destroy its two enemies—the only ones to have threatened the inexorable growth of the United States toward world hegemony—but, rather, to assist their reconstruction and push them to become faithful allies. The obvious reason is that, at the time, there was a real “communist” threat. But even today, Beijing remains an enemy as can be seen in the conflict over islands in the South China Sea.

Are there any indications of a popular and national reaction? Certainly, the slowing down of the economic miracle and the ossification of the single ruling party have barely breached the facade of conformism. But behind this is hidden, perhaps, an inferiority complex toward China, which frequently reappears. Yet, a rapprochement with China, possibly motivated by a challenge to this conformism, does not seem likely. First, because Japan’s dominant imperialist capital remains what it is. Second, because the Chinese and Koreans know it, even beyond their justified suspicion toward their former enemy.

United Kingdom and France

Is there more of a chance for a change beginning in Europe than in the United States? Intuitively, I believe so. The first reason for this relative optimism is because the nations of Europe have a rich history as the incredible accumulation of its imposing medieval vestiges indicates. My interpretation of this history is certainly not the same as dominant Eurocentrism, whose myths I have rejected. The counter-thesis I have developed is that the same contradictions characteristic of medieval society that were surpassed by the advent of modernity occur elsewhere. Yet I reject with equal determination the “anti-European” ranting of some third world intellectuals who probably want to be convinced that their societies were more advanced than those of “backward” medieval Europe, ignoring the fact that the myth of the backward Middle Ages is itself a product of the later perspective of European modernity. In any case, having been the first to cross the threshold of modernity, Europe has since acquired advantages that I believe would be absurd to deny. Of course, Europe is diverse, despite a certain homogenization underway and a “European” discourse. England and France are the pioneers of modernity. This blunt assertion does not mean that modernity did not have earlier roots, particularly in Italian cities and later in the Netherlands.

England went through a very tumultuous period of its history during the birth of new capitalist (or more precisely, mercantilist) relations. It was transformed from medieval “Merry England” into somber puritan England, executed its king, and proclaimed a republic in the seventeenth century. Then everything was calm. It invented modern democracy, albeit with restrictions, in the eighteenth century and then in the nineteenth experienced an open-ended accumulation of capital during the Industrial Revolution without major upheavals. Certainly, this did not happen without class conflict, which culminated in the Chartist movement in the middle of the nineteenth century. But these conflicts were not politicized to the point of calling the entire system into question.

France, in contrast, crossed the same stages through an uninterrupted series of violent political conflicts. It is the French Revolution that invented the political and cultural dimensions of capitalism’s contradictory modernity. The French working classes were not as clearly developed as in England, which had the only true proletarians of the time. Yet their struggles were more politicized, beginning in 1793, and then in 1848, 1871, and much later in 1936. At the latter time, they were organized around socialist objectives, in the strong sense of the term.

There have certainly been many explanations given for these different paths. Marx was quite aware of them and it is no accident that he devoted most of his attention to analyzing these two societies, offering a critique of the capitalist economy from England’s experience and a critique of modern politics from France’s experience.

Britain’s past, perhaps, explains the present, the patience with which the British people endure the degradation of their society. Perhaps this passivity is explained by the way British national pride has been shifted to the United States. The latter is not, for the British, a foreign country like others. It remains a prodigal child. Since 1945, England has chosen to align itself unconditionally with Washington. The extraordinary world domination of the English language helps the English people live this decline without, perhaps, even feeling it to the fullest extent. The English relive their past glory by proxy through the United States.

The United Kingdom remains a key power for Europe’s future. Although Brexit heralds the inevitable breakdown of the absurd European construction, the political currents that lie behind its victory in the referendum do not question either liberalism’s reactionary social order or alignment with the United States. Moreover, in the system of globalized liberalism, the City, Wall Street’s privileged partner, remains in a strong position, and financial capital on the continent cannot do without its services. Nevertheless, history has no more reached its end in Great Britain than elsewhere. But my feeling is that this country will be able to rejoin the path of change once it cuts the umbilical cord attaching it to the United States. Today no sign of such a break is visible.

Germany

Germany and Japan are the two reliable lieutenants of the United States, forming the real triad, the G3—United States, Germany, and Japan, rather than North America, Europe, Japan.

Neither Germany nor Italy nor Russia would have succeeded in reaching capitalist modernity without the paths pioneered by England and France. That statement should not be understood to mean that the peoples of these countries would have been, for some mysterious reason, incapable of inventing capitalist modernity, solely reserved to Anglo-French genius. Rather, the possibilities for a similar invention existed only in other areas of the world—China, India, or Japan, for example. But once a people entered capitalist modernity, it shaped that people’s path, leading to the creation of either a new center or a dominated periphery.

I interpret the history of Germany using that fundamental method. In this way, I understand German nationalism, pushed by Prussian ambitions, as a compensation for the mediocrity of its bourgeoisie, deplored by Marx. The result was an autocratic form of managing the new capitalism. Yet, despite its ethnicist tone, this nationalism (in contrast with the universalist ideologies found in England and, above all, in France, and later Russia) did not succeed in uniting all Germans (hence the eternal problem of the Austrian Anschluss, still unresolved today). This, then, became a factor that favored the criminal and demented excesses of Nazism. But there was also, after the disaster, a powerful motivation for constructing what some have called “Rhenish capitalism,” supported by the United States. This is a capitalist form that deliberately chose democratization copied from the Anglo-French-American model. But it is without deep, local historical roots, even considering the brief existence of the Weimar Republic (the only prior democratic period of German history) and the ambiguities, to say the least, of socialism in East Germany. “Rhenish capitalism” is not a “good capitalism” in contrast with the Anglo-American extreme liberal model or the statism of “Jacobin” France. Each is different, but all are ill from the same illness, i.e., a capitalism that has reached a stage characterized by predominance of its destructive aspects. Moreover, the sun has now set on “Rhenish” and “statist” capitalisms. Globalized Anglo-American capitalism has imposed its model on all of Europe and Japan.

In the short term, Germany’s position in globalization under U.S. hegemony, just like Japan’s, seems to be comfortable. Resumption of expansion to the East through a type of “Latino-Americanization” of East European countries can encourage the illusion that Berlin’s choice is a lasting one. This choice is easily satisfied with low-intensity democracy and economic and social mediocrity, and is reinforced by support for the European Union and the Euro. If the political classes on the Christian Democrat and liberal right and the Social Democrat left continue in their stubborn pursuit of this dead end, we should not exclude the emergence of right wing, even fascist-type, populisms, though that does not mean they would necessarily be remakes of Nazism. The electoral successes of the National Front in France illustrate the reality of the general danger in Europe.

In the longer term, Germany’s difficulties will probably worsen, not improve. Germany’s current economic assets are based on standard industrial production methods (mechanical, chemical) that modernize by increasingly incorporating software invented elsewhere. But as in other countries, there is always the possibility that the German people will become aware of the necessity of initiating a real change off the beaten track. I believe that if France (which would then carry Germany along with it) and Russia were to take more initiative, another future for Europe would be possible. This choice could also lead to a resumption of positive movements for change in Mediterranean and Nordic Europe, which have failed up to now.

Southern Europe

Italy was momentarily thrust into the center of critical analysis and action during the “long 1968” of the 1970s. The power of the movement was sufficient to influence, in a certain way, the “center-left” state of that time, despite the self-confinement of the Italian Communist Party. This happy phase of Italian history is over. Now we can only examine the weaknesses of the society that made it possible. The incompletely developed sense of national citizenship can, perhaps, be explained by the fact that the rulers of the Italian states were most often foreigners. The people generally saw in them only opponents to deceive as much as possible. This weakness was expressed in the emergence of a populism that fed on a rising fascism. In Italy, as in France, the struggle for liberation during the Second World War had been a quasi-civil war. Consequently, the fascists were forced to hide in the decades following 1945 without ever having really disappeared. The country’s economy, despite the “miracle” that had given Italians a good standard of living up until the current crisis, remains fragile. But unreserved support for the European choice, which completely dominates the entire Italian political space, is, I believe, the main reason for the dead end in which the country finds itself.

The same unthinking support for the European project has strongly contributed to the failure of the popular movements that put an end to fascism in Spain, Portugal, and Greece to realize their radical potential.

This potential was limited in Spain where Francoism simply died from the quiet death of its leader while the transition had been well prepared by the same bourgeoisie that had formed the main support of Spanish fascism. The three components of the workers’ and popular movement—socialist, communist, and anarchist—had been eradicated by a dictatorship that continued its bloody repression until the late 1970s, supported by the United States in exchange for anticommunism and the concession of bases to the U.S. military. In 1980, Europe set as a condition for Spain’s joining the European Community that it also join NATO—i.e., that it accede to the complete formalization of its submission to Washington’s hegemony! The workers’ movement attempted to play a role in the transition through its “workers’ committees” formed underground in the 1970s. It was unfortunately obvious that, not having succeeded in gaining the support of other segments of the popular and intellectual classes, this radical wing of the movement could not prevent the reactionary bourgeoisie from controlling the transition.

The revolt of the armed forces in Portugal that ended Salazarism in April 1974 was followed by a huge popular explosion the backbone of which was formed by communists, both from the official Communist Party and from Maoist currents. The defeat of this tendency within the ruling group eliminated the communist leadership to the advantage of all-too-timid socialists. Since then, the political sphere has settled back into sleep.

In Greece also, the choice in favor of Europe was not obvious following the fall of the colonels. During the Second World War, the Communist Party had succeeded, just as in Yugoslavia, in forming a single anti-fascist front. Greece and Yugoslavia not only “resisted” the German invaders, as others did; they continually fought a real war that played a decisive role in the instantaneous collapse of the Italian armies in 1943, thereby forcing the Germans to station many troops on their territories. The Greek resistance, which became a revolution in 1945, was defeated by the joint intervention of the United States and Great Britain. The Greek right is, moreover, responsible for integrating their country into NATO, within which the European project takes shape, all to the exclusive benefit of the “cosmopolitan” comprador bourgeoisie.

The deepening of the systemic crisis of monopoly capitalism has led to an unparalleled social disaster in the fragile countries of southern Europe. It also strikes hard at the countries of Eastern Europe, reduced to little more than the semi-colonies of Western Europe, particularly Germany. It is easy to understand, then, the recent emergence of immense popular movements (Syriza in Greece, Podemos in Spain) that have won some exciting victories in their rejection of the extreme austerity policies imposed by Berlin and Brussels. Nevertheless, we must acknowledge that the general opinion in these countries does not yet envision the necessity of deconstructing the European system; most people prefer to bury their heads in the sand and convince themselves that this Europe is reformable. Consequently, their movements continue to be paralyzed.

Northern Europe

For different reasons, the Nordic countries have maintained, up to now, a suspicious attitude with regard to the European project.

Under the leadership of Olof Palme, Sweden attempted to follow a globalist, internationalist, and neutralist path. Beginning with the country’s more recent European choice and the rightward drift of its social-democratic forces, the reversal has been quite abrupt. This reversal, however, forces us to look more closely at the weak points of Sweden’s exceptional experience: Palme’s perhaps too personal role, the illusions of the youth who, long confined to this relatively isolated country, belatedly discovered the world with a good dose of naivety after 1968, but also its somewhat tarnished, and long hidden, past during the Second World War.

Norwegian society was formed from small peasants and fishers, without the presence of an aristocratic class like that of Sweden or Denmark. Thus it is very much alive to questions of equality. This undoubtedly explains the relative power of its extreme left party and the radical proclivities of social democratic forces that, up to now, have resisted the siren’s song of Europe. The Greens appeared in this country before organizing in the others. However, the country’s membership in NATO and the financial affluence from North Sea oil (an affluence that is somewhat corrupting in the long term) certainly counteract these positive tendencies.

The independence that Finland gained without a struggle during the Russian Revolution (Lenin had already unhesitatingly accepted it) was less the product of a unanimous demand than is often admitted. The Grand Duchy already benefited from a large degree of autonomy in the Russian Empire, which was considered quite satisfactory by opinion at the time. Its ruling classes served the Tsar with as much sincerity as those of the Baltic countries. The working classes were not oblivious to the program of the Russian Revolution. That is why independence did not settle the country’s problems, which were dealt with only at the end of the Civil War, a conflict barely won by the reactionary forces (with the support of imperial Germany, and later the Allies). These forces later drifted toward fascism and became allies of the fascist powers during the Second World War. What is called “Finlandization,” which NATO propaganda presented as unacceptable, was in fact only a neutralism (certainly imposed originally by the peace treaty) that could have formed one of the bases for a better European reconstruction than that of the Atlanticist alliance. Will European pressures, which have triumphed in the monetary area (with Finland’s participation in the euro), succeed in eating away at this interesting historical heritage?

Can one expect anything from Denmark with an economy that is too dependent on Germany’s? This dependence is experienced neurotically, as can be seen in the ambiguous and confused series of votes on the question of the Euro. Yet I do not think that all-too-typical social democratic forces can offer a challenge to the current course. “The red-green alliance” is, consequently, rather isolated.

It is well known that the Netherlands was the site of the original bourgeois revolution in the seventeenth century, before England and France. But the modest size of the United Provinces prevented this country from achieving what its competitor students were able to do. Although the cultural heritage of this history is not lost, today the economic and financial system of the Netherlands functions within the mark/euro environment.

What Future for Europe?

In the 1970s and 1980s, I thought that the formation of a North-South “neutralist” axis in Europe, made up of Sweden, Finland, Austria, Yugoslavia, and Greece, was possible, with positive effects on the countries of both Western and Eastern Europe. It could have encouraged the former to re-think their Atlanticist alignment and might have found a favorable echo in France. Unfortunately, De Gaulle was no longer there and the Gaullists had completely forgotten the general’s reservations about NATO. Such an axis might have opened possibilities for East European countries to move toward center-left positions and thereby avoid their later fall to the right. This project might have initiated the construction of an authentic “other Europe,” truly social and thus open to the formulation of a socialism for the twenty-first century that respected its national components, which would be independent from the United States, and facilitate reform worthy of the name in Soviet bloc countries. This construction was possible, concomitant with the Europe of Brussels, at that time consisting only of a still limited economic community. I was even able to present these ideas to the leadership of the left in the countries concerned and had the impression that the idea did not displease them. But there was no follow-up.

The European lefts have not properly assessed the stakes and have supported the development of the European project led by Brussels. This has been a reactionary project from the beginning, devised by Monnet (whose fiercely anti-democratic opinions are well known, as shown in J. P. Chevènement’s book La Faute de Monsieur Monnet).1 The European project, along with the Marshall Plan devised by Washington, was designed to rehabilitate rightist forces (under the cover of “Christian democracy”) or even fascists, reduced to silence by the Second World War, so as to nullify any scope for the practice of political democracy. The Communist parties understood that. But at the time, the alternative of a “Soviet” Europe was already no longer credible. Their later unconditional adherence to the project was no better, even though it was disguised as “Eurocommunism.”

Today, not only has the European Union trapped the peoples of the continent in an impasse, consolidated by the “liberal” and Atlanticist (NATO) choice, but has even become the instrument for the “Americanization” of Europe, substituting the U.S. culture of “consensus” for the European tradition’s political culture of conflict. The ultimate adherence of Europe to Atlanticism is not unthinkable, based on awareness of the advantages from exploiting the planet for the benefit of the triad’s collective imperialism. The “conflict” with the United States turns around sharing the booty, hardly more. If ever the project were carried out against everyone, then the European institutions would become the main obstacle to the progress of Europe’s peoples.

European reconstruction, then, requires the deconstruction of the current project. Is it even thinkable today to question the European-Atlanticist project such as it is and construct an alternative Europe that would be both social and non-imperialist toward the rest of the world? I think so and even think that the beginning of an alternative project originating from anywhere would find favorable echoes throughout Europe in a short time. An authentic left, in any case, should not think otherwise. If it dares to do so, then I am one of those who believe that the European peoples can demonstrate that they still have an important role to play in shaping a future world. Short of that, the strongest probability is the collapse of the European project into chaos, which would not displease Washington. Europe will be socialist, if the left forces dare to make it so, or it simply will not be.

I believe that the change can only begin if France were to take some courageous initiatives in the right direction. That would then lead Germany to move in the same direction and, consequently, the rest of Europe. The way would then be open for a rapprochement with China and Russia. Europe’s status on the international political scene is condemned to insignificance by its support for Washington’s project for world domination. If it were to follow the path outlined above, it could then exploit its economic power for the reconstruction of an authentic multipolar world. Failing that, the “West” will remain American, Europe will remain German, the North-South conflict will continue to be central, and any possible advances will largely be confined to the peripheries of the global system; in other words, a “remake” of the twentieth century.

In conclusion, I will again point out that the system of neoliberal globalization has entered its last phase; its implosion is clearly visible, as indicated by, among other things, Brexit, Trump’s election, and the rise of various forms of neofascism. The rather inglorious end of this system opens up a potentially revolutionary situation in all parts of the world. But this potential will become reality only if radical left forces know how to seize the opportunities offered and design and implement bold offensive strategies based on the reconstruction of the internationalism of workers and peoples in the face of the cosmopolitanism of the imperialist powers’ financial capital. If that does not happen, then the left forces of the West, East, and South will also share responsibility for the ensuing disaster.

Note

  • Jean-Pierre Chevènement,La Faute de Monsieur Monnet: La République et l’Europe (Paris: Fayard, 2006).
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