Today, numerous indications point to the fact that capitalism is suffering an existential crisis. Marxism explains that there can be no capitalism without crises. This is vindicated by the current state of global economy. The upper echelons of finance capital seek to postpone the crisis and save the banks and credit institutions, which only makes the crisis more destructive. The US Federal Bank alone launched a $5.3 billion rescue package in order to bail out 2 major mortgage institutions. In order to avoid recession and promote consumption, the credit mechanism has long been used like a magical power. Now, with the unpaid debt piling up, this mechanism is also crumbling. As we pointed out on several occasions, the bubble has been over-inflated and will inevitably burst. We are on the verge of huge collapses that will begin in the financial sector and spill across the industrial sector.
According to experts from imperialist institutions such as the IMF, the OECD and the World Bank, world economy has already suffered serious halts, starting in developed capitalist countries. The central banks are now seeking to repel the crisis by using the interest rates as a weapon and pumping credits into the major companies that are on the verge of bankruptcy. It is said that, as a result of these efforts, the gravity of the crisis is yet to manifest itself, with the real catastrophe awaiting us in 2009. Playing an almost determining role in the pace of life today, economic news point in this direction. The predictions about diverse aspects of the crisis paint increasingly grim pictures. With capitalism drifting towards an existential crisis, the bourgeoisie itself is haunted by unpleasant memories of the period following the Great Depression of 1929.
Recent developments in the economy, which have set off alarm bells among the pro-establishment circles, are accompanied by never-ending political instabilities. As always in tumultuous periods, all that has been suppressed is now coming back to the surface. Indeed, in many capitalist countries, political scene has been shaken by different kinds of corruption rumours, scandals and intrigues. Relatively stable episodes of the bourgeois order, where it remained within its ordinary workings, are now becoming a thing of the past. World politics is also taking a new shape under the flames of imperialist wars of redivision that tend to spread further and further. In addition to all these facts and developments, there are also numerous repercussions of the decay of capitalism in the field of ideology.
Despite all the rhetoric parroted by its advocates, capitalist society has entered a historical blind alley. The bells, which tolled for all the previous social formations, are now tolling for capitalism. As proven by Marxism, capitalist development has escalated the contradiction between the productive forces and the relations of production to unsustainable levels. In stark contrast to its early periods where it constantly grew and flourished, capitalism has long exhausted its potentials for an upswing. Likewise, its ideology is displaying tendencies that can only been seen in a senile social system.
From upswing to impasse
The capitalist upswing following the Second World War generally coincided with an expansion of bourgeois democracy and implementation of reform policies. It brought a relative improvement in the lives of the masses and fed hopes for a better future within the scope of capitalism. In line with these circumstances, bourgeois ideology was reflecting, in various forms, the optimistic mood of the individual who was confident in the future, far from questioning the established order. As an example, one can cite the dominant tendencies in the American film industry, which functioned as a huge weapon in the hand of American imperialism. During these years, massive ideological apparatuses such as Hollywood were instilling the masses with sentiments of “confidence” and “stability” that was needed by capitalism to continue to enjoy its post-war upswing.
By the 1970s, however, this upswing came to an end. A long wave was approaching the shore of the system, making the bourgeoisie anxious about the future. In the economy, old capitalist diseases began to resurface one after another: inflation, unemployment, recession and crisis. Over time, they became increasingly alarming. Due to changed conditions, the ideological apparatuses of capitalism gradually focused on creating a society driven by fear and anxiety on a massive scale. Indeed, American film industry threw away the old Hollywood romances. Instead, it began to specialise in “technological pieces” that would accustom and desensitize the young generations to the scenes of mass murders.
Today, one fact has become glaringly obvious. The broad working masses are beginning to realise that no bright future awaits them under capitalism. In response, the bourgeoisie is mounting its attacks on the masses, as if to say “after me, deluge.” Bourgeois ideology seeks to eradicate the kind of human being who thinks about and questions the system and who knows the past and creates the future. To this end, it is brutally imposing itself upon young generations.
Decaying capitalism is maintaining its rule almost only through negative acts and destructiveness. For, while growing into a global system, it also exhausted its historical capacity to carry society forward on the basis of positive values. It is not an accident that American imperialism, which has a hegemonic position over the global entertainment industry, is releasing films about “terminators” or “apocalypse”. These are all ideological repercussions of the historical impasse of capitalism.
Apart from its vulgar forms, which openly advocate the existing order, bourgeois ideology has also insidious and elegant forms. They usually come in the guise of an opponent or a radical. For instance, major finance bosses such as Soros launch large-scale campaigns where they pretend to tackle certain social problems. They usually prefer issues like environment to which young generations are highly sensitive. One should not overlook the hidden catch behind these campaigns. It is obvious, though, that capitalism has escalated the environmental problems to such an extent that they are now threatening all life on earth. Revolutionary Marxism pays special attention to this subject. It addresses this burning and vital problem facing the environment within the context of the fight against capitalism and strives to explain it to the masses from this perspective. Whatever the issue at stake, whether political or social, the analyses and solutions will always have, and must have, differences emanating from the class point of view.
Capitalism is dragging the world towards a complete devastation. But this should never be taken to mean that it is vain to fight against the system or it is impossible to cleanse the world of the dirt of capitalism. Revolutionary Marxists do not escape from realities. But they also avoid exaggerating these realities in such a way as to blunt the faith of the masses in their own struggle. The revolutionary Marxist conception of struggle entails striving to turn challenges facing society into opportunities. Bourgeois reformism, by contrast, seeks to convince the masses that minor improvements should rather be preferred when it comes to these challenges, as there is not much hope for a radical change. The huge difference between reform and revolution is not limited to the questions regarding political tactics and strategies. Whether it is about strategies and tactics or ecological problems, the differences between the assessments of and solutions to all problems, in the final analysis, emanate from the differences in class interests.
Today, bourgeois ideology uses various arguments to deceive the young generations. And when it comes to so-called scientific matters, it primarily aims at “educated” sections of the youth. Various currents of the bourgeois ideology share a common goal: to keep the masses away from the revolutionary struggle, i.e. the only way to eliminate the problems created by capitalism. Bourgeois approaches can significantly differ in this respect. Their arguments may also assume different characters in different periods. In the 1980s, for instance, bourgeois ideology, taking the form of neoliberalism, was striving to attract all the attention to individualism. Various instruments were used in order to deceive the youth: sexuality, psychological problems, dream of getting rich from stock market etc. Over time, these arguments either became stale or, as in the case of stock markets, collapsed in the face of realities of life. When anti-establishment sentiments began to arise among the young sections of society, bourgeois ideology masqueraded in a liberal or a reformist guise.
Such variants of the bourgeois ideology serve the common purpose of keeping the young generations, who tend to shift away from individualism towards anti-establishment movements, away from revolutionary struggle. Different instruments and methods are employed in order to keep them in any sphere isolated from the revolutionary struggle. While elaborating on the actual and potential instruments and methods, one should not overlook the differences emanating from class divisions. Well-educated sections of the youth, for instance, are being turned into addicts of high-tech gadgets. In its effort to paralyse their thinking, bourgeois ideology utilises the argument that the classical methods of revolutionary organisation no longer works in today’s world. Bourgeois reformism seeks to drag them to a position where they would confine themselves to the actions that are not based on genuine organisational work, like the ones that are conducted through online networks.
For young people who seek to develop their intellectual skills, specific subjects are deliberately brought forth as “priority issues”, which are always chosen from the physical sciences, such as physics, chemistry or genetic engineering. In the meantime, social issues and politics are thrown out of focus. But let us not overlook the fact that it is precisely such points that glaringly expose class divisions among the youth. For, the above-mentioned arguments are as far away as stars from the lives of young workers, who are unable to spare time and energy for such subjects as they work day and night for miserable wages in their struggle for survival. But the bourgeois ideology shows no lack of arguments aimed at young workers. It seeks to intimidate the working-class youth with the scourge of unemployment, degenerate them with ambitions to rise on the shoulders of fellow workers and rope them to the existing order with dreams of climbing the social ladder.
There is another important matter where the bourgeoisie turns the reality inside out by using the ideological apparatuses and media at its disposal. First, they release various ideological products aimed at keeping the masses out of struggle by lulling, intimidating, stupefying and paralysing them. Then, they keep parroting the lies: “This is what the younger generations prefer.”, “Masses demand these.” etc. In reality, using all the technological means at its disposal, capitalism determines, controls and manipulates the demands and preferences of people on a massive scale. In this respect, the point reached by capitalism completely vindicates Marxism: “The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas.”
As a result of this fact, a spontaneous struggle of workers and toilers has never been, and never will be, suffice to overthrow capitalism. But still, the degree to which bourgeois ideology impacts this “spontaneity” depends on time and place. As seen at the beginning of the 20th century and during the interwar period, there are historical episodes where revolutionary ideas and struggles find mass appeal in many countries. Such periods undermines the dominant position of bourgeois ideology. Even in the case of a most seemingly spontaneous mass action, it is highly likely that it has taken shape under the influence of revolutionary ideas and struggles. In today’s circumstances, in stark contrast, it is possible to detect bourgeois influence even on a left-wing opposition that is widely believed to be “spontaneous”. It is precisely such matters that expose the huge differences between historical periods.
Revolutionary analysis must always concentrate on grasping the concrete reality on the basis of scientific methods and approaches provided by Marxism. Only thus would it be possible to make accurate evaluations of situations and develop proper revolutionary tactics. To expect certain conclusions reached under certain historical circumstances explain the moment, as if they are frozen templates, would mean drifting towards dogmatism. In today’s world, the struggle against the ruling class cannot be left to spontaneity in any sphere of life.
Without revolutionary consciousness and organisation, it is impossible for the working masses to free themselves from the yoke of capitalism and its ideology. Only through a vanguard organisation can the working class turn its revolutionary potential into an actual force and change the world. This has never been more apparent than today. Despite this, there are those who worship spontaneity, claiming that revolutionary vanguard organisation has become a thing of the past. Whatever label they carry, in effect, they are doing nothing more than trailing behind the tail of masses whose minds are shaped by the bourgeois ideology.
Ideology of the crisis period
In political and social life, nothing changes at one stroke. The transition from an ordinary bourgeois regime to an extraordinary one involves a process and changes that occur along this process. Today, many countries are experiencing a gradual transition from parliamentary framework to police states. In their daily struggle to survive, the masses are often too busy to realise this transition. When they are unorganised, they suffer a general lack of attention and a loss of memory. Throughout the history of capitalism, such weaknesses have always been exploited by the rulers to embark on extensive changes that would afterwards bring many troubles upon the masses. In this respect, nothing has changed in modern times.
Today, even in the seemingly advanced democracies of Western Europe, police state practices are becoming increasingly widespread. Bourgeois ideology is now taking sinister forms that serve to prepare the masses for extraordinary conditions. And this is taking place not only in countries like Turkey, which are accustomed to halts in parliamentary order, but also in advanced capitalist countries, which are believed to be long-established democracies. Imperialist powers that determine the ideological atmosphere in the world are now producing and circulating extraordinary methods and means that are peculiar to the periods characterised by deep systemic crises.
Take Britain, for instance. It has long been known as the birthplace of bourgeois democracy. Now it is galloping towards becoming a fully-fledged police state. Especially since the US imperialism stepped up its aggression under the pretext of September 11, racial attacks have increased all over Europe. The governments have introduced legislations aimed at stifling the struggles of the masses and set in motion discriminatory practices against immigrants and migrant workers. Incidents that used to be considered as an ordinary part of daily life are now portrayed by bourgeois media as disaster scenarios in order to prepare the public opinion for more repressive legislations. As a concrete example, one can cite the media portrayal of stabbings in Britain. Long considered as ordinary crimes, stabbings are now presented to the public almost as organised terrorist acts. Thus, the ground is being prepared for arbitrary stop and search practices, telephone tappings and an absolute control over mass media.
All these developments clearly demonstrate that, having entered the 21st century with an existential crisis, the ideological arsenal of capitalism is now composed of a crisis-period ideology. This ideology is characteristic of a system that is rotten and senile, and therefore, lacking any positive prospect of the future. It is an ideology that reflects an attempt to escape from reality in fear of death. This feature of bourgeois ideology has already set its stamp on the 21st century. It is also continuously instilling irrational and mystical elements into the minds of the working masses. As we pointed out on several occasions, in addition to the extreme exploitation under a senile capitalism, humanity is also floundering in the middle of disasters created in the intellectual sphere. Decaying capitalism surrounds the masses not only during working hours, but also during their “leisure time”. It imposes on them an eclipse of reason and pervades their lives like a nightmare.
Social systems always seek to instil a set of values in masses. These values always reflect the interests of the ruling class. During periods of upswing, these values come in the form of positive virtues and principles. But when a social system tends toward decay and collapse, the ruling institutions become increasingly disoriented and corrupt. In this kind of historical periods, the agreement that is assumed to exist in society begins to melt away. People become less convinced in the aforementioned set of values. Their consent to the political institutions tends to weaken. The current state of capitalism looks like a field of application for all these tendencies. The decay of the system finds its expressions in the erosion of values and the intensification of repressive practices. As the bourgeois politics becomes increasingly dysfunctional, it becomes more and more difficult to rule the masses by ordinary methods.
In general, social systems are based on certain basic political principles and forms that shape the social behaviour of the individuals. In its ordinary operation, capitalism relies on bourgeois parliamentary institutions, right-wing and left-wing bourgeois parties and the political struggle among them. Leaving aside the revolutionary influences, which are determined by awakening, consciousness and organisation of radically opponent and revolutionary elements, the political perceptions and behaviours of the masses are generally determined by the fundamental framework formed by the bourgeois order. Consequently, with the exception of the periods of revolutionary turmoil, it is generally the bourgeois multi-party system that determines the degree of politicisation of the masses.
Yet, the neoliberal phase of capitalism, which corresponded to the transition from the 20th to the 21st century, brought about severe disruptions in the ordinary workings of the system. In line with the new approach put forward by neo-liberalism, news about stock markets and economic indicators are brought forward in order to set the agenda. In the meantime, the differences between the left-wing and the right-wing bourgeois political parties have become insignificant. As a result, the masses increasingly regard the politics as a meaningless game. On the basis of this reality, in many capitalist countries, masses have become alienated from politics. With a revolutionary alternative on the rise, such a social situation would signify the breaking away of the masses from the institutions of the established order, and therefore, could acquire a positive character. However, under the present circumstances, where no such alternative is on the horizon, it is impossible to draw positive conclusions from this fact alone.
Unfortunately, the masses, particularly the younger generations, are almost completely unconscious and unequipped in the face of repressive practices and manipulations of the ruling class. The present social and political landscape is characterised by an abyss between the values of the past and the future. The social values of the past are melting away. However, putting aside the revolutionary minority, the masses in general do not have the slightest interests in the values that will create the future for the humanity. In such a general atmosphere, individuals are isolated, vulnerable, confused, distrustful of others and pessimistic about the future.
For people who have no other means of subsistence than to sell their labour power, it is absolute foolishness to remain aloof from the idea of social solidarity and political organisation, buying into the illusion of individual salvation as if it is possible. Yet, this foolishness does not flow from a failure or disorder in the value judgments and perceptions of individuals. It is the individual expression of the social paranoia produced by capitalism. Unless they join hands and organise as members of the same class who share the same living conditions, the modern pariahs amount to nothing more than poor souls who are doomed to fall into the swamp created by the ruling class. This state can only be described as a mass eclipse of reason.
As a result of the apathy of the masses towards politics and their aloofness from revolutionary struggle, individuals drift towards a dark grave while searching for the joy of life. This deprives the society of a refreshing dynamism. Thus, the daunting tendency to economic stagnation facing the capitalist mode of production is complemented by a sense of desperation and stagnation in social life. Unable to offer a way out, bourgeois ideologues have no choice but to fabricate pseudo-theories in their futile effort to justify the impasse. They can only instil into society an ideology distilled from the existing conditions. Thus, the masses plunge into social passivity, while the educated individuals, under the influence of opportunism and cynicism instilled into their minds, perceive the social struggle as irrational. Clearly, the ideological impact of decaying capitalism acts as a corruptive poison – a poison that replaces the rational with the irrational, the common sense with a social eclipse of reason, the enthusiasm for struggle with passivism and the need for change with inertia.
Beneath all the ideological approaches instilled into society by the ruling class lies a common purpose: to prevent the masses from gaining confidence and faith in their capacity to organise and fight. Bourgeois think-tanks and media channels fabricate lies on a daily basis. They use every means at their disposal to draw people’s attention away from social problems and their genuine solutions. They seek to direct people’s attention towards issues such as personal health problems that are presented in an exaggerated and obsessive manner, a commodified sexuality and the institution of nuclear family that is exploited to promote selfishness. The sole purpose is to produce individuals whose social aspect is killed by poison. Since a prevalent critical and sceptical thinking could create among workers and toilers sympathy towards revolutionary ideas, bourgeois ideology uses every opportunity to inject into society mysticism, superstitions, myths – in short, all that is irrational.
Recent developments in Turkey provide a striking example in this respect. Tensions and conflicts have been escalating within the bourgeois camp. It is an open fact that both parties are using all the leverages at their disposal. Pro-status quo forces are threatening the ruling AKP with the closure case filed against it. In response, the AKP and pro-AKP bourgeois forces seek to intimidate the other side through the Operation Ergenekon. With the political dogfight within the bourgeois camp escalating and rumours of coup further muddying the waters, the biggest losers of these developments are none other than the oppressed layers. Another important aspect of the matter is the fact that the bourgeois infighting is presented to the working masses with perplexing arguments.
As a general rule, opposing factions of the bourgeoisie are careful to avoid exposing the true reasons and essence of the internal fighting that they wage against each other for power and over conflicting interests. On the contrary, they are circulating certain myths and mystical arguments in order to obscure the realities. This serves the interests of the bourgeoisie as a whole. For, a conflict within the same class would sooner or later come to an end with the victory of this or that side and without overthrowing the established order. Yet, whichever bourgeois camp is in power, an awakening of the working class can evolve into a revolt and acquire a subversive character on the part of the established order. Therefore, in all capitalist countries, for all the inner conflicts among them, all factions of the bourgeoisie remain always loyal to their common oath when it comes to protecting the established order from a revolutionary awakening of workers and toilers. For this reason, bourgeois ideology addresses the masses always on the basis of distortions, frauds and demagogies. But, as the existential crisis of capitalism is now deepening, these characteristics are becoming more and more apparent.
Historical impasse of the system
One of the most important laws of dialectics tells that, during the phase of development and expansion, a phenomenon reaches its peak where it appears to be in its strongest form, whereas this peak also marks the beginning of its decline. The present epoch, in which debates about globalisation ruled supreme and capitalism is considered invincible, represents a vindication of this law, since, in fact, it marked the beginning of the historical decline of capitalism. It is true that capitalism has established its hegemony all over the globe and that it has indeed become globalised. Yet, this globalisation does not negate the law of uneven development. Quite the contrary, it further expands the inequality and injustice across the world.
Furthermore, capitalism’s tendency toward stagnation and crisis has not been, nor could ever be, eliminated by globalisation. In recent decades, the bourgeoisie has been conducting propaganda for globalism in order to arouse positive sentiments among masses towards capitalism. Yet, the fact that capitalism has now reached every corner of the world has only served to further deepen its historical impasse. The system has a tendency towards protracted stagnation. Crisis is a reality and it will produce destructive results. As a result of these facts, even among bourgeois rulers and intellectuals, there is a mood of pessimism about the workings of the system.
Although it is never openly admitted by its own rulers, it is an objective reality that a social system becomes increasingly fragile as it historically tends towards decline and fall. In accordance with this, the rulers of such a social system become more and more concerned in class terms. From the 1980s up until today, the period of neoliberal capitalism has demonstrated the existence of these social laws in many concrete manifestations. During this period, capitalists have associated every public regulation in the interests of the masses with the “spectre of communism”. Even small-scale right-claiming actions taken by the working class and the toiling masses have been treated as disruptive threats to the established order.
Over decades, bourgeoisie has implemented these policies as part of a “preemptive war”. However, they only served to further intensify capitalism’s tendency towards stagnation. Considering the long-term interests of the bourgeoisie, certain clever ideologues are now turning towards alternative solutions such as Keynesianism, statism, protectionism and so on. But we must take into account the fact that, under conditions of a capitalist crisis, these are not the only possible tendencies regarding the field of politics. As seen in previous great depressions, during such periods, deep splits emerge within the bourgeois bloc. One side proposes to overcome the big crisis through introducing relatively reformative measures. The other side tends to resort to extraordinary measures such as repression and fascism. In the end, the side that would outweigh is always determined by the concrete course of class struggle. The same applies today.
Today, it is an obvious fact that as a result of the ever-deepening existential crisis of capitalism, governments are increasingly introducing fascistic legislations and practices. In their effort to steer mass psychology in the desired direction, ideologues and ideological apparatuses are imposing such legislations and practices on the masses in the name of “necessary measures”. The terrifying memories of fascism, most notably those from Hitler’s Germany, were buried deep in the consciousness of the masses. Today’s fascism carefully avoids evoking these bad memories and worms its way into the lives of the masses like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Pervading all spheres of everyday life, bourgeois ideological apparatuses work to create a society driven by fear and anxiety in order to keep the masses away from anti-establishment struggles.
First, bourgeois media and film industry fabricate and circulate news and images designed to frighten the masses. They are followed by the practices designed to serve as barriers to revolutionary revolts on the part of the working masses. Surely, they are always put into effect in the name of “protecting people against terrorist attacks” or “protective measures”. Campaigns aimed to terrorise society often coincide with a bombardment of images and videos, as exemplified in the case of the United States following the September 11 attacks. On the other hand, ordinary crimes such as bodily harm, extortion or kidnapping are covered by the media on a frequent and systematic basis. The media injects them into the minds of people in such a way that makes them appear like major threats. The means used by the rulers to intimidate and frighten the masses have become increasingly diversified. Put at the service of bourgeoisie, ever-developing technologies are extensively used for the purpose of terrorising society.
Such “benefits of technology” are hailed as a miracle by those who lost their sense of proportion and became stupefied under the influence of bourgeois ideology. Yet, all these developments are symptoms of a historical impotence, rather than strength. When a social order outlives its historical usefulness, it tries to prolong its life by spreading its decay over society. The most notable example of this is the downfall of the Roman Empire. As an exploitative social order increasingly shows signs of senility, it desperately seeks to maintain its existence by intimidating and terrorising the masses, becoming more and more ruthless. In the final period of the Roman Empire, social degeneration reached intolerable levels. Today, humanity is subjected to the same experience by capitalism. This is a glaring and irrefutable reality.
There is another important fact demonstrated by history. When a social order exhausts its progressive potentials and drifts towards a crisis of legitimacy in terms of ruling the lower classes, it exercises its ruling power in an increasingly repressive manner. Capitalism is no exception in this regard. We are passing through a historical period where class antagonisms have objectively reached unprecedented levels. The developments that have created a crisis for the bourgeoisie represent historical opportunities for the proletariat. The political system of the bourgeoisie increasingly loses its credibility in the eyes of workers and toilers. This opens up prospects for the revolutionary struggle of the working class to fill the emerging vacuum.
However, for all its deep crises, capitalism will not collapse spontaneously. Likewise, new opportunities, which can potentially serve the rightful struggle of the working class, will never result in a spontaneous transformation of our lives. Capitalism has, indeed, long outlived its historical usefulness. All the sufferings it causes today are nothing else but the symptoms of the death agony of a system that flounders in despair!
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