Last weekend we saw a large fascist rally in Poland and a military coup in Bolivia. There is a deep and growing polarisation in societies across the world and here. Deepening poverty and incredible wealth at each ends of the economic spectrum are mirrored by the same ideological extremes. On the far-right the growth of identity politics, the falsehoods of social media bubbles, altogether increasing bigotry, prejudice, discrimination and abuse. Underneath this is a global push to undermine the flimsy and quite superficial administrations of liberal democracies towards totalitarian autocratic control by super-rich oligarchs.
This sounds like conspiracy theory. Indeed, there can be a thin line between “plans” and “conspiracies”. In the main, conspiracy theories are concocted by right-wing libertarians antipathetic to State administration or control of any kind and paranoid about any and all restrictions on their chosen beliefs and feelings. At the same time we all experience phases or moments of paranoia, not least because life includes adversity.
A general problem is the tendency to interpret and describe the world from one’s own and singular experience. In truth it is all but impossible to extrapolate any general theory of the World from our personal perceptions. Especially in a hugely stratified class society, the separation of experience by the matrix of access to resources, education, communication, media and world views makes us all prisoners of our social circumstance.
There is another reason for closed mindedness. As Karl Marx observed, human beings are inherently conservative. Once our necessities are more-or-less met we tend to hold-on to our comforts and resist any change that may threaten our equilibrium. Not only do we defend our hovels and stale bread against the threat of homelessness and starvation, we put-up with limited liberties rather than risk violence and incarceration.
The human motivations towards social inclusion and self-determination are in constant tension. Submitting ourself to the greater good can conflict with personal desires to do exactly what we want. The entwined dynamic of the requirement for survival and identity – both essential needs – underwrite all human behaviours. But the human mind allows for people to believe whatever we like and therein lies the tension. The self-determination of one person, whether in a state of delusion or prescience, may require the subjugation or death of another.
Ultimately, an inclusive human society cannot manage an “anything goes” approach. The tolerance of the wide and broad spectrum of human behaviours can only be sustained by agreed boundaries to what is acceptable. In essence, denial of voice (identity) or life (survival) denote these boundaries. We tend to feel upset by and regale against calls for genocide, and express discomfort at any governance that requires the incarceration or death of others. Such political boundaries are very fluid and impermanent and mostly dependent upon our own perception of personal safety and survival.
Society can switch from tolerance to repression overnight, either when a majority feels threatened from without or from within. Survival tends to trump identity. Humanity has lived under ghastly repression for long periods. In totalitarian societies minorities continually give-up the dominance of their survival-mechanism, determining that their identity – freedom of thought and action – is more important than their own survival. People choose to die for their beliefs.
We have learnt that there has to be general agreement about social boundaries in order for any society to remain stable. Totalitarian governance is inherently unstable and requires extensive and expensive forces of mass repression of dissonance, disagreement and potential revolt. The trick of any ruling class – by its nature a minority of the population – is to maintain their rule over the masses without too much resistance.
Class society has developed quite exquisite nuances of structures that can be perceived as libertarian whilst markedly confining behaviours and identities. Successive ruling classes have made experiences of poverty, exploitation and inequality “natural” and “normal”. Indeed, such propaganda has normalised racism and sexism, such as the “scientific Darwinism” that apparently explains white supremacy, or the false psychology that makes women more sensitive and therefore vulnerable than men, and so requiring male protection and dominance.
The tension between day-to-day experiences and the dominant social propaganda gives rise to a sense of Anomie, an element of alienation, where we are told we are comfortable “enough” yet feel constantly out-of-sorts, lacking something vital, but can’t say what it is. In the heartbeat of history there are periods when scales fall from eyes, when the false propaganda becomes see-through, when the Emperor has no clothes.
We are in such a period. The Status Quo of super-rich amidst mass poverty has become apparent, not least because of new technologies that allow most of us to see the entire human world and develop deeper world views. Those who wish can look outside their close-horizoned protective bubble. We have access to far more information and to so much more social contact with other cultures and peoples than ever before. We also have refreshed knowledge of Nature, the natural environment, and the impact of the exploitation of natural resources on climate and ecosystems.
As a result, the ruling classes, wholly dependent on exploitation of both Nature and Humanity, have to become more repressive in their determination to hold on to their wealth and power. This can explain the re-emergence of far-right governments and fascist parties. It also explains the “imperialist” interference of more powerful nations into the structures and governance of less powerful countries. These are not conspiracies, they are planned interventions by a few small grouping of humans against the mass of others.
They mobilise those who still cling on to their propaganda of “deserving rich” and “undeserving poor”, and wage a war of ideas against those of us who crave liberty, inclusivity and the freedom of self-determination. And when those ideas aren’t enough, they provoke street violence and stage military coups to smash dissent, such as Last weekend’s fascist rallies in Poland or the military coup in Bolivia.
The dynamics and tensions of class society also explains the strength and power of the climate deniers. Capitalism depends upon carbon industries, indeed the system is intrinsically dependent of fossil fuels. Should the demand for carbon-zero production become dominant the current ruling classes will be fundamentally threatened and undermined. They have already spent tens of billions denying human-made global heating.
In direct consequence, the struggle for carbon-zero – to protect Nature and prevent mass extinction of life and even Humanity itself – is nothing short of a class struggle. The international environmental movement itself is in tension between internal forces of groupings allied to the survival of Capitalism (and, in essence, notions of Nation, class privilege, male and White supremacy) and those of us committed to System Change for survival, human progress and ecological protection.