Thursday, July 16, 2015

The lesson of Greece

I won't go into the details: go read the alternative press's account of Greece's abject defeat at the hands of Germany the "troika" (European Commission, European Central Bank, International Monetary Fund). The upshot is that Germany has stripped Greece of its national sovereignty, and, after six years of poverty, unemployment, and general immiseration, has imposed even harsher poverty, unemployment, and immiseration.

Germany, France, and the rest of the Eurozone core countries, by destroying Greece's economy, have no chance of getting their money back. They know they'll never get their money back. They don't want their money back. What they want is what they have achieved: destroying social democracy, the social safety net, welfare capitalism, and what little democracy the democratic republican form of government provides. The European Union and Eurozone is and has always been anti-democratic, explicitly and intentionally. Indeed, neoliberalism itself is anti-democratic. Any suffering the Greek people go through is necessary to destroy its democracy, and make it explicitly a slave colony to the Eurozone core.

The lesson is that social democracy is doomed. I think social democracy is a Good Idea. I've never been against social democracy and welfare capitalism on its own terms. I just don't think it can work. Not, however, because because I think it's a bad system on its own terms. If we talk about overall standards of living, social democracy improves the lives of not just the working and middle classes, but also the capitalist class. The problem is that the capitalist class does not want to improve its own material standard of living. The very structure of capitalism entails that the majority of people who become very rich capitalists are power-hungry sociopaths. Even the relatively nice people who become very rich capitalists have to act sociopathically in self-defense. Power is a zero-sum game, and social democracy means stripping political power from the rich. Social democracy is possible only if workers and professionals have actual political and economic power either directly, through unions, or indirectly through elections and state power. The capitalist class, however, sees this loss as an intolerable loss of their core identity. The capitalist class would rather rule in hell than serve in heaven.

I don't fault the capitalists themselves. I have considerable sympathy for Milton's Satan. But, fundamentally, this kind of sociopathic struggle for absolute power is an inherent, ineluctable part of capitalism. No social institutions can for very long moderate this struggle. It might be the case that this sociopathic struggle for absolute power is inherent to humanity itself; if so, all of our political philosophy is not just an illusion but a lie; there is no other option but for each person to struggle for as much military power as possible, with the successful becoming the slave-owners and the rest becoming slaves. Perhaps Orwell is correct: the future of humanity is a boot smashing a face, forever, and the only struggle is who wears the boot.

I am not so pessimistic. I do not believe that sociopathy is the norm and empathy and cooperation is the delusional aberration. I'm not an objectivist: the universe forbids neither the tyranny of the individual nor the collective, nor peaceful cooperation and happiness. I simply believe that human beings can create any kind of society we choose, good or bad. Although we can create any kind of society, the actual implementation is constrained by reality, both objective reality and the historical, contingent social reality of a given time and place.

And it is crystal clear that if we want the things that social democracy provides, and I think we do, we cannot have them and have a capitalist class of any kind. The capitalist class will do anything, and struggle for as long as it takes, to destroy social democracy, to strip all power from any individual, class, or social group that the capitalists do not absolutely control. Not because capitalists are bad people, but capitalism is the struggle for absolute power, and this struggle constructs the social reality of people who become successful capitalists.

Germany The troika has revealed the true heart of capitalism: slavery or death. The only choice now is whether we will accept slavery or struggle for freedom, no matter what it takes.

([ETA] It occurs to me that the arguments against social democracy are almost identical to arguments against "moderate" religion.)

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